“Magic Renaissances” and “Philosophical Magic” in the History of Western Culture

Publication type Article
Status Published
Address: Russian Federation
Journal nameChelovek
EditionVolume 31 Issue №1

The article covers the phenomenon of “magical renaissances”, those are repeated powerful bursts of interest in magical practices and attempts to philosophically substantiate them that took place in axial and post-axial age. In the time of such “renaissances”, the magic and magical perception of the World get into the central zone of culture so that they participate, and sometimes even play a leading role in shaping a new picture of the world, in the birth of new cultural meanings and values. The core and main driving force of the "magic renaissance" is philosophical magic, that enables magic to fall at the epicenter of cultural transitions. The obvious connection of “magical renaissances” with transitive processes can be explained by the fact that a “cultural explosion” (Yu.M. Lotman) inevitably leads to a weakening or even destruction of the norms of the dominant culture. This facilitates drift of the cultural periphery to the “center”, the penetration and assimilation of alternate cultural paradigms, including magic. “Magical renaissances” took place mainly in the West — a civilization in which logocentrism occupied a leading position, constituting a powerful counterbalance to the correlative and magical types of thinking in all their manifestations, although it could never overcome this thinking completely. Three “magical renaissances” are identified in the history of Western culture: in the era of late antiquity, in the Renaissance and the modern era, when it assumed a global character and is a manifestation of a more general process, often called the Reenchantment of the Western culture. Moreover, some distinguishing features of the third “renaissance” indicate not the consistency with the previous ones, but rather the break with the previous tradition. A detailed analysis is given of the features of each of the three “magical renaissances” and the role of philosophical magic in them, and in the latter, of natural science concepts.

Keywordsmagic, philosophy, hermeticism, Neoplatonism, late antiquity, the Renaissance, postmodernism
Publication date30.03.2020
Number of characters43279
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