Real Magic Spells
Jesus went further, threatening civil war pitting father against son, but this too was part of the same tradition he was being no different from Mattathias who had waged war against the occupiers and their collaborators. This again becomes perfectly understandable when we recognize that both Jesus and John the Baptist had repeatedly inveighed against the corrupting innuences of the Romans and the Herodians - innuences that had no doubt come to cast a spell on many of their people. All this stemmed from their concerns about preserving the purity of the Jewish religion and its practices. Here is the famous passage from Matthew
Something is also to be learned about the thirteenth-century notion of what philosophy is from an account of what it is not. One such accessus specifically excludes the mechanical and magical arts from philosophy. The mechanical arts, divided in the ancient way into weaving, arms-making, navigation, hunting, agriculture, medicine and theatre, are seen as positively opposed to philosophy because they 'teach the spirit to serve the flesh', which is the opposite of the purpose of philosophy. Magic is seen as beyond the pale of all other sciences, multifarious in its fivefold disciplines of divination, augury (mathematica), maleficent works, the casting of lots on the future, and illusion, a rogue study, neither liberal nor 'servile' (Lafleur, pp. 285-7). Later authors were to continue the debate, and it was never to be possible to exclude the magical arts from philosophy altogether. Jean Gerson, for example, wrote in 1402 that philosophers think it probable that demons exist, and faith...
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES reached them. Bacon thinks it important to make the link between Christian history and the history of philosophy. That can be shown from Aristotle, Cicero and Augustine (Opus Maius II.vi). He used the Old Testament patriarchs as instructors. Josephus tells us that Noah and his sons taught philosophy to the Chaldeans and that Abraham taught the Egyptians. Even Aristotle admits that philosophy began with the patriarchs (Opus Maius II.ix). Ancient philosophy developed from that point in parallel with Hebrew learning (OpusMaius II.ix-x). Bacon knew the names and 'schools' of Greek thinkers from Thales of Miletus, through the Pythagoreans to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. He can name Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras and Archelaus on the way. (He does not accept that Plato studied under Jeremiah the Prophet while he was in Egypt, as some believe he did, because the chronology will not fit (Opus Maius II.xi-xii)). He sees Aristotle as the...
The Rabbis did not engage in this practice. Thus, the daughter of Rabbi Akiva was saved from an imminent death by merit of charity and not by the blessings of her prominent father.65 Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, one of the last pietists,66 preached in Sepphoris that rainfall is not dependent upon the sage and his prayer but rather on the heart of the community and the people of Sepphoris are hardhearted, and hear words of Torah but are not submissive. 67 This narrative attests to the faith of the community in the magical power of the sage. But the Rabbi presents himself as a preacher and advocates rabbinic values repentance. Further in the narrative, rain eventually fell and although Rabbi Joshua ben Levi took the credit for it, he vowed not to repeat such an act.
The origin of the Roman Catholic amulets and relics blessed by the Pope, is the same as that of the Ephesian Spell, or magical characters engraved either on a stone or drawn on a piece of parchment the Jewish amulets with verses out of the Law, and called phylacteria, Fulakthria , and the Mahometan charms with verses of the Koran. All these were used as protective magic spells and worn by the believers on their persons. Epiphanius, the worthy ex-Marcosian, who speaks of these charms when used by the Manicheans as amulets, that is to say, things worn round the neck (Periapta), and incantations and such-like trickery, cannot well throw a slur upon the trickery of the Pagans and Gnostics, without including the Roman Catholic and Popish amulets.
According to the story, a man of ancient times who dwelt in eastern lands received a ring of priceless worth from the hand of God. This ring, adorned with an opal that radiated a hundred beautiful colors, had the magical power to make its bearer, if he wore it trusting in the strength of the stone, beloved of God and men. But with the passage of time, confusion arose. It turned out that there were actually three rings, each of which was alleged to be the original, genuine ring though only one was supposed to be the true one. Faced with this unacceptable situation, each of the three bearers, insisting that the one in his possession was the only genuine ring, eventually went so far as to file a suit against the other two bearers. At the bar, however, no solution was forthcoming. The modest judge (der bescheidne Richter) left the final judgment to a wiser man (ein weisrerMann) who would sit as judge on the bench when a thousand thousand years had passed. In other words, the question as...
Ancient philosophical thought sought to explain how the natural world runs, in terms of causes both physical and metaphysical. Interference could be postulated, from ill-disposed or well-intentioned spiritual powers, but that brought the question into the realms of the magical arts. These lay on the fringes of the intellectually respectable in philosophy, as they lay on the edge of the orthodox in Christian thought of the Middle Ages. The overall purpose of the philosophers was to account for nature and its phenomena in terms of a co-ordinated system of forces and tendencies, moving matter according to regulating principles derived from a higher power. Christian thought introduced a new element into the equation in the form of grace. Grace is the free act of a merciful God. It can alter the course of otherwise predictable events for good.
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