Malcolm M. Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium Web Archive

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Garth Reese
MRIC 2011/12

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Garth Reese

Turning of the Wheel: A Humanities Exploration
"Invisible Spokes: The Ubiquity of Magic in the West"

Garth ReeseUI Library, Special Collections and Archives
September 13
Whitewater Room, UI Commons- 

Abstract: In this presentation, I will show how central “magic” and its fellow occult sciences – alchemy and astrology – were to early modern thinkers, and thus why they should be central to our examination of the early modern world. Magic was explicitly theological and even orthodox in the minds of many early modern scholars, and their magical pursuits were not exceptional for the time period. In failing to comprehend this, historians, theologians, and religious studies scholars compromise the understanding of not only early modern magic, but also early modern religion and early modern culture in general. We contemporary people like to think of ourselves as “beyond such superstition,” and yet not only are we not beyond it, much of it was not superstition. By pretending that these essential spokes are invisible or altogether absent, we risk the stability of the larger wheel and ultimately we risk losing an accurate portrait of ourselves.

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