Magic, Science, and Man

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the ‘wisdom’ of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious.

CS Lewis
The Abolition of Man

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5 Responses

  1. After re-reading chapter three last night I kept pondering the scientist and the magician and the lopping off of limbs. Naturally I went and grabbed Frankenstein:

    Partly from curiosity and partly from idleness, I went into the lecturing room…

    “The ancient teachers of this science,” said he, “promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.”

    Such were the professor’s words—rather let me say such the words of the fate—enounced to destroy me. As he went on I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being; chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, once conception, one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.

    Frankenstein
    Mary Shelley

    • Well, I was just googling around thinking that someone somewhere must have written about the connection between The Abolition of Man and Frankenstein. And up comes Dean Koontz. I’ve never read his stuff but apparently he is a world famous author and has written a Frankenstein series that was inspired by The Abolition of Man. Maybe everyone knows about this connection? I guess I’m sort of out of it!

      However, I’m inspired by my discovery and want to add one last quote that I think is so very fitting:

      M Krempe (prof. of natural philosophy) to Victor Frankenstein:

      “You have burdened your memory with exploded systems and useless names. Good God! In what desert land have you lived, where no one was kind enough to inform you that these fancies which you have so greedily imbibed are a thousand years old and as musty as they are ancient? I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew.”

      Chapter 3

      • Kim,

        How apropos that you mention Frankenstein. I was just saying good bye to an apprentice on her journey home and she mentioned Frankenstein, which then got me thinking about a list of novels that should be explored while preparing for this theme of Man and I figured Frankenstein probably needs to be on that list.

        Thanks for your thoughts. I will read them more closely later today.

  2. “All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his command” because he loves power over truth.

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