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Current Trends in the Application of Cognitive Science to Magic

Current Trends in the Application of Cognitive Science to Magic E D WA R D B E V E R SUNY College at Old Westbury The idea that apparently supernatural phenomena are at least as much a manifestation of the workings of the human mind as of effects that actually occur in the physical world goes back as far as skeptical philosophers of Classical antiquity, who asserted that magicians worked through a combination of fraud, illusion, and natural processes.1 This disparagement of magic as illusion was taken up by late Roman and early Medieval Christians, who used it to call into question the claims of pagan priests and popular practitioners to supernatural power. The position informed the influential tenth-century canon Episcopi, which insisted that women who thought they rode through the air with the goddess Diana were victims of diabolical illusions.2 The Episcopi's position was incorporated into subsequent ecclesiastical law codes and interpreted broadly as holding that magic in general is illusory, an orthodoxy that dominated Church thinking until the formulation of the witch demonology in the late Middle Ages. Of course, Medieval Christians believed that some supernatural effects were real, because God was capable of contravening the laws of nature, and he could allow lesser beings like http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft University of Pennsylvania Press

Current Trends in the Application of Cognitive Science to Magic

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
The University of Pennsylvania Press
ISSN
1940-5111
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Abstract

E D WA R D B E V E R SUNY College at Old Westbury The idea that apparently supernatural phenomena are at least as much a manifestation of the workings of the human mind as of effects that actually occur in the physical world goes back as far as skeptical philosophers of Classical antiquity, who asserted that magicians worked through a combination of fraud, illusion, and natural processes.1 This disparagement of magic as illusion was taken up by late Roman and early Medieval Christians, who used it to call into question the claims of pagan priests and popular practitioners to supernatural power. The position informed the influential tenth-century canon Episcopi, which insisted that women who thought they rode through the air with the goddess Diana were victims of diabolical illusions.2 The Episcopi's position was incorporated into subsequent ecclesiastical law codes and interpreted broadly as holding that magic in general is illusory, an orthodoxy that dominated Church thinking until the formulation of the witch demonology in the late Middle Ages. Of course, Medieval Christians believed that some supernatural effects were real, because God was capable of contravening the laws of nature, and he could allow lesser beings like

Journal

Magic, Ritual, and WitchcraftUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: May 12, 2012

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