Alison Butler Quotes
“There is a tendency in the academic study of magic to characterise magical belief and practice as irrational. This tendency is the result of a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the nature of magic and of its historical role in Western culture. This misrepresentation is dependent upon two erroneous interpretations of magical practice and belief. The first interpretation is derived from a religious view of the world and the second from an apparent scientific view of the world. Early biblical religion provides us with some of the first written documents that deal with magic. In this forum magic is depicted as evil and forbidden yet, most importantly, it is portrayed as being quite real. This understanding of magic prevailed in the Middle Ages when unorthodox and deviant religious practices were classified by the Church as magical. The scientific viewpoint dismissed magic in favour of the more objectively verifiable applications of scientific practices and beliefs. The Age of Enlightenment furthered this early scientific approach by characterising magic not only as inefficient but also as irrational when placed under the scrutiny of newly established scientific and empirical methods. These two understandings of magic, one as terrible and real, and the other as inefficient and wrong, continue to taint the western comprehension of magic.”
- Description: Alison Butler is a social and cultural historian currently pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of Philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland, examining how contemporary developments in science affected the evolution of Victorian occultism. This program of research will explore how occultists attempted to make their field more “scientific” in response to the rise of scientific naturalism and how the resulting refashioned form of occultism proved to be more conducive to association with the emerging science of the mind, psychology.
Butler previously was lecturer at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada, and has received fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Rothermere Foundation.