My Years of Magical Thinking

My Years of Magical Thinking


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Understand magical thinking, and you will understand why the 20th century age of reason has lead us to a "post-truth" society.

We are taught to deny, demonise or even glamorise magic – rather than ever admit to thinking magically. But it is every bit as fundamental to human nature as science, religion or art.

Faced with the growing popularity of alternative healing, astrology and the New Age, people ask: “whatever happened to the Enlightenment?” They assume that "The Enlightenment" marked a break with a superstitious past; it was a forward leap for humanity after which any return to magical thinking would be regressive, or even impossible. It was a forward step, but it began by looking back two millennia to the Classical era, and re-discovering the foundations on which to build a culture of science and humanism that is considered to be the high point in human achievement.

The classical era was itself a high point in human culture, but it only spanned five centuries. The following, Roman, era saw a resurgence of magical thinking and laid the foundations for alchemy, astrology, alternative healing, and much of today’s magical ideas and practices. Pontius Pilate famously asked “what is truth?” and two thousand years later postmodernist philosophers are raising similar questions.

Is the revival of magical thinking just a natural evolution of thought, to be expected after five centuries of rationalism?

The author was brought up in the materialist 1950s and educated in that sceptical Enlightenment tradition to become a Cambridge mathematics graduate. Despite that, he became increasingly interested in magic and the occult and is now recognised as an authority on the subject. So how is it possible to shift from our knowledge of scientific reality to an acceptance of magic? The book describes the author’s own subjective experience of how that evolved over his lifetime.

Parts One and Two outline some of the important influences on his thinking and Parts Three and Four expand on CP Snow’s idea of two cultures (Art and Science) to propose four cultures: Art, Science, Religion and Magic. Part Five looks at the conflicts and misunderstandings between cultures and reasons why magic gets a raw deal, or is simply denied as a culture.

Part Six summarises the case and the Part Seven looks at contemporary trends and assumptions to show that the rise in magical thinking goes far deeper than just the visible popularity of astrology columns and alternative healing. A penultimate chapter provides practical suggestions for those willing to explore the value of magical thinking - or simply wanting to survive in a post-truth world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780904311242
Publisher: The Mouse That Spins
Publication date: 02/06/2017
Pages: 330
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Lionel Snell is a contemporary English magician, publisher and author on magic and philosophy. Since 1972 he has written and published several books noted for their impact on late 20th-century magic and humour. Under the pen name Ramsey Dukes he has a popular YouTube channel of short videos on magic-related topics.

He was brought up in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and won a series of scholarships, plus government grants, that took him to Clifton College, Bristol, then Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated as a pure mathematician, then took a Diploma in Education before teaching mathematics at Eton College, a Waldorf school and a further education college. While at Cambridge he studied rare works of Aleister Crowley and other occult writers in the University library and worked with a number of Crowley's ex-disciples.

His books on magic and virtual reality have won him an enthusiastic and faithful readership among a wide circle of alternative groups, notably fans of avant-guard rock music and graphic novels. His writing is recognised as being significantly different from most radical occult thinking, which tends to either glamourize or demonize magic.

In addition to long experience with radical alternative cultures, the author has for many years worked freelance as ghost writer for ICT companies and organizations, churning out press releases, video scripts, booklets and educational articles.

Ramsey Dukes is the most well known pen name of Lionel Snell, the book's author

Table of Contents

Part one - My taste of Existentialism
Part two - Other influences
5. C.P. Snow on cultures
5.1 Snow's two cultures
5.2 Two cultures across society
5.3 Impact on my education
6. Platonism
7. Mathematics
7.1 Numbers as fairies
8. Artificial intelligence
8.1 Virtual worlds
9. Magic
9.1 Magic and the quest for truth
9.2 Testing the truth about truth
Part three - My quest for four cultures
10. Cultures
10.1 Science compared with magic
11. Religion as a third culture
11.1 Is religious culture irrational?
12. A fourth culture
12.1 A game-playing culture
12.3 In search of magic
13. What makes thinking into "magical thinking"?
13.1 Feeling and pattern recognition
13.2 Magical versus scientific language
13.3 Magical versus scientific theory
13.4 Subjective versus objective "evidence"
13.5 Changing perception
13.6 Fractal categorisation
13.7 Cultures as orientations
13.8 Right brain and magical thinking
14. Problem areas in magical thinking
14.1 Demonolatry
14.2 The nature of belief in magical thinking
14.3 True and "really true"
14.4 Can magical belief survive in a rational universe?
Part four - Relationships between four cultures
15. Linear and spatial relationships
16. The sequence of cultures
16.1 Applying this cycle
16.2 A continuing cycle
16.3 A generational cycle
16.4 Whatever happened to the Enlightenment?
16.5 A cycle of values
17. A magical theory of dynamic relationships
17.1 Exploring the theory subjectively
17.2 How did my thinking evolve from science into magic?
18. The path from magic towards art
18.1 How art transcends magic
18.2 Conclusion
19. The path from art through religion to science
19.1 Developing religious culture
Part five - Resistance and conflict between cultures
20. Emerging complexity and inherited vices
20.1 The problem of meaning
20.2 The problem of style
20.3 The problem of faith
20.4 The problem of doubt
21. The demons of resistance
21.1 Art under attack
21.2 Religion under attack
21.3 Science under attack
21.4 Magic under attack
22. Lies, damn lies, and magic - the conflict with science
22.1 Magical thinking gets a raw deal
22.2 Sometimes it is just sour grapes
22.3 Magical culture dismissed as infantile
22.4 But is not scientific culture a bit adolescent?
22.5 Truth or fraud
25.6 Truth versus myth
22.7 Magical freedom to explore scientific myths
22.7.1 A virtual reality myth
22.7.2 A subjective reality myth
22.8 The challenge of illusion
22.9 Teetering on the brink of the primordial abyss
22.10 Modelling versus sculpting
23. Magical culture as ultimate evil
23.1 Individualism and the "me generation"
23.2 Gimme! Gimme!
23.3 The culture of narcissism
23.4 The problem of power
23.5 When belief appears absolute
23.6 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live
Part six - Picturing it all: a brief artistic interlude
24. A brief artistic interlude
Part seven - What is happening now?
25. Moving out of my head into the "real world"
25.1 The sort of book to write, or not to write
25.2 Pax Romana - is it repeating itself?
25.4 Does history repeat?
26. What really happened to the Enlightenment?
26.1 A walk on the wild side
26.2 Do not expect the obvious
26.3 Beware sheep in wolves' clothing
26.4 Psychics and Sci-chicks
26.5 Pax Romana revisited
26.6 What has Pax Romana got to do with magical thinking?
26.7 The profit motif
26.8 In the beginning is the word
26.9 In the beginning is the word - part 2
26.10 A rise in talismania
26.11 Narcissism and the problem of power
26.12 Conjuration as magic
26.13 Tales of the unexpected
26.14 The kingdom of the trolls
27. Now you are on your own...
27.1 First steps into magic
27.2 The importance of secrecy
27.3 Superstition?
27.4 Observation as the test for significance
27.5 Working with modern demons
27.6 A trivial example
27.7 The journey to wholeness
28: In Conclusion

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