Magic and Witchcraft


We have long wished that some English or foreign university would offer a prize for a history of
Magic and Witchcraft. The records of human opinion would contain few chapters more
instructive than one which should deal competently with the Black Art. For gross and painful as
the details of superstition may be, yet superstition, by its very etymology, implies a dogma or a
system of practice standing upon some basis of fact or truth: and however vain or noxious the
superstructure may be, the foundation of it is in some way connected with those deep verities
upon which rest also the roots of philosophy and religion.

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Magic and Witchcraft

For a grand error, and such alone can at any time essentially affect the opinions of mankind in
general, is ever the imitation or caricature of some grand truth. From one soil spring originally
the tree which yields good fruit and the plant which[Pg iv] distils deadly poison. The very
discernment of the causes of error is a step towards the discovery of its opposite. The
bewilderments of the mind of man, when fully analysed, afford a clue to the course of its
movements from the right track, or at least enable us to detect the point at which began the
original separation between Truth and Error. Alchemy led, by no very circuitous route, to the
science of chemistry; the adoption of false gods by the majority of the human race rendered
necessary the dispensations of the Jewish and Christian schemes; and the corruption of true
reverence for the Good, the Beautiful, and the Holy, was the parent of those arts, which, under
the several appellations of Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, etc., drew their professors at first and the
multitude afterwards to put faith in the evil, the deformed, and the impure. Magic and Witchcraft
are little more than the religious instincts of mankind, first inverted, then polluted, and finally,
like all corrupted matter, impregnated with the germs of a corrupt vitality.


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