A General Theory of Magic

A General Theory of Magic

A General Theory of Magic

A General Theory of Magic

Synopsis

As a study of magic in 'primitive' societies and its survival today in our thoughts and social actions, this insightful work represents what Claude L¿¿vi-Strauss called, in an introduction to that edition, the astonishing modernity of the mind of one of the century's greatest thinkers. Providing a fascinating snapshot of magic throughout various cultures, as well as deep sociological and religious insights that are still very much relevant today, A General Theory of Magic presents itself as a classic for our times.

Excerpt

Up to now, the history of religions has consisted of a blurred bundle of ideas. We already have a wealth of authentic and instructive facts which will one day furnish a science of religions with abundant material. Unfortunately these facts are haphazardly classified, under vague headings; sometimes their presentation is spoiled by slipshod language. Words such as religion and magic, prayer and incantation, sacrifice and offering, myth and legend, god and spirit are interchanged indiscriminately. the science of religion has no scientific terminology. Nothing but gain would result from establishing one. However, our aim is not only to define words, but to set up natural classes of facts and, once we have established them, to attempt an analysis which will be as explanatory as possible. These definitions and explanations will provide us with scientific notions-that is, clear ideas about things and their inter-relation.

We have proceeded along these lines in our study of sacrifice. We chose it as a subject of study because it seemed to us to be one of the most typical of all religious actions. We decided to

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