The Association of Ideas: Bringing People Together

Ariel Glucklich

in The End of Magic

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108798
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853434 | DOI:
The Association of Ideas: Bringing People Together

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The rise of modern anthropology in England coincided, paradoxically, both with the new theory of evolution and with the popularity of spiritualism. Edward B. Taylor could not have been anything but shocked by the “duping” of such renowned figures as Alfred Russell Wallace or William Crookes. Magic was an exception to the evolutionary pattern seen in the religious and practical aspects of culture. Its survival in Victorian England testified to the persistence of primitive ways of thinking, which Taylor called the “association of ideas.” Instead of recognizing true causality in natural events, primitive peoples—including some Englishmen—were misled by the resemblance or the proximity of objects into thinking that they were related. By regarding magic as a form of pre-scientific thinking—the “association of ideas” as opposed to proper causality—and by rigorously placing modern spiritualism in historical perspective as the fulfillment of certain psychological needs, Taylor took the occult out of magic.

Keywords: Edward B. Taylor; occult; magic; association of ideas; evolution; spiritualism; England; causality

Chapter.  2600 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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