The Magical Experience

Ariel Glucklich

in The End of Magic

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108798
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853434 | DOI:
The Magical Experience

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Magical experience results from the way the participants—not just primitive hunters—are “linked” to their world. If no direct wiring (physiological link) can be found, then magic must be purely mental: a language or belief. But if the participants are “hooked up” through a natural equivalent to the fiber-optic wiring of a virtual reality machine, then magic is far more than a cultural artifact—perhaps a bridge between physiology and psychology. Metaphorically speaking, humans are still “wired” to their physical environment in a variety of ways. One may speak of “hard wiring”—the physical dependence on an environment—and “soft wiring”—the perceptual orientation. One side of the debate goes by the name “computationalism,” or the top-down theory of perception. The second position, called ecological or bottom-up theory, lends itself to the more adventuresome position espoused here: that the biological function of the senses determines the nature of magic to a large extent. Magical experience—the perception of interrelatedness evoked by magical rites—seems to transcend the distinction between culture and nature, mind and body.

Keywords: magic; magical experience; hard wiring; soft wiring; computationalism; bottom-up theory; perception; mind; body; culture

Chapter.  8590 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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