The Magical Worldview

The Magical Worldview

And Magical Thinking

 

Pagan religions are religions of magic, religions of the symbolic and mythic and wondrous. Psychologists and “scientific fundamentalists” frequently speak of magical thinking as an irrational approach to life, or even a symptom of a mental disorder. From that perspective, paganism is just an incoherent set of superstitions, based on a fallacy of assuming causality where there is none. But there's another way to look at it.

The scientific worldview, while highly effective in a certain context, is based on atomization- breaking everything down into discrete and alienated little pieces, while explicitly denying that those pieces have any symbolic or spiritual meaning. The context in which this works is always local and short-term. It allows you to continually discover new and more effective ways to do more things faster, more efficiently and on a larger scale. And the global scale is precisely where it breaks down, as you burn through all the available resources and leave a gutted wasteland behind you. That's the fallacy of thinking you can truly understand the whole by studying an infinite number of isolated parts.

 

The magical worldview is less effective on the small scale and the short term. No one in his right mind would go to a faith healer if he had a surgeon on hand. But magical worldviews tend to look at the whole system of the world as being interconnected and filled with meaning, and people with this type of worldview don't tend to destroy the future in order to make the present more comfortable or more profitable. What the future needs is not the victory of the scientific worldview over the magical, but a way to integrate them.