Arthur C. Clark, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Using that quote as a starting point, we will continue to explore the relationship between the two.
Magic is the art of conjuring the elemental forces of nature or supernatural beings of the spirit world to alter reality. Magic is produced by spells usually involving arcane symbols, objects and spoken or written words. One term for books of magic is Grimoire, which translates literally to ‘grammar’, giving another level of meaning to the word ‘spell’.
Science, on the other hand, is the art of understanding and manipulating reality through the use of advanced knowledge and technology. Science believes there are logical explanations for everything that exists, and that which is currently not explainable will be eventually understood through application of the scientific method. Modern science seems intent on using technology to zoom further and further down into the physical nature of reality, continuing to find smaller and smaller particles (quantum theory).
Both science and magic harness the energies of nature, although each is based upon a separate belief of what nature really is. Early scientific study proposed that there are four basic elements in the natural world; fire, water, earth and air (and wood according to Chinese belief). Cyril Davson wrote about the Austrian scientist Karl Schapeller in The Physics of the Primary State of Matter, who theorized that these elements are all comprised from the Ether, a conscious-physical energy pervading all of space. Schappeller’s work on a new source of energy was of great interest to Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Nazi SS (Records of the Reich Leader of the SS and Chief of the German Police, p. 88). In the late 1800s the Michelson-Morley experiment supposedly disproved the existence of the Ether.
Alchemy is a pre-scientific practice which borders on both science and magic. The chief aims of alchemy were to change various metals into gold, concoct potions to cure any disease and grant immortality. Alchemists believed in magic while at the same time establishing some of the basic tenets of modern science such as laboratory techniques, experimental method and terminology. During the Renaissance, alchemy would go on to split into two branches, one rooted in philosophy, astrology and the occult, and the other branch the sciences of chemistry and medicine.
Today, the two realms of magic and science that once shared much in common are very separate belief systems that do not acknowledge the others’ validity. This evokes the image of the elephant and the blind men, each groping for an understanding of the same thing while in total disagreement with one another.