History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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J.G. Bennett on shamanism

July 30th, 2009 · No Comments

Man, evolution, and magic
We have cited today Robert Wright’s naive, if not arrogant, attempt to dismiss shamanism. Not so fast, I would say.
As it happens we are proceeding at a critical examination of the thinker J.G. Bennett at The Gurdjieff Con. Bennett’s The Dramatic Universe contains an amusing passage on the origins of magic.
As a fairly extreme New Age critic of Darwinism, Bennett’s view of human evolution would strike most as science fiction at this point, and I am not endorsing those views: they are a unique and exotic brand of the ‘intelligent design’ arugment, only this time the ‘designer’ is a ‘demiurgic world power’ who manifests in relation to human evolution to guide that. Pretty exotic stuff, but the point for me (I am after all trying to rescue some New Agers from the snares of this and other characters) is that, as Bennett amusingly notes, why on earth would anyone make up the idea of magic, if it was false? Now, in fact, some might do so, and we can, by reviewing the history here easily detect the parts that are made up and the parts that might ring true.
Bennett’s point is that we see magic in decline, shamanism in decline, and can make no sense of it. Most of all almost noone has ever seen a ‘magician’, thus making it seem plausible that the whole thing is imaginary.
With Bennett, it is caveat lector. But then the same is true of Darwin dummies, who are uniquely ignorant in their boobhood.

All authorities agree that magic was the earliest cultural agent in human life: but no one can explain how magic started. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that the thought of claiming magical powers popped into the mind of some gifted Neanderthal youngster. One must make a determined effort to visualize the situation. Hunters are notoriously superstitious: why not Neanderthal hunters? Why should they not have had, spontaneously, notions of sympathetic magic and only later have looked among themselves for a suitable operator to perform the rites. Again, this is obvious nonsense. It is totally impossible to picture the origin of magic except through some deliberate action of a man who knew what he was doing and why.

Tags: New Age

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