Re: Belief in magic and witchcraft

Xochi Zen (
16 Nov 1995 08:24:05 -0500

> : perspective. It's hard to believe that educated people still believe
> : in this sort of thing as something more than manipulation by subtle
> : psychological methods - when I say "witchcraft" I'm referring to
> You might find life more interesting if you weren't so eager to
> dismiss people because you don't accept their beliefs. And if

I find life enormously interesting as it is, thanks.

> you're interested in being _scientific_ about, a certain emotional
> detachment and objectivity would help. If your sole purpose is
> to bash you disagree with, you're not much better than a bigot.

I'm not ought to bash anyone. Just as I stated, I'm looking for books
that discuss magic and witchcraft some a skeptic's perspective, because
this sort of analysis is sorely lacking in-print. Whereas I can take
a trip down to the local new age bookstore and find any number of
credulous books on the subject... certainly no shortage of those.

If you happen to know of any particularly persuasive books that would
lead me to believe there might be something to magic and religion
(aside from religious, metaphysical beliefs) as a real force (as
opposed to an imaginary one), by all means send those references my
way. Otherwise, please don't waste my time. I think I was pretty
careful in qualifying my request.

> : Enough educated people believe in this stuff (humanities "scholars" seem
> : particularly prone to belief in this sort of thing - must be an aesthetic
> : thing -) that there ought to be more written about it.
> If you weren't so busy being skeptical, you might discover that
> part of the interest in witches is a revival of a mother-goddess
> religion, such as conjectured by Gimbuta.

Actually, I do have an interest in this, but that's not what I asked for.
You really didn't read my post very carefully, but had a knee-jerk reaction
to it apparently. It would probably surprise you to know that one of my
favorite authors is Terence McKenna who is deep into Gimbuta and a whole
lot of other weird stuff. If anything, it's a lot of fun. But again, I'm
here with my epistemologist's/skeptic's hat on as I made abundantly clear.

A lesson for you here is: people may seem 2-dimensional from their posts,
but many are far more complex in their interests, viewpoints, etc. as their
posts might indicate. Who knows --- maybe I'm playing the devil's advocate...

> : I'm especially interested in how people convince themselves that
> : they can cast death and destruction spells on others successfully - or
> At this moment, you've shown so much bias, I'm not sure your
> characterisation of spellcasting is even close to reality. Have
> you ever talked to someone who claims to this ability?

More times than I care to remember. Yes, indeed I have. Interpretations
vary widely, from gaped-jaw acceptance of all things occult to more
sophisticated explanations and beliefs... and there actually is a bit of
room for skepticism within the occult... I think those with more knowledge
of the subject develop a skepticism for magic even within their belief
and use of it.

> : in this sort of stuff --- to the point of indulging in it and coming to
> : believe they have special powers --- see a shrink on a regular basis or
> : have had some contact with mental health professionals in the past.
> It is much kinder to lock them in psych unit than gulag, isn't it?
> I understand. Tolerance is so difficult. If you can't destroy every
> one who disagrees with, good lord, does that mean you might be wrong?
> Better to lock them away to face even the tiniest sliver of self
> doubt.

Again, a knee-jerk reaction. To quote Rodney Dangefield, "You're _way_
off." I do tolerate people with beliefs other than my own. More so than
most actually. But I'll leave you to your 2-d, incorrect fantasies about
me and others who post here. - maybe this argument makes _your_ life more
interesting, as you really haven't spoken subtantively to anything I've
said. My sympathies go out to you if you feel you've somehow been
persecuted, but I'd say look elsewhere for your enemy.

> You should learn to be skeptical about skepticism. Skepticism is not
> destroying and trashing and insulting thing different with your own
> views. It is about holding judgement in abeyance until sufficient
> evidence has been collected. But even then, you should be skeptical
> about the nature of "evidence."

You're preaching to the choir. Good day, sir.

| "Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and |
| Xochi Zen religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from |
| deep nonsense" - Carl Sagan in _Broca's Brain_ |