Machinery, Magic and Art

David Trammel's picture

In the comments for the 12/5/18 Ecosophia post "What Is Art For?", was posted this link to Thomas King Wipple's short essay "Machinery, Magic and Art".

"Of late there has been some talk, and very interesting talk, too, about machines as works of art. Why not reverse the process, and look at works of art as machines? Such an identification of art and machinery is not unwarranted. In the beginning they were one and the same thing, they served the same single object, the gaining and ruling of power. This was in the days when they were both indistinguishable parts of primitive magic. As they have developed and differentiated, however, machinery has remained true to its original purpose, but specialized in handling only physical power. Art, on the other hand, which should specialize in conveying psychological power, has relinquished its office. Consequently, it finds itself in the doldrums, although it has vital work to do that can be done by no other agency. The world has urgent need of it; both the world and art would benefit if the arts could be persuaded to resume their original and proper business, to play once again the role they played in early magic."

"The mention of magic ought not to be too surprising. It has long been recognized that in primitive magic lies a chief source of both science and art. Magic is the savage’s engineering, his technology. It is his effort to get command of power and direct it to his own purposes. By mimicry, incantation, and the other methods of magic he undertakes to control the wind and the rains, to induce fecundity in his tribe, to make his crops grow. Always he has in view, according to his lights, what Bacon foretold as the chief service of natural science, “the relief of man’s estate.” And it must be remembered that to him magic is in a sense not magic, and certainly not to be divided from science and art. To divert the waters of a stream to his cornfield, to sprinkle it with holy meal, and to make a song or a statue for the benefit of his grain are for him not only equally valid but similar means of attaining his end.”


I wonder if something similar could be said about the intersection of Science and Green Wizardry?

Some of the skills that we learn here and practice are looked down on by the established scientific community. Meditation and herbal medicine are skills that have a long history of usefulness and yet are difficult to quantify in a way that science can define.