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Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and…

Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity… (2002)

by Anthony F. Aveni

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To Carlyle Aveni- whose life is filled with magic
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0870816713, Paperback)

Anthony Aveni, who teaches astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University and is the author of a book on the astrological origins of astronomy, Conversing With the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos, is an interested but skeptical inquirer into the wackier realms of superstition. His assumptions are scientific, rational, and secular as he charts the history of magical and supernatural beliefs and their pseudo-scientific manifestations. The thread of his story runs from early Greece and Rome through the Dark Ages of alchemy and witchcraft to the Age of Enlightenment and on to our New Age resurgence of belief in the spirit world. From the evil eye to the crystal ball to new age healing crystals, Aveni identifies a consistent human weakness for magical solutions to life's puzzles.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:28 -0400)

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In this fascinating exploration of occult practice, Anthony Aveni takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through time and space, traveling from the ancient Tigris-Euphrates river valley to the streets of our modern-day cities. On the way, he catalogs the many ways people have used magic over the millennia in hopes of improving their lives. Consider a page from your ancestors' book of spells: For a headache, pour vinegar on your door hinges. For warts, wait until the twentieth day after a new moon, rub dirt on the warts while you lie in the road, and gaze up at the moon. Or, if you prefer more modern superstitions and want to be a good pitcher, be like Texas Ranger Mike Griffin and always eat bacon the day before you take to the mound. Professor Aveni argues persuasively that we cannot separate a culture's perception of reality from its times. The ancient priests of Egypt saw the dung beetle, or scarab, as a sign of life not because they were ignorant primitives, but because they were using the available clues in the world around them to map out a greater truth. When Kabbalists sought to discover meaning through the letters in a name or an historical date, they were seeking to satisfy a very deeply held urge. The ancients sought the same goals we now obtain from science and religion - a clearer picture of humanity's place in the cosmos. How and why has Western thought and scientific inquiry diverged from magic? At a time when crystals, channeling, faith healing, earth worship, and transcendental meditation are enjoying a renaissance, the lines between science, magic, and the occult are beginning to blur once again. Comparing Harry Houdini and scientific provocateur Richard Feynman, Professor Aveni asks, "Is magic in the eye of the beholder?"… (more)

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