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Scientific Theories Regarding the Nature of Magic
by Lewis Spence
General agreement as to the proper definition of magic is wanting, as it depends upon the view taken of religious belief. According to Frazer, magic and religion are one and the same thing, or are so closely allied as to be almost identical. This may be true of peoples in a savage or barbarian condition of society, but can scarcely apply to magic and religion as fully fledged, as for example in mediaeval times, however fundamental may be their original unity.

The objective theory of magic would regard it as entirely distinct from religion, possessed of certain well-marked attributes, and traceable to mental processes differing from those from which the religious idea springs. Here and there the two have become fused by the super-imposition of religious upon magical practice. The objective idea of magic, in short, rests on the belief that it is based on magical laws which are supposed to operate with the regularity of those of natural science. The subjective view, on the other hand, is that many practices seemingly magical are in reality religious, and that no rite can be called magical which is not so designated by its celebrant or agent. It has been said that religion consists of an appeal to the gods, whereas magic is the attempt to force their compliance.