Episode:Evolutionary Religion—Fetishes and Magic (Part 3)

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March 27, 2018 [Paper 88:4-5, p. 970]

Mankind is progressing from magic to science, not by meditation and reason, but rather through long experience. Man is gradually and painfully backing into the truth—beginning in error, progressing in error, and finally attaining the threshold of truth. Only with the arrival of the scientific method has he faced forward.

Listen to the broadcast

Keywords: Urantia, Religion, Magic, Sorcery, Charms



Summary by Kermit

Commentary on the Review

We revisited the issue of magic versus miracle. Miracle comes from Latin for to wonder at. As mentioned last week the Midwayers tell us that from their point of view miracles are the operation of universal laws beyond their understanding. While magic is an inevitable way station on mortal man’s evolutionary path to knowledge and the understanding of universe phenomena, we needn’t short circuit our wonder at genuine miracles with such false notions.


88:4. Magic

Fundamentally, magic represents the ancients’ attempt to know the future and manipulate the environment to their desired ends. Civilized man responds to the problems in the real (objective) environment through science. The primitives approached their real problems through the application of magic in dealing with an illusory ghost environment. The revelators refer to magic as the art of obtaining voluntary spirit cooperation and coercing involuntary spirit aid through the tools of the trade, fetishes or other more powerful spirits. The term art suggests that the primitives employed their personal creativity, such as it was in this pursuit. So it is that the evolutionary process leads man from magic to science and not religion. The 5th ER is a primer on reality, hence we know that the three basic energies, of matter, mind, and spirit are independent and do not directly interact one with another save through the agency of deity. The ancients and unfortunately a significant proportion of present day mankind harbors the belief that spirit magically directly interacts with matter. Even mind in its function of bridging the gulf between matter and spirit does not directly interact with either but requires the presence and function of deity.

The use of fetishes to cajole and coerce spirit cooperation is not that far removed from the practice of using prayer to try to change God’s mind. Since prayer serves as a prelude to true worship, it behooves us to direct our prayer life toward spirit and away from matter that we might master true prayer and achieve genuine worship.

The objects of science are identical with those of magic inasmuch as they are both techniques of changing and controlling things in the external world (matter). Mankind’s progression from magic to science is a wonderful illustration of how evolution leads mankind to progress in spite of himself. As the revelators put it, “Man is gradually backing into truth, beginning with error, progressing in error and finally attaining the threshold of truth.” The revelators mention of the scientific method led us to a discussion of distinctions between what passes for the scientific method (rationalizations based on data collection and analysis), and the actual process of logically progressing from information to knowledge through the refutation of false explanations and theories. Listen to the archive for details. Listen carefully for the distinction between logic and rationale.

Harkening back to Paper 86 section 3, Death—The Inexplicable, the revelators explain how the concept of original sin, in accounting for natural death moved mankind forward by weakening the influence of magic on the race. However, the fact that fear itself can actually kill, served to reinforce the deeply held beliefs in magic. Substituting God for ghosts and science for magic in much of this narrative we can see today’s religious landscape played out before us.


88:5. Magical Charms

Our author here provides examples galore of the various objects our primitive ancestors imbued with magical properties for specific purposes.

Some things regarded as magical by the ancients were: hair, nails, excreta, spittle, food remnants, clothing, human flesh, tiger claws, crocodile teeth, poison plant seeds, snake venom, bones, blood, images, effigies, milk of a black cow, black cat, staffs, wands, drums, bells, knots, practices of new or higher civilizations, and names.

The revelators have given considerable ink to this information. Rather than treating it as history, perhaps it is more profitable for the student to reflect on these recitals, identifying the ancient origins of those things we do unthinkingly today, and begin in small ways to bring enhanced consciousness to our actions that we might be grown from being intellectual parrots, social automatons, and slaves to religious authority to courageous and independent cosmic thinkers!


Notes by Brad

  • Avoiding veneration of family heirlooms, like a Hoosier Cabinet, seems rare. What would happen if you did it?
    • Asceticism replacing fetishism?
    • Idiosyncratic?
    • Eccentric? Maybe depends on your definition of a circle (is it true, or warped?)
    • Affected? We remember what the 5th ER says about affectation
    • Perhaps appreciation and thankfulness are appropriate orientation.
    • But don't go to the other extreme: anti-matter-ism. Don't denigrate matter. Even the highest places in the cosmos are material sphere that are stood upon.


  • There's a difference between the real things in the external world and the representations of them in your mind.
  • Remember that spirit is absolutely separate from matter. Anything short of that is a problematic old wineskin
    • notwithstanding that mind mediates between matter and spirit. And remember that mind also is absolutely separated.
    • So what bridges these absolute divides? Deity.


  • Are you directing your prayer toward some magic spirit being that magically plays with matter? Old wineskin.
  • Is your prayer attempting to have insight into the future or affect the environment? Sounds like magic and sorcery.
  • Don't feel too bad about this. Just recognize these are the thoughts of a child of God. Would you like to strive to be an adult of God?
  • The 5th ER is written for the child who is ready to take a step into adolescence. If you're not there yet, you'll only see affirmation of your old wineskins, or just ideas to reject.
  • And it's for the child who is at the limit of childhood who hasn't been "bent back around" by the teachers of the day. "Where did this wall come from?"
  • But to leave childhood is to begin to leave grace behind, and to stand on your own two feet--your own personal integrity.


  • Sorcery is defined as the malicious use of magic to the detriment of others.


  • Reflective thinking is very active. By comparison, meditation is rather passive.
    • Meditation might quiet the clamoring of the material mind, and set the stage for this more active reflective thinking.


  • The so-called scientific method is a "rationalization method predicated on data collection and analysis."
    • The genuine scientific method gets you from information (data) to knowledge. Its goal is truth.
    • Only the genuine scientific method "faces you forward."
    • Try attempting to refute a hypothesis, not confirm it.
    • To get from information to knowledge is not easy.


  • Careful: You can believe anything. You can rationalize anything.
    • And refutation is not just rationalizing negatively. Any theory can be rationalized away--the isn't refutation. Refutation involves logic.
    • The original sin hypothesis was confirmed every time someone died of natural causes. Does that mean it's a true scientific theory? Nope.
    • You can confirm false theories endlessly. And always add more rationalizations and epicycles to false theories.
    • Fear drives us naturally into rationalization. It calms us in the short term.
      • The fear of being exposed as not knowing everything drove early 20th century scientists into rationalization schemes.
  • Magic is natural to the child of God. An adult of God rejects magic, and is not natural.


  • Covering your spit with dirt unreflectively seems harmless enough. But there are millions of those kinds of things in your mind.
    • Seeing all this for what it is, is a massive transformation and undertaking.


  • Why is it so easy for civilization to slide backward? Because every little child begins as a savage; every generation has within it all these primitive beliefs. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.


  • All of these simple examples of primitive beliefs are making a larger point: for every one of these simple ones listed here, there are 1,000 unexampled more subtle ones in your mind, lurking unexamined.
    • This author noticed his Hoosier Cabinet. And he hopes he has better ideas about that cabinet now. He doesn't have to throw it away, per se.