Classical Background to Medieval Magic

Aristotle lay foundations for astrology – although he did not describe or promote it – with his concept of a fifth essence/element found in the celestial bodies that were responsible for developing life and promoting action on earth. The prime mover only exerted an influence through the movements of these bodies. Although he said that observation of the stars could not predict events on Earth.

Early Christians accused of magic by classical pagans – Christians claimed miracles not magic as came from God.

Difference in Christian and Classical concept of magic:

Christian – magic was either calling upon demons (evil spirits but under the control ultimately of God) to do evil, or if pagan worship, demons in the form of false gods. Christian and to some extent Jewish God was only true god so pagan worshippers were therefore de facto following false gods which were demons.

Classical – demons could be good or evil – in the main were intercessors between Gods and men. Magic was use of gods or demons power for evil ends. Not approved of because evil and secretive and therefore antisocial.

Many of Christ and Apostles miracles had hints of the magical about them – the use of special word formulas the symbolic use of items – hem of a cloak.

In classical times the artefacts of those crucified were used by magicians to call upon the spirits of those crucified for magical purposes.

Theurgy: the neoplatonic practice of using magic to call on the power of the gods. Plotinus and Porphyry.

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