The Urantia Book -- Part III. The History
PAPER 88: Section 4.
Civilized man attacks the problems of a real environment through his science;
savage man attempted to solve the real problems of an illusory ghost environment
by magic. Magic was the technique of manipulating the conjectured spirit environment
endlessly explained the inexplicable; it was the art of
obtaining voluntary spirit co-operation and of coercing involuntary spirit
aid through the use of fetishes or other and more powerful spirits.
The object of magic, sorcery, and
necromancy was twofold:
- To secure insight into the future.
- Favorably to influence environment.
The objects of science are identical with those of magic. Mankind is progressing
from magic to science, not by meditation and reason, but rather through long
experience, gradually and painfully. Man is gradually
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.
But primitive man had to experiment or perish.
The fascination of early superstition was the mother of the later scientific
curiosity. There was progressive dynamic emotion -- fear plus curiosity -- in
these primitive superstitions; there was progressive driving power in the olden
magic. These superstitions represented the emergence of the human desire to
know and to control planetary environment.
Magic gained such a strong hold upon the savage because he could not grasp the
concept of natural death. The later idea of original sin helped much to weaken
the grip of magic on the race in that it accounted for natural death. It was
at one time not at all uncommon for ten innocent persons to be put to death
because of supposed responsibility for one natural death. This is one reason
why ancient peoples did not increase faster, and it is still true of some African
tribes. The accused individual usually confessed guilt, even when facing death.
Magic is natural to a savage. He believes that an enemy can actually be killed
by practicing sorcery on his
shingled hair or fingernail trimmings. The fatality
of snake bites was attributed to the magic of the sorcerer. The difficulty in
combating magic arises from the fact that fear can kill. Primitive peoples so
feared magic that it did actually kill, and such results were sufficient to
substantiate this erroneous belief. In case of failure there was always some
plausible explanation; the cure for defective magic was more magic.