A unique history of the forgotten, oldest strand of human history, and its resurgence today.
Three great strands of practice and belief run through human history. In religion, the primary human relationship is with one god or many gods. Science distances people from the world. Magic is human beings participating in the universe directly, and the universe influencing and shaping us.
Magic preceded religion and science. And 75% of the adult population of the western world hold some belief in it: we might swear at the printer, believe that the mind of a patient influences recovery, or find it hard to stab a photo of a loved one. But over the last few centuries, magic has developed a bad reputation; Western prejudices have made its study seem only something the bold scholar would attempt. Professor Chris Gosden restores it to its place in the history of the world, exploring its positive qualities and asking what it can offer the world today.
From the curses and charms of ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish magic, to the shamanistic traditions of Eurasia, indigenous America and Africa, the alchemy of the Renaissance, colonial dismissals of magic as backward, and quantum physics today, his colourful history provides the missing part of the story of civilisation.
Drawing on decades of research around the world, with incredible breadth and authority, and stunning detail – from the first known horoscope, through the statue ordered into exile, to the power of tattoos – Gosden shows what magic can offer and how we might use it to rethink our relationship with the world.