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Magic and Science

As advertised, this month’s workshop is going to be on the elements. I’ve known about the elements as long as I can remember – growing up they were featured in the films I saw (Flight of Dragons), the cartoons I watched (Captain Planet) and the books I read (pretty much every other Point Fantasy I devoured). Needless to say the periodic table came as a bit of a shock to the system but since I more or less approached Chemistry as a potions class (in a pre-Harry Potter world mind you, and much to the amusement of my teacher) I did alright on that side of things. I never really wanted or needed to reconcile the two – school was school, and magic was magic.

Theory and Practice
Since then I’ve known plenty of scientists who were on spiritual paths incorporating magic (or the other way around, depending on how you look at it) with no deep-seated conflict between the two. The go-to argument for most in the magical community when challenged with ye olde “magic can’t be proved scientifically” line is ye equally olde faithful “maybe magic is just something science can’t explain yet“. Objectively this makes total sense – after all, the earth was once flat and the sun went around it and sickness was caused by ill humours (or possibly foul demons). And I’ve been spieling it off by rote myself for years. “Think of what we knew 100 years ago, and then think about what we might know 100 years from now”.

In the last couple of weeks though I finally got round to watching the adaptation of Genius, a biography of Albert Einstein – not my normal fare, but the cast was too delectable to resist. And I have to say that, aside from the comprehensively outstanding performances (Samantha Colley really stole it for me, exceptional) the thing that most struck me was the realisation of how much of the scientific fact I had been taught as a given was nothing but wild (and very unpopular) speculation not so long ago. That a lot of the truths we base our ongoing pursuit of (scientific) knowledge on were inferred, unproven and considered unprovable, glimpsed only fleetingly and intangibly through their effect on other more observable dynamics. Just enough to cause question, to inspire faith, to drive discovery. Eerily familiar, no?

The quest for knowledge comes in all shapes and forms, but I think has more in common than in difference. I would love to see a day, a world, where we can harmonise all our truths, but in the meantime I think accepting that all of our journeys are uniquely important and learning from our mutual discoveries can only be of benefit.