Discussions: Magic

Mike: Someone said Maimonides tries to rationalize everything, to give a reason for it. He engages the Greek's mode of reasoning. 

Mesora: I don't see the problem. Reason is all man has to uncover truth. What difference does it make if Greeks employed a line of reasoning, and if Maimonides too used it...if that line of thought uncovers truth? I also disagree....Maimonides is not "rationalizing". That would be a childish. Maimonides is "reasoning".

Mike: Granted, it could be that the God doesn't want us following after falsehoods, like idols AND witchcraft, so He legislates the death penalty for doing so. But there is no IMPERATIVE to say that this MUST be the case, unless you approach the Torah from a sophisticated philosophical standpoint, one that was developed after the Torah was written.

Mesora: I don't know what you mean. Chazal say God does not want us to follow these areas. Where do you think they got that idea?

Mike:You could answer, of course, that the Greek view is correct, and God knew it of course, it's just that the people of the time didn't. Here's the problem with saying that - the Torah and Neviim clearly say, over and over, that there is no deity other than our God. Why then, does the Torah NEVER say that witchcraft, black magic, and divination are false?

Mesora: Good question, but your premise is incorrect.

Some Jews have the idea that the Torah prohibited magic because it is true. They believe 100% that magic and fortune telling works. Ibn Ezra (Leviticus, 19:31) says the following, "Those with empty brains say 'were it not that fortune tellers and magicians were true, the Torah would not prohibit them.' But I (Ibn Ezra) say just the opposite of their words, because the Torah doesn't prohibit that which is true, but it prohibits that which is false. And the proof is the prohibition on idols and statues...."

Ibn  Ezra says the Torah DOES prohibit magic and fortune tellers...based on their respective prohibitions. You need not have a Torah verse literally specify the words "magic is false" according to Ibn Ezra. The very prohibition indicates the fallacy.

Yermiyahu 10:2 says not to follow the "signs of heaven".  That's not referring to idolatry (which he next mentions), but it refers to omens and horoscopists.

I also feel that the every statement that there is only one God, addresses all other assumed deities and falsehoods, indicating that God alone is true, all other assumed forces (magic et al) are false. 

Correct thinking is that the burden of proof is not on anyone to "disprove magic", but for someone to prove it.

Until something is proven...it is not a reality.

For someone to hold that magic is true, they need to substantiate a plausible theory of how it works. So the burden of proof is on one to prove magic...it's not a burden on others to disprove that which has yet not been proven.

Discussions of magic...in books, by mouth et al...are mere discussions...not proofs. They are to be viewed as common day UFO claims. Neither magic or UFOs have ever been substantiated, or explained rationally.

Mike: Yeah, that's a good point. I don't think most people I know would say it exists TODAY, so then there's a need to explain how it existed in the past. But the same could apply for miracles - meaning, if the Torah says there were miracles, and we believe it, then if it says there's magic we should believe it. 

Mesora: Yes. If the litmus test of historical proof exists (mass witnesses of recognizable phenomena)  for anything -- even magic -- we would accept it. The separate problem would exist as is true with miracles: how does magic work? But the fact remains that magic never existed. Therefore, God's reality - the universe - is proof of only One Power. All tricks must be explained as tricks.

Mike: In any event, the theory of how it COULD work is very simple - just like there's forces of nature, magic could be forces of nature that are harnessed through certain incantations, etc., but don't manifest themselves without that. Why can't God allow certain forces like magic to exist too? He allows other wondrous things to exist in nature and enables them to be harnessed by science. I don't think it's philosophically UNTENABLE, even if it can't be proven from sources outside the Torah. (Neither can the miracles in the Torah.)

Mesora: Again, the burden of proof is on that theory, that some system called magic exists. We don't suggest the possibility of flying purple elephants. The reality must show itself for an intelligent person to have basis for acceptance. Without any reality of magic, it is foolish to say it forms part of the universe...just like those elephants.

Mike: What is the distinction between miracles and magic? That the Torah says there's miracles? Perhaps it is also saying that there's magic. 

Mesora: Miracles: God always performs them...never by man alone.

Magic: a relationship exists between 2 or more object outside cause and effect laws. This we don't accept, as we see the laws of nature are consistent, and no "action at a distance" occurs. Physical laws must be at play in order for one object to affect another. But if there is no natural force that explains a trick, and we see "magic", we must say there is a concealed natural cause. Thus, a mind-reader cannot truly read minds, since no natural law exists whereby one can think into another person's thoughts. So its a trick. "Floating" animals must be suspended somehow. Sawing a woman in half is achieved by two midget women in a single box, where only one is seen entering. The other was there from the outset. Disappearing object go up sleeves...etc.