Technology and Magic

01 May

Curious indeed is the fact that magic in western culture reached its zenith, not during the ancient times of Rome, nor the middle ages, but in the 16th and 17th centuries, after the renaissance, when the west was just beginning to perfect the scientific method. In other words, magic grew when science and technology grew.

C.S. Lewis, a professor of medieval literature, put it this way:

There was very little magic in the Middle Ages: the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse.

Now, what is the point of this? Well, I will let Lewis provide the point, while agreeing with philosopher Peter Kreeft that he makes that this is the most profound point anyone has made about modernity:

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.

Lewis’s words warn us away from a simplistic viewpoint that technology is always bad because it destroys things like craftsmanship, nature, and simplicity, as well as from an equally simplistic viewpoint that technology is always good because of all the cool stuff it gives us. To think christianly about technology will be to think deeply.


Leave a Reply


  1. Birdman

    05/01/2012 at 6:03 pm

    …you are usually somewhere thinking deeply…lol.

  2. chris

    05/03/2012 at 3:41 pm

    So would the T.A.R.D.I.S. be magic or technology…or a little of both?

    • Daniel

      05/03/2012 at 5:06 pm

      Good question. I’ve heard of Dr. Who, but never seen the show, so I’m out of my depths here.

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