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Magia and Goeteia: Shippey, Lewis, and Tolkien


A Phuulish Fellow

Last December, I ran across an interesting essay by Tom Shippey on C.S. Lewis’ treatment of magic:

Magia_Goeteia_and_the_Inklings

I would recommend reading the thing in its entirety, but as a quick summation, Shippey constructs a tentative four-way Lewisian model:

  • Religion: Literal and genial
  • Scientism: Literal and mechanical
  • Magia: Metaphorical and genial
  • Goeteia: Metaphorical and mechanical

Here, Magia and Goeteia are essentially Lewis’ way of separating out distinct forms of magic. The former represents a practitioner coaxing the external world (and the entities therein) to do something. The latter represents our practitioner treating the world as a machine – say the right words, pull the correct metaphorical lever, and the external world will yield the desired result. Magia treats the external world as alive, with all that entails, whereas Goeteia treats the external world as dead, so to speak. Something only to be manipulated, not interacted with. No prizes for guessing…

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