THERE IS A VERY FINE LINE between sorcery and magic, just as there is a fine line between magic and religion. All are necessarily related because of their essential gestation in the human mind rather than in reality.
In 1871, anthropologist EB Tylor suggested that magic was a primitive form of science because it sought to explain the nature of phenomena that humans observed and experienced.
In 1890, a colleague, JG Frazer, postulated that modern human thought has evolved in three stages, from magic through religion to science.
The practitioners and guardians of the rituals that accompany these three stages are what we call sorcerers. Magicians like Merlin were sorcerers. The priests, prophets and popes of the world are sorcerers. So too are the doctors, physicists and chemists who practice science.
Which sorcerers we believe in and follow is a matter of personal choice. As rational beings we can make up our own minds. They all offer plausible explanations for the things we don’t understand.
While all of them have malevolent aspects they also carry a great deal of good. We should not make the assumption that a sorcerer who practises magic is necessarily bad or dangerous.
Neither should we make the assumption that a sorcerer who practises science is necessarily good or harmless. As much harm has been perpetuated by scientists as has been by magicians and priests.
Later anthropologists questioned Frazer’s theory that human thought developed in a lineal fashion with one concept being replaced by another and, in turn, being replaced again. They also questioned the idea that science is the end of the line. What will come after science is an interesting question.
Rather, they postulated that all three can exist simultaneously. After all, what we call ‘human thought’ is not the ideas of one individual but the collective ideas of many individuals.
This cohabitation concept is probably no more apparent than in modern day Papua New Guinea.
Therefore, if someone with a troubled mind finds solace in the charms and chants of the magician, the ministrations of the priest or the pills created by the scientist what real harm is there in their choice?
If garden magic makes the kaukau grow strong what is the difference between that and the blessing of the priest or, indeed, the application of fertiliser made by a scientist? The kaukau will taste the same no matter which sorcerer has exercised their wiles.
Many of us believe in a little bit of magic, the possible existence of some sort of supernatural power and the probable efficacy of modern science.
That is the way it should be. No one has the right to deny us those beliefs, least of all the state and the government.
At the same time we must acknowledge that magic, religion and science all have their dark sides. It is not right to burn witches, impose our religious fundamentalism on anyone or feed people questionable drugs.
When people do those things they should be punished so that they stop and don’t do it again. At the same time they should be educated so that they see the errors of their ways. They must also be paraded as an example of what is not desirable in society.
If a man or woman is good because they believe in magic or have embraced some sort of religion or are convinced that they believe in nothing but science, what does it matter as long as they are good?