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 Post subject: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:44 pm 
Master Mahan

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Some in this forum may have been following along with the Celestial Forum thread begun by "Dakotah" which asks, "How are we to take D. Michael Quinn's writings?" I argued in favor of Quinn's importance and significance, and, as is to be expected, Prof. Peterson said:

Daniel Peterson wrote:
You might find helpful the various reviews of works by Michael Quinn that have been published in the FARMS Review. They're all up, on line, at the Maxwell Institute web site.

Personally, although I think he's intelligent and interesting, I no longer trust Mike Quinn's work.


When pressed on this issue, the Good Professor has always been extremely dodgy. Rather than supplying a specific reason for "distrusting" (which, let's face it, is quite a strong word) Quinn's work, DCP tends to refer readers to a variety of articles, many of which are viewable via the FARMS website.

But where did this "distrust" come from? Here is one clue:

Daniel Peterson wrote:
I once thought that Quinn was the best and brightest of the Mormon historians. My loss of faith commenced with the first edition of his book on Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, when I wrote a review of it for Sunstone. The more I looked at his book, the more it melted away. I began to have doubts, and those doubts grew with time.


It turns out that there was something (one gathers) intrinsically "wrong" or "untrustworthy" about this book, since, as DCP states, this was the genesis of his "distrust." So, what was it about Early Mormonism and Magic World View that led to this rather nasty issue of trust? The title of an article, co-authored with Stephen Ricks, gives us the answer: "Joseph Smith and 'Magic': Methodological Reflections on the Use of a Term". Notice that the word "magic" has been placed in scare quotes, as if there is something suspicious (or, dare I say, "untrustworthy"?) about it.

The main thrust of the criticism of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View---and, therefore, the reason Quinn's works should not be "trusted"---lies in Quinn's use of the word "magic." In DCP's view, the word "magic" is too vague and non-specific to be accurately applied to the early activities of Joseph Smith. He elaborates:

Daniel Peterson wrote:
There's a large literature (in anthropology, classical philology, comparative religions, etc.) on how and whether to use terms like magic. I spent two months in a small NEH seminar at Princeton in 1994 (led by the Princeton New Testament scholar John Gager, but including people from classics, philosophy, religious studies, Islamic studies [me], etc.) that was entirely devoted to the question. The unanimous consensus of the group: The term magic is too vague to be useful, and cannot be salvaged.
(emphasis added)

I have bolded the above, because this turns out to be very important. Over the course of several other posts, Rollo Tomasi attempted to get DCP to list even one title among this "large literature," but the Good Professor refused again and again. (The Gager book which DCP is apparently referring to is called, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World. I wonder: would the Good Professor and his colleagues prefer that the label of "spellcasting" be applied to Joseph Smith?) Of course, we do not have access to this group of Princeton seminar participants, and cannot verify whether or not anything resembling a "unanimous consensus" was reached.

So, where else can we look? Where is this "large literature"? Where are the many scholars who say that "the term magic is too vague to be useful"? One place we can turn is the ever-reliable John Gee, whose piece in FARMS Review dealt with precisely this issue. After a silly epigraph from Lord of the Rings, the article opens with a rather vicious personal attack:

Quote:
Michael Quinn made a big mistake in publishing the first edition of his Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. His publisher (see p. xiii)3 and his friends4 warned him about the mistake he was making. He chose to publish the book anyway. When Quinn's first edition came out in 1987, the reviewers pointed out fundamental flaws—including a tortured thesis,5 twisted and forged evidence, and problematic and idiosyncratic use of loaded language—and it became clear that these flaws irreparably marred the entire framework of the book.


Footnote number 4 actually links to a bit of gossip which Gee apparently included for the sole reason of discrediting and smearing Quinn:

Quote:
At least one of the historians whom Quinn thanks in his acknowledgments (see pp. xviii–xix) has told me that he advised Quinn before he went to print the first time that it would be a mistake to publish this particular work because of major historical flaws.


Nevermind that Gee fails to elaborate here, or provide any evidence for "major historical flaws." One wonders if the Mopologists disapprove of "cowardly anonymity" in this instance....

In any case, Gee at least supplies a bit of support for the argument that "the term 'magic' is to vague to be useful":

Quote:
In 1992, the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Magic in the Ancient World failed to come to any agreement on what "magic" was.12 The plenary speaker, Jonathan Z. Smith, in particular voiced strong opinions:

I see little merit in continuing the use of the substantive term "magic" in second-order, theoretical, academic discourse. We have better and more precise scholarly taxa for each of the phenomena commonly denoted by "magic" which, among other benefits, create more useful categories for comparison. For any culture I am familiar with, we can trade places between the corpus of materials conventionally labeled "magical" and corpora designated by other generic terms (e.g., healing, divining, execrative) with no cognitive loss. Indeed, there would be a gain.13

As a result of the conference, Marvin Meyer and Paul Mirecki decided to jettison the term magic in favor of ritual power, whatever that term may mean.14 In 1993, Robert Ritner's doctoral dissertation was published. It contained an extensive critique and revision of notions about "magic" in ancient Egypt and a warning about and po lemic against imposing universal categories derived from studies of one culture onto studies of another culture.15 In 1994, Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith published a collection of translations of Coptic counterparts to the so-called Greek Magical Papyri.16 This collection included an introductory essay by Edmund Meltzer, which argued that because of "the loaded, evaluative connotation of 'magic' as false, deceptive, discredited, or morally tainted" in contrast with science and religion, "'magic' is relegated to the 'they' side of a 'we/they' dichotomy. This is simultaneously unfair to the materials and practices studied under the heading of 'magic,' and self-serving for the materials (mainly those we identify as 'our own') that are exempted from that label. It perpetuates a complacent double standard.


Rather than a "unanimous" opinion, it seems that the debate is still underway. Whether the term 'magic' ought to be subdivided into smaller, more specific terms, as Smith suggests, or whether the term can continue to be useful so long as one recognizes the political divisions that may arise, are still matters of debate, it seems.

The best part of Gee's article, though (imo), is this extended rant, which comes at the end of a long-winded look at the semantics of the word "magic":

Quote:
I find the term magic to be a Proteus-like pejorative appellation and a worthless, vacuous, meaningless classification for phenomena. There is no agreement on what magic means. The term magic is used as a club to beat one's religious opponents over the head. In practice, defining magic becomes a shell game; whenever the definition is shown to be defective, it is abruptly changed. Furthermore, the "magic" game is always rigged so that, no matter which definition is chosen, it is never allowed to apply across the board to any religion and belief. And, since the definition is allowed to shift freely, discussions of "magic" usually become textbook examples of exercises in equivocation and fertile breeding grounds for special pleading and poisoning the well. I have found that dropping the term completely without substituting anything in its place loses nothing—and usually gains considerably—both conceptually and practically.129 The term magic is generally about as informative as a swear word, displaying only the ignorance and displeasure of the person who uses it.


Wow! I cannot recall the last time I saw such wrath directed at a word. (Has Gee not read "Offenders for a Word"?) I don't know what's stranger here, Gee's utter hatred of the word, or his bizarre claim that not "substituting anything" for the word magic is somehow plausible, let alone "conceptually and practically" productive.

Anyways, Gee's harangue continues:

Quote:
The first thing that Quinn should have done to improve his book would have been to drop the term magic from the title, the introduction, and the text. This action would have gone some way toward lessening the fallacious equivocation that runs through the entire marrow of this tome. Since "magic" in Joseph Smith's day was synonymous with "deception" and "imposture" and was not thought really to exist—and this is true both of the educated and uneducated in Palmyra and elsewhere—there is no "magic world view" (Quinn admits that he cannot distinguish it from religion anyway, pp. xxi–xxii, xxiv–xxv), and Quinn has no topic about which to write a book. His entire approach to the subject is irreparably flawed.

Furthermore, since "magic" and "imposture" are synonymous in the view of Palmyra residents, Quinn, by pushing the connection between Joseph Smith and "magic," informs his readers, starting with the title of his book, where he stands on the question of whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or a fraud.


Gee is at pains to point out that Palmyra residents likely viewed "magic" as a negative and deceptive thing. But, then, didn't they tend to view the coming forth of the BofM in the same way? Does Gee want to have his cake and eat it too?

The bottom line is that the Mopologists simply dislike the word "magic." They cannot find a legitimate reason to get rid of it, and they struggle mightily to find support in the real, actual academic world. In fact, the greatest "magic" trick of all may lie in the fact that DCP & Co. have gone so long without having their exaggeration of this "large literature" (and their distortion of the literature's actual arguments) challenged. On an old ZLMB thread, this subject was discussed at length. Here's our beloved Dr Shades:

Dr Shades wrote:
Quote:
"It happens that DCP is quite right. The word "magic" doesn't have any useful meaning; and when used to bash someone else's religion it is a mere pejorative."


Au contraire, my beloved brother! Let's be brutally honest for a moment: If Joseph Smiths senior & junior had not been involved with folk magic and the occult in any way, shape, or form, the Mopologists wouldn't have any problem with the word "magic" whatsoever.

Unfortunately, they both were heavily involved with such things, so the Mopologists have no defense but to eliminate the word "magic" from their vocabulary.


And here's DCP's reply, via his sockpuppet "FreeThinker":

FreeThinker wrote:
Dr Shades is correct. Mormons are the only people who have any problem with the term "magic" or its definition. Nobody else does. There have been whole thick scholarly volumes and entire academic symposia entirely devoted to celebrating the universal non-Mormon consensus on this matter.

Dr Shades has nailed you on this one, Pahoran. Sorry


Shades asks:

Quote:
FreeThinker:

Just wondering, but out of all those academicans who believe the word "magic" has no functional definition, what exactly would they say Joseph Smiths Senior & Junior were involved in?


And the reply:

FreeThinker wrote:
Probably "folk religion," or some such thing. There is no universally agreed upon term.

(I can see how that might seem unfortunate to some. The lack of a convenient label means that one has to pay attention to the specific details and nuances, and makes it harder to categorize [and dismiss].)


Aha. The dismissal of the term "magic" is really just a fun lil' Mopologetic, postmodernist trick: get rid of the term, since, despite its accuracy, it doesn't connote the whitewashed image one wants.

Here is another pointed posting from Shades:

Quote:
I posit that the nuances between the words "religion" and "superstition" are even less significant than they are between the words "magic" and "religion."

It appears to be the Mopologists' point that there's no real difference between the words "magic" and "religion," therefore the word "magic" should be dropped from the dictionary in favor of the word "religion." That being the case, consistency demands that they also admit that there's no real difference between the words "religion" and "superstition," therefore the word "religion" should be dropped from the dictionary in favor of the word "superstition."

Let's face it: Some people avoid walking under a ladder so as to ward off bad luck, while others wear special undergarments in order to ward off the "fiery darts of the adversary." Some people throw salt over their shoulder in order to bring good luck, others pay their tithing regularly in order to bring about good results postmortem. 'Tis all the same, perhaps?

So, should I begin calling the seer stone the "superstitious rock?"


And here is another attempt on DCP's part to re-write the dictionary:

FreeThinker wrote:
Why not call it a "seerstone," and pay attention to the specific details of the story in which it is involved, without attempting to find some nifty (and almost inevitably reductive) category in which to place it? One of the major problems with the English word "magic," of course, is its inescapably pejorative connotations. Which, from another perspective (abundantly represented by at least one participant on this very thread) is precisely its beauty. That problem, and the manner of its use here, illustrate very nicely why many scholars have abandoned the term, or, if they use it at all, use it only in the most carefully restricted and historically focused and specific sense. When asked for such careful use in this context, however, most of those who are most eager to deploy the term are unwilling even to try to define it in any acceptable way. Which speaks volumes, I think.


Perhaps the best post on the thread, though, comes from "Addictio":

Addictio wrote:
Apparently FT and sr1030 agree that the use of a particular descriptive label does not change any of the underlying facts, a point that shouldn't be lost in all this discussion of the term "magic."

As I said above, insofar as it is not purely a verbal dispute, what drives this disagreement about labels are the underlying facts about Joseph Smith's behavior. If Joseph Smith had never used a stone both to translate the Book of Mormon and in treasure-seeking, use of one term (whether it's "magic" or "folk magic" or "folk religion") to label and characterize both uses would not be a live issue. Because, insofar as the stone is concerned, the behaviors are so similar, the question arises whether one term or two different terms should be used to refer to both.

Reasonable people deal with this issue in different ways. Richard Bushman does it by using the word "magic" or "magical" to describe the treasure-seeking enterprise, but not the translation effort. For example, here are some excerpts from his article "Joseph Smith as Translator."

Exploring the background of the word "seer" in the biblical and "magical" traditions Bushman writes that "The word had another life in the culture of seventeenth century magic." He continues, explaining that the very word "seerstone" as used by the early LDS, conjoined the religious and magical traditions:

Quote:
: Mormons first applied the word seer to Joseph and combined the words "seer" and "stone." Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young and Orson Pratt described Joseph using a seerstone to translate and receive revelations. In making the connection, they joined two traditions -- the holy calling of seer and the magical practice of divining with a stone. .... The word seer elevated the stones, symboliizing the redirection of the Smith family's interest in magic toward a more serious religious end. .... Although treasure-seeking was left behind, the magical culture of the stones played an important part in the development of Joseph's identity as seer and translator. .... In fact, as work on the Book of Mormon went on, a seerstone took the place of the Urim and Thummim, blending the culture of magic with with divine culture of translation.


The article appears in The Prophet Puzzle , (Signature Books 1999) at pages 69-85; the quotes are from pp. 78-79.

My guess is that Bushman has read and published more on early American history than anyone posting on this thread. That doesn't mean, of course, that people can't disagree with his use of the words "magic" or "magical." His use of them does clearly show, however, that historians with acknowledged skill and expertise can and do use the terms "magic" and "magical" to draw distinctions between and to characterize the underlying behaviors of Joseph Smith. Quinn does the same thing, at much greater length.

My reading of this and other threads suggests to me that the more fundamental and interesting issue is what the historical record actually says about Joseph Smith's behavior in connection with treasure seeking and translation. That can be explored and discussed without getting into disputes about the best single word or term for labelling or characterizing the behaviors.


Well said, although I, for one, find the debate over which word can be used to be quite interesting indeed. I would imagine that the Mopologists would prefer, above all, that no word be allowed. It is rather like the Brethren's refusal to apologize for *anything* negative thing the Church has ever done: if they don't apologize, then perhaps people will be lulled into thinking that such-and-such bad thing never really happened. Likewise, if no concrete term is ever applied to Joseph Smith's occult activities, then maybe they never happened!

A bit further on in the thread, DCP comments further (and note his schizophrenic references to himself):

FreeThinker wrote:
What I think Quinn is failing to grasp is that Hamblin and Peterson and Ricks are dealing with historical bodies of texts and practices that have been termed "magic" for a hundred years or more, and with regard to which the term has simply become an accepted designator. That does not, however, mean that scholars writing on such topics as "the Greek magical papyri" and "Egyptian magical papyri" have not discussed the problematic nature of the term in the very prefaces to anthologies of such texts that they themselves have both edited and titled. In fact, it is in connection precisely with those two bodies of texts that some of the major attacks on the concept of "magic" as a separate and distinct category have been formulated.

I notice that Hamblin speaks of "divine or magical protection" in 1990, perhaps indicating some uncertainty about how or whether to distinguish between the two.

I would have to look at Hamblin's 1994 article to have an opinion on that one.

In the case of Peterson, I seriously doubt that he really regards Jesus and the early Christians as "magicians." Isn't it more likely that he's making the point that the very same term that critics use in their zeal to "catch" Joseph Smith has also been used to "catch" Jesus? Isn't that, in fact, an illustration of the vagueness and unusefulness of the word? (I suspect, in fact, that that was the very point he was making.)

I don't much trust Quinn to represent his sources accurately, and I confess that I don't trust him on this particular matter, either.
(emphasis added)

The real point, obviously, is that DCP and his ilk want to be able to completely and totally control not only the way the term "magic" is used, but also the way it is read and interpreted. Nowhere, in any of the "large literature", has a "unanimous consensus" been reached; that was little more than a very gross exaggeration on the part of the Good Professor. A fascinating debate on the whole, imho. What this shows is that the Good Professor, just like juliann, is every bit as willing to distort evidence in order to support the Mopologetic cause.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:17 pm 
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I guess I'm not sure what the big deal is here. "Folk religon" doesn't quite get at the practices of peepstones and divining rods that Joseph and his contemporaries engaged in. "Superstition" works, but then so does "folk magic" or something like it. I guess I don't see the pejorative.

I remember Gordon B. Hinckley talking about these practices, and he referred to them as "folk magic" and "superstition," which are perfectly descriptive terms:

Quote:
I have no doubt there was folk magic practiced in those days. Without question there were superstitions and the superstitious. I suppose there was some of this in the days when the Savior walked the earth. There is even some in this age of so-called enlightenment. For instance, some hotels and business buildings skip the numbering of floor thirteen. Does this mean there is something wrong with the building? Of course not. Or with the builders? No.

Similarly, the fact that there were superstitions among the people in the days of Joseph Smith is no evidence whatever that the Church came of such superstition (Ensign Nov. 1987, p. 51).

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Last edited by Runtu on Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:19 pm 
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Mister Scratch wrote:
What this shows is that the Good Professor, just like juliann, is every bit as willing to distort evidence in order to support the Mopologetic cause.


Well, geez o'criminintly, Scratch! Where do you think she learned it from? Redefining terms in order to render them impotent is classic behavior for LDS apologists. But the word "magic" just won't go away.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:04 pm 
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Oh, for heaven's sake, Quinn bent over backwards to make sure readers understood that he was using the term within the specific umbrella of folk religion.

So this is their big complaint, what made him untrustworthy? What a joke.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:41 pm 
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Hi Mr. Scratch

Forgive me, I only read the first section of your post - but what strikes me as so transparently dumb about the scare quoted treatment of the word "magic", is that any system of propositions about how the world works which recognizes no possibility of its falsification, and no contraints of evidence, fact, or logic upon it, is by definition totally synonomous with "magic - whether it goes by the name of astrology, Mormonism, spiritualist occultism, whatever. That is, in the very act of demonstrating disdain for any allegation of Joseph Smith's involvement in "magic", apologists inevitably, if inadvertently, demonstrate disdain for the very system they wish to defend, for - as both reject all constraints - there is no underlying difference.

Nor are these the ravings of a "crazy anti-Mormon" - FARMS ITSELF has explictly assented to my characterization here, in publishing a NEGATIVE REVIEW last year of Carl Sagan's primer on critical versus magical thinking, "The Demon-Haunted World"! Can you believe it? Could any group of bozos be more hapless?

And yet, nothing you or I say will make any sort of difference. How could it, Mr. Scratch, when their subscription to magic/Mormonism didn't depend in the first place, and doesn't now, on logic or fact? So why would logic or fact force a change? Of course, they would not - and in the cases of most of the deeply immersed psychologically, they never will.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:17 pm 
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In light of the recent string of song dedication threads in the off-topic forum, I was hoping to find an appropriate song to dedicate to the boys at FARMS. Well, as it happens, just today I heard a Disney-esque version of ELO's Strange Magic on my daughter's iPod. I was lamenting listening to hers as I worked around the house, (mine had run out of juice), but it turns out using Courtney's iPod was quite serendipitous! When I read this thread I remembered hearing the song and realized I had the perfect song dedication for our FARMS' boys!

So here it is: ELO's Strange Magic http://youtube.com/watch?v=28_unHqjVp0

(singing) "Oh I got a STRANGE M-A-A-A-GIC..."

KA

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:26 pm 
Mister Scratch wrote:
The real point, obviously, is that DCP and his ilk want to be able to completely and totally control not only the way the term "magic" is used, but also the way it is read and interpreted. Nowhere, in any of the "large literature", has a "unanimous consensus" been reached; that was little more than a very gross exaggeration on the part of the Good Professor. A fascinating debate on the whole, imho. What this shows is that the Good Professor, just like juliann, is every bit as willing to distort evidence in order to support the Mopologetic cause.


For a good but lengthy definition of magic: http://www.answers.com/topic/magic?cat=biz-fin

BTW, I did read much of Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic, where he outlines a plethora of magical practices in the 16th and 17th century. It's a massive book and I couldn't get through all of it.

I'm not sure FARMS is trying to "control" the use of the term magic. Here is a review from Dialogue:

Quote:
Quinn draws upon a broad array of evidence to make his case. He accepts the evidence in the affidavits of contemporary but hostile witnesses when they describe the actions of the Smiths (rather than their presumed motives) and when the hostile accounts are compatible with the testimony of friendly observers—especially Martin Harris, Lucy Mack Smith, and Brigham Young. Indeed, Quinn points out that the Smiths' folk magic can be thoroughly documented exclusively from the observations of early Mormons convinced that magic enabled their prophet to contact the divine (pp. 146, 194-95). Quinn persuasively links to the Smith family, and astutely analyzes, several artifacts used in magical rituals: Hyrum Smith's dagger for inscribing magic circles (pp. 55-56), a silver Jupiter talisman worn by the prophet on the day he died (pp. 66-71), his serpent-headed and Jupiter-symbolized cane (p. 72), and the family's three parchments (or "lamens") inscribed with Christian magical symbols (pp. 78-110). Quinn fearlessly ventures onto more uncertain ground to speculate that certain coincidences of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s life with astrological expectations may have reinforced his family's faith in a magical world view—if they had read any of the cited works which, Quinn concedes, he cannot document (p. 59). The astrological speculation is clever and interesting, but it is inconclusive and overlong and threatens to distract readers from the judiciousness with which he approaches the other, sounder evidence for the Smiths' Christian magic.

Despite a valiant effort, Quinn fails to clarify the elusive (and usually illusive) distinction between magic and religion. On the one hand he recognizes that in examining the practice of any particular faith it is virtually impossible to disentangle the two (pp. xii-xvi); and yet in his title and most of his text he insists upon a distinct "magic world view" that presumably sets Joseph Smith's generation apart from our own. I think he starts out on the right track when he argues that "magic" perceives life, spirit, and power in all matter—organic and inorganic (p. xii). Consequently, those who subscribe to "magic" believe that they can empirically learn rituals to master and manipulate the life-spirit-power all around them. The premise is spiritual, but the logic is scientific. But Quinn does not follow up that promising definition of "magic" to counter-define "religion" as an effort (and invariably an incomplete effort) to divorce spirit from matter and set divine power off in a distinct, distant, and immaterial realm. Such a divorce renders it impossible for individuals to immediately and precisely affect their circumstances by manipulating their spiritual content. Instead, Quinn settles for an unsatisfactory (and I think misleading) observation that "religion subordinates ritual to group and individual ethics (or at least emphasizes both); but magic gives little or no attention to group ethics, and emphasizes individual ethics primarily as another instrument to achieve the desired ends of ritual" (p. xiv). As a consequence of his particular distinction between religion and magic, Quinn differs with the defensive Mormon writers only over the timing of Mormonism's renunciation of magic, and not with their insistence that their faith made a decisive break and became purely "religious." Quinn offers no explanation for how and why—over the course of the nineteenth century—most Mormons joined their fellow American Protestants in forsaking the "magic world view." In his telling, it simply happened (presumably by the growth of "rationality" as a deus ex machina).


http://www.signaturebooks.com/reviews/magic.htm

The reviewer does conclude:

Quote:
The Mormon church has so successfully monopolized and renamed magic that twentieth-century believers can live in an overtly rational culture but continue to satisfy the universal human hunger for a medley of magic and religion.


From another review:

Quote:
We know today that there is no monolithic "folk" and that there was none during Smith's time; there have been only different folks, different clusters of people united by similar interests and constantly generating and reshaping folklore as they respond to the circumstances of their environments. There can, therefore, be no monolithic world view on magic. Similar practices can have quite different meanings, and researchers cannot explain one practice in terms of another until they have first set each in its proper cultural and historical background and inferred meaning from context.


The reviews also point out some failings in Quinn's book, and undocumented assertions.

Quote:
Quinn builds much of his case on associations that are seldom proved and on parallel evidence that lies beyond proof. Typically, he will recount an occult belief—that the Jewish Qabbalah was transferred patrilineally from generation to generation, for example—and then will show that a book detailing this belief was advertised for sale in Smith's Palmyra from 1804 to 1828 and consequently could have been available to Smith as he developed the concept of the patrilineal trasmission of priesthood authority. But Quinn never proves that ideas found in books available at the time actually moved from these books into Joseph Smith's head. Because B follows A, B is simply assumed to have been caused by A. Or Quinn will compare an action in Smith's life, like spirit incantation, to similar practices in other times and places and then, ignoring cultural differences, will explain the former in terms of the latter. This approach is possible because Quinn subscribes to a notion of folklore that professional folklorists abandoned long ago—that the "folk," the people who engaged in magical practices in Smith's time, were unsophisticated, unlettered country people who shared a world view with people like themselves across the ages. From this perspective, Quinn can explain why Smith wore an amulet by showing why people far removed from him in time, place, and culture also wore amulets—an approach that went out of style with James Frazer's The Golden Bough.



Overall the reviews, from Signature, speak very highly of the book. But in light of those reviews, I don't see how one can conclude that FARMS is trying to "control" the use of the term magic, and "the way it is read and interpreted".


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:49 pm 
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I doubt there is a better word than magic. Except possibly magick. We all know Joseph Smith and the "Man of the rod" were practicing magic in the way any wiccan i've ever met practices magic. And I think this ought be called majick, as "magic" might refer to a more complicated position buried deep in ancient history where translating cultures is an actual issue. Anyone looking for answers in 8 balls and divination rods, post the clear advent and cultural diffusion of theology -- and by that I mean strictly the philisophical world view wedded to religion -- is a practitioner of majick.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:09 am 
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Ahh yes, I remember this debate!

Thank you, Mister Scratch, for your favorable evaluation of the comments I made. :-)

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:19 am 
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Mister Scratch wrote:
Some in this forum may have been following along with the Celestial Forum thread begun by "Dakotah" which asks, "How are we to take D. Michael Quinn's writings?"
....

Thanks for the excellent analysis. I find two things very creepy about DCP in all this: (i) he departs this board because I simply asked him to back up his "consensus" statement, and (ii) in some of the quotes you gave by DCP as "Freethinker," he spoke of himself in the third person.

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:20 am 
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Rollo Tomasi wrote:
In some of the quotes you gave by DCP as "Freethinker," he spoke of himself in the third person.


Runtu tells me he thought that was kind of weird, too. ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:11 am 
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Runtu wrote:
Rollo Tomasi wrote:
In some of the quotes you gave by DCP as "Freethinker," he spoke of himself in the third person.


Runtu tells me he thought that was kind of weird, too. ;-)


harmony thinks it's because Daniel thought no one knew Freethinker was his sockpuppet.


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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:03 am 
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Rollo Tomasi wrote:
Mister Scratch wrote:
Some in this forum may have been following along with the Celestial Forum thread begun by "Dakotah" which asks, "How are we to take D. Michael Quinn's writings?"
....

Thanks for the excellent analysis. I find two things very creepy about DCP in all this: (I) he departs this board because I simply asked him to back up his "consensus" statement, and (ii) in some of the quotes you gave by DCP as "Freethinker," he spoke of himself in the third person.


What's the issue here? People with multiple personalities often speak in the third person.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:24 am 
He-Who-Has-Not-Sinned (Recently)
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Bond doesn't it like it that talking in the third person isn't frowned upon.....Bond will not stop referring to Bond in the third person....in fact it might even become redundant for Bond to talk about Bond in the third person as if Bond is a special time person...although Bond is totally awesome. Did I mention that Bond rules?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:30 am 
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Bond...James Bond wrote:
Bond doesn't it like it that talking in the third person isn't frowned upon.....Bond will not stop referring to Bond in the third person....in fact it might even become redundant for Bond to talk about Bond in the third person as if Bond is a special time person...although Bond is totally awesome. Did I mention that Bond rules?


This was one of the things I found endearing about Bob Dole.

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 Post subject: Re: FARMS's "Magic" Trick
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:11 pm 
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Ray A wrote:
Overall the reviews, from Signature, speak very highly of the book. But in light of those reviews, I don't see how one can conclude that FARMS is trying to "control" the use of the term magic, and "the way it is read and interpreted".


Hi, Ray. Thank you for posting the snippets from the reviews. That said, I think you're missing my point. I am not claiming that the term "magic" is totally stable, or that it hasn't been contested---on the contrary, I was attempting to disprove DCP's rather bold assertion that a "consensus" has been reached regarding the efficacy of the term. Further, as I hope I made clear, the harping about "magic" seems pretty obviously to be an attempt on the Mopologist's part to discredit, or "smear", Mike Quinn.

I especially like this quote, which you bolded in your post:

Quote:
Despite a valiant effort, Quinn fails to clarify the elusive (and usually illusive) distinction between magic and religion. On the one hand he recognizes that in examining the practice of any particular faith it is virtually impossible to disentangle the two (pp. xii-xvi); and yet in his title and most of his text he insists upon a distinct "magic world view" that presumably sets Joseph Smith's generation apart from our own.


I think that the Church would prefer that its contemporary doctrines be somehow more distinct that "magic," but, as the quote suggests, it is very hard, from a definitional standpoint, to differentiate between the two things. I think, further, that it is revealing when one steps back and examines the Mopologists' complaints: Do they object to Joseph Smith's actual practices? Do they object to the fact that Joseph Smith was engaged in this stuff, despite the fact that it doesn't play any role whatsoever in the contemporary Church? I think the bottom line is that they want all of this moneydigging and peep stone looking and whatnot to go back into the darkest corner of the historical closet and stay there.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:14 pm 
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Forgive me, I only read the first section of your post - but what strikes me as so transparently dumb about the scare quoted treatment of the word "magic", is that any system of propositions about how the world works which recognizes no possibility of its falsification, and no contraints of evidence, fact, or logic upon it, is by definition totally synonomous with "magic - whether it goes by the name of astrology, Mormonism, spiritualist occultism, whatever. That is, in the very act of demonstrating disdain for any allegation of Joseph Smith's involvement in "magic", apologists inevitably, if inadvertently, demonstrate disdain for the very system they wish to defend, for - as both reject all constraints - there is no underlying difference.



How many more pretenders and wannabe's posing as serious thinkers are we going to have to wade through in this miserable forum. The only thing that keeps Tal's assertion here from being nothing more than unintelligible gibberish is that Tal is capable of constructing grammatical sentences. The substance, however, is devoid of anything resembling critical reasoning. Any system of propositions about how the world works which recognizes no possibility of its falsification, and no constraints of evidence, fact, or logic upon it, is by definition, not a scientific set of propositions, and that is the very best that can be said for them. They may be philosophical, they may be metaphysical, they may be random statements of opinion, and they may be claims for the existence of magic powers and forces, but they are not by definition magic, and how Bachman thinks he can get away with such a preposterous leap of logic with educated, intelligent people is quite beyond me. The claim the Mormons rejects all constraints of evidence, fact, or logic is a purely subjective perception grounded in Tal's own personal metaphysical and psychological template, not an objective or demonstratable claim about Mormonism.

Tal's and Beastie's poor man's positivism has become quite tedious, as has Tarski's and Sethbag's and Dude's more carefully marinated kind.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:23 pm 
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The Mormon church has so successfully monopolized and renamed magic that twentieth-century believers can live in an overtly rational culture but continue to satisfy the universal human hunger for a medley of magic and religion.



Good heavens! This sniffing little academic beanie baby thinks we are living in a culture that is overtly rational? This is an indication of a very serious disconnection from reality, a disconnection, it has been duly noted by greater minds than mine, that only an intellectual could achieve.

This person clearly, in some manner, missed the sixties...and the seventies, and the eighties, and the nineties, and...

And he obviously has never heard of Liberalism. That would cure him immediately of any such illusions.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:27 pm 
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Quote:
The Mormon church has so successfully monopolized and renamed magic that twentieth-century believers can live in an overtly rational culture but continue to satisfy the universal human hunger for a medley of magic and religion.



Actually, pontificating little academic snobs like this disgust me. He doesn't even know what he's talking about.

As I've said before with Dawkins and so many of his ilk, it isn't the God delusion, but the God complex among the elites of society, that is the primary problem faced by many of those in the gilded halls of academe.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 3:35 am 
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Coggins,

I'm beginning to suspect you actually have an inferiority complex. Ever since reading this essay and seeing that you have yet to attain any higher education and have been a manual laborer throughout your life, your constant derision of academia smacks of resentment to me.

And, of course, the right-wing machines loves to foster such sentiment among its followers.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 7:07 am 
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beastie wrote:
Coggins,

I'm beginning to suspect you actually have an inferiority complex. Ever since reading this essay and seeing that you have yet to attain any higher education and have been a manual laborer throughout your life, your constant derision of academia smacks of resentment to me.

And, of course, the right-wing machines loves to foster such sentiment among its followers.


I was thinking the same thing. Here we have a guy dismissing the "pointy-headed intellectual" types yet doing an amazing amount of name-dropping and jargon-spewing. What gives?

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