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Chapter 16. Magic

Gustavo Benavides

Subject Religion

Key-Topics magic

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631232162.2006.00018.x


Mastering the physical world has traditionally been associated with magic, whereas securing meaning or salvation has generally been associated with religion, or with mysticism. In actuality, it is impossible to deal with one realm without the other — either because the one can only be understood as the rejection of the other or, more frequently, because their roots are the same. In actual usage the “mystical” and the “magical” tend to be linked. Both get pitted against institutionalized, conventional religion, and both involve access to supernatural power. For example, one finds the coexistence of the mystical with the magical in the Neoplatonic techniques used to make contact with the gods, techniques known as theurgy. The linkage is also found in Buddhism, in such canonical Mahayana texts as the Śūrangamasamādhisūtra, Vimalakīrtinirdeśa , and Mahāprajñāpāramitāśātstra , all of which deal ultimately with the achievement of enlightenment. In the first, we find references to rddhibala , the extraordinary power of the Buddha. In the second, it is said that through his miraculous power a bodhisattva can introduce Mt. Sumeru into a grain of mustard and the water of the four oceans into a single pore of his own skin. In the third, we find an elaborate description of the five super-knowledges, which include three kinds of rddhi . In Tantric Buddhism it is even more difficult to distinguish ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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