Thaumaturgy

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Thaumaturgy (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, meaning "miracle" or "marvel" and ἔργον érgon, meaning "work") is the capability of a magician or a saint to work magic or miracles. It is sometimes translated into English as wonderworking.[1] A practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge, thaumaturgist or miracle-worker.

Religious views[edit]

Christianity[edit]

In original Greek writings, the term thaumaturge referred to several Christian saints. This is usually translated into English as "wonderworker", a saint through whom God works miracles, not just occasionally, but as a matter of course. It was even said that God raises up not more than one every century. Famous ancient Christian thaumaturges include Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Saint Menas of Egypt, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Ambrose of Optina, Saint Gerard Majella and Saint John of Kronstadt. The Carmelite Bishop of Fiesole, Saint Andrew Corsini (1302–1373), was also called a thaumaturge during his lifetime.

Islam[edit]

In Islam, a Tay al-Ard (literally "folding up of the earth") is a saint miraculously teleporting, or "moving by the earth being displaced under one's feet." In translations, these miracles have been described as thaumaturgical.

Magic[edit]

In the 16th century, the word thaumaturgy entered the English language meaning miraculous or magical powers.

The word was first anglicized and used in the magical sense in John Dee's book Mathematicall Praeface to Euclid's Elements (1570). He mentions an "art mathematical" called "thaumaturgy... which giveth certain order to make strange works, of the sense to be perceived and of men greatly to be wondered at."

In Dee's time, "the Mathematicks" referred not merely to the abstract computations associated with the term today, but to physical mechanical devices which employed mathematical principles in their design. These devices, operated by means of compressed air, springs, strings, pulleys or levers, were seen by unsophisticated people (who did not understand their working principles) as magical devices which could only have been made with the aid of demons and devils.[2]

By building such mechanical devices, Dee earned a reputation as a conjurer "dreaded" by neighborhood children.[2] He complained of this assessment in his "Mathematicall Praeface": "And for these, and such like marvellous Actes and Feates, Naturally, and Mechanically, wrought and contrived: ought any honest Student and Modest Christian Philosopher, be counted, & called a Conjurer? Shall the folly of Idiotes, and the Malice of the Scornfull, so much prevaille ... Shall that man, be (in hugger mugger) condemned, as a Companion of the hellhoundes, and a Caller, and Conjurer of wicked and damned Spirites?"[2]

Hermetic Qabalah[edit]

In the Hermetic Qabalah mystical tradition, a person titled a magician has the power to make subtle changes in higher realms, which in turn produce physical results. For instance, if a Magician made slight changes in the world of formation (Olam Yetzirah), such as within the Sefirah of Yesod upon which Malkuth (the material realm) is based and within which all former Sephiroth are brought together, then these alterations would appear in the world of action (Olam Assiah).

Philosophy[edit]

In his book, The Gift of Death, deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida refers to philosophy as thaumaturgy. His reading is based on a deconstruction of the origin of the concepts of responsibility, faith, and gift.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The term thaumaturgy is used in various novels and games as a synonym for magic, or a particular sub-school (often mechanical) of magic.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Thaumaturge" etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  2. ^ a b c The Mistaking of 'the Mathematicks' for Magic in Tudor and Stuart England by J. Peter Zetterberg. "Sixteenth Century Journal," II.1, Spring, 1980
  3. ^ The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida, page=15.

External sources[edit]