Magic is the performance of routines, usually in a fixed or rigid manner, designed to influence the future, persuade the gods or shape fate.
The ball player who believes that wearing the same sweater or eating the same meal before a game will determine whether the teams wins or not is performing magic.
Greek mágos is first attested in Heraclitus. The Greek mystery religions were strongly magic oriented. Magic is a system that asserts human ability to control or predict the natural world through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. Magic also refers to the practices employed by a person asserting this ability.
Messianism, Mysticism, and Magic: A Sociological Analysis of Jewish Religious Movements (Studies in Religion) - by Stephen Sharot (Author)
A. ENGLER ANDERSON, comments:
Most treatments of Jewish mysticism lean toward the ideologically critical (Graetz), the romantic (Buber), the touchy-feely (Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Breslov) or movement propaganda (Lubavitch). The academic attempts at categorizing and describing Jewish mystical movements (chiefly Scholem) also fall short of comprehensiveness because they tend to focus largely on doctrine and theology, and ignore handmaiden disciplines of history, sociology and economics.
It is precisely this gap that Sharot fills with his _Messianism, Mysticism and Magic_. Coming as part of a longer line of Jewish scholars who have attempted to apply the mindset of other disciplines to Jewish studies, the book is not as much an original contribution to knowledge, but is more of a significant re-ordering of hitherto existing knowledge in the field.
Sharot's contribution is, to my mind, much in the vein of Bentzion Dinur, whose _Bmifneh Hadorot_ (Hebrew) brought the ideas of economics, sociology (with a slightly Marxist analysis) to the way we understood the origins of Hasidism.
What is compelling is that Sharot's is a treatment that spans centuries of Jewish history. He clearly expands on Scholem's exposition of Jewish mystical theology, done decades earlier, but puts the Jewish mystical movements in a perspective that avoids mono-causal errors, and allows a more intelligent, more diverse understanding of the Jewish mystical movement of history.
This is important for the scholar as well as the Jewish layperson who is confronted in the 1990s with the resurrection, in various forms, of kabbalah centers, in-your-face Hasidic movements claiming the mantle of authenticity, and the repackaging of Jewish mysticism the contemporary, feminist-friendly form of "Jewish Renewal."
There is, moreover, hardly a major Jewish religious movement that has not reached into the attic of Jewish history to come up with mystical themes they can use to get Jews back into their synagogues, or somehow affiliate and become dues-paying members. And then there are the charlatans, in California and elsewhere, who offer kabbalism seminars for high fees, which attract their share of high profile (and religiously illiterate) stars and starlets -- all making headlines and enhancing the promoters' revenue streams.