Oddcast episode

Jason Josephson Storm on the Myth of Disenchantment

In a brilliant and wide-ranging exploration of the history of very up-to-date, very relevant ideas, we discuss the idea of ‘disenchantment’ with Jason Josephson Storm. This idea (perhaps best known from the iconic work of Max Weber, but actually not really what Weber said and not really just from Weber anyway) is that in the old days people believed in magic and spirits, but nowadays we are ‘disenchanted’, i.e. beyond all that (fill in the blank with ‘superstitious, ‘unscientific’, ‘woo-woo’, etc.) nonsense.

One of the questions Storm asks is, ‘Who are “we”, exactly?’ The implicit colonialist mindsets latent within these constructions of enchantment and disenchantment begin to percolate up into plain view.

Another question he asks is, ‘Given that there is a “we” in question, is it really true that we are beyond all that nonsense?’ It turns out, no, it isn’t, or not for a sizeable majority of “us” at any rate.

A fascinating interview which we highly recommend, and which has a lot to tell the field of western esotericism studies about what it is that we are doing, exactly.

Interview Bio:

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm is a historian and philosopher of the Human Sciences. He is currently Professor of Religion and Chair of Science & Technology Studies at Williams College. Storm received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, his MA from Harvard University, and has held visiting positions at Princeton University, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, and Universität Leipzig in Germany. He is the author of award-winning The Invention of Religion in Japan (2012), The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences (2017), as well as Metamodernism: The Future of Theory (2021), all published by University of Chicago Press.

Works Cited in this Episode:

Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Verso Editions, London, 1979.

Sir Francis Bacon. The Tvvoo Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of Learning, divine and humane. London. Henrie Tomes, London, 1605.

Hans Dieter Betz. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells, volume 1. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1996.

Rhonda Byrne. The Secret. Atria, 2006.

John William Draper. History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. D. Appleton, New York, 1875.

James George Frazer. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Macmillan, London, 1939.

Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm. The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2017.

Idem. The Invention of Religion in Japan. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2012.

Idem. The Mystical “Occident” or the Vibrations of “Modernity” in the Mirror of Japanese Thought. In Fabio Rambelli, editor, Spirits and Animism in Contemporary Japan: The Invisible Empire, pages 29–44. Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2019.

Percival Lowell. Occult Japan: Shinto, Shamanism and the Way of the Gods. Houghton Mifflin, 1894.

Joachim Radkau. Max Weber: Die Leidenschaft des Denkens. Hanser, Munich, 2005.

Marianne Weber. Max Weber: ein Lebensbild. Tübingen, 1926.

Max Weber. Über einige Kategorien der verstehenden Soziologie. Logos: Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie der Kultur, IV:253–94, 1913. Subsequently republished in Max Weber, Gesammelte Aufsitze zur Wissenschaftslehre, Marianne Weber, editor (1922: 403-450).

David Gordon White. Dæmons are Forever: Contacts and Exchanges in the Eurasian Pandemonium. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2020.

Recommended Reading:

Nachman Ben-Yehuda. Witchcraft and the Occult as Boundary Maintenance Devices. In Moshe Idel, Jacob Neusner, Ernest S. Frerichs, and P.V. McCracken Flesher, editors, Religion, Science, and Magic: In Concert and In Conflict, pages 229–60. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989.

Stuart Clark. Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999.

Jacalyn Duffin. The Doctor Was Surprised; or, How to Diagnose a Miracle. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, pages 699–729, 2007.

William Eamon. Technology as Magic in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Janus Leiden, 70(3-4):171–212, 1983.

Peter Harrison. The Territories of Science and Religion. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2015.

Richard Kieckhefer. The Specific Rationality of Medieval Magic. The American Historical Review, 99(3):813–36, 1994.

Thomas S. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1962.

Benedek Láng. Why Magic Cannot be Falsified by Experiments. In Edward Bever and Randall Styers, editors, Magic in the Modern World: Strategies of Repression and Legitimization, pages 1–24. Penn State University Press, 2017.

Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels, editors. Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2003.

Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah. Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality. The University Press, Cambridge, 1990.


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