David Abram Ecology of Magic

Category: Consciousness, Nature
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2020
Pages: 5 Views: 1139

Humans are born from and return to earth at death; human beings and nature are bound up each other. Yet, the technological modern world has shaped humans to be oblivious of nature and the ethnocentrism has positioned human beings above all other things. Nature has become resources for people and nothing more than that. David Abram, the author of the Ecology of magic, travels into the wild, traditional land in search of the relation between magic and nature; the meaning nature holds in the traditional cultures.

Abram intends to communicate his realization of the magical awareness of the countless nonhuman entities and the necessity of the balance between the human communities and the nature to the readers, hoping the Western technologized people to regard nature with respect and wonder. The perceptional differences Westerners and the traditional people hold in regard of nature should be transcended to achieve equilibrium and consequently bring about a healthier society. What is it that Abram experiences in the traditional land of Indonesia?

Abram is also one of the Westerners who lived all his life in the modern technological world; he once was a person who did not know the true value of nature. However, in the traditional, oral land, the author succeeds in overcoming the perceptional differences and realizes the importance nature holds in his life. During the travel, Abram purposefully encounters and befriends the traditional magicians or sorcerers with his sleight of hand magic that buys interest from them.

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As the author states, “For magicians – whether modern entertainers or indigenous tribal sorcerers – have in common the fact that they work with the malleable texture of perception” (Abram, 3), the common ground of ‘working with the malleable texture of perception’ has let Abram to look more closely into the activities the magicians perform in the traditional oral land. As Abram works his hands to trick the audience, thereby working with the perceptions of the audiences, the magicians engage in shedding the accepted perceptual logic to enter into relation with other entities.

The primary objective of the magicians, at first, seems to be healers as they participate in treating the sicknesses; however, Abram learns that the magicians hold a more important role in the human communities. They act as the intermediaries between the human world and the nature. The diseases that circulate the village originate from the imbalance between the nature and the human world and the magicians work with the primary cause of the sicknesses.

The basic concept of treating the illnesses differs from the Western doctors who perform surgeries as the magicians, living at the periphery of the human communities, sought to communicate with the nature, consequently striving to achieve equilibrium. The prayers, praises and the propitiations given to the nature in return for the nourishment and sustenance it provides to human communities do not seem forthright at first, even to Abram; the magician’s primary role only seems as formal traditions that hold no meaning for the villagers who only yearn for visual and direct treatment of the diseases.

Yet, as Abram suggests, “…and it was only gradually that I became aware of this more subtle dimension of the native magician’s craft” (8), while living in the remote traditional land and experiencing the diverse, rather different performances, the author was able to notice and learn seeing and hearing things in different manners. ‘To see and hear in a manner I never had before’ (15) was not something that Abram learnt with his head, but rather a feeling obtained with his skin.

By shifting out human’s awareness to other various nonhuman beings and thinking in the perspective of those intelligences’ (7), Abram was able to hold respect and awe for nature and realize the importance of the balance. Just by staring into the spiders, the birds, the river and the wind, Abram was able to communicate with these nonhuman entities and see the importance these beings hold in human beings’ daily lives.

The basis of the perceptional difference lies in the mere difference in how the traditional and the Westerners regard the relation between magic and nature. In the Western world, magic is defined as the ability to alter one’s consciousness at will. The magicians perform hand tricks to startle the senses and free the audience from the outdated and restricted thoughts by inspiring awe and surprises within the individuals. This is the common image that we bring up when thinking of the word magic and magician.

Westerners find no relation between magic and nature as the two are thought as two distinct concepts. However, people of the oral, traditional land conjure up different idea in regard of magic and nature. The two are correlated concepts as magic can be defined as “humans experience their own consciousness as simply one form of awareness among many others” (7). Magic is shifting out one’s consciousness to put it in others shoes. The others indicate the many beings regarded to have intelligence, the components of nature.

By thinking in the perspective of other nonhuman entities, as Abram succeeded in doing in the traditional land, the magicians communicate with the nature. As the author mentions, “Countless anthropologists have managed to overlook the ecological dimension of the shaman’s craft, while writing at great length of the shaman’s rapport with supernatural entities” (6), the Western people simply fail to recognize the relationship between nature and magic because they have been raised to think of what is beyond human’s will as the “supernatural” rather than in the dimensions of nature.

Human beings, in the technological, modern world, stands above all other things as the ethnocentrism has shaped people to think in human-based terms; the surrounding environment, including the rocks, mountains, and the animals, have been placed there for human use and nothing more than that. They are entities with no senses, no thoughts, and no feelings. Humans are the only beings with intelligence. The busy daily lives formed due to the advanced technology have shaped people to simply deny the existence of other entities and perceive things other than humans as non-meaningful.

Abram, too, adjusts to the modern world and returns to his original life as a Westerner who fails to regard nature with respect when he goes back to his homeland from Indonesia. Despite all the feelings and knowledge gained in the traditional land, because of the technology and the ethnocentrism Abram fails to continue his communication with the nature. Yet, the importance of respect for nature and the balance between nature and human beings should be comprehended by the modern society people.

As the author has witnessed, “The sad results of our interactions with the rest of nature were being reported in every newspaper – from the depletion of topsoil due to industrial farming techniques to the fouling of groundwater by industrial wastes…” (20), the damages spurred on the nature due to human’s endless desires result in dire situations of extinction of animals and the rapid destruction of the tropical forests. The broken equilibrium causes diseases to circulate the society.

Constant advancements in technology do not work out to correct the damages done to human beings and the nature. What should be taken for human use should be compensated for to the nature; balance is the most fundamental way to end the vicious cycle that constantly damages both human beings and the nature. Modern people should not disregard the relation between magic and nature. Understanding the importance nature holds for human beings would arouse the magical forces of the equilibrium.

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David Abram Ecology of Magic. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/david-abram-ecology-of-magic/

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