On Magic: Arturo Reghini’s Ideas on Modern Science and Magic.

Posted by on Oct 16, 2013 | 2 comments

On Magic: Arturo Reghini’s Ideas on Modern Science and Magic.

In his lengthy introduction to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia, written by the Florentine author in the turbulent years of 1925-1926, Reghini gives a nuanced and elaborate definition of the connection between science and magic. While many occultist of the modern period went to great lengths to ‘sanitize’ occult practices and provide them with a scientific validity (see Corinna Treitel’s seminal A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Making of the German Modern, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 2004), Reghini postulates the idea of modern science as incomplete, and therefore not entirely reliable.

Within the same work, Reghini hints at the sacred role that magic plays in the life of the practitioner, positioning himself closer to the ideas of neo-Platonists Iamblichus and Proclus, and insisting on magic as the only means to initiation and self-realisation. Magic is not to be learned in books, but to be orally received (viz. the origins of the word Kabbalah, to which he refers to from time to time as an oral system of transmission of tradition) by those who, in turn, have received it from their masters and become sacerdotes, the bearers of sacred knowledge and tradition.

The need for the neo-Pythagorean to confront himself with the positivist environment of modern Italy shows an Arturo Reghini as a child of his time, on the one hand harkening back to an ideal concept of tradition, and, on the other, coming to grips with an age in which his views of the sacred represented an extreme minority of “anti-modern/modernists.”


“He [the magician] is at once actor and spectator […]. The magician’s or scientific experimenter’s whole organism becomes a field of action and experimentation; and it’s the magician that covers the role of both actor and spectator, both subject and object of the experience. “True Religion”, experimental theology or ceremonial magic, preserves a distinctive experiential, positive character, comparable to that of the other two classes of magic, “physics” and “mathematics”. All it takes is to maintain this character bringing to the enquiry, the experiment, in ones observations and work, that same impersonality, in one’s emotional state, devoid of sentimentalism and devotion, independence from beliefs and schools of thought, which scientist worthy of their qualification bring to their tests in the laboratory. Then, far from being mere superstition overcome by science, magic remains, as Agrippa conceived it, the integral, complete science, which applies the experimental method extending it to every field, and which obtains positive results in every domain, without any limitations; while modern science, renouncing the endeavour to investigate certain fields, in order not to abandon its restricted materialistic criteria an its position of external spectator, is but a small part of integral science, or magic.”

Arturo Reghini – Enrico Cornelio Agrippa e la sua Magia (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 1972), pp. CXXXII-CXXXIII



  1. The scientist of quantum physics nowadays corresponds to the magician described by Reghini, actor and spectator at the same time

  2. That sounds similar to Papini’s “magical pragmatism” does it not?

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