A Broad Perspective on Mental Healing

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n             MAGIC HEALING IN THE PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA           45
of ready-made ritual acts and beliefs, with a technique which serves as a bridge over the dangerous gaps in every important pursuit or critical situation. Consequently it enables him to perform with confidence his important tasks and to maintain his poise and mental integrity in anger-provoking difficulties, in the throes of hate, or unrequited love, of anxiety and despair. The function of magic is to ritualize man's optimism, to enhance his faith in the victory of hope over morbid fear. It stresses the greater value for man of confidence than doubt, of steadfastness than vacillation, of optimism than pessimism. Observing all this from the smug security of a scientific understanding of nature's laws, it is easy to detect its crudities and its irrelevance. But at least it was a starting point; it enabled early generations to master the practical difficulties before them and to advance to higher levels of culture. Hence the universality and power of magic in primitive societies. Dr. Malinowski l62 (p. 83) thinks that ' We must see in it the embodiment of the sublime folly of hope which has yet been the best school of man's character \
Naturally enough, around the personality of every great magician there grew up an imposing mythology, composed of stories of his wonderful cures of disease, his annihilation of foes, his conquests in love. In every savage society such stories form the backbone of belief in magic ; for, supported as they are by the emotional experiences common to all members of the tribe, they form a running chronicle of miracles which establishes the claims of magic beyond doubt or cavil.
Every eminent practitioner, besides his traditional claim, and the filiation with his predecessors, makes his personal warrant of wonder-working.
Thus myth is not a dead product of past ages, merely surviving as an idle narrative. It is a living force, con-