The Forum brings together three-to-four faculty members from different disciplines for an informal discussion on the central theme in each issue. In this issue, the participants discussed the magic of money, self-deception, enchantment, and the ways to instill a sense of wonder in the classroom. The Forum on Magic was held in Aaron Burr Hall on May 30, 2008.
Participants: Isabelle Clark-Deces, Anthropology
Thomas (Tim) Leonard, Economics
Francois Rigolot, French Literature
Moderator: John Borneman, Anthropology
with Alexander Bick, History
John Borneman: What is magic, and what is its place in your research? Is magic always a form of deception?
Francois Rigolot: Well, of course, magic means different things. As far back as 1584, Reginald Scott remarked in A Discovery of Witchcraft that there is a range of practices associated with magic. There is natural magic, an activity to reveal the secret virtues of nature and to give a sense of wonder. Then there is demonic magic, which involves the use of special knowledge to fulfill earthly desires. This is usually seen as a turning away from God, and thus constituting a perversion of religion. Finally, there is entertainment magic – the use of special skills to simulate supernatural powers or providential events. That is, to make believe that what’s happening cannot be explained by physical or rational properties. Of course, there are borders and thresholds among these, and none are watertight in any way, although, I suppose, a post-Cartesian philosophy will try to set limits and make clearcut distinctions.
Isabelle Clark-Deces: In the typology you have set up, I would say that the only form of magic that I’m really familiar with, or that resonates with my own work in South India, is what you call demonic magic, which you refer to as a perversion of religion. However, I would have to translate this into Tamil or other South Indian terms. I’d also probably need to scratch the word “demon,” although demons are involved, and probably avoid the category of religion altogether. The word for sorcery or black magic in Tamil translates most directly as command. It’s first and foremost always an act of control: I am taking control over you. It is a tremendous, almost narcissistic display. I want you, or your death, or your body, or your possessions, and I will find a way to get what I want through magic, or through a sorcerer who controls magic. So what we would call magical religion is really about control, and not about God. Is magic always a form of deception? The second part of the question is probably the most interesting part for me. Well, yes—to the degree that the other person is not aware that he or she has been placed under a command. But it’s never a form of deception for the person who is actually commanding the magic. Because he or she is very clear that he or she wants something that has been denied to him or her.
Tim Leonard: As a rule, economists don’t make magic an object of study, but I think there are some economic phenomena, and there are some economic ideas about those phenomena, that have arguably magical properties. I’m going to suggest one in particular, and that’s money. Money is, among other things, an extremely valuable social innovation. There are many commodities that function as money—precious metals, non-precious metals, big stone disks, bags of salt, shells, glass beads. There is even virtual money. You may have heard of the game called Second Life, in which people have virtual lives, and where they use virtual money. That virtual money in fact is purchased with real money. People pay US dollars to acquire virtual money, which gives at least the superficial appearance of being somewhat magical.
Even more important, though, quite apart from virtual versus real, is the fact that money is money only because, and only in so far as, people believe it is money. This is very important. A $10 bill has certain intrinsic properties. It’s made out of paper and linen and ink. And those properties would exist regardless of our attitudes towards it. But the fact that we treat green strips of paper as money, as a medium of exchange, is possible only by agreement. And as soon as people stop believing that it’s money, it loses its magical properties. It stops being money and it becomes a green strip of paper.
Borneman: Is this then a form of self-deception? Are you saying that we all agree to collectively deceive ourselves?
Leonard: That’s a good question. I think that money is not like stage magic, where there is a kind of deception going on in which the magician performs an illusion that at least today, as opposed to in the 16th century, we know is an illusion. In the case of money, I would say it's not a deception, with the possible exception of counterfeiting, which is somewhat orthogonal. I would say that it is a mutual willing suspension of disbelief. I don’t know if that rises to the standard of magic, but I think that money has that aspect.
Clark-Deces: What’s interesting to me here is that you’re not working with the older dichotomy between magic and religion. Religion is something that involves a large constituency: we go to church en masse, as opposed to magic, which is performed at night. Not on Sunday morning, in the daytime. It seems like what you’re describing is magic, but as a mass event, unless you are talking about a smaller group of people. We would tend to equate that more with collective kinds of processes, where there is a church or a constituency or community that agrees upon the terms of the deception or the lack of deception.
Leonard: That’s a really good point, and I think it’s germane. Historically, the interesting thing about money is that the agreement is tacit. It is not by command. So, even though today our money has the government’s imprimatur on it–the government says it’s money, let it be so–it doesn’t really matter what the imprimatur says. If buyers and sellers do not regard it as money, then it will not serve as money no matter what the government says. An example would be hyperinflation.
Leonard: So, if the government prints too many pieces of paper, the paper stops being money. And simply because they say it’s money, it doesn’t work. It requires that people believe in its value. You have money in spite of command, and not because of it, historically. That’s why it’s a convention. Even though we attach all this other significance to it, ultimately it’s a convention of belief that makes money work, or not.
Rigolot: So, confidence is an essential element here.
Rigolot: I remember the famous debacle with John Law in the 18th century, when paper money was introduced into France for the first time. The rich people brought their gold and silver coins to the bank to buy paper certificates. But all that mattered was just one instance of lack of confidence, and they all wanted to rush back to the bank to get their gold back, and that was not possible.
Leonard: That’s something we’ve just seen in our own economy with the mortgage crisis. It’s a crisis of confidence. People stopped believing that housing prices would go up forever. And when they stopped believing that, the bubble burst. All bubbles have this aspect.
Rigolot: So that would be the equivalent of a magic spell that comes to an end? Or if the conjurer fails in performing a trick. All of a sudden there is a kind of revolution or revolt on the part of the obvious.
Leonard: Yes, an end of enchantment.
Borneman: It sounds like what you are saying is that confidence in money requires the suspension of disbelief. There’s something odd here, though, isn’t there? It’s not confidence in the predictability of something, that one actually controls something, but rather that we’ll all agree to suspend our critical faculties.
Leonard: Well, yes. Still it’s not a fraud. It’s not a deception in the usual sense, in the way that a magic trick is a kind of deception. It’s far too valuable to society to be merely a scam—unlike say the Law episode in France, which may well have been a scam. It is rather a belief about other people’s beliefs that makes money work. It’s sociologically fragile. If people stop believing, then that commodity is no longer money. And the government that issues it can even fall.
Clark-Deces: Maybe we have to do away altogether with the notion of magic as a scam. That association seems to be born out of the performances that we see on television, the popularization of magic and illusions—like the magician David Copperfield. Maybe these people are actually performing a scam, or a trick, but in the context of my research and of the other social and economic processes that you’re describing, that doesn’t seem to apply. I mean magic actually works.
Borneman: Copperfield once remarked that, "[my] whole show is about peoples' dreams, making them come true." Doesn’t this apply in the various cases we’re discussing? Except that a scam would be awakening a dream that would have no possibility, or at least would likely not come true.
Clark-Deces: That makes me think about advertising, how advertisements are a form of magic that uses mimetic means. If I use a product that is shown to me on television, like the shampoo that the beautiful woman is using, then my hair will look like hers does. Of course I’m over-simplifying, but on the other hand there are studies with certain kinds of products that work precisely through advertisement. We can’t just dismiss it by saying it’s not real. Just like I don’t think I can dismiss the magic or the sorcery that I encountered in my fieldwork. People do get ill, and they do get better as the result of magic.
Alexander Bick: So, magic is effectual.
Clark-Deces: Yes. Magic works. Of course, if you don’t do the ritual properly, it doesn’t work. There’s always a loophole there at the end. That is to say, if you come back to the magician or the sorcerer and say, “Look, they’re still healthy, they’re still alive,” he or she will say, “Well, yes. Maybe I wasn’t fast enough,” or “I didn’t use the product properly. On that day I was sloppy. I didn’t use the real cactus plant,” or something like that. And a lot of money is spent in this way, in the hope of the magic working. I used to be a copywriter for an advertising agency in France, so I know how much money they’re using to trick us in this way.
Rigolot: I am not a historian, I am more of a literary critic, and my field is early modern Europe. Back then the definition of magic was very, very different from what we have today. When people talk about the Renaissance, they talk mostly about the humanist tradition. That is, they talk about the recovery of ancient texts, the recovery or ancient culture, the excitement about the new revelation of classical antiquity, from the 14th to the 16th centuries. And then the emphasis is put not on deception, but on authentic data and historical realism, and on Ciceronian rhetoric, the idea of convincing people with real arguments, not with magic. But there is another simultaneous Renaissance with an entirely different order. It comes from the discovery of great writings, the so-called prisca theologia that supposedly came from the Orient and preceded Plato. These were thought to reflect an earlier, purer form of Christianity, spread through hermetic teaching. Some of the greatest humanists, Marsilio Ficino or Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, thought human dignity consisted in our relation to God. They also believed that man is a magus—a magus with divine creative power, and that we should try to understand God in the universe. In other words, that we should try to identify the secrets of nature; feel the powers of the stars; wear talismans or amulets; strive toward recovering a kind of pneumatic generative life force that underlies all creation.
So there’s this whole other movement which has nothing to do with Roman civilization, but which has to do precisely with what we call magic today. And this is very interesting, because for a long time the study of the Renaissance has been confined to, let’s say, philology, textual authorship, textual authenticity and things like that. So, it says just as much about the afterlife of the Renaissance as the Renaissance itself.
But—and I think this is very important—this other view is very much concerned with wonder. The sense of wonder seems to be crucial, because even in entertainment magic what we do as spectators is to try to regain a kind of pristine enchantment that adult life, or daily adult life, doesn’t usually allow. In Freudian terms we would say this is bracketing out the reality principle and saying, “Look, let’s enjoy the pleasure principle,” at least for a limited time. Maybe that’s what David Copperfield means when he says that magic is about people’s dreams. It is about recovering the sense of wonder on stage with Peter Pan and Santa Claus and the Wizard of Oz.
Clark-Deces: But what about the woman who is cut with a chain saw on a stage? That doesn’t seem to be like what you are describing. Is there something about wonder that also reaches into some really evil parts of ourselves?
Rigolot: Because it’s a woman?
Clark-Deces: Well, it’s often a woman that is being cut. We have to look at symbols, right? We have to look at the performance and decode it, little by little. Give me some example of magic on stage, like the rabbit in the hat, the card trick, the coin behind the ear.
Rigolot: What about all those beautiful white doves, coming out of the conjurer’s sleeves.
Clark-Deces: Okay. So why is it that I’m coming up with this chain saw and the cutting or dismembering of a person, a woman in particular, that somehow just doesn’t quite fit here in this wondrous activity?
Rigolot: Well, if you buy a ticket and go to a performance of that sort, it’s going to be an illusion. The question of illusion is very important. Of course, there is a tacit agreement among the spectators that there is not going to be any crime committed. Because I have seen this trick several times, I know pretty much what happens. But still, there is an agreement. In a way, it’s not very different from the religious ceremonies you were describing. People who go to Mass might go for different reasons. There are some who really believe in transcendence and go because of that. Others go simply because it is part of the ritual. It is part of their daily life. You know, first you go to Mass, and then you go to the bakery and buy dessert for dinner (at least, in France you might).
Leonard: I’m going to pick up on that very interesting idea about the Renaissance view of the scientific impulse. Why do we investigate nature? Why do we want to get at the secrets of nature? The conventional view of the Renaissance is that we want to debunk. We want to understand how things work underneath the surface appearance. But there’s also this other tradition, which says that we want to investigate nature’s secrets, because maybe we’ll see God’s design. Or maybe even, like Stephen Hawking has said, we’ll gain access to God’s mind. Now those two impulses are not necessarily opposed. But they come from a different set of intellectual motives. How is it that they overlap, or that they don’t?
It makes me think of a couple of scientists—a word, by the way, that in English only dates to 1834, when it was coined by William Whewell. The first is Isaac Newton, who did a fair amount of alchemy in addition to what we would today call mechanics. The second is someone I’m quite interested in, Alfred Russel Wallace, who is the co-founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection, which arguably is one of the most important scientific ideas in the last 200 years, maybe the most important. Wallace was, it turns out, a lifelong devotee of spiritualism. And he never gave it up even after becoming a famous biologist. He did things like séances, trying to communicate with the dead. He was also a phrenologist, the science of trying to determine a person’s character and intellect by studying the shape of their head. Today we regard spiritualism and phrenology as non-sciences, or more precisely as pseudo-sciences, because they have some of the apparatus of scientific investigation. But I think the important point is that the honorific of “science” or “scientific” is something that we award ex-post, not necessarily as it’s happening. We look back and we see a claim that seems to have held up well, and is reliable, and so we call it “scientific.” If it doesn’t hold up so well, like phrenology, well, slowly, historically, it gets consigned to the dustbin of “pseudo-science.” It strikes me that this distinction is relevant to the one that you drew in the Renaissance. It matters where we are located in time when we look back upon a set of practices and judge them scientific, or not.
Rigolot: Yes, that’s very true. As a matter of fact, for a long time magicians and scientists were closely associated. Indeed, alchemy was seen as a kind of scientific method. In 1471, Faust, a physician who had perhaps too much faith in his own powers, was killed in his own chemical experiment. Maybe there is some kind of groping through alchemical methods towards science, but certainly alchemy played an important role in the development and progress of chemistry. On the other hand, in the 16th and 17th centuries, chemistry was considered dangerous. Faust was killed in an experiment ; what he did was somehow infringing upon the limits of what was permitted. So, it works both ways. If you read Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero is a magician. But he’s also a great scholar and is highly respected. Yet, when Pico gets into trouble, Pope Alexander VI comes to his rescue, because he’s very interested, not so much in the Pico we know as the advocate or the dignity of man, but Pico the magician. And Cornelius Agrippa, probably the greatest magician of the 16th century, never got into trouble with Rome. There is an interesting proximity of magic and science here.
Leonard: Yes, and the alliance that you allude to is still alive today. There’s a fellow named “The Amazing Randi,” Jim Randi, who gave a public lecture here at Princeton a few years ago. He is a professional debunker; he debunks scams, homeopathic medicine, faith healing, and various other sorts of pseudo-scientific enterprises that pretend to be doing something supernatural. So he’s a professional skeptic in the modern scientific sense, but he’s also a magician. Hence the name, “The Amazing Randi.” At dinner he did some close-up magic, which is the best kind, because the tension between what he’s doing and what you’re able to ascertain is especially high. So, right in front of us he did some amazing tricks. I knew that there was a trick, but I couldn’t figure it out.
And I think that might be a third attribute of many of the magicians that practice today. They’re very clever. It’s not merely that they’ve mastered stagecraft, or that they’re particularly dexterous. It’s also that they know something about their audience. That is, they know something about human psychology, and they exploit that knowledge in the process of creating illusions.
Borneman: Could I ask you to follow up on this, and to substitute “economists” for this character—the alchemist, magician, scientist? It’s strange that historians, French literature professors, and anthropologists are not usually considered magicians. Do economists in particular produce illusions about their data, or about their power to forecast?
Leonard: Well, I think some of this could just be a journalistic device that is repeated in the news media, but there is a phenomenon of attributing special powers to, for example, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Central bankers have real political economic power. But what they actually do is opaque to most people. There is a history to this, also, and it’s a fairly recent history. This is the idea that the economist—a job we would have called “political economist” just a hundred years ago—might be an expert and even a scientific expert: one, moreover, who could have great influence in the world. And I think we can date this idea with some precision to The Great Depression, and in particular to the character of John Maynard Keynes. There’s a wonderful biography of Keynes that Robert Skidelsky has written, and one of the volumes is called The Economist as Savior. In a very real sense Keynes invented the character of the expert economist, a super hero who comes, provided that there is a government willing to take tuition from its technocratic betters, to rescue civilization. And that savior is a hero because of what he knows. This idea has its roots in 1936, and in the asymmetry between what experts know and what ordinary people know about processes that influence the economy.
Borneman: You’ve each been circling around this idea of wonder. Is wonder consistent with contemporary ideas about knowledge in your field? Is wonder something you will aim for in your classroom teaching?
Leonard: Aim is the operative word here…
Borneman: Could you describe what you do, or give away some of your secrets?
Clark-Deces: Well, my instinct is to say, “Yes,” to the degree that teaching is some sort of performance. We are performing and we would like to open students’ eyes. We don’t want them to be deceived, so we’re working against the notion of a scam. When you teach about the economy, I’m sure that the last thing you want to do is to shroud those kids in mystery about the markets or the ethics of the markets in particular. So, in Anthropology, we need to sort of redeem something about the Other, or something about the practices that we study. I suppose that it’s fieldwork that is most magical for me. Certainly there is a sense of wonder. There’s a sense of surprise that’s always associated, not just with the classroom, but with any sort of investigation.
Rigolot: We would not be in this business if we were not performers. And I agree with what you’re saying about opening up new vistas on strange worlds. If we can show students some of the exciting things happening in worlds other than their own, whether in other times or other places, this is very important. Of course, we do this when we teach poetry—and poetry is a very special medium, because for a long time it was associated with religion and with magic. In the Weberian word disenchantment, there’s “enchantment.” And in enchantment there is “chant,” which means song; and poetry is song because it is essentially oral, even though there’s also graphic poetry. So there is some charm attached to poetry, but poetry is not just aesthetic detachment, although it can become that. There is also, when you read a poem or when you hear a poem—even poems which are quite difficult— there is a magical aspect. You are being asked to leave your daily life, to pass the threshold into an almost religious space where you will have another experience.
Cantos, chants, incantation are all important. Poets have a way of turning his words into magic. And there is the belief that the thing is not just outside the word, but that the thing is in the word. I know this goes back a long time, at least to Plato. Are words simply a conventional way of saying things, or is the thing itself present in the word? And do words force things to happen? So it seems to me that at the origin of poetry is this sense about words. It’s a primitive belief that words can make things and do things. This idea is of a real presence, which you find in religion, but you find also in magic and in poetry. Real presence in the sign or in the symbol. This fascinates the students because they have not thought about it before.
Clark-Deces: What I like about what you say is that it resists any dogmatism. In other words, it’s a world of imagination and knowledge that is available here through your teaching. I like the word “wonder,” but you could also easily be talking about change or transformation or something we would associate with a religious experience, like conversion. Thinking in this sense, of conversion, I would have been a little bit put off, because I see my job, on the contrary, as opening up worlds and creating a sense of surprise and wonder. And not as converting people to a particular ideology or point of view.
Leonard: I agree with that. But I would say that even though I don’t want to convert my students, or to have them embrace a particular ideology or dogma, I do want to change the way they see the world. Not as a conversion experience, but as opening up windows through which they can see phenomena in a way they would not have seen before entering my classroom. So that’s not exactly conversion, but it is...
Bick: Is there a contradiction here, though? How do you both instill a sense of wonder and teach critical reasoning? How do these two things go together?
Clark-Deces: Well, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Rigolot: Just because you are passionate about your subject does not mean that you are uncritical. I think if you want to inspire others, you have to devote your life to doing it. I think you are constantly reminded that we must justify what we are saying. We are always being judged for what we are doing. So we always have to be prepared. We always have to show evidence. Of course, evidence is circumstantial. It depends on the fragmentary world of scholarship we inhabit. But still, we are not isolated. We are not preachers, either. We are teaching students who have critical minds, and we respect that. There is a kind of dialogue that happens. It’s not merely hierarchical; there is a lot of sharing, and that’s very good. It avoids the other major pitfall : the illusion of power. There is power, of course; there is an element of seduction about all teaching, I think. Weperform, just as the conjurer does on stage. I don’t think we would deny that.
Leonard: All performances have that aspect. I think you could add that we also have to be dispassionate in the sense of being objective, and that’s a tough balance to strike, as Alex’s question suggests. One way I introduce wonder, in a kind of underhanded way, in a history class, is to go outside the class and to remind the students to think about the whole enterprise that we are currently engaged in, to consider what sort of history had to have happened in order for us to live in a society that is so prosperous that a set of very privileged people like us could be sitting in a classroom or in a library or in a dorm room with nothing better to do than to read and to write and to discuss and to teach ideas—many of which have no practical value at all. That is to practice the liberal arts.
Borneman: What was the most magical thing you’ve ever seen?
Rigolot: Seen, or experienced?
Clark-Deces: After what we have said, I’m not sure we can really answer this question, because of the word “seen.” There is a lot of esoteric knowledge out there that cannot be seen. You were saying that the economist has specialized knowledge about the market that most of us lay people can’t see or understand. I would say that this applies very well to the sciences, as well. Take technology, for instance. The cell phone is magical, isn’t it? And, likewise, the sorcerers or magicians that I have worked with in South India are practicing very esoteric knowledge. This is not something they make available. So, what is the most magical thing I’ve ever seen? Well, I haven’t seen any magical thing. I may have seen a couple of miracles. That depends on my beliefs, perhaps. Or I have seen some wonderful things, in nature, I suppose. But magic?
Rigolot: Well, my answer would be love. That’s magic. Why would two people fall in love? Pascal had the answer: “Love has reasons which reason cannot understand.” And it’s true. Love defies any rational explanation.
Clark-Deces: But magic can also be rational, no? This is what I would argue. The alchemists that you were talking about earlier were proceeding from a kind of pre-scientific approach. If you put A and B together, this is going to create C, etc. This is not the opposite of reason.
Rigolot: I guess it depends how you define rational. Alastair McIntyre once wrote: “To say that a belief is rational is to talk about how it stands in relation to other beliefs.” That’s a good definition. a relativistic definition.
Leonard: I do think this distinction between expert scientific knowledge and lay knowledge is an important one. One of the questions that we didn’t formally address had to do with new technologies. We do have experts who interpret and produce new technology, the engineers. And we do have experts who understand financial markets, the economists and investment professionals. And we have poets and writers who are expert in the human heart.
Clark-Deces: But not everyone can be an expert. In the anthropological definition of the term, not everyone can be a magician, because it’s an apprenticeship. One has to learn particular formula and rituals, to be educated. This is a familiar distinction that is made in the literature, between sorcery and witchcraft. Sorcery requires specific kinds of knowledge, but witchcraft has to do with the power of the mind. In this sense everybody can be a witch. But not many people can be magicians.
Leonard: I think that’s fair, and helps explain why we invest scientific experts with cultural authority. But there’s a kind of converse, too, where simply because we can understand how a cell phone works or how financial markets function, that doesn’t mean necessarily that this complex thing loses its magical power. We might see how Paul Muldoon strings together a set of words and we might notice that he prefers Anglo Saxon to Latinate constructions, for instance. But even with a very deep critical understanding of his writing, the magic is still there.
Rigolot: It’s very much there. Both the expansion and the fall of structuralism, as a paradigm, were very much linked to what you’re saying. There was, in the 1960s and ‘70s, a belief that through rational, mostly linguistic, methods, you could somehow find the truth about a poem. And yet that poem, when it was dissected by Lucien Goldman, Roman Jacobson, or Claude Lévi-Strauss, resisted the structuralist approach. It was like using a bomb to kill mice. The method was out of proportion to the object. But the resistance of a poem, the enchantment of poetry, was an act of denunciation that showed how great poetry resists decipherment. Something else makes it great that science has failed to understand.
Leonard: Before we finish, I would like to say something about Weber and the iron cage of rationality. I’m going to offer a very economistic explanation of Weber’s claim. The standard of living in the US has increased seven- to eight-fold since 1900. Take your income now, and multiply it by seven or eight. That would be the difference in our purchasing power compared with our great-great grandparents’ purchasing power. Well, it comes at a price, and one aspect of this in modern life is that we are extremely busy. Women are now in the labor force. The range of our life opportunities, and of our choices, has vastly expanded. That’s what it means to be rich: to have more opportunities and more choices. And these are all good things. But when you have more choice and more opportunity, you have to make more decisions. You have to exercise that instrumentally rational faculty more often. There’s more to do, and though we have technology that can help us with these decisions, I think Weber had no idea how constricting the iron cage could be. And so the paradox is that we need to rationally decide to decide less. We have to make time for wonder, much more so today for reasons of technology and economic growth than in Weber’s time a century ago.
Rigolot: This wealth has also sparked a desire for re-enchantment. In California there is excitement about the Kabbalah, as something related to mysticism. Ritualistic practices are coming back in fashion, legally or illegally, because of this: a desire to re-enchant the world. Maybe Weber was not entirely right when he talked about disenchantment coinciding with an increase in secularization. Astrological logic had an afterlife, even in the political thinking of some of the closest friends of Martin Luther, who, I think, had a simplistic way of finding what disenchantment is. Maybe we are witnessing a new phase in this re-enchantment. Magic persists as a strong force.
Leonard: There is a paradox, though. Can we use instrumentally rational means to accomplish re-enchantment?
Borneman: I would rarely agree with economic logic, but here I fully agree. I think you put it very, very intelligently to say that this increase in the number of decisions one must make, whether in a grocery store or about different kinds of insurance plans, if one has access at all to insurance, is truly the mark of a disenchanted world. And because of this pressure to constantly use our rational faculty to make decisions, we have consciously, with great difficulty, to make space for wonder. Whether these other domains of mysticism or forms of spiritualism are truly capable of re-enchantments—that I’m skeptical about.