Why Was There an Explosion of in Interest in Magick in 1984?

Google’s new NGram viewer gives a fascinating look at how memes ebb and flow throughout the years by sharting the appearance of certain words within all the books indexed by Google Books. So far, you can search between 1800 and 2008.

For example, here’s science and religion:
Science and religion Ngram

Here’s one that’s really interesting. Looking at the history of the word “magick,” there’s an explosion of interest beginning in the 1980s:
Magick NGram 1800-2008

A closer look reveals that the bump that starts an upward trend occurs between 1984 and 1985:
Magick NGram, starting with 1980

Occurances of the word “occult” have always been much higher, but seems to follow a similar but less exaggerated increase in the 80s and 90s:
occult vs. magick NGram

“Occult” seems to start rising a little earlier than “magick.” It also declined more sharply in recent years and went through a pronounced trough in the late 90s.

It’s also interesting how popular the word “magick” was in the early 1800s, long before Aleister Crowley started using it. But it’s never been as popular as magic with a c:
magic and magick Ngram

Note the cute little devil horns! (This could be due to scanning issues – see Danny Sullivan’s commentary here).

A few notes:

Michelle Remembers (the book that helped start the Satanic Panic) was released in 1980 and Falcon Publishing started around that year.

Some of Llewellyn‘s biggest hits like Wicca and Modern Magick didn’t come out in the late 80s, but the publishing house has been around since the 1901 (founded in Portland, incidentally). According to Wikipedia, the company started publishing authors like Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley in the 60s. The other big publisher of occult and new age books, Weiser, was founded in 1956 – also well before the 80s explosion.

McMartin preschool trial started in 1983 and through the 1987. This probably contributed significantly to number of books published on magick and the occult during this period.

Why War? Biological vs. Cultural Explanations


John Horgan, writing for Scientific American, asks the big question: why do humans wage war? He’s previously rejected the “demonic males” theory, and has found Margaret Meade theory more satisfactory:

Many scholars solve this problem by combining Darwin with gloomy old Thomas Malthus. “No matter where we happen to live on Earth, we eventually outstrip the environment,” the Harvard archaeologist Steven LeBlanc asserts in Constant Battles: Why We Fight (Saint Martin’s Griffin, 2004). “This has always led to competition as a means of survival, and warfare has been the inevitable consequence of our ecological-demographic propensities.” Note the words “always” and “inevitable.” […]

The best answer I’ve found comes from Margaret Mead, who as I mentioned in a recent post is often disparaged by genophilic researchers such as Wrangham. Mead proposed her theory of war in her 1940 essay “Warfare Is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity.” She dismissed the notion that war is the inevitable consequence of our “basic, competitive, aggressive, warring human nature.” This theory is contradicted, she noted, by the simple fact that not all societies wage war. War has never been observed among a Himalayan people called the Lepchas or among the Eskimos. In fact, neither of these groups, when questioned by early ethnographers, was even aware of the concept of war.

In discussing the Eskimos Mead distinguished between individual and group violence. Eskimos were “not a mild and meek people,” she noted. They engaged in “fights, theft of wives, murder, cannibalism,” often provoked by fear of starvation. “The personality necessary for war, the circumstances necessary to goad men to desperation are present, but there is no war.”

Mead next addressed the claim that war springs from “the development of the state, the struggle for land and natural resources of class societies springing, not from the nature of man, but from the nature of history.” Here Mead seems to invoke Marx as well as Malthus. Just as the biological theory is contradicted by simple societies that don’t fight, Mead wrote, so the theory of “sociological inevitability” is contradicted by simple societies that do fight. Hunter–gatherers on the Andaman Islands “represent an exceedingly low level of society,” but they have been observed waging wars, in which “tiny army met tiny army in open battle.”

Scientific American: Margaret Mead’s war theory kicks butt of neo-Darwinian and Malthusian models

(photo by Polina Sergeeva)

(Thanks Bill!)

Happiness And Sadness Spread Just Like Disease

happy feet

There may be a literal truth underlying the common-sense intuition that happiness and sadness are contagious.

A new study on the spread of emotions through social networks shows that these feelings circulate in patterns analogous to what’s seen from epidemiological models of disease.

Earlier studies raised the possibility, but had not mapped social networks against actual disease models.

“This is the first time this contagion has been measured in the way we think about traditional infectious disease,” said biophysicist Alison Hill of Harvard University. […]

Happiness proved less social than sadness. Each happy friend increased an individual’s chances of personal happiness by 11 percent, while just one sad friend was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy.

Wired Science: Happiness And Sadness Spread Just Like Disease

Esoteric Sciences Roundtable: The Art of Memetics Interview


Kory Kortis talks to Wes Unruh about the book he co-authored with Edward Wilson “The Art of Memetics”

“Kory Kortis has been running ESR for six years now, and I was the last guest this season. We covered this view of memetics that I’ve been espousing, and hopefully I get some of the important ideas in the book across in the interview below.

Kory was kind enough to send me two DVD’s of the episode and a grip of stickers, so I got this up on my google video account (with Kory’s permission).”

(via Alterati)

Susan Blackmore: Memes and “temes”

“Susan Blackmore is dedicated to understanding the scientific nature of consciousness. Her latest work centers on the existence of memes — little bits of knowledge, lore, habit that seem to spread themselves using human brains as mere carriers. She’s exploring the existence of a new class of meme, spread by human technology. It’s temporarily named the “teme.” She has written about memes, consciousness, and near-death experiences; has appeared on the British Big Brother to discuss the psychology of the participants; and writes for the Guardian UK.

[…] She makes a bold new argument: Humanity has spawned a new kind of meme, the teme, which spreads itself via technology — and invents ways to keep itself alive.”

(via TED)

Flak Magazine Reviews Memes

Flak, one of my favorite online magazines, has an interesting piece on memes with an accessible explanation of the concept.

I was discussing immortality with a friend of mine a long time ago. At the time, I felt that I never wanted kids. My position, as I related it that night, was this: Kids are an attempt at immortality, a genetic permanence that will resonate after your death. Everyone came from someone, and we are all the standard bearers of our ancestors ? our eyes, our smile, our cancer are all echoes of ancient patterns set a long time ago. This is a way to live forever. Children.

If this is an acceptable assertion, then there are other ways of achieving permanence. Memes. Thought ancestors. Someone thought of the wheel. That person lives forever. Someone painted “Starry Night.” He lives forever. Concepts that propagate, live on in others minds, passing down into new generations, mutating into contact lenses, orthodontics and cancer medicine, all echoes of ancient patterns set a long time ago. This is a way to live forever.

How are you going to live forever?

Flak: Memes

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