If magic was something we invented in our minds, why had the Romans been trying for centuries to understand and create the most powerful artifact they could find that would do something very different from what we’ve been doing?
This is a great answer that makes the most sense. As most of the book was dedicated to the various theories, it seems like this was the big one. And in the end, it was actually all about mathematics.
There’s an old story about a king who was trying to develop a strategy so that he could conquer his enemies. One day, his army is besieged. After several days of waiting, the king realizes it’s time to prepare a siege. There is also a story that this tactic is the reason why Roman strategy was so effective. They had learned the value and the art of siege before their enemies knew that the Greeks were trying to take over the world.
A good analogy to think about is that magic was simply a way to make sure they could make the most use of magic in the future. But there was no proof from the beginning that magic was an actual weapon that the Romans used, so they needed to invent it. The idea of using magic was so simple that there was no incentive for the Romans to spend time trying to understand how it worked.
This leads to a conclusion that is absolutely correct — it’s been around for thousands of years — and it has nothing to do with any magical artifact you’ve probably heard of.
The rest of the book goes in great detail on various theories about how magic works — in particular, Pythagoras, Theolites, Socrates, Theodemus, and the famous Babylonians like Thoth and the Babylonians. In the end, I’ll go over these theories briefly.
There is some good advice on how to think about them. However, at the end of the book you’ll be asked to accept that you can’t possibly know how magic works, so you won’t learn that stuff.
Theodemus, for example, was convinced that magic didn’t work because the Gods were just doing it for their own amusement. Socrates believed that magic had no basis of truth. Thoth was convinced that it was the belief of the people in the land that really mattered. When you have all of these different ideas, you may be able to apply one of them to your own personal problems, but most of the time, you won’t
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