The distinction between white magic and black magic

From a student paper on Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus:

“The distinction between white magic and black magic was very unstable during the Renaissance. Christian doctrine accepted both versions of magic but scholars argued as to the differences between the two. White magic was seen as a natural science when used for legitimate ends. Also called “natural magic,” white magic flourished during the Renaissance and was used as a means of acquiring access to the divine through nature. In the New Testament there is a favorable view of the Magi, or magician. These people used white magic to worship Christ.

Black magic also used nature but included the invocation of demons. This was the magic that Dr. Faustus used in Marlowe’s great work. Black magic, or witchcraft, implied the use of supernatural powers for a wicked purpose. In early Christian history, black magic was seen as idolatry. Paganism was seen as a sin in the Old Testament but this form of black magic was still acknowledged. This exercise of evil was seen as demonic to Christians but, nevertheless, both forms of magic flourished during this time period.”

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Renaissance Attitudes Towards Faustus as a Magician

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Jesse Baker, Adria Bredemann, Brittain Brussart, Adrian McLeer, Tiffany Tuck, & Tia Wolowicz
for ENG 434, Dr. Desmet, University of Georgia, May 1997.

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