Susan Greenwood - The Nature Of Magic An Anthropology Of Consciousness (copyrighted book, review only)
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This work is an anthropological study of magic and consciousness conducted through an examination of nature spiritualities. Often collectively termed 'nature religion', nature spiritualities are concerned with developing intense personalrelationships with nature, as demonstrated by my own encounter with the Snowdonian elements above. In Western cultures, nature, the earth, or 'the environment' as it is now frequently called, has been progressively devalued by some dualistic conceptions of the universe that separate humans fr... More >>>
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This work is an anthropological study of magic and consciousness conducted through an examination of nature spiritualities. Often collectively termed 'nature religion', nature spiritualities are concerned with developing intense personal
relationships with nature, as demonstrated by my own encounter with the Snowdonian elements above. In Western cultures, nature, the earth, or 'the environment' as it is now frequently called, has been progressively devalued by some dualistic conceptions of the universe that separate humans from nature. A definition of the environment as 'all material entities which exist on planet Earth but which are not human' reveals the fundamental separation between humans and the natural world (Simmons, 1993:1). The central theme of this work is to examine how practitioners of nature spiritualities overcome this cultural alienation and relate with nature as a living and inspirited cosmos.
The sociologist Max Weber observed that the 'fate of our times' was characterized by rationalization, intellectualization and, above all, by the 'disenchantment of the world' (1948:155). Through the use of Friedrich Schiller's disenchantment phrase, he was referring to the degree in which rationalization had displaced magical elements in modern Western societies (Gerth and Wright Mills,  1970:51). Non-Western cultures have not been so affected and the anthropologist Victor Turner has astutely noted that African thought, which consists of autonomous linked world-views, 'embeds itself from the outset in materiality', but this materiality is 'not inert but vital' (1975:21).
The methodology that I adopt for this research is one of direct involvement. I have dealt at length with the complexities of conducting anthropological fieldwork from a participatory approach in previous works. This is notoriously difficult when studying magic due to the varying and often derogatory attitudes to what is seen as the non-rational and non-logical in Western social science.
Susan Greenwood is the author of The Nature of Magic: An Anthropology of Consciousness, Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology, and a new book, The Anthropology of Magic. She is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Community Engagement at the University of Sussex.
Greenwood became involved in the esoteric movement during the 1980s as a practitioner of a feminist-orientated form of Wicca. Devoting her doctorate to the subject, her research led her to join Kabbalistic orders and two Wiccan covens, during which she emphasised that she was both an "insider" (a practising occultist) and an "outsider" (an anthropological observer). Reacting against the work of Tanya Luhrmann, who had authored the primary anthropological study of the London occult scene, Persuasions of the Witch's Craft (1989), Greenwood argued against studying magical beliefs from a western rationalist perspective, instead adopting a theoretical approach informed by phenomenology and relativism. Greenwood's research focused on Pagan and magical conceptions of the "otherworld". The book's first chapter summarises the Pagan magical conception of the otherworld, and subsequent chapters detail Greenwood's experiences with Kabbalistic magic and Wicca. The work goes on to discuss issues of psychotherapy and healing, gender and sexuality, and morality and ethics within London's esoteric community, and the manner in which the community's members' views on these issues are influenced by their beliefs regarding an otherworld.
Greenwood also would go on to author several other books on the relationship between magic and anthropology.
As a child, Greenwood had found a greater spiritual connection with the natural world than with organised religion. During the late 1970s, she embraced second-wave feminism and came across feminist forms of Pagan Witchcraft through Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark (1982). Attracted to this new religious movement, she undertook an undergraduate degree in anthropology and sociology at Goldsmiths' College, where her final year research project focused on women's spirituality. Exploring the topic in further depth, she devoted a PhD to the subject, thereby conducting the research underpinning Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld.
Although initially planning to gather data through formal taped interviews with participants, she rejected this method, believing it solidified her "outsider" status among the subculture she was studying. Instead, her data was collected through informal conversations with practitioners, during which she tried to make clear that she was an anthropologist and would use their comments in her work. Over the course of her research, Greenwood gained many friends within the city's Pagan community, and became sexually and emotionally attached to one magician. Greenwood's research was funded using grants from the University of London Central Research Fund and from the Economic and Social Research Council. She devoted the published work to her children, Adrian and Lauren.
Susan Greenwood PAPERS (not full list):
- Magic, witchcraft and the otherworld: an anthropology
- The Ethics of Anthropology
- Practising Feminism:: Identity, Difference, Power
- The nature of magic: an anthropology of consciousness
- Gender and Power in Magical Practices
- Feminist Witchcraft: a transformatory politics
- The Nature of the Goddess: sexual identities and power in contemporary witchcraft
- The Magical Will, Gender and Power in Magical Practices
- Current research on paganism and witchcraft in Britain
- The anthropology of magic
- Worldviews in Collision/Worldviews in Metamorphosis: Toward a Multistate Paradigm
- The encyclopedia of magic & witchcraft: an illustrated historical reference to spiritual worlds
- The British occult subculture Identity, gender and morality
- The British Occult Subculture: Beyond Good and Evil?
- FEMINIST WITCHCRAFT
- Contemporary Magic and Witchcraft
- A transformatory politics
- The History of Early Witchcraft