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Thaumaturgy (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, stem thaumat-, meaning "miracle" or "marvel" and ἔργον érgon, meaning "work") is the capability of a saint or magician to work miracles. It is sometimes translated into English as wonderworking.[1] A practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge or miracle worker.

Religious views


In original Greek writings, the term thaumaturge is used to describe several Christian saints. This usage carries no associations with magic, and is usually translated into English as "wonderworker". Famous ancient Christian thaumaturges include Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus,Saint Menas of Egypt, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Saint Ambrose of Optina. The Carmelite Bishop of Fiesole, Saint Andrew Corsini (1302-1373), was also called a thaumaturge during his lifetime.

In Islam

In Sunni, Shia and Sufi Islam, Tay al-Ard (literally "folding up of the earth") is a term used to describe a saint miraculously teleporting, or "moving by the earth being displaced under one's feet". In translations, these miracles have been described as thaumaturgical.

In Magic

In the 16th century, the word thaumaturgy entered the English language meaning miraculous or magical powers.

The word was first anglicized and used in the magical sense in John Dee's book Mathematicall Praeface to Euclid's Elements (1570). He mentions an "art mathematical" called "thaumaturgy... which giveth certain order to make strange works, of the sense to be perceived and of men greatly to be wondered at."

In Dee's time, "the Mathematicks" referred not merely to the abstract computations associated with the term today, but to physical mechanical devices which employed mathematical principles in their design. These devices, operated by means of compressed air, springs, strings, pulleys or levers, were seen by unsophisticated people (who did not understand their working principles) as magical devices which could only have been made with the aid of demons and devils.[2]

(By building such mechanical devices, Dee earned a reputation as a conjurer "dreaded" by neighborhood children.[2] He complained of this assessment in his "Mathematicall Praeface": "And for these, and such like marvellous Actes and Feates, Naturally, and Mechanically, wrought and contrived: ought any honest Student and Modest Christian Philosopher, be counted, & called a Conjurer? Shall the folly of Idiotes, and the Malice of the Scornfull, so much prevaille... Shall that man, be (in hugger mugger) condemned, as a Companion of the hellhoundes, and a Caller, and Conjurer of wicked and damned Spirites?"[2])

Thus thaumaturgy means making and operating physical devices, based on early engineering principles, to produce an effect. However, some who used the title thaumaturge related thaumaturgy to theurgy, a Greek term for a branch of magic concerned with spiritual matters. In this view, the material effect produced by a thaumaturgical device was considered to actually be caused by a spiritual ritual (theurgy), which influences the material sphere by way of the more subtle, ethereal realm.

In the Hermetic Qabalah

For example, in the Hermetic Qabalah mystical tradition, a person titled a Magician has the power to make subtle changes in higher realms, which in turn produce physical results. For instance, if a Magician made slight changes in the world of formation (Olam Yetzirah), such as within the Sefirah of Yesod upon which Malkuth (the material realm) is based and within which all former Sephiroth are brought together, then these alterations would appear in the world of action (Olam Assiah).

In philosophy

In his book, The Gift of Death, deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida refers to philosophy as thaumaturgy. His reading is based on a deconstruction of the origin of the concepts of responsibility, faith, and gift.[3]

See also


  1. Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Thaumaturge" etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Mistaking of 'the Mathematicks' for Magic in Tudor and Stuart England by J. Peter Zetterberg. "Sixteenth Century Journal," II.1, Spring, 1980
  3. The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida, page=15.

External sources

ca:Taumaturgia cs:Thaumaturgja:奇蹟者 pt:Taumaturgia ro:Taumaturgie ru:Чудотворец sk:Taumaturgos uk:Чудотворець

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