From the Notebooks
The historian of intellectual history, Frances Yates, wrote extensively about the realm of magical pursuits in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Yates pointed out that Renaissance magic–though characters like Ficino, Giordano Bruno, Campanella, and Cornelius Agrippa–reached its apex in the sixteenth century. But in 1614, Isaac Casaubon published a devastating treatise on Hermes Trismegistus that showed he never existed. Because Hermes Trismegistus was the beacon of Renaissance magic, the entire movement crumbled.
The Renaissance was a time of great plans and aspirations for taking control of man's environment. Magic was the instrument of choice to carry out these desires.
When magic crumbled after 1614, the aspiration for power and control over mundane affairs didn't crumble with it.
Empirical science immediately picked up the baton and ran toward the goal of creating a harmonious world and society through empiricism: “The history of science . . . does not explain why this happened at this time, . . . Historians of science are aware of a gap here. . . 'In its initial stages, the Scientific Revolution came about rather by a systematic change in intellectual outlook, than by an increase in technical equipment. Why such a revolution in methods of thought should have taken place is obscure.'”
Yates suggested that the explanation lies in the continuing attitude of Renaissance magic. “The new world views, the new attitudes, the new motives which were to lead to the emergence of modern science [first] made their appearance" in Renaissance magic, as evidenced by the parallels between Francis Bacon's New Atlantis and Campanella's City of the Sun.
C.S. Lewis observed the same thing in The Abolition of Man. “[T]he sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. . . There is something that unites magic and applied science while separating them from the 'wisdom' of earlier ages. . . For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious–such as digging up and mutilating the dead. If we compare the chief trumpeter of the new era (Bacon) with Marlowe's Faustus, the similarity is striking. . . It might be going too far to say that the modern scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but I think it would be true to say that it was born in an unhealthy neighborhood and at an inauspicious hour.”
Significantly, modern science has been the handmaiden of Progressives for the past three hundred years. And science has delivered. It has provided Progressives with powerful ammunition to assault the earth's shortcomings, and has resulted in high standards of living for the average person unequaled in history.
Merely using science to create a utopian society is not magical, of course, but, as Lewis knew, it's a close cousin of magic. The goals are the same; the means are merely different.
Or usually different. In reality, the means tend to bleed into one another.