Magical thinking is the satanic parody of the Christian doctrine of creation by the power of the Word.
It is the notion that we can, by the power of the human word known as the “lie” simply will into existence something we want to be as God wills into existence the universe.
We can, of course, speak things into existence as sub-creators. Every fiction writer in the world does this. We can conceive of new things derived from our understanding of the physical world as God has made it. As Tolkien says:
The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power — upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world external to our minds awakes. It does not follow that we shall use that power well upon any plane. We may put a deadly green upon a man’s face and produce a horror; we may make the rare and terrible blue moon to shine; or we may cause woods to spring with silver leaves and rams to wear fleeces of gold, and put hot fire into the belly of the cold worm. But in such “fantasy,” as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator.
Likewise, applied science can take from the principles of the world God made and exploit them to make everything from first degree levers to the computer I am typing this on. This is part of our dignity as human beings made in the image and likeness of a God who is himself a Maker. We sub-create and are even allowed the freedom to abuse our freedom, so that we can make both penicillin and zyklon-b. God does not alter the rules of physics and chemistry to make sure we only sub-create nice things. The world turns out to be a solid thing and creation behaves according to rules that make it possible to know how creation works. The task of science is to understand those rules.
Curiously (and despite the myths of modernity), the high point of magical thinking in the West was not “the Dark Ages”, but the 16th century–the exact same time that the scientific revolution was taking off in Europe. To make a long story short, the reason for the interest in magic was the same as for the interest in science: because the goal was to control and manipulate nature. Science remained and magic died because science works and magic doesn’t.
But there is often a hubristic impulse behind modernity that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the impulse behind magic. It is the desire, not to cooperate with, but defy, the creative will of God: to be gods.
You can see it at work in Acts 8, when Simon Magus tries to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from Peter. The notion that such power is a gift of love from God, or subject to anything but his own will is foreign to Simon, and he whipsaws from trying to buy the power of the sacraments to cringing in fear of God’s retribution. The idea of relationship with God is nowhere to be found in his mental world.
In Acts 19, something similar happens as the sons of Sceva try to use the Name of Jesus as a sort of incantation or magical charm to perform an exorcism. Once again the idea is that by our own will and without regard to relationship with God, reality can simply be willed into existence and the demon driven out.
It does not go well.
And that’s the thing: The trouble with magical thinking is that Reality does not care about it. When the magical thinker attempts Triumph of the Will over reality, reality always wins and does not care about the fool’s wishful demands.
So, for instance, Stalin’s Five Year Plans required certain weather patterns which did not materialize. Stalin had meteorologists shot for counter-revolutionary weather forecasting. The weather happened anyway.
When the Red Army closed in on Berlin, Hitler moved around imaginary troops on a map and declared they would defeat the Red Army. The Red Army crushed him anyway.
In the same way, Trump is now magically declaring that the pandemic is behaving according to his lies. So he has just announced that he will be winding down the Administration COVID response, despite the fact that by June we will be seeing 3000+ deaths each day. He is simply lying to himself and the rest of us that the Mission is Accomplished because he wants it to be so. It is pure magical thinking from a mind with a deeply diseased grasp of reality. And his Cult, consumed with magical thinking just like him, is seig heiling him and will get COVID 19 as the reward for their devotion to him. Because the virus does not care about their magical thinking.
Magical thinking is a form of blasphemy and the judgment is always the same. The believer in the lie must, sooner or later, collide with Reality, which does not care about his fantasies and steamrolls over him anyway. It is one of the primary demonstrations of the fact that we are punished by, not for, our sins. The people out cramming themselves into tightly packed MAGAFREEDOMEAGLEPATRIOT demonstrations have been given every warning in the world by the best science in the world that this is mega-stupid. But in their pride they are bent on spreading pandemic anyway.
Sometimes, the liar realizes his folly and repents, facing reality. Often the liar clings to delusion and hits the accelerator so he can defiantly collide with reality at 200 MPH. It is up to the MAGA cultist which he will choose to do.
Meanwhile, God continues to call the MAGA antichrist cult of death to repentance and life:
As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Eze 33:11).