The very word magic has an alluring sound, and its practice as an art will probably never lose its attractiveness for people's minds. But we must remember that there is a difference between the old magic and the new, and that both are separated by a deep chasm, which is a kind of color line, for though the latter develops from the former in a gradual and natural course of evolution, they are radically different in principle, and the new magic is irredeemably opposed to the assumptions upon which the old magic rests.
Magic originally meant priestcraft. It is probable that the word is very old, being handed down to us from the Greeks and Romans, who had received it from the Persians. But they in their turn owe it to the Babylonians, and the Babylonians to the Assyrians, and the Assyrians to the Sumero-Akkadians.
The new magic originated from the old magic when the belief in sorcery began to break down in the eighteenth century, which is the dawn of rationalism and marks the epoch since which mankind has been systematically working out a scientific world-conception.
Moreover, it is not the trick alone that we admire, but the way in which it is performed. Even those who know how things can be made to disappear by sleight of hand, must confess that they always found delight in seeing the late Alexander Herrmann, whenever he began a soiree, take off his gloves, roll them up and make them vanish as if into nothingness.
It is true that magic in the old sense is gone; but that need not be lamented. The coarseness of Cagliostro's frauds has given way to the elegant display of scientific inventiveness and an adroit use of human wit. Traces of the religion of magic are still prevalent to-day, and it will take much patient work before the last remnants of it are swept away. The notions of magic still hold in bondage the minds of the uneducated and halfeducated, and even the leaders of progress feel themselves now and then hampered by ghosts and superstitions.