What is enchantment?:
“What is enchantment? The verb 'to enchant' comes from the Latin incantare, literally '[to place] into a spell/song,' i.e. 'to incant,' with cantare meaning 'to sing.' But 'enchantment' has a wide range of connotations, both in English and other European tongues. It can indicate a sense of attraction, enjoyment, and inspiration, but also bewilderment, and both positive and negative experiences of 'bewitchment.'
“At its core, it is a fundamentally relational experience. We are placed under someone's spell, be they human, beast, or otherwise. It's quite apropos that, in proper French, one says enchanté when making someone's acquaintance. This basic meeting of minds is the seed of enchantment itself, and when we allow ourselves to embrace the fullness of the living world, the experience of enchantment naturally compels us toward empathic connection with a wide array of other beings. It should come as no surprise that communications between human and non-human beings lie at the heart of so many of our global myths and fairy tales. To be able to commune with non-humans in a meaningful way or, as Tolkien once said, to understand 'the proper languages of birds and beasts and trees' is a deeply primal desire. We seem to be hard-wired for engagement with non-humans -- it's simply our contrived philosophical myopia that prevents us from making use of it. We are nature communing with itself, and in that simple recognition we can find a wellspring of deep and profound inspiration.
“However, 'enchantment' is somewhat of a dirty word in our culture of disenchanted 'reason' and is usually aligned with falsehood and illusion. In The Myth of Disenchantment, Jason Josephson-Storm argues, however, that Euro-American societies have never truly abandoned their predilection for enchantment, even the 'great men and women of science.' Groundbreaking researchers like Galileo, Newton, and Marie Curie all earnestly engaged with 'magical' practices and 'supernatural' beliefs alongside their clear dedication to the scientific process, and while we think of them as moving us ineluctably away from some 'primitive state' of enchantment, it's unlikely that they would have characterized their work in that way.
|Czech philosopher Ernest Gellner|
“Czech philosopher Ernest Gellner has even argued that though disenchantment may have indeed been a necessary condition for modernity as we know it, human beings simply can't stand living in a disenchanted world.
“Thus, our method of treatment, should we choose to accept it, is fundamentally a process of deconstruction and re-enchantment -- a return to the wondrous ground. It doesn't require us to abandon truth or become absorbed in the 'supernatural.' Quite the opposite, in fact: Natural enchantment pushes us to embrace a wider, more dynamic view of nature itself and acknowledge the plurality of experiences within our universe. With natural enchantment, we are under nobody's spell, we are simply opening our senses to the full symphonic grandeur of the living world. We have every reason to be enraptured by the marvels of the universe, so why should we settle for anything less?
“If we allow ourselves to be truly open to the lives and experiences of others, including those currently unseen, this basic sense enchantment can be a powerful antidote for prejudice, cynicism, and egocentricity. The simple magic of recognizing the personhood of others can truly change the world.”