Thaumaturgy (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, meaning “miracle” or “marvel” and ἔργον érgon, meaning “work”) is the capability of a magician or a saint to work magic or miracles. Isaac Bonewits defined thaumaturgy as “The use of magic for nonreligious purposes; the art and science of ‘wonder working;’ using magic to actually change things in the physical world.” It is sometimes translated into English as wonderworking. A practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge, thaumaturgist or miracle-worker.
Thaumaturgy is an ability that can be learned by an individual when provided sufficient education. However, not all persons who study Thaumaturgy have the ability to utilize it. The act of utilizing the “Force of Will” to manipulate or alter reality is the inmate power of the Thaumaturgist. There are several versions of thaumaturgy, and most practitioners do not have the ability to master more than a handful of types, although most tend to generally master a single form.
It is unclear why some individuals become powerful thaumaturgists while others do not. It is generally believed that the strength of the individual’s willpower somehow plays a role in their ability. Interestingly enough, those individuals that possess even the slightest skill with Thaumaturgy are gifted with abnormally good health. As they possess more power, the energy seems to even extend their life span significantly. Some Thaumaturgists are rumored to be well over 1,000 years old. As such it is unclear to what extent the natural lifespan of a practitioner is enhanced.
Historical Religious Views
In original Greek writings, the term thaumaturge referred to several Christian saints. This is usually translated into English as “wonderworker”, a saint through whom God works miracles, not just occasionally, but as a matter of course. It was even said that God raises up not more than one every century. 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, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Ambrose of Optina, Saint Gerard Majella and Saint John of Kronstadt. The Carmelite Bishop of Fiesole, Saint Andrew Corsini (1302–1373), was also called a thaumaturge during his lifetime.
Kings of France and England were also called thaumaturge as they were traditionally considered able to heal scrofula.
Miracles in the Qur’an can be defined as a supernatural intervention in the life of human beings. According to this definition, miracles are present “in a threefold sense: in sacred history, in connection with the Islamic prophet Muhammad himself and in relation to revelation.” The Qur’an does not use the technical Arabic word for miracle (Muʿd̲j̲iza) literally meaning “that by means of which [the Prophet] confounds, overwhelms, his opponents”. It rather uses the term Ayah (literally meaning sign). The term Ayah is used in the Qur’an in the above mentioned threefold sense: it refers to the “verses” of the Qur’an (believed to be the divine speech in human language; presented by Muhammad as his chief miracle); as well as to miracles of it and the signs (particularly those of creation).
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.
By building such mechanical devices, Dee earned a reputation as a conjurer “dreaded” by neighborhood children. 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?”
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).
Known Schools of Thaumaturgy