Mathematical Genius or Mesmerizing Magician? The Psychomagic of Scotland's Ancient Lost Wizard
"Scotland's First Scientist", "The Lost Genius", "The Scottish Wizard", "The White Wizard", or "The Wizard of the North" are some of the terms used to describe Michael Scot. And although this Scottish sorcerer was referred to as the most "renowned and feared" sorcerer and alchemist of the 13th century as you will see, his psychomagic not only entertained Europe's social elite, but over time it developed and became the modern disciplines of psychology and hypnosis.
Who Was Michael Scot?
Born in the year 1175 in Dumfries, Dumfries-shire, Scotland, he was the son of Michael Sir Lord Balwearie Scot and Margaret Balwearie. This wandering polyglot studied mathematics, philosophy, theology, and astrology at the cathedral schools of Durham and Oxford before visiting major centers of learning and royal courts across Europe. The BBC's successful show, Shoebox Zoo , featured a wizard who created the "Book of Forbidden Knowledge," a lexicon filled with dark magic and untold secrets. That was Scot!
Peter Mullan as the wizard Michael Scot. ( BBC)
Scot was so legendary that he was featured in Dante's Divine Comedy in the fourth bolgia located in the Eighth Circle of Hell “reserved for sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets who claimed they could see the future when they, in fact, could not.” The stories, legends and myths in the "people’s history" record Scot’s magical ‘abilities’ such as splitting hills and vitrifying witches, but little attention has been given to the "man" behind the magic. I have personally studied and practiced closeup magic and illusion for most of my adult life, and this article offers an insight into the arts of "magical thinking" and will share some of the eccentric processes magicians undergo to present apparently "effortless" effects.
- Blurring the Between Magic and Philosophy: Legendary Wizards of the Ancient World
- Say the Magic Word: The Origins of Abracadabra and Other Magical Mutterings
The Man Behind the Wizard
Modern magicians such as David Blane and Chris Rock have developed magic brands which allude to them having one foot in 'another world" or "dimension" and their performances are presented as acts of "hyper-spirituality." Scot was the forefather of this form of magic - and at a time before scientific reasoning, he reveled in an endless line of “believers.” Having studied both Judicial astrology (the art of forecasting future events using calculations based on the planetary and stellar bodies and their relationship to the Earth) and theology, he walked the line between religion and science, a key determinative in becoming a “wizard”.
The Wizard card. ( OffbeatWorlds /CC BY NC ND 3.0 )
Scot was a futurist and had figured out at an early age that before he could perform illusions repeatedly, without being exposed as a fraud, he would first have to become a master magician in private. Behind closed doors he devoted almost three decades to learning the sciences of human nature, the inner-workings of the mind, and the mechanics of invisible universal forces such as magnetism and the laws of attraction and repulsion in both metallurgy and human interactions.
Leaving Oxford University, Scot toured Paris and Bologna and managed to find time to "establish" Naples University and Salerno medical school. In 1217, he resided in the Spanish town of Toledo, the university of which was celebrated for its cultivation of the occult sciences. In Paris, Scot was renowned for his prowess in solving complicated mathematical problems and became known as 'Michael Mathematicus' but sometime after arriving in Toledo he re-branded, and emerged as one of Europe's leading alchemical sorcerers.
In Italy, Scot taught a very famous pupil: Leonardo Fibonacci, the author of Liber Abaci (Book of the Abacus - 1202), the first European book to use the symbol/number “0” to represent zero. The book, dedicated to Scot, included the famous number series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55.... known as the Fibonacci Sequence, where each number is the sum of the two previous numbers, a formula found in the creation geometry of nature and imbued with powerful supernatural qualities.
Having learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, Scot translated the works of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes from Arabic into Latin. He also translated Liber astronomiae (Book of Astronomy) by Alpetragius, the first work discussing the astronomical system of Aristotle. Scot’s translations are regarded as being greatly responsible for introducing this ancient Greek philosopher to the western world.
The Magical Scholars of Palermo
When Scott was about 50 years old, his translations had reached the highest levels of society and he was invited by Emperor Frederick II to attend his court at Palermo in the Kingdom of Sicily. 13th century Palermo was like Hogwarts, a buzzing hive of magicians, illusionists, spiritualists, and gurus from around the world who gathered there to learn, develop, and perform illusions which were presented as miracles, often for big fees. When Scot arrived at the Emperor’s Imperial court, chroniclers noted his unusual dress, as he was adorned not in Spanish fashion but the costume of an Arabian sage: flowing robes, a close-girt waist, and a pointed cap - a quintessential wizard.