This is slightly based on Babylonian/Summerian myths where gods gave man perfect knowledge of every art and craft at the beginning of time and since then the knowledge has slowly been lost, making each generation worse than the previous. But only Slightly based.
A million years ago magic descended over the world and singled out a creature as the axis of its many expressions. Within generations this caused the ape to become sentient and evolve into humans. At some point they were harmoniously living with the magic creatures and magic powers, but as time went on the creatures started thinning out and their powers waned. Man developed writing, math and technology to compensate and then to surpass it. But they still feel subconsciously that the ancient powers remain...
Come the modern era almost all magic has disappeared and the last human with magic must help the last remnants to move along so the human species can truly embrace science as the way to the future. I have written a couple chapters where he lets a genie out from a lamp, a spirit from a lost temple and such.
They are really just variations of the same and they don't really feel like their disappearance would affect the world. What I really want to do is a metaphor about how superstition and flashy mysticism disappear with the development of science and only true faith and philosophy, no matter how ancient or modern, remain. This is not about religion or life choices. Because magic no longer affect us doesn't mean we no longer believe there is something beyond or we are less spiritual. We just are in a different manner.

What would be a good example of myths that still exist but are doomed to disappear in the future?

What beliefs died out as science advanced in history?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Free will itself, unbound by the limitations of the chemicals in your brain, is the last magic. As the onslaught of neuroscience and psychologists continues, soon there will only be one man left who can truly choose his own path in the world. He is free, the last free man, holding the last remnant of magic. Everyone else's life is run by atavistic instinct, propaganda, and advertising. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 23, 2016 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ Kind of the opposite of what I'm aiming at. The whole idea is freeing humanity from external, non-human, factors that actively or subconsciously control them. $\endgroup$
    – ThreeLifes
    Nov 24, 2016 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ Larry Niven wrote a series of stories playing with this idea, The magic Goes Away, magic is a non-renewable spacial resources. as it is used up the most dramatic and powerful magics fail first with magical effects becoming fainter and weaker and the things that rely on it move to more and more remote places attempting to survive. some weird thing last becasue they were magical in execution but not effect, like great towers supported by magic fall but the rubble is still there and the skeletons of a dragons can be found even though they have gone extinct. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 24, 2016 at 22:37

6 Answers 6


The ability to communicate with the afterlife would be my choice. All magic naturally comes from the spiritual realm, If magic is fade because the connection between the spiritual world and the physical world is fading. mediums keep what little connection there is going, but as they die off the connection becomes weaker and weaker. Only the last the ghost of the last true medium is the all that left keeping that powering the connection. Once that ghost leaves this world and goes to the spiritual world with the rest of the dead, then the connection will fade and last bit of magic will disappear from the physical world.

This is just one senero you can change the it a bit but keep the basics. The ideas is that magic comes to this world from another place and that the connection between that place and our world is fading since no new magic is coming from that other place (afterlife, spirit world, Narnia or something else) the magic already in the world is dissipating but a small trickle is still coming through because of something (someone) magical who is trapped in this world, once that thing (or person) returns to the other place then magic will be officially gone form this world.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My original idea is that magic was trickling from a bunch of such places and the protagonist was the one charged with closing the doors by returning things to them or getting things back or fulfilling ancient pacts... $\endgroup$
    – ThreeLifes
    Nov 24, 2016 at 21:04

Sympathetic magic: the FCC issued a formal rejection of homeopathy just this week after finally testing it exhaustively. But maybe it worked in the past.

ESP: researchers in the 1950s swore they found evidence for ESP, but none of those experiments replicate today.

Accupuncture: still going strong... for now.

Astrology, runes, numerology... all used to work. The weakening ley lines go along with the weakening of divination. What if our weather prediction gets worse?

Alchemy is narrowed to chemistry -- arbitrary transformation of substances is now restricted to more limited transforms. What if it continues to narrow?

We can now only meaningfully communicate with dogs and a few specific members of other species instead of the whole animal kingdom. What if our few domesticated species cease to be domesticated?

What if antibacterial drugs are the last gasp of healing magic? And when they're gone, they're gone?

What if math just starts failing to describe physics? Rotate an object 360 degrees and it never comes back to face you. Pour half a bottle into another bottle of the same size and the liquid completely fills the other bottle. That would be true magic fading.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What does the Fedreal Communication Commission have to do with quack medicine? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Nov 24, 2016 at 7:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Advertising rules $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Nov 25, 2016 at 0:12


All myths are human centered. Not to detract from other forms of myth, but to make a case in point - we seek a deity because we fear our own insignificance/helplessness and the the allure of believing that we are special to some entity which is so much greater than us is irresistible to many people. We have an innate sense that we have little to no control over our lives (tragedy can happen at any moment) and we cannot escape knowing that life will eventually end.

Myth #1 - the afterlife is a place rather than a chemical process in the brain that occurs near death

Myth #2 - we can affect things by believing in a higher power and beseeching that power to intervene in our lives

Myth #3 - magic once existed and gods walked the earth (this one may be difficult to explain in the context of the story, but in the context of the below analogies it may not be as difficult to explain as one would think).

The Long Version

You have to be careful how you use the term "faith". Even though you clearly refer to extinguishing superstition and mysticism, one cannot generally be lead to the assumption that you are also rejecting religious faith as I am sure you are aware of the contention that religion is not "superstition" nor is it "mysticism". The previous point is an important one to consider if you have a true desire to lead people out of irrational belief. I typically define faith as "knowing what is possible, knowing how to get there and taking steps in good faith to assure that a positive result is most likely". To me faith is a form of wisdom, in a sense it is a belief in something I cannot see because it relies on future events which are uncertain, but it is more a matter of choosing and acting rationally, not believing and simply waiting. I do not hold out wishing for things and believing they will be because I wished them so. Any other kind of faith, I suspect, is merely a psychological hack or a lie we tell to children, which in fact, by my definition of faith, amounts to the spreading of faithlessness rooted in the need to trick or persuade to get a desired result. I value reason over finagling, however well meaning it may be. And there you have my faith which derives directly from my personal philosophy.

The IEP states:

Some have held that there can be no conflict between [faith and reason]—that reason properly employed and faith properly understood will never produce contradictory or competing claims—whereas others have maintained that faith and reason can (or even must) be in genuine contention over certain propositions or methodologies.

I assume that the kind of faith that you are referring to is the same as the above referenced faith that is "properly understood" such that it does not contradict reason.

Here is a bit of loosely autobiographical American History as related by Hunter S. Thompson to give you a sense of faith without wisdom and the danger of forging a blind path.

This at a time when common folks, en masse, both embraced and began to reject self-medication for the purpose of relieving the self from the ills of society. Although, "self-medication" is clearly not new to that period, nor certainly can the 1960's era in the U.S. be placed on par with other noteworthy periods such as the Age of Enlightenment. The events of the 60's basically (merely) represent a mass rejection of the social contract, a rejection of human roles prescribed by society and a skepticism of an established order which appeared to lead to so much unhappiness - a theme which in itself, ironically, is not at odds with the founding of the established order, that of a democratic nation, however, the rejections are of the decay of human centered values, those which get lost in vying for dominance among nations. Similar themes are present, though in a different cultural context, in Japan, the suppression of self/emotion for the greater good. The roots of the rejection of the societal order go back to the beginnings of civilization, but we can see a trace of the sense of dystopia as late (in proximity to the 60's melt down) as the Marx Brothers' films.

The first part below relates the myth, the belief, the intuition which goes along with attempting to heal, that finding inner peace will solve the problems which lead to the lack thereof. Afterward it is compared to the disillusionment, the breaking point, the realization and the beginning of the acceptance of loss and an inability to completely heal - the starting point of moving on with life.

The "Wave" Speech

TLDR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=az36k4-Hc94

From Wikipedia:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket… booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change)... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that…

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda.… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

The Final Speech:

TLDR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrd-sfoAv9A

From http://www.goodreads.com/

We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60's. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.


Tl/Dr: This answer is really broken into two parts. The first points out that there is a superstition deep at the heart of many people's concept of science which suggests that science is more than it actually is. It would be the last magic to disappear. The second half is a lightning fast run through about a century of mathematics to suggest how magic might outlast science after all.

What I really want to do is a metaphor about how superstition and flashy mysticism disappear with the development of science and only true faith and philosophy, no matter how ancient, remain.

I make it a point to keep science honest these days. It loves to make some pretty incredible claims. It also has a pretty darn good track record of defending those claims, but with stories like this I think there's an opportunity to give it a gentle nudge.

Given your plan to write a story about the development of science, literally over magic's dead body, I'd suggest the last myth to die will be "science can tell you what truly is." It'll be the last one because it will be the most staunchly defended.

In what I would call its purest form, science is a branch of empiricism, itself a branch of epistemology. It explores the question of "what can we know by empirically observing the world?" It has had quite a lot of success answering that question by assuming there are "natural laws" which are in effect everywhere and every time, and devising repeatable reproducible experiments to model those laws, typically in the language of mathematics.

There is, however, the selling arm of the scientific community which sells science as an branch of ontology: the philosophy of what is real. These people rely on a very interesting but tricky form of reasoning known as abduction. Abduction is the lesser known kin to induction and deduction. While induction generalizes the whole from the part, and deduction derives the part from the whole, abduction is a bit more nuanced. Abduction is when one declares that the best hypothesis one has is actually true. This sounds reasonable, of course, but it turns out mighty difficult to pin down.

The abductive claim, of course, is that all of reality is governed by natural laws. So far science has had great success with that assumption, but it can never really prove it (and good scientists never try... they strive towards more reasonable phrasings, often involving statistics). Without this claim, science remains empirical. It merely models the world (with great success). With this claim, it defines the world.

So this claim would have to go at some point, recognized as pure superstition just like all other sources of magic. Sure, there will be attempts to do without it, but the Münchhausen Trilemma asserts that this is difficult. It states that all logic arguments must have one of the following:

  • The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other
  • The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum
  • The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts

(This Trilemma is, of course, self-consistent. Any attempt to prove it relies on one or more of the three arguments above).

This Trilemma has survived several millennia (it's also attributed to Agrippa the Skeptic, from the 1st century AD), despite man's efforts to the contrary. If it indeed holds, there will always be one last axiom for magic to hide behind, or one infinite argument for the finitists to question. Circular logic is abhorred by the scientific community, so it is unlikely to be the final bastion of magic, but who knows.

This is not to say we haven't tried. Science's language of preference is mathematics, and the mathematical community has take great efforts to try to plumb the secrets of this trilemma. In the early 1900's, there was a strong effort to create a self-proving system of mathematics, which could prove all of the truths in arithmetic, and indeed prove the validity of its own machinations it uses to get there. This effort was struck down by Kurt Godel, with his incompleteness theorems, which showed that mathematics could never create a system which could prove all the true statements of arithmetic and prove itself without being inconsistent. Mathematics remains firmly planted in the world of axioms which cannot be proven.

So perhaps science will change the language. Mathematics is ever evolving, tackling new and more nuanced questions. Perhaps in its effort to become self-hoisting, science will embrace the rules of mathematics put forth by Dan Willard. He put forth a self-proving system by relaxing one specific rule of arithmetic: the totality of multiplication -- that you can multiply any two numbers and the result is a number. In fact, he doesn't so much have to relax the rule, as much as merely state that the totality of multiplication is not provable in his systems. This particular quirk is enough to sidestep Godel's work and create a system which proves itself and all of the true statements in its arithmetic.

The systems he suggest have a peculiar behavior: they can be constructed within our currently accepted rules of set theory and arithmetic, and if built in such a way, it can lead to peculiar consequences. You can construct a set within the theory which is "uncountably infinite" within Willard's world, but "countably infinite" from the outside where one has access to a multiplication function that is total. From inside, this would appear as expansive as the undulating stream of real numbers bringing forth the ocean waves, while from the outside it would merely be but the integer number of grains of sand upon the beach. This would be because those inside Willard's world are incapable of constructing the concepts needed to capture the set's size as we do. It'd be like simply lacking a word to express the feeling you are having.

Which suggests the humans inside that little scientific bubble bastioned by arithmetic in the form of one of Willard's systems might get curious one day whether there might be some multiplication-like operation which is total. Different mathematicians may note that, if you're willing to risk the ire of the gods by assuming multiplication is total, its easier to make decisions. Of course, not everyone will understand this. Some will have to be wowed, instead, by great feats of these multiplication wizards who dare look reality straight in the face. What they would do would seem miraculous indeed.

Magic dies hard.

  • $\begingroup$ That the protagonist was wrong all along and science is the one dying would be a neat twist for the ending. $\endgroup$
    – ThreeLifes
    Nov 24, 2016 at 21:01

I hate to say this, but I feel like I'm missing a key piece of information to answer your question. If the theme of the story is "only true faith and philosophy remain," how does that relate to a single magical charge that occurred at the beginning of time? Is it a metaphor? "Faith" requires an object - it is something believed in without proof that belief is justified. In the description you gave, I didn't see a connection between faith and magic - the magic spilled over the earth, had it's effect and faded. No faith required. If the magic was responsible for the eventual evolution of mankind, and an ability to express himself perfectly via the arts, then wouldn't the fading of the magic result in mankind's devolving back to the stone ages? Perhaps, then the last magic to fade would be the ability to actually utilize the writing/math/technology/science which compensated for the lack of direct magic?

  • $\begingroup$ It's not about faith. I mention it to make it clear that because magic disappears from the world doesn't mean all is pragmatic, cold blooded thought from then on. Art and religion and philosophy are human born and they will always exist. I will edit the question to make it clear. $\endgroup$
    – ThreeLifes
    Nov 24, 2016 at 20:54

If one supposes that non-magic (science, technology) essentially crowded out magical ways, then discoveries like the germ theory of disease (and the principle of vaccination) would kill off magic, wherever those ideas spread.

Similarly, I could imagine human mastery of fire, electricity and nuclear power as killing off energy-transformation magic.

Contrary-wise, if people's beliefs in science were shredded, then magic might come back. Of course, YMMV.


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