Read the passage carefully and answer the questions that follow:
Humans often appear to react irrationally in the face of disease, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. Many cling to religion or become superstitious. Others become fatalistic. In times of plague and trauma, we moderns seek to protect ourselves with prayers, charms, sigils and spells as much as any medieval peasant. That a surgical mask is hygienic doesn’t make it any less of a magical symbol.
Despite the often blood-soaked history of the use of the term ‘magic’, we must remember that Western history is filled with thinkers who have defended its honour as good natural science - a tried-and-true technology for harnessing interactions between minds and bodies, human and otherwise. And their empirical claims were never tested more than during the centuries of plague. During the previous millennium, the biggest boom in the practice of magic coincided with the Black Death in the mid-14th century. It was the deadliest pandemic in human history, killing as much as half the population of Asia, Africa and Europe - around 200 million souls.
The Islamic world...was hit particularly hard by the plague. There, it helped give rise to the ‘occult-scientific revolution’, where various occult sciences - astrology, alchemy, kabbalah, geomancy, dream interpretation - became an important basis for empire more than ever before. The ability to predict the future with divination, then change it with magic, was of obvious political, military and economic interest. Western Europe saw a parallel upsurge of occultism - much of it from Arabic sources - which we now call the Renaissance. The scientific revolution that followed continued the same trend: historians now admit that saints of science such as Johannes Kepler, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were likewise raving occultists.
Medicine, too, was often classified and practised as an occult science among premodern Muslim, Jewish and Christian physicians. Many considered it alchemy’s sister, both sciences being predicated on the harnessing of cosmic correspondences and natural sympathies to restore elemental equilibrium in the human body - the definition of health. Techniques for life-extension were also central to the alchemical quest. The sweeping physical and sociopolitical imbalances wrought by plague were accordingly answered by an upsurge in medicine, occult and otherwise.
Why did, and do, most practitioners of spiritual medicine see it as a perfectly rational response? Leaving aside the possible agency of spirits and other nonhuman entities, one factor is certain: the placebo effect. It refers to the clinical effectiveness of inert substitutes in healing disease, as long as the patient believes them to be a real drug. Under conditions of mass trauma, combined with sincere belief and mental focus, the effectiveness of the placebo often goes up sharply, with patients able to change their physiology at will. As it happens, creating extreme psychophysical conditions is also a prerequisite to the practice of many occult arts: fasting, prayer, isolation, a vegetarian diet, ritual cleanliness and constant vigil, for weeks, months or even years on end.
By any premodern definition, then, the placebo effect is simply a form of magic. Whether you believe in the authority of celestial spirits or of doctors in white lab coats, the effect is similar: astonishing reversals (or inducements) of disease can sometimes be achieved through the power of belief alone - especially when ritually, traumatically harnessed.
Q. Which of the following has NOT been mentioned as one of the purposes of magic/occult sciences in the passage?