Some interesting thoughts on magical thinking. While there are people who deny magical thinking or just don’t like it, I tend to see those people as less than healthy. In my experience those tend to be religious people hence my view of religiosity as primarily pathological. Magical thinking is a critical component of a balanced and open life. While I haven’t read Fowler’s book the stages discussed seem well defined and are consistent with developmental psychology. The damage done to children in stage 2 as described is massive and I fully concur with most atheists that religious education is not appropriate for anyone under fourteen or so. Much of that destruction is to magical thinking that is, as I see it, instinctive to our species. So the damage to magical must be active.While there are other ways to lose magical thinking such as rigid materialism or scientism, in America I lay the blame on religion.
An obvious problem here is defining magical thinking. The term magical in English is defined as effecting change on physical reality through some metaphysical means. I suspect most English speakers have a much broader definition of magical that includes fantasy worlds. My use of magical thinking is the development of fantasy. That creates a world that allows magical action limited only by our imagination. So, a quick look at current publications are consistent with what I was taught many years ago that roughly 35–40% of children around four or five years develop fantasy friends. Those friends are often very important and may last through elementary school. I have no idea but I wonder how many writers, particularly novelists and scientists had a fantasy friend. I know I did. Fantasy thinking (magical thinking?) is critical to scientific research as well creative thought of all types.
So to me it is not a matter of that thinking being missing as of it being destroyed by someone else’s magical thinking. I see that as unjustified.
I should mention Hildegard von Bingen (mentioned in a response), the first European female composer whose music has survived and is recognizable, recorded in her writings the symptoms of migraines/epilepsy tied to bright lights and magical images that were painful. These were her visions of god or divinity and inspired her amazingly spiritual music. This is fairly commonly recorded for people who became the source of ‘religious’ inspiration. This is, I think, a route into spiritual awareness and the power of fantasy thought that is not corrupted by mythology or superstition. Of course mythology is our oldest records of alternative worlds in evolution of fantastic thought.
It is a circle, after all. . .