from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A deep secret; a mystery.
- n. Specialized knowledge or detail that is mysterious to the average person: "knows the arcana of police procedure and the intricacies of litigation” ( George F. Will).
- n. A secret essence or remedy; an elixir.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A mystery or deep secret.
- n. An elixir or secret remedy.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A secret; a mystery; -- generally used in the plural.
- n. A secret remedy; an elixir.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A secret; a mystery: generally used in the plural: as, the arcana of nature.
- n. In alchemy, a supposed great secret of nature, which was to be discovered by alchemical means; the secret virtue of anything.
- n. A secret remedy reputed to be very efficacious; a marvelous elixir.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. information known only to a special group
I see exactly what you mean, and it fits really well with some of my own vaguer concerns with the belief in arcanum that marks out magic realism.
In fact, it's precisely because we do not know how it works that we do not rule out the possibility that it does in fact work, the possibility even that others might understand the workings we do not -- hence the term arcanum, with its associations of secret knowledge.
Freemasonry were off-shoots of the original Cabala, and that during the past 150 years new associations had been formed, and the parties who had introduced me into their arcanum were a society in affiliation with many others then in existence in different countries.
The ministers of the word preach, and would be accepted with the people; take this "arcanum," [the secret] of it, -- pray over it; and it is the only way to have it accepted in the hearts of the people: follow it on with prayer.
This is an arcanum which is brought within the range of the understanding by the doctrine of degrees.
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So Dumuzi may become a chimera/arcanum as he transforms into a gazelle in his bid to escape the demons pursuing him, but relative to his society and worldscape he is disempowered, a humble shepherd, a boy crying for his mother — a nobody.
There was the arcanum; each yellow grain conduced to my exaltation, and the sum of these grains was the sum of my mightiness.
For the reactionary reader, the Modernist narrative, with its ornate structurings, opaque prose, obscure references and so on, is constantly breaching the politeness principles, every erudite arcanum an attempt to elevate those who understand (or who can pass themselves off as understanding) over those who do not.
We do not know how the arcanum works, but we don't need to.