I apologize for the length of this post, but it's a burning question. To see the actual questions, scroll down to the quoted text. I advise against this, though, as the intermediary text is pertinent background information.
I was intrigued by a question over on the worldbuilding stack exchange. To sum up, this question asks about "divine" magic, or magic that involves a deity as a patron who provides the magic effects. In answering that question, I realized that most ancient forms of magic were, at least according to most D&D and other classifications I could think of, "divine." (For those not in the know: Divine magic involves a deity, spirits, or other supernatural creatures, whereas arcane magic involves no deities, spirits, or other supernatural creatures.) Most "arcane" or "occult" spell casters of the (I.R.L.) ancient world were more like tricksters or profiteers who simply hid their tricks from common knowledge. Even in the ancient greco-roman world, magic was differentiated from religion only by social constructs, not source of power.
Even individuals in legend who we would think of as arcane spellcasters, often have divine inheritance or are divine themselves. Merlin, perhaps the first naïve choice for an example of an arcane spellcaster, may or may not have had demonic inheritance, which was then "fixed" (via divine magic) so to make him a mortal with supernatural powers. Such supernatural powers, especially when fixed by obviously divine intervention, could easily be considered divine. Even if Merlin's demonic inheritance is discounted, I cannot confidently place him as an "Arcane Caster" because we simply do not know what drives his magic. This is compounded by the observation that his character may have been inspired by druids, making him a druid, which is a divine spellcaster (according to a lot of categorizations)!
Gandalf, another naïve choice for an example of arcane spellcaster, was actually a demi-angel. Due to his divinity, he is able to cast spells. That's another example of a person we could consider an arcane caster but is actually divine.
Most other legendary, but still mortal, figures with magic are priests to a god, a druid, or have blood from mythical creatures, which are considered to have the divine magical hook-ups. Obviously we cannot use these individuals as the source of "arcane" magic. The source of "arcane" magic must be elsewhere.
Even in the earliest editions of D&D, which in turn influenced other works of fantasy, there was most definitely an arcane magician of some sort. Gygax wrote several appendices, with one pertinent one called appendix N, which cites sources of many books as his basis for formulating his influential game and the magic therein. (Thanks RPG.SE) This is little more than "I got my ideas from over there," and does not explain how this two-system view of magic came to be.
The move to have pure "arcane" casters certainly happened at some point, because we have wizards, like those in the Harry Potter Universe, who don't sacrifice rams to a deity for their powers. This brings me to my question, with an auxiliary question.
Where did the idea of Arcane Magic, magic you can use without the need of devotion or blood relation to a higher power, come from? Is arcane magic inspired from a class of tricky, god-manipulating/science people that we got "arcane" magic?
To be clear, an ideal answer will have the following:
- Quotes from or references to scholars or authors about the origin of "arcane" magic, as opposed to "divine" magic. Remember, arcane magic involves no spirits or deities.
- Mythological sources of verifiably arcane mages; the more ancient, the better. Remember that arcane magic means that this magic functions and exists independent of divinity. Verification would involve someone using their magic in spite of deities or omnipotent speakers specifically stating that magic does not come from any divine sources.
- Cultural traditions of magic use without the aid of spirits or other mythological/divine creatures.