Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture (SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions)
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An exploration of John Dee’s Enochian magic of angel contact, its reinterpretation over the years, and its endurance to the present day. This fascinating work explores John Dee’s Enochian magic and the history of its reception. Dee (1527–1608/9), an accomplished natural philosopher and member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, was also an esoteric researcher whose diaries detail years of conversations with angels achieved with the aid of crystal-gazer Edward Kelley. His Enochian magic offers a method for contacting angels and demons based on secrets found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to present day occultism, Egil Asprem shows how the reception of Dee’s magic is replete with struggles to construct and negotiate authoritative interpretational frameworks for doing magic. Arguing with Angels offers a novel, nuanced approach to questions about how ritual magic has survived the advent of modernity and demonstrates the ways in which modern culture has recreated magical discourse. “Arguing with Angels is a major contribution to the study of Western esotericism in general, and to the study of Enochiana in particular. It places the history and reception of the Enochian tradition within the broader context of Western esotericism, thereby making Enochiana relevant. Egil Asprem not only shows a thorough familiarity with relevant theories, but also relates to them critically and argues convincingly for his own interpretations and conclusions.” — Henrik Bogdan, author of Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation Egil Asprem is a Research Fellow at the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
perennial wisdom follow a unilinear or a multilinear course of transmission?10 I will show that the modern and contemporary discourse on these matters is heavily formed by the Golden Dawn and its demise. Much of what has been argued by occultists the last fifty years is a direct consequence of the nineteenth-century religious creativity and innovation that went into the construction of the Golden Dawn system. As will become clear throughout Part Two of this book, this is not only, or even
of the thirty Aethyrs and a model of all visions, the cries of the Angels should be regarded as accurate, and the doctrine of the function of the Great White Brotherhood understood as the foundation of the Aspiration of the Adept. The account of the Master of the Temple should in particular be taken as authentic. The instruction in the 8th Aethyr pertains to Class D, “i.e.” it is an Official Ritual, and the same remarks apply to the account of the proper method of invoking Aethyrs given in the
of the thirty Enochian Aethyrs seemingly based on Crowley's theory about these entities, and their initiatory potential.19 At this point in the O.C.S.'s history, their aim was not so much to work a novel and innovative framework of magic, but rather to encourage actual practical work in a tradition that was already established. This impression is strengthened from considering the short book on magic published by one of the Order's chiefs in this period, David Edwards. The occult and magical lore
that the spirit of each geographical location should be engraved on a circular disc, together with the name of the region and the name of the Aire ruling it. In addition, he notes the sigils of each spirit, which also appear in Dee's diaries, but were given no attention before. These actually correspond to the letter squares of the Great Table, in a way similar to the famous sigils of the planets in Agrippa's De Occulta philosophia. For this reason, James argues that the sigil and letter square
Theosophical Enlightenment, 185. 17. King, “Introduction,” 19. 18. For concise overviews of the history and significance of the Order, see Gilbert, “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”; cf. Asprem, “The Golden Dawn and the O.T.O.” 19. See Joscelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment, 333–79. 20. Former members of the original order were the first to speculate. Among these we find men such as the authors W. B. Yeats and Arthur Machen, and the occult scholar A. E. Waite; all of whom