Tag Archives: stephen skinner

The Keys to the Gateway of Magic

J S Kupperman reviews The Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Skinner Rankine The Keys to the Gateway of Magic Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes

Keys to the Gateway of Magic is the second of Skinner and Rankine’s “Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic” series, following their first book on the angel magic of John Dee. The goal of this series is to provide transcriptions of important manuscripts on Renaissance ceremonial magic. This makes the “Sourceworks” series an important source for primary source material for those studying Renaissance magic.

Keys consists of transcriptions from Harley MS 6482 and Sloane MSS 3628, 3821, 3824 and 3825 from the British Museum and Rawlinson MS D.1363 from the Bodleian Library. In simpler terms it is a collection of three texts on angelic and demonic evocation; Janua Magica Reserta (Keys to the Gateway of Magic), Dr. Thomas Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance and The Demon Princes. Each of these texts appears to have been extremely influential not only during the period when they were written but also in centuries to come; those familiar with the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn will find many of the correspondences presented in these texts to be quite familiar.

Janua Magica Reserta, the first of the texts transcribed by the editors, consists of several different sections. These sections deal with diverse subjects ranging from magical aphorisms to the nature of the human soul and its relation to the Earth to the nature of angels, demons and other spirits such as fairies and Robin Goodfellows, not necessarily subjects one would expect to find in a manuscript on ceremonial magic.

The second book, Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance is a practical answer to the theoretical information provided in Janua. Hierarchies begins with “The Directory”, which consists of numerous evocations for the summoning of spirits; good, bad or in between, it is interesting to note that there are no differences between the evocations used to call angels and those used to call demons. The text also instructs the magician in ways to test the spirits that have been evoked to see if they are what they say they are. The final section presents nine celestial keys or calls used to evoke the archangels of the Kabbalistic sefirot, along with their seals or signs. As with the previous section the nine calls, each of which being about four pages long and consisting of a single sentence, are identical, with only the specifics of the angels being changed. There is also a tenth key that appears to be a later addition that differs from the previous keys in tone and does not include a seal. The information on the sefirotic angles will be quite familiar with modern ceremonial magicians and appears to be a source for much of the Golden Dawn’s understanding of those great angels.

The Demon Princes is the final, as well as shortest, part of Keys. Princes arms the magician with information about not only the three primary fallen spirits; Lucifer, Beelzebub and Sathan, two of which can actually be evoked, but also the divers spirits that serve beneath Sathan, the four kings of the air; Oriens, Paymon, Egyn and Amaymon. Following these four kings are the numerous spirits who act as their ministers and messengers. Thus Princes is similar in nature to the Goetia, though there are some notable differences such as a complete lack of seals or magic circles. It does however provide lengthy evocations similar in nature to both those found in the Goetia as well as those found in Hierarchies.

The editors do a fine job in their transcriptions; notes are provided to tell the reader where differences between manuscripts occur and they even go so far as to use red ink in places were the original manuscripts used red ink, usually for heading titles or the names of spirits. While I was disappointed to see only facsimiles of the angelic seals, which were often unreadable in places, and no cleaned up versions for ease of reading, this was not a major concern. The readability of the overall text, combined with the numerous notes, more than make up for this.

However the introduction, as well as a few notes and comments on some of the bibliographical material were of concern. The editors present a great deal of historical information, some correct, some not, that while interesting is not always useful. Richard Keickhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages does in fact provide a much more comprehensive view of medieval magic. While some of the background information on the personae dramatis of the period is interesting they fail to support a number of the theories they present with actual evidence, many of their conclusions come through inference instead. Finally, in a multi-page dissertation on how demons are true entities and not simply psychological constructs, along with attacks on modern psychology appear to be more of a rant than a scholarly discourse; while these assertions may in fact be true the editors are far from able to prove it and simply attacking those who feel otherwise is less than persuasive. Their views also fail to take into account the records of pre-Christian philosophers who were of the opinion that such entities were figments of the mind.

For the most part Keys to the Gateway of Magic will only be of interest to those who want to study primary source material, with its Christian theology and moralizing, long invocations and complete lack of modern banishing techniques. Keys to the Gateway of Magic presents a type of occultism that will be foreign to many practicing occultists today, however it will also show where much of modern occultism comes from. Even with the issues surrounding the editors’ introduction, the transcription makes the purchase of the book worthwhile, though the price makes such a purchase somewhat daunting. For anyone interested in the history of ceremonial magic Keys to the Gateway of Magic is a must have that I greatly recommend.

The Search for Abraxas

The Search for Abraxas by Nevill Drury and Stephen Skinner, is newly released from Salamander and Sons. This is a second edition of the 1973 The Search for Abraxas, and I understand it will be distributed through Weiser Antiquarian, though as of this writing there is not yet in their catalogue, but it does appear to be available directly from the publisher.

 

Nevill Drury Stephen Skinner The Search for Abraxas from Salamander and Sons

“‘There is an animal in man, and there is a God in man. In order to produce a harmonised microcosm these aspects of our nature have to be firstly acknowledged: it is then that the self may be transformed. Perhaps the God which best symbolises this mystical venture is the one who is both a man and a hawk; He who is of the Sun and whose legs are coiling serpents, symbol of Wisdom reaching down to Earth. He who holds the sacred shield … and whose name is Abraxas.’

Hailed as ‘the manifesto of a new generation’, The Search for Abraxas examines the nature of human potential emblematised by the transcendent Gnostic deity Abraxas – a figure associated not only with Time and Eternity, but also representative of the polarities of good and evil. Navigating the complex terrains of ‘The World of Light’, ‘The World of Shadows’ and ‘The World of Dreams’, renowned esoteric researchers and authors Nevill Drury and Stephen Skinner map the major themes of the Western esoteric tradition and elaborate upon the philosophies and cosmologies underpinning them.

From modern occult revivals and the international counter-culture and psychedelic revolution of the late 1960s to theoretical and practical qabalah and ceremonial magic; from witchcraft, sorcery and ‘transformation phenomena’ to astral and etheric projection and reincarnation, The Search for Abraxas reminds us that ‘magic is essentially about altered states of awareness that can lead alternatively towards cosmic transcendence and spiritual integration or towards dark alienation and even evil.’

Explorations of this duality – the polar opposites within the psyche – are particularly pronounced in the works of various artist-magicians, including the unconventionally brilliant and visionary Austin Osman Spare; the phantastically sinister yet transcendent Late Art-Nouveau, Decadents Aubrey Beardsley, Harry Clarke, Alastair, Edmund Dulac, and Kay Nielsen, and the Surrealists Yves Tanguy, Wolfgang Paalen and Max Ernst. This connection between magical thought and visionary art is a central motif of ‘this far-ranging and highly readable book.'” [via]

“Skinner and Drury met – at university – and Drury was impressed by Skinner’s Qabalistic erudition … Drury’s belief that the artist is a vehicle for, not a creator of, his artistic productions, produced a desire to explore methods of charting the hidden sources of inspiration. ‘The levels of inspiration achieved by different artists seems to me to parallel the stages of consciousness outlined in the Qabalah, and for this reason, one of my main aspirations is to achieve greater rapport with the higher levels of my unconscious.’ And so Skinner’s need for scientific exactitude and Drury’s desire to tap hidden levels of subconscious vitality combine in a common purpose. The first result of their cooperation appears in this far-ranging and highly readable book … What Stephen Skinner and Nevill Drury have done in this book is not to make an anthology of the weird and wonderful, but to state, with a kind of modesty and quiet precision, what they consider the relevant facts to be. It is their manifesto, and the manifesto of a new generation.”—Colin Wilson, from the introduction [via]

 

The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley

The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley: Tunisia 1923 edited, with additional material, by Stephen Skinner, the 1996 paperback from Weiser Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Stephen Skinner's The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley from Weiser Books

“The complete diaries of Aleister Crowley cover his entire career in magic, from his initiation into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898, to his death in 1947. These diaries record the development of Crowley’s synthesis of traditional Western ritual magic with Eastern yoga, tantra and sexual magic—culminating in the creation of Crowley’s ‘Thelemic Magick.’ The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley: Tunisia 1923 show one year in Crowley’s life. This particular year was a major turning point in his life—he and his followers has just been banished by Mussolini from their beloved Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily. It marks a time of introspection for Crowley. In it he fully records his magical acts, the internal and external influences surrounding these acts, and their results. Also included are references to the commentaries on the Book of the Law, passages detailing drug use, the practice of sexual magic, descriptions of how he derived Qabalistic meaning from his works and life, interpretations of ‘Yi King’ (I Ching) divination, and other thoughts of a philosophic, religious, and magical nature. In these candid glimpses into Crowley’s mind the reader can see both the egocentric, self-aggrandizing ‘Beast 666’ and the doubts and misgivings of a man dedicated to the spiritual path.”


 

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Approaching the Kabbalah of Maat

Approaching the Kabbalah of Maat by Don Karr, with a foreword by Colin Low, published by Black Jackal Press (an “offshoot” of Teitan Press), is now available from Weiser Antiquarian Books. For launch week, this first edition hardcover, limited to 416 numbered copies, is available at a discount, and comes with a bookplate signed by the author.

Don Karr's Approaching the Kabbalah of Maat from Black Jackal Press

“Maine: Black Jackal Press, 2013. First Edition Hardcover. 8vo. (9 x 6 inches / 228 x 152 mm), xxii + 334pp. Black cloth with spine lettered in silver-gilt, and silver-gilt device on front board. Full color dustjacket. Printed on acid free paper. Sewn. Black and white frontispiece. Numerous black and white illustrations, diagrams and tables in text.

Approaching the Kabbalah of Maat explores three radical expressions of modern goddess-inclusive occult theory and practice that evolved in the late twentieth century. Drawing from the same broad esoteric lineage that produced Aleister Crowley, Frater Achad, and Kenneth Grant, Maat magicians and theosophists such as Nema, Aion, 416 and others, developed new concepts of personal and cultural evolution, weaving æonic theory and kabbalah into revolutionary tenets and practices. The text is supplemented by transcriptions of original documents, diagrams and artwork by individuals and groups involved in Maatian practice, including a significant collection of material from the Thelemically-inclined occult order, the OAI. The book also offers a well-researched history of the esoteric streams that gave rise to the progressive/subversive methods of Maat magick, and the broader cultural movements and upheavals which also contributed to them.

The author, Don Karr, is a well-known scholar of the hermetic arts. He is the co-author of two books in the acclaimed Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic Series (with Stephen Skinner) and is also the author of numerous articles on Jewish mysticism and its influence on the Western esoteric tradition. New book thus Fine in Fine Dust Jacket.” [via]