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Book Reviews

Qabala and Magic


The Book of the Glyph by Frater Adsum Iterum - Iterum
Commentaries on The Occult Philosophy of Agrippa - Schroedter
Earth Divination, Earth Magic - Greer
Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge - Dubuis
The Hermetic Tradition - Evola
Highways of the Mind - Ashcroft-Nowicki
History of Energy Transference - Schroedter
Introduction to Magic - Evola
The Tarot de Paris - Thomas
Techniques of High Magic - Skinner

The Book of the Glyph by Frater Adsum Iterum
Copyright 2000
238 pages, paperback
Xlibris Corporation

There has been a lot of talk recently about the power of collective thought to make the world a better place. Some people were even doing something with it prior to the events of Sept. 11th. Frater Adsum Iterum and a small band of magicians in Seattle, Washington were some of them. In The Book of the Glyph, Frater A.I. describes in detail how he and three companions, "Magus Po, (a clerk in a bookstore and as eccentric a fellow as ever lived), Soror E. (a student and talented artist), Frater Phoenix (a university instructor)..." set about to do a series of magical operations based on the seven planetary powers to assist their city in becoming a better place.

Heavily influenced by the Aurum Solis writings of Denning and Phillips, Regardie, William Gray, and other modern authorities on ritual magic, the book sets forth their purpose, methods of work, rituals performed, and suggested reading list and study guide. Given the current climate and need for people feel as if they can have some impact on the 'course of human events', this book is a welcome addition to attempting to integrate esotericism into practical daily life without getting overly political in direction.

Contact them directly by email or phone for ordering information. And remember, tell 'em who sent you!

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Commentaries on The Occult Philosophy of Agrippa
By Willy Schroedter
Samuel Weiser, Inc.
York Beach, Maine
163pages, index, photo

For modern students of magic the Renaissance has an irresistible appeal. Yet, when confronted with the mass of material that such masters of the Art as Agrippa present, they are often overwhelmed. It is not just five hundred years that separate us from them, but an entire attitude, a way of looking at the world. Schrodter helps us to bridge that gap and makes the visible and invisible worlds of the Renaissance Magi accessible to modern practitioners of the arcane arts. While not a book for beginners, it is an excellent adjunct to anyone attempting to read Cornelius Agrippa's "Three Books of Occult Philosophy" or even the works of Dee, Ficino, Trithemius, or Albertus Magnus.

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Earth Divination, Earth Magic
By John Michael Greer
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN.
Index, Bibliography, Paperback

It is a well known fact in publishing circles that Llewellyn Publications produces few books of interest or worth to serious students of esotericism.

With the majority of their time and efforts aimed at the "cash cow" of the adolescent Wiccan and "teen witch" market, they spend far too little energy on producing the kind of works they had in the earlier part of their publishing career, instead, leaving it to Samuel Weiser and Inner, Inner Traditions, and a handful of smaller presses such as Phanes, Trident Books, and the university presses to keep the standards.

Not so with John Michael Greer.

Greer is a longtime student of Hermeticism. Fluent in Latin and medieval French, he has studied esotericism from its practical as well as theoretical and academic viewpoints. Author of four books published by Llewellyn he is certainly not their best selling author, but is by far one of their best.

Greer has also privately published several works on 'Hermetic fencing' translating Latin manuals on swordsmanship from when it was a fighting form and not a sport. He is also the editor of an esoteric journal.

In Earth Divination, Earth Magic, Greer gives the reader a complete overview of the practice of geomancy, its relation to astrology, its later adaptations by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and a complete set of instructions of its use. Students of the Golden Dawn, particularly those in the Zelator Grade where geomancy is studied (See: Self-Initiation in the Golden Dawn Tradition by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Llewellyn for more details on Golden Dawn course work) could do no better.

Greer also adds a complete translation of Pietro de Abano's essay, "The Method of Judging Questions According to Pietro de Abano of Padua". Appearing in many manuscripts from the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, Abano's 'handbook' deals extensively with interpretive methods.

Easy to read and use, as far as geomancy goes, Greer has made a lasting contribution to the field of practical occult research.

Other titles by Greer include: Circles of Power; Paths of Wisdom; Inside a Magical Lodge; and Natural Magic, all by Llewellyn Publications.

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Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge
by Jean Dubuis
Available from TRIAD Publishing
write: for price and shipping information.

Once in a lifetime there comes along a course, or book, like Jean Dubuis' "Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge". Written over 20 years ago, in French, for the alchemical organization "Les Philosophiers des Nature", it has become a standard by which many other esoteric courses of instruction should be judged. Designed to fill in some of the knowledge gaps Dubuis was perceiving in some of the organizations members, "Fundamentals" was written as a  very concise, dense, and eminently practical set of lessons on the core ideas and practices of Western Esotericism.

All areas of significance are covered: basic cosmology, creating interior harmony, the power of "the Word', symbolism, qabalistic invocations, uses of rituals, the relationship of magic, alchemy, qabala, and astrology to one another, and the Seven Rules of the "Invisible College" or the Rosicrucian Brotherhood.

While this may appear to have been 'done before', what makes this book different is that each paragraph is packed with information. There is no wasted language in Dubuis' explanation of things. His scientific and highly analytical mind allows the information to be presented in an amazing clarity free of the usual 'occult speak' and mumbo jumbo that often leaves the reader feeling either dissatisfied or simply bored. The use of Hebrew and alchemical terms is almost non-existent giving this very old material a very fresh perspective.

In addition, unlike many courses of instruction that are just the 'Golden Dawn' revisited, this material has a distinct flavor and feel of an earlier period. Several students of the course, who have had a great deal of experience in other systems, have commented on the overwhelming simplicity and effectiveness of the exercises in "Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge". It is one of those rare works that really is ideal for beginners or advanced students alike.

The only drawback to "Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge", if there is one, is that it is so very full. It is the kind of text that one refers to again and again, replacing so many of the other texts you've grown familiar with. Also, despite its format of twelve lessons, there is no way the material it contains can be performed in a single year. The short section on zodiacal meditations takes a year itself.

If you are looking for a fine guide to assist in your work, regardless of whether you want to practice alchemy, qabala, or astrology, I can suggest nothing better than "Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge". It supplies a foundation that will carry you through several lifetimes.

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The Hermetic Tradition
By Julius Evola
Inner Traditions
Rochester, VT. 1995
Index, Bibliography, Paperback

Evola is a major force in the area of modern European esotericsm, but is little known in the English speaking world. Author of numerous works on esoteric practices and philosophy, Evola is a name that all serious students of esotericism should be familiar with. In The Hermetic Tradition, Evola discloses in clear and meaningful terms the ideas present and their use in practice. Evola is not for the feint of heart or brain however. He deals with difficult subjects and presents them in an intelligent and experienced manner. A genuine master of comparative philosophy, Evola also discusses Hermeticism and Alchemy from the perspective of Buddhism, Yoga, Arabic, and Chinese practices as well. Anyone seeking a literary initiation into the world of deep thought and practices can do no better than to start with Evola. In addition to The Hermetic Tradition, Inner Traditions has also published several additional works of his in translation: Eros and the Mysteries of Love; The Yoga of Power; The Mystery of the Grail, Revolt Against the Modern World; The Doctrine of Awakening - The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts. They also are preparing to release his 'introductory' text on practical magic, taken from the secret teachings of his "UR Group". This last title was scheduled for release last year, but as we understand, do to its immense size, there has been some production and/or scheduling problems. We eagerly look forward to its release.

Julius Evola is an elitist. Having experienced both the First and Second World Wars, Evola firmly believed that we are in the Hindu Age of Darkness or the Kali Yuga, and that enlightenment would only come to those who sought it out and achieved it through power of their will. Writing from the perspective of an experienced occultist, Evola warns the reader of potential problems of undertaking Eastern systems, Hatha Yoga in particular, without a fuller knowledge of their purpose and potential. Evola writes serious books about serious subjects, yet manages to present the material in a manner that is both meaningful and practical. Evola is not for everybody, and those more attuned to New Age fluff had better leave him alone. However, occultists who want to understand a man who was a major force in Italian esotericism, and who to this day is having more of an impact after this death than when he was alive as a result of translations and symposiums, will find a wealth of knowledge and esoteric insight.

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Highways of the Mind
By Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
Aquarian Press
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK
224 pages, bibliography, index

Highways of the Mind is an excellent book on the nature and structure of pathworking. Where many books give specific Qabalistic, Celtic, or Egyptian style tours of the Inner Planes, Highways explains in detail the process whereby they are created, as well as how and why they work. At the end of reading Highways of the Mind the reader is left with the confidence that they not only understand pathworkings, but are also able to create them on their own, regardless of their chosen tradition or pantheon. This is an ideal book for beginners as well as advanced readers in esotericism.

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History of Energy Transference
By Willy Schroedter
Samuel Weiser, Inc.
York Beach, Maine
205 pages, index, photo

Schrodter is an encyclopedic author who manages to synthesize several hundred years worth of information on energy transference and healing into slightly over 250 pages. Drawing on a wealth of little known Western esoteric lore, practices, and theory, Schrodter presents the reader with a fantastic account of occult healing methods from the Western esoteric point of view. Students of healing, Rosicrucianism, Qabala, and Alchemy with find it of much interest and use.

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Introduction to Magic
By Julius Evola and the UR Group
Copyright 2001
Inner Traditions
Rochester, VT
376 pages, paperback

Julius Evola is one of the most controversial occultist of the modern era. His previous works published by Inner Traditions should be standard reading for any serious academic or practical student of occultism. Introduction to Magic is no different. In this work, Evola and his coworkers in the ultra-secret UR Group sought to discover means of developing magical power so that they could 'act upon the world'. Their methods were developed through a complete study of Hermetic texts and emerging information on Tantric Buddhist rituals. Included in this volume is information on the Diamond-Thunderbolt Path or Tibet, The "Grand Papyrus of Paris", a Mithraic ritual, alchemical information, and writings from Gustav Meyrink. The core of their practice was in the development of the 'Body of Light' through breathing, visualization, and the power of the egregore, or group mind. (For more information on The Body of Light, see:

While it is titled an 'Introduction' beginners may find it not only daunting but frightening. Experienced occultists will welcome it as a breath of fresh air and a journey into little discussed territories.

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The Tarot de Paris
By J. Philip Thomas
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010
Hardcover, 160p., illustrated

Sometimes the publicity department gets it right.

The box for The Tarot de Paris reads:

"This is no ordinary tarot. The extraordinary power and intensity of Tarot de Paris incorporates a dazzling array of classic and contemporary art and architecture from the world's most beautiful city. The deck is traditional yet unconventional, with some surprising to delight the tarot aficionado."

What first hits you when you look at the cards is that we have not only an original deck, but also one done by an artist who can skillfully express his inner vision to the world. Dramatic colors, 'Daliesque' juxtaposition of images, and a keen sense of simplicity yet detail, are the hallmark of these cards.

Taken together, the mass of images and photographs displayed, the deck becomes a virtual tour of the 'City of Lights'. For those traveling to Paris this deck makes a wonderful travel guide and companion, as the location of most of the statues, buildings, and art works shown in the cards are listed in the accompanying volume.

Thomas renames most of the Major Arcane, and in doing so, adds greater clarity to the card's inner meaning. For example, the Fool becomes 'The Source'; the Magician, 'Initiation'; the Hanged Man, 'The Question'; the Devil, 'Energy'; and Temperance is 'Alchemy'.

For the Minor Arcane, Earth become 'Matter', and in several instance is symbolized by octagon shaped coins. A small detail overlooked by many, but signifying the complex dual aspects of the four esoteric 'Elements' as seen in Hermetic texts. Eight is the number of Mercury in qabala and alchemy, and Mercury plays a significant role in this deck. Knights and Princes cards are renamed 'Stallion' and 'Spirit', or the dynamic physical energy, and creative inspiration that these cards represent respectively.

The only downside to The Tarot de Paris is in many ways, the cards themselves. While ideal for anyone who has an interest in things Parisian, French, or even to a lesser degree, French esotericism - such as Martinism, Rosicrucianism, Templarism, or Freemasonry - there is little if any easily identified traditional symbolism that has become associated with the Tarot. As such, the deck is not a good 'starter set'.

The book however is a different matter. Much of the information it contains, its take on the cards, and especially as noted the new names for many of the cards, is highly insightful and transferable to what have become modern 'traditional' decks - be they Rider-Waite, Papus, Wirth, Case, or even Crowley's Thoth deck. A beginning student of tarot can benefit greatly from a careful reading of it in connection to their chosen pack.

The Tarot de Paris is a finely designed box of 78 unique and original cards, along with a hardbound book detailing the inspiration, history, and meaning of the deck. A silk cloth inspired by the famous rose window of Notre Dame is included and can be used to wrap the deck when not in use, or for laying them on when doing a reading.

Those with a serious interest in esoteric French architecture should also read: Le Mystere des Cathedrales (The Mystery of the Cathedrals) by Fulcanelli. The Brotherhood of Life Books publishes Mary Sworder's English translation under the name Fulcanelli: Master Alchemist. Fulcanelli looks at the great cathedrals of France and explains the symbolism and structure in alchemical and qabalistic terms. The second work of this mysterious 20th century adept, The Dwellings of the Philosophers (Archive Press), does the same with several historically and architecturally prominent mansions and private dwellings across France.

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Techniques of High Magic
By Francis King & Stephen Skinner
Destiny Books
Rochester, VT
228 pages, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations

Techniques of High Magic - A Handbook of Divination, Alchemy, and the Evocation of Spirits has been around for a quarter of a century placing it in the category of a 'classic' in its own time. In an increasingly fickle market where many beginners books come and go, Techniques of High Magic has managed to hold its own. While the authors present little material that is original, most of it coming from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, they do organize it in an easy to understand, orderly, and usable manner. The shortened rituals they present for the consecration of the four principle Elemental Tools alone is worth the price. Chapters on astral projection, divination, the tarot, and evocation round out the text.

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