Arguing with Angels – another book you should get next year

A bit of shameless self-promotion: A  pre-production description has recently been released by State University of New York Press, announcing the publication of my first book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture. It is due in May 2012. As  SUNY’s summary states, the book is an exploration of the Elizabethan philosopher John Dee’s system of angel magic, but in particular its reception history and various reinterpretations in modern times. It follows the creation of what is usually known as “Enochian magic”. Since 19th century occultism, and continuing in 20th century and contemporary occulture, this system has been understood in a variety of ways as it has become embedded in a number of different occult currents and practices.

The book pays special attention to the discussions and quarrels among occultist groups and practitioners over the “right” interpretation, and discusses the various claims that are made to legitimise such positions – vis-a-vis competing occultist interpretations on the one hand, and  a generally perceived “disenchanted” modern society on the other. Among the main protagonists we find the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Paul Foster Case, Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan, Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set, the obscure Order of the Cubic Stone, the Aurum Solis, and scores of cyber-age ritual magicians, debating the nature of angels and magical ritual online.

The book will appear in the SUNY series on Western Esoteric Traditions, which has previously published such classics in the field as Antoine Faivre’s Access to Western Esotericism, Joscelyn Godwin’s Theosophical Enlightenment, and Wouter Hanegraaff’s New Age Religion and Western Culture. There is no cover art up yet (this should be in place soon, my editors say), but below is the full publisher’s description:

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.

(I have to take issue with the Book of Enoch reference above, which is misleading in this context. The apocryphal book had  not yet been re-discovered in Dee’s days, and its actual content did hence not influence the angelic magic that he developed and practiced with Kelley and other scryers. Details, details.)

I could add that the book has existed in manuscript form for quite some time. It sprung out of my MA dissertation on Enochian magic, delivered at the University of Amsterdam in 2008, and was finally expanded and reformed into a book manuscript in the summer of 2009 and early winter of 2010. Add the usual delay in academic publishing, and here we are: Arguing with Angels will finally appear in May 2012. More information will follow as the publication draws closer. Meanwhile,  I suggest you put this on your wish-list for next year.

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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congratulations! I look forward to reading it.

  2. Congrats! This book looks very interesting and I love that you’re bringing modern occultism into your discussion. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Thanks! Modern occultism is the main context I explore. In a way, the earlier historical periods that will be covered (including Dee’s original material, and some early 17th century reception history) only serves as background to better understand and dissect the modern reception, starting from GD, and following the fall of the Order into the 20th century.

  3. Congratulations! I, too, will look forward to reading it!

  4. [...] one last book because it’s me. It’s not out, but I just received the announcement for Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture set to come out in May. A quote from the publisher about it: Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to [...]

  5. Dee met with Postel and may indeed have spoken to Postel about the Ethiopian Book of Enoch. See Laycock and Szonyi for more (text and sources) on that. It would explain the Watchtower references and usage of the character of Enoch as included in the TFR.

  6. [...] from the publisher here; my own first post on the book here. Comments welcome! Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterDiggStumbleUponLinkedIn Published [...]

  7. I will soon publish a study on John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica in Portuguese

    • César, I would be most interested in hearing about your forthcoming book. Do you have a full reference yet?


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