On “Scientific Illuminism” and the Psychologisation of Magic

There is a post up at the tyromanteia blog, which offers a nice criticism of my article on Aleister Crowley’s negotiation of magic with science and psychology (“Magic Naturalized?”, published in Aries back in 2008). Tyromanteia draws on the work of Alex Owen (which I briefly reviewed last year) to place three 20th century magicians, Crowley, Israel Regardie, and Dion Fortune, within a broader “crisis of subjectivity” and a process of psychologisation. In this connection, the author finds opportunity to deal with my criticism of the “psychologisation thesis” on the survival of magic. I largely performed this criticism on the basis of Crowley, arguing that in this case, an attempted naturalisation of magic is more important than psychologisation. To this, Tyromanteia objects that Crowley largely anticipated the psychological and even psychotherapeutic interpretations which Regardie and Fortune later emphasised in their teachings. As I think this criticism points out an ambiguity in the original article, I will take this opportunity to make a brief response.

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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:

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More on Goetic Magic: Three 20th century developments

In a previous post, now a couple of months ago, I wrote about the distinction between goetia and theurgy in ceremonial magic. I tried to trace the development of the distinction, in very broad strokes, from neo-platonic discussions in late antiquity through the renaissance rehabilitation of magic, through to 19th century occultism. This was part of developing my thoughts for an article on «Goetia in Modern Western Magic», the deadline for which has now (as it usually goes with academic anthologies) been postponed. This gives me opportunity to try out some more ideas here.

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