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Western Magical Tradition

Subject Religion

Key-Topics magic

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ xxiv ] European magical practices originating in the Renaissance, when older magical traditions ( see M agic ) were integrated with H ermetism , K abbalah and N eoplatonism. These provided systems of symbolic correspondences whereby through R itual the magician could attune himself, as microcosm, to the great universe, or macrocosm, and thence to celestial and divine powers. Although such techniques also lent themselves to worldly uses, the central concern was to purify the adept spiritually and fit him to ‘act as a conscious channel for the work of God in His creation’ [19], any practice tending to increase pride or egotism being condemned as ‘black’ magic. Beginning with Pico della Mirandola (1463–94) and Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), the tradition grew by experiment and speculation, important innovators (representing a tiny proportion of the total) including the cryptographer Trithemius (1462–1516), the chemist Paracelsus (1462–1516) and the mathematician John Dee (1527–1608). Obscure groups carried the tradition through the later 17th and 18th centuries. An ‘O ccult revival’ of popular interest began in the mid-19th century, and the tradition was restated and developed by ‘Eliphas Lévi’ (A. L. Constant, 1810–75) ( see T arot ) [21], by ‘MacGregor’ Mathers ( see G olden dawn ) and by E. A. ‘Aleister’ Crowley (1875–1947), whose flamboyantly aggressive behaviour earned ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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