Why Christians Make Better Magicians

Now, this is an obviously… sensitive title. But hey, if it gets folk thinking and talking about these things, then woot woot! The post reflects a few things I have been pondering for quite some time – as you would know if you have read my other posts on magic and Christian traditions. Here I am just being a bit blatant about it all 🙂

Of course, given the right motivation, I imagine I could easily pen another post, “Why Pagans Make Better Magicians”. So let me be clear on a few points before we start:

  • I am talking about the Christian traditions here, not defending or ignoring the actions of any churches or individuals.
  • I am not saying ANY Christian makes a better magician than ANY non-Christian.
  • I am saying that certain elements of the Christian traditions, when worked esoterically, can help a magician in her practice of magic. A lot.
  • These elements are generally those hidden from view and rarely understood, even by most Christians themselves.
  • I do not mean Christians make better magicians in all traditions – obviously Christians would make lousy Muslim magicians, Buddhist Magicians and even Thelemic magicians. (Though apparently there ARE some Christian Thelemites around – talk about collapsing the binary!)
  • I am saying that for the rest of the bunch – you know generic, western magical folk… well… here’s a light-hearted look at why Christians MAY do it better 🙂
  • Please feel free to respond but without too much rancour. And I may or may not reply, depending on time and tone of the response. Ta 🙂

THROUGH DOUBLE-THINK AND OUT THE OTHER SIDE

jesus-smallWhen you’re a Christian and a magician you really need to think. Well, actually think, feel, know and realise a lot about where you stand on things. The general exoteric Christian doctrines are so limiting and many of its spokespersons so stupid, to be able to accept Christianity AND be a magician is no small feat. You are flying against the wind in both contemporary egregores and you have to be pretty clear and be able to examine, refine and explain your point of view, beliefs and practices really, really well (A humble example of this is my post on the Nicene Creed). This means the magician develops a great skill in and a conscious awareness compared to a universalist tradition where ‘all is divine’ without much thought or theology.

There can be no simple acceptance of Church doctrine as a Christian magician. You have to be conscious about where you place your will, and why. At the same time, as a Christian you have to be pretty clear about why you are doing all this magic stuff in the first place. What’s the point? There’s no easy way out and you can’t just go with the flow and feel all the nice astral energy and stuff.

MY TEAM IS BIGGER THAN YOUR TEAM

Christian magicians work with the BIG THREE. Now, of course it is only in the Christian world view that these three are supposed to be worth anything at all. However, consider a couple of examples. Firstly, the number of people I (and many others) have helped with ‘psychic’ disturbances who ‘got through’ by praying to Christ, or simply calling His name – even though they had no faith at all! This is very common. Secondly, the number of Wiccans and others who successfully use the Rose Cross ritual, a ritual which is empowered by Christ’s name.

Now Christ’s name is the name before all other names. It is supposed to make gremlins and gribblies sit up, pack up and shove off – and to consecrate ‘space’. And it does exactly that – even for folk who actively despise the outer Christian religions. I’ve seen it dozens of times. I am not saying here that Christianity is BETTER than other religions – that would be silly. But I am saying that in the West, when the chips are down, the Big Three are a cool crew to have in town 🙂

This may of course be solely because of the cultural egregore most of us grew up in – a Christian (based) one. This means we can all access the Christian based concepts of spiritual love, power and wisdom more easily than, say that of the ancient Norse cultures. For the general person, there is more ‘out there’ connected to Christ than Odin. It takes years of dedicated Odinist work to change this at the deepest level of our psyche – and even then I’d wager telling the average Jo to pray to Odin (who probably just knows him from the ‘Thor’ movies) when she’s in trouble will not help much. Sad, but true.

REBELLION IS AS THE SIN OF WITCHCRAFT

Now activist, Reclaiming, feminist witchy-poos and Pagans just love this quote from I Samuel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, even Thomas Jefferson knew that only a LITTLE rebellion is needed now and then. Not a lot. And sometimes modern Paganism, and modern esoteric universalism gets all caught up in the personal need to be contra something. I explore this in my essay on Crowley, here.

This point is well summed up by Lama Ngakpa Chogyam in ‘Psychology and the Spiritual Traditions’ (p.33) where he describes the fact that in Tibet being a lama is held in deep respect, like a doctor. It is one of the most respected and revered positions in society. There is nothing rebellious or anti-society or anti-establishment about the choice to be a lama or a monk or a nun. Compare this to the motivation of many modern magicians, a fair few of who quickly reveal ‘contra’ tendencies or conspiracy-theory minds fairly easily at the end of the lodge night. And of course, there are always those witch and Pagan magicians who are really all about shocking mummy.

As a Christian there is less of that, as Christianity is the established religion and spiritual path in the west. Announcing my adult Confirmation in the Anglican church produced more boredom than shock. And from certain esoteric points of view if one is born within a Christian country one should be practicing that spiritual path – as all exoteric forms are simply paths to the same inner esoteric truth. It does not matter if we are Christian or Pagan – as really, THERE IS NONE BUT THE ONE.

Every time I attend a teaching with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he essentially says the same thing. In fact he LAUGHS that there are people in the west who want to practice Buddhism. His first advice is to be a Christian, as being raised in a Christian (based) culture means one is more suited to Christian traditions than Buddhist. He only teaches westerners out of compassion, hoping to make some difference to people who want to learn from him.

AIN’T GOT NOTHING TO PROVE

A major thing about Christianity that some non-Christian magicians and esoteric folk don’t get is this: Christians in relationship with Christ have in some ways completed their spiritual journey. In Christian terms, we are already saved. The One, through Christ (who was fully human like us) is CONSTANTLY, no matter what we do, drawing us, wooing us, calling us into relationship and communion. Once we have opened ourselves to this truth, this awesome, powerful realization of the nature of the universe, we do not have to DO anything anymore. This is what Christians mean by the term sola fide – by faith alone.

Of course, the opening to Christ is like peeling back layers of onion – we are constantly needing, wanting, yearning to open more of ourselves. And this is not always easy, as we are born with both Original Blessing (as imago dei, an image of God) and with Original Sin (our human tendency to enthrone the personal ego). But once we have opened at all and realised that we (like everyone) are at the very centre of the infinite circle of God’s attention and love, things are forever different.

So Christian magicians are not practicing magic due to ANY sense of incompleteness, or from a need to heal, or any need to transform, to become God, to get the next grade – or whatever. We practice magic to be closer to the One, to imitate Christ, to become a more effective servant and healing agent in the worlds (inner and outer). To do the will of the One, not our own.

Now this – just look around you – is often in stark contrast to the NEEDS, so often dog-balls obvious, in the practice of non-Christian magicians. Some of these needs are healthy, many not so much. And this can become quite a problem 🙂

COMPASSION

Christians are taught to be compassionate. Now, I know many are not. And I’ve read the various surveys with hidden cameras that show the hypocrisy of some – perhaps most – Christians. But I am interested here only in how by placing compassion and love at the core of the tradition, Christian traditions can help magicians unfold and serve the worlds easier.

The centrality of love within the Christian esoteric tradition is staggering. And as a Christian magician moves through her tradition she hopefully embodies this more and more. The central core motif of non-Christian magical traditions may be anything, sometimes compassion, sometimes not. The magician in these circumstances is not re-made as the love which turns the stars, which is the aim of the Christian magician. Obviously Christians do not have a monopoly on compassion – but having it stated out there as the aim from day one helps. That’s why many Buddhist traditions do the same thing 🙂

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS

Christian magicians often, not always, attend church. Sometimes for their sins they may get quite involved, sitting on Parish Councils and wot not. Now in all of these situations they are likely to be mixing with a really heterogeneous bunch – people VERY different to themselves. A young socially liberal Christian magician can easily find themselves on a Sunday morning between a middle aged woman who was brought up to believe gay folk are diseased and an elderly veteran of wars he never questioned. Ouch!

This heterogeneity is one of the most wonderful gifts I gain from attending church. My coven and lodge folk were more similar to one another than the folk in the church. So Christian magicians can learn a lot from other people – in fact, since we are taught to see the One in all, we HAVE to learn a lot from these folk. It is a most broadening experience and really helps with the magic too 🙂

CALL THAT A TRADITION? – THIS IS A TRADITION

imageNot to put too fine a point on it, but Christianity has oodles and oodles of tradition and rituals and prayers and metaphysics. Enough to make your mind pop! Really. And its esoteric aspects are far older, far more extensive, far deeper than any other western magical tradition (bar authentic Kabbalah). There is SO MUCH in the broader esoteric Christian traditions it is impossible to start on it all. Other traditions are newcomers. What else can they be since Christianity, through various means, some fair and many foul, overcame and absorbed or wiped out all other religions along the way?

This of course meant, as I have said before, that by and large, the western esoteric traditions grew up within a Christian religious milieu and only make sense within one. Western magic, until the turn of the 20th century was largely created by Christians for Christians. So really – and no offence here – unless we delve into the Christian mindset and way of viewing the universe, we are very, very likely to miss out on the more subtle meaning, mysteries and blessings of the texts and practices of any western tradition before, well, Crowley.

This view is more than justified by a little comment in the original pledge form (application for initiation) of the historical Golden Dawn:

Belief in a Supreme Being, or Beings, is indispensable.  In addition, the Candidate, if not a Christian, should at least be prepared to take an interest in Christian Symbolism.

Modern Orders may have omitted this but I am talking of the traditional approach and the form I signed as a young lad. The reason why Christianity is singled out is because the Orders (GD and RR et AC) contain more symbols with a Christian basis or interpretation than any other religion. Mathers and Westcott (and perhaps Woodman) were clear that one needs to be ‘interested’ in these symbols to gain the most from the Golden Dawn experience. It’s the same with any tradition of the same vintage or earlier. And even many modern traditions, often implicitly anti-Christian, draw on texts created within a Christian esoteric milieu.

THE INCARNATION

This is more a personal one – I have yet to come across any Pagan or magical tradition with a theology of the divinity of humanity that comes close to the Incarnation. Pagan and universalist theology is often very scant or cursory on this theme, whereas the mystery of the Incarnation is about as deep as you can get. Even approaching its import makes me tremble.

Here I’m simply going link to this post – which you should read to understand my point of view – and quote the poem at the end from the sainted Symeon the New Theologian.

Thanks a bunch 🙂

space

We awaken in Christ’s body

as Christ awakens our bodies,

and my poor hand is Christ, He enters

my foot, and is infinitely me.

 

I move my hand, and wonderfully

my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

 (for God is indivisibly

whole, seamless in His Godhood).

 

I move my foot, and at once

He appears like a flash of lightning.

Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then

open your heart to Him

 

and let yourself receive the one

who is opening to you so deeply.

For if we genuinely love Him,

we wake up inside Christ’s body

 

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it,

is realized in joy as Him,

and He makes us, utterly, real,

 

and everything that is hurt, everything

that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,

maimed, ugly, irreparably

damaged, is in Him transformed

 

and recognized as whole, as lovely,

and radiant in His light

he awakens as the Beloved

in every last part of our body.

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29 comments

  1. Mark Donato · December 1, 2013

    Thoughtful and affirming and so provocative. I think the most vocal critics may be mainline Christians.

  2. josephmax · December 1, 2013

    Brother, I encourage you to read the response our Lodge gave to a particular fellow making the claim that the Golden Dawn system is founded on Christian archetypes, and that the Medieval and Renaissance magicians based their practice on Christianity. There’s a lot in the essay, and not everything it is applicable directly to your assertions, but if you can spare the time (it’s a bit lengthy) I think it could give you some valuable perspective.

    (It has footnotes!)

    A snippet:

    “Indeed, this is one reading of these late medieval (Lull & Trithemius) and Renaissance (Maier & Valentinus) [not ancient] authors. But since the content of their practice was, save for Lull, originally Classical Pagan, there is no certain test as to how THEY saw what they did. Obviously, these philosophers had no choice but to cover their work in the trappings of Christianity, since to do otherwise they would risk the fate of their fellow alchemist Giordano Bruno, who was executed by the Roman Church for heresy. We prefer to see their work as crypto-Pagan —that is, appearing to be Christian by a veneer of Christian pietistic statements and symbolism; what amounts to a coat of paint over the elder, deeper Classical Pagan practice and symbolism. If his only defense is that Hermeticism is exclusively “Christian”, perhaps it would be better if our Brother actually studied the Hermetic Corpus instead (including the Arabian Alchemists, who obviously were not Christians, and the Jewish Alchemists as well). The religion professed by the Medieval and Renaissance Hermeticists is no proof that the system is exclusive to that religion, or any religion. They cast it in the only terms they could, for to do otherwise, even if they wanted to, would have been risking their freedom, their livelihoods, even torture and death. Thus it proves nothing.”

    http://www.osogd.org/library/biscuits/blogResponse2.html

  3. Philip Grier · December 1, 2013

    Thank you for this very healthy contribution. I have been wondering where this ‘pagan is superior’ theme in the recent magical writings has come from. All magicians in the Western Mystery tradition were either Christian or Jewish. All the great 20th century Western magicians were brought up Christian. Some may have turned their backs on the faith of their childhood but this faith still infused their writings and beliefs. When we already have a belief and understanding of Christian symbols, why not work with them rather than inventing something that may not be as coherent?

  4. Peregrin · December 2, 2013

    Thank you brother Joseph for this reply and link. OSOGD, being a very generous Order, I have come across it before, but will re-read soon. For now, just a quick response to the snippet:

    Out of the philosophers mentioned, Maier alone could perhaps have modified his outward work based on the fate of Giordano Bruno, as the others died before him 🙂

    The use of the term ‘crypto-Pagan’ is interesting. If it is used in the general sense it would refer to a secret and hidden allegiance to a Paganism that must have existed within the cultures and time these good men lived. This begs two comments:

    (1) There is no evidence of the existence of a discreet paganism, in terms of religion and philosophy within these times and cultures to which anyone could be in secret allegiance too. There certainly was interest in and explorations of classical ‘pagan’ and Hermetic materials, but this interest was that of Christians.

    (2) There is no evidence that these men had this secret allegiance themselves. Again, they may have been interested and exploring these matters, but most often within a Christian framework. They had little choice in this matter as they were raised Christians within a Christian cultural, and imbibed all the worldviews that went along with that.

    The evidence shows they participated in the Christian culture and religion(s), not in any Pagan alternative. Trithemius was a Benedictine Abbot. Lull – the real Lull, not the pseudo-Lull (many anonymous authors on esoteric subjects) was a devout Franciscan, a Saint in the RC church. Maier, though an alchemist, was a devout Lutheran. Valentinus is actually an early Christian ‘gnostic’ and not really relevant in this discussion anyway.
    OSOGD is wonderfully honest in stating it “prefer[s] to see their work as crypto-Pagan” – and it certainly has been used by modern Pagans. However, I prefer to see their work, and their lives based on the evidence, which shows them as Christians 🙂 Thanks.

  5. Peregrin · December 2, 2013

    Thanks, Mark 🙂

  6. Peregrin · December 2, 2013

    Hi Philip,

    thanks for the comment. These are excellent points. As to where this‘pagan is superior’ theme stems, it seems to be part and parcel of the rejection of Christianity and valorization of the modern concept of “paganism” that occured in the literary world of the UK and US late 19th-early 20th century, then in the general populace post WWII. It produced pagan religions such as Wicca in the early-mid 20th century. Ronald Hutton’s chapter on Paganism in ‘Triumph of the Moon’ is very good on this. THANKS 🙂

  7. Leonard Stevens · December 2, 2013

    Yours is certainly a thoughtful and provocative essay. I really liked your comment: “I am saying that certain elements of the Christian traditions, when worked esoterically, can help a magician in their practice of magic. A lot.” … this is certainly true.

    I also agree with the broad statement “There is SO MUCH in the broader esoteric Christian traditions it is impossible to start on it all.”

    Regrettably there has been a generational rejection of certain aspects of Christianity, which means that the ‘baby has been thrown out with the bath water’ so to speak. However over a couple of thousand of years of mystical development, has occurred within the quietude traditions of Christian hermits, monks; in addition to the Christian Mystics, there is alos the writings of inspired poets, theologicans and the insightful visionary works of many artists throughout its history. Then of course certain elements of the Western Mystery and Catholic (& Byzantine) Hermeticism as well (including the Italian Platonic etc) . Of course these are only the Constantinople Western based traditions, without even looking at the Eastern traditions and other things.

    Adding to that the gnostic and independent magical work and practices, the R+C, some alchemical traditions and the various European Christian based mystical knighthoods… well.. as you say so very much…

    Depending upon your traditions, the Blessed Virgin Goddess Beata Mater saeva and these Greek influences Artemis in her various forms Lady of the Stars… well… perhaps Christianity is also a bit like the Star Trek Borg.. assimilating all that is useful, it is a wonderess mythology .. and faith !

    It is likely you have read ‘Jesus the Magician by M.Smith’ .. there are a few books around with that theme etc.. Another book which your article indirectly reminded me of, is ‘Magi by A Gilbert’ rather interesting.

  8. wlinden · December 3, 2013

    I have repeatedly threatened to greet the next book-of-shadows-thumper who tells me “There is no Christian magic” by shoving The Long-Lost Friend down his throat. Probably followed by Leadbeater’s The Science of the Sacraments.

  9. Peregrin · December 3, 2013

    Hi Leonard,

    thanks for your insightful comments and ideas. I will look up ‘Magi’ – thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  10. Peregrin · December 3, 2013

    Thanks ‘wlinden’ – very cool 🙂

  11. Anne North · December 3, 2013

    A great post, even if others do not agree you have approached this delicate subject with obvious respect of all attitudes. My interest in this subject lies with the traditions of the early church that have been lost and are seen as just ‘philosophical’. Especially with the hesychast tradition I think they are very practical and personally lead to a path of great experiential practice that is hardly known in modern occult. This is what I think tends to lead modern occultists away from the Christ teachings. I believe many pagans grew up in a Christian tradition that had little true understandings of personal practical experiences. Then they believe that there must be none associated with the Christ, therefore Christ traditions are a ‘dead’ faith. In later life their psyche leads them on their search, they find paganism and all of a sudden gather understandings of practical paths of personal experience. Therefore, paganism is the ‘alive’ faith. Anyway, I will think about this awhile longer and maybe write another post. cheers.

  12. MvdV · December 3, 2013

    What you know is often the best, if it works for you. Some people obviously do not connect with the Christian worldview due to their experiences, I would include those who have a very anti-christian worldview in this statement as well as those experienced in a very ‘narrow’ Church.

    I’d imagine that those brought up (or with a significant level of experience) in a majority non-Christian religious system would find it equally profitable to work in the world they know and eschew the symbolism of Christian magic from their life. No big deal, it is all about the result at the end of the day. Union with the One.

  13. Peregrin · December 3, 2013

    hi Anne – great comments 🙂 Thanks. I agree with your summary here, very apt. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s comment that adults often stop being Christian based on what they learnt of Christianity as s child, not from a mature adult view. I agree also there is a vast richness in the Hesychast traditions. Some of this passed over through various Episcopi Vagantes who were consecrated by Eastern Churches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries into western esoteric orders, such as the the Order of the Holy Wisdom via W.B. Crow. Thanks 🙂

  14. Anne North · December 3, 2013

    Cheers. I have thought over this (went shopping and bought a pair of red shoes, always helps!) and I want to add to this my overall feeling about the Christ teachings. I always find it interesting when occults only hold on to certain traditions and disregard others, e.g. Christ. From my own point of view, which is of course subjective in nature, all myths which hold occult traditions and teachings at some time were alive and meaningful.

    Regarding the Christ tradition I wish to say that firstly the myth of the Christ belongs to the very ‘pagan’ theme of the sacrificed/rebirth Son that is scattered throughout many myths, therefore to deny Christ is to deny the collective unconscious reality of that myth. Secondly, I also feel that the Christ occult tradition has specific teachings that cannot be obtained from other traditions. (this is where I probably differ from most liberal occultists).

    My own experience has been that the Christ teachings have powerfully strong energies in the area of salvation and personal safety. Whenever i am in need of safety (spiritual or physical) I rely on Christ or the Mary archetype. This may be due to my background upbringing, but intuition tells me that this is specific to that tradition, other traditions hold other teachings and energies so we should be open to all teachings regardless of our upbringing. This understanding is never more obvious than when we look at the QABALAH. There is a place for all archetypes and they all hold different understandings. To dismiss the Christ is to in fact disregard a path/gate that leads to the ‘union of the one’.

  15. zurvan1 · December 3, 2013

    ” All magicians in the Western Mystery tradition were either Christian or Jewish”. Not including Iamblichus, Apollonius of Tyana, Maximus of Ephesus; the authors of the Hermetica and the Magical Papyri, nor the Orphics, the Pythagoreans etc. etc. etc.

  16. zurvan1 · December 3, 2013

    oops, forgot Empedocles…

  17. wlinden · December 3, 2013

    Josephmax: But notice the not-so-bloody-tacit premise in this and similar arguments: “If X is good, then it can’t REALLY be Christian.” This is just the flip side of “rightwingnarrowmindedfundybigots” saying that anyone who does not agree with them is not a “real” Christian. What is wrong with this picture?

  18. Laine DeLaney · December 4, 2013

    Hi there, first-time reader.

    As someone who was raised Muslim, first in the US and then in Saudi Arabia, but who, as a child, followed Pagan religion secretly (I worshiped the Gods that I read about elsewhere, but I learned to keep it a secret), and became more of a full-time Pagan when moving back to the States as an adult, I have to say that this is interesting from an outside perspective.

    My exposure to Christianity growing up was extremely limited – I had family who were Christian, but I don’t recall ever having been brought to a service. The first time I remember attending any sort of Christian service was in my mid-twenties, honestly, so I haven’t gotten a lot of exposure.

    This may be the reason that I’m quite Christian-friendly for a Pagan person. I haven’t suffered at the hands of exoteric Christian preachers or clergy or attitudes. I’ve never really been assaulted on a religious basis. I am comfortable around Christianity and have enjoyed the few church services that I’ve attended, even though they felt distinctly ‘other’ to me – my main line to Divinity isn’t through that particular path, but it was interesting partaking of it.

    I’ll certainly admit that there is a dearth felt by broken connections to ancient traditions (a Daath? 😉 ), a dearth of establishment, and a lot of modern Pagans are working to try and establish new ground. It’s not an easy work, but honestly there are a lot of people like myself that do not establish that Divine connection as easily or as comfortably through Christianity, and we have spiritual needs as well, so we take our lanterns and wander through the dark forests and over the hills and see what we can find and call out to each other. I wish we did have more to work off of, but the thrill of discovery as we find jewels buried in the mud and hidden pools of lotus flowers forgotten by time is something marvelous.

    So I suppose I can appreciate the benefits that embracing Christianity might bring to a magician, but there need to be alternatives for those who, for whatever reason, don’t have the same experiences from communion, those whose souls or minds are shaped differently, and those who do not connect to the Light in the same way. My Goddess, in Her infinite compassion and wisdom, has guided me to help re-member Her husband and put together in spirit (though not law) the scattered remains of ancient paths that have been forgotten and left to desiccate, to lay them in water and breathe life back into them. If that means that my tools are less complete, or that I have to hand-make some of them and hope that future generations will refine them, then so be it – though we all walk towards the Light in the end (I hope), the shoes we use to get there aren’t one-size-fits-all.

  19. Peregrin · December 4, 2013

    Hello Zurvan,

    thanks for the comments. While obviously, Philip can speak for himself, i think some of the differing views here stem from definitions. The work of the ancient philosophers you mention, Neo-platonic and Pagan are mostly thought to be one source of the western mystery (or esoteric) tradition. The tradition itself, western esotericism, from most academic views, does not really begin to coalesce until the Renaissance or Early Modern periods. It is also quite clear that the first, and until recently only, translators and interpreters of these ancient sources, such as Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola were Christian and interpreted and viewed these texts through a Christian lens. It is only relatively recently that this has changed. THANKS 🙂

  20. Peregrin · December 4, 2013

    hi Anne,

    more great thoughts. THANKS 🙂

  21. Steve Nichols · December 10, 2013

    Surely the bible is pretty down on divination, necromancy, and anything to do with deities other than the ubiquitous Set-Yaweh? Magick has survived despite of, rather than because of, Christianity!

    Christianity continues to either (1) condemn and try to stamp out anything occultish, or if this fails then, (2) tries to take it over by borrowing and misappropriating techniques or ideas from heathendom. As to “better” magicians … if practicing, bible-following Christians are properly ‘magickal’ at all it is because they have misappropriated the taro from Hellenic emblemata. The Puritans drove Tarrochini underground, originally it was Hellenic emblemata, The association of Hebrew letters to 22 taro trumps is from selecting an arbitrary number, the earliest set had 16 Triumphs of the Gods. Furthermore Judaism proscribes graven imagos, so taro can’t possibly be anything to do with Hebrew. However the 16 letters of the Greek alphabet may have been used to spell out secret messages using the Triumphs. http://88taro.com/prohibition.html

    IMO Amen (the Occult or hidden) is the Supreme Being, and Kabbalah seems largely to have been copied from his Invocation Hymn, see http://kemetic.org/basamen.html

  22. Peregrin · December 10, 2013

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your comments. The Bible is a very mixed beast, and I do not know a single Christian, let alone a Christian magician who follows all its injunctions, particularly those of the Old Testament – otherwise we’d be sacrificing bulls and all sorts of weird things. 🙂 Christian magicians are not literalists and arguing on this point gets nowhere, as it does not apply to them.

    You write: “Magick has survived despite of, rather than because of, Christianity!” – actually the reality is far more complex than that. Those who promoted, translated and expanded the magical arts in the Renaissance and later were Christians. Without them these texts and traditions would not be here.

    You write: “Christianity continues to either (1) condemn and try to stamp out anything occultish, or if this fails then, (2) tries to take it over by borrowing and misappropriating techniques or ideas from heathendom.”

    There are many problems to this statement, the most glaring being the simplistic monolithic identification of “Christianity” and “heathendom”. Christianity is a diverse and complex set of religious traditions. There is no single voice or single ideology. Yes, some sects and traditions in Christianity are anti the occult. Others tolerate or ignore it. And some are quite open to it. This is how Whare Ra in New Zealand had several Christian priests and even a Bishop among its ranks.

    As for “heathendom” – what does this mean? Is this anything that is not Christian? Christianity, and certainly its myths and rituals developed out of a multi-faceted non-Christian set of cultures. By definition, it had to. So yes, some aspects of it can be traced back to previous traditions. But these were pluralistic and diverse. They were not a single “heathen” tradition. This is a natural state of affairs, for any growing and developing tradition. The same occurred with Wicca in the 1940s and 1950s – it developed out of the western magical tradition but as a wonderful and new tradition. It still bears strong western magical hallmarks – far more than Christianity does of any single “heathen” tradition. Yet we see this as fine… because it is 🙂

    I am unsure what you mean by “Hellenic emblemata” Are you talking about particular Greek examples of Emblem Books of the 16th and 17th century? I am not aware they were particularly prominent in Greece. Can you provide references for this?

    I am unsure which “bible-following Christians” you mean. Again, please provide references and show how they “have misappropriated the taro from Hellenic emblemata”. Assuming you are meaning Emblem Books, there is NO evidence of this at all. The earliest Tarot decks (developing out of playing cards) predate the earliest emblem book by about 100 years. Again, I would love to see scholarly research that shows otherwise.

    Thanks for the links. However, the idea that the whole of the Kabbalah being “largely” copied from one ancient Egyptian hymn is hardly supported by the overwhelming weight of evidence in any reputable book on the subject. As a single starting point, the Hymn refers to ‘Emanations’, perhaps in a similar fashion to the Tree of Life (though there’s no evidence of this), where the Tree is just one aspect of the Kabbalah. Thanks.

  23. bunny5000 · December 10, 2013

    Hi Peregrin. The difficulties of definition cast difficulty for your rather sweeping and generalized claim that “Christians make better magicians.” I shall deal with your points in order. For a start, I contest that John Dee and others were “Christian” in anything but name. Punishment for not being Christian, and especially for those involved with occult, was execution or imprisonment. Those such as Cartari who introduced ‘occult’ knowledge during the Renaissance were introducing pre-Christian (Egypto-Hellenic) knowledge that supplanted conventional biblical thought. There is an umbrella word “Christendom” that can be contrasted with “Heathendom”, those eras or geographic areas not under the rule of the ‘black priests.’

    Regards the origin of tarot and the Classical or ‘Hellenic Emblemata,’Cartari was an antiquarian who painstakingly copied artistic survivals he found around Rome and Italy of his day (published 1571 & 1577). However the imagos themselves dated from the Ptolemaic times circa 100 to 1 BCE. They relate to a description we have from 1425 CE of the first “Tarrochini” game (note, 16 divides by four, 22 does not, and the 22 association dates only from later). Here is text for The Game of the Four Orders of Virtue (a Greek word):

    “Consider therefore this game, most illustrious Duke, following a fourfold order, by which you may give attention to serious and important things, if you play at it. Sometimes it is pleasing to be thus diverted, and you will be delighted therein. And it is more
    pleasing, since through the keenness of your own acumen you dedicated several to be noted and celebrated Heroes, renowned models of virtue, whom mighty greatness made gods, as well as to ensure their remembrance by posterity. Thus by observation of them, be ready to be aroused to virtue.

    Indeed the first order, of virtues, is certain: Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury and Hercules. The second of riches, Juno, Neptune, Mars and Aeolus. The third of virginity or continence: from Pallas, Diana, Vesta and Daphne. The fourth however is of pleasure: Venus, Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid. And subordinated to these are four kinds of birds, being suited by similarity. Thus to the rank of virtues, the Eagle; of riches, the Phoenix; of continence, the Turtledove; of pleasure, the Dove. And each one obeys its own king. However, the order of these Birds is, although none of their type has right over another, yet this arrangement they have alternately – Eagles and Turtledoves lead from many to few: that is to say it goes better for us when many cultivate virtue and continence; but for Phoenixes and Doves, the few rule over the many, which is to say that, the more the followers of riches and pleasure are visible, the more they lead to the deterioration of our station. Every one of the gods, however, is above all the orders of birds and the ranks of kings.”

    Regards dating of the earliest Emblemata book, this is surely Horappolo’s Hieroglyphica (which inspired John Dee’s book Hieroglyphica Monad. There were many Kemetic influences on John Dee. C11th at the very latest.

    The text of the Hieroglyphica consists of two books, containing a total of 189 explanations of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The books profess to be a translation from an Egyptian original into Greek by a certain Philippus, of whom nothing is known. The inferior Greek of the translation, and the character of the additions in the second book point to its being of late date; some have even assigned it to the 11th century. The text was discovered in 1419 on the island of Andros, and was taken to Florence by Cristoforo Buondelmonti (it is today kept at the Biblioteca Laurenziana, Plut. 69,27). By the end of the 15th century, the text became immensely popular among humanists, with a first printed edition of the text appearing in 1505, translated into Latin in 1517 by Filippo Fasanini, initiating a long sequence of editions and translations. From the 18th century, the book’s authenticity was called into question, but modern Egyptology regards at least the first book as based on real knowledge of hieroglyphs, although confused, and with baroque symbolism and theological speculation, and the book may well originate with the latest remnants of Egyptian priesthood of the 5th century. This approach of symbolic speculation about hieroglyphs (many of which were originally simple syllabic signs) was popular during Hellenism, whence the early Humanists, down to Athanasius Kircher, inherited the preconception of the hieroglyphs as a magical, symbolic, ideographic script. Though a very large proportion of the statements seem absurd and cannot be accounted for by anything known in the latest and most fanciful usage, there is ample evidence in both books, in individual cases, that the tradition of the values of the hieroglyphic signs was not yet extinct in the days of their author. WIKI.

    We can see many of the modern tarot trumps/ triumphs amongst these:
    http://88taro.com/hachenburg1614.html

    Taro Wheel is from Wheel of Fortuna e.g. http://88taro.com/h76.html
    From Adar and Adargate legend “Strength” http://88taro.com/h10.html
    The Emperor is Zeus, http://88taro.com/h19.html http://88taro.com/h20.html
    and Empress is from Juno. http://88taro.com/h25.html
    Pope or Hierophant seems to be from Janus – http://88taro.com/h5.html

    Kircher (and Levi & Crowley) thought the Isis votive (Bembine) Tablet was the “Book of Thoth” – tarot – and yet no Hebrew associations are to be found on this, only Greek! Eliphas Levi actually disagrees with Ithell and the other commentators and claims the central figure to be Minerva. If you count Minerva, Taro 4 World’s include her at 56, 57, 58).

    The IYNX formula that is quite important for the Tablet. This is Greek and can be translated in several ways, such as “Magic Wheel” aspect which to me indicate Fortuna’s Wheel.

    Ops (Cybele) is shown in the very centre of the Tablet. http://88taro.com/h30.html and http://88taro.com/h31.html
    Hermanubis http://88taro.com/h53.html
    Typhon and Osiris http://88taro.com/h71.html
    Horus (the boy 1.=Pater) http://88taro.com/h60.html
    Persephone/ Prosperine (and Orphic mysteries) http://88taro.com/h33.html
    http://88taro.com/h34.html
    Canopus http://88taro.com/h37.html
    If you count the bull as Apis or Taurus (or the wand as a Phalllus Occulatus) http://88taro.com/h9.html
    Hecate http://88taro.com/h16.html
    Isis http://88taro.com/h17.html http://88taro.com/h15.html wearing black
    Apollo (Phoebus or Appolline) http://88taro.com/h87.html http://88taro.com/h12.html http://88taro.com/h1.html http://88taro.com/h6.html http://88taro.com/h14.html http://88taro.com/h10.html http://88taro.com/h8.html
    Serapis http://88taro.com/h11.html

    The central IYNX formula also links us with the Orphonian triad. http://88taro.com/h76.html and http://88taro.com/h80.html

    Regards Kemetic origins of Kabbalah (I have written a book that covers much of this evidence that is with a publisher at the moment), you are right that the Emanations of Amen hymn is not conclusive by itself, but it forms part of a massive body of evidence. Here are some of the links that provide evidence for my claims of the priority of Egyptian “Kaballah”:

    Evidence for Khemetic origins of QBL can be found on following pages:
    http://kemetic.org/zenet.html Kaballah Deconstructed
    http://kemetic.org/zenet.html The Three Pillars (zn.t registers).
    http://kemetic.org/42soulsRah.html “Ain Sof” the 42 letter name.
    http://kemetic.org/vulture.html and http://kemetic.org/HouseofMut.html
    Kether and combining the Crown.
    http://kemetic.org/Mehen.html The Serpent on TOL.
    http://kemetic.org/amen.html Amen-Rah

    There are 22 Egyptian letters from which the Phoenician and later the Hebrew letters evolved.http://kemetic.org/Hieroglyphs.html

    As we have seen on the http://kemetic.org/basamen.html Invocation Hymn of Amen from Hibis Temple is important, especially since Darius I is known to have helped the founders of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, giving us a direct historical connection and date for entry of “Kabalah” and wood-of-life. If you know of any Hebrew Kabbalistic texts that include mention of tarot (any of the cards) or have any early tarot cards depicting Hebrew letters, that would be news to me.

    Blessings, Steve

  24. 7thphoenixdrew · December 10, 2013

    Very well written article Peregrin, I definitely concur with you on this one.

  25. Peregrin · December 11, 2013

    Thanks “7thphoenixdrew” 🙂

  26. EZ52 · December 16, 2013

    Believing the Names aren’t just barborous babble and the Angels aren’t just energies makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of ritual…

    Frankly, I still can’t get my head around Pagans and Atheists working with Enochian or rattling off the Sacred names. Sounds like trouble to me but to each his own I suppose. Great article. Thank you.

  27. Pingback: Short and sweet: why I can say we’re a Christian culture and not blink | Magic of the Ordinary
  28. Steve Nichols · March 8, 2014

    Peregrine claims; “And its esoteric aspects are far older, far more extensive, far deeper than any other western magical tradition (bar authentic Kabbalah)” but it is apparent to everybody that Kemetic magical texts and tradition predate both Judaism and Christianity by several 1,000 years! Egypt is part of the Western tradition, if anyone is in doubt. Regards the “Big Three” in the Leiden Hymns is written “All gods are three: Amn, Rah and Ptah, whom none equals. He who hides his name as Amn, he appears to the face as Rah, his body is Ptah.” Commentary see “Of God and Gods”, Jan Assmann. p. 64, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. HYMN TO AMEN-RA And when his royal devotees in this dynasty succeeded in expelling the Hyksos from the land, and their successors the kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty carried war and conquest into Palestine and founded Egyptian cities there, the power and the glory of Amen their god, who had enabled them to carry out this difficult work of successful invasion, become extraordinarily great. His priests began by asserting his equality with the other great gods of the old sanctuaries of Heliopolis, Memphis, Herakleopolis, and other ancient cities, and finally they satisfied, or, at all events, attempted to do so, all worshipers of every form of the Sun-god Ra by adding his name to that of Amen, and thus forming a great god who included within himself all the attributes of the primeval god Amen and of Ra. The highest conception of Amen-Ra under the XIXth and Xxth Dynasties was that of an invisible creative power which was the source of all life in heaven, and on earth, and in the great deep, and in the Underworld, and which made itself manifest under the form Ra. Nearly every attribute of deity with which we are made familiar by the hymns to Ra was ascribed to Amen after his union with Ra; but the priests of Amen were not content with claiming that their god was one of the greatest of the deities of Egypt, for they proceed to declare that there was no other god like him, and that he was the greatest of them all. The power and the might ascribed to Amen -Ra are well described in hymns which must be quoted in full. The first of these occurs in the Papyrus of Hu-nefer {Brit. Mus., No. 9,9901, sheet I. where it follows immediately after a hymn to Ra ; this papyrus was written in the reign of Seti I., and it is interesting to observe that the two gods are addressed separately, and that the hymn to Ra precedes that to Amen-Ra. The text reads :– “Homage to thee, “O Amen-Ra, who dost rest upon Matt ; as thou passest over the “heavens every face seeth thee. Thou dost wax great as thy “majesty doth advance, and thy rays {shine upon all faces. “Thou art unknown, and no tongue hath power to declare thy “similitude : only thou thyself {canst do this. Thou art One, “even as is he that bringeth the tena basket Men praise thee in “thy name, and swear by thee, for thou art lord over them. “Thou hearest with thine ears and thou seest with thine eyes.”Millions of years have gone by over the world, and I cannot tell the ‘number of those through which thou hast passed. Thy heart “hath decreed a day of happiness in thy name of Traveler.’ “Thou dost past over and dost travel through untold spaces “{requiring millions and hundreds of thousands of years {to pass over ; thou passest through them in peace, and thou steerest {thy way across the watery abyss to the place which thou lovest ; “this thou doest in one little moment of time, and then thou dost “sink down and dost make an end of the hours.” How far the attributes ascribed to Amen-Ra in this hymn represent those generally bestowed upon the god in the XIXth Dynasty is unknown, but the points chiefly dwelt upon are the unity, and the invisibility, and the long duration of the existence of the god ; nothing is said about Amen-Ra in this hymn represent those generally bestowed upon the god in the XIXth Dynasty is unknown, but the points chiefly dwelt upon are the unity, and the invisibility, and the long duration of the existence of the god ; nothing is said about Amen-Ra being self-begotten and self-born, or of his great creative powers, or of his defeat of the serpent-fiend Nak, and it is quite clear that Hu-nefer drew a sharp distinction between the two attributes of the two gods. http://www.touregypt.net/amenprst.htm#ixzz2vJuQ3wHM

    Christianity seems in the most part anti-magical (read the NT and read about the long history of persecution of magicians and witches by Christianity). True it does seem set upon asserting it is somehow “Better” than those earlier, genuinely magical theological traditions that it is largely plagiarized from! More http://kemetic.org/zenet.html

  29. Pingback: Why Christians Make Better Magicians « WiccanWeb

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