Magia Sexualis: Sexual Practices for Magical Power, by Paschal Beverly Randolph and Maria de Naglowska, translated by Donald Traxler
Inner Traditions, 9781594774188, 174 pp. (incl. notes, bibliography, and index), 2012
Paschal Beverly Randolph‘s Magia Sexualis has often been called the most influential book about sex magick ever written. It survives through Maria de Naglowska‘s French translation and adaptation in an edition of 1,007 copies published more than 50 years after Randolph’s death.
Pashal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) was an African American doctor, and the occultist who introduced sex magick to North America. He began his studies with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and went on to author several books, founded the Brotherhood of Eulis, became a Rosicrucian, and was a rival of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The Brotherhood of Eluis was an initiating group, which sought to examine “occult data in the light of contemporary science.” Continue reading
The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern, by Alex Owen
University of Chicago Press, 9780226642048, 355 pp. (incl. notes, bibliography and index), 2004
Alex Owen is a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. Owen defines the “place of enchantment” as spanning “the period between 1880 and 1914, those crucial ‘hinge’ years during which reference to ‘the modern’ and ‘we moderns’ took on a new and urgent meaning.” The Place of Enchantment, Owen’s second book, looks at the social and cultural effects occultism in Britain during this period — a theme not much explored by scholars.
Owen writes that “[a]lthough historians are certainly aware of the new ’spiritual movement,’ it received remarkably little scholarly attention, possibly because the very notion of mysticism and the occult seems to run counter to our conception of modern culture and the modern mindset.” There seems to be a preference for conceiving of the rise in scientific thought as being more progressive, overriding what is interpreted as the superstitions of the past. Owen continues, “[t]here remains among historians little developed sense of what such an interest might represent or involve – and this in spite of the fact that the ‘rising tide’ of new spirituality in the years preceding the Great War is clearly evident and demonstrable.” The Place of Enchantment does a remarkable job of filling this gap in fin de siecle Britain. Continue reading
In the course of exploring the possibilities of new, more efficient techniques of magic, I was struck by the fact that a structuralist view of the history of magic to date might prove helpful. After all, magicians have always aspired to restate the theory and practice of magic in the language of their times, i.e. in different models pertaining to current world views.
There is, however, some risk involved in such an approach: models do not really explain anything, they are only illustrations of processes, albeit rather useful ones. What’s more, over-systematization tends to obfuscate more than it clarifies and one should not mistake the map for the landscape anyway, a fallacy a great many kabbalists seem to be prone to.
Thus, the following five (or rather: four plus one) models of magic should be seen as a means of understanding the practical possibilities of various magical systems rather than as definitive theories or explanations of the way magic works.
It has proved effective in practice to view magic under the following categories: Continue reading