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The Black Arts: A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages (Perigee) Paperback – January 17, 1968


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Perigee Books; 40th edition (January 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399500359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399500350
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Very interesting book.
Reptile
Richard Cavendish wsa an Atheist, and that fact is critical to understanding this book.
1.
Go ahead, treat yourself!
A Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on August 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
_The Black Arts_ by Richard Cavendish covers a great many topics dealing with the magical arts, particularly black magic. According to Cavendish, the primary motivating factor behind black magic is the hunger for power. This is expressed in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis where the serpent tempts Adam and Eve by telling them that if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they would be as gods. The traditional Christian perspective is that the black magician invokes demons or Satan himself and that his power comes from the Dark One. The magician however may believe that man and God are inseparable or that man can attain Godhood. The author begins by noting how magical principles operate, being based on the ideas of imitation, mimickry, and analogy. One fundamental principle believed in by most magicians is expressed by the phrase "as above, so below" meaning that the macrocosm is a reflection of the microcosm and vice versa. Indeed, it is in the writings attributed to the semi-mythical Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-greatest Hermes") that this principle is most clearly expressed. In most traditional cultures, the left hand side is associated with evil, explaining why black magic is often regarded as the Left Hand Path among magicians. Cavendish next turns his attention to the modern magicians, including such figures as the notorious Aleister Crowley, Eliphas Levi, MacGregor Mathers, and A. E. Waite. The influence of secret societies such as the Golden Dawn and the O. T. O. of Crowley are explained and their role in the practices of these magicians is examined. Following this, Cavendish turns his attention to the mysteries of numbers and numerology. He explains how fortunes can be told by numbers associated with each letter in a name.Read more ›
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73 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Deeley on August 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best-written, most lucid accounts of black magic that I've read, and believe me, I've read a lot of them. I don't care if Cavendish believes a word of it, his review of what's what is fun.
Usually, the sceptics are too busy de-bunking, and the believers too busy being credulous, so the whole subject ends up being tedious. Unless, of course, you are determined to try some magic yourself, in which case, you will need all the credulity you can muster. Cavendish treats it all with a light hand, and gives a nice overview of the subject.
Have fun. Read this before you plunge into the study of the occult - it'll save you a lot of floundering around.
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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Being a natural cynic, i ordered this book more with the idea of picking holes in every single arguement it put forward, rather than as a serious interest of mine. When i recieved it, my first reaction was, " my god, what a cheezy cover!". Not being one to judge a book by the proverbial, however, i soon delved into the dubious pleasures inside... and was actually pleasantly surprised. Instead of preaching to the unconverted or unconvertable, Mr Cavendish has put forward a fine, well researched report into many different areas of the "black arts", from numerology to black magic, without sounding pretentious or subscribing to the usual "bow down to your master" playground psychology that these sort of authors usually find themselves hankering after. Hence he makes the book not only readable, but also very enjoyable, and in parts even made me wonder if there was more to all this mumbo-jumbo than first meets the eye. Well done, sir!
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By S. Weiner on May 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Cavendish's book is interesting insofar as it comes from an unusual perspective for those writing about the so-called Black Arts. His Christian bias is obvious, and nearly all examples he gives are shown through a Christian filter, but--unlike so many others--he isn't preachy. He doesn't condemn or support any of the practices within the book--this isn't a how-to guide or a religious tract, after all--despite his constant returns to the subejct of devil- or demon-worship. The quality of writing is fair and stays reasonably engaging throughout. The chief failing of this book--aside from the bias and emphasis on demon-worship--is his attempt to cover so much material in so little space. The chapter on the Kabbalah is particularly confused and rushed. He brushes past a great number of important details and doesn't always elaborate on his own discussions enough for the reader to pick up on the key details necessary for understanding.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Whelan on March 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Many reviewers here -- occultists, or would-be occultists -- here have reviewed this as though it were a "how to" book. Only a few seem to have picked up on some rather heavy hints that the author's outlook of sorcery and sorcerers is not exactly flattering. But for the most part, Cavendish writes in a neutral tone, as befits a scientific work of history or sociology, which is how this work presents itself. Thus his own attitudes rarely intrude on the text, making it often hard to tell if he is a disapproving Christian, a disapproving modern rationalist, or a practicing occultist with a frank and unsentimental attitude towards his own dark philosophy. Regardless, it is very informative, and told with a sense of humor.

The author makes no effort to distinguish between "black magic" and "white magic" (except to mention that sorcerers always apply the former label to the other guy -- never themselves). He apparently considers all sorcery to fall under the category of "Black Arts", and the phrase is apparently little more than a synonym for "Magic" -- at least to the extent that the term covers all the practices forbidden by (for instance) the Book of Leviticus.

An opening chapter describes the mind of the magician, which he characterizes as driven by the hunger for power and (ultimately) by the desire to become God. Subsequent chapters deal with the subjects of Numerology, Cabala & the Tarot, Alchemy, Astrology, Ritual Magic & Invocation, and (finally) Devil Worship. I found some chapters (for example those on Numerology) to be rather dry reading, compared to (say) the chapters on Ritual Magic or Devil Worship. But of course, you can always skip around.
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The Black Arts: A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages (Perigee)
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