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Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris Kindle Edition
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I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning about the pmg, and does not want to wade through the kind of ancient spellcraft that gives nightmares to contemporary practitioners.
A huge THANK YOU to Stephen Edred Flowers for taking on this project, and taking out the negativity. Although he recommends serious students also read the pmg, I am one who will just stop at this book. Lots of great information, interesting comparisons to early Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, in addition to recognition of the Pagan foundations. Highly recommended.
I'm not wild about the term "postmodern" which already has a current definition that to my mind doesn't fit how Flowers uses it, because postmodernism is still atheistic/materialistic. On the other hand, what should we call the worldview that is necessary for astrology, alchemy and magic? A bit of a conundrum! Flowers is entirely correct, however, in pointing to a change from the modern worldview as a prerequisite for true contemporary Hermeticist.
I also wasn't wild at first about the "Epistle of Abaris" which is Flowers' own creation of a Hermetic text. Then I realized that this was totally traditional! Flowers' epistle is certainly within the mainstream of Hermetic thought and one would not balk at it if it was part of a newly found ancient Hermetic manuscript.
Ultimately, I realized that basically any problem I had with Hermetic Magic stemmed from bad vibes off of the "postmodern" title. In point of fact, this is a very good introduction to the history, theory and practice of magic within classical (1st to 4th centuries AD) Hermeticism. Flowers points to all the key sources, the Corpus Hermeticum, the Greek Magical Papyri, which you can then read in the original. Ultimately, I think that Flowers' approach, seeing the origin of Hermeticism in synthesis and then immersing oneself in pre-modern Hermeticism and then finally producing a new synthesis, within this tradition, is the correct approach.
Every review I found online was utterly unhelpful as they tended to center on the author, Stephen Edred Flowers, who is controversial due to his membership in the Temple of Set and being a founder of several Ásatrú groups (See his Wiki Page for more information). A good portion of the reviews of this book are more or less rants & character assassinations while another good portion exists to defend/praise Flowers. Very few reviews actually discussed the book in any detail.
Taking my chances, I decided to get the book and I was presently surprised as it seems to be an excellent introduction to the Greek Magical Papyri from a practical standpoint and provides a good background and jumping off point for further exploration. It however has some distracting features such as Flower's Setian background showing through in parts along with controversial opinions bleeding through and treated as fact - which I will point out later in my review.
The book is presented in several sections: History - which takes a quick look at the cultural streams present in the Papyri (Flowers identifies Hellenic, Egyptian, Iranian, Gnostic, Semitic, and Christian streams). In the 'Theory' section Flowers takes a look at the Cultural beliefs and practices of all the identified cultural streams and provides among other things an excellent look at Egyptian & Greek views of the parts of the Body (both physical and metaphysical), various cosmologies, the writing systems (which includes a short lessons on Hieroglyphics, Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Greek, and Semitic systems - an appendix also includes a pronunciation guide to the Greek of the Era), Greek Gematria, Iamblichus' Numerology, and a lot of really good nuggets of information intended as a jumping off points for deeper study - which Flowers heavily encourages.
The Praxis section is composed of a description of the most common tools used in the Papyri,a suggestion of frame rituals, and a collection of some of the more accessible workings from the Magical Papyri - Flowers strongly recommends getting Betz's The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (I have a copy).
Throughout the text Flowers promotes a post-modern approach to Magic that is very similar in some respects to Chaos Magic but Flowers tends to stress a more syncretistic approach over eclecticism. He urges the reader to experiment and incorporate more streams into their practice (with the ancient material as a guide) based upon what works. He also has a great call for rationalism in Magic which I have reproduced below:
"Rationality in magic must be rehabilitated. It must be restored to its rightful place as the foundation of magical development, but not as its essence. Modernism has split would-be magicians into two impotent camps - those who have rejected rationality all together (and have become so disorientated as to be virtually insane) and those who have embraced rationality totally (and have become virtually paralyzed as magicians)" (pp. 140-141)
Flower's book is not all wonderful however as in some instances his Setian background barges through and may alienate some readers such as his dislike of the 'decadent' Osirian Cult due to its increasingly demonetization of Set over time in later eras Ancient Egyptian civilization or his view of the historical Jesus being a libertine gnostic - granted that you can really say anything about Jesus given that the only non-religious source we have amounts to a mention but most of the earlier texts depict him as very faithful to the spirit and principles of the Torah and I tend to see the very late gnostic libertine view as an extreme long shot as a guide to the historical Jesus' character. In addition Flower's 'Left Hand' views (which are mostly centered on individualism and self-reliance) are evident in a couple of instances (where he clearly stating an opinion) that may alienate some readers but they are not really large obstacles.
Overall, it still it has more than enough good practical information about Greco-Roman-Egyptian Magic and the syncretistic world of late antiquity to make it well worth reading and an excellent springboard into further study and understanding (which is the intention of the book in the first place).