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The Magus: A Complete System of Occult Philosophy Paperback – Illustrated, March 1, 2000
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The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer; being a Complete System of Occult Philosophy is a handbook of the occult and ceremonial magic compiled by Francis Barrett and published in 1801. This book facilitated the modern revival of magic by making information from otherwise rare books readily available. It may have influenced novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton and occultist Eliphas Levi. More controversially, it has been identified as an influence on Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, in Reed C. Durham, Jr.'s speech "Is There No Help for the Widow's Son? " A photo-reproduction of the 1801 edition and its color plates.
CONTAINED IN ONE VOLUME ARE:
The Sciences of Natural Magic; Alchemy, or Hermetic Philosophy; and the Nature, Creation and Fall of Man; The Constellatory Practice, or Talismanic Magic
Magnetism and Cabalistical or Ceremonial Magic; and the Times, Bonds, Offices, and Conjuration of Spirits
Bibliographies of famous magi, cabalists, and philosopher, such as Zoraster, Albertus Magnus, Doctor Dee, Raymond Lully, and many others.
Curious Engravings, Magical and Cabalistical Figures, etc.
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For those who are truly passionate about traditional western magic (i.e., the grimoire tradition), Francis Barrett’s classic “The Magus” is absolutely indispensable! Ever since its publication by Lackington, Allen in London, in 1801, this work has had a massive impact on the occult community and it is one of the most influential pieces of literature within its field. It inspired, among others, the famous French occultist and author, Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant, 1810-1875), as well as the founders of one of the most famous of all esoteric societies known today, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Barrett’s purpose in compiling “The Magus” was to present a “complete” handbook of occultism (with a strong emphasis on magic) that would make readily available a collection of the most important teachings of occult/magical theory & philosophy along with the mechanics – as well as examples – of practical application. And in my humble yet honest opinion, he most certainly succeeded in doing exactly that!
Regrettably, however, “The Magus” has undergone a lot of unfavorable publicity over the past several years; this typically at the hands of unqualified individuals, falling under such a title due to the fact of obviously never actually having read the book they are so eager to cast aside. The occult community of today is filled with remarks like ‘A wonderful work of plagiarism’, ‘A bastardization of Agrippas “Three Books of Occult Philosophy”’, and so forth, along with comments on how Barrett stole the information mostly from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s “De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres” without accrediting him.
All of this is – with all due respect, yet the truth must stand fast and for all to see – nothing but the same unqualified statements that are merely being rehashed by individuals who, like the original commentators, have apparently never bothered to READ the book! Please allow me to spend a few moments of this in defense of a historical work that deserves our respect, as a work important to the study & practice of traditional western magic as well as the cultural treasure that the text is.
The term “plagiarize”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, reads as follows:
‘To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source’.
Now please allow me to quote a passage from “The Magus” itself:
‘we have, at a vast labour and expence, both of time and charges, collected whatsoever can be deemed curious and rare, in regard to the subject of our speculations in Natural Magic – the Cabala – Celestial and Ceremonial Magic – Alchymy – and Magnetism…’
This if from page v of the preface of Barrett’s work – the very PREFACE!!! Barrett is mentioning already here that the book is a collection of teachings and nowhere is he downright claiming that this is a work entirely of his own. However, I can see how some people may feel that I am just projecting and seeing what I want to see in this passage so please allow me to support it with more “evidence”:
‘To which we have annexed a great variety of notes…’
Further remarks indicating that this work was not one of his own writing (above quote also from the preface, page v). We shall continue, however:
‘…all of which we have collected out of the works of the most famous magicians, such as Zoroaster, Hermes, Apollonius, Simon of the Temple, Trithemius, Agrippa, Porta (the Neapolitan), Dee, Paracelsus, Roger Bacon, and a great many others; to which we have subjoined our own notes…’
This quote (on page vii of the preface) follows immediately after Barrett has gone through an overview of what the book contains. And if you recall the definition of plagiarism, this passage here clearly abolishes all such claims regarding “The Magus” as Barrett is clearly listing the writings of Agrippa as being part of the contents of his book – thus NOT presenting any of this as his own, or using material from Agrippa’s books without accrediting him. He even ads – again – that these writings of other occultists are then merely accompanied by his own notes.
As one last quote, if you would indulge me; something that does not even require any additional commentary from me as everything is as obvious as human reason can ask for (at the very end of page 50 of Book I, Part I):
‘The Author having, under the title of Natural Magic, collected and arranged every thing that was curious, scarce, and valuable, as well his own experiments, as those in which he has been indefatigable in gathering from the science and practice of Magical Authors, and those the most ancient and abstruse, as may be seen in the list at the end of the Book, where he has put down the names of the authors, from which he has translated many things that were never yet published in the English language, particularly Hermes, Tritemius, Paracelsus, Bacon, Dee, Porta, Agrippa, &c. &c. &c.; from whom he has not been ashamed to borrow what he thought and knew would be valuable and gratifying to the sons of Wisdom, in addition to many other rare and uncommon experiments relative to this art.’
This defense of Francis Barrett’s “The Magus” is important, I believe, for a proper review to be done due to the general misconceptions and general spreading of false information that may otherwise feed further possibilities of misunderstandings about a book as important as this. As I have said, I personally find “The Magus” to be indispensable to the grimoire tradition as we have, in this work, a collection of the best of the best: Agrippa’s occult and magical theory & philosophy – the “how does it work?/why does it work?” behind the purely practical instructions of the grimoires; the operational mechanics of magic as found in pseudo-Agrippa’s “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”; and the two grimoires, “The Heptameron” and Johann Trithemius’ “The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals”, to complete the package with practical examples.
Much of the core-material on magic found in Agrippas 1533 classic, “De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres” – a treatise that was not readily available in the late 1700s/early 1800s – was made more easily accessible by being printed almost verbatim by Barrett. And the famous – and, to some extent, infamous – so-called fourth book, or “Of Occult Philosophy, or of Magical Ceremonies – The Fourth Book”, by pseudo-Agrippa, which was basically a more practice-focused distillation of what Agrippa covered in his three books, had now also become easily obtainable to the occultists of the time. Barrett’s goal of making difficult to find, and costly, teachings of occultism – especially magic – readily available, and all collected into one volume, edited to read as one single text rather than bits and pieces of this & that chopped up and glued together, was fully accomplished and he should be commended for it rather than shunned. He did nothing wrong and everything right, and the occult community of today owes him more than they will ever realize.
I still recommend “The Magus” as the first and most important text to any and all who wish to venture into the study & practice of traditional western magic as it basically has everything one needs to understand it (with sufficient study of the treatise, naturally) as well as practice it; as mentioned earlier, it even includes a couple of grimoires to give clear examples of things that have been covered earlier in the text. While Agrippa’s three books are still of immense importance due to these containing even more than what Barrett included therefrom in “The Magus”, the former ought to be studied later and Barrett’s work first simply due to the latter having the best of both worlds: the theory & philosophy as well as the practice thereof.
One last thing I wish to say… the very best edition available of this work at the present time is, without a doubt, that of Red Wheel/Weiser (my own copy of which I purchased nearly a decade and a half ago, back when the publishing house was just called "Samuel Weiser, Inc."), due to this being a facsimile of the original rather than a re-typing of the book. While the Weiser edition is but a mere paperback (and ought to be a beautiful, properly bound hardcover), I still find it preferable to have a facsimile that retains the early 19th century charm – with old style “s” printing and all – rather than something that has been entirely reset in modern type.
As for the contents, I believe this is better left to the individual simply looking in the inside of the book here on Amazon.com and reading through the viewable Table of Contents, rather than my rehashing it here.
THIS edition gets it all perfectly. And a couple hundred less than an original makes it very friendly. Well done!