The Alchemy web site on Levity.com
Exhibition at Austin, Texas
Magic Exhibition at the University of Texas Displays Prominent Renaissance Alchemical Works
Magic: A Brief History of the Unknown features a wide-range of materials including the 15th-century book, De Mysteriis Ægyptoiorum (one of the oldest surviving texts on theurgy); many 16th-century and 17th-century books and manuscripts on alchemy (see selections below); images of tarot cards designed by Victorian occultist and Order of the Golden Dawn member, Aleister Crowley; and publicity photographs and posters of Houdini and other stage magicians from Houdini's own archive.
What is magic? In the case of Harry Houdini and other stage magicians--what is their connection to other magical traditions? What was the substance of the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Victorian occult group? Were medieval alchemists truly seeking material wealth in their quest to change base metals to gold? What is theurgy and the role of magic in the ancient world? How does one explain the unseen and the "irrational"?
Like other broad topics-religion, art, and science-magic is a difficult term to define. But a new exhibition at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center explores these questions to reveal a history of the unknown.
On display from July 10-December 8, 1995, the exhibit is in the Center's fourth floor gallery. Exhibit hours are Monday-Friday, 9-4:30, and Thursday, 9-7. Admission is free. The Ransom Center is located on the corner of 21st and Guadalupe Street on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. For more information call 512-471-8944 or reply to this email.
In conjunction with the exhibition, David Martinez, associate professor in UT's Classic Department's, will present a talk entitled "Ancient Greek Magic" on Friday, July 21 at 4 p.m. Held in the fourth floor auditorium of the Ransom Center, the lecture will be followed by a reception. It is free and open to the public.
Magic: A Brief History of the Unknown is organized by George Leake of the Ransom Center.
A Brief Selection of Material Used in Magic: A Brief History of the Unknown
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia (Lyon: Beringos, fratres, 1550).
Theatrum Chemicum, Volume V (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1622).
Theatrum Chemicum, Volume II (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1659).
Theatrum Chemicum,Volume I (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1659).
De Alchimia Opuscula (Frankfurt: Cyriacus Jacobus, 1550).
Adam MacLean, editor, Mutus Liber (Edinburgh: Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, 1982).
Johann Grasshoff, Dyas chymica tripartita (Frankfurt: Bey L. Jennis, 1625).
Artis Auriferae (Basel: Conrad Waldkirch, 1610).
Michael Maier, Tripus Aureus (Frankfurt: Pauli Iacobi, 1618).
Salomon Trissmosin, Aureum Vellus (Rorschach am Bodensee, 1598).
Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (London: Printed by J. Grismond for Nath. Brooke, 1652).
Musaeum Hermeticum (Frankfurt: L. Jennisii, 1625).
Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica (Oppenheim: Johan Theodori de Bry, 1617).
Andreas Libavius, Alchymia Andreae Libavii (Frankfurt: Petri Kopffii, 1606).
Carl Gustav Jung, Psychologie und Alchemie (Zürich: Rascher, 1944).
Carl Gustav Jung, Die Psychologie der Übertragung (Zürich: Rascher, 1946).
Books cited in the Magic exhibit
Henry Cornelius Agrippa,Three Books of Occult Philosophy, St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1993.
Johan Babtista, Magical Calendar, Adam McLean, ed., Edinbugh: Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, 1980.
Ruth Brandon, The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini, New York: Random House, 1993.
W.E.Butler, Magic: Its Ritual, Power and Purpose, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead, commentary by Dr. Ogden Goelet, Jr., San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994.
Cynthia Elizabeth Giles, The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, New York: Paragon House, 1992.
William G. Gray, Magical Ritual Methods, Cheltenham: Helios Book Service,1969.
Carl G. Jung, Psychology & Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Hugh Kenner, Magics and Spells (Hoosick Falls: Bennington College, 1988).
Francis King,Magic: the Western Tradition, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1975.
Georg Luck, Arcana Mundi, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1985.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, (1603 Quarto Edition)
Magic in the Ancient World
A. A. Barb, "The Survival of Magic Arts," in The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century, A. Momigliano, ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.
Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Campbell Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets Chiefly Graeco-Egyptian, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1950.
E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1951.
Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Princeton University Press, 1972.
John G. Gager, ed., Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Ramsay MacMullen, "Magicians," in Enemies of the Roman Order: Treason, Unrest and Alienation in the Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966.
Marvin Meyer & Richard Smith, eds., Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power , San Francisco: Harper, 1994.
University of Michigan, David G. Martinez, ed., P. Michigan XVI: a Greek love charm from Egypt, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991.
Middle Ages and Renaissance
Stewart Copinger Easton, Roger Bacon and his Search for a Universal Science, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1952.
E. J. Holmyard, Alchemy, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957.
Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, 1989.
Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1974.
Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Frances Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, London: Ark Paperbacks, 1983.
Paola Zambelli, The Speculum Astronomiae and its Enigma: Astrology, Theology, and Science in Albertus Magnus and his contemporaries, Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1992.
Modern Magical Perspectives
Francis Barrett,The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer, New York: Samuel Weiser, n.d.
Aleister Crowley, Liber LXXVII, Palomar Mountains, California: The O.T.O. at the Abbey of Thelema, 1939; contains Crowley's summary of theBook of the Law.
Ricky Jay, Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, New York: Warner Books, 1986.
Gareth Knight, A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1980.
Christopher McIntosh, Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival, London: Rider, 1972.
S. L. MacGregor Mathers, The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, New York: Dover Publications, 1975.
Israel Regardie, The Golden Dawn, St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1982.
Edward A. Tiryakian, On the Margin of the Visible: Sociology, the Esoteric, and the Occult, New York: Wiley, 1974.
These are the narrative labels; in the exhibit itself, they hang on the walls; the Theurgy, Alchemy, Golden Dawn, & Legerdemain ones hang near applicable sections
What is magic?
There is probably more rubbish believed and written about magical rituals than any other subject. -William G. Gray, Magical Ritual Methods
Like religion, art, and science, magic is a difficult term to define. We can only hope to describe certain movements, periods, and cultural tendencies. An easier term to define is occult : things that are hidden, occluded. This leads us to perhaps the only way to define something whichis ultimately undefinable (and some say irrational): magic is the manipulation of unseen forces. Some link magic to synchronicity, coincidences which are not causal yet not accidental. Is magic all around us, a part of nature? Or is magic effected by an act of will, whether by the manipulation of the unseen by the magician or through the will of the divine after prayer?
What are magical rituals and how do they work? In the case of Houdini and other stage magicians--what is their connection to other magical traditions? What was the substance of the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Victorian occult group? Were medieval alchemists truly seeking material wealth in their quest to change base metals to gold? What is theurgy and the role of magic in the ancient world? How does one explain the unseen and the "irrational"?
The intent of this exhibit is to focus on materials at the Ransom Center, which severely limits the exploration of many native magical traditions from around the world. Most of these magical traditions are passed down from master to chosen apprentice in oral form. Indeed, much of substance of the areas we do focus on is lost to us, as the repository of knowledge has passed from the oral tradition to the written word (and now on to electronically-stored ideas).
I'd like to acknowledge a number of people whose guidance was of great benefit in the evolution of this exhibition. Ken Craven provided vital support, in particular on the section concerning the Golden Dawn. John Merritt, independent scholar and former Ransom Center staff member, lent critical advice in the areas of alchemy and Carl Jung. Classics professor David Martinez proved an expert sounding board on magic in the ancient world and theurgy. Particular recognition is extended to Melissa Miller for help navigating the Harry Houdini collection.
Many thanks to Ransom Center staff for their suggestions and assistance researching the collections: John Kirkpatrick, Darnelle Vanghel, Bill Dietrich, Deacon Crain, Maria Wells, Cathy Henderson, Lisa Jones, John Thomas, and, I'm sure, several others I've forgotten.
And great appreciation to our technical staff: Barbara Brown (Photography Conservator); Audi Bass, Angela Bukowy, Christine Gutzmer, Miranda Martin, Karen Pavelka (Paper Conservation); Mary Baughman, Pat Ingram, Olivia Primanis (Book Conservation); Jeanne Claire Van Ryzin (Publicity); Debbie Armstrong (Registrar); Robin Bradford (Editor); Sally Leach (Exhibits Committee); and last but not least those intrepid, hard-working souls in exhibitions preparation: Juliana Kelley, John Wright, David Cano, Amanda Blosser, and Ana Bilski.
Finally, I must extend my sincere gratitude to Angela Bukowy, Danny Jacobus, Janice Rossen, and John Wright for editorial comments.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dream't of in your philosophy. -Hamlet
Magic in the ancient world assumed many forms. We can distinguish different processes called magic with the Greek terms theurgia and goeteia. Theurgy has been defined as ritual magic which seeks a union of the soul with the divine, as opposed to goetic magic, often associated with magic sold by fortunetellers, sleight-of-hand artists, and potion sellers.
Theurgy, in particular the traditions at the root of Western European magic, derives from Egypt. Many consider the Egyptian Book of the Dead a book of spells, as if Egyptian magic was external to the religion itself. This point of view does not apply to a polytheistic religion where things magical and spiritual were intertwined. The first act of Re, ancient Egypt's supreme deity, was to create magic, known as Heka, which he later entrusted to other deities and mankind. Heka magic is closely linked with incantation, naming, and the power of the word.
In the realm of Egyptian Magic, actions did not necessarily speak louder than words--they were often one and the same thing. Thought, deed, image and power are theoretically united in the concept of heka. The Memphite Theology, which stated that the god Ptah Tatenen brought forth the universe through the spoken word, places the power of the word at the center of the Egyptian world view. (The Egyptian Book of the Dead, p. 145)
If anything unites the varying forms of magic, it is the power of the spoken word. The idea of Heka magic parallels the idea of creation by logos in the Gospel of John. The practice of casting spells through use of directed words is commonly called incantation. Hugh Kenner speaks of magic native to Northern Europe in the essay featured in this exhibit, Magics and Spells (Kenner, p. 9):
Words are not for arranging lightly...they may be dangerous; have force; command invisible legions; may explode. Such feelings descend from a foretime of charms and curses. Studying and teaching literature as we do, we are apt to handle it as casually as chemists do poisons.
There exists a strange tension in early Western magic between the spoken and the written word or image. In the Egyptian tradition, the hieroglyphs themselves described the words pictorially. Even though they are an integral part of the text, the images shown in the Book of the Dead, were kept away as much as possible from the mummified bodies of the deceased, as visual representations of animals were dangerous (especially when placed near the body of the king, the connecting link between the celestial and the earthly). But, again, the spoken word was of utmost importance. The teachings passed on from acknowledged masters to carefully chosen apprentices were mostly in oral form. Spell books which remain are seen as ritual shorthand, often couched in obscurity. Hence, a practice from ancient times echoed centuries later during the Renaissance and the Victorian Era: the arcana mundi, or secrets of the universe, must, by all means, not be transmitted to the immature.
The magical tradition affirms that the universe is one, and that no part of that universe is in esse separate from any other part. -W.E.Butler, Magic: Its Ritual, Power and Purpose
Alchemy is usually linked with the pursuit to transform base metals, such as lead, to gold. Some feel that alchemists actually pursued spiritual transformation; the chemical procedures were meditative focal points for the projection of the unconscious. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung is one prominent modern scientist who disagreed with the notion that these men were simply greedy fools.
The term alchemy derives from the arabic alkimya, which translates as "black stuff" (alternately interpreted as the rich mud of the Nile and as the black powder produced from mercury in metal processing techniques employed in ancient Egypt). Many of the secrets of alchemy, both the scientific and hermetic-magical, has its roots in Egypt. The body of work known as the Corpus Hermeticum was attributed to the Egyptian magician Hermes Trismegistus, and Neoplatonists believed that Plato received secret magical initiation in Egypt.
During the Renaissance, science, being an investigation into the nature of God and his creation, was united with religion. Even though alchemists practiced an early form of chemistry (as mediaeval astrologers practiced an early form of astronomy), these pursuits were seen as analogous to philosophical inquiry, if not forms of spiritual discipline. Soon spiritual and physical matters were separated. The age of enlightenment heralded the scientific method, the "only way of acquiring valid knowledge." (Giles, p. 145)
When one reads the antique texts of the alchemists, the meanings seem obscure or indirect at best. Take the saying: "Out of other things you will never make the One, until you have first become the One yourself." (Luck, p. 361) The consensus is that this speaks of the alchemist's search for the materia prima within the hidden powers of his own soul. "The symbols he draws and studies help him explore his collective unconscious; the reading and rereading of books derived from divine revelation may create a certain drowsiness of intoxication; watching the chemical processes in his laboratory for hours on end may produce a kind of trance or an exhaustion that leads to trance."(Luck, p. 361)
On the topic of the obscurity of alchemist's texts, Jung writes:
The alchemist is quite aware that he writes obscurely. He admits that he veils his meaning on purpose, but nowhere--so far as I know--does he say that he cannot write in any other way. He makes a virtue of necessity by maintaining either that mystification is forced on him for one reason or another, or that he really wants to make the truth as plain as possible, but cannot proclaim aloud just what the prima materia or the lapis is. (Jung, p. 289)
One obvious reason for the obscure, or hermetic, nature of alchemy: the power of the Church and the Inquisition. Witch burnings and accusations of practicing black magic were quite common in the Renaissance. Speculative scientists such as Galileo and Copernicus, and magical philosophers like Pico della Mirandola and Giordano Bruno were persecuted equally by the Church. Much of the surviving literature on magic from the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance involves how to identify a witch or warlock, or, as in the case of most of the works used in this section of the exhibit, prominently swear alleigance to God and the Church. The German theologian Henry Cornelius Agrippa, author of De Occulta Philosophia, lectured publicly on occult matters throughout Western Europe, and even went so far as to defend a woman who was accused of witchcraft. Despite being a devout Christian and dedicating his works to various clergy, he was persecuted by the Church, cheated by employers (including the crown of France), and accused of practicing black magic. He and most of his family died poor, hungry and destitute.
The Occult and the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888 by S. L. MacGregor Mathers and others in order to study and revive interest in Western magic. Comprised mostly of London intellectuals, artists and writers, the Golden Dawn dissolved in 1903 due to infighting within the group.
Several events in Western Europe during the century or so before the Golden Dawn's formation were quite influential in its development. In the late 18th Century, French antiquary Court de Gébelin concluded that Tarot cards were Egyptian in origin (a parallel to the belief that gypsies, many of whom began telling fortunes with the tarot, were descended from Egyptians). In 1801, Francis Barrett published The Magus (which modern scholars claim plagiarized Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia; Barrett repeated errors made by Agrippa's printer). The teachings of The Magus had a profound effect on the development of ritual in the Golden Dawn. Finally, the writings of Eliphas Lévi on the kabbalah, tarot, grimoires, the astral light and other magical topics were extremely influential on this eclectic group of Victorian occultists, particularly on the impressionable Kenneth Mackenzie who met Lévi in 1861.
Lévi taught that Magic comprised three principles: human will, correspondence and the astral light. MacGregor Mathers added to this human imagination. Francis King, in his Magic: the Western Tradition, quotes from one of the Golden Dawn's instructional manuscripts (King, p. 25):
To practise Magic both the Imagination and the Will must be called into action, they are co-equal with one another. Nay, more, the Imagination must precede the Will in order to produce the greatest possible effect. The Will can send forth a current, and that current cannot be wholly inoperative; yet its effect is vague and indefinite, because the Will unaided sends forth nothing but the current or force. The Imagination unaided can create an image and this image must have an existence of varying duration; yet it can do nothing of importance, unless vitalized and directed by the Will. When, however, the two are conjoined--when the Imagination creates an image--and the Will directs and uses that image, marvellous Magical effects may be obtained.
The rituals unearthed by the Golden Dawn display a "syncretic genius" (King, p. 25) for combining magical systems. They employed a color system based on traditional laws of sympathies (as catalogued by Agrippa). Each planet had a corresponding color, element, gemstone, archangel, archdemon, number, and so forth. Using this arcane system, one could theoretically hope for tapping into a connecting link between the material and spiritual world. Another tool for magical ascension is the Tattwa. Based upon ancient Egyptian designs, these wands were used for meditation & entry into astral visions. After mastering the Tattwas, the adept then went on to more complex sets of symbols including the Tarot, sigils, geometric figures, and ultimately the "Enochian Pyramids", a creation of Mathers based on the Enochian magic of Elizabethan court astrologer Dr. John Dee.
Perhaps the three most influential members of the Golden Dawn were Aleister Crowley, Arthur Edward Waite and William Butler Yeats. Yeats sought a reconciliation between Christianity and magic. The teachings of the Golden Dawn, according to some critics had a profound effect on Yeats' writing, particularly his A Vision. Crowley was often accused of practicing black magic. He integrated the rituals of the Golden Dawn with yoga, the sex-Magic of the Order of the Oriental Templars, and the "Law of Thelema", based on the Book of the Law. A.E. Waite is often seen as one of the sober scholars in the Golden Dawn who understood the Magical systems intellectually, but was not primarily engaged in the practice of Magic.
Harry Houdini-Master of Stage Magic
Legerdemain, or sleight-of-hand, is what most people associate with the term "magic", and while its rituals and purposes diverge quite radically from the occult, alchemy and spell-casting, there are some interesting similarities. Most obvious is the "magician's" desire to keep the secrets of his art obscure, unreachable, silent. Both the theurgist, who attempts to influence the gods, and the stage conjuror, who makes elephants disappear, are attempting to manipulate unseen forces. The same can be said for the solitary alchemist boiling down his chemicals, and the occultist, meditating on arcane symbols. As Jung insists that alchemists were not simply trying to make gold with lead, some scholars insist that certain stage magicians were more than performers making a buck. Perhaps some conjurors were using their craft as a means of spiritual discovery.
Ruth Brandon, in her The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini , details many of Houdini's deep-seeded psychological issues and their presence in his work. Houdini found expression through magic easier than in words. As an immigrant, he identified with criminals and others on the margins of society. Perhaps his obsession with escaping mirrors his parents leaving Hungary in order to escape anti-Semitic persecution. At Houdini's core were many family issues: the failure of his father, veneration of his mother, and after his mother's death, trying to symbolically re-create her by making women appear on stage. Perhaps most deep is Houdini's fear of death. He seemed to defy death constantly in his performances, and Brandon draws parallels between Houdini and the shamans who were responsible to their communities for providing a link with the dead.
Many consider Harry Houdini the master of stage Magic of modern times. Born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest in the year 1874, his parents emmigrated to America shortly afterwards, eventually to settle in Wisconsin. The young Ehrich was enchanted with magicians he read about and witnessed in travelling shows. He was so taken with the great 19th century French conjuror, Robert-Houdin, that he took his name (Houdini is French for "like Houdin"; Harry is an Americanized Ehrich). As a youth, Ehrich also excelled as an athelete and was fascinated with locks. In fact, he apprenticed to a locksmith. He soon began refining his skills as a conjuror. His first illusion was a trunk and rope tie trick he called "Metamorphosis" which he performed on the streets and in small venues from Coney Island to Chicago.
In 1894 he married Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner (known as Bess or Bessie), and the two of them soon developed a magic show with Harry as the star and Bess as the assistant. They took their show on a series of disappointing third-rate travelling circuses and medicine shows. They finally got their break after a publicity stunt in Chicago where Houdini arranged to be locked up in jail, and escaped minutes later, before the flashing cameras of the local newspapers. After repeating this stunt in other Midwestern cities, he finally got the attention of Martin Beck, promoter of the powerful western Orpheum Circuit. The Houdinis finally began to make a decent living. But it took travelling to Europe where Houdini finally made a huge splash. He sold out larger and larger engagements. Theatres fought each other for bookings. From this time, to his untimely death in 1926, Houdini would be the most accomplished and popular stage magician of his day.
And his act constantly evolved. He escaped from handcuffs, trunks, full leg and arm manacles, water torture chambers, straightjackets, and giant milk-cans. Houdini was always one step ahead of his competition, researching tricks of old magicians, not to mention his contemporaries. This section of the exhibit includes odd items spanning the breadth of Houdini's collecting impulses, including publicity from other other magicians (such as the great Harry Kellar and Howard Thurston), documentation of tricks, and research materials on the cultural background of stage magic. Houdini would not only try to discover the secrets of his competitors, but he would reveal them to the public! Houdini spent a good deal of his last few decades discrediting the claims of spiritualists, mediums, and other self-proclaimed practitioners of "magic". Houdini discredited practitioners of stage and spiritualist "magic" alike. "They had, as he always said, nothing to do with magic." (Brandon, p. 142)
Is magic real?
Can we say that magic exists? This depends on one's definition of magic and one's metaphysical point of view. Certainly, rituals performed in many parts of the world are deemed magical. If we accept the premise that magic is the manipulation of unseen forces, and eschew stage trickery, charlatan psychics, and the present day manifestations of spiritualism, perhaps old ideas from the Western magical tradition resemble certain threads of modern speculative science.
Consider Adam McLean's commentary on The Magical Calendar, a Renaissance era astrological chart:
The Magical Calendar enshrines a way of synthesis, that has more and more been lost to humanity since the Renaissance and the rise and eventual dominance of the abstract, analytic mode of thought. Magical thinking is the ability to see ideas as part of a whole, to see the interconnections, the correspondences between seemingly diverse events, things and ideas. The magician thinks in terms of the fourfoldness in the world, or finds the sevenfoldness of the planetary archetypes all around him.
Are ideas which prospered during the Renaissance anachronistic? Or has modern science come full circle, in a sense, to echo these old philosophies? The EPR paradox (named for the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment of 1935) says if "you take two 'twinned' particles and submit them to a test, they will both behave in the same way . . . no matter how far apart the particles may be." (Giles, p. 153) Bell's Theorem states that "particles do not have separate objective realities; their realities are connected in some way, and that connection is independent of the distance between the particles." (Giles, p. 153) David Bohm's theory of "implicate order", suggests that the universe may be holographic, or enfolded, and unrelated to space and time.
Cynthia Giles, in her The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, traces how roadblocks in empirical science led to the development of quantum physics and other modern scientific theories, some of which reflect magical philosophy. Giles envisions a spectrum of naturally perceived reality which reflects the small part of the light and sound spectrums we can see and hear. Since matter at the subatomic world can only be perceived with instrumentation, conceivably there is also a level at the other end of the "reality spectrum" which cannot be perceived without expansion of perception. Giles speculates that this higher end of the reality spectrum could resemble "the astral regions of the magicians, or the 'other world' of the shamans, or even Jung's synchronistic 'divine unconsciousness of the world.'" (Giles, p. 149)
The descriptive labels from the show.
1. Homer, Odyssey (London: Nonesuch Press, 1931).p.298
Circe transforms Odysseus's men into swine; this is the first documented use of magic in Greek literature.
2. Theocritus, Complete poems, "The Love-Magick" (London: Fanfrolico Press,
This is a clear example of a poem in the form of a spell (in this case a curse). Virgil bases his eighth eclogue on this poem.
3. Hugh Kenner, Magics and Spells (Hoosick Falls: Bennington College, 1988). Copy 101 of 1000.p.12
[on this page kenner speaks of spells/the root of the term incantation--incantare--a directed speech, and the influence of spells on oral poetry, parti. Anglo-Saxon poetry]
4. E. A. Wallis Budge,Egyptian Magic. (London: Kegan Paul, 1899). p.174-5
5. Marcus Porcius Cato, On Agriculture (London: William Heinemann, 1934). p.153
Particularly interesting on page 153 is the paragraph beginning "Any kind of dislocation may be cured by the following charm..."
6. Petronius, Satyricon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959). p.160-161
A witch's spell helps Polyaenos become a whole man again.
7. Arturo Castiglione,Adventures of the Mind (New York: Knopf, 1946). p.30-31
[he speaks of the "spell of nature"]
8. Plotinus, Enneads (New York: Pantheon Books, 1957). p.322-323
74. Iamblichus of Chalcis, De Mysteriis Ægyptiorum (Venice: Aldine Press,
1497). title page
With The Chaldean Oracles being lost, this is one of the oldest surviving texts on theurgy. "According to Plotinus, theurgy aims at establishing sympathy in the universe and uses the forces that flow through all things in order to be in touch with them." (see Luck, p.21)
76. Florence Farr Emery, Egyptian Magic (London: Theosophical Publishing
Society, 1896).p. 16-17
44. Book of the Dead, Plates (New York: Printed for the Members of the Limited Edition Club, 1972). plates 6-15
45. Book of the Dead, Text (New York: Printed for the Members of the Limited Edition Club, 1972).p.22-23
46. Book of the Dead, Papyrus Ani (Graz: Akaden, Druck-u. Verlagsanst, 1979).sheet 5
47. E.A. Wallis Budge, (trans.), Book of the Dead (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1898).p.2, chapt 1; plate unfolded
9.Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia (Lyon: Beringos, fratres, 1550).
The first paragraph of the chapter shown here, beginning at the bottom of page 163 ("De Incatamentoru Mirabili Potentia CAP LXXII"), translates: They say that the power of enchantments, and verses is so great, that it is believed they are able to subvert almost all nature, as saith Apuleius, that with a Magical whispering, swift rivers are turned back, the slow sea is bound, the winds are breathed out with one accord, the Sun is stopped, the Moon is clarified, the stars are pulled out, the day is kept back, the night is prolonged. (see Agrippa, p.218 ).
11. Theatrum Chemicum, Volume V (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1622). p. 884
Jung cites this passage (in his Psychology and Alchemy ) as an example of projection of the unconscious into the Magical practices of alchemists; the text (page 884, paragraph beginning "Revertar", the actual text begins "Et quia Serpens") translates as follows:
The serpent is more cunning than all the beasts of the earth; under the beauty of her skin she shows a harmless face, and she forms herself in the manner of a materia hypostatica, through illusion, when immersed in water. There she gathers together the virtues from the earth, which is her body. Because she is very thirsty she drinks immoderately and becomes drunken, and she causes the nature wherewith she is united to vanish. (see Jung, p.252).
Jung explains: "The serpent is Mercurius, who as the fundamental substance (hypostatica) forms himself in the water and swallows the nature to which he is joined . . . Matter is thus formed through illusion, which is necessarily that of the alchemist. . . The fact that visions allied themselves to the alchemical work may also explain why dreams and dream-visions are often mentioned as important intermezzi or as sources of revelation (ibid, p. 252)."
12. Theatrum Chemicum, Volume II (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1659). p. 386-387
Jung suggests that the secret of the philosopher's stone lies hidden in the human mind or unconscious. The study of books, however, is important, for "owing to their ignorance men are not able to accomplish the work until they have studied universal philosophy, which will show them things that are unknown and hidden from others"(ibid, p. 258)
The text shown here (on page 387, beginning with "Et ideo omnes hujus artis") echoes the ideas of other philosophers and alchemists of the time and tells of the importance of serious study:
Therefore all those who desire to attain the blessing of this art should apply themselves to study, should gather the truth from the books and not from invented fables and untruthful works. There is no way by which this art can truly be found (although men meet with many deceptions), except by completing their studies and understanding the words of the philosophers. .
13. Theatrum Chemicum,Volume I (Hæredes: Zetzner, 1659). p.147
Jung uses this source as an example of the projection of the unconscious which renders wonderful visions. The original Latin (translated below) begins on page 147 with the line "Sed quoniam de reptilibus" and concludes on the following page (not displayed):
They say also that different names are given to the stone on account of the wonderful variety of figures that appear in the course of the work, inasmuch as colours often come forth at the same time, just as we sometimes imagine in the clouds or in the fire strange shapes of animals, reptiles, or trees. I found similar things in a fragment of a book ascribed to Moses: when the body is dissolved, it is there written, then will appear sometimes two branches, sometimes three or more, sometimes also the shapes of the reptiles; on occasion it also seems as if a man with a head and all his limbs were seated upon a cathedra (ibid, p. 248).
15. De Alchimia Opuscula (Frankfurt: Cyriacus Jacobus, 1550). title page
Rife with symbols, this title page includes the hermaphroditic monarch which represents the union of opposites.
16. Adam McLean, editor, Mutus Liber (Edinburgh: Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, 1982).pp.12-13
[process of unconscious transference Jung alluded to]
17. Johann Grasshoff, Dyas chymica tripartita (Frankfurt: Bey L. Jennis, 1625). p. 99
The serpent with its tail in its mouth is a classic alchemical symbol, named the Ouroboros by the ancient Greeks. All is one: night turning into day, day into night, the cycles of nature and life, the infinity of the world.
18. Artis Auriferae (Basel: Conrad Waldkirch, 1610). p.146
On these pages begins the dreamlike "Visio Arislei," an metaphorical narrative addressing major alchemical themes discussed by Jung to a great extent, such as the synthesis of opposites (conjunction), transformation, self-incubation, and resurrection.
20. Michael Maier, Tripus Aureus (Frankfurt: Pauli Iacobi, 1618). title page
The double aspect of alchemy is represented here: the worker on the right and the philosophers on the left. Note the ever-present alchemical symbol of the serpent on the tripod above the furnace.
21. Salomon Trissmosin, Aureum Vellus (Rorschach am Bodensee, 1598). p.36-37
This is a representation of the "chymical wedding," a key alchemical concept representing the blending of opposites into an incorruptible unity, the penultimate step in the the process of creating gold from base metals.
22. Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (London: Printed by J. Grismond for Nath. Brooke, 1652). pp. 350-351
23. Musaeum Hermeticum (Frankfurt: L. Jennisii, 1625). p12-13
Note the caption below the plate "Spiritus & Anima." This seems to be another representation of the blending of opposites with emphasis on the spiritual world rather than the physical.[p.12]
28. Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica (Oppenheim: Johan Theodori de Bry, 1617). Anima Mundi plate unfolded
This plate is a representation of "The Soul of the World." The Soul of the World, or Anima Mundi, was seen by the Neoplatonists as the connection between the material world and the divine mind. Donald Tyson, in Appendix II of his modern edition of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy explains:
Much of Magic is based upon the premise, usually implicit, that the universe is a single living conscious being within whose body all things subsist . . . This cosmic being was viewed as a god and was called by the ancients the Soul of the World.
32. Andreas Libavius, Alchymia Andreae Libavii (Frankfurt: Petri Kopffii, 1606). title page
[alchemists at work]
71. Carl Gustav Jung, Psychologie und Alchemie (Zürich: Rascher, 1944). p. 316-317
In the first edition of one of his great works on alchemy, Jung discusses the stage of nigredo, also known as blackening or melanosis. Normally, blackening is the first stage of the alchemical process. Jung likened nigredo to encountering one's psychic shadow.
72. Alchemical Manuscript in German, ca. 16th-17th century. p.36 UNTRANSLATED. HRC Pre-1700 MS #54.
73. Abraham Abulafia, Or ha-Sekhel (Cabalistic manual). p. 38HRC Pre-1700 MS #30.
This Cabalistic text dates from the heyday of alchemy. The Kabbalah was quite influential on alchemists and occultists during the Renaissance, Agrippa in particular. For more on Kabbalah see the Tree of Life pamphlet in the Occult/Golden Dawn standing case.
29. Carl Gustav Jung, Die Psychologie der Übertragung (Zürich: Rascher, 1946).p. 138-139
Jung's perspective of the Renaissance idea of conjunction suggests affinity with the alchemical notion of the Chymical Wedding.
[Golden Dawn/occult section]
19. Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Ritual of the 0°=0° Grade of Neophyte.p. 16-17
24. William Butler Yeats, "Magic" from The Monthly Review , no. 12, September 1901 (London: John Murray, 1901). pp.144-145
25. Aleister Crowley, Magick Theory and Practice (Paris: Lecram Press, 1929).p.28-29
26. Exhibition of playing cards, the Tarot. A catalogue of the Tarot deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Frieda Harris, which was first published in The Book of Thoth (1944).Cover shown
The Magician card in the Tarot is traditionally associated with the will. This particular rendering of the Magician card includes the image of an ape behind the Magician, suggesting connections with the Hindu talking monkey deity Hannuman, or the baboon often associated with the Egyptian deity Thoth. Adepts of the Golden Dawn were expected to create their own ritual paraphernalia, including their own Tarot cards. "Divination, though widely practiced in almost all times, has always attracted so many charlatans that few serious Magicians wanted to be associated with it." (See Giles, p. 103)
27. Aleister Crowley, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries (Montreal: 93 Publishing, 1974). p.100-101
31. Letter from Austin Osman Spare to Aleister Crowley.
33. George Mills Harper, W.B. Yeats and W.T. Horton: the Record of an Occult Friendship. (London: Macmillan, 1980).p.95
The age-old conflict among traditional Christians over magic is raised here by Horton and answered in Yeats' adjacent letter. Yeats promoted a reconciliation (white magic) between the Western magical tradition and Christianity.
34. Letter from William Butler Yeats to W.T. Horton dated April 30, 1896. 2 pages
35. Edmond Dulac, "A Report on a Visit Paid to Mr. David Wilson". page one
Edmond Dulac was the illustrator of William Butler Yeats's A Vision.
36. William Butler Yeats, A Vision (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1925).title page
37. William Butler Yeats, Is the Order of R.R. (Rubidae Rosae) & A.C. (Aureae Crucis) to Remain a Magical Order? (London: WB Yeats?, 1901). covers displayed
38. Letter from Georgie Yeats to Alphone James Albert Symons, May 8, 1925.
Yeats is concerned here that the inclusion of Golden Dawn publications in a Yeats bibliography will associate her husband too closely with black magic. By this time, the Golden Dawn had a very negative public image, associated most often with Aleister Crowley who was seen as a cult leader and black magician, and nicknamed "the Great Beast".
39. Kenneth Grant, Hidden Lore (London: Carfax, 1962). opened & propped up; entire portfolio shown
40. Steffi Grant, Mage and Image (London: Carfax, 1962).opened & propped up; entire portfolio shown
41. Steffi Grant, The Golden Dawn (London: Carfax, 1961).opened & propped up; entire portfolio shown
42. Kenneth Grant, Vinum Sabbati (London: Carfax, 1961).opened & propped up; entire portfolio shown
43. Steffi Grant. The Tree of Life. (London: Carfax, 1959)opened & propped up; entire portfolio shown
48. Aleister Crowley, "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Volume II; Supreme Ritual." p.32-33
75. Arthur Edward Waite, Book of Ceremonial Magic (Hyde Park, New York: University Books, 1961). p. 154-155
[Legerdemain/Houdini/Stage Magic section]
49. Lithoprint. Houdini Collection. ["Humours of a country fair"]
50.Watercolor on paper. Houdini Collection. Vanishing Elephant Trick/yellow & blue
51. Watercolor on paper. Houdini Collection.Vanishing Elephant Trick/red & blue
These are publicity cartoons for Houdini's "Vanishing Elephant" trick at the Hippodrome in New York City, which was a crude but headline-grabbing stunt.
52. Early publicity photograph of Houdini chained; ca. 1905. Houdini Collection.
53. Manuscript detailing "original goblet vanishing" trick. Houdini Collection. Upon inspection, it is unlikely that this manuscript is in Houdini's hand.Houdini, however, did collect such information from other magicians and second-hand sources.
54. Graphite pencil drawing on paper. Houdini Collection.
This design bears remarkable resemblance to handcuff locks of the early 20th century. Note the spring mechanism and the tiny keyhole slot.
55. Walter Thomas, Patent for Trick Sword. Houdini Collection.
56. Advertisement for Frickell. Houdini Collection. [includes decapitated head smoking cigar]
61. Cabinet photos. John G. Scheidler. Houdini Collection. [country fair freaks]
65. "Kellar the Great Magician." Strobridge Litho Company. HRHRC Magic Collection. [30" x 20" full color poster-Kellar surrounded by imps]
66. "Water Torture Chamber; Cardiff Empire, January 6, 1913." Western Mail, Ltd., Cardiff. Houdini Collection.[30" x 10" full color poster]
67. "B. F. Keith's Palace, August 8th." Houdini Publicity Poster. Houdini Collection. [8" x 19.5" full color poster]
68. Photograph of Houdini Crate Escape. Houdini Collection.
69. "Spiritualistic Entertainment." Combe Printing, St. Joseph, Missouri. Houdini Collection. [36" x 12" full color poster]
77. "Kellar/Self-decapitation." Strobridge Litho Company. Magic Collection.[30" x 20" full color poster]
78. "Kellar walking in the woods with imps." Strobridge Litho Company. Magic Collection. [30" x 20" full color poster]
79. "Thurston, Master of Mystery." Otis Lithograph Company. Magic Collection.[30" x 40" full color poster]
80. "Mysteriarch." Atelier (Studio) J. Zier, Leipzig. Houdini Collection.[30" x 20" full color poster]
81. Surrey Theatre advertisement. W. Barnes, printer. Houdini Collection. [ad for English magic shows, ca. 1780]