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Arguing with Angels

Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture

Egil Asprem

Publication Year: 2012

An exploration of John Dee’s Enochian magic of angel contact, its reinterpretation over the years, and its endurance to the present day. This fascinating work explores John Dee’s Enochian magic and the history of its reception. Dee (1527–1608/9), an accomplished natural philosopher and member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, was also an esoteric researcher whose diaries detail years of conversations with angels achieved with the aid of crystal-gazer Edward Kelley. His Enochian magic offers a method for contacting angels and demons based on secrets found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to present day occultism, Egil Asprem shows how the reception of Dee’s magic is replete with struggles to construct and negotiate authoritative interpretational frameworks for doing magic. Arguing with Angels offers a novel, nuanced approach to questions about how ritual magic has survived the advent of modernity and demonstrates the ways in which modern culture has recreated magical discourse.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Tables

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The present book has been in the making approximately since the autumn of 2006. After several years of research and writing, thanks are due to a number of people who have helped out, inspired, and contributed in so many different ways along the way. First of all, my supervisor during the research for my MA degree...

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pp. 1-8

On a Friday afternoon late in January 1991 an art student in his late twenties was performing a magical ritual in a little rural house on the outskirts of Oslo. In the middle of the ritual, and quite contrary to the young magician’s intentions with it, his visions were wiped out and replaced by what...

Part One: Historical Perspectives

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Chapter 1: The Magus and the Seer

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pp. 11-28

For almost thirty years, a good one-third of a long and productive life, the Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer, alchemist, and natural philosopher John Dee (1527–1608/9) experimented with magic. The goal of these experiments was to make contact with the angels. From around 1580 until his death...

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Chapter 2: Whispers of Secret Manuscripts

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pp. 29-42

The reputation of the once sought-after, respected, even feared natural philosopher John Dee went into decline in the seventeenth century. This happened already during the last years of his life, seeing the death of his patron Queen Elizabeth and the ascension of James I to the throne, a regent much less favorable to magic, to say the least, having published his...

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Chapter 3: Victorian Occultism and the Invention of Modern Enochiana

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pp. 43-68

By the eighteenth century the original transactions of the angel sessions had found their way into archival oblivion in Oxford and London, and Casaubon’s edition had finally cemented Dee’s unfavorable reputation. As the age of Enlightenment dawned Casaubon’s theologically founded condemnation of magic was replaced with accusations of irrational superstition...

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Chapter 4: The Authenticity Problem and the Legitimacy of Magic

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pp. 69-82

Through the foregoing chapters we have seen how a Renaissance natural philosopher’s quest to read the corrupted text of the book of nature by appealing to higher powers has led, through a series of historical transmutations, to a field of occultist theory and practical magic. Modern Enochian magic was forged in the hermetic, Rosicrucian, and theurgic crucible of...

Part Two: Major Trends in Enochian Magic

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Chapter 5: The Angels and the Beast

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pp. 85-101

Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) is one of the most well-known figures in modern occultism. He has been the subject of sensational stories in newspapers and magazines since his own days, and at some sixty years after his death biographies can be counted in the dozens.1 Nevertheless, it is not until...

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Chapter 6: Angels of Satan

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pp. 103-123

The critical reader would perhaps find a reputedly angelic language embedded in self-styled Satanism to constitute a supreme incongruity. Nevertheless, when Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey; 1930–1997) published the...

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Chapter 7: The Purist Turn

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pp. 125-142

It is not entirely without justification to say that the advent of modern Satanism put an end to the Golden Dawn era. This does not mean that from thereafter Golden Dawn magic was never again practiced—indeed, in terms of expansion and publications a contrary development seems to...

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Chapter 8: Enochiana without Borders

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pp. 143-158

The core publications of the purist turn have greatly influenced the reception and conceptualization of Enochian magic in the last two decades. However, while the purist current has remained very much alive in the 1990s and the new millennium, there is a variety of interpretations on the market....

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pp. 159-162

Through the course of this book we have seen how Enochian magic became a center of controversy for post–Golden Dawn occultists. This is in part a result of the kind of religious innovation that was present in fin de siècle occultism: with the dawning of a more complete historical consciousness some...

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pp. 163-172

This appendix contains the most central text alleged to have been received from the Enochian angels by the Norwegian magician Runar Karlsen in 1991. The three chapters, which are given here both in Enochian and Karlsen’s own English translations, purport to introduce the names and functions of the nine...


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pp. 173-200


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pp. 201-214


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pp. 215-220

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438441924
E-ISBN-10: 1438441924
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438441917
Print-ISBN-10: 1438441916

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2012