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Agrippa's 'Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy'
taught by Dr. Alexander Cummins
Three Part Section
Three 1.5 hour Wednesday Sessions
Dates: Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 (Part 1)
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 (Part 2)
Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 (Part 3)
Time: 9:00 to 10:30 pm, EDT
Cost: $150 - payment due at time of registration
Platform: WebEx Limit: 21 students
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The title page of the 1655 Turner English translation of
Agrippa's 'Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy'
The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy is, in fact, several treatises. Attributed to the authorship of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, it was presented as the addendum of "practical magic" to accompany the "theoretical" side of his encyclopedic Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Such attribution has been disputed since the demonologist Johannes Weyer, one of Agrippa's students, vigorously denied his former master would write something that so explicitly taught black magic and became thus so useful for magical practitioners. Historians continue to debate which of the six main texts of the Fourth Book may have indeed been written by Agrippa.
What is certainly true is that, in the years after his death, Agrippa began to develop a sinister reputation; shifting from famed occult philosopher to infamous black magician. Rumours circulated from the mid-sixteenth century of a book by Agrippa "teaching nigromancy". In France and elsewhere, any book thought to contain potent devilish material began to be referred to as "an Agrippa", and we have records of many cunning-folk and other folk magical practitioners being accused of owning and using such dangerous tomes. Having circulated in furtively-copied manuscript form for a century, it was finally "English'd" and set to print by the botanist and alchemist Robert Turner, whose other publications included Paracelsian treatises on amulets, metallurgy, and medicine.
Certainly the Fourth Book contains a great variety of explicit early modern material on the conjuration of spirits; offering instructions, practical considerations, and explanations for working with holy angels, planetary spirits and unclean devils. It even has a "spotter's guide" to the forms these spirits might take. It presents operations of necromancy, rituals and regulations for incubating oracular dreaming, and detailed instructions concerning how to make and use a Liber Spirituum - a personal grimoire which acts as a repository of daemonic pacts and indeed a tool of office for exorcising and commanding spirits.
Most particularly, the Fourth Book concentrates on astrological magic, offering two complete systems of summoning and directing aerial spirits of the planets: the incredibly popular Heptameron, offering means of communing with the seven planetary archangels and the spirits that obey them; and the Arbatel, a handbook combining axioms concerning magical conduct and cosmology with instructions for working the so-called "Olympic" planetary spirits. Combined with its two short instructional texts on geomantic divination, it is clear why this book was so influential, infamous, and indispensable to early modern magical practitioners; that is, by both "low" folk magicians and cunning-folk as well as "high" ceremonially-minded magi.
In this course, students will be led through this early modern "one-stop-shop" of a compilation-guide of useful magical texts. We will delve into the historical contexts of the component parts, examine the approaches to spirits and working them, and - crucially - assess how such material is still thoroughly relevant and helpful for modern magical practitioners.
Wolf & Goat's Sourcebook Series is an on-going effort to examine key texts of magic and encourage dialog around such texts through fluency in their contents and contexts. Discoverie was the first offering in this series and the Fourth Book is the second.
The course is taught by Dr. Alexander Cummins, who by day is a professional diviner, consultant sorcerer, and mild-mannered historian of early modern magic (seriously, he has a doctorate in the history of English magic) and by night finds himself conjuring shades, demons and the occasional angel.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.