Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Spirit of Magic by Eamonn Loughran

The Hell Fire Club.  2011.  36 pages. Duodecimo (Twelvemo).  Black and white scans and photos.

Available in three editions:

Standard cloth edition: limited to 730 copies.
Quarter leather edition: limited to 36 copies.
Full leather edition: limited to 11 copies.

The Spirit of Magic: The History of Appolonius Tyanensis -- The History behind Eliphas Levi's Evocation of the Ancient Greek Magician Appolonius of Tyana published in his 'Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie' 1854 is Eamonn Loughran's second book.  His first was Secret Symbols of the Hell Fire Club.  His current book is an essay exploring the link between Western occultism and Greco-Roman magic and how it has influenced magicians, particularly Eliphas Levi.  The Chaldaean OraclesCorpus Hermeticum, and the 'Emerald Tablet of Hermes' have long been part of the foundation of Western Magic, as have the influential writings of Neoplatonic philosophers like Proclus and Iamblicus.  However, historians and occult researchers are discovering that we've inherited a lot more than just philosophy.  There is increasing evidence that Western magical systems and practices (particularly features of grimoire magic and necromancy) may have roots that reach beyond the Renaissance and back into antiquity.  Jake Stratton-Kent's monumental Geosophia is a prime example of an impressive body of research that makes a solid case for this connection.

In London on July 24th, 1854 Eliphas Levi attempted to make direct spirit contact with the ancient miracle-worker, Appolonius of Tyana.  Appolonius is said to have performed a similar operation in his day by attempting to summon the spirit of Achilles.  Levi's description of the event is included in the book.  He comes off as a person quite shaken by the experience.  One cannot help but notice the influence of the Spiritualist movement in Levi's words.  Spiritualism was nearing its peak in popularity at the time.  Levi describes a 'cold spot' when the spirit began to manifest.  His arm became numb where the shade touched him, and remained so for many days.  The entity claiming to be Appolonius seemed to drain Levi of his energy.  Levi states, "I experienced an intense weakness in all my limbs, and a swooning sensation came so quickly over me, that I made two steps to sit down, whereupon I fell into a profound lethargy..."  Levi claimed he was never the same after the visitation, feeling a "singular attraction towards death.." that he was never able to shake.  He later warned others from attempting similar spirit contact, as he considered it far too perilous.

The edition reviewed here is one of 11 full leather editions.  The book is bound in black leather with a deep pebble grain.  The deep grain is so pronounced that it almost feels like lizard hide.  The boards are very rigid and solid.  The most striking feature is the cover's unique a leather inlay.  The ubiquitous SATOR magic square is blocked in gold upon crimson leather.  The inset crimson leather is smooth and of a softer texture than the surrounding leather.  This adds to an interesting interplay of color and texture.  Hell Fire Club has used a similar technique previously with their Z3 book, a beautifully presented facsimile of an original Golden Dawn document.   The spine is blank, likely due to the intense leather grain and the slimness of the volume (only 36 pages).

The book opens to solid red endpapers.  With such a lavish outward presentation I was a little disappointed that the interior quality did not match the outer.  The pages are extremely thin, allowing images to show through in some cases.  Some images are a bit pixelated.  No page numbers are provided.  It concludes with a Bibliography.

Overall it is an attractive and interesting little book.  The monograph was part of a Hell Fire Club dinner presentation on the subject.  Loughran's brief study provides intelligent analysis of Western magic's link to antiquity and examines some of the tradition's earliest contributors.