Sunday, July 6, 2014

READERS' POLL: What is the most important esoteric/magic book of the 20th century?

Image credit: Idea Venue

Dear readers,

Now that we are a decade or so removed from the 20th century, I began to wonder, what is the most important esoteric/magic book of the 20th century? For example: What book has had the most lasting impact? What book has been the most influential? What book has preserved an entire tradition? What book has the greatest potential? Perhaps more importantly, What book has changed the world? I thought I would let my readers decide.

How one defines "important" is up to the reader. As one can see below, the choices span a wide range of traditions. They also cover the entire century, from works written at the dawn of the 20th century, to books written at the century's close. One may also notice that the authors range from practicing magicians to folklorists. For the purpose of this poll I have included individual books and book series, as many series constitute a large single system of practices. Additionally, some books have been published as multiple volumes and later as single volumes. In other cases single books contain multiple books, as Crowley's Book Four also contains Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law).

I have also included the choice of "Other", as there are assuredly many very important books not included in this list. Those choices can be written in the comments section below this post and will be included in the poll. You can find the poll in the column to the right. The poll will run for roughly 2 months, at the end of which a winner will be decided.

The choices are:
  • Magick: Liber ABA (Book Four) -- Aleister Crowley
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages -- Manly P. Hall
  • Liber Null & Psychonaut -- Peter Carroll
  • The Book of Pleasure -- Austin Osman Spare
  • Drawing Down the Moon -- Margot Adler
  • The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic -- Israel Regardie
  • The Typhonian Trilogies -- Kenneth Grant
  • The Kybalion -- The Three Initiates (William Walker Atkinson)
  • Azoetia -- Andrew Chumbley
  • Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork by H. M. Hyatt
  • Other?

*** Edit  10/4/2014

The results of the poll have been finalized. 

Over 160 readers voted on this (very unscientific) poll. It was very close. Andrew Chumbley's Azoetia received 20% of the votes. However, Crowley's Magick: Liber ABA (Book Four) received 21%, making it the narrow winner.

 So, What is the most important esoteric book (or series) of the 20th Century? 

According to my readers it is Crowley's Magick: Liber ABA (Book Four).

Congrats to The Beast 666 and congrats to the late Mr. Chumbley for a very close second.


  1. The Typhonian Trilogies? All NINE of 'em? That's hardly fair to some of the single-volume entries... Let's have Crowley's Equinox Vol. I, and Vol. III...

  2. Great comment. I had thought about The Equinox series. However, having multiple contributors puts it in a slightly different category and is perhaps not fair to books of single authorship. However, a book is a book... Perhaps we could even consider Gems From the Equinox, as a distillation of the series to narrow things down a bit. Good choice.

  3. I would add (as a footnote):

    Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung
    The Golem by Gustav Meyrink
    Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy by Alejandro Jodorowsky

    I'm very aware that these are absolutely no grimoires or complete systems. But I think more people have read these than the "real" magic books and they certainly raised awareness of things esoteric.

    1. Good choices all. You reminded me of another good one that should be considered, Jung's Red Book.

  4. A good friend of mine had an exceptional recommendation: Donald Michael Craig's book Modern Magick. I would add this to the poll, but once started it cannot be edited.

  5. The Typhonian Trilogies -- Kenneth Grant

  6. I am also going to go with the Typhonian Trilogies. Of the choices there is no other that covers such a wide span of 20th century occult thought and works.

  7. Only one book on the list by a female writer? -could just be the time frame chosen I suppose. Here are some representations for more female occultists.

    I'd have to say magical novels have been highly important to me, so I'm going to add these (while also voting in the poll):

    The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune
    The Winged Pharaoh by Joan Grant

    Maat Magick by Nema
    The Spiral Dance by Starhawk

    1. The lack of women had occurred to me too. Of course Blavatsky was pre-1900. Most of the 20th century was definitely a man's world (perhaps to its detriment). Dion Fortune was certainly an influential author. Her works, The Mystical Qabalah, and as you mentioned, The Sea Priestess, certainly made an impact, but I'm not convinced either are the most important works of the 20th century. Even so, your votes are in. Now that we've moved much closer to gender equality, maybe it will be a woman's work that dominates the 21st century.

  8. How about the 1986 publication of "The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Including the Demotic Texts" by Betz?

    1. Translations... I like it. A few important contemporary works, like Jake Stratton Kent's Encyclopedia Goetica may not have been possible without Betz's translation.

  9. Definitely "Witchcraft Today" by Gerald Gardner, to which we should tack on his later book "The Meaning of Witchcraft." They may not be entirely historically accurate, but their impact on modern occultism cannot be overlooked.

  10. One more to add, fictitious or no... The Necronomicon -- technically it was invented in 1924 (and published in the 70s -- take your pick which version) and has had a tremendous impact on culture and the occult.

  11. Hi Boris,

    Considering Michael Crafts suggestion of the translation of Greek Magical Papyri, I thought I would add the discovery of the Nag Hammadi gnostic texts and their translations. They have certainly given a boon to the gnostic impetus within the Western Tradition.

    Thanks for putting this fun poll together.

  12. Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson

  13. Margaret Murray's The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921), although little read today, surely claims a place as one of the most influential books on magic as it provided the conceptual bridge between James Frazer and Gerald Gardner

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