© Frater Adservio 2017
Where did our ceremonial magick come from, anyways? This is a question that many students ask themselves, and it is a very important question. It is also sometimes difficult to answer. Different facets of ceremonial magick date to all parts of human history. It is likely that man has been performing rituals of various kinds since very near his beginning. Astrology dates to some of the earliest chapters of human civilization, to Mesopotamia and Babylon. Every age has had its contribution to that which we today call “ceremonial magick.”
However, there is one time period that was unmistakably vital to our modern field of study. This is the period of time stretching from about 1850 to 1900; often called the 19th Century Occult Revival. In this short span of time, the perennial wisdom of the ages was distilled and intermixed in ways not rivalled since Hellenic Egypt, giving birth to the amorphous tradition of “ceremonial magick.” This period and its influences are felt strongly on magick being practiced even today. In fact, practically all of what we might call ceremonial magick was shaped, or at least influenced, by this critical time frame.
There were many factors at play that made this span of years so influential. Here is a partial list:
• Social Flux: The second industrial revolution was underway at the time. Historical modes of life were changing. Darwin’s On the Evolution of Species challenged long-standing religious dogma. Political tensions around the world mounted, starting the low simmer that would eventually boil over into WW1.
• Masonic influence: Circa 1843, Masons in England started to explore and experiment with new and more esoteric rites and rituals, following the death of the Duke of Sussex, the staunchly anti-esoteric Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England.
• Spiritualism: The Spiritualist craze of 1848 and onwards influenced criticisms from those who espoused more traditional means of spirit communication, via grimoires and ritual magick. Many influential authors such as Eliphas Levi and Paschal Beverly Randolph were at least partially inspired by the desire to promote “real magick.” These works would heavily influence the individuals who would later usher in the revival in full.
This occult revival manifested in a sudden boom of interest in occult subjects among the educated, wealthy, and to-do of the day. It became rather in vogue to belong to one or more mystical orders. These orders brought members together to study and practice magick in various ways and with varying degrees of success. It was from the teachings and practices of these orders that much of what we use today has come to us. Some examples of orders founded during this time are:
• The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – Founded 1887
• The Ordo Aurum Solis – founded 1897
• Fraternity of the Inner Light – Founded 1924
• Ordo Templi Orientis – Founded circa 1900
These are all well-known organizations that continue to operate in some form to this day. Many of their teachings have long since been made public knowledge. The information taught and practices devised by these groups have become a large part of what modern students have inherited from the past.
Israel Regardie, for example, published all information he had relating to the Golden Dawn in (I believe) 1942. His publication was a comprehensive 800-page tome outlining a complete system of ceremonial magick titled The Golden Dawn: A Complete Course in Practical Ceremonial Magic : the Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The material of the Aurum Solis is widely available in text, under such titles as The Foundations of High Magick and Mysteria Magica.
Once published, the widespread availability of this information ushered in a second occult revival spanning roughly 1950-1965. During this time, influential individuals like L Ron Hubbard, Austin O Spare, Jack Parsons, and Colin Wilson all had their days. Occultism gradually came out from under the veil in a United States gripped by counter-culturalism. Today, all of this knowledge and more is but a Google Search away; perhaps we are on the cusp of another revival?