Western esoteric thought has its origins in the Late Antique period in the Eastern Mediterranean. This was an area of the world where east met west. Consequently, that was also a place where the religions and intellectual traditions of Babylon, Persia, Egypt, the Levant and Greece managed to intermingle with one another. Through the mingling of these various traditions, schools of esoteric thought different from mainstream Christianity, for example Hermeticism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, were created. Texts expounding esoteric teaching were composed, and such schools of thoughts spread westwards to Europe. In the 14th and 15th centuries, an esoteric grimoire, called The Book of Abramelin the Mage was composed.
The Book of Abramelin the Mage was composed as an epistolary novel or autobiography of a person known as Abraham of Worms. The Book of Abramelin the Mage entails the passing of Abraham's magic and Kabbalistic knowledge to his son Lamech, and relates the story of how he obtained this knowledge.
Abraham starts his narration with the death of his father, who gave him ‘signs and instructions concerning the way in which it is necessary to acquire the Holy Qabalah’ shortly before his departure. Desiring to obtain this knowledge, Abraham stated he travelled to Mayence (Mainz) to study under a Rabbi, known as Moses, who had been well-versed in such research. Abraham studied under this Rabbi for four years. Abraham commented in retrospect that the teachings of his previous Rabbi were full of errors, since they contained the ‘arts and superstitions of infidel and idolatrous nations’. Feeling that he had been wasting his time with the Rabbi, Abraham travelled for the subsequent six years of his life, finally reaching Egypt.
It was in Egypt that Abraham met Abramelin the Mage, an Egyptian mage who had been residing in the desert outside an Egyptian city called Arachi or Araki. His house was reported to be located on top of a mountain that was surrounded by trees. Abramelin is called a ‘venerable aged man’, that had been courteous and kind. During Abraham's remain with Abramelin, the mage talked of nothing other than the “Fear of God”, urged Abraham to lead a “well-regulated life”, cautioned about “certain errors which man commits through human frailty”, and made Abraham understand he detested “the acquisition of riches and goods ...through so severe usury exacted from, and harm wrought to, our neighbor”.
Abramelin is believed to have taught Abraham his Kabbalistic magic. Before that, nevertheless, Abraham was required to guarantee to change his way of life, give up his false dogmas, and reside in the Way and Law of the Lord. Having acquired this guarantee from Abraham, Abramelin subsequently gave him two manuscripts to replicate. Abramelin additionally asked Abraham for ten golden florins, so he could distribute them to 72 poor men in town. Leaving Abraham to replicate both manuscripts, Abramelin left to distribute the cash, returning only 15 days afterwards. The following morning, it is written that Abramelin instructed Abraham to create a ‘confession of his life onto the lord’, and also to promise to ‘serve and fear the lord’, and to ‘live and die in his most holy law’.
It is through the two manuscripts that Abramelin handed his Kabbalistic knowledge to Abraham, and forms a huge part of The Book of Abramelin the Mage. One of the highlights of the grimoire is an elaborate ritual called the ‘Abramelin Operation’. The appropriate performance of the ritual is believed to allow a mage to acquire the ‘knowledge and conversation’ of his/her ‘guardian angel’. Furthermore, the ritual is believed to also enable the mage to blind demons. Another part of this grimoire is about ‘magic word squares’, where every square could contain names or words relating to the magical goal of the square.
The legacy of this writing is far reaching. Due to the English translation of The Book of Abramelin the Mage by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, this system of Kabbalistic magic became very popular throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Its popularity could be observed in its usage in occult organizations for example Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's mystical system of Thelema.
Lewis, A. A., 2014. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.
Mastin, L., 2009. Famous Witches - Abramelin the Mage (15th Century).
www.sacred-texts.com, 2014. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.
Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/grim/abr/
www.themystica.com, 2014. Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Available at: http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/s/sacred_magic_of_abramelin_the_mage.html