Ceremonial magic (ritual magic, high magic or learned magic) encompasses a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magick. The works included are characterized by ceremony and a myriad of necessary accessories to aid the practitioner. It can be seen as an extension of ritual magic, and in most cases synonymous with it. Popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, it draws on such schools of philosophical and occult thought as Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian magic, Thelema, and the magic of various grimoires. Ceremonial magic is part of Hermeticism and Western esotericism.
The contemporary revival
Eliphas Lévi conceived the notion of writing a treatise on magic with his friend Bulwer-Lytton. This appeared in 1855 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual.
In 1861, he published a sequel, La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries). Further magical works by Lévi include Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862, and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l’Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled); this, however, was only published posthumously in 1898.
Lévi’s version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. That Spiritualism was popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1850s contributed to his success. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the initiate of some ancient or fictitious secret society. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later Aleister Crowley, and it was largely through this impact that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (or, more commonly, the Golden Dawn) was a magical order of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, practicing a form of theurgy and spiritual development. It was probably the single greatest influence on twentieth century Western occultism. Some aspects of magic and ritual that became core elements of many other traditions, including Wicca, Thelema and other forms of magical spirituality popular today, are partly drawn from the Golden Dawn tradition.
English author and occultist Aleister Crowley often introduced new terminology for spiritual and magical practices and theory. For example, he termed theurgy “high magic” and thaumaturgy “low magic”. In The Book of the Law and The Vision and the Voice, the Aramaic magical formula Abracadabra was changed to Abrahadabra, which he called the new formula of the Aeon of Horus. He also famously spelled magic in the archaic manner, as magick, to differentiate “the true science of the Magi from all its counterfeits.”
Aleister Crowley also provides us with some fundamental statements about the nature of magic (also from Book 4):
— “MAGIC is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”
— “Every intentional (willed) act is a Magical Act.”
— “Magic is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”
Enochian magick ( John Dee, Edward Kelley)
Enochian magic is a system of ceremonial magic based on the evocation and commanding of various spirits. It is based on the 16th-century writings of John Dee and Edward Kelley, who claimed that their information, including the revealed Enochian language, was delivered to them directly by various angels. Dee’s journals contained the Enochian script, and the tables of correspondences that accompany it. Dee and Kelley believed their visions gave them access to secrets contained within the Book of Enoch.
. Ceremonial Magic, Wikipedia. accessed Oct 2020. . Colquhoun, Ithell (1975) The Sword of Wisdom. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. . Phillips, Julia (1991) History of Wicca in England: 1939 – present day. Lecture at the Wiccan Conference in Canberra, 1991. . Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4. .Enochian Magic, Wikipedia. accessed Oct 2020.