The existence of this text had been known to students for a considerable period before it was made available in an English translation by the editor of the Key of Solomon. The amateurs of occult science in the more dubious of its practical branches became possessed of this pear of tradition in 1898, and I suppose that it is familiar enough in certain circles. I am sorry that it seems necessary to say a few words concerning it in the present place. Mr. Mathers prefixed an introduction which does honor to his especial form of talent–that is to say, it is eloquent as a caution respecting things which should be avoided by an expert in the expression of his views and the mode of writing exercises in English.
The text is preserved in the Arsenal Library at Paris and is a French manuscript belonging to the early part of the eighteenth century; it is also the sole copy which is known certainly to collectors, though there is a rumor of another in Holland. According to its own claim, the work belongs to the year 1458, at which period it was written by one Abraham, the son of Simon and the father of Lamech, for whose benefit it was more especially designed. The original is said to have been in Hebrew, and this statement on the part of the text is naturally accepted by the translator. It is perhaps rendered the more probable from his point of view by the lavish internal evidence that it is the work of a Christian hand, is full of Christian references and allusions to late Grimoires. The point is not worth debating, at least on its own merits, but the references (a.) to have “Jewish Sabbath,” (b.) to the custom of paternal benediction, (c.) to those who leave Christianity for Judaism, (d.) to the festival of Easter, and otherwise (e.) its allusions to the New Testament, (f.) its use of the Vulgate, and (g.) its hypothesis concerning Guardian Angels are unmistakable proof for those who know what is meant by textual evidence. To conclude on this part of the subject, the date of the work is the date of the known copy, or thereabouts; it was never written in Hebrew, or by one who was acquainted with Hebrew; and the claim that the author was a Jew has the same value as the translator’s brilliant speculation that the supposed Abraham was a descendant of that other Abraham the Jew, whose mysterious hieroglyphical tract on Alchemy came, as it is alleged, into the hands of Nicholas Flame], his putative contemporary.
Abramelin the Mage was an instructor of the magical Abraham, who reduced into writing the knowledge which he received from this source, prefixing thereto some account to his own life and occult adventures. There are several respect in which the text differs conspicuously from the common run of the Rituals. It derides, for example, all observations of times and seasons along the usual and accepted lines. Such formalities, it is said, have no power over spirits or virtue in supernatural things. It would follow not unreasonably from this, and is made plain in a special chapter, that the majority of magical books are false and vain. They are also otherwise evil, not only on account of their superstitious attention to celestial signs but from their use of unintelligible words in the processes of conjuration, and so forth. These words are inventions of the devil, or alternatively of wicked men. Stress is laid also on the fact that Rituals of this kind contain no invocations of God, which is demonstrably a libel on the literature.
It will be understood that the hypercritical Abraham is careful on his own part to call upon the Divine aid, but his conjurations are few and simple. He relies, however, on the help of those Guardian Angels which Christian tradition and doctrine attribute to each soul of man. On the other hand, he makes no use of words, figures or pentacles, which he proscribes as abominations invented by diabolical enchanters. He is, therefore, an exponent of Art Magic in the utmost simplification thereof, but that which he saves in ritual he extends in the dramatic elaboration of general mise en scene. Looking, however, at his claim, one is tempted to think for a moment that we are in the presence of new modes and even of new intentions in respect of “magical vanity.” This time surely, the work is on the side of God, and there is a certain encouragement in the mere title, which says that the content of the book is actually that Holy Magic which God gave unto Moses–to Aaron, David, Solomon–to the other saints, patriarchs and prophets; that it is also the true and the Divine Wisdom, a statement reiterated continually throughout the text itself. It is all for the glory of God, for His high honor, the good of the pious operator and that of the human race.
But when we come to the dealings with spirits, we find that they are Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan and Belial, for the superior princes, and Astaroth, Asmodeus, Beelzebub, et hoc genus omne, for the lesser powers. Furthermore, these demons may be summoned indifferently for operations of good or evil, while the objects are the usual objects, the time-long interests, the glorious dedications of White and Black Magic, as established by the concurrent testimony of all the Rituals. The recovery of stolen things, the acquisition of buried treasures, the stirring up of hatred and enmity, the casting of spells and the usual venereal experiments-such are the ends in view. There are even processes in Necromancy, which art is eschewed by all but most abominable forms of Black Magic.
As the text has been made available, it may be left at this point. No doubt the translator will continue to regard it as a work of great “importance” from the occult standpoint, and its existence in an English form as “a real benefit” to students. I leave it to him.