"Samizdat: Publishing the Forbidden."

Unlocking the Liber visionum of John of Morigny.

“….In the Liber visionum John of Morigny explains that each person who wishes to use the prayers of his book must copy his own volume by his own hand, substituting his name for that of John, and then consecrate the copy.

Of course, John is aware that his name is fairly frequent, and therefore he stresses that even those persons who are also called John must reproduce the book with their own hands if they really want to use it.”

–Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008, 183.

Demonic Books.

“A Kraków codex of encyclopedic content and of necromantic fame, the Liber viginti artium (Book of the Twenty Arts) of Paul of Prague, was believed to bear the traces of the touch of the devil.

Its demonic power was so feared even in the eighteenth century that the book was hidden under a stone for some years so that it could not be read; other reports claim that it was chained to the wall in the library of Vilnius. From time to time, the book is believed to possess sinister powers as if malign demons might reside in it. Various descriptions have come to us reporting that when such books were burned, bystanders heard the voices of escaping demons.


However, we do not necessarily need to hear escaping demons to view magic codices with a certain interest (or suspicion). As the main vehicles of secret and forbidden knowledge, they are responsible for the dissemination of learned magic, and their destruction or survival greatly depends on the picture they construct. Sometimes their attempt at legitimating their magical content by creating a most holy image remains unsuccessful and leads to the formation of an opposite, diabolical impression. We will see this (at least partly) failed effort in the case of the Ars notoria and the Liber visionum, the latter of which was not only condemned but also burned in Paris.

Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008: pg. 48.

Ficino, Talismans, and the Fifth Element.

“For Ficino the universe was made up of mystical links, or correspondences, that continuously interacted. The seven planets influenced the sublunary world with their qualities through the mystical links. The fundamental point in Ficino’s magic was that the magician, with knowledge of these mystical links, could manipulate them, and thus cause results according to his will. […]

The use of talismans as a means to attract the influence of planets was viewed as a highly powerful aid, but also a very dangerous one, since the Church condemned its use. Ficino was careful in advising the use of talismans, but, as Yates pointed out, he did discuss talismans in his work De vita coelitus comparanda. […]

According to Walker, the magic of Ficino used the human spiritus as its medium through which it worked. The spirit was the link between body and soul, and the human functions of sense-perception, imagination, and motor activity were connected to the spiritus. The human spiritus was made up of the four elements, and it formed a corporeal vapor that flowed from the brain, where it had its center, through the nervous system. Furthermore, the human spirit was connected to the spiritus mundi, which mostly consisted of the fifth element—quinta essentia or ether.”

–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 55.

Marsilio Ficino and the New Platonic Academy of Florence of 1462.

“In the second half of the fifteenth century there gathered around the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) a group of learned men that eventually became known as the “New Platonic Academy” at Florence, supposedly founded in 1462.

It was in the intellectual milieu around Ficino and his followers that Western esotericism, as it is viewed today, emerged from the various sources of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Christian mysticism, Neoplatonism, ancient and medieval magic, gnosticism, and Jewish Kabbalah merged together with the hermetism of the Corpus Hermeticum.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 54.

The Lost Books of Dionysius The Aeropagite.

“The Corpus is today composed of Divine Names (Περὶ θείων ὀνομάτων), Mystical Theology (Περὶ μυστικῆς θεολογίας), Celestial Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς οὐρανίου ἱεραρχίας), Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἱεραρχίας), and ten epistles.

Seven other works, namely Theological Outlines (Θεολογικαὶ ὑποτυπώσεις), Symbolic Theology (Συμβολικὴ θεολογία), On Angelic Properties and Orders (Περὶ ἀγγελικῶν ἰδιοτήτων καὶ τάξεων), On the Just and Divine Judgement (Περὶ δικαίου καὶ θείου δικαστηρίου), On the Soul (Περὶ ψυχῆς), On Intelligible and Sensible Beings, and On the Divine Hymns, are mentioned repeatedly by pseudo-Dionysius in his surviving works, and are presumed either to be lost or to be fictional works mentioned by the Areopagite as a literary device to give the impression to his sixth century readers of engaging with the surviving fragments of a much larger first century corpus of writings.”

(NB: From the entry on Dionysius the Aeropagite, or rather, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Aeropagus was an open air theater in Athens where lawyers or speakers declaimed in public. It was, in fact, basically a court, where eminent personalities could be addressed and pleas for clemency evaluated. There was actually an area where murderers could seek sanctuary from punishment.)

“Perhaps the most important Neoplatonic philosopher who influenced early esotericism during the Middle Ages was Denys the Aeropagite with his theory of a hierarchy of angels and of the universe. The Aeropagite’s worldview continued to be important during the Renaissance, especially for the angelic (or demonic) magic of Pico and Agrippa.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 53.

Mystical Traditions and Secrecy.

“Significantly, it is in mystical traditions that secrecy is used most extensively.

Mystic traditions ranging from the Hindu and Buddhist guarded Tantric texts, the supposed secret teachings of Sakyamuni, the poetry of the Sufis, to the teachings of kabbalists and Christian mystics all have in common that their doctrines are restricted to initiates, and that their discourses are veiled in a symbolic language, which for uninitiated is often difficult to fully comprehend.

In the gnosticism of late antiquity the very notion of gnosis itself was regarded as a closely guarded secret.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pp. 45-6.

Eliphas Lévi on the Four Words of the Magus.

“The name was misspelled as Scrire. In occultistic lore, Scire is the first “power of the Sphinx” that the initiate needs to master.

The four powers are Scire, Velle, Audere, and Tacere, or To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silent.

Eliphas Lévi wrote: “To attain to Sanctum Regnum, in other words, the knowledge and power of the magi, there are four indispensable conditions—an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate.

TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE—such are the four words of the magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.”

–Lévi, Transcendental Magic (1896), 30. Quoted in:

–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 207.

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