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Tag: Benedek Lang

Augustine on Magic.

“In this model, magic appears in the context of the theory of signs as an act of communication with demonic powers (while Christian rituals are also acts of communication, but only with the divine sphere).

Thus, all superstitious practices, including divination and astrology, presuppose an implicit or explicit pact with demons. This is valid even in the case where the operator—deceived by the demons—is not aware of the pact, because this pact is secured by the magical language, signs, and rituals he has applied.

For a reader of Augustine, basically every instance of magic—however innocent it may seem—seems to be ultimately associated with idolatry and demonolatry, and becomes consequently harmful. Augustine was well aware of the common features and elements of the rituals of magic and those of religion (prayers, sacraments, and the cult of relics).

It is true—he wrote—that what magicians do is often similar to what saints do: the difference lies not in the visible realm but in what is secretly implied. While saints communicate with divine powers for the greater good, magicians seek their own, selfish ends.”

Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008: pg. 20.

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.

Spurious Attributions in Renaissance Alchemical Literature.

“The Processus sub forma missae and its author were not unknown to the alchemists of the early modern era. The text was printed in the famous anthology of alchemical literature, the Theatrum Chemicum (Chemical Theater), by Lazarus Zetzner in 1602.

This point needs to be emphasized because the confusion in the literature concerning both the person and the work of Melchior is so great that it is hard to differentiate between evidence and legends even with regard to such simple things as the bibliographical data of his published text.

Melchior’s portrait appears on the title page of the Symbola Aureae Mensae Duodecim Nationum (The Symbols of the Golden Table of the Twelve Nations) by Michael Maier (1568–1622), the alchemist of Emperor Rudolf II. In this international history of the royal art, Melchior is chosen to represent Hungary among the twelve most famous alchemists of the world, and thus he appears in the noble company of Hermes Trismegistos, Maria the Jewess, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and Raimundus Lullus.

He is mentioned and quoted by such authors and editors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg, Petrus Borelius, Libavius, and Athanasius Kircher. Even Isaac Newton was acquainted with Melchior’s name; relying on Maier’s description, he incorporated a number of Latin notes on a wide range of alchemical authors and myths in one of his many alchemical manuscripts, among these a few references to the alchemist of Transylvania.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 145.

Notes on Theurgy and the Mnemotechnic Metasciences of Raymond Lully.

Excerpts from footnotes in a book that I am reading:

8. “Briefly, theurgy is the art of bringing down celestial beings (angels) through the use of prayers on the one hand, and of ecstatic ascent toward union with God, on the other.

9. Among mnemotechnic metasciences, the Ars magna of Raimundus Lullus is no doubt the most famous.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 165.

On the Ars Notoria of Solomon and Apollonius.

“The Ars notoria, which is ascribed to Solomon and his “friend and successor” Apollonius, is a fairly widespread work of medieval ritual magic and theurgy. If we are not trained in the field of learned magic, we will easily mistake it at first glance for an innocent religious text, because the ritual of the Ars notoria is nothing other than an elaborated liturgical program composed of prayers and orations addressed to transcendent agents.

Only a closer look reveals that the text, by means of its large variety of prayers, invocations of divine and angelic names, and numerous rituals, actually promises intellectual perfection, learning, the acquisition of memory, and the ability to understand difficult books.

To use its procedures one must first practice a course of confession, fasting, chastity, penitence, and the cultivation of physical and psychological purity lasting several months.

However pious this text may seem, its emphasis on the efficacy of words and names of God to help the user attain power, and the purposes for which a user might turn to it— the acquisition of absolute knowledge, moral perfection, and unlimited memory— bring it close to other magical arts.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 165.

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