Review by J. S. Kupperman
Jean-Louis de Biasi’s Rediscover the Magick of the Gods and Goddesses is a book in the tradition of the Aurum Solis, a magical order purporting to date back to the 1800s, and a system which I have admired for some time. Regardless of what else the book may tell you, this should always be kept in mind, because this aspect of the book overrides everything else within it. Everything else; magic, theurgy, Neoplatonism, polytheism, late Antiquity, etc., are viewed through this lens. If you are looking for a book on an Aurum Solis approach to classical theurgy, this one can certainly do the job. If you are looking for a book on history, philosophy, and/or classical theurgy, this book misses the mark.
As a magical/theurgic primer, Rediscover the Magick goes a long way towards being well organized and useful as a learning tool. De Biasi breaks the book into logical parts, and describes how the book is designed to be approached, especially for beginners, but also realizes that not everyone will need to approach it in such a way. The book begins with a largely incomplete section on history. As it starts with Mesopotamia, some incompleteness is to be expected. That there are numerous inaccuracies, such as Iamblichus receiving “the full revelation of the ‘Chaldean Oracles,” which were fully written a couple of centuries earlier, is not. Iamblichus certainly commented on the Oracles, and wrote over 20 volumes of Chaldeanizing Platonism on them, but he did not receive them. Unless by this de Biasi means Iamblichus’ writings on the Oracles were themselves received. While this may be true, there is nothing in his surviving writings, or contemporary writings about him, that suggest this. In either case, it is impossible to know de Biasi’ sources, as none are cited and, at least in the galley copy I received to review, there is no bibliography. This is not to say everything in the history section is incorrect or inaccurate, but there is enough to not take this section as a scholarly treatise on the subject; it is far more popular than academic.
That this is so about the history section should not necessarily detract from the rest of the book. It is, after all, ultimately about Aurum Solis magical and theurgic practice, about which de Biasi is more than qualified to write. The second chapter focuses on the “two pillars of theurgic tradition.” Although religion or cult us is left out as a pillar, which was historically an integral part of theurgy, without being considered identical to it, the topic does receive two chapters. The two pillars chapter generally describes Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy and some of the ideology behind magical/theurgic practice, largely from an Aurum Solis perspective, but does not delve deeply into either. While the second pillar, practice, will be greatly explicated, philosophy is barely touched.
Of the two chapters on religion one examines the gods and goddess and another focuses on sacred texts. Both are approached from relatively modern, humanistic perspectives that would have been foreign, if not blasphemous, to the late Platonists. This does not necessarily invalidate the views presented here but does serve to further separate what de Biasi is talking about from the source material. They are views with which many modern ceremonial magicians might be comfortable, however.
The next section looks at cosmology. This is an important section, and tells us a great deal about the basis of the magical praxis presented in the book. It also looks at only a small portion of Hermetic and Neoplatonic cosmology, focusing on the sphere of the zodiac down to the physical realm. The noetic and noeric realms, the places of the Gods and the Forms themselves, are absent. They are mentioned in the next section, once, but with little detail and some imprecision. The following section following section, the microcosm to the previous’ one’s macrcosm, looks at the human and is firmly anchored in modern subtle anatomy thought, which comes out of Theosophy and its interpretations of Hinduism and Buddhism. Although de Biasi uses Greek terms to discuss the ideas, they do not represent what we know of, for instance, Neoplatonic thought on the subject, as found in Iamblichus or Proclus. However, de Biasi’s description of how the soul is generated and sewed into the orbit of its leader God or Goddess is relatively good, if overly brief given its importance. His description of why the soul descends the first time into matter, as a natural law of the Gods, may be very good, but it is again difficult to ascertain its origins due to the lack of citations. It does correspond with some of Iamblichus’ writings on the subject, such as found in his De Anima, but also leaves out elements, making it something of an oversimplification. Other elements are quite in line with Porphyry’s understanding of the subject, as given in his “Letter to Anebo.” De Biasi’s descriptions as to why souls continue to incarnate strongly represent late Platonic thought on the subject. Despite some weaknesses, this chapter may most closely reflect late Antique Platonic (including Hermetic) thought on the subject of the soul.
The final chapter focuses on ritual practice. The form of practice is pure Aurum Solis, and if you are already familiar with Aurum Solis ritual magic, there will be few surprises here. The ideology behind the practices, rituals of ascent through the planets, is at least relatively in line with classical thought. They are not identical, and that is not necessary, but they are rooted in similar ways of thinking about rising up through the spheres of the planets and beyond. This Ritual of the Seven Gates takes the practitioner through the seven planets as aligned to their position on the heptagram according to Aurum Solis tradition. In practice, this means going through the planets in what seems like an odd order: Saturn, Sol, Luna, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars. As such, from the perspective of late Platonism and Hermetism, this is not so much a ritual of ascent but of familiarization with the planets, which is not without merit. And, although there are elements of the ritual using the language of ascent, the introduction to the ritual describes it as a harmonization. In truth, this is an important theurgic process, because, as de Biasi explains in other parts of the book, it is through this harmonization via what the late Platonists would have called tokens or signatures, signs, and symbols, we become more like the Gods.
Jean-Louis de Biasi’s Rediscovering the Magick of the Gods and Goddesses is a great introduction to the Aurum Solis approach to modern theurgic practice. Ultimately, it is focuses on elements of the theurgy that can be traced back to late Antiquity. Its primary view, however, is that of the Aurum Solis, or at least de Biasi’ branch of that order. While there are parts that do accurately represent middle and late Platonic thought, as found in Hermetism and Neoplatonism, there are also a number of inaccuracies, often due more to the lack of depth of the information provided rather than simply being an incorrect reflection of that information. As a piece of modern magical literature, it is fairly good. As a piece of scholarship on Hermetism and Neoplatonism, it misses the mark.