The Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the single most important text in the history of Western occultism. Occultists and magicians have been drawing upon its vast storehouse of magical lore for five centuries, although they seldom if ever credit their source. For example, Francis Barrett's Magus is a wonderful book only because it is made up of a direct plagiarism of part of the Occult Philosophy, with some additional material attributed to Agrippa (the apocryphal Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy) thrown in at the end. The Golden Dawn systems of the Kabbalah, geomancy, elements, and seals and squares of the planets are all taken in large measure from Agrippa. Though countless writers have borrowed from the text, the Occult Philosophy has never been reprinted in its entirety, except in limited facsimile editions, since 1651.
The reason the book has not been made into a new edition is simple—it required a herculean effort to correct the hundreds of errors, most of which were reproduced in both the English edition of 1651 and the Latin edition in the Opera of around 1600. These errors could only be corrected by understanding the material completely: not only what was present in the text, but what should be, and should not be, present.
For the first time in 500 years (first Latin edition. Antwerp, 1531), the seals, sigils, and magic squares of the planets, which are universally used in modern magic, are correctly given, and their structure and construction fully explained. For the first time the complex Hebrew tables of the practical Kabbalah are accurately drawn. For the first time the geomantic figures are corrected and truly represented.
Agrippa drew upon the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Arabic and Jewish writers who had gone before him. The Occult Philosophy is the most complete repository of Pagan and Neoplatonic magic ever compiled. The countless references to magic in, and exhaustive quotations from, classical literature lead the careful reader through the ancient world of the occult and provide the basis for what amounts to a doctoral degree in classical occultism. This book is the source, and represents the crossroads between the ancient and modern worlds of magic.
In addition to the value of Agrippa's text, the copious notes make difficult references understandable, give the origin of quotations, and expand upon many of them, so that Agrippa's work is not only available but accessible as well. All the herbs, stones, beasts, monsters, gods, spirits, places, stars, symbols, ancient writers, and occult practices mentioned by Agrippa are set forth in the notes using the same sources that were available to Agrippa himself to illuminate them. In this way the reader is given valuable insights into the thought processes of Agrippa.
An extensive set of appendices on such subjects as the elements, the magic squares, the practical Kabbalah, geomancy, the humors, and the Soul of the World provide background on the more important matters treated in the text. The Biographical Dictionary gives a short biography of each of the hundreds of writers and historical figures referred to by Agrippa, and the Geographical Dictionary does the same for the rivers, nations, cities, mountains, and other places, many of which no longer exist or now carry different names. The General Index will prove invaluable to all serious readers, as it allows immediate reference to every topic touched upon in the text, notes and appendices.
All occultists and magicians need this book, because the corrections
contained in its pages render obsolete many of their magical names and
sigils. Without it they cannot know if they have accurately drawn a
square, or correctly spelled the name of a spirit. Likewise, it is a
necessary reference tool for all scholarly students of the Renaissance,
Neoplatonism, and Western Kabbalah, the history of ideas and sciences,
and the occult tradition.
The Three Books of Occult Philosophy
Henry Cornelius Agrippa,
Edited and Annotated by Donald Tyson
St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993