01 July 2006
Israel Regardie And The Mystic Path
7 Tochtli 1 Ozomahtli 5 Cuauhtli
I've been reading The Tree Of Life by Israel Regardie over the past few months. Regardie was closely involved with the famous magician/philosopher Aleister Crowley. For a few years in the late 1920s and '30s, Regardie was invited by Crowley to be his secretary. Crowley insisted that Regardie not pursue magickal studies while in his employ, but his advice was ignored.
Financial problems forced Crowley to part company with Regardie in 1931. A year later, Regardie had published A Garden Of Pomegranates, a study of the Qabalah (and not the watered-down version favoured by celebrities at the moment).
The same year he published "The Tree Of Life", an overview of Theurgy and magickal practice--from yoga to various invocations to use during rituals. He dedicated both books to Crowley, but was put out when A.C. sent him a caustic letter in regard to "The Tree..." and the two were at odds for a long time after. Regardie was also pilloried by "secret magical societies" for publishing their techniques, but he felt that these processes would die out--unless introduced to new seekers.
The chapters are arranged by subject, but not as a "history" of magic, rather as an introduction to topics which are the mainstays of Theurgy--like Qabalah, magickal tools and astral projection. These seem excellent to me, as a novice wishing to have a basic knowledge of these subjects. Regardie does not talk you through any rituals, however, only pointing out certain aspects. The prose can be quite flowery at times, but recall that this was published in the early 30s--and that was the vernacular of the era. Two Golden Dawn (the magick society to which Crowley and Regardie both belonged) adepts, Chic and Sandra Cicero, have added annotations at the end of each chapter--which clarify terms and ideas that my be elusive to the reader. There are also illustrations throughout the book, many from old alchemical texts, which will seem confusing--until you match them up with Regardie's writing.
I recommend "The Tree Of Life" to those wanting to investigate magick, without the "occult" trappings--and without the "stage magic" aspect of illusionists. I would also recommend reading this before exploring Regardie's Complete Book Of The Golden Dawn, which does outline various rituals in full.