By Stephen Skinner & David Rankine
Golden Hoard Press (June 2005)
This review is long overdue! In fact, I posted a rough version of what follows to an occult forum some time ago, and I have finally returned to expand the informal post into a formal book review. I think it is important to let folks know about this book, as it covers one of the most obscure aspects of Western Esoteric history: the Enochian Magickal tradition that existed between the lives of Dr. John Dee and the founders of the Golden Dawn Tradition.
I suspect all scholars can agree there are marked differences between the Angelic magick recorded in Dee's journals and the Victorian "Enochian" system developed by Wescott, Mathers and their brothers. Scholars of Enochiana have long debated the merits of the Golden Dawn (and later Thelemic) additions to, and alterations of, Dee's material. Many consider these changes to be "mistakes"- due largely to the fact that, in the lifetimes of Mathers and Westcott, Dee's journals were hard to find, even harder to read and occult scholars at the time had only a fragmented understanding of Dee's work.
Meanwhile, defenders of the Golden Dawn recensions insist that Dee's system remained only rudimentary and skeletal until Wescott and company arrived to elaborate it. Only then did Enochian magick become a fully sophisticated occult system and the backbone of the modern Western Esoteric Tradition. It is the Golden Dawn's version of Enochiana- and not Dee's- that has influenced nearly every magickal system that has followed- from Thelema to Wicca and beyond.
It was not until I read Practical Angel Magic of Dr John Dee's Enochian Tables that I realized both sides of this debate were correct as far as they go, but they were also both dead wrong in certain respects! A major piece of the puzzle was missing in the debate - and this wonderful new book finally completes the picture!
If you have read other reviews of this book, you have likely heard that it presents a "long lost manuscript" of Dee's- revealing more than we see in his published journals. However, I feel this is misleading, and the book may disappoint you if that is what you hope to find. In fact, the authors provide a list of several possible authors for the manuscript in question, and they do make a case for including Dee in that list. Yet, the book in no way hinges upon this one minor mystery. The bulk of the book, and the heart of its true value to modern scholars, is the discussion of the manuscript itself, and how it served as a bridge between Dee and the Golden Dawn.
The manuscript is known only as Book H- and the full text is (thankfully!) included in Skinner and Rankine's book. Book H did not appear until many years after Dee's passing, and- as it turns out- is an ambitious elaboration upon Dee's own Book of Supplication. (The Book of Supplication is part of Dee's personal grimoire, catalogued as Sloane MS 3191 and published today in The Enochian Magick of Dr. John Dee. Hardly long-lost! It contains prayers intended to summon and gain the familiarity of the Angels of the four Watchtowers.)
At some unknown time between Dee's death and the founding of the Golden Dawn, someone took the Book of Supplication and greatly expanded it to ten times(!) its original size. The finished product is apparently an attempt to construct a complete stand-alone magickal system out of this singular aspect of (and completely out of context from) Dee's larger system. While the authors seem to favour the romantic idea that Dee penned this text and passed it on just before he died, I personally find someone like Elias Ashmole to be a more likely candidate. To get the full story on this debate, you'll have to read Skinner and Rankine's book!
Meanwhile, this expanded "Book of Supplication" was the most popular version of Dee's work available for quite some time. The greatest majority of Enochian magick practiced in the modern Western Esoteric Tradition has been influenced by it. Thus, the text really does represent a long-lost (or at least under-emphasized) piece of occult history- the Enochian tradition between Dee and the Golden Dawn!
Finally, the text came into the hands of the early members of the Golden Dawn- who were apparently the first to entitle it "Book H." It became the foundational Enochian document for the Order- both Inner and Outer Schools. The manner in which the Watchtowers and their Angelic Names are used in the Golden Dawn Initiation Rites, as well as the practical magick practiced within the RR et AC, are all based upon the system outlined in detail within Book H.
Now you can see why I found this book so exciting! Practical Angel Magic of Dr John Dee's Enochian Tables is a rarely-seen account of the Enochian magick that existed (and flourished!) in the relatively quiet years before the founding of the Golden Dawn. It illustrates the mystical culture that kept Dee's work alive- if in a modified form. And, perhaps most exciting, is the revelation that so-called "Golden Dawn Enochiana" is not entirely original to that Order. It is not just a compilation of half-understood bits of A True and Faithful Relation... thrown together by Westcott and Mathers. Instead, it has a history! It has a cultural foundation and evolution.
Thanks to Skinner and Rankine for providing this resource! I definitely recommend you get a copy of this book, if you have any interest in the evolution of the Western Esoteric Tradition.
Copyright©2006 C. "Aaron Jason" Leitch