The Art of Hermes
Edited by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabitha Cicero
Llewellyn Publications, 1995

The Golden Dawn Journal series presents several books, each dealing with one topic in the magical realm. Book III, as with the other books in the series, is a compilation of articles written by many different authors on the topic at hand. While many such books are complete time wasters, this series seems well done and Book III is definitely worth the read by anyone interested in the hows and whys of magic.

The Ciceros lead off this volume with a rather lengthy treatise on the history of magic, paying particular attention to kabbalistic and hermetic magic. Kaballah (or the more ancient spelling qabalah) is reckoned to be part of the enumeration of hermetic art, which would indeed explain the similarities in the methods of exploration and the models and images used.

I found the Ciceros' article impossible to read completely through in one sitting as the concentration required to keep all the facts in order, with their proper relationship chains, was simply more than I am used to these days. The images provoked by the article are both complex and numerous, so I found myself putting the book down for a day to let them settle, then resuming a few pages before to pick up the threads again. Some of the Ciceros' statements and original thoughts will no doubt go against the grain of many students of the magical arts. As always though, it's good to have your cage rattled periodically to loosen any stray rats that may have taken residence.

The reader finds out that Hermes, purportedly the father of the hermetic arts, is by tradition the designer of the Great Pyramid and several branches of magical working. This mystical figure records some of his encyclopedic knowledge and seems to vanish into time, with people arguing long and hard about whether he really existed. Many will have heard of the Emerald Tablet which Hermes is said to have written. If you have not read the thirteen stanzas which comprise the Tablet here's your chance—an article by Lon Milo DuQuette offers both a translation of the text and a lucid discussion. The Emerald Tablet is traditionally the source of the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel and offers a very sparse description of each human's relationship to their HGA. Enough on that, read the article yourself to find out more!

The many authors of the articles come with impressive credentials indeed. None less than Donald Tyson, John Michael Greer and Gareth Knight are among those contributing to this collection. Gareth Knight's piece seems typically his work, while somehow continuing to offer ever more wisdom and rather interesting comments. Other articles offer everything from rituals and meditations to pathworkings and avenues for meditative exploration. Every article gives the sense that the person who wrote it is indeed living their craft, and well too. There are many many gems in these pages.

The impression one gets of the hermetic arts is of a branch that places great emphasis on book learning and knowledge gathering. This is not far from the truth; the trap with the hermetic arts is that it is so fun to read about and expound on, one may forget that the purpose of magic is in the doing! The hermetic arts simply seem to be more properly recorded and discussed properly than most branches of magic. I have to admit I find it refreshing to read properly constructed sentences and paragraphs, even if the material is difficult, compared to the poor verbiage that comprises many magical books. Well-written difficult material can be reread and studied with advantage, while poor writing is difficult to tolerate and induces sloppiness in the student.

I came away liking this book far more than I thought after the first encounter. While you will probably read it in fits and spurts, it is a worthy addition to the library with one small caveat: For a book of such timeless work I would have hoped the publishers would have printed it on decent paper. Only five years old and the review copy already had yellowing pages. They will yellow a lot more now that I can't seem to keep my fingers off it.

Reviewed by Mike Hammer

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