History and background of the Arbatel
The Arbatel of Magick (Of the Magic of the Ancients) was published in 1575 in Basle Switzerland. The author is unknown. The Arbatel had a seminal influence on John Dee and his system of Enochian Magic. Dee would have read the Arbatel in Latin, but it was made available in England when a translation into English by Robert Turner was published in 1655. I use Joseph H Peterson’s excellent translation for my studies, which I will be posting here.
Before I get into my own views, this is a good time to clear up some misconceptions about the Arbatel. Firstly there are no rituals; there are no spells, there are no methods of invocation or evocation. There are no references to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life or the sephiroth. If that is the case how can it be a book on magic? The answer is easy; it is more than a book of magic! The Arbatel tells the aspirant how he can progress on his spiritual journey, how the spirits will contact him, and work with him, and how they will advise him on removing obstacles to the path, i.e. remove black magic and help others on the Path.
The goal and blessing is for the Olympic spirits to be beside the magician for every moment of the day and night. In this way we see the Olympic Spirits as Holy Guardian Angels, or allies.
Invoke or Evoke the Olympic Spirits?
Despite the lack of magical information, magicians like to ritually evoke and invoke the Olympic Spirits mentioned in the Arbatel using the Golden Dawn system of magic and Kabbalah, despite there being nothing Kabbalistic in the text. Not only that, but the Arbatel specifically states that evocation was already corrupt then. There is no reason to suppose that the situation is any better today. On one website, the magician describes ritually invoking the spirits after the spirits had already contacted them!
The Aphorisms give inspirational instructions and advice for how the Spirits will instruct and assist the magician.
In the next post I will discuss the structure of the magical system of the Arbatel.