Three Books of Occult Philosophy/To Iohn Tritemius

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Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, translated by John French
To R.P.D. Iohn Tritemius, an abbot of Saint James in the suburbs of Herbipolis, Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheym sendeth greeting
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To R. P. D. Iohn Tritemius, an Abbot of Saint James in the Suburbs of Herbipolis, Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheym sendeth greeting.


WHen I was of late (most reverend Father) for a while conversant with you in your Monastery of Herbipolis, we conferred together of divers things concerning Chymistry, Magick, and Cabalie, and of other things, which as yet lye hid in secret Sciences, and Arts; and then there was one great question amongst the rest, why Magick, whereas it was accounted by all ancient Philosophers the chiefest Science, & by the ancient wise men, & Priests was always had in great veneration, came at last after the beginning of the Catholike Church to be alwaies odious to, and suspected by the holy Fathers, and then exploded by Divines, and condemned by sacred Canons, and moreover by all laws, and ordinances forbidden. Now the cause, as I conceive is no other then this, viz. because by a certain fatall depravation of times, and men, many false Philosophers crep in, and these under the name of Magicians, heaping together through various sorts of errors and factions of false Religions, many cursed superstitions and dangerous Rites, and many wicked Sacriledges, out of Orthodox Religion, even to the perfection of nature, and destruction of men, and injury of God, set forth very many wicked, and unlawfull books, such as we see carryed about in these dayes, to which they have by stealth prefixed the most honest name, and title of Magick. They therefore by this sacred title of Magick, hoped to gain credit to their cursed and detestable fooleries. Hence it is that this name of Magick, formerly honorable, is now in these dayes become most odious to good and honest men, and accounted a Capital crime, if any one dare profess himself to be a Magician, either in Doctrine or works, unless haply some certain old doting woman, dwelling in the Country, would be believed to be skilful, and have a Divine power, that (as saith Apuleius she can throw down the Heaven, lift up the earth, harden fountains, wash away mountains, raise up Ghosts, cast down the Gods, extinguish the Stars, illumnate hel, or as Virgil sings,

  She'l promise by her charms to cast great cares,
  Or ease the minds of men, and make the Stars
  For to go back, and rivers to stand still,
  And raise the nightly ghosts even at her will,
  To make the earth to groan, and trees to fall
  From the mountains —

Hence those things, which Lucan relates of Thessala that Magicianess, and Homer of the omnipotency of Circe, whereof many I confess are as well of a fallacious opinion, as superstitious diligence, & pernicious labor, as when they cannot come under a wicked Art, yet they presume they may be able to cloak themselves under that venerable title of Magick. Since then these things are so, I wondered much, and was not less angry, that as yet there hath been no man, who did challenge this sublime and sacred discipline with the crime of impiety, or had delivered it purely and sincerely to us, since I have seen of our modern writers Roger Bacon, Robert an English man, Peter Apponus, Albertus the Teutonich, Arnoldas de villa Nova, Anselme the Parmensian, Picatrix the Spaniard, Cicclus Asculus of Florence, and many others, but writers of an obscure name, when they promised to treat of Magick, to do nothing but irrationall toies, and superstitions unworthy of honest men. Hence my spirit was moved, and by reason partly of admiration, and partly of indignation, I was willing to play the Philosopher, supposing that I should do no discommendable work, who have been always from my youth a curious, and undaunted searcher for wonderfull effects, and operations full of mysteries; if I should recover that ancient Magick the discipline of all wise men from the errors of impiety, purifie and adorn it with its proper lustre, and vindicate it from the injuries of calumniators; which thing, though I long deliberated of it in my mind, yet never durst as yet undertake, but after some conference betwixt us of these things at Herbipolis, your transcending knowledge, and learning, and your ardent adhortation put courage, and boldness into me. There selecting the opinions of Philosophers of known credit, and purging the introduction of the wicked (who dissemblingly, with a counterfeited knowledge did teach, that traditions of Magicians must be learned from very reprobate books of darkness, as from institutions of wonderfull operations) and removing all darkness, have at last composed three compendious books of Magick, and titled them Of Occult Philosophy, being a title less offensive, which books I submit (you excelling in the knowledge of these things) to your correction and censure, that if I have wrote any thing which may tend either to the contumely of nature, offending God, or injury of Religion, you may condemn the error; but if the scandal of impiety be dissolved and purged, you may defend the tradition of truth; and that you would do so with these books, and Magick it self, that nothing may be concealed which may be profitable, and nothing approved of which cannot but do hurt, by which means these three books having passed your examination with approbation, may at length be thought worthy to come forth with good success in publike, and may not be afraid to come under the censure of posterity.
Farewell, and pardon these my bold undertakings.