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The Occult Mind: magic in theory and practice [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Lehrich

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Book Description

"Given the historical orientation of philosophy, is it unreasonable to suggest a wider cast of the net into the deep waters of magic? By encountering magical thought as theory, we come to a new understanding of a thought that looks back at us from a funhouse mirror."-from The Occult Mind

Divination, like many critical modes, involves reading signs, and magic, more generally, can be seen as a kind of criticism that takes the universe-seen and unseen, known and unknowable-as its text. In The Occult Mind, Christopher I. Lehrich explores the history of magic in Western thought, suggesting a bold new understanding of the claims made about the power of various belief systems.

In closely interlinked essays on such disparate topics as ley lines, the Tarot, the Corpus Hermeticum, writing and ritual in magical practice, and early attempts to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, Lehrich treats magic and its parts as an intellectual object that requires interpretive zeal on the part of readers/observers. Drawing illuminating parallels between the practice of magic and more recent interpretive systems-structuralism, deconstruction, semiotics-Lehrich deftly suggests that the specter of magic haunts all such attempts to grasp the character of knowledge.

Offering a radical new approach to the nature and value of occult thought, Lehrich's brilliantly conceived and executed book posits magic as a mode of theory that is intrinsically subversive of normative conceptions of reason and truth. In elucidating the deep parallels between occult thought and academic discourse, Lehrich demonstrates that sixteenth-century occult philosophy often touched on issues that have become central to philosophical discourse only in the past fifty years.

Product Description


There being no recognized academic discipline devoted to analyzing occult, magical, or esoteric traditions, Lehrich (religion and writing, Boston U.) draws insights from several established disciplines to make an extended argument concerning magic in early modern Europe. He limits himself mostly to works available in modern English editions. Annota


There being no recognized academic discipline devoted to analyzing occult, magical, or esoteric traditions, Lehrich (religion and writing, Boston U.) draws insights from several established disciplines to make an extended argument concerning magic in early modern Europe. He limits himself mostly to works available in modern English editions. Annota

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2425 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (17 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091UEIDU
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,133,062 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent treatise on the history and analysis of magic. 14 May 2007
By Harviainen Jussi T - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The official descriptions given for this brilliant book are somewhat misleading. Its greatest value is in that Dr. Lehrich presents an excellent look into the study of magic - not in the sense of "studying to do" but rather "studying to understand views on". This is not an occult tome, but a very serious look at how, and in what context, researchers have written on the works of people such as John Dee or Giordano Bruno.

In addition to this, the book is filled with parallels drawn between ways of magical thinking and modern concepts of semiotics, history of science, etc. Thus it becomes an essential look on both the "how" and "why" of studying the works of occult thinkers in a way that takes into account their original situations and world-views.

The Occult Mind is a very heavy read, filled with necessary jargon and highly complex concepts. Lehrich nevertheless uses such terminology and material consistently, and writes extremely well, keeping the book understandable also to readers who are not experts on the occult or the study of religion. It must be said, though, that a person familiar with at least the basics of Dee and Bruno, Yates and Eliade, will get a lot more out of it than a layman reader would.

Given that the book has been written by a person with a clear expertise on the subject, offers multiple perspectives at all times, and is very thorough, it would fit well as a university-level course book on the history of magic for fields such as the study of religion. At the same time, and for the same reasons, it will also be a highly valuable addition to the collection of many a practitioner of the occult.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an occult text for serious scholars 7 April 2008
By Oisin - Published on
I also agree that the title is misleading, only in that the simplicity of its tone does not match its contents. Although Lehrich acknowledges the subtitle is inspired by Crowley's famous work, that's where the similarity ends. Though I think Lehrich is a brilliant writer and thinker, I found this text fairly impenetrable. I've studied occultism as a practitioner and a scholar and have a decent amount of training and experience with writing in the fields of philosophy, structuralism and post-structuralism, and anthropology, and I felt I was only getting a small percentage of what Lehrich was trying to say.

Therefore, I think the audience for this book is limited to a highly elite group of those with extensive academic experience in the aforementioned fields. Lehrich heavily utilizes works by Derrida and Levi-Strauss, among others, and he takes on methodological debates about the work of Frances Yates, for instance. An important thing to keep in mind is that Lehrich's particular specialty is early modern magic, so he focuses on figures like Bruno, Dee, and Kircher.

The main thing with Lehrich's book is that it's a theory book about theory, specifically about the discourse surrounding occult theory. Often, he's more concerned with what people have written about occult figures and their practice than the practice itself. I think part of his project is to convince other academics to take seriously their attempts to write about occultism. But this is not for someone looking for a comprehensive occult history, or an analysis of practices.
12 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars mistitled book 26 Dec. 2007
By Joseph L. Kolb - Published on
this is interesting. i totally agree with the other reviewer who gave it 5 stars, and for the exact reasons, i give it 1 star. when a book has "in theory and practice" in it's title, it's implied that it is a "study to do" and not "study to understand". the book seems to be a dissertation paper. for it's certainly written in a dry, academic manner. lehrich does spend an inordinate amount of time with the literary criticism of frances yates and giordano bruno. oddly he also wrote a chapter on japanese theatre and music, which if you're not into, or don't understand, becomes very labored reading. i understand where he was going, but it could of been kept in the occult/magical realm to clarify his thoughts. The book is very dense and i feel does not clarify occult thought at all. if you want a "study to do" book, check out franz bardon's works. the occult renaissance has been written about a lot already, and in a much clearer way. check out arthur versluis' "philosophy of magic". i learned more in the first 20 pages than reading this whole book. buy this expensive book at your own choosing. it wasn't my cup of tea.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 5 Feb. 2010
By Marilyn Piety Foley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'll confess that I am not yet finished with this book. I have started it though and it is everything I expected and more. I look forward to finishing it.
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