Friday, November 30, 2012

The Complete Magician's Tables (Stephen Skinner)

Stephen Skinner Outdoes Aleister Crowley's Liber 777.

Stephen Skinner's book, "The Complete Magician's Tables", is essentially an expansion of Aleister Crowley's "Liber 777." Skinner is not the first person to expand Liber 777, but this is the most extensive expansion of that work I have seen. Liber 777 was based on a Golden Dawn document, "Book of Correspondences"; in modern times, students of the Golden Dawn tend to consult Crowley's work (which was reprinted in 1973 along with "Sepher Sephiroth" as "The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley"), rather than the original document assembled by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and Dr. William Wynn Westcott for the Esoteric Order Golden Dawn in the Outer and its Rosicrucian Second Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (Ruby Rose and Golden Cross). Skinner quotes Gerald Yorke, who stated about Liber 777:

"Ninety per cent of the Hebrew, the four colour scales, and the order and attribution of the Tarot trumps are as taught in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn with[in] its inner circle."

As Skinner notes, "Crowley's work was basically a light edit of the original..." Skinner's work is not a light edit. He expands the 194 columns (some of which were nothing more than place markers), keeping the essential information, into 801 columns. Much of the additional material is drawn from old grimoires and other difficult to read works. Skinner reorganizes the material that he copies from Crowley; there is actually a pattern to how the Tables are laid out, unlike Crowley's work which was based on how the information tended to be issued in Golden Dawn (it tended to be handed out piecemeal, rather than as a whole document, which is one of the reasons that students tend to consult Crowley rather than Mathers).

While The Complete Magician's Tables is organized better than Liber 777, there is one drawback that a student of Golden Dawn needs to be aware of when consulting Skinner's work. Stephen Skinner, along with Francis King, in "Techniques of High Magic", decided that the Golden Dawn attribution of the Wand to Fire and the Dagger to Air was wrong. Not only did he continue with this assumption in this current work, he changes several other "obvious blinds."

Several times while going though this book, I found myself wondering if Skinner understood Golden Dawn system of magic and initiation, and knew anything about its history. I presume that he has access to the same published sources that I do, and probably access to more of the unpublished material than I do, so I am not sure how he draws some of the conclusions that he does. For instance, he says that Mathers made changes to the planets associated with the seven double Hebrew letters (those letters that have both a hard and soft pronunciation that traditionally are associated with the seven classical planets); yet if he knew the history of the tradition, he would know that these changes were present in the Cipher Manuscript and that it is unlikely to be the direct work of Mathers.

Plus, he is willing to believe that the leaders of Golden Dawn would purposely "blind" (change the correspondences of the symbols) documents that were meant only for the eyes of members of the Order. I find it unlikely that Golden Dawn would blind its own set of correspondences in papers meant solely for its own members. For instance, the changes of the letters associated with the paths of the Tree of Life is present in the Cipher Manuscript (the Tree of Life that he shows from the Cipher Manuscript is actually for the Philosophus [4=7] ritual, the Perfected Tree, and is not the Tree of Life that the member uses in their daily magical work) he considers to be a mistake. From personal experience, I know that the changes can only be understood properly if one accounts for the fact that this non-orthodox Kabbalah arrangement is actually the plan for one of the layers of the initiation rituals, and is meant to help keep the initiate energetically balanced during the initiationary cycle.

But his lack of understanding about why Golden Dawn uses the set of correspondences it does is really the only problem I have with this sourcebook (sourcework is the term he uses). This is truly an impressive expansion of Liber 777 and the original Book of Correspondences that it was based on. The Tables are organized in a reasonable manner; it is easy to find the proper row thanks to his ZEP system (Zodiac, Element, Planet) which is easier to use than the path numbers that the original works used. Skinner brings in a score of subjects that I have never studied.

This book promises to be used as much use as Liber 777 from students of the magical arts, perhaps more due to the additional information it contains. And if the practitioner of the craft remembers that all systems of correspondences are the opinion of their creator, they will have no problem using this book in their spiritual work.

Stephen Skinner. "The Complete Magician's Tables" (Second Edition). Llewellyn (2006).

[This review originally appeared on Associated Content (Yahoo Voices) on 7/29/2008. The copy used was brought and paid for by myself.]

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