Link to this Article: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/91
The Tree of Life: A Magical Classic Reborn for the 21st Century
This article was written by Llewellyn
posted under Golden Dawn
At a time when magic was regarded by most as suspect at best and dangerously evil at worst, Israel Regardie saw magic as a precise scientific discipline as well as a highly spiritual way of life. At the age of twenty-four, he took on the enormous task of making it accessible to a wide audience of eager spiritual seekers. Regardie wished to point out the fundamental principles common to all magic, regardless of any specific tradition or spiritual path.
The result was The Tree of Life, which presents a massive amount of diverse material in a remarkably unified whole. From the day it was first published, this book has remained in high demand for its skillful combination of ancient wisdom and modern magical experience.
This master work has now been meticulously edited by two Senior Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who worked personally with Regardie. The material has been clarified with annotations, commentary, and explanatory notes. There is a new introduction, glossary, bibliography, and index, and a wealth of new illustrations.
"The Tree of Lifeis a book that it would be difficult to praise too highly; it is going to be one of the classics of occultism."Such was the opinion of Dion Fortune, a respected authority in esoteric circles, whose article "Ceremonial Magic Unveiled," printed in the January 1933 issue of The Occult Review, was an enormous aid to the young Israel Regardie’s magical career—a career so successful and influential that Regardie would later become known as the man who removed the excessive secrecy that veiled modem occultism and made the magical practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn accessible to all spiritual seekers. Before his death in 1985, "Francis" Israel Regardie was considered by many people to be one of the primary caretakers of the Golden Dawn tradition, a current of magic and spiritual discipline that attracted many prominent occultists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Dr. William W. Westcott, Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers, Arthur Edward Waite, William Butler Yeats, and Aleister Crowley.
The Tree of Life is considered by many to be one of the most comprehensive texts on magic ever written. At the same time, it is an outstanding introduction to the subject. Crowley had also tried to write magical books that were reader-friendly and easy to comprehend, but he was never really able to accomplish this. Regardie’s text, on the other hand, is often regarded as indispensable for understanding the more obscure writings of Crowley. According to Francis King and Isabel Sutherland in The Rebirth of Magic:
"[Crowley] wrote with great clarity and simplicity on yoga, but his purely magical writings are largely incomprehensible to the reader not equipped with a detailed knowledge of Mather’s Qabalistic system, the rites of the Golden Dawn, and even the events of Crowley’s own life. We are delighted to present this new annotated and illustrated edition of Regardie’s classic text, The Tree of Life. Chapter titles have been added by us for the reader’s convenience. All the endnotes are also ours. Although previous editions of The Tree of Life contained a small number of illustrations, many more have been added to this new edition. We have also included a bibliography, a comprehensive glossary, and an index.
"The pupil succeeded where the master had failed. In 1932, Regardie published two books, The Tree of Life and A Garden of Pomegranates, which many consider to be minor occult masterpieces."
The Tree of Life presents the reader with an extensive survey of the practices of the Western magical tradition as well as a bird’s eye view into the theory behind those practices. In his introduction to the second edition, Regardie wrote that: "This book has special meaning for me that none of my other writing ever had." With this opinion we wholeheartedly concur, for The Tree of Life has special meaning for us as well. Out of all of his books, this text in particular seems to express that rare quality of writing that we have come to treasure from Regardie’s pen—his desire to touch the reader with inspiration, his love of mystical poetry and sacred invocations, his sense of the joy in the spiritual quest for union with the divine, and most of all, his unselfish wish to share what he has discovered with others. The Tree of Life is a jewel of a book that will make the reader wealthier in spirit.
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