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After Almost 300 Years, Famous Occult Text Translated into English

For nearly three centuries, a book of occult and magical texts written by the German alchemist Georg von Welling has been revered by esotericists and occultists worldwide. Since its publication in the early 1700s, the book, Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum, has been available only in its original German.

Until now.

Joseph McVeigh, professor of German studies and chair of the German department, has completed the first complete translation into English of the famous book. The translation is scheduled for publication in January 2006 by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, a publisher of spiritual, esoteric and occult texts.

The Opus Magus, as it is sometimes called, which has the lengthy subtitle “In Which the Origin, Nature, Characteristics, and Use of Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury are Described in Three Parts,” has long been considered among history’s most important alchemical works. The book contains aspects of alchemy, astrology, magic, esoteric Freemasonry, and the Golden Dawn, with reproductions of famous illustrations from von Welling’s original tome.

“This book is historically important for a number of reasons,” says McVeigh. “It is not only a valuable compendium of esoteric thought from the preceding centuries, but also anticipates in many ways the coming Romantic Movement in Germany in the early 19th century. First published in 1719, this popular book was still being published in a third edition at the same time that many of the masterworks of Enlightenment philosophy by Immanuel Kant were appearing. I could not believe that the Opus Magus could have lain untranslated in its entirety for so long.”

Among the Opus Magus’ most famous references is a scene in the famous play Faust, by 18th-century writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust, the immortal protagonist, who seeks knowledge unattainable by conventional education and experience, discovers a book of magic and is transfixed by its contents, resolving at that moment to become a magician. The model for Faust’s book of magic was most likely von Welling’s Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum, which Goethe had read in its entirety as a young man before beginning Faust.

“Reading von Welling’s text, one can imagine Faust’s dark study,” says McVeigh, “where he struggles with the futility of earthly knowledge and the temptation this book offered him with its claim of secret insights into nature and the cosmos.”

“For the modern student of the Western Mystery Traditions, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of von Welling’s work,” writes Lon Milo DuQuette, an occult scholar and Freemason, in the book’s introduction. “Its influence can be traced through the doctrines and teachings of a host of European esoteric institutions including those of the Freemasons.”

Red Wheel/Weiser will print 3,000 copies of the Opus Magus in the first edition. A collector’s hardcover edition will be available for $80.

 

 

 
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