Ever since I read my first books on yoga and self-hypnosis at the age of nine, I've been involved in spiritual studies and occultism in the broadest sense. The "winds of dharma" had certainly chosen a convoluted path for me. In time, my palette of interests ranged from Eastern philosophies (especially Hinduism and Buddhism) that included hatha yoga, meditation, tantra, and parapsychology to more Western approaches like astrology, the Kabbalah, dowsing, alchemy, shamanism, and more—a varied mix of disciplines and approaches.
It was only when at university in Bonn, Germany, that I came into serious contact with Western ceremonial magic. In search of material for my master's thesis in Comparative Literature on "Occultism and Eroticism in Fin-de-siècle Literature," I discovered that the infamous Aleister Crowley had been quite a poet in his own right. So I decided to combine professional and personal interests and made a trip to London, where I found dozens of Crowley's works at Foyle's bookshop (I must have had a particularly lucky—or fateful—streak that day; never again did they seem to stock an even remotely comparable number of Crowley's works whenever I happened to visit there on several occasions in the years following).
Having purchased everything I could get my hands on, I was now utterly broke but happy—this treasure trove of wisdom promised highly intriguing reading. Little did I realize at the time that what started off as an academic investigation into some of the more eccentric aspects of Western occultism would rapidly evolve into a lifelong obsession, er persuasion …
To cut a long story short, some friends and I set up an occult bookshop a year later. In the meantime, I had not been idle. Perusing Crowley and his theories was, of course, one thing; getting into actual ceremonial practice was quite another. The bookshop attracted many local magicians. This is the point where books by Israel Regardie and Austin Spare had come in, which really set me going. Soon, we organized a "Study Group for Experimental Magic," and began meeting and working together on a weekly basis.
German magic was practically monopolized by the likes of Quintscher, Musallam, Bardon and similar long-dead authors, drawing from a tradition essentially dating back to the 1920s with its hierarchical, reactionary bias. Young firebrands and iconoclasts that we were, we considered—rightly or not—most of their writings to be utterly stuffy, dogmatic, self-contradictory, secretive to a fault, and hardly helpful if you actually wanted to "effect changes in conformity with will" by magic on a practical and verifiable level in an open, non-authoritarian spirit. Nor did the few existing magical orders impress us particularly with their real life expertise.
So we turned our attention to the Anglo-Saxon world where writers like Spare, Regardie, Grant, Butler, Conway, and Gray proved a real inspiration. As a result of our experimental research, "Pragmatic Magic" was born, an approach whose single dogma is: "if it works, use it!"
As a sideline, our activities led to publishing a quarterly (Unicorn), which soon became the number one publication on practical magic in the German speaking world, effectively creating a fairly coherent "scene" of pagans and magicians all over the place who, until then, had all been working in isolation.
To spread the word—and because there seemed to be nothing comparable forthcoming on the German book market—I sat down with two friends, discussing the viability of writing a comprehensive handbook on the subject of practical magic. When both dropped out of the project in pursuit of other tasks, I was stuck with what had been solely my idea in the first place.
But was I up to writing an exhaustive book on the subject? This would cost me years. I could never have matched it up with my professional responsibilities (I was working as a freelance translator at the time). So I opted for a correspondence course format instead. That way, I would be able to split up my efforts into halfway-viable monthly chunks, being just a month's installment or two ahead of my trusting, patient subscribers (bless them). As it was, it still took me almost four years to finish the whole three-year course.
The correspondence course was a roaring success and I am glad to say that it has helped hundreds of people in coming to practical terms with Western magic without having to succumb to any single master's or guru's personal ethics, inhibitions, or dogmatism. Remember: if it works, use it!
And this is essentially what High Magic is all about: the essence of several decades of practical research and experimentation (both my own and others'), on most—if not all—aspects of Pragmatic Magic and related traditions (including avant-garde approaches such as Chaos Magic, Cyber Magic, and more), all condensed into an easy-to-follow, step-by-step handbook. By focusing on generalized magic formulas, it enables you to quickly get the gist of even those traditions you may be wholly unfamiliar with. The material offered is varied and sophisticated, and it equally targets the beginner and the advanced student.
May it continue to serve as a one-of-a-kind guide to all who are equally fascinated by the art and the science of magic, as I have been ever since I charged my first sigil and drew my first magical circle. No regrets!
Frater U∴D∴ (Belgium), founder of Pragmatic and Ice Magic, is Europe's best known practical magician and contemporary occult author. He has written more than twenty-five books. Among his translations are the ...