Magic Made Modern?

Re-evaluating the Novelty of the Golden Dawn’s Magic

Christopher A. Plaisance


This is an article in the history of magic that re-evaluates Alison Butler’s thesis regarding the novelty of the magical praxis of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It consists of a response to two claims made by Butler as to the morphological novelty of the order’s magic: 1) the utilization of active, as opposed to passive modalities of the vis imaginativa; and 2) the techniques of unmediated invocation. In both domains, not only do Butler’s works mischaracterize the practices of the Golden Dawn itself, but also wrongly identifies these categories as instances of innovation. In fact, there is a strong degree of formal similarity between the ritual mechanics of the order and those earlier antique, medieval, and Renaissance practitioners in the specific areas of visualization and invocation. These similarities strongly call into question the characterization of the Golden Dawn’s magic as fundamentally modern in form.


Golden Dawn; Magic; Theurgy; Neoplatonism; Western Esotericism