Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic

Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic

Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic

Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic


The Western magical traditions are currently undergoing an international resurgence. In Stealing Fire from Heaven, Nevill Drury offers an overview of the modern occult revival and seeks to explain this growing interest in ancient magical belief systems.

Gnosticism and the Hermetica, the medieval Kabbalah, Tarot and Alchemy, and more recently, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, collectively laid the basis for the modern magical revival, which first began to gather momentum in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Western magic has since become increasingly eclectic, drawing on such diverse sources as classical Greco-Roman mythology, Celtic cosmology, Kundalini yoga and Tantra, shamanism, chaos theory, and the various spiritual traditions associated in many different cultures with the Universal Goddess.

Drury traces the rise of various forms of magical belief and practice, from the influential Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to the emergence of Wicca and Goddess worship as expressions of contemporary feminine spirituality. He also explores Chaos Magick and the occult practices of the so-called Left-Hand Path, as well as twenty-first-century magical forays into cyberspace. He believes that the rise of modern Western magic stems essentially from the quest for personal spiritual transformation and direct experience of the sacred--a quest which the trance occultist and visionary artist Austin Osman Spare once referred to as "stealing fire from heaven." Considered in this light, Drury argues, modern Western magic can be regarded as a form of alternative spirituality in which the practitioners seek direct engagement with the mythic realm.


This book is an extension of doctoral work undertaken in recent times at the University of Newcastle in Australia, but in a sense has its origins some forty years ago when, as an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney, I first became interested in the Western magical traditions. I was spurred on by reading a controversial, popular book titled The Dawn of Magic (later retitled The Morning of the Magicians) by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. The book had originally been published in French and at the time of its release in England in 1963 had already sold over a quarter of a million copies in Europe. It was here that I learned for the first time about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and many key figures in Western esotericism, and the book really stirred my imagination! Around the same time I discovered the artworks of the remarkable British trance artist Austin Osman Spare in a magazine and subsequently researched his magical ideas in the British Museum for my first book, The Search for Abraxas—co-authored with a university friend, Stephen Skinner, who had introduced me to the Kabbalah. I could not have known at the time that Austin Spare would eventually emerge as one of the most significant influences on Western magic in the latter part of the twentieth century, although I am hardly surprised in retrospect, given his extraordinary brilliance both as an artist and as an original magical thinker.

This book seeks to provide an overview of the modern magical revival—that is to say, it focuses specifically on the resurgence of interest in the Western esoteric tradition in the twentieth century. As one would . . .

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