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Westcott, William Wynn

(1,366 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Westcott, William Wynn, * 17 Jan 1848 (Leamington), † 30 Jul 1925 (Durban) One of the most prominent British occultists of his time, Westcott wrote many essays on a wide range of esoteric topics such as arithmology [→ Number Symbolism] ( Numbers: Their Occult Powers and Mystic Virtues, 1890), → alchemy ( The Science of Alchymy, 1893), → astrology ( The Origin and History of Astrology, 1902), Jewish Kabbalah [→ Jewish Influences V] ( An Introduction to the Study of the Kabbalah, 1910); and edited English versions of ancient and modern esoteric texts (such as the Sepher Yetzirah, 1887, or → E…

Ordo Templi Orientis

(7,098 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Occultist organisation and initiatic Order, sometimes also spelt as “Order of Oriental Templars”. The OTO was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and has remained, up to the present, an important vehicle for the transmission of esoteric ideas and practices. One of its major features is the practice of sexual magic, which is considered the core of its teaching. The role accorded to Eastern doctrines and sexual magic makes the OTO different from several other magically-oriented, occultist…

Crowley, Aleister

(5,786 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Crowley, Aleister (born Edward Alexander), * 12 Jan 1875 (Leamington), † 1 Jan 1947 (Hastings) One of the main figures in the history of English occultism [→ occult / occultism]. Despite his bad reputation and the controversies that have marked his life, his ideas have heavily influenced contemporary new religious movements of a magical [→ Magic] and neo-pagan bent [→ Neopaganism]. Crowley has left an enormous literary output, including almost any genre: from poetry and fiction to essay and autobiography. Apar…

Mathers, Samuel Liddell “MacGregor”

(1,654 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Mathers, Samuel Liddell “MacGregor”, * 8 Jan 1854 (Hackney (East London)), † 20 Jan 1918 (Paris) Together with → William Wynn Westcott, Mathers played a fundamental role in the history of English occultism as the co-founder of the → Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and as one of the leading intellectual forces behind the development of its teachings and ritual system. Little is known about his early life. He probably received some classical education at Bedford Grammar School, but the first definite date on re…


(3,223 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Origins of the Term ‘Magic’ The term “magic” has served to indicate, in the history of Western culture, a variety of ideas and of practices, often related to religion and/or science. Consequently, the term has been historically defined and understood in many different ways, according to the context in which it has been used. The ancient Greek term mageía, which is at the origin of all modern words related to ‘magic,’ had a Persian origin, and served to indicate, since its adoption by Greek culture, religious activities considered to be exotic, unsancti…


(2,179 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
The Term ‘Occultism’ The term ‘occultism’ has been defined in a variety of manners since its first appearance in France (as occultisme), in the first half of the nineteenth century. The earliest occurrence appears to be in a ‘dictionary of new words’ by Jean-Baptiste Richard, Enrichissement de la langue française (1842), but it was thanks to the pen of Eliphas Lévi (ps. of Alphonse-Louis Constant, 1810–1875), that the term acquired an increasing popularity since the 1850s. Later on, and mostly under the influence of Lévi's writings, the term p…