The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. , at sacred-texts.com
I do not doubt but the title of our book of Occult Philosophy, or of Magic, may by the rarity of it allure many to read it, amongst which, some of a disordered judgment and some that are perverse will come to hear what I can say, who, by their rash ignorance, may take the name of Magic in the worse sense and, though scarce having seen the title, cry out that I teach forbidden Arts, sow the seed of heresies, offend the pious, and scandalize excellent wits; that I am a sorcerer, and superstitious and devilish, who indeed am a Magician: to whom I answer, that a Magician doth not, amongst learned men, signify a sorcerer or one that is superstitious or devilish; but a wise man, a priest, a prophet; and that the Sybils were Magicianesses, and therefore prophesied most clearly of Christ; and that Magicians, as wise men, by the wonderful secrets of the world, knew Christ, the author of the world, to be born, and came first of all to worship him; and that the name of Magic was received by philosophers, commended by divines, and is not unacceptable to the Gospel. I believe that the supercilious censors will object against the Sybils, holy Magicians and the Gospel itself sooner than receive the name of Magic into favor. So conscientious are they that neither Apollo nor all the Muses, nor an angel from heaven can redeem me from their curse. Whom therefore I advise that they read not our writings, nor understand them, nor remember them. For they are pernicious and full of poison; the gate of Acheron is in this book; it speaks stones—let them take heed
that it beat not out their brains. But you that come without prejudice to read it, if you have so much discretion of prudence as bees have in gathering honey, read securely, and believe that you shall receive no little profit, and much pleasure; but if you shall find any things that may not please you, let them alone and make no use of them, for I do not approve of them, but declare them to you. But do not refuse other things, for they that look into the books of physicians do, together with antidotes and medicines, read also of poisons. I confess that Magic teacheth many superfluous things, and curious prodigies for ostentation; leave them as empty things, yet be not ignorant of their causes. But those things which are for the profit of men—for the turning away of evil events, for the destroying of sorceries, for the curing of diseases, for the exterminating of phantasms, for the preserving of life, honor, or fortune—may be done without offense to God or injury to religion, because they are, as profitable, so necessary. But I have admonished you that I have writ many things rather narratively than affirmatively; for so it seemed needful that we should pass over fewer things, following the judgments of Platonists and other Gentile Philosophers when they did suggest an argument of writing to our purpose. Therefore if any error have been committed, or anything hath been spoken more freely, pardon my youth, for I wrote this being scarce a young man, that I may excuse myself, and say, whilst I was a child I spake as a child, and I understood as a child, but being become a man, I retracted those things which I did being a boy, and in my book of the vanity and uncertainty of Sciences I did, for the most part, retract this book. But here, haply, you may blame me again, saying, "Behold, thou, being a youth, didst write, and now, being old, hast retracted it; what, therefore, hast thou set forth?" I confess, whilst I was
very young, I set upon the writing of these books, but, hoping that I should set them forth with corrections, and enlargements—and for that cause I gave them to Trithemius, a Neapolitanian Abbot, formerly a Spanhemensian, a man very industrious after secret things. But it happened afterwards that, the work being intercepted, before I finished it, it was carried about imperfect and impolished, and did fly aboard in Italy, in France, in Germany, through many men's hands; and some men, whether more impatiently or imprudently I know not, would have put it thus imperfect to the press, with which mischief, I, being affected, determined to set it forth myself, thinking that there might be less danger if these books came out of my hands with some amendments than to come forth, torn and in fragments, out of other men's hands. Moreover, I thought it no crime if I should not suffer the testimony of my youth to perish. Also, we have added some chapters and inserted many things which did seem unfit to pass by, which the curious reader shall be able to understand by the inequality of the very phrase, for we were unwilling to begin the work anew and to unravel all that we had done, but to correct it and put some flourish upon it. Wherefore, I pray thee, courteous reader, weigh not these things according to the present time of setting them forth, but pardon my curious youth if thou find any thing in them that may displease thee.
When Agrippa first wrote his Occult Philosophy he sent it to his friend Trithemius, an Abbot of Wurtzburg, with the ensuing letter. Trithemius detained the messenger until he had read the manuscript and then answered Agrippa's letter with such sound advice as mystics would do well to follow for all time to come. Trithemius is known as a mystic author and scholar.