The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. , at sacred-texts.com
To R. P. D. John Trithemius, an Abbot of Saint James, in the Suburbs of Herbipolis, Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim Sendeth Greeting:
When I was of late, most reverend father, for a while conversant with you in your Monastery of Herbipolis, we conferred together of divers things concerning Chemistry, Magic, and Cabala, and of other things, which as yet lie hid in Secret Sciences and Arts; and then there was one great question amongst the rest—Why Magic, whereas it was accounted by all ancient philosophers to be the chiefest science, and by the ancient wise men and priests was always held in great veneration, came at last, after the beginning of the Catholic Church, to be always odious to and suspected by the holy Fathers, and then exploded by Divines, and condemned by sacred Canons, and, moreover, by all laws and ordinances forbidden? Now, the cause, as I conceive, is no other than this, viz.: Because, by a certain fatal depravation of times and men, many false philosophers crept in, and these, under the name of Magicians, heaping together, through various sorts of errors and factions of false religions, many cursed superstitions and dangerous rites, and many wicked sacrileges, even to the perfection of Nature; and the same set forth in many wicked and unlawful books, to which they have by stealth prefixed the most honest name and title of Magic; hoping, by this sacred title, to gain credit to their cursed and detestable fooleries. Hence it is that this name of Magic, formerly so honorable, is now become most odious to good and honest men, and accounted a
capital crime if any one dare profess himself to be a Magician, either in doctrine or works, unless haply some certain old doting woman, dwelling in the country, would be believed to be skillful and have a divine power, that she (as saith Apuleis the satirist) "can throw down the heaven, lift up the earth, harden fountains, wash away mountains, raise up ghosts, cast down the Gods, extinguish the stars, illuminate hell," or, as Virgil sings:
Hence those things which Lucan relates of Thessala the Magicianess, and Homer of the omnipotency of Circe. Whereof many others, I confess, are as well of a fallacious opinion as a superstitious diligence and pernicious labor; for when they cannot come under a wicked art yet they presume they may be able to cloak themselves under that venerable title of Magic.
These things being so, I wondered much and was not less indignant that, as yet, there had been no man who had either vindicated this sublime and sacred discipline from the charge of impiety or had delivered it purely and sincerely to us. What I have seen of our modern writers—Roger Bacon, Robert of York, an Englishman, Peter Apponus, Albertus [Magnus] the Teutonich, Arnoldas de villa Nova, Anselme the Parmensian. Picatrix the Spaniard, Cicclus Asculus of Florence, and many other writers of an obscure name—when they promise to treat of Magic do nothing but relate irrational tales and superstitions unworthy of honest men. Hence my spirit was moved, and, by reason partly of admiration, and partly of indignation, I was willing to play
the philosopher, supposing that I should do no discommendable work—seeing I have been always from my youth a curious and undaunted searcher for wonderful effects and operations full of mysteries—if I should recover that ancient Magic (the discipline of all wise men) from the errors of impiety, purify and adorn it with its proper lustre, and vindicate it from the injuries of calumniators; which thing, though I long deliberated of it in my mind, I never durst undertake; but after some conference betwixt us of these things, at Herbipolis, your transcending knowledge and learning, and your ardent adhortation, put courage and boldness into me. There selecting the opinions of philosophers of known credit, and purging the introduction of the wicked (who, dissemblingly, and with a counterfeited knowledge, did teach that traditions of Magicians must be learned from very reprobate books of darkness or from institutions of wonderful operations), and, removing all darkness, I have at last composed three compendious books of Magic, and titled them Of Occult Philosophy, being a title less offensive, which books I submit (you excelling in the knowledge of these things) to your correction and censure, that if I have wrote anything which may tend either to the contumely of Nature, offending God, or injury of religion, you may condemn the error; but if the scandal of impiety be dissolved and purged, you may defend the Tradition of Truth; and that you would do so with these books, and Magic itself, that nothing may be concealed which may be profitable, and nothing approved of which cannot but do hurt; by which means these three books, having passed your examination with approbation, may at length be thought worthy to come forth with good success in public, and may not be afraid to come under the censure of posterity.
Farewell, and pardon these my bold undertakings.