Two weeks ago, I received the recent re-translation of the Abremalin texts. Steven Guth (translator) and Georg Dehn (editor) are the producers of the new “The Book of Abremalin” which was published in 2006.
The differences are astounding and, dare I say, somewhat troubling.
Not only does Guth/Dehn claim that Mathers, in fact, translated the well known English version of these manuscripts from a French translation of the earlier documents themselves instead of having translated it directly from the original texts, but lay an explanation in the forward of this book by Lon Milo DuQuette as he exlaims, "[Mather’s translation] was itself so incomplete and dissimilar to the original German texts as to be almost worthless as an accurate rendering of the content and intent of the original documents."
Now - that does sound quite harsh - however, to be fair to DuQuette, he did follow that up with saying, "This is not to say that Mathers’s Sacred Magic is not a valuable contribution to the library of Western magical literature or to suggest taht he did a poor job of translating the 1750 French manuscript into proper English. On the contrary, experts tell us Mathers did a wonderful job. The problem rests with the woefully incomplete and ‘doubtful French text’ from which he worked."
The major differences and concerns are:
- In the new translation of the oldest original German manuscripts found, the collection comprises FOUR books rather than the three that Mathers translated.
2)The initiatory right that originally took 6 months, is actually much more intricate and exhaustive initiation comprised of a now 18 month undertaking filled with ritual pathworkings.
There are 242 squares in the Mathers translation, but a more complete 251 squares in the original German text, and hence, the Guth translation.
The mather’s translation contains mostly incomplete squares (originally I had thought that the missing letters in the squares was just the way Abramelin did it), however, in the original German texts and the Guth translation each square is completely filled and Kabbalistically significant.
And most frustrating to find out, many of the squares in the Mathers translation contain misspelled magical words, miss-ordering of the words themselves within the squares, incorrectly distributed squares (ie: the squares did not match the content list in the heading of each chapter of squares and did not match up to the original German texts), and misidentification of the squares themselves.
For example, this is one of the first all inclusive examples found in Chapter 4:
(note: this is literally an extremely mild example)
Mather’s Translation: “For Mirrors of glass and crystal”
| g | i | l | i | o | n | i | n |
| g | | | | | | | |
| i | | | | | | | |
| l | | | | | | | |
| i | | | | | | | |
| o | | | | | | | |
| n | | | | | | | |
| i | | | | | | | |
| n | | | | | | | |
Original German as translated by Guth "In mirrors, Glass, and crystals"
G I L I O N I M
I R I M I I R I
L I O S A S I N
I M S A R A I O
O I A R A S M I
N I T A S O I L
I R I I M I T I
M I N O I L I G
The four books in the new translation are as follows:
Book 1 - Abremaham’s letters to his son, Lamec, detailing his search for a true magician to study under. It also details his desire for his son to learn these arts. Abraham also talks about all the magicians he met in his journeys and what they were capable of as well as how they acquired their powers. He then goes on to detail how he met Abremalin and a brief overview of some of their studies together.
Book 2 - Contains miraculous kabbalistic formulas and spells.
Book 3 - Contains the 18 month self-initiation into true adepthood and magical attainment.
Book 4 - Contains the full and accurate crux of the entire system, the mystical magic squares in their correct and fully complete beauty.
Now, I would like to point out, as the authors also did, that not only was this book translated from the original German manuscripts, but they also used some other copies of the Abremalin texts in order to clarify some of the missing pieces and worn areas which became hard to read. They also used some of the other texts which detailed and clarified some of what Abraham’s original texts contained.
All in all, I am impressed, and - after having gotten over my attachment to the mystical look of the squares with missing letters and the rest of the Mathers translation, I feel deeply confident that this new translation is much more powerful and interesting. The authors also include a “fifth book” at the end detailing much of the studies and verification the author and editor embarked on; adequately titled, “The Editor’s Quest”. This addition chronicles the verification of Abraham as well as the identification of his alter-ego (common among Jews at the time) as the Great MaHaRIL, or Jacob Mollin.
They also included some of the writings and teachings of Mollin himself, giving the reader an extremely well rounded understanding of who Abraham was and how he found the great magician, Abremalin.
What is not well understood is that the two major magical books, Book Three: The Initiation, and Book Four: The Magical Squares - are two manuscripts that Abremalin made Abraham copy, word for word, for his own records. So, when we read the third and fourth books, we’re actually reading the manuscripts that Abremalin himself worked and learned from which were passed to him by yet a still greater unknown magus.
I hope you all find this useful information, and I hope this prompts those of you who are Abremalin fans, and magicians of the art of squares, to seriously consider acquiring this new expanded and extremely powerful tome to sit side by side with your original copy of Mathers’s translation.
I still hold the Mather’s squares in high regard, and feel that they still hold some power - if not simply acquired from the legacy Mathers created through the initial introduction to the magical community of the legendary magic of Abremalin The Mage.