“Given the historical orientation of philosophy, is it unreasonable to suggest a wider cast of the net into the deep waters of magic? By encountering magical thought as theory, we come to a new understanding of a thought that looks back at us from a funhouse mirror.” -- The Occult Mind
Divination, like many critical modes, involves reading signs, and magic, more generally, can be seen as a kind of criticism that takes the universe -- seen and unseen, known and unknowable -- as its text. In The Occult Mind, Christopher I. Lehrich explores the history of magic in Western thought, suggesting a bold new understanding of the claims made about the power of various belief systems. In closely interlinked essays on such disparate topics as ley lines, the Tarot, the Corpus Hermeticum, writing and ritual in magical practice, and early attempts to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, Lehrich treats magic and its parts as an intellectual object that requires interpretive zeal on the part of readers/observers. Drawing illuminating parallels between the practice of magic and more recent interpretive systems -- structuralism, deconstruction, semiotics -- Lehrich deftly suggests that the specter of magic haunts all such attempts to grasp the character of knowledge.
Offering a radical new approach to the nature and value of occult thought, Lehrich's brilliantly conceived and executed book posits magic as a mode of theory that is intrinsically subversive of normative conceptions of reason and truth. In elucidating the deep parallels between occult thought and academic discourse, Lehrich demonstrates that sixteenth-century occult philosophy often touched on issues that have become central to philosophical discourse only in the past fifty years.
"The Occult Mind draws on many magical traditions including Hermetism, alchemy, John Dee, Japanese No plays, Goethe, Giordano Bruno, and others, but its primary purpose is to argue that occult traditions are a form of theoretical thought and should be analyzed as such. Highly recommended." -- G. J. Reece, Choice, January 2008
"A riveting and serious philosophical reevaluation of the intellectual history of the occult in the West." -- Christina Oakley Harrington, owner and manager of Treadwell's Bookshop, London
"In my study at home I have removed perhaps fifty volumes from the thousands on the shelves along the walls and placed them in a special section of exceptional 'good-to-think' books that I need to have ready-to-hand near my desk. I can imagine wanting to keep a copy of Christopher Lehrich's book there. I know of no books with which The Occult Mind can be compared; it speaks primarily to semiotics, anthropology, history of religions, and history of science. It could easily gain the status of an occult masterpiece.” -- Richard J. Parmentier, Brandeis University
“The Occult Mind is both brilliant and breathtaking in its conceptual boldness. If this important book is any indication, Christopher Lehrich is well on his way to being one of those authors who require readers to think in new ways. Add to this the rigor and insight of Lehrich's performance by even conventional standards and one sees that The Occult Mind deserves to be a classic.” -- Allison Coudert, University of California, Davis
Christopher I. Lehrich is Visiting Assistant Professor in Religion and Writing at Boston University. He is the author of The Language of Demons and Angels: Cornelius Agrippa's Occult Philosophy.