Abramelin the Mage is one of the many "house-hold names" in occultism, though in reality very little is actually known about the man himself. What we know of him comes to us through a medieval manuscript preserved in the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal in Paris. This text was a French copy from the 17th or 18th century of the original Hebrew manuscript. "The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, as delivered by Abraham the Jew unto his son Lamech, A.D. 1458," as the manuscript was titled, detailed the complete system of magick of an Egyptian sage by the name of Abramelin. It was translated into English by S.L. MacGregor Mathers of the Golden Dawn.
The author of this book, Abraham of Wurzburg, was a Qabalist and connoisseur of magickal practices. In accordance with tradition, Abraham's eldest son received the Holy Qabalah. Wanting his younger son to also "...be able to admire, to consider, and to enjoy the marvels of the Lord," Abraham gave this book to Lamech when he felt he was old enough.
In his introduction, Abraham narrates to his son the story of how he came upon the great magician in a small town on the banks of the Nile river. His interest in various magickal practices had led him on a tour of the civilized world, seeking out magicians and Qabalists, taking what he could learn from each.
After describing how he came to learn the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, Abraham proceeds to explain in great detail the entire necessary operation, from the selection of an appropriate place, to the summoning of various spirits and demons to do the bidding of the magician. The book carefully details the qualifications necessary to become a magician, protections, asceticisms, purifications, evocations, vestments and prayers.
The goal of paramount importance to the operation is the invocation, or knowledge and conversation, of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is the first written use of this term, which is now extremely common in modern occult literature. The Holy Guardian Angel, considered by many modern magicians to be the "Higher Self" or Augoeides, assists the magician through the remainder of the operation. The next step of the process is to evoke the denizens of hell, and force their allegiance and submission to the magician. Once the magician has mastered the evocation of good and evil spirits, commanding those spirits to do his will, and overcoming rebellious spirits, he can begin putting the spirits to work.
The last part of the book gives specific instructions for clairvoyance, divining metals and treasure, warding off evil magick, healing illness, levitation, transportation, making oneself invisible, creating illusions, reading minds, and many various powers and magicks, both white and black, which the magician may now utilize.
The "Abramelin operation," as it is often called, in reality consists of two seperate operations. The first operation, the attainment of knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, is the perfection and purification of the Self. It opens the path of communication between man and Divine. In the second operation the evil demons, who are sometimes considered the magician's "lower Self" or negative character traits, are conquered and commanded to do the magician's bidding by force of will and magick. This second operation would therefore fall into the category of medieval magick called goetia.
It should be noted that while the two processes are essentially two different formulas, this has only been noted for the sake of analysing the operation. The knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is an essential prerequisite to the evocation of the evil spirits, unless the magician should desire to become enslaved to those demons which it was his initial desire to command.
It is difficult to be sure how much of this system of magick was directly from Abramelin, and how much was embellished or added to by Abraham's extensive knowledge of the Qabalah, or by the French copyist's knowledge (or lack thereof) of the magickal processes detailed within the book. However, such considerations are for the historian, not for the magician. Despite a certain amount of dogmatism on the part of the author, an extremely viable method for attaining knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is presented therein. Due to this dogmatism and the general superstitious nature of many medieval grimoires, many magicians have rewritten the Abramelin operation, maintaining the same core formula and removing extraneous aspects. Most notable of these rewrites is Aleister Crowley's Liber Samekh.
The Egyptian mage known as Abramelin will remain a mysterious figure in history, but the legacy of his system of magick will continue to live on for a long time to come.