Nicolas Flamel was a scribe, notary and bookseller in the late 1300s in Paris who grew immensely wealthy, eventually founding fourteen hospitals while donating handsomely to many chapels and churches. In the 1700s, several hundred years after his death, The Book of Hieroglyphic Figures appeared and purported to have been written by him. Its introduction described how for two guilders, the author purchased the Book of Abramelin the Mage, an unusual manuscript on tree bark written in a strange language by Abraham the Jew, an Egyptian magician. According to the book, the author decoded Abramelin’s formulas of magic and alchemy, learning the secrets of the philosopher’s stone, which accounted for his great wealth and success in life.
The Book of Hieroglyphic Figures immediately became the go-to manual for magic all over Europe and exerted tremendous influence over the development of Freemasonry, the Golden Dawn and OTO. Only one problem, however: it was an obvious hoodwink. Flamel lived into his eighties and designed his own tombstone (see below), which contained only images of Jesus, Peter and Paul. He was a devout Catholic with an extensive biography that never mentions alchemy or occult ritual even once. If Flamel had a secret source of income beyond his bookstores and notary offices, it has yet to be discovered, but it’s safe to say any claims he was turning lead into gold is a total fabrication. His great wealth and connections with ancient manuscripts made him the perfect foil on which to hang a magical hoodwink. No doubt Flamel rolled in his grave after being posthumously transformed into the world’s greatest magician, instead of the great benefactor of Catholicism he actually was.
Forget about the phony DaVinci Code and numerous other rabbit holes. If you want to decode the real story of religion and magic, you first must expose the hoodwinks and then follow the trail to their source to expose the charlatan. (It’s interesting Flamel was turned into the world’s greatest alchemist when Francois Rabelais remains a better candidate for that throne, and actually did the necessary work.)
In 1761, Etienne Villain claimed the book’s real author was P. Arnauld de la Chevalerie, the publisher who was profiting immensely off its sales. Unfortunately, Villain’s expose gained little traction and even Issac Newton was eventually taken in by the hoodwink. You find this pattern of fake secret knowledge appearing throughout the history of magic, all leading into rabbit holes instead of real enlightenment. A modern equivalent would be the Don Juan series of books that continue to hoodwink even today.
Eventually, the Book of Abramelin the Mage also appeared written in German, although in somewhat fragmentary form. According to this manuscript, the road to enlightenment required months of daily prayer at sunrise and sunset, chastity, fasting and avoidance of intoxicants (echoes of Pythagoras and Mani). With the help of your guardian angel, who will appear after months of prayer, the budding magician need only capture and bind 12 devils in order to usurp their powers. Once this is done, the ability to cast love charms, find buried treasure, fly and become invisible will be conferred.
The magical tools employed by Abramelin included a wand made from an almond tree, and an oil and incense derived from the Old Testament. There was also a lamp for burning the oil. Although the oil was identified only as Abramelin Oil, it was supposed to replicate the original anointing oil of Moses. It would become an essential tool in the rituals of the Golden Dawn and OTO, although they didn’t agree on the recipe. They both got it wrong, replacing kaneh bosem with calamus or galangal (a relative of ginger).
Here is the actual recipe from Exodus 30:22-25:
Take thou…pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of kaneh bosem, two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compounded after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
The translation of kaneh bosem (fragrant cane) was not correctly identified until Sula Benet published Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp in 1967. Meanwhile, for hundreds of years, churches and magical societies have all been dutifully burning incense and anointing themselves with oil containing zero psychoactive effect. Although Crowley loved psychoactive substances, he too was taken in, for here is his personal recipe:
8 parts cinnamon oil, 4 parts myrrh, 2 parts galangal, 7 parts olive oil
All manner of nonsense was written about the purpose, effect and great power of Abramelin Oil. Fumigating temples with cannabis incenses and serving cannabis beverages were employed by numerous temples in ancient times to enhance the spiritual experience, much the same way a psychedelic garage band might hand out mushrooms before a concert today. But if you remove all psychoactive substances, there is no enhancement, and no magic, just a weak form of fake magic.