by Mark Stavish
When Dr. Lisiewski first asked me to write the introduction to Israel Regardie and the Philosopher's Stone my first thoughts were about how strange the world of magic and alchemy is. Strange not only in the people we meet and the relationships that are formed, but strange in the way things work out. It is said that a straight line rarely forms in nature, and it is rare that magical acts, and relationships for that matter, follow a straight course. Curves, dips, peaks, and side-shots right out of left field are more often the case than not. My first meeting with Lisiewski was over 10 years ago and is a perfect example of this kind of phenomena. I received an email from Lisiewski and was impressed with his stated relationship with Regardie and Albertus. I turned off my computer with the intention of replying the next day only to have my hard drive crash. By the time everything was up and running again the email was no longer saved by my internet provider and I moved on to other things to make up for lost time. Now fast forward to 2005. I was doing some research when I came across Lisiewski's book, Ceremonial Magic & the Power of Evocation. Given his biography and being a resident of central Pennsylvania I emailed Lisiewski through his publisher on the off-chance that he was the same fellow who emailed me years earlier. For some reason however, it took another year before the original email a decade earlier from Lisiewski to me ever came up in conversation. Conversations between us that were held once or twice weekly, often for several hours, over the same period of time.
Lisiewski's experience with Regardie was not much different. On one occasion he mentioned to me that Regardie told him that he rarely answered the mail he received, and those that he chose to reply to were selected by holding the envelope to his forehead. If there was some kind of positive response, the letter was acknowledged, if not, it was thrown out unopened. Considering the content of Lisiewski's letter--a complete description of his first evocation to physical manifestation--it would not be surprising if Regardie got a migraine headache lasting several days from using this method!
Again, magic, like the energies of life of which it is a part, does not work in a straight line in most instances.
Over the last two and a half years a firm friendship between myself and Lisiewski has developed. It is rare to find operative magicians and alchemists in the former coal regions of Pennsylvania, but we do have them, and unlike their hip, urban, West Coast cousins, they are serious, quiet, and potent in their work: many even becoming local legends in their own lifetimes. Dr. Frederick Santee of Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania is one that comes to mind. A child genius, he was a cross between Doogie Houser and Harry Potter. He could read English and German when he was three years of age, translated Caesar's Gaulic Wars at the age of six or seven, and graduated from Harvard magna cum laude when he was seventeen. He would later go on to earn two Ph.D.s and an M.D. An internet search will reveal a thing or two about him, including his esoteric activities. He traveled Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sybil Leak--astrologer, witch, and assistant to super sleuth Ian Fleming during World War Two--was a regular visitor to his out-of-the-way residence.
I bring up Santee because he ran in many of the same circles as Regardie, Crowley, and Frater Albertus and was a contemporary of theirs and it is said that he met the first two men when in London. Yet like Albertus at the end of his days, when the lodge he had built and put so much energy into was going to meet its ultimate test of being able to survive without its founder, he uttered similar thoughts that we find Regardie stating here. If he had to do it all over again, Santee said he would forget magic and focus only on making money. As a physician Santee had a comfortable life, but it is also clear, that for all his occult skill and talent, in the end, he believed that the results did not justify the time and energy he put into it.
Magic as we shall see, truly is ephemeral. It is an illusion. It can be an illusion that serves us, instructs us, or destroys us. But be clear, it is an illusion. A veritable siren call causing many a life to crash on the rocks of despair and disappointment, and even madness. The lives of many gifted and intelligent men and women have been wasted in an obsession with the supernatural.
From the nonsense that is peddled about in the anemic and incestuous 'occult community' these days, and particularly those claiming the Golden Dawn mantel, or heir to Regardie's throne (or even Albertus' for that matter), this book will be anathema. Both men felt strongly that most of their students--be it in magic or alchemy--were dabblers, and both were tired of the 'artistic' nature modern occultism was being reduced to. Regardie and Albertus apparently believed, although in their own ways, that a more scientific rigor was needed, and that scientific thinking and methods should be emphasized over the highly subjective realm of personal interpretations. If an occult law was at work, then it was a law, and it had to be treated and understood as such. For both men, and like others before and after them, those who sought to be their students were often the source of their biggest sorrow in life.
I have little doubt that charges will be made and accusations stated against the author (and I am sure myself as well for having written this Introduction) that he is wrong. For the record, Dr. Lisiewski has many qualities, some of which we would consider nice, and many some would consider not so 'nice.' Among his nicer qualities is that he is a compulsive note taker, letter writer, and packrat, allowing him to document what he says. His wife who has suffered dearly through his occult explorations (as have too many wives of other occultists), was tasked with finding and organizing much of the material that was used to fact check this book. These notes came not from internet sources or published writings, but from the author's own archives, which include the paper Regardie wrote for his 5=6 Adeptus Minor grade, his copy of The Goetia given to him by Crowley and whose illustrations were colored in by Regardie, and even Crowley's copy of The Book of the Law. The list goes on.
Like Paracelsus, Lisiewski is also a bombastic egotist who admits this point freely to any who stay around long enough to know him, and that he is difficult to deal with, in large part because he is rarely wrong and he takes great delight in this fact. Whether gifted with, or through personal effort, he has an amazing memory and can recall conversations nearly word for word that passed decades ago. Those fortunate, or foolish enough, to know him find his wealth of personal and direct experience in a variety of difficult and arcane occult matters staggering.
Among the areas of occult research carried out by the author are some of the darkest and most neglected operations regarding the very essence of life itself. As the reader will see, it was under the direction of Albertus that Lisiewski worked on creating the legendary homunculus. For those brave enough to undertake the work of autocreation, full instructions and details are provided within these very pages. There is also sufficient introductory material on spagyrics to make this book a concise introductory to alchemy as well. Combined with the reference works he cites and his own instruction given herein, the intelligent and determined reader can most certainly succeed in his or her alchemical pursuits, whatever they may be. It may also surprise many readers to find out that Regardie was familiar with this 'diabolical' operation for decades and saw it as a possible link to the famed qabalistic creation of the golem, but like laboratory alchemy itself, dismissed it until he met Frater Albertus. A meeting made possible by the magical community's favorite organizational whipping post--the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC. While I have discussed the role of AMORC in the 20th century alchemical revival elsewhere, it is here, in this book, that many of the details regarding Albertus, Regardie, and their relationship are filled in. Like magic itself, this too was not a straight line, but one of delays, denials, and fruition after the initial impulse was forgotten.
As we stand at the entrance of the 21st century, it is no surprise that there are those who attended classes at the Paracelsus Research Society (or Paracelsus College as it was renamed) and are now just writing books on alchemy. However, no one has yet to write about what went on at PRS or about Albertus as a mystic, teacher, or a human being, and of Regardie as a devoted aspirant and co-worker with Albertus in the secret and yet practical world of laboratory alchemy. When we consider that Lisiewski was among the few people who knew both Regardie and Albertus on a personal level for 14 and 11 years respectively, and was privy to the personal communications between both men, in short, no book was written because no one other than Lisiewski could write it.
Future generations will be glad this book was written even if those who prefer to deny the humanness of these two great luminaries would rather it never saw the light of day. Yet for all of their warts and foibles, we can each see a bit of ourselves in Regardie, Albertus, and even Lisiewski too, as they travel the road in search of the Philosopher's Stone.
Mark Stavish, Director of Studies
Institute for Hermetic Studies
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