I had wondered why Georg Dehn - who had spent years combing manuscripts and creating the German edition - asked me to help translate The Book of Abramelin into English.
Georg read me parts of Book One and I became enthralled. Here was a very Jewish father - it could have been my father - creating a legacy for his son Lamech, who seems to have been alive, but hidden and out of contact with his father.
Jews were not popular in those medieval post-plague years and it made good sense to not make Christians aware that Lamech was the son of a famous and well placed Jewish adviser and magician to Bishops, Popes, Dukes and Emperors.
Georg noticed my enthusiasm and explained, "Steven, you know you are part Jewish, know esoteric material, you were born in Australia yet spoke only German until you were six. So you have a deep feeling for German language; so you don't translate from a dictionary but from your heart. It is hard to find good German to English translators".
So over seven months of work, "here" in Australia, and "there" in Germany slowly and surely got the work done. We worked verbally, Georg read and I typed out the sentences as they formed in my mind. Georg lived in Worms, the authors home town, and I stayed with him for weeks and weeks.
The Middle Ages are still dense and visible in Germany. I frequently visited the grave of the author who died in 1427, yes it is still there and revered as the grave of the Rabbi MaHaRIL – the daytime personality of Abraham of Worms, the name on the manuscripts that have passed down to us. Always on the gravestone were slips of paper inscribed with wishes waiting to be granted. I wondered if they were placed there by visiting American Jewish, magicians in the know, or local Christians looking for an earth bound saint to grant their wishes.
In 1349 Europe was ravaged by the plague and this was blamed on the Jews, and the author’s parents must have been some of the few who survived the pogrom. In fact all Jews were driven away from Worms and the nearby towns of Speyer and Mainz, only being allowed to return in 1356. It is amazing to me here in Australia (with our written history of a scant 200 years) that there are clear records of the times still to be found in European libraries.
Because the Jews had a hard time in the plague years, it is not surprising that if Abraham couldn't carry a weapon as an equilizer he would try and gain power through self development and effective ritual.
Today we can be philosophers, but Abraham struggled to just stay alive. Book Two in our edition (the collection of Jewish remedy spells) reminds me of my own oral history research. But here the need was much more pressing.
"If I don't do a collection it will all be gone ... and my son Lamech - who the nazis (read 15 century Christians) won't get because he is not visible - will know nothing of the tradition that really is his ... so I had better do a collection."
I visited the washing well - where Jews ritually cleaned themselves before entering the synagogue - it has withstood the ravages of time and seems to be filled with Jewish tears. The synagogue next door has been rebuilt and as there are no Jews in Worms (and few in modern Germany) the place has all the charm and ambiance of a deserted hotel..
The town archive yielded up an exact manuscript copy of the prayer book that Abraham as the MaHaRIL held in his hands (the original is in Jerusalem). Also in the archive were chilling photos of a jubilant Hitler being driven around the Worms stadium amid cheering crowds; his convertible was the size of small truck.
That gravestone still sings in my memory. So does the whole book; it is amazing how this piece of the middle ages rings with modern thoughts, modern desires and modern intentions. A self development book written 400 years before the word psychology was coined.
I have created from all over the Abramelin a story line that is expressed as a movie, it is illustrated and a good way to enter into the material.
And the book, with reviews can be assessed at Amazon thorough this link.