David Rankine is an author who needs no introduction. His extensive work includes more than 20 books on the subjects of Occult and Western Esoteric Traditions. The “Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic Series” which he co-authored are among the most collectable occult titles in recent years.
We caught up with him during his break from lectures and workshops and asked him for an interview.
Q: Let me start by asking when did you first get interested in Occult / paranormal?
Ever since I was a child I was interested in mythology, and this manifested more tangibly when I was about 10 and read the Tao Teh King for the first time. From there I started reading a lot more occult literature, and started practicing seriously when I was 14.
Q: Looking at your books it becomes clear that you worked with lots of manuscripts. At the moment I can think of at least two of them in Latin and one in French. So, how many languages are you fluent / familiar with?
I take advantage of the fact that I know some very good translators who are also occultists to work with on manuscripts. But personally I studied French, Latin and Ancient Greek at school, and have worked on Hebrew over the years in tandem with my Qabalistic studies.
Q: What was the first Occult / Paranormal book you have read?
I couldn’t remember what the mythology books were that I read when I was very young, but if we take this as practical books, the first would be Techniques of High Magic by Francis King & Stephen Skinner. By one of those interesting synchronicities I met Stephen Skinner 24 years later and we decided we wanted to write together within 15 minutes of first being introduced!
Q: I noticed Tao Teh King on your “favourite books” list in your Amazon profile. What attracted you so much in it?
The Tao Teh King is an incredibly profound work which always inspires me. For me it sums up the essence of Taoism, which as a philosophy encourages a very personally responsible active pursuit of perfection, which is also how I perceive the Great Work of Magic. Thus I find it an incredibly useful source of wisdom when I need to refresh myself or get another pwrspective.
Q:What is your favourite Occult / Paranormal book and which is your favorite non-occult one?
My favourite occult book varies at different times, but at the moment I would say The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Betz), because it is such an important work containing a fusion of Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, Jewish, Christian and Gnostic material during the period 2nd century BCE – 5th century CE. The influence of earlier works, and much of what has followed, can be seen in this amazing collection, and it is a work I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.
My favourite non-occult one is the novel Shibumi by Trevanian, because it is a great example of how to behave impeccably and with grace, and also has a very dry sense of humour running through it. It also contains some of the best lines ever about the problems of mediocrity in the modern age.
Q: Speaking of your latest book “The Book of Gold” – it is a text that was literally not mentioned and never before translated into English. Same goes for The Grimoire of St. Cyprian which you recently published. What would you say is the reason that some books like Lemegeton have several translations into English while others have one or none. For example Le Grand Albert has a legendary status in France but was never (at least to my knowledge) translated into English. What do you think why is that so?
All the known Lemegeton texts, of which there are four which are known pre-19th century are actually in English, which suggests it was most popular in Britain. I think many of the books were popular within the social cultures of their countries of origin and did not really travel, hence the numerous French ‘black magic’ texts for example. The books which focus heavily on technique, such as the many variants of the Key of Solomon, the Heptameron, and the works of Agrippa, are found in a number of languages, which indicates that people passed on the “how-to” texts far more across national boundaries, perhaps due to the greater demand.
Q: Someone said to me “It’s the pictures. Key of Solomon has cool pictures / pentacles.” Do you think that has something to do with it?
No, I think it is that the Key of Solomon is the foundation text of the grimoires, which provides all the practical information you need on how to actually do the rituals. If you have the Key of Solomon, you know all the basic techniques and practices used in the other grimoires, and this may be why so many of the other grimoires, which only exist in small numbers by comparison (usually less than 10 known copies) leave out much of the technique, as it was assumed you already knew this and would have a copy of the Key of Solomon (more than 140 known copies) if you were serious.
Q: Along with Qabalah you are also interested in numerology. I noticed that your official site http://ritualmagick.co.uk/ immediately switches to the folder called “121”. I don’t suppose that is just a coincidence. What can you tell us about it?
Yes, I love numbers, and 121 as 112 was too tempting – the expansion of the number of magic (11). 121 is also a significant number in the system of Gematria I created called Prime Qabalah, which attributes the prime numbers under 100 to the English alphabet, with the five primes under 10 attributed to the vowels and the rest to the consonants. I discuss this in depth in my book Becoming Magick (2004).
Q: Do you have any book signings tour / schedule that you would like to share with the readers?
I am having a break from giving lectures and running workshops at the moment to focus on my young son and my work. I may still do the occasional event if the opportunity presents and it fits in with what I am working on, like the Grimoire Gathering (September 2010).
Q: Anything you would like to tell the readers as a closing word?
The Great Work is the work of making yourself great – apply yourself with discipline and passion and realise your personal genius.