Barrett, Francis (fl. nineteenth century)
British magician Francis Barrett, the author of The Magus;
or Celestial Intelligencer (1801), stands at the fountainhead of the
modern practice of ceremonial magic. Little is known of the
early life of Barrett, who is pictured as a young man in the portrait
included in his book. However, in a footnote in The Magus,
he offered himself as a magical teacher and invited readers to
contact him if they wished to become his student (limited to
12). He was at the time living in Marlebourne. Students would
be initiated into the occult arts and the practice of magic and
be taught the philosophy, rites, and mysteries of the ancients.
Barrett seems to have acquired his knowledge from the library
of Ebenezer Sibley (1751–1799), the author a decade
earlier of a four-volume work surveying occultism. His library
was sold through two London dealers and included English
editions of the works of Henry Cornelis Agrippa von Nettesheim,
Peter of Albano, Jean Baptiste von Helmont, and
Giambattista Porta. These were the major items used in the
preparation of The Magus; very little new material was contributed
by Barrett himself. The major new material was a set of
portraits of various demonic personalities, possibly seen by
Barrett while scrying. At a time at which occult material was
relatively scarce, Barrett’s book offered readers a comprehensive
introductory survey of magic and the occult arts as then
known. It included sections on astrology, arithmancy, Kabbalistic
magic, and the technique for scrying.
Barrett claimed to be a Rosicrucian. Since no Rosicrucian
organization existed in England at the time, it is possible that
he received initiation from Sigismund Bacstrom, a teacher of
alchemy also residing in Marlebourne who had received a Rosicrucian
initiation in Mauritius in 1794.
Little is known of Barrett’s subsequent career. The Magus did
not go through subsequent editions (though it has been reprinted
in recent years). Only one of Barrett’s students rose out
of obscurity, John Parkins of Grantham in Lincolnshire. In
1802, Barrett prepared an essay on the invocation of spirits for
Parkins, the manuscript of which has survived. Parkins later became
a teacher in his own right.
Barrett, Francis. The Magus; or Celestial Intelligencer. London,
1801. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1967.
Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany
State University of New York Press, 1995.

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