Many people could not read so the words on the paper were inherently mysterious.
The knowledge gained by reading these texts provided otherwise unknown information.
This portion of the Lesser Key of Solomon is from the thirteenth century though parts were written as early as the twelfth century.
There were many grimoires and other magical texts of the time, this one was more focused on prayers, meditations, and verbal exercises rather than spells, potions and rituals.
The oldest of the texts found in The Lesser Key Of Solomon, it promises a silver tongue, a ‘perfect memory’, and wisdom. As the book has gone through numerous and unauthorized revisions through the ages, it’s hard to know its accuracy.
Also, the original texts were written in a mash up of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. King Solomon himself was said to have used the original content of Ars Notoria to become wise, compassionate and clever.
King Solomon in Old Age (1Kings 4:29-34) ( public domain )
Another famous user of the Ars Notoria was John of Morigny, a fourteenth century monk. When he tried to achieve academic mastery, he became afflicted with demonic visions.
He went on to create his own grimoire, Libor Visionum. He believed that the Ars Notoria worked but came at too high a price.
There is a communication trick inside that modern readers will find fascinating. Labeled a ‘magnetic experiment’, it details how to use a lodestone and two compass needles to communicate great distances. If the two needles are rubbed against the same lodestone (a lodestone is a natural magnet), the needles will be ‘entangled’. In this fashion, if one needle moves the other does as well. By placing the needles in the center of a circle of letters and pictures, two individuals across great distances, could talk to each other by spelling out words.
The book has many clever ideas and notions that were ahead of its time. It was also attached to prominent occult and political names.
An illustration from John of Morigny’s Libor Visionum ( University Library of Salzburg )
All this combined with the fact that many people could not read, led people to believe it had magical properties. The expansion of perspective and attainment of knowledge made others believe that the book itself was magical.
If we were able to get an unabridged and original copy of the book, then my mind could easily be changed.
If the book did have inherently dangerous information, authorities of various types would have worked to contain and limit the public’s access to this information. If you’d like to see an example of the text here is a reasonably good translation.
Top image: Person thumbing through a grimoire. PlashingVole/ Flickr
By Jeff Wilson