Another Free Preview Chapter and Progress Update

Solstice Greetings,

Having just returned from holiday travels, I am now back at work on Interlinear Magic. I’m releasing another preview chapter for free, and I’ll cover in detail below what remains to be written.

The free chapter is Rite-31: The Oracle of Kronos, which is timely for the Saturnalia season if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a divination ritual that combines Greek and Egyptian features in a very interesting way, and I’ve included the full chapter for your perusal, with introduction, English and Greek-English translations, and explanatory notes (6 full pages, 2500+ words).

I’m trying something new, releasing this chapter through my Patreon, which is now free to join (and follow). Once the book is finished, I will be re-launching my Patreon site as the primary point of distribution for my new research, translations, and other content. One of my motivations here is to release material as I produce it, rather than waiting for entire books or other long-term research projects to be released. In other words, this will involve a major effort on my part to “digest” my research publicly, while still preparing books, courses, and other content in the background.

For example, I just completed a 12,000-word academic article on “protology” (mythological/philosophical accounts of first principles) in Iamblichus and the PGM. This article will be published in an edited volume sometime in 2024, but in the meantime, some of the research findings will be released on Patreon. Many of these posts will be free, while more involved content (course videos, live Zoom calls, etc.) will eventually be made available to Patrons at higher tiers. But before the book is complete, nothing here will be behind a paywall; anything posted as free content will remain free, and I will continue to add to the free content as a regular feature of the site.

Please follow me there by clicking “join” and simply skipping the payment screen: https://www.patreon.com/theurgy

And the free chapter (Oracle of Kronos) is here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/interlinear-free-95071028

Regarding progress toward completion of the book, there are still a few major tasks to be completed. Most significantly, there is the animal-symbol commentary that runs through several chapters (4, 7, and 8). This is a fairly complex endeavor, involving research into both Egyptian and Greek sources. On just the Greek side, relevant ancient authors include Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Aelian, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Horapollo. But the end result should be a robust commentary on each of the animal symbols in the book (with the exception of Rite-12, which is already complete at 8000+ words without animal commentary).

Next is the related introductory essay on “symbolic systems,” which is built upon the chapters mentioned above (4, 7, 8, and 12). To my knowledge, no one has previously discussed the relationship of these systems to ancient theurgic practice, which only became apparent to me after performing the research for this book. I expect this to be an important first statement of this aspect of theurgy, within my long-term historical project of reconstructing the theurgic practice of Iamblichus and his followers. But because this aspect of theurgy has so much potential, I will continue to explore these systems on Patreon and in my future published work.

Third, the General Introduction remains to be revised and edited. Beyond this, there are only a few remaining loose ends that need some attention.

I do not yet have a release date for the book, but the first half of 2024 seems very likely. Thank you once again for your support and patience.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Progress Update (#14)

Dear Supporters,

Having experienced multiple back-to-back personal losses over the last two months, this update has been very difficult to write, as I was hoping to be done with the writing by now. Frankly, it has been one of the most challenging periods of my entire life. It has been difficult to remain focused when surrounded by illness, inconstancy, and grief. Because these are still fresh wounds – and, frankly, private matters – I have no desire to speak publicly about any specifics, except what I have already posted on social media. Thank you for understanding.

That said, I have made some progress, but I’m not yet finished with the writing. I am currently putting the final touches on Chapter 6 (“Encounter with the Personal Daimon”), which is now the longest individual chapter of the book at 25 pages. After this, there are only three commentaries (chapters 2, 7, and 10) that require some loose ends to be tied up, and the 100-page General Introduction still needs some attention. I am doing everything in my power to finish these as soon as possible.

As a show of good faith, I have released a free “bonus” translation of one of the lunar poems in the PGM. This ritual-text will not be in the book (it was never part of the plan), but it may be a part of a second volume of PGM translations. In general, I have chosen to leave most of the poetry out of Interlinear Magic because they were recently translated in Bortolani’s Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt (2016).

I have posted the translation of PGM IV.2785-2890, the “Prayer before the Moon for any Ritual Purpose,” on my Academia page. I hope you will find it useful.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

A quick update as the book nears completion (update 13)

Dear Supporters,

I am writing to you with a brief update on Interlinear Magic. The book is very nearly completely written. Chapters 1, 3, 5, 9, and 12-60 are entirely complete. The remaining seven chapters (2, 4, 6-8, 10-11) still require some additional work on footnotes and commentaries only (the translations are all complete), and the General Introduction will need to be revisited when these are complete. I am working diligently on getting the writing done ASAP. I hope that when I write to you next month, the writing will be entirely complete, the book will be in the proofreading and typesetting phase, and that I shall have a final page count. I appreciate your continued patience as this project nears completion.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Progress Update on Interlinear Magic (Update 12)

Dear Supporters:

I am writing today with a full progress report on Interlinear Magic. I have made excellent progress in May, but I have a bit of writing and editing remaining in order to finish everything up. Full details are below.

First, I noticed an error in the previously published chapter 16, “The Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs.” Somehow a line had dropped out of the English translation despite being present in the interlinear version. Anyway, it’s fixed now, and a new version has been uploaded to my Academia page: https://independent.academia.edu/AltBrian

I will be launching a new online course, Daimonology of the PGM, on July 1. The full details of that course are available here: https://www.greekmagicalpapyri.com/daimonology

Regarding the book, the 48 “shorter” chapters (13-60) are now finished with three minor exceptions. First, I decided to replace Chapter 17 with a different ritual-text. I was having some issues resolving several textual and interpretive difficulties, and since I am currently unable to view the manuscript (not digitally available), I decided to simply replace it with a longer and more interesting ritual-text that I had already translated. The new text (PGM I.1-42) provides a better example of a ritual to acquire a “parhedros” (daimonic assistant), and it is full of Egyptian symbolism. There remain only a few notes to complete on the new Chapter 17 (whereas the old Chapter 17 will have to await a future volume). Beyond this new chapter, there are two others that need to have footnotes finished.

The 12 “long” chapters (1-12) are now about 70% complete, with only a few commentaries and other notes remaining to be finished up. I will be releasing at least one of these longer chapters as a free sample before the book goes to press.

I have made some progress editing the General Introduction (~60K words), but this will still require a full pass-through once the remaining chapters are complete. This will allow me to second-check all the cross-references, and so on.

Since many of you have asked about it, I’m holding off on releasing the pre-order page until I am certain of the final page count, which may be considerably higher than expected. It’s possible the final price may increase, but of course that will not affect those who participated in the Kickstarter.

Considering everything that’s left, and the fact that I will be travelling for part of June, I am aiming to finish the writing and editing by early to mid-July.

Thanks again for your support and patience.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 11

Dear Supporters,

I am writing to you today with a progress update on Interlinear Magic. My commitments this semester will wrap up in two weeks, and I will be devoting 100% (instead of about 65%) of my time to putting the final touches on the book at that point. I aim to get the writing done by early June, which will immediately be followed by compositing, test printing, and final proofreading. Since the last update a little over a month ago, I have made significant progress, the details of which follow.

I now have full lesson plans and PowerPoint slides for at least five (of the probably eight) class sessions for the free course for Kickstarter supporters (unlocked by the $50K stretch goal). These video lessons are ready to record as soon as the book is done, and the release of the videos and supplemental materials should coincide with the book’s arrival later this summer. Topics will include:

  1. Hermetic Rites in the PGM
  2. Influence of the Demotic “Book of Thoth” and the House of Life on the PGM
  3. Greco-Egyptian Theurgy and the PGM
  4. The Personal Daimon: Ritual Approaches in Iamblichus and the PGM
  5. Egyptian Heka in the Greek Magical Papyri
  6. Lunar Ritual Timing in the PGM: Cycles, Symbols, and Systems

I also created two new images for the book. These are adapted from Egyptian art in order to illustrate esoteric concepts in ancient Egyptian religion relevant to multiple rites in the book. Previously I had stated that the artwork was already done for the book; that was (and still is) true. I’ve simply added additional images to help clarify some of the more difficult concepts in the commentaries.

Additional progress since the last update includes:

  • Of the 48 shorter chapters (Rites 13-60), 42 are now polished and complete, with only 6 remaining that need some attention (finishing some footnotes, adjusting translations, and making final edits).
  • Of the twelve longer chapters (Rites 1-12), all the commentaries are now well underway (vs. only seven underway in the last update), one of the chapters is completely finished, and the others are getting close, with only loose ends, some footnotes, and commentary paragraphs to clean up.
  • The General Introduction (currently at 63,000 words) is still in need of some attention – both in finishing up a few loose ends and revising the whole thing for clarity – which I am saving for last, since this will also involve checking all the cross-references to the final chapter drafts.
  • There remain a few indices and explanatory tables to create, but most of this material is now complete.

I will be releasing at least one more free sample chapter from among Rites 1-12 so you can get an idea of the longer chapter format that includes commentaries. The two free sample chapters that I have already released are accessible through my page on: https://independent.academia.edu/AltBrian

I’m excited that this massive project is so close to being done, and I thank you again for your patience.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 10 – Full Progress Update

Dear Supporters,

What follows is a major update for Interlinear Magic. First, I must apologize for the lack of communication over the last two months. 2023 has proven to be extremely busy so far, but after returning from presenting my research at an academic conference last month, completing the book as soon as possible is again my highest priority.

Of the twelve long chapters (Rites 1-12), seven have extensive commentaries already written and only need to be cleaned up. The other five of these commentaries will probably be somewhat shorter, because the book length is already exceeding the original cost projections at this point. I still have some wiggle room with page format (and very large pages), but it may be the case that I end up releasing some of this material as supplemental PDFs (e.g., the Greek “vocabulary tools” for each of these twelve chapters).

Of the 48 shorter chapters (Rites 13-60), 34 of these are now polished and complete, leaving only 14 chapters that need the final touches.

Supplemental materials, including bonus translations, artwork, and most of the appendices are complete, leaving only a few appendices and explanatory tables (Greek and Egyptian transliteration, etc.) still to create. These additional appendices will also now contain sections on the attested variants of some of the most common divine-name formulae in the PGM (in the original Greek and in English transliteration), including the Harponknouphi formula and the Maskelli-Maskellō formula.

The General Introduction is now around 62,000 words (roughly 105 pages). A few sections remain to be finished up and the whole thing needs a thorough edit, but I am saving this task for last because there is still a fair amount of updating of individual sections that is required before giving the whole thing a revision. And as I go through the final chapters that need to be touched up, I am adding cross-references to these, where relevant, in the Introduction.

The Bibliography (a work in progress) is now posted online. Primarily, this will enable you to look up cited sources from the sample chapters if you want to dig deeper into any of these ritual-texts. I do of course plan on including the bibliography in the print volume. http://www.interlinearmagic.com/bibliography/

So far, two sample chapters from Interlinear Magic have been released. I plan on releasing at least one more sample chapter (from among the longer Rites 1-12) before the book is published. For ease of distribution, I have made these available on my Academia.edu page, which also has a free PDF of my 300+ page 2020 PhD dissertation on Iamblichus and the PGM: https://independent.academia.edu/AltBrian

I’ve also started writing and recording the course videos for the free course for all Kickstarter supporters. I anticipate that the first few videos will be released right as the book is released (this summer). These first sessions will cover the Greco-Egyptian theurgic practice of Iamblichus and its many connections to the PGM rituals in the book, including the ancient doctrine of the Personal Daimon (the historical precursor to the “Guardian Angel”), which was shared by Iamblichus and some important PGM ritual-texts from the same time period.

I will send more frequent updates from now on. I expect the book to be published and delivered this summer. Please ask questions if you have them.

Sincerely,

Brian Alt, PhD

Update 9 – Preview Chapter Released

Dear Supporters,

I am writing today to announce the release of the first of several preview chapters of Interlinear Magic. You can download the PDF file of chapter 16, the “Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs” (PGM IV.2967-3006), from this page.

This is one of the “shorter” chapters, so it lacks the commentary and vocabulary tools of Chapters 1-12, but it will give you an idea of the overall format of Chapters 13-60. I will be releasing at least one of the longer chapters (1-12) as well, so stay tuned.

I will also be putting the full bibliography online in January, so the references in the footnotes will be more useful.

If you have any questions or suggestions about the chapter format or contents, please feel free to leave a comment on Kickstarter or Facebook.

I will write again soon with a more comprehensive update on the status of the book.

Thanks for your support, and may you have a joyful holiday season!

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 08 – Interlinear Magic

Dear Supporters,

Work on Interlinear Magic continues to progress, albeit more slowly than I predicted. More accurately, I am still tying up loose ends, but there are far more loose ends than I thought when I sent the last update. Additionally, I am considerably busier this semester, since I have had the opportunity to resume my studies of Demotic (the most difficult Egyptian script) in a formal, graduate-level university course. Thus, I must ask for your continuing patience. I am in uncharted territory in a project like this, attempting to synthesize a great amount of research and comparative data into a coherent whole that will likely be 50-80% longer than I originally anticipated. You can rest assured that your pledges at the book level or higher will be the best deal on this increasingly massive book.

With all this in mind, I have decided not to release the pre-order page for the book until I have an accurate final page-count. If the book is significantly longer than my initial range of projections (which included stretch-goal augmentations), the pre-order and post-publication prices may increase somewhat, but don’t worry: this will not affect copies secured through Kickstarter pledges. If you are interested in pre-orders, please keep an eye on www.interlinearmagic.com, where I release all news and updates related to the project.

The artwork for the book is now entirely finished and ready to go. In some cases, this includes digital traces of the papyri to accurately represent kharaktēres and other drawings in the manuscripts.

Since it seems unlikely at this point that the book will be both printed and delivered by the end of the calendar year, I have decided to release a few chapters in preliminary form as PDFs. These will include at least one of the longer chapters (1-12) with commentary, as well as at least two shorter chapters (13-60). This will be the first place I announce the release of the sample chapters, so stay tuned to www.interlinearmagic.com for updates.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises I have found in the course of this work is the evidence throughout the PGM of a deep devotional tradition that has its roots in ancient Egyptian ritual forms. Some of the best examples of this are the symbolic systems related to the 28 forms of the moon (the “illuminations” corresponding to the nights of the lunar month) and the 12 forms of the sun (corresponding to the “seasonal” hours of the day and night). These are precisely the kinds of ritual structures that Egypt-adjacent philosophical writers (e.g., Chaeremon, Plutarch, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus) allude to in their extant writings. The esoteric or initiated knowledge that these systems encode has at least two functions: (1) as ritual structures that track the changing times and conditions through cyclical time in order to identify the opportune time (καιρός) for ritual action, and (2) as devotional or theurgic tools that cataphatically indicate or “point to” the unified reality behind the changing forms expressed in time and space. The evidence for all this, including ancient Egyptian precedents, will be presented in the book. The “discovery” of these symbolic systems has prompted me to write a detailed commentary of the 28 animal-forms and other symbols associated with the days of the idealized lunar month; this addition itself will likely add 10-20 pages to the final product.

Thank you again for your continued patience as this unpredictable project nears completion.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 07 – Interlinear Magic

Dear Supporters,

I write to you today having just printed a complete draft of the hydra-headed General Introduction to Interlinear Magic. The draft of the Introduction alone is 52,000+ words, which is more than three times as much as I originally intended, and this is the primary reason for the additional delay. I have written much more than I set out to do because the topics I have been addressing have greater depth and often require more explanatory background than I predicted. The Introduction will have its own table of contents that I will release after some editorial restructuring, but I will outline below some of the topics that it covers. Although there remains some writing and editing to be done, the book is now very close to complete and will be ready for proofreading in a matter of weeks.

With that in mind, I have decided to teach only one more course in 2022. For those of you who have already taken Ancient Greek Magic: A Linguistic Approach, you are welcome to take the class again for free, which will cover some new material that I have developed for the book. If you haven’t already taken the course, I am offering it to Kickstarter supporters for the same discounted price as the add-on during the Kickstarter campaign itself: $300 USD (normally $400). Not only will this likely be the only course I teach for the remainder of 2022, it may also be the last time all the class sessions are presented and recorded live. (I am strongly leaning toward prerecording lessons for future courses and meeting via Zoom only for Q&A sessions and the like.) So if you’re looking for a live learning experience every week with yours truly, this will be a good opportunity for you. And if you do need to miss a class or otherwise fall behind in the course, digital recordings will remain available to you for at least one year, enabling you to learn at your own pace.

The present course begins September 17 and runs for ten weeks. To get the Kickstarter discount, you will have to follow the link sent to you in the Kickstarter update email. A full description of the course is available here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is NOT the free course (unlocked by the $50K stretch goal) for all Kickstarter supporters. That course will focus more on the PGM in historical context and somewhat less on the ancient Greek language, with little to no overlap in content between the courses. I have already outlined the course content but will be creating video lessons rather than teaching it live, as I don’t think Zoom can handle nearly 800 students. Instead, I will begin to create the video lessons as soon as the book goes to press, and I will release them as I complete each lesson rather than waiting for them all to be complete.

Back to the book then. Beyond the Introduction, which requires a thorough editorial restructuring to make it the most useful, a few of the commentaries to chapters 1-12 need to be finished up, some notes fleshed out, and some translations polished. One effect of the decision to include English translations in addition to the interlinear (Greek and English) versions is that I have been able to approach the former with more freedom while retaining a more literal approach to the latter. This means the English translations have often diverged from their interlinear counterparts in interesting ways, and I have not attempted to “standardize” the English translations as I first intended. Instead, I have embraced the idea that each of the 60 rites will have two translations, a more literal interlinear translation that attempts to be word-for-word (within the limits imposed by the grammatical differences between ancient Greek and modern English), and a less literal but more idiomatic English translation that departs from the Greek in more significant ways. Fear not, however, because if there’s ever a question of how many liberties I’ve taken with the English translation, you can quite easily check the steps of my work by consulting the interlinear translation.

Topics covered by the General Introduction include (in no particular order):

  • A Brief History of the PGM
  • Egypt in the Greco-Roman Period
  • The Major Theological Systems of Egypt (Heliopolitan, Hermopolitan, Memphite, Theban) in the Greco-Roman Period
  • Interpretatio Graeca: Egyptian Gods in Greek Translation
  • The Living Cosmos in Egyptian religion and Greek philosophy
  • As Above, so Below: Cosmic Sympathy and the “Magical Worldview”
  • Symbols and Symbol Systems in Greco-Egyptian ritual practice
  • Planetary Hours and Egyptian Timekeeping
  • Esoteric and Initiated Knowledge in the PGM
  • “Barbarous Names” and ancient theories of divine language
  • “Add the Usual” – Improvisation in the PGM

Thank you again for your patience and support. This project has proven to be quite a challenge, but it’s the most enjoyment and satisfaction I’ve ever experienced creating anything, and I am confident that the final product will justify the extra time spent on it.

Sincerely,

Brian Alt

Update 06 – Interlinear Magic

Dear supporters,

Interlinear Magic is progressing well and nears completion. What follows is a detailed update on the progress and an outline of what to expect over the next few months. (Please remember that if your shipping address will change before the book is shipped, you can update it through the survey sent out through Kickstarter.)

I intended to send this update last month, but several personal difficulties intervened, including a rather significant bout of illness that has interfered with my productivity for nearly two weeks now. Thank you for your patience.

I recently did an interview with the Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast (SHWEP.net) on the Egyptian background of Iamblichus and the PGM. The two-part interview is available here:

Part 1: Brian Alt on Sacred Materials, Divine Names, and Subtle Physiology in Iamblichean Theurgy

Part 2 (SHWEP members only): Brian Alt on Iamblichus, Late Antique Egypt, and Ritual Practice

Why the delay?

The 60 PGM rituals chosen for the book continue to surprise me, with new discoveries coming to my attention several times each week. Admittedly, this is a good problem for a scholar to have, but it has created quite a conundrum. Among these 60 rites are some of my favorites in the entire corpus, so my desire to understand every nuance and to write full commentaries on each of them can sometimes get the better of me, leading me down rabbit holes that are nearly always productive, if also time-consuming. Additionally, the insights I’d like to share about these ancient texts aren’t always the simplest thing to communicate, so I’ve been adding several introductory essays and other content that help contextualize the rites and point out the connections between them. All of this takes time, and it’s extra time I didn’t anticipate when setting previous completion goals.

Consequently, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions about what not to include in this volume to prevent this project from sprawling into next year. Everything promised on Kickstarter (and then some!) will be included in this book, but some of the additional commentaries and introductory essays will have to wait for a probable second volume of Interlinear Magic. And although I’ve added commentaries to the first 12 rites, these commentaries won’t be comprehensive, but will cover the most important findings and historical background for each rite.

Additional Introductory Content

To give just one example of the material I’ve added, many of the mythological features of the PGM rites can best be explained by looking into the widespread ancient practice of identifying Greek gods with their Egyptian counterparts. Scholars generally call this interpretatio Graeca (a Latin phrase meaning “Greek translation/interpretation”), but in the case of Egypt and the PGM, many of these identifications were made by Egyptian priests themselves whose goal was to make their religion(s) more comprehensible to the many Greek-speakers in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. You can see examples of this on the walls of some of the later temples, such as the temple of Hathor at Dendera, where the bilingual dedicatory inscriptions explicitly identify Hathor with Aphrodite.

I’ve included a detailed section in the General Introduction on how interpretatio Graeca works and how it helps us understand the PGM. Perhaps the best example of this applies to the elaborate “Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs” (PGM IV.2967-3006), which I recently posted on the website as a preview translation.

Revised Delivery Estimate

With the additional work and other delays outlined above, I have had to take several measures to finish the book as soon as possible. As of today, I will be adding no new research to the book beyond what remains necessary for the introductions. I’ve gone through every chapter and noted the specifics of what needs to be done in each case. With these things in mind, and barring additional setbacks, I anticipate needing six weeks to complete the writing process. This includes finishing up several sections of the General Introduction, putting some final editorial touches on translations and commentaries, producing a couple of drawings, and checking cross-references.

Therefore, I plan to have the book done on or around July 20. At this point the draft will immediately enter the proofreading, compositing (typesetting), and test-printing phases to ensure that the finished product will be the best quality possible. I expect that this will also take approximately six weeks. During this period, there will be an opportunity to pre-order additional copies of the book for those who may have missed the Kickstarter or otherwise want additional copies.

As soon as the final draft is sent to the printer, I will immediately begin producing the pronunciation recordings (some of these are already done) and the video lessons for the free course unlocked by the Kickstarter stretch goal. These will be released as they are completed rather than all at once.

Given all this, I aim to have the book in your hands by early autumn. If you also ordered a phylactery, these will be included with the book shipments. (Please remember that if your address will change before the book is shipped, you can update it via the survey sent out through Kickstarter.) Thank you again for your patience, and I assure you that most of these delays will be met with corresponding improvements to the overall quality of the book and related products and services.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD