Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Carnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical Exploration of Pleasure, Pain and Self-Transformation by Crystal Dawn and Stephen E Flowers [also] from the closed Runa-Raven Press:
What a title! That truly exquisite pairing of words raised expectations in this reader that would not be easily fulfilled. The more specific promise of the cover blurb is the treatment of “Sadomasochistic sexuality…combined with spiritual or magical aims.” The authors claim to be the first to offer a book-length study of the topic, and so far as I know, they did indeed break some new ground on the publishing side.
But perhaps there is a reason that this particular soil had been untilled. As the authors must frequently admit in various cautions to the reader, such experiences and techniques are best transmitted in the flesh, not on paper. So this text is happily devoid of cookbook ritual instructions. What it does attempt to convey are 1) an historical survey, 2) a magical theory; 3) a notion of the range of possible practice, and 4) leads for further study and practice.
The historical survey, while fascinating, is not a pinnacle of scholarship. Statements like, “The A∴A∴ did not fulfill its function as Crowley had envisioned it,” cast a shadow of doubt over other information presented by the authors. The theory and practice sections are in the manner of a primer, and will best serve those who are new to either magical theory or S/M practice. In general, the authors do not seem to be suggesting any departures from existing techniques of S/M, but simply stressing the addition of a magical sensibility to the work. The leads for further investigation include a couple of helpful bibliographies and listings of addresses for various groups and suppliers.
Running throughout the text is a thread of shameless self-promotion for the author’s own magical order, the Order of the Triskelion. This firmly traditional feature of magical writing culminates in a full manifesto appended to the book.
Overall, Carnal Alchemy seems to fall a little short of its goal of boldly defining a new field within current sex-magical practice. It could certainly be an eye-opener for those ignorant of such technologies, and it remains an intriguing curiosity for those already working with them. [via]
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