I always wondered where people got the idea that they were being pursued or harassed by some kind of “black coven” and needed “heavy shielding” to be protected from these evil people. Now I know, thanks to reading this book. I won’t say it’s complete crap – this is Dion Fortune, some of the stuff is going to be useful. If you can get past the “when I was twenty, I was a victim of a psychic attack that led to a nervous breakdown” twaddle, some of the material is pretty useful. Actually, it wasn’t until the third section (the book is divided into quarters) that I found material that could be useful in a way other than whipping normally sane humans into hysterical omigodthey’reafterme paranoids.
Part one is devoted to types of psychic attack – the signs of it, examples of it (somehow I wonder if Dion was really pursued by lesbians constantly, but that’s another story altogether), a look at astral travel titled “Projection of the Etheric Body” that is really not that bad, information on psychic vampires (I’ve yet to meet one), information on hauntings, things about danger from non-human entities, and a section on the risks specific to ceremonial magic.
Part two is actually interesting, in a sociological-study kind of way. It covers “Differential Diagnosis” of psychic attack – the “distinction between objective psychic attack and subjective psychic distubance”, for example. Also contains a section on the non-occult dangers of the Black Lodge, which is not likely to be of interest to people who don’t think the world revolves around them and their tremendous psychic powers. Ahem. Anyway, Part two is interesting enough.
Part three is about the diagnosis of a psychic attack – essentially, says Fortune, you have to know that you’re being attacked before you can defend yourself. Which is true, but the criteria she uses for diagnosing psychic attacks are somewhat suspect, at least to me. I still can’t get past this whole concept I have that one must have a firm belief in one’s own attractiveness (psychically speaking) to believe that an attack by a “Black Lodge” or a “Black Coven” is likely. The two chapters on motives behind psychic attacks all seem to center on her own experiences of being attacked in this way for a variety of reasons – indeed, it is amazing that Ms. Fortune had the time to write this book, as she was so busy fighting off so many attacks. I’ll stop being snide now. Part three is really kind of pointless, unless you want to entertain yourself with the stories of Ms. X, Y, and Z and their psychic adventures. Hey, it got me through a plane trip to D.C.
Finally, at long last, we come to the actual useful material – “Methods of Defence Against Psychic Attack”. First the reader has to get through the physical aspects of psychic attacks and defenses (which are actually worthwhile, if the reader has never dealt with this topic before), and the methods of diagnosing the nature of an attack. Strangely enough, the diagnosis here seems much more reasonable than the entirety of part three. Four chapters of methods of defence follow – they include a strange mixture of folklore, superstition, and ceremonial magic. Some of it might be handy. Some of it sound like complete hogwash. Up to the reader to decide, however.
All in all, not too bad. But Dion Fortune was writing at a different time, and her audience was comprised of people with much different (I hope) mindsets than contemporary magicians. I’m inclined to be forgiving about much of the hysterical twaddle that accompanies the actual information in this book – I have hopes that it was included to make the book appeal to a wider audience. In closing, then: if you need a book on psychic self defense, there are much better ones than Psychic Self-Defense. It is, however, a classic, and you could do worse. Avoid it if you’re easily excited, or prone to thinking that others are attacking you – Fortune feeds right into the martyr we all have hiding in a corner of our soul.