As a practical application of this principle, I suggest you seek out several people that inspire you in this way. Ask them about their path: How did they get where they are? What called to them or inspired them? What do they consider their best choices and their worst failures?
Accordingly, if we want to understand our current transformational patterns, we must try to discover the living myths of today’s world—the things we actually believe in—and the gods we truly worship.
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Living Thelema: A Practical Guide to Attainment in Aleister Crowley’s System of Magick by David Shoemaker.
Living Thelema is a brand that David Shoemaker has developed through a website and podcast segments by that name, and in this book which collects essays on a fairly wide range of topics within the field of orthopractic Thelemic magick. Many of these were previously published elsewhere, and despite revisions for this volume, they don’t always seem to be addressing a consistent audience. In his introduction, the author claims that the book is intended as a primer, but with idiosyncratic insights to benefit more experienced practitioners. Many of the essays conclude with short bibliographies of “recommended reading.”
As soon as I got into the first essay, I started to encounter some problems. In this “Introduction to the Qabalah” Dr. Shoemaker defines “The Qabalah” simply as “the mystical branch of the Jewish tradition” (4). A few pages later, he begins referring to “the Hermetic Qabalah” (9), but at no point does he clarify any relationship or distinction between the Jewish Qabalah and the Hermetic Qabalah, let alone their relationship to Thelema. Such sloppiness in the history of religions, along with the faulty translation of sephiroth as “spheres” (4), may be par for the course in occult manuals, but when the chapter opens with a note boasting that “A different version of this essay appeared in the instructor’s manual of … an undergraduate psychology textbook” (3), the errors are cause for added dismay.
Although there is an “Introduction to the Qabalah,” there is no corresponding “Introduction to Thelema” in this volume. Readers are clearly assumed to be familiar with the existence of an occult movement that recognizes Aleister Crowley as a founding teacher, orients itself to The Book of the Law as sacred writ, and manifests through O.T.O. and A∴A∴ along with newer esoteric orders. The modern history of occultism receives no treatment here—besides the author’s autobiographical introduction.
The “beginner” materials on establishing a magical regimen and fundamental practices are generally clear, and compare favorably to other books of this type, both the explicitly Thelemic ones, and more generic ones on ceremonial magick. The self-helpy tone is reasonably suited to this content, so it doesn’t get in the way here. With this substance in view, the book may in fact be best suited to Thelemites working in ad hoc groups or in solitary circumstances. It has doubtless been welcomed by the author’s own students and others who already view him as an authority.
I guess it’s too much to expect doctrinal insight from a book that claims only to be a “practical guide,” but Living Thelema does seem to offer itself as a primary demonstration of Dr. Shoemaker’s qualities as a “claimant” (his preferred term) to administrative authority in A∴A∴. The book has a colophon containing the A∴A∴ seal, but no assertion of a full imprimatur. The key passages of the book in this respect can be found in the second of its three major sections, which is headed “Perspectives on the Path of Attainment.” I’m afraid that I failed to derive any real insight or inspiration from the content most relevant to this issue, and—without any wish to be drawn into argument—I must confess deep reservations about the picture of O.T.O.’s relationship to A∴A∴ drawn at the end of the chapter on “The Methods and Tools of A∴A∴”
I actually found the language of the doctrinal sections somewhat off-putting in its frequent chattiness, and its ubiquitous use of the abbreviation “K&C of the HGA” to reference that Knowledge and Conversation which is the first critical task of adeptship. Further, I was puzzled by the essay on “The Formulas of L.V.X. and N.O.X.,” which seemed to lack real depth, and to be at pains to counter particular misconceptions that I’ve never seen circulated.
Besides his esoteric credentials and experience, Dr. Shoemaker is a clinical psychologist with a Jungian orientation. His integration of Jungian theory with magical doctrines is, I think, exemplary. He avoids the common pitfall of using Jung’s work to legitimize occultism, as if 20th-century psychological theories were somehow more objectively valid than a body of initiatic practice and esoteric teachings. A strong case can be made for Jung’s de facto standing as an esoteric adept, but to the extent that one accepts that case, it is necessary to see his writings as an exotericization of what he learned in his attainment. They are therefore most useful in providing alternative, confirmatory views of occult processes. The chapter on “The Role of the Ego in the Great Work” in Living Thelema is an admirable use of Jungian ideas in the context of Thelemic initiation. Dr. Shoemaker’s clinical experience is on display chiefly in the third section of the book, which supplies advice regarding mental hygiene and relationship issues for Thelemites. This material seemed unobjectionable in itself, but it did lend something of a remedial, therapeutic flavor to the conclusion of the text.
I have collaborated with Dr. Shoemaker in person on projects under the aegis of O.T.O., and in our interactions I have found him to be personable, perceptive, and prudent. I had high hopes for his first book-length work on magick, but I cannot say they were quite fulfilled. [via]
Jane Wolfe: The Cefalu Diaries 1920 – 1923 by Jane Wolfe, commentary by Aleister Crowley, compiled and introduced by David Shoemaker, the 2008 deluxe edition from College of Thelema of Northern California (now International College of Thelema), is part of the collection at the Reading Room. The papercover version is still available via print on demand.
“A fascinating look into the training undertaken by Jane Wolfe, a student of Aleister Crowley, at the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily. This book collects the bulk of Wolfe’s surviving diary entries from Cefalu, most of which were typed, complete with handwritten commentary from Crowley on many pages. The diary is presented in grayscale facsimile format. Compiled and Introduced by Dr. David Shoemaker.” [via]
David Shoemaker will be giving a talk, “The System of Aleister Crowley’s A∴A∴ Methods and Tools of Attainment”, followed by a Q&A session and book signing for Living Thelema, at Atlantis Bookshop on July 11th, 2014.
“David Shoemaker at The Atlantis Bookshop
The System of Aleister Crowley’s A∴A∴
Methods and Tools of Attainment
Friday 11th July
Doors at 7pm; Event begins at 7:30
The talk will be followed by a Question & Answer Session and book signing featuring
Dr. Shoemaker’s new book, Living Thelema.” [via]
“Welcome to the one hundred-and-tenth of our on-line catalogues, this being another of our specialised Aleister Crowley lists.
The catalogue begins with three interesting new releases: signed copies of Marlene Cornelius’ Liber AL Vel Legis: The Book of the Law. An Examination of Liber XXXI & Liber CCXX; and David Shoemaker’s Living Thelema: A Practical Guide to Attainment in Aleister Crowley’s System of Magick, and the always-interesting and beautifully produced AMeTh Lodge Journal. Vol. I, No. II from AMeTh Lodge of the O.T.O. in London. The next item is “Dark Halo,” a signed and numbered Limited Edition Print of a portrait of Aleister Crowley by California artist Heather McMillen, with an accompanying hand-written poetic “homage to Aleister Crowley” by Blair MacKenzie Blake, author of The Wickedest Books in the World and other works.
The third section of the catalogue is devoted to books and ephemera by Aleister Crowley himself. Amongst the rarities included are a copy of the Cambridge University magazine Granta which includes an anonymous poem by Crowley, a copy of the vellum bound first volume of The [Collected] Works of Aleister Crowley with an extraordinary double inscription, and Nicholas Bishop-Culpeper’s personal copy of Magick In Theory and Practice, beautifully bound in full vellum. There is also a group of four autograph letters, signed by Crowley; each is significant in its own way, with topics ranging from Crowley’s alleged share holdings in Australia, to a defense of Aubrey Beardsley! A selection of copies of The English Review, each with a contribution by Crowley, are followed by a varied group of books and journals that in one way or another relate to “the Beast.” Included amongst the journals are a copy of Esquire Magazine from March 1970 with a detailed and heavily illustrated series of essays on Californian occultism, that also reproduces a newsclipping concerning the famous “Solar Lodge” “Boy in the Box” debacle; a complete set of Sothis Magazine from the 1970s, a collection of the first seven issues of the Typhonian magazine Starfire; and 3 consecutive issues of Picture Post Magazine from 1955 which serialised a well-illustrated but breathless account of Crowley’s life. Amongst the books in the same section are a first edition of The Macedonians by Mary Butts, the English novelist and serious occult practitioner who spent some time at Cefalu with Crowley, the very uncommon first edition of Tiger-Woman by Betty May, in which she recounts her own time at Cefalu, and Nina Hamnett’s Laughing Torso, a book which eventually led Crowley into bankruptcy after he sued it’s publishers for libel, and failed.
A selection of the rather abstruse “Ming” booklets by one-time Crowley acolyte C. F. Russell is followed by the first three volumes of his also often-baffling Znuz is Znees, Memoirs of a Magician. A link, to a separate page, leads to listings for a collection of 26 books that were formerly in the library of Wilfred Talbot Smith (1885-1957), founder of “The Church of Thelema,” head of Agape Lodge of the O.T.O. in California, a long term associate of Aleister Crowley, and subject of Martin Starr’s biography The Unknown God. The collection includes a copy of the First US edition of Aleister Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend, and copies of a number of works that Crowley is known to have recommended to his disciples, including The Canon; three books by Sydney T. Klein; the James Legge, translations of The Tao Teh King and The Yi King; etc. Some of the books have presentation or other inscriptions by well known people within the Thelemic community, including C. Stansfeld Jones; Frederic Mellinger; and Helen Parsons Smith. Most of the books are stamped with the personal lamen, with phallic design, of W.T. Smith, which he used as an ownership stamp, and a few also have his ownership signature. Included in the collection are several books that are quite scarce in their own right; notably the works by the obscure American alchemical author Delmar DeForest Bryant and the First Edition of the Pancham Sinh, translation of The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Returning to the present page, the catalogue finishes with a group of copies of the Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick, a magazine published by a small Thelemic group in Ohio known as the Bate Cabal in the late 1970s and 80s.” [via]
The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema (Selected Writings, 2) [also] by Phyllis Seckler (Soror Meral), edited by Dr David Shoemaker et al., the 2012 hardcover limited edition of 666 from College of Thelema of Northern California (now the International College of Thelema) and Teitan Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Phyllis Seckler (‘Soror Meral:’ 1917–2004) was introduced to the teachings of Aleister Crowley in the late 1930s and became a regular participant in the activities of Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis in California, and rose to become a Ninth Degree member of the ‘Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis,’ and an Adeptus Minor of the A∴ A∴ The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema is the second volume of writings by Phyllis Seckler to be published by the College of Thelema of Northern California in association with The Teitan Press. Like the first volume, The Thoth Tarot, Astrology & Other Selected Writings, this collection is edited and introduced by three of Seckler’s former students: Rorac Johnson, Gregory Peters, and David Shoemaker, but this second volume additionally includes a short Foreword by one of her best-known early A∴ A∴ students, Lon Milo DuQuette.
In common with Crowley, Seckler found short, pithy essays, written in the form of ‘letters,’ to be an excellent and powerful teaching method, and the main body of this work comprises a series of these letters, covering diverse topics from kabbalah and the practice of ritual magic, through philosophy and spiritual enquiry to commentary on the Thelemic culture of the time. Originally published in Seckler’s journal In the Continuum, they are here presented for the first time in book form, accompanied by redrawn and corrected diagrams.
The book also reproduces a number of important letters that passed between Seckler and other significant figures in the history of post-Crowleyan Thelema, including Karl Germer, Israel Regardie, Grady McMurtry, Gerald Yorke, and Marcelo Motta. These letters, which cover matters as varied as the leadership succession of the O.T.O. and the thefts at Karl Germer’s library, are published here for the first time, as are a number of related photographs. ” [via]
The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.