Having attained that state, he may retire from the world and employ his energies for the employment and the further expansion of the spiritual power which he possesses. He will be perfectly happy, because that which he desires he can create in his own interior world. He expects no future reward in heaven; for what could heaven offer to him except happiness which he already possesses. He desires no other good but to create good for the world.
This volume collects two of “the Yogas” by Vivekananda in their standard English edition. They are paginated separately, and in this review I’ll refer to (K #) for Karma-Yoga and (B #) for Bhakti-Yoga.
These short books are quite inspiring. As always, Vivekananda writes as a Vedantist whose essential spirituality is universalist. He often pauses to point out the good and bad in various world religions, and Christianity is certainly not immune to criticism. He implicitly derides the doctrine of original sin and Christian self-hatred (K 16ff.), and he makes numerous anti-Protestant remarks: “at present there is scarcely any difference between the advanced Protestants and the followers of Auguste Comte, or the Agnostics who preach ethics alone” (B 46).
His occasional praises for Christianity concern the features of the Christian legacy most clearly presented in Thelema. Writing of the point at which Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana become indistinguishable, he says: “The worshipper, by keeping constantly before him the idea of God and a surrounding of good, comes to the same point at last and says, ‘Thy will be done'” (K 80-1). And in reference to Vatsalya: “The idea of loving God as a child comes into existence and grows naturally among those religious sects which believe in the incarnation of God” (B 98-9).
The second section of Bhakti-Yoga, concerning “Para-Bhakti or Supreme Devotion,” is the very best part of this volume. In it, Vivekananda describes the agape of the adepts, and he explains how it is that the obligation of the Master of the Temple to “interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my Soul” is in fact the “central secret” of bhakti yoga (B 73).
I only desire to know the truth for the sake of the truth, and not for the purpose of obtaining any selfish advantage. Teach me these secrets, and I will forget my own self, and devote my life to benefit the universal brotherhood of humanity.
Samuel Scarborough reviews Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires: The Classical Tests of Magick Deciphered [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Aaron Leitch in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.
The lure of that secret, hidden knowledge buried in a old musty tome just waiting for someone to come along and read the words thus releasing some great power, has lured many new magician with the hopes that they can do just that from picking up those slightly scary and to some degree, awe-inspiring books known as Grimoires. Unfortunately, most of the magical community has done just that, but once we had these books with names like Clavicula Salomonis (The Key of Solomon the King), the Lemegeton, the Goetia, Grimoirum Verum, or even that seemingly holy (unholy) book, The Grand Grimoire, what do we do with them? We read them and quickly learn that we are not sure what we are supposed to do with this great secret wisdom and power that we hold in our hands, so these books go back on the shelf to collect dust for most of us.
Now a new light shines on these often discussed, but long neglected books on our shelves. Aaron Leitch, a scholar and spiritual seeker with over a decade of practical experience has written a book that will be helpful to every magician that has the call to work with those classic books on magic. Where books like Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig and Summoning Spirits by Konstantinos give the hopeful magician snippets of information or information that is not that helpful to many, Leitch lays out a detailed method of working with these classics.
When I first got the book I was impressed for a product from Llewellyn. In many cases Llewellyn’s books do not have any sort of reference of where the writer is getting his information, but in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, there are detailed endnotes at the end of each chapter showing the research that has gone into the material presented. The next thing that caught my eye was the use of relevant images throughout the book to illustrate a point made by Leitch in the text or to help explain passages from those musty old books. Being something of a scholar myself, I just had to check out what the bibliography looked like…I was again surprised to find one of the most comprehensive bibliographies that I have seen in sometime outside of most academic circles. Finally, I got the best surprise of all…I sat down to read the book, and in the text was clear knowledge of those sirens known as the grimoires. Aaron Leitch clearly expressed his points and explained those difficult passages from such esoteric volumes as the Heptameron and the Sworn Book of Honorius in a clear manner that shed the light of understanding suddenly on just what those magicians of 400 – 500 years ago were talking about.
The book is impressive in its size. At four hundred and thirty-two pages with additional xxi pages of Table of Content, Acknowledgements Preface, and Introduction it makes for a large book. Do not let the size fool or scare you away, it is well worth reading. The Preface is full of praise for Leitch and his work on the subject is written by Chic and Tabatha Cicero. The rest of the book covers such topics as medieval magick with a short history of the classic grimoires from the Picatrix to The Grand Grimoire and every other classic grimoire or important text relating to them such as Barrett’s The Magus and Casaubon’s A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. And King James their Reignes) and Some Spirits to chapters on what tools are described in the texts of the old grimoires with modern-day methods of creating them as well as many places to find the required materials for them. The meat of the book though covers the operations listed in the classic grimoires and just what is meant for a person to follow the often misunderstood instructions that were written in them so that a person can perform them in the 21st Century.
If the glowing words above do not inspire you to get this book, then I will say it in very plain English. Go out and buy this book, come home and read it, and then look at those dusty volumes on your shelf that long ago promised you the lure of sudden power and knowledge of our Holy Guardian Angel in a new light.
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Ask Baba Lon: Answers to Questions of Life and Magick [Amazon, Bookshop, Abebooks] by Lon Milo DuQuette.
Ask Baba Lon is Lon DuQuette’s entry in the microgenre of occult collected instructional correspondence, following such classics as Eliphas Levi’s Letters to a Disciple and Aleister Crowley’s Aleister Explains Everything (published as Magick Without Tears). A significant difference is that Baba Lon’s book covers answers to a wider number and variety of correspondents than those addressed by Constant and Crowley. He does not even scruple to bar a little representative “crank mail.”
Baba Lon boasts that he has improved on the format established by his predecessors, because he includes the letters from querents along with his own responses. He fails, however, to include the dates of his own letters. This information would be of interest because he has been teaching about magick for three decades, and he freely admits that his opinions change over time. What’s more, he repeatedly emphasizes that the virtue of magick (and freemasonry) involves the gradual improvement in the perspective of the effective aspirant.
The omission of dates is also significant in that the letters are not arranged in chronological sequence, but rather by topic. A peculiar feature of this scheme is the last section consisting of a single letter on the topic of “Reincarnation.” Although that arrangement may look a bit goofy in the abstract, the final letter itself is especially wonderful and deserves its privileged position. Besides, the various portraits of Baba Lon by his wife St. Constance of the Well demonstrate that looking a bit goofy is in fact part of his magical modus operandi.
While Baba Lon’s answers are not always the ones I would give (and I confess to answering questions at least as often as I ask them in recent years of occult correspondence), they all show the sort of wisdom and humanity that his readers and students have come to expect of him. “It’s funny because it’s true” so often here. Readers of this book who have not met Lon DuQuette or heard him speak should seek out one of the YouTube videos that show him in informal conversation, to get a sense of his voice and pacing, so as to be able to mentally construct the whole “Baba Lon” effect.
I recommend this book heartily to all Thelemites, and to any sincere students of the occult. It provides constructive replies (if not always “answers”) both to questions we are repeatedly asked, and to those we should perennially ask.
Lamaseries and lodges, orders, monasteries, convents, and places of refuge have been established, where people might strive to attain a higher life, unimpeded by the aggressions and annoyances of the external world of illusions. Their original purpose was beyond a doubt very commendable. If in the course of time many such institutions have become degraded and lost their original character; if instead of being places for the performance of the noblest and most difficult kind of labour, they have become places of refuge for the indolent, idle, and superstitious; it is not the fault of that principle which first caused such institutions to be organised, but it is the consequence of the knowledge of the higher nature of man and his powers and destiny having been lost, and with the loss of that knowledge, the means for the attainment, the original aim, was naturally lost and forgotten.
“One cannot be careful enough in selecting one’s guides,” continued the stranger. “There are at present so many false prophets and guides. All the world is at present crazy for poking their noses into the mysteries of the astral world. Everybody wants to be taught witchcraft and sorcery. Secrets, which for thousands of years have been wisely kept hidden before the eyes of the unripe and profane, are now bawled out from the housetops and sold at the market-place as objects of trade. Hundreds of self-appointed ‘masters’ and guides speculate upon the selfishness and ambitions of their disciples, and, the blind leading the blind, they both come to grief. If only all the seekers for truth were like you, they would not be deluded by false promises held out to them for attaining adeptship.”