So much of what magicians have taken for granted this century stems from the work of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley. Much of what will constitute standard magical theory and practice in the next century will derive from the state-of-the-art ideas and techniques currently under development in Chaos Magic.
The symbolic syncretism of the Golden Dawn a century ago, which fused renaissance Hermeticism with oriental esoterics drawn from the European imperial experience, only fully flowered when Aleister Crowley added a battery of gnostic power techniques culled from diverse cultural sources.
For many people, working with ‘animal spirits’ seems to be nothing more than fantasising about a ‘power animal’ encountered during a single pathworking, and seems to bear little or no relation to animals in ‘real life’. Fortunately, Sacred Animals demonstrates that there’s a bit more to it than that. In this immensely practical book, Gordon MacLellan shows us how we might form relationships with the animals of the Otherworld through stillness, masks, dance and dream. He also stresses the importance of becoming active in the world, as he so eloquently puts it “- action inspired by spirit.” Sacred Animals contains a wealth of practical exercises & hints for both individuals and people working in groups on a wide range of issues – from ‘Making Things’ to Conservation issues. This is a delightful book which I have no hesitation in recommending highly to readers.
I must say that I found Jan Fries’ new book, “Seidways,” hard going. Not that this is any fault of Jan’s – but each chapter gave me so much ‘food for thought’ that I had to keep putting the book down to give my brain a rest! Once again, Jan Fries shows himself to be one of the most innovate and creative of contemporary magical authors, and Seidways is, in my opinion, his best effort yet. This is the definitive study of magical trance states – brimming with information on the use of trance in different cultures, as well as a very ‘hands-on’ guide to exploring the ‘seething’ techniques which Jan has demonstrated at the Oxford Thelemic Symposium – and much more. This is the best book on practical magick that I have seen for some time. I really admire the way Jan ‘dances’ across the paradigms, blending historical accounts with contemporary personal accounts of trance states, drawing together perspectives as diverse as Japanese Shamanism to Crowley, NLP to the Typhonian Current. His perspective on the Finnish & Nordic magical practices is fascinating, and his stance on the ‘seidr – seething’ debate is equally instructive. Whilst the purists pick over the shards of history, Jan Fries has given us a very practical body of techniques which any practically-minded magician will be able to use. Buy it, you won’t be disappointed!
Phil Hine reviews Liber LXIX Vel Pan-Priapus: Sexual Magick in Theory & Practice by James Martin in the Bkwyrm archive.
Sexual Magick is one of those ‘difficult’ subjects where it is impossible to please everyone. Although there are a number of books available on the subject, many of them are either too twee, coy, or limited by the author’s own inhibitions to appeal to a wide readership. Happily this self-published work from James Martin does not shirk from delivering the goods. Exhaustive (in all senses of the word) and wide-ranging in scope, this book is a must for anyone with a serious interest in sexual magick, whether practical, theoretical or historical. James Martin serves up a heady brew, distilled from his own experience (in a refreshingly frank manner!), the works of Crowley, Dadaji, Reich, the Gnostics, and other magical approaches, both ancient and contemporary.
I have for some years been puzzled by the fact that although Thelema as a magical philosophy recognises the primacy of sexuality in magick, its numerous advocates appear to display a curious tendency to evade the discussion of sexuality in other than symbolism-drenched passages. Again, Pan-Priapus throws off the veil of coy symbolism, and gets stuck in with gusto! Fetishism, bondage, buggery, masturbatory rites, homosexual opera (both male and female), bisexuality, drugs, sexual demons and much more are given an open and honest appraisal. In addition, there is a thorough glossary, bibliography, and useful contact addresses.
Informative, inspiring, witty – at times eyebrow-raising; this is an excellent book for the magician or pansexualist of any persuasion.
Details of availability, price & postage from: James Martin, PO Box 1219, Corpus Christi, TX 78403-1219, USA
Phil Hine reviews I, Crowley: Almost the Last Confession of the Beast 666 by Snoo Wilson in the Bkwyrm archive.
Crowley remains (doubtless he would be delighted) a controversial figure. He has his detractors, his acolytes, imitators and those who would ‘whitewash over’ all the naughty things he is supposed to have done. In I, Crowley, Snoo Wilson seems to have, to my mind, captured a sense of the essence of Aleister. At least, at times when I was reading this novel, I had to remind myself that this was not the Beast himself talking! Snoo Wilson turns a neat epigram, and has the delightful blend of eloquence and crudity which for me, is the mark of the Beast. Covering ‘his’ meeting with Leah Hirsig, the founding of the Abbey of Thelema and that er, unfortunate incident with a cat, I, Crowley is a thoroughly engaging romp of which the first 666 copies have a piece of hygienically-cured goatskin glued to the spine! Definitely one for the bookshelves!
Phil Hine reviews Dreamtime Is Upon Us, The Second Annual Report of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, in the Bkwyrm archive.
The AAA is a worldwide network dedicated to local, community-based space exploration programs. Dreamtime is Upon Us is the second annual report of what the various AAA groups have been doing in order to further their goals. My initial impression was that of ‘anarcho-situationists in space’ but the AAA is much more than that. Particularly intriguing is Luther Blissett’s contribution “Sex in Space” and the XXX Foundation’s $1 million prize offered to the first privately-funded group to send a craft into sub-orbital space (about 60 miles up) and engage in sexual intercourse! Also of note is the report from Raido AAA who tell us that commercial ‘space tourism’ is being predicted by 2010 and that the Catholic Church is looking forwards to meeting with aliens – in order to convert them to Christianity!
If you’re interested in space, but depressed by the thought that the final frontier has been already sewn up by the military-industrial combine, the AAA offers several alternative directions. Get Dreamtime is Upon Us and get with the program!
Note: this and other annual reports are available on ASAN’s annual reports page.
Phil Hine reviews Dark Knights of the Solar Cross by Geoffrey Basil Smith in the Bkwyrm archives.
In this fascinating little book Geoffrey Basil Smith sets out to untangle the roots of modern occult movements. Beginning with a look at Benjamin Creme’s “Maitreya” movement, he launches into an exploration of the beginnings of the Theosophical Society and its offshoots. He then goes on to explore the unfolding of the Rosicrucian organisations, particularly the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templis Orientis. Mr. Smith manages to deal with a most convoluted subject with a precise brevity of phrase which is to be applauded. Anyone interested in the history of modern occultism will find this a worthy addition to their library.
I really don’t have all that much to say about this book. But, hey, I’m reviewing it anyway. It’s readable – the concepts are presented in a logical fashion, the material inside is interesting, it’s not filled with goofy illustrations. If I had to pick one book that I thought was the best introduction to chaos magic that was currently in print, I’d choose this one. I’m sure there are arguments for Carroll’s books, for other author’s works, but I’m sticking with Phil Hine.
Ten chapters, appended by a reading list, contain most of the information that anyone learning about chaos magic would want. Whether chaos is magic, or if it’s just random; why people practice magic in a world that is increasingly scientific; what a magician is, and what s/he does; the D.R.A.T. (discipline, relaxation, attention, transformation) formula for magical working; specific information on chaos magic, on chaos servitors, and on ego magic. There’s a chapter on evocation, which is well worth reading and an excellent introduction to the topic of why anyone would evoke a godform in the first place. Finally, there is information on self-examination and personal transformation. The book does contain specific instructions for ritual and meditation, exercise, relaxation, etc. Even absolute beginners will get something out of Hine’s book. Well worth reading, even if you aren’t interested in chaos magic.
Phil Hine reviews Carnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical Exploration of Pleasure, Pain and Self-Transformation by Crystal Dawn and Stephen E Flowers in the Bkwyrm archive.
Like many other occultists, my first introduction to group magical work was through my local Wiccan group. A curious blend of “traditions”, they nevertheless gave much prominence to scourging, “knots and cords”, blindfolded initiations and other elements which of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with s-e-x. If only the High Priestess had access to a book like Carnal Alchemy – who knows, I might just have retained my enthusiasm for Wicca!
Given the current vogue for S&M, body play and “modern primitivism”, this is a very timely release. Good books dealing with sexual magic generally are rare enough, which makes this one all the more interesting. Printed under the imprimatur of “The Order of the Triskelion,” Carnal Alchemy explores the magical implications of sadomasochistic sexuality with both boldness and directness. Eschewing the symbolism which some magical authors use to gloss over sex-magic “secrets”, Dawn & Flowers have produced a very practical guide to S-M techniques and relationships. Included in Carnal Alchemy is a historical overview of notable examples of the pleasure-pain gnosis; sado-magic themes in the works of famous magi (Crowley, LaVey, Gardner); useful tips on creating the ambience of one’s chamber/dungeon, and an extensive bibliography of Sadean works. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in sexual magic or personal transformation. Or, if you want to be kind – buy a copy for your local neighbourhood neo-Wiccans!