Lon Milo DuQuette, My Life With the Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc 1999) pp 191, paper, $14.95, ISBN 1578631203
When it comes to magical memoirs, two major failings often arise. First, when a magician attains some level of fame through success (much like other artists, this usually happens posthumously), he or she seems to instantly achieve, whether merited or not, legendary status. Objectivity on their life and accomplishments becomes obscured by all the accompanying hyperbole. And second, the works produced about the individuals seem to have a universal lack of wit. Neither of these shortcomings are reflected in the brilliant autobiography My Life With the Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician by Lon Milo DuQuette.
DuQuette, who is undoubtedly, like Robert Anton Wilson and Phil Hine, one of the most entertaining authors writing today, skillfully fends off the trait that has spread like a virus through our modern world - the fear of introspection. With both savage honesty and practiced style, DuQuette reveals both the heart and history of a true spiritual seeker. He openly delves into his "agonizing" years in "accepted" religion and, with the fortitude of a soldier gazing at his own battle scars, shares the progress of his metaphysical self through the trenches as well as the Samadhic peaks.
Having dabbled in the entheogenic craze of the sixties and having encountered the truths inherent in the then-newly-emergent flood of eastern traditions, he advanced through the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, the O.T.O. and Crowley's Thelemic system (in fact, his The Magic of Thelema is arguably the finest introduction to Thelemic magic available) and finally into the depths of Dee's Enochian model and modern ceremonial magic. In a time that finds the bookshelves rife with languid how-to manuals on evocation and frustratingly short on personal accounts of evocation, in terms of both successes and failures, the last half DuQuette's book is priceless. The narrative of his evocation of Orobas is the finest account of ceremonial magic, in terms of both objective practice and subjective meaning, that I have ever read. The book itself, whether the reader is schooled in the craft or simply curious, stands alone among magical biographies.
- Frater S.P.R.V.
Also of interest from the same author
Angels, Demons and Gods of the New Millennium: Musings on Modern Magic (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1997) pp 178, $16.95 ISBN# 157863010X
The Magick of Solomon (video), written and narrated by Carroll “Poke” Runyon, dir. by Gregory Jednack, The Church of Hermetic Sciences, Inc., $29.95, ISBN 0- 9654881-0-1
As a primer for the student of ceremonial magick, not only is it an excellent example of a fully realized ceremonial magick methodology - the Solomonic system with the inclusion of Runyon’s “Master Mandala” coupled with the use of the dark mirror to induce a state of self-hypnosis for the purpose of evocation - but also a strong model of practical magickal reasoning incorporating modern (or recovered) techniques. And it is the practical aspects, the elements that the attentive student should pay attention to, that form the video’s underlying strength: the need for properly constructed ritual tools, the need to memorize the necessary incantations (thank the Gods, there was not one recited passage within the magick circle), the need for preparatory training before ever setting foot in the circle for evocational purposes. Utilizing these points, the video is intelligent, illuminating and convincing without being pretentious or stooping to sensationalism. The latter factor alone renders it a rare gem among the productions of ceremonial magick.
Best of all, it illustrates the importance of two aspects necessary for the mastery of any effective modern ceremonial magick method based on the Solomonic model: a) the need to have a full working knowledge of the entire Solomonic cycle, its origins and its precursors, and not simply of the Greater and Lesser Keys, and b) a working knowledge of the modern synthetic stream of Hermeticism and its sources (and not simply the Emerald Tablet, the Corpus Hermeticum and the Greek Magical Papyri, but also key works such as the Chaldaean Oracles, the Avesta, the Sepher Yetzirah and the Zohar, the Gnostic Thunder, Perfect Mind, the Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of Truth, etc., et al.). Both are necessary in a basic, functional sense; one should have a map and be cognizant of the terrain before embarking on the journey. Both are vital in terms of mental preparation; just as the soldier must be aware of the signs and portents of war, so must the magickian be aware of the designs and symbols of the Art.
The Magick of Solomon is a serious addition that should be made to the library of any serious ceremonial magickian.
- Frater S.P.R.V.
Margaret Mary Funk, Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life (New York: Continuum, 1998), pp.144, cloth, $15.95, ISBN 0-8264-1063-4.
Though written by a Catholic Benedictine nun, Thoughts Matter could be equally enlightening for non-Christians. The author seeks to take the fifth century writings of theologian John Cassian and test their relevance in these last days of the millenium. Especially in the area of controlling one's "mindless thoughts", she succeeds.
The "ascetical life" as it is called, is a time-honored method of bringing these thoughts under control. Highlighted are how eating to excess or prolonged fasting drive one to be too preoccupied with inconsequential things. Training oneself to eat at the required times, and only a nourishing amount of what the body needs, will open one to still other types of thoughts running rampant. Among these are anger, vainglory and indifference. It is the premise of this text that controlling such thoughts will open one to a more spiritual lifestyle.
Cassian's stories which are used come from the desert mothers and fathers of old. The method described is progressive and ultimately leads toward greater concentration. The author admits it might not be the right way for every reader, but thousands have benefited from it over the centuries.
This is not a book one ought to devour in a day. For non-Christian readers, there will be some "translation" necessary to mentally substitute personal beliefs for Christian generalizations. The subject matter is no "surface journey", instead delving deep into the workings of the mind, which is the primary reason anyone interested in increasing control of the mental processes should take time to read it.
Of the various books on magick, wicca, witchcraft and other aspects of paganism which have been published over the past century, Jennifer Hunter's book is, by far, the easiest to read. Her style of writing is very frank, very honest, very personal. She uses no technical terminology which, for new inquirers into the ways of Wicca, makes the path less confusing.
Hunter stresses the importance of making rituals "your own", debunking the common practice of using ceremonies written by others. She outlines the "whys" of Wicca, and the basic "hows", leaving the specific adjustments up to the individual. She provides exercises to help the reader find that personal energy so important to the magickal aspects of Wicca, to create a ritual altar, to eat an orange as a way of increasing one's awareness.
The author addresses the disappointment which sometimes accompanies the initiation rituals customary in Wiccan covens. Also interesting is the way she incorporates portions of interviews with other witches - of widely diverse personal background and age - into the text. Each quotation, ranging from one paragraph to three or four, provides illustrations of Hunter's points.
Hunter readily admits that there are numerous other books available for those who wish to know more about aspects of Wicca upon which she merely touches. And, it can be said that her viewpoint might not prove helpful to members of an established coven. Her own experiences with a coven led her to choose a solitary path, and there seems to be a bit of hostility toward covens in her phraseology.
Overall, though, Hunter should be commended for writing a book that is accessible to anyone curious about modern Wicca. She brings all her experience - from her pre-teens to adulthood - to the pages, enabling others to relate the phases of their lives to their beliefs in the same way.
It is not often that I regress temporally for a book review. The frequency with which new Pagan material emerges leaves little time for retrospect, but, on a recent trip to Half Price Books in Indianapolis, I discovered a rough gem to which attention must be directed. William Bloom's The Sacred Magician is a journal, chronicled with attention to psychoanalytical, mystical and magical methodology and subjective experience, of one man's practice of the transformative rites of ceremonial magic. Even more impressive - and it acts as proof of his sincere intentions - is his choice of manual: Mather's translation of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, a gruelling six month ceremony whose final result is "full communication with your Holy Guardian Angel", the higher self of the practicing magician (it was this true self that appeared to Crowley as Aiwass in 1904; the result was his pivotal Book of the Law).
Ceremonial magic is a subject which draws few adherent authors outside of the classic sources - Dee, Levi, Crowley, Regardie, Mathers, Cicero, et al. With the exception of Konstantinos' passable Summoning Spirits, Steve Savedow's Magician's Workbooks and the sporadic chapter or section on the subject in various compilations, functional and enlightening offerings have been scarce. And that's what makes this book such a find. Sections from Abramelin's grimoire are interspersed throughout, giving the reader a working understanding of Bloom's standpoint and progress and Bloom's own footnotes and meticulous attention to detail reveal an intelligence and acumen that is nothing short of revelatory. Despite occasional heavy-handed references to the Christian faith (which should not be unexpected, as anyone who has investigated ceremonial magic will know), the work and it's accompanying "book list" which catalogs each volume quoted within is an invaluable addition to any magician's library.
Astrology has experienced a renewed interest in recent decades, as people search for a spirituality that is personally meaningful. Diane Eichenbaum, an astrologist and psychic herself, has compiled a fairly comprehensive study of the 12 soul signs, including a look at each sign and its opposite.
Of course, astrology is a matter of individual interpretation. The key traits of any sign may be "standard", but how each person deals with them is unique. That is where Ms. Eichenbaum falls short. She details the traits of each sign at great length, including physical aspects, such as "most Librans, like Taureans, have dimples". If a Libran doesn't have the "classic good looks" cited in this text, will there be any long term affect? Or will the individual be prompted to run out and find a plastic surgeon?
The author seems to think this sort of thing matters. Yes, her breakdown of the "Soul Power", "Ego Blockage" and "Transforming Path" is helpful for each sign. As she expands upon these traits, however, she places emphasis on factors that have very little to do with a person's spiritual growth. The sections on "What Can Be Done" and "Three Steps for Healing Your Blockage" are directed to the reader, with ample use of the pronoun "you" throughout the text. Anyone who has studied astrology, even briefly, will grasp that each Cancer tends toward some traits and not others, as would an Aries or Scorpio. Since Ms. Eichenbaum is not acquainted with each reader personally, making blanket statements as she does can be rather misleading.
Admittedly, this is the author's first book. Her grasp of astrology is rather amazing, despite the shortcomings of the actual text. Hopefully, if a second book is forthcoming, the style of writing will improve.