On Becoming an Alchemist
A Guide for the Modern Magician

By Catherine MacCoun

Trumpeter Books, PB, 263pp

Review by Dr Nina Lazarus for Avalonia

The author defines alchemy as “spiritual knowledge applied to getting things done in the material world”. This immediately tells you this is a book on spiritual alchemy, not the classical alchemical tradition. She also explains that “True magicians don’t recite incantations and spells”. By now you have probably worked out the essence of this book – indeed it is another self-help book, this time dressed up with the trappings of alchemy to try and make it more appealing. The author has opted for the seven stage process as being more manageable, rather than the more usual classic twelve stages.

On reading the book you will notice that ideas such as the common seven chakra system are brought in to illustrate points. This emphasises the nature of this book, it is drawn piecemeal from a wide range of sources. The author is as likely to quote Harry Potter as Basil Valentine to make her point. This is a style that works for some people and not for others, and for people who want a guidebook that does not emphasise disciplined practice but rather focuses on how you feel and simple exercises then they will not be disappointed.

Although I can see this book will appeal to some people, it is a shame the title misleads, as it is not about becoming a modern magician, it is about dealing with emotional baggage, which is only the first step on the magickal path.