Aleister Crowley: A Modern Master
by John Moore
reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

This book is an attempt to place Crowley in the context of modern ideas and older traditions.  That this should be attempted is not surprising when we recall that Crowley was number 73 in the recent poll of the top 100 Britons.  The biographical details given for Crowley are supplied to justify or clarify points of view, and as such this work is not, nor does it claim to be, a biography, providing only such piecemeal references.

Unfortunately this has resulted in sections of the book where you forget it is even about Crowley, as his name disappears for eight or ten pages at a time in places whilst the author discusses philosophy.  Whilst these discussions are interesting and demonstrate the authors breadth of knowledge, they often seem tangential and not directly relevant to Crowley and his context.  From this perspective the absence of Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo from the bibliography suggests a worthy source missed, whose treatment could have provided more useful ideas for the author.

This is an interesting work, but more as a background work for someone wishing to expand on their ideas of material that may have influenced Crowley, rather than Crowley the man, the mage or the modern master.

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Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick Volume 2: Grimoire
by Frater Barrabbas
reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

The back cover of this book informs us that Frater Barabbas has almost four decades of practical experience of the occult arts.  I therefore assume that he is in his fifties, as anyone claiming to practice magick seriously before the age of twelve or thirteen in my experience is usually a deluded fantasist.  Let us continue with the outer cover. The subtitle of the book is somewhat misleading, as the use of the term grimoire here is indicative of the current trend to use the word to somehow validate books as being more genuine or of greater provenance, when they are in fact completely unrelated to the Medieval and Renaissance grimoires, which form a distinct tradition of their own.

So to the material contained within.  The book should perhaps have been called “Reinventing Wicca by making it more ceremonial with bits of Qabalah, psychology and the Grail thrown in for good measure.”  It is not terribly exciting, original or innovative, and in some places the material has clearly not been thought through, or is simply completely off the mark.

Considering the nine ritual components of the book, what is good or bad?  Well the first section on the consecration of the magick temple has a slightly revised version of Wiccan circle casting – salt and water, engraving of circle and summoning the four wards.  The latter includes the words “to manifest and appear” for the summoned watchtower guardians, which seems incredibly optimistic.  Then four emissaries of the deity are invoked, which seems somewhat superfluous, not to mention a little crowded!  Why do people always assume that spiritual beings want to come and watch their rituals anyway when they offer no incentive for them to do so, but I digress.  The proliferation of So Mote It Be’s in the opening and closing make the Wiccan origins of this material clear.

Then we come to the consecration of the magick grove.  This was of similar ilk, however summoning the spirits of the elements into the cakes, oil, milk and honey and wine, and then burying them in the earth and putting a stone over them is not in my opinion a very smart move.  Other elemental spirits will know you are the one who trapped their compatriots and have no desire to help you with anything – why should they?

The Pyramid of Power contains the first occurrence of the “Mantle of Glory”, which is a straightforward derivation of the Qabalistic Cross, minus the visualisations which actually empower it.  And the author also tells you to assume the Osiris position, not making it clear whether he means the Wiccan crossed arms or the actual position of Osiris on statues, which is holding the arms vertically upward and parallel to each other in front of the chest with hands in front of breasts.

The use of the forty qualified powers is not a bad idea, though calling it the Concourse of Forces (another Golden Dawn borrowing) is not very original.  Basically this is the use of the Tree of Life through the Four Worlds to sub-divide types of rite and assign them to the 40 minor Arcana of the Tarot, being Ace to 10 of the four Suits.  Unfortunately the author’s knowledge of Qabalah seems somewhat rudimentary, and when I reached his attributions of the angels this was made very clear.  He has mixed the traditional grimoire orders of angels with the Qabalistic ones, resulting in some bizarre attributions and the introduction of new orders of angels not seen in either – the Benefactors and Intelligences!  The latter term is sometimes used interchangeably with Angels, as seen in the Planetary Intelligences, but that would not fit here.  Neither would the Aralim (should be Binah) with the Ten of Swords, Dominions should be Jupiter and Four, not the Three of Swords, and the list goes on.

The Rose Vortex Ritual brings in the Maiden Mother Crone with the Amazon/lover to make up four, for a bit of pagan chanting and fantasy role play (or internal psychological magick if you want to be generous), which will apparently enable you to “create a wave-form causality effect that is stealthy, ultimately potent and irreversible.”  You too can change the world with a bit of bad chanting (allegedly).  The Grail Spirit ritual continues more of the same flavour, and by this point you may wish to give up.  However, amongst all the patchwork of mismatched bits, suddenly there is a gem, when the author gives a very good discussion of assumption of godhead.  If the rest of the book were up to this standard it would indeed be a treat.  Sadly however it lapses back to the flavour already indicated.

I was slightly puzzled by the bibliography, where “The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley”, “Liber 777” and “777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley” were listed as three separate books, when they are basically all the same thing (ok Liber 777 doesn’t contain Sepher Sephiroth but that is a minor quibble).  However perhaps this is thrown in to see if you are still paying attention.

If the author wrote a book around assumption of godhead to the standard of that section I would buy it, however unfortunately the rest of the book is sadly lacking and likely to confuse rather than illuminate.

Alchemists, Mediums & Magicians: Stories of Taoist Mystics
translated and edited by Thomas Cleary
reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

This is an extraordinary book whose contents range from the humorous to the bizarre to the profound, demonstrating the nature of the material within it – the lives of Taoist sages.  Thomas Cleary is well known as one of the foremost translators of classical Taoist and Buddhist works, and here he once again demonstrates his scholarship and understanding.  His very helpful footnotes elaborate on terminology, and the names of places and individuals mentioned, making the material more easily accessible to the reader.
The book is a translation of a collection of sketches by the fourteenth century Taoist priest, Zhang Tianyu, and portrays more than one hundred characters from a two thousand four hundred year period covering the eleventh century BCE through to the thirteenth century CE.
The poetry and quotes from many of the illuminated Taoists within provide food for the spirit and the mind.  If you are inspired or moved by lines like “Stillness and silence are the house to safeguard virtue; purity and calm are the garden where the spirit may roam” (Yang Xiong), or “Roaming in the void, I escape the high winds; Walking in the miraculous, I have no form or place.  The experience of completeness lights the dawn haze; Nine phoenixes sing in the morning sun.  Spreading their wings, they dwarf the Milky Way” then this is definitely the book for you.
Although it may be viewed superficially as a collection of sketches of lives, ranging from a paragraph to several pages for each of the sages, there is so much more here.  The collection is itself an illustration of the magic and mysticism of Taoism in action.  From this perspective even the shortest life sketch may be read as a doorway to open the horizons of the mind and allow the spirit to soar.  This is a book to dip into with joy, to inspire and even to guide, and the Thomas Cleary is to be congratulated on his excellent work in making it available.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over? A book about stuff
by Collen A’Miketh
reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

Let me start by saying this is an interesting book.  Although the title attempts (and fails) to be funny (WTF = What The F—k), and the cover tells us it is a humorous book in places, it did not make me laugh.  It did however make me nod with agreement in places, and gave me cause to appreciate the depth of experience and ideas that have been put into this work.  Put in simple terms, this is basically a book about the principles of chaos magic without all the pseudo-science that so often detracts from the underlying concepts.  The author encourages the reader to apply their magick as action rather than reaction, and from this premise the book evolves.
The discussion of paradigms, realities, data streams, sigils and personality modification make the chaos flavour of the book clear.  However refreshingly the discussion is much more accessible and less irritating than many other chaos magic books which are much less grounded in reality than this one.  Of course in true chaos magic style, other systems get a look in, like the ubiquitous Wheel of the Year, which seems to have become the workhorse of modern paganism, without people ever really doing much with it, and poker hands as a comparison with magick (classic pub discussion chaos magick there).
I also have my criticisms of the book, which are more niggles really.  I dislike the use of the term pentacle for the pentagram, a common terminology error these days, as is the inappropriate use of the term grimoire.  I also found the pathworking irritating and self-indulgent.  Nonetheless overall I have to say this is a worthwhile volume, and should be read by people after they have been studying for a year or two, to encourage them not to get too set in their ways early on their path.

This is a review from The HedgeWytch Magazine – http://www.sothisstar.co.uk of Hekate: Liminal Rites here is an extract of what they said. To read the full magazine which includes articles by Pete Nash, Isobella Faye, Michael Hower, Shani Oates, Bill, G Nottingham, Chattering Magpie and many others see the website for subscription details.  The review is from issue #47:

“For all of you who are drawn to this most fascinating liminal goddess, Hekate, you will not be disappointed.  And for those of you who wish to explore and learn more about Hekate, then this is certainly for you.  Drawn from historical sources, the reader is taken on a journey from Hekate as Phosphorus (light bringer) and liminal goddess of the gate through the exploration of some of her most well known titles from (in alphabetical order) Chthonia (‘earthly one’) to Trioditis (‘of the three ways’).  Just this list of titles will draw the reader in.  ….  ….. ….. …. A highly recommended read for all.”

hekate_liminalrites

Gateways to Health Series

Butterfly Tai Chi: Health, Energy and Tranquility in Ten Minutes a Day

by Martin Faulks

reviewed by John Canard for the Esoteric Book Review

This little book is the latest offering in the delightful Gateways to Health series from Watkins Publishing.  As with the other title by Martin Faulks (Secrets of Rejuvenation: Zen Warrior Exercises), this book is very concise and manages to explain the exercises in a very simple yet precise way, making them very accessible.  This book is really Tai Chi for the busy twenty-first century person, allowing you to access the benefits of this system of energy circulation for better health and wellbeing in a very practical manner.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in tai chi, healing or subtle energy work – a little gem!

This is an exciting new release due out from Avalonia and David Rankine:

treasurespirites

THE BOOK OF TREASURE SPIRITS
With Introduction & Commentary by David Rankine

Conjurations of Goetic spirits, old gods, demons and fairies are all part of a rich heritage of the magical search for treasure trove.  During the Middle Ages and Renaissance the British Monarchy gave out licenses to people seeking treasure in an effort to control such practices, and this is one reason why so many grimoires are full of conjurations and charms to help the magician find treasure.

Published here for the first time, from a long-ignored mid-seventeenth century manuscript in the British Library (Sloane MS 3824), is the conjuration said to have been performed at the request of King Edward IV, with other rites to reveal treasure, to have treasure brought from the sea, and to cause thieves to bring back stolen goods.  Conjurations to call any type of spirit are also included, recorded by the noted alchemist and collector Elias Ashmole, as is an extract on conjuration practices from the Heptameron, transcribed into English for practical use by a working group of magicians, before its first English publication by Robert Turner in 1655.

These conjurations demonstrate the influence of earlier classic grimoires and sources, with components drawn from the Goetia, the Heptameron, and Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft. The material includes spirit contracts for the fallen angels Agares and Vassago, and the demon Padiel, as well as techniques like lead plates for binding, and summoning into a glass of water, which hark back to the defixiones of Hellenistic Greece and the demonic magic of the Biblical world.

This material forms part of a corpus of conjurations all written in the same hand and style of evocation, linking Goetic spirits and treasure spirits with the archangels and planetary intelligences (Sloane MS 3825), and demon kings and Enochian hierarchies (Sloane MS 3821), making it a unique bridge of style and content between what are often falsely seen as diverse threads of Renaissance magic.

Soon available from www.avaloniabooks.com