Dear Readers,

We would like to welcome you to our new home here at https://esotericbookreview.wordpress.com – you may have found us by following a link to our old website, or maybe your browser redirected you here.

The Esoteric Book Review was created by the occult author Sorita d’Este as part of her Avalonia website which was founded in 1997.  It moved to its own seperate website about two years ago during some reorganisations of Avalonia by Sorita.  At that time she appointed me as the Reviews Editor and with her help I have been able to learn more about internet technology and gain the confidence to be able to now take on the massive task of administering this website by myself.

The Esoteric Book Review is a peer review.  The reviews you will find here have been written by people who have many years worth of experience as practitioners of magick, devotees of the old gods, readers of tarot and weavers of the webs of sorcery.   They include amongst them esoteric scholars and academics, authors, writers, teachers of wicca and members of large and prestigious magical organisations and traditions.   They share their genuine opinion on the books they review, good or bad.  They are volunteers who share a passion for the occult, for magick, paganism and spirituality, for witchcraft, voodoo, root magic and the old gods.

So if you are with us now, in the words of Aleister Crowley:

“Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.”

156, 93, BB, LVX and all the fraternal and sororal blessings

Nina Lazarus

 

PS. Please note, the reviews previous to the this message have all been imported from the original reviews website.  They are all posted as “Avalonia LuxNox” though they were written by a variety of authors over the last few years.  In most instances the name of the author is contained within the message body itself.

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.

The Heretic’s Guide to Thelema

By Gerald Del Campo

PB, 440pages, Megalithica Books

By Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

When this book landed on my desk a few weeks ago I put it aside as a book I wanted to review, see I have always been interested in the work of Aleister Crowley, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and the system of magickal thought called “Thelema”.  This book is billed as a personal account and journey of the author through the world of Thelema and is also billed as being a fresh and alternative perspective. Alternative perspectives on any religious or philosophic system is always interesting, always a good way of trying to find the middle ground that is “The Truth” – after all there are three Truths: Your Truth, My Truth and The Truth.  So I thought I would go in search of it.

Having said that this is a heretical guide I expected to find something different and something out of the ordinary, something which goes against – rather than with – the grain.  I found a book, well written in places, full of deep experience and spiritual thought – and full of seemingly unwarrented singlemindedness here and there too.   All the same, lets see what this book is about then.

“The Heretic’s Guide to Thelema includes the classic New Aeon magick and the controversial New Aeon English Qabalah.  In this edition, we have also included the never before published The Ethics of Thelema..”

(From the back blurb)

Right, so how does this measure up?

New Aeon Magick was and is a great book which makes an ideal introduction to the philosophy and magickal thought of Thelema.   Like most introductions to Magick it contains little bits of wisdom of this and that system, including the Qabalah.  The Chapter “Why Thelema” looks into the various ideas surrounding the different Aeons – The Aeon of Isis, The Aeon of Osiris, The Aeon of Horus and the Aeon of Maat.  Various practical exercises in basic ritual later, all well presented and with some very useful illustrations we come to the end of that book.

Then we get to New Aeon Qabalah.  I am not sure that I feel the same importance as Del Campo towards this system of gematria.  There are some interesting ideas in there, though I think the use of the English Qabalah is not necessarily as amazing as it might seem on the surface.  There are more interesting and plausable (and less known) systems of gematria which might better be applied to Liber Al, with better results in terms of Thelema and its philosophies and key texts.  Using only the range of 1-26 gives a low range of numbers to apply to words, therefore a higher ratio of “coincidence” which then becomes less significant than the Greek, Hebrew or Prime Qabalah systems.   New English Qabalah is only fractionally more useful in this sense than standard numerology, a very basic system which would suit beginners who are working with gematria for the first time, but who are not that keen on mathematics.  Some interesting results which are worthy of investigation though.

The Ethics of Thelema is the last of the three books in this book.  I entered this final phase of the book with my toes curling and my ears twitching.  I thought the idea of Thelema was “Do What Thou Wilt” and that within that each individual would and should find his or her own ethics as a result.   After all:

There is no law but do what thou wilt!

Right?

Well, not according to this author.  Del Campo raises a number of interesting ideas and philosophies around standard concepts such as honour.  His religious ideas are like poetry, unless the poet is a master of his art the poetry though steeped in meaning for the poet and those who know him, looses its magick when it is read by others.  I feel like my eyes must have been that of the profane, as I did not understand the importance he attached to certain ideals, though it might be that with time and more study I will.  Its just for me, Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, Love is the Law, Love under Will” and I feel that each should be left to its own devices for the interpretation thereof, rather than turning it into what could become a slavish religious system otherwise.

All and all this is a book I did get quite a lot from, I rarely review books unless it stirs something within me.  I am going to spend this weekend with some hot chocolate and a glass or two of good red wine and reread it.  I feel like I am missing something.  Maybe the author just didn’t say everything he wanted to say, maybe he was holding back on something essential.  Maybe I missed it.

An interesting work of modern magick without a doubt, The Heretic’s Guide to Thelema is available from Immanion Press, Amazon and many good bookshops.

The Weiser Concise Guide to Herbal Magick

by Judith Hawkins-Tillirson

Published by Weiser Books, 128pp, PB

reviewed by Soror Chamos for the Esoteric Book Review

This book is a refreshingly non-pagan herbal! Drawing from magickal traditions from around the world for information, with an emphasis on the Western Mystery Traditions, and set in the backdrop of the Tree of Life, it offers a magickal perspective on the use of herbs, which are too often ignored by practitioners who feel they are not serious enough. Well now they don’t have that excuse any more!

The corpus of the book is divided into two parts, the planetary division of the herbs, using the attributions found in Crowley’s 777 for the specific plants, and then expanding on properties and magickal associations and symbolism. The second part is on practice, and touches on helpful hints, practices from poppets to potpourri and Franz Bardon’s fluid condensers.

My main criticism of this book is that whilst I accept it is a “concise guide”, it feels like a lot of good material has been cut to make the word count. I could almost hear cries of anguish from an author having to choose what to cut from what feels like a larger work that would have been, I am sure, a very useful contribution to the field. It is obvious, for example, that when the author mentions the ancient Greek root cutters, she is fully aware of the importance of Empodecles, and his contribution to magick through the system of the four elements which he created and has become standard. Yet it is not mentioned, even though there is an almost tangible hole where it feels like it was.

All in all an excellent little work, and it is to be hoped that further, longer works will follow from this obviously proficient writer.

This book is available from all good bookshops, or directly from the publishers Red Wheel Weiser.