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.

elementalsmThis review of “Practical Elemental Magick” by David Rankine and Sorita d’Este recently appeared in “The Equinox – British Journal of Thelema”  – so we thought we would share.  Check out The Equinox here

Practical Elemental Magick
Working the Magick of the Four Elements in the Western Mystery Tradition

By Sorita d’Este and David Rankine

“This is a very impressive book from two prolific and respected occult authors.  The concept of Elemental Spirits is encountered frequently in occultism, but there has been until now no comprehensive guide to working with them.  I say comprehensive advisedly, for one of the great virtues of this book is it traces origins and alternatives very thoroughly, rather than laying down dogmatic rules with no background.  At the same time as offering in-depth information the book also retains considerable clarity.  The range of sources consulted is astonishing, and the work thus provides an invaluable resource for further research by the individual reader.  The material is usefully synthesised into a thoroughly workable practical system of magic; while offering sufficient alternatives for the reader who is so inclined to evolve distinct methodologies based on their own preferences.”

Note* Practical Elemental Magick is a companion volume to “Practical Planetary Magick” by the same authors.  Both these books are available from Amazon (USA / UK etc) and directly from the publishers http://avaloniabooks.co.uk/catalogue/titles/elemental_magick.htm

The following review of the 2008 anthology edited by Sorita d’Este appeared in “The Equinox” (British Journal of Thelema, VII 9) recently:

Priestesses Pythonesses Sibyls

Reviewed by Sophie Zumm, The Equinox: British Journal of Thelema

An exploration of trance work, both historically and practically. Written by twenty-one women involved in magic and neo-paganism; this is an intriguing collection of essays and articles. There are many highpoints, and every reader will have their own favourites; mine include the history of the Delphic Oracle by Caroline Tully, and Janet Farrar’s account of her work with oracular trance techniques. Looking at visionary experience through many different eyes, I was at times reminded of Scarlet Imprint’s collection Devoted. Although a gentler collection, mental and physical challenges are confronted in this book. All in all a fascinating and inspiring insight into the interior world of modern magic through the eyes of experienced and capable female practitioners.

For more information on this very thought provoking and provocative work please see http://www.avaloniabooks.co.uk/catalogue/titles/priestesses.htm – for details of the contributors and an extract from the foreword please visit http://pythoness.avalonia.co.uk

9781905297214


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.

Becoming Magick

By David Rankine

Published by Mandrake of Oxford

This is a very exciting book, which would interest anyone with a modern and progressive approach to magickal practise. The systems presented are given to be explored, and to inspire other new ideas.

The book is a collection of essays and ideas – this includes What is Magick and How does it work?; The Importance of Maat; A ritual opening; The 9 gates and the Magick Sphere; Angle Webs; Mantra Webs; Nightside Squares; The Prime Qabalah (a system of English Gematria); Beyond the Numberical Horizon – Inspirational Gematria; The Esoteric Symbolism of the Hebrew Alphabet, A New Analysis of IAO; The Kalas; KiaLiaMiaNiaSia – The Mantra of Becoming; The Mass of the Feather and the Scale; Eating your Words – Magickal Ingestion; The Trans-Uranian Magick Squares; There are also appendixes for Prime Qabalah Attributions; Hebrew Symbolism and more.

This book is aimed at people with some knowledge and experience of magickal work, and is suitable for intermediate / advanced students. If you have an interest in ceremonial magick, qabalah, gematria, thelema, Ma’at or related subjects you will probably find something that interests you in this book!

Thoth Companion : The key to the True Symbolic Meaning of the Tarot
Michael Osiris Snuffin

Llewellyn, PB

Review by Sorita d’Este for Avalonia
February 2008

This book is a very good primer for anyone wanting to study the Thoth tarot. It covers the Qabalistic symbolism of the cards, from a Golden Dawn and Thelemic perspective. For magicians and pagans alike the discussion of the symbolism and associated themes is solid and maintains the traditions of the roots the cards have been drawn from.

All in all this is a very good book, and my main gripe with it is the title, which I feel is a bit of advertising hype. The book is not the key to the true symbolic meaning of the tarot, it is a good introduction to the symbolism employed in these cards. As such it is a good springboard to learn more and is very worthwhile as such for anyone starting the journey of discovery with the Thoth Tarot, which is, alongside the Rider Waite Tarot, one of the best tarot decks for those working within the western mystery tradition to learn and explore magickal symbolism with.

Author Biography

Ceremonial magician and professional tarot reader Michael Osiris Snuffin (Washington) has been studying the Thoth tarot for over a decade. He joined the Ordo Templi Orienties (OTO) in 1996. Seven years later he founded the Temple of Light and Darkness, a group dedicated to performing Golden Dawn initiations in accordance with the Law of Thelema.