William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard
Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 398 pp., 2008
Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.
No clear, singular document exists that explains Blake’s religious life and upbringing, so Schuchard researched and wrote this text as a “reconstruction of the lost religious history of the family of William Blake.” This area is rarely investigated, and considering how bizarre and complicated a picture Schuchard paints it’s not surprising that “sensible academic critics have cautiously refrained from taking the plunge” into this counter-religious culture. Continue reading
The Book of Grimoires: The Secret Grammar of Magic, by Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions, 9781620551875, 264 pp., 2002, 2013 (English translation)
To understand a book it’s important to know the purpose for which it was written. Lecouteux states that his aim is to provide a historical account of the use of grimoires, and to synthesize a “universal grimoire” from numerous source texts, but I find this proposal problematic. I’ve read several academic books on grimoires and medieval magick as part of my degree, including collections of original articles or reproductions of sections from various texts. Lecouteux says the book “takes the approach of a guided tour,” and that the material is obscure and complex, so he will explain the material throughout the book in order to make sense of what is provided, and this, I feel, is where things falls apart. Continue reading
Pisces, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
Taylor Trade Publishing, 9781589795648, 90 pp., 2011
This book takes an in-depth look at the sign of Pisces and what it means. Woolfolk stresses early in that sun sign descriptions are often too perfect and too cookie-cutter, and she wants to show the range of Pisces expressions. She does this by looking at Pisces in several ways, starting with how people perceive the Pisces, and how the Pisces person feels about themselves. Simple, but this is an important distinction, because it is easy to dismiss a sun sign description because it isn’t how you (want to) view yourself, so Woolfolk gives both sides.
Getting more involved, she looks at the decanates, cusps, and individual days, giving a more precise view of Pisces. Continue reading
The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
Taylor Trade, 9781589796539, 2008
The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need is an updated and revised edition of the 1982 text, now including more depth in the meaning of the signs, relationships, and includes “the latest information about new discoveries in astronomy.”
Let’s tackle this book based on the title, is it really the only astrology book you’ll ever need? It is a fairly comprehensive text. It covers all of the basics of modern astrology that you’d be looking for: sun signs, decanates, moon signs, ascendants, the planets, the houses, and how to read a chart. All of these sections are well written and informative, though I feel a bit of expansion would be helpful for those with less of a background in astrology, especially near the end of the book when everything was being drawn together in chart interpretation. That being said I found the descriptions of the different concepts fairly reliable and more precise in wording than a lot of current astrology books. Usually the language is a bit more cloudy and vague in an astrology book, here the language is more exact and specific, which is refreshing to see an astrological author willing to put their money where their words are because it’s a lot easier to be wrong when you’re specific rather than hedging with vague language. Continue reading
Kissing the Limitless: Deep Magic and the Great Work of Transforming Yourself and the World, by T. Thorn Coyle
Weiser, 9781578634354, 268 pp., 2009
“This is a book of deep magic, of high magic, of magic for our hearts and souls. The potency of this magic rests deeply within us, and the universe supports its unfolding.”
This isn’t your standard book on magick. This book is about the Great Work, Union with the All, the Divine, the Cosmos, the Limitless, and that is a refreshing change. Do not misunderstand me, I enjoy and see value in magickal books that provide us techniques to go the way of our wishes and to help us succeed in life, but it is nice to see a book on magick that puts that aside in favour of Union.
That being said this is more or less a beginner’s book, while we might often think of the Great Work as the ultimate quest for the experienced mage there is no reason why it cannot and should not be started earlier, and Coyle makes a good case for that. Though as with more goal and desire oriented magick the Great Work can be dangerous for those unready. “There are too many people who enter this work only partially prepared and walk around spiritual and magical communities with shattered auras or egos puffed up out of proportion to their beings or great ‘powers’ they use to manipulate others.” We’ve all seen these people, and while this is just one book Coyle does set out to help them, and help minimize this occurrence. Continue reading