Techniques of High Magic: A Guide to Self-Empowerment, by Francis King and Stephen Skinner
Destiny Books, 0892813504, 228pp., 1976
This book brings together Francis King and Stephen Skinner to create what they believe is a beginner’s guide to High Magic. Their definition of magick was short and sweet; “the art and science of using little known natural forces in order to achieve changes in consciousness and the physical environment”.1 Though despite being a beginner’s book, they don’t discuss what magick can be used for, what reasons there are for magick, but after a bit of theorizing about magick jump right into it.
They discuss the first steps of magic on their path, which is creating a temple space (even if it is just temporary) and how to decorate, then discuss why divination is important to a magician. I was initially pleased to see them describe the creation and use of Geomantic equipment for divination, though their explanation of the symbols was lacking at best, and the construction contained a Qabalistic Blind. What I found most surprising was at the end of the chapter on geomancy the segue to the next chapter was “We move now onto a more direct technique for obtaining knowledge using skrying rather than the rather cumberous divinatory technique just outlined.”2 If I had not recently developed a curiosity in geomancy, that final sentence would have had me skip right ahead into the next technique without bothering to look back.
They discuss the I Ching and Tarot as well, both in very little detail, saying how to meditate and cast the sticks or cards, but not how to interpret them, recommending you to other books for that information. Creation of the elemental weapons is detailed, but never explained, calculation of the planetary hours described yet the planets of the days are never mentioned (essential to calculate the hours), talisman magick randomly tosses in the Olympian spirits, and more. In a ritual of consecration they say that “the magician should have sufficient grasp of the principles to construct elementary rituals of his own”,3 yet I feel for a beginner reading this book that would be woefully untrue, as nothing has been explained to them. The reader was only presented with a hodgepodge of ceremonial magick without any real system or explanation involved.
The lesson structure behind the book was poorly planned in my opinion. In every chapter, they recommend you perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual, yet don’t put the ritual in the main text of the book, but in an appendix. The reader is led from one random aspect of ceremonial magick to another, with no real connection or flow. In fact the final chapter of the book is on conjuring goetics, and the book itself ends with a paragraph on why ‘The License to Depart’ is an important practice, and that it is, no conclusion or anything, just the license to depart.
Perhaps the most redeeming part of the book is the chapter on astral projection, as I found the description and procedure they laid out something I could relate to, and possibly achieve as someone who has always had trouble in that area.
I had much higher hopes for this book due to the authors, but even as an introduction to High Magic, I found this book lacking in too many areas and not the “practical and lucid handbook” they were striving for.