By Mike Gleason
Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick: A Beginner’s Introduction to the High Art, by Frater Barrabbas
Megalithica Books, 9781905713080, 332 pp, 2007
Every once in a while a book comes along which is profoundly simple in its goals, even if the execution is not so simple. This is one of those books. The goal is simple: to provide an introduction to the Arts Magickal. It is, however, no mere intellectual exercise for it requires an experiential component which many other introductions forgo for a variety of reasons.
Many of today’s self-proclaimed magicians will be shocked by Frater Barrabbas’ belief that it is necessary to have a disciplined, orderly, and consistent approach to creating magick. There sometimes appears to be an attitude that “intent” trumps form in all things. This may be true in the mundane world (although I wouldn’t bet the rent money on it), but it definitely doesn’t work in the realms of magick. To work magick you need to know what to do, how to do it, and why to do it; anything less produces illusions instead of results.
Frater Barrabbas draws a very clear distinction between Ceremonial Magick, which he sees as outdated, and Ritual Magick, which is seen as the magick of the new century. While some may not agree with these distinctions, his definitions are clear and clearly reasoned and deserving of serious consideration.
It is important to note that this in an introduction — a beginner’s text. Do not make the mistake of assuming, because you have read other texts, that you can pick and choose or mix and match among the data provided. The author assumes that you have read some previous works, but are not an experienced practitioner. Therefore, you need to accept his word on the necessity of certain timings, rituals, and correspondences. If you aren’t willing to abide by that assumption do yourself a favour and put this book back on the shelf.
If you are looking for an easy guide to magick; a quick solution of all your life’s difficulties; a one size fits all solut5ion, you won’t find it here. The author freely admits that magick is hard work and takes discipline. You must be willing to make sacrifices in your life in order to master and use magick.
Do not expect to read this book quickly. It is designed to be read, used, and thought about over an extended period of time. You won’t master the rituals in this book in a month, or even a year. It takes time to establish habits and routines, and building them through steady repetition and experimentation.
On the one hand, this is a book for the new century. On the other hand, it is rooted in the attitudes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; in a time when instant gratification was NOT a concept found in daily life. This was a time when the pace of life was slower, and more time was devoted to “improving” oneself.
You must be willing to devote some serious time and effort to understanding the concepts which form the foundation of magick. A working familiarity with the fields of psychology and religious symbolism are a definite plus while reading the first half of this book.
I understand the author’s attempt to be fair in his representations, but the constant use of and other variations are, in my opinion, a bit wearing. A simple alternation of these terms (such as “he” followed by “she” the next time the magician is referred to), or a clarifying statement early in the work would be enough to ensure understanding.
Unlike many books on Ritual Magick I have read there are very few non-verbal (drawn) illustrations. There is a great deal of written illustration, which is vitally important when dealing with a topic which can be easily misunderstood. But as far as tables of correspondence, or line drawing illustrations, there are no more than three total pages out of 352 total (less than 1% of the total) pages, which is a very small number. Frater Barrabbas intends for you to stretch your mind and visualize.
Do not think that the material contained within these covers is either easy to absorb (it isn’t) or the ravings of an unbalanced mind (it isn’t that either). It is a carefully presented process for the use of magick. It requires preparation, study, and hard work. It requires the rethinking the commonly accepted worldview. It also requires a commitment to follow through on thoughts and actions. It is not a book for everyone; but then, magick is not for everyone.
If you are looking for a quick fix for your problems, or a shortcut to making magick work for you, you are doomed to disappointment with this book. If you want the arcane rituals of magickal lodges, you are still going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want a usable guide to integrating magick into your life and are willing to put in the requisite time and energy, this book is what you are looking for.
This is a “101” book with a difference. You won’t be spoon-fed reworked, tired techniques. You will be taught how to access information and levels of your own existence you may not have known existed. It isn’t a required book for the average Pagan or Witch. It is, without reservation, a required book for the serious aspiring Ritual Magician.
There are some things I disagree with in this book, based on personal experience and attitudes. I’m sure others will also find points to disagree with. That does not mean that Frater Barrabbas is wrong, merely that his experiences have been different. And make no mistake, this book is written from experience. His 35 years of work show on every page. This is, most certainly, not a theoretical work. If you are not serious, or if you are not sure magick is for you, this book may scare you away from the field. If you are certain, however, this book in an invaluable guide and needs to be in your life (not sitting on your bookshelf).
If you are serious about learning to use magick, this book is a must. I cannot recommend it highly enough.