Magic Without Mirrors: The Making of a Magician, by David Conway
Logios, 9781463761724,336 pp., 2011
For a large number of individuals of a certain age, Magic: An Occult Primer was the introduction to the world of magick. At the time there wasn’t a whole lot of information about the author available. In the intervening years The Magic of Herbs and Secret Wisdom: The Occult Universe Explored were also produced by the same author, but without (to my knowledge) as much acceptance and fanfare.
This book is essentially Conway’s autobiography. It is filled with amusing anecdotes and enlightening background information. It also contains snippets of magickal information as well, though that is not its primary purpose. Continue reading
Biographies are a lot of fun. While I like getting to know a person through their works, learning more about the circumstances that produced them lends additional weight to certain turns of phrase, and often frames ideas in contexts not previously considered.
I read Thomas Williams’ biography of Éliphas Lévi (titled: Eliphas Levi, Master of the Cabala, the Tarot and the Secret Doctrines) about six months ago in preparation for a workshop that was drawing on his influence in the occult tarot and I wanted to better understand where he was sourcing his material.
I read the second edition and was not impressed with the number of typos and general lack of editing, however, this may be the only full length biography of Lévi in print in English – it’s certainly the only one I’ve been able to find. Despite its flaws, it serves as a decent introduction to Lévi’s life and thought. Continue reading
Confessions of a Black Magician, by Nathan Neuharth
Original Falcon Press, 9781935150794, 191 pp., 2010
Our hero in this tale is the author himself, and as no occultist anywhere ever had but one name, he’s known variously as Nathan Neuharth, Frater Parsifal, and Natas, or Saint Natas.
The book opens with his initiation into the Golden Dawn, introducing a colourful cast of characters in his new fraters and sorors. Neuharth allies himself with Fater Azazel, a brother in the order who shares his affinity for Aleister Crowley and Thelemic magick. His experiments lead him to encounters with angels, and devils too, not to mention aliens and Atlanteans who offer him questionable messages.
Inspired by Jack Parson’s Babalon Working, Neuharth seeks to undertake a similar project he called the Babalon Isis Working. Various incarnations of Babalon appear as she is won, lost, regained and eventually walks out of his life. In the process Neuharth loses his wife, his kids, his job and very possibly his mind. Continue reading
Victor Hugo’s Conversations with the Spirit World: A Literary Genius’s Hidden Life, by John Chambers
Destiny Books, 1594771820, 372. pp, 1999, 2009
I’m sure that, at one time or another, many of us have played with a Ouija ™ board. And we may have gotten “messages from beyond.” Most of us, I am sure, tired quickly of it, or had serious doubts about the information coming through the board.
Well, Victor Hugo lived before the Ouija ™ board was created. He did, however, live during the time when Spiritualism was in its heyday. The use of small, lightweight, three-legged tables to tap out messages was commonplace in parlours across Europe. The uncommon aspects of M Hugo’s attempts were quite extraordinary, however. They included the people involved (writers, philosophers, and military men) as well as the “sources” of this information (living individuals [Napoleon III], concepts [Civilization], as well as the more common discarnate individuals). Continue reading
Jesus the Wicked Priest: How Christianity Was Born of an Essene Schism, by Marvin Vining
Bear & Company, 9781591430810, 243 pp (with indexes), 2008
The topics of the origins of Christianity and their relationship to the Essenic community as portrayed in the scrolls discovered around Qumran in 1947 and afterwards are still being debated more than sixty years after first coming to the attention of the world. There have been hundreds of books written – scholarly and popular – which have been praised, condemned, and ignored. Why review another book on this theme? Because this author makes an effort to present his premise in terms understandable by the “common man.” Continue reading
Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock, by Vere Chappell, with an introduction by Mary K. Greer
Weiser Books, 978157863476, 258 pp. (incl. appendix and references), 2010
Described as an anthology embedded in a biography, Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic contains most of Ida Craddock‘s published writings edited, annotated and placed in context by Vere Chappell.
Ida Craddock was a 19th century American sexologist, feminist, and mystic who was persecuted by Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice. Her contribution to conventional sex reform, and her mystical writings on sex with spiritual beings are exceptional for the period. Continue reading