Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will. — Aleister Crowley
The Paradigmal Pirate: Liber Lll And Liber Ventum, by Joshua Wetzel
Megalithica Books, 1905713002, 209 pp., 2006
Chaotes seem to have a penchant for either combining two books into one, or splitting one book into two, and so, in keeping with this tradition The Paradigmal Pirate consists of two books, ‘Liber LLL’ and ‘Liber Ventum’.
The first book, ‘Liber LLL’, focuses on basic skills. As Wetzel states in the introduction, his “ultimate goal is to provide the necessary training to ensure that the IOT remains the best and most cutting-edge magical organization in the world. This aim can only be achieved through a concerted effort to progressively raise the bar of our standards higher”, and it is clear that this is an extension of other published works by Peter Carroll and the IOT.
It includes techniques for lucid dreaming, gnosis, a note on weapons and tools, rituals, metamorphosis, and the eight colours of magick, each accompanied by exercises for further exploration. Wetzel notes that “[d]epending on your level of expertise, the entire program can be finished anywhere from six months and onward”.
In the chapter on gnosis, Wetzel notes three separate categories – inhibitory, excitatory, and chemical. It is more typical to see only the first two mentioned as there remain many conflicting opinions on the third, but I’m glad to see its inclusion here as chemognosis does represent a valid method when approached reasonably, as he states: “[t]he skilled practitioner also recognizes that there exists a difference between use and abuse of a chemical substance”. He advises never to rely on merely one type of gnosis and to ‘change your preferred method…as often as possible’. The inhibitory methods include sleep deprivation, fasting, and sensory deprivation; among the excitatory are sex, rage, dancing, drumming and chanting; and after the usual disclaimer for chemical methods, we get a general description of depressants, hallucinogens, and stimulants.
Wetzel soundly recommends that the neophyte should choose at least pre-existing paradigm and “[r]esearch it fully, with the ultimate goal of being an expert on at least one magical topic”(pg 69). Also noting that to accomplish anything, one needs to “[c]reate the circumstances surrounding your success first and then do the magic to increase the chances of it happening”.
The second book, ‘Liber Ventum’, consists of essays focusing on more practical applications of chaos magick, detailing rituals he designed and used in his personal and group practice. It has an informal feel to it; more conversational and personal.
The first essay in this section, titled ‘Paradigmal Piracy’, follows a question and answer format, the first question being “What is a Paradigm? (And why do I want to shift it?)” – it made me smile, and his answer’s not too bad either. Wetzel states that “[c]haos magicians realize that each and every paradigm is ultimately inadequate when it comes to explaining the universe, but that each one also has something to offer the chaos magician in terms of tools and beliefs that make life easier or more fun (or both!)”.
Other essays discuss using children’s games in ritual, open handed magick, the psychic doppelganger, and a note on avoiding the usual magical pitfalls, among others.
A few grammatical and formatting errors, but they are not overly distracting from the text itself.
Most of the techniques and theory will be familiar to the experienced chaote, but the neophyte may find this a welcome addition to hir library.
Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age, by Patrick Dunn
Llewellyn Publishing, 2005
For the most part I enjoyed this book. The author impressed me with using footnotes, which is definitely a step up from the majority of occult books out there. A lot of his advice and ideas are practical and useful for beginning magicians. All of the exercises in the book are ones I’m familiar with, as it’s written for a beginner to intermediate audience, but they are useful to work through. I particularly liked the invent your own magical language exercise, which reminds of TOPY speak, and also Spare’s alphabet of desire technique. The questions at the back of the book were handy and useful for processing information and extending the ideas in the book further, which is again a rarity and something I applaud Mr. Dunn for doing.
The author’s focus on semiotics and symbolism is a fresh perspective and will offer readers food for thought and action, should they follow through on doing the exercises. Also Mr. Dunn does a good job of covering a wide range of occult techniques and presenting them from a symbolic perspective.
However, while I did like this book, there are some issues with it, which I find problematic. I would have liked to have seen an integrated system of in-text citations such as APA to get a better sense of the sources he draws on. Also he does not draw on enough available sources. As an example his paradigm piracy in chapter one doesn’t cite Josh Wetzel’s work, which given that Mr. Dunn lives in Illinois, is surprising, since Wetzel’s work is available there, although in limited print. He never defines the term postmodern, which given the title of the book, is rather important. Also beyond providing his own definition of semiotics, he doesn’t draw on any semiotic theory. A brief introduction to semiotic theory complete with some references to semiotic theoriticans for curious readers would have been nice as well as drawing on the most updated semiotic work. His influences seem to draw more from Saussure’s work than anywhere else, but again without a reference list, that’s only a guess.
The other issue I had was his focus solely on magic as a symbolic reality, with him throwing out the energy/spirit models because they couldn’t be “proven”. Given that he is drawing on a social science background, his focus is ultimately on what he knows as a social scientist, and yet his stance as a social scientist frequently seems to take the magic out of magic. Ironically at times he comes off as contradicting his view that magic is entirely and only a symbolic reality that can be worked with. As an example he worries about whether cutting a tree would hurt it, and yet earlier argues that everything, even a physical cat you look at is just a symbol. If that’s the case, the tree is just a symbol, so why worry if it can be hurt? The argument that symbols and reality are one and the same is intriguing, but also dangerous in terms of leading a magician toward solipsism.
In the end, the book is worth checking out and reading for some intriguing ideas. Keep a bit of salt and skepticism on hand and try his paradigm out, but also do some further research into semiotics on your own.