Okay, I’m playing Gordon’s book game. Considering the last post, this is the most ironic time for me to make a post like this. But I like games, and I want to feel included. Plus it’s a fun game and I do think books are useful and valuable tools. And this post helps me make it clear that the previous post wasn’t in retaliation to the book game everyone is playing (it was just a coincidence really, I didn’t know about the book game until after I posted the article).
Essentially the goal of the game is to create a list of ten books that a completely new practitioner (actually an unbelieving agnostic) will read in order over the course of a 1 month period while locked in a cabin alone. It’s assumed that they will follow the exercises of the book, but they will receive no other outside help, guidance, or read any other material. In the end the practitioner should have a firm grasp on magic.
Another stipulation is that the books should build a certain type of magician (aka a chaos magician or a ceremonial magician) that must be decided on beforehand. However the booklist should contain books from at least three different disciplines (this is to discourage listing one book as the end all be all in building a certain type of magician). Here is my list, with an explanation at the end:
1. The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic by Wippler – Several years ago this book was recommended to me by a guy who used to teach classes on magic. He always recommended that new students read through this book before beginning their magical careers. I have to say the book is a great introduction to the world of magic.
The book covers a wide variety of different beliefs and practices. It also contains a lot of different spells and techniques (some drawn straight from the old grimoires) so anyone wanting to jump right in can. In a lot of ways it seems to me like a modern day version of Waite’s Book of Black Magic and Pacts.
My main reason for including the book, and putting it first, is because it’s an overview of whats out there magically for the prospective practitioner of magic. A newcomer will not only learn a little bit about a lot of different subjects, it will also help them determine what direction they want to take their magical practice into, and provides a good source of ideas about what a person may be able to do and how the universe might work.
2. Illusions by Bach – This is the very first book I was told to read by my teacher, and it was one of the first books she herself had read. At the time she felt that the philosophies in the book might help to change my perspective a bit, which would help me deal with some of the emotional problems I was having at the time.
The book worked, but it provided so much more for me over time. It’s a fictional work, and although there are some different events, the vast majority of the book consists of conversations between a fictionalization of the Author, barn stormer Richard Bach, and his spiritual mentor Donald Shimoda, an auto mechanic turned messiah who eventually quit being a messiah because it wasn’t making him happy.
On the surface its a nice book (New Age with a heavy New Thought emphasis BTW). If you dig a little deeper its filled with secrets of the universe and wonderful philosophies. Deeper still and you’ll find a nearly complete beginner’s handbook to psionic and manifestation magic.
3. The Kybalion by the Three Initiates – This book is Hermetics, which gives me my three disciplines. Hermetics is the study of the works of Hermes Trismegistus, the Emerald Tablet and the Corpus Hermeticum. Hermetics can be seen as the Newtonian Laws of magical work, it forms the basic foundation upon which just about all magical and spiritual theory is built. The theories of Hermetics form the core beliefs of Ceremonial Magic, which in turn develops into Paganism and Chaos Magick. Its an influence on many of the other forms of western ritual magick too. There’s even such a thing as Hermetic Kabalism, which joins together the teaching of Trismegistus with Kabalistic beliefs. It’s also a major influence on the New Thought Movement, which in turn influences the New Age Movement. The vast majority of western magic is based in Hermetics. And since Hermetics attempts to discuss the basic theories upon which the universe operates, it can be applied to almost any spiritual practice, even those which are not Western in origin.
Needless to say, I think understanding Hermetics is essential to understanding magic. I chose the Kybalion because its a good overview of the basic theories, thoughts, and ideas of Hermetics. I also think its a fairly easy read considering the complexity of the subject matter (although it could be better). At the very least its not a long book.
4. Have an Out of Body Experience in 30 Days by Harary & Weintraub – I’ve done lots of theory, so now I want to get into practical work. Astral projection is important. Astral projection is fun. Astral projection can give pretty quick results for a lot of people, and a lot of people will notice that they start to have more psychic gifts and a better magical understanding after projecting a few times.
There are, of course, some things I don’t like about this book. I also think astral projection is a subject where you need to find the right book or method that works for you, so this may not be the right book for everyone. But there are a lot of reasons why I like this book.
This isn’t really a book of accounts of astral projection or theories about it or any other bullshit. This is a book full of exercises, exercises which are meant to get a person from a state of having no experience with astral projection to successfully astrally projecting. And it tries to do that in thirty days, with different exercises for each day. I like the practical approach. The book, with clear instructions on what to do and on which days, provides a very structured environment full of practice which is conductive to learning.
5. Initiation into to Hermetics by Bardon – Bardon’s book actually has a lot more to do with Ceremonial Magic than it has to do with Hermetics. This book constitutes my Ceremonial Magick pick. It’s also the first book on my list to really look at the how-tos of ritual magic. I picked this book for several reasons.
First off, Bardon’s book is an introduction to the subject meant for the beginner, which is good for a list like this. Secondly Bardon’s style is very easy to read and modern with the goal of helping the student learn the subject, which is in stark contrast to the Golden Dawn Boys and many of their contemporaries. Lastly Bardon spends a good deal of time on techniques which are meant to develop psionic ability, which I believe is an essential skill in successful ritual magic.
6. Kundalini and the Chakras by Paulson – The book I want to put here is one that goes over the basics of energy manipulation with the goal of helping a novice get to the point where they can successfully manipulate energy. So far I haven’t found a book that is even close to doing that. If I do find that book, it’ll probably replace this as my number six.
The reason why I chose this book is because I like it, and it exhibits some of the things I want from book number six. It deals largely with working and balancing the energy within oneself, and doesn’t, in my opinion, focus enough on manipulating and working with energy externally. I’m in no way saying it’s a bad book though. Hopefully combining this information with the techniques from #5 and #4 along with the information in #2 is enough to compensate for not having the book I really need right here.
7. Buckland’s Complete Book Of Witchcraft by Buckland – Due to the popularity of Paganism and Wicca in the community, I felt I had to include one introductory Wiccan book. And out of all the Wiccan books out there, Buckland’s is actually my favorite.
Whether or not your Wiccan, there’s a lot you can get out of this book in terms of magic and how it works. The book is styled as a series of lessons for the beginning student. I actually really like the questions at the end of each lesson. Rather than just asking a person to look up information in the lesson or see how well they memorized what they just read (like some high school textbooks), the questions ask the reader to explore their personal beliefs, thoughts, and magical experiences which helps them develop and explore their own beliefs and spiritual path.
8. Witchcraft for All by Heubner – This is not a Wiccan book (in fact it’s anti-Wiccan). Heubner is a Traditional Witch which is a completely different set of beliefs.
Heubner explains her theories on magic and provides a good sampling of various spells. Heubner herself is an experienced and gifted practitioner and her book is full of interesting ideas on how to use magic.
9. The Necronomicon by Simon – Usually known as the Simon Necronomicon or the Avon Necronomicon, this book is really the first published grimoire of the modern era. The Necronomicon consists of a complete system of spiritual attainment which was channeled by the magician Simon.
I’ve included this book for a few reasons. First off being a relatively new book full of mostly original information, it’s a good example of what can be achieved and developed. Secondly it’s the best selling modern Ceremonial Magic book with over 800,000 copies sold. It’s one of the those books you should buy, if for no other reason, than that everyone else practicing magic already has it. Thirdly it’s something a bit dark, and every magician should have something dark in their library and practice, if for no other reason to have some experience with that sort of stuff and to prove that they can handle working with it, even if they prefer not to. Plus it isn’t all that dark of a book, so it’s good for a beginner.
And lastly, it’s just a very good book as far as magical books go. The book is well written and the system is known to consistently achieve results. Part of the reason why the book has been so popular not just among the masses but also among experienced practitioners, even while other books looking to cash in on the Necronomicon name have failed in both areas, is that it isn’t completely fake and the system does achieve results.
10. Principia Discordia by Malaclypse the Younger – When I started this list, I knew this would be the last book on it. It’s a religious work divinely inspired from the Greek goddess of discord Eris. It’s full of some theory, lots of dogma, and no practical work. It’s also a fun read, and I figure the last book should be a fun read. Plus I feel it helps to put everything else, the other nine books, into their proper prospective so they can be viewed accordingly.
Okay, so now I get to talk about my book choices. First off, there is no book dealing specifically with tarot or Kabalah, despite the fact that I like these subjects a lot. Part of the reason is that either of those choices would take up a lot of my slots. The other reason why they are not present is the same reason why I’ve excluded Taoism and the Chaldean Oracles. All of these things are beautiful and wonderful pools of knowledge full of theoretical and practical information for the seasoned practitioner. But for the beginning practitioner, someone who has no practical experience, all of this is not only just useless theory, it’s useless theory they can’t even begin to comprehend. A person can not begin to really understand a subject like Kabalah or the Chaldean Oracles until they have some first hand experience with how the universe is made up and how magic operates. Until then all these things are is knowledge, good knowledge for sure, but ultimately without any real value.
Secondly I’ve limited myself to books that were published in the 20th century, which was done intentionally. The oldest book on my list is the Kybalion from 1908, and this book is really an exception to my rule, allowed in partially because the writing is not all that complicated (although I’d rate it the hardest book on my list). I’ve also stayed away from Golden Dawn members and their successors. I wanted my list to consist of books that were easy to read. I want books that focus on the information and teaching that information to the reader, not on books where the reader is going to be distracted by difficult language which makes basic comprehension of the text hard. I also want the reading to be easy so the reader can get excited while focused on all the new magical techniques and spells and what not they’re about to read about, and not feel as if reading the book is some sort of boring chore that they have to do in order to get to the creamy magic center. And I wanted to show that really good books are not necessarily old books. In fact newer books are more relatable to modern times and the modern reader. For example, quite a few of the spells from the old grimoires aren’t all that useful since treasure hunting isn’t the booming profession that it once was.
So what kind of magician was I trying to build? I was trying to build a well-rounded eclectic magician. For centuries the magical community has tended to move towards eclecticism anyways. Meanwhile the strongest and most versatile magicians are going to be the ones that take what they like from any given system to use in their own personal practice. I’ve never felt a need to label myself as a Ceremonial Magician or a Pagan or anything else. In fact I find the terms rather limiting. I didn’t see a need to label my theoretical game magician student either. Instead of trying to build them up into some kind of system, I just tried to teach them how to do magic.