21 November 2014

Book Review: Advanced Magick for Begginers

As I wandered Tumblr the other day (a truly dangerous pastime), I came across an interesting quote that a friend of mine had posted.  It was from a book called Advanced Magick for Beginners by Alan Chapman.  I'd never heard of it before, but it looked interesting and I decided to check it out and I'm glad I did.  I don't think I've had as much fun reading an occult book since Lon Milo DuQuette's Chicken Kabbalah.

This is a book less about how to do magick, and more about how to think about magick in order to actually be successful in its practice.  There are dozens upon dozens of books out there that give you recipes, formulas, charts, tables, etc. on what methods you can use to achieve your desired magickal result.  There are very, very few books out there that actually explain how to think about magick and, more importantly, how not to think about magick in order to get those myriad methods to be more than magickal theater.  Chapman does so beautifully.  This book is easy to read and easy to understand.  It's no-nonsense, no-frills, get the job done kind of writing.  Complex ideas are well broken down into bite-sized pieces with tangible explanations and none of the elitist obfuscation so often found in occult texts (not that there isn't a time and place for elitist obfuscation).

The book begins with the idea that you need to ask for exactly what you want in order to get it.  "The gospel is: 'you get what you ask for.'"  This is just a restatement of the idea that you need to clearly understand your intent before performing an act of magick.  As simple as it sounds, this is something that a lot of practitioners fail to do.  It's easy to think that you know what you want, but unless you take the time to really think about it chances are good that you'll miss your mark.

Another deceptively simple idea Chapman presents is: "Ensure there is a means of manifestation for the [magick].  For a [magick] to manifest in the material world, it must be within the game rules of the material world.  Humans do not fly." Magick is all about making whatever outcome you're trying for manifest in reality.  If there's no way for that to happen without breaking all laws of physics and probability, it's just not going to happen - or at least not in the way you want it to.  Once again, it sounds like simple common sense, but it's easy to overlook in the heat of the moment.

I've long been a proponent of the "do whatever works for you" method of magickal practices.  In Chapman's approach there are no "rights" or "wrongs" in magickal practice, just what works for you (in your head and out of it) at the time.  
"Magick is an art because it has no laws, only arbitrary aesthetics that dictate method (as long as you decide what an experience means, you can do anything, and it works). Magick is a science because it has methodology (however arbitrary), with results that can be corroborated by peers through independent enquiry... Magick is a culture because it has implicit social and ethical considerations... Magicians (in their various guises) have always strived to understand 'how' magick works so that they might be able to do it 'correctly.'  But whenever a magician wonders 'what is the correct method of getting a result?' they are falling victim to the fog of simplicity--because what you do, and the result you get, is your decision... So if magick is limited only by your imagination, just how beautiful will you make your magick? How ecstatic?  Will magick be the most fun you've ever had in [your] life, or just the reason your wrist aches?"

This book is pretty much perfect for folks who have been studying magick for a little while (maybe 3-6 months) and want to start really practicing well.  It's also great for folks who have been doing magick longer and want to start getting better results.  (I've been doing this for over a decade and I got something out of this book.) 

I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for an absolute beginner because it references a lot of different practices and methods that an absolute beginner just wouldn't be familiar with.  Although, this might be a good companion book to read along with some of the more common "101" texts out there, particularly if the beginner's got someone more experienced they can ask questions of.

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