Wednesday, 10 February 2010 15:36

Book Review: Advanced Magic for Beginners

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Advanced Magick for BeginnersIn my extensive reading and research into all matters arcane, I am always delighted when I come across a book that manages to brilliantly balance simplicity and depth.  Advanced Magick for Beginners by Alan Chapman, published in 2008 by Aeon Books, is one such book.  Following along in the Chaos Magic current ("post-modern magic," as the author refers to it), Chapman strips away all of the cultural and personal pretenses placed upon magic, and pares down to the bare bones of the underlying theories of magic.

The author describes his approach to magic as an art, a science, and a culture of experiencing truth. As an art, a magical act is an experience that we ascribe meaning to. As a science, a magical act is a technique which we refine through an experimental practice and observation of results.  As a culture, a magical act is a means of working with a cultural framework, a set of ethics both personal and cultural, to achieve results which are relevant to the life and world in which the mage lives.


That is it, as far as Chapman believes the complexity of magic should be taken.  The techniques he outlines are more guidelines than anything else.  They are a methodology of how to approach magic.  This is no book that will tell you what to say or do; Rather, this book will help the reader discover for him or herself the style of magic that flows best with his or her own personality. The author cares not which gods you work with, worship, or pray to (if any at all), nor does the author care which tradition, style, or culture you borrow your elements from (or whether you have invented them all on your own).  Instead, the author cares that the reader develops an understanding of magic which will be able to answer the questions of why things work. 

As such, there is no art, no poetry, no romantic language.  Chapman wants to make certain that you really get a solid grasp on the theory, and that you decorate it as you see fit.  The book's starkness is both a blessing and a curse. While maintaining its no-nonsense tone throughout the read, it can feel a bit dry at times and one can get lost in some of the more complex ideas he weaves. Thankfully, the author does have a sharp sense of humor, which he does pepper up the book with.  Even when the theories get thick with layers of metaphysical concepts, the author keeps the reader there with his clear and thoughtful presentation.

This book is not so much a curriculum for learning the magical arts as it is a catalyst to get the reader thinking on deeper levels about his or her magic.  Chapman places a strong emphasis on technique.  In many of his chapters, he has laid out spreadsheets in which he examines the core aspects of a magical working, and cross-references many different approaches to magic against those core elements.  Thus, he distills the steps of all magic down to 5 simple steps: deciding what you want to occur, making sure it is possible for the outcome to occur, choosing an experience and equating that experience to the desired outcome, and finally performing or engaging in the experience.  Last, the mage observes his or her results, and modifies methods as needed.  It is against these five steps that he examines sigil magic, sympathetic magic and magical links, nonsensical styles of magic, as well as magic involved with working with Gods, entities, or created servitors.

The author likewise explores facets of magical culture, such as the usage of magical names and mottoes and aeonics, with the same forthright manner.  He addresses the need for a mage to choose, or not choose, a magical name, and the potential importance of doing so.  He speculates upon the concepts of the kind of world the mage lives in, and the evolving consciousness of humankind, and where magic fits in.  Ultimately, his wanderings in various topics magical culture augment his explorations into magical methods and puts them into a greater framework where magick that is self-sufficient, self-driven, and ultimately, the most satisfying to the self can thrive.

What appealed to me most is that this book helps those who seek to know the magical arts to get to the heart of how and why they work.  Chapman's work transcends cultural, stylistic, and traditional boundaries in an intelligent way that can help the dedicated mage intelligently develop a system of magic that is unique to the one using it.  As I hold true that every mage must find his or her own path, I find that this book can offer some good information about the terrain.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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