Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Review - The Heir To The North by Steven Poore


The book is Part 1 of the two part story Malessar's Curse.

In the prologue, we learn of a mighty empire that reigned in the North, eight hundred years before, and was smashed by the sorcery of the wizard Malessar. The echoes of the fall of Caenthell and the High King reverberate down through the centuries, appearing in the tales told by storytellers. Protagonist Cassia is marinated in these and other stories, as a result of homeless wandering with her abusive drunken storyteller father. 

This is a superb plot device - between the storyteller father and a centuries-old wizard whom he and Cassia take up with we have a rich explication of the rich backstory as this ill-matched crew travel the myth-drenched landscape on a quest for the ancient sorcerer Malessar, a quest the true nature of which remains tantalizingly obscure until near the end.

The opening scene of the prologue establishes the cause of the subjugation of the empire of the North, in terms which tell us we are definitely in the zone of epic fantasy: 'Sorcery tore the castle to pieces around him.'

In the chaos, Baum saves the infant heir to the High Kingship of the North. You will spend quite some time trying to work out who is the descendant of this individual, and the tension and doubt are maintained with expert skill.


I am not generally a fan of epic fantasy - I think the only one I really enjoyed before this was Lord of the Rings, which I read at age 15 then again, at various ages. Some might say: Come on, powerful warriors, noble kings, beautiful queens, sorcery and blood oaths - what's not to like? But I usually have a problem with the treatment of magic in fantasy novels, especially in epic fantasy, where it is almost invariably over-used, and gives the impression of the arbitrary universes of Dungeons and Dragons rather than a believable world into which magic erupts as a shocking discontinuity, something truly rare, even alien. 

But Poore has got the mix just right - magic is used sparsely and sparingly. We are aware of the existence of powerful and terrible forces, but they are so rare that many people do not even believe in such powers. 

And he can pull out the stops when need be, giving the reader a vision of magic which is alien and frightening. In a magical battle, 'The air tasted of stone, sand and nightmare.'

The religion is also done well. Characters' relationships with the various gods of the peoples of the story is convincing - somewhere between belief and doubt. A wise wizard outlines the nature of the gods:

'They are primal and emotional. There are gods of anger, of joy, of love, and desire. Gods of war, of luck, of fate. They are all of the heart, not of the head.' 

Similarly, Poore is good on battles. He lays on the action in doses that don't stretch one's credulity or reduce the whole novel to increasingly boring bouts of violence. 

I like a lot the way that place and history are woven together. Cassia travels far with her mysterious companions, to places which are forgotten cities reached by uncountably ancient roads, through a whole landscape soaked in layer upon layer of history. This kind of world-building uses the storyteller theme to embed stories within stories, resulting in an intoxicating depth of myth underlying every important event.  

The quality of the prose is excellent. I started an Edward Cox fantasy recently and was so put off by the liberal handful of clichés in the first paragraph I couldn't be bothered to continue reading the book. Poore's writing does not suffer from such literary jerry-building, but is bright and fresh.

The story is strengthened further by the relatively unusual choice of protagonist. Cassia is a girl, in a male-dominated world. And she is young, with the dreams of youth, which often make a poor fit with the realities of the world she lives in. But her secret, which she comes to understand at the end, is about to change that world.  

This is a book to read more than once, for the sheer pleasure of the writing and plotting. Heir to the North is a story told with superb prose and characters and pace. Buy it, read it, read it again.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Brion Gysin exhibition, October Gallery

Went to see this last weekend. This is a last-minute blog - there is only a week and a bit left to see this exhibition, so I won't be writing much. Check out http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/exhibitions/2015gys/index.shtml

There are so many rich things about the work on display. One of Gysin's hallmarks is Arabic-style calligraphy, done in hot desert colours, glimpses into a shadow-realm between words and pictures, a realm of magic.

Another of his techniques is used to create the large pictures, painted with a carved paint-roller, forming cityscapes, dream cities. Friends Popping Out of Windows shows tiny photos of his friends, inset into the enormous structures of the world - again, the feel of magic.
Of course, the thing Gysin is most famous for is the invention of the Dreamachine. In the event we went to last Saturday, Luciana Haill spoke of Gysin's intentions in promoting the Dreamachine - to restore an alternation of the dark and light stages of consciousness, our civilization having got stuck in the light side.

Gysin never fitted in. He got thrown out of the Surrealists for being gay (Andre Breton's exploration of his unconscious mind didn't go as far as addressing homophobia), was in the seminal Lettrist group which influenced Situationism, and then became someone on the outside of the Beat literary scene. He is one of the ultimate Outsider figures in 20th Century art and culture, and his legacy is the power of the one who stands outside, looking at the world through a vision which we are only just catching up with. His work is neither obscure nor comfortable, but supremely elegant and magical, poised and luminous, outside of time. Go and see it while you still can.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

On Turning the Wheel of Wealth

Recently, my partner inherited money from her parents, after her mother's death. Once some debts were paid, we were both better off. This increase in our wealth happened at a good time - our lives were definitely enhanced, but as a side-effect of the death of someone we loved dearly.

I tell this tale to point up the paradoxical gratitude mixed with mourning that is the state in which we inherit resources, and the underlying pattern in human life - that of receiving and passing on. The amount of money I received was not large, it will not enable me to retire, or to change my lifestyle significantly. But the amount does not matter in this case - even if you don't stand to inherit any money, consider what you have received from the world around you.

You live in a house. It is likely that someone else built it. That person may now be dead - you will never be able to meet and shake the hand of the person who built the home environment you live in. One day you will leave the house, and someone else will live there. Maybe it was someone's death that made room for you to move into that house. You use resources provided by the society you live in - maybe UK's National Health Service, maybe the local buses. These things were made and run by people you will ever meet, who may no longer be alive. You in turn will pass on what you have used, or at least some of it.

So we did a magical working, to tune in to all the things we have received from others, to express gratitude, and to focus on our material resources being part of a chain of temporary possession.

The emotions of inheritance are complex, and inherently somewhat dark. Passing resources on is a responsibility which some people cannot handle. One friend of mine, when his father died and he inherited a house, cashed it in and went on a bender from which he never recovered.

This is a Black aspect of Blue or Wealth Magic, a Saturnian dimension of your wealth working.

That last bit of symbolism will make sense if you are familiar with the Colours of Magic, Peter Carroll's eightfold scheme of simplified Planetary attributions. This scheme uses the colours associated with the seven planets of antiquity plus Ouranos/Octarine to classify any kind of magical working.
When we apply the Colours of Magic model to Blue magic, we get a set of attributions which are all about the different ways you can work for wealth.

Here are a few sample attributions - please note, these words are not exhaustive or final - each person should find their own resonant meanings within each Colour.

Red of Blue - enthusiasm, discipline, initiative, drive, hard work;
Orange of Blue - intelligence, communication, speed, work smarter, language, talking skilfully, planning work in more detail;
Yellow of Blue - self-image, identity, what wealth is for you;
Green of Blue - what you love. Wealth brings harmony. Desire for nice experiences/things motivates;
Blue of Blue - the whole idea of wealth for you;
Black of Blue - inherited property, endings, passing resources on;
Purple - desire. What you crave. Wealth as pleasure, passion;
Octarine - Mysteries of wealth and money, secret language of wealth. Magical attitudes, beliefs that are useful to wealth.

The point of the Wheel is that we need to work for wealth all through our lives. Each time you do a working for one aspect of wealth, say Green, if it succeeds, your life changes. The next time you approach Green magic, you will have gained something and maybe also lost something - and  hopefully learned something; your approach to Green of Blue us bound to differ each time you go round the Wheel.

The wheel turns, everything changes, but with the attitude of the Wheel of Wealth you have a way of making the best of every change.

A few years ago, I ran a Wheel of Wealth course at Arcanorium College. It ran over slightly more than 8 weeks, one lesson for each working to complete the Wheel. The Wheel itself is a circular talisman, the material base for a complex and sensitive servitor.

This year, on Saturday October 3rd, I shall be running a one-day intensive workshop to work all aspects of the Blue ray and condense them in to a Wheel talisman that you will take away with you.


We will consider each of the Eight Rays of Magic in relation to your wealth, so that all the aspects of wealth in your life are covered, and we'll plan and perform a ritual for each colour.
At the end, we put them all together.

Your talisman will have eight colours and perfumes attached to it, and a servitor, tailored for your own wealth workings, which you can develop in your own work afterwards.

So what qualifies me to be running such a magical event?

In my youth, I was totally useless with money. When I left home, I calculated how much my student grant would work out to per week, and it seemed perfectly adequate. But I managed to get rid of it all within about one third of the time it was supposed to last, and I never understood what went wrong.

So Wealth was one of the last aspects of magic I got a good grip on. Which is why I wrote The Wealth Magic Workbook (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Wealth-Magic-Workbook-Paradigm/dp/1481935011) - because I'd spent quite a lot of time getting to the stage where I had the resources to live as I wanted, and I was writing abut what worked for me.

Let me be perfectly clear here - my wealth magic teachings are based on my view of wealth. The important feature of wealth for me is: The resources that give me the freedom to accomplish my will. Money is ultimately incidental. In other words, I need as many resources (including money and property) as it takes for me to live at my full potential. To put it another way - for me, wealth is a condition where money is not a terribly big issue.

This is not a radically anti-acquisitiveness position, more a case of putting acquisitiveness (of money and property) in its place. Which has to be below all the really important things in life, like learning, enjoying other people and sheer moment-to-moment joy in life. All these things can and are often crippled by obsession with money and property.

If you'd like to ask about the Workshop, please write to me at info@chaotopia.co.uk .

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Notes from Energy Magic Workshop

Practical Energy Magic

Wick Farm House, Oxford,  May 16th 2015. 11.00 – 19.30

This was a great day of energy work, healing work and discussion. Here are the notes. 

If you would like advance notice of similar workshops, please leave your email address in Comments below or contact me at info@chaotopia.co.uk and I'll include you in mailouts. 


Summary Notes for Participants

Introduced ourselves. Talked about Varieties of Energy Work:  have y done: qigong? Rebirthing BW? Holotropic BW? This is related to all of those practices.

Talked about:
-         Energy magic, what is it? The energy paradigm in magic. The loss of a European traditional lineage for energy magic; we refer a lot to Qigong, and Prana work.
-         Connected Breathwork and Energy Magic.

Practical: Basic Energy Exercises:
Becoming aware of your Energy centres, Circulating the energy.
Sealing your aura for when you emerge into the world
Grounding, for when your energy gets too intense.

Practical: Raising the energy:
Loosen up, do Shaking.
Feel the shiver…

Practical: The Energy Healing Breath (EHB):

Do continuous, connected breathing, through the mouth, to a rhythm of 2-6 or 1-4.
Experiment with the length of inhale and exhale.
Breathe from your abdomen for the best results - if you're not sure where you're breathing from, place one hand on your belly and one on your chest - only the belly hand should move if you're breathing abdominally.

Entraining the Energy:
Breathe in, from the earth, your feet, up your body with the inhale.
When you have a good rhythm established, introduce this visualization: the energy flowing up from the earth into your feet on the inhale, up your body to your head, changing direction with the beginning of the exhale to flow down your arms to your hands.
Keep going till you feel it in your hands.

Continue this for 10 minutes, to learn how to sustain this level of energy.

Feedback time:
Stop the exercise and breath gently and slowly. Take stock.
Sensations like dizziness may arise – these are harmless but may be disturbing.  

Practical: Elemental energy:
Go outside, walk to the woods.
Repeat EHB exercise (as above).
Walk about, watch and feel.

Feedback time:
Discuss what we felt from trees, sky, etc.

Practical: Moving the energy:
Do the EHB. Move around.

Form Qi-balls.

Group energy: pass the energy around with the chi balls, play around with it.

Get into a circle, still keeping energy going.
Pass energy to person on opposite side of circle, entraining it to flow between our heads and feet, then to all in circle.

THAT was a Chaotron! We can come back to that if you like, later.
But for now, let’s do some HEALING

Practical: Healing:
Call for volunteers.
Stand round and direct energy at them.
Move closer, place hands over sites where energy is needed.

Feedback time
Discussed experiences.

Practical: Chaotron again – 25min, remote healing, each choose own recipient.
At end of this, did films  (Story of smoky-light entity round neck of man in exorcism)

Practical: Sitting meditation
25 minutes

Practical: Final Energy Exercises:
-         Energy centres, Circulation, lesser orbit, seal aura.
-         Grounding.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Rune-Song Workshop, Bilbao

The following is the text of the notes I used. I am very prone to improvising, so this is very much the bare bones of the event.

The Runic Attributions handout at the end is the Spanish language one used at the workshop. An English language version is now available. Please email me at dleeahp@inbox.com for a copy of it.

Next weekend, 16th May 2015, I shall be giving a day-long workshop on Energy Magic in Oxford. This promises to be a terrific event, and there are still a few places left. Check out https://www.facebook.com/events/427827944041507/

I shall soon be offering some new magical events; as well as my occasional workshops, this will include online events, coordinated workings, and webinars at some stage.

If you would like to be kept informed about these new things, please email me at dleeahp@inbox.com and I'll put you on my mailing list.

Rune-Song Workshop, for Public IOT Event, 
Ateneo Izarbeltz, Bilbao, April 23rd 2015

Need: Elder Futhark handouts, BFTW cover.

1. Intro to Rune-Song:

My first commitment to the discipline of magic (as distinct from youthful visions) was to Chaos Magic.

My second was to the mysteries of the Northern way, the way of my ancestors, and of the runes.

The relationship between these two aspects of my magical world can best be illustrated by this glyph [SHOW cover of Bright From the Well] which is also scribed on my skin.

How it breaks down is as follows: All round the outside you see the familiar Sigil of Chaos, or Chaos Star. This is what most people will see of my magical world.
But at the core of the glyph is represented the symbol of my spiritual quest: the Valknut, the sign of Woden or Odin.

Woden is the Allfather, the god of the creation of the world through the act of the consciousness that is at the core of us all.
Whether we know it or not. Some, maybe all of you, know it.

As the father of all, he has many names.

Woden and Odin both mean Master of Inspiration or of wild ecstasy.
He is the god of any cults, one of which is a cult of poetic ecstasy.  One of his famous exploits was the recovery of the Mead of Inspiration, which is definitely not just a mug of drink, but the ultimate psychoactive sacrament that induces the controlled frenzy of the poet-magician.

Another of his names is Yggr, the Fearful One. Why fearful? You may have heard an old saying:  He who looks into eyes of an initiate feels fear, because he is looking at someone who has died to the mundane world, whose ordinary identity has been deconstructed, swallowed up by the terrifying ecstasy of the transpersonal.

Woden's best know exploit is of course the getting of the Runes. Woden is the god of the vitki, the wizard.
He hung on the tree, which is both the world and the spinal column with its power centres, its cauldrons of subtle force. He allowed himself to die to himself, like a shaman, he hurled his consciousness to the limits of the universe. He thereby gained the runes.
And he gave them to us.

Today I want to share with you an experience of working Rune magic. An experience of raising consciousness to the ultimate and going beyond, into the realm of magic.

[Sing the 'VEIT EK...' part of Havamal, dramatically. ]

2. Singing single runes
[Hand round the Rune Handouts - see below]

Take a look at the handout.

I have written in some well-known attributions, and a few less well known that I have found myself.

Each of us, in working the Runes, must emulate Woden and find our own runes.
In other words, to work the most powerful rune-magic, we must load these ancient symbols with our own attributions.

We will only make the merest start on that today. But we have to start somewhere, and we start with these well-known attributions.
We are going to load these associations into the runes before us, by singing them as we contemplate their meanings.

Then we will learn how to combine them into special magical forms called bind runes.
Then we will do some operative magic, just for fun.

This singing of the whole rune-row is not just a technical exercise. The whole futhark was sometimes written and maybe sung as such, as an extremely sacred thing, an invocation of the all the powers of the cosmos in balance.

This was done with various versions of the futhark or futhorc - for instance on the Thames scramasax, a highly prestigious weapon on which all 28 runes of the Anglo-Saxon rune row were carved. Also on memorial stones for the dead, to consecrate their memory for as long as stones stand.

So I am inviting you to do the ultimate spell as well as to learn the runes.

The singing: gentle but rich.

[Sing them one by one]

3. Bindrunes

Galdor is rune-song.  Singing is the core technique of rune magic - in fact, much of the Northern magical tradition is called galdor.
Runic enchantment is a flexible, subtle, sophisticated and extremely powerful system.

So of course it is ideal for Chaos Magicians. Chaos Magic and the Northern Mysteries go back a long way, but that is another story, not to be told today.

Each rune is like a colour, forming a spectrum. Each 'colour' is quite broad in meaning - look at the attributions of URUZ  .......

If we combine the force of URUZ with that of another rune, it narrows down the meaning.

This is how we design an enchantment with runes.

Simple combinations of a vowel and a consonant gives a whole range of Galdors:  for example, UL, LU, for healing.

(Sing it)

Intro to Waterfall Galdor

The bindrune has a name, which is derived from the names of the runes that make it up, and it may also have a more intimate name: the entities created using bindrunes can vary from very simple wights, like servitors, to much more sophisticated spirits.

Traditionally, the bindrune is carved on wood, but I would like to show you a modern, Chaos Magic approach to runic enchantment too.

To give you an example of a modern runic spell, this is the basis of a spell to expose wrongdoing:
Made from words, taking the word EXPOSURE and writing it in a grid until it disappears. Cutting the shape of the Kenaz rune out of it; this Kenaz can now be sacrificed.

4. Our spell

Construct a Bindrune using TIWAZ and DAGAZ.
Intention:  Justice for the people and the environment.

Intro - shaking.

Two groups, one does Ti, the other does Da.
Start the rune song.
Make it quiet.
Tense up.
All do Ti-Da, release, and launch.


The venue: Izar Beltz Ateneoa, http://izarbeltz.noblogs.org

Other speakers at the event have placed their talks here:

Rune Handouts:
Design: Mar Delgado, www.filobotica.com
Illustration: Jorge López, https://www.facebook.com/jlrtatuaje?fref=ts
Translation: Fra. Modus 081

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Mysterious Force That You Know So Well

My first unambiguous encounter with life-force energy occurred in my teens. I'd taken a fairly high dose of LSD, and was watching my friend's cat, which was stalking peacefully about at the other end of the room. Then something moved me to point at the cat, with a lazy, flicking gesture. This stuff, like light but all bent and twisted like lightning, came out of the tip of my index finger and arced across the room, hitting the cat. It looked exactly like the stuff that came out of the hands of sorcerers in Doctor Strange comic, those kinked, glowing arcs of energy exchanged between battling wizards.
It would just have been a drug hallucination but for the effect it had on the cat. It jumped two feet in the air and leaped out of the window. I was concerned for it (I've always loved cats) and went over to look out; it was tearing off across the yard. Later I discovered it was fine. The movement I had made was slow and easy, not abrupt enough to startle the cat.

Those Doctor Strange panels were depictions of energy magic. Energy magic is one of the great paradigms of magic, one of the basic ways of thinking about so-called magical effects. Within that idea, wizards seek to project or block energy to heal or harm, to rearrange energy internally for health and strength, to use energy to carry enchantments.

A few years later, when I had started disciplined magical work, a friend and I were standing,  discussing energy projection, which neither of us was sure he had experienced. He said something about using the voice. I said, 'What, like HUH?' The HUH was a rapid exhalation, a huff of breath; my friend fell over. He got up, said 'You bastard!' and we laughed about it. We'd both wanted an experience of projecting energy, and we'd got one!

This energy is a central part of many traditional systems of healing, martial arts and spiritual awakening.

From Chapter I-1: A brief history of magical energy

Looking at the great traditions, we see an intimate connection between life-force and breath, to the extent of finding words for breath which also double as words for life energy or spirit. In Greek, we have pneuma, in Chinese qi or chi, in Sanskrit prana, in Hebrew ruach, in Latin spiritus. The latter leaves a trace of this double-concept in modern English: it's not hard to see the connection between the Latin root of 'inspiration', both in its physical, objectively-observed sense of drawing in breath, and in its more commonly-used interior meaning, of a very special mental condition.

In the modern age, the most extensive systems of life-energy work survive in the Hindu teachings on pranayama, and in the Taoist disciplines of qigong / qi gong. In the word 'pranayama', the prana part refers to life-force and the -yama root means death or control; so pranayama means 'control of breath or life-force'. Qigong means 'breath/life-energy work'.

Teaching about prana or qi permeate many aspects of the esoteric teachings of those traditions. In the Hindu tradition the control of prana is central to Kriya Yoga, Tantric sexual alchemy and the healing knowledge of energy centres in Ayurveda, to mention just a few areas. In Taoism, consciousness of and control of qi is essential in Tu-na breathwork, esoteric martial arts, acupuncture, sexual alchemy and the energy magic of qigong.

So we can see that vitalism, the idea of a universal life-energy, forms an important feature of esoteric traditions. It is a consistent ingredient of what has been called the Perennial Philosophy, the teachings that form an intellectual underpinning to traditional worldviews. Further, we can see that vitalism has been deeply intellectually unfashionable since the rise of the scientific worldview. It is the radical reductionism of even healthy scientific thought (let alone fundamentalist scientism) that has rendered life-force a redundant hypothesis, sliced off by Occam's Razor because it seems we do not need to distinguish the activities of living things quite so sharply from the inorganic substrate of the world - DNA is, after all, 'just a chemical'.

This puts the sceptical practitioner of martial arts or energy healing in a strange position. When you have experienced real life-energy adventures, like the above, or like the ones you have no doubt had if you work esoteric martial arts or energy magic, you have no doubt that these techniques work to produce a sense of something which feels and behaves very much like life-energy. So the traditional notions of life-energy become the most obvious, the immediately-comprehensible articulation of what you are experiencing.

David Lee will be presenting a day-workshop on Energy Magic next month. Details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/427827944041507/

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review of EPOCH by Peter J. Carroll and Matt Kaybrin

EPOCH - Esotericon and Portals of Chaos, by Peter J. Carroll and Matt Kaybrin, pub. Arcanorium College. http://www.esotericon.org/

This book has taken me some months to review. Partly because of its sheer size and scale, but also because it represents in some ways a summation of Peter Carroll's total contribution to magical practice and history. So it really made me think about what was important and what wasn't about this man's extraordinary work.

I've known Pete Carroll since 1979, from meetings in the Sorcerer's Apprentice coffee mornings in Leeds. I was one of the founder members of the first IOT group in West Yorkshire, begun in 1980 and centred on the village of East Morton, where Ray Sherwin had a house, and where Pete Carroll lived for a while. So we go back a long way, and his work, particularly Liber Null, has often inspired me. Not only that, but nothing has yet come along to replace Chaos Magic as the forefront magical current; its history is the history of contemporary magic.

EPOCH consists of a large, beautifully-produced book and a deck of large cards. The latter are stunning. They are not just as a divination pack - Matt Kaybrin described their unusual lamination as 'Chaos Magician proof' - in other words, these are wipe-clean tools for use in the, ahem, liveliest temple.

The book lays out a sophisticated psychocosm, with three levels to it, quite like Qabalah, especially the ideas behind the first two sections - Elemental Knowledge and Knowledge of the Self. The Pentagram of the elements forms the equivalent to Malkuth, and the Octa-star, the eight Planetary spheres, replaces the Ruach of the Tree of Life. With the third section, instead of the Supernals (Carroll rejects completely the traditional notions of Awakening) we have Forbidden Knowledge. This has to be the most anti-traditional psychocosm ever, a triumph of radical materialism.

The Elements section is the least original part, and contains much that is rehashed from Carroll's early books. Much of this is good and useful stuff, like the comments about the relative usefulness of unreliable divination and unreliable enchantment, and if you don't possess Carroll's earlier works, then here you are.

The book starts getting into some more original areas with the deities of the Octa-star. These are attributed to pairs of planetary influences. This is a nice idea, for making a very tidy scheme of invocation. There are also some excellent treatments of  previously-little-celebrated deities, including Lucifer, Ma'at, Apophenia and Pareidolia. Another useful feature of sticking gods into your big-scale psychocosm is that it enables you kind of 'stand outside' the gods that permeate your local culture. Like Jahveh still, to some extent, does; I like Carroll's comment that belief in such a monster is massively counter-intuitive and counter rational - this fits in exactly with what C S Lewis said, about being a Christian because it was so irrational.

The problem I have with this scheme though is, of course, that other people's attributions are bound to feel arbitrary, at least in some cases. For instance, I get that Vulcan is Mercury, but also Jupiter? And Osiris, as Saturn-Jupiter? Surely Saturn-Sun?

A quote from p140:
'Elemental Magic deals largely with the natural world here on Earth, and Planetary Magic deals largely with the Human Condition, but Stellar Magic addresses the possibilities of the Trans-Human Condition.'

It is with the Stellar Magic section that Carroll really gets into his stride. Using the cluster of suggestive fictional ideas known as the Cthulhu Mythos, he explores alien gnosis, the deep physics of magical action and the Faustian bargain on which our civilization is built. Basically, Carroll shows us how to frame the Cthulhu Mythos as a magical framework for Faustian-Promethean work: the mastery of consciousness, biology, spacetime, entropy and impermanence, nano- and femto-physics. This is the modern version of the age-old dream of overcoming death and temporo-spatial limitations. Of course, this is not the first time anyone has constructed a menu for Promethean endeavour - remember Timothy Leary's SMI2LE formula - space migration, increased intelligence, life extension? But this is probably the first time anyone has taken these bright-dark dreams and articulated them into a system of magic which revolves around forbidden knowledge.

The visualizations in the Necronomicon pages have the dark, SF glamour that Carroll is sometimes very good at. Here's a sample from the Azathoth evocation. (A pentachoron is a pentagram folded into a 3-D representation of a 4-d object, looking like a tetrahedron with another vertex in the middle):

'To evoke Azathoth the magician repeats the incantation as many times as necessary whilst visualizing the Triconorbis sigil of a vortex swirling within a triangle.
'If possible, the magician should try to expand this vision into that of a vortex within a tetrahedron and then to transform it into an omni-directional vorticitation within a pentachoron...'

I love the idea of the Elder Gods being dangerous powers we have always wanted. This is far and away the best Necronomicon, qua grimoire.

That covers the individual sections; now I'd like to talk about the psychocosm itself.

One of the things I was initially uncomfortable about in this book was the presence of such a massively-inclusive scheme. It looked like a closed system, the open-ended metasystem, of Chaos Magic having been left behind, allowed to set, to congeal into a single subset of all the possible systems subtended by the CM way of thinking. If you have a metaphysical  system that is essentialist, in other words says that essence precedes existence, then you have a top-down system, and closure is inevitable and healthy. If you work with a bottom-up system, like (good) science or Chaos Magic, then any closure is inevitably ad hoc, viewed as temporary in the bigger scheme of life because it is bound to be, and supposed to be superseded by another system all too soon. Also, when an open-ended philosophy such as Chaos Magic starts to congeal into systems, it is generally a sign of fundamental decadence, because it is not the most creative part of the human mind that loves closure and neatness, but the lazy part, and this beautiful pattern, this elegant subset of open-ended enquiry might get mistaken for Chaos Magic.

Then it occurred to me that this book is surely in some way intended as a rounding-out of Carroll's entire corpus of magical writings. In the introductory chapters he makes a good deal of the work of Mathers, in particular the expanded Qabalistic Tree of Life scheme, into which he packed Levi's Tarot attributions, elements and tattvas, angels and even John Dee's Enochian System. The EPOCH psychocosm is intended as a replacement, based on Carroll's Quantum-Neo-Pagan metaphysics, for Mathers's scheme, the latter based on Platonic-Pagan-Monotheist thought. Thus, the book is intended to mark a cornerstone of a new way of thinking about magic and the universe. This is Carroll's Magnum Opus, in terms of Big Thinking.

Looking back over Carroll's published achievements:
- Liber Null gave us the two principles of Chaos Magic;
- Liber Kaos included Chaos Magic Theory, (now presented as part of QNP), the first truly materialistic theory of magic;
- The Psychonomicon gave us the 8 Colours of Magic. This has proven an invaluable simplification of Planetary Magical attributions, making the latter much more usable for off-the-cuff 'emergency' magic.
The CMT stuff may yet be seminal, though of course it is by no means certain that Carroll will be credited with these ideas. Take the case of Lionel Snell and Johnstone's Paradox: in 1974 Snell, writing as Angerford and Lea, wrote SSOTBME, in which he demonstrated that, if VR could ever be sufficiently sophisticated for us to be living in it, then the odds are that we are already doing so. This is now claimed as an original insight by Nick Bostrom and others. Just dig up a paper on this - such as http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html - and you will find no reference to Lionel Snell's work.

Surely the most important of these innovations is the first. Carroll revolutionized magical writing with this single, simple idea. Liber Null is one of the 3 or 4 most important books to be written about magic in the 20th century. It is a blend of joyous anarchic experiment in a genuinely serious, romantic quest for real, demonstrable magical powers. At the other end of Carroll's output to date we have the realisation of a complex, inclusive psychocosm.

A few quibbles.
The first is a reprise of Carroll's tendency to construct straw-man arguments.
An obvious one is a seemingly-deliberate misunderstanding of Crowley's Aeonics in the crudest way possible. Surely Carroll has read Crowley enough to realise that he doesn't say that the Aeon of Isis meant that women ran everything. Not only that, but in shooting down this false-image of Crowley's Aeonic scheme, he is impugning the ancestor of his own.

This isn't the only swipe against Thelema. In the Choronzon chapter he writes: 'The Thelemic HGA hypothesis always leads to a sense of having a driven soul, or a true will ... and to it justifying any means and thence to violence and death.' I'm glad my relationship with what I sometimes call my Angel does not do anything of the sort.

Crowley needs character assassins like a dog needs fleas, but Pete goes on to compare Mathers in glowing terms with AC. This is odd; Mathers contrived a bloodless, cerebral set of attributions, based on Levi's lining-up of the Tree of Life with the Tarot Trumps and on Cornelius Agrippa's massive compilation of occult lore. Mathers and Bennett had done the world a favour by boiling down the endless symbolic tangles into Liber 777, a mere set of tables that reduced the Renaissance qabalah to an empty filing cabinet of ideas.

Crowley took this dry, Masonic intellectualism and streamlined it. He picked it up from Bennett and recognized the centrality of altered states to the success of magic with his 'energized enthusiasm'. In other words, he supplied the fuel for Mathers's elaborate gilded carriage. This insight, the necessity of an altered state, becomes half of Pete Carroll's brilliant summing up of the two irreducible necessities for doing successful magic, an ESC or 'gnosis' and a shift in belief. With the ultimate streamlining of Liber Null, a committed and intelligent beginner can do basic magical training in under a year.
However, having said that, Carroll's adulation of Mathers becomes less puzzling after you've read the book: Carroll is reaching back to the last time anyone made such a vast psychocosm.

Some final points:
You will probably want to take or leave Carroll's historical interpretations; his lex talionis approach to politics does show through.

There's a factual error (of sorts) on p82: in referring to ancient Egypt, we are told that 'animal sacrifice did not occur'. I suggest Mr C read up on Bubastis - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cats_in_ancient_Egypt - selling cats as stuffed effigies for religious tourists rates below sacrifice in my book.

In conclusion: did it make me want to do magic? Yes it did - the Stellar stuff. Did it make me think? See above. Buy it or not? Definitely buy it; this is an extraordinary work by any standards.

It is in fact fair to say that it is a great book. In the future, when people talk about Peter Carroll, if his present books are what we have to go on, two books will stand out: Liber Null, because of the daring simplicity of its central ideas. Nothing can be greater than such simplicity. But in second place, this book. So if you only ever buy two books by Peter Carroll, make it those two.

By the way, I love the title - lots of Clever Points for that! Acronyms have always been close to the Chaoist heart - I remember a certain Fra Corvus coming up with a servitor instruction system called BASIC - Basic Servitor Instruction Code. Then we had CHAOS - Constantly Hagiographizing Austin Osman Spare, and finally CARROLL - Cusp-Aeon Retroactively Reifying Octarine Logic Language.