Definitely more useful for the Hermeticist than for the Jewish mystic, although the Hebrew bits are very well done in both an easily readable native f...moreDefinitely more useful for the Hermeticist than for the Jewish mystic, although the Hebrew bits are very well done in both an easily readable native font and multiple transliterations where there is doubt or conflict among sources. The prefatory and supplemental materials are quite good, though I do wish they had gone into more detail on some of the more abstruse topics collected in the encyclopedic entries themselves; e.g., the Tunnels of Set are referenced throughout, but only about one paragraph citing Kenneth Grant as the principle source of that material is given, perhaps because Godwin doesn't find it all that useful himself. It also could use more extensive descriptions on some topics within the entries to obviate the need for cross-referencing to other works, though admittedly that could well push the size of the work up to unmanageable proportions, given its existing heft. All that said, I'm sure I'll be sifting through this as a reference source quite frequently.(less)
I almost wish I hadn't read it; I am at least glad I waited until moving through some of the O.T.O. degrees myself.
While the bulk of the book focuses...moreI almost wish I hadn't read it; I am at least glad I waited until moving through some of the O.T.O. degrees myself.
While the bulk of the book focuses on the personalities and histories of Smith's associates in the world of Thelema, there come times when Starr, unrestricted by any vows surrounding the degree work, refers to information that some, particularly members of the Order, may regard as secret. Of course, since most of this focuses on the early history of the O.T.O. in North America in the first half of the 20th century, much of it no longer applies, or applies differently, today—even during the course of the narrative, while Aleister Crowley was still alive he re-edited or rewrote virtually all of the O.T.O. initiations. Still, for those of us who prefer to go into each initiation "clean," without having read ahead, this book may provide some unwanted insights and set up uncertain expectations. I would not, however, consider any of them to be outright "spoilers," and Starr includes precious little information regarding the upper degrees that wasn't already widely available, even within Crowley's more public teachings.
Apart from that, this is a fascinating look at the history of the O.T.O. in North America, and at one man's successes and failures in following out The Path as outlined by Crowley in his O.T.O. and A∴A∴ systems of High Magick. Since they were close associates, it also offers a good, if peripheral, view of the work of author:Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad), as well as touching upon Jane Wolfe, Regina Kahl, C. F. Russell, Jack Parsons, and very tangentially L. Ron Hubbard and Phyllis Seckler, among others. It also represents the first publication of all three parts of Crowley's Liber 132 ("Apotheosis"), a specific instruction from TO MEGA THERION to Smith.
Finally, it is useful as a guide to anyone involved in the middle degrees of O.T.O., mostly as a handbook of what NOT to do in the running of a fraternal magical order, narratively outlining the problems and pitfalls that still plague some such orders and bodies today, as anyone familiar with Pasadena's Agape Lodge could have told you already.(less)
A rather eclectic collection of essays and excerpts, which I think is true to its title in having the idea of personal liberty as its connecting threa...moreA rather eclectic collection of essays and excerpts, which I think is true to its title in having the idea of personal liberty as its connecting thread more so than the concepts of spirituality, magick generally, or chaos magic specifically, as one might expect on the basis of Dr. Hyatt's other work, though all of these are well represented.
Of particular interest to me were "Living Thelema" by Jack Parsons (not be be confused with the similar title by David Shoemaker) on which I wound up basing a class; the interview with Israel Regardie, which showed more of his humanity than anything I'd yet encountered; and the concise overview of e-prime by RAW, which greatly increased my interest in following up that topic. This also served to introduce me to a number of authors with whom I was unfamiliar and whom I am now more likely to seek out.
All in all, I'd say this is quite a reasonable starting point for anyone interested in iconoclastic ideas, whose mind is already open enough to entertain the absurd, the bizarre, and the outright maniacal long enough to discern paths for future investigation in greater depth.(less)