One of the definitive volumes about the tarot and classic Crowley. He delves into the history of the cards and their relation to Kabbalah (the Hebrew...moreOne of the definitive volumes about the tarot and classic Crowley. He delves into the history of the cards and their relation to Kabbalah (the Hebrew mystic code, not the fad 'sleb' thing of wearing bracelets) and the Tree Of Life. Each card gets it's own description and meaning, with the Major Arcana getting lengthy write-ups. There's also some essays which help the reader understand the secrets of the cards further. Colour plates of some of the Crowley deck (beautifully painted by Freda Harris) are included in the centre section - with black and white versions making up their own part of the book.
The writing is, of course, typically Crowleyan. He doesn't give up the secrets easily - although if you're familiar with his writings in the "Equinox" and some of his other magickal works, you may grasp some (or most, if you're an adept) of the message. I don't know that I'd recommend this book to a Crowley beginner - but if you have experience of the tarot and have read a bit more of Uncle A's stuff, this is definitely worth a look.(less)
I've got a couple of John Matthews' books and while he certainly seems passionate about his subjects, I'm not convinced of the actual content. I bough...moreI've got a couple of John Matthews' books and while he certainly seems passionate about his subjects, I'm not convinced of the actual content. I bought this, thinking it was going to be fairly in-depth. I do realise that there's scant actual knowledge of Druidry, as practised in ancient times, so I reckoned there would be a lot of speculation involved here.
Matthews offers loads of meditations, guides to power totems and the like. They're interesting, but unless you have the time to devote to honing these skills, ultimately you won't get much out of this book. The small print (at least in the edition I have) and Matthews' dense writing (at times) don't help in getting a full grasp of the topic. After the first few chapters, I found myself skimming through the instructions of the incantations and exercises.
I'd recommend this to hard-core Celtic devotees only - everyone else might find it a bit too daunting to get through. I may give it another go myself in a while, to see if I can absorb more of the message.(less)
"Book 4" is probably 'Uncle Al's most accessible volume, aside from his few fiction works. Succinctly written and annotated, it concerns the very basi...more"Book 4" is probably 'Uncle Al's most accessible volume, aside from his few fiction works. Succinctly written and annotated, it concerns the very basics of yoga, meditation & ceremonial magic (or 'magick', if you prefer). There are no "spells" listed, or even rituals.
The first half of the book concerns yoga and meditation. Crowley scales the theory back to a simple guide--explaining dhyarna, samadhi, etc. in a way that even those with no experience of yoga can understand.
The second half goes through all of the items needed for ceremonial magic (the altar, sword, pantacle, crown, etc.). Each item is described in detail--what material it should be made from, it's dimensions and it's symbolism as part of the "Great Work".
Crowley's sly humour comes through in a small section where a few nursery rhymes are deconstructed to show their 'coded' magical references. There's a larger volume, called "Liber ABA", which contains all of "Book 4", along with "Magick In Theory And Practice" and "The Book Of The Law", but it's pricey and can be a bit daunting.
I'd recommend the slimmer "Book 4" as a good starting point for anyone interested in Crowley or ceremonial magic.(less)
I wanted to like this book a lot, I really did. I enjoyed Pinchbeck's first book, Breaking Open The Head, aside from the couple of tedious Burning Man...moreI wanted to like this book a lot, I really did. I enjoyed Pinchbeck's first book, Breaking Open The Head, aside from the couple of tedious Burning Man chapters. It seemed to be an honest exploration of psychedelic states of being by a confused, if well-meaning, Manhattan literary party-boy.
I was excited when I first heard that "2012" was being published. I thought it would be a fresh perspective on the whole "end-of-the-Mayan-calendar"/"herald-of-a-new-age" scenario that was first brought to my attention by Terence McKenna and his TimeWave Zero theory. It seemed as if Pinchbeck were stepping up to the plate and was going to pick up where McKenna left off, after McKenna's passing in 2000.
I skimmed some reviews of "2012 - The Return Of Quetzlcoatl" (as the first edition was called)...and many were middling. Undaunted, I thought it was just the cynical contingent of the mainstream press. I checked some reviews over at GoodReads and it seemed to be the same. Hmmm.... Now, I realise that anything with "prophecy" in the title (as stated in the edition I have) has the fundamentalist materialists and dogmatic rationalists reaching for their revolvers, but I thought there would be a lot more praise for the book. I decided to finally give it a go.
In "2012", Pinchbeck has devoted his energies to studying the prophecy that a new age will emerge in December 2012, which the Mayan calendar shows as the end of the world, or just the end of the current age, depending on your view. He jets off to Oregon to hang out with Jose Arguelles, who's created a new calendar based on the original Mayan dates. He visits England several times, specifically the Glastonbury area, to study the crop circle phenomenon. Mexico becomes a destination, so Dan can view the Mayan architecture. He goes to Burning Man again (urgh!), but this time the festival isn't so groovy, man--and finally he journeys to the Amazon rain forest, to learn about Santo Daime, a local religion which grafts the disparate strains of old tribal customs and Romish Catholicism into a peculiar ritual. The participants swallow cupfuls of ayahuasca, then sing and do a two-step dance for up to 6 hours.
All the while, he's having relationship problems with his 'partner'. She's never given a name, she's just his partner--though she is described as 'beautiful and svelte' (Pinchbeck wants you to know he's no chubby-chaser). The couple have a child together, which seems ill-advised, as he relates that their union was a bit unstable from the outset. These bits were really where Pinchbeck lost me. In an afterword to the paperback edition, he states how he included all this personal detail to 'invoke a deep enough response in readers that if might incite a shift in perspective'. Erm..that didn't happen for me, mate. It just seemed a bit voyeuristic to me, his tendency to let his audience in on his somewhat private soap-opera, involving his 'partner', another woman he meets at a psychedelic retreat in Hawaii, whom he insists on referring to as "first priestess" (she doesn't have a name either, apparently) and his little girl (again, no name). One chapter is devoted to the partner's father, for no other apparent reason than to compare him to Pinchbeck's own father. He also can't seem to stop exploiting his connection to the Beats (his mother dated Jack Kerouac at the height of his fame), as if that somehow lends him some extra credibility.
In spite of the more frustrating aspects of Pinchbeck's narrative, I did enjoy parts of the book. I really liked the crop circle bits, though I've never really given much thought to the phenomenon, putting down most (if not all) of the designs down to hoaxers. I found myself looking up the various formations Pinchbeck discusses to get a better idea of what he is describing. He didn't convince me with his various theories, but I did think that maybe hoaxers weren't responsible for all of the circles. Some of the Arguelles chapters had interesting segments - but then Pinchbeck inserts some caustic New Yawk intellectual screed, completely dismissing Aleister Crowley, but he buys most of Arguelles' Mayan reincarnation schtick. His visit to the Hopi reservation seems a bit of an anti-climax, but the words of the tribal chief almost redeem the plodding structure of the chapter. The book ends with an eco-warrior message about humanity's destruction of the environment and a possible redemption in the next 6 years (well, it's down to 3 now). Pinchbeck doesn't seem concerned that all of his jetting about might've added to all that pollution....'cos it was like, for the book, man.
So, for all that, you get a somewhat middling book (I have to agree with a lot of the reviewers) about 2012 and what may happen. For me, it seems a bit of a wasted opportunity--too much about the author, not enough about the actual phenomenon. When he's not talking about his own foibles, he's borrowing ideas from McKenna, Arguelles, Robert Anton Wilson, crop circle devotees and a host of others. It seems that maybe Pinchbeck started believing his own press and yeah, that Rolling Stone article didn't really help things. It appears that he wants to join the psychedelic pantheon and have his name amongst the greats (Wilson, Leary, Huxley, McKenna, Kesey, etc.)--but I just don't know if he makes the cut. Going by "2012", I think he's got a ways to go. (less)