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Book Report Magick In Theory And Practice by Aleister Crowley

A post detailing the poster's experience/thoughts with a book.

Incognitus

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This book needs no introduction. I’m assuming nearly everyone has heard of it. I’ll be starting a re-read and will be adding a post for each chapter I finish, along with any personal thoughts. Tomorrow I will add a post regarding the Introduction (which is, in itself, so full of information).

if you’re interested in learning, I encourage you to join me. If this isn’t an interest of yours, please skip posting to tell me that. Some of you talk a big talk. Let’s see if you really know what you’re talking about.

I’ll be reading the soft cover 1976 Dover edition, but you could follow along with an ebook, of course. As long as it includes all of the diagrams and tables.

I won’t lie. This isn’t the easiest book to read, but neither are most of the grimoires that act as source material.
 

Incognitus

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I was going to post about the Introduction today, but before I do that, I want to address some issues with this book and much of the source material.

First and foremost, Aleister Crowley (and Blavatsky, and others) was a racist and a Nationalist. The Theosophical Society, and others, have made many excuses and sometimes outright deny this is the case ("If you think Crowley was a racist, you don't know anything about Crowley"). We don't need to listen to them. Crowley wrote about these issues himself, as did Blavatsky. He outright referred to Jews as "parasites":

Christians and other troglodytes — but most especially the parasites of man, the Jews (The New Comment on Liber AL, III:11)
It has been said that every nation has the government which it deserves. I would add, the type of Jew which it deserves. (Confessions, chapter 61)
Regarding black people:

The circumference of the island is somewhat over fifteen miles, and the first discovery I made was that of a broken-down sailing-boat, which the n*ggers had never dared approach since the wreck that brought it there. In the cabins I found gunpowder in large quantities, rum, matches, and tobacco; I had all this carried to my oasis, together with a cannon; and when the negroes had heard the voice of this powerful engine my authority was established on the most solid basis. ( published in The Equinox, Vol. 1, No. 2)
You can find similar comments by Crowley on just about any non-white race.

I'm not a Crowley scholar (as compared to someone who has spent their entire lives studying his works), and I can't say if his views changed or not, but it's undeniable that he held racist, Nationalist views and favored fascists (until they became Christians, and then "fascists suck!" heh).

Some will argue that Crowley, Blavatsky, etc, were products of the time period in which they lived. True, but it doesn't excuse those points of view. I am not here to perpetuate racism, and I specifically denounce it. It doesn't mean all of his writings are suspect, but you need to keep this in mind.

Another issue is the age of the material. For example, in the Introduction Crowley states that we don't know how electricity works. Of course, science has made so many advancements since the early 20th century that some of this will be wrong. He was writing based on the knowledge of the time. As we go through the book, we'll see if any of that old information has any bearing on the ritual and such contained in the book.

There's so much code involved in this type of practice, and this book is very dense with information. Chapter 0 references and suggests reading several other books and appendices. It's complicated. Without background, some of it may seem like gibberish. For the un-initiated, one only has to look at the Crowley's signature at the end of the Introduction to be thoroughly confused. I do not claim to be able to decipher every mystery.

Finally, please understand that Crowley had a very negative view on Christianity. The reference to God, etc, aren't references to the Christian God. This isn't about Christianity. Keep in mind that when many of the old grimoires were written, it was a death sentence to go against the church. Therefore many of the esoteric writings are wrapped in a Christian envelope, with many names and such taken from Christianity. While you could certainly practice these rituals and then go to church on Sunday, Crowley would consider this acting against your True Will, creating conflict within yourself.
 

Incognitus

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Introduction

(For the record, I despise how Crowley writes).

Most Introductions are fairly meaningless, but Crowley stuff a TON of information in the Introduction. I'm not going to reproduce it all here, but I want to hit some high points.

The book itself, prior to the Introduction, begins with the Hymn to Pan and pictures showing the various positions used in ritual. It should not escape anyone's attention that one of these positions is referred to as "the Svastika". I realize the symbol itself pre-dates the Nazi's, but with the Nazi party being founded almost a decade prior to the release of this book, and taking Crowley's stated beliefs into account, it's hard to argue that Crowley was unaware of the associations.

The Introduction itself begins with an except from The Lesser Key of Solomon and couple excerpts from The Golden Bough by Dr J.G. Frazer. These excerpts make the point that if the magician will always get the same effect if accompanied by the proper ceremony and the appropriate spell, as long as his will isn't thwarted by some external force. A magician can also only wield power that conforms to things such as the laws of nature (more on that below).

Crowley goes into the introduction by saying that this book is for ALL people, male and female, notwithstanding the issues presented in the previous post. There is a little bit of whining here:

My former work has been misunderstood, and its scope limited, by my use of technical terms.
Well... I mean, sure, but have you read some of Crowley's other stuff? I'm not sure "technical terms" are really the problem.

At any rate, it goes on to define MAGICK, set forth a postulate (a thing suggested or assumed as true as the basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief.), and 28 theorems.

Crowley states that he wanted a name to designate his work, and existing terms "theosophy", etc, had undesirable connotations, so he chose "MAGICK", and we all know the K was added to differentiate it from stage (illusionary) magic. The definition of MAGICK Crowley gives is:

MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity of Will.
That last bit, conformity of Will, is a very complicated concept. It seems simple, but you need to take into account such things as we can only affect change in an object if that object is capable of that change.

The Illustration for the definition is important and enlightening, so I'm going to include that here (it's one of those rare times Crowley speaks clearly):

It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take "magical weapons", pen, ink, and paper; I write "incantations" --- these sentences --- in the "magical language" i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth "spirits", such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of MAGICK by which I cause changes to take place in conformity with my Will*

* By "Intentional" I mean "willed". But even unintentional acts so-seeming are not truly so. Thus, breathing is an act of the Will-to-Live.

Writing a book, creating a piece of art, etc, are acts of magick.

The postulate he puts forth is:

ANY required Change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of Force in the proper manner through the proper medium to the proper object.
Essentially he's saying you need to follow the rules for the change you wish to affect. I'm pretty sure that should be "affected", which is a verb, not "effected", which is a noun, but what do I know?

What follows is 28 theorems. I'm only going to highlight a couple, those that are fairly self explanatory.

Every intentional act is a Magical Act
 

Incognitus

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(Crap, I accidentally saved, this is a continuation of the Introduction)

One additional note on the postulate, because the Illustration Crowley provides is extremely important:

In the present state of our knowledge and power some changes are NOT POSSIBLE in practice; we cannot cause eclipses, for instance, or transform lead into tin, or create men from mushrooms. But it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change OF WHICH THAT OBJECT IS CAPABLE BY NATURE; and the conditions are covered by the above postulate.
The emphasis added is my own. Crowley (and others) are very specific in that Magick is a companion to, not the opposite of, science. Keep this in mind.
2. Every successful act has conformed to the postulate
4. The first requisite for causing any change is thorough qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions.
5. The second requisite of causing any change is the practicability to set in right motion the necessary forces.
You both need to understand what change you want to make, including any conditions or "rules", and be in a position to apply the force necessary to affect that change.
8. A Man whose conscious will is at odds with his True Will is wasting his strength. He cannot hope to influence his environment efficiently.
Skipping ahead.
26. Every man has a right, the right of self-preservation, to fulfill himself to the utmost.
27. Every man should make Magick the keynote of his life. He should LEARN ITS LAWS and live by them.
Yes, there are rules, as with literally everything in the universe. We may not always understand those rules, but we eventually find there's a set of rules for just about anything you can think of.

Crowley goes on to say his fundamental truth:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
That seems such a simple concept, until you take into account the postulate and theorems (any change must be one the object can actually conform to, True Will, etc).

The introduction ends with Crowley's various names and titles. Some of them are easy enough to Google, such as V.V.V.V.V. which stands for Vi veri veniversum vivus vici (By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe).

The problem with Crowley's writings is they are very dense. In Chapter 0, which I'll post about in a day or two, he references and recommends reading several Libers and books, making the reading necessary expand exponentially. Thankfully, some of those materials are short.
 

Incognitus

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Chapter 0 - The Magical Theory of the Universe

Holy hell there's a lot of information in each chapter. I'm certainly not going to reproduce it here. Chapter 0 deals essentially with Qabalah. There is a bunch of recommended reading in this chapter, including:

  • Erdmann's History of Philosophy - In relation to the three theories of the universe, those being Dualism, Monism and Nihilism.
  • Liber CCXX, Al vel Legis
  • Equinox I, I and Konx Om Pax
  • Equinox I, V and Liber 418 "The Temple of Solomon the King" - Unity transcends consciousness. It is above all division. The Father of thought - the Word - is called Chaos - the dyad (something that consists of 2 elements or parts). The number Three, the Mother, is called Babylon.
  • Equinox I, V - The article on Qabalah, along with the diagrams in II and III "The Temple of Solomon the King"
  • The Book of Law and commentaries
  • 777
  • The evocation of Taphtatharath in Equinox I, III pages 170-190
  • Crowley's Berashith
Infinite space is called the goddess NUIT, while infinitely small and atomic yet omnipresent point is called HADIT. These are umanifest (not clear or obvious). One conjunction of these infinites is called RA-HOOR-KHUIT, a Unity which includes and heads all things. A footnote by Crowley says that this theory is in a very simple form, and that an idea may not refer to Being, but to Going. I don't yet understand what this means, TBH.
The first triad (trinity) is unity. All true gods are attributed to this Trinity.

An abyss, which has no number because in it is confusion, separates the triad from the lower qualities of man. Under the abyss are the moral qualities of Man. There are 6 of those:

  • The highest of the qualities is symbolized by the number Four (which nature is "fatherly", the attributes being Mercy and Authority).
  • Five is balanced against Four, with attributes being Energy and Justice.
  • Six is the combination of Four and Five. Beauty, harmony, mortality and immortality
  • Seven (predominantly feminine in nature, but the masculine type such as the "Amazon" (rolls eyes)
  • Eight is the feminine type of male.
  • Nine which is the last of the purely mental qualities, identifies change with stability
The number Ten includes the whole of Matter as we know it by the sense.

Numerology plays such a huge role in these types of belief systems. It's truly enough to make ones head spin, and requires repeated study to even begin to understand.

It goes on to talk about the formula for Tetragrammaton:

  • Yod == 2
  • Hé == 3
  • Vau == 4 to 9
  • Hé final == 10
The number Two represents Yod, the Divine or Archetypal World and the Number One is only attained by the destruction of the God and the Magician. The world of Angels is under numbers Four to Nine, and Spirits under the number Ten.

All of these numbers are parts of the magician himself, considered the microcosm. The Microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm. The Great Work is raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity.

I'm not totally sure what Crowley means by that last bit (yet), but you can see how Yod-Hé-Vau-Hé mirrors the triad and qualities of man.

So ya, that's not even half of Chapter 0. Suffice to say, this is a lot of information to take in, and while I find numerology fascinating, I have only the most basic grasp of it. I am still re-reading chapter 0 a bunch of times, and will continue on Chapter 0 in the next post (couple of days I imagine).
 

Incognitus

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I'm shelving this temporarily. I decided I don't really want to do two reports at the same time. I'll finish the thread covering The Magicians Workbook first, and then come back to this. No ETA.
 

Scottish_Pride

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Really great stuff, man! Yeah, I don't think anybody can honestly claim Crowley was perfect as a person. The stuff he wrote is always good to dissect, though. Know you've got someone reading the thread here!
 

Incognitus

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Really great stuff, man! Yeah, I don't think anybody can honestly claim Crowley was perfect as a person. The stuff he wrote is always good to dissect, though. Know you've got someone reading the thread here!
Thanks, I appreciate that. I'll come back to this soon.
 

The Golden Jackal

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Hey A crowley is a fool and wasted his talent on leftist delusions. In Egypt he was great from then on he abandoned his muse and lost all his money. Also is negative anti life incantations presented as books are to weak to do anything but hook other addicts on loops
 

Incognitus

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Hey A crowley is a fool and wasted his talent on leftist delusions. In Egypt he was great from then on he abandoned his muse and lost all his money. Also is negative anti life incantations presented as books are to weak to do anything but hook other addicts on loops
This is a book report thread, not a "let's hear what the troll thinks about Crowley" thread.
 
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