book review

Book Reviews April 2019 - June 2019

Book Reviews: Dreaming yourself awake by B. Alan Wallace

This is a good book about lucid dreaming. In it the author explains how to achieve lucid dreaming states and provides exercises people can do to achieve those states. What he shares is consistent with my own experiences of lucid dreaming, so if you want to experience lucid dreaming pick this book up.

Book Review: Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong Vol 1. by Bruce Frantzis

This is an excellent book which provides a simple set of Qigong exercises that you can learn, with easy instructions and illustrations provided. I started learning these practices and noticed an improvement in my internal energy, health, and overall sense of well-being. I do them each day at the start of the day and they set the tone of the day. I highly recommend if you want to start learning qigong and implementing it in your life.

Book Reviews Jan through March 2019

Book Review: The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

This is a whimsical book which explores the poetics of space, of the home, and the environment. It asks you to redefine your awareness of spaces you take for granted and provides appreciation and perspective about what space is really about. What I liked is how the author combined poetry, philosophy and design to create this treatise and its one I'll return to from time to time to help me appreciate my own space anew.

Book Review: Processmind by Arnold Mindell

In this book the author explores how to connect with the environment through meditation and internal work. This is a fascinating book which examines not only how we relate to the human body, but also to the environment through our body, both natural and manmade. It provides some useful exercises that can help you implement the practices described in the book. Worth reading if you want to develop a deeper connection with reality.

Book Review: The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

This is a must read book which will transform your relationship with yourself and your community. This book has helped me examine my relationship with myself as a writer and artist, but also as a person and the lessons its provided me have helped me become more confident and focused on doing the work instead of worrying about things I can’t control. It’s a relatively quick read with a socratic dialogue, but take some time to ponder and meditate on what is shared.

Book Review: Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

This is a fascinating, must read book on startups that applies to any business. The principles in this book will help you start a business or change an existing one. Most importantly what this book teaches you is how to focus on making your business successful, without falling into the trap of competition. Instead you learn why its important to do your own thing well and with a plan.

Book Review: Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

This is a fascinating overview of the ways people are exploring ecstatic practices in modern times. I don’t feel its comprehensive as there’s areas the authors haven’t explored but its a good book, which can give you some food for thought about how altered states of consciousness can be applied to your life to increase your innovativeness and productivity. What it also reveals is the importance of altered states of consciousness for helping us achieve breakthroughs.

Book Review: White Moon on the Mountain Peak by Damo Mitchell

This is an excellent book which explores the alchemical firing process of Nei Gong and how it works. It’s not a book for beginners, and it requires that you already have some experiences with Taoist meditation practices. I read this book and clearly understood some of it, and some of it I realized I needed to go back and get some more experience. The author does present the information clearly, but its important that you have the requisite experience to fully implement and comprehend this book.

Book Reviews Nov-Jan 2018

Book Review: Seasonal Occult Rituals by William G. Gray

In Seasonal Occult Rituals, Gray lays out the structure of 4 occult rituals that can be done for the seasons and explains the methodology behind the rituals. Just as importantly, Gray also provides readers an opportunity to build their quarter cosmos for each season and for each quarter of the circle. whether you do the rituals or not, you’ll learn a lot about how to build your cosmology from reading this book.

Book Review: A whole new mind by Daniel Pink

In this book, the author explore right brained thinking and how the job market is being defined by right brained thinking. While this book was written a while, the premise that the author has shared has only become more true since the book was written, and its worth reading the book because it provides readers a way to understand how the modern world is changing and being defined by right brain thinking. The author also provides some useful exercises that can help you apply right brain thinking to your life.

Book Review: Playback: The Magic of William S. Burroughs by Ashe Journal

This is a collection of essays and poetry about William S. Burroughs. The essays touch on some of Burroughs spiritual interests and one addresses his magical work, but for the most part this collection doesn’t do justice to the magical work of Burroughs and that’s disappointing. There’s a lot of magical concepts in Burroughs work and it would be good if there was an actual book that explored his magical practices. This collection isn’t it.

Book Review: Evoking the Primal Goddess by William G. Gray

Evoking the Primal Goddess was the last book Gray wrote. It’s an interesting book which explores the divine feminine and Gray has some interesting theories and ideas. At times the book wanders a bit and I would take some of what he shares with a grain of salt, but its worth a reading and pondering because as always Gray makes you think.

Book Review: The man who lied to his laptop by Clifford Nass and Corina Yen

This is a fascinating book which explores how people relate to technology by attributing human behavior to the technology. The authors share some experiments that were conducted that demonstrate that people often view their technology from an anthropomorphic lens. They then transfer their observations over to human behavior in general, showing how these lessons can be applied to your everyday interactions. Worth a read if you want to understand how to relate to people (and machines) better.

Book Review: Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

This is another excellent book by Brene Brown which explores how to apply the principles of her work to team settings in workplaces, but can also be applied to your personal life. I particularly found the story technique helpful, as well as the value exercise, but the entire book has excellent perspectives that can help you become a better communicator with yourself and others.

8 Book Reviews

Book Review: Lessons Learned from Occult Letters by William G. Gray

This gem of a book was recently republished and it features letters William G. Gray received from one of his mentors, as well as commentary from Gray about the contents of the letters. For that reason alone this book is valuable because it offers a bit of history and perspective. But what else makes this content so valuable are the insights hidden in the letters and commentary. For someone new to magic they are extremely important, but even the seasoned practitioner will get a lot from the book. It's certainly a book I will read again and again and each time I have no doubt fresh perspectives and insights will yield themselves. 

7 Book Reviews

Book Review: The Physics of Angels by Mathew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

This is a fascinating book which explores the mythos of Angels and relates the description of Angels to contemporary Physics. I enjoyed learning more about the mythology of Angels, though I did find the physics metaphor to be a bit of a stretch. Thankfully they focused mostly on them mythology of the Angels, and specifically in regards to three classic perspectives on Angels via Dionysus the Areopagite, St. Augustine and Hildegarde of Bingen. I found the quotes and commentary to be interesting in relationship to understanding Angels, but would note that the focus of this book was Christiancentric and didn't really represent any other perspective on Angels from Quabalah or Islam. That said, if you're interested in learning more about Angels, this is a useful book to read.

Book Review: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Do you ever feel like life is too complicated or like you're going in too many directions at once? If so, you need to read this book. The author does an excellent job of portraying the discipline of the essentialist, the person who only focuses on what is essential and eliminates the non-essential in the process. In this book the author shows what the difference is between the essential and non-essential and provides suggestions on how to implement essentialism in your life. I've found it to be very helpful in my own life as I've been undergoing changes, and I recommend this book to anyone who feels like life is overwhelming and complicated.

Book Review: The 7 Secrets of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is an excellent book for writers who have writer's block or have troubles with procrastination. The author does an excellent job of exploring what stops people from writing and helping them figure out what actions to take. Even for someone who is prolific, this book will have some valuable insights. I found it helpful for recognizing some behaviors that have stopped me from being as productive with my writing as I'd like. She also does a good job of exploring the realities of being a published author and how to think of your writing as a business. If you want to be more productive with your writing check this book out. 

Book Review: Western Inner Workings by William. G. Gray

This is another excellent by William G. Gray that explores the inner workings of Western Mystery traditions. It's as comprehensive book that explores a number of salient issues, such as sacred kingship, the function of ceremonial tools, mediation and ties all of them together in a way that enables the reader to go deep with Western Mystery traditions, while also developing their own cosmological models. I've found this book to be very useful in some of my own ongoing work and would recommend it as well as Gray's other books to anyone serious about developing their magical practice.

Book Review: Welcome to your World by Sarah Williams Goldhagen

Welcome to your world is an intriguing book which explores how the environment we build around us affects us, as well as how we navigate that reality. What I find really fascinating is how the author integrates cognitive and bodily experiences into the book so that we're not just looking at the environment, but also our own place in space. If you want to understand space, building designs, or how you navigate the world around this is an excellent book to read because it provides you a way to look at your environment from a unique perspective and consider how you situate yourself in the world around you as well as how bring good design into your life and improve your circumstances as a result.

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a must read book for any artist, writer, musician or creative. What I like about it is that author walks you through the life of being a writer, the challenges and the joys and reminds us that any creative act is really a communion with the divine, with the writer as the mediator. Reading this book helped me re-examine my writing practice in terms of how I approach and appreciate the ideas that come to me. I would highly recommend this book to any successful and aspiring writer.

4 Book Reviews for January 2018

Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

In on Writing, the author shares both an autobiographical account of his life as a writer as well as his tips and suggestions for being a writer. While the book primarily deals with writing for fiction, I feel the ideas shared can be applicable to non-fiction as well. It had some good insights on both the act of writing and the business of writing. If you are serious about writing then pick this book up to help you on your journey.

Book Review: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

I found this to be a very helpful book because it helped me recognize how I was limiting myself in different situations in my life and it equipped me with processes I could use to call that out and start working through it. Also reading this book has helped me ask what my zone of genius is and start being true to that zone of genius instead of getting distracted and weighed down by work I don't really want to do. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover their zone of genius and stop getting in their own way.

Book Review: The Old Sod: the odd life and inner work of William G. Gray by Alan Richardson and Marcus Claridge

I've been a fan of William Gray's magical work since the late 90s. I've also had the fortune of meeting a few of his students and learning about the actual man as well as the magician. I found this biography to be useful as well in filling in some blanks about the actual person and providing some context around his magical work. Whether you're interested in the magicians of the 20th century or a fan of Gray's work, this is a good book that shares his life, faults and successes.

Book ReviewThe Power of Ted by David Emerald

In this intriguing book, The author explores the Drama triangle that many people find themselves in and offers an alternative, The Empowerment Dynamic. He shows how the drama triangle disempowers people and creates a lot of drama because of the conflict generated in it. With the Empowerment Dynamic, the author shows you how to claim the role of creator and change your relationship with yourself and other people by choosing how you approach situations. I found this book to be insightful in terms of recognizing ways I've disempowered myself and been a victim. Implementing the concepts in this book helped me start making changes that have benefited my relationships and business. It's a short and powerful book that will change your life.

3 book reviews for your spiritual path

Book Review: The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

In this book, the author provides further social experiments where he explores irrational behaviors and shows why people make the decisions they make based off emotions and other factors that aren't rational. It's a fascinating book which explores human behavior and provides insights and glimpses into why people behave the way they do. The author also explores how irrational behavior can benefit us, in the right context. If you're interested in understanding human behavior, this book will provide some fascinating insights that you can apply in your life and work.

Book Review: Rising Strong by Brene Brown

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown explores how to reset your life when you've experienced adversity. This book was very timely for me to read because of some tough experiences I've had n this last year. Reading through it gave me valuable techniques to draw on as I work through those experiences. It's helped me work through some tough emotions and behavior patterns and provided me a way forward. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with some life changing struggles, who needs some guidance on how to move forward, but also to anyone who wants to improve how they work through difficult situations.

Book Review: Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

In Braving the Wilderness, The author explores the topic of belonging and how to discover true belonging with yourself, as well as how to brave the wilderness and stay true to your journey and message instead of trying to fit in. Reading this book has been timely for me as I've gone on my own metaphorical journey into the wilderness with my business and life. I particularly found the idea that I belong to myself and that I can give permission slips to myself to be helpful, because its allowed me to look at my life and give myself the necessary breathing space I needed as I made some tough transitions. I highly recommend this book as a guide to help you brave your own wilderness and find true belonging. 

May 2016 Magical Experiments podcasts

Copyright Taylor Ellwood 2016 Magical Experiments Radio: What is magical experimentation with Rufus Opus

Magical Experiments Radio: Performance art and identity magic with Maviin.

Magical Experiments Radio: The Pop Culture Magic of Dance and Theatre with Heather Greene

Magical Experiments Radio: The Inner Alchemy of the Heart with Dr. Van Warren

Magical Experiments Radio: Music and Magic Panel with John Searing and Hannah Haddix

Book Review: The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs by Matthew Stevens

This is a fascinating biography that explores the occult interests of William S. Burroughs. I always knew Burroughs was into magic and learned a lot from what he shares in his books, but this was fascinating to read because it speaks to his experiences and interests in magic and where those interests started as well as what he explored. Whether you're an occultist or a die hard Burroughs fan, this is a must read book.

Do you enjoy my writing, videos and the magical experiments podcast? If so please donate. Your donations go toward the costs of the podcast and this website. Even a dollar helps me maintain and continue the work that you are enjoying. Thanks!

Magical Experiments March 2016 podcasts and book review

Copyright Taylor Ellwood 2016 Magical Experiments Radio: Interview with Courtney Weber about how to cultivate a relationship with Deity.

Magical Experiments Radio: Pagan Leadership Panel with Rev. Judith Laxer, Philipp Kessler and Diana Rajchel

Magical Experiments Radio: Finding the Masculine in Goddess Spiral panel with Erick Dupree, Robert Scott, Robert Baggani, and Gwion Raven

Magical Experiments Radio: The Ethics of Pop Culture Magic with S. Rune Emerson

Radio Interview: I was interviewed about Pop Culture Magic 2.0 by Ancient Salvage Yard Podcast.

Book Review: Influence Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini

This was a fascinating book to read because the author explores specific behaviors people do that can be used to influence other people, as well as sharing how to defend against those behaviors. As I read the book I implemented his suggestions and found it was much easier to recognize situations where people were trying to influence and manipulate choices. This is a must read book to help you recognize these behaviors and defend against them. What this book will help you do is recognize how people are influenced, and why, and what to look for in whatever situation you are in, as well as what to do to counter those behaviors.

February 2016 Radio Shows and Book Reviews

Taylor Ellwood If you missed the February Episodes of the Magical Experiments podcast, below are links to each episode.

Magical Experiments Radio: Sacred Sexuality and Sex Magic with Laurelei Black

Magical Experiments Radio: Death and Rebirth with Annwyn Avalon

Magical Experiments Radio: Pagan Leadership Panel part 1 with Courtney Weber and KaliSara

Magical Experiments Radio: Pagan Leadership Panel part 2 with Crystal Blanton, Sam Wagar, and Lisa Spiral

Magical Experiments Radio: Social Media Magic with Felix Warren and Laurie Pneumatikos


Book Review: Magic Simplified by Draja Mickaharic

In this book, the author shares some useful exercise for beginning magicians (and worth revisiting even if you have more experience). What I like is that the exercises are presented without lots of esoteric jargon. Anyone could pick this book up and try the exercises and learn more about magic as a result. What the author really demonstrates with this book is what magic really is, without all the glamour and spells usually associated with it. What you have is a practical bare bones guide with exercises that provides you with a place to begin your magical work.

Book Review: Awakening the Luminous Mind by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

In Awakening the Luminous Mind, the author shares a teaching from a previous lama and walks readers through the meditation around that teaching. It's a profound book that lead you to deep changes as you embrace stillness and let go of your pain identity. The accompanying CD has some useful tracks you can use with your meditation, though I wish some of them had been longer. The quality of the teachings is superb and has a enhanced my stillness work immensely. If you are interested in Dzogchen or simply want to work with stillness, this is an excellent book to work with.

Book Review: The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

This was an intriguing read where the author explores the connection or lack thereof that people have with the natural world. He shares how we have fallen away from that connection and what we are losing by not having such a close connection. What I found most intriguing was his exploration of language and how the changes in the written word helped to create the disconnect. This is a thought-provoking read that will motivate you to change your relationship with the world.





Lunar and Sacred Cross Workings

lunar My current magical work has focused on continuing to work with the Spirit Cord, specifically in relationship to some space/time magic and Lunar workings with the Ashim, as well as integrating a new daily meditation, the Sacred Cross, which I've been using as a stillness exercise. I've been finding that stillness work in general is creating a deeper foundation for my space/time magic work, which makes sense because what it does is create a very specific state of mind that allows a person to experience space and time differently. The work in the Sacred Cross technique involves directing your consciousness both inward and outward, inward to yourself and the Earth and outward to the cosmos, and then bringing all of that into yourself and creating stillness from it that connects you to the rhythm of the universe.

Part of what I like about the Sacred Cross work is that you are initially using the beating of your heart to move yourself into that altered space of consciousness. When you can draw on your own rhythms to help you move into a specific state of mind, it really teaches you to be aware and appreciative of what your body can share with you, as well a how your body can open you up to experiences with the world at large. Since I've started doing this working regularly, it's enabled me to hit deeper states of consciousness, as well as enhancing the other stillness work I'm doing.

With the spirit cord work I've been doing an exercise where you walk the silver and gold stairs of the sublunar realm to connect with the Ashim, which are the Lunar angels. The gold and silver stairs are part of the journey a soul takes when it dies and when it reincarnates, but you can also consciously work with the Ashim. The work I've been doing with the spirit cord has involved bonding the lunar energy to the cord for purposes of connecting with the Ashim, but doing this work has also taken me into some interesting directions. Each time I've done the working I've connected with a being which has instructed me about the journey of souls, both as it relates to this planet, but other places as well. I've also been given access to a library of sorts, where I've encountered my higher self, or guardian angel, who has shown me a book, which is about my lives, specifically parallel timelines, where I don't experience those lives directly, so much as I learn about them and the choices that were made to create those time variants of this life. What's interested me most in this aspect of the working is how I might integrate the contents of the book into the spirit cord, or if the spirit cord could be considered analogous to the book.

I also did a lunar working where I connected to the archangel Gabriel. We discussed the spirit cord work, space/time work as it relates to the spirit cord and then he reached out and touched my brow. I felt him attune me and then he told me I should do the spirit cord wrk in relationship to the other planetary and archangelic energies as I continue the work I'm doing at this time.

I still have some lunar workings from the Spirit Cord to do, but I'm doing the work slow and steady. I'm not in any rush to be's more about understanding and mastering what you're working with, instead of trying to get somewhere fast. Nonetheless doing this work is quite fascinating and I find myself enjoying getting back to my roots as it were by doing some of this work and considering as well how I can integrate it into other projects I'm working on.

Book Review: Making Comics by Scott McCloud

If you want to write comics or create art for comics or do both this book is essential. And if you're a writer of prose, I still recommend this book because it'll help you appreciate writing from a different angle. If you enjoy reading comics books and want to know what happens on the creation end of them, then this book is a must read. There are some excellent ideas, and McCloud does a great job of providing readers a chance to peak behind the curtain and understand what happens when you make comics. This is also an inspirational will get you to think differently. I've been inspired by it not merely in terms of writing or art, but also in other areas of my life, including my spiritual practice because of how the concepts in the book get you to look at the world differently.

Book Review: Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser

In this book the author explores the ramifications of the overuse of antibiotics in both the the health and food industry and how this overuse is effecting the microbial systems within our bodies. It's a fascinating book that will open your eyes and get you to think carefully about your food and medical choices, as well as how you choose to give birth, and other such decisions. The author also shares the various studies he's been engaged in and provides solid information on how the changes in our microbial systems are contributing to the rise of super bacteria as well as new diseases. If you're interested in understanding the biology of your body, this book will be eye-opening.

Book Review: Divorcing a Real Witch by Diana Rajchel

In this book, Diana explores the topic of divorce and what t do when you are a Pagan (or married to one) and are about to go through the process of divorce. She walks readers through that process as well as exploring how people come to that decision. What I like in particular about the book are the rituals she shares and ideas she has for how to make a clean break of it, and make the divorce as easy as it possibly can be. I wish I'd had this book when I had my divorce. Reading this book will help you make sense of your divorce, find empowerment, and move on from the relationship you are leaving. And it can also be a good book for couples to read, to help them have some conversations that may need to occur, especially if you are in a rocky phase of your relationship.

Two Popular Misconceptions about Magic

"Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -Roald Dahl, 1990

There are two popular misconceptions about the practice of magic that occur, which can hinder useful inquiry and understanding of magical work. One popular misconception is special effects magic, the type seen on TV shows, video games, and movies, comics, and fantasy books. For example, Darth Vader using telekinesis to crush the throat of someone, or a sorcerer changing into a serpent or throwing a fireball, etc. The second misconception is a belief that magic will solve all your problems, or as I call it the cure all approach. These popular misconceptions can obsfucate what genuine magical work is about, and typically are sought after because a person desires a sense of power in his/her life.

Special effects magic looks impressive. Who wouldn't find it thrilling to throw a fireball or change their physical shape, or do something else equally impressive? I've yet to meet a magician who can perform special effects magic (without using special effects). If there were such people, I suspect the world would be a different place, though I can't help wondering how such power wouldn't be abused or worse end up like a comic book formula of endless battles and trite commentary. There's also the principle of limitation to consider, specifically the understanding that force needs to be limited in order for form to be realized. In magical work, the achievement of form occurs when force is limited. Additionally, it is understood that when you work with magical energies you can only raise so much of that energy before you hit a limit, and/or have that limit imposed by the forces you are working with. Thus throwing a fireball, which would require a lot of force is not something that will be easily performed. In fact, when you account for the amount of energy needed to generate a fire ball, plus the amount of protection needed by the practitioner while handling said fireball, what you end up realizing is that it's not a very practical working. And if you mess it up, you'll either internally combust or burn your hands or do something else equally messy. The same applies to shape shifting and telekinetically handling objects or crushing people's throats. The physical demands, plus the amount of energy that needs to be raised to perform either feat is not something that is physically or magically possible. Special effects magic looks impressive and thrills lots of people, but a practical approach to magic acknowledges that the main focus of magic isn't to necessarily generate such physical demonstrations and also notes that such demonstrations may end up being more of a waste of energy than anything else.

Then we have the cure all misconception, which focuses on the idea that magic will solve all your problems. The sad fact is that while magic can be used to solve problems, most times its used in that way, it is done so as a reaction and usually what is solved the symptom, but not the underlying issues that need to be examined by the magician. A proactive approach to utilizing magic to solve problems generally involves a fair amount of internal work and a willingness to own your dysfunctions and make changes that resolve those issues, with the understanding that such changes will also improve your life, and surprisingly enough decrease the number of times magic is needed to solve a problem.

There's also the fact that sometimes magic complicates issues more than it cures or resolves them. It shouldn't be surprising that many magicians end up complicating their lives when using magic to solve a problem. The problem might be solved, but not in the way they expected, and it may bring out underlying issues that need to be addressed (thus the need for internal work). A person who believes magic will solve all their problems needs to examine the level of responsibility they are willing to take to have those problems solved, because that level of responsibility is exactly what you'll be dealing with when you utilize magic as a cure all. There is no force that can solve your problems for you, better than your own ability to take responsibility and deal with the problems head on. It can be hard work, but it is good work as well.

In my next post, I'll discuss two purposes magic is used for as well as provide some commentary on what it means when a magician turns a possibility into reality.

Book Review: A Spiritual Worker's Spell Book by Draja Mickaharic

This book, like Draja's others books, is interesting because it provides a variety of spells a person can do as well as case studies of how people have used the spells. I've already tried a couple to good effect and it'll definitely be a useful book to have, especially because I represents the work of an old school magician. My only complaint is that I'd have liked more information about the underlying magical process. Much like other authors who put together spell books, Draja doesn't really explain the underlying mechanics. the few times he does offer some explanation about the process, it proves to be quite fascinating. I highly recommend it as an interesting book on a variety of topics.

Names and magic

The role of names in magic fascinates me. Even in the Bible, names had a magical power, being used to label everything in existence. For humans, names assume a kind of power, especially in terms of how we use them to understand what is around us. A physical location is named to differentiate it from another location and in that differentiation is an understanding that there is in fact something different. In a sense, names draw out what is distinct and different for us, so that we can situate it in our consciousness and our experience as something distinct that we can work with.

This isn't to say there aren't other ways to discover this difference, but names play such a powerful role that we end up using them even in describing those other ways of realizing the differences. And that's my point: Names have a way of shaping our perceptions and descriptions of what we work with. They are an essential tool of magical practice. We use names for calling entities, use names to describe places we've worked with...they are embedded in how we describe reality.

What make them important to magical work is how we use them, not just in term of describing or labeling something, but also using them to attune ourselves to the specific entities, places, etc., that we want to work with. I think of names as being like tuning forks. You say a name, you vibrate the name and you've set off the tuning fork and sent out a call to whatever it you'll connect with.

Book Review: Arcana V: Music, Magic, and Mysticism Edited by John Zorn

Like most anthologies out there, this anthology has a mix of interesting essays and essays that leave the reader (well this reader) wondering how they got accepted into the anthology. I'll admit that I found the premise of this anthology interesting, i.e. the intersection of music, magic, and mysticism, and some of the essays lived up to what I was looking for, but a fair amount of them didn't. I would've liked to have seen more essays on practical applications of music and magic. The ones in the book were excellent and intrigued me. I did appreciate some of the mystical leaning essays, but with some of the essays it seemed like nothing so much as a rant by the authors about whatever they were discussing, and not all of it readily focused on anything that was mystical or magical. I'd recommend this anthology with the caveat that you'll find some diamonds and the rest may not appeal as much as you'd hope.

Limitation and how to work around it

I've been thinking about this post I wrote recently on limitation, especially in conjunction with my evocation practices. My approach to evocation, whether its evoking an entity or a specific type of energy, involves the use of a painting or drawing as a gateway. The act of creating the drawing or painting is the initial evocation of the entity, usually finalized with a consecration of some sort.

However, once the drawing or painting is created, the evocation portal is also created. Nothing else needs to be done, save to make sure you close it when not evoking the entity or energy in question. The entire point of it is to remove a lot of effort out of the equation, by making it simple to access to the entity or energy in question when needed, whether in a strict evocation, or to enhance a magical working being done at the time. But it occurs to me that this is also a way around limitation, as R. J. Stewart discussed it. Specifically if the spirits you work with are going to limit how much you can draw on, why not instead create a way to tap into the power current when you need it, where you have a consistent flow of energy or access to enhance or power up your magical workings? You won't necessarily move beyond the limitations imposed, but instead of having to do a lot of work each time, cut down on the effort involved and get the same return you'd have gotten before. It seems like a short cut, but my reason for creating such an approach to evocation was to make it easy to access whatever it was I wanted to work with. I figure if such an entity is willing to work with me, I have its blessing to make that process easier for both of us.

This also depends on whether or not you accept that such limitations occur when you evoke or invoke an entity. Personally I'm inclined to believe in those limitations as my own experiences suggest just that. For example invoking an entity to do a full on possession of the body takes up a lot of energy, and not just for myself but also the entity. At a certain point there is a strain for the entity as well because it is placing itself in a foreign environment that its not necessarily suited to. An evocation portal provides a different level of interaction and one that's not as demanding on either side of the equation. The limitation may still be there, but it'll take longer to come up against, which can be useful for prolonged magical workings. It comes down to being aware of a limitation and the figuring out how to bend it, to make it work for you, instead of against you.

Book Review: The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

This was an intriguing and occasionally amusing book about the behavior of dishonesty and how dishonest people are in general. The author provided a variety of experiments and show cases where he demonstrated that there is some degree of dishonest in most people's behavior, though not so much that everyone is a thief or a crook. A lot of dishonesty ends up being based partially on altruism and in general people don't always weigh the benefit of being dishonest, so much as decide to do so for less rational reasons. It's a book I'd recommend anyone read to better understand the role of dishonesty in our lives, and how it shows up in our own behaviors as well as the behavior of people around us. It can also be useful as a way of looking at dishonesty on the level of an organization and business, though the author doesn't offer too much in the ways of solutions for handling dishonesty, so much as demonstrating its presence in our lives.

The value of limitation in magic

The first time I encountered the principle of limitation it was in The Cube of Space by Kevin Townley, where he discussed a little known quabalistic glyph and the principle of limitation as it applied to magical work. Recently, in reading R. J. Stewart's The Sphere of Art 2, he also discusses the role of limitation in magic:

Only when we understand how protected, how beneficially limited we are, in our sacromagical work, can we begin to be truly effective. In the classical magical worldview, such wise limitation is often associated with the North, the cosmic Laws of Being the element of Earth. Such limitations associated with Earth require that to take form we must limit force.

It's a point well made that often isn't as appreciated as it could be. Limitation has value as a principle precisely because the movement from potential into reality involves the focus of force into the creation of form. Magic isn't about tossing fireballs or levitating. It's about the focus of force to create measurable results or changes within a person's life, but even change is limited to some degree by the physicality in which it is expressed in.

The realm of ideas is also the realm of endless possibilities or chaos. Nothing is true and everything is permitted, but without limitation all that exists is endless potential. The change from possibility to reality involves some form of limitation. This is why a magical working is really a descriptor and definer of the possibility being brought into reality. In other words, a magical working in and of itself limits the expression of possibility into specific results. The benefit of this is that you achieve a specific result that can be applied to your life, other people's lives etc. The more improbable your possibility, the harder it is to bring into reality, for the simple fact is that it requires more "energy" to overcome the distinct limitations that we deal with on a practical level. At a certain point the exertion of so much "energy" becomes more and more impractical.

Limitation provides an awareness of boundaries, but also provides the magician something to strive for, in terms of bending the rules. While force must be limited in order to manifest form, drawing on force is necessary to create form. Potential doesn't become reality unless force is applied to potential. The realization of form, or the result, is due to the application of force to potential, shaping it, defining it, limiting it, and thus creating form. Force is needed to create form, but the application of force necessarily is a fixation on a specific form or result.

Limitation, in and of itself, is a form of force, in the sense that the limits we encounter actually serve to create possibilities that we can interact with. Sheer potential, which has no limitation, can't really be worked with, until some form of limitation is imposed on it. A blank sheet of paper is raw potential, but once you draw a line, you've limited the potential and started to create the form. The limitation of potential still creates possibilities, but those possibilities are defined by the limitation, and have a relationship with it. The exploration of that relationship is what allows a magician to discover possibilities and begin to move them from potential into reality via magic.

Book Review: The Scientific American Healthy Aging Brain by Judith Horstman

This was a fascinating book to read because of the information it provides on the brain in general, as well as what occurs as your brain ages. The author provided useful advice for keeping your brain sharp as you age and reducing the risks of Alzheimers and Dementia, as well as explaining what types of activity keep the brain stimulated. What I enjoyed the most was how the information was presented without a lot of technical terms or jargon. Anyone could pick this book up and learn a wealth of information about the brain and how it works as well as how aging effects it.

Change and magic

Change is one of those understated elements of magic that is part of any and everyone's process. That's probably why its understated, because change of some kind or another is expected to occur when you do magical work. So why even focus on it?

I think it is worth focusing on, especially when we look at change in conjunction with results. Your result is the explicit indicator that change has occurred. Without a result you wouldn't really know if your magic worked. But change is more than just a result. Change is a transformation of the environment around you and within you.Respecting that aspect of the magical process is really important for understanding how magic work. There needs to be a change built into your process. Magic is a causative agent of change, and the employment of it is a signal that you want to bring change into your life. But its also worth noting that even though you might get a specific result, you might also get other changes that are connected to the result, but weren't necessarily desired. This occurs, not because of the magic, but because of a lack of specificity about the result, or because specific consequences are triggered when a specific result occurs.

Change is a constant in our lives. We change moment to moment, but intentional change is something a person chooses to create, and that's what makes magic distinct. It's a methodology used to to produce intentional changes. When we recognize that change is intentional, then perhaps we consider it more carefully, recognizing that what it brings isn't just a result, but also the consequences that come with that result.

Radio Interview

If you missed the interview on Stirring the Cauldron you can listen to it here. It was a good interview with some great questions.

Book Review: Rebounders by Rick Newman

In this book, Newman discusses the characteristics of the rebounder, a person who is able to take failure and turn it into success by learning from it. Newman uses over nine case studies to demonstrate how various people have rebounded from failures and mistakes to become successful in their fields, while highlighting the mental skills and tools that are necessary to accomplish this. I found the stories to be inspiring and useful for helping me see how I could become a better rebounder.

Archetypes, movement, and getting into the role

I've been reading Acting and Singing with the Archetypes (affiliate link) and trying out some of the exercises. My main draw for picking up the book was because of my ongoing interest in integrating movement, dance, and space into my magical work and I thought the book might prove useful for that purpose.

It reminds me a bit of Antero's Paratheatre techniques, and I find that with the archetypes I need to get into a state of mind and body that allows me to channel them. It's not all that different from doing an invocation, but what stands out most is how mutable a given archetype is...or rather I find that it is much easier for me to draw on a variety of pop culture sources as well as more traditional sources. The various archetypal labels of Child, Devil, Trickster, etc. are useful, but in a way I wonder if we confine ourselves to much to those labels? Is the space pirate an archetype in its own right or just a variation of an existing one?

The process of orienting yourself into invoking a particular archetype requires two essential behaviors. The first behavior is an ability to let go of your ego or sense of self. You empty that awareness. The second behavior is the ability to embody the archetypal awareness and characteristics and traits. There's different tools you can use. I've seen people use masks for example, which can be a lot of fun, but your body is the ultimate tool. The change in posture, facial patterns, voice, and even a change in clothing and accoutrements can be quite useful. It's also a change in emotions, and energy. What are the emotions the archetype feels? How does that translate into space and movement? What are the functions it embodies and how does that change the space and movement of the body?

Getting into the role is getting out of the way and allowing the archetype, spirit, etc fill me. I allow my body to become a vessel for the divine force I am working with. I open myself to the experience and let the experience define the space.

Book review: Acting and Singing with the Archetypes (affiliate link) By Janet Rodgers and Frankie Armstrong.

This book was written for an audience of actors, but as someone who is not an actor, but nonetheless does work with archetypes I found it to be a valuable read, with useful exercises that can be applied to more than just acting. I like that the authors drew on perspectives of movement such as Laban's work, but also that they made their work very accessible. This is a book I'd recommend to a counselor, actor, artist, or the magician who wants to take a different approach to his/her magical workings.


A broad approach to love magic

I think its best to take a broad approach to love magic. What I mean is, its better to do love magic that isn't focused on getting a specific person, but instead is focused on drawing the right people to your life. And its important to remember that any love magic also needs to focus on self-love. Looking to someone else to fill something in for you won't work. If anything the person you bring into your life into emphasizes the issues you need to work on. That person has their own issues and you will embody those issues, even as that person embodies your issues. Thus the person you bring into your life necessarily will be someone who challenges you in some ways as much as s/he also brings joy and happiness. People have this idea about love, prompted by the concept of falling in love, that its always something wonderful, but while falling in love is a wonderful experience, being in love is necessarily an experience where you truly face your own issues as well as the issues of the other person. The challenge is how you face those issues and evolve past them so that you can truly be with someone, and also so you can truly be with yourself. People go into a relationship hoping their partner will somehow fill in the gaps, somehow solve everything. Little do they realize that your partner isn't a cure-all and if anything s/he will exacerbate the issues because s/he is a mirror that shows you both the wonderful qualities and unpleasant aspects of yourself. Of course you do the same for that person.

Kat and I have, since February, been reading books on relationships and love together. These are typically the books people will turn to when their relationship is in trouble and they are grasping for anything that will save the relationship. I got these books when I was in my previous marriage for that very reason. This time we took a different approach. We decided that we wanted to read these books and talk about the issues that came up as a proactive activity, as something we'd do in order to build a dialogue around love, and allow us to learn more about each other and where we were respectively coming from. And thus far the journey has been very illuminating for both of us. The discussions that have arisen out of what we've read have helped us both look at our respective issues and understand how they contribute to the relationship, as well as what we can do to change those issues.

What I've learned about love magic is that it rarely brings what you think you want, but it always brings what you need. The question is: Are you prepared to accept what you need? For me that preparation has involved doing a lot of internal work, owning my baggage (and letting it go), as well as coming face to face with my desires and understanding where they fit into the entire mix. And I'm still doing this work! It's nothing something where you just get finished, but I can say that taking a proactive approach can make for a much smoother relationship, with both yourself and your partner.

Here's a few books I'd suggest complete with affiliate links

The Passionate Marriage

Undefended Love

Journey of the Heart

Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships

Love and Awakening

Book Review: Brain Magick (Affiliate Link) by Phil Farber

In Brain Magick, Phil Farber presents a thorough approach to invocation that is a combination of neuroscience and NLP, and is by far one of the best cutting edge books on magic that's available. The author includes lots of exercises the reader can do to test his concepts, and at the same time makes all of his explanations easy to follow. Farber shows you how to bring some woohoo into your life!

Shunning as Banishment

I've been thinking a bit about shunning as a form of magical banishment. In my own experience, when I've decided to cut a person out of my life, I essentially end up shunning them, but shunning for me works on a magical level as well, because part of that process involves systematically getting rid of everything that connects me to the person and using the process of destroying such connections to build the banishment up and create a field of shun (as it were) that keeps the person from connecting with me as much as possible. I use a shunning banishment when I recognize that I will still encounter the person in my life, but I want to minimize those encounters to as few and far between as possible. The field of shunning essentially keeps the person away and interactions to a minimum.

My reasons for taking this kind of action is based on a fundamental recognition that a person brings with him/her a level of chaos and dysfunction that is no longer considered acceptable, or considered to match up with where I'm at. The person and I no longer fit and the relationship has become toxic enough that its no longer sustainable. Under such circumstances, creating a banishment of shunning can be useful for insuring that the person's presence intersects with you only on rare occasions if at all. It insures that you can move on with your life, without having to put energy or effort into a relationship that you no longer want to have. Such relationships take up more time and energy than you want, and you may find, as I have, that the best way to move on and heal is to simply move on, and see as little of the person as possible.

Some might argue that shunning seems a bit extreme, but to my mind, why allow more drama and toxicity in your life than you need? It's as simple as that: I value my sense of well-being and happiness over putting up with people I'd rather have nothing to do with. Instead of trying to sustain a relationship with those people, I feel its better to focus on the relationships which do matter to me, with people that I have confidence in.

It is possible to keep certain things that you might associate with the person and still set up a shunning field. While I normally will get rid of everything I have that connects me to a person, I have on occasion kept a couple things, after disassociating the person from those things. This can be accomplished through purification workings.

I don't recommend doing shunning for every situation in life. You have to be willing to invest in the relationships you have in your life, instead of giving them up at the first sign of trouble, but shunning works in cases where such a relationship has become unsustainable because the amount of toxic interaction exceeds any positives the relationship might bring with it.

Book Review: Rhythms of the Brain (Affiliate Link) by Gyorgy Buzsaki

This book was a hard read. Thanks to reading a variety of other books on neuroscience, I was able to understand what the author was explaining, but I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who hasn't read any books on neuroscience. The author discusses oscillation theory and although he does his best to make the concept approachable, it still ends up being fairly esoteric in content because of the technical information he provides. It is a good book, and one I'd recommend. Just make sure you've grounded yourself in other books on neuroscience.

4 out of 5

Book Review: Buddha's Brain (affiliate link) by Rick Hanson

This is a good 101 introduction to your brain and how it works, as well as providing instructions on how you can consciously work with your brain through meditation. I'd recommend this book to someone that wants to do inner alchemical work or internal work with their body, as it provides some well-rounded information on the brain and how changes can effect you. The authors provide some useful stories and metaphors to explain their concepts and I like the exercises because it provides a practical component to the book.

5 out of 5