Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I am Shane Frazier, and this is my reader's review of  Naturalistic Occultism: A Beginner's Guide to Scientific Illuminism, by Frater IAO131. I would first like to say that for those unfamiliar with the work of Aleister Crowley, or who may not themselves be practicing any occult disciplines, this book may be a bit technical and you may wish to seek something else. But for anyone out there who is currently practicing any of the occult arts, no matter what your discipline and no matter what your personal beliefs, you will find a gold mine here. This book was made for serious practitioners, and it will not disappoint.

What IAO131 has done is to take the concept of Scientific Illuminism, described in The Equinox by Crowley's motto "The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion," and expounded on it to show how we can apply a scientific, pragmatic, and non-superstitious method to our practice; and to show how we can examine the results of our Magical Record through a scientific lens. As anyone who has frequented a "New Age" section of their local book store knows, superstition runs rampant through much mainstream esoteric literature. This book is a good example of everything those books are not.

Frater IAO131 treats subjects such as Astral Projection, Divination, Invocation, and The Mystic Attainment in depth in a scientific way without accepting any sort of "supernatural" explanation of the phenomenon (the word "supernatural" is an oxymoron, after all). Instead, this book shows how these phenomena can be explained in terms of modern neuroscience, and how we can view these practices subjectively rather than attributing some sort of paranormal or superstitious explanation to them. To take a quote directly from the book from the chapter of Invocation, which explains the process as the activation of latent aspects of the human psyche: "There is no need to believe in deities, astral or spiritual entities, or anything superstitious like that. All that is needed to understand invocation is the human psyche (and all the more reason to marvel at it!)."

These ideas are perfectly in keeping with Crowley's views on Magick. As he states in Part I, line 2 of Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae sub figura VI, " In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.
It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them." I will admit that I was certainly guilty of many of the things described in this book. For example, attributing a sort of divine authority to Qabalistic correspondences, with an almost dogmatic emphasis on the importance of the connection between the paths connecting the Sephiroth, the 22 Major Arcana, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, etc. After reading this book, I look at my entire practice in a different light, and have begun to take my personal Magical Record more seriously, and to go about my workings with a scientific and pragmatic approach.

So far I've given nothing but praise for this book. I suppose my one criticism is that there were several times in the book where there were spelling or grammatical errors, but these were few and far between, and were probably just misses in editing. They in no way distract from the reading experience, it is just the one criticism I would make if I had to make one. I guess my only other complaint is that it is a bit short... but that's just because I crave more. (haha)

In summary, if you are reading this and you practice any of the occult arts, or even if you are just curious about how science and religion can go hand in hand (!), I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book. It is a quick read, and it is concise and to the point, while at the same time giving each subject the detail that it deserves.

~Shane F.

Love is the law, love under Will.