(First published at Rending The Veil, 22nd October 2009. Edited by Sheta Kaye.)
Megalithica Books (April 20, 2009)
When I read a book, especially a book about magic written by a practitioner, there’s always a need to let go of my own perspective a little. Everyone views the world in a unique way defined by their experiences, character and knowledge — and if I stay too stuck in my own point of view, it’s hard to fully grasp the perspective of the writer. (I strive to do this because I think I learn far more from people I don’t agree with than those I do — preaching to the choir doesn’t open any new doors.)
This was very much the case with this book. A’Miketh comes to magic from a background in computer programming, high ritual, and runic working — very different from my own entry point to the Art. His premise centers around bringing magic out of “The Tower” (personal, solo, ritual workings) and making it “Travelling Magic” (direct interaction with the outside world, working in non-ritual space).
The early parts of the book — which are a fairly clear recounting of his own techniques and mindset, aimed at an intermediate-level reader — were a mostly pleasant exercise. Some areas we seemed to have agreement on how various models of magic interact with reality but in the areas where we did not, I could see his point. The various exercises and techniques seem practical and relevant — though none of it was particularly earth-shattering or new.
There were a few areas where his writing style didn’t sit too well with me — a level of what felt very forced (and very America-specific) humour, for example. But nonetheless an agreeable, though hardly ground-breaking, read on the subject.
One area I especially noted was that he continually emphasised what he considered to be the most important traits for a magician to possess — intelligence, flexibility and humility. Especially humility — even taking time to address the problem of arrogance among magicians. “Can’t argue with that,” I thought.
Then, in the last couple of chapters, it all came crashing down. My ability to stay at a remove from my perspective rather than that of the writer ceased utterly. My opinion shifted rapidly from somewhat favourable to one of — and I do not use the phrase often or lightly — moral disgust.
In the the last two chapters, A’Miketh mentions a technique he calls “People Sigil Magic.” Here is his description of it:
“. . . PSM is used like ordinary sigil magic except we transmit our Will to another person in such a way that they accept it with little or no argument.”
He also says,
“If we can get information about our Will to them, without giving them a chance to object, then we’ve effectively ‘inserted the sigil.’”
He later describes his use of this technique to, essentially, edit the personalities of his friends to better suit his idea of them, to “fix” whatever “problems” he perceives them to have:
“. . . I just actively imagine the person that certain way when I am around them and refuse to accept their version of Reality . . . Healthy, not an alcoholic, losing lots of weight . . . whatever it is that seems to be something they are struggling with.”
This is how A’Miketh appears to define “humility” — as having the right to use magic to edit the minds and souls of his friends without their consent, for what he sees as their own good. Treating his kith and kin as faulty programmes to be debugged.
What awful arrogance. The sheer presumption of it.
I can understand the desire to help your friends deal with their issues, certainly. But the point is, they’re their issues. Aside from the truly vile attitude that his version of who they should be matters more than their own, he is also robbing them of the chance to fix themselves and become stronger through the struggle to do so. Denying them their own Path.
I must note, in fairness, that the one detailed example he provides did include the target in discussion about “the possibility of doing some spell work” for him. I also note that he says,
“. . . there are limited circumstances where my ethical sense of right and wrong permits me to influence people. They are not just any Joe Schmoe, they are my friends.”
But he still does it. To his friends. Mostly without their knowledge or consent. To make them fit his idea of who they should be.
Back when I was a professional exorcist, my team and I had a technical term for a spell cast without consent to forcibly influence the mind of another. That word is “curse.”
If people ask for help, or are a clear and present danger to themselves or others, then working magic for or on them is acceptable, even laudable. To do so against their will, in fact concealing that magic is being performed on them, is no more acceptable than slipping Rohypnol into a woman’s drink because you think she should fuck you.
At best, this book is the output of a naive hypocrite who preaches humility and lack of arrogance but is unable to practice it. At best.
In all conscience I cannot recommend it to anyone except as an object lesson in how not to practice magic with conscience and respect for others.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
Zero out of five stars.