So if you haven’t read it, I listed the details of a little book game I used to play.
And so far there has been some really great responses. As Steve pointed out, it’s unbelievably helpful in working out what your core influences are.
But it’s also a really good tool to assess your priorities. For instance, in my list below, it’s going to look to some people like I am over-emphasising ‘making the world magical’. In my head, however, the most difficult part of the game is getting the subject’s head around the existence of magic.
Otherwise you run the risk of coming off like those deeply frustrating people at the Shepherd’s Bush tube stop who try to shove extremist Christian literature into my hand as I’m running for the bus.
The ten book limit is probably the most difficult part. So many titles were on my list and then off and then back on.
And then Jow had to go and throw some Neil Gaiman in the mix. American Gods is one of my favourite pieces of fiction. Plus it’s all profound and shit. It had to be on the list.
Except I probably wouldn’t want to start with it because I don’t want to set up the idea of magic as something fictional before forcing the subject to read another nine books. (See above regarding my fixation on proof.)
Gordon’s recipe for turning an abductee into a chaos magician
1. Cosmic Trigger 1
Granted, you have to wade through endless LSD stories and put up with Bob’s interminable man-crush on Tim Leary, but for my money there is no better book for smashing the first few holes in consensus reality.
Cosmic Trigger 2 and 3 aren’t on the list because I don’t think they deliver anywhere near the same amount of value. It’s just more Tim Leary and James Joyce. (Yes, yes. He was a very good novelist. Move along.)
2. My Life With The Spirits
Bob’s main job on this list is to lube the subject up in preparation for Lon. (Yes, that sounds dirty. I’m not changing it.) Having just had their world -hopefully- rocked it’s time to tell them a very personal story of one awesome man’s magical journey.
One of the reasons My Life With The Spirits is so impactful (other than Lon’s awesomeness) is that it is an ‘everyman story’. It’s got financial troubles, a love story and even an accidental kitten death.
In this context it demonstrates that magic can indeed be for anyone.
This is Graham Hancock’s best book. And it sits squarely between book 1 and book 2 because it combines chemognosis with regular trips to the otherworld to paint an amazing story of mankind’s first spirit teachers.
Plus it’s got that whole historical/neurological thing in case there are some lingering doubts about all this ‘magic stuff’.
4. Liber Kaos & 5. Liber Null & Psychonaut
PJC is king of the list. He’s 30% of all my recommendations. Numbers 4 and 5 are considered one grouping for me because I read them in conjunction (having not actually been born when they were initially released).
Some small amount of thought was given as to whether Crowley should appear before or after PJC. I went with after because the subject will be familiar with Crowley, the GD, etc from reading the first couple of books so the main players won’t be unfamiliar.
In this case it seemed prudent to have something a bit lighter than AC for the first ‘practical’ texts on the list.
Plus Liber Kaos is quite a personal story so it’s a good segue from the first three and into Crowley.
6. Magick/Book 4/Liber ABA
You know that giant blue hardcover edition of Book 4 with all the extra stuff? I call it ‘Satan’s Phone Book’ because it’s so enormous and it’s the closest I get to cheating on this list. But it is one book. So it stays.
It’s such a sneaky book to put on the list because you get vintage Crowley and some handy things for beginners like the improved LBRP, some qabalistic tables, etc.
Plus I just love the idea of forcing someone to read it cover to cover.
7. American Gods
The reward for wading through Satan’s Phone Book is the subject then gets to read an amazing, operatic, profound story of gods and magic in the modern world.
I’m putting the book at this stage in the game because I think the subject will get into some of its extra layers with the new knowledge he or she has recently acquired… Plus it works backwards by painting a picture of the modern world that includes the numinous.
8. The Sorcerer’s Secrets
If I want to ‘de-chaos’ this list (and I do) then I’d need to add a book that isn’t all sigils and crazy mash-ups. I’d need a thoughtful, considered book on modern magic that does a fantastic job of positioning the western spiritual tradition in a global context simply by being informed of eastern traditions. (Because Bob Wilson and Crowley succumbs to some fairly striking instances of Orientalism which need to be corrected.)
The Sorcerer’s Secrets is that book.
Without including this title, my poor subject will think his/her only choice is between bombastic, over-written, poorly translated Egyptian magic and a wacky version of Pictionary that requires you to masturbate at the end.
9. The Drunkard’s Walk
So let’s review. We’ve got the subject to see the world as a magical place, we’ve given him/her the knowledge to make changes to it… Now we need to show exactly why you may wish to do this: Because we live in a probabilistic universe and magic lets you load the dice.
Honestly, everyone needs to read this book. If I knew where your house was I’d protest out front of it until you bought The Drunkard’s Walk.
It also provides the last remaining technical/mathematical groundwork needed to read the final book.
10. The Apophenion
PJC rounding out the list. I’m just so very glad he put his conical wizard’s hat back on. This book blows the top off your head. It’s an unbelievably difficult read (which is the other reason why it is last) but -in the context of the game- I hope it will knit together all the disparate elements of the story: history, science, magic, kittens.
Notable mentions include Phil Hine, the Farrars and Dr Hyatt. But I had to keep my eyes on the prize. I was building a chaos magician, not an exact replica of me. (All my attempts to do this have failed. Though there might just be a lady version of me living stateside somewhere.)
Clearly the point of this exercise is to
- Get really frustrated at its limitations.
- Make you realise that you should be proud of all this knowledge you have obtained.
- Think about what you consider magical priorities and why.
- Further emphasise something you already knew: Book learning is barely even the beginning of the Path. There’s nothing like a hypothetical ‘books only’ game to highlight it.
Of course, in my head, the subject tries a few exercises in the woods and goes off to immediately start regular practice once I remove the shackles that have been chaining them to the fireplace for a month.