Into the Library – four fabulous volumes reviewed

Science Revealed is a wide ranging book in which we encounter a range of ‘alternative’ ideas and characters from Jacques Benveniste (an outlaw scientist who claimed to have evidence that homoeopathy is effective) through to Tesla & Bruno. The text has a strong authorial voice that weaves effortlessly from the poetic to the polemic and this is unsurprising from an author who is renowned as an excellent speaker and creative activist. (There are also some beautiful ‘fragments’ or poetry, typographic design and illustration towards the end of the book.)

This rich tapestry of theories, personal anecdotes, damned data (as Charles Fort would have called it) and radical opinion would be a great read for someone who was new to these discussions. Science and Scientism, esoterica, meditation, entheogenics and politics – all this and more are explored here.

I’m not sure what other publication plans Rev Nemu has but pretty much any single essay within Science Revealed could be transformed into a whole book.

nemu

High Price manages to be both an engaging autobiographical tale, a fascinating description of the experience of being a black in the USA, and a very important book about drugs, especially those scary addictive ones (particularly cocaine and methamphetamine). Carl Hart grew up in the Miami ‘hood. In High Price he tells us his story, his loves, fears, successes and failures as a young black man growing up in 1980’s America. We meet his mentors, his loves and the constellation of circumstances (his love of athletics, his recruitment into the military, his postings abroad) that have led up top him being a celebrated neuroscientist with a special interest in drug use and addiction.

Carl comes over as a thoughtful, engaging and energetic guy who not only manages to overcome the privation of his background but manages to use the insights from his experiences to inform his work with crack and other drug addicts. Like many folks Dr Hart starts off expecting addiction to be all about neurotransmitters and brain-bendingly powerful chemicals. However as he looks closer he begins to realise that addiction is mostly about social situation, money, education and especially in the USA, race. Since drug use is so clearly linked with racial politics in the USA I’d say that what Carl Hart has done in this book is to create an accessible text that explains clearly for non-black and non-addicted people how drug culture really works. Informative is a massive understatement; this is a book that should be read by anyone interested or involved crime, justice, prohibition and in understanding how drugs and particularly drug dependency is a social phenomena.

carl hart

The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is the latest bumper book of Hermetic/Orphic/Goetic magic by Jake Stratton-Kent, in fact this is a two volume edition. As with all the hardback Scarlet Imprint volumes this one looks rather delightful with golden stars liberally sprinkled over the jacket. This is your proper hardcore grimoire magic volume, something that Jake does really well. Full of obscure tables of demons, learned discourse on their historical origins and a delightful (if, for my taste rather Old Skool) mash-up of Classical, Judeo-Christian and near Eastern occulture.

cyprian_spines_pair

Finally in this round of books that have recently been added to my library is Women of the Golden Dawn my Mary K. Greer. The wise and wonderful Christina of Treadwell’s told me recently ‘every magician should read this book’. She was, as I suspected, absolutely right. Greer (herself a noted authority on the tarot) presents the stories of Annie Horniman, Florence Farr, Moina Mathers and Maud Gonne – some of the most important people in the story of modern western magic. When one thinks of the Golden Dawn the narrative is often over-shadowed by poster bad-boy of magick Aleister Crowley. However reading Greer’s brilliantly engaging biography of these other magicians (while full of citations and evidence – this book is a page-turning ripping-yarn) one can see that much of the modern revival of magic was as much down to these women as it was to Uncle Crowley. (Even down to those little details of exploring mescaline for magic and making contact with the Ancient Egyptian current via a museum antiquity.)

Drugs, sex, political radicalism, art, travel and brilliant ceremonial and magical work – it’s all right here, embedded in the decadent excitement of the fan de siècle and the turbulent early 20th century. There’s a great supporting cast in the story (Bernard Shaw, W.B.Yeats and others) and real sense of the love and attention that the author has for her subjects. Greer also uses astrological data throughout (in part because this was one of the key paradigms through which the GD women saw their world). This is a brilliant device which, if you’re got a working knowledge of astrology or planetary magic, really helps provide a ‘magicians eye view’ of the history unfolding beneath those conjunctions, natal oppositions and transits. Certainly one of the best biographies on both the history and experience of magic I’ve ever read. That lady from Treadwell’s was right you know!

GD women cover

PS. A review of the long-awaited and already much celebrated Epoch by Matt Kaybryn & Peter J. Carroll follows shortly – stay tuned!

JV

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