A Review: Kali Magic by Mike Magee

“Women are divinity, women are life, women are jewels.”
Yoni Tantra

“Within, a Sakta; outwardly a Saivite; in the world a Vaisnava. This is the rule.”
Kaula Upanisad

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my previous explorations of the contribution that Mike Magee has made to development of the Thelemic current within the world of contemporary occultism here. Via the impact of the Amookos Order that he founded (the Arcane and Magickal Order Of the Knights Of Shambhala), and his accessible but scholarly translation of core Sanskrit texts, Mike has helped lay a significant foundation for how we as magical practitioners in the 21st Century integrate non-western sources into our practice.

The genesis of Amookos is often considered to be the result of Mike’s initiatory relationship with Sri Mahendranath (Dadaji) and the seismic impact that this had on his personal magical universe. While the encounter with Dadaji was undoubtedly powerful, it also came within the context of his work with Kenneth Grant and his Typhonian Order. Grant himself was significantly influenced by Eastern teaching and source material (as depicted within At the Feet of the Guru) and Mike is quite open about how the presence of this material in his work with Grant catalyzed his own journey eastwards. Prior to travelling to India and encountering Dadaji, Mike had already begun mantra work, embarked on in-depth studies of Sidereal astrology and Sanskrit, and was familiar with Kashmir Shaivism. While Dadaji’s relationship with Mike and Amookos sadly deteriorated due to the on-set of dementia at the end of Dadaji’s life, Mike was able to utilize his own significant skills as both a translator and interpreter to move forward on the path and this current volume is a prime example of his contribution.

For me, this book represents a brilliant distillation of over 40 years of practice, translation and interpretation of the Tantric Shri Vidya (Goddess focused) tradition. For those in the know, Mike’s work held over at shivashakti.com has long represented some of the highest quality translations of primary texts relating to the Kaula Nath path (upon which Amookos is based) and wider tantric traditions. This book provides us with an excellent drawing together of material relating to the darker aspects of the Goddess and specifically the Great Mother Kali.

The book has a forward by Phil Hine and contains numerous beautifully illustrated line drawings by Jan Bailey. The introduction by Mike contains a superb overview of the central themes, methods and approaches that are often utilized in approaching “the primordial Devi who is the root of all Great Knowledges….She destroys time, is time, and is the night of eternity”. Blimey! And we are only on page 4! As both a practitioner and scholar, Magee does not shy away from the complexity of the terrain he is seeking to depict and the differing cultures and historic periods that this material has emerged from. While this is far from a simplified attempt to reduce the Great Mother to a few bullet points, it does offer the determined explorer with a vital portal through which we can appreciate the contradiction and theological complexity that her traditions embody.

Kali Magic is at once scholarly and highly practical with sections on Sadhana that explore core techniques and technologies such as mantra, yantra and nyasa. The book contains helpful explanations of the major Kali Yantras and how their insights might provide vital keys as to how our practice might be earthed in the body and within the ritual space (whether actual or imagined) of the cremation grounds. In the latter portion of the book Mike provides us with vivid translations of primary source material that will allow our practical exploration to be based firmly within the depths of historic traditions. Personally I found these Goddess Upanishads and Tantras both powerful and shocking in their physical frankness. As Mike stresses, the way of the Great Mother and the Left Hand Path is raw and unapologetic in its exploration of how bodily fluids and sexual practices can be skillfully utilized in promoting the most profound alchemical processes:

“The miraculous Yoni Tattva Tantra is the best of all tantras. Because of love for you, this very hidden tantra is revealed. The only evil in sexual intercourse is disgust for blood and semen. He who mixes them with wine is discriminating in worship.” Yoni Tantra, Third Patala.

This is a truly significant work that represents a lifetime of scholarship and devotion, and while deep and demanding it also captures the raw beauty of Kali and pulls no punches in opening a door way to her mysteries. Highly recommended for those magical practitioners wishing to work with Tantric currents in a way in that is profoundly aware of the original source material so as to avoid either reductionism or consumerist appropriation. As we as Pagans and Occultists seek to evolve and strengthen our theology and sadhana in order to highlight the potent validity of our chosen spiritual paths, works such as Kali Magic offer a vital and valuable contribution to such processes of growth.

Steve Dee

Purchase Kali Magic by Mike Magee


Coming Up Next…

There are still a few places left on our Sacred Space Holder Program for people looking to develop their practice of working with Sacred Mushrooms. Join Nikki, Julian and the fabulous Fungi Academy crew in October on the shores of Lake Atitlán for a hands-on adventure into the science and spirituality of psychedelic ceremony.

For people who can’t make it in person to Fungi Academy HQ in Guatemala there is the Psychedelic Journeywork course, use the code ‘Julian’ to get a discount!

Julian is also going to be teaching again with Treadwell’s Books in the autumn this year with lectures and workshops, online and in-person, on subjects including The Meaning of Witchcraft, Queer Magic, Applied Chaos Magic, Aleister Crowley’s Magick and The Thoth Tarot

For more details of one-to-one mentoring and support, psychedelic integration services, tarot readings and online courses with Julian please visit julianvayne.com

Nikki and Julian will be running a ceremony at Medicine Festival and will also be speaking at Trans-States.

Steve Dee’s new book Chaos Monk: Bringing Magical Creativity to the New Monastic Path is out now!

Review – Scansion in Psychoanalysis and Art: the Cut in Creation by Vanessa Sinclair

For regular readers of this blog, it will hardly be surprising that I approached Dr Vanessa Sinclair’s new book with both excitement and high expectations. In my own writing (especially The Heretic’s Journey), I have been keen to explore how the methods of artistic creativity can be used by the magician as a means for mining the depths of the self.

Over the past decade or so, it has felt that many occultists have rejected psychological models of magic in favour of more traditionalist cosmologies that promise both historic roots and thorough methodology. In response to the postmodern, disposable approach of Chaos Magic such seekers are forthright in their critique of the “pop”, lightweight nature of the insights offered and question their ability to leverage lasting change.

In marked contrast to the surface level reflections that the psychological model can be prone to, Vanessa Sinclair’s work provides a necessary and significant counterweight. This work gives us a vital and re-energised perspective on how the insights of psychoanalytic thinking, language and artistic expression can have true transformative power and be:

 “…a generative way of working with and through unconscious material and processes; cutting through ingrained systems of belief and oppression in order to attain new insights, ways of being and modes of becoming in the world.”

As I approached this book my expectations were already high, I was aware of Vanessa’s role as a visual artist, a practicing Psychoanalyst and co-convener of many excellent conferences focused on art, the occult and psychoanalysis. The breadth of her work and vision is nicely encapsulated here

In this book, Sinclair makes skilled use of Jacques Lacan’s expanded re-visioning of scansion as not merely a marker of poetic meter and emphasis, but rather scansion is a study in the disruptive and punctuating power of creativity. Sinclair invites us to a panoramic overview of modern art and culture; the vastness of her view can at times feel dizzying in its breadth but it is masterful in the vision that it captures. Scansion is a bold invitation to “new ways of seeing ourselves, one another and society…in a state of perpetual destruction and creation.” (p27)

We are treated to a pacey but theoretically engaging whistle stop tour through the history of modern art that sees a potent synchronicity between the advent of the Kodak’s hand-held camera the “Brownie” and the birth of Psychoanalysis at the dawn of the 20th century. Our ability as individuals to perceive, capture and display images reflects a new autonomy that mirrors the powerful tools espoused by Freud for accessing the mysteries of the self.

The captured image offers us a “slice” of reality that often holds dimensions of the unconscious that shed new light on our realities. Vanessa’s analysis of this rich timeline demonstrates the disruptive power that sparks of inspiration can having in cutting through centralized control and orthodoxy. The stabbing brush strokes of Van Gough, the stark cut-out images of Matisse and the surreal “readymade” objects of Marcel Duchamp all challenge any attempt to create a boundary between the art that we create and the intuitive way of viewing the whole of our lives. 

The symbiotic relationship between art and the birth of psychoanalysis comes to full fruit in the work of the surrealists. The creative genius of artists such as Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington made overt use of their dream lives, the unconscious and techniques of automatic writing and free association to bypass the psychic censor and plumb the depths of being. Things then come full circle as Lacan seeks to incorporate the methods of the surrealists within his clinical practice much to the distress of his more staid contemporaries. Sinclair provides helpful insight in noting the way in which the potency of the unconscious disrupts any attempts to control or create new orthodoxies. When conformity and normalization begin, the energy of the cut will not be far behind!

Marcel Duchamp with a Readymade

The surrealist use of mirrors and dream-states in their work often reflected a deep fascination with the Double. This doppelganger-double as a reflection of the self often disrupts the encrusted certainties of our ego so that new realms can be explored. Sinclair introduces us to the gender fluid work of Pierre Molinier whose photomontage evoked the complex, overlapping and multiple nature of the self. Such work significantly inspired Breyer P-Orridge and we can see the way in which such “existential playfulness” not only informed their pandrogeny work but also the jarring sonic cut-ups found in the early Industrial noisescapes of Throbbing Gristle and Psychick TV.

Vanessa provides us with an insightful perspective on the heady mash-up between culture and occulture. The spirit of the cut-up and surrealism was manifested potently within the creative hot-house of the Beat Generation (especially Gysin and Burroughs) who in turn famously helped shape David Bowie’s approach to song writing. This is not a “how to” book of occult techniques, rather it is a deeply magical work in reflecting on how seismic change works within the internal world so as to send shock waves through an often stagnant culture.

Throbbing Gristle, not ones for stagnation

The magic of the cut is a magic that is profoundly embodied. Sinclair highlights Freud’s view that it is the ego-body through which we first experience the world. The magic of art and analysis invites us to deconstruct and cut-through the constraints of normalization and conditioning in order to recover the whole body sensual liberty of an earlier polymorphous perversity. This decidedly queer territory. The gender focused works of Val Denham, the post-human performance art of Stelarc and wider trends in modern primitivism all point to a more fluid and engaged relationship with our flesh and the impact that our transformative experiments can have on the psyche. 

Sinclair’s book skillfully demonstrates the importance of the cut, in its various forms, as a potent approach to transformation for the magician to explore:

“The cut is another royal road to the unconscious. It allows us to dislocate and derail the narrative, so that we may understand ourselves and our past in a different light and rewrite our future in a new way; a way in which we desire to be, rather than the way we are predestined to be based on our histories, families and societies.”  

Highly recommended.

Steve Dee

Buy Scansion in Psychoanalysis and Art: the Cut in Creation by Vanessa Sinclair (Routledge 2020)


Coming up next

Julian is teaching online magic with Treadwell’s Books and has also released a new course on the Deep Magic teaching site: First Steps in Magic.

In this course you’ll encounter the magic of the elemental powers of Air, Fire, Water and Earth through practice, ritual, journal work and guided meditations. You’ll learn how to cultivate the corresponding Four Powers of the Magician; To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent. In addition to providing you with a comprehensive training program First Steps in Magic invites you to do things your own way and to develop your unique magical creativity. This course is available at a discounted price for a limited time. Click here for details.

On Sunday 25th April Nikki will be co-presenting an online workshop with Dave Lee on The Structure of Psychedelic Ceremony, click here for details.