Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Starting Points: Books
Let’s discuss that one thing that makes Occultists and Pagans go merrily skipping to the store to purchase: books. While I have discussed books in the past on my old MySpace blog, I have decided to reinvent the wheel yet again.
First off realize that books are merely a starting place, nothing more. I don’t care if you’re hot for Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, he would tell you they are merely a starting point, a springboard if you will, for your mind to venture down the road to. Surprisingly many reconstructionist CM’s want to quote him like Pat Robertson does the bible as if it’s scripture. While pleased that some feel his work was worthy of that, I highly doubt Henry C. Agrippa would approve.
Because even though his system is consistent within itself, it’s not meant to stay stagnate. Occult systems were meant to be grown, expanded upon and improved with care. To do that takes careful reading and of course experimentation. Ah yes experimenting OUTSIDE the system a.k.a. thinking outside the box.
Systems that stay stagnate end up dying and that’s because those who created or presented them to the world tend to want to put their foot on the necks of those who would openly experiment with them and note results. In other words it’s an ego thing.
If you consider a book a system as presented by its author, you have a better understanding of the material than if you simply read the juicy parts (if there are any) and leave it at that. Yes sometimes you have to slog through the author’s bullshit philosophy, ethics lessons and how s/he views things like karma but doing so helps you to understand where the author is coming from.
Personally I tend to shy away from books heavy with fear filled warnings of karma and other ethical mumbo-jumbo. Many prefer to read those books in the hopes that these authors have something great to say. In my experience the vast majority of them are parrots parroting othe parrots thus it gets old to yet read another chapter on karma and ethics.
When you’re trying to figure out what to read, often you’re told to read everything you can find. I disagree. My opinion is that it is wisest to choose a book, read it from cover to cover and then experiment with what you’ve found in it first. This helps to reduce the amount of mental clutter about things like crystals, stones & herbal uses which if you’ve read ten pagan books, you’ve discovered there are eleven ways to use a given herb, root or stone.
Once you’ve read through a book it’s time to experiment with it. Trust me, there are hundreds of 101 books out there on the market and gee, it’s not like everyone and their brother is an author these days. LoL You can’t help but bump into someone whose writing a book or has written one even at the friggin’ laundrymat!
How do you choose a book to start with? Well first off my opinion is to look for a book on a subject you have interest in. “But Moloch I want to learn it all!” well sorry to burst your bubble McDuff, but ya can’t learn it all. Period. You have just this one lifetime (at the present) to make a go of it so what interests y ou most? Divination? Sorcery? Healing? Spirits? What? Once you’ve decided, then it’s time to narrow the focus yes again. If it’s say Divination then are you interested in cards? Runes? Oracles? Dreams? Astrology? Because there are a plethora of ways to do divine the future probabilities.
Now there are classics in every field of interest and by classics I mean these are the old standards that folks used when books on such subjects were rare. Before Gerald Gardner came along, there were relatively few books on Witchcraft but Leland’s “Aradia: Gospel of the Withes” is a classic. Some consider the works of Margaret Murray to be worthy of study even though her theories of Witchcraft being an ancient cult have been derided by other scholars.
If you can’t find anything that others consider a classic in the field of interest you have, then try to find something written more recent. Yes now with everyone and their brother out there writing books, what is worthwhile to read and not? Good question.
I suggest trying to find a large section of Metaphysical books at say a large book chain, then designate some time to thumb through them on the subject you have interest in. What you’re looking for is ‘completeness’ rather than a big name in the field. For instance if you have an interest in Witchcraft, do you go with a Llewellyn author or a non-Llewellyn author? Well if you go with the former, realize your book will be white-washed of anything that even hints of non-white magic.
Do you really want to pollute your mind with material that tries to steer you clear of learning anything about how to defend yourself using black magic? Ask yourself if this is a wise thing to do. If you live in a world where all is rainbows & dancing clouds, then okay be my guest and choose the fluffy bunny books; however if you live where life is a day-to-day rat race and drive by shootings occur with frequent abandon, then perhaps knowing something about black magic would be helpful.
If you’re going to study the Four Elements it is wise to learn how to use them for all situations not just the positive ones. Same goes with the Planets as well as any system of Magic. You may think you’re Pollyanna but realize that life doesn’t just throw lemons to you but often ROTTEN lemons that you cannot do anything positive with other than throw in the garbage. Okay with books and a balanced system where you learn to do good and evil, you have the wherewithal to not have to be bent over every time some asshole comes around trying to make your life miserable.
Books do not carry power - unless they’re a talisman which is a discussion for another time - but what they do carry is knowledge. Good, balanced books carry a wide variety of knowledge not just the ‘heal a sick animal’ type of knowledge. A book that shows you how to survive is not complete unless it shows you how to hunt, fish and forage to eat.
So find a book that covers the subject matter and study it. Experiment with what the author suggests. If you’re told to do the exercises in it like I tell my readers in my own “Basics of Metaphysical Empowerment” booklet to do for six months to a year, you will benefit from the practices. Do the work. Learn it well. THEN experiment.
I’ll discuss books in my next blog installment.