Magical Ritual Methods

Magical Ritual Methods
William G. Gray
1980, Weiser Books
4 out of 5

William G. Gray, as I’ve said many times before, is one of the unsung heroes of modern occult literature. Magical Ritual Methods is his magnum opus to be sure. Where one of his later books, Inner Traditions of Magic, presents a “high school education” in the construction and use of magical rituals, MRM provides a veritable college-level course.

Gray shines in his exposition; he makes very clear the essentials of ritual design in a manner which makes the presented exercises immediately useful. The exercises themselves are brilliant. They are useful on their own, but build one off of the other to form a synthetic method of ritual design. The universality of the book lies in the fact that Gray does not present a system, his own or anybody elses, except by way of an example to be easily followed. He makes use of Kabbalah and Hermetics as concrete displays of powerful and practical ritual construction, but always insists that the topic at hand is one of global application for both groups and individuals.

While I do not agree with every detail presented, I can find only two flaws in Magical Ritual Methods. First of all, I must take issue with his frequent condescending attitude toward shamanic, aboriginal, and folkish systems. While his ritual design techniques are plainly workable within any such system, he makes comparisons between the “primitives” and the “moderns” and almost universally sides with the latter in everything from theology to ethics to simple matters of cultural presentation. If the reader can ignore this fact, the book will provide food for thought for years, even decades to come.

The second flaw is perhaps less obvious and really less vital. Gray does not cite his sources. While he only directly references a handful of books, he never lets the reader in on which books those are! It is clear that nearly all of the material in the book is from personal experience, but a bibliography of books which he himself took as inspiration and education may have made MRM more complete.

Despite those two flaws, William G. Gray remains one of the greatest occult authors of the modern age with Magical Ritual Methods standing apart as his most important book. No magician of any system can be said to have a rounded occult education without it.

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 11:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Real Magic

Real Magic
Isaac Bonewits
Weiser Books, 1989
1 out of 5

I had first read this book a few years ago and really didn’t like it then. After it was recommended to me recently by a fellow author, I decided to give it another try. After all, it had been so long that I didn’t really remember anything about it, so there was no reason to hold anything against it until I tried again. Well, now I know what I can hold against it.

Bonewits combines the worst of Aleister Crowley’s arrogance with the worst of Pat Robertson’s judgmentalism in one compact green-covered paper package. Just like Crowley, Bonewits insists that there’s only one correct approach, and he’s got it. Like Robertson, he makes himself out to be a spokesman for an entire and diverse religious group making the frequent insistence that he has so much experience that his opinion is the same as a fact. This, shockingly, isn’t  even the most opinionated of his books; it’s just the most well-known.

To make matters worse, there’s little-to-no useful information in the book. The closest to useful is the section on the “laws of magic” (which Bonewits claims to be the first to have codified). These laws, however, are mostly rehashings of the same few ideas which have been previously put together by anthropologists and occultists and given several new names apiece.

Mostly, the book is full of untestable theories and dogmatically asserted opinions coated in a thick layer of witless sarcasm. Read at your own risk.

Published in: on September 7, 2007 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment