Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board

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As befits a book that makes frequent reference to those notorious ethereal tricksters known as elementals, Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board is not at all what it might at first glance appear to be. Readers familiar with the book’s author, J. Edward Cornelius, would most likely recognize him as the co-publisher and principal author of Red Flame, a journal that has brought both scholarship and innovation to the study of Aleister Crowley, his works and circle. Given this, and the title of his new book, one might expect the work to be an earnest, theoretical discussion of the Great Beast and his thoughts on the Ouija Board. Instead we find what would once have been termed a grimoire: an occult textbook, in this case carefully composed for aspiring students by a modern-day ceremonial magician. The book is not devoid of theoretical discussion: Cornelius provides an interesting overview of the history of the Ouija Board, and a thoughtful analysis of the different schools of thought about the nature of the forces that respond to the summons to move the planchette, but the core of the book consists of practical instruction in the use of the board. Not surprisingly the approach to the Ouija outlined by Cornelius is very different to that of the Spiritualists who first brought fame to the implement. Drawing from his own practical experiments – and some little know writings on the subject by Crowley – Cornelius suggests that sitting with the Ouija should never be a passive undertaking. To be safe it should only ever be performed as a serious magical operation, with the practitioner in total control of the situation, paying utmost attention to every detail of the process, and remaining fully focused on his or her goal. This need for rigor and control naturally extends to knowledge of the nature of the entity or entities summoned, and Cornelius examines this in detail, in the context of the Enochian system of magic articulated by the Elizabethan magus John Dee. This book has many charms, not least of which the easy-going authority with which it is written. Cornelius has been a ritual magician for most of his adult life, and the elementals, angels, and other entities of which he writes are as much a part of his daily world as the sky above him or the pavement below his feet. Clearly he does not feel it is his task to persuade doubters as to the reality of his observations. Rather he is intent on chronicling them in a way that will allow other aspirants to set forth firmly, and safely, on their own journeys of exploration. This he does with the simple but powerful conviction of one who knows. Those looking for an abstruse theoretical treatise, or a book with Crowley as the absolute and exclusive focal point may not find what they were hoping for in this work. But for anyone with an open mind and a genuine interest in the theory and practice of ritual magic this book is sure to prove a fascinating and valuable resource. Weiser Antiquarian have a batch of signed copies, available at the standard retail price of US $16.96

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