Why you should care
Because reading about magic can foster insight into modern politics.
When Gary Lachman, a founding member of the seminal rock group Blondie, shared a ramshackle NYC loft on Bowery Street in 1975 with bandmates Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, he ran across a wild artist living in the same building who helped intensify Lachman’s burgeoning passion for the occult. “The potential to experience unusual states of consciousness and to explore unknown areas of being excited me,” Lachman says. After reading Colin Wilson’s The Occult, he was hooked. He even wrote the Blondie tune “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear,” the only top 10 U.K. hit to feature the word “theosophy” in the lyrics.
After Blondie, Lachman took his self-described “naive enthusiasm” for the occult and wrote numerous books on the subject, delving into influential figures like Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky and Emanuel Swedenborg, as well as penning tomes on how the occult operates in the modern world. His latest offering, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, digs into the “occult politics surrounding Trump’s presidency,” he explains.
Meme magic’s fingerprints are sticky across the political spectrum.
The book’s inspiration comes from alt-right darling Richard Spencer’s ominous speech after Trump’s victory, in which he declared, “We made this happen. We dreamed Trump into power!” Lachman believes Spencer’s “alt-right posse” used meme magic (a way of affecting reality via the internet through memes: think Pepe the Frog) — with antecedents in chaos magic (dealing with the fluidity of belief systems) — to help Trump win. And with Trump’s devotion to Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and Putin possibly receiving counsel from Russian fascist Alexander Dugin, who “mashes up occultism, far-right radicalism and postmodernism,” Lachman says, it seems meme magic’s fingerprints are sticky across the political spectrum. Which is reason enough to read up on the occult.
THE OCCULT, BY COLIN WILSON (1971)
If you want to dive into a wide-ranging history of magic and the occult, start with this British writer’s formative work. “Wilson’s capacity to evaluate esoteric and ‘forbidden’ ideas with a calm, collected intellect inspired a generation of authors, including Lachman and myself,” says Mitch Horowitz, a historian of alternative spirituality.
MAGICK IN THEORY AND PRACTICE, BY ALEISTER CROWLEY (1913)
Even if you haven’t paid much attention, you’ve probably heard of magic-wielder — “magick” was his preferred spelling — Aleister Crowley, who was once slapped with the less-than-flattering label “the wickedest man in the world.” The Beatles, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Marilyn Manson have all expressed their admiration for the English occultist. Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice (Part III of the larger Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4) is a must for any novice wishing to learn more about ceremonial magic.
THE BLACK ARTS, BY RICHARD CAVENDISH (1967)
Once you get past the rather grim title, this work offers a vigorous introduction to a variety of of beliefs and practices. Its brilliance, Horowitz says, is that it “combines excellent historicism with practical instruction.” In other words, it’ll throw readers headfirst into the occult, then give them some useful methodologies associated with magic to help them navigate.
AT YOUR COMMAND, BY NEVILLE GODDARD (1939)
This British-American mystic (who wrote under his first name) dived into the power of imagination and New Thought with his first book At Your Command. In this intellectually ambitious treatise, Goddard examines how the raw mind can will desires into existence — not just through words and repetition alone, but through consciousness, which, when properly understood, can nudge human awareness, along with our stated goals and desires, into the realm of reality.
Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump will be published on May 29, 2018.
More Great Occult Reads
- Transcendental Magic, by Eliphas Levi: This French writer influenced the likes of Aleister Crowley with his examination of how transcendental magic lies behind the veil of the doctrines and religious traditions we encounter in everyday life.
- Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic, by Peter J. Carroll: If you dig chaos magic, you’ll likely dig this comprehensive yet practical guide to the theory and practice of shamanistic magic.
- The Book of the Law, by Aleister Crowley: An authoritative short work on modern occultism that, according to Horowitz, is “a brilliant exposition of Crowley’s influential philosophy of Thelema, which posits living from one’s True Self.”
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall: A detailed encyclopedia covering the esoteric world, from various secret societies (Freemasons, Rosicrucians, etc.) to the Atlantean myths, plus much more.