Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are so many books necessary?

Yesterday, my goddaughter looked at the number of books I have on shelves, stacked on the coffee table, tucked into the spare corners of the room, etc., and asked, "Do you have to have so many books?!"

Of course, I answered, "Yes." It was probably was said in the same tone my cats use when I ask them if it is necessary to chase squirrels and birds.

But my goddaughter does have a legitimate question; do I really need so many books?

My book buying (collecting) habit has been called an addiction. When I was regularly employed, I thought nothing about dropping two hundred dollars a month on books. I knew the staff of three book stores by their first names.

And if any publisher is reading this, I would just love getting free books to review. (Yes, I know that it is a long shot; my book reviews tend to be written in that hostile journalisitc mode that makes one suspect that an raving ax murderer would have been a better choice of a reviewer. But it never hurts to hint.)

Yet, I must admit that perhaps the modern occult student has too many books. Take for instance, my first experiences with Golden Dawn. A lot of people tell me that my opinion of how the system works, and much of my magical procedures, is not what Regardie siad was correct. Well, I am not a Regardie-ite.

My first experience of Golden Dawn was in physical lodge (not counting the techniques Kraig wrote about). I did not own the big yellow (red) book for many years (nowdays, it is black); I did not get my own copy until just before Bast Temple started. I did have a copy of the Llewellyn version, only partially read even to this day.

For me, the question is how did I see it done by others. So if I saw one of my fellow lodge members use the air dagger to do the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, I think that is correct, even if anyone else points to the big brick and screams Regardie says not to do that. (I have yet to locate the exact passage where Regardie says not to do it that way; but in all honesty, I am not that interested; after all, what I am doing works fine for me.)

I know a handful of books really well. There are a couple of books that I have approached much like a historian or literature major will approach a single text. Every single line is examined and re-examined, and the connections between the other parts of the piece are carefully puzzled out.

And before the publishing explosion of occult books that the sixties brought, this is actually how the student of the occult sciences would approach the system. We tend to forget that the greats of the esoteric sciences were working from a limited number of texts and opinions. We are so used to a new book being released every day that we forget that at one time, occult books were scarce.

Sometimes, I think that the modern occult student would be better off if they just stuck to a couple of books, and learned to work the system really well though actual work and textual analysis.

So am I doing this myself? Actually yes. I am in a program where I get about three new pages a week (sometimes more, sometimes less). The focus of my week tends to be isolated to these three pages. If there is a diagram involved, I end up hand-drawing the diagram. If there are myths mentioned, or ritual procedures, I research the mythology, or work as much of the ritual as I can.

And this is where my vast library comes in handy. Last night, my research involved ten books. In the end, only six pages were used...well, in fact, just six paragraphs.

On one hand, I need lots of books to do what I am doing. On the other hand, I really need to locate just those parts that relate to the lesson that I am studying this week. And I suspect that is true of all serious occult students.

So do we need all these occult books?----yes and no, the honest occult student must laugh.


Lavanah said...

Well, yeah, we do. And not just occult books. Books. Because you never know where that one paragraph that you really need will be found.

A. said...

I have about eight sitting at my feet right now, and find that I use every one of them in the course of a day. I completely empathize!

Frater A.I.T. said...

Well...I have an unhealthy-large library, and thank the Gods for PDF's. There does come a point where one has more books in hand than time to work them, and becomes in danger of being a sort of magical Scholar instead of an actual magician. God forbid!