| up a level
from the vulture-culture dept.
I wanted to write a review of this excellent book, because Maat Magick is the sort of quiet movement that a lot of people are going to unjustly ignore, and/or feel the need to make ignorant criticisms of. We tend to be quick to talk about the need to develop one’s own system, but when Nema does just that (and well!), we can be just as quick to disdain it. A lot of stupid things have been said about Nema’s ideas over the years, and I want to do my bit here to set the record straight. This is perhaps more then a little because I used to be one of those critics, back in the days of yore. So pardon me while I play Saul made Paul for the next few paragraphs, because I’ve just read a good book.
Maat Magick was published in 1995, but is the quintessence of over 20 years of magical work by its author, Margaret Ingalls or Soror Nema. To understand the roots of this book, therefore, requires us to cast our comprehension back to the mid 70’s. In those days the Thelemic egregore was just beginning to emerge from the eclipse of Saturnus and become, really for the first time, an actual mass movement. One tip of this iceberg was in Cincinnati, where Nema was involved in an active magical community. One night in 1974 she had a vision, and that vision became the text of a new class A style reception document: Liber Pennae Praenumbra or, the Book of the Preshadowing of the Feather.
For some, the idea of people daring to have new revelations in the style of Liber AL and the Holy Books is a problem. Prophecy and Revelation are always open to abuse. This can be as harmless and annoying as having someone wave around a book with the gods saying stupid things in it. This can be as disgusting as so-called spiritual teachers ‘channeling’ messages to control and exploit their followers. Nevertheless, true spirituality requires the cultivation of a personal relationship with the divine, and this requires the channels of prophecy be open to all. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to a choice between Thelema being an ever renewing (and ever dangerous!) paradigm of magicians at play, or a cult of Crowley savagely blocking with its enforced mediocrity the very initiations its founder intended. This does not mean that someone’s sludge masquerading as class A can’t be respectfully slammed. It’s up to them to show its value, (as well as the reader to find its value). It also doesn’t mean that someone’s reception document will necessarily be appropriate to others. The complex relationship between personal subjectivity and any revelation is, well, complex. So then, what does Nema’s revelation say?
It does not, as occasionally stated, proclaim that the Aeon of Horus has prematurely ended so as to make way for the Aeon of Maat. Quite the contrary, actually. It is explicit that the Aeon of Horus is still in full swing. So why Maat? The major school of Nema interpretation, following Kenneth Grant, is that the Aeon of Maat runs somehow concurrently with that of Horus. Praenumbra doesn’t really state this, however, nor have I ever been satisfied that this is the best way of describing the phenomenon. My personal key to this puzzle was given to me one day quite innocuously by Frater HaLayL, who noted that as magicians it should be possible to access any Aeon’s formulae at any time. It then flashed upon me that I was being too clumsy and technical in trying to figure Maat magick out. An act of Magick is not like an event in physics. It is rather more like a work of art. (This analogy may be an identity.) The tools for evaluating and examining one or the other are radically different. In particular, an act of Magick, like a work of art, can be interpreted in many different ways. My interpretation, therefore, is that Maat Magick is about accessing the power of Thelemic eschatology. Most, if not all, religious traditions have a conception of a kind of totalizing future moment. A last judgement, the coming of a new messiah or future Buddha, a time when the tradition's mission will be completed, renewed, or transcended. In Thelema our future goal is the aeon of Maat, the aeon which 2000 years (now 1900 years) hence will replace and complete the process of the aeon of Horus. However, as magicians, we are not entirely limited by linear time. Therefore we can access the power of this potential future age and use it in the present, perhaps even paradoxically assisting this future age to come to be. This, for me, is what Maat Magick is about.
Praenumbra was by no means unique as a new Thelemic reception document, or even the first of its kind. (Parsons had received The Book of Babalon a generation earlier.) Yet somehow it became the most famed. Of all the new class A documents from this period it was the one that everyone was still talking about years later. Kenneth Grant’s promotion of it in his books was a factor in this, but the real reason was that people who read it found the book of value. It was a constructive and coherent reception document that had interesting, important and useful things to say about Magick. Never really widely published, but instead quietly and widely circulated, the text receives its due finally as presented in Maat Magick.
As the title indicates, however, and as my review so far has not, Maat Magick is about far more than pumping the message of a particular scripture. Although the central section of the book (only about 20 pages) is devoted to a discussion of Liber Pennae P., the majority of the text is a collection of essays and rituals by Nema, presenting in overview a complete system of Magick. Nema’s own banishing rituals, HGA invocation, and a magical vortex rite are here, as well as a bunch of other useful and original spells. The essays are organized into a discussion of ten levels of ‘density’ of the universe, corresponding to the ten sephirotic layers. So, for example, the level 9 essay is about how to do astral work, and the level 6 essay is a discussion of the HGA. All of the writing is very direct and straightforward.
This brings up a very important feature of the book: its deceptively simple style. I say deceptively, because the light prose to a casual reader can at times act to conceal solid understanding of Magick. I must admit that this is one of the most unpretentious books I’ve read in a long time. This is refreshing, as humility is not a virtue often emphasized in modern Magick.
I highly recommend this unpretentious, experienced, and very wise book.
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