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Review: In the Center of the Fire

Wasserman’s In the Center of the Fire: Memoirs of the Occult, 1966-1989 strings together like a fantastic rough and tumble road movie, an occult version of Easy Rider. Wasserman lays it bare; everything – personal, professional, sacred and profane. A long time advocate of the practice of keeping a magical diary, the work clearly shows the fruits of Wasserman’s careful notes in reconstruction.

Yes, it does appear that I have been on an O.T.O. history kick as of late, though this is partly due to a number of new books released in and around that topic. It started with Kaczynski’s Forgotten Templars, followed with the Collected Writings of Phyllis Seckler (Vol. 2) by Shoemaker, Peters, and Johnson, and finally Wasserman’s In the Center of the Fire. Interestingly, Kaczynski’s work is about the pre-Crowley era of O.T.O, Phyllis Seckler’s time intersects a late and post-Crowley era, and Wasserman’s completes the trinity with the re-emergence of the O.T.O. in its modern form. So, between the three, you get a great view of the history of the Order from a number of different viewpoints. I highly recommend each of them – but we are here to discuss the latter.

There were a number of threads that resonated strongly with me. Most so was his insight into the Motta/Weiser trials that solidified the (for lack of a better word) legitimacy of the late Grady McMurtry as the head of the Order. Moreover, his reminiscence of Weiser’s bookstore and Donald Weiser himself were heartwarming. (I still remember my oldest son pulling at Donald Weiser’s beard as a youngster when I would visit in the bookshop!) All of this while detailing various publishing efforts, his own personal struggles, and the evolution of Tahuti Lodge of OTO, makes for a very entertaining read.

To the point: James Wasserman was there. He was there, man. I found it a fantastic read to peek (perhaps just a bit) into a historical period in the emergence of the modern OTO, a time that few speak about even now. I felt like I was given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a number of these pivotal moments, and I thank him for that.

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