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Farren lives with magic in the person of his wife, Tanya the witch, who claims to be descendant from thirteen generations of such. And if you can get past Tanya's psychic attacks, Farren's levitating mother-in-law and their sorcerer's apprentice friends to the author's psycho-historical reconstruction of the occult as it has derived from Celtic mythologies, medieval heresies, Hellenistic science and Renaissance alchemy the book becomes more plausible, if not persuasive. Farren doesn't buy the thesis that magic represents the ""Old Religion"" of Europe which went under after Christianity: its sources are far more eclectic, it functions as a unique ""mode of consciousness"" counterpointed to the Western rationalist tradition. For Farren magic at its best represents one way of liberating imagination, intuition and fantasy. On the question of whether magic depends on supernatural forces which actually exist ""out there"" he maintains a sympathetic agnosticism and he is confident that some day science will explain poltergeists and hexes, astrology and tarot. He does caution against ""adventuring"" into the occult, but Farren's empathy leads him to largely dismiss the grotesque, evil and dangerous potentials of supernaturalism. He suggests, for example, that the horrific manuals which provide instructions for blood sacrifices, orgiastic sex and ritual torture are nothing more than ""a peculiar type of romantic fiction"" which serious and genuine wizards don't take seriously. He discredits such sinister or problematic characters as Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey; quacks, thrill-seekers and maniacs abound everywhere and Farren earnestly enjoins that magic must not be divorced from moral purpose. But who is to keep the psychotics and diabolists at bay? Far more intelligent than the usual treatise on the occult but frequently flawed and credulous nevertheless.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster