Review of Deep Magic

Deep Magic Begins Here…Tales & Techniques of Practical Occultism
by Julian Vayne  (ISBN 9781906958527 Mandrake Press 2014)

This new book is all we’ve come to expect from this cutting edge magician – his new collection of 26 fine essays covers the familiar Vaynian topics: Baphomet, Templars, Royston Cave, Judge Dredd and  of course Chaos Magic. The subtitle –”Tales & Techniques of Practical Occultism” recalling Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight’s “Practical Occultism” (published by Thoth Books in 2002), sets an intellectual tone. Vayne is already an established speaker and writer on altered states of consciousness and magical uses of intoxicants; in this collection there are 3 articles on this popular Vaynian theme, one of which -“Ketacean Kundalini Kult”, includes a mumification ritual on Ketamine which both recalls and extends Oreyelle Defenestrate-Bascule’s work with mumifcation, as reported in DreamFlesh Journal in 2006.  In “The Black Flag and The Mystery” Vayne discusses the connections between paganism and anarchism, and in “Jerusalem” he presents a chaos magic ritual to “Manifest the lost art of William Blake”.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Julian Vayne. I really do. I’ve avidly read many of his books and I have made big efforts to see him lecture on two separate occasions.

One time in Sussex, where he gambolled around the stage hauling after him a sinister black victorian doctors bag, from which he intermittently conjured papers, notes and flesh-hooks to illustrate his talk on Chaos Magic ritual. On another occasion he was in control and professor-ish in a listed building in Oxford, telling us about toad-venom, mushrooms, DMT and spirituality.

He is an inspired speaker and a consummate performer, His writing is tight and accomplished, the style comfortable and easy-going.

Yet, my initial reaction after reading “Deep Magic” was one of disappointment. I had so looked forward to reading this book and yet when finished I felt deflated – it really was just another collection of articles on the same old subjects.

The otherwise very splendid “Book of Baphomet” (2012) has this same sense of being bitty and rambling at the same time, nothing draws the parts into a whole, except the title, likewise, “Deep Magic” lacks a sustained and coherent approach – a structure.

And I wonder if this is an inherent trait of the Chaos Magic approach,  – it’s as if “Everything is permitted, nothing is edited”.

But too much diversity isn’t the problem in itself, it’s that it’s all over too quickly, the attention span is foreshortened, the connections between articles is random and tenuous. There’s no form, plot nor cohesive overarching theme, In many ways I wish Vayne would push things further, deeper.

Julian Vayne’s writing here is, as always superb, his articles are well-honed, precise and economic, the content is fascinating, filled with Vayne’s interesting insights and experiences. Yet, the ideas only seem to manifest as short disparate articles, in short pyrotechnic bursts – smashing little pieces that hang forlornly isolated and self-contained, seeming like brief intriguing samples from an exciting but elusive psychic Other.

Jean Dark
Printed in Pentacle Magazine Issue 39 Winter Solstice 2014