Book Review: Hands On Chaos Magic

This past April, I discovered podcasts.  Gordon White is chiefly to blame: I had been fanboying for him for some time when I discovered that he had recently begun podcasting, and that was what pushed me over the edge.  One of the first podcasts I found after that was Andrieh Vitimus‘ and Jason Caldwell’s Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole, and through that, I discovered Andrieh’s book, Hands On Chaos Magic.  Which, ironically, it turns out Aradia had picked up a copy of at some point, and I was thus able to pick up and read the moment the urge came upon me.

Hands On Chaos Magic was originally published in 2009, and a part of me wishes it had been available a great deal earlier.  I certainly wish someone had pushed it into my hands sooner.  While I had been living in Indiana and studying ceremonial and chaos magics would have been great: I could have just driven across the Ohio border with a case of mead to bribe my way into Vitimus’ confidence and talked shop while I was at the top of my game.  Having crashed out this year, however, in the wake of abandoning the Sunrise Temple and my planetary cycle, and enchanting myself out of a job, and my first year as Chair of the Sacred Experience Committee … the book has served me very well, now, as I try to rebuild the foundation of my practice.

Andrieh Vitimus’ book strikes the perfect balance of tone: authorotative yet intimate, treating his subject seriously without taking himself or his students too seriously, appealing to the magical student’s sense of drama without loosing touch of practical objectives or material reality.  Embracing NLP and more solid modern psychology, Vitimus avoids many of the Freudian and Jungian pitfalls that befell his predescessors in Chaos Magick.  Finally, Vitimus is very realistic about his audience: leaving aside the moralistic pandering of many other instructional volumes on magic in favor of presuming that his readers are adults who have already drawn their own ethical conlusions.

The book is solidly organized, building from basic breathwork and meditation through energy work and psychology to sigils and sympathetic magic before introducing entity work and colcluding with astral ventures and hypersigils.  Each lesson leaves the student well-prepared for the next.  I have quibbles, of course – invocation preceding evocation seems a little strange to me, as does saving astral travel for last – but any lesson plan includes some arbitrary decisions where no trully natural order of flow exists.  Knowing that not every technqiqe works equally well for every sorcerer, witch, and magiciah, he presents each aspect of magical practice and technique from as many perspectives as possible.  Of particular value is his repeated insistance on muti-sensory imagination, rather than “visualization” as it is usually framed.

On a more personal note, I frequently found the book very validating.  Andrieh Vitimus is one of the shockingly few authors to discuss the kind of energy work that was the foundation of my magical practice from the age of sixteen until my mid twenties.  He also giave name to a technique that I developed intuitively in my late teens, but self-conciously abandoned because I had no cultural contest for it: glossolalia.  Likewise aura manipulation as a form of glamorie.

My one and only complaint about the book, in fact, is one of my chief complaints about Chaos Magick in general.  In the text, Andrieh Vitimus leans too heavily on the psychological model of magic, particularly in the astral and hypersigil chapters, and by virtue of the recency effect, that casts a psychological model pall over the whole of the book.  Ironically, based on his podcast, I do not believe that his actual practice suffers from that problem

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for either the beginning practitioner or the more experienced magician looking to restart or expand their practice.  Should I ever take another student, Hands On Chaos Magic will feature prominently in my curriculum.