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Stealing the Fire from Heaven by Stephen…

Stealing the Fire from Heaven

by Stephen Mace

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
411433,473 (4)2
'This book just won't go away. This essential piece is back by popular demand and if you didn't buy it last time, buy it this time. A great read and an essential requirement for every student of Magick.'- Christopher S. Hyatt, Ph.D., author of Undoing Yourself, Secrets of Western Tantra, Urban Voodoo and Rebels & Devils.'Stephen Mace begins with the ideas of Crowley and Spare and takes them several steps further in a way few others have. His writing is, by turns, engaging, erudite and very down-to-earth. Stealing the Fire from Heaven is a must-have for any modern occult practitioner.'- Phil Hine, author of Condensed Chaos and Prime Chaos.'Stealing the Fire from Heaven articulates the essence of Magick and Sorcery in a sober, meaningful way. Stephen Mace has carefully drawn forth the connections between Austin Spare and Aleister Crowley and defined the meaningful aspects of creating a personal path of sorcery.' - Michael W. Ford, author of Book of the Witch Moon and Yatuk Dinoih.'Despite the number of ?magical construction kits? that are available to the modern sorcerer, Mace's is a definite keeper. By blending sound theory with an organic and personal system, Stealing the Fire from Heaven offers pieces that are worthwhile for both the neophyte and advanced practitioner.'- George Holochwost, Sectionhead of the Illuminates of Thanateros Americas… (more)



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This is an engaging and interesting book that has really got me thinking. It's got me thinking that, on the whole, I don't like it very much, but then I'm still thinking about it.

[Stealing the Fire from Heaven] is, more or less, a book about ritual magic (magic that 'relies on the powers hidden away within each individual human being', to quote John Michael Greer) from the point of view of a chaos magician (chaos magic, according to Wikipedia, is 'a school of the modern magical tradition which emphasizes the pragmatic use of belief systems and the creation of new and unorthodox methods'). It's a nice-looking book, slim but full of information divided into tidy chapters, and illustrated throughout with drawings by Austin Osman Spare. Mace draws on techniques of both Spare and Aleister Crowley. The book is subtitled 'A Technique for Creating Individual Systems of Sorcery' and it pretty much does what it says on the tin.

In rough summary, Mace covers banishing and then moves on to creating sigils and using them to magical effect with Spare's technique of 'repression': basically this means deliberately pushing your intention to the subconscious part of your mind, where it can sort of join with the universal consciousness and effect changes in the world (yes, modern sorcery owes a lot to Jung). I thought this was interesting mostly because it's the complete opposite of the more popular and well-known technique of affirmations. Guess you couldn't very well try both on the same problem....

Moving on to where the 'individual systems' come into play, Mace describes in detail two methods used by Spare: automatic drawing and the creation of sacred alphabets. The idea is that rather than subscribing to a pre-existing set of magical symbols and letters such as are used in Qabalah, the would-be sorcerer uses these methods to bring to light the structures already existent in his subconscious, mapping his inner terrain, meeting his own angels and demons, and creating his own array of sacred symbols. Ultimately the magician seeks to gain communication with his 'Holy Guardian Angel' (what Jung would call the animus or anima, and what in New Age circles is often referred to as the 'Higher Self'): our point of direct communication with the unconscious and the best conceivable guide to the dark forest of one's mind.

I'm aware as I'm writing this that I'm leaving a lot of stuff out. The book is erudite, lucid, well thought-out and well-written, and those who think that anyone interested in magic and the occult can be lumped together with the [Crystal Awareness] fruitcakes would do well to read a page or two of it.

Now for the list of things that rubbed me the wrong way.

First of all, for a chaos magician, Mace seems more than a little obsessed with control:

'(the ritual) gives us the one thing that the person who treads this path needs: a way to keep his spirits obedient and in their place' (page 102).

'...once you define a spirit you can enter into a relationship with it - conjuring it, naming it, and binding it with a ritual Charge so it obeys your will' (page 81).

'Sorcery is the art of capturing spirits and training them to work in harness, of sorting out the powers in our minds so we might manipulate them and make them cause changes both within our minds and beyond them' (page 8).

Without question, getting your personal demons under control is a worthy goal, but the 'binding' and 'controlling' become such a repetitive refrain that one wonders whether Mace has some sensitive issues around the subject.

The 'chaotic' element seems to come into play more when Mace confronts tradition, which he generally does flippantly even when he advocates adopting particular traditional techniques. In the chapter on banishing rituals:

'...though (the Pentagram ritual) is very effective, it is symbolically dependent upon the Qabalistic system and hence unsuitable for anyone who wants to avoid hanging that Albatross around his neck' (page 15).

When discussing methods of yoga practice:

'We wizards don't do it that way. Why? Because it's boring, mostly, and any moron can think of better ways to spend his life than to sit absolutely still for six hours every day, and play priest for the other eighteen' (page 85).

'In traditional Hindu practice Yama includes things like non-acceptance of gifts and celibacy, but that's just a crock for simple minds and has nothing to do with us sorcerers' (page 86).

Hm. Must be nice for you sorcerers, standing head and shoulders above all of those simple minds who developed these traditions over thousands of years, but I'm left wondering: why the disdain for tradition? Do you think those who follow it do so for no better reason than fear, idiocy, or inertia? Isn't it at least possible that practices work better with more of their original context intact?

Then there's the question of ethics, always a critical one when talking about magic, because magic is largely about power and it becomes a question of what you do with that power. Mace seems to advise against using magic to work ill....well, sort of....mostly on pragmatic grounds...

'...the cops can't catch you for a curse...but then your karma might, or another magician, or all those devils on their way home from work...' (page 18).

Contrasted with a later selection from the chapter on creating talismans:

'This could be something like a love letter or a job resume, and the magical charge the wizard puts on it will be there to sway the mind of the recipient, impelling that person to grant whatever request he or she read on the face of it' (page 68).

Wow! 'Impelling' people to grant your requests? Does that not seem like a little bit of a friggin' grey area there, at best?

But then again, Mace follows Crowley in believing that the sorcerer need not concern himself with anything apart from the fulfilment of his True Will. In this new aeon, the model for human relations 'is that of stars in a galaxy. Each has its own course and proper motion... What we human stars must do is gain the skill to perceive our human environments with the same dispassionate precision that stars use to respond to their neighbours' gravity, and then apply it to guide our progress through our human space' (page 95). In theory, that might work, if you presume that human nature is benevolent (and that is an open bloody question, last I checked). But it's a metaphor: we are not stars, we're humans. There is no place in this 'new aeon' for compassion, only dispassion, and there's something gravely wrong with that picture.

Humility, respect for tradition, and surrender have absolutely no place here. To me that reeks of hubris of the ickiest degree. Even granted that 'our unconscious minds ultimately merge with the Mind of God' (page 18), and even if you have at moments managed to achieve that depth, that does not make you God.

Clearly this has been a very thought-provoking read, and I will probably hang onto it for a while at least to mull over Chapter 22, wherein Mace unpacks some of the central ideas in Crowley's [Liber AL Vel Legis]. But although the author is intelligent, creative, well-read, and eloquent....I can't shake the feeling that I'd want to avoid him at a party. ( )
6 vote Erratic_Charmer | Jan 17, 2014 |
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