I found this among my Dad’s book collection while staying over Christmas. It really isn’t the sort of thing he’d usually read – I imagine he got it because of his interest in Grail legends, which Dion Fortune has also written about. Having heard her name in other works on witchcraft cited as one of the most influential people in shaping modern witchcraft, I thought I’d give this book a go.
The edition I read (Aquarius 1984) opens with a publisher’s disclaimer, saying that the original was written “a very long time ago” (1940s?) and that many ideas in the book are no longer held today. You know when something like that’s included in the introduction, something’s up.
Another warning sign is the Rule of Capital Letters. In that, the number of Terms Made Up By The Author, and therefore Capitalised To Denote Proper Nouns is inversely proportional to quality of the content. The opening sentence of Applied Magic and the Occult Path has five such Proper Nouns. The rest of the book follows suit.
I really don’t like doing wholly negative reviews, especially when reflecting on works written by highly respected authors, but I have to be quite damning with this one. I thought Applied Magic and the Occult Path was one of the least useful books I’ve read to date on occultism. It’s deliberately vague yet relentlessly dogmatic, talking in earnest about its own mythos of angels, Jungian archetypes, and various Ways of Something and Paths of Something else without actually saying anything. This is far less a book of instruction (which one would expect it to be from its title) than it is a book of disjointed streams of thoughts and ideas. Perhaps those following an ecstatic, shamanistic path are more in tune to this style of writing, but I have to say it did nothing for me.
What’s worst about this book is that one aspect is downright harmful, and that is its racist overtones. It’s rather old-fashioned and patronising views of “the Eastern verses Western mind” or the sweeping Jewish stereotypes could possibly be written off as a sign of the time in which it was written, but its ideas of “Racial Angels,” in which the “Aryan” angels are considered the top of the hierarchy over the top of “less civilised” societies, are unacceptable in my opinion. I found it all very abhorrent, and it’s at that point I think I stopped reading in-depth and skimmed the rest.
I feel sad to say this, but I got nothing of value our of this book. In my opinion, it’s a work best avoided, especially when there are so many other great works on magic and witchcraft out there.