Book Review - Josephine McCarthy: Magical Knowledge II
Consider a house, maybe a temple. In this house there is a secret door that is locked. It is in a room that is watched by guardians. The room is lit by candles on the alter in the middle of the room. The altar light casts shadows over the marquetries on the secret door. The door has been shut for many years. Actually, nobody can remember it ever to have been open. For generations wise men have come to this house, entered it, passed by the guardians, walked across the altar and stood in front of that locked door. Each of them has tried to open the door in a different way: With ancient rituals, with sacred artefacts, with prayers and incantations, with modern technology and lately with clues from the internet. The door remained locked.
Now, consider there is a window in the room. It's hidden by a tapestry, long forgotten and dusty. Once a woman came to that house. She passed by the guardians, walked across the altar, but didn't approach the door. Instead she walked over to the tapestry and reached for the window behind. With a slight lift she opened the window and jumped out. Outside was a garden, overgrown, just as old as the entire house. People had been so obsessed with the secret door that no one had ever thought of the garden... The woman saw a path leading back to the front gate and on the other side following around the house. She tracked the gravel walk and came to the back of the house. There she saw a wonderful locked door, full of occult marquetries, set into the wall.
The door that had been locked for generations didn't lead anywhere. No secret room, no secret tunnel, no hidden library, but a door out into the garden. What was considered to be the biggest beginning once unlocked turned out to be an exit door. The garden had always been there waiting, accessible from many different points. Yet people had forgotten all easy ways to enter it and only remembered the one that was blocked.
The garden is the world we are all living in. It's our everyday lives with all their fears and sorrows, all their beauties and desires, all their dreams and illusions. The door is what we think will create meaning, once we found the keys to unlock it. Yet, in reality it only brings us to the place we could have accessed all the time.
More than a decade have I spent standing in front of that door - trying to open it with the magical skills and knowledge acquired year over year. I never doubted my plan as so many great magicians had tried to achieve the same before me. I knew how many of them had failed. Failed to lead a happy life, to lead a life in service, to integrate what was on this side and what they expected to be on the other side in a single loving life. Yet, I also knew that some had achieved this - and remained silent about what they had found behind the door.
Josephine McCarthy's book Magical Knowledge, Book II, The Initiate speaks about the garden, not how to unlock the secret door. The trick with the secret door, though, is that while it is an awful waste of time it's equally a wonderful exercise in building up and maintaining magical intent, concentration and willpower. As you are trying to solve a riddle that knows no solving, you exercise a lot of (physical, mental and spiritual) muscles. At the end you still stand in front of that door but you are actually pretty well trained. At this point many magicians give up their magical career. Because after all it has failed to provide the sense of meaning, fulfilment and inner direction they had hoped for. Or they read Josephine's book - and jump out of the window instead.
Here is the thing with Josephine's book - it is the second volume of a forthcoming trilogy. Even if all three volumes were available right now, I am pretty sure none of them would give you the training the secret door has given many of us. This book is not about acquiring basic magical skills, experience and practice. This book assumes you have done all your homework already. Homework during elementary, grammar school and college that is. It basically is that black car waiting in front of the gate of your university, engine humming, when you come out, final degree in your hand. It is what you have waited for all these years. And what rarely happens in real life. Well, consider yourself lucky - this time it does. It's right in front of you - 336 pages humming just like that engine, cover open, waiting for you to jump in. But boy, you better know how to ride it!
At no point does Magical Knowledge try to convince its readers of the reality it is presenting. There is no faffing around, no Neophyte hall, no manual nor "don't try this at home" signs. It starts right off with the most powerful magical techniques I have ever experienced. And from that onwards it is only practice.
Practice through the eyes of someone, however, who is hugely trained and extremely well experienced in the inner realms. And this someone wants you to either crawl back through that bloody window in front of the locked door right now - or learn the hard way, i.e. by yourself... Often during the read did I get the distinct impression that the book was written by someone who really cannot take all the stupid questions and attitudes any longer, who is deeply bothered by the desertion of this planet from true practicing magicians - and who has set their mind on filling this gap as soon as possible so their own life would be just a bit more social and interesting. This book isn't written to find followers but people who can teach back; it's an open invitation.
Well, I really don't know Josephine McCarthy. I have no idea who she is, no idea what her previous life has been like and where she acquired all the knowledge presented in the book. But I am thinking of her as an Alexandra David Neel of the inner realms. Someone whose entire life is dedicated to exploring the unknown. And to leaving a trail behind that is just small enough, just large enough for the dedicated to follow.
Personally, I wouldn't have been ready for this book a day earlier. It was hard to let go of that door. But what a wonderful garden it showed me.
Thank you, Josephine. And thank you Mogg Morgan and Mandrake of Oxford for making it available in times like these. I know it would have been easy not to trust.