One of the problems with occult studies is that they’re occult – hidden. What does a real magician do? Most of us don’t run into magic workers in our daily lives and when we do we don’t recognize them. Fictional stories of magic workers are fun and can be inspirational, but most of those stories involve magic that simply doesn’t exist. We don’t have good, tangible role models.
That’s the real value of Low Magick by Lon Milo DuQuette. It’s not a how-to book and it’s not a book of magical theory. It’s a book of real stories about a real magician who started low and a lifetime later is one of the most knowledgeable and powerful ceremonial magicians alive today. DuQuette shares his triumphs and his failures and he talks about what he’s learned from them. In doing so, he shows us what a real magician looks like.
I first discovered Lon Milo DuQuette on Thorn Coyle’s “Elemental Castings” podcasts. He was part of a panel discussion from Pantheacon 2009 titled “The Non-Dual, Polytheism and Contemporary Magic(k): Is the Divine zero, one, many, none, or all of the above?” (Elemental Castings #10) The conversation was amazing in its depth and maturity and I immediately liked DuQuette’s sense of humor. He was also part of another panel discussion on Elemental Castings #29 and had a one-on-one conversation with Thorn on #41.
Low Magick begins with the exhortation “DO NOT BE AFRAID!” DuQuette says “please know that I am not preaching this gospel of fearlessness from the marble pulpit of righteousness and courage. On the contrary, I’m shouting it from the pasteboard megaphone of my own ignoble and cowardly character.” He explains that the fear of magic and what you might encounter with it mostly stems from the dualism of Abrahamic thinking, which DuQuette called “Chrislemew” – Christian, Moslem and Jewish. DuQuette says he doesn’t believe in an all-good anthropomorphic god or an all-evil anthropomorphic devil. He’s not an atheist either. He says
I most ardently believe in (indeed, I worship) a supreme consciousness that is the ultimate source of all manifest and unmanifest existence … the ultimate nature of this super-existence is transcendently Good – a Good we can never adequately define with our words or understand with our meat brains – a Good so all-comprehensively infinite that there can be nothing outside of itself – not even nothing. There can be no opposite of this great Good.
DuQuette tells the story of summoning a demon to materially provide for his family at a time when they were in dire financial circumstances. It didn’t go well – the demon was the worst of his own nature. But after much work – and much suffering – it all worked out. “The real miracle was not the magical quid pro quo of a demon bent to obedience by the will of a magician, but the miracle of a magician who had redeemed a better demon of his nature.”
Lon Milo DuQuette was a magician at an early age. He tells the story of how at six years old he manifested a date with a girl in his kindergarten class. It taught him “my dreams had the power to make things happen … However, it would take me the better part of the next fifty years to understand that the nature of that power is Love, and that without that vital ingredient in the recipe, my magick would always fall short of perfection.”
A large portion of the book is devoted to his story of an exorcism at a Catholic girls’ school. As for how a ceremonial magician came to be doing that instead of a Vatican-approved exorcist, well, that’s part of the story… and it also shows how the current Catholic power struggle isn’t the only place where the nuns know better than the church hierarchy.
I’ve done house cleansings on several occasions. DuQuette’s school exorcism looks familiar… in the same way that a Honda Civic looks familiar to a Formula One race car.
If you don’t know how to do a house cleansing this book won’t get you started. If you already know the basics, this book will show you just how much room for learning and growth you have – and point you in the direction to learn it.
I love the subtitle of this book: It’s All In Your Head … You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is. I see magic as one part psychological programming, one part manipulation of unseen forces, and one part intercessory prayer. The only part I’m 100% sure of is the psychological programming – what’s inside my head. If DuQuette is right – even partially – then it may not matter whether the other parts are “real” or not.
I had been meaning to get one of Lon Milo DuQuette’s books since hearing that first podcast and I kept not doing it. I’m a Druid and my heart lies with Nature and the old gods and goddesses, not with ceremonial magic. But after reading Low Magick, I’m going to go find some more of his books.