Book Review: High Magick
A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row
All too many occult books are bogged down by archaic language and deliberately obscured meanings. In contrast, the latest volume from Damien Echols offers refreshingly direct explanations of the theory and practice of magick, which the author defines as a spiritual tradition based on teachings from Gnostic Christianity, esoteric Judaism, and Taoism, as well as from divination methods such as the Tarot and the I Ching.
As one of the well-publicized West Memphis Three, Echols spent 18 years on death row for murder before being released on the basis of new DNA evidence. Whereas his first two books focused respectively on his life in prison and his relationship with his now-wife, High Magick is a plainspoken manual for magickal aspirants. Echols credits the practices herein with saving his sanity during his prison sentence, as well as facilitating his release. His favored practice, high magick, is primarily geared toward one’s spiritual development, as opposed to low magick, which is mainly concerned with improving one’s material conditions.
After laying out the fundamental principles of magick and the rudiments of meditation and visualization, the author presents the three core rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: the Middle Pillar, which is designed to help its practitioners manipulate energy; the Qabalistic Cross, whose reputed benefits include enhanced focus and stress reduction; and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which, among other things, is said to cleanse one’s aura and surroundings and to yield energetic protection and mental clarity. Also covered are breathwork, invocation, meal blessings, the practice of magick in urban settings, and the creation of thoughtforms (“packets of energy stamped with a specific intent or purpose”), which for Echols include the tattoos that can be seen covering his flesh on the book’s cover.
For beginners, High Magick serves as a clear and concise introduction to this discipline. For those more experienced, it may help clarify concepts that have previously proven elusive. —Damon Orion