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Recommended Books

September 2000 

"What if you're not a Magician?"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952


Quenched by Mary Ann Mitchell, Leisure Horror, pb April 2000

Leap Point Kay Kenyon, Bantam Science Fiction, March 1998


In the July 2000 column, "Magician's Greatest Risk" I pointed out that anyone who has power of any sort is at risk. That includes every sort of mundane power, from money to merely attracting publicity. But what if you're not a trained magician? What if you don't know how to handle power? What if every time you've tried to do anything important, (fitting in, getting a college degree, making a living, getting married, staying married?) you've failed?

With a history of failure in life, what do you do to change things?

"Co-incidentally" in the July 2000 issue of The Monthly Aspectarian, Guy Spiro interviewed Lynn Grabborn, author of Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting. I haven't read this book yet, but from the interview I can see that Grabborn is cleanly delineating a Magickal principle in terms those who do not want Magick in their lives can understand and practice.

She has other methods of teaching her system, the core of which is daily practice, but it suddenly occurred to me that selective fiction-imbibing is the ideal method of introducing daily practice of these principles into your life.

As I understand it, the core of this system is to focus one's emotional attention on that which makes us feel good, feel happy, feel satisfied, feel healthy, feel powerful, feel in charge -- in short, to raise emotional energy in the color or tone of that which is POSITIVE rather than that which is NEGATIVE.

The socially sanctioned attitude in our culture is to "play the game" of "ain't it awful." We focus on how the government robs us with unfair tax laws, on how we aren't seeing our paychecks go up with inflation, on how the best people our age are already married, on what we want, what we don't have, what we should be able to get, what others have that we don't. We've forgotten how to count our blessings. (that used to be a pop-song on the radio -- it would never sell today)

In short, we focus on how we are victims of external forces that we had no part in originating, and that nothing we do or say can affect in any way. Grabhorn says that to change the situation, we must change the focus, we must change the emotion we are feeling from the angst of wanting to the joy of having. If you feel like a victim, you'll be a victim.

Guy Spiro, in that interview with Grabhorn said, "The mental vibrations are at a higher rate than the emotional. The emotional vibrations are closer to the physical."

This is an adroit translation of a Magickal principle into plain English. The Qabalistic Tree of Life, repeated 4 times in a chain, forms a glyph called "Jacob's Ladder" -- the path from everyday existence to Heaven and back. The Tarot deck replicates this as the 4 suits, Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles. Wands is the mental or philosophical level, Fire. Cups is the emotional or subconscious level, Water. Swords is the habitual action level, Air. Pentacles is the concrete-consequences level, Earth.

Grabhorn is pointing out that you can visualize and meditate forever (Wands) but if that mental energy does not shift down to Cups (emotions) -- then actions (Swords) will have no power to manifest (Pentacles) any consequences of your meditations.

Nothing in your life will change unless your emotional habits change. The tone or color of the emotional energy that fuels your actions determines the consequences of your actions. Whether you succeed or fail at anything depends on the kind of emotion behind your actions.

That emotion is your motivation. A "motive" is "that which moves you."

Grabhorn is saying it doesn't take strict, lifelong Magickal training to change our internal emotional climate. We just have to learn to understand (contrary to current social sanctions) that what we feel is a big determining factor in the success or failure of our actions.

This philosophical attitude toward life -- that we are victims of larger forces outside ourselves -- is expressed in a huge wave of sf/f/horror fiction that has risen to the top of the popularity charts.

The vast majority of this type of fiction uses multiple point-of-view, or Omniscient Narrator point of view.

The multiple point of view, floating among many characters, most of whom don't know each other, care about each other, or love each other is particularly effective in focusing the reader's attention on the forces in motion that are sweeping individuals along to their destinies without their knowledge, choice or cooperation. It prevents the reader from identifying emotionally with the characters.

For that reason, I rarely review books of that type in this column.

I have two of them for you this month, one horror, one sf, which are very, very well written, filled with powerful imagery and characters drawn with rich detail. They're both very likely to focus your attention on just what Grabhorn says deflects wealth, relationships, health and the other things we want in our lives. And they're both very popular, successful books.

Grabhorn said: " A person can be a brilliant teacher or scientist or surgeon and still be a child emotionally -- and still be lauded. we've come across the era of 'let's get in touch with our feelings, and fear.' Heavens, that's not what I'm talking about! 'Let's get in touch with our feelings about how awful our parents were and how terrible our childhood was.' No, no, no!"

Horror is the best genre for "getting in touch with fear" and exploring the scars of childhood battering.

In Quenched, Mary Ann Mitchell depicts the Marquis de Sade in modern times -- living as a vampire, leading a nest of vampires. This novel won the International Horror Guild award. It is an excellent novel, with sure, powerful prose, and an artistic discipline behind the writing that makes it very powerful.

But notice the back cover where the publisher tells us why we should buy the book. "Mary Ann Mitchell writes expressionistic hallucinations in which fascination, Eros, and dread play out elaborate masques." -- Michael Marano, Author of Dawn Song. And the publisher summarizes the novel, "an Evil stalks the clubs and seedy hotels of San Francisco's shadowy underworld. It preys on the unfortunate, the outcasts, the misfits. It is an evil born of the eternal bloodlust of one of the undead the Marquis de Sade and his unholy offspring feed upon those who won't be missed, giving full vent to their dark desires and a thirst for blood that can never be sated."

"A thirst that can never be sated."

Grabhorn is saying that focusing our emotional attention on that within us which can "never be sated" is what gets us in trouble -- is what causes failure.

Focusing on the emotion of being overwhelmed causes us to be overwhelmed. Focusing on the emotion of being unsated, makes us be unsated.

Kay Kenyon, in Leap Point, uses a mosaic point of view to depict the bewilderment of an innocent hero (Abbey McCrae who only wants to find out why her teenage daughter died) in the face of an alien invasion of Earth which "only she can stop." We flick from person to person, without any emotional logic to the pov shifts.

Our Hero, Abbey, pits herself against this outside, overwhelming force for the sake of love of her daughter, and closure, and she succeeds. This would have been an example of the very best sort of sf/f that I give my highest recommendation, except that the way the imagery was used, the mosaic-of-points-of-view, prevents in-depth identification with the main character and her driving emotion.

The story itself is my kind of story. The underlying framework of the structural style however, presents the world as a series of images and tasks disconnected from each other.

The kind of emotional focus Grabhorn recommends requires an understanding that one's external reality is a result of one's internal, emotional reality.

Next month we'll look at novels about heroes who start out as victims of impossible, overwhelming circumstances, and yet live Grabhorn's principles, taking you along for the ride, and with relentless emotional logic, build a new, successful reality.


Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952







Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,



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