Book review

  • Walking between the Worlds: techniques of modern shamanism, Vol 1
  • Two worlds and Inbetween: techniques of modern shamanism, Vol 2
  • Touched by Fire: techniques of modern shamanism, Vol 3
    by Phil Hine

Reviewed by Francis Breakspear

Visitors to the Occultebooks site may be familiar both with Phil’s work which appears on this site, - and his own site; which contains a wealth of material by him and others on all sorts of occult topics. The esteem in which he is held as an eclectic and innovative chaos magician (whatever that term means, if anything, nowadays), shaman and Tantric is perhaps best summed up by Uncle Ramsey’s review of one of Phil’s other books, Prime Chaos, where RD suggests that in a few centuries time, once the books themselves have crumbled to dust, the only remaining memory of Phil will be the hundred foot high platinum statue of him in London’s Trafalgar Square.

These e-books come from an earlier time; originally released or written in the late 1980s, but age has not wearied them; apart from a few historical references to the Poll Tax they still read as fresh as if they had been published yesterday, which alone is some achievement in these fast-moving times. Fresh, certainly- and sensible, definitely- something for which Phil is rightly noted- there is no ‘glamour’ here, it’s nuts-and-bolts occultism that (a) works, and (b) cuts out the bullshit: for example, three gems:-

“you can enter a particular system and earn for yourself all sorts of fancy degrees and titles, but out in the big wide world the only thing that matters is competence”

and

“it doesn’t matter what system you adopt, so long as the fruits of your activity are relevant to you, and better yet, meaningful to your clients”

and

“(magical work) changes how you feel and behave socially…you may have a very high opinion of yourself, but if everyone else thinks you’re a prat, then it might well be time to sit and think where you’re going wrong”

Hear, hear … and hear, especially the latter, where I suspect we could all name some acquaintances who have been there, and the more honest among us could highlight the times when we have ourselves been that person.

There is an element of snobbery in some magical quarters that shamanism is a fake, some New-Age marketing rubbish, or that as a (usually) third-world technique that it is somehow ‘beneath’ us supposedly more ‘evolved’ intelligent westerners. This could be argued away elegantly in some few pages of text, but the most economical (time-wise) way to dismiss these views is simply to exclaim “Bollocks!”

“Shamanism is the root of all magick, as well as art, dance, theatre and philosophy”. In any case, regardless of your path, you are probably doing some or all of it already, unknowingly: especially if your work has anything to do with Austin Spare… and shamans sometimes employ a technique which involves “taking on the form of an animal to gain (temporarily) an ability or quality associated with it. Children do this all the time in play, and some sports psychologists tell athletes to pick a particular animal and visualise themselves as it, in order to increase their physical performance …and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn called this exercise ‘Assuming the God-Forms’” and there’s a breakfast cereal that advertises itself with the character of a strong Tiger which you will undoubtedly take on if you only eat the cereal every morning…. so it’s everywhere.

If your work involves mantras, invocations, chants… it’s from shamanism…. if you get ‘there’ via dance, or conversely concentrate on holding a posture…. it’s shamanic…. Phil also discusses how crossroads are ‘traditionally’ the place where non-human entities can be contacted- with instances in Greek, Haitian, Hindu and Norse mythology, and brings this into the modern world with references to the corner of every city block in New York being sacred to Voudouns over there, and citing the inherent power which may be involved with the UK’s tangled motorways (‘freeways’, to USA readers) at Spaghetti junction, near Birmingham. A crucial point- it’s not a method which is time-bound and limited to isolated tribes in the rainforests or on the Siberian plains; the work is done from within, so an urban setting is nothing to negate the process, just a different environment in which to do it- all you have to do is recognise that, and use it. I will certainly never drive along that piece of motorway in the same mindset again.

And in any case, politicians have known about the power resident in the shamanic method for centuries: “Dictators… have learnt quickly that if you want to weaken the will of a people, then you have to destroy their dreams, making their myths meaningless and replacing them with your own”

Phil addresses some of the charges leveled at shamanism that also occur as criticisms of the chaos approach- “the mythic power of fiction is often undervalued because people persist in thinking that it ‘isn’t real’. Yet once we enter the Mythic world, historical validity is irrelevant. If a story moves us, and an give us a valid and powerful experience… then does it really matter if it is ‘true’ in the historical sense?” … a neat answer to critiques that also decry Chaotes who use Lovecraftian entities or the Teletubbies, for example…

And of course he’s challenging- the best writers always are: “You may have met one, you may even have been one. The Spiritual people. The ‘I-have-conquered-my-ego’ people. Who don’t drink, smoke, fight, fuck or talk dirty. Psychic fascism is on the move within this not-so green and pleasant land of Albion” … and, this doubtless from experience- “someone will always brand you a ‘Black Magician’, ‘specially if you start asking too many awkward questions”

Phil is insistent throughout that these books are not written from any expert position, he’s just another explorer on the road, sending postcards- and that if something else works for you…. then it works… wise words indeed.

There is much discussion on practical methods, small experiments, both for group and individual work, the need for community in your work, encouragement to innovate, plus a lot of vital commentary on how to deal with the effects of this kind of work (which is often sadly lacking from other, more seemingly authoritative works) with regard to how it affects the self; especially the dangers of being a shaman in the modern, unappreciative and often hostile world- (and with reference to Dave’s article on delusions)- “Our culture has left us largely unprepared for this process (transcendence), branding it a form of madness, to be banished by bright needles and the smug self-satisfied psychologist who explains away our secret dreams, our desires for wildness”.

Three e-books for free, making a lovely, articulate, progressive, practical set - a stepping-stone for those who would walk these worlds. Phil Hine: purveyor of dreams, wildness, awkward questions and elegant suggestions… Thankyou.

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Phil’s site here http://www.phhine.org.uk/

Buy Prime Chaos at Amazon:

UK / US