In many places you’ll be exhorted to read things, like in A Syllabus of the Official Instructions of the A∴A∴
or Appendix I
of Magick in Theory and Practice (“Bibliography and Curriculum of the A∴A∴”), or to read or recite texts for practices like Thelemic Tephilah
. Almost all of these simple tell you to read or recite the texts but not really anything about how
to do that, especially in a more intentionally engaged way.
Of course, there’s the notion of the practical sonorous magical voice one might use when reading such things, and that’s a topic to consider, but right now I’m talking more about the intellectual way one approaches, even ritually, reading important texts.
A lot could be said about this, but let me touch briefly on a few ideas you might consider.
First, I’ve talked a lot about how to approach things on pages about the interrelated Hermeneuticon
projects. There’s a lot to consider there about how to approach texts in various ways and contexts, so take a gander through those pages.
But those pages aren’t quite a distilled practical process. I also wanted to offer a more useful kind of outline toward a practice you could take up, or modify as you like for any particular text (or book!) you’re reading through.
1) Read through the text or book and, perhaps on the first, or else on a second read through, look for main topics and themes.
2) Consider the context of the text. When, where, how was it written? Was period for the author was it written, with special attention to how their work may have been different before, during, and after this work. Consider what others were writing about similar topics and themes at the time and through time, before and after, that document.
3) For each section of the text, whatever that means for the particular text you’re reading, paraphrase for yourself, in your own way, what that bit is about.
4) Make notes and highlights! Make a record of any questions about the text you have; any terms that are new, unfamiliar or confusing; make a record of any passages that you could have a conversation about with someone else, that sparks you to thinking more or which make you want to recommend the text to others; make a record of any passages to which you have a visceral reaction, like wanting to throw the text across the room!
5) Note any cross references that occur to you, such as other works, by this author or others, that reflect on your current text’s topics and themes. Also, consider checking any available concordance for important terms in the current text that appear elsewhere. Hey! Why not use site search at Hermetic Library to see if any of those terms appear in other texts within the scope of the subject matter?
6) Consider how this text extends past the page for you through reflective practice and praxis. Take time away from the act of reading the text to reflect on it and record any observations or insights you have later. What, if anything, was in the text that you could or would apply in your life, in a practical way?
7) Come up with your own elevator pitch about the book. How would you summarize it to someone in a 10-floor elevator trip? How would you summarize it in just one sentence or a brief 1-floor elevator trip?
8) Extra credit! Send in a write up of your thoughts or your review of the text or book for the library blog!
Haha, see what I did there at the end? Yeah.
This is just one quick sketch of a practical practice around engaging texts and books, but, of course, there’s many others. Do what works for you, but, if you’re not already doing something like this, at least consider that simply reading or reciting a text is only the first step and that there’s a lot to be gained from a deeper engagement with the material available, if you want it.
By the by, if you’ve checked out any of the quotes that I post online, to the blog and elsewhere, you’re reading my own highlighted passages from things I’ve read using a personal practice similar to this one I’ve outlined here!