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S.S.O.T.B.M.E: An Essay on magic (Revised and updated)

By Ramsey Dukes, published by The Mouse That Spins at £12.30. 149pp. ISBN 0-904311-08-2 (Reviewed by Barry Walker)

Books on magic(k) are always risky to review. A mooch around your local Waterstones New Age department will provide you with many yards of shelf space groaning under the load of the output from US New Age imprints. It is a sad truth that most of these books are invented dross and will teach the reader nothing about magick, other than maybe any book with an airbrush picture on the cover is not worth picking up.

Then we come to the book I’m reviewing here. S.S.O.T.B.M.E. is a very different creature indeed. Subtitled an essay on magic, it sounds like it will be a dull if worthy work. It’s not easy to distil the premise of this book into a few short lines. But I’ll try to anyway, with due apologies to Ramsey Dukes if I over simplify it.

In the book Dukes posits that we move through cycles of thought, from religious, artistic, scientific, and magical; that while most people born into the Western World view life through scientific mind sets, we are moving more and more towards a more magical way of thinking. That magical thought is, as Mr Dukes states, acting, “as if” rather than “it’s True”, giving equal value to the subjective as the objective. In doing so, he looks at the different ways of thinking that results from these cycles. He defends magic from the charge of it being an irrational escape for the credulous and the gullible, a charge often made by those who claim the mantle of Scientist.

As well as a deep look into magical theory the book also teaches you how to be a Magician. But don’t expect pages of ritual and spells for you to read out, rather this book manages to convey what is going on in the mind of the magician as he ( and it could just as easily be she) performs magic.

This is a revised reissue of S.S.O.T.B.M.E. I have read (and own a copy) of the original and found this expanded on that, making it a more rounded work. I consider this, along with Thundersqueak, Mr Dukes strongest works. It’s a real book of magic. It’s witty, insightful, and well written. Others about to write a book on magic would de well to read this first.

If you have not read any of Ramsey Dukes books this is a fine place to start, I loved it, it reflected many of my own views on magick, there is nothing I can find to criticise in the book.