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Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism Hardcover – October 4, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0520247765 ISBN-10: 0520247760 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book offers a fascinating account of the development of Western sexual magic through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Urban focuses on an extraordinary set of historical figures, and his rich analysis illuminates the sexual - and supernatural - undercurrents that have shaped modernity." - Randall Styers, author of Making Magic: Religion, Magic, and Science in the Modern World"

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"This book offers a fascinating account of the development of Western sexual magic through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Urban focuses on an extraordinary set of historical figures, and his rich analysis illuminates the sexual—and supernatural—undercurrents that have shaped modernity."—Randall Styers, author of Making Magic: Religion, Magic, and Science in the Modern World
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 349 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520247760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520247765
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What is the connection between an early 19th century African American spiritualist, Paschal Beverly Randolph, and the workings of later individuals/groups such as Brotherhood of Luxor, A. Crowley, and the O.T.O.?

How have the ancient tantric teachings of south east asia morphed into the distinctly western practice of expensive weekend workshops discussing "neo-tantra"? What does this say about our collective views of sex, love, and spirituality in this culture?

This is a scholar's book, but the style is accessable, and sometimes witty. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who is willing to think outside of the box and willing to look at this important topic.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Casca on May 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book looks at sex attitudes and practices in Western esoteric traditions, yoga, and aspects of tantra. Urban highlights and intermingles the issues of sex magic, liberation and transgression. The concept of sex magic he uses involves making a magical wish at the moment of climax in order to effect change in the external reality. Urban traces modern sex magic from Paschal Randolph (1825-1875) through Aleister Crowley, various occult groups, to neo-pagans and chaos magic. He notes that a number of practitioners were decidedly misogynist: Crowley, Theodor Reuss, Julius Evola and satanist Anton LaVey. Despite Randolph's high claims for sex magic, it did not help him. He had a severe accident, became alcoholic and suspicious that his wife was unfaithful, and at the age of 49 shot himself or was murdered. Urban concludes that late capitalism has made a fetish of sex, endowing it with mystical or magical qualities. He refers to Herbert Marcuse's concept of "repressive desublimation," whereby, under the promise of liberation of eros, people are enslaved to the consumer culture. Urban hopes that "a more equal, fair and free society" will restore a "magical" quality to sex. Sex magic is based on the idea that the moment of climax has great power. This key issue is not discussed by Urban. Especially for the male, the climax means a loss of vital energy, disorientation and powerlessness. It is called la petite mort for a reason. There is no hard evidence in the book that sex magic actually works. Life is not that simple.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gothiccan on May 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In many respects I would have to consider this one of the better studies of the topic. Hugh Urban does a fine job in giving us an overview of the concepts and persons involved throughout the history of sex magick, and demonstrates clearly the timeless link between religion, social politics, and sex. Most certainly a worthy addition to the bookshelf for any with even a passing interest in the subject.

My only complaints would be the heavy handed manner in which the book is used to vindicate exclusively left wing radical politics, and the relative lack of objectivity in leveling a fair critique of liberal impacts and failures. It seems obvious that the portraits painted are begging for such criticism, but instead we are treated to endorsement of some fairly questionable views.

But perhaps I protest too much. If the reader bears in mind that as an academic Professor Urban is predisposed to conclude the fashionably obvious (read: politically correct) rather than the critically sound, then the whole of this read is less frustrating and entirely worthwhile.

For the historical expose I give 4.5 stars. For the shoddy conclusions, I give 1 star. Overall, because of its fearless treatment of such an obscure topic, I give the book 3.5 stars.
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Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism
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