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Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic Paperback – February 1, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This book was brought to my attention by one of the best computer programmers I know, and I have to agree that if you have any interest in the occult, either practical or skeptical, you should get ahold of Real Magic. As the publisher correctly notes, it examines every category of occult phenomena, from ESP to Eastern rituals, and explores the basic laws of magic, relating them to already established laws of nature. With wry humor and delightful irreverence, Bonewits brings magic out of the Dark Ages and into the Computer Age in a unique and spellbinding investigation that will intrigue believers and no-believers alike.

Review

Bonewits is witty and possessed of a mind that peers around corners ... a fresh exploration of magic. -- Publishers Weekly (1971)

Definitely something new—a book both scholarly and readable. -- San Francisco Chronicle (1971)

Groundbreaking and thought provoking, this seminal work of magical theory was perhaps the first logical, rigorously sensible look at magic. -- PanGaia, Issue #37, Number 3 of

Groundbreaking, this seminal work of magical theory was perhaps the first logical, rigorously sensible look at magic. -- PanGaia, #3 of 13 Pagan Classics

If you're looking for a book that shoots straight and tells it like it is, this is it. -- CollegeWicca.com

Simply the best general textbook and overview of magic written in modern times. -- The Necronomicon Files
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Product Details

  • Series: Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magi
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Red Wheel / Weiser; Revised ed. edition (February 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877286884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877286882
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elderbear VINE VOICE on March 22, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not stage magic, but REAL MAGIC. Isaac Bonewitz graduated from Cal Berkeley in 1970 with a BA in magic and thaumaturgy. This book is not a grimoire of arcane spells and occult symbols. No recipes calling for "eye of Newt" will be found within. This is a systematic attempt to study, categorize, and perhaps even explain the phenomena of magic, from ESP to Eastern ritual.
Bonewitz does not write a superstitious text. He claims "I am not anti-scientific... What I have objected to is the modern worship of science as an infallible source of truth, endowed with 'supernatural' powers over mortal men."
Early on, Bonewitz describes laws of magic, gleaned from multiple cultures and magical system. These include relatively obvious ideas, such as the Law of Knowledge (Knowledge is power & Know thyself) and esoteric ones, like the Law of True Falsehoods (If it's a paradox, it's probably true).
He considers parapsychology, doing a useful job of considering some phenomena, and a more dubious job of trying to explain them. Nevertheless, this chapter does a coherent job of postulating why "mainstream" science does not verify parapsychological claims.
One of the most important chapters considers the difference between "Black" and "White" magic. "The whole idea of White as Good and Black as Evil is purely the result of cultural bigotries." (p. 95) While magic, as any other tool, can be ethical or unethical, ethics are not a matter of "light" or "dark."
His most practical chapter is the one entitled Fundamental Patterns of Ritual. "The best spells and rituals are modern ones, written by yourself and designed to affect you personally, with your twentieth-century mind." (p.
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Format: Paperback
At first this book drove me absolutely crazy. I hate Isaac Bonewits writing style, his tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, his pedantic editorializing and especially his endless political rhetoric.

At this point you're probably wondering why I gave this book 5 stars.

The reason is because this book is phenomenal. I had to ignore, or at the very least wade through his smarmyness, but what I found when I did so was pure gold. He explains in perfect but simple detail the fact and opinion behind magical practice, from classical hermetics to modern parapsychology. I grew by leaps and bounds while I read it.

This work was the first of its kind: A truly interdisciplinary review of magic and paranormal phenomena. While the author can't be called non-biased (by any stretch of the imagination... on any topic), he is well-researched, logical and thorough. I cannot recommend any book more than this for a beginner in the realm of magic. I wish it had been my first.
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Format: Paperback
Isaac Bonewits' _Real Magic_ is one of the first serious books on magical theory I read, and one that reveals new insights with every re-reading. It is the first book that comes to mind when I am asked about books on magic because of Bonewits' engaging style and willingness to think through his theories. Bonewits himself does show through in his work in ways both good and bad, however.

Unlike many other books on such topics, Bonewits writes in a clear, academic style, with bits of dry wit sprinkled throughout. I found it as lucid to read as an issue of _Science Digest_, and a fair bit more entertaining (his comments on haruspicy, for instance, contain a real howler). _Real Magic_ is written such that the beginner will pick up on the broad strokes while perhaps not catching the finer bits of detail that reveal themselves with further attention. The more right-brained might find it dry, however, as Bonewits examines magic with the tools of various by academic disciplines (I have heard that Antero Alli's _Angel Tech_ may be more palatable for such, but I have not fully read that book).

Make no mistake, this book does focus on magical theory, and it does so from a viewpoint that excludes the concept of the supernatural. I would call it materialist as Bonewits does, but that term has confused people in the past. Bonewits ranges from discussions of common elements of ritual practice worldwide to attempts to explain magical effects using scientific principles. Though there are suggested practical exercises sprinkled throughout, the book is not organized around them.

For those looking for followup reading, _Real Magic_ has an extensive glossary and bibliography, though the age does show on both of them in spots.
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Format: Paperback
"Real Magic" by P.E.I. Bonewits (the only person to have been granted a degree in "Magic and Thaumaturgy" by the University of California) is the sine qua non of magickal handbooks for beginners, whether neophyte practicing mage or the scholarly outsider. Bonewits is a philologist by training, explaining just what certain magical terms MEAN. A "sorcerer," for example, is some who divines the future or casts spells by casting "lots," whether they be tarot cards, I Ching stalks, runes, or the Ummim and Thummim of the Levite priests -- that is the practice of "sortilege," no matter what is being cast or who is doing the casting, woad-rubbed Druid or silk pantalooned spokesman of Jehovah shooting craps with sacred dice.
Oh, and about "the Druid thing" -- Bonewits is one. He's a co-founder, in fact, of the New and Reformed Druids, which began as a collegiate rebellion against mandatory chapel attendance at one school. Chapel attendance was mandatory, but no rule dared specify HOW students should worship, nor WHAT (nor WHOM) they should worship, so modern Druidism was born (along with many inebriated rituals with uisghebegh, literally, "the water of life"), and it grew into a substantial and academically respected religious tradition of the modern world. The scholarly work of Bonewits went far towards this development.
But nothing written by Bonewits for the laity is to be feared as too academically dry for a good read. Au contraire! Bonewits writes with good humor and self-effacement. He remarks, for instance, how the first edition's, "So you've decided that your mother-in-law has got to go" became the second edition's, "So you've decided that the local dictator has got to go...." Thus begins one of the few actual spells Bonewits presents, his spell for anger and destruction.
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