Book Review: Initiation in the Aeon of the Child
J. Daniel Gunther
Ibis Press (January 1, 2009)
Reviewer: Shawn Gray
This is truly one of the most informative new esoteric books that I’ve read in quite a while. When I heard that a new book had come out that was immediately put on the required reading list for students of the A∴A∴, I wasted no time in borrowing it from a friend. After reading it through, I wasted no time in getting myself a copy as well. Gunther’s 30-plus years of A∴A∴ experience comes shining through in this work explaining the new formula of initiation in the Aeon of Thelema and the how this applies to the methods of magick and mysticism as taught in the A∴A∴.
Gunther is not new to the field of publication, although this work will likely be the one that he becomes best known for. He serves on the editorial board of The Equinox (published by Weiser) and has also acted as consultant and adviser for other publications on the subject of occultism. This combination of both publication experience and practical knowledge in the magick of the A∴A∴ makes Gunther eminently qualified to write a book on this subject, as indicated by both Hymenaeus Beta, head of Ordo Templi Orientis, and James Wasserman, well known occult author and practitioner, in their comments on the jacket and in the introduction.
The author’s aim in writing this book is to shed light on the change brought to initiatic formulas with the advent of the New Aeon of Thelema, and how these changes affect aspirants in their practices and outlooks on life. One way in which he does this is to compare and contrast the new initiatic formula with the old motif of the Dying God with its “corrupt model of Purification Through Suffering.” This is certainly not the first time that this comparison has been made in a literary work, but the depth and knowledge that Gunther brings to the discussion makes this book a fascinating read. Rather than simply quickly and shallowly describing the Egyptian background to the Thelemic understanding of the Aeons of Isis, Osiris and Horus, as has been done many times before, Gunther brings well documented Egyptology to the table. His use of academic references provides the discussion with a solid grounding in sound scholarship, and his explanation of the detail of Egyptian hieroglyphs is one that I found fascinating.
The Egyptian angle is not the only one that the author uses to support his discussion. He also makes use of the psychological work of Jung and Neumann in discussing the role of images and archetypes in formulating our understanding of the initiatic formulas. With the weight of these scholarly sources lending stability to the academic foundation of his work, Gunther makes use of key texts of Thelemic mysticism (The Vision and the Voice, Liber LXV, etc.) to explain the unique perspective on the process of initiation encountered in Thelemic systems — both O.T.O. and A∴A∴. While the author explicitly states that he is not a member of the O.T.O., he certainly has a deep understanding of the Thelemic initiatory process in both systems (and offers an enlightening discussion on the differences between the two in a recent interview on the Thelema Now! Podcast).
Despite all of the scholarly references, the footnotes, and the impressive bibliography (which can be intimidating to some), Gunther’s book is not a difficult read. At only 191 pages (excluding the excellent glossary and appendices), it is not overly lengthy. On the contrary, one wonders just how it is that the author packs so much “advanced” information into such a short work and still manages to make it so readable and comprehensible. It’s like Aleister Crowley meets Lon Milo DuQuette. In fact I must concur with Wasserman, who on the back of the jacket states that in his opinion, this book is “the most important original work to be published since the death of Aleister Crowley.” Hymenaeus Beta even goes so far as to state that this book deserves a place in the curriculum of the O.T.O., showing what kind of reception this book is getting in the Thelemic community in general.
The originality of this work is one of its strongest points. It does deal with some material that has been covered before on a cursory level in other books, but the depth that he brings to the discussion of the theme of Thelemic initiation, and the degree to which he elaborates on themes that many people may only have a passing grasp of, make it a valuable and educational read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to those interested in Thelema — its mysticism, cosmology, and system of initiation.
©2009 by Shawn Gray.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.