The Outer Temple of Witchcraft
by Christopher Penczak
442 pages + Appendices, Bibliography & Index
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason
Christopher Penczak is one of those rarities in the field of Pagan/Wiccan authors. Like many authors, he tells the reader to experiment to find what works for the individual. UNLIKE many authors, however, he admits to many initial doubts when he began his studies. Too many authors say something like “I knew right away.”, and even though I can empathize with that position, it is not the most common response. It is far more common to question the reality of what is experienced; to dismiss successful spellwork as coincidence; to see unsuccessful rituals as “proof” that magick isn’t real.
Unfortunately, one of my personal bug-a-boos rears its head in this book once again – typographical errors. Now, I realize that I am not reading these books for a living, but if I were I would want each book to be as free of errors as possible, and there are way too many mistakes to gloss over. Most of them are simple, but that is no excuse. By no means the first (nor the last) such error is on page 215, in “Psychometry”. The second sentence starts out “The reader holds and object.” when it should be “The reader holds an object.” Every time I come across such an error, it jars me out of my rhythm. There are other instances where a word has been dropped and, while that is not a problem for an experienced individual, it could be a cause of confusion for the less knowledgeable.
Christopher supplies plenty of examples when he assigns exercises. And, most importantly in my opinion, he explains his reasons for doing things the way he does while still encouraging individual experimentation.
Christopher provides a lot of information which is available in any number of other sources. However, he also provides alternative information if that doesn’t connect for you. He also provides a lot of encouragement for the beginner to experiment and find the connections that work for the individual student.
While I don’t always agree with his statements and beliefs (we have had widely differing training and experiences), I do have to acknowledge that he presents a unified, consistent system. Unlike many authors, he makes no attempt to do it all in one book. This is the second book in what, I assume, is intended to be a five volume series. This allows him to devote plenty of time and space to explaining his reasoning. Each volume is capable of standing on its own, but they do form an interlocked chain which should, in my opinion, produce well-trained, well-grounded practitioners.
He provides a self-administered test in the first appendix. While there are no right or wrong answers here (most of the questions center on feelings and opinions), taking this test will help you to define YOUR understanding of the Craft. Whether you are reading this book as part of your own training, or simply to see how another person feels about the topics covered, this text is a valuable resource.
Appendix Two provides some sample chants for the seasonal rituals, while the Bibliography is wide-ranging enough to be valuable to almost anyone. It isn’t terribly extensive, but it runs the gamut from Laurie Cabot (Christopher’s first teacher) to Donald Michael Kraig – and believe me that is quite a gamut.
He has created a CD companion to this work (which I have not heard). It provides the individual with an opportunity to have an audible guide through many of the meditations and exercises in this book. It is available from Llewellyn (ISBN 0-7387-0532-2) as a four CD set for $24.95. While I can’t recommend it, since I haven’t heard it, I suspect it would be a useful companion to this book.