The Black Ship by Malphas

The Black Ship
Malphas
Waning Moon, 2009
120 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Kirsten, who awesomely agreed to give me a hand with the last of the backlog of review copies.

Hello there, guest reviewer Kirsten, here.

I’d like to open by saying that this book, while barely more than a hundred pages (111, to be a bit more precise), is more of a daunting read than expected, probably not for those just starting out; there’s a level of familiarity with magical practice as a whole that is taken as a given, though no single background is assumed. This is dense stuff; a spare and nicely open-ended framework of a system, seemingly based in bits of a strange array of things that I’d never have guessed would work together, and may not for some; chaos magic, hints of Temple of Set and Order of the Trapezoid-type left hand path imagery, a take on Feri’s triplicate soul-system, ancestor traditions and Gnosticism. It’s a guide to a bare-bones framework that is both deeply weird, and one of the most grounded and levelheaded examples of a left-hand path that I’ve ever seen.

The Black Ship neatly avoids much of the anti-establishment posturing and oh-so-evil imagery prevalent in many books on left hand practices, though some of the terminology used is down those roads. Instead, it adheres to the idea that in order to do anything useful outside of yourself, you first have to have your house and your head in a good working order. And you are given tools with which to sort these out, sets of practices and meditations that are very, very simple, the kind of simple that could be very useful if you have the know-how and want to tweak it, though they work fine on their own as well.

There are some places where the author’s fervour about their purpose for the whole thing gets a bit…purple?…and muddies the clarity of the lesson in question. The exercises themselves are very clear and well-worded, but the author’s intended application can get strange. Not a bad thing, mind you; strange can rattle your head out of its well-worn paths, shift your modes of thinking a bit, but some might find the concept of specieswide evolution via mass magical intent a little off-putting. All of the pieces of practice I named are in the service of a very transhumanist, transformative philosophy, here, one that goes happily hand-in-hand with technology and even space travel.

My biggest qualm with this book is with one really very simple thing. There are repeated mentions of a ‘Pandemonium Mandala’, which diagram or shape is never given, or even described beyond a very vague sentence in the beginning, to the reader. This drove me absolutely nuts, because it is spoken of as something very important to meditate upon and use as symbolism. However, none of the problems here really intrude on the appreciation of a good, solid, left-hand-as-in-focusing-on-the-self-first set of works. Taken with a judicious application of salt, there’s a great set of tools here, even if you don’t want to work with them precisely as the book says.

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2 Comments

  1. Stephen Sennitt said,

    December 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

    This must be a first: A ‘fluffy’ Left-Hand Path book! – sharing the same slackness, incoherence/lack of intellectual rigour, and indulging in the same type of uncritical wishful thinking, as its wiccan/New Ager RHP counterparts.
    The author reads like Konstantinos on a bad day, as there is no philosophical, metaphysical or theoretical depth to this short work whatsoever. Instead it is comprised of a series of bald statements, where the author says ‘such-and-such’ is so, without any qualifying exegesis of any kind, leaving the reader no choice other than having to accept the author’s notions of ‘The Pandemonium’, ‘The Chaocosm’ and other lazy, unsubstantiated concepts at face value… Either that or dismiss the entire book as the product of some ageing goth (?) whose ego is so large, he thinks his statements should be accepted without him having to do any work to win over his readers. Truly awful twaddle! Read Kenneth Grant, Order of Nine Angles or Frequency 435 instead.

  2. Genghis Smith said,

    May 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Ah…Stephen Sennit leaves exactly the same review as he did at Amazon. Well, I’ve never read this book but to dismiss it as “twaddle” and at the same time recommending the truly egregious Kenneth Grant seems a bit rich. I’d go back to reading H.P.Lovecraft Mr Sennit, after all, its really ” real” isn’t it?……..isn’t it?


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