Philip Cooper's book Basic Sigil Magic is a two-part study on ceremonial magic. In section one, the Psybermancer, Cooper instructs the potential initiate about mental attitudes, misconceptions and physical preparations for the application of any type of magic. He also carefully points out how personal belief can effect the success or failure of a magical operation, and provides suggestions for the reader to analyze him or herself and remove any self-produced inhibitors to success. Throughout the first section he offers meditations in a program of building visualizations for most effective practice. Cooper devotes only chapter four to the discussion of sigils themselves; he places much more importance on preparation and philosophy of practice. In the second half, the Psybernomicon, Cooper classifies magical practice according to a color system reminiscent of that described in Isaac Bonewits' Real Magic. He completes the book with a chapter of practical exercises for the interested reader to build their visualization and concentration skills.
Cooper is careful to inform without becoming esoteric, and his material on preparation for ritual and practice addresses philosophical and ethical issues rarely printed elsewhere. He does have forceful opinions about the nature of the universe and the role of religion. He appears a Classical atheist in the sense of one who does not worship god, rather than the popular conception of an atheist who does not believe in god. Throughout this book he takes care to assert that the practice of sigil magic, and in his view it seems, all magic, manifests most importantly in the subconscious. The single chapter on sigil creation itself elevates the quality of the book; the author chooses to emphasize preparation and an understanding of the self over excessive detail. Sigils, according to this book, are simple. They do not need much discussion. Cooper treats this work as a self-help book, and focuses on the use of sigil magic for psychological benefits first and foremost.
The book offers useful information about magical application, and exercises that build significant skills no matter the philosophy of the practitioner. The nature of sigil magic itself fits easily into any magical practice, whether directly associated with a Pagan path or applied in the more general sense that Cooper appears to use the method. Cooper's assertions regarding belief in karma and the ethical beliefs and behaviors of others may offend the sensitive; at the same time he documents his research and bases his comments on actual experience. Basic Sigil Magic serves well as a tool for building and executing magical skills; this alone makes the book a worthwhile addition to the magical library.
~review by Diana Rajchel
by Philip Cooper
Weiser Books 2001
pp. 124, $12.95