After reading a few chapters of The Manual of Psychomagic, I wasn't sure yet whether to take the author Alejandro Jodorowsky seriously. Was he a mad man? Was this book in earnest? The Manual of Psychomagic's collection of bizarre dramatic acts, prescribed for psychological problems, purportedly helped his consultants. These acts are childish, scatological, kinky, sadistic, artistic, offensive, emotionally moving and at times immoral or illegal but they are not shamanic. I laughed so hard I cried at times. At other moments I found the book revolting.
Psychomagic is written as if it is not a parody despite its every attempt to make a farce of family problems, Freudian theory, traditional African and Latin America magic and Western occultism. On his Spanish language website, Jodorowsky describes himself as a mystic atheist. He does not believe in magic. The theory behind psychomagic is that your unconscious mind is not literal nor verbal so you perform these rituals to reach that part of yourself that cannot be healed by talking. Freudian psychological dilemmas are presented in random order with a psychomagic ritual cure. The initial problems involve typical Freudian problems of incest, vaginal insecurity and feeling inadequate as a man because of your father's competitiveness. Each of these Freudian problems is treated with a psychomagic recipe.
The recipes or spells are derived from the imagination of Jodorowsky, hoodoo love and grave magic, even an occult exercise from Paschal Beverly Randolph's Magia Sexualis. None of these traditional or copyrighted sources are acknowledged. Some of the cures are at best ill advised, at worst prone to make the participants ill, ruin their reputations, get them disowned, or locked up. For example, a woman who has been made to feel inadequate for being a woman without a penis is advised to insert coins in her vagina so she comes to see her sexual self as valuable. A mother whose daughter has an eating disorder is described hiring actors to kidnap the daughter so the daughter realizes life is worth living. Children who have problems with a deceased parents are frequently sent to the graveyard with photos, honey, even a pistol to shoot at the headstone. Mixed between these outrageous suggestions, are sometimes beautiful, sentimental spells.
It is unfortunate that the publishers did not include an introduction to the author who is better known in the Spanish-speaking world and France where he has resided for decades. His life story as a mime with Marcel Marceau, member of the absurdist theatrical group Panic Movement, cult filmmaker, author and Tarot reader could hardly be stranger if written by David Lynch. Used as a workbook of theater, these psychomagic acts could inspire better performance. Some of the scenes come across as the worst of Latin American telenovelas brought to life. Other acts such as the one suggested for the healing of the victims of the 1968 Tlateloco massacre are larger than life and too expensive for the consultant to enact. The best way to read this book is out loud with friends so you can all laugh together or groan. I did this and we giggled hysterically. We discussed that an even better way to use this book was to have a party in which guests choose a section they wish to enact. Depending on your friends and their psychological problems, this will either be a cathartic, enjoyable experience or the end of your social life. Under no circumstances should this book be treated as a genuine self-help book. It is an act of theatrical anarchy. Read with caution, believe nothing.
~review by Larissa Viana
Author: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Inner Traditions International, 2015
Originally published in Spanish 2009 under the title Manual de Psicomagia
pp. 245, $19.95