Welcome to the OFFICIAL 'About The Author' page of:
Lionel Snell is among the founding names in chaos magic – though better known as Ramsey Dukes. In 1970 Gerald Yorke (keeper of the Crowley archive) introduced me to the writings of Austin Osman Spare and I wrote “Spare Parts” – an introductory article about his system of magic – that was published in Agape 4 in 1973 together with a facsimile of my copy of “The Anathema of Zos”. This, together with my first published books “SSOTBME – an essay on magic” and “Thundersqueak” played a seminal role in the nascent Chaos current. I am also known for my contribution to cyber magic, having pioneered the “information universe” concept twenty years before The Matrix. While many magical writers begin by taking you to another world, a world of wonder, I begin our magic quest right here in everyday reality – where it is most needed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born 1945 to parents that were early members of John Hargrave’s pre-war woodcraft movement The Kibbo Kift. The family moved to the Cotswolds that year and began renovating an isolated ruined water mill. The village schoolmistress suggested a scholarship to Clifton in Bristol – where was to discover the superb alchemy and magic collection of the late EJ Holmyard. Ordered The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage from Gloucester library in 1956.
A sequence of scholarships and a county grant took him to Emmanuel College Cambridge where he graduated in Pure Maths, studied the works of Aleister Crowley and others in the University Library and took a Diploma of Education while teaching maths at Eton College. Early interest in the occult was also encouraged by family friends – including some late 50s psychedelic pioneers, Ted Bryant, a disciple of Aleister Crowley and friend of Frieda Lady Harris and later Gloucestershire contacts Helios Books (Gareth Knight et al), Gerald Yorke (Crowley archivist) and Bill Gray. With advice from Yorke he wrote a couple of “unpublishable” books on occult philosophy (“Johnstone’s 20th Century Occult Philosopher and Skepticall Politick Theorist”, and “Uncle Ramsey’s Bumper Book of Magick Spells”. Hermetic historian Christopher Macintosh asked him to write an introductory essay on magic that would be expanded and self published in 1974 as “SSOTBME – an essay on magic” that ran to 2 English, a German, 2 Polish editions and a US editions before being further revised and expanded in 2000.
In 1977 he performed the Abramelim operation and wrote Thundersqueak – ‘a cult classic among the punks in Iceland’! – and later described as an “ur-text of Kaos”. Was a founder member of Gerald Suster’s Bloomsbury essay club ‘The Society’. Was initiated with anthropologist Tanya Luhrman into a North London magical order in 1983, and into the Caliphate OTO in mid 80s. At end of 80s was invited to Lockenhaus Castle, Austria, to hold workshops for the IOT chaos magic conference. Initiated into IOT.
Published Words Made Flesh (pioneer exploration of virtual reality) and 2nd edition Thundersqueak in 1986. Wrote The Good The Bad The Funny (exploration dualistic and trinitarian thinking) in 1993 and did occasional lectures/workshops on occult and magical topics including Crowleyanity. “Blast your way to Megabuck$ with my SECRET Sex-Power Formula – and other reflections upon the spiritual path” a volume of collected essays made it to Telegraph Books of the Year 1993. Represented the OTO in a Channel Four TV programme addressing tabloid mis-representation of the occult and published “What I Did In MY Holidays” in 1998. Began e-publishing in 2000 and revived early books as Print on Demand. As Ramsey Dukes, wrote “Uncle Ramsey’s Little Book of Demons” for Aeon Books in 2005, and “How to See Fairies” in 2010. Started a very successful YouTube Channel featuring short talks on magic topics in 2015.
Since 1986 he has worked as freelance corporate communications consultant specialising in IT and networking business and has been MC for a number of NetEvents Network/Telecoms industry European and N American Press Seminars. In November 1999 he married a South African whose family had been exiled to UK for their opposition to apartheid movement and moved to London and then to Cape Town.
People are fascinated by magic but few understand it. Most would rather deny, demonise or glamorise magic rather than ever admit to thinking magically. Rationalists that are concerned by the growing popularity of alternative healing, astrology and New Age ideas, ask: “whatever happened to the Enlightenment?”
The assumption is that "The Enlightenment" marked a break with a superstitious past; it was a forward leap for humanity after which any return to magical thinking would be regressive, or even impossible. But there is another, cyclic, view that sees the Enlightenment as having turned the clock back two millennia to the Classical era, the source of and inspiration for today’s linear timeline, atomism, causality, science and humanism.
But classical rationalism itself went into decline. The Roman era saw a resurgence of magical thinking that laid the foundations for alchemy, astrology, alternative healing, and much of today’s magical ideas and practices. Pontius Pilate famously asked “what is truth?” and postmodernist philosophers are raising similar questions two thousand years later. So is the revival of magical thinking just a natural evolution of thought, to be expected after five centuries of rationalism?
The author was brought up in the materialist 1950s and educated in that sceptical Enlightenment tradition to become a Cambridge mathematics graduate. Despite that, he became increasingly interested in magic and the occult and is now recognised as an authority on the subject. So how is it possible to shift from our knowledge of scientific reality to an acceptance of magic? The book describes the author’s own subjective experience of how that evolved over his lifetime.
Parts One and Two outline some of the important influences on his thinking and Parts Three and Four expand on CP Snow’s idea of two cultures (Art and Science) to propose four cultures: Art, Science, Religion and Magic. Part Five looks at the conflicts and misunderstandings between cultures and reasons why magic gets a raw deal or is simply denied as a culture.
Part Six summarises the case and the Part Seven looks at contemporary trends and assumptions to show that the rise in magical thinking goes far deeper than just the visible popularity of astrology columns and alternative healing. A penultimate chapter provides practical suggestions for those willing to explore the possible value of magical thinking.
Lionel Snell is, in my opinion, the most lucid, coherent and insightful intellect to emerge from British occultism for some several decades, and in My Years of Magical Thinking he presents his most considered and powerfully reasoned work to date. With an amiable and amusing clarity, aimed at the mainstream rather than at an audience already persuaded to esoteric notions, Snell presents his fascinating models of human cultural development and provides his own convincing answer to that disenchanted modern query, “whatever happened to the Enlightenment?” Crackling with fresh ideas and perspectives, heavy with the sense that a reconsideration of occult concepts might offer solutions to some contemporary dilemmas, My Years of Magical Thinking is a sane and sensible meditation upon a subject that is often dismissed as anything but, as well as a pinnacle of current magical theory. Highly recommended.
If you look up ‘Magical Thinking’ on the internet, the first several dozen entries take a uniformly negative view of it. Scientists, psychologists, and anthropologists tend to regard Magical Thinking as something foolish, childish, or primitive, whilst religious commentators tend to regard it rather negatively as some misguided precursor to proper religion. However Lionel makes a very strong case for Magical Thinking as a very necessary way of understanding the world and of interacting with it. He also demonstrates that we all use the magical style of thinking, and use it effectively, far more often than we realise, although we do tend to call it by other names, and shy away from fully exploiting it. Until the advent of this book nobody had managed to properly and inclusively define Magical Thinking. ‘Magical Thinking’ seemed like something you sort of hopefully acquired by osmosis through studying and practicing magic. Unlike ‘Scientific Methods & Principles’ which we can state and teach explicitly, the magical style of thinking remained ill-defined until this seminal book. So many magical books seem unsatisfactory and this book shows us why. So many of the older and newer magical books failed to encompass real magical thinking and ended up as confusing and confused tomes of either bad science or poor religion or dodgy art, or mixtures thereof. Perhaps only a thinker such as Lionel, fluent in science, art, magic and religion, and with the keen analytical mind of a mathematician, could have precisely identified what ‘Magical Method & Principles’ actually consist of, precisely how they differ from the methods and principles of science, art, and religion, and how they provide a distinctive and powerful way of interacting with reality. I had gradually come to assimilate and appreciate some of the methods and principles of magic over the course of a career but to see the whole lot and more, the entire philosophy of it, all in one place, came as a revelation. I refuse to try and summarise the book here, you must read it yourself, preferably at least twice. Lionel’s exposition of the relationships between art, religion, science, and magic has tremendous depth and subtlety and explanatory power. Most fascinatingly he argues that magical thinking naturally follows on from scientific thinking in a cyclic fashion, rather than acting as some distant precursor for it. Nobody should attempt to write another book of magic or about magic, until they have thoroughly studied and understood this one. This book looks like a game-changer.