A Slight Case of Bibliophilia

The Book Fool, a 1494 woodcut by Sebastian Brant

The Book Fool, a 1494 woodcut by Sebastian Brant


Lately I’ve been meditating a lot.

Okay, that’s not quite the truth. Let’s just say that I’ve been meditating more than I had been previously. Which is to say; not a lot, but definitely more often than I had been.

The important point is that during each of these meditation sessions there has been one consistent thing that has been visiting me each time. A voice. A nondescript internal voice. It is not my own “inner space” head-voice, nor is it recognizable as a familiar friend, someone I currently know, or even male or female for that matter.

Each sitting I’m told the same thing: “Clear away clutter. Distill your possessions. Get loosened of items to gain focus. Reduce. Remove.”

The voice is not imparting this wisdom to me in a stern or commanding voice. It is light, airy, mirthful, and content. Essentially, all of the qualities that I (just now as I was writing this sentence) envision I’d take on if I were to follow these instructions. It really got me thinking.

I’m not a hoarder. I dislike heaps of junk. I loathe consumerism for the sake of filling an empty hole or shelf. That is not to state that I don’t have my own hobbies or material interests, just that I enjoy keeping them to a minimum. A virtue that I had to learn the hard way.

Case in point: I used to have an entire room dedicated to crates of vinyl records and other music. Less than 5 years ago I had thousands of rare records, thousands of obscure CD’s, and hundreds of rare and hard to find cassettes. My music room gave me great joy and always fueled me to forever be on the hunt, always digging and collecting and purchasing more. That was the problem.

I woke up one day realizing that I’d been more obsessed and invested in collecting the material objects than I was enjoying the actual music. By quite a large degree. My expensive turntable and speakers grew colder and dusty as I was much too busy combing through San Francisco’s never-ending deluge of used vinyl to actually play a record. It was not fun anymore. The music was missing. The joy of getting lost in music had morphed into a junkie’s need for MORE.

I decided to transfer all of my music to digital files and put it all on an external hard-drive. It took months to convert everything, however the end result was thousands of items stored on a 7 by 5 inch square. I then started trucking it all to local record shops, selling some to other collectors, and overloading ebay with my collection. We turned the old music room into an altar/work room, filled it with plants, and opened up the curtains to let the sun come in. It felt wonderful. The cats loved it.

I share this story with you because I feel that it very clearly illustrates something that I need to be aware of in regards to myself and the situation I find myself in. One that The Voice I spoke of earlier clearly relates to.

I realize that I’ve always had a strong and insatiable quest for knowledge. This will never be able to be stamped from my soul. It’s there. What I can strive for is the understanding that I could easily spend my entire life reading magical books from the last 150 years (and beyond) and learning all I can about the occult and magickal workings of all kinds and from all peoples, but I’d be much happier actually doing the work of which I am currently capable. Not letting “the Collection” get in the way.

I say this after 2 decades of reading and studying and buying anything I could get my hands on regarding the subject. If you’re just getting started out (no shame in that at all) then by all means read until your eyes start to bleed, but at some point promise me that you’ll put the book down and actually try something!

I’ve been devoting time to the pursuit of collecting things that could be used to make magic happen. Not a huge portion, but enough. No where near as worrisome as the vinyl addiction, but similar. At some point the collecting of books and objects, hunting for grimoires, and hours/days/weeks of reading has taken time away from my true love: doing readings, setting lights, making oils and other items, tending altars, talking with spirits. Meditating. Rootwork. MAGIC.

I’ve decided to heed the voice that has been advising me during these times of meditation. I’m starting a mass exodus of those extra things that I’ve been holding on to that have done nothing to further my actual workings. I’ll not live like a monk with only our sweet grey tea kettle and clay mugs, however the time to pare down the collection that has grown around me is presenting itself loudly. It’s time to focus on all of the accumulated knowledge that I have locked in my brain and start putting it to better use. Reading a book on Auto Mechanics may make you knowledgeable, but applying that knowledge to fix automobiles will make you an experienced Mechanic.

It seems time once again to “Clear away clutter. Distill my possessions. Get loose from items to gain focus. To Reduce. To Remove…”

To get focused and to confidently move forward.


Now I just have to start making some piles.

-Joseph Magnuson


2 thoughts on “A Slight Case of Bibliophilia

  1. Aidan Wachter says:


    Oh, how I understand this! My first real job was in a bookstore, and I worked in them for the next ten years. It got bad. I had MANY more books than I could shelve…by the hundreds. I eventually sold about 60 bikes of books.

    A few years ago, my wife and I decided to move out to Tennessee. I culled again, very hard. Down to a couple hundred books. I lived!

    In the past year, I’ve started collecting the occult book again, and have only recently slowed it down. Not stopped it, but slowed it.

    The interesting thing to me is that I love the shit out the books…but largely now as literature. I have my own ways of doing things, spirits I work with, etc, etc…and while my practices do change, I can’t really think of the last time they have changed due to a book!

    It’s interesting, the learning of things and collecting of things. But I do find my time is best spent cutting away at silver, playing my guitar, and spending time with my wife & our animals.

    Have fun with the weeding out!

  2. Joseph Magnuson says:

    Thank you for the reply, Aidan. It’s nice to see you here.

    I will second your “…while my practices do change, I can’t really think of the last time they have changed due to a book…” statement. That is what’s been eating at me. The time I have spent reading through these new stacks of books is time away from my already established practice.

    I will forever continue to read books and absorb new knowledge, but at this point I need to stop putting things on hold and spending all of my time searching for That One New Book…

    I have some copies of each different printing of the book…just because. I saw it and wanted it. Well, it would seem I am starting to grow out (at 37) of that mentality.

    Simple, effective, more sparse, powerful!

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