There are few books I recommend more to new and even practicing magicians than Peter Carroll’s Liber Null and Psychonaut. It’s a fantastic book because it is the ultimate training manual for occult practice. And if you need to self-initiate, this book is a no brainer. It’s made for that purpose in fact.
I picked this book up after a long hiatus from magick in my mid-twenties at the recommendation of a teacher of mine. I was blown away by the clarity and simplicity of the text and used it as my own training manual to get more in tune with the occult. It helped me to develop my mind so I was more open to magick and it also helped me to rethink myself as a person. Win-win all around.
But rather than just telling you that I love this book, let me tell you why.
Liber Null and Psychonaut: The Ultimate Training Manual For Occult Practice
To say that a book is the ultimate training manual for something as vast as the occult is quite a statement.
The reason that I believe this is because the first half, Liber Null, is very simple to understand, straightforward, has 0% fluff or filler content, and tells you exactly what you need to do when in your magickal training. And the latter half, Psychonaut, gives you a good way to look at magickal theory thinking of it as a scientific discourse–or at least something you could approach as experiments rather than pure willy-nilly practice. [For more on the topic of what chaos magick is, checkout my blog post What Is Chaos Magick?]
The book is basically a training manual to take a magickian from a novice to an adept. It starts out with the basic mental state trainings you need and then leads into more and more practical knowledge as the book progresses.
Now, does Liber Null and Psychonaut teach you everything you need to know to fully practice every element of the occult? No. It’d have to be thousands of pages to do that!
The Practice of Chaos Magick
Rather, it gives you enough of a training that you can then practice chaos magick at each of the different levels of adepthood covered and then either go deeper into chaos magick or step into different traditions if you so wish.
But, and this is a big BUT, you have to be willing to actually do the exercises until you get the concepts theoretically and practically. If you’re unwilling to put in the work, then you’re probably going to be disappointed with Liber Null, the second half, Psychonaut, may be of more interest to you; however, for armchair occultists or those interested in magick as a theoretical exorcise, I recommend you focus more on theory laden books like The Great Secret or Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual by Eliphas Levi.
One area in particular I think the book could have more information is on evocation. While everything you need to do is contained on those pages, the description is very short and very likely newer magickians will have issues preforming an evocation from just reading this chapter. [If you’d like to learn more about evocation, please check out my article How to Summon a Demon.]
Liber Null For Mental State Training
In order to really succeed at magick, you need to train your mind to enter and hold the right states (and no, I don’t mean Florida! :p).
This is one of those things that’s written about in almost every occult book, but for some reason few people understand. And it’s also one of the biggest hang-ups magickians have. This honestly baffles me, but I think it’s because so many people just skim through the parts of the books about the mental states–don’t be one of them! Have success… actually do the practices!
A major reason that Liber Null and Psychonaut is so awesome as a training manual for the occult is that it not only explains these states (there are 12 according to Carroll), the points of each, and how to get into them, but if you follow the book as written, you’ll actually learn how to enter many of them before he even explains them to you in the middle of Liber Null.
You really just need to follow the book as written and you’ll already be on your way to getting into the right states with little to no effort. But remember, getting into those states is a skill that takes practice for most people. So, do the exercises until the practices are rather easy and are unfulfilling, then move on to the next section.
Honestly, it should take you several months to get through Liber Null.
The Power Of Sigil Magick
Another awesome part of Liber Null and Psychonaut is the section that teaches sigil magick.
Sigil magick is a rather powerful, but simple form of magick invented by Austin Osman Spare, but popularized by Peter Carroll in this book. The basic method is to create a solid will for something (this means to be 100% congruent with it happening, desiring it to happen, and being ready to do whatever it takes).
In a nutshell, you take a desire you will 100%, write it out, then use the letters to turn it into a visual sigil like the example sigil to the right. You can also turn it into a mantra.
For more information on how to use sigil magick, check out my blog post Sigil Magick For The Chaos Mage.
This frankly is my favorite part of this book.
Carroll argues that the more things you believe to be true, particularly about yourself, the more limited you are.
Incidentally, this is why Crowley and many other occultists are so interested in destroying the ego. While I don’t recommend going that far myself, I think there is a great deal of sense to this.
This idea blew my mind when I read it and finally helped me to make sense of a lot of the things Crowley had said. It also helped me to make sense of a lot of the problem areas in my life: I was still dedicated to many parts of myself that I wanted to change. This dedication will block you every time because from an unconscious mind perspective like psychodynamics or hypnosis, the deeper the desire, the more likely it is to manifest in your life. The deeper desire always wins.
So, to make real change in your life, you need to really clear the way by in a certain sense destroying who you were to make room for who you’re going to become. Or as Carroll writes, “The only clear view is atop a pile of your dead selves” (pg 48, 1987 version).
Finally, the entire section of the book called Psychonaut is about magickal theory. In this section, Carroll lays out his beliefs about magickal theory and tries to explain magick with quantum mechanics and catastrophe theory. This makes the whole chaos element make much more sense, though few people seem to read this section, I highly recommend it. It’ll save you from foolish discussions and unhelpful thinking about magick.
Carroll and many occultists believe that it’s possible to approach magick like a science. If you want to do this too, this section of the book is required reading. Carroll spells this out in a much deeper way than many of his predecessors. If you’ve studied physics deeply, you may disagree with him in some places, but even then, it gives you a powerful leaping off point.
Should You Read Liber Null And Psychonaut?
Obviously, at this point, I think you know my answer: a resounding yes.
But ultimately, what you do is your choice.
So, choose wisely and pick up a copy of Liber Null And Psychonaut today! You’ll be happy you did six months from now when you’re better prepared for your magickal practice!