I’m willing to bet many of you have not read any of Ophiel’s little books. I would not have taken any special notice were it not for the enthusiasm shown by Fr. Thabion (Poke Runyon) in this Hermetic Hour podcast (Go on, listen to it. The bit of business with the call-in by Dr. X is worth the price of admission, over and above the usual ration of wit and wisdom).
Ophiel (equals the magical pseudonym of Edward Peach; it refers to the ruling intelligence of Mercury. Nice choice: he says that one of his other books goes into how to find a proper magical name) lived in Southern California, and died in 1988 at the age of 84. According to the book, he studied matters occult for over 30 years on his own, having once been surprisingly turned down for admission into an unnamed magical order (probably because he was already no beginner when he contacted them). His delivery is straightforward and folksy. The books were originally self-published before Weiser picked them up, and they were never copy-edited; so they read like long letters from a wise but not pedantic old friend. Ophiel is completely frank about where he stands on his journey, what he knows and what he doesn’t. He is also brutally frank when assessing the worth of other occult authors, so if you find horn marks on one of your sacred kine while reading this, I warned you!
Ophiel spells out four methods of working with inner-plane projection: his own “little method,” the dream method, the development of the Body of Light, and the Symbol System (working with the Tattwas). The systems can overlap; in the Hermetic Hour podcast, Poke Runyon describes his early experience with a combination of the little method and dream-work. The little method involves thoroughly memorizing every “landmark” of a familiar route, say from your bedroom to the kitchen, including magical signs you might place along the way to help. You go over this and over it, and one day you find yourself doing it in your sleep … in an etheric projection. Ophiel says that these tend to give rise to higher projections, and sure enough, Poke’s experience started as an etheric projection wherein he was walking, and ended with him flying out of his back yard and into an unremembered astral projection. You never forget your first; mine was more along the lines of trying to figure out why the ceiling was six inches from my nose until I gave up and dropped back into deep sleep.
There is a lot of confusion in the literature about this phenomenon. Ophiel gives an important key to it: when discussing the various energy bodies (etheric, astral, causal, mental) he says that what’s happening is simply a transfer of consciousness from the physical body to one of the others, and the others already have the abilities of accessing other points of view in space and time. So, we continue to keep a sense of a body about us, being carried to where our attention has traveled, because that satisfies our expectations; but it need not be so.
Ophiel’s instructions open out into an exciting vista of magical work. He envisions developing the (etheric) Body of Light to the extent that it can be used as a familiar (note how similar this is to the “fetch” of traditional Witchcraft).
I’ll need to check with Fr. Thabion at some point on this, as he said during the podcast that the body of light should be made on the astral (lit., “with astral fluid”), whereas it looks to me like Ophiel meant that the body of light should be an etheric projection from which one can more easily manipulate the astral.
Given the fluidity of all this, it might make just as much sense to develop a “Multi-tool of light” and dispense with the appearance of a human (or animal) body altogether.
After reading this little book, I see how unsystematic my own experiments have been, so I will be starting over with fresh confidence. My best dream-work was done during a period of time where I was sleeping regularly (and taking 6mg of melatonin every night), meditating a lot, and being faithful about writing in my dream-journal. I had some huge dreams, and some fragmentary remembered projections even then. Obviously, I am not among the 25% who project naturally and easily (Monroe Institute estimate cited in the above-mentioned Hermetic Hour); and neither was Ophiel.
The book could have used the loving touch of a copy editor, and there may be some artwork missing from this edition, as Ophiel refers to pictures supplied on the inside covers, which are blank.
Minor quibbles aside, this book is an exciting discovery. It’s really the first one of its kind that has made me feel that this work can be done systematically, and see how it fits into the rest of magical development.
This is worth a look by every practicing magician, frankly. It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this and getting nothing out of it.
The Art and Practice of Astral Projection
5 3/8 x 8 1/4
January 15, 1974
[Complimentary review copy from Red Wheel/Weiser gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]