Having read several self-help and personal-improvement books over the past few years, the recent trends are hard to ignore. Most of the books on the market covering these themes tend to simplify life changes and introspective reevaluation to the point of claiming it is as easy as saying ‘Yes I Can’. With the popularity of The Secret and guided imagery, even talking to yourself is taken out of the equation, and simply wishing or imagining personal improvements is supposed to be enough to bring about radical change.
So reading Catherine MacCoun’s book, On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician, is a much needed breath of fresh air in what has always seemed a cliché and uninspired genre.
MacCoun’s title and subject matter may at first put some readers off with its references to arcane alchemical arts and magical properties. But what she has actually managed is to offer a fresh perspective into how people make choices, perceive the world around them, and live their lives. She does so by introducing us to an innovative blend of spiritualism and psychology, in much the same way that Alchemy itself blends scientific observation with objective mysticism.
Granted, chapters like the one that uses scenes and terminology from Harry Potter to illustrate a point may take the magician aspect of the book a tad too far for some people. But the message within is much more grounded in reality than some of the ‘guided imagery’ feel-good books cluttering the bookstore shelves these days.
The true test of any book of this nature is the ability of the reader to glean something constructive and useful from its pages, even if they do not buy into the author’s overall message. Readers of MacCoun’s latest will undoubtedly have no trouble walking away wiser and more aware, no matter their take on becoming a Modern Magician. And that, as they say, is magic.
Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson