I’m jumping on a bandwagon with this review. Others have already spoken out on the quality of both the writing and the production of the Epoch, but I feel a certain obligation to add my thoughts for many reasons. For starters, a new book by Peter J. Carroll always makes waves through the chaos magick continuum, and we would be fools not to give it the coverage it deserves. Also, Mr. Carroll was gracious enough to give us an interview before the release, and it seems only right to tell people about the book now that it has arrived. Especially since the creators have taken the brave stance of not releasing the book on Amazon. They felt that Amazon’s demands were unjustifiable and they don’t appreciate the company’s dodgy business practices. Though I sell on Amazon myself, I empathize with those beliefs. So without the Amazon juggernaut to facilitate distribution, more word of mouth is required. Last, I am just a huge fan of Peter J. Carroll and I’m just too damn excited not to share.
The Epoch consists of The Esotericon—a 200 page, 11 in x 9 in, hardbound book, lavishly illustrated in full color. Its workmanship reminded me of some of the high-end RPG books on the market by folks like Paizo Publishing and Onyx Path. My only beef with the construction is the three column format laid out landscape, at times makes the book difficult to handle. Though I suppose it does give the book more gravity. I myself would have appreciated a PDF to accompany each purchase for reference purposes, but I understand why the creators would be shy on that idea. The second part of the Epoch is the Portals of Chaos cards illustrated by Matt Kaybryn. The cards are much larger than any card set I’ve seen before, each one 9 in x 5 3/4 in. While some decried the use of computer artwork on the cards, it is obvious to me that the style was intentional. Computer created art does not look that way these days unless someone is doing it deliberately. Each card is an amazing rendition of a theme, be it a god, element, or elder being. The cards seem flimsy, but they can withstand some wear. I spilled wax on my Thoth card and it came right off without damaging the card. You’re going to want to start looking for some kind of case for your cards right away. I am thinking of hollowing out a book for the purpose.
The first chapter of Esotericon lays out Peter J. Carroll’s history of magick from Antiquity to H.P. Lovecraft. It includes his personal system of Aeonics, which is the only part I take exception to, partly because I am probably too wrapped up in my own, and also by necessity, Aeonics paints large swaths of history with a broad brush, which by its nature obscures the nuanced truth.
I did find fascinating his idea that we are moving from a Platonic Pagan-Monotheist paradigm, loosely put, looking for god from without, to a Quantum Neo-Pagan paradigm that looks for god from within.
The second part of the book describes a totally new system of correspondences called Chaobala. For someone like myself who has never felt attracted to traditional Kabalah, this is a godsend. With a masterful hand, Peter Carroll sets up a path of metaphysical understanding working up from the classic Aristotlian elements, through Baphomet as a symbol of universal life, through a range of god-forms both Western and a few Eastern, to at last end up at the Lovecraftian Elder Gods, used as symbols for humanity’s new existential, cosmic perspective, as we stand ready to use our new god-like knowledge to take our place amongst the stars or totally annihilate each other.
This is where the cards come in. While they can be used for divination, they are designed for use as altar pieces for evocation and invocation of the elements, gods, and elder beings. It can be seem as akin to traveling up the Tree of Life. A magician can work their way through each invocation, learning about themselves, the many parts of their psyche, and their own ability.
The last part of the book contains Peter J. Carroll’s own Necronomicon. Unlike the versions that have gone before, the author does not feel a need to make a slavish pseudo-reproduction of the fictional book. Nor does he write a modern goetia with the names cut and paste from Lovecraft’s Mythos. This is a totally new grimoire, which approaches the material in a thematic sense. Carroll points out why the Mythos have been so appealing to readers, and especially magicians, for years. Though he’s not the first to call Lovecraft’s creation a mythology for atheists, he takes that idea and applies it to a system that appeals to the modern chaos magician. It is also blessedly detailed, with full instructions on creating magical tools and the incantations for the principle deities in the system.
Without a doubt the Epoch will have great influence on the chaos magick paradigm and modern magick in general for years to come. I think every magician, even if they have their own correspondences, should examine the Chaobola system for its elegance and breadth.
In the UK and Europe, purchase the Epoch directly from Arcanorium College for 30 pound. In the US, it is being distributed by Weiser Antiquarian for 60 dollars, and you save considerably on the postage. My copy from Weiser came signed and contained both a postcard from Arcanorium and a book mark. It is my understanding that Weiser has sold through its first shipment and subsequent lots may or may not have these features.