cover image On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician

On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician

Catherine MacCoun. Shambhala/Trumpeter, $19.95 (265pp) ISBN 978-1-59030-369-6

MacCoun follows up her acclaimed novel Beyond the Abbey Gates with a richly gratifying exploration of alchemy. Writing for the advanced magical practitioner who is a novice alchemist, MacCoun represents this ancient art as a kind of spiritual graduate school. Through her vivid storytelling and crystalline prose, she maps out the mental landscape of alchemy, showing how the process is similar to that used by religious mystics. MacCoun devotes the first half of the book to encounters with spirits the practitioner can expect while on the alchemical path. In the rest, she explains how the everyday can become fodder for spiritual growth. Using the traditional components of alchemy as a metaphor, the base metal of a tragic life event or even a bad mood can become source material in the process of personal transformation. Everything in MacCoun’s cosmos stands ready to lead the adept toward the deeper truths of reality. This approach may disappoint literalist readers who are hoping for the secret to transforming base metals into real gold, but for MacCoun the purpose of alchemy is the construction of a philosopher’s stone in one’s heart, leading to the total transformation of the self. (Feb. 12)