Sacerdotium Umbrae Mortis book review by J. Praus

The author writes “The book is a complete system of initiation and ascension in the grades of The Priesthood of the Shadows of Death, an order of predatory sorcerors who specialize in the practice of energy vampirism and in the necromantic conjuration of revenant phantom shades from the eleven hells of the Qliphoth.” To this reader’s mind, this work is much more than the grimoire of a certain specialized order. 

   Mr. De Laval starts with an introduction of condensed wisdom which should be required reading for occultists of every type. The whole work is well referenced, and the appendices are clear and useful. It is written in the vein of Kenneth Grant, who the author clearly admires. There are considerable materials from gematria and Qabbala. His discussions of the Sephiroth-Qliphoth correlations are particularly well done. His fresh translations gave me new insight, for instance Samael meaning “spice, medicine, narcotic, and drug, in addition to poison or toxin.” This certainly opens up new ways of looking at important concepts. The rites are well described, with clear explanations. The grimoire approach seems somewhat of a condensation of information, and I wanted more discussion, especially about the psychological aspects that he alludes to. 

   "By endeavoring to extend the horizon of consciousness, to enlarge the field of awareness so as to embrace what previously was unconscious, is obviously a logical method. To become aware of all our actions, our thoughts and emotions and unsuspected motives, to regard them in their true light as actually they are and not as we would like them to be or as we would wish an onlooker to perceive them. It requires, to take this step, an extraordinary degree of honesty and courage... The more of this suppressed and forgotten material stored in this at one time unknown or dormant side of our nature that can be raised to the clear light of day, by exactly so much do we awake from the inert stupor into which we have in the past been plunged." Israel Regardie, The Middle Pillar.

 (from A. Crowley, Synopsis on Six Articles on Drugs, 1923, quoted in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, K. Grant) “Every man should learn to master his passions absolutely… The preliminary condition of success is to obtain a clear view of the subject in every detail, by accurate and intimate analysis. The first step is, obviously, to conquer the fear and fascination which the slightest allusion to the subject arouses in the ordinary man or woman… It is therefore essential for people to acquire a complete intellectual mastery of the subject. When they can contemplate any given sexual idea without emotion of any kind, they are well on the way to freedom. It is merely the same principle as that on which we act when we train a medical student to watch operation and dissect corpses, without weeping, fainting, getting cold feet, etc. The surgeon must look at his patient as an art critic looks at a picture, or a lawyer a brief. As long as he is excited about it, he cannot see straight; he becomes confused, and is totally unfit to pronounce just judgment or to take proper action. This may sound platitudinous; yet most people cannot even understand such an explanation as the above – the mere mention of the subject throws them into a blind spasm of lust, either exploding in priapism or camouflaged into shocked indignation.”

   Why are witches and sorcerers feared and hated? Probably because we go where others cannot. We can use feared and socially ritualized matters like sex, death, predation, and healing without approved methods and mediators. This represents anarchic power, both feared and desired by others, who rightly perceive a possible threat to themselves and the existing social order. Psychoanalysis quickly moved beyond the idea that bringing a matter into consciousness would clear up blockages and symptoms. It requires much more examination and ‘working through’.  Mr. De Laval understands this. (page 18… “.. for the purpose of inducing arcane psychoanalytic states of self-reflection, which if properly exploited may sharpen one’s character and make her a more potent force of change and influence in the universe.”) An excellent description of a mage! 

  “Caveat Zelator”, I pondered why the warning? Surely those who would be interested in a work of predatory sorcery know the risks by now. Perhaps not all though, as many have a romanticized view of it being a quick road to power, love, and wealth. It is surely apparent to all serious practitioners that as one works with magic, magic works with you. Rather than to be avoided, emotional issues are a sign you are doing it correctly. We want change, inside and outside of ourselves. It gives us the material to work with, the energy and desire to cause that change. Still, the results of magic and change are poorly foreseeable, and magical practice is no substitute for genuine psychotherapy. Unfortunately, rare is the psychotherapist who is magically knowledgeable and frankly able to work with issues that left hand path practices may bring up. Perhaps many magical practitioners avoid psychotherapy out of fear or out of a misplaced grandiosity.

Aesthetically, the book presentation is very high quality, with thick paper, clear and well-organized type and figures. The writing is clear and eminently readable. The work has a coherent framework and succeeds very well in its aim. This work is not only a grimoire, but a great example of left-hand path spirituality and psychology.   I heartily recommend this excellent book, and I look forward to many more from the author and Aeon Sophia Press. 

In nomine Draconis, Julie M. Praus, MD