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In The Center Of The Fire: A Memoir of the Occult 1966-1989 [Hardcover]

James Wasserman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 30.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

31 Oct 2012
In this daring exposé by a survivor of a unique era in the New York occult scene, James Wasserman, a longtime proponent of the teachings of Aleister Crowley, brings us into a world of candlelit temples, burning incense and sonorous invocations. The author, also, shares an intimate look at the New York Underground of the 1970s and introduces us to the company of such avant-garde luminaries as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Harry Smith and Angus MacLise. A stone's throw away from the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol's Factory, William Burroughs' "bunker" and the legendary Chelsea Hotel was a scene far more esoteric than perhaps even they could have imagined.

Reconstructed from personal memories, magical diaries, multiple interviews, court transcripts, witness depositions, trial evidence and extensive correspondence, this book elucidates a hitherto misreported and ill-understood nexus of modern magical history. It, also, shares tales of a mythical moment in American life as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic participant in the hip culture of the day.

This is, also, a saga with a very human tableau filled with tender romance, passionate friendships, an abiding spiritual hunger, danger, passion and ecstasy. Further it explores several hidden magical byways including the rituals of Voodoo, Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism. Finally we are given a bird's eye view of the 1960s hippie culture and its excesses of sex and drugs and rock n roll - along with the personal transformations and penalties such a lifestyle brought forth.

When James Wasserman joined the O.T.O. in 1976, there were fewer than a dozen members. Today the Order numbers over 4,000 members in 50 countries and has been responsible for a series of ground-breaking publications of Crowley's works.

The author founded New York City's TAHUTI Lodge in 1979. He chronicles its early history and provides a window into the heyday of the Manhattan esoteric community. He also breaks his decades of silence concerning one of the most seminal events in the development of the modern Thelemic movement -- detailing his role in the 1976 magical battle between Marcelo Motta and Grady McMurtry. Long slandered for his effort to heal the temporary breach between the Orders of A.'.A.'. and O.T.O., James Wasserman sets the record straight. And, he meticulously chronicles the copyright contest over the Crowley literary estate--of which he was an important participant.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ibis Press (31 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892542012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892542017
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 282,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

James Wasserman has been a member of Ordo Templi Orientis since 1976. He has been described as a founding father of the modern O.T.O. and has played a key role in numerous seminal publications of Aleister Crowley's literary corpus. He has appeared in numerous documentaries on The History Channel and The Discovery Channel. He is responsible for the widely celebrated Chronicle edition of The Book of Going Forth by Day, The Egyptian Book of the Dead. His numerous writings and editorial efforts maintain a focus on spirituality, creative mythology, secret societies, history, religion, and politics. He is a passionate advocate of individual liberty.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderfully Honest Account 28 Jun 2012
By Daniel
Having received my copy of James Wasserman's latest offering in the post I dropped all else and got stuck right in. Being someone who is interested in the history of the OTO I have eagerly awaited this titles release. With that said, here are my thoughts having just finished reading.

What struck me from the the beginning was that this was a very personal account of the period in question, that of 1966-1989. Although it is an historical account it is done from a deeply moving personal standpoint. We are taken along James' roller coaster ride of drugs, magick and the ever looming rift between McMurty and Motta. Wasserman gives us a unique insight into the occult zeitgeist, a view which tells of a story that is sad, uplifting, disconcerting and illuminating all at the same time. The brutal honesty in this book is refreshing, Wasserman pulls no punches and lets you in on how his life really was back then. It could have easily been just a tale of mystical experiences and lofty moments of power, of which there are some but these are mixed in with traumatic experiences, failures that we all make as a human being and an exploration on how we move on from that.

This is a book about life, a book about history, a book about love and a book on how to move on when you have screwed up. I highly recommend this to anyone either interested in OTO history or those interested in the human experience of magick.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keith Richards. Gregg Allman ... and now James Wasserman! 15 Jun 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
For a guide through the tortured, frantic and ecstatic 1960s, 1970s and 1980s one would be hard-pressed to come up with a more intriguing and knowledgeable psychopomp than James Wasserman. While the autobiographies of rock stars tend to focus on sex, drugs and rock n' roll (all of which are amply represented in the Wasserman account), what "In the Center of the Fire" does is put all of that into the context of the great spiritual awakening that began in the USA in the 1960s. From encounters with Eastern mysticism and counter-culture rituals to the more demanding practices and theologies of Western magician Aleister Crowley, those of us who survived that period did so with an altered perception of reality and spirituality that was not merely the result of too many psychoactive drugs but also was due to a genuine desire to understand the forces at work behind the scenes of the political and cultural theater that was taking place all around us. None of us grew up in families that worshiped Egyptian gods or danced naked around bonfires during the Rites of Spring; for the most part we were Christians and Jews. But we were active participants in our own religious education, dedicated to exploring every aspect of spirituality and rejecting nothing without first examining it to see what value we could coax from its books, its histories, its teachings and rituals, and its strange and compelling leaders. As someone who was there and who knew Wasserman and the New York occult scene of the 1960s and 1970s in particular, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Those who were too young to have experienced this first hand will come away from the book with a sense of wistfulness; those who were there will recognize in its pages their own histories, points of tangent for personal narratives that intersect Wasserman's in various places: the enigmatic Harry Smith and the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky come immediately to mind. The great Samuel Weiser bookstore in Manhattan. The Ordo Templi Orientis. Even the dread Necronomicon has a cameo role! Written in an easy and engaging style, Wasserman takes us all back to the days when occultism was a fad in New York City, and when the Occult Renaissance was in full bloom. You will learn more about occultism from these pages than you might expect: the good, the bad, and the somewhat-less-than-beautiful! Should be required reading in college courses on modern American spirituality.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Understanding Contemporary Spirituality 17 Jun 2012
By Mark Stavish, The Institute for Hermetic Studies - Published on
In the Center of the Fire - A Memoir of the Occult, 1966-1989 by James Wasserman (Ibis Press)
Review by Mark Stavish

My copy of Center of the Fire arrived mid-Saturday morning and I finished reading the book before going to bed that night. Center of the Fire is an intriguing and insightful tale, not only of the author's experiences of the period, but also of an entire cultural scene that engulfed New York City, and for a time, much of the world. While it should come as no surprise that the twenty-three year period covered by the author often comes across as a drug soaked, borderline orgy, of hedonistic soul-searching, it is in truth, more than that. Wasserman really is a seeker, and the story of his successes and failures, and ultimate outcomes is one many seekers from that time and the present can identify with.

The text of In the Center of the Fire falls into three categories: Wasserman's search for truth; his encounters with spiritual teachers, and his and their failures and victories as human beings; and finally, the intense legal battle that engulfed his life, the OTO, and Weiser Publishing at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. All of this takes place against the counter-culture backdrop of New York City and the early New Age scene of California. If you have read Lon Milo DuQuette's at times hilarious autobiography, My Life with the Spirits, you will find some of the same players in this work, but more also a more detailed look at the at times all to seedy underbelly of modern occultism.

Wasserman has done us a tremendous service by writing this honest, compelling, and human story of his life and encounters on the Path of Return, and why he had dedicated his life to upholding the ideals of Thelema, and the OTO even when he and others have failed to match them all too often in daily life. While it is well known that I and Jim Wasserman are friends, I am not now, nor have I ever been associated with the OTO in any fashion. I encourage anyone who is interested in Crowley, the OTO, 20th Century American counter-culture, and modern spirituality in general to read this book. It is an easy read, but is also ideal for university and library holdings.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A plodding, by the numbers account only the initiated will find of interest 5 Oct 2013
By Christopher Buczek - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author states that he tried to write this memoir for years but could only come up with a few pages. Would that he published those instead of this rambling mess. This tedious account of one man's not terribly eventful life in occult book publishing completely lacks any context that would make it of interest to anyone outside his own circle. If you are not already intimately familiar with the names of the people he cites, or are not well versed in the history and practice of Thelemic magick and the OTO, then DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. Really, trust me, you will be bored, you will skip entire sections searching for something, anything that makes these people and their beliefs worth reading about and then will come to the end and ask yourself WTF?

The one reason I'm glad I read this is that it makes Eco's characterization of the occult underground in "Foucault's Pendulum" as fractured, petty, self-involved and self-deluded all too real.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vital Record of Occult History 23 Jun 2012
By Star Foster - Published on
An important and fascinating look at the history of the OTO, the occult/Pagan scene in New York and California, the author's personal struggles with spirituality and addiction, and a fascinating inside look at the occult publishing scene back in the 70's and 80's.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcomed account 29 Jun 2012
By Frater AISh MLChMH - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was initiated into the O.T.O. not long after the time covered in this book concludes. For over 20 years, I have overheard the occasional bits and pieces of what immediately preceded my time in O.T.O. Besides the occasional scrap of oral history, old copies of the Magical Link were poured over as well as the San Francisco trial transcript which was made available online. Even the occasional perusal of an obsessed archivist's site or Motta's malevolent rantings in the back of his MWT helped supplement what little I knew. Additionally, I personally asked the author a few years ago at a social event about a member I understood as having an initiatory connection with and he kindly obliged me with some of his perspective. However, even with these inquiries, what little I did know remained fragmentary. Thankfully, Br. Wasserman has addressed many of my questions and much more in his book. Instead of the past being relegated to a whisper with endless innuendo and outright falsehoods (i.e. A.'.A.'. "lineages"), we now have a firsthand comprehensive account of many of the events and people who informed it - from someone who was there. For anyone who thirsts to gain some insight into what informs where we are and how we got there, this book is indispensable.
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