This is a more scholarly book than the one by Alan Baker, with the same title. It is a study of the ritual magician in western culture from classical times to Crowley. For Magonia readers, the ritual magician can be seen as the contactee of his age. There are some differences to be sure, for most modern contactees and abductees 'the Other' crashes in on their world without bidding, whereas the ritual magician sought contact on his own terms through the performing of complex and burdensome rituals. Of course some contactees actively sought contact, by means of meditation or attempts to telepathy, such as silently saying "calling all occupants of interplanetary craft". In some cases, such as Bender, it was claimed that this resulted in contact of a decidedly unwanted kind.
The entities that ritual magicians sought to contact were a good deal scarier than even the meanest grey. Either angels or devils, they were beings of power, descendants of the forces that tribal shamans sought to contact and establish alliances with. If you ventured out of the magic circle or let them in, then rather literally there would be all Hell to pay. The ritual magician went through all of this for much the same reason that CETI projecteers seek contact with the far stars through radio telescopes: they wanted the wisdom and power of the Others for themselves.
Sadly when confronted with the powerful Others who could offer them the secret of the universe on the equivalent of the back of an envelope, all too often they settled for a spell which would get them into the knickers of the local barmaid. One suspects contactees come up with equally banal requests.
Unless we propose to start believing in literal demons, we have to ask what the forces that ritual magicians thought they had contacted represent. It would appear that they represent the chaotic forces of wild nature, kept at bay by the symbolic camp fire of the magician's magic circle. The power that the magician seeks is that of wild nature untrammelled bv human mores. No wonder that this power seemed so scary. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 87, February 2005