Book Review: “The One Year Manual” by Israel Regardie
The One Year Manual by Dr. Israel Regardie
Originally Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment
1981, Weiser Books (1976; originally 1969)
10 out of 10
God bless brevity. There is an awful tendency in occult literature to go on and on for hundreds of pages without saying much of anything of use. Most of Regardie’s books are relatively short, and the ones that are not spare no space for filler but are densely packed with information in the truest sense.
The One Year Manual is the ideal “beginner’s guide”. It is short (the editions in my possession going to 70 pages, plus preface and suggested reading list), by design, and wastes not a single word on nonessentials. With a stated mission to avoid convolutions of theory in favor of simple, effective practice, Regardie provided the would-be magician and/or mystic with a complete kit for at least a year’s worth of training.
The book starts off with Crowley’s four solar adorations, which amount to simple, poetic prayers for the four “stations” of the Sun throughout the day. The goal is simple: the Sun, as a symbol of the Unknown God, is “adored” throughout the day to keep the student’s awareness focused on the Divine, while at the same time giving a sense of connection to the macrocosmic universe and its great movements and cycles.
Body awareness follows as the first “step” of the work; this is practiced at a set time each day, as well as throughout the day during normal routines. The benefits are manifold and include a greater degree of self-awareness, Zen-like mindfulness, and the gradual relaxation of physical tension.
The second step concerns a method of very deep physical relaxation. In addition to deepending relaxation and body awareness, the student also learns to use this technique for healing simple physical ailments and complementing medical treatments for more intense illnesses. It is worth nothing that these two exercises also tend to produce a meditative state, which stands the student in good stead for more advanced training systems.
The third step, breath control, depeens the meditative state and further enhances physical and emotional relaxation. Just as importantly, we learn through breath to deepen our relationship with the vital energy which exists and moves around and through us.
What is generally the first step in contemplative and meditative practices, mental awareness, is the subject of step four. This is quite simply quietly and nonjudgmentally observing the flow of your own thoughts. Here, the student becomes very deeply acquainted with herself, as well as gradually relaxing her thinking-mind’s tensions.
Expanding on the previous step, step five introduces the student to mental concentration, and deeper meditation, by way of mantra repetition.
The second, more active, portion of the year is opened in step six with the training and strengthening of the will. Do to the discipline and concentration developed over the past few months, this exercise will likely come easily. Still, it is the first time in this programme that the student exerts any active volition as opposed to more or less passively experiencing herself.
Step seven changes the nature of the work dramatically by introducing the daily practice of the Rose Cross Ritual. This ritual is, in my opinion, one of the finest techniques to come out of the Golden Dawn’s corpus. While Regardie does not state it implicitly, this ritual has some profound effects for the careful student. It banishes negativity, makes one astra-mentally invisible (as opposed to most banishing rituals, like the LBRP, which tend to “light one up” on the inner planes), and tends to induce a deep sense of divine peace. This ritual acts as a very intense prayer, and can really exalt and humble the student.
Step eight, as is the trend, expands upon the previous work by intensifying the student’s awareness of Divine Presence and energy by way of the Middle Pillar Ritual, another gem from the Golden Dawn.
The remaining four exercises are more or less abstract magico-mystical practices entitled, in order, “Symbol of Devotion”, “Practice of the Presence of God”, “Unity—All is God”, and “Invoke Often! Inflame Thyself with Prayer”. While profoundly different on the surface, these final steps are the perfect culmination to the training year in that they entail finding and employing personalized, emotionally and intellectually engaging methods of prayer and meditation.
These final chapters also include words of immense wisdom and beauty as well as encouragement. They are alone worth the cost of the book even to the most advanced student. I return to them periodically as “inspirational reading” and find them to be ever refreshing.
While definitely based in the Hermetic and Kabbalistic systems and traditions, there is nothing in this book which cannot be easily adapted for training a new student in nearly any magic-mystical system. I myself simply handed The One Year Manual over to my own student and said, “Here. This will be your course of training for now. If you can make it through, you’ll be ready for anything else you choose to study.” For the budding Hermetic, I can imagine no better first year of training than this book with, perhaps, The Kybalion and Regardie’s The Tree of Life to provide theoretical foundation.