This morning when I read the news from Phaedra that Isaac had passed away I reached immediately for the copy of Real Magic that has been alternating of late between my desk and our magical altar here in our SF office. I opened up, not surprisingly, to this passage:
“My entire memory has been broadcast to all the world and it is now a part of your memory. Conversely, somewhere down deep inside, I have all of your memory as a part of my memory. Now, when I die, you will still have all my memories intact inside your head; and when you die, others will have your memories of my memories, ad infinitum.
The final result is that each of us has, buried deeply, the memories of every living human being as well as all the memories of those who are now dead. The vast net of billions of interlocking metapatterns with their innumerable subpatterns is what I call the Switchboard, for reason which will soon become obvious.”
Isaac was a ground breaking individual, who influenced people (and especially pagans) to think for themselves. He did not write to please nor to pander, he wrote to spread a truth about a movement that was real, as real as magic itself. And he did so with humor, wit, and honesty.
Full disclosure: I was not yet born when the first edition of Real Magic published in 1971. But this book was among the books on my mother’s shelf that led me down a path of magical study and witchery. It certainly one of the first books on magic that I had ever encountered that had a sense of humor. I guess Isaac knew instinctively that laughter facilitates relaxation and openness to learning. And for that he will always remain one of the greatest teachers. He was the talk of the coven when he became the first academically accredited magician, graduating from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in magic and thaumaturgy. He helped my generation, and his own, to understand that magic need no longer be hidden, or kept under wraps at your day job. When I started working at Weiser Books, Real Magic was one of the first books I pulled from the shelves of the great library here at Weiser. I was fortunate enough to converse with Isaac on occasion; his was always a gracious and clever voice at the other end of the line. On behalf of all the staff here at Weiser books, old and young, we would like to express our condolences to Phaedra, and to Isaac’s son Arthur, and all of his family. Please share your memories here of Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits, and in so doing keep true to his words. Broadcast his memory to the entire world. –Amber Guetebier, Assistant Editor, Weiser Books