Back in the summer of 2012, some people from my Circle and a partnering coven decided to get together do meet once a month for a special study group. So often we read books but never actually worked through them, so we decided it would do us good to actually do some close studying of something rather than a quick breeze-through.
Christopher Penczak’s Temple series was suggested to the group, and we started with the Inner Temple of Witchcraft and liked it well enough to move onto the second book in the series. We liked the first book okay, but it wasn’t without some complaints. Many of us felt very similarly about The Outer Temple of Witchcraft (the second in the Temple series). Penczak has a lot of good advice, plenty of suggestions, and some interesting ideas. But it seems like we ended up spending our meetings nit-picking his stuff because gosh, there’s so much to be annoyed at.
This book is a bit longer than the first book, but it allegedly goes deeper, building off of the first lessons. I actually feel like the first book was more challenging to me, with a lot of focus on personal stuff (it is the Inner Temple, after all.) This book focused more on external world stuff, and while it was interesting and useful, it wasn’t quite as challenging (with the exception of a few chapters.)
Penczak presents chapters on sacred space, magic 101, ethics, correspondences, roles within magical groups, discussions on Deities, elements, tools, divination, spellcraft, the Wheel of the Year, networking, and a few other witchy things. That’s quite a lot of stuff to include in one book, but these contents work well together in this presentation and format.
I really liked Chris’s spells, charms, and recipes, though the book is not a spell book at all (he just includes a few things.) The Wheel of the Year chapter was super boring, especially for any seasoned witch, though it might be useful for Baby Pagans. We got into huge, long discussions nit-picking his stuff on Deity, elements, and tools. One of my favorite chapters was the one on divination, which was brief but thorough. Our group did a divination and magical tool show-and-tell for a few chapters, which was great fun.
One of my favorite parts about the study group is the side conversations we often have. Working through a book with a group is invaluable, not just because of the focus on the book, but because of the side conversations. You can learn so much from other witches, and sometimes I felt like I left the meeting haven learned more from them than the book we were studying.
And sometimes Penczak made me so angry! I hate how he lackadaisically just uses witch/Wiccan/Pagan interchangeably, when the common consensus in most Pagan communities seems to frown on this. I hate when he talks about the concept of Gnosis, which I understand he’s coming at from a Chaos Magic point of view, but as someone who identifies as a Gnostic and has studied Gnosticism, that whole point of view regarding Gnosis really rubs me the wrong way. I also hate how culturally appropriative and flippant he is sometimes. I think this book can be incredibly culturally insensitive, and I feel like as a leader in the Pagan community, Chris Penczak should know better.
That said, I enjoyed working through the book (especially with the companion CDs and meditations) and I look forward to the next three books in the series. (There are five total in the Temple of Witchcraft series.) I’d say that in the past two years I’ve grown more as a Witch and as a Priestess than I have since I was first a Baby Pagan, and this is quite an achievement, I believe. I owe a lot of my growth to Penczak and his books, for giving me structure, for challenging me, for informing me and teaching me. And in addition, I owe a lot of my growth to the lovely group of witches who have been studying with me. They’ve all been invaluable teachers, every one of them!
So I'd recommend this series, but not without some heavy-duty critical thinking. Christopher Penczak has a lot to offer, but it's up to the reader to decide what is useful and what is pure nonsense.