Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is a classic in the Christian tradition. The format is a series of letters from Screwtape, a high level demon, to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned the task of tempting a Christian. Each letter details a situation in the person's life, with instructions as to how Wormwood should proceed, and a warning at the end about a way that the person could escape Wormwood's influence permanently.

As you can probably imagine, the book is an entertaining read. It may seem on the surface merely to be about how to be a "good Christian," but for those of us brought up in a Christian background, being a good Christian is half of the battle.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Which Path is Right for You?

When King Arthur's knights set out on the quest for the Holy Grail, it is said that each of them entered the forest where they thought it was the thickest. In other words, they each chose their own path, starting at the point that seemed to them to be the most difficult.

Before talking about which path is right for you, I want to go over the two main categories: mystic and hermetic. Paths in the hermetic category tend to emphasize balancing and integrating the various parts of the personality with the eventual goal of transcending it, and realizing the essential unity of all things. This category includes qabalah, tarot, and ceremonial magic.

Paths in the mystic category tend to emphasize transcending the personality and realizing the essential unity of all things, with the assumption that the various parts of the personality will be integrated and balanced on the way. This category includes the Course in Miracles, Buddhism, kabbalah, and esoteric Christianity.

You may have noticed that there is some overlap between these categories. To understand why, imagine a group of people who decide to climb a mountain, and for whatever reason, decide to scatter themselves around the base and start up. Naturally, the higher up the mountain they get, the closer they will get to each other.

So which path is best for you? Whichever feels most comfortable at the moment. You have to start where you are. And don't worry if the path isn't difficult like those of King Arthur's knights. Difficulties will arise soon enough.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Book Review: Chicken Qabalah

If you have chosen the hermetic path and are looking for an accessible introduction to Qabalah, Lon Milo DuQuette's The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed ben Clifford is a good choice. Not only does it give you the basics, but it's a very entertaining read. As an example, instead of the Ten Commandments, he lists the Ten Command-Rants. My favorite is the sixth, which is rather zen-like:
In order to overcome our defective powers of perception we must be willing to abuse them until they break.
The Hebrew alphabet, the four worlds, and the Tarot are all covered. There is even a derivation of the Tree of Life from a series of student papers. The treatment is very casual with "Don't worry about it!" being a catchphrase, but the information given is solid.

There is also a section about ceremonial magic, specifically summoning spirits, which tells you a lot more that it seems if you are willing to read between the lines. In answer to the question "Are the spirits part of me, or do they live an existence independent of me?" he replies: "The spirits are inside you, but most of us do not realize (1) how big our insides really are, or (2) how much out of control and seemingly independent the things inside us can be." This, dear friends, is exactly what this blog is aiming at: there's more to life (and to us) than meets the eye.

If you found The Mystical Qabalah to be difficult reading, The Chicken Qabalah will be a helpful introduction. Or read it if you just want a good laugh.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Review: Everyday Grace

I mentioned in a prior post that the road to recovery is something you must devote your entire life to. It is not enough to learn some new principles or have an intellectual knowledge of unity. What we are aiming at here is changing our lives. Marianne Williamson, author of Everyday Grace is here to help.

Ms. Williamson lists five basic principles to apply to your daily life:

  1. Miracles happen.

  2. The angels are waiting for us.

  3. Thoughts of judgement block the light.

  4. The end is inherent in the means.

  5. Sacred silence rights the universe.

The rest of the book illustrates how to apply these principles. In the morning, for example, why not read something inspirational (like the Course in Miracles) instead of watching the news on TV? Or try asking for a different perspective on the rude drivers on the freeway. Or try going into a meeting with the intention of doing or saying something helpful.

This book belongs on your reading list, especially if you have chosen the mystic path.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Step 7: Share the Wealth

The revised step 7 is as follows:
Having perceived the world differently, we strove to spread the message to materialists everywhere, and to improve our lives with the knowledge gained.

If you're on the right track, something about your life or the way you look at your life will change. This change will be readily apparent both to you, and to people who know you. Your friends and family may not be able to identify exactly what is different, but they will notice. Some of them will be curious and ask you about it. So tell them. Don't violate any secrecy oaths, or try to talk a fundamentalist out of it, but discreetly share some of what you've learned with those who express interest.

If your life hasn't changed, are you applying what you've learned?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Book Review: Putting on the Mind of Christ

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. -- John 14:12

I first heard about this verse while watching a DVD of a talk by Micael Ledwith, who you may know of from the What the Bleep? movie. At first, I didn't really believe it was in the Bible, so I had to look it up for myself. Sure enough, it was there, and I came to the conclusion that mainstream Christianity is missing something major.

Jim Marion, author of Putting on the Mind of Christ: the Inner Work of Christian Spirituality, says that main thing we're missing is that when Jesus said that "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," he really meant it. The book details how to experience the Kingdom for yourself, and the stages you'll pass through on the way. I don't want to steal any thunder from the author, so I'll just say that if the church had told me about this stuff, I'd still be there.

This book is firmly on the mystic path, but even if you've chosen the hermetic path, you will still find this book worthwhile.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Step 6: Get to Work

Step 6 is as follows:
We sought through meditation and study to experience God and perceive our world differently.

The eastern traditions say that we are actually already enlightened; we just don't realize it. Realization of enlightenment is just taking that last step. However, the baggage must be dropped first, and getting to a point where we're ready to drop the baggage is what takes the time and work.

For this step, read everything relevant that you can get your hands on. Take some time to think about what you've read, and how it relates to your daily life.

As I mentioned, there are two main paths: mystic and hermetic. Both have the same long-term goal, but the short-term emphasis is different. For the hermetic path, joining a mystery school may be helpful. For the mystic path, I don't think you can do any better than A Course in Miracles. My recommendation is that you try both, and continue with whichever one you like best, or do both.