Saturday, September 27, 2008

Book Review: The Secret Language of Tarot

Symbol systems are an essential part of the hermetic path, tarot is one of the most central symbol systems. Eliphas Levi said that given enough time, a person could learn everything they needed to know about esoteric wisdom using only a deck of tarot cards. That's a slight exaggeration in my opinion, but he has a point. Even if you don't believe in a collective unconscious accessible to everyone, you must admit that symbols like castles, swords and crowns have lifelong associations for those of us who were brought up in a Western culture.

Tarot, however, can be intimidating for beginners. The Secret Language of Tarot by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone can help. Instead of presenting a beginner with meanings of 78 cards, and another set of meanings if the cards appear upside-down, the symbols are discussed one at a time. Some hermetic concepts and mythology are included with the explanations.

There are also guided visualizations given for some of the symbols. Guided visualizations are useful because they get your conscious mind out of the way, allowing your subconscious to play connect-the-dots with the symbols given. Further along the path, there will be other guided visualizations based on the Tree of Life; these visualizations are called pathworkings.

That brings up the best feature of this book. It's not only an introduction to tarot, but also excellent preparation for entering a mystery school. If you're getting started on the hermetic path, you should pick up a copy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book Review: The Great Book of Amber

Are you looking for a good science fiction/fantasy read? Do you have a lot of time on your hands? If so, The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny is a good selection. It's actually a collection of 10 novels, all about a family of superhuman beings who rule a kingdom called Amber. The book's worldview also includes a collection of parallel universes called Shadow. The beings who rule Amber can move through Shadow, changing it as they see fit. The family may be superhuman in abilities, but they are thoroughly human in motivation and behavior. Their interaction is like a soap opera, with plenty of intrigues and betrayals.

Sometimes I read a fantasy novel and come away convinced that the author "knows something." I suspected that about Mr. Zelazny after reading Lord of Light, but 70% of the way through this book, I'm thoroughly convinced of it. In addition to a family-owned set of tarot trumps and a customized labyrinth called "the Pattern," there are even correct references to qabalah.

As I said in an earlier post, a good science fiction/fantasy novel will stretch our beliefs about what is possible. The Great Book of Amber is no exception. Pick up a copy, but be prepared to spend months with it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Review: The Sea Priestess

Dion Fortune is famous as the author of The Mystical Qabalah, the canonical guide to Qabalah as used in the Western Hermetic tradition. Ms. Fortune has also written some novels. The Sea Priestess is said to have the practice corresponding to the theory given in The Mystical Qabalah.

The novel is set in early 20th-century England. The main character is a real-estate broker who lives with his mother and sister. One of his customers is a mysterious lady who owns a country estate. In the course of the book, the lady teaches the protagonist about magic and prepares him for his subsequent marriage. There's also an interesting fireplace recipe involving sandalwood, cedar and juniper.

This book is important because it gives an example of the magical life. As recovering materialists, we do learn various concepts in our studies, but we also have to apply them. The result should be that our lives get better. We grow as people. Little coincidences happen that tell us we are on the right track. Seemingly insurmountable problems disappear with some elbow grease.

If you have chosen the hermetic path, read this book, before or after The Mystical Qabalah.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Book Review: Love is Letting Go of Fear

Are you looking for a simple introduction to the concepts given in A Course in Miracles? If you are, or even just looking for a fun feel-good book, Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky is the right book for you. It's very easy to read, but gives you all of the fundamental concept of the Course: beliefs affect perception.

A warning for those who take themselves too seriously: the book is illustration-heavy, and the illustrations will seem overly optimistic. "I can just push fear and guilt aside? Wow! Who knew?" Maybe it is oversimplified. Most of have spent all of our lives with guilt and fear. It's hard to believe that we don't need to carry around this baggage with us any more. And because we don't believe, we don't try.

If you're reading the Course, you don't need this book, but pick it up anyway. It'll be fun.