Friday, December 25, 2009

George Carlin and Christian Athletes

George Carlin used to complain in one of his routines about Christian athletes "who thank Jesus whenever they win, never mention his name when they lose." It's a valid complaint if you're a fundamentalist materialist, but if you know about the Law of Attraction, what these athletes are doing makes perfect sense. Being thankful for good things that happen on the playing field attracts more things to be thankful for. I don't know if these athletes know that, but it works anyway. So, the bottom line is, Jesus may not need our gratitude, but we do.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: You are Psychic!: The Free Soul Method

I recently reviewed You Are Psychic: The Art of Clairvoyant Reading & Healingby Debra Lynne Katz. You are Psychic! The Free Soul Method by Pete A. Sanders, Jr., also addresses psychic development, but the approach is different. It's more scientific, if that word makes any sense when talking about something most scientists would vehemently deny. However, the author describes some experiments he performed, and his working process. Forming a hypothesis, testing it with experiments, and confirming or revising the theory based on the results is exactly what the scientific method is about. If mainstream science refuses to accept the results because of the subject matter, well, so much the worse for mainstream science.

The book deals primarily with four basic psychic senses: intuition, psychic hearing, psychic vision and psychic feeling. The author says that anyone can develop any or all of these four senses, but that each of us will have one sense that has more strength than the others, depending on a person's temperament and general approach to life. (In my case, the stronger sense is intuition.) Each of the senses is matched to a part of the body where the sense is said to be centered, and instructions are given for activating that sense. The book also describes sensing auras, healing through biofeedback, and some of the implications of psychic development.

There's one implication that I want to talk about today. It is my feeling that as more of us explore our psychic abilities, as a result we will have a better understanding of each other, and will lead more peaceful and happy lives as a result. I'm not saying that it will all be a bed of roses, as quite a bit of dirty laundry will have to be aired in the process, but that laundry needed to be aired anyway.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review: Partnering

You can go to any bookstore and find a set of shelves full of books on relationships. If the divorce rate is any indication, the vast majority of these books just don't work. I found one in the "New Age" section that has a different approach. Partnering: A New Kind of Relationship by Hal and Sidra Stone, has a couple of concepts that I haven't seen in any other relationship book (and I've read a few).

The first key concept is that what is said doesn't matter as much as who says it. The authors mean that we tend to fall into parent/child type roles in the course of the relationship, which is fine if you're raising children, but not so much for romantic partnerships. They're not necessarily bad in themselves, but we get into the scolding parent or approval-seeking child role without realizing it. What the book recommends instead is consciously choosing which role is best to play at the time.

The other key concept is energy exchange, and there's a related concept of the relationship as an independent entity (O.K., that one's not so new). The relationship has its own energy needs, and keeping the exchange going keeps the relationship healthy.

This has been a brief review, but the authors tell the story much better than I can. The book has certainly explained why things have gone wrong for me in the past, and it should prove very helpful in making things go right in the future.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Church of Yahweh

I found this link while looking for study groups on the Meditations on the Tarot book. I've spent a few hours over the weekend looking over the material on the website, and it's the real deal. While I haven't seen much that you wouldn't find in the metaphysics section of Barnes and Noble or Borders, or that you would get from my favorite mystery school, the presentation is very accessible and well thought-out, with the required academic rigor.

I'm sure that anyone who follows this blog will find the site very interesting.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Review: Transforming Fate into Destiny

There is a belief that creativity and structure are opposites. This belief killed poetry around the turn of the 20th century, and almost killed music and the visual arts. This belief is not quite accurate. In fact, creativity cannot exist without structure. This is because without structure, you get random noise, and one bit of random noise is indistinguishable from the next. The greatest writers, composers and artists all worked under well-defined structures.

What I've just said about structure and creativity also apply to our lives, which are being composed, though not quite in the same way as a symphony or novel would be. This process is the subject of Transforming Fate into Destiny: A New Dialogue with Your Soul by Robert Ohotto. In the model used by the book, the structure of our lives is called "fate", and the results of our creativity within this structure are called "destiny." But what is this structure and where does it come from? The idea is that there is something designing things from a higher level than we can see where we are. You can call this something God if you are a Christian, or your Higher Self if your beliefs are more New Age or (like me) spiritual but not religious. This higher-level design is the structure. Certain major life events are planned in advance, but we still have the freedom to work within those parameters, and the result can be something better than either party could have planned or experienced alone.

If fate and destiny are of interest to you, I recommend you get a copy of the book and try the exercises, especially the one about ego prayer vs. soul prayer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: Intuitive Astrology

I've been recommending Astrology for Yourself: How to Understand And Interpret Your Own Birth Chartfor people who want to learn about astrology, or at least about what their birth charts can tell them about their lives, but now I have an alternative for those of you who are more right-brain-oriented. It's Intuitive Astrology: Follow Your Best Instincts to Become Who You Always Intended to Be by Elizabeth Rose Campbell.

This book takes a unique approach in that it doesn't just tell you what the planets, sign, houses, and aspects mean, but instead give you questions to ask yourself, and encourages you to access your own intuition to find out what the components mean for you personally. Now we all need to relate the components of the birth chart to our own lives, but this book has you do that up front. You can always read the laundry lists given by other books later.

The best part of this book is the chapter on the planets. A description is given for what each planet does, and you are asked how this applies in your own life. This is a very useful exercise because it can show you parts of yourself that you didn't know existed. This alone makes the book worth the admission price.

I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn about astrology, but especially to those who like to use their intuition and to those who are given to self-examination.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Review: The Occult Christ

Having read The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila and Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, I knew that there was a strong (if not well publicized) spiritual tradition with the Catholic Church. Meditations on the Tarot, which I've been examining in detail, is also firmly in that tradition, but none of these three books offers an explicit program of study and practice. The Occult Christ: The Hidden & Mystical Secrets of Christianity by Ted Andrews offers just such a program.

The words "occult" and "Christianity" aren't obviously compatible, especially in the minds of those Christians who prefer literal interpretations. To those of us in the know, on the other hand, "occult" simply means "hidden," and there are explicit references in the Gospels to knowledge that was shared with the Apostles but not the general public. Also, you can't have the rest of the Bible meant to be taken literally but not John 14:12, and it's no good saying "He didn't mean it that way, because it hasn't happened."

That brings me to an important point: the old saying that history is written by the winners. The Catholic Church was at one point more powerful than any king in Europe, and until the 1400's they had almost exclusive control over not only the Bible, but recorded history itself. The version of the Bible that we have now is more or less the version they wanted us to have. However, I don't think any censorship that may have happened was because they didn't want anyone to know; I think it was because they didn't want everyone to know, at least not right away. As a religion for the masses, it has to be lowest common denominator. Most people simply aren't ready for the program outlined in this book, and they need to have things be black-and-white. It can't be helped.

But that doesn't apply to us recovering materialists, and if you happen to come from a Catholic background, you'll be able to relate to the program given in the book, and that means that it would be a good choice for you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What I've Been Doing Lately

More book reviews and articles about Meditations on the Tarot later, but I wanted to give my readers an update on my recent activity. I've been doing astrology charts and tarot readings for others since January, and am becoming very comfortable with both. Family members and friends that I've done charts and readings for have been very happy with the results, and I've been able to use astrology transits to identify current influences and opportunities for action in certain areas.

Last weekend I read at an art show at a local Caribou coffee shop. I ended up doing two readings, which is not bad for my first time reading for people I didn't know. I've also joined The Free Tarot Network.

Also, if any of you are interested in having a Tarot reading or astrology chart done, send me an email, and I'll send you my rates and a pdf brochure.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review: You are Psychic

Further on the theme of "living what we've learned," I'd like to offer for your consideration You are Psychic by Debra Lynne Katz. Not because I'd like all of you to become clairvoyant readers, but because nothing cements new information in your head like witnessing a practical demonstration. I've read the book, and tried a couple of the exercises, and it's the Real Deal.

The book starts with the author recounting stories of multiple successful readings, sufficient to convince a firm skeptic that the matter is at least worth looking into, then proceeds with an interesting idea: that everyone has psychic abilities and can be taught how to access them safely. I use the word "safely" because, according to the author, we're already using these abilities, but unconsciously, and the results reflect that. The first part of the book covers energy and chakras. Next are some training exercises. I've tried the first two, grounding, and calling back your energy. They both have noticeable effects in my experience. The third section of the book covers how to do readings and some associated issues like ethics and business.

I recommend the book to everyone reading this blog, even if you don't plan to do readings for others. Just being able to do this for yourself should make a huge difference in your life. Like I said, I'm trying it myself, and I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Larry's Notes - Meditations on the Tarot: The Chariot

In this installment of my notes on Meditations on the Tarot, I will be talking about the Chariot. According to the book, this card represents the stage after overcoming the temptations against the three virtues, poverty, obedience and chastity. This is an achievement, but it presents the next temptation: getting an inflated ego and thinking you've reached the top of the mountain when you're actually just at a plateau. The antidote given for this temptation is the old Latin saying: ora et labora or "pray and work." This is effective because of the implicit recognition that there is something higher, and because of the effort expended to continue the journey.

Now this isn't to say that if you have reached that point, that you should take time out to feel the triumph and give yourself some credit for what you've done. At this point, you're living what you've learned and it's become a part of you. That's a good thing. But let's bring in a traditional Tarot interpretation of the Chariot, which is hard control. Control with a lot of effort of will on your part. What comes further down the line is soft control, without even having to think about it (Strength). And if we continue to work and pray, we'll get there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Review: The Magician's Way

This book, like Creative Flowdreaming: Manifesting Your Dreams in the Life You've Already Gotis about creating rewarding experiences for yourself and others. So why review two books on the same subject? Because the approach is different, and one size definitely does not fit all here. The approaches in the two books are both valid, but one or the other may work better for you because it feels more natural.

The approach in The Magician's Way is, as you may expect, analogous to the Magician Tarot card. You focus on what you want, but don't worry about how to get it, and take action to make it happen. Creative Flowdreaming on the other hand, has an approach more like the High Priestess card. Instead of focusing on what you want, you focus instead on how you'll feel when you get it. That way, you leave the possibility open of manifested something that you hadn't thought of that will be even better for you than what you wanted. As you can tell, I prefer the Creative Flowdreaming, but your mileage may vary.

The book brings up a couple of important points. First, our assumptions are often the most important factor preventing us from getting what we want. Even if the assumptions are correct, they can prevent us from looking into alternative methods. Second, we want to hold on to things because we think we need them, when letting them go can sometimes create room for something better.

My recommendation? Read both The Magician's Way and Creative Flowdreaming. Then re-read the book you liked better and make that the basis of your practice. Either way, you have some "What just happened?" moments coming up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: Creative Flowdreaming

I've written over a hundred posts now, most of them book reviews, and if you've been reading those books, you may be asking: "At what point is there some practical benefit to all of this?" Well, I'm glad you asked, because I have the book for you! It's Creative Flowdreaming by Summer McStravick, and has the best practical implementation I've seen of how to live what we're learning.

Flowdreaming is a process of connecting to the universe and offering up intentions to be acted on. Ms. McStravick refers to it as Flow or Source, but it can also be called the Divine Matrix (if you're a Braden fan), or the One Mind if you're an alchemist. The point is that communication with it is done through emotion and imagery. Flowdreaming is kind of like daydreaming with emotion added. The process is rewarding in itself, but I've tried it and it gives practical results.

One thing that sets Creative Flowdreaming apart from other New Age books is its explicit disagreement with the idea that we are here to learn lessons or work out our karma. According to Ms. McStravick, we have one reason for being here: to create experiences for ourself and for the Divine. By this view, if you have had less-than-rewarding experiences up until now, the answer is to learn to create better experiences. I agree with this view, and it also ties into what I was saying about free will in the Meditations on the Tarot postings. By the way, the idea that God is living vicariously through us is also the subject of another excellent book, The Secret Life of God: Discovering the Divine within You.

An excellent idea from the book is that you shouldn't focus on the details of what you want. That limits you to that particular vision when there might be something better available. It's better to focus on how achievement of the goal will make you feel. That leaves the door open for alternatives better than you could have imagined yourself. It's for this reason that I recommend the book even to beginners.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot - The Lover

This installment of articles on Meditations on the Tarot is about The Lover(s). First, I'd like to talk about the two most common versions of the picture on the card. The oldest is on the Marseilles decks, and depicts a young man standing between an older woman on the left, and a younger woman on the right. There's a Cupid overhead, pointing an arrow at the young man. The newer version is on the Rider-Waite-based decks, and shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with an angel watching over them, and the infamous serpent wrapped harmlessly around a fruit tree. The first represents a choice; the second, the results of one of the options (see the Devil for the other).

The choice is one we all must make. The first option is materialism: the belief that the physical world as we know it is all (or the most important thing) there is. The result of this option is the Devil card (the Waite version): Adam and Eve chained to a stone block with the Devil holding them captive. But if you have a copy of the card handy, note that the chains around their necks aren't really strong enough to hold them; Adam and Eve stay there partially because they want to. The point is that this option isn't permanent; we'll all eventually wake up and take the chains off. By the way, some of the links in the chains include materialism (of course), a belief in scarcity, and self-righteousness.

The second option is what I like to call recovery from materialism. When we take the chains off, we start to see the physical world differently and explore what's beyond and inside of it, and what's beyond and inside of ourselves. We look into quantum physics and find out that matter isn't really as solid as it seems, and that empty space isn't really empty. We experience coincidences and synchronicities that show us an underlying unity that we're all a part of. We realize that we are more and can do more than we ever imagined. And this new journey becomes the most important thing in our lives.

That leads me to what the book has to say about the Lovers card. The book also says the card is about choice, but a choice between vice and virtue, the virtue in this case being chastity. Since this series is shaping up to be a postmodern restatement of the principles given in the book, I will reinterpret chastity in this context as meaning purity of mind and devotion to the quest. It doesn't mean necessarily that we give up drinking and smoking and join a monastery. It just means that our lives are devoted to recovery.

This choice is not a one-time thing, and the book mentions temptation, specifically the temptations of Christ and the Garden of Eden story. We also have our temptations: the temptation to think we already know it all; the temptation to get sidetracked by day-to-day issues and lose our connection to the Infinite Light; and the temptation to satisfy the goals of what we think is our personality at the expense of growing into our real selves.

Well, that's it for now. Until next time, just remember that just like Adam and Eve on the Rider-Waite Devil card, we can always take the chains off our necks.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: MythAstrology

My recent discovery that the whole sign house system gives better results has lead me to believe that astrology is more of an art than a science. As such, mythology definitely has a place, and MythAstrology by Raven Kaldera is a good way to start incorporating mythology into your interpretations, or to understand your own chart better.

The book assigns one mythological deity to each combination of the 10 "planets" and 12 Zodiac signs. These deities are from a variety of pantheons, including African and Hindu. Don't worry if some of the names are unfamiliar; when you read the description you should find something to relate to.

As the book says, it's best to start by reading the descriptions corresponding to your planet placements. If you do charts for other people, you can also use the descriptions to help explain things to people who don't know much about astrology.

I plan to start using the descriptions in charts I do for people as soon as I finish reading the book. It's a good book even for beginners, because the myths are archetypes that everyone will be able to related to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Review: Learning Tarot Reversals

If you've read Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners and worked through the exercises and remember at least one keyword for each card, you'll be able to do effective readings. To take your readings to the next level, you can add depth by knowing how to handle reversed cards. This is where Learning Tarot Reversals by Joan Bunning comes in. This book is not for beginners. There's nothing about spreads or even how the cards work, so it's not for you unless you're already comfortable doing readings, at least for yourself.

Unlike some Tarot systems which take reversals to mean the opposite of what the card would mean upright, Ms. Bunning's system keeps the upright meaning, but takes reversals to mean that the energy represented by the card is not fully present. What's unique about her book is the concept of energy phases. The energy of each card starts low, increases, then decreases again, roughly in the form of a sine wave. Reversed cards represent the beginning and ending of the wave. They can also mean that the energy isn't perceived at all (denial).

Every Tarot reader has a different way of using (or ignoring) reversals. Ms. Bunning's system has given me good results, and it should also work for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Review: The Spontaneous Healing of Belief

Every so often on the path it becomes useful to read a book that expands your beliefs about what is possible. We need something that confirms that we're on the right path, and that there's some cool stuff along the way. The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits by Gregg Braden is that kind of book.

The first point made by the book, and this is something I've believed for years, is that the advances made by science in quantum physics and string theory haven't been assimilated into the rest of science or our beliefs about science. While quantum physics has discovered an underlying unity in the universe, the rest of science is still stuck in the Newtonian paradigm of matter as little bowling balls called atoms, and that everything is either those bowling balls or some type of energy. The word "Newtonian" always gives me an ironic feeling when I read it because Newton was an alchemist and astrologer and I'm not sure what he would have thought of the paradigm that bears his name.

There are also some nice examples in the book of events that are impossible according to mainstream science. My personal favorite is a hand print embedded in a stone cave wall in Tibet. There's also a story about prehistoric climate-controlled condominiums in New Mexico. You've probably heard of stories of people lifting cars in urgent situations. This is normally explained by adrenaline, but that explanation seems rather hollow when you think about a non-athlete lifting over 20 times their body weight.

A key concept of the book is the fractal nature of the universe. I don't know if Mr. Braden is familiar with the Correspondence Principle ("As above, so below"), but it's definitely fractal. The key characteristic of fractals is that they look the same on a large scale as they do on a small scale, and that's the essence of the Correspondence Principle.

Another key concept is that the underlying unity of the universe responds to belief and emotion on our part. There's a great part at then end of the book about prayer as a means of accomplishing that, including a unique interpretation of the Lord's Prayer.

I recommend this book to all who are on the path, but especially beginners and fundamentalist materialists.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot - The Pope

In this installment of my notes about Meditations on the Tarot, I'll be talking about the Pope, more commonly known as the Hierophant. The key concept given by the book for this card is benediction, or blessing, which takes place in response to prayer on our part. Both are necessary because of what I wrote in the last posting about free will. Just to recap, the theory given in the book is that God influences the world in response to our willingness for him to do so, because only in that way can free will be preserved.

There are a couple of prerequisites, according to the book, to aligning our will with the Divine will so that Divine Magic can take place. The first is closing what the book calls the "five wounds," which correspond to the five wounds suffered by Our Lord on the cross. These five wounds are wounds in our soul, the desires "for personal greatness, to take, to keep, to advance, and to hold on at the expense of others." The book talks about acquiring five wounds corresponding to giving up those desires. My contention is that the desires themselves are wounds and need to be closed. But that's just a difference in terminology as I agree with the basic concept.

So how do we close the five wounds? The answer given in the book is "the practice of the three traditional vows, namely obedience, poverty and chastity." (Didn't expect to see that in a book about Tarot, did you?) Obedience in this context means what you think it would. Poverty and chastity require more explanation. Poverty is explained in the book as "the practice of inner emptiness." I prefer to think of it as "emptying your cup" as in the story of the man who went to see a sage, but was so full of his own opinions that he didn't have room for the knowledge he was seeking. Chastity is explained as living "without covetousness and without indifference." It sounds like a tall order, but it's really about purity of will; about the quest you're on being more important than anything else.

The best thing about the three vows is that you don't need to join a monastery to practice them. You can (and should) lead what seems to others to be a normal life. Stay tuned for the next installment about the Lover (not what you think).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: Real Magic

In my last post about the Emperor card from Meditations on the Tarot, I mentioned the necessity of living what we've learned. Real Magic by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer is about how to do that. It's marketed as a self-help book, so you won't see it in the "New Age" section of the bookstore, but there's plenty here for us recovering materialists. In fact, you'll be surprised to learn that I don't recommend this book for beginners. It's not that beginners won't understand it; the concepts are presented in a very clear and accessible manner. The danger is that beginners won't understand fully. I'll explain.

The key concept given in the book is that matter follows mind. If you're a beginner, or still in denial as a materialist, this will just seem like another silly New Age book. And if you get the idea that it's just something like repeating an affirmation to yourself until you believe it, you'll totally miss the point. On the other hand, if you've spent some time studying qabalah, especially the Tree of Life and the Four Worlds, you'll recognize the principle as self-evident. And you'll not only know it works, you'll know why it works.

So what exactly can we learn from this book? First, you can expect to have your mind changed about what is possible. Next, a new spiritual approach is given. This approach is surprisingly similar to what's said in Meditations about the Magician. At this point you'll be prepared to start doing divine magic (the Empress in Meditations) in your own life and the lives of those close to you.

The second half of the book goes into more details about real-life applications of the principles given. Relationships, finances, recovery from addictions, and health are all covered. The last part of the book is a call to action, inviting you to join "The Evolution."

This book definitely belongs on your shelf, and should be read at least twice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot - The Emperor

Today I'll be covering the Emperor card and some of what Meditations has to say about it. The Emperor is naturally associated with authority, and that's the first thing the book talks about. The key concept given in the book is that authority is based on the consent of those governed. The Emperor never actually forces anyone to do anything himself, but the people who work for him do. This implies that free will is essential to authority, that without free will, there can only be power, of the type that you might have over your car. You press the gas pedal and it has to go faster if it can. In fact, according to the book, free will is so important that God sent his Son down here and put Him at our disposal, to do with him as we will, up to and including suffering physical death at our hands.

Now we as recovering materialists don't have the concept as God as being "the Old Man in the Sky," or in other words a more powerful version of ourselves as we know ourselves. Those who do have this concepts are really materialists in denial. So we don't necessarily need the Crucifixion story to be literal truth. The important thing is that we are in general left to our own devices here, and divine intervention isn't given to us unless we ask for it, or at least be open to receiving it. Being open to divine intervention is just another way of saying that our will is aligned to the divine will, which as you may remember from my last post is the essence of divine magic.

That brings me to the fourth step in the sequence: after mysticism (experience of essential unity), gnosis (setting up a model of that unity with ourselves) and divine magic (aligning our will with that of unity) comes what the book calls "Hermetic philosophy," or integrating the experience of the first three steps within ourselves. The book says that this kind of integration also can and should be done with the Gospels, by reading them as if you're living inside of them as an observer.

I'll go even farther than that and say that the technique can also be used with profit on certain fantasy novels. These novels have either explicit or implied references to mythology, qabalah and alchemy. The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 (Chronicles of Amber) would be a good place to start, as would On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, Bk. 1). Try American Gods: A Novel if you'd like to get in touch with your shadow side. The point is that at some point we have to start living what we've learned, and these books provide examples (albeit fictional) of how to do that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot - The Empress

If you've been following along with this series, you will remember that we stepped out of conventional belief systems, saw the Big Picture, and got a copy for ourselves. So what's the next step, according to Meditations on the Tarot? Doing something with what we've experienced so far by what the book calls "divine magic", more commonly referred to as "miracles."

Now A Course in Miracles says that miracles are natural, and that if we don't experience them on a regular basis, something is wrong. The Course has a slightly more expansive definition of miracle than the rest of us; a sudden change in how a situation is seen is just as much of a miracle as curing disease. So what's wrong if you don't see any miracles? As Maryanne Williamson puts it in Everyday Grace, "thoughts of judgement block the light." This is really saying the same thing as Meditations, which says that divine magic requires the union of divine will and human will. More on that later.

Meditations distinguishes divine magic, which has its source in the Divine, from personal magic, which uses the magician's own power, or sorcery, which uses elemental or unconscious sources. Naturally divine magic is superior. Just so it's clear exactly what is meant by divine magic, the book gives an example (Acts 9:32-34):
Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him: Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed. And immediately he rose.
The book goes on to say that the power behind the cure came from the Divine Will, but was enabled to act through the will of Peter. In other words, God works through us to the extent that we let Him. More on this next time.

So what does this mean for us? The New Testament is also meant in my opinion to serve as an example. Meditations puts divine magic forth as just another part of the program. We're supposed to be doing this too, at least on the small scale of enabling changes in how situations are perceived. But that's only the beginning.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot - The High Priestess

Next in the series of Tarot meditations is the High Priestess. The High Priestess is number two in the series, and a key concept associated with the number two in the book is reflection. In the discussion of the Magician, the essential unity of all things was given as a key concept, and it was implied that the experience was only the first step. The next step is to hold a mirror up to the first. The mirror is you, and the result is called gnosis in the book. This also allows for the experience of love, which inherently requires two parties.

Christ-consciousness allows for this experience of love, which is why the book says it is superior to the Nirvana experience. The book quotes Jesus as saying "All those who came before me are as robbers and thieves," and this is because, according to the book, the prior esoteric philosophies all aimed at the experience of unity, which did not allow for love because there was only the one thing. And that's the problem with non-duality.

On the other hand, if we retain our individuality, we will be able to make this experience part of our daily lives, which allows us to progress further along the path. Christ-consciousness is what I think is meant when Jesus said: "If a man believes in me, then the things that I have done, he will also do, and greater things than these will he do." I think it's better translated as: "If a man believes with me," meaning that he shares the same level of consciousness, but that's for the next installment in the series.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Paths of Wisdom

The Mystical Qabalah is the canonical textbook for anyone on the Hermetic Path. Unfortunately, the book isn't very accessible to newbies. To be honest, Paths of Light: A Guide to the Magical Cabala by John Michael Greer, isn't much more accessible, but it's more modern, and could make a nice stepping stone after reading something like The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford: Dilettante's Guide to What You Do and Do Not Need to Know to Become a Qabalist.

As you may expect, the book focuses on the Tree of Life. (If all you know about the Tree of Life is that it was in the Garden of Eden, read The Chicken Qabalah first.) One difference in the treatment of the Tree of Life is the use of the Hebrew letters that spell the name of God associated with each sphere. Each letter is explained in terms of the associated Tarot card, but this isn't a Tarot book, so the associations aren't made explicit. There's also a nice explanation of the Veil of Paroketh, which separates our mundane life from the higher levels of the Tree. The key concept is that the Veil is at least partially composed of our belief systems.

The treatment of the Tree is quite thorough, including even the four color scales and magical images. An instructive exercise for the artistically inclined would be to paint or draw the magical images. The Yeziratic Texts (an obscure description for each of the spheres and paths) are covered, and these can be hard to make sense of, but the book provides good explanations. The Golden Dawn models of the Garden of Eden before and after the fall are also included and explained.

So what's the bottom line? I recommend this book for serious Hermeticists who have read at least one (preferably three or more) books on the subject already. But you still need The Mystical Qabalah.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot: The Fool

Continuing my series about the chapters of Meditations on the Tarot, tonight I want to talk about the Fool. Meditations has the Fool as next-to-last in the series, so why is he the second installment in my series? Because he should have been first, but I wasn't really sure about it until I finished reading the book for the second time. And it's not just because the Fool is numbered zero.

To really understand why the Fool should be first, let's look at two literary figures Meditations refers to in its discussion of the fool: Don Quixote and Dr. Faust. I started reading Don Quixote again a couple of months ago, and stopped about halfway through because it was like watching the Detroit Lions play football. Now if Don Quixote's problem is self-deception, Dr. Faust suffered from deception at the hands of the demon he summoned, which really amounts to the same thing.

I apologize in advance because this will sound trite, but these two literary figures are important because they are metaphors for the human condition. We deceive ourselves and have been deceived by others, and deceive them in turn. The road to recovery involves recognizing the deception and stopping it. This brings me to a third literary figure discussed in this chapter of the Meditations: Arjuna from the Bhagavad-Gita. For those of you who don't know the story, it's set in ancient India on a battleground. Arjuna is about to lead his army into battle, but is somewhat reluctant. Krishna, a god who for some reason is acting as Arjuna's chariot driver, explains to Arjuna why he must fight, along with a bunch of other things. My take on the story is this: Arjuna represents the ego, Krishna the higher self, and the assembled soldiers are the components of Arjuna's belief systems. All of the belief system must be slain for Arjuna to be left with his higher self.

So how does this all relate to the Fool? Remember what I said above about deception, and in the prior paragraph about destroying our belief systems. The word "our" is key, because these belief systems are shared. Stepping outside of them will make us appear to be fools to those not on the journey. And that's exactly why being willing to do so must be the first step.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Astrology and the Authentic Self

The two most popular systems of calculating house cusps are the Placidus and Koch methods. Both are mathematically rigorous methods, high-tech if you will. (Don't worry if you have know idea what I'm talking about. I'll explain about house cusps later.) But what if I told you that there was a more accurate method that was both older and simpler? Would I sound like a reactionary or an old curmudgeon? Well, there is such a method, and it's used in Astrology and the Authentic Self: Integrating Traditional and Modern Astrology to Uncover the Essence of the Birth Chart by Demetra George. This book uses the Whole Sign method, which is a throwback to the Middle Ages and before. But guess what? I've tried it on my own chart, and it works. Some of the planetary placements in my chart make a lot more sense under this system.

Now for those of you who don't know much about astrology, there are twelve houses in an astrological chart, each corresponding to a different area of life. The first house, for example, corresponds to identity and personality; the second house to money, possessions, and things of value, and so forth. The house cusps are the starting points of each house in the Zodiac. The Placidus and Koch systems start with the Ascendant (the point of the Zodiac that's on the Eastern horizon at birth) and the Midheaven (where the sun would be if it were "high noon") and extrapolate the other house cusps by either space or time. The Whole Sign system just uses the Ascendant, assigning the start of the sign it falls in to the first house cusp, the start of the next sign to the second house, and so forth.

At this point, I don't want to talk about the book (it's good, try it) as much as about the implications of the usefulness of the house systems. If a medieval house system works better than the two most currently used systems, what does that say about the usefulness of astrology as practiced today? Shouldn't there be a clear winner among the house systems? Or if valid results can be obtained with any of them, does it really matter at all?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: The Art of Predictive Astrology

In the past I've shied away from using astrology to make predictions, partly because of the free will thing, and partly because of the Oedipus Effect: the steps taken to prevent a predicted event are often responsible for enabling it. But mostly for the real reason, which is that I didn't know how to do it. The Art of Predictive Astrology: Forecasting Your Life Events by Carol Rushman may solve that problem.

The starting point for prediction is what the book calls "Natal Promise:" potentials as given by the birth chart. If the potential for a certain event is not indicated by the birth chart, it's not going to happen, so there's no point looking for it. There's a whole chapter devoted to determining natal promise, with an interesting formula for the number of possible marriages.

Two major tools used by the book are progressions and transits. Progressions are computed by rolling the birth chart forward by one day per year of real time; transits use the current position of the planets. In both cases, the planet's positions are compared to what's on the birth chart. The theory is that these positions can activate planets, houses and aspects in the natal chart. Also featured in the book are lunations (new moons and full moons) and eclipses.

I'm going to try the techniques given for a few months. I'll let you know how it works out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book Review: Tarot for Everyone

Tarot for Everyone by Hajo Banzhaf is a tarot book geared to beginners. In addition to basic tarot theory, the book presents three basic layouts: the Compass, the Blind Spot, and the Oracle of Love. Descriptions are given of the 78 cards, with specific interpretations for the position the card falls in in each of the three layouts. Twelve additional layouts are given in the appendix. One interesting feature of the interpretations is that the upright and reversed meanings seem to be combined, and one or the other is used based on the position of the card in the layout.

I bought the book a few months ago and tried a couple of spreads with mixed results. I was trying the spreads with a new deck, so that might have had some effect. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the book again and tried the Compass spread. This time, it just worked. To be honest, I'm not sure why. I got similar results with the Oracle of Love and the Blind Spot.

Based on those results, this book deserves mention as another option for beginners. The sheer volume of information that's needed to do effective tarot readings can be intimidating, and anything that helps get results without memorizing hundreds of pages of information shouldn't be overlooked just because it seems to have a superficial approach.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book Review:1-2-3 Tarot

I've noticed that the tarot and astrology sections of the bookstores I frequent are starting to thin out, with more space devoted to the paranormal, 2012, and "The Secret" type books. I wonder if this is because both tarot and astrology require large investments of time and energy to attain any proficiency. Or maybe everyone is using the free courses available on the internet instead. Anyway, for those of you who still like dead trees, I have an introductory book for you: 1-2-3 Tarot: Answers in an Instant by Donald Tyson.

The book has a simple but effective method of reading the cards. Each card is given possible meanings as either a noun, a verb, or an adverb, and the combinations create sentences. The selling point of the book is that this method makes it possible to do meaningful readings without knowing anything about the cards. This seems to fit in to the American propensity toward instant gratification, but it actually works if taken as a starting point. The book starts with a three-card spread, then moves on to more complex spreads that form multiple sentences. I've done some experimentation with the method as applied to the traditional Celtic Cross spread, and it yields some useful interpretations.

The verdict? If you're a beginner, buy the book, but don't stop there or you'll miss the other advantages that Tarot has to offer. If you've been reading for a while, the book will give you a fresh approach that you'll be able to integrate into your current methods.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot: The Magician

I started reading Meditations on the Tarot again recently, and realized that it was a course of study in itself. As such, it's a perfect candidate for a new series of posts called "Larry's Notes." It's not a summary like Cliffs Notes, but instead I'll talk about key points in books that are helpful to us as recovering materialists.

This book uses for discussion the twenty-two cards of the major arcana from the Marseilles Tarot deck. So first, let's talk about the word "arcana" and what it means. The dictionary lists it as the plural of "arcanum," which means "secret." This book, on the other hand, says that these arcana aren't secrets; they're tools. They are things you need to know to progress along the path. By the way, the path outlined in this book is called "Christian Hermeticism," which is, in fact, the hermetic path that some of us are on, but with Christian (and specifically Catholic) emphasis.

The first point from the chapter that I want to talk about is illustrated by this quote:
Now Hermeticism, the living Hermetic tradition, guards the communal soul of all true culture. I must add: Hermeticists listen to-- and now and then hear--the beating of the heart of the spiritual life of humanity. They cannot do otherwise than live as guardians of the life and communal soul of religion, science and art.

This quote calls to mind the Vestal Virgins, whose job it was to keep the flame in the temple lit at all times. They devoted their lives to the maintenance of the temple and the flame, and their function today has been taken over metaphorically by various writers and occultists. And, what's best of all, because you're sitting there reading this, you're also helping to keep the flame burning.

The next point is that some concept of the essential unity of all things is necessary to even take the first step on the path. The good news is that just holding this concept on an intellectual level is sufficient for starters. After all, if you had continual experience of essential unity, you wouldn't be starting on the path; you'd be close to the end. The essential unity is presented in this chapter in the form of a section of the Emerald Tablet: "That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing." Again, this is a good starting point, and if you're especially materialistic, you can interpret the "One Thing" as referring to the zero-point energy field, which is from where matter is thought to arise. There's also the "One Mind," but that's a topic for the next post in the series.

The final point is the attitude toward the work:
Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!
The attitude should be one of adventure, wonder and discovery; if it's boring, you're doing it wrong. The example of a child at play is given in the text. Children at play can be very intense, but it's still not work to them. There's a lot we can learn from that.

Well, that's it for this installment. Next I'll be talking about the High Priestess. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: The Tarot Court Cards

My readings have in general gone well, but I had been having a hard time with the court cards. I recently got a copy of The Tarot Court Cards: Archetypal Patterns of Relationships in the Minor Arcana by Kate Warwick-Smith, and it seems to have helped. The book gives four easy-to-remember keywords for each of the sixteen court cards. I should first mention that this book isn't for beginners. If you're just getting started with tarot, Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners or Tarot Awareness: Exploring the Spiritual Path would be more appropriate.

After some basic history of the court cards, the book gets into the theory underlying the meanings: the four worlds of qabalah. The four worlds are the four steps in creating the universe and everything in it, from archetype down to manifestation. The kings represent the world of archetypes, the queens and knights intermediate steps, the pages the material world. The suits correspond to spirit, love, knowledge and power (in the expected order: wands, cups, swords and pentacles). The combination yields four keywords for each card: two roles, one positive and one negative; and two characteristics. For example, the King of Swords has two roles: adviser and dictator; and two characteristics: pragmatism and ruthlessness. The roles and characteristics also correspond nicely to the positive and negative aspects of the Zodiac signs to which they are attributed (e.g. the King of Swords = Aquarius).

If you are having trouble with court cards in your readings, this book may help.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Review: ChristoPaganism

In the minds of some people I know, everything about Christianity is crystal clear. The Bible is literally true and divinely inspired. We can only be saved through Jesus. Some even really believe that the universe was created in six of our days and is about six thousand years old. Astrology is tolerated if it's the superficial newspaper kind, and tarot is right out, what with the risk of demonic possession and all. There's Christianity, and everything else, a.k.a. Paganism, with exceptions for Judaism and possibly Islam. If you happen to be one of those people (and if so, what are you doing here in the first place), you may as well just hit the "Back" button now. What follows will only offend you. Still here? Anyway, you've been warned.

There doesn't seem to be any room in this view for any common ground with other religions, especially under the literal interpretation of Christianity and its Holy Book. But as we grow beyond the literal interpretation, and read about other traditions, we do find some common ground. This is the subject of ChristoPaganism: an Inclusive Path by Joyce and River Higginbotham. The book explores some common factors (and, yes, there are some) between Christianity and Paganism, but mostly talks about people who include elements of both paths in their spiritual practices.

Let's talk about paths for a minute. As most of you who have been following along know, there's just one ultimate goal: realization of unity with the Divine. The Christian Hermetic path, which I'm following, is just one way to reach this goal. The Christian Mystic path is just as valid, as are others. What's more, the paths approach each other as they move toward the top of the mountain.

But back to the book. The most interesting part is the second half, which has interviews with people who are following various combined paths. They talk about their backgrounds, their current path, and how they reconcile the two components. There's an interesting anecdote from one of the authors that I'd like to discuss briefly. She was giving a talk about Paganism to a class in a Catholic school and was asked to explain what immanence meant. She compared it to the Consecration of the Host in the Catholic Mass, which deeply offended the teacher, because the author was comparing the most holy part of the mass to a pagan concept. On reading this, I smelled a rat and did a Google search on "immanence catechism". Sure enough, it was there. The teacher, of course, should have known this. I only mention this because one of my pet peeves is people who have strongly-voice opinions on subjects they know little to nothing about.

So what's my opinion on the subject on the book? It's best expressed by a quote from The 21 Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore: "the one God has many faces."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a classic Hero's Journey as described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Bollingen Series). As in American Gods: A Novel and Anansi Boys, the protagonist starts out leading an unsatisfying life that is turned upside down by unexpected events, goes through an eventful journey, and comes out a changed person on the other side. This is the classic initiation experience, and that is why Mr. Gaiman's books are so important to us as recovering materialists. We must all make our own journey through the dark wood, and the science fiction and fantasy novels (and The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso)) give us roadmaps for doing so.

The book is set in modern London, and the main character's job was so dull that I don't even remember what it was. He was engaged to a socialite who obviously wasn't right to him, so the events that start the story seem to me to be no great loss. I don't want to give away any more of the plot, so let's just say it resembles the Tower tarot card. And like the other of his books that I've read, the process of reading it cuts you to pieces and puts you back together in a shamanic-type experience.

Anyway, read the book. At the very least, Dante's Inferno won't seem nearly so scary afterward.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Series Review: Incarnations of Immortality

I recently finished Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. The writing style is wooden at best, with many of the characters having the same dialog styles in the earlier books. Also, the plot lines are a little far-fetched. "You've defeated the Evil Sorceress, but now you must defeat...the Eviler Sorceress!" But I'm not reviewing the series for the writing style or the plot lines. I'm reviewing this series because it falls under a very important category of literature: books kept around not so much for their literary merit, but because they preserve mythology by explaining it in contemporary terms.

The premise of the series is that the roles of Death, Time, Fate, etc., are performed by mortal humans who have temporary immortality as long as they are doing the job. There are seven books in all:
  1. On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, Bk. 1)

  2. Bearing An Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality, Book 2)

  3. With a Tangled Skein (Book Three of Incarnations of Immortality)

  4. Wielding a Red Sword (Incarnations of Immortality)

  5. Being a Green Mother (Incarnations of Immortality, Book Five)

  6. For Love of Evil: Book Six of Incarnations of Immortality

  7. And Eternity (Incarnations of Immortality)
There's a surprise ending, but that's not the point. The point is that these incarnations represent forces that are present in the universe, and by the Law of Correspondence (As above, so below), are also present in us. So how would you act if it were your job to collect souls that were in the balance? Or to supervise wars? We may not have those literal roles, but we do have corresponding roles in our own lives. For example, we may have to assess parts of our lives that need to die, or be transformed. Or we may need to resolve conflicts. Or we may need to evaluate parts of our lives in terms of long-term goals. So read the series, and pay attention. The life you improve may be your own.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Review: Advanced Astrology for Life

Once you've read a couple of the introductory astrology books, for example Astrology for the Light Side of the Brain, Astrology: A Cosmic Science or Astrology for Yourself: How to Understand And Interpret Your Own Birth Chart, and you've done some charts (including your own), you may be ready for the next step. In that case, a good book to read next would be Advanced Astrology for Life: Balance Your Life with Planetary Powers by Constance Stellas.

The book covers a variety of topics, including transits (how the current position of the planets interacts with your birth chart) and horary astrology (answering a question by casting a chart of the time the question was posed). Practical answers are given, for example, how do you know when the influence of a retrograde planet will be released? When the planet goes direct in a progressed chart. Don't worry if you don't know what that means; you just need to read one of the introductory books first. There's also a nice section about composite charts, which deal with relationships.

At its core, astrology is really about the study of cycles. When you are ready for it, this book will help you better understand those cycles.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review: Tarot Tells the Tale

Let's say that you've spent some time learning the theory behind Tarot and the meanings of the cards, but are not sure how to proceed with doing readings for yourself or others. Would some practical examples help? How about some impractical examples? In that case, you're in luck, because Tarot Tells the Tale by James Rickleff is here to help. The book provides 23 actual readings based on fictional and historical characters, with commentary by the author. For example, what would you tell the ugly duckling about how to deal with his siblings? Or Marie Curie about whether to go study in France?

I wouldn't recommend this book for beginners, because most of it is either readings or advice on giving readings, but it would probably make a good second book after Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners. After reading this book, you should be ready to get started.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Intentional Chocolate

A couple of weeks ago, I was sent a link to Intentional Chocolate. They're basically about high-end chocolate, which in my opinion is the only kind worth buying, but there's a twist. Their recipes have an unorthodox ingredient: "conscious intention and love".

Those of you who have read some of the books I've recommended on this blog will know that this type of recipe is not new. It's possibly thousands of years old, and has another name: alchemy. There. I've said it. Of course, they can't use the a-word on their site because the FDA will probably shut them down, but that's exactly what they're doing.

I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to buy some as soon as Venus goes back direct*, which should happen around the 17th. I'll let you know.

*An astrology book I just bought says that luxury purchases should be avoided when Venus is retrograde. More on that (and the book) later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book Review: Karmic Tarot

Once you're comfortable doing readings for yourself and others, if you want to take a longer-term approach, you may want to look into Karmic Tarot: A Profound System for Finding and Following Your Life's Path by William C. Lammey. I emphasize experience with readings because this book is definitely not for beginners. Also, this book gives a different approach which is not compatible with the traditional Celtic Cross spread.

The spread used in the book has 22 positions, one for each of the Major Arcana cards. The positions are arranged on a grid of seven columns and four rows. The seven columns represent seven stages of life, from birth to the future. The four columns represent the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual planes. Some of the positions will overlap two life stages. The interpretation of each card in the spread starts with a more traditional interpretation, but is modified by the Major Arcana card governing the position in the spread.

Another interesting thing about the book is that the Minor Arcana cards are interpreted using a combination of suit and number, as opposed to the more common method of extrapolating from the pictures on the cards. The author says he likes to use decks with simple arrangements of the suit symbols instead of descriptive pictures because that allows more flexibility of interpretation. That's an idea that merits further study, and I'll post more on that later.

I plan on giving this system a try some time in the future. I'll post again when I do.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Review: 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card

If you want to use Tarot to do readings for your self or others, or just as a symbol system for personal improvement, 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card by Mary Greer is a good place to start. The book provides a program to use for studying the cards, and an effective method of doing readings.

The book gives a method for readings termed R.I.T.E.: Reading Interactively for Transformation and Empowerment. That's what I've always thought readings should be about. They're not about telling the future. They're about giving people tools for dealing with the future. A reading shouldn't leave the person thinking: "Oh, no! This bad thing's going to happen to me and there's nothing I can do about it." or "Yes! Good things are coming my way; everything is taken care of." It should leave the person thinking: "O.K., now I've seen some factors that can affect what's going to happen. I know what I have to work with, and I can make a plan for dealing with it."

The study program is as follows: pick a card from the deck and apply 21 different ways of looking at it. Repeat with another card, and so forth. Aspects such as symbols, metaphor, stories and others are included. By the time you get through all 21 ways, you'll know the card like the back of your hand. Apply it to all 78 cards, and you'll not only be an expert, you'll be able to write your own book.

I'm following the program with the Page of Pentacles. If you're interested in tarot, you may want to pick up the book, pick a card, and follow the program as well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Make Some Wishes This New Moon

I just picked up a copy of New Moon Astrology by Jan Spiller. I haven't finished reading it, but I'm going to try the program outlined in the book, and I think you should too. It's very simple; all you have to do is make some wishes (up to ten) just after each new moon. After the new moon in Aries, make a collage of pictures describing things you would like to have happen in the following 12 months. Also, during the period of the Sun's transit through the 11th house of your birth chart, you get an additional 40 wishes. Does this sound a bit crazy? No? It sounds like I've totally lost it? Well, let me explain.

Astrology is essentially the study of cycles. You are already familiar with daily, monthly and yearly cycles. For example, you wouldn't plant tomatoes in the middle of winter, unless you had a greenhouse with artificial lighting. Astrological cycles work the same way, they're just not as readily apparent. The cycles we'll be dealing with are the lunar and solar cycles. The lunar cycle is the basis of the system in Ms. Spiller's book. It's a well-known principle that the best time to start new things is after a new moon. Farmers in the old days even used to plant seeds just after a new moon. The new moon in Aries is even better for this purpose because it's also the start of the yearly solar cycle. I'm still not really clear on the 11th house thing, but I'll post again later after I've figured it out.

If you want to try it, there are a few details you'll need. The wishes should be written down by hand, not typed on a computer. This is from Ms. Spiller. Wishes that involve changing yourself are preferable to wishes for things or wishes that would change others. The wishes should be written down during the first eight hours after the new moon, with one exception that you can find on Ms. Spiller's website.

I'm posting this now instead of finishing the book first because there's a new moon in Aries coming up this Thursday, March 26, 2009. This will be an excellent opportunity to try Ms. Spiller's suggestions. Please leave a comment if you do decide to try it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Next Steps on the Hermetic Path

So you've read a couple of books and want to know what to do next. The next thing is detailed study of the four major fields of hermetism: qabalah, astrology, tarot and alchemy. Studying these four fields together will help your progress as the four are interdependent. You'll see that for yourself as you progress. Ritual magic is optional at this stage, and ceremonial magic is right out.

If you're reading Kabbalah, Magic & the Great Work of Self Transformation: A Complete Course and like the program given, you should follow it, at least for now. The important thing is to not hurry; there's a lot of information, and it takes time for it to sink in.

For the rest of you, the first book I recommend you read at this point is Kabbalistic Handbook for the Practicing Magician. The book gives very good basic information about Qabalah, but more importantly, it will give you an effective study method. And study you will, if you choose this path. This book recommends studying A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life and The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism as qabalah books to read first, and I agree with this recommendation.

A good place to start with tarot is Tarot Awareness -- Exploring the Spiritual Path, or Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners if you can't get a copy of Tarot Awareness. For astrology, start with Astrology for Yourself: How to Understand And Interpret Your Own Birth Chart or Astrology for the Light Side of the Brain. Finally, for alchemy, start with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy.

At this point you may also want to consider group work. There are many choices here, but I recommend B.O.T.A.

Just so you know what you've gotten yourself into, I was looking at a tarot book (I forget which one) and saw a statement comparing learning tarot to learning chess. There's only a few basic concepts, but years are needed for mastery. The other fields of hermetism have the same characteristic. But at least you'll have something to do for a while.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Next Steps on the Mystic Path

I'm sure most of you reading this have already read my post on getting started. If not, you may want to now, because I'm going to talk today about what to do next if you've chosen the mystic path. The hermetic path will be another post, because the reading materials will be different.

Now just to refresh your memory, the mystic path aims at an eventual direct experience of the underlying unity of all things. One of the things that prevents this experience is negativity. For most of us, it comes in the form of projection. The best antidote for this is A Course in Miracles. The book says that you can read it in any order, but I recommend you start with the text. Don't rush things; just read a couple of sections per sitting. This will allow time for the ideas in the book to sink in. When you're ready, start the workbook exercises. Don't try to do more than one exercise per day. You can peek at the teacher's manual if you want, but I don't think it will do you much good until you finish the text and workbook.

Some of you may have a different problem: fundamentalist materialism. Expanding your concept of the universe is key here, and the answer is Kabbalah. The Berg brothers, who run the Kabbalah Centre, have many good introductory books. You'll immediately notice parallels between their version of the creation story and materialist science's Big Bang theory.

The third obstacle to Unity Consciousness is repression, where the less desirable parts of our mind are pushed beneath the surface. How do you know if this applies to you? If you're sure that you think only positive thoughts about yourself and others, it applies. If this is the case, you can try the mystic path, but I recommend the hermetic path for you, as it has some things that will allow you to get out of your own way. Stay tuned for my next post.

You may also want to look into Eastern philosophy. The Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics) is good, but not for beginners. The The I Ching or Book of Changes is a bit more accessible, but far deeper than it seems. Everyday Zen: Love and Work (Plus) is a good starting point.

Stay tuned for the next steps on the hermetic path.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review: Astrology for Yourself

I don't normally review books before I finish reading them, but in this case I'm making an exception for two reasons. First, Astrology for Yourself: How to Understand and Interpret Your Own Birth Chart by Douglas Block and Demetra George, is not the kind of book you can just read through in a couple of days. Actually, you could, but you won't get the full benefit unless you work through the exercises. Second, this is the book I wished I had went I started learning astrology: a book that explained everything based on fundamental concepts.

As you may have guessed, Astrology for Yourself is a workbook that takes you through all of the fundamentals of astrology using your own birth chart as an example. I just finished the second chapter. I scanned through the rest of the book and can tell you that by the time you're done with it, you'll have an in-depth interpretation of your chart and will know how to do the same for others.

If you're interested in learning astrology, I would recommend reading this book first and working through the exercises. After you're done, you can read Astrology: A Cosmic Science and/or Astrology for the Light Side of the Brain. Follow those with Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living and Planets in Composite: Analyzing Human Relationships (The Planet Series), and you'll soon be ready to amaze your friends and confound your enemies.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting Started

It's been a while since I talked about how to get started on the road to recovery from materialism, so an updated roadmap is probably in order. The first important thing is that you have to start where you are. That sounds trivial, but hear me out. There may be a lot of learning ahead on whatever path you choose, especially if it's one of the hermetic paths, but there is also a lot of unlearning that needs to be done.

So, let's say you come from a Roman Catholic background as I did. You could decide to immerse yourself in Zen Buddhism. It may work for you, and you could make progress, but your background doesn't go away. It's still there, and you'll have to come to terms with it, sooner or later. On the other hand, if you start with the Hermetic path, you'll be in somewhat familiar territory. You'll run across correspondences to things you already know. You'll hit the ground running, as it were.

That said, a good place to start is the "New Age"/metaphysical section of your local bookstore. Pick any book that looks interesting and start reading. If any veterans are reading this, don't worry. I haven't forgotten Sturgeon's Law; it's just that some things have to be learned through experience, and this is one of them. The type of person who believes everything they read will be led astray regardless.

Once you've looked through a few books, you should have an idea of what specifically interests you, and the general direction in which you want to proceed. If you want to study astrology, go for it. The same applies with Tarot and Wicca, though I draw the line at numerology (just kidding). Even the channeled books by Ramtha or Kryon (or the Urantia Book if you're desperate) will be helpful. The point I'm trying to make is that you're going to have to wade through a lot of muck to find the good stuff that's under it, so you may as well start now.

Now you're ready to choose one of the two paths. There's no wrong answer to this question. The relevant quote is: "In the end we all become mystics." The mystic path aims at experience of unity with God and the universe. The hermetic path has the same eventual aim, but uses symbolism to balance out the different components of the personality. If you like symbolism, ritual, nice pictures and the like, choose the hermetic path. Otherwise, the mystic.

Now for reading material. If you're on the mystic path, the choice is relatively simple: Path of Light: Stepping into Peace with "A Course in Miracles" or The Disappearance of the Universe: Straight Talk About Illusions, Past Lives, Religion, Sex, Politics, and the Miracles of Forgiveness or anything by Marianne Williamson, followed by A Course in Miracles.

If you're on the hermetic path, The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford: Dilettante's Guide to What You Do and Do Not Need to Know to Become a Qabalist or Tarot Awareness: Exploring the Spiritual Path would be a good start, or Kabbalah, Magic & the Great Work of Self Transformation: A Complete Course if you're especially adventurous.

That should be enough to get any of you newbies started. Later, I'll talk about the next step.