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.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins and Astrology

Those of you who come from a Catholic background are no doubt familiar with the seven deadly sins: sloth, envy, lust, pride, rage, gluttony and greed (probably not the right order). Most of you are also familiar with the seven "planets" known to the ancients: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Coincidence? Maybe, but there does happen to be a correlation between the sins and the negative astrological attributions of the planets, the planets under stress if you will. Here's the list:
  • Sloth: The Moon. Think emotional daydreaming, which isn't conducive to getting things done.

  • Envy: Mercury. This is a sin of thought. It's not that you want what your neighbor has, it's that you think he shouldn't have it.

  • Lust: Venus. This one's a no-brainer.

  • Pride: The Sun, which in astrology governs the ego.

  • Rage: Mars. Another no-brainer.

  • Gluttony: Jupiter, the planet of expansion, the celestial Santa Claus.

  • Greed: Saturn. Think tight-fisted miser.
When I worked out the attributions, which was surprisingly easy, I did a Google search and found that other people were saying the same thing. Anyway, I thought you might find this interesting. I sure did.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Book Review: Ceremonial Magic

In this posting, I will be discussing a book about ceremonial magic, specifically the calling forth of spirit beings. I don't do this, and I don't think you should either. There is plenty of less dangerous work to do.

So why am I reviewing a book about it? First, some of you reading this may decide to try it anyway, without the support and safeguards offered by a suitable mystery school. The results of a mistake from this type of operation can be annoying at best, and life-threatening at worst. If anyone is really intent on trying it despite the dangers, Ceremonial Magic & the Power of Evocation by Joseph C. LIsiewski, Ph.D., will at least give them the tools they need. Another reason is the "subjective synthesis" that Dr. Lisiewski mentions in all of his books. Also, the graphic descriptions of what he calls the "slingshot effect" may just convince some of the readers that ceremonial magic is not for the faint of heart, and shouldn't be tried without proper training and preparation, and probably not even then.

There is one thing to be said for this approach, however. Lon Milo Duquette indicated in his Chicken Qabalah that these spirits are actually parts of our minds, and if we don't learn to control them, they will ruin our lives anyway. That is a good point: we don't really know how big our minds are, therefore we can't be sure that these spirits have an independent existence as opposed to being parts of us. And if they are parts of us, learning to control them is of paramount importance. But the method given in Dr. Lisiewski's book seems to me like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. The proper use of Tarot will serve the same purpose, and without any slingshot effects.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Book Review: Kabbalistic Handbook

For anyone who is on the hermetic path, Kabbalistic Handbook for the Practicing Magician by Joseph C. Lisiewski, Ph.D., is recommended reading, but not for the reason you may think. The book, although not for beginners (except maybe beginners who are dedicated to the point of obsession), is very sound technically. It has detailed information about qabalah, tarot, and planetary hours, with references to books containing much more. The reading list at the back of the book is a valuable resource in itself, and could be used with profit as the reading list of a college degree in hermeticism.

That brings me to the reason I recommend this book: it teaches effective study habits. The method of study outlined in the book can be used for any topic. I tried it myself on the Celtic Cross spread. Here's how it works. You pick a primary source and two other sources by different authors. Then you read through the primary source, comparing what's there to what the other authors have to say about the subject. Take notes and write down any questions you may have. You can go back later and answer those questions based on what you've learned since then. By the time you're done, you'll have a much deeper understanding of the topic than you would if you only read the primary source.

I'm trying this method with astrology and tarot. I'll post later with my findings.