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.