Book Reviews 1990





THE TRIAL OF SOCRATES, by I. F. Stone; Doubleday (Anchor), New York; paperback.

I remember visiting the Metropolitan Museum with my father when I was very young, and as we were about to make our way out to Fifth Avenue, over-stimulated and tired, I asked him to stop for one last painting. I was intrigued and impressed by the mysterious scene portrayed in Jacque Louis David's “The Death of Socrates.” The drama of the story unfolded as my father relayed in admirable detail the particulars of Socrates' trial and death. He could not, however, give a satisfactory answer to the most fundamental question: Why had Socrates been put to death?

I. F. Stone, the octogenarian champion of, civil liberties, who died this past year, put the question somewhat differently: “How could the trial of Socrates have happened in so free a society? How could Athens have been so untrue to itself?” His attempt to answer these questions has resulted in a much praised bestseller, The Trial of Socrates, now available in a paperback edition.

Socrates' accusers brought two charges against him: that he was guilty of “corrupting the minds of the young, and of believing in deities of his own invention instead of the gods recognized by the state.” It was Socrates'(and Stone's) contention that these specific charges were actually secondary to the true nature of the prosecution. Socrates was convinced that the people had been set against him –“out of envy and love of slander”-because he had spent his lifetime challenging anyone who claimed to possess wisdom; by exposing their ignorance, Socrates won the hatred and jealousy of many Athenians. Stone, on the other hand, would have us believe that the charges were really political, and that Socrates was convicted and sentenced because of his antidemocratic attitude and teachings.

It is not surprising, then, that Stone has taken great pains to remind the reader of the historical and political events that shaped the times during which Socrates lived and died. The trial occurred in 399 B.C. During the fifth century B.C. the Athenian empire grew so strong that many Greek states, and particularly Sparta, became alarmed and fearful of the ambitions of the “tyrant city.” The Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 B.C. and ran its devastating course (including the unprovoked Athenian massacre of the neutral Melians in 416) until 404 when the Thirty Tyrants gained a brief hold on Athens. Democracy was restored in 403 with the victors exhibiting remarkable restraint when a resolution was passed granting amnesty to everyone except the Thirty. Yet four years later this admirable democracy proceeded with the prosecution and execution of Socrates. Why?

The presentation of the historical context is both justifiable and desirable, and it is here that Stone is at his best. There are few scholars who would deny that political considerations (including the memory of two key players in the events, Alcibiades and Critias, and their connection to Socrates) played a part in the case against Socrates. But The Trial of Socrates goes beyond the idea that Socrates was prosecuted and convicted for political reasons; Stone would have us believe that the verdict was right. In an attempt to lift the burden of guilt from the Athenian democracy, Stone argues that Socrates could easily have won acquittal had he wanted it, but that he was more concerned with fulfilling his mission as a crusader against democracy. In fact, Stone says, “Socrates needed the hemlock, as Jesus needed the Crucifixion, to fulfill a mission. The mission left a stain forever on democracy” (page 230).

Was Socrates, as Stone maintains, a passionate, provocative, and arrogant enemy of democracy who intentionally antagonized the jury to insure his own conviction? I doubt it.

If Plato is a trustworthy source (and Stone's reliance on the dialogues would seem to affirm it), then we must allow that Socrates regarded himself as a philosopher, not apolitical philosopher; as a lover of wisdom and not a lover of political wisdom. The distinction is essential. There are several occasions in Plato's dialogues where Socrates maintains an explicitly anti-political or non-political stance (which is not to say anti-democratic): he insists that all of the existing forms of government (not just democracy) are unacceptable because they are not suitable for philosophy (Republic, 497bc). Furthermore, there is no place for the. “just man” or authentic philosopher in democratic, oligarchal, or tyrannical states, and he must therefore disassociate himself from political life entirely or run the risk of endangering his own life (Apology, 331 sq.; Republic, 496cd).

Stone is to be commended for placing the trial within its proper historical context. It should, however, be pointed out that with regard to Socrates' ideas he has done precisely the opposite: by selectively taking ideas out of their original context he has made nonsense of Socrates, and having done so, Stone has no trouble demonstrating that Socrates is talking nonsense.

Stone never mentions the premise upon which the “political” discussion of the Republic proceeds: in the beginning of the Republic, Socrates is arduously challenged by his companions to defend his position that the just man, despite his unpopularity and the many hardships he suffers during his life, is happier than the unjust. Socrates accepts the challenge, but because the subject is so difficult, he suggests that they begin by way of analogy, examining justice in city-states and only afterwards looking for its likeness in individuals (368c-369a). Socrates progressively describes a harmoniously ordered city (polis) which results in a just city with each class (philosopher-guardians, military, and money-makers) Working according to its own functions, unmixed (434). When we finally return to the original concern, the just individual, the analogy is continued: like the community, the soul has three centers with three separate functions. The just individual is one who has ordered and harmonized the reasoning, high-spirited, and appetitive parts of the soul, who has “linked and bound all three together and made of himself a unit, one man instead of many” (443de).

Socrates' politics are the inner politics of the soul. In the Republic the polis is a macranthropos while the individual is truly a micropolis; the laws that govern them are the same, but will never be found in a constitution because they are laws of the natural, or cosmic, order. The conclusion of Book IX anticipates the literal interpretation and criticism of Socrates' politics. There, one of his companions suggests that the perfect city which has just been described can be found nowhere on earth; its home is in the ideal. Socrates answers that perhaps the pattern of it is in heaven “for him who wishes to contemplate it and so beholding to constitute himself its citizen. But it makes no difference whether it exists now or ever will come into being. The politics of this city will be his and of none other” (592ab).

Stone's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Socratic thought seems to have occurred because he and Socrates address the issue of freedom on different levels. In his preface Stone states that The Trial of Socrates is an investigation of freedom of thought and speech, political freedoms- “not freedom in general, which has too many ambiguities…” Socrates, on the other hand, was interested in true freedom, inner freedom which could not be taken away by any change in the ruling class or in the form of government. He mocked political freedom as an illusion and could see that even the tyrant, who possessed absolute freedom in the general sense, was actually enslaved by desires and appetites. The illusion of freedom is illustrated in the famous cave allegory (Republic 514a et seq.) by the perpetual prisoners who are convinced of their deluded personal reality. Freedom is a rare achievement. Even the prisoner who becomes partially free must be dragged forcefully into the light of the sun, lest the pain of the unaccustomed light drive him back into the darkness. But as Socrates' own life illustrated, for those destined to be free, there is more to be feared in slavery than in death.

Stone hopes to acquit his romantically envisioned Athenian democracy by proving his contention that Socrates engineered his own conviction and execution as a final blow against the democracy he despised. The solution is doubtful and unconvincing, at best. The death of Socrates remains an unsolvable puzzle of metaphysics, psychology, morality, and human history. Socrates insists that the one who has become free and wise is intolerable to the multitude, even to the point of being executed. The idea is presented; is a horrible fact, but a fact nonetheless. When I apply the idea to myself, I must ask whether that part of my soul or constitution which is free and wise (if there is such a one) is not equally abhorrent and vulnerable to the multitudinous desires of my appetitive self/selves. If that is really the case, then I must proceed as intelligently as possible and with the greatest, sensitivity to the identification and ordering of the mental, emotional, and physical/appetitive functions of the soul. This kind of thinking is admittedly foreign to The Trial of Socrates, but it emerges when one is allowed to ponder the death of Socrates without feeling an incumbent necessity to solve anything-for its application by analogy to the individual soul, right or wrong, is no more a solution than that provided by Mr. Stone. The death of Socrates remains, I suppose, a mystery.
-STUART SMITHERS

Spring 1990


THE GODDESS WITHIN: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women's Lives, by Jennifer Barker Woolger and Roger J. Woolger; Fawcett/Columbine 1989; paperback.

Amid the rising and welcome tide of books on the feminine, this book stands like a beam shedding light in all directions for women and men alike. Psychotherapist and teacher Jennifer Woolger and her Jungian analyst husband, Roger Woolger, author of Other Lives, Other Selves, show that goddess psychology makes sense. Their book takes the enduring and heretofore quite puzzling ancient myths of the goddesses and decodes them in warm, human, sometimes humorous terms, showing them to be apt reflections of our own contemporary propensities. The goddesses are no longer frozen on Mount Olympus in the past; they are alive and well in every psyche. Women can identify with them, and men will discover them in the projections they make upon the women in their lives, or find them in their own animas, as Jung has suggested.

Hera is to be found at the committee meeting next Tuesday;. Demeter is baking cookies for the children; Aphrodite is twirling in front of the mirror trying out a new perfume; while Artemis scoffs at her, pulling on her jogging shoes and lifting her rucksack. Allthe while, Persephone is writing a poem on fading and festering petals, while at the local college, Athena is giving a brisk lecture on the importance of accepting female intellect as a sign of the times.

This book is filled with anecdotes that help us perceive the various goddesses with which we women identify and the ways we tend to continue their divine quarrels as we put down what we disapprove of in other women. We learn that in so doing we are suppressing those very aspects of the feminine in ourselves. To make sure that we understand, a comprehensive test is included in the book to help readers recognize the goddesses (or inner processes) they approve of and those they have difficulty with.

I could not help but apply this to Louisa May Alcott's classic and enduring book, Little Women, where Marmie (Demeter) dealt with four of the above-mentioned goddesses as her young daughters. No wonder the book endures!

The Woolgers have been giving “Goddess Wheel” workshops, and they share some of their techniques, games, and strategies for making women conscious of how we often take a stance and fail to understand how other women feel or where they are coming from. It might help a Demeter to stop worrying so much about the kids, take off her apron, and put on a sexy nightie for her husband. It might help many a man to understand that it is not reasonable to expect all the goddesses to appear simultaneously in one woman, but how, with patience and skill, he could uncover them one by one by appreciating and encouraging them as they appear. Potentially we have them all, as men have all the gods; we have them in both their light and their darker, or negative, aspects. (Myths, unlike religions in the West, do not suppress the Shadow or project it onto a devil.)

The average American woman is currently expected to be Aphrodite in bed, Demeter at breakfast, Hera or Athena on the job, to rush home to feed the family and tuck in the kids, and be off as Artemis on a camping trip for the weekend! This impossible dilemma and variations of it are the stock-in-trade of our advertisements, movies, and soap operas, as the Woolgers point out. In fact, there is a helpful guide to books and movies featuring the various goddesses in modem disguise. Add to this, a whole chapter just for men, and you can see that this is a veritable goddess almanac.

We should never be bored again waiting in line at the supermarket or sitting through meetings or coping with families. We can goddess watch and see both the dark, cruel, or bossy and power-seeking aspects and the caring, loving, or irresistible ones shining through the eyes of every girl, woman, and crone.

Above all, this book restores the timeless depth of wisdom and dignity of myths and their power to convey their messages of compelling truth in that eternity we call Now.
-ALICE O. HOWELL

Summer 1990


IMMORTAL SISTERS: Secrets of Taoist Women, by Thomas Cleary, translator and editor; Shambhala, 1989; paperback.

At first glance, this little book feels like a collection of scattered bits without cohesiveness or much coherence. But on repeated returns to it, the reader keeps finding little gems from another world and another time, which entitle this slim volume to a special place in an esoteric library.

There are six immortal sisters, dating from the third to twelfth centuries, and their work, along with Cleary's valuable notes, is presented in three sections: Sun Bu-er's poems and secrets; “Poetry of Female Real People: Alchemical Secrets of the Feminine Tao,” and a very brief section on “Spiritual Alchemy for Women.”

Several features may endear Thomas Cleary's work to a variety of tastes. Besides the obvious references to Confucianism, Chan Buddhism, I Ching, and other Taoist themes around openness and breathing, there are echoes of kundalini, devas, Sufis, and Mahatmas. The constant is the alchemy of immortality. For present-day feminists there is the editor's long introduction on the importance of Chinese women in Taoism from several centuries back, including the intriguing concept of an inner and outer Mysterious Female (p. 63).

It is from the six chosen women's writings, chiefly short and highly symbolic poems, that the material presented in English for the first time is drawn. The explanatory notes are a requirement to clarify a symbolism dating back several hundred years and differing richly from metaphors more commonly used in the West. An example of this is in multiple representations of yin and yang as spirit and energy, as jade and gold, as dragon and tiger, as clouds and wind, to name a few. Also linked to these complementing rather than contrasting doubles is the concept of concentration as gentle or intense. Drunkenness used as a metaphor for enlightenment (p. 80) gives pause, but the picture of “holding a full bowl” (p. 88) when care to avoid mental and physical waste of energy is meant, has a rightness about it. The color yellow, naming the dominant river of China, also symbolizes the spinal sushumna (p. 98), and Yellow Court (p. 88) is related not only to the legendary Yellow Emperor, but also to the metaphysical concept of perfect poise.

Thomas Cleary himself is identified on the cover as a Harvard Ph.D. in Oriental languages and civilization, with much work in translation to his credit. It would be good to know more about him, and to find in the book some information on the source of its content, reasons for selection, and particularly the context of the all-important notes which aside from the first introduction appear to be part of the translated material. Only in the striking explanations of the twentieth-century Chen Yingning is a commentator identified, leaving the reader with a curiosity to know more about him, too.

The book is recommended, especially to students of the esoteric. It is a vivid reflection of the ever intertwining strands of religious conceptualization in a millennium of Chinese history.
-CLAIRE WALKER

Summer 1990


NEW RELIGIONS AND THE THEOLOGICAL IMAGINATION IN AMERICA, by Mary Farrell Bednarowski; Indiana University Press, 1989; hardcover.

This book should expand the minds of many readers on the nature of religion and theological thought. Bednarowski examines six “new religions”-Mormonism, Christian Science, Theosophy, Scientology, the Unifcation Church, and New Age thought-comparing and contrasting their varied approaches to religious questions such as: Who or what is God like? What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of death and the afterlife? How do we live our lives, ethically?

One can quarrel with Bednarowski about whether, for example, Theosophy and New Age thought are really religions. H. P. Blavatsky, founder of modem Theosophy, said Theosophy was not a religion, and Theosophists include practitioners of many faiths, East and West-there are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians of many denominations, Jews, and more among the Theosophists, who seek the core of the ageless wisdom in whatever religious tradition. And New Age thought is a conglomeration of interests-spiritual, social, and political which at best can be declared a “network” based on some common threads of thought. New Agers, too, can be found in nearly every church, temple, or synagogue. But these may be quibbles in an age when religion and spirituality are mass-marketed, and New Age sections proliferate in bookstores.

Then too, Bednarowski does a solid job of presenting the ideas of these six modern religious or spiritual movements. Her sources are impeccable, and her treatment across the board seems very fair. Within the parameters she has chosen, the distinctions among the six movements are clear, and she shows that each of the movements has an internal integrity. Presenting them as she does, she also reveals fundamental continuities in the way religious thought has developed in America.

She has organized the book as a conversation among the six movements on important questions of cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, and eschatology. It should enhance understanding in academic settings of these relatively recent expressions of the religious quest. Recent doesn’t necessarily mean faddish, and for that matter, that which is labeled “New” is often found to be grounded in something very old indeed. Bednarowski is professor of religious studies and director of the Master of Arts program at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Her book is one of a series issued under the general title of “Religion in North America,” Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein, editors.
-WILLIAM J. METZGER

Summer 1990


PHILOSOPHY GONE WILD, by Holmes Rolston, III: Prometheus Books, Buffalo. New York; paperback.

This eye-catching title introduces a collection of fifteen essays on ecological ethics. Drawing on many sources, Rolston explores the human relationship to nature from many perspectives.

One of the most interesting points to me is the manner in which most of society views the environment not as something innately deserving of protection, but as something to be preserved for an ultimately more valuable use by humanity.

This question of value is basic to the entire book. What are the values in nature, and where do they fit in the river of life? Among the values offered are economic, life support, recreational, scientific, aesthetic, life, diversity and unity, stability and spontaneity, and sacramental. Most people give little or no thought to the earth as a living entity, but regard it only as existing to be used by humanity, as if we are the only living system whose desires and needs are important. This view, unfortunately, is held by many so-called conservationists, whose approaches are completely anthropocentric. To quote Rolston:

Future historians will find our century remarkable for its breadth of knowledge and narrowness of value judgments. Never have humans known so much about, and valued so little in, the great chain of being. As a result, the great ecological crisis is not surprising. To devalue nature and inflate human worth is to do business in a false currency. This yields a dysfunctional, monopolistic world view. We are misfits because we have misread our life support system.

He contends that our exploitation of nature, even in supposedly protected parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, is due to our lack of admiring .respect for nature itself. Environmental concern these days seems mainly business oriented and it is only very recently that any environmental prohibitions have arisen. According to Rolston, these increasing concerns fall into two categories: a humanistic environmental ethic, or a naturalistic one. The former deals only with how nature relates to human needs and gains, while the latter also considers the fact that “humans are major but not exclusive stockholders” of this earthly picture, and that the entire biosystem is involved and needs preserving.

The best of possible worlds is not one entirely consumed by humans, but one that has place for the urban, rural, and wild. Only with moral concern for the whole biological business can we do our work of living well. This ethic . . . defends all life in its ecosystem integrity.

Whether Earth was made for us is a question we leave to the theologians, who are not likely to say that it was made for us to exploit. We can meanwhile say that we were made for Earth (if not also by it), and this gives us both the power and the duty so to act that we continue to fit this Earth, the substance, the sustainer of life.

After a discussion of our duties to endangered species, again contrasting the egocentric approach of most of society with the growing awareness of intrinsic rights and needs of other manifestations of life on the planet, Rolston closes with five accounts of personal encounters with nature, “an experiential plunge into nature,” which we enter as “latecomers” inheriting a “value-laden, storied Earth.”

This book is thoughtful and inclusive. While not stated openly, it is clearly implied in Rolston's conclusions that we need to accept the fact that we and all other species are part of nature, and not separate from it. A final quote from the book seems to sum up the ecological picture today:

The contemporary ethical systems seem misfits in the role most recently demanded of them. There is something overspecialized about an ethic, held by the dominant class of Homo sapiens, that regards the welfare of only one of several million species as an object of duty. If this requires a paradigm change about the sorts of things to which duty can attach, so much the worse for those ethics no longer functioning in, nor suited to, their changing environment. The anthropocentrism associated with them was fiction anyway. There is something Newtonian, not yet Einsteinian, besides something morally naive, about living in a reference frame where one species takes itself as absolute and values everything else relative to its utility.

-WILLAMAY PYM

Autumn 1990


THE WAY OF THE LOVER: The Awakening & Embodiment of the Full Human, by Robert Augustus Masters; Xanthyros Foundation, West Vancouver, British Columbia, 1988: paperback.

J. Krishnamurti, in his talks and writings, always spoke against spiritual ambition and striving. “The search for result, for success,” he says in Commentaries on Living, 1st Series, “is blinding, limiting; it is ever coming to an end.” To set for ourselves a goal that is elsewhere is to avoid true awakening here and now.

Similarly, Robert Augustus Masters, in his book The Way of the Lover, speaks of moving “not from -here to there, but from here to a deeper here.” This is not the United States' Robert Masters, but a Canadian teacher who guides a spiritual community in British Columbia, and who has published several books and audiocassettes through his sponsoring organization, the Xanthyros Foundation. His main theme in this book is that of the “lover,” his term for an awakened and awakening human being, paradoxical, ecstatic, living without fear, hope, or nostalgia, always in the here-and- now. “The lover is not within, nor without, but simply here, living as the very core of each moment…”

 Unlike Krishnamurti, who took an uncompromising view against methods such as rituals, Masters is not against using methods when it suits the teacher's purposes; “[the lover] uses rituals when necessary, but does not depend upon them.” The lover is no mere peddler of truth but one who constantly embodies and experiences truth. The lover is aware without being detached, in tune with all his or her emotions, whether good or bad, always going through them instead of avoiding or “rising above” them. The lover uses spiritual teachers to their full advantage without becoming a devotee, and knows the difference between vulnerability and helplessness-to “stand strong without being rigid.”

The Way of the Lover is a difficult book to read. Masters is ruthless in his assessment of the various habits to which many of us cling in this transitional period on Earth. He attacks the false optimism of many “New Age” teachers, the brainwashing used by spiritual gurus and cults, guilt mechanisms, pornography, sex, romance, and masturbation. He speaks with an authoritative voice, a voice attributed not to any disembodied being, but simply to a man who has attained some self-mastery through consciously experiencing all parts of himself. Just about everyone's illusions come under fire in this book; whether we are romantics, cynics, extroverts, introverts, or guru-worshippers, Masters rubs our noses in our addictions, telling us to expand our boundaries rather than collapse them.

By going through our more painful or anti-social emotions we may, Masters seems to suggest, tread the ladder of evolution without leaving any parts of ourselves behind. With such an approach, even jealousy becomes useful, grief and pain become “but available light-energy.” Perhaps this is because the energy that was once used in avoiding our feelings is used to experience all feelings, “good” and “bad.” Therapists tell us that it is through looking closely at our feelings, rather than indulging or inhibiting them, that we begin to get better in touch with them. But Masters tells us to go further, to “look inside our looking,” to examine our motivations for looking. If we are detached observers, perhaps we are inventing a new way of avoiding our feelings; but if we participate in them and own them-if we are, as he says, “juicy”-perhaps this energy will be freed for our enrichment and empowerment.

Like Krishnamurti, Masters seems to distrust language as a way of expressing the enlightened experience. But, rather than be cautious about his use of it, he instead appears in his enthusiasm to celebrate this distrust, dancing on the slippery rail of discourse, using run-on sentences, ending many chapters with ellipses ( . . . ), and even occasionally lapsing into rhyme. The anger at wasted human potential, the repeated invitations to “be here now,” combined with his frequent use of strong language and the sixteen poems that make Part 111, all hint at a curious combination of Baba Ram Dass and Allen Ginsberg. We get the impression of a man firing scattershot at the heart of truth, enlightened but irritable, drunk with his own insights.

The Way of the Lover will make you question old ideas about love, sex, self-knowledge, and even morality. Its ideas are meant to be lived, not discussed or abstracted. It may anger, sadden, or outrage you, but its allowance for all responses in the face of blunt truth make it a rare, genuine expression of the ageless wisdom.
-JEFF ZETH

Autumn 1990


THE JEFFERSON BIBLE, by Thomas Jefferson, with an introduction by F. Forrester Church and an afterword by Jaroslav Pelikan: Beacon Press, 1989: paperback.

The third president of the United States was a genuine Renaissance person, who produced a remarkable range of intellectual and creative achievements. One of the lesser-known of these was the Jefferson Bible, a bold accomplishment, now made available in a pocket-sized edition with a new introduction and afterword.

In his introduction to the new edition, F. Forrester Church, Senior minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, writes that his own introduction to the Jefferson Bible came when his father, the late Senator Frank Church, presented him with a copy that the elder Church had been given on the day of his swearing in as a U.S. senator in 1956, “as had been the Custom since 1904.”

Jaroslav Pelikan, in an afterword, notes Jefferson's “sheer audacity,” in editing the New Testament accounts, to tell “the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth” without the “corruptions” Jefferson felt marred the text. Jefferson “wanted to find the essence of true religion in the Gospels, an essence whose basic content he had already formulated for himself with considerable simplicity and clarity.”

Jefferson himself, in a letter to John Adams, described his task as that of “paring off the amphiboligisms into which [the evangelists] have been led” and leaving “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to many”-“and which is as distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.”

 

My own discovery of the Jefferson Bible was in a remaindered facsimile edition which. I happened to pick up in a bookstore for one dollar many years ago. It has been long out of print, and this new edition from Beacon Press, with the Church and Pelikan pieces added, is most welcome.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Autumn 1990


SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY: A Guide to Reconnection with Nature, by Jim Nollman; Bantam New Age Books; paperback, 227 pages.


MOTHER EARTH SPIRITUALITY: Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World, by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man; Harper and Row, Sun Francisco; paperback, 230 pages.


DHARMA GAIA: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology, edited by Allan Hunt Badiner; Parallax Press, Berkeley: paperback, 264 pages.


SACRED PLACES: How the Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship, by James A. Swan; Bear & Company, Sante Fe, New Mexico; paperback, 236 pages.

Since the birth of the modern environmental movement, the concept of “ecology” itself has undergone numerous transformations. One of the most important of these is the emergence of what has been called “deep ecology,” a philosophy that acknowledges the inherent rights and freedom 'of all beings. In Spiritual Ecology Jim Nollman takes a step beyond secular conceptions of deep ecology to suggest an ecological thinking that is unreservedly spiritual in nature. A truly “spiritual” relationship with nature is one that acknowledges the unique awareness, intuition, love, and wisdom that animals and plants possess, while at the same time recognizing our own mysterious depths of spirituality and awareness. Widely known for his work on interspecies communication (chronicled in Dolphin Dreamtime, previously titled Animal Dreaming), Nollman here writes engagingly of the need to reconsider our connection with nature, and stimulates us to look at nature in ways that we may not have considered before. Told- largely through his own experiences and insights, this is an intensely personal account, possessing a directness frequently absent from more academic treatments of ecology and nature.

In Mother Birth Spirituality, Sioux Indian Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, places environmental and ecological concern within the frame work of traditional Native American thinking. For thousands of years before the modem environmental movement, Native Americans had developed beliefs and rituals that expressed a profoundly heightened sensitivity to nature. Whereas modern environmental understanding can too often remain at the purely abstract, cerebral level, in the Native American tradition we encounter a practical set of methods to directly re-engage and regenerate our connection with nature. More provocatively, perhaps, the Native American tradition rakes the question of whether we can, through our rituals, also communicate with the Earth and actively partake in her much-needed healing. McGaa writes:

Now our planet is in great danger. Why not turn to ceremony, at least to get the feeling, the message that our planet must live, She is speaking to us quite strongly already. Let her speak also in ceremony. We can gain a special resolve by communicating within the ceremony.

In this informative and highly readable volume, McGaa presents an overview of many key Sioux Ceremonies, as well as offering specific ways that we can begin working with some of these practices ourselves. There is also a fascinating section on the ways Native American ideas and customs have influenced modern American thought and political institutions. For those who wish to explore the connection between modern ecological ideas and traditional wisdom towards nature, this book provides a valuable introduction.

Still another perspective on the current environmental issue can be found within the excellent anthology Dharma Gaia. In this wide-ranging collections of essays from such writers as Joan Halifax, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Gary Snyder, we encounter the relationship between humanity and nature through the eyes of Buddhist thought. Whereas in Native American culture we find a highly evolved sensitivity and understanding of nature (and the rituals to enhance that relationship), what Buddhism offers is a meditative tradition through which individuals may widen their boundaries of identity to encompass the world itself. Among the many ideas one encounters in this collection, the most common theme seems to be this: that as Buddha beings, we exist not simply as isolated egos, but share in the interconnectedness of all life forms everywhere. Hence, the enlightened view of self becomes what Joanna Macy in her essay terms the “ecological self.” In his introduction to the volume, editor Alan Hunt Badiner writes:

Buddhism offers a clearly defined system of ethics, a guide to ecological living, right here, right now. Meditation is its primary tool for raising ecological consciousness. In meditation, awareness of our environment deepens and our identity expands to include the multitude of circumstances and conditions that come together to form our existence, curiosity and respect for the beauty and power of nature is enhanced, revealing an innate bio-spirituality.

This is a moving and thought-provoking work that will be of interest to all who are concerned about the spiritual dimensions of ecology and environmentalism.

In Jim Swan's Sacred Places our attention shifts to the study of the unique properties and qualities associated with the landscape itself. For thousands of years men and women have recognized the power of different sites to move us in ways that are not easily explained by modern science. Why is it, in particular, that certain areas have long been considered “sacred” while others have not? Swan, an “environmental psychologist,” examines questions such as these, and offers a variety of perspectives. Drawing upon both modern research and traditional native wisdom, he explores such areas as the varieties of sacred place; the role of sacred place in the experiencing of mystical states, and the dilemma of sacred places in the modern world. Also included is a regional guide to sacred places on public lands within the United States. Along with Paul Devereux's, Sacred Places offers one of the best introductions to the subject of Earth mysteries I have encountered.
–RAY GRASSE

Winter 1990


WAITING FOR THE MARTIAN EXPRESS: Cosmic Visitors, Earth Warriors, Luminous Dreams, by Richard Grossinger; North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1989; paperback.

Richard Grossinger is a New Age Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson in applying the New Journalism to New Age reporting. The present volume is a collection of eighteen of his essays, most previously published but now revised.

These essays range over such “New Age” phenomena as UFOs and extraterrestrial visitors, martial arts, shamanism, a stonework human face on the surface of Mars, holistic health, and symbolic dreams. But a subtext runs through most of Grossinger's writing –a concern about the social problems of our time: the threat of nuclear holocaust, homelessness and poverty, drugs, and child abuse. The tension between these two focuses gives his writing its special quality.

On the one hand, Grossinger seems fascinated with the promise of New Age movements to give cosmic insight and natural harmony to their practitioners. He grooves on Chogyam Trungpa, Gurdjieff, Don Juan Matus, and Da Free John. On the other hand, he recognizes the plastic, feel-good optimism of much of the New Age-the low comedy of initiation by bathing with dolphins and of an Aboriginal shaman who talks like Father Divine. (Does anyone these days remember that proto-flower child, Father Divine?) The New Age as spiritual playtime for the yupper classes is reminiscent of the French nobility under Louis XVI who liked to play at being shepherds and shepherdesses in the gardens of Versailles until the deluge came.

New Age pundits reveal hidden mysteries and cosmic truths above us, but ignore the agonies of the poor and the immorality of the exploiters around us. It is this contrast that hovers ever in the background and sometimes in the forefront of Grossinger's critique of society and the New Age movement. That critique has one villain-narrow-minded intolerance and bigotry-with two main faces: the orthodoxy of scientific materialism and the orthodoxy of religious fundamentalism. But the New Age movement has its own band of true believers with their own brand of salvation, the questioning of which can call forth reactions just as intolerant and bigoted as those of the rationalist or the pietist:

I consider all the present talk (vintage, 1987) about channels, mediums, extraterrestrials, shamanic trances, healing crystals, and chreodes to be relevant and exciting, but I resist being told exactly what any of these things mean, and particularly how they relate on a one-to-one literal basis to our evolution, personal or planetary. Such spiritual  authoritarianism is always someone else's interpretation of their own experience for their own reasons. (158)

Such rejection of external authority is in the great esoteric tradition-but it is fruitless unless joined to a realization of internal truth.

Grossinger's command of New Age movements is impressively broad, but correspondingly shallow. His prose is poetic but sometimes consists of little more than New Age name-dropping. He is fascinated by the externals of the New Age movement and intuits the enduring inner reality that the dumb outer show of New Age business masks as much as it reveals:

...the world must change according to esoteric principles at its core. But the marketed
New Age is at best a series of well-meaning simplifications and at worst a hustle and a fraud made possible by those simplifications. It is the marketing of the New Age, the invention of attractive mirages, the promulgation of cliches, that this book addresses. A true cultural and spiritual revival is our only hope. (12)

Grossinger, however, offers no clue about where to look for that hope and revival. He alternates between attraction to New Age promises and the stance of the New Journalism, with its curious blend of amused objectivity and gonzo responses. What he lacks is an integrating vision to make sense of the pain of phenomenal living and the bliss of numinous experience. The first is foreign to New Agers; the second, to New Journalists. The result is a hollowness at the core of things:

We live among ghosts and chimeras; yet something alive is addressing us from a locale we have recognized only as Void. It may have been addressing us forever. We do not know what it is. I repeat-despite claims of Mayan prophecy and bodies of Martians in the White House, despite trance visits to golden cities and radar backings of UFOs, predicted earthquakes and second comings-we do not know what is happening to w we do not even know who we have been.. . . But if we buy the New Age with its superficially glamorous sideshows, we may miss a marvelous phenomenon; in fact, we may miss our own  evolution. (155)

Grossinger offers no direction to travel, but a useful warning against detours along the way.
-JOHN ALGEO

Winter 1990


WORDS TO LIVE BY: Inspirations for Every Day, by Eknath Easwaran; Nilgiri Press, Petaluma, CA, 1990; paperback.

The person seeking a background for meditation will find Eknath Easwaran's Words to Live by beneficial. One page-and one page only-is devoted to a spiritual quotation for each day of the calendar year and Easwaran's brief commentary on the quotation.

Most of the readings are extracted from world religions; however, also included are passages of poetry from such diverse notables as William Shakespeare and Francis Thompson. Mahatma Gandhi, who had an immense influence on the thinking of Easwaran, an Indian by birth, is generously represented. Bible passages are numerous, and the writings of Christian mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thomas a Kempis appear prominently.

The book is based on daily meditation and the use of the mantram or the Holy Name, areas central to Easwaran's teachings in America since his founding in 1960 of the Blue Mountain Center in Berkeley, California. Among Easwaran's previously published books are Meditation: An Eight-Point Program and Mantram Handbook. The readings emphasize selflessness and also the One Self of which we are all part.

The mantram, or the Holy Name, for most persons will be derived from their religion for its deep personal appeal. The writer recommends its frequent use-as a part of meditation, while walking, while falling asleep, while waiting. Furthermore, Easwaran recommends use of the mantram to curb habits such as smoking, drinking, or drug use.

Emphasis is placed on living in the present, thus releasing oneself from guilt over past action or anxiety about the future. Easwaran asserts that meditation lifts us “out of time into the eternal present.”

Some of the readings deal with death, which Easwaran sees as no struggle when we cease our wanting-of money, of pleasure, of all material things.

He advises that meditation may take a lifetime to learn-a lifetime “well spent.” -and warns against those who offer “instant enlightenment.” But we can aid ourselves in many ways-by exercise, which helps the body to feel light; by resisting cravings for food, smoking, drinking, drugs; by avoiding negative tendencies.

What the reader is likely to gain in working with this book is an increasing feeling of spiritual relationship with the author. In the last passage, that for December 31, the quotation (from St. Augustine) is on “eternal lie,” likening it to “hat moment of illumination  which leaves us breathless” For Easwaran, this is the point at which he is “invisible” from the whole and can use all his capacities to alleviate suffering, to live for others, and therefore “to come to lie.”
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Winter 1990





Book Reviews 1991





IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE: Making Worlds of Myth and Science, by William Irwin Thompson; St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989; hardcover.

“To construct an imaginary lost cosmology from a mere six pages of Grimm…”

Every now and then there is a book that witnesses to the sheer joy of journeying in the real of mythic imagination. In Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth and Science, William Irwin Thompson provides as a point of departure, a brilliant reconstruction of Grimm’s Rapunzel. We are taken on an analytic journey deep into the imagery of this Marchen and discover it describes the experience of our psycho/social transformation of human evolution through historic time. We are invited to travel along on this Bateson-inspired quest to find “the pattern that connects.” Perhaps in the journeying, we might just be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a future born of observations and imaginings as bravely new and all-encompassing as the once novel notion of a round Earth. In Thompson’s words, the tale holds the very

…setting up of an order that is not simply familial or societal, but planetary; that in fact, the story is one of the setting up of a new world system with its relationships between the sexes, its new societal organizations, and it’s new arrangements of the planets in the solar system.

In touring Rapunzel’s mythic landscape, Thompson articulates for us a cultural history shaped of the stunning empirical correspondences in our myths, and the hidden mythic images in the very stuff of our sciences. We are led through Rapunzel only to find that our fairy tales

…have their roots in prehistoric darkness, and the hidden geometry that survives in them is not simply the obvious stuff of phallic symbols and devouring maws, but a lost cosmology of correspondences that connect the flowers to the stars. It requires an act of the imagination to bring it forth, much in the same way it required an act of the imagination to look in a new war at the dripping of a faucet.

Literally, Thompson asks for a revisioning of the very geography of what we view in out mind’s eye. It is no less than an excursion to the most compelling of new paradigm horizons.

As companions on this journey, lest we be unconvinced of the potential vistas, Thompson invites four friends to join us- Ralph Abraham, Jim Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, and Francisco Varela. All are pioneers in their respective fields, and witness by their work to radically different modes of looking. Through personal anecdote and empirical explication, Thompson provides passage to the very center of the correspondences between these independent thinkers.

Thompson constructs an opportunity to view through their eyes a reality literally laid down in the shaping.” We are provided an intriguing glimpse of a possible perspective, a Thompsonian cosmology that has the carrying capacity worthy of these thinkers’ paradigm-challenging research. In a vital and imaginal conversation between cognitive biology and geo-physiology, as well as non-linear Gaian and chaos dynamics, we are treated to an intimate viewing of the fullness of possibilities that outdistance the individual horizons of each of the disciplines. The most spectacular view is at the composite vista point.

Thompson divides his synthesis of this possible view into five great cosmological emergences, providing an analysis of each according to its prevailing mode of consciousness and technology, its constellated cultural identity, the concomitant cultural complex, and the resultant societal victim. He considers these evolutional realities as polities, that is, five different mental landscapes that externalize themselves in these five great emergences.

Scanning the period from the remotest Paleolithic to the present time indicated as the period of Planetization, Thompson concludes that our present emergence has as its prevailing mode of consciousness the press for participation or “attunement.” To arrive at this point, Thompson leans upon the empirical historical evidence of our contemporary experiences. To help us envisage the future, he draws upon the cosmological implication sin the research of his four friends, demonstrating that it is possible for the multi-dimensionality and “inter-relatedness of all sentient beings” to inhabit the new imaginal landscapes shaped of transformed and transforming participation.

Dealing as it does with the future, Imaginary Landscape is perhaps the most personally revealing and intimate of Thompson’s books. Here he reveals his own passions, exuberances, and cautions for the razor-edged path participatively emerging before us. This is for Thompson the “middle way of the Mind” that

…lies between the angelic height of the macrocosm and the Gaian atmosphere and the elemental depths of the microcosm of the material earth.

Here imagination is the passport, and in tribute, Thompson concludes the book with four poems, one dedicated to each of his four traveling companions. As epilogue to the text, they provide a proper container for the late-night conversations and encouragements among friends. They serve to inspire, for in the end what matters is that we, too, must cultivate together the imaginal possibilities for our brave new land.
–GABRIELE UHLEIN

Spring 1991


CIRCULAR EVIDENCE, by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews; Bloomsbury, United Kingdom; hardcover.

The resourcefulness of Mother Nature appears to be boundless. If an objective can be accomplished in two or more ways it is almost axiomatic that they will all be used in appropriate circumstances. Eyes are a good example. For most creatures, this most valuable complex of sense organs appears to have been reinvented several times during the course of evolution, and includes compound eyes and independent eyes on opposite sides of the head in some birds, fishes, and insects.

It was with such thoughts in mind that I approached the problem of crop circles. These are areas of flattened corn or other crops that appear mysteriously overnight from time to time in various places in the world. The circles can be up to 30 meters (about 33 yards) in diameter. Inside the circle the corn is flattened to the ground in a regular pattern, while beyond the circle the standing crop remains undisturbed. Most of these depressions are precisely circular, but a few elliptical ones have been noted. Multiple circles and rings circumscribing a circle have also occurred, along with straight lines and other more complex forms.

Although these phenomena appear most plentiful in the western counties of England, similar events have occurred in many countries in the last few decades. Nobody has reported seeing a circle as it is being formed, because this appears always to happen in hours of complete darkness. The assumption that these were hoax circles would require use of heavy equipment, yet no tracks have ever been found leading to the circles. It is impossible to walk through a field of standing corn with out leaving a track.

Quite recently two seemingly incompatible theories as to the origins of these crop circles have been propounded. One is that they are due entirely to natural causes, namely whirlwinds. The second is that non-human intelligence must be involved. It occurred to me that these need not be mutually exclusive: non-human intelligences might be manipulating whirlwinds or other natural forces to achieve these ends. During a discussion at a Theosophical conference at Tekels Park, Camberley, Surrey, I suggested half-jokingly that the non-human intelligences might in fact be nature spirits.

It was at this point that I came across an excellent book on the topic, Circular Evidence by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews. It represents the work of a group of engineers and trained observers who have painstakingly investigated hundreds of these crop circles and other formations. It is highly commended to anyone seriously interested in these phenomena.

The book presents numerous "explanations" that have been put forward to explain the crop circles, and ultimately discounts all of these as implausible, concluding that unknown forces must be causing the circles.

Since the book was published, an international conference at Oxford in June 1990 sought to present whirlwinds as the definitive explanation. A whirlwind is essentially a column of rotating and rapidly rising air. This causes air to be sucked in from all directions. The damage done by whirlwinds is caused partly by objects being lifted by the rising current and partly by sideways pressure from the air rushing in. It should be obvious that such air movements are quite incapable of producing crop circles. It could almost be said that the air is moving the wrong way, because the crop within the circle is flattened and not pulled upwards. Moreover, whirlwinds are extremely noisy, and usually move across the ground at a considerable speed and are rarely stationary, so that a swath rather than a precise circle could be expected.

However, the most telling objection to whirlwinds as an explanation is the circles themselves, which invariably show sharp demarcations between the circle of flattened crops and the surrounding standing crop. This would be quite impossible to achieve with a violent column of air moving either upwards or downwards.

Attempts to duplicate the flattening effect by researchers were unsuccessful. No known natural forces could account for the characteristics of the circles. There are many reasons for concluding that these circles are not made by brute force, but by some far more subtle means. In the true circles, no real damage is done to the crop. Each stem appear s to be bent sharply at right angles close to the ground, but normal growth continues with the stem remaining in the horizontal posture.

The circles in rape crops are particularly puzzling. Rape stems are hard and brittle, particularly close to the lower end, and it is quite impossible to bend them sharply without breaking them. Yet in such circles all the stems are in fact bent without damage.

The book presents considerable detail about the numerous complexities of these crop circles, including copious illustration by diagrams and photographs.

I follow Delgado and Andrews in attributing the circles to the work of unseen intelligences. They must use natural forces to perform the actual operations, but these appear to be forces not yet recognized by science. If we examine these phenomena without prejudice we are obliged to concede the existence of superior unseen intelligences and hitherto unknown forces in nature. Moreover, these are not evanescent phenomena such as materializations at séances seen by only a few people. They are massive demonstrations persisting for many weeks, and available for inspection and photographing by many people.

For the moment it seems we are being provided with irrefutable evidence and are being left alone to ponder upon its meaning. Further enlightenment seems probable in the years to come.
E. LESTER SMITH

Spring 1991


THE EYE OF THE HEART: Portraits of Passionate Spirituality, by Harry W. Paige; Crossroad; paper.

The Eye of the Heart takes its title from a Lakota word describing a way of seeing that is "not with the eyes alone but with the heart," a way that is meant to complement our already well-developed faculties of logic and rational thought. Harry W. Paige links this idea with the Christian concept of faith, finding much contemporary Western spirituality to be without passion, the yearning for God that has been the subject of the poems of Jalal al-Din Rumi, the medieval mystics, and the Indian ecstatic poets.

In these accounts of his experiences, mostly in the American Southwest among Hispanic, Native, and Anglo Americans, the author not only paints a living cross-cultural portrait of other people's passionate spirituality, but also investigates the spiritual emptiness and isolation he himself feels in the midst of such experiences. Although his perspective is mainly Catholic, he looks at the "double lives" of Christian Native Americans, who see no conflict between older spiritual practices and Christianity, and at the inner conflict of an atheist parishioner.

Paige describes himself as a "head" Catholic, one who has seen through the eye of reason for most of his spiritual life. The experiences described in his book, consisting as they do of an inner journey or pilgrimage, lead him to feel a personal emptiness and a yearning for the spiritual passion he sees in others around him. "I would like to shed the shackles of the mind…allowing the imagination to soar to a…greater faith ."

Of course, an overabundance of passion can carry risks as great as any posed by excessive rationality. Even as the author describes his loneliness and detachment from true feeling, we read horrifying accounts of acts of penance committed in moments of passionate spiritual excess. Whether it is a Yuwipi healing ceremony, in which pieces of flesh are gouged from the arms of petitioners, or a dangerous reenactment of the Passion in northern New Mexico, where a secret society publicly scourges and crucifies one of their number who volunteers for the role of the Cristo . we realize the extent to which a world seen only through the eye of the heart can blind us. And yet, Paige's yearning, his sadness at not being able to feel his beliefs strongly, despite his genuine desires to share the strong feelings of the people he writes about, made this writer wonder which excess is worse. Broken bones sustained from falling under the weight of a 200-pound cross can heal - but what about a heart, broken or in disrepair from lack of use?

Memory is another element that plays an important role in The Eye of the Heart. The memories of a mother whose son died in war, of the priest of a deserted "ghost church" without a congregation, of the author's own Catholic childhood, all playa vital role In passionate spirituality. Eastern and Western religious rituals often have much to do with remembering a story; and when we think of the origin of our word "religion"- from a Latin word meaning "to bind back" - the elevation of simple, personal memories to an almost sacramental role in the awakening of passion seems to fit. We make people sacred-ancestors. saints, teachers - because of our present use of them to reconnect with a higher reality. Likewise, it is the memories we associate with a place whether it is a son's grave, a military cemetery, an abandoned church, or a hometown-and our use of them now that make a place sacred, either individually or collectively.

The Eye of the Heart is recommended both as a first hand account of spiritual practices in the Native Southwest, and as a tale of personal discovery and aspiration to spiritual passion.
-JEFF ZETH

Spring 1991


THE LANGUAGE OF THE GODDESS, by Marija Gimbutas; Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989; hardcover.


THE ONCE AND FUTURE GODDESS: A Symbol for Our Time, by Elinor W. Gadon; Harper & Row, Sun Francisco, 1989.


THE HEART OF THE GODDESS, by Hallie Iglehart Austen; Wingbow Press, Berkeley, 1990; paperback.

The Goddess peers at us from the covers of many books these days as she reenters society jaded from too much science and rationality. Women and men are looking to her more and more for inspiration and are invoking her spirit to create a new pattern of partnership, peace, and harmony. Three Goddess books in particular are notable for their profuse and stunning images.

In The Language of the Goddess anthropologist and prehistorian Marija Gimbutas documents the prehistoric Goddess era with over 2000 symbolic artifacts (shown in black and white) dating from Neolithic times, She adds more archaeological data to the growing evidence that the Goddess as Earth Mother was worshipped for millennia through a vast area of Europe to the Near East. Gimbutas attempts to recreate the worldview of these prehistoric agrarian cultures by interpreting the images they left. For example, she cites the persistence of images of snakes as a sign of devotion to snake Goddesses and Gods as symbols of the life force, of fertility and increase, of regeneration and healing. The scope of the material is dazzling, and one wants to accept the author's conclusions. However, skeptics could accuse her of reading too much into the designs of these people whose inner lives are lost in the mists of time. One wonders if the zig-zag or the chevron, for instance, always were meant to convey spiritual meaning, and if so if they had the same meaning from one culture to another.

However, Joseph Campbell is one who was convinced. In his foreword he writes. “The iconography of the Great Goddess arose in reflection and veneration of the laws of Nature.” For him “the message of [this book] is of an actual age of harmony and peace in accord with the creative energies of nature.”

In The Once and Future Goddess, art historian Elinor Gadon traces the vast sweep of history from the Ice Age to the present. Through 200 black-and-white and 50 color photos, along with full explanations, she illustrates the varied visions of the Goddess and ways of worshipping her through the ages. Yet, according to the author, “While the Goddess has indeed had many names, many manifestations throughout human history, she is ultimately one supreme reality.” The richly illustrated accounts reveal the feminine deity as earth-centered and body-affirming; not otherworldly; holistic; immanent and part of nature. The way of lie she inspires is peaceful and promotes harmony among men and women and with the natural environment. To bring her spirit into our times, contemporary artists from many backgrounds are reimaging the Goddess as a symbol of resacralizing the feminine in our male-dominated world, and their creations are well represented in the book.

Again, the author's thesis is appealing. But when she tries to recreate the mindset of preliterate peoples, we could wish that she would distinguish more clearly between fact and interpretation and back up her interpretations more thoroughly. Still, this is a book that those who appreciate the Goddess will treasure.

The Heart of the Goddess by Hallie Iglehart Austen is not a scholarly treatise about the Goddess. Rather it is a visual meditation on some of her manifestations. The author has assembled beautiful images of seventy  Goddesses from cultures throughout the world, each a piece of sacred art that was at one time worshipped and revered. A description of the cultural background of each image is given. And for each Goddess a bit of a story or myth or a poem or song offers another mode for sensing her essence, as does a visualization, prayer or ritual prescribed for each. The gentle, meditative practices suggested for restoring an appreciation for the sanctity of life are a welcome complement to the more aggressive methods of some environmentalists and feminists.

As more and more Goddess books come out every year, we realize, as a bumper sticker says, that “The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot.”
-SHIRLEY NICHOLSON

Summer 1991


FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: New Writings by Spiritual and Psychological Leaders, edited by Benjamin Shield and Richard Carlson; New World Library, Sari Rafael, CA, 1990; paperback.


IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GANDHI: Conversations with Spiritual Social Activists, by Catherine Ingram; Parallax Press, Berkley, CA, 1190; paperback.


THE FIRESIDE TREASURY OF LIGHT: An Anthology of the Best in New Age Literature, edited by Mary Olsen Kelly; Simon and Schuster, New York; 1990; paperback.


A NEW CREATION: America’s Contemporary Spiritual Voices, edited by Roger S. Gottlieb; Crossroad, New York, 1990; paperback.


AT THE LEADING EDGE: New Visions of Science, Spirituality and Society, by Michael Toms; Larson Publications, Burdette, NY, 1191; paperback.

New age … new visions … new creation. Whatever the label, these five books share a sensibility, as they offer up a virtual feast of spiritual thought at the “leading edges” of the new spiritual experience and its relationship to science and culture. Some of the same people pop up ubiquitously in two or three of these books, yet each of the books also has its own character.

The Ingram book contains interviews never published before with Desmond Tutu, Joan Baez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Cesar Chavez, and others, and has a distinctive focus on social activism. The Shield-Carlson book is all new writings by the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Matthew Fox, David Steindl-Rast, and others.

The Kelly and Gottlieb books are both collections drawn from many sources; each contains dozens of short samples of the work of contemporary spiritual thinkers as diverse as Shirley Maclaine, Louise Hay, Fritjof Capra, and M. Scott Peck.

Toms offers up a sampling of interviews from his New Dimensions public radio series, including Joan Halifax, Rupert Sheldrake, David Bohm, Huston Smith, and others.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Summer 1991


IRON JOHN: A Book About Men, by Robert Bly; Addison- Wesley, Reading. MA . 1990; hardcover.


KING, WARRIOR, MAGICIAN, LOVER: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette; Harper Collins, San Francisco. 1990; hardcover.

Long ago in the seventies, in an inchoate “men's group” which had no sense of any national “men's movement,” the name of Robert Bly was never spoken. Someone in the group of professional men may have known his work as a poet and critic, but his name never came up. With no Bly, we were discussing the changes we were experiencing as men in terms of Jung and Jungians, Campbell, and Castaneda's don Juan Matus- especially don Juan.

We loved it when don Juan would accuse the comically over-intellectualizing Carlos of “indulging,” since we all knew that the intellectual life could be an evasion of the maturing process. Rather than deal with some of the feelings generated by inventories of our male shortcomings created by ex-wives and feminist writers, we could “rationally” discuss the archetypes of animal/animus or look for some faint trace of the heroic journey in our lives in academia. But don Juan would be there at the end of the evening, tapping derisively on our shoulders, laughing and letting us know that internal and external dialogues can be nothing more than indulgence and evasion.

The men's movement of the eighties and nineties, however, seems inseparable from Bly's name, his craggy face, his droning voice, his wicked smile. And his long awaited Iron John .is a powerful expression of the mature masculine spirit. Bly's insight into contemporary and ancient history, his self-knowledge and observational skills, his poetry and his storytelling skill make this guided “depth-tour” of the Grimm brothers tale of “Iron John” an experience which is clearly not an indulgence. The account forces one to ask tough questions and respects grief while disdaining whining. (And I cannot imagine don Juan telling Bly to “Shut up!”)

King, Warrior. Magician. Lover by Moore and Gillette, however, is a different case. Getting a clear focus on what we mean by and want from human maturity is an important task for both sexes. Moore, a Jungian analyst, and Gillette, a mythologist, definitely have the scholarship and experience of working with contemporary men to provide a useful framework for delineating the mature masculine.

That framework includes an analysis of each of the four archetypes in the title which contrasts the mature realization of the archetype with two polarized immature examples of the stunted archetype. Thus, the King in His Fullness is contrasted to the Tyrant and the Weakling, and the Hero is contrasted to the Bully and the Coward . The framework can be interesting in itself for the academically inclined. And yet this work seems to lack the fullness and vitality of Iron John. In some ways it seems like the outline of a stronger work which may come later from Moore and Gillette, after they have experimented more with the framework. And I hear my inner vision of don Juan's mocking voice telling me that playing with these archetypes can be just an indulgence.
–ANTONY LYSY

Summer 1991


FREEDOM IN EXILE: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama; Harper Collins. New York. 1990; hardcover.


OCEAN OF WISDOM: Guidelines for Living, by the Dalai Loma of Tibet; Harper & Row. San Francisco. 1990; paperback.


TO THE LION THRONE: The Story of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, by Whitney Stewart; Snow lion, Ithaca, N Y, 1990; paperback.


WHITE LOTUS: An Introduction to Tibetan Culture, edited by Carole Eichert; Snow lion. Ithaca, NY, 1990, paperback.


CUTTING THROUGH APPEARANCES: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism, by Geshe Lhundup Sopa and Jeffrey Hopkins; Snow Lion , Ithaca, NY, 1989; paperback.


TAMING THE MONKEY MIND, by Thubden Chodron; Graham Brash. Singapore. 1990; paperback.

The Dalai Lama has said that the Chinese, by occupying Tibet, inadvertently helped Tibetan Buddhism. As Tibetan Buddhism was drawn out of isolation and thrown into the larger world outside of Tibet, the tradition has been invigorated.

Evidence for this observation is abundant, not the least in the thriving industry of books about Tibetan Buddhism. This is only a partial selection of the latest batch of releases.

The autobiography by the Dalai Lama is simply wonderful. “It is as a simple monk that I offer this story of my life,” he writes. The Dalai Lama “is a title that signifies the office I hold. I myself am just a human being, and incidentally, a Tibetan, who chooses to be a Buddhist monk.” The book is illustrated with a number of photographs.

The pocket-sized Ocean of Wisdomis a splendid little book that can be used as you would a meditation manual; it has many brief comments by the Dalai Lama on compassion, kindness, just ice, taming your mind, non attachment, and their application to life. It is beautifully illustrated with color photographs.

The Whitney Stewart book is an illustrated story of the Dalai Lama for children. On the day the Dalai Lama was born , the story says, “The weather was dark and thundering, but some people saw a rainbow touching the baby's house. Other neighbors noticed that a pair of noisy crows came to perch on the family's rooftop. And the baby's father jumped from his sickbed, declaring himself cured by his son's birth.”

The Eichert book is a collection of short essays on various aspects of Tibetan culture, illustrated with many photographs, some in color.

Geshe Sopa was one of the young Dalai Lama's teachers, and has been a longtime faculty member at the University of Wisconsin. The book by Sopa and Hopkins covers the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice and theory.

Thubden Chodron is an American woman who graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles, taught school in Los Angeles, and did graduate work in education. In 1975, she attended a Buddhist meditation course, and two years later was ordained a nun. In 1986 she received full ordination in Taiwan. She travels throughout the world, teaching Buddhism and meditation. Her book is a clear description of the Buddhist view of life and relationships, and should appeal to non-Buddhists as well as Buddhists.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Summer 1991


REACHING FOR THE MOON, by Kenneth W. Morgan; Anima Publications, Chambersburg, PA; 1990;paperback, 207 pp.

As a graduate student the auth or began his journey into Asian religions through an extended visit to India in which he resided at numerous ashrams. Some of the questions that he wished to have answered were how important ritual is to a religious way of life, whether purity is a relevant concern, and how charitable deeds enter into fulfilling religious responsibilities.

He discovered that while his quest had started out as “learning about” other religions, it evolved into “learning from” those religions. His own spiritual journey allowed him to contrast personally the worldview of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jain s, and Taoists as he struggled to understand karma, ahimsa, and wu-wei as an Asian does.

Morgan manifests remarkable sensitivity to all the good in nature, in artistic expression, in love and loyalty, and in helping others that he observed among the Asians with whom he lived and worshipped and learned. The focus throughout is on “Sacred Reality,” or Ultimate Reality. Morgan concludes that those choosing to follow a religious path find along the way other seekers who may help them to live within “the given natural and sacred realities that set the limits for human life.”

Advice is extended to the seeker on the importance of asking questions, of evaluation, and of showing respect for any help received. Most import ant of all, however, is to make one's own decision and then to follow that path.

The methodology, according to Morgan's summary of various religions, is regular participation in ritual plus individual ways of improving religious understanding and behavior. This summary was derived through his seeking out persons who “push and search beyond the current cultural form ... toward the edges of possible human outreach.” Among those with whom Morgan became acquainted were Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

Morgan is a skeptic regarding a number of issues for which he has found no evidence in his own search, for example, of mantras, miracles, or rebirth. He does concede, however, that karma seems to be a “dependable guide” for following a religious path.

Morgan set out to achieve a greater understanding of the world around him through his spiritual journey and has ably shared his findings with the reader. The warmth with which he embraces his subject encourages the reader to pursue his or her own journey.
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Summer 1991


HEALING, HEALTH , AND TRANSFORMATION, by Elaine R. Ferguson, M.D.; Lavonne Press, Chicago. 1990; hardcover.

In a field where books on the holistic and spiritual dimensions of healing have almost become commonplace, Elaine Ferguson, a doctor practicing out of the Chicago land area, has written a book that may well come to be regarded as a classic in the health literature. Having experienced directly both the effects of the modern medical system as well as the field of alternative treatments, Dr. Ferguson has brilliantly managed to bridge the best of both systems, and offers an inspiring look at the healing presence in each of us. This is an outstanding work that will be of interest to anyone involved in the area of health and healing.
-ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS

Summer 1991


PRAYERS OF THE COSMOS: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, by Neil Douglas-Klotz; Harper & Row, San Francisco. 1990; hardcover.

Prayers of the Cosmos contains the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, and three biblical passages in the Aramaic language and then translated into English free verse. Commentaries follow each passage, and after many sections a “body prayer” is included. The use of these body prayers is to assist with re-establishing harmony in all creation.

The Lord's Prayer is considered especially useful in the movement toward harmony by Douglas-Klotz, who perceives that Jesus presented it to all of humanity and all of creation in the interest of unity in the world. The meditations frequently contain a recommendation for utilizing them with a partner, although this is optional. There is often an earthy quality about the meditations, and many of these passages go beyond inner peace to peace in the community.

Douglas-Klotz maintains that humanity has tended to assume an intellectual and metaphorical viewpoint toward the words of Jesus, while the universal, or mystical, viewpoint has been neglected. He considers that Jesus the mystic would have included all the layers of meaning that were inherent in Aramaic. Thus the “kingdom of heaven” becomes the kingdom within as well as that among humans and other entities in nature.

Some of the meditations recommend the intoning of certain sound s from the Aramaic language in order to enlarge on the use of “the many facets” of the ancient language. The writer finds that the rich “sound-meaning” of certain words in Aramaic has similarities to words used in native Middle Eastern chants for thousands of years.

The author is committed to viewing Jesus as a mystic, a feminist, and an environmentalist. Lacking an inclusive term as a substitute for “kingdom,” he used queendom alongside it. He translates the Aramaic word for neighbor as a coming together to form a bond among all humans, plants, and animals. He ties this in with the Sufi stages of evolution by which the division between self and God disappear, Douglas-Klotz relies on the work of George M. Lamsa and other contemporary scholars who have found evidence that the New Testament originated in the Aramaic language.

 

Douglas-Klotz' English versions admittedly are influenced in form by the poetry of Walt Whitman and William Blake. The resultant free verse creates some pleasing lyrical lines from the words of Jesus, while taking nothing away from the beauty of the familiar language of the King James Version of the Bible.
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Summer 1991


THE YOGA OF THE CHRIST, by Ravi Ravindra; Element Books, England, 1990; paperback.


SCIENCE AND SPIRIT, edited by Ravi Ravindra; Paragon House, New York, 1991; paperback.

Ravi Ravindra, raised in the Hindu tradition in his native India, and now a professor of physics and chair of Comparative Religion at Dalhousie University in Canada, has produced a quite remarkable book in The Yoga of the Christ. As a self-described “outsider” to the Christian faith, he has nevertheless long loved the Gospel According to St. John.

In the book he draws forth the Christian story as related by John and shows how it fits with other traditions, especially the Hindu Bhagavad Gita.

Ravindra has long been a student of the core of divine wisdom which is found at the center of all great religious traditions – “the perennial wisdom,” as Aldous Huxley put it, “Theosophy,” as Blavatsky expressed it.

“I am persuaded that the major division in the human psyche is not horizontal or regional, dividing the Eastern from the Western soul,” Ravindra says at the outset of his exploration. Instead , the division is “vertical and global, separating the few from the many, and the spiritual, inner and symbolical way of understanding from the material, outer and literal one. . . .”

John's gospel has long been considered the most mystical , the most interior and esoteric of the Christian gospels. It is the inner message of the gospel Ravindra seeks in his reading of and commentary on John. “The basic question is of the right inner preparation for understanding spiritual truth,” he writes, “which is the same as believing in Christ.”

And : “As far as Jesus Christ is concerned, the right preparation consists in dying to one's self-will, and in denying oneself, so that one could obey the will of God . His yoga consists of this; and of this the cross is the supreme symbol.”

The literal events - for example, whether Jesus was actually physically crucified - are of less import than the psychological and spiritual significance of the symbols, Ravindra contends. “Every moment, whenever a man is present to it, he is at a crossing; at this point of crossing he chooses whether to remain in the horizontal plane of the world or to be yoked to the way of the Christ and follow the vertical axis of being.”

The point Jesus makes again and again, Ravindra says, is this: “no man can make himself God, but a man can empty himself so that he will be filled with God …” And: “ In the way of the cross, there is no place for man's own egoistic ambitions and projects; as a Hasidic saying has it, 'There is no room for God in him who is full of himself.”

In his other recent book Ravindra has collected a number of essays bearing on the relation ship between religion and science. Ravindra's unusual dual appointment at Dalhousie makes him a leading spokesman for efforts to overcome the barriers to communication between religion and spirituality.

These essays address a number of questions at the borders of science, technology, and religion - for example, recent assertions that science (especially physics) and mysticism are more closely related than one might think. The various authors also consider the place of values in the relationship between science and technology, the contributions East and West have to make to each other, and in what sense science can be a spiritual path.

More than half the 25 chapters are by Ravindra himself. Most of the papers gathered in Science and Spirit grew out of conferences supported by the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS) and held in Los Angeles and Atlanta.
- WILLIAM METZGER

Autumn 1991


FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.; Delacorte Press, New York, 1990; hardcover.

This book is based on ten years of experience at a stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center , where the goals are regaining health and attaining peace of mind. Much of the work is taken up with instruction and exercises as practiced at the clinic. The program is based on mindfulness, a form of meditation derived from Buddhist tradition. The author acknowledges J. Krishnamurti, Ken Wilber, and poet Robert Bly as contributors to the clinic's program.

The title of the book is derived from Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek in which the title character responds to a companion's question as to whether he had ever been married, “Am I not a man? Of course I've been married. Wife, house, kids, everything… the full catastrophe.” Dr. Kabat-Zinn states that the word “catastrophe” represents not a lament but a supreme appreciation of life and its dilemmas: catastrophe relates to the human ability to come to grips with life.

Kabat-Zinn describes the clinic program, which includes a process in which groups of patients attune to the moment during sessions of ten to forty-five minutes. Participants must agree to daily practice for the eight-week period of the program, in which mindfulness is emphasized in all areas - eating, breathing, walking, concentration. Hatha yoga is done mindfully as a meditation, with emphasis on unity between the individual and the universe.

Throughout, emphasis is placed on wholeness of mind, body, and behavior. It is presented in the language of lay persons, and provides a clear outline of mindfulness practice and its benefits. It should be of interest to those wishing to interrelate Eastern and Western approaches to dealing with the stress of contemporary living.
- MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Autumn 1991


REIMAGINATION OF THE WORLD; A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture , by David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson; Bear and Company, Santa Fe. Late September 1991; paperback.

"A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions. Rather, it is a mailer of having the courage f or an attack on one's convictions. "- Nietzsche

Nietzsche liked writing that was done with one's “blood”: self-critical writing. The use of blood as a metaphor which synthesizes the earth, air, water, and fire of life into the complexity of one's experience in history seems appropriate in a descript ion of the reflections of these two writers who have had their hearts beat in the midst of the media's “New Age.”

Bly has used “sewerage” to rhyme with “new age,” a judgment that is perhaps less kind than Ken Wilber's portrayal of the new age as an expression of baby-boomer narcissism. And other critiques of new age writing have suggested that its intellectual and spiritual roots are no thicker than a tarot deck – the mere difference between getting stoned and getting crystalled.

Spangler and Thompson, however, locate their roots prior to their work with Findhorn and Lindisfarne. Spangler was a student of science, for example, and Thompson cites a mystical experience he had while reading Whitehead's Science and the Modern World as a teenager.

These two thinkers, then, are far from any stereotype of the typical “new-ager” as an undisciplined, irresponsible, and mindless wanderer who seeks direction and escape from thought and reality through form s of divination. They are two knowledgeable thinkers who know philosophy, science, religion, and art. And their reflections and critiques of the movement they are associated with carry with them the scent of enough blood and courage to satisfy Nietzsche who, like them, was willing to challenge the paradigms of academia and popular culture.

The chapters of the book are based on seminars delivered in Washington at the Chinook Learning Center in 1988 and 1989 and possess a vitality that gives one a sense of being there as a witness in the way one witnesses Socrates in Plato's dialogues. These men speak of their lives, their spiritual and intellectual development, their former hopes scaled down or restructured by their experience over the last twenty years. And while they find plenty of things to dismiss in the so-called new age movement, they both understand to their depths what that movement was opposing in our society.

So while Thompson may decry the “sloppy syncretism” and “vulgarization” of the movement and Spangler may characterize it as “a kind of metaphysical Disneyland ,” they both see the movement as a thrust to express qualities of the “soul of the planet itself.” Spangler sees his fellow workers promoting “the capacity to empower co-creativity and to manifest connectedness, intricacy, complexity, and synergy.”

Spangler and Thompson look back into history and look straight into the emerging future and find value in this movement after they criticize it and themselves. And in being so vibrantly honest, they offer insights into how science may provide a new sense of spirituality based on quantum mechanics and how the idea of “holarchy” may supersede “hierarchy” in esoteric thinking.

I think this book is worth reading for academics who have dismissed the new age with little knowledge of it, since Spangler and Thompson relate new age ideas to the history of thought quite gracefully with all the caution of scientists. And think this book is important for anyone familiar with the new age movement who wants to reflect on her/his own experience. And this book will be a great joy for any critical spirits who like writing to be done with one's blood.
-ANTON LYSY

Autumn 1991


GRACE AND GRIT: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber, by Ken Wilber; Shambhala Publications, Boston, 1991 ; cloth.

This is an extraordinary book- a mixture of love story, medical drama, spiritual quest, and philosophical/psychological contemplation.

The love story is that of Ken and Treya Killam Wilber, who fell in “love at first touch” in August 1983. At their first meeting, they barely exchanged five words, yet both went home with the feeling that they had been looking for each other for lifetimes. Within two weeks they decided to marry.

The wedding was November 26, 1983, and they planned a honeymoon trip to Hawaii to start two weeks later. But within a few days they learned that Treya had breast cancer, and were plunged into the medical drama.

Grace and Grit alternates between Ken Wilber's narrative, Treya's journal entries, and Ken's philosophical/psychological commentaries on the great wisdom traditions. There are explanations of meditation, the relationship of psychotherapy to spirituality, and the nature of health and healing.

At the outset Wilber advises readers on the structure of the book, inviting them to skip the philosophical and technical sections if all they are interested in is following Treya's story. But these more intellectual “thought” sections in their own way enliven the whole, showing how import ant the “life of the mind” is to the unfolding medical drama. The reader who chooses to skip these sections in order to stay with the drama of the story will be missing much, and may wish to return to the philosophical sections later to think more deeply about the life and death issues that confront us all.

Treya's openness to a multitude of approaches to healing is a major aspect of this book. These include traditional medicine with its chemotherapy, alternative medicine with its massive doses of enzymes and other methods “not approved by the AMA,” and various spiritual and “new age” techniques including meditation, visualization, affirmations, psychic healing, and more.

Counterbalancing what many readers might regard as a great credulity about Treya's pursuit of healing through this plethora of techniques, Wilber describes his own skepticism about much non-traditional healing. In one particularly interesting passage, he describes watching Chris Habib, a psychic healer, at work on Treya:

. . . I didn't doubt that something genuine was going on- she was definitely moving energy- but I believed hardly a word of what she said. I had never heard so many tall tales in my life. She was spinning them out with an ease that would shame the Brothers Grimm. But that was exactly her charm, that was what I found so endearing about her. Like Treya, I found her enormously likable. You just wanted to hang out with her, gel caught up in her magical stories. That, I came to see, was exactly a crucial part of what she was doing.


Wilber concluded that it is “this charm that is so missing in white man's medicine.” And the net effect of the session with Chris Habib was that both Ken and Treya “felt vitalized, alert, happy. And the constant stream of outrageous tales made both Treya and I hold everything more lightly.. ..”

Also, the book includes an excellent critique of so-called new age ideas, the most pernicious being the not ion that mind alone causes disease, and that we can literally create our own reality. These are what Wilber labels “level two beliefs,” characterizing an infantile and magical worldview including grandiosity, omnipotence, and narcissism. His is not a blanket condemnation of the New Age, though Wilber believes, along with William Irwin Thompson, that about 20 percent of new agers are transpersonal (genuinely mystical), while about 80 percent are prepersonal magical and narcissistic).

The Wilbers' book is no “miracle cure” story; it tells of a real life and death, for Treya does die in the end. After all, she had forty lung tumors, four brain tumors, and liver metastases. Still, she carried on a five-year battle with cancer, and died in a state of what Ken calls “enlightened awareness.” The story is a moving one, and the final pages brought tears to my eyes.

The Wilbers have given a gift to all those who suffer from cancer and those who are support persons to those with cancer. Ultimately this is a story of an unfoldment of “passionate equanimity,” a Buddhist perspective on being (in Treya's words) “fully passionate about all aspects of life, about one's relationship with spirit, to care to the depth s of one's being but with no trace of clinging or holding… It feels full, rounded, complete, and challenging.”
– WILLIAM METZGER

Winter 1991


THE EARTH MOTHER: Legends, Ritual Arts, and Goddesses of India, by Pupul Jayakar; Harper and Row, 1990; paper.

Pupul Jayakar is one of India's most highly respected citizens for the outstanding contributions she has made to Indian life and culture . For many years a close associate of the late Indira Gandhi, she has continued to be an adviser on heritage and cultural resources to the prime minister of India. She is also the president of the Krishnamurti Foundation of India.

Author of many books on Indian culture, she here takes us on a journey to the realm of the goddess as revealed in India's rural and tribal art. For anyone at all familiar with India, the book will awaken memories of entering villages where huge statues stand guard to protect the people and where the creative energy of the Earth Mother, the primordial goddess, is still potent.

She writes: “Two vast anonymous rivers of the creative flow in parallel streams over the landmass of India .” The first is the well-known “male-oriented artisan tradition” which traces its origin to Viswakarma, the first creator. The other, less well known, “is based on the recognition of woman as the original creator.” This heritage “traces its origin to Adi Sakti, the first woman, who spins the threads of creation.”

In India, time is cyclic, and ritual recreates the past, bringing its power into the present and ensuring the future . Pupul Jayakar 's description of the reenactment of the legend of the goddess in south India stirs the imagination:

On a dark moonless night in the light of flickering oil lamps, an image of Bhagavati Kali is drawn on the earth with colored powder. In her is the power and glory, the abundance of the earth, its savage ferocity, its tranquility. In one hand she holds a flame. To the thunder of chanting and drumbeats, the magician-priest dances the destruction of the goddess. With his feet he wipes away her limbs, her breasts, her belly, her face, her eyes, till only the fire held in one hand remains. For fire is eternal and primeval female energy has no end. When the form of the goddess finally disappears in the dust from which she has emerged, in the distant darkness, an oil lamp is lit. The fire from the hand of the goddess leaps across space, to light the oil lamp held by a human hand, and then her victory over the demon is reenacted. Drums reach a crescendo; creation, destruction, the cycle of birth and death are transformed in the hands of the village painter…; in that instant the eternal dance begins.

Mrs. Jayakar draws us deep into the roots of Indian culture and village life. The book is profusely illustrated. It is well documented and referenced, and scholarly, but never pedantic and academic. A delight to read, The Earth Mother reveals the contemporaneity of the ancient goddess legends, reminding us all that within each of us the past is still alive and powerful, even though we may have forgotten our own heritage.
- JOY MILLS

Winter 1991


SERPENT IN THE SKY: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, by John Anthony West; Julian Press/Crown (Random House); paperbound.


THE TRAVELER'S KEY TO ANCIENT EGYPT by John Anthony West; Alfred A. Knopf; illustrated paperbound.

Egyptology as a science is less than one hundred years old; as an innate yearning for the spiritual life it is timeless. West's approach to the Egypt experience either as a study or a journey is to relinquish the “cerebral approach” for the sake of the vital experience that its art and architecture conveys.

Serpent in the Sky is in its second edition, the new paperback format reflecting a resurgence of interest in ancient cultures from both scholarly and esoteric viewpoints. Serpent offers both, in addition to a trove of illustrative material that ranges from temple and tomb reliefs to mathematical theorems which articulate the sacred geometry.

West has produced a significant work in that for the first time in the English language, the prodigious work of French orientalist R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz is presented in a thorough, engaging overview. As originator of the Symbolist approach to understanding ancient civilizations, de Lubicz's work was, in the middle of this century, derided, or ignored by orthodox Egyptology. Currently, the basic premises of Symbolist thought can be found in a number of new Egypt works, and it appears that esoteric Egypt is finding its way into mainstream thinking.

The fundamental theme of Symbolist thinking concerning Egypt is that the underlying cause of its architectural, artistic, engineering, and medical achievements is the existence of a Sacred Science This body of knowledge was, according to de Lubicz, far more sophisticated and in concert with universal principles than our own physical sciences. West articulates the disciplines which compose this ancient wisdom, from Pythagorean concepts to esoteric symbolism in temple art.

The Traveler's Key 10 Ancient Egypt is the result of West's numerous research journeys to Egypt in the last twenty years and the development of his special guided tour events. The latter bypass standard, popular monuments for truly special sites that offer genuine spiritual ambiance. This “Guide to the Sacred Places of Ancient Egypt” offers far more than the common tourist itinerary. It is truly a pilgrim's compendium to the sacred journey through temple, tomb, and pyramid.

The Traveler's Key provides a comprehensive overview of cur rent Egypt “theories.” With the pyramids, for instance, West impartially discusses the probability of slave labor along with pyramid power claims, UFO origins, and undiscovered chambers of initiation. With his characteristic dry humor and thorough grasp of the facts, Egypt becomes easy.

Egyptian art, architecture, and the historical background of the monuments' period is discussed in opening chapters to each site. This prepares the traveler for the esoteric experience, and establishes an appreciation for the subtleties of each place. At Ombos, for instance, one may envision the temple crocodiles adorned with earrings splashing about while descending down the sacred well. At the same time, one is reminded of the ascent of the spiritual entry into the sacred marsh of time, embodied in the temple's lotus form capitals that fill the sky as the traveler attains ground level.
-ROSEMARY CLARK

Winter 1991




Book Reviews 1993





H.P.B.: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Founder of the Modem Theosophical Movement by Sylvia Cranston; Jeremy TarcherlPutnam,1992; hardbound.

The late and great American spiritual philosopher Manly P. Hall wrote in The Phoenix: “Occultism in the Western world owes all that it is to the pioneering of H. P. Blavatsky. Her tireless efforts are responsible in no small measure for the freedom and tolerance accorded to metaphysical speculations in this century. Remove H. P. Blavatsky and the structure of modern occultism falls like a house of cards.”

Time ha s a way of putting truly great people in a sense ahead of us rather than in the darkening past. As a result, those who are regarded as great in their lifetime, without truly deserving such regard, tend to diminish once dead, while the truly great continue to increase in stature with the passage of the years and decades. This increase of stature is what has happened to Blavatsky, who died 101 years ago. The books in which she poured forth the quintessence of the alternative spiritual tradition of several cultures are still sold and read by discerning persons on all five continents. She is widely regard ed as the “grandmother” of the New Age, although she would have numerous bones to pick with many New Age teachers and their followers. Concepts such as reincarnation, karma, self-directed evolution of the soul, and many more that she introduced into the ambiance of our culture have lost their elitist associations and are part of our everyday reservoir of ideas.

Over the last 101 years many have asked what her greatness consists of, and some have answered this question by writing biographies of her. The latest and one of the most detailed of such works has just been published and –we are told - is the subject of a $50,000 national advertising campaign. The author, Sylvia Cranston, has previously coauthored four books on reincarnation. The book is advertised as “the definitive biography” of its subject, and in many ways one is inclined to agree. Extensively illustrated, well indexed and running to 640 pages, this is a serious work which no one with an interest in the late “high priestess of the Occult…can afford to bypass.

Strange and heroic was the life of this amazing woman. Born in 1831 in Russia from a noble Russo-German family, and married at seventeen to an elderly man, she fled from husband, family, and high society, and spent most of her life as a traveler and recorder of little-known truths and traditions. In America and Europe she took advantage of the then young and flourishing spiritualist movement in order to expand further the mental horizons of those who were attracted to spirit manifestations. She told spiritualists that they might modify their devotion to “revelations” from spirits and pay attention to the fact that they themselves are also spirits, albeit of an incarnate order. She called attention to the powers latent or only partially manifest within living humans, and wished to motivate men and women to discover their own spiritual nature which in turn would lead to the discovery of ultimate deific Reality. Even more boldly she proceeded to duplicate (at times openly) various phenomena of the spiritualists, while proclaiming that she had no need for spirits in manifesting the supernormal powers of her own spirit. In the course of such activities she ran afoul of an investigator associated with the prestigious Society for Psychical Research and was condemned publicly by that organization, which only recently got around to rescinding its judgment and exonerating the maligned H. P. Blavatsky.

Madame Blavatsky, or “HPB” as she preferred to be known. Performed some apparently miraculous deeds, but all such were superseded by her greatest “miracles,” her books. With such large tomes as The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled, and with many smaller books, including the timeless spiritual classic, The Voice of the Silence, she left an abiding and unique legacy, and also laid the foundation for a distinguished school of thought, usually called the Theosophical Movement which today encompasses several active organized bodies, each with a worldwide membership. Besides such organizations directly connected to her teachings, there exist a large number of others which have more remotely benefited from her inspiration.

The major portion of Cranston's work is devoted to HPB's biography, but all along we find insightfully interwoven with the data of the subject's life various aspects of her teaching s. A most valuable portion of the book is Part 7, entitled “The Century After,” in which the author extensively catalogues areas of HPB's influence in many different facets of culture over the last 100 years. Literature, the Visual Arts, Religion, Mythology, Psychology, the Physical Sciences all receive their due in terms of the often prophetic, always creative and stimulating insights and inspirations proceeding from the person and message of the Russian wise woman.

What Madame Blavatsky really and truly was the world may someday know, or alternatively, such a full view may never be available. In many ways she still appears as a riddle, an enigma, not unlike some magi of the past, the Comte de St. Germain, Cagliostro, and others. One of her ongoing afflictions is that virtually all her biographies are flawed in some manner, Some, like Marion Mead's Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth ( 1980), are of fine literary quality but hostile to their subject. Of hers, like When Daylight Comes by Howard Murphet (1975), and Blavatsky and Her Teachers by Jean Overton Fuller (1988), are quite simply unremarkable both as to content and style. Sylvia Cranston is a fine researcher and thus her book is replete with highly useful, well-organized data, some of which are taken from Russian sources only recently made available. At the same time it is also apparent that her talents as a writer do not match her scholarship and research. It is sad to see an exciting subject become unexciting reading, yet such is the case. In addition, it is all too apparent that the author views HPB as little short of a major saint. All information that does not agree with this hagiographical emphasis is either ignored or is minimized to become virtually invisible. It is doubtful that the redoubtable Madame would have enjoyed being placed into a stained glass window, yet such now has become her lot. A completely balanced, excitingly written, kindly irreverent, and above all, humorous biography of the astonishing mystery woman still needs to be written. Fellow men and women of letters, please take heed!
-STEPHAN A. HOELLER

Spring 1993


Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore; HarperCollins, 1992; paper


Facing the World with Soul: A Re-imagination of Modern Life by Robert Sardello; Lindisfarne, 1992; paper.

Like the Eastern philosophers, Carl Jung drew from his own experience when writing about Soul. His insight, however, was inspired by a myriad of ancient philosophies, such as Greek, Indian, African and Native American.

Jung concluded in his Collected Works that Soul is “objective, self-subsistent and live(s) its own life” (CW Vol.8, p. 666). The ancient Greeks called Spirit’s metaphysical manifestation “pneuma” or “wind.” Vedic philosophers deemed Spirit a latent energy, which can only become activated when joined with its empirical counter part -Nature. Jung calls the union “transcendent function,” a spark of life that gives Soul a form.

Psychotherapists Thomas Moore and Robert Sardello model their notions of Soul on Jungian tradition. By observing today's social and environmental condition s, they present their expanded versions of lung in separate monographs, which work well as a dyptic. Moore observes Soul’s intern al dynamic while Sardello portrays Soul's presence in the material world.

The authors, who are friends, agree that we have ignored Soul's existence in living things and have created a world suffering from its neglect. You can see it in air, water, animals, plants, and humans, they say. All states of Nature are perishing because we tune out the voice within ourselves and that of the Earth. Instead, we apply quick fixes to problems, which do little to resolve the real problem.

Both authors present ways to hear Soul. They explore how the light of the Soul struggles into consciousness and then into action. Cautioning not to fixate on results to problems in our lives, the authors recommend shifting gears and to ca re about our feelings about those problems. To do so requires probing with in and listening to the sacred, silent breath in both ourselves and Nature. One will learn to locate Spirit within the body and mind. Only then can we see clearly when feeling aids reason.

Moore's Care of the Soul, invites us to observe the dark beauty in human suffering, which he views as the most compassionate aspect of listening. Such observations provide the

… opportunity to discover the beast residing at the center of the (psychological)
labyrinth is also an angel…The Greeks told a story of the minotaur, the bull-headed, flesh-eating-man who lived in the center of the labyrinth. He was a threatening beast, and yet his name was Asterion- Star. I often think of this paradox as I sit with someone with tears in her eyes, searching for some way to deal with a death, a divorce, a depression. It is a beast, this thing that stirs the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger we do not overlook the star.

In an approach similar to that of Joseph Campbell, Moore explores cultural myths as they apply to family

and childhood, love and narcissism, jealousy and envy, money, failure , and creativity. Using rich and free-flowing language, he also confronts psychological conditions, telling tales that reveal Soul's inner workings. His informative and user-friendly book is a must read.

On the other hand, Robert Sardello's Facing the World with Soul is more of a chore. Sardello begin s with a self-conscious and awkward introduction that dilutes the eloquent messages in his essays, which he calls “Letters.” But enjoyment begins once one is embraced by Sardello's patchwork quilt of thought-provoking essays.

Sardello has subtitled his book “Re-imagination of Modern Life.” But it is nothing of the sort. One wonders if his collaborators at The Institute for the Study of Imagination displayed their influence through the title.

What Sardello does, however, is to lift “the primary veil covering direct perception of the soul of the world.” Sardello agrees with Moore's approach to embracing the monster within, which is not unlike Jung's famous concept of embracing the shadow. “Rage, felt, held, not shut off or denied nor acted out-leads to compassion. Compassion must be nurtured to the point that one suffers with things.”

Sardello’s contribution becomes a manual for living in the modern age, drawing on age-old practices. For ordering your physical space, he offers “Feng Shui,” the Chinese Buddhist method for positioning architecture and interiors in accordance with the laws of Nature. Diseases like AIDS and cancer are “the most concrete instance[s] of the suffering of things of the world.” Economics and technology are tackled.His presentation of data informs, but leads to no unique conclusions.

He tells us to wait with an attitude of silence and “the Soul work (will loosen) the web of anesthesia…” that numbs our consciousness. Hopefully, the reader will agree. The spirit in Nature will disclose itself and our neglect of the sacredness in all living things will cease. In such harmony, we will regard ourselves as a part of Nature rather than Nature's master and all living things will thrive in a right way.

While one can appreciate Sardello's series of essays, the reader may become amused at the number of ideas boldly left open to disagreement. Yet, his cognitive speculation pro vides the charm of the book. Soul, after all, is drawn upon for interpreting Sardello's musings.

Feel into what is being said. Neither book defines Soul, perhaps for this very purpose.
-MARGARET FIRESTONE

Spring 1993


Burma: The Next Killing Fields? by Alan Clements; foreword by H. H. the Dalai Lama; Odonian Press, Berkeley, CA, 1992; paperback, 96 pages.

One of the recurrent arguments against spirituality and spiritual practices is that they serve as escapes from involvement in, and contribution to, the world. Spirituality is therefore seen as a self-serving, introspective escapism. The most political formulation of this notion was the Marxist idea that religion is the opiate of the masses, and this formed the basis for the massive suppression of religion and spirituality throughout the Communist world.

Yet such a view fails to recognize that periods of solitude and inner searching represent only one phase of a much larger spiritual cycle. It mistakes the beginning of the spiritual life for its totality, and does not recognize that the so called inward arc is usually a prelude to the outward arc of return to the world. Indeed, in his survey of world history, Arnold Toynbee found that the most characteristic feature of those individuals who had contributed most to human development was what he called the cycle of “withdrawal and return.” Such people tended to withdraw from society for periods of inner search and subsequently returned to bring the fruits of their search back to the world.

This process of return and service is widely recognized in the world's great wisdom traditions. In Christianity, it is “the fruitfulness of the soul”; in Zen, “entering the marketplace with help bestowing hands”; In Plato, it is the “reentry into the cave,” and it is the phase called by Joseph Campbell “the hero's return.”

A dramatic example of this cycle of withdrawal and return is evident in the brief but compelling and important book by Alan Clements. In 1979, Alan became a Buddhist monk and moved to Burma where he lived and meditated quietly in a monastery for the next eight years with no political involvement whatsoever. Subsequently he returned to the West to teach meditation.

However, as Burma descended into political chaos and tyranny, with rampant torture, mass killings, and other abuses of human rights, he became one of the most active and effective of all Westerners. Since he spoke Burmese, he was able to undertake three perilous trips into Burma where he lived in the jungle with refugees, listened to first hand accounts of mass slaughter, torture and rape, and saw the maimed victim s of torture and war.

The result is a powerful, moving, personally and politically informed account of the devastation brought to Burma, the abuse of its people, the torture and terrorization of resisters and innocent s alike, the decimation of Buddhism, the deforestation of the land, and the complicity and deafness of the out side world – hungry for Burmese trade and especially its teakwood.

This is no mere compilation of facts and statistics. It is an engagingly, even grippingly written book with compelling firsthand accounts of Alan's travels in Burma and also first person accounts by Burmese. In contains a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with suggestions and actions that readers can take to halt this holocaust.

This book stands as an indictment of the Burmese dictatorship and of the inactivity of the outside world and as a call to action for all concerned for human rights and the preservation of Buddhism. It is a ringing demonstration that intensive meditation and spiritual practice can foster compassionate and passionate political involvement and leadership.
-ROGER WALSH

Spring 1993


The Case for Astrology, by John Anthony West; Viking Arkana. New York, 1991; hardbound, 500 pages including Appendix, Bibliography, and Indices.

First published in England in 1970, The Case for Astrology was originally intended as a survey of astrological practice from ancient to modern times, with an emphasis on the diverse, present-day endeavors to ensconce astrology into the respectable ranks of science.

John Anthony West and Jan Toonder, who collaborated on the first edition of this work, carefully outlined the statistical studies of Dr. Michel Gauquelin on the relationship of planetary angularity to profession, and on planetary heredity. At the time, Gauquelin's studies looked promising for astrology's adherents, finding a higher than expected incidence of correlation between planetary phenomena and birth time for particular professions.

This new edition not only updates the state of the art twenty years later, but also tells the unfortunate and epic story of scientific objections to astrology, which have increased in recent years. Gauquelin's work has been singled out for attack by critics of astrology. The critics, West contends, have been guilty of "evasion, abuse, calumny, neglect, deliberate lies and finally, in all probability, fraud."

This chronicle of astrology's encounter with modern science, narrated in West's typically acerbic style, is a no-holds-barred report of the increasing hostility of vested interest science toward serious scientific astrological research. It is unfortunate that the Case for Astrology turns out to be the Case Against Modern Scientific Method, but this may be a fortuitous turn of events in the collision between science and metaphysics.

West is mindful of the ploys of modern science, and points out the distinguishing features of legitimate methodology and the spurious posturing that have alternately made up the objections and attacks on astrology for the last two decades. He is also watchful of the pitfalls of the scientific mindset , and indicts "the true Inquisitorial nature of the Church of Progress and the general level of disregard in which the search for truth is held by many eminent scientists and academics."

West, a scholar and Pythagorean, is known in the bastions of orthodox science as an academic maverick and troublemaker (see The Quest, Winter 1991 for an article by and interview with West). The updating of this valuable work, which has become a classic on shelves of practicing astrologers, exhibits West's analytical strengths and insights into the philosophical dilemmas of our time. Truth, by whatever means it is presented, may be apprehended when the pride and prejudice of traditional scientific inquiry is abandoned. In the words of the English astronomer Dr. Percy Seymour, scientific pride "also can shackle the creative imagination of scientists and impede scientific progress."
-ROSEMARY CLARK

Summer 1993


Carmina Gadelica: Hymns & Incantations Collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the Last Century by Alexander Carmichael; Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY, 1992; paperback.

This substantial book (689 pp) is a treasure much sought after by Celtophiles the world over. Its contents have appeared only in small excerpts in other books, leaving one longing for more. Now, after almost a hundred years, the collection is available to us with a scholarly introduction by John MacInnes. Best of all, there are the intimate commentaries of Carmichael himself giving us insights into the Gaelic-speaking folk of his time who took him into their confidence as they shared the beauty and simplicity of their prayers. What stories! One tells of a man who walked back twenty-six miles to make sure that his invocation would never appear in print and be read by a cold eye!

From these incantations emerge (so significant for us today) accumulative proof of the extent to which these Celtic people included the sacred and holy in their everyday life. No separation of spirit and matter exists in Celtic Christianity. They live, according to Esther de Waal, the Celtic scholar, with" God under my Roof" and "At the Edge of Glory." Whether it's blessing an infant, a cow, or a journey, or lighting a fire, or welcoming a stranger, or praying for healing or good weather, "the Blessed Three" are invoked with touching and poetic feeling. These prayers are lovesome and tender, humble and full of awe and gratitude for life. Who can resist "A Clipping Blessing"for a sheep?

Go shorn and come woolly
Bear the Beltane lamb,
Be the lovely Bride thee endowing,
And the fair Mary sustaining thee .
Michael the chief be shielding thee
From the evil dog and from the fox . . .
And from the taloned birds of
destructive bills from the taloned
birds of hooked bills.

The prayers are both pagan and Christian, The Bridget or Bride (pronounced Bridie) invoked is the Christianized Goddess Brid of the Celts, she who ruled over flocks, wisdom, and laughter. Beltane is the ancient May Day festival marking the zodiacal midpoint between spring equinox and summer solstice. Here is one to "The New Moon":

When I see the new moon,
It becomes me to say my rune;
It becomes me to praise the Being
of life
For His kindness and His goodness.
Seeing how many a man and woman
have gone hence
Over the black river of the abyss,
Since last thy countenance
shone on me,
Thou new moon of the heavens!

As recently as 1967, the Outer Hebrides were still without electricity. I am glad that I witnessed that. Over the years since then, I have traveled there several times again and seen the incursions of so called "civilization." With electrical power has come TV and an increasing use of the English language, but Gaelic is still spoken and sung, and the ceilidhs and strupaks continue- the dances and visits where the housewife bids you "come away in" and rushes to " throw up some scones" for a wee strupak. The magic of place dominates all the West of Scotland. Words can scarcely convey the brooding power of the landscape and the colors of the sea and the sky. Weather is the great deity hovering over this world, so no small wonder that invocations are there to the elements in their terror and their wild beauty.

In Carmichael's day, these people were by all standards considered to be poor, uneducated, and backward. So poor, that many escaped over the seas to this country. But thanks to this collector's loving ear and wise insight, we have this lost legacy of wealth of the spirit. Looked at in another way, these hardy people were richer than we because their lives had meaning and they saw the presence of God every where they looked.

If you are one to put love in the soup as you stir it or see the goddess flirting out of a flower 's face or are fearful of the national deficit and your standard of living, then this is the book for you!
-ALICE O. HOWELL

Summer 1993


Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival by Joscelyn Godwin; Phanes Press, 1993; paper.

Joscelyn Godwin continues to surprise and delight the serious meta physical student. Arktos plows fresh territory, resulting in the first comprehensive survey of what until now has been a subject treated only in fragmentary fashion.

The Arktos theme accounts for the Fall from the Golden Age as a decline in the earth's angle of rotation from perpendicular to its current 23 ½ degree angle. From there, matters grow immensely complicated as we are guide d through a maze of complex explanations and theories. As with Rorschach inkblots, every manner of interpretation seems to have been thought up at so me time. Theories have ranged from the Harmony of the Spheres to UFOs, to the idea of Nazi survival (including the claim that Hitler is in Antarctica), to the Hollow Earth.

Godwin has broken fresh ground in mystical studies . Arktos resides on the fringes of mysticism, surfacing at times with an amazing driving power. We are transported to the core of mythogenesis through a study of a largely unfamiliar yet important theme. Much of New Age thought is directly connected to a century of speculation on this theme.
-KENNETH O'NEILL

Summer 1993


A Rosicrucian Notebook: The Secret Sciences Used by Members of the Order by Willy Schrodter; Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1992; paperback.

Willy Schrodter's work is a perfect example of a book that is epistemologically corrective. First published in 1954, Schrodter's valuable annotated collation of Rosicrucian arcana has the unmistakable tenor that differentiates occult information obtained by rigorously schooled initiates from supposition and speculation obtained by untrained psychics. It exudes solidity, reliability, and metaphysical maturity- legitimate guidance without inflation. In our time this is a crucial issue affecting our knowledge base and the parameters by which we know and assume that our knowing is accurate - that's epistemology. The 1990's new age/occult intellectual marketplace is inundated with free-lance meta physicians without formal initiatory resume; bookstalls are glutted with the hastily prepared report s from born-again reincarnate solar initiates , Mayan hierophants, Zeta Reticulan apologists, master cylinder planetary saviors, and Pleiadian spokeswomen, all proclaiming definitive cosmogonies and infallible prophecies with the presumed oracular veracity of Delphi.

The prevalence of inflationary heralds is unavoidably paradoxical as we move into the new style of Aquarian spirituality that emphasizes the individuation and metaphysical competence of the individual a rising phoenix-like from the ashes of a now irrelevant priest hood of any persuasion. The trouble is this Aquarian philosophical ca rte blanche easily generates an amateurs' bazaar, where the savant manque assert uncorroborable and often fantastic claims. Traditionally, hard-won, genuine occult knowledge was carefully guarded by the old initiatory lodges (such as the original Rosicrucians in their heyday) and transmitted to new students only in the context of a precise schedule of initiations and inner cleansing (a purgation of the astral body called the "Virgin Sophia" in esoteric Christianity) to insure a requisite soul maturity in the face of valuable, even dangerous, information. Now as psychics and astral cowboys sprout like dandelion s in the lawn of the collective psyche, these conventional regulatory protocols are inactive and the consumer of metaphysical texts assimilates material at her peril.

That 's why Schrodter's book is so wonderfully restorative. He makes no hierarchical claim s for himself yet he evinces a sobering, deep, and ultimately infectious interest in the broader (but occulted) realms of human cognition and action as preserved by such underground initiatic knowledge streams as the old Rosicrucian s – and he lets us touch and sense this rara avis, initiates' truth. Occult information is practical knowledge, too, often presaging technical developments in establishment science and technology by many decades, if not centuries. Schrodter, a former councilor in the German government who died in 1971, provides information on a constellation of esoteric yet inescapably fascinating subjects-alchemy, prana, the Philosopher's Stone, elemental spirits, immortality, telepathy, spiritual and magnetic healing, life elixirs, egregors, perpetual lamps, astral projection - drawing on texts and research spanning five centuries of Rosicrucian occultism from the classic 15th century Chymica/ Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz to Schrodter's own private wartime correspondence.

Along the way, in his avuncular, inquiring style, Schrodter sheds light on a great many riddles of esotericism from the Western Mystery tradition. Part of hermeticism is linguistic, deciphering the peculiar word codes commonly employed for circulating open secrets. Medieval initiate s were often called "Venetians"(even by Shakespeare) because for many centuries Venice was a key European center for Turkish Freemasonry and transplanted Arabic occultism. The human physical body is called the " Philosophical Egg" while the astral body is the "glorified rose" (for the Taoists, the "Golden Flower") and the "body of crystallized salt." The Philosopher's Stone or the perfect Stone of the Wise, writes Schrodter, is pure, concentrated, and congealed solar ether or astral sun gold; an initiate who has transformed  his astral vehicle possesses the "Golden Fleece"; and in its liquified form, sun gold is the elusive "Elixer of Life," a kind of superpotent pranic drink ("liquidized etheric Life Force") that extends longevity. It was once the mark of a Rosicrucian initiate that one was able to produce both the Stone and Elixir in one's alchemical laboratory, in addition to transmuting lead into gold. This qualified one as a Knight of the Golden Stone, proof that one had completed the Great Work, the Rosicrucian magnum opus and true Chemical Wedding. By this expression the Rosicrucians were "pointing out that the union (or wedding) of the 'King's Son ' or spirit and the 'Bride ' or soul is not merely a spiritual affair but also a physical one, operating right inside the bodily mechanism," explains Schrodter.

Whether it's famous occultists like Paracelsus, Cornelius Henry Agrippa, and Robert Fludd, or Schrodter's more retiring contemporaries like Erich Bischoff, Franz Hartmann , or Rudolf von Sebottendorf, the sense of continuity over many generations - continuity of inquiry, methodology, initiation , and competence - runs like pure gold through the Notebook . Undoubtedly some aspect s of the Great Work may no longer engage us on the eve of the Millennium as the outer doors of the initiates' temple arcanum are opened, but surely the spirit of investigative, procedural precision and epistemological certitude amply demonstrated in Schrodter's corrective text cannot fail to inspire us to greater discrimination in our own researches today.
-RICHARD LEVITON

Summer 1993


Meister Eckhart: The Mystic as Theologian by Robert K. C. Forman, Ph.D.; Element, Rockport, Mass., 1991; paperback.

Johannes Eckhart , born in 1260 in Hocheim, Germany, is widely considered the greatest German mystic of the medieval .era. He was a Dominican who studied in Cologne, where the influence of Thomas Aquinas was great. Eckhart held influential appointment s in Dominican strongholds and taught theology in Paris and elsewhere, acquiring an exceedingly broad following. While in Paris he attained a master's degree and thenceforth was known as Meister Eckhart . He became a popular preacher and spiritual guide, teaching in the churches and convents along the Rhine.

Due in part apparently to his immense popularity, Eckhart, in his sixtieth year, just after being called to a professorship in Cologne, was charged by the archbishop with heresy for so-called pantheistic and antinomian passages or statements. Eckhart traveled to the papal palace in Avignon to appeal to the Pope, but before action was taken Eckhart died.

Robert K. C. Forman's aim is to interpret Eckhart's mystical experiences clearly and precisely, by following the growth and development of his mystical life, and by analyzing his percept ion of the mystical experience from with in. He addresses the question, " If I were under your tutelage, Master Eckhart , what might I be expected to experience and what significance would it have?"

In placing Eckhart in historical context, Forman states that mysticism, both in the East and the West, has tended to arise during periods of social disorder. In Eckhart's time there was a turning away, because of the rise of urban life and resultant changes in the needs of the people, from the extensive institutions in favor of new spiritual satisfaction within; and mysticism was "in the air."

Forman devotes the entire central portion of the book (five chapters) to a systematic textual -study of Eckhart's references to the mystical stages. He discerns a consistent pattern in the texts - a turning away from the ordinary and the transcient toward the divine. In a chapter on "The Transformation Process" he compares Eckhart's steps with the contemporary psychotherapeutic tradition-the "letting go" of attachments.

The Rapture, or temporary mystical experience (Gezucket) - a stillness in which no thought occurred - is the identical state described by other Christian writers such as St. Paul and St. Augustine. To Forman, this state of consciousness is significant as an initial step leading to the Birth (Geburt) of God in the individual, progressing next to the Breakthrough (Durchbruch). These were to Eckhart the primary foci of the mystical experience.

Birth (unlike the Rapture, a permanent state) required the detachment from all else-an interpretation that Forman finds agreed upon by Eckhart scholars before him. The Birth led to the experiencing of "an intimate coalescence" between God and the soul. The Breakthrough was the advanced mystical experience described by Eckhart, beginning with the internalization of God. Forman perceives this as the ultimate state that "crowns and perfects" the Birth.

The mystical journey to Eckhart was a process of steady spiritual evolution and personal discovery. Forman considers the Breakthrough as experienced by Eckhart to be a "truly novel form" of experience the advanced mystical experience going beyond all distinctions between the self and all creatures and the Godhead. The translation of Eckhart's words on the experience are: " Here God bids all perfections to enter the soul."

Forman finds Eckhart leaning more heavily on Neoplatonic meaning than on Christian trinitarianism and cites passages in specific sermons. Yet he finds the real thrust of Eckhart's teaching on the unity of the trinitarian God as centered on the Son- the Imago Dei-and the Son's birth in the soul, with the Son as the archetype for man.

In summarizing Eckhart's theological system, Forman finds a "systematic world view" in a paradigm that is informed by and accounts for, the steps that may occur in the religious life. The author has at the same time succeeded in this scholarly work in his efforts to clarify the pathway of interior transformation set forth in Eckhart's works.
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Summer 1993


Magical and Mystical Sites: Europe and the British Isles by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock; Phanes Press. 1993; paper.

My first trip to Europe was a mixture of shock and embarrassment. Like so many North Americans, I was tot ally unprepared for its inescapable wealth of sacred sites. Little do we know of the day-to-day spirituality still alive in Europe, or of its traditions of alchemical pilgrimage routes, sacred sites, special museums. Pepper and Wilcock's book is welcome for planning a meaningful trip.

What began as a personal project to research mystic sites throughout Europe has resulted in a practical guidebook. Most such books are printed in Europe, making them hard to come by in the U.S. Wonderfully illustrated, this volume includes a useful bibliography for further research.

I would have wished for a book three times this size, and one filled with local maps. At least we now have an easily obtainable guide for worthwhile pilgrimage travel planning.
-KENNETH O'NEILL

Summer 1993


The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth by Joan Halifax; Harper San Francisco, 1993; hardcover.

It is one of the necessary paradoxes of spiritual development that as one progressively disidentifies with the physical body and its passionate life, one exchanges or transmutes-matter for wisdom, thereby birthing a new body of authority. For Joan Halifax, noted educator, humanist, and transcultural peregrinator, that body is as big as the planet and its ethnographic myriad of peoples. Halifax's The Fruitful Darkness,a superbly wise and humble poetics of self-inquiry, transformation, and dynamic compassion, is the perfect illustration of this process. Her book is a wise-woman's account of how she discovered “new flesh in my mind,” how she found “the gold of compassion in the dark stone of suffering” - and how we all might, should we emulate her.

But that stone- that dark inchoate mass of unknowing, of the shadow, silence, woundedness, and subterranean life-is ultimately fruitful. My life is the instrument through which I might experiment with Truth, says Halifax, who artfully employs key tableaux from her life of continuous initiation and quickening to exemplify the principles of her alchemy. She draws equally from her experiences in anthropology, deep ecology, Buddhism, and indigenous shamanism, inspiring us with the breadth of their fusion in one body of understanding. At the heart of all discourses, suggests Halifax, is the wound, the unexpiated pain. But from out of the personal wound that is identical with the World Wound comes the fruit of unrestricted empathy.

Halifax's The Fruitful Darkness is a marvel of meditative reflection tempered with autobiography, a sensitive contemplation of the tenfold path by which Halifax seeks, on our behalf, “to weave my way back into the fabric of Earth.” There is gold in the darkness, she assures us, which we may mine through the ways of silence, traditions, mountains, language, story, non-duality, protectors, ancestors, and compassion. Each of these ways represents an element in her fugue of a fruitful darkness. Over the decades Halifax has traveled the inner and outer landscape with numerous lucid companions - Buddhist teachers. Huichol shamans, Native American elders, poets, scientists - whose presence and insights enrich her text. She honors all voices, puts her ear to the ground to listen to all members of the vast natural sangha of the planet, the community of biological beings, including whales, dolphins, stones, even extinct species, forests, rivers, now in the realm of planetary ancestors. “The true language of these worlds opens from the heart of a story that is being shared between species,” she says. “Earth is a community that is constantly talking to itself, a communicating universe.”

To listen you must learn the ways of silence, solitude, and emptying. Only then can you find the place where the roots of all Jiving things are tied together, that point of non-duality, the root with no end, which is the life of the Earth, “this great distributive lattice” upon which we all live. Then, grounded, rooted, in touch with the Earth, we can practice intimacy, simple communion, warmth, and mercy with the world, says Halifax. The Fruitful Darkness, comprised of “observations, notes, stories, and realizations,” is the meticulously crafted, honestly sung log book of her journey down and in.

After voyages through revelatory terrains, mountains of illumination, both actual and symbolic, through the Yucatan, Tibet, the Sahara, the Sierra Nevada, she knows: “We have greatly underestimated our true identity.” Early in her life she understood she, must spend time in the mountains, that she must be what the Shintos call yamabushi, one of those who lie down in the mountains. In 1987 she fulfilled a 25-year-Iong intention, to make the perikerama, the circumambulatory pilgrimage on foot around Tibet's awesome Mount Kailas. Even to arrive at this 22,000-foot-high giant, after weeks of jeep travel and overland walking, is a triumph. Kailas, like all majestic mountains, is so utterly daunting precisely because it mirrors our own Buddha nature, our true wild, cosmic identity: the mountain within is the more awesome.

The recognition of this staggeringly simple fact fabricates the body of authority. “Little was left of me psychically or physically after circling it,” Regrettably for the reader, because she conveys texture, tone, and ambiance of place so vividly, Halifax is assiduously spare in her autobiographical delvings and changes meditative locale long before we've drunk fully enough from each well she has bored and presented to us. But that is the mark of a mature work, a few strokes, deftly, masterfully executed, no indulgence, no superfluity, no posturing- just the bone of experience. Maybe there isn't anything else to say: being there is the revelation. “Realizing fully the true nature of place is to talk its language and hold its silence.”

Halifax, on behalf of the constituents of her body of authority –“all my relations” - urges us to reconnect with the body of Earth. We must awaken from our delusions of a separate self alienated from Nature the environment, and our fellow humans, correct the grave perceptual errors that have sealed us in a psychocultural cocoon that imperils the planet. The Earth Herself, through her polyphony of acknowledged tribal voices, will aid us. “The wisdom of elder cultures can make an important contribution to the postmodern world,” Halifax argues. This elder wisdom takes articulate living expression not as schematics, theories, and constructs, but as a direct experience of “stillness, solitude, simplicity, ceremony, and vision.”

Western culture needs a strong purification in the autochthonous sweat lodge of the native peoples' worldview, says Halifax . Our goal, in part, is the attainment of what Buddhism calls the six Natural Conditions (or Perfections) which we find in the deep, soul-making ground of fertile darkness. Let us aspire to generosity, wholesomeness, patience, enthusiasm, communion, and wisdom, says Halifax, and grow incomparable roses from the garbage of our civilization. Reconnected, our wounds make a door into the World Body, a gate through which our spirit-hand reaches in phototropic trust to what is moving towards us. The body of authority is the wisdom of “interbeing,” our unassailable identity with the world. Halifax deserves our thanks for showing us how to travel a long way to find a bit of true nature. “The yield of the journey is ex pressed by the light pouring out of the window of our interior worlds, the deep ground of our actual lives.”
-RICHARD LEVITON

Autumn 1993


The Eight Gates of Zen: Spiritual Training in an American Zen Monastery by John Daido Loori; Dharma Communications: Mt. Tremper, New York, 1992; paperback.

If you still don't know what Zen is, it's your own fault. Library shelves are stuffed with books a bout Zen, and we probably don't need more of the kind that describe what Zen is. But a new kind of book has made its appearance in recent years and it is of equal or greater interest. That is the kind of book that reflects the actual experience of the first generation of Western Buddhist teachers. Such books are display cases for Zen students who have practiced for several decades, achieved some degree of spiritual realization, and have received Dharma transmission and permission to teach from their teachers. These books are valuable for not only the teaching we read but also for their tacit witness to the fact that spiritual attainment is still a reality.

John Loori has been a student of Taizan Maezumi Roshi of the Zen Center of Los Angeles for many years. He is now the teacher and abbot of his own monastery at Mount Tremper, in the Cat skill Mountains in southern New York. The Eight Gates of Zen is not a “this-is-what-Zen-is” kind of book but rat her is ostensibly a description of what spiritual t raining involves at a no-nonsense monastery run by a teacher who knows that Zen is a religious path and not a hobby. His monastery is hard to get into and the life there is challenging once one is accepted. For those who are accepted and who settle in for long-term practice, the monastery offers eight “gates,” or entrances into the spiritual life of Zen. These are Zen meditation (zazen), individual study with the teacher, liturgy, ethical and moral self-education, art practice, body practice, academic study of Buddhism, and work as spiritual practice. These approaches to, and expressions of, Zen are followed over ten stages, which Loori likens to the ten stages of the well-known “Ten Ox-herding Pictures.” The structure of the eight gates and ten stages, which includes the elaborate and rigorous koan study that is part of this form of Buddhism, leaves no doubt as to the rigor of practice at Mount Tremper.

But The Eight Gates of Zen is more than a mere description of the course of practice at one American Buddhist community, as interesting as that may be for students of religion , sociologists, and the like. Loori uses the structure of the eight gates as a device for exploring and commenting on the importance and relevance of each of the eight gates from the perspective of his own under-standing. To mention just three of the gates, I find that he speaks convincingly of the necessity of liturgical practice, academic study of Buddhism, and moral and ethical grounding. This is particularly important because Americans (and perhaps Europeans) who follow Buddhism are, as a group, abysmally ignorant of the teachings of Buddhism, and don't see the relevance of bowing, chanting, and other practices. They do not practice Buddhism as a spiritual path and often lack authoritative guidelines for conduct. It is little wonder that fundamentalist Christian preachers see Zen as cultlike and a refuge for hippies.

Another area of discussion that will interest members of the Buddhist community is that of the nature of monk and nun practice and its relationship to lay practice. Loori insists on making a sharp distinction between the two forms of practice, observing correctly that in our culture we don't really know what a Buddhist monk or nun is, with the result that in many communities, “monks” have families, work in the secular world part or full time, accumulate property, and so on, so that beyond the robes that they wear, they are indistinguishable from lay students. Loori makes the distinct ion and discusses the importance of both kinds of practice and their interdependence.

Still, Loori's permitting couples to live together or at least have a physical relationship as long as the couple does not have children, leads me to question whether he has completely settled the question of what a monastic is as opposed to a lay person. Should renunciation of worldly cares and attractions be extended to the greatest of all distraction s and attract ions? Is sex incompatible with a true commitment to a spiritual way? (Ancient Buddhism thought so.) Is the traditional Buddhist negative attitude towards sex simply outmoded and irrelevant today? And if it is all right to have a satisfying sex life, why can't one also own a Mercedes? Eventually the American Buddhist community needs to settle this issue.

Loori 's book will be of interest to American Buddhists and to scholars and professionals who are interested in American religion. The book is well written and produced, thanks both to the literacy of the author and the excellent editorial work by Bonnie Myotai Treace and Conrad Ryushin Marchaj.
-FRANCIS DOJUN COOK

Autumn 1993


Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New Zealand by Robert S. Ellwood; University of Hawaii Press, 1993; hardcover.

New Zealand is in many ways a conservative land, both politically and culturally, with a reputation for being more English than England. Yet since its settlement by the British in the 1850s and 1860s, it has -been a fertile breeding ground for religious movements that are alternatives to the conventional churches of European culture. For example, in proportion to the total population, Theosophists are about twenty-five times more numerous in New Zealand than they a re in the United States and have included such local worthies as Sir Harry Atkinson, Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Islands of the Dawn treats this anomaly of spiritual radicalism in a conservative land by describing alternative movements both historically and contemporarily in New Zealand and by analyzing the cultural and historical forces that have led to their prominence there. The author, Robert S. Ellwood, professor of religion at the University of Southern California, has written widely and authoritatively on alternative spirituality in such book s as Many People, Many Faiths and Alternative Altars. He also has the rare gift of combining objectivity with a sense of participation and sympathy, expressed in engaging prose.

The first chapter, “From Nineveh to New Zealand,” is a condensed but very readable overview of the history of alternative spirituality from its European backgrounds, focusing on Freemasonry, Swedenborg, Mesmer, Spiritualism, and the Theosophical Society. Thereafter separate Chapters treat Spiritualism with special attention to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; UFO-ism; Theosophy; other esoteric or Theosophically related groups (Co-Freemasonry, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Krishnamurti Foundation: Anthroposophy, Alice Bailey's Arcane School, I Am Activity, Summit lighthouse, a New Zealand movement called Beeville, and Builders of the Adytum); and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn with its offshoots.

An appendix deals with smaller, 1960s and later alternative groups of four types. First a re Western and Islamic initiatory bodies; next, Eastern , mainly Hindu and Buddhist , organizations; third, some politically active groups like the Moonies and British Israel, as well as apolitical New Thought groups; and finally, neopagan and women's spirituality groups.

The ferment of alternative spirituality in a small, culturally homogenous and conservative land like New Zealand begs for explanation. And Ellwood supplies it. By analyzing the reception of long-standing alternative-spirituality groups, like Spiritualism and Theosophy, in New Zealand, he arrives at a cultural profile that seems valid also for other times and places.

Like the United States, New Zealand is a “denominational society,” that is, in contrast to a monopolistic society like Spain or Iran, religion is the concern of a number of competing churches which minister primarily to the needs of their members and none of which has responsibility for or authority over the nation as a whole. Denominational societies are pluralistic and, willy-nilly, tolerant, thus allowing new groups to find a place in society and become part of the accepted establishment.

Unlike the United State s, whose eighteenth-century foundation gave it the birthmark of a rational, individualistic, empirical society, New Zealand was a mid-Victorian creation, reflecting Romanticism, nostalgia for the past, secular utopian ism and philanthropy, and populist reformism. The latter Zeitgeist is particularly open to mysticism and spiritual experimentation. It is notable that the area of the United States in which those characteristics are strongest is the Pacific Coast, settled heavily by Anglos at about the same time as New Zealand. Another difference is that, whereas parts of the United States were founded on religious motives and its population remains one of the church-goingest in the world, New Zealand was settled by working-class persons already alienated from the Church. They were culturally homogenous and faced no cultural threat in the new land from which they needed to be protected by the support of a church community. Their background was largely Anglican or Presbyterian, churches that did not play the same central role in the lives of their members as Baptist and early Congregational.

These factors-an open ness to new foundations, a penchant for spiritual experimentation, a hankering back to ancient forms, and a lack of vita l organized religion - inclined New Zealanders to embrace alternative forms of spirituality with an enthusiasm greater than that found in most other lands. Ellwood (pp. 198-99) has identified eleven factors from the time of New Zealand's settlement that have inclined its people to alternative spirituality. Most of them apply also to the western United States.

It is noteworthy that a similar spirituality has developed in Australasia and the Pacific coast of America, just those places where Theosophical tradition says a new stock of humanity, with a new culture and spiritual outlook, is destined to arise. New Zealand , the islands closest to the international dateline, where a new day first dawns, may therefore be also a paradigm of the dawn of a new humanity.
-JOHN ALGEO

Autumn 1993


Great Song: The Life and Teachings of Joe Miller edited with an introduction by Richard Power; Maypop Press, 196Westview Drive, Athens, GA 30606; paperback, 200 pages.

This remarkable book tells the story of a true American mystic, his travels through life, and his interpretations of teachings from many of the world's great religions. Joe Miller was a simple and profound man, a Theosophist, Sufi, Zen master, minister, but more importantly a friend.

The book is a distillation of the many lectures Joe gave at the San Francisco Lodge of the Theosophical Society, or on his famous Thursday walk s in Golden Gate Park, when he and his wife Guin would be joined typically by dozens of people, and on holidays by hundreds. It is a beautiful tapestry of Miller's life experiences, including meetings with Annie Besant and W. Y. Bvans-wentz.

In his introduction to the book, Richard Power wrote, “Joe was an authentic American revolutionary of the spirit…He had no formal education beyond the eighth grade. He held no hierarchical posit ion in any religious organization. Joe didn't publish any books or write any articles for prestigious reviews. He didn't 'travel the national lecture circuit. Joe had no videos to market, and he didn't organize seminars…He spoke for free, and he would talk to anyone who was interested.”

Joe was deeply influenced by the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. He often spoke of realization and various states of consciousness. There is commentary on the Sutra of Hui-Neng and the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation. “The Great Liberation is something that you individually find out and work with yourself,” Joe said. “Not by going with out, but by going within…you have to find that reality with in yourselves.”

He would advise, “I tell people to keep a little place, just 10% inside your heart and know that little place doesn't belong to anybody, just God and you have access to it.”

And he would say, “The truth IS, nobody can say it. You've got to BE it! You've got to live it. That's Sufism, that's Theosophy, that’s Christianity, that's Vedanta, Zen, Buddhism. Whatever name you want to put on it, you have to feel the at-one-ment with the reality.”

And, “It 's all a Oneness in reality, all the different things are but the divisions of the lower levels of your consciousness, which you can understand if you come into awareness. We live in a world of duality and we have to learn to see through that duality. How can we see the Oneness if we're running one way or another? Whether it's money or energy, we say, ‘Oh, I gotta get to this, I gotta get to that.' But can we look at it and see that it's just two side s of one thing. Look at it all from the standpoint of equilibrium of the middle path.”

The book packs a punch. Joe was never one to be at a loss for words. He talks about Sufism, Jesus and Muhammad, spiritual practices, marriage, sex, love, the bhakti path, Theosophy, spiritual hierarchy, psychic experiences, the River meditation, the Six Rules of Tilopa, and more. There is something in this for everyone: humor, warmth, and simple discussion of some very complex teachings. Most of all, it contains the essence of one man who incorporated spiritual teachings into his own life, and lived love, deeply and fully. “We're not pushing a religion,” he would say, “we're pushing compassion.”
-PEGGY TAHIR

Winter 1993


The Strange Life of P. D. Ouspensky by Colin Wilson; Aquarian Press, Harper Collins, 1993; paperback.

Colin Wilson's latest in his series of short biographies of the “greats” of alternative thought in the twentieth century is a critical but sensitive exploration of the life and work of one of that group's most important figures, the Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky. This is an extremely readable attempt to make up for Ouspensky's status as an unsung genius.

Ouspensky is best known as the diligent but dry expositor of “The Work,” the system of self-development taught by the legendary George Gurdjieff. Wilson's thoughtful account is a much needed counterweight to this assessment, and goes far in establishing Ouspensky as a powerful thinker in his own right. As in other books in this series - Wilson's biographies of Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, C. G. Jung, and Rudolf Steiner - the author's aim is twofold: to draw out the essential genius of his subject, but also to point out where Wilson feels he went wrong. If you are a reader of Ouspensky who cannot imagine him making a mistake, then Wilson's book is perhaps not for you. But if you are intrigued by the lives of complex characters who areas fascinating for their mistakes as for their deep insights, then this book should prove captivating.

Wilson's thesis that “even if he had never met Gurdjieff, Ouspensky would have been one of the most interesting thinkers of the twentieth century,” is based on two works, the exhilarating pre-Gurdjieff Tertium Organum (1912) and the chapter on “Experimental Mysticism” in New Model of the Universe, which Wilson believes to be “the fullest description” of mystical consciousness “on record.”

Those earlier works have an infectious enthusiasm and love of ideas that the later ones lack. Wilson asks the quest ion: What happened to the poetic philosopher who believed that “a new humanity” was near at hand, to change him into a puritanical, sometimes pedantic teacher of “the System”?

Two things, Wilson argues: Ouspensky's own romantic pessimism, and its tragic exacerbation by his meeting with Gurdjieff. Wilson concludes from an analysis of works such as The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin and the collection of stories Talks with a Devil, that Ouspensky suffered from a common complaint among late nineteenth and early twentieth century romantics: “world rejection.”

Wilson believes Ouspensky had already glimpsed the “secret” in Tertium Organum,  that the book is full of insights, of the essence of “higher consciousness,” the Holy Grail for which he searched all his life. Indeed, according to Wilson, Ouspensky would have followed these insights to their logical conclusion if it hadn't been for one thing: meeting Gurdjieff. Wilson contends that Gurdjieff's pessimistic philosophy resonated too well with Ouspensky's world rejection. The last thing Ouspensky needed, Wilson argues, was a doctrine emphasizing what was wrong with human beings and that hammered away at their weakness.

Wilson’s account is commendable for its unbiased view of the temperamental differences between the two men; it is salutary to find a writer unafraid to say that they were simply very different kinds of men, and that the romantic intellectual Ouspensky would sooner or later have to cut himself off from the Zorba-like man’s man, Gurdjieff. Saddening, however, is Wilson's account of Ouspensky's last years as a heavy- drinking, lonely teacher of “the Work.”

Wilson himself has tackled the problem of “sleep” Ouspensky's nemesis –in various ways for nearly forty years. One difference between his approach and that of “the Work” is that he begins with the cheery belief that things are not as bad as Ouspensky and Gurdjieff believed, and that an optimistic outlook coupled with a capacity for intentional perception - i.e., attention- can work wonders. We may not agree with his analysis of Ouspensky's, and indeed Gurdjieff’s, failure, but we should certainly not ignore it, nor his tribute to one of the most exciting thinkers of our time.
-GARY LACHMAN


Book Reviews 1992

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Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics & Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, & Rascal Gurus by Georg Feuerstein

This super book came just in time to offset the simultaneous arrival of one of those New Age "transformational holistic" publications replete with ads from neither crazy nor wise, but noisily self-pro claimed gurus offering their fast shortcuts to Beatitude at a discount.

Feuerstein's book is invaluable as a guide for the guru-bedeviled. It is remarkably erudite, rich in wisdom, or rather: delightfully sane. It traces the succession of holy fools and nutty adepts through India, Tibet, the Far East, medieval Europe, all the way to contemporary California. Masterly capsulate d, finely balanced descriptions of gurus of various plum age make for fascinating reading. They include contemporary-not to be underestimated-"rascal-gurus" like Gurdjieff and Rajneesh, the gifted alcoholic and womanizer adept Chogyam Trungpa, and the multi-faced Da Love Ananda, formerly known as Da Free John.

The latter, at first sigh t, seemed to have been allotted a bit too much space, but on second thought he seems worth it. Feuerstein's own experiences as his one-time disciple throws light on the contradictory alloys of profound insight, bizarre game playing, irresponsible Tantra-styled genitality, and a taste for, or at least an extraordinary tolerance of, idolization by a gurucentric community.

My only experience with a rascal guru, a country cousin of Gurdjieff, who was the dernier cri of the London counterculture of the thirties, came to an early end when his experimentation with his faithful, his unpredictable alternation of flattery with assaults on the human dignity of his devotees and the sexual shenanigans that were part of the cult, inspired me to find the exit. Ever since, I have been destined to continue my loner's quest for Meaning with out entrusting myself to the often all too eclectic, all too flawed wholesalers and retailers in the enlightenment trade.

Feuerstein's evocations of Da Love Ananda's holy circus almost made me kneel down to thank heaven for having put my trust in a very small number of exceptional books, instead of risking to be forced, as a vegetarian, to eat kidney stew for my own good, or to watch my beloved being initiated to the spirit in the Master's bed. Of course, I have had to listen to choruses of true believers intoning "Ah, but you can't get IT from books!" They may be right, but I decided to gamble on it, and - unless I deceive myself - found that by reading D. T. Suzuki's Essence of Buddhism, the Platform Sutra, Bankei's Sermons and the prologue of St. John's Gospel a few hundred times and reflecting on these for a few decades what is the hurry?- one may catch a glimpse of the Guru Within without being befuddled by the trickeries of the empirical ego.

Could it be that this Guru With in is none other than that Specifically Human of which the Buddha spoke as that "Unborn," that "unconditioned Something (or No-thing) without which all that is born and conditioned in us could not be overcome"?

Ramakrishna and Aurobindo, as Feuerstein points out at the end of this extremely readable book, acknowledged and stimulated a sense of communication between themselves and their disciples, never hesitating to admit their own hum an shortcomings, conscientiously avoiding to violate anyone's integrity, talent, and dignity. Masters of their authenticity seem to be fully aware of the relatedness of the Self -the divine principle-with our finite nature in its process of becoming integrated, liberated from all the auto- deceptions the empirical ego is prone to.

Ramana Maharshi, like Bankei, was such a teacher despite himself; the spiritually starved flocked to him by the thousands for nurture, and found their own core of supreme sanity.

There is no doubt that those who have attained the ultimate realization can be of help to us confused mortals. That in their compassion they would refuse bestowing their blessings on those still suffering, still imprisoned in delusion, is as inconceivable as that they would seek to surround themselves with neurotic devotees.

A new approach to transcending the delusions of the individual and of the even more dangerous in-group ego, is obviously urgently needed. Beyond all doubt the first stirrings of a spirituality that is a radical thrust to the really Real, are becoming perceptible. The all too long ignored reality of the relatedness and interdependence of all beings is rising into our awareness, clarifying our actual place in the fabric of the cosmic Whole. There is nothing to realize but the Real…

In the immense political, ecological, demographic, and economic upheavals of our world the eccentricities of holy fools cavorting among us mortals appear curiously anachronistic. Feuerstein agrees that they are indeed "relics of an archaic spirituality" and that sooner or later they will be replaced by a more integrated approach to self-transcendence, "sustained by teachers who place their personal growth and integrity above the compulsion to teach others and who value compassion and humor above all histrionics." Holy Madness is one of those books "one cannot put down," but it is more than that: it belongs in a prominent spot on one's shelves for future reference.
-FREDERICK FRANCK

Spring 1992


BIOSPHERE POLITICS: A New Consciousness for a New Century, by Jeremy Rifkin; Crown Publishers, New York. 1991; paperback.

Lobbyist and lecturer Jeremy Rifkin , an articulate and aggressive advocate of environmental protection, described technology as a destroyer endangering the local, regional, and global ecosystems during decades when humanity has become severed from life-sustaining nature.

Forging a new environmental ethic upon the anvil of ecological necessity, Rifkin resounds with a righteous indignation when he complains quite correctly that senseless and unreasoned rapine has brought Planet Earth perilously close to irreparable disaster. His complaint emanates from his perceptive observation that has now become commonplace, an awareness that the industrialized West has severed itself from unsullied nature.

The author locates several specific causes for this impending catastrophe. Rifkin contends convincingly that the Roman Catholic Church's concept of purgatory legitimized and ultimately encouraged the development of usury. Without the threat of eternal damnation, moneylending became a thriving enterprise. Capitalism, he contends, ensued. Modernizing tendencies followed a characteristic modus operandi during the enclosure movement that commenced in England during the fifteenth century and persisted on the continent into the eighteenth century. Under this system, commons land became fenced in an attempt to pro vide pasture for grazing sheep; newly dispossessed peasants were forced onto the roads to congregate among the homeless. Rifkin argues that under such systems, land, sea, and air are relegated as marketable commodities. The author indicts John Locke, Rene Descartes, and Francis Bacon who "promised future generations that greater consumption-material progress-would mean greater personal security. Instead we find ourselves more isolated and less secure-at war with the environment, at odds with our fellow human beings, and without an alternative approach to securing ourselves in the world."

Although Rifkin's causal reasoning becomes fuzzy and his causes might be simply symptoms for an even greater social dislocation, he paints a vivid and alarming picture describing ecological disaster. More than acting as a prophet pronouncing gloom and doom, he envisions a possible future in which humans attain a new developmental stage of consciousness and "reparticipate with nature out of an act of love and free will, rather than out of fear and despondency. "Rifkin imagines a time when nature becomes "resacralized" and humans discover themselves "secure in the fulness of their grounding inside the biosphere."

Biosphere Politics describes a new consciousness capable of bringing a beleaguered humanity into balance with nature and advances a much needed understanding of how homo sapiens can halt the mindless race toward disaster. Rifkin sketches a hope-imparting and inspiriting scenario in which the human community secures sufficient food, shelter, and comfort while simultaneously restoring a broken balance with the natural environment.
-DANIEL ROSS CHANDLER

Spring 1992


ON A SPACESHIP WITH BEELZEBUB By a Grandson of Gurdjieff, by David Kherdian; Globe Press. New York. 1991; paper.

Groups promoting psychological and spiritual development outside of conventional organizations have been the subject of media scrutiny for years. In groups often referred to as cults, the sometimes abusive methods and megalomaniacal behavior of the leaders of such groups make sensational news even up to the present day. Let the seeker beware is sound advice indeed to anyone looking for guidance on the spiritual path. A person embarking upon psychological development, however, should be prepared to work without a safety net. For almost everyone's inner world holds surprising, even shocking, revelations for one who studies himself in earnest.

Those who are gullible and psychologically shaky can be hurt because they tend to become victims of their own tendencies to be led and to seek security and reassurance from those robed in authority. When the Gurdjieff teaching is properly applied, blind faith is understood to be a liability; inner growth depend s upon taking responsibility for oneself.

The Gurdjieff work, called The Fourth Way, can be briefly described as a system of psychology used to study the mechanisms behind one's attitudes and behavior and the methods used to work free of automatic reaction s to stimuli, events, and fantasies by efforts to increase one's capacity for self-awareness and the exercise of will.

This system was introduced in the West in the early twentieth century by G. I. Gurdjieff. Fourth Way theory has been explained in Gurdjieff’s writings as well as those of his student. P. D. Ouspensky, and others. Ouspensky was an eminent journalist, mathematician, and cosmologist whose The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution remains the most concise and systematic exposition of the subject. Many Fourth Way groups are still to be found throughout the Americas and Europe. Whatever their differences, their adherents all claim to be grounded in the teachings of Gurdjieff.

In the first part of the book, David Kherdian describes the development of his poetic talent and his marriage to Nonny Hogrogian, his second wife, who immediately began to fill a large emotional void in his life. In spite of their fortunate lives, the couple felt an acute spiritual hunger. Their discovery of the Gurdjieff system initiated years of work, first in connection with the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York directed by Lord Pentland . After disenchantment with that group, they went to study under Annie Lou Staveley, who had set up a school on a farm in Oregon. Most of the book is devoted to their inner journey, emotional trials, and rewards over several years in the seventies with Ms. Staveley's group. The author demonstrates how his literary skills and insights unfolded together with increased self-awareness.

Kherdian refers to himself as "a grandson of Gurdjieff" in the sense that he is a generation removed from Gurdjieff’s direct teaching. In addition to describing the inner workings of a Fourth Way group, the book traces the footsteps of spiritual seekers into experimental group living situations in the seventies.

Kherdian’s contribution to the literature of contemporary spiritual endeavors is a courageously candid account of his own effort s to chart his weaknesses and build upon the potentials manifested in his being. He is as forthright about both the strengths and shortcomings of the teachers and fellow pupils as he is about his own. The reader is given a balanced account of Fourth Way methods because the writer maintained his own balance throughout his experiences.

The author describes how he benefited from his group because he took it as a school that prepared him to take an active part in life again and not as a safe haven for the world-weary. Persons who leave various esoteric and religious groups are often condemned in the eyes of their former brethren to wander the world like Cain. Ouspensky advised his pupils to take the meaning of a school simply: a place to learn something. To overcome not only anxiety about how to act in a group but also fear of leaving its shelter once one knows in one's heart that it has served its purpose -these together constitute for many one of the major lessons to be learned from a group situation. Courage, my heart, take leave and heal yourself (Hermann Hesse).

The Gurdjieff work has much to do with realigning one's ideas about suffering. Our attachments and negative attitudes bring us much unnecessary suffering, which we are strangely loathe to give up. A certain kind of suffering is required for conscious development, but most of us come to the work to escape at least one form of it, that is, we want to be free from whatever we find hard to accept about ourselves and thus to reach internal rest. We can find our way to the quiet place within in moments whenever we can detach our sense of identity from whatever may be stimulating us or weighing us down at the moment. As Kherdian realized, however, the self-knowledge that we achieve brings more suffering than we expected. By accepting our flaws without an undue sense of tragedy, we can come to recognize them as shoals, around which we must learn to pilot. Then we can get on with living with purpose and a better sense of who and where we are without the unnecessary burden of overweening self-preoccupation.

According to Kherdian, he and Nonny were among the few to realize that the farm in Oregon provided a means to practice the work and not to found a permanent community. Some members of the group saw the farm as a place to make their stand against the social and cultural values of their parents' generation. Mean s and ends are so often confused in group work. Here we have no lasting city (Hebrews 13:14) needs to be a constant reminder.

Kherdian build s dramatic tension as he tells his story with both substance and narrative skill. His book deserves to take its place among the most informative and even-handed accounts published by those who have journeyed on any of numerous branches of the path to inner growth and self-understanding.
-WALTER SCHEER

Spring 1992


Sacred Paths: Essays on Wisdom, Love and Mystical Realization by Georg Feuerstein; Larson Publications, Burdett, NY, 1991; paperback.

Sacred Paths consists of twenty-six essays of penetrating insight into the human condition, including practical guidance on perspectives, attitudes, and practices capable of effecting fundamental transformation of that condition. Georg Feuerstein is a longtime student of the ancient tradition of yoga who has tested and proven many of the principles and practices of yoga in his own life. Here is a book with considerable historical and theoretical information, thus providing a broad context for understanding the varied forms of yoga. Even more important, given the widespread anomie and degeneracy of our age, the book offers a variety of proven methods for not just improving the human condition but for transforming it into its most transcendent possibilities.

The author uses the word yoga to mean a spiritual discipline that aims at union between the lower or embodied self and the transcendental Self. The common Western use of the term to mean bodily postures or, even more mistakenly, physical exercise represents an extreme distortion of the great range and depth of yogic form s. After discussing briefly the common thrust of all forms of yoga and the philosophies that stand behind them, Feuerstein gives an overview of the channels by which yoga has been transmitted to the West. He then introduces several of the more important classic texts and presents some of the findings of modern science in its attempt to unravel the mysteries of yoga.

The heart of the book lies in its treatment of the spiritual disciplines that lead to union. Three chapters present the paths of wisdom, action, and loving devotion. Another three treat the contribution of Patanjali, the second-century author of the Yoga Sutra, one of the most important of all yoga texts. Here the author undertakes a fascinating, imaginary interview with Patanjali in which the latter clarifies and expands on the 195 aphorisms that make up his work. Hatha yoga is sometimes mistakenly limited to body postures (asanas), the topic of one chapter in the book. Feuerstein shows convincingly that Hatha yoga is essentially a spiritual tradition, with connections to tantra and kundalini yoga. The latter topic is developed more fully in an interview between the author and Lee Sannella, who recently published a book on the subject. Two additional chapters take up path s centering in light and geometric visualization.

In separate chapters Feuerstein addresses purification, meditation, silence, and nonharming (ahimsa). Two chapters present a refreshingly sane view of sexuality, focusing on what the author calls "sacramental sexuality." The relevance of yoga to ecology, death, immortality, and freedom is explored. The final chapter contrasts the Dark Age (Kali-yuga) of Hinduism with more optimistic Western interpretations. The author individualizes the sweeping theories by concluding: "We can embody either the dark actualities of our age or its luminous potential. The choice is always ours."

Feuerstein's flowing and lucid style makes Sacred Paths a joy to read. The exceptionally fine index encourages frequent return to the book for refreshing one's memory. In sum, this is a work of exceptional breadth and balance that reveals, by means of factual information, insightful interpretation, and practical counsel, the relevance of the thought and practice of India to the conditions of contemporary Westerns.
-JAMES E. ROYSTER. PH.D.

Summer 1992


Food for Solitude: Menus and Meditations to Heal Body, Mind and Soul by Francine Schill; Element, 1992; paper.

Have you ever wondered what the Dalai Lama would tell you about being alone? Are you curious about what David Spangler, Gloria Steinem, David Steindl-Rast, and Gloria Vanderbilt have in common while in solitude? Did you know that Joseph Campbell meditated on the Tarot while swimming? Do you want to know about Mother Serena's experience of the inner rainbow; interested in William Irwin Thompson's thoughts about eating Light; and what about Leonard Nimoy on "tapping the center" or Nancy Ross Wilson on "being breathed"?

These are just some of the savory interview tidbits from among the host of contemporary voices in Francine Schiff's Food for Solitude. Quickly scanned, the book is an afternoon's enchantment of personal conversation and spiritual comradery - an aperitif to stimulate the appetite for a nourishing solitude practice of one's own. Slowly savored, the book provides a feast , each chapter urging on the contemplative instinct for the creation of a soul-satisfying recipe of one's own.

The text rests on the principle that "Solitude is an attitude,"

an attitude of gratitude. It is a state of mind, a state of heart, a whole universe unto itself. The early contemplatives in all traditions knew this secret of happiness. The anchorites and hermits and saints and mystics always knew that being alone was the greatest gift. And whether or not we sit upon mountain tops or kitchen stools, whether we seek sacred ashrams or simply stir the soup, the message is the same. For what does it mean to be alone, if not to be all one. To be who you are already-in your deepest self, to be happy. (p. xv)

Best of all, Schiff, like a fine host, encourages us to enjoy ourselves, to eat heartily and drink deeply at solitude's banquet. And for those of us uninitiated or more timid in the practice, with personal anecdote and charming whimsy she cultivates an easy confidence in our capacity to be alone with ourselves.

The text is not meant to be a definitive exploration of solitude experiences, indeed her highly varied and eclectic cast of notables might be irksome to those more accustomed to lineage and precise metaphysics. Instead, in response to the query, "What is your food for solitude?" the simple and direct voices of the seekers interviewed by Schiff offer a rare opportunity to resonate with the variety of human preferences in, thro ugh, about, and around, what we choose as nourishment in times of solitude. Avoiding pedagogy and vegetarian polemics, and skirting the obvious "you are what you eat" platitudes, Food for Solitude provides personally revealing reflections and good practical advice from some very remarkable people on how to be "alone," but not alone.

Like good garnish, the inevitable word-plays and subtleties of metaphor possible around the language of food, feeding, spiritual growth and inner nourishment, provide a pleasing presentation for the solitude menus and musings Schiff culled from her many conversations. From recipes for basic soups and breads, and even hermit "treats," to more specialized advice for a "Dinner Party for One," to instructions for nurturing right-brain processes, the reflections by Schiff, et al., provide memorable menus for a balanced life. There are included meditations, table prayers, even a shopping list for the well-supplied hermitage, and best of all, the personal testimony of 45 diverse practitioners on the fruits of solitude, each a famous and well-fed mystic in their own right.

Like a good cookbook, the text is appealing in format, with an abundance of handsome mandalas and generous wide margins. Space aplenty for the accomplished practitioner to adjust the recipes to personal preference. It is the sort of book one buys in multiple copies. A copy to give to friends who have not yet cultivated a taste for solitude -in the hope they are inspired to try it. A copy to give to those who are already familiar with its beneficial properties-with new possibilities and fresh ideas for their practice. And of course, a copy to keep - in readiness for whatever it is that needs cooking in one's own kitchen.

Finally, if there is a frustration. it is one common to most cookbooks – the more subtle ingredients take some searching out. Solitude in our prevailing American culture is a precious commodity requiring a dedicated practice. Food for Solitude provides an engaging resource. Francine Schiff is to be congratulated for finding this incredible diversity of solitude practitioners. Although the voices of the contemporary celebrities collected here are well annotated, the seasoned spice of older voices of other times and places generously sprinkled throughout the text are not so clearly referenced. But enough clues are given for the persistent practitioner to track down the essentials, and to realize that one and all, we are meant to relish solitude. Its food is our finest birthright and our deepest communion. As Francine her self quoted Nancy Wilson Ross:

We venerate all the great teachers
And we are thankful for this food
The works of many other people
And the suffering and sharing
of other forms of life. (p. 48)

-GABRIELE UHLEIN

Summer 1992


The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that have Shaped Our World View by Richard Tarnas; Harmony Books, New York, 1991; hardcover.

Where are we, Daddy? How did we get here? What are we to do?- our first profound questions, and, for most of us with interests in the transpersonal, questions we still earnestly ask. Richard Tarnas seeks answers to all of these and more in The Passion of the Western Mind, and, more often than not, succeeds spectacularly in providing a response that is at least provocative and hopeful if not an outright guide to salvation.

The "where we are," as Tarnas describes it, is in troubled postmodern times, caught in a cosmic double-bind between the inner craving for a life of meaning and the relentless attrition of existence in a cosmos that our rational scientific world view has assured us is empty, dead, devoid of all purpose. "How we got here" forms the body of Tarnas' work: a concise yet comprehensive account of the entire span of Western thought, from Plato and before, through early Christianity and the many permutations of the Christian-Hellenic synthesis of the Middle Ages, to the birth and transformation of the modern era through the world- shattering projects of Copernicus, Galilee, and Descartes, and, finally, to the postmodern apocalypse culminating in the systematic stripping away of certainty, soul, and sanity. This part of the book, which could have been as dry and debilitating as a sophomore seminar, is instead an exciting read, a page-burner of a mythic novel. Our history is, after all, the story of the Hero's Quest, with all that high drama – and with the inevitable Hero's tragic flaw. How that flaw is part of the solution as well as part of the problem is resolved in the exciting conclusion of Tarnas' story.

"What are we to do?" It is the great gift of this book that we are not left to sink in the postmodern morass, but are invited - indeed almost compelled by logical and visionary necessity-to recognize that there is an underlying pattern to all this, an archetypal pattern , and a method of archetypal analysis, synthesis, and above all experience, that points to the coming of a new world to which we are not alien but , rather, are fully inspired participants in its formation. Tarnas finds the clearest expression of this underlying archetypal world structure in the work of consciousness researcher Stanislav Grof, whose thirty years of investigation with psychedelics and other depth psychological techniques (i.e., holotropic breathwork) have revealed a four stage sequence of birth experience that has the most profound resonance on physical, psychological, religious, and physical levels. (In addition to his Harvard degree and Ph.D. in psychology, Tarnas was for ten years director of programs at Esalen Institute and Dr. Grof's next door neighbor, friend, and collaborator.) I will leave it to Rick's extended argument to prove to you the efficacy of the perinatal matrix as the "new paradigm" we have all been seeking. Convinced or not, you will surely add richness and complexity to your understanding of transpersonal issues.

Tarnas' conclusions will surely be criticized, misused - even abused. For example. they are subject to the lukewarm embrace of the reductivist: "Hmm, we all do go through a birth process; maybe he's right that coming through the birth canal preconditions human experience." or they may receive cavalier dismissal by scientific fundamentalists as "based on the ravings of the LSD-crazed." That the archetypal pattern revealed in the perinatal matrix underlies both mind and world, and thus unites them, requires an act of recognition that perhaps only the transpersonally experienced can accomplish with ease. However, on the whole Tarnas argues persuasively, and I urge you to encounter that argument. Particularly if you are somewhat new to these ideas, you must read this book to have any notion of what transpersonal psychology is truly about, and where it is destined to lead.

The Passion of the Western Mind is well placed to get a hearing in academic and professional circles as well as to become a hit with the educated public. It is a book that could truly make a difference. We in the transpersonal movement should , especially, take it to heart.

Note: I first heard the material that comprises the epilogue of The Passion of the Western Mind as a speech given at the 1990 "Cycles and Symbols" conference in San Francisco, where psychotherapists and professional astrologers gathered for the first time together to explore similarities in their disciplines and to jointly participate in presentations by Tarnas and Grof as well as other prominent astrologers and therapists. Tarnas brought the crowd roaring to its feet, both through the depth and breadth of his vision, and because he added to the written version an explicit encouragement to astrologers. (After all, if the "astrological premise"-that the movements of the heavens are correlated with human action-is verified, then the postmodern dilemma vanishes.) I for one am looking forward to further exciting developments from the Tarnas-Grof collaboration.
-BOB CRAFT

Summer 1992


Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerer's World by Florinda Donner; Harper San Francisco. 1991; hardcover.


Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig; Bantam. 1991; hardcover.

Reading Donner and Pirsig is uncannily like slipping into a time warp and rematerializing back in the mid 19705 without the least thread of identity remaining from the 1990s. Pirsig, an unknown philosophical iconoclast, stamped the 1970s with his quirky, passionate Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. a desperate inquiry into the nature of Quality as father and son motorcycle across the country; then he lasped into public silence for 17 years with-- almost unprecedented in hyperbolic, celebrity-idolizing America --no sequel, no talk shows, no follow-up. Donner, a German woman born in Venezuela and author of two previous neo-shamanic narratives, took initiation from the legendary Carlos Castaneda (and his guru, Don Juan Matus) twenty years ago, and his presence looms powerfully if enigmatically in this dreaming-awake chronicle of life in a house of Sonoran “sorcerers and witches” way beyond the confines of consensual reality. We're virtually back with Castaneda and his ontologically elusive Mexican cabal of shape-shifters and wind-born shamans as if the Yuppie 1980s had never happened. It's not a rerun either; it's grippingly fresh, as if it never stopped and we're only now re-establishing our attention after a long distraction. But since most of Donner's narrative takes place in the dreamtime, which is an atemporal virtual reality in which perception is completely manipulable, it doesn't matter at all.

That 's precisely what Pirsig and Donner/Castaneda are on about in these new books: manipulating perception, breaking free of the somnambulant bonds of ordinary, physical reality, “expanding the limits of normal perception and breaking the agreement that has defined reality,” as Donner puts it. Their strategy is to dissolve consensus reality, to “break that frail blanket of human assumptions,” that “culturally determined construct” called reality, to gain self mastery, to dream-awake into the detachment of silent knowledge and intent, to finally walk into the vastness of unbounded freedom.

Pirsig has high goals, too. He's looking for the philosophical basis of morality and for the cutting edge of Dynamic Quality, the spontaneous, unpatterned response to life. Pirsig’s narrator, Phaedrus, has been about as far as the Western philosophical agreement about reality allows one: insanity and institutionalization. Insanity is freedom, a heresy, an illegal value pattern, the end of role playing, an uncorroborable culture of one, argues Pirsig. But if sanity is culturally defined as the ability to see reality in a set way, “a geography of religious beliefs shows that this external reality can be just about any damn thing.” After all, the Balinese definition of a madman is “someone who, like an American, smiles when there is nothing to smile at.”

That's a fair description for the perceptually inconclusive adventures beyond the reality principle in which Donner, Castaneda, and company spend most of their time in quest of the sorcerer's profound freedom: to be awake in dreaming. They're inconclusive because neither Donner nor the reader ever gets quite enough explanation, but that's probably part of the initiation. This is far more than lucid dreaming; there are no psychedelic drugs, no ETs speaking through channels -just self-mastery. It 's more akin to the Alcheringa, or Dreamtime, of the Australian Aborigines, an intensely fluid, creative, world-making energetic domain where consciousness and manifestation co-exist seamlessly.

The young Donner is an anthropology graduate student at UCLA when she meets her dream sisters and Castaneda somewhere in Sonora, Mexico in 1970. She'd heard of the hermitic, dangerous Castaneda, but maybe wasn't too well versed on his sorcery of philosophy. Her taste in reading was more likely Vanity Fair than Journey to Ixtlan, and anyway, Donner thinks she is a liberated, smart American woman who doesn't need magicians. She just wants her chronic nightmares to go away. Her female cohorts strenuously try to convince her that women a priori are the slaves of men and male culture, they're “befogged by sex,” wasting their true power which lies in the tremendous potency and organic disposition to dream from the womb.

Between the band of dreamers, stalkers, and naguals, they skillfully divest Donner of all her presumptions about femininity, time, space, linearity, identity, and consciousness. They deftly play on her emotional reactivity like an electric piano and toss her about from ordinary waking consciousness to dreaming-awake adventures with such facility that she never knows where she is, and usually gets it backwards when she tries to guess. Identity is a hall of mirrors; time-space is a mutable fiction. Her principal teacher, Zuleica, has two other distinct dream selves, one of each gender, Castaneda is also called Joe Cortez, Charlie Spider, and Isidor Balthazar; even Don Juan has a couple aliases. It's an utterly unreliable, unpredictable, unsettling magic show on the other side of the daily world, a metaphysical cartoon entertainment, a Gilbert and Sullivan romp on the astral plane. Paradoxically, it all usefully confuses, edifies, even agitates us with relevance and glimpses of “other possibilities” outside of time and culture, something that won't leave us alone until we attain it ourselves.

Philosophy and sorcery are metaphysical siblings, says Donner. They're both “highly sophisticated forms of abstract knowledge,” and philosophers are “intellectual sorcerers.” Except that the sorcerer goes one step further than the philosopher by acting on his findings, and except that philosophers on the whole uphold the social order even if they don't agree with it-in short, they are sorcerers manqué; they might have been, but missed it, says Donner. That's largely true of Pirsig, whose passionately, intelligently-reasoned inquiry into what he calls the Metaphysics of Dynamic Quality as an intellectual basis for twentieth-century morality is somewhat stale and uncarbonated after Donner's effervescent dream jinks.

Pirsig wisely copies the successful literary structure of personalized Platonic dialogue in the context of a vividly realized road trip that worked so marvelously in his first book. Now it's not motorcycles but a yacht sailboat which he plies in solitary contemplation from Lake Superior through inland waterways to the Hudson River and down to the “Giant” at its mouth, New York City. Pirsig interrupts his philosophical ruminations and nearly ruins his reclusive lifestyle when he picks up and beds a “ bar lady” named Lila. It' s a flamboyant mismatch: Sherlock Holmes and Mae West arguing about dinner and existence on the Hudson. She's sexy, hostile, broke, and on the edge of insanity -not his type, surely, yet the perfect living, suffering, perplexing question mark he needs to have tossed disruptively into his neat stacks of 11,000 index cards filled with his thoughts on Victorian morality, static quotidian patterns versus spontaneous dynamism, the dead -end of anthropology, culturally static immune systems, a Peyote sweat lodge in Wyoming, the dialectic of native American Indian mysticism and European formalism in the American psyche, and his twenty-year search for the Good.

Regrettably, Pirsig's philosophy is far less engaging than his passionate narrative presence. Phaedrus is a character from Plato's dialogues and maybe the issues of Platonism in general are a little boring today. Pirsig's prose is vigorous and taut his story-line innately compelling, but the long excursions into the Metaphysics of Quality are more often tedious, digressive, and inconsequential than vita l. His specific inquiry is less riveting than the sheer energy and presence he imparts through his inquiry. Pirsig's Phaedrus is inquiry incarnate and this is irresistibly exciting. That he asks, and invites us livingly into his asking, that the energy and persistence of his inquiry is so alive and precious - that's the dynamic quality of his metaphysics, not his final revelation that Good is a noun. And anyway, it's probably all made up, a fictional conceit to serve a philosophical purpose.

Just because Donner says she's a blond-haired, blue-eyed attractive, intelligent anthropology student at UCLA doesn't mean anything. She could be another dream self of Castaneda. He's so protean he may have ghost-written, or dictated it while dreaming-awake. Many readers think “Castaneda” himself was made up by another writer. In a recent interview Pirsig admitted that Phaedrus, Lila, Richard Rigel (an antagonist in Lila), even the yacht, “is really me.” Lila is blond-haired and blue-eyed, too, and if Richard Rigel hadn't whisked her off for institutionalization again, she could have taken just one more step and have been “out of hell forever,” free of the cultural straitjacket of static patterns and “the righteousness of the sane.”

So both Pirsig and Donner-whether they're sorcerer-manqué in a river-faring yacht or sorcerer-nagual in a white Chevy van- have crafted for us a plausible cover story for a profound philosophical intent: the existential domain of pure freedom and some signposts on reaching it along the way. And for voracious readers accustomed to disappointment in each year's harvest of new books, it's gratifying, even nourishing, to encounter Pirsig and Donner/ Castaneda again, emerging from that time warp absolutely untainted by the new age narcissistic excesses of the 1980s and the profound uncertainties of the 1990s and bearing messages worth heeding.
-RICHARD LEVITON

Autumn 1992


How Like an Angel Came I Down: Conversations with Children on the Gospels By A. Bronson Alcott, introduced and edited by Alice O. Howell; Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY, 1991; paperback.


The Spiritual Life of Children by Robert Coles; Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1990; hardcover.

Gentle Reader (to begin as books often began in Bronson Alcott 's day), you are holding in your hands a most precious and extraordinary book, truly an America n heirloom, which has almost vanished from our ken. Yet, if its time to resurface is right, it may well affect you as profoundly as it did me when it fell into my hand s. I cannot imagine anyone 's attitude toward children not being altered by the perusal of this work. And I can imagine the child in us wishing wistfully, “Oh, that I might have had a teacher like Mr. Alcott!” Alice O. Howell, in the introduction to How like An Angel Came I Down.

This remarkable book of Bronson Alcott's “conversations with children on the gospels” is edited and abridged from two volumes originally published in 1836 and 1837. Nevertheless, it reveals Alcott as nothing less than a depth psychologist 150 years ahead of his time, a perennial philosopher par excellence.

Alcott was a Transcendentalist who contended that “besides the combative Catholic and Protestant elements in the Churches, there has always been a third element, with very honourable traditions, which came to life again at the Renaissance, but really reaches back to the Greek fathers, to St. Paul and St. John, and further back still.”

This “third element” is the ageless wisdom that lies often obscured at the center of all the great religious and philosophical traditions both Eastern and Western. It is the Theosophy re-presented by H. P. Blavatsky later in the nineteenth century, and re-presented again by Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy. It comes to us in many garbs, in many times and places, but its core element remains always the same.

As Alcott wrote, this is


... a spiritual religion based on a firm belief in absolute and eternal values as the most real things in the universe –a confidence that these values are knowable by man– a belief that they can nevertheless be known only by wholehearted consecration of the intellect, will, and affect ions to the great quest –an entirely open mind towards the discoveries of science– a reverent and receptive attitude to the beauty , sublimity and wisdom of the creation, as a revelation of the mind and character of the Creator –a complete indifference to the current valuations of the worldling.

Alice O. Howell, an analytical astrologer and counselor who has taught Jungian analysts, has provided a splendid introduction to this book.

The free-ranging conversations in Alcott's class were not scripted; he said on the first day of his class that he did not know what he would say, nor the children what they would say, but that something wonderful, wise, new, and fresh may come up.  And many wonderful, wise, new, and fresh things did indeed come up. The depth of these children’s responses to their reading of the life of Christ is a marvel, evoked by Alcott's genuine interest in the children and his willingness not to impose an understanding on their reading of the life of Jesus and the values by which we seek to live our lives in response to that exemplary life.

The Alcott book is a wonderful companion to Robert Coles' The Spiritual Life of Children. Coles, too, recounts his own conversations with children on spiritual matters, revealing a depth of insight by young people of which adults today are largely unaware. More than a century and a half after Alcott, Coles has, like Alcott, made himself a real friend of children, someone to whom they can truly express themselves, revealing the feelings and thoughts at the very center of their experience of life.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Autumn 1992


The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentary on the Therigatha by Susan Murcott; Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA, 1991; paperback.

Susan Murcott turned to Buddhism in adulthood because, she says, the Christian tradition in which she had been raised did not affirm that women could attain the highest religious truth, nor did it give women equal opportunity to serve as priests and teachers. When Murcott came across a 1909 English translation of the Therigatha by Caroline Rhys Davids in the library at the University of Melbourne, she realized that she had found a feminist spiritual treasure. The Therigatha is a collection of seventy-three enlightenment poems written by Buddhist nuns of the sixth century 8.C.E., contemporaries of the historical Buddha. It demonstrates, Murcott says, “that women have the capacity to realize and understand the highest religious goals of their faith in the same roles and to the same degrees as men.”

Murcott's translation from Pali into contemporary English and her commentary on the Therigatha were clearly both, as she says, “a labor of love” and a powerful feminist statement. In Buddhism, Murcott notes, women have the right to form celibate communities, teach, be ordained and ordain, preach, and gather disciples. In the opening chapter, Murcott recounts that Ananda had to ask the Buddha three times to permit women to join the sangha. However, in granting them permission, Buddha affirmed that women as well as men can “realize perfection.” or attain supreme enlightenment. Thus from the beginning, Murcott says, the Buddhist tradition acknowledged that women and men were “spiritual equals.”

Murcott's study of the poems is not simply a translation of text from one language to another. Rather it is a transference -an attempt to communicate to Western readers the sense and the spirit of the poems. Unlike the original manuscript, in which the poems were arranged according to the number of stanzas (Murcott says this arrangement was probably a mnemonic aid when the poems were part of the oral tradition), the poems are grouped into chapters based on the roles and relationships of the women. Murcott surrounds the poems with biographies and stories about the women to whom the poems are attributed, drawn from a fifth-century commentary to the Therigatha.

In the chapter “Friends and Sisters,” for example, Murcott tells the story of Vijaya, a woman from a humble back ~ground who became a nun because her dear friend Khema had become one. In the poem attributed to her, Vijaya recounts a night during which she left her cell “four or five times,” unable to achieve “control over mind.” Finally she sought the help of another nun, who taught her “the faculties, the powers, the seven qualities of enlightenment and the eightfold way.” Following her sister-nun's advice, Vijaya returns to her meditation, until she achieves at last the “peace of mind” she had been seeking:

In the first watch of the night,
I remembered I had been born before.
In the middle watch of the night,
the eye of heaven became clear.
In the last watch of the night
I to re apart
the great dark.

Vijaya's poem is thus a testimony to both a woman's capacity to achieve enlightenment and to the importance of other women as teachers and helpers on the spiritual path.

Perhaps the most dramatic and arresting poems in the book are contained in the chapter “Prostitutes, Courtesans, & Beautiful Women.” In her introduction to the chapter, Murcott recalls the long tradition of tension between male celibate monks and beautiful, sensual women. Early Buddhist art, Murcott says, contains many images of women as temptresses, who represent the world of sexuality, birth, and rebirth, through which a renunciate monk must pass before reaching enlightenment. However, the poems collected in this chapter stand this cliché on its head. Here the beautiful women speak for themselves and recount their own struggles to transcend the realm of samsara and reach ultimate spiritual development.

One of the most powerful poems expressing this theme is attributed to a prostitute named Vimala. In it, she recounts her transformation from a stance of egoism and anger to one of renunciation and true freedom:

Young
intoxicated by my own
lovely skin…
I despised other women.
Dressed to kill…
I was a hunter
and spread my snare for fools…
Today'
head shaved,
robed,
alms-wanderer,
I, my same self,
sit at the tree's foot;
no thought.

Murcott's book will be appreciated by Buddhist women and, indeed, by all people on a spiritual path. The emotional clarity and intensity of these songs of enlightenment is truly timeless. Reading them is to feel an overwhelming sense of kinship and sister hood with women seekers who have gone before.
-BRENDA ROSEN

Autumn 1992


Unconditional Life: Mastering the Forces that Shape Personal Reality by Deepak Chopra, M.D.; Bantam, 1991.

Deepak Chopra, described in a recent issue of Publishers Weekly as one of the
most popular practitioners and authors in the “wholeness school of health,” assumes in Unconditional Life a positive attitude that does not discredit other approaches to the treatment of disease processes and patients' various health complaints.

Chopra's fields of medical practice are alternative medicine and endocrinology. He maintains that complete healing depends upon the individual's ability to “stop struggling.”  This is exemplified throughout the book, which in essence is a collection of narrative passages taken from case histories of his own patients and some of his colleagues' patients. One anecdote flows casually into another, frequently with dialogues on the mind-body approach which Chopra applies to his cancer patients, patients with so-called incurable diseases or injuries, and others suffering from personality problems.

Aside from his medical training, Chopra is a highly perceptive and not ably sensitive practitioner who feels the pain of his patient s and empathizes with their reactions to their own suffering. The reader gets the feeling that Chopra suffers along with his patients, yet exhibits control over each conference-room interaction. His writing is lightened and enhanced by frequent quotations from great literary figures of the past such as Tagore, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Tennyson, Frost, and Yeats.

Having grown up in New Delhi and having been educated in both India and the United States, Chopra is able to apply both Eastern and Western modes of healing and of interrelating the healing of the emotions and the spirit with the restoration of physical well-being or improvement of status.

Chopra recommends meditation to his patients, and he himself practices Transcendental Meditation. He states that in English the “classic description” of meditation is in the writings of William Wordsworth in poems such as “Tintern Abbey.” He attributes the healing of many patients to their having engaged in meditation over a period of years. He finds that in addition the showering of “loving attention” on a wound, even for muscle regeneration, can bring astonishingly favorable results.

Chopra devotes sufficient space to the Bhagavad-Gita to introduce the central dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna to Westerners unfamiliar with this classic, and to define significant Sanskrit terms. He devotes a passage to yoga as one means to search for the knower and to become liberated from pain and suffering. Chopra is cognizant of the problems that people in the Western world have in accepting such ideas as that there is life in everything. His own explanation is that the same stream of life once flowed through every thing. Thus, we should no t be skeptical about mysterious forces functioning in healing.

Always, to Chopra, the patient is capable of making a choice. Through exercises, patients can learn to control their thoughts of fear and anxiety, so that they concentrate on the space between thoughts and seeing past their problems. Early in his practice, Chopra began to observe in his office patients in whom physical and mental states had become severely “disjointed.” This fragmented state, says Chopra, seems to be best alleviated through the use of meditation. He continually accepts pain and suffering as real, stating that many of his patients have been to other doctors before being referred to him and have been subjected to negative approaches to health care.

Readers should find this book fascinating and will gain new insight into disease manifestations and the alleviation of pain and suffering. It is rare to find a book on the subject of disease written in lay person terms throughout that is also compelling from beginning to end.
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Winter 1992


Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth by Steven McFadden; Bear & Company, Santa Fe, NM, 1991; paper.

Coincident with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the Americas, Time magazine lamented the loss of a vast wisdom tradition in a feature called “Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge.” It also noted the dearth of scholars willing to document the remaining cultures around the world, which are facing the destruction of their natural habitats as well as their tribal existence.

In synchronous concern, author Steven McFadden addresses the same causal forces, such as our separation from the earth and misuse of techno logy, but with a remedial approach. Profiles in Wisdom : Native Elders Speak About the Earth is a series of vignettes on indigenous America ns who speak about these issues and the spiritual influences in their lives.

McFadden distinguishes his subjects as “elders” by virtue of the unique use of their cultural wisdom in their own lives and its impact on those around them. Seventeen individuals from as many tribe s of North and South America speak about the present and coming age in a context all agree up on- survival based on cooperative effort and elevated consciousness.

The author has reserved his personal opinions in the interviews, which allows a natural focus to emerge. Despite the geographic diversity of his Native American subjects, the message for today's world is essentially the same. The warrior woman Oh Shinnah whose ancestors come from both Apache and Mohawk traditions says that “There has to be a revolution in this country. I think it has to be a spiritually political revolution.”

All agree that changing our fundamental thinking is essential. “Human consciousness has to evolve and expand,” says Sun Bear of the Chippewa-Ojibwa, who revealed the prophecy and mission of the modern-day Rainbow Warriors. And the Seneca prophetess Grandmother Twylah Nitsch reminds us that “Nothing works with out the focus on truth, wisdom, and faith.”

For many of these earth-spirit representatives, the proper use of innate natural forces as their own elders taught is still a viable solution to our myriad problems. A state civil service administrator, J. T. Garrett of the Cherokee says “… that’s how I see our role in the nineties: to modify the energy and bring it back to a level of harmony and balance.” The men and women of Profiles in Wisdom articulate well-known dilemmas, yet each is distinguished by a commitment to solving the concern as well as pursuing a personal quest. This marvelous balance of individuality and collective participation shines clearly through each facet of McFadden's collection of Native American gems.
-ROSEMARY CLARK

Winter 1992


A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larsen; Doubleday, 1992; hardcover.

A Fire in the Mind is an unusually subjective, several-sided biography that was written with authorization from Joseph Campbell's widow by two well-intentioned students. The abundant admiration that sometimes obscures solid scholars hip is illustrated with the authors' abandon in picturing their teacher like the Indian god Vishnu dreaming the universe into existence; this is evident when they report that Campbell “entered a timeless time, the active world revolving around him at a dreamlike remove.” In a commendable attempt at comprehensiveness, the writers trace their hero's birth in New York City in 1904, his studies at Columbia University, his travels through Europe and Asia , his professional teaching career at Sarah Lawrence College, and finally his death in Hawaii in 1987.

Like Alan W. Watts, Campbell emerges not as a serious scholar but a celebrated popularizer. Campbell wrote his master's thesis under Roger Sherman Loomis, whom the Larsens describe humorously as “a traditional scholar [who] did not approve of his pupils ranging too far from the given materials.” Neither was Campbell prompted to sacrifice conventionality for academic respectability. The biographers conclude: “Campbell had bitten into the juiciest piece of medieval mythic stew, containing fragments of the Dionysian mystery traditions, shamanic lore, the Goddess religion, Celtic magic and Christian mysteries. It was contact with materials like this that convinced him that he could never simply stay within the bounds of academia.” Campbell should be congratulated for following his interests as an independent inquirer, even when such unregimented intelligence inspires suspicion from supposed scholars!

Substantive scholarship sometimes cast no measurable influence or impact upon Campbell's personal development. Because his publications abound with numerous references drawn from Indian sources, his demeaning attitude toward Indian culture is especially revealing. Campbell confided to a colleague: “In the Madurai temple [India], watching all those people, finally something cracked in me and I couldn't take it any longer; I sat down and laughed. People, I thought, will worship anything -absolutely anything- and so what?” In a simplistic and superficial manner, his “trenchant appraisal” of India is that Indians embrace a “romantical interest in renunciation as well as a lazy (heat-inspired) interest in doing nothing (retirement at the age of 55).” In a summary he suggested: “Nothing is quite as good as the India Invented at Waverly Place, New York.”

Campbell's conclusion is that since “I found that all the great religions were saying eventually the same thing in various ways, I was unable and unwilling to commit myself to anyone.” Uncommitted, he floundered, or simply slid across a slippery surface. His conviction is that happiness constitutes an illusion, “absorption in a cause which in the end is but illusion.” More than elitism or narcissism reverberates through his revealing remark: “The perfected man's mere existence does more for the world than all the petty labors of lesser people.”

Campbell appears, as all humans appear, as flawed. And part of the tragedy is that his biographers remember him predominantly by his superficialities rather than his substance. The Larsens' writing is pervaded with the awareness that Campbell was not simply born physically beautiful, but that he worked hard to maintain that beauty, struggling to save his hand some shape, always practicing discipline required and expected of a professional athlete. Surprising for some, a preoccupation with physical beauty never culminated in excessive sexuality. The authors describe his relationship with women: “Campbell was a devotee not so much of a particular woman at this time as of an archetype, des Ewig Weibliche, the eternal feminine.” Yet there was a touch of great ness, however temporary or transient. Campbell's glowing charm attracted countless enthusiasts who regarded him highly as a popular man who taught multitudes to enjoy his versions of the world's enduring myths, even when Campbell failed to comprehend the myths that he popularized successfully. He remained a hippie hero who never degenerated with psychedelic drugs or free sex, but glowed ceaselessly with “a fire in the mind.”

Perhaps the highest compliment that a critic can give these biographers is that they unintentionally and inadvertently succeed in removing their hero from a pedestal.
-DANIEL ROSS CHANDLER

Winter 1992


Matter and Mind: Imaginative Participation in Science by Stephen Edelglass, Georg Maier, Hans Gebert, and John Davy; Lindisfame Press, 1992; paperback.

In this slim book of 136 pages, the authors question the traditional assumption that the observer is detached from experimental results in scientific research. A number of examples of a phenomenological approach are given. The fact that all four auth ors are scientist s gives authority to their discussion.

As stated in the promotional blurb, the authors do the following:

First, they show that the elements of reality incorporated in the usual physical world view are grounded in physiology…Secondly, they present a new view of why classical science was founded in the bringing together of mathematics with knowledge of the behavior of physical things -a view incorporating the idea of the development of human freedom and individuality. Thirdly, they present detailed examples of their phenomenological approach that, by including an awareness of the role of the human knower in the development of scientific concepts, place human beings fir


Book Reviews 1994





Cosmic Consciousness REVISITED: The Modern Origins and Development of a Western Spiritual Psychology by Robert M. May; Element Books, Rockport, Mass., 1993; paper.

This is a significant work on mystical experience, carefully researched and including biographies of each figure included. The author experienced cosmic consciousness himself at the age of twenty, an occurrence that launched a person al quest for answers.

May hoped in vain to find answers in his academic studies in psychology and philosophy. He then turned to study with spiritual masters, efforts that inspired his earlier book Physicians of the Soul (1982). Then he turned to Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness, published in Canada in 1902. A considerable portion of May's book is devoted to Bucke's life and this earlier work, along with that of William James' Varieties 0/ Religious Experience.

Though an admirer of Bucke's philosophy, May has some difficulty accepting his optimistic view of the evolutionary development of humanity and of religion. May compares Bucke's stages of the development of consciousness to the theories of Jean Piaget, and asserts that Piaget, Freud, B. F. Skinner, and Noam Chomsky have all stopped short by ignoring the final step in the development of consciousness, cosmic consciousness, or the “Brahmic Splendor” of the East.

Each of the schools of psychology is included in this book, beginning with the stimulus-response psychology of John B. Watson, which May calls “soulless behaviorism.” May also finds that the determinism of Pavlov and Skinner “disposed of religion,” worshipping at the throne of scientism. On the other hand, the recovery of consciousness has come with the refutation of behaviorism. Figures familiar to most readers of The Quest and acclaimed by May are Rupert Sheldrake, whose concept of morphogenetic fields May calls “the most innovative theory in biology since Darwin,” and David Bohm, whom May describes as “an enlightened physicist” whose language resembles that of the great mystics.

May credits Carl Jung with esoteric understanding of the psyche, even though Jung disparaged cosmic consciousness.

An interesting comparison is made by May of the first meeting between Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and the first meeting between Whitman and Bucke. As to Gurdjieff’s theoretical “objective consciousness,” or fourth stage of consciousness, May finds it the very same as Bucke's cosmic consciousness. Either is the same as enlightenment, according to May.

As to Abraham Maslow, May finds that the “peak experience” bears little resemblance to Bucke's cosmic consciousness or to mystical experience as described by Evelyn Underhill.

Related theories referred to in May's book include those of Claudio Naranjo, Jean Houston, Teilhard de Chardin, Roberto Assagioli, and Victor Frankl -along with near-death researchers Kenneth Ring and Raymond Moody.

May rounds out his work with an evaluation of the spontaneous mystical experience. He states that humanity has come full circle with the new-old paradigm of cosmic consciousness, and offer s ten con temporary instances. His book will hold interest for readers familiar with Bucke's book as well as those wishing to delve into the background of this realm of human experience.
 –MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Spring 1994


The Making of a Mystic: Seasons in the Life of Teresa of Avila by Francis L. Gross, Jr., with Toni Perior Gross; State University of New York Press, 1993.

The approach to the life of Teresa taken in this book has an aliveness and a n immediacy that are often missing from biography, especially when the biography reaches back as many hundreds of years as this one. Imagine a biography of Teresa beginning, "Truman Capote once wrote…"

It works, and exceedingly well. This is an engaging and provocative study.

Francis L. Gross is professor of religion at Western Michigan University, and approaches religious subjects from the perspective of developmental psychology. His wife Toni Perior Gross is a psychotherapist in private practice. They use psychological tools drawn from Piaget, Freud, and Jung, by way of Erik Erikson, Robert Coles, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, James Fowler, and others.

Erikson's biographies of Luther and Gandhi and Coles' studies of Dorothy Day and Simone Weil modeled the approach taken here. In looking at Teresa's life, the authors have drawn remark able parallels with Maurice Sendak's Max, J. D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Sylvia Plath, and others.

Of Teresa, they say, "She is by turns a coquette, a housewife, stern, compassionate, a banker, a mystic, an organizer, a solitary. We have found her to be the kind of person who cuts across male and female stereotypes and archetypes."

If she had a dark side, the authors conclude, it would be in terms of willfulness: "I thought of her running off to the Moors at age seven, of her being packed away to the convent boarding school in her teens, of her clandestine slipping off to join the Carmelites against her father's will at twenty. I thought furthermore of her tried and true method of making new foundations by buying a house in secret, moving her new nuns in by night, and confronting the local authorities the next day with a fait accompli and a charm that somehow managed to let her get away with such brass, boldness and, you have to say it, duplicity. We have a strain of willfulness and charm that runs through Teresa's life from the time she was two until her death at sixty-seven."

As the book states, she defied male/female stereo types; the "willfulness," one might observe, would be "determination" in a man. She got things done.

The book is organized in three sections -the first tracing her story from childhood through adolescence, adulthood, and old age; the second describing her family background and the Spanish situation; and the third taking up various themes of her life, such as "the journey to her own voice," psychology and prayer, and her playfulness.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Spring 1994


The Spiritual Athlete, compiled and edited by Ray Berry; Joshua Press, P.O. Box 213, Olema, CA 94950, 1992; paperback, 352 pages.

Since religion is the most prominent manifestation of ethnicity, understanding other people's faith traditions is a healthy step toward appreciating the diverse ethnic heritages constituting modern American society. In The Spiritual Athlete Ray Berry shatters the prejudicial barriers separating nationalities, cultures, and creeds. Delving for the common element that unites humanity, he explains:

Even a cursory study of the religions of the world will reveal that among them there exist certain differences in dogma, ritual, and creed. But looking further, we discover a connecting unity, a common thread of truth, running through all faiths.

Like Theseus on Crete, Berry has followed this three-millennia-long thread through the labyrinth of human civilization. The common thread is spiritual experience.

Berry introduces us to nearly two dozen outstanding spiritual figures, famous and obscure, ancient and modern, traditional and heretical. They are Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis, and people whose religions defy simplistic taxonomy. Rather than discussing the conflicting theological systems, The Spiritual Athlete introduces the religious experience as universal.

In addition to biographical sketches of well-known figures such as Henry David Thoreau, Lao Tzu, and Plotinus, Berry has included many lesser-known individuals. The simple faith of a freed slave, Sojourner Truth; the eremitic life of Japanese monk Yoshida Kenko, and the peaceful quietism of German ribbon weaver Ger hart Tersteegen confer on this book a rare charm.

Berry himself is a thirty-year member of the Vedanta Society. Like the Vedanta philosophy, which emphasizes the oneness of being, his book seeks to uncover the single spiritual Truth beneath the multifaceted surfaces of all religions. The two forms of spirituality-ascetic and sensual - found in the book are part and parcel of the athlete's training. The athlete, spiritual or otherwise, must discipline his body and at the same time cherish it. As Sufi mystic Rabi'a admonishes, "Curb your desires and control yourself." But as Rabbi Bunim points out, "there is more than one path leading to God, but the surest goes through joy and not through tears."
-BRIAN RIGGS

Spring 1994


The Transcendental Universe: Six Lectures on Occult Science, Theosophy, and the Catholic Faith by C. G. Harrison, edited with an Introduction by Christopher Bamford; Lindisfame Press, 1993; paper.

Startling occult machinations may have underlaid - in fact, distorted-the efforts of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to found the Theosophical Society in America, argues C. G. Harrison, an independent American occultist who presented his controversial research findings in a series of lectures in 1893 to the Berean Society of London. Harrison, 38 at the time, presented himself as a self-initiated, unaffiliated Christian esotericist who, through his own clairvoyance, had made various discoveries "be hind the veil" of public knowledge and misinformed speculation regarding the manipulative power plays of the various secret lodges of Europe and America in the nineteenth century. H. P. Blavatsky -literally a "born" troublemaker, as her astrological natal chart indicated to the prescient-was at the center of it all. In fact, Harrison explains, for nearly a decade, she was imprisoned in a "wall of psychic influences" that paralyzed her higher activities, generating "a kind of spiritual sleep characterized by fantastic visions." One of these was the experiential illusion that she had in fact spent time in Tibet with the Masters when, Harrison claims, she never left Nepal and had been deceived by metaphysical impostors. Even so, "Madame Blavatsky emerged from 'prison' a Tibetan Buddhist and the prophetess of a new religion" called Theosophy.

These are serious claims indeed and must be put into perspective. Without question, The Transcendental Universe is an exceptionally valuable work that fills in certain aspects of the hidden history of our time; after all, Blavatsky's Theosophy is generally regarded as one of the primary seeds of our late twentieth century's "new age" and its metaphysical aspirations. Harrison's lectures - which cover an astonishing range of interests including angelic hierarchies, secret brotherhoods, the mystery of evil, the War in Heaven, the nature of initiates, the importance of the Christ – were originally published and basically ignored in 1893. They shouldn't have been, because, according to editor Christopher Bamford, Harrison's lectures on the implications of Theosophy embody "courage and daring, remarkable coherence, impartiality, compassion, and wisdom." They integrate "occult knowledge of a very high order into reasoned, intelligent cultural discourse, also of a very high order"- a rare enough accomplishment in any age.

Bamford himself deserves high praise for his penetrating " Introduction," which lucidly sketches the probable history of European secret societies back to the Renaissance and profiles some of the dubious lodge members who may have worked the levers of the nineteenth century's most active occult brotherhoods, most conspicuous among which was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. I Bamford provides an additional forty-five pages of notes and bibliography that put all the names, societies, dates, and metaphysical concepts at our fingertips-a great service to the reader.

Without preempting the richness of Harrison's insider's view, this is a brief sketch of events as he claims they happened. Around 1840, the various occult lodges of Europe perceived that Western culture had arrived at the point of " physical intellectuality," or extreme materialism. Lodge members, who for centuries had withheld from the public spiritually valuable information about the transcendental realms behind the physical world, decided upon an experiment. They would use psychics and mediums to provide the Western mind a startling glimpse into the unseen world of causes, energies, and influences; through this they hoped to leaven the evolutionary dead end of materialism. In other word s, they deliberately launched what became known as Spiritualism, a wildfire phenomenon that spread throughout Europe and America between 1850 and 1880, culminating in the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875 as an epistemological corrective for Spiritualism's wild excesses. Not long into the experiment those lodge members most concern ed with humanity's positive evolution saw their attempt to spiritualize culture had failed; everybody misconstrued the phenomena and thought they were conversing with the spirits of the dead when in fact it had been the living lodge members working astrally through the mediums. Lodges with more self-centered notions of their charter deliberately continued the ruse to further their own obstructive agenda, creating further confusion and misattribution that continues to this day.

Blavatsky- full of "wild eccentricity and almost willful freedom of spirit," says Bamford - was onto them and threatened to blow the whistle on their unwholesome activities.  According to Harrison, a consortium of American brotherhoods decided to stop Blavatsky by casting a nasty "spell" on her, employing a form of rarely used black magic to wrap Blavatsky in a self-delusive veil-an "occult imprisonment"-in which she mistakenly believed all manner of events to be real, such as her contact with the Mahatmas in Tibet. It was only by cutting a deal with Hindu occultists that she would essentially favor their philosophies in her Theosophy that she was released from this psychic prison. These facts, Harrison claims, somewhat qualify Blavatsky's credentials, though he admits she should be regarded as "more sinned against than sinning." Her faults, says Harrison, are numerous: she was unaware of the true sources of her inspiration, the "instrument in the hands of unscrupulous persons"; on intellectual grounds her Secret Doctrine is "exceedingly faulty" and severely "tinctured and pervaded by her personality"; she perverted facts when they didn't fit her grand scheme; and "her sectarian animus in favor of any and every non-Christian religious system (Judaism alone excepted) all combine to render her a most unsafe guide to the Higher Wisdom." To be fair, Harrison praises Blavatsky for her "vigorous intellect," her enormous capacity for assimilating knowledge, regarding her as "a medium of a very exceptional kind," as a unique psychic personality gifted with second sight and copious energy.

Harrison's allegations of veiled events underlying the foundation of Theosophy will both annoy and elucidate readers, provoke and inform, spark controversy while illuminating shadows, as any important book ought to, and we're grateful for the opportunity, however unsettling, to reconsider the matter that the centennial reissue of this book affords.
-RICHARD LEVITON

Summer 1994


The Healing Path: A Soul Approach to Illness by Marc Ian Barasch; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1994; hardcover, 432 pages.

When Marc Barasch once caught himself shaming his daughter into doing her homework, he noticed that she withdrew into herself. She told him that it hurt her to be spoken to like that and made her want to leave her body. He was shocked to see that she had doodled a head torn from a torso, gushing blood, and he recalled his own similar childhood pain. For him it was a metaphor of the dissociation of mind from body that often occur s when we are made to feel uncomfortable about our selves. This theme is pervasive in Barasch's new book, The Healing Path: A Soul Approach to Illness.

A former editor of New Age Journal, Barasch has spent the past seven years gathering research in an effort to understand the nature of health and the role played by the medical and social communities. With a foreword by Bernie Siegel, this book is a comprehensive guide that is essential reading for anyone interested in health issues.

Barasch himself was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Desperate to get well again, but troubled by physicians' advice, he decided to check out the available alternatives. He also made an appointment for surgery, just in case. When he lost his nerve on the way to a rather unorthodox treatment in Brazil, he had the surgery and then wondered if he had made the right decision. The ambiguity plagued him enough to take on the immense project of exploring the world of illness and treatment. What he discovered will alternately anger, amaze, annoy, frighten, and encourage readers who are fed up with the tradition al Western belief that care of the body is rather mechanical while care of the mind is an unnecessary luxury.

One of the most disheartening aspects of illness is how isolating it can be: sympathetic friends often say the wrong things, while others simply leave or withhold their support. A life-threatening illness like cancer or AIDS draws the victim into another sphere. Faced with issues of mortality, one is never quite the same, and the people who were part of one's former realm of health may be unable to cope with the change. Yet a healing community is a significant factor in surviving a disease or increasing life expectancy. Thus, not only do the "journeyers" - people who go forth to encounter their disease rather than struggling to return to the "normal"- have to deal with the greatest challenge of their lives, they often have the added burden of finding new friends as well. Many people in Barasch's study lost the support of loved ones who could not accept the way they chose to fight their illness.

Barasch tackles these issues and others as he struggles to interpret the phenomena of healing. It is clear to him that a "one size fits all" philosophy, characteristic of our culture, makes little sense. A particular diet shrank one person's tumor; for another, it took intensive psychotherapy; for yet another, it was merely the belief in a medical breakthrough. Barasch believes in the wisdom of an integrated approach: don 't dismiss any angle. However, he makes it clear that one must become aware of one's potential emotional involvement in the onset and form of an illness, because therein may lie the key to healing. Although Barasch dismisses theories that find blame, he presents enough cases to indicate that early influences in the formation of our personalities may make us vulnerable to certain types of diseases. Healing, then, involves restoring communication with the self.

What makes this book so readable while also informative are the metaphors of illness and healing from familiar stories such as The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol. Barasch effectively weaves them with research from psychoneuroimmunology to make the complex notion of immune defenses accessible and memorable. The reader is more likely to identify with the Tin Man's story than with scientific jargon. Barasch also makes frequent use of dreams as harbingers of illness and companions in healing. Although some of his interpretations may seem ad hoc, many correlation s are too startling to be dismissed.

Whichever way one chooses to go, it is best to be informed and thus wise; Barasch's book, although slanted toward the alternatives, offers a wealth of information about illness and treatment that should be considered on the path to healing.
-KATHERINE RAMSLAND

Summer 1994


Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence by Joseph Chilton Pearce; Harper San Francisco, 1992; hardcover.

In the introduction to Evolution's End, Joseph Chilton Pearce states that his real thesis is the magnificent open-ended possibility of our higher structures of brain/mind, the nature of our unfolding, and what we can do about it. Primarily, Pearce is concerned with how humanity can improve its evolutionary process, particularly by changing our approach to child development. Actually, he finds very little in this area that does not need alteration, frequently through a return to former practices in childbirth and child rearing.

This book is a sequel to The Crack in the Cosmic Egg (1971), one of three previously published works.Pearce lectures internationally on intelligence, creativity, and learning.

Pearce defines what he terms the "cerebral universe" as shared by all, and contends that personal experience is formed by the individual brain/mind as it translates from the universal field. He perceives the evolutionary process as developing from infancy and holding potential of awesome proportion and scope, unless it is led astray and thus ceases prematurely. Unfortunately, Pearce believes, common practices with children before the age of fifteen are inhibiting the process.

In his view, the heart of the individual plays a role in the evolutionary process, with an intelligence that should ideally unfold at adolescence and that can move us away from destructiveness. This process is global as well as personal. Pearce frequently comments on his own practice of meditation and his meditation teacher, who has told him that "only the heart can develop intellect that lies outside and beyond brain systems."

Pearce proposes that the neural fields (linked neurons) of our brain are "the median between the wave-field and particle displayed." Mind and matter are two aspects of one whole, as postulated by the physicist David Bohm (to whom Pearce dedicated this book), and the particle displayed is as we see it. Quoting the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ilya Prigogine; the author points out that whatever we call reality is actually what is revealed to us, and that it all derives from the "cosmic soup" of physical, emotional, and intellectual experience.

The triune brain is described as evolutionary, beginning with the reptilian or R-system (or core brain), then evolving to the old mammalian or limbic system, and eventually to the new mammalian or human brain. The author relates these to the three orders of energy described by Bohm (the implicate order, the supra-implicate order, and the explicate order). Pearce refers frequently to Eastern thought and shows parallels with scientific understanding. Also, he compares Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields to Vedic Samskara and finds both demonstrating stabilization of the field effect.

Central to Pearce's argument is his contention that a failure to establish the "infant-mother heart bond " can lead to loss of intelligence, love, care, and nurturing leaving the individual in "a gross defensive reptilian world," the lowest level of development. Mother-child bonding is interfered with, according to Pearce, by five practices commonly encountered today: hospital childbirth, day care, television, premature formal education, and synthetic growth hormones in various foods. These practices represent "the disaster of the twentieth century" by interfering with the culmination of three billion years of evolution, and this can lead to evolution's end, according to Pearce. Procedures that are widely considered modern enlightened practices are actually a "most destructive force" contributing to suicides, drug abuse, and family breakups.

Pearce also expresses concern for nourishing the child’s intuition and imagination through storytelling, family play, and conversation (rather than television). These are the foundations of the child's creative intelligence, and all of these together should lead to "great expectations" during the child's adolescent years. But Pearce warns that development after the age of fifteen depends upon the earlier years during which the ego-self forms.

The writing is powerful and fearless and utilizes research of twentieth-century scientists convincingly. Most readers will not agree with all of Pearce's firm recommendations on child development, but will recognize that the twentieth century is nearing its end with dire evidence of the need for personal and social change. The proposals in this book, which signal a need for total change in family lifestyle, should be seriously considered.
-MARY JANE NEWCOMB

Summer 1994


Three Books of Occult Philosophy By Henry Comelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, edited and annotated by Donald Tyson; Llewellyn Publications, Saint Paul, MN, 1994; paper, 938 pages.

When he delivered his massive manuscript to the Antwerp printers in 1531, Henry Cornelius Agrippa was a little concerned that his. reading public would mistake him for a sorcerer since his subject was magic. After all, what this 45-year-old occultist was seeking to publish would be nothing less than the Renaissance's definitive handbook on all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition, from Kabbalah to medicine, astrology to herbalism, geomancy to angelology. Nor was it a book he was rushing into print, following a weekend 's illumination. He had written an early draft of it back in 1509 when he was all of twenty-five.

But now, two decades later, he wanted to assure his readers-and these would stretch across the next five centuries to our present generation - that to be a magician signified that one was not a conjurer or practitioner of forbidden arts, but rather a wise man, priest. and prophet. That said, he hoped his reader would receive "no little profit and much pleasure" from his efforts, providing they have as much "discretion of prudence as bees have in gathering honey." But if the "judicious" reader also learned how to destroy sorceries, turn away evil events, cure diseases, extirpate phantasms, preserve life, honor, and fortune, all the better, for these, too, are both profitable and necessary, said Agrippa.

As occultists and scholars have appreciated in the centuries since its first publication, Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, drawing on Greek, Egyptian, Jewish. Roman, and Arabic esoteric sources, probably the most complete digest of pagan and Neo-platonic magical practice ever compiled. What makes this old fact a new publishing event in the mid-1990s is the prodigious editing work of Donald Tyson, a well-known writer on magical themes and guidebooks.

Llewellyn Publications are to be congratulated and thanked for undertaking such a huge but hugely necessary task of making Agrippa accessible and affordable to a large reading public. For too long, as Tyson explains. Agrippa's invaluable book on "the Art" was difficult and costly to obtain, and those editions that were available were marked by so many mistakes dating back to the first translations, that many important operations and correspondences in magic have long been misconstrued.

Tyson reconstructed and redrew nearly all the charts and tab les to correct mistakes. He documents, footnotes. explains, and amplifies Agrippa; in numerous special appendices Tyson gives the biographies of all the notables mentioned by Agrippa; and in eight supplementary chapters he explains magic squares, the elements, humours, geomancy, and practical Kabbalah. In his breadth of reference and precision of detail, Tyson nearly outdoes the old magus himself.

Tyson is not boasting when he declares to the reader that while this work was a "great labor" and "monumental task," it offers the serious reader "a graduate degree in Renaissance magic." This was evidently Agrippa's intention. because he leads the reader through a fund of accumulated knowledge from neoclassical and Hebraic occultism as it was understood in the early sixteenth century.

Agrippa 's scope was encyclopedic, but inherently fated to be incomplete. "Agrippa knew he could never compress the entire literature of magic into a single volume, so he pointed the way. The reader will derive inestimable profit in following his discretion," Tyson says.

Is Agrippa worth bothering with in our metaphysically profligate 1990s? With all our freelance "new age" psychics and channeled occultists, does a Renaissance text on magic offer us anything new? Most certainly. It gives us the source of this so called newness, which is nothing more than a little initiatory knowledge seeping into the awareness of a comparatively mass audience. In his three books, Agrippa gives us a touchstone, a standard reference source, and the bedrock of a perennial tradition that has seen yet another copious re-flowering in our own time. For anyone even a little familiar with the true root s of the art of magic. this book is doubly indispensable; for those new to the field. this is an excellent and metaphysically reliable starting point for a deep investigation. Even though it is generally inappropriate for an author to pitch his own book in this way, we can forgive Tyson for saying that "n o true student of the Art can afford not to possess this book."

The fact of the perdurability of this classic text raises an interesting question. Are we today more sophisticated than occultists and magical scholars of Agrippa's time? Or are we dilettantes, no better than those Monday morning mystics Agrippa dismissed as being satisfied with the "superficial and vulgar" account of the stars, their influences and manipulation s, those content with touching the "outside" of philosophy?

Agrippa wrote for those wanting the insider's track on occult philosophy., those who know that knowledge of the Art, both theoretical and practical, enables one, as Agrippa 's English translator in 1651 noted, to "operate wonderful things" that are "effected by a natural power," and to do so "without either offence to God or violation of religion." Surely we can't go wrong today with that sober approach.
-RICHARD LEVITON

Autumn 1994


Understanding the Present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man by Bryan Appleyard; Doubleday, New York, 1992; xvii + 269 pages, hardcover.

Human history, in the Theosophical view, is patterned like a great spiral, consisting of seven cycles. Each cycle includes seven subcycles, each subcycle has seven sub-subcycles, and so on. During each cycle and subcycle, one of the seven aspects of human consciousness is being developed, unfolded from latency to greater activity. When the spiral reaches its last turn, human beings will have developed as completely as is possible in our current world period.

At the present time, we are in our fifth cycle and its fifth subcycle. During this time, the human mind (the fifth aspect of consciousness) is the focus of our evolution. This is also a time when the fifth ray of life is dominant in our society, and that is the ray of science. So we live in a time of intellect and science. That Theosophical view of contemporary human culture will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has thought about modern life.

In his recent book, Understanding the Present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man, Bryan Appleyard examines the consequences of this scientific dominance. Appleyard is a correspondent for the London Sunday Times who writes on science, philosophy, and the arts. His thesis is simple. He argues that for all its magnificent accomplishments, which have transformed our lives, science has a blind spot - it has nothing to say about values, meanings, and purposes.

The overwhelming philosophical impact of science was the separation of knowledge from value. Indeed, this seems to be what ensures its success. For science is, of necessity, dynamic. It requires always the possibility of experimental refutation and a permanent process of skepticism about its own findings. But, if we attach a value to one particular view, then either the process is paralyzed or the value is vulnerable to overthrow…Science is always restless and always destructive of any attempt to freeze its conclusions into a more than scientific truth. (p. 62)

Scientists, however, being human beings, tend to devalue whatever they can say nothing about. And thus ironically science becomes not merely neutral, but inimical to values. "Science begins by saying it can answer only this kind of question and ends by claiming that these are the only questions that can be asked" (p. 234). Yet value, meaning, and purpose are central to human life. To deny them is to create an intellectual and social crisis. We are Dr. Frankenstein, and science is the monster we have made.

Appleyard points out that science is not just an abstract intellectual game scientists play. The rules of this game mold the way we think about the world and ourselves. And through its practical application in technology, it has transformed our everyday lives. Consider technology: scientific theory made possible the development of automobiles, jet airplanes, and space capsules; television, computers, and the electronic information superhighway; vaccinations, organ transplants, and genetic engineering; massive food production and marketing. artificial fibers, and so on through practically every aspect of contemporary life.

In addition to revolutionizing our material culture. the metaphysics of science has also, Appleyard believes, transformed our social lives. Out of the scientific view of the nature of knowledge and the search for knowledge, grew the liberal democratic theory of government , which is the ideal of our time. In it, the function of government is to maintain order, plurality. and tolerance, without convictions about the transcendent values of human life. The message it conveys, however, is that citizens need not be concerned about those values either. And so increasingly we have a loss of social coherence and commitment.

This dominant scientific mindset, which sees all truth as relative, is fundamentally incompatible with religion, which is concerned with absolutes and values. We want the benefits of science, but they involve the subversion of religious absolutes. "We all want penicillin and we all must pay for it in roughly the same way," says Appleyard (p.8):

Science transports the entire issue of life on earth from the realm of the moral or the transcendent to the realm of the feasible. This child can be cured, this bomb can be dropped. "Can" supersedes "should"; "ability" supersedes "obligation"; "No problem!" supersedes "love."

When meaning is devalued, human life becomes meaningless, and the old medieval disease of acedia becomes endemic:

The pessimism, anguish, skepticism and despair of so much twentieth-century art and literature are expressions of the fact that there is nothing "big" worth talking about anymore, there is no meaning to be elucidated. (p.11)

There is an old academic joke that specialists are people who know more and more about less and less, until finally they know everything about nothing. If for "nothing," we read "nothing of value," we have Appleyard's thesis, and Wittgenstein's:

"We feel," wrote the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, "that even when all possible scientific Questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched." (p.15)

Appleyard develops his thesis by a Cook's tour of the history of science from 1609, when Galileo peeped at the moon through his telescope, through the villains of his plot-Descartes, Newton, Darwin, and Freud - down to contemporary efforts to correct the scientific and technological lacuna from within. Those efforts consist of the ecological movement; the mystifying (not to say mystical) theories of relativity, the quantum, and chaos; and the work of scientists who are pushing the boundaries of classical science, such as Robert Dicke's Anthropic Principle, Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields, and David Bohm's implicate order.

We are not willing to give up science and its benefit s, nor should we. But on the other hand, we cannot give up the religious impulse either:

It is clear that there is something about the human condition that demands a dimension we call religious, whatever it might be. Particular faiths have come and gone, but nothing has ever displaced the religious presence itself from human life. It has always accompanied men and their cultures. (p.80)

This religious dimension is the quest for value , meaning, and purpose. It got tied into knots by Descartes, who thought of the human self as an "isolated, thinking thing, trapped in yet separate from the body" (p.227). Appleyard sees those knots as untied by Wittgenstein's insight that there is no private language, so there is no separate, isolated cogitation.

He [the human being] cannot isolate himself and his words from the public realm of language. He must have language before he can have the concept of a sensation. There cannot be such a thing as a private language because language is, by definition, a public thing. (p.227)

Appleyard has identified a problem in modern life. His solution will not satisfy all his readers, and indeed the premier British scientific periodical Nature has called this "a very dangerous book." However, the Appleyard solution can be given a Theosophical slant that brings it into harmony with the Wisdom Tradition.

As Appleyard says, the everyday languages we speak are by definition public thing s. They are also the surface, outer, or exoteric expressions of a deep, inner, or esoteric mental structure. That inner structure is not an individual thing either, but is the common property of all humanity, being derived ultimately from the universal mind, which is the divine intelligence.

Although in our present stage of evolution, the human mind is dominant and science is our primary mode of understanding, we have other aspects of consciousness within us with different fields of operation. A person who can see, but does not hear, taste, smell, or feel, has a limited view of the world. To rely exclusively on the mind and science is just as limiting. The hum an goal is to develop all aspects of consciousness and all our faculties to their fullest , but also to develop them harmoniously with each other.

It is not anti-intellectual or anti-scientific to point out that intellect and science are incomplete views of the world. It is not anti-religious to point out that science and reason are invaluable ways of knowing reality. The Cartesian dualism is false; we are not souls in bodies, but unified beings with varied aspects. We are not isolated entities, but beings who communicate within a community. Knowledge is not fragmented; there is a synthesis of science, religion, and philosophy. It is called by many names. One of them is Theosophy.
-JOHN ALGEO

Autumn 1994


Postmodern Ethics by Zygmunt Bauman; Blackwell, Oxford, U.K., and Cambridge, U.S. , 1993; hardcover, paper, 253 pages.


The Morality of Pluralism by John Kekes; Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1993; hardcover, 227 pages.

Moral issues, that is to say. personal moral issues, have dominated the news in recent years to a remark able degree, often obscuring consideration of larger (presumably boring) issues. And given the proliferation of polls-daily, even hourly-measuring our attitudes (up? down? who's in? who's out?) on matters of public policy-making, what can one say but that we the body politic are... well, ambivalent.

As Zygmunt Bauman declares in his new book Postmodern Ethics," Human reality is messy and ambiguous- and so moral decisions, unlike abstract ethical principles, are ambivalent" (Bauman, 32). Moral decisions are made personally and intuitively, while the impact of those decisions is so removed from our view as to render moral surety an absurdity.

And John Kekes, at the outset in his new book. The Morality of Pluralism, asserts that "The sea of moral conflicts threatens to drown us," but quickly adds that the moral confusion of our time "is not caused by the shrinking of morality" (Kekes, 6).

Indeed both liberals and conservatives are morally engaged , according to Kekes, though their moral concerns tend to be different. "Liberals tend to be morally concerned about equality. sexual freedom, capital punishment, and commercialism; conservatives tend to direct moral attention to the family, social order. and the free market. " But Kekes worries that "informed moral debate is disappearing from our society. In its place. we have cynical or despairing indifference or an assertive shrillness masquerading as moral indignation" (Kekes, 7).

Zygmunt Bauman is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds. John Kekes is Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the State University of New York. Their books, read in tandem. are a bracing antidote to the odd combination of moral judgment and cynicism to which we are subjected by 1990s "newsmagazines" and television.

What makes moral decision-making so troubling in our time is that "The scale of consequences our actions may have dwarfs such moral imagination as we may possess. It also renders impotent the few, but tested and trustworthy ethical rules we have inherited from the past and are taught to obey" (Bauman, 18).

We can, as Bauman notes, do harm by inadvertence, by ignorance rather than design. Our moral rules of thumb are no longer adequate. If ethicists in the past have sought to discover universal values, that surely is no longer the case. An aside: when I wrote my doctoral dissertation some fifteen years ago. I was unable to find more than one or perhaps two working ethicists who had any confidence in the idea of fixed rules of what is right or wrong capable of being applied to all situations. Pretty much everyone in the field of moral philosophy had become, whether they liked the term or not (and often they didn't), a "situation ethicist.” Yet to day we seem to be overwhelmed in public conversation by the anger of those who are convinced they know, absolutely, what is right and what is wrong.

Against those who preach universalism today we have what Bauman calls the "communitarians" who find the "retreat from the cold and abstract territory of universal moral values into the cosy and homely shelter of 'native community' exceedingly tempting; many would find the seduction irresistible" (p. 43). Everywhere in the world we see ethnic conflict rising in the dissolution of the "two great powers" view of the world , and the United Nations is challenged as never before in dozens of theaters around the world.

Morality is not universalizable, Bauman asserts, because it does not possess purpose, or reciprocity, or contractual characteristics - and it is "endemically and irredeemably non -rational" (Bauman, 60). Morality at its foundation is an impulse non-rational and not calculable. Indeed, Bauman says, "I am moral before I think" (Bauman, 61).

Asserting the solitude of the moral subject, Bauman says that morality is antithetical to society's rules and laws. "Philosophers and the administrators of order alike" distrust the moral impulse as too unreliable, too uncertain . a situation in which "everything may happen" (Bauman, 62 ff).

Because of this solitude, saints, as Bauman notes, are unique; that is, they do things others shirk. They act out of conscience, beyond sheer decency and the call of duty. And , perhaps most import ant, they do these things because they demand them of themselves, while not demanding them of others.

Love, the basis for all moral consideration, is chronically uncertain. Baum an says. This uncertainty leads to two basic human strategies- fixation and flotation. Fixation substitutes rules and routines for love, considering love, sympathy and other sentiments "too unreliable and costly to ground a secure relationship" (Bauman, 98). Flotation, on the other hand, is "the medicine against love's undependability" in which a relationship is entered for its own sake and continues so long as both parties feel it delivers enough satisfaction to stay (Bauman, 104).

Ultimately, life's only certainty is death, for ".. . only death is unambiguous, and escape from ambivalence is the temptation of Thanatos" (Bauman, 109).

In a chapter titled "Private Morals, Public Risks," Bauman considers what really is the central problem for moral thinking today - that our morality is inherited from pre-modern times, and is a "morality of proximity," and therefore "woefully inadequate in a society in which all important action is an action on distance" (Bauman, 217).

In the end , as in the beginning, Bauman asserts the ambiguity of moral decision making  and the futility of imagining a universal morality. "Moral responsibility is the most personal and inalienable of human possession s, and the most precious of human rights." It is "unconditional and infinite, and it manifests itself in the constant anguish of not manifesting itself enough" (Bauman, 250). We must place our bet, he says, on "that conscience which, however wan, alone can instill the responsibility for disobeying the command to do evil."

Kekes begins his book with an analysis of "six theses of pluralism" : (I ) the plurality and conditionality of values; (2) the unavoidability of conflicts; (3) the approach to reasonable conflict-resolution; (4) the possibilities of life; (5) the need for limits; (6) the prospect s for moral progress. Then he devote s a chapter to each, and follows with considerations of moral, person al, and political implications of pluralism.

His conviction is that "good lives require a balance among a plurality of values, and that the balance depend s on resolving conflicts among them." Furthermore, it is the state 's job "to protect all the procedural and substantive values necessary for all good lives and . second, make it possible for citizens to pursue, within appropriate limits, such secondary values as they may require" (Kekes, 213).

If Bauman leaves us with the insecurity of knowing that we are destined to grapple with moral ambiguity throughout any but utopian time, then Kekes attempts to show how we can bring the desire to live good lives into the public arena, ambiguity or not. These are both outstanding books that bear close reading and considerable reflection.
-WILLIAM METZGER

Winter 1994


Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, reprint of  the original Philosophical Library 1946 edition; Crystal Clarity Publications; paper, 481 pages.

The Autobiography a Yogi is one of the greatest classics of spiritual literature published in the Western world. It is the life story of Paramahansa Yogananda, the great yogi and saint who came from India to the United States in 1920, having been directed by his teacher to bring Yoga to the West. He became the central figure promoting yogic spirituality in this country for more than thirty years until his death in 1952. The book has changed the lives of thousands of people.

Here we have a special reprint of the original edition first published in 1946. Yogananda himself made a few minor changes in 1951, and Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), the organization established by him, was responsible for subsequent editions. SRF made a number of changes through the years, including not only many footnotes. but some notable deletions and additions as well.

The present reprint has been done under the auspices of Ananda, a group of spiritual communities organized under the inspiration of Sri Kriyananda, one of Yogananda's chief disciples and former head monk and vice-president of SRF, who disassociated from that organization in 1962.

The question at hand is why the reader should purchase this more expensive version of the first edition when later editions are readily available at a lower price . The difference is more one of ton e rather than substance. However, in the original edition one feels more in contact with Yogananda himself. In later editions we see Yogananda through the eyes of SRF; the organization becomes a medium between the reader and the yogi by the addition of more than a hundred references to the organization.

Yogananda created SRF, and the organization has done enormous benefit by continuing the teachings by making available his books, recordings, and lessons. Yet organizations have their limitations, and great teachers and great teachings transcend all organizations.

This is not to say that SRF was wrong for institutionalizing Yogananda and his teaching. Such organizations become necessary in the modern world. Personal transmissions, as in the old guru-disciple system of earlier days, have of necessity been replaced largely by tapes, videos, books, and correspondence courses. The advantage of an organization like SRF is that it can project t the teaching to help fill the spiritual needs of many more people. The disadvantage is that the teaching so transmitted tends to become depersonalized and frozen in time. The institution , instead of simply disseminating the teaching, begins to assert owners hip over it, and may itself replace the teacher. While there is danger in a guru becoming an institution, there is even greater danger in an institution becoming a guru.

In its more recent editions, SRF appears to make a special claim to be the sole representative of Yogananda's teaching. But Yogananda had many disciples, not all of whom were part of or remained with SRF. Moreover, Yogananda's gurus themselves had many other disciples who developed their work in various directions, and some of whom came to the West and taught Kriya Yoga along different lines. Yogananda, in other word s, was part of a greater lineage with many branches in India and the West. Kriya Yoga, the technique that Yogananda taught, has many different teachers and techniques, and it is impossible to divide it from the rest of the yoga tradition. He did not invent the teachings , though he certainly added his flavor to them and made them accessible to the Western mind.

The Hindu yoga tradition is notably anarchic in its structure. It has no central organization, no pope or archbishop, no Rome or Mecca, and certainly no Bible or Koran that all students must memorize or literally believe in. It is remarkably non-institutional , and places individual direct experience above outer forms , rules, ritual , or dogma. In personal relationship with the guru, each disciple is treated differently, and when the disciples go off to do their own practice or start their own center, they are not beholden to the successors of the guru once the guru passes away, nor to any organization created in the guru's name. Disciples may not even require the approval of the guru. For example, some great teachers like Ramana Maharshi had no formal disciples and anyone can claim to be their disciples. Yoga centers, unlike churches, do not require loyalty to an organization. Moreover, the teaching is more important than the personality of the guru . It is this sense of freedom and diversity in the yogic approach that comes out more clearly in the original edition of Autobiography of a Yogi. Examples of the differences between the original edition and the 1981 SRF edition:


Original edition: "The actual technique (of Kriya Yoga) must be learn ed from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi; here a broad reference must suffice."


1981 SRF edition: "The actual technique (of Kriya Yoga) must be learned from an authorized Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi of Self- Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsangha Society of India). Here a broad reference must suffice."


What originally was a broad reference by Yogananda to any Kriya Yogi was narrowed to refer to a member of one organization. This tends to cast doubt upon other Kriya Yogis who do not belong to SRF. Westerners, trained in religious orthodoxy, may take such reference more seriously than Hindus, who are accustomed to every sort of teacher, practice, and center. Such statements contain an implicit criticism of the very diversity that surrounded Yogananda and that is generally part of the yoga tradition.

Yogananda himself gave initiation rather freely, a point that later editions of the book wish to forget:


Original edition: "Tens of thousands of Americans received Yoga initiation ."

1981 SRF edition: "During the decade of 1920-1930 my yoga classes were attended by tens of thousands of Americans."

Yogananda may have started SRF, but it does not appear that he intended his teaching to be limited to one group. In this regard, references to spiritual communities - an important idea for Yogananda – have been taken out of the SRF edit ion. One example: "In these beautiful surroundings I have started a miniature world colony. Brotherhood is an ideal better understood by example than precept! A small harmonious group here may inspire other ideal communities over the earth."

Some other changes since the original edition appear to limit the connections between Yogananda's teaching and the rest of the tradition he came from. A reference to Ayurveda, for example, was taken out. Such changes, perhaps made with good intentions, nevertheless encourage conformity to a group rather than diversity.

Yogananda left not only SRF but a number of independent disciples, several of whom have become well known in their own right and who carry on the teaching along different lines. These teachers, who tend to be forgotten under the shadow of SRF, include Kriyananda, Roy Eugene Davis, Shelly Trimmer, Norm Paulsen, and Swami Premananda, to name a few.

Lahiri Mahasaya, Yogananda's guru's guru and the main proponent of Kriya Yoga in India, had many thousands of disciples in India. Babaji also is a well known Himalayan yogi in this broad tradition.

I think it is important to appreciate the diversity of the tradition, and for this reason recommend taking a look at the original edition. Yogananda wanted to bring the liberating practices of yoga to this country, not to create another church.
-DAVID FRAWLEY

Winter 1994


Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr; Ballantine, 1992; paper, 212 pages.

Here is a book for the mental musician. Anthony Storr has created a collage of history, analysis, observation, an d critique about the place of music in culture. Storr reflects on the innermost nature of the world in regard to sound through basic patterns, cultural comparisons, and even existential writings.

Quoting from a wide variety of musicians, scientists, and philosophers, Music and the Mind helps us to realize how vast and contrasting the intellectual approach to music is. By observing the origins and functions of music, Storr believes we can approach the significance of music in human life. From bird songs to Gregorian chant, there are functional attributes that signify the meaning of sound.

It is curious that spirituality and the simple release of beauty from an instrument are not considered within the book. There is a constant sense of referencing every idea to show the research and the historical awareness of other writers . Rather than weaving common threads that would inspire the reader to listen to music and experience it a non-critical way, Storr keeps the mind as the observer.

It is not until the end of the book that some of the quotations begin to touch on the rich inner quality of sound. Nietszche, for example, speaks of the life-affirming attributes of music:

What is it that my whole body really expects of music? I believe, its own ease: as if all animal functions should be quickened by easy, bold, exuberant, self-assured rhythms; as if iron, leaden life should be gilded by good golden and tender harmonies. My melancholy wants to rest in the hiding places and abysses of perfection: that is why I need music.

By the end of the book, there are fascinating observations such as Stravinsky's view of "psychological time" and "ontological time" as these relate to the listener.

Music and Mind may deepen your perception of how many musical minds work and think. With all its reflections and commentaries, music nevertheless is still a mystery, no matter how we approach it. What a glorious symphony of thought there is here for the mind and the ears.
-DON G. CAMPBELL

Winter 1994


The Parabola Book of Healing introduction by Lawrence E. Sullivan; Continuum/Parabola, 1994; hardcover, 252 pages.


Rituals of Healing: Using Imagery for Health and Wellness by Jeanne Achterberg, Barbara Dossey, and Leslie Kolkmeir; Bantam Books, 1994; paper, 360 pages.


Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine by Larry Dossey, M.D.; HarperSanFrancisco, 1993; hardcover, 291 pages.

Each of these very special books focuses on various components of the healing process. The Parabola Book of Healing combines material presented in Parabola magazine's special issue on healing (Spring 1993) with additional material to make this a truly memorable experience. The book is organized in five sections titled "Metaphors of Health and Healing," "Disability and Disease," "Doctors and Doctoring," "Medicine East and West," and "Letting Go." It includes personal accounts of healings and discussions of healing approaches.

The varied accounts are both thought provoking and healing in and of themselves. Most not able is the soulful account by Jacques Lusseyran, the blind French poet, who writes of how recollections and recitations of poetry created moments of grace, serenity, and union in the inhuman conditions of Buchenwald. Poetry became an unexpected way of connecting and healing, and created a soulful bond among those in a disconnected world.

Thomas A. Dooling's thoughtful discussion of the healing aspects of the law is well presented. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, writes on the transformation of suffering through mindfulness. Illness is presented as an opportunity to transform anger and suffering into a rose that can be offered in peace and service.

Rituals of Healing is a primer for the body/mind/spirit model of medicine, and should be required reading for any practitioner of the healing arts as well as those interested in self-healing techniques. It is concisely organized into eight parts, which skillfully guide the reader through the theory, concept, and practice of ritual and healing. The latter sections detail specific techniques for use with particular illnesses.

The section on "Successful Medical Tests and Surgery" is exceptional, and that on "Peaceful Dying" is realistic, compassionate, and eminently practical. The book not only skillfully educates, but in its gentle compassion shows there are many opportunities to heal the spirit in its journey toward wholeness.

Dr. Larry Dossey's book is destined to become a classic in the field. An internist and author of several books, Dossey has exhaustively researched the literature and presents a solid case for prayer in the practice of medicine. In reality, he has had to go the distance to prove what has long been known in clinical lore and to sensitive practitioners - that prayer is an important part of the healing process. He reports on numerous successes with healing both at close range and long distance, through the use of prayer and healing thoughts, whether known or unknown to the recipient.

He cites laboratory experiment s in which the growth of organisms was enhanced by the conscious thoughts of healers. When reading this eminently sensible practitioner, it is particularly difficult to realize that he is still a voice in the wilderness of the medical establishment , which by-and -large resists reuniting mysticism and medicine.

Unfortunately, the allopathic model discounts the spiritual element in healing and supports those scientists who refuse to acknowledge such research as Dos


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