SATAN TAKES A CONVENT

THE DEVILS OF LOUDON by Aldous Huxley

devils

I’m not sure how I came across this book, but the blurb on Amazon was enough to have me seek out a non-fiction book written in 1952. Huxley takes on the strange case of possession of eighteen nuns in the small French village of Loudon in 1632. The village priest is a lothario who makes the wrong enemies and is burned at the stake for it. The book combines The Exorcist with the hysteria of the Salem witch trials.

Father Urbain Grandier was undoubtedly a scoundrel who seduced many village women, eventually impregnating a well-respected merchant’s daughter. He quickly makes powerful enemies including the famous Cardinal Richelieu. When all legal attempts to hold Grandier accountable fail, the locals bide their time. Soon on the scene is the young Sister Jeanne who has authority as prioress over seventeen impressionable Ursuline nuns. Jeanne has come to the Church by default rather than any spiritual calling. Hearing stories about the handsome, bad-boy Grandier, she develops elaborate romantic fantasies.

Urbain Grandier

Urbain Grandier

When her attempts to get the Father to act as confessor for the nuns fails, she is more than a little disappointed. With encouragement from some of Grandier’s enemies, it’s not long before the nuns are displaying signs of demonic possession. Grandier thinks he’s safe because he has never been in the convent. Not so! God isn’t the only one who works in mysterious ways. Exorcists are brought in and the nuns perfect their techniques and the hysteria gains momentum. Eventually, all of France learn about the diabolical happenings at Loudon as the nuns are exorcized before public gatherings (which becomes very profitable for the convent). Although many in the Church don’t think Father Grandier is in league with the devil, he is put on trial, found guilty, and publicly burned.

Evidence against Grandier at trial, 1634. A signed, diabolical pact written backwards.

Evidence against Grandier at trial, 1634. A signed, diabolical pact written backwards.

Unfortunately for the nuns (well, maybe not), the devil is not sent packing with Grandier’s death. With traditional exorcism failing, a Jesuit priest arrives with a new idea. Instead of casting out the demons, he will work with the prioress eliminating her sins and making her a model of Christian virtue where the devil cannot hold sway. Unlike Grandier, Father Surin is sincere in his calling. With a strong mystical bent, Surin believes all the phenomena manifesting in the convent is the work of the devil and he fully believes he can take Satan on.

What Surin doesn’t know is that the prioress has been putting on a show all along and that she has no desire to give up the attention she has garnered. Instead, she takes up the quest to be holy by starting to act as if she were the next St. Theresa of Avila (a noted mystic who Jeanne had studied before coming to Loudon). Now instead of contorting her body on the floor and screaming obscenities, Jeanne begins to create miracles. The transition of demoniac to saint happens as Father Surin physically takes on the demons Jeanne sheds. The prioress eventually bears the stigmata of holy names on her arm and produces a chemise bearing holy drops of scent. Poor Father Surin’s health declines and he goes mad. The Prioress takes to the road exhibiting her miracles in front of thousands as she travels through France. She meets Cardinal Richelieu, and the King and Queen of France. The holy chemise is even draped over the Queen’s abdomen during the birth of Louis XIV. After that, Jeanne returns to the convent and lives out her life. Father Surin struggles for years believing that God has condemned him to hell. Late in life, he regains some lucidity and is able to write and preach again.

Louis XIV by Charles Le Brun, 1661

Louis XIV by Charles Le Brun, 1661

Written in the 1950s, the book isn’t the easiest of reads. There are long digressions on side topics and discussions of the mystical the average reader would be unfamiliar with. Strangely enough, there are long passages and poetry in French which are not translated. However, quotes in Latin are so you can get a glimpse of the rituals performed. Huxley was convinced that this story is as pertinent today as it was at the time it happened. Those human frailties that made Loudon possible are still with us. Lust, greed, revenge, self-centeredness, and the quest for power remain modern vices.

This week’s moment of synchronicity: a new article connecting Huxley’s work to modern mass hysteria events (especially in girls & young women).

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/mar/29/carol-morley-the-falling-mass-hysteria-is-a-powerful-group-activity

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism, Spooky stuff

FREEBIES AT THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

Blavatsky.009

Some years ago while reading about early explorers into Tibet, I came upon a biography about Helena Blavatsky. Madame Blavatsky was involved in early investigations of spiritualism and eventually went on to found the Theosophical Society with others in 1875. The original organization splintered, and Theosophy does not have the following it once enjoyed, but it continues to foster spiritual growth.

The Theosophical Society in America’s website (www.theosophical.org) outlines their vision, mission, and ethic.

The Theosophical Society in America:

“Has a Vision of wholeness that inspires a fellowship united in study, meditation, and service.

Its Mission is to encourage open-minded inquiry into world religions, philosophy, science, and the arts in order to understand the wisdom of the ages, respect the unity of all life, and help people explore spiritual self-transformation.

Its Ethic holds that our every action, feeling, and thought affects all other beings and that each of us is capable of and responsible for contributing to the benefit of the whole.”

THE FREEBIES:

The Theosophical Society in America offers a vast array of programs online and at the headquarters (Chicago area). For the past few years I have benefited from the Thursday Night presentations which are offered free of charge via webcast. Here is a sampling of upcoming programs listed on the site (https://theosophical.org/programs/lectures). Each lecture is about an hour with a question and answer period. Web viewers may send questions live via the internet connection. All posted times are CT(Chicago). I hope you will give one or two a try. No knowledge of Theosophy is required and most programs are intended for the general audience. The society maintains a library of past Thursday Night lectures so should you miss one or want to do research on a previously covered topic, they are available through the website.

Photo: Yoko Nekonomania

Photo: Yoko Nekonomania

The Buddha and Jesus: Spiritual Masters

March 12, 7:00 p.m. CT

The Buddha and Jesus have been described as enlightened persons who realized their spiritual visions. They gave rise to two of the world’s major religious traditions, and became virtually deified by their followers. But who were they, and what were their spiritual visions? Explore the historical identities of these two spiritual teachers, the nature of their paths to ultimate truth, and consider the similarities and differences of their views of the human condition and subsequent teachings. (George Bond is professor emeritus of Religious Studies and McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University)

Discovering the Meaning and Wisdom of Life Passages

March 19, 7:00 p.m. CT

Using the astrological teachings of Dane Rudyar (Rhythm of Wholeness) and Alexander Ruperti (Cycles of Becoming) as resources for understanding psychological spiritual growth, we find they reveal the timing coordination for patterns of growth as we age. Elements of developmental psychology will be explored and sequenced with their astrological triggers. Investigate your own life purpose with regard to these perspectives to find greater clarity of life’s path. (Frank Morales, M.S.Ed. CRADC, MISA II)

Photo: Simsala111

Photo: Simsala111

Seeing Clearly: The Buddhist Practice of Mindfulness

March 26, 7:00 p.m. CT

Our thoughts, conceptions, theories, and beliefs often drift into “thickets of views” that can lead to confusion and rigidity. One way to ground ourselves amidst the modern conceptual bombardment is to cultivate mindful inquiry of basic experiential realities: the sense doors, sensory experience, and how they feel. Wisdom can arise when we see these things clearly, and we understand the limitations of all those concepts, theories, and beliefs. (Santikaro is the founder of Liberation Park, a Buddhist retreat center in Wisconsin.)

Why Forgive?

April 2, 7:00 p.m. CT

Forgiveness is praised more than it’s practiced. Why should we forgive? When? Are there times when it’s not right to forgive? How can you tell forgiving from condoning? Richard Smoley, editor of Quest magazine, offers some insights from his new book The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness. (Richard Smoley is a distinguished authority on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization. Editor of Quest Books.)

Photo: Juni of Kyoto, Japan

Photo: Juni of Kyoto, Japan

The Imperishable Flame of Life

April 9, 7:00 p.m. CT

Fire is one of the most sacred symbols used by sages, alchemists and initiates of ancient times. This primordial element of Life still plays a central role in many religious ceremonies and meditations for seekers of Truth throughout the world. We will probe into some of the esoteric meanings attributed to this universal symbol such as reincarnation, spiritual transmutation and Eternity. (Danelys Valcarcel is a Cuban artist and student of Theosophy.)

Freedom from Anxiety and Worry

April 16, 7:00 p.m. CT

It has been said that worrying is like running around in a circle—getting us nowhere. Why do so many of us spend so much time worrying about so many things? Is it possible to live responsible and caring lives without falling victim to anxiety and worry? That a human being can be free of such negative emotions is central to the Buddha’s teaching. However, it is necessary to understanding the nature of the human condition and come to terms with reality in order to free ourselves. (John Cianciosi, ordained Buddhist monk and spiritual director of monasteries in Thailand and Australia.)

Taoist Approach to Transform, Transmit, and Transcend Emotions

April 23, 7:00 p.m. CT

Cultivating the Inner Advantage

April 30, 7.00 p.m. CT

The Mystic Journey of Inner Light, Healing, and Love

May 7, 7:00 p.m. CT

 

Theosophy in India blog post: http://aviott.org/2014/02/19/banyans-cuckoos-cannonballs-and-theosophy/

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THANKS TO ALL WHO VOLUNTEERED

ReimsI have a couple of people who have emailed me tonight and I will be contacting you shortly with chapters.  People have been very generous and I have plenty of wonderful readers. Yay!!

The Greening of the Laurel, tells the story of seventeen year old, Ryan, whose life is suddenly turned upside down by a series of bizarre synchronicities. He is drawn back to a time when the last Cathars confronted a crusading army. How does the current crisis in theoretical physics, an average American teenager, and a lost Cathar document all collide in a modern-day adventure?  Find out by reading a few chapters (or the whole manuscript). Beta readers help authors by providing feedback as a novel progresses toward publication. I’d like your help!

Just to clarify, since I had someone ask, this is not a paid job. I think all writers and most readers realize this. If you volunteer to help me, I’ll first send you three chapters so you can get a feel for the writing and subject matter. I’m looking for general feedback on flow, character & plot development, believability, etc. Comments to improve the manuscript in any way. If you connect with the story and want to continue, it will be my pleasure to share the rest of the novel with you. Thank you to all those who have donated their services! I believe the universe returns all kind-hearted deeds.

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ECHOES OF HERESY

THE WINTER GHOSTS by Kate Mosse

MosseI first came across Kate Mosse’s books because Labyrinth dealt with Cathars. It was one of those so-so reads with a great setup which somehow missed the mark in the end. At the time, I was reading a lot about the Cathars who were the most successful of the groups of medieval heretics. And now a few years later my own Cathar novel is ready to take its turn amongst agents, I was drawn into another Mosse book about the heretics. In a way, it brings me full circle back where I started.

Photo: Nhamblen

Photo: Nhamblen

The Winter Ghosts follows the story of Freddie Watson who, too young to fight in WWI, suffers the loss of his older brother and only friend. On the mend from a mental breakdown, he travels through the French Pyrenees during the winter of 1928. During a mountain storm his car slides off the road. Poor Freddie hits his head and he knows he must go for help or die in the exposed elements. He eventually finds shelter in a small village, but while there an annual celebration opens the doors of time. Freddie meets the mysterious Fabrissa, several famous historical Cathar leaders, and is drawn to uncover dark secrets from the past. The tale is not terribly complicated, but gives Mosse the luxury of being able to delight in atmosphere and setting. Freddie’s loss and Fabrissa’s, although separated by hundreds of years, are the same. This is a perfect read for those long winter nights, tucked safely inside away from haunted mountainsides.

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Filed under Albigensian Crusade, Cathars, Catholic Church, death, Ellis Nelson, France, French history, ghosts, hauntings, heresy, Kate Mosse, literature, Medieval Church, medieval heresy, memorials, paranormal, Pyrenees Mountains, Reading, The Winter Ghosts, time slip, visions, World War I, YA

THE MYSTIC AS ARTIST

THE WORK OF ENRICO MAGNANI

 Amiens Labyrinth

Amiens Labyrinth

“I pursue a language to express universal truths that cannot be communicated with words.”   Enrico Magnani

Enrico Magnani is another friend I’ve met through blogging. He is a fellow mystic who expresses his journey along the path through his abstract artwork. His paintings are profound, using symbols to speak to our subconscious minds. For him, the symbols act as a catalyst to stimulate a process of inner questioning. The viewer is taken on a sojourn deep within ourselves to discover our alchemical gold revealing universal truth.

Mars & Pluto Game II

Mars & Pluto Game II

Enrico’s artwork can speak to all of us because it transcends culture, time, and space. Those on a spiritual path will find a companion truth seeker and an instant resonance will be established. Walk with him as he explores those mystical symbols, labyrinths, astrology, sacred geometry, the I-Ching, spiritual alchemy, and archetypes.

Reading his interviews, it’s clear he sees art as creation but he also wants art to evolve as he feels we all should do. His own path included a time of creating realistic images but eventually he began asking deeper questions and his art became more and more abstract. Today his work is entirely abstract using the understanding he had derived from more than twenty years  studying ancient traditions, philosophies, religions, and myths.

Fuoco (Fire)

Fuoco (Fire)

“Art can penetrate the domain of the soul and emotions, of everything that is not material, nevertheless real.”

Enrico Magnani

Enrico’s paintings have been widely exhibited throughout Europe and in two locations in the US. Currently, he is working on a project called “Cosmic Hug.” Begun in 2013 in Prague, the effort will link art and individuals in a global project demonstrating the interconnectedness of all beings while benefiting the needy.

For more on Enrico Magnani, please visit these sites:

http://www.enricomagnani-art.com/

https://enricomagnaniart.wordpress.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eFPKHrivbQ

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ACROSS GENERATIONS

Pluto with satellites

Pluto with satellites

Recently I watched an episode on Gaiam TV where Regina Meredith was interviewing an astrologer. I’ve been interested in astrology off and on since I was a teenager, but over the past year or so that interest has become more intense and I watch quite a few YOUTUBE astrologers as they explain what’s going on in a given month. It is fascinating and personal.

Scorpio2

What resonated with this interview concerned the movement of Pluto and how these long transits (248 years to circle the zodiac) influence generations. With Pluto in a given sign anywhere from 11 to 32 years, it defines a whole generation. In a way, this is the opposite of personal because I share influences with everyone in my age group. As a writer for young people, this idea intrigues me. It especially drew me in as the astrologer talked about my adult children’s group (Pluto in Scorpio). He talked about the attraction for this group to pagan religions and pure philosophy. My daughter describes herself as pagan and my son is currently exploring nihilism and its intricacies. Further extrapolating, I thought- wow, this was the perfect market for Harry Potter. Some people think JK Rowling had a unique idea or that the books were exceptionally well done. But most of us realize that young wizards going off to school has been done before. Perhaps then, Pluto in Scorpio almost guaranteed Harry Potter would make publishing history.

Sagittarius2

The youngest of the children of the Pluto in Scorpio generation will turn twenty soon so as a children’s writer, I bid them farewell. My attention turns to the Pluto in Sagittarius (1995- 2008) group. This would be my target audience and astrology should help me see who these kids are. What are the characteristics of this generation? Sagittarius rules religion, philosophy, long distance travel, and foreign countries. This generation should have a keen interest in these areas and Sagittarius has a can do enthusiasm that Scorpio lacks. They value freedom, are easily bored, and may not be as well-grounded and realistic as some. If I were to try to predict what would appeal to the Pluto in Sagittarius generation in terms of books (and movies), I’d list novels with far away settings, diverse cultures, exciting plots, maybe some quirky humor. I’m not sure dystopia like Hunger Games and Divergent will continue to appeal. Those seem more tied to earlier Scorpio themes. The Sags should be interested in religion and philosophy so perhaps visionary fiction will find its place. Time will reveal what this generation gravitates toward and what the next big blockbuster will be. Just about the time we start to see how obvious it all should have been, the Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) kids will show up and we’ll be scratching our heads all over.

Capricorn2

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Filed under Books, Reading, YA

I Write Visionary Fiction- Who Knew?

Photo: Salvatore Di Giovanna (2008)

Photo: Salvatore Di Giovanna (2008)

I’ve always bristled at categorizing my writing although I recognize it’s important for marketing purposes. Writing for kids seemed natural because I always saw promise and openness in young people.  Adults can be very set in their identities, roles, and futures. Kids play with new ideas, try them out. The distinction between writing for older or younger kids also was easy. I like both age groups and have a tendency to jump from one to the other once I finish a given novel. Having to adapt to a different audience allows me an opportunity to play in different ways.

But then an agent or publisher wants to know sub-genre. What’s my sub-genre? Here’s where things get tough. Traditionally, my work would be lumped into fantasy or science fiction, sometimes paranormal. But is it?

Photo: Ole Anders Flatmo (2013)

Photo: Ole Anders Flatmo (2013)

This week I learned about a newly emerging genre called visionary fiction. According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance (VFA), this category of writing “embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant to our modern life.” It does this without preaching to the reader. Furthermore, there is a strong emphasis on the growth of consciousness while often employing reincarnation, dreams, visions, and psychic abilities within the novel. Human characters in visionary fiction point to our limitless potential to transform and evolve.

I write visionary fiction. For more information on this genre and books which fall into it, visit the VFA by clicking on the link on the sidebar.

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Filed under Books, writing