Category Archives: Spiritual/Mysticism

THE LOST SECRET OF IMMORTALITY by Barclay Powers

Lost Secrets

I’ve been taking some classes on a particular branch of Gnosticism and went in search of a book to help me see “the forest through the trees.” Certain things that were being taught on the transmutation of energy and enlightenment started to feel restrictive and I wondered how other spiritual traditions approached the subject. Author Barclay Powers has a BS in East Asian Studies from Columbia University and has studied meditation, yoga, and martial arts for over thirty years. His book allowed me to gaze across several Eastern traditions while confirming almost everything Gnosticism outlined.

Photo: Mark Donoher

Photo: Mark Donoher

Once upon a time, the secrets of the East were tightly restricted to advanced followers of personal lineages. That has all changed with new translations of ancient texts and a proliferation of skilled teachers. The internet itself can even act as a guru. Ancient wisdom is available from India, China, Egypt, Tibet, Japan, and eastern and western alchemy. Powers sees a paradigm shift coming. Science is now looking at states of mind through brain imaging and he feels science will eventually look at the phenomena of the “rainbow body”* (the dissolving of the body into pure energy). When that happens, the world has the potential to change and manifest the best of humanity resulting in a global Bodhisattva* civilization.

 

Photo: Dennis Jarvis

Photo: Dennis Jarvis

 

As we wait for science to catch up, individual practitioners all over the world are taking up techniques like meditation, yoga, tai chi, gi gong, kundalini awakening, and the internal martial arts. All of the methods begin in the body and ultimately unite the body, soul, and spirit. Instead of a psychological transformation, Powers is talking about a physiological process that spans traditions. The ultimate freedom of enlightenment is found when the individual transcends birth and death, as well as time and space. The bulk of the book is devoted to examining Indian (Kundalini), Chinese (Tao), and Tibetan (Tantra) teachings for their similarities of energetic enlightenment. This was a good book for getting an overview of the systems of enlightenment. I enjoyed learning more about Taoist philosophy and the difference between the internal and external martial arts. The book could be expanded to include more about western mysticism and the Kabbalah, but those are not Powers’ areas of expertise. This is probably not a book for someone without burning questions about the nature of reality and enlightenment. For the novice, these practices will, at times, be shocking. They are meant to be having spent a millennia being well guarded by the masters of many traditions.

Photo: Joe Mabel

Photo: Joe Mabel

*Rainbow body- a phenomena well-recorded in the East, especially when a great spiritual teacher dies

*Bodhisattva- someone who postpones full Enlightenment to return to help others: the ultimate expression of compassion

13 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Buddhism, Spiritual/Mysticism, Uncategorized

CAN MYSTICISM BE PRACTICAL?

Photoevelyn3

Evelyn Underhill asked this question of herself one hundred years ago on the eve of the outbreak of The Great War. Oddly enough reading her book titled Practical Mysticism, I’m struck with how current it is. Her arguments against materialism and self- interest are as pertinent today as they were in 1914. And how strange it is to be reading her work at a time when the US appears to be on the verge of expanding the war on terror. This is the case especially when you consider how at the end of WW I, the victorious sliced, diced, and built nations in the Middle East which are root causes of today’s issues.

book

Evelyn Underhill is considered an authority on Christian mysticism having spent a lifetime researching, exploring, experiencing, and writing about it. For her, mysticism is defined as the art of union with reality. Notice the absence of the G- word. In order to justify taking up the call of this difficult journey, both inward and outward, mysticism to Evelyn’s mind must be practical. It’s not just about reaching up, it’s also about bringing down. While the experience of ultimate reality is personally transforming, mystics must create in the material world.

In Practical Mysticism, Evelyn outlines a universal process to be used by those interested in deeply engaging with reality. The first step requires the training of attention. With meditation and recollection, you begin to experience freedom, spaciousness, and peace. Your values change as you let go of your attachments. Later, as you develop in the first contemplation stage, you bring the “eyes of love toward the world”, recognizing the Immanent Being in everyone (and everything). You go in search of connection while dismantling your own personality. During the second contemplation, you’re pulled into deeper levels of reality which are supported now by an inward push. At this stage, knowing is achieved through direct intuitive contact and not through thought or feeling. Here the depth and height of your experience transforms you. The transcendent nature of mystical experience is ineffable, but that has never stopped mystics from trying to describe it.

Photo by Bjoertvedt

Photo by Bjoertvedt

One line truly stood out from the book for me. Evelyn says (and here Christian mystics seem to depart from Eastern traditions), “Perpetual absorption in the Transcendent is a human impossibility, and the effort to achieve it is both unsocial and silly.” Of course, there are whole traditions that advocate just that.

Returning to Evelyn’s map of mystical progress, the third contemplation is characterized by a ceasing of your active efforts. You let go of striving and rest in the darkness and quietude. The self surrenders, receives, and gains a conviction in the certainty of the Transcendent. What you actually experience depends on the individual. Some may experience ecstasy, but it is always on some level, unity through personal encounter. From here, you return to the material world to take up the mystical life going deeper and wider, permanently changed. Now the work involves becoming “an active and impassioned servant of eternal wisdom.” In Evelyn’s model, contemplation is never an end in itself. The challenge of the spiritual life is to go up and down the ladder getting inspiration and creating in the world. The work to be done today is huge; much like it was back in 1914. The true mystic takes up the call to live a “better, intenser, and more significant life.”

 

27 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

INTERVIEW WITH KAREN WILSON

Karen_Final

I recently finished reading a book by healer and spiritual teacher, Karen Wilson. Karen has spent the last decade or so immersed in the study of spirituality, meditation, and alternative health. No stranger to the mystical, she shares her experiences and the techniques you can use to find happiness, inner peace, and contentment in her newly released book titled, 7 Illusions. Karen teaches at workshops and spiritual retreats in Australia and Europe.

7 Illusions asks us to examine who we really are. The seven illusions she explores are categorized as creation, free will, the mind, fear, death, the self, and emotion. Understanding how our perceptions cloud our reality opens our eyes and allows us to see things as they truly are. This is the key understanding that will allow us to live happy, contented lives. Karen writes from experience and is passionate about helping others as we make the spiritual journey. She joins me today to discuss her book and her approach to spirituality.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for taking the time to be with us. I appreciate it!

IMG_4156

What do you think triggered your spiritual journey? What were your own personal challenges at the time?

When I arrived in Australia at 23, I wasn’t at all into anything ‘spiritual’. During my travels I arrived ‘by chance’ in a little town called Byron Bay, the alternative mecca of Australia. There I started hearing about all kinds of New Age beliefs, alternative therapies, talks about yoga-healthy living- meditation, and God. I remember thinking that all these people might be crazy or that there was something they knew that I didn’t. I started asking questions to ‘the universe out there’ as I was being told. I wasn’t expecting any answers back, at all. Yet I got some. Too many to be ignored, I couldn’t keep my head buried in the sand anymore. That was my biggest challenge, to realize that all my old beliefs were not true, that was questioning my very sense of self. I was like an adult back at kindergarten, having to learn everything from the beginning. When I was ready to learn, I started reading all kinds of self-help / New Age books. I started learning energy healing, and I started meditation. All that I didn’t believe in before! I practiced a lot and I also started having many ‘spiritual/mystical’ experiences. My life totally changed in the years following these awakenings. I became happier, more peaceful. I also healed my physical body. I was on medication for hypothyroidism since I was 14, which according to my doctor couldn’t be cured. But the best of all, I found myself and I started living, really living.

Your book identifies 7 illusions. Of these, which is the most difficult to overcome or see through?

I think the identification with the mind is a powerful illusion. Until we experience a state of no mind and realize that we are not that voice in our head, the mind will keep on controlling us. The mind is a great tool, but it is not who we are. Unfortunately we tend to get caught in its incessant chatter without realizing that we have the power to stop it or change ‘what is being said’. If we change ‘what is being said’, then we change the experience we are living. No matter what`s in front of us, the mind will always judge it. Things are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The difference between the two comes from the programming of our mind. But seeing things as ‘good’ will create a sense of happiness while ‘bad’ will bring dissatisfaction. That`s the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. When we identify with the mind we are condemned to see life through its filter. But when we understand that we are not that mind and that we have the power to change the filter, then our life changes. We truly have the power to change our mind and our life.

Photo by: Kate Jewell

Photo by: Kate Jewell

I love the phrase from the book about “creating happiness by creating ourselves happy.” How can we go about this?

We can create ourselves happy by changing our negative beliefs and perceptions on life and on ourselves. We will never find happiness on the outside; we will never find happiness in material things. All the happiness in the world is present inside of us. What does it mean to be happy? It is being contented with what is. It is being contented with who we are. If we want to create ourselves happy, we can create the person we will be contented with. The person we dream of becoming. And there is an indefinite number of possibilities of who we can be. For example, are we trying to become rich to feel more empowered and self-confident? Then why not trying to be more confident first, so it doesn’t matter if we get rich or not, we will be happy with ourselves. We can create ourselves as we wish. We can be anyone we want to be. And becoming our dream-self will bring us self-love and contentment which no amount of money in the world can buy.

The book balances the idea of free will and fate. In this way, we’re not omnipotent but we’re not victims either. How do we integrate this into our daily lives?

If we can`t change what is happening right now in our life, we can always change how we are reacting to it. We can always try to fight and resist our life but it will only bring unhappiness and frustration. When we start accepting what is and when we start to live the present moment, then our experience changes. We are not changing the outside circumstances, but we are changing the inside, we are changing ourselves. Instead of focusing all of our thoughts, all of our energy on the past or on the future, we can shift our focus to the now. We can start living and enjoying the now. And in the now we have the power; we have the free will of who we want to be. In the now we can choose to be happy or not, we can choose to be fearful or not, we can choose to be loving or not. In the now we always have the choice to smile…or not.

Photo by: Deror Avi

Photo by: Deror Avi

Why do you think so many people struggle with meditation?

I think it is because we don`t learn early enough how to meditate. We are taught early how to use our body: how to walk, talk, write, use a fork, etc. Imagine if we were to start learning all that in our twenties, thirties or later, imagine the struggle then! It`s also like training a dog, it`s much easier to train a puppy than a grown up dog with its old habits and way of being. It`s the same with our mind and meditation. It does not mean that it`s too hard or impossible, just that it may take more time and effort to tame ‘the beast’. Many will give up after a few days or weeks, thinking that it doesn’t work or do anything. It’s like going to the gym after years of not exercising and looking at our abs after a week and giving up because we don’t have a six-pack yet! I remember the first time I meditated, I only lasted five minutes! My mind was so busy and ‘unchained’ that I kept on forgetting I was meditating! Yet I’m so glad I persisted, as not only it became easier and easier, but it totally changed my life. I think meditation can be a struggle at the beginning but it is definitely worth the effort.

Why is it good to be “out of your mind?

Because when we are “out of our mind” we are present, we are here. We can be physically present somewhere, yet in our mind we are somewhere else. We can be in a beautiful place in nature yet we can’t really SEE it, because we are thinking about something else. To really SEE something we need to be completely present with it. When we look at a tree for example, and start defining it: ‘it`s a nice tree’,’ it’s an oak’, ‘it’s quite tall’, we are still in our mind. We are LOOKING at the tree but we don’t really SEE it. Instead of watching the tree we are listening to the voice in our head which is telling us about the tree. Soon that voice is going to compare that tree to another, make judgments, reminds ourselves of other trees we have seen in our past, then other people, then we are going to think about what we are going to have for dinner. We are still in front of the tree, but we are long gone. If we are ‘out of our mind’ then we just look at the tree, that is all. There is nothing standing between the tree and us, no words, no thoughts. We are really seeing what is. The tree just is, and we just are, that is all.

Thanks for being here and sharing!

For more about Karen Wilson or her book, 7 Illusions, please explore these sites.

Website: www.karenwilson.co

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/omniahealing

Blog: http://karenwilson33.wordpress.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Illusions-Discover-who-really-are-ebook/dp/B00JZHU3TM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407958582&sr=8-1&keywords=7+Illusions+by+Karen+Wilson

15 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Buddhism, Energy medicine, healing, Spiritual/Mysticism

THE INCIDENT AT WATSEKA

We’ve all probably read and seen movies about possession. I doubt very many missed The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or the Amityville Horror. These tales follow the familiar saga of demonic possession. But what happened in Watseka, IL in 1877 was different. In this wild tale in a small town, the possession was helpful and healing. Did it really happen?

Lurancy

Thirteen year old, Mary Lurancy Vennum began to suffer fits and fell into trances in which she saw heaven, angels, and the spirits of the dead. People around her believed Lurancy was going insane and needed to be confined to an asylum. Back in 1864, the town of Watseka had had a previous case of an eighteen year old, Mary Roff, who had manifested similar symptoms to Lurancy’s. Unfortunately, Mary Roff turned violent, cutting herself and lapsing into unconsciousness. When she came to, she existed in a state of raving mania with various extra-sensory abilities. She expired in a mental hospital after five days. Mary Roff’s father, Asa, learned about his neighbor’s predicament and pleaded with the Vennum’s to bring in consulting physician, Dr. E.W. Stevens.

MaryRoff

Dr. Stevens diagnosed Lurancy with spirit obsession and hypnotized the teen. In this state, Lurancy claimed to be possessed by evil spirits. Interestingly, Dr. Stevens was a spiritist, someone who believed in spirits and reincarnation (which distinguishes him from spiritualists who don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation). Dr. Stevens suggested that one of the spirits might be able to help Lurancy and Lurancy named Mary Roff as an entity willing to do just that. In this way, Mary Roff took over Lurancy’s body in February 1878. Lurancy moved in with the Roff family for several months during which time she acted like Mary Roff picking up her former life and recognizing old friends. She recognized distant relatives and used nicknames Mary Roff had used. The Roff family and many in the small town believed Lurancy was Mary Roff. Also during this time, Mary Roff- in the body of Lurancy, exhibited clairvoyant abilities, traveled out- of- body, and visited astral planes. She also shared information about Dr. Steven’s dead children in heaven. In May, Mary Roff announced that Lurancy was ready to come back. She fell into a trance, and awoke as Lurancy fully healed. This was the same girl for which medical authorities had no treatment other than confinement in a state hospital.

In 1882 Lurancy married and moved to Kansas. Mary Roff continued to watch over Lurancy occasionally possessing her for her protection. Over the years, Lurancy was protected from pain during childbirth (she had 11 children) and given information clairvoyantly from Mary Roff. Lurancy died in the 1952.

WatsekaThe case is an oddity standing apart from the traditional demonic possession story. It also happened in a time when spirit contact was all the rage in spiritualism circles. Some people regard this as a reincarnation case, but Lurancy was two when Mary Roff died. The timing doesn’t seem plausible and generally, in reincarnation cases, a child will recount previous life stories as soon as language develops. A walk-in case? A hoax? Some think it might have been since Asa Roff played such a large role in Mary’s arrival. Others believe it was Asa’s guilt which drew Mary’s spirit back to help another teen destined for the asylum.

For more information on the Watseka Wonder:

THE WATSEKA WONDER- A Narrative of Startling Phenomena Occurring in the Case of Mary Lurancy Vennum by E. Winchester Stevens

http://www.amazon.com/Watseka-Narrative-Startling-Phenomena-Occurring/dp/1230414614/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406751816&sr=1-5&keywords=Watseka+Wonder

THE POSSESSED- movie of events at Watseka

http://www.amazon.com/The-Possessed-Christopher-Saint-Booth/dp/B002348RFQ/ref=tag_dpp_lp_edpp_img_in

The Roff Home- still standing in Watseka (so is the Vennum’s but a family lives there).

http://www.roffhome.com/

 

12 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Spiritual/Mysticism

STEPPING OUT OF TIME

clock

We’re taught to think in terms of linear time. Our whole lives are guided by the concept that one event precedes another and that consequences come from causes. We tell our life stories from the beginning and only in middle age do we look back connecting events in new ways to retell our story. Even this perspective, binds us to linear time. And yet, we all have experienced time’s peculiarities which open us to wonder. Why is it I can lose time in a favorite activity and that last hour at work seems like a month?    Dispenza

Einstein said, “…the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Here we see Einstein speaking like a mystic and why should that surprise us? I’m reading Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself (How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One). Dispenza takes on the notion of linear time by examining an experiment done in 2000 by an Israeli doctor. Watch for the zinger!

praying

Leonard Leibovici, MD conducted a double-blind, randomized trial of 3393 hospitalized patients all suffering with a sepsis infection. Leibovici was interested in whether prayer could affect patient outcome. The patients were divided with half being prayed for and half not being prayed for. Dr. Leibovici collected data on the length of fever, length of stay in the hospital, and death as a result of infection. Turns out the prayed for patients had an earlier reduction in fever and shorter hospital stays. The death rates for both groups were not statistically different. The results may shock some, but science has been doing prayer studies for quite a while ( Healing Words-The Power of Prayer & The Practice of Medicine by Larry Dossey, MD). The truly mind- numbing thing about the study is that those praying in 2000 were praying for patients who were hospitalized in the period 1990 to 1996. The conclusion drawn here was that patients who were prayed for in 2000, actually got better in the 1990s.

So what is going on and how should it change our ideas about time? What if Einstein is right and time is just a persistent illusion, an artifice created by the brain? We’re used to thinking that prayer or focused attention might be able to affect our future. But what if I can do something today to affect my past? Can I pray for a better childhood? Can I heal a fractured relationship from decades ago? Can I send myself strength to get through a rough career change I’m making now? Can I? Can you?

56 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, healing, Spiritual/Mysticism

A LOOK AT SYNCHRONICITY

 Buddha

Years ago when I returned to Buddhism and began meditation, I opened a door which, even after ten years, remains open. We can call them synchronistic events (SEs), meaningful coincidences. They come and ping in my environment especially when I’m working intensely on something. The easiest examples to share have to do with my writing. When I was writing INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, all manner of Tibetan symbols and objects showed up in my environment. Where before I knew nothing about Tibet, and relatively little about Buddhism, I started to see various things each and every day. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was alarming- what did it mean? Why was it happening? Thankfully, my immediate family was supportive and I explored various ideas before finally embracing the idea that these events were like warm embraces from the universe.

Synch

Enter psychologist, Kirby Surprise who has written a book called Synchronicity- The Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind. He was about to challenge my warm, fuzzy world. Has he won or can we come to a… middle way? Some believe these coincidences are tied to archetypes and Jung’s collective unconscious. Others see the hand of God or some unifying force at work. In Surprise’s career, he has seen clients attribute these “signs” to Gods, saviors, demons, devils, nature spirits, people with extraordinary powers, ETs, ghosts, and/or secret agencies or governments. Our psychologist proposes an alternative. We cause our own SEs because the universe mirrors us. Therefore, what we project is what we get. Many mystical traditions (becoming co-creators) and science itself seems to support the idea.

Current theories of quantum physics play with the idea that the universe has 11 dimensions. In N Space, there are an infinite number of parallel universes. And then there is M Space which has probable universes. Brain activity as thoughts and powered by emotion, move across these spaces creating change. In a sense, we exist in in infinite number of alternative and probable universes all at the same time. The changes we create in these universes ripple back to us as SEs. We are indeed very powerful- but limited according to Surprise, because we can only travel so far. Rhine’s early parapsychology experiments at Duke University seem to suggest we influence our world by 3-5% and that may reflect a typical SE. However, there are exceptional cases of SE which are life changing and may be more in line with a 60-90% change.

stage

All well and good. So what can we do with SEs? Why are they important? SEs give us insight into who we are and how the world functions. For those attuned to SEs, they shake up our world and force us to look at the big questions- who are we, what is the nature of reality? Surprise cautions us here because whatever our belief structure is, meaningful coincidences will conspire to confirm it. Believe a loving, powerful God underlies everything, he shows up. Believe the devil is at the heart of your misery, he’s there too. How about a shadow government conspiring with aliens to take over the world? Suddenly, conspiracy theories are everywhere and intruding into your daily life. While SEs are often fun and exciting, they can also be scary and throw your world into chaos. The trick here is to maintain a sense of humor without believing everything we are being shown. We are the actor on the stage as well as the playwright.

Not that everyone is happy with the book. Surprise does explore the idea that SEs point to deep connectedness, but he is pretty tough on organized religions sometimes putting it on the level of his patient’s other delusions. And while he does admit that SEs can be powerful at times, he tends to dismiss their overall importance. I think he’s done a good job in opening up some speculation on how the mechanics of SEs work, but he may have only part of the story. We need magic and mystery.

Image by: Kevin McGill

Image by: Kevin McGill

Surprise’s book gives some exercises to try so that you can create thoughtforms and see what happens. He goes to great length stressing that everyone has this ability, but many aren’t aware of it. You can live a full life and never recognize SEs- but for those of us who do, it will permanently shift your frame of reference. All spiritual paths tell us this, once you open the door and step through, you can never go back. Some are not up to the journey.

 

51 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

HAS THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT BEEN CRACKED?

This is an update to a blog I did in 2012 about the Voynich Manuscript. Recent work done by Dr. Stephen Bax (Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of Bedfordshire) has resulted in some startling findings.

voynich botanical

From 2012:

I love tales of missing manuscripts especially in fiction, but also in non-fiction. Last week, I finished The Swerve which featured the true story of the recovery of Lucretius’ poem, On the Nature of Things, and how it influenced our modern world. I liked the idea of a Renaissance book hunter slipping into monasteries looking for ancient wisdom. But I have a better story to share.

In 1912, Wilfrid Voynich recovered a mysterious manuscript that bears his name and resides in the Yale Library as Manuscript 408. The curious document has defied the patient and persistent attempts by all amateur and professional cryptographers to break it.

Its exact history is sketchy, but the document is alleged to have belonged to an Emperor, several practicing alchemists, and a religious order. Some have even proposed that Roger Bacon or John Dee authored the manuscript.

Consisting of 240 vellum pages with colored illustrations, the writing script is unknown and unreadable. Many of the illustrations resemble herbal texts of the 15th Century except that only a few of them can be identified. Aside from the herbal renderings, there are also illustrations covering topics on astronomy, biology, cosmology, medicines, and recipes. The drawings are fanciful, colorful, and complicated. Carbon-14 dating in 2009, dates the manuscript to between 1408 and 1438.

The text itself has puzzled for decades and even modern computer tools have proved ineffective. The writing itself seems to progress left to right with no punctuation. There are no obvious corrections, the document being very carefully executed. There are some 170,000 separate glyphs utilized throughout and many are used only once or twice. Statistical analysis of the work reveals that it resembles the flow of natural language. But what language? It seems to share some correspondences to English and Latin, but not entirely. The repetition of the glyphs is not a characteristic of European language.

Manuscript 408 remains the only undeciphered Renaissance manuscript and it continues to draw many into its mystery. Some think it’s an early herbal or medical text. Others see it as a work of alchemy (early chemistry) or hermeneutical teaching. Still others have declared it a hoax, but if it is a hoax of some kind, it goes beyond anything produced in the 15th Century. It goes beyond the codes and cyphers used then, and continues to evade codebreakers today. What is this curious work and who penned its bizarre contents?

For those intrigued enough to read further:

The Voynich Manuscript- Gerry Kennedy & Rob Churchill

The Friar & the Cypher- Lawrence Goldstone

Six Unsolved Ciphers- Richard Belfield

Drawing on work done to date, Dr. Bax undertook a detailed look at some of the plants and signs in the manuscript. He began with some of the speculations on plant names to decipher letters within the text. He believes he has deciphered ten words and fourteen signs to begin the process of identifying the language MS 408 was written in. Dr. Bax believes the manuscript is not a hoax, but rather a 15th Century book on nature written not in code but rather an unknown language. Now, the hard work begins to try to reveal more of the manuscript. It seems like this is an instance when having the right experts makes all the difference.  

Watch Dr. Bax’s video describing his process and work. http://stephenbax.net/?page_id=38

22 Comments

Filed under alchemy, Spiritual/Mysticism, Uncategorized