I know Philip Kerr from his children’s novels and didn’t realize he wrote stories for adults. While searching for another book, I came upon his Dark Matter, a novel written in 2002 and it immediately caught my attention. It’s 1696 and Christopher Ellis has just taken on a job assisting Sir Isaac Newton at the Royal Mint. As Warden, it’s Newton’s job to hunt down counterfeiters. A challenging enough job but when mysterious murders start happening, Ellis plays Watson to Newton as an earlier version of Sherlock Holmes. Clues and body counts rise as Ellis and Newton face personal danger in the politically volatile back streets of London. Throw in a mix of alchemy and codes and we’re off on a most puzzling case. Turns out that more than the economy of the realm is threatened. A century’s old massacre pits Huguenots against Catholics in a revenge plot only the brain of Newton can piece together. This is a thoroughly fun historical thriller. Kerr excels with this one!
After Jupiter Gardens Press went belly up, I struggled with whether or not to do the self-publishing thing. Turns out, it was easier than I expected. I am excited to announce the launch of my first self-published book! I worked with the fabulous Anna Spies at EerilyFair to create a cover I truly love. Thanks, Anna! Now it’s time to share the love. I will be giving away 4 signed paperback copies of Into the Land of Snows using a random drawing (US residents only, since I have to mail them). The contest will run from today until noon Aug. 11 (next Thursday). Enter by leaving me a comment about something fun you did this summer.
About the book: Visionary Fiction
Sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake away. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey that will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.
“Well-written with engaging and believable characters, this story has it all: adventure, mystery, magic, and wisdom.” Naomi C. Rose
“Into the Land of Snows is a eminently readable YA novel that moves quickly and adeptly through many mystical twists and turns. A very fast and enjoyable read! I recommend it highly to YA audiences, but to adults as well.” Rea Nolan
“Into the Land of Snows takes the reader into a world so different, so beautifully challenging in its vision of life that the reader is drawn-in completely. So strong is the vision presented in this book it may even change the being within you.” Karin DeMer
“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
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.
“Art can penetrate the domain of the soul and emotions, of everything that is not material, nevertheless real.”
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:
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.
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
Drawingon 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.
I recently finished reading In Search of the Miraculous- Healing Into Consciousness by Eliza Mada Dalian. It’s a book for spiritual seekers wanting a manual on the path out of fear, pain, and suffering. This is a largely down to earth book that attempts to simplify the mystical and make it accessible to the average reader. It is not St. Theresa of Avila, The Cloud of Unknowing, a Buddhist sutra, or a Sufi text. Dalian grounds her work and for that we can be thankful.
The one section I found to be particularly useful was the part concerning the development of the ego-mind in each of the chakras. Chakras can be thought of as circular energy centers, and for our purposes, we will use the traditional Indian system of seven chakras. Dalian is careful to point out that spiritual development through the chakras is not necessarily a linear one. I take that to mean that life’s trials and tribulations can have us working in any chakra at any time or in several (which seems likely given the complexity of life). Let’s take a look at the spiritual work associated with each chakra and see if you can identify where you are in the process.
1st Chakra (Root): Foundations of Life: (located at the base of the spine)
Although some writings on chakras are different, Dalian identifies this chakra as the center for sexuality. The spiritual work here involves breaking through sexual fears, taboos, and conditioning.
2nd Chakra (Hara): Survival of the Physical Body: (located 2” below navel)
Here the spiritual seeker deals with fears or insecurities over your physical survival. Eventually you develop trust that the universe will take care of you.
3rd Chakra (Solar Plexus): Developing Self Power & Decision Making Ability: (located in solar plexus region)
Spiritual work here involves developing the courage to make decisions, set boundaries for protection, and accept the responsibility for one’s actions. Considerable maturing of the ego-mind happens here.
4th Chakra (Heart): Developing Unconditional Love: (located behind the sternum near the heart)
The heart chakra is the bridge between the lower instinctual chakras and the higher spiritual chakras. Dalian believes that 90 percent of humanity is stuck in the first three chakras and I’d tend to agree. The work of the spirit in the 4th chakra is to transform the body’s need for survival and the instinctual lust of self- gratification into unconditional love.
5th Chakra (Throat):Developing Individuality & Self Expression: (located at the base of the throat near the thyroid) The spiritual challenge here is to develop honesty and integrity that allows an individual to break free of old patterns, beliefs, and social conditioning to bring freedom of expression and individuality into the world. There is a turn inward for truth and compromising the soul is no longer possible. People begin to speak and live their purpose.
6th Chakra (Third Eye):Developing Wisdom & Intelligence: (located in the center of the forehead between the eyebrows)
Spiritual growth in the 6th chakra is associated with the revelation and expansion of psychic knowing. Sometimes called the opening of the third eye, the door to cosmic reality opens. An individual begins to develop extra-sensory abilities, intuition, and begins to glimpse who he/she really is in cosmic terms. Interconnectedness becomes apparent.
7th Chakra (Crown): Dissolving the Ego: (located at the top of the head, acts as the transition point between physical reality and cosmic reality)
This is what Buddhists call Enlightenment. It’s the ultimate goal, the end game. Here, spiritual work involves the death of the ego-mind and ultimate liberation. Through the 7th chakra, the life force moves from time/space reality into timeless reality of ever-evolving consciousness. It’s important to remember that enlightenment (or liberation) is available at every moment of life or at the point of physical death.
If you’d like to learn more about any of the specific challenges associated with the chakras or techniques and meditations that may be useful, grab a copy of the book. There is a whole chapter packed with resources to help. You can also visit the author’s website at www.madadalian.com.
Light flooded through the west window illuminating the simple study. The doors were closed against the noise of his toddler children. Within was sanctuary. Some especially interesting manuscripts had been hidden in a traveling bag secreted inside the chimney. The comings and goings at Mortlake had drawn many rumors which John Dee had carefully tried to sidestep. Owning one of the best libraries in Europe drew many scholarly types. Dee’s interests included math, astronomy, astrology, navigation, and the occult. He had access to the powerful ministers of Queen Elizabeth I’s court as well as to the Queen herself. Dee’s interests were not unique because many at court dabbled, but Dee hated the caricatured image created by the term “arch conjuror” he had been given in some circles.
Dee called his work optical science and for him crystal gazing was just another way of discovering how the universe worked much like using a telescope to understand the motion of the stars. But Dee had a problem. Not having the power to scry himself, he had to rely on others to do the gazing for him. Previously he had worked with Barnabas Saul but Saul had disappeared a few days earlier. Now a man named Talbot (later known as Edward Kelley) had appeared on his doorstep claiming to be able to do what Saul had done.
Dee’s expectations were modest but using a crystal ball, Talbot soon had a vision of the archangel Uriel. Unable to resist access to such a highly placed spirit, Dee asked about a coded manuscript he possessed. Uriel told him that The Book of Soyga (a copy resides in the British Library) was revealed to Adam in paradise and could only be understood with the help of Archangel Michael. In a later session, Uriel told Dee to construct a table to facilitate future angelic communications.
The table was to be set into four divine wax seals and each seal had to contain an image revealed by the angel. On the top of the table, resting on the Seal of God, a crystal ball or shew stone would be placed.
Objects belonging to Dee at the British Museum (photo: British Museum)
Later in the week, Talbot had a vision of the Archangel Michael anointing Dee. There was no doubt in Dee’s mind that some very special work lay ahead of the two men. Over the next decade Dee and Kelley would receive and communicate in Enochian, a fully developed angelic language. People still puzzle over those messages and their importance.
For more investigation:
John Dee’s Conversations with Angels– Deborah E. Harkness
The Queen’s Conjuror– Benjamin Woolley
John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery– Original Sourcebook of Enochian
Magic- Joseph H. Peterson
The Complete Enochian Dictionary– Donald C. Laylock
Enochian Alphabet- Vincent Bridges (YouTube- video, the importance of Dee’s
I’ll be hanging out at this conference and so can you! I’ve heard some of these speakers before and they are worth the time investment. If you’re unavailable for the live event, they offer a replay you can watch anytime. Pick and choose what interests you most. Register today by providing an email address and get set to learn something new for 2013!
And so we thought. One of the most accepted, basic truths is that we are born and we die but what if that’s not the whole truth? Enter Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student who in 1988 scooped up some Turritopsis dohrnii. He placed the tiny, obscure jellyfish in a petri dish for observation. Soon he was witness to the creatures doing the unthinkable. Over time, they grew younger and younger and eventually began a new life cycle. Biologists continued to study the species, and in 1996, a paper was published describing how the jellyfish could revert to a polyp “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” Of course, it’s not totally immortal in the conventional sense, and we really need to view the subsequent life forms as clones, but still it is pretty amazing. The jellyfish, the size of your pinky nail, became known as the immortal jellyfish although I’d be inclined to call it the Benjamin Button jellyfish, just for the literary connection.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, very few people took much notice of this discovery. Big pharma and well-heeled universities did not rush in to take up studying our bizarre little friend. Some scientists think the immortal jellyfish may lead to breakthroughs in cancer research and longevity, but so far very little research has been done.
In fact, there is only one Japanese researcher, Shin Kubota who is consistently culturing and studying these creatures. He works alone without a staff or major funding. This seems incredible considering what molecular biologist Kevin J. Peterson told a NY Times Magazine reporter in a recent article. Peterson said, “There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings.” Kubota himself thinks the species has the potential to unravel immortality but interestingly, he doesn’t think humans are spiritually evolved enough to handle the responsibility for it. So there might be something good in only having one person doing this work. Even slight gains in life expectancy rate can wreak havoc in a society and who wants to wait to be 100 before you can apply for Social Security. Maybe immortality is for jellyfish.
When we think of Isaac Newton, most of us probably return to high school physics. Laws of motion, gravity, incline experiments, and lists of equations come to mind. Newton was a great scientist and collective thought has enshrined him this way. But this is a very modern way to see him and casts aside and discards him as a spiritual being, for Newton was an alchemist. Sir Isaac wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on math and science. He placed great emphasis on rediscovering the occult wisdom of the ancients and probably considered his scientific work to be of much less importance.
Although alchemy is generally viewed as a precursor to science (and it has that role), it was so much more. Alchemy incorporates Hermetic principles which include ideas from mythology, religion, and spirituality. Below HJ Sheppard outlines the dualistic nature of alchemy as both external (in the material world) and internal (spiritual) practices.
Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence
and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity,
then immortality and, finally redemption. Material perfection was sought
through the action of a preparation (Philosopher’s Stone for metals;
Elixir of Life for humans), while spiritual ennoblement resulted from some
form of inner revelation or other enlightenment.
We will probably never know the full extent of Newton’s alchemical work. Much was destroyed by fire. He also worked in a time when many alchemical experiments were banned and religious views differing from what was considered mainstream was heresy. Historians are still trying to piece things together.
An auction at Sotheby’s in 1936 created a worldwide sensation. Previously unpublished and unseen documents (Portsmouth Papers) surfaced and were presented for sale. About one-third of them were considered alchemical in nature. The papers show Newton’s keen interest in the philosopher’s stone. To this day, several projects are underway to catalog, transcribe, and make Newton’s papers available.
Other writings point to Newton’s interest in occult knowledge, sacred geometry, and prophesy. Throughout his life, Newton associated with members of various esoteric groups but his actual membership in any of them has never been confirmed. Certainly he shared many of the same interests these groups had. At the time of his death, Newton’s library contained 169 alchemical books and for its time, it would have been one of the best alchemical libraries in the world.
Recently I read Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. This is a fictional story which revolves around Newton’s life at Cambridge. Stott is a professor who bases the book on actual records of Newton’s life. At its core are the mysteries of Sir Isaac’s rise to power and position, a series of murders near the university, and the influence of alchemy. A very interesting read.