The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: The Buddha’s Way of Mindfulness, by Nyanaponika Thera
Weiser Books, 9781578635580, 257 pp., 1954, 2014
This book is issued in the deep conviction that the systematic cultivation of Right Mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha in his Discourse on Satipatthana, still provides the most simple and direct, the most thorough and effective, method for training and developing the mind for its daily tasks and problems as well as for its highest aim: mind’s own unshakable deliverance from Greed, Hatred and Delusion.
The Heart of Buddhist Meditation is a classic of Western Buddhism from the ’50s, which Weiser has just republished on its 50th anniversary. It’s one of the first serious books on Vipassana meditation written for a Western audience. “This is the book that started it all — the book that, with great clarity and ardour, introduced Vipassana and mindfulness to the West.,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness for Beginners. Continue reading
The Essential Enochian Grimoire: An Introduction to Angel Magick from Dr. John Dee to the Golden Dawn, by Aaron Leitch
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738737003, 352 pp. (incl. appendices), 2014.
Considering everything that has been written on Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Enochian system in the last century and a half, one can’t help but wonder what could be considered “essential” for an Enochian grimoire. Where does one start? What is included? Which Enochian systems? Which elements? Leitch admits this was a challenge when sorting out the material and decided “[i]t must present a simplified overview of the entire system, thereby allowing the student to see the whole proverbial elephant before focusing on the trunk, ears, legs, or other elephantine components in detail.” Again though, with all that Dee wrote, and all that has come since, a simplified overview is not an easy task. Continue reading
William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard
Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 398 pp., 2008
Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.
No clear, singular document exists that explains Blake’s religious life and upbringing, so Schuchard researched and wrote this text as a “reconstruction of the lost religious history of the family of William Blake.” This area is rarely investigated, and considering how bizarre and complicated a picture Schuchard paints it’s not surprising that “sensible academic critics have cautiously refrained from taking the plunge” into this counter-religious culture. Continue reading
The Book of Grimoires: The Secret Grammar of Magic, by Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions, 9781620551875, 264 pp., 2002, 2013 (English translation)
To understand a book it’s important to know the purpose for which it was written. Lecouteux states that his aim is to provide a historical account of the use of grimoires, and to synthesize a “universal grimoire” from numerous source texts, but I find this proposal problematic. I’ve read several academic books on grimoires and medieval magick as part of my degree, including collections of original articles or reproductions of sections from various texts. Lecouteux says the book “takes the approach of a guided tour,” and that the material is obscure and complex, so he will explain the material throughout the book in order to make sense of what is provided, and this, I feel, is where things falls apart. Continue reading
Pisces, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
Taylor Trade Publishing, 9781589795648, 90 pp., 2011
This book takes an in-depth look at the sign of Pisces and what it means. Woolfolk stresses early in that sun sign descriptions are often too perfect and too cookie-cutter, and she wants to show the range of Pisces expressions. She does this by looking at Pisces in several ways, starting with how people perceive the Pisces, and how the Pisces person feels about themselves. Simple, but this is an important distinction, because it is easy to dismiss a sun sign description because it isn’t how you (want to) view yourself, so Woolfolk gives both sides.
Getting more involved, she looks at the decanates, cusps, and individual days, giving a more precise view of Pisces. Continue reading