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Alan Chapman and Duncan Barford of The Baptist’s Head and Open Enlightenment were kind enough to answer several questions I put to them.
Did you formulate the Core Practice techniques immediately after attaining the Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel [K&C], or did it follow your successful crossing of the Abyss?
ALAN: I attained the K&C using a free-form ritual technique, but I came to develop a simpler method based on Father Thomas Keating’s centred prayer as I persisted in invoking the HGA through the years.
The bare-bones Core Practice described in Alan’s essay bears a strong resemblance to vipassana meditation, and Duncan has mentioned a long-standing interest in Buddhism. In your work, each of you pay homage to Daniel Ingram and his fantastic work. At what point did you pick up the links between wisdom traditions and decide to adopt vipassana into your regular practice? Continue reading
Biographies are a lot of fun. While I like getting to know a person through their works, learning more about the circumstances that produced them lends additional weight to certain turns of phrase, and often frames ideas in contexts not previously considered.
I read Thomas Williams’ biography of Éliphas Lévi (titled: Eliphas Levi, Master of the Cabala, the Tarot and the Secret Doctrines) about six months ago in preparation for a workshop that was drawing on his influence in the occult tarot and I wanted to better understand where he was sourcing his material.
I read the second edition and was not impressed with the number of typos and general lack of editing, however, this may be the only full length biography of Lévi in print in English – it’s certainly the only one I’ve been able to find. Despite its flaws, it serves as a decent introduction to Lévi’s life and thought. Continue reading
Datura, edited by Ruby Sara
Scarlet Imprint, 9780956720368, 2011
To be honest, I’ve dodged a serious bullet with Datura. When its editor, Ruby Sara, put out a call for submissions on Scarlet Imprint last year, I almost submitted a handful of poems for inclusion. The thought of an anthology of occult-themed poetic work and essays on the mystical aspects of the creative process struck quite a nerve with me, and I was eager to contribute. Luckily a combination of a busy life at the time and a creative dry spell prevented me from sending Sara anything by the deadline, and after reading through Datura, I’m deeply thankful that the few pieces I was able to conjure up never got sent her way. For even if they were accepted and published in the pages of Datura, the quality of the content is so high my work would have looked like utter shit next to everything else between its covers.
Datura contains the work of 26 poets, that work being a mix of 6 essays and 47 poems. When I picked up Datura, I was really eager to read the essays. Scarlet Imprint has published three other anthologies in the past – Howlings, Devoted, and Diabolical – and their occult essays were absolutely stellar. While I do love poetry, and have a deep fondness for the Pagan and fortean realms, I’ve read enough awful odes to Odin and tree-spirits (and composed quite a few myself, to be fair) that the thought of a book devoted to such poetry might be a risky gamble. I figured that six good essays could make up for some lousy astral-poetics. Thankfully while the essay-work is every bit as good as I hoped it would be, the poetry in Datura manages to keep its nimble-feet from stepping into the bear-trap of twee Pagan clichés. Continue reading
The Akashic Experience, edited by Ervin Laszlo
Inner Traditions, 9781594772986, 288 pp., 2009
The Akashic Experience presents a series of accounts dealing with the intrusion of nonlocal events into everyday life. Ervin Laszlo, systems theorist, philosopher of science, concert pianist and recipient of two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, has gathered individual contributors from a range of fields to recount their experiences. Contributors include Alex Grey, Stanislav Grof and – most surprising to me – Raffi Cavoukian, the children’s musician.
The main thrust of the book is aimed at establishing the existence and utility of the akashic experience. Laszlo defines this as a “lived experience that conveys a thought, an image, or an intuition that was not, and very likely could not have been, transmitted by our senses at the time it happened or at anytime beforehand.”
The collected reports include predictions that came to pass, past-life memories that later had elements factually confirmed, communication with spirits of the dead, group-mind phenomena, distance healing and various types of artistic or professional inspiration. Continue reading
The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes
Weiser Books, 9781578634798, 272 pp., 2010
When a field guide is well done, it gives the reader the means to distinguish between species and can be an incredible aid to study, classification, and practical knowledge. When a field guide is not so well done, it can very quickly become a mess.
I really wanted to like The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. For one thing, I like and admire Judika Illes, whose Element Encyclopedias I consider useful as well as beautiful, well-researched, and wonderfully organized. I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy spending more time with her blend of wit and erudition. The subtitle, “From Hexes to Hermione Granger, from Salem to the Land of Oz”, is marvellously enticing, as well as the idea given in the back cover copy that the field guide could help you, the reader, discern if you are a witch. Continue reading