In “Chapter IX: The Sun, A Universal Deity,” Manly P. Hall states:
The purpose of alchemy was not to make something out of nothing but rather to fertilize and nurture the seed which was already present. Its processes did not actually create gold but rather made the ever-present seed of gold grow and flourish. Everything which exists has a spirit—the seed of Divinity within itself—and regeneration is not the process of attempting to place something where it previously had not existed. Regeneration actually means the unfolding of the omnipresent Divinity in man, that this Divinity may shine forth as a sun and illumine all with whom it comes in contact.
For me, this sums up perfectly the practice of alchemy. It is essentially a symbolic system designed to teach individuals how to accomplish inner transformation, so that the divine light within shines forth like the purest of gold. Everything that exists has the spark of Divine energy within. The goal of alchemical transformation is to allow the alchemist to see the pure aspect of God within everything. Therefore, the secret of the philosopher’s stone is not that it grants the alchemist life everlasting, instead it reveals that the alchemist’s essence is a part of the Divine, and therefore, eternal.
There is an important lesson in the last line of the aforementioned quote. Once you have tapped into the Divine within you, you begin to shine in a way that others notice. In art, this is depicted as the aura or halo surrounding saints and sages. Additionally, with this enlightenment comes responsibility. The successful alchemist must, after inner transformation, work toward the transformation of all humanity, helping lift the collective consciousness closer to God consciousness.
Thanks for stopping by and reading. Have a transformative day.
This has always been my favorite of Castaneda’s books, primarily because the focus is on perception, and how once our perception is shifted, we are able to access other layers of reality that are beyond our “normal” levels of consciousness. This book goes into detail about how Carlos was instructed, under the guidance of the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan, in the methods of shifting perception, which don Juan refers to as “stopping the world.” In the introduction to the text, Castaneda provides a nice summary of the technique.
“Stopping the world” was indeed an appropriate rendition of certain states of awareness in which the reality of everyday life is altered because the flow of interpretation, which ordinarily runs uninterruptedly, has been stopped by a set of circumstances alien to that flow. In my case the set of circumstances alien to my normal flow of interpretations was the sorcery description of the world. Don Juan’s precondition for “stopping the world” was that one had to be convinced; in other words, one had to learn the new description in a total sense, for the purpose of pitting it against the old one, and in that way break the dogmatic certainty, which we all share, that the validity of our perceptions, or our reality of the world, is not to be questioned.
(pp. xiii – xiv)
According to don Juan’s teachings, there are myriad worlds layered upon our perceived reality, and these can be accessed by radical shifts in awareness. After one experience where Carlos experienced an alternate world, he questions don Juan about the “reality” of what he had experienced.
“And what is real?” don Juan asked me very calmly.
“This, what we’re looking at is real,” I said, pointing to the surroundings.
“But so was the bridge you saw last night, and so was the forest and everything else.”
“But if they were real where are they now?”
“They are here. If you had enough power you could call them back. Right now you cannot do that because you think it is very helpful to keep on doubting and nagging. It isn’t, my friend. It isn’t. There are worlds upon worlds, right here in front of us. And they are nothing to laugh at. Last night if I hadn’t grabbed your arm you would have walked on that bridge whether you wanted to or not. And earlier I had to protect you from the wind that was seeking you out.”
Toward the end of the book, don Genaro, a sorcerer friend of don Juan’s, shares a story with Carlos about a point in his life when he reached a certain stage on his path. In the story, he tells Carlos that after the experience, he tried to return to his home in Ixtlan, but was unable to return to his village.
“Genaro was telling his story for you,” don Juan said, “because yesterday you stopped the world, and he thinks that you also saw, but you are such a fool that you don’t know it yourself. I keep telling him that you are weird, and that sooner or later you will see. At any rate, in your next meeting with the ally, if there is a next time for you, you will have to wrestle with it and tame it. If you survive the shock, which I’m sure you will, since you’re strong and have been living like a warrior, you will find yourself alive in an unknown land. Then, as is natural to all of us, the first thing you will want to do is to start on your way back to Los Angeles. But there is no way to go back to Los Angeles. What you left there is lost forever. By then, of course, you will be a sorcerer, but that’s no help; at a time like that what’s important to all of us is the fact that everything we love or hate or wish for has been left behind. Yet the feelings in a man do not die or change, and the sorcerer starts on his way back home knowing that he will never reach it, knowing that no power on earth, not even his death, will deliver him to the place, the things, the people he loved. That’s what Genaro told you.”
This is a painful truth for all those who are on a mystical path. At some point, our lives will change in such a way that we can never return to our old life. How can someone who touched the Divine go home and watch Netflix? How can a person who has glimpsed the infinite look at a table the same way again? How can anyone who has visited another realm of reality trust our perceptions of our “normal” world? It is impossible, yet nostalgia drives us to attempt a return to our old reality, but that reality will never exist for us again.
Thanks for taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you found them interesting. Comments are open for two weeks following post date, so feel free to share any thoughts you may have.
Since my first post on this book, I read four chapters in this text (Chapters V through VIII), and these were dense chapters overflowing with information. So rather than attempting to summarize everything, I thought it would be best to pick a single passage and talk about it.
In “Chapter VIII: Isis, The Virgin of the World,” Hall discusses the symbolism of the Egyptian deity Typhon.
Typhon, the Egyptian Demon or Spirit of the Adversary, was born upon the third day. Typhon is often symbolized by a crocodile; sometimes his body is a combination of crocodile and hog. Isis stands for knowledge and wisdom, and according to Plutarch the word Typhon means insolence and pride. Egotism, self-centeredness, and pride are the deadly enemies of understanding and truth. This part of the allegory is revealed.
So my initial reaction upon reading this was to relate the image of Typhon with certain political figures whom, to me, seem to embody egotism, self-centeredness, and pride while attacking truth and wisdom. But I had to stop myself, because it dawned upon me that I too am guilty of allowing the energy of Typhon to influence my thoughts. The fact that I can quickly pass judgement and point out the defects in others is really nothing more than my own personal pride and egotism. And then I examined myself more closely, seeking out the ways in which I act from a place of self-centeredness and hubris. If I am honest with myself, I still have work to do, and this is the key. If you are blinded by pride and ego, it is impossible to be truthful with yourself, and when you are not truthful with yourself, it becomes impossible to progress along the spiritual path. Our inner Typhon is indeed the most deadly enemy of ourselves and our journey toward spiritual growth and enlightenment. I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.”
Self-honesty is really hard. It is easy to either ignore the aspects of ourselves that cause us discomfort, or to exaggerate our flaws and become our own harshest critic. Neither of these approaches are healthy. The difficult path of honest self-appraisal is crucial for all of us, but must be tempered with self-compassion.
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Wishing you joy and light on your path, and a blessed 2022.
I missed this issue when it came out a couple years ago, but on a recent excursion to the comic store, I saw it on the shelf and picked it up. I always enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because I love the more mysterious folklore associated with the holidays, as well as winter ghost stories. These are the usual inspirations for the annual release.
This issue contains three short tales:
The Miser’s Gift
The Longest Night
The Beast of Ingleheim
I enjoyed all the tales, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose “The Miser’s Gift.” It is a ghost story about a young man who encounters the spirit of a miser, struggling to drag along his sack of money. The young man assists the restless spirit, who in response gives the person a gold coin. The young man then seeks to return the coin to the spirit, claiming:
“You don’t have to pay me. I was doing you a favor. I want to give this back.”
The act of kindness and charity has a healing effect on the spirit, and while the fate of the spirit is left open for the reader to interpret, the implication is that the selfless act of the young man resulted in the tormented soul finally finding peace.
This is such an important message. The spiritual value of unconditional kindness cannot be measured. One seemingly small act can have a rippling effect, which is something I try to keep in mind with all my dealings with others.
I hope this fable has inspired you as much as it did me. May you and your loved ones be blessed. Thanks for stopping by.
This is the second book in Castaneda’s account of his apprenticeship with the sorcerer don Juan. Chronologically, the events recounted in this text occur some years after the events recorded in The Teachings of Don Juan. Castaneda needed to take time away from the lessons because it seems he was having difficulty coming to terms with a new way of perceiving reality.
This book essentially deals with what don Juan terms “seeing,” which, in simplified terms, is a way of perceiving levels of reality that are beyond the comprehension of our ordinary states of consciousness.
Don Juan’s particular interest in his second cycle of apprenticeship was to teach me to “see.” Apparently in his system of knowledge there was the possibility of making a semantic difference between “seeing” and “looking” as two distinct manners of perceiving. “Looking” referred to the ordinary way in which we are accustomed to perceive the world, while “seeing” entailed a very complex process by virtue of which a man of knowledge allegedly perceives the “essence” of the things of the world.
Don Juan asserts that humans know very little about reality, and unlike certain animals, we are fooled by what our limited consciousness perceives.
“We men know very little about the world. A coyote knows much more than we do. A coyote is hardly ever fooled by the world’s appearance.”
Later, don Juan states that we maintain our limited view of reality through our internal dialog. Essentially, our minds are constantly talking to us, and this internal chatter defines our view of reality. Thus, by silencing our internal dialog, we are able to catch glimpses of how the world truly is.
“I’ll tell you what we talk to ourselves about. We talk about our world. In fact we maintain our world with our internal talk.”
“How do we do that?”
“Whenever we finish talking to ourselves the world is always as it should be. We renew it, we kindle it with life, we uphold it with our internal talk. Not only that, but we also choose our paths as we talk to ourselves. Thus we repeat the same choices over and over until the day we die, because we keep repeating the same internal talk over and over until the day we die.”
Don Juan continues by asserting that once we stop telling ourselves how the world is, our minds shift and we see the world differently.
“The world is such-and-such or so-and-so only because we tell ourselves that that is the way it is. If we stop telling ourselves that the world is so-and-so, the world will stop being so-and-so. At this moment I don’t think you’re ready for such a momentous blow, therefore you must start slowly to undo the world.”
Although I have read this book twice before, I got a lot out of it on this reading. This is one of those books that takes on other levels of meaning as we progress along our individual paths.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Have a great day!
I have been thinking about reading this book for a while, since Manly P. Hall is often cited in other texts I have read. So I finally decided to tackle this hefty tome. I am reading it along with a good friend of mine, and after each block (about 4 or 5 chapters) we get on a call to discuss our thoughts. That said, my blog posts will follow the same pattern. After reading a bit and taking notes, I will talk a little about something that has stood out for me. This first post in the series will focus on Hall’s explanation of the use of symbolism employed by the ancient mystery traditions.
Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries; in fact it is the language not only of mysticism and philosophy but of all Nature, for every law and power active in the universal procedure is manifested to the limited sense perceptions of man through the medium of symbol. Every form existing in the diversified sphere of being is symbolic of the divine activity by which it is produced. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language. Rejecting man-conceived dialects as inadequate and unworthy to perpetuate divine ideas, the Mysteries thus chose symbolism as a far more ingenious and ideal method of preserving their transcendental knowledge. In a single figure a symbol may both reveal and conceal, for to the wise the subject of the symbol is obvious, while to the ignorant the figure remains inscrutable. Hence, he who seeks to unveil the secret doctrine of antiquity must search for that doctrine not upon the open pages of books which might fall into the hands of the unworthy but in the place where it was originally concealed.
That symbols are employed to express the ineffable is common knowledge, but I really like the way Hall explains it in this passage. And Hall brings up a very important point, which is any symbolic representation of hidden knowledge must be considered within the context of when, where, and how the symbol was created. When examining symbols from antiquity, we need to consider what they would have meant to the initiates of those times, not what they mean to us today. As an example, let’s take the Bible. The symbolism incorporated into a book from the Bible, written in Aramaic two thousand years ago by someone living in the Middle East, is not going to mean the same thing as an English translation of those words read by a twenty-first century American. We just do not have the same context. So does that mean we should not attempt to tap into these ancient secrets? No – we must certainly try. But when we approach any form of expression that is symbolic in nature, we need to keep it foremost in our mind that we are dealing with symbols, and by nature they are going to be difficult to understand, and we may get them wrong initially and have to reassess their meaning in light of other information. It is a process of unfolding. I think the lotus would be an appropriate symbol here.
I think that is all I have to say about this topic, for now anyway. Thanks for stopping by, and remember to always read critically. Cheers!
I should begin this post by confessing that I think I have read this book more times than any other book. Not that it is Castaneda’s best book (that would be Journey to Ixtlan, in my humble opinion), but because I credit this book for putting me on the spiritual path. For that reason, I have gone back to it several times over the years. And now, since I have a desire to re-read all of Castaneda’s works, I figured I should start again at the beginning.
Before I share my thoughts on this book, I want to share a little personal history regarding how I was introduced to Carlos Castaneda. Back in my younger and crazier days, there was a biker bar a few blocks from where I lived called JR’s Tavern. Now this was the type of biker bar that you see depicted as a stereotype in films: small, grungy, smelly, couple pool tables, and frequent brawls. I at the time was under age, but there was a barmaid there named Troubles, and she liked me, so she would let me come in and drink, provided I sat near the back door so I could abscond quickly should there be a raid. One evening, after closing, Troubles invited me to stay and drink with her. We talked for a while, and the details are fuzzy, but at one point she started telling me about Carlos Castaneda. She said she was a “warrior” and followed the teachings of Castaneda, and based upon how well she knew me, she thought I should read his books. Wanting to impress the cool barmaid, I soon went to the bookstore and found a boxed set containing Castaneda’s first four books:
The Teachings of Don Juan
A Separate Reality
Journey to Ixtlan
Tales of Power
I started reading, and blew right through all four texts, and the impact they had on my life cannot be understated.
OK, now to discuss The Teachings.
In the early 1960’s, Carlos Castaneda was an anthropology student at the University of California. He was introduced to a native Mexican sorcerer named don Juan Matus, who was supposed to be knowledgeable in regard to psychotropic plants, particularly peyote. Castaneda wanted to do research on the use of these hallucinogenic plants in native religious practices, but ended up becoming don Juan’s apprentice. Castaneda’s books are his accounts of his apprenticeship.
Carlos Castaneda, under the tutelage of don Juan, takes us through that moment of twilight, through that crack in the universe between daylight and dark into a world not merely other than our own, but of an entirely different order of reality. To reach it he had the aid of mescalito, yerba del diablo, and humito—peyote, datura, and mushrooms. But this is no mere recounting of hallucinatory experiences, for don Juan’s subtle manipulations have guided the traveler while his interpretations give meaning to the events that we, through the sorcerer’s apprentice, have the opportunity to experience.
Early in Castaneda’s apprenticeship, don Juan tells him that to follow the path of knowledge is no trivial matter and must be approached as such.
“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.”
Throughout my life, I have explored numerous spiritual paths. Don Juan explains that there are many paths to follow on your quest, and the only correct path is the one that feels right to you. And, it is OK to change paths if one no longer serves you well.
“… Anything is one of a million paths [un camino entre cantidades de caminos]. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does the path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does the path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, and the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”
I suppose any discussion of Castaneda’s early work should include a quote where he details his experience using an hallucinogenic substance. In the following, quote, Castaneda describes his experience having smoked a mixture made with psylocibin mushrooms.
Don Juan sat next to me, to my right, and without moving held the pipe sheath against the floor as though keeping it down by force. My hands were heavy. My arms sagged, pulling my shoulders down. My nose was running. I wiped it with the back of my hand, and my upper lip was rubbed off! I wiped my face, and all the flesh was wiped off! I was melting! I felt as if my flesh was actually melting. I jumped to my feet and tried to grab hold of something—anything—with which to support myself. I was experiencing terror I had never felt before. I held onto a pole that don Juan keeps stuck on the floor in the center of his room. I stood there for a moment, then I turned to look at him. He was sitting motionless, holding his pipe, staring at me.
(p. 106 – 107)
My interpretation of this is that when an individual shifts to a non-ordinary state of awareness, reality as we have been trained to perceive it melts away, and we are confronted with a new reality that does not conform to our established mental construct. It is a frightening experience when it happens, but can have profound spiritual effects afterwards.
I will conclude this post with a few words about the second section of the book: “A Structural Analysis.” This was Castaneda’s attempt to analyze his experiences through the lens of academic logic. The result only serves to demonstrate that what he experienced cannot be classified or understood though our ordinary thought processes. I probably should have skipped it on this reading, but I did re-read it just to reinforce my thoughts on it.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I plan on re-reading all of Castaneda’s books, although I will likely intersperse other books in there. Stay tuned for my thoughts on his second book: A Separate Reality.
This is another of those books that have been on my shelf for a long time. I picked it up at a used book store, mainly because I was familiar with the author. Budge was a curator of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum, and he published one of the most well-known translations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I figured if anyone had insight into Egyptian magical practices, it would be Budge.
Budge begins his analysis by asserting that there are basically two types of magic used by the ancient Egyptians.
The “magic” of the Egyptians was of two kinds: (1) that which was employed for legitimate purposes and with the idea of benefiting either the living or the dead, and (2) that which was made use of in the furtherance of nefarious plots and schemes and was intended to bring calamities upon those against whom it was directed.
Often, specific magical practices could be used for either of the two kinds of magic. An example of this would be the use of magical names.
The Egyptians, like most Oriental nations, attached very great importance to the knowledge of names, and the knowledge of how to use and to make mention of names which possessed magical powers was a necessity both for the living and the dead. It was believed that if a man knew the name of a god or a devil, and addressed him by it, he was bound to answer him and to do whatever he wished; and the possession of the knowledge of the name of a man enabled his neighbour to do him good or evil.
Most of us are familiar with ancient Egypt’s use of animals in art and hieroglyphs. Budge point out that this was an advanced use of symbolism employed by the Egyptians, which was often misinterpreted as worship of animals.
The Egyptians paid honour to certain birds, and animals, and reptiles, because they considered that they possessed certain of the characteristics of the gods to whom they made them sacred. . . The educated Egyptian never worshipped an animal as an animal, but only as an incarnation of a god, and the reverence paid to animals in Egypt was in no way different from that paid to the king who was regarded as “divine” and an incarnation of Ra the Sun-god, who was the visible symbol of the Creator. The relation of the king to Ra was identical with that of Ra to God. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans never understood the logical conception which underlay the reverence with which the Egyptians regarded certain animals, and as a result they grossly misrepresented their religion. The ignorant people, no doubt, often mistook the symbol for what it symbolized, but it is wrong to say that the Egyptians worshipped animals in the ordinary sense of the word, and this fact cannot be too strongly insisted on.
(pp. 232 – 233)
While this book may be dated, and much of the terminology employed would not be considered politically correct in our present day, there is value in reading this from a strictly historical perspective. Budge clearly spent much time exploring ancient Egyptian texts and his knowledge is evident in this book.
I should start by posting the English translation of the text, originally composed in Italian in the year 1224. It is somewhat long, but worth reading.
Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
While there is a lot that can be said about this beautiful text, I want to focus this post on some specific areas, which are the gender attributes. According to occult traditions, such as alchemy and Hermeticism, elements have gender aspects and are associated with directions. These are briefly outlined below.
Air is Masculine and associated with East
Water is Feminine and associated with West
Fire is Masculine and associated with South
Earth is Feminine and associated with North
Saint Francis mirrors these gendered elementals in his text:
Sister Mother Earth
It is important to note the order here. In some ceremonial rituals, the elemental forces are evoked in a specific order: East – West – South – North, which forms a cross. This is the same order in which Saint Francis offers his praises. Essentially, recitation of the Canticle surrounds an individual with the elemental forces.
It is also worth pointing out that masculine and feminine characteristics are associated with the Sun and Moon, respectively. This is fairly common among mystical traditions. But what is fascinating is that Saint Francis also refers to death as Sister Bodily Death, implying a connection between birth and death, since both are connected to the Divine Feminine. We are born of Sister Mother Earth, and we return through Sister Bodily Death, completing a cycle which will ultimately begin anew with rebirth through Sister Mother Earth.
Hopefully you found this interesting. The comments will be open for two weeks after post date, so feel free to share any thoughts during that period.
This is a classic work on Hermeticism that first appeared in 1908 and was published under the pseudonym Three Initiates. The notes assert that the author was most likely “William Walker Atkinson, a popular New Thought writer and publisher in the early twentieth century.” (p. 141) The book presents the seven basic principles found in the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. Those principles are:
The Principle of Mentalism
The Principle of Correspondence
The Principle of Vibration
The Principle of Polarity
The Principle of Rhythm
The Principle of Cause and Effect
The Principle of Gender
While this is a very short book, it has a wealth of information and is very accessible to readers, regardless of your background in spiritual studies. That said, rather than hitting the key topics, I want to focus this post on a single paragraph from the section on Cause and Effect.
Stop to think a moment. If a certain man had not met a certain maid, away back in the dim period of the Stone Age—you who are reading these lines would not now be here. And if, perhaps, the same couple had failed to meet, we who now write these lines would not now be here. And the very act of writing, on our part, and the act of reading, on yours, will affect not only the respective lives of yourself and ourselves, but will also have a direct, or indirect, affect upon many other people now living and who will live in the ages to come. Every thought we think, every act we perform, has its direct and indirect results which fit into the great chain of Cause and Effect.
This is a truth that I consider often. Everything I do, or abstain from doing, affects reality in ways we cannot begin to comprehend. This understanding comes with responsibility. Knowing that everything you read, everything you say, every seemingly insignificant act you engage in has a rippling effect throughout eternity, makes you realize that nothing you do is insignificant or without consequence. Hence, to paraphrase a writer who was very influential for me when I was young, we must live our lives impeccably.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my musings. You have just changed the future by doing so.
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