Books Reviews



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Author: Timothy Leary
Title: High Priest
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Ronin Publishing (CA)
Rated: *****

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High Priest chronicles various psychedelic trips taken by individuals in the 1960's before the drug was made illegal. Timothy Leary, who's concepts resurfaced in the late 80's to mid 90's when CyberPunk was the rage, believes the drug to be useful as a religious sacrament in that it can readily bring an individual closer to an enlightened consciousness especially if used under the right conditions. He also states that any sacrament eventually loses it's potency should it become too commonplace. It's interesting to read how Harvard scholars began studying drugs like LSD and psilocybin and took their own subconscious journeys into the inner mind and were revealed the wisdom of the ancient shamans and mystics. I've always believed that the right minds in the right setting would find these chemicals useful for such experiences. Anyone who has experience with any psychedelics will readily understand the writer's descriptions of conscious perspectives though they may be confusing, misunderstood or nonsensical to one who has no experience with it. Cellular, DNA memory is encoded in each and every one of us and experiences with this can be either elevating or horrifying depending on your current state. One of the things I find frustrating about this book is that when one begins to see the history of psychedelics in the United States one readily begins to see that not only has the government banned these drugs as illegal they have taken them in their own possession to perform their own experiments hidden from the public and I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. However, if you are in doubt you can read about government mind control experiments and easily see the correlation although myself personally I did not see them in connection to those particular experiments as this was before my time in the military. Some conspiracy theories are true! Once of the most interesting chronicles in this text is the experiment performed Marsh Chapel on Good Friday. The drug was given to some people and not others and the results when in a religious setting are very interesting especially when one considers that those who took the 'sacrament' had profound experiences they had been seeking on their religious path while those who did not take it did not have experiences. Even more interesting is that these positive results ended with a ban on the experiments. The experiments with prison inmates were a bit less impressive. A perspective which Timothy states in his book is one that has always been strongly held at RhythmUS Network and that is, "...every expression of American society-however secular, materialistic, scientific, or agnostic it may appear-is based on deeply held unconscious religious assumptions. America is an immature, irrational, superstitious, materialistic, priest-ridden, intolerant religious state." I would go further to replace the word 'religious' with 'spiritual' and 'America' with 'The World'. Turn-On, Tune-In, Drop-Out: Start Your Own Religion Drop-Out--detach yourself from the external social drama which is as dehydrated and ersatz as TV. Turn-On--Find a sacrament which returns you to the temple of God, your own body. Go out of your mind. Get high. Tune-In--Be reborn. Drop-back-in to express it. Start a new sequence of behavior that reflects your vision. I think this successfully summarizes what we have all heard from Leary in the past. Personally, I believe that psychedelics that are not dangerous like LSD and psilocybin (also found in mushrooms), mescalin (also found in cactus and used by Native Americans) should be legalized and not withheld from the public. We should have the right to Turn-On if we wish, especially in the privacy of our own home or in our churches or spiritual circles. Above all else the Two Commandments for the Molecular Age as proposed by Leary should be followed. 1. Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow men. 2. Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his or her own consciousness. What right does government have to keep this from us? If you look at all the evidence you will easily see that the US government created the drug problem which gave us the War on Drugs. While I admit that drugs like heroine and cocaine are extremely harmful I see no wrong is a moderate use of psychedelics especially when used for the purpose of 'expanding' ones conscious awareness. As you can easily see this book brings up many controversial topics relating to the subjects of drugs, religion, consciousness, government regulation, etc. I don't believe everything Leary says and I think that his idea of religious cults is misleading and could easily create harmful circumstances. Of course we have people like Charles Manson, Jim Jones and David Koresh for much of the American negative view toward religious cults and I think that Leary did not foresee such individuals and events being possible because he has a more blindedly positive view towards humans in general than I or most of us would take. However, there is much in the research conducted by himself and others regarding drugs like LSD which I think people should read, learn from and open their minds to as much could be learned about our existence and purpose as humans in general.
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Author: Jean Baudrillard
Title: Simulacra and Simulation
Format: Paperback
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Rated: *****

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First I must admit that what brought me to even find out about this book was the movie The Matrix. In The Matrix Revisited Keanu Reeves talks about the script, the authors, and how he was introduced to it. He claims that this book was one of three in a list of required reading (along with Out of Control by Kevin Kelly and Introducing Evolutionary Psychology by Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate )that the actors must experience before even viewing the movie script. Needless to say this aroused my own curiosity enough to read it as well. In the movie you will note when Neo gets the wooden box to five the 3.5" floppy to the guy at the door in the beginning the box is designed to look like a book with the cover title of this book. This is the first full-length English translation of the French novel in postmodernism by Frenchman Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard uses the concepts of simulacra--a copy without an original--and simulation to display how perceptions of reality’ are altered bases on cultural stigma. "The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth--it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true." Baudrillard points out very clearly how our modern culture is contrived of images and other stimulus from media sources and simulations rather than what is considered real and how it becomes what is real to us by perception. For instance, we are all familiar with various commercials and other forms of advertising that are creations, sometimes of non-real visuals and events, to promote products. We see people and places on TV that we have never been to yet we know them visually as if we had. The simulation is real to us not the real place. Another and maybe even better example would be how we relate to ancient cultures. Archeologists dig them up and create simulations of their cultures in museums that we see. We have never seen the real societies and thus the simulacra of these cultures is what becomes real to us about these cultures. Baudrillard clearly defines how various things like Disney, multi-media advertising and many other sources have replaced the stimulus of the real for us and how our media culture has become our reality. Amazingly much of his writings are perfect analogies for technologies that did not exist in his time period. Another important aspect of his thoughts that I think should be brought up that seemed to impress me was that an opposite can serve to illuminate or stand as prove of existence for another. This is rather difficult to explain and the Möbius Strip is used to explain this theory. [For more information on the Möbius Strip please read my review of the vampire novel Necroscope.] By traveling the path of logic to one perspective it can then lead to proof of it’s opposite. This can be used to explain many aspects of the psyche as well as cultural issues revolving around such topics as war and peace. This whole concept and topic of discussion of simulacra and simulation brings in the realization of the hyperreal and the implosion or collapse of opposites. Much of the book is actually philosophical but yet very valid for our modern times and well worth the read. However, like many books on philosophy don’t expect to get any real answers only new perspectives of thinking. According to Baudrillard we now exist is a world which is comprised of the hyperreal and self-perpetuating simulacra.
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Author: Edred Thorsson
Title: Rune Might
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Rated: *****

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Edred Thorsson claims that the renaissance of the runes in Germany can be traced to Guido von List and Friedrich Bernhard Marby. This book deals mainly with the 'secret' teaching of these two men as well as those of their followers and students. Thorsson discusses briefly the ancient history of the runes and the Armanic Renaissance. He also discusses much of the use of the runes by the Nazis in the chapter "The High Tide of Rune Magic". Much of this is interesting information however the only difficulty I have with it is that there is no proof to his words although there is a long bibliography should the you have an avid interest in the runes and desire to research this yourself. Unfortunately, to do so you would have to be well versed in both the English and German languages. Thorsson continues this work with a short bit of information regarding the Swastika and the runes and again touches on Nazi Germany. He tells how the the Nazis supressed and even banned esoteric studies so that they could monoplize them themselves and thus control the use of such tools. Overall he shows how the history of the runes has seen many faces both dark and light and how they have survived through such dark times as the Third Reich and still manage to come to a revival in modern spirituality. He then takes what anyone who knows anything about the runes today knows and builds on top of them by adding some of the 'secret' practices such as Runic Yoga, mantras, rituals, dance and mudras (which is a sort of sign language). In the chapter "Steads of Rune Might" he discusses the best positioning, location and timing for practices. "Healing Runes" discusses how the runes can be used to acquire physical healing. Finally, the last two sections involve specific rite/exercises known as the Graal-Cup and The Ritual of the Ninth Night. You may find this highly useful if you are looking for something rune related other than standard divination or meditation. The exercises such as Runic Yoga are a unique alternative to standard Yoga and are great to help your physical body while exercising your psychic mind and meditating on the runes simultaneously. Many of the rituals involve a runic aspect of sex magic which some people may find interesting or at least amusing. This is a very unique alternative study of the runes regardless of it's validity which I personally feel may be questionable. It is one of those sources, like many magical resources, where you would be best advised to take what is useful to you and discard or file the rest.
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Author: Anodea Judith (@)
Title: Wheels of Life
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Rated: *****

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Wheels of Life is a chakra guide for westerners. This text is a pratical guide and informative source for anyone interested in chakras. It has come highly recommended by anyone I know who works with them, especially Reiki healers and I can see why. I have been running the RhythmUS Network website for a few years now and my logo includes the 5th (throat) chakra Visuddha. At the time I decided to do this I knew very little of the chakras and have never read a book on them until this one. The chapter on this chakra reads like a step by step look into the concepts behind why I used it. I had not even realized how close to the mark I was until I read this. If you read this book and then read my 'About' page you will see what I mean. Most of this was simply intuitive. Now that I'm done ranting. This book has given me a much better perspective on exactly what the chakras are and how they can affect us in every aspect of our lives. The 'Wheels of Life' are actually vortexes which are located at key points of the body. You can actually locate them using devices that can record minute traces of magnetism or even a geode like a terminated quartz crystal suspended from a chain or strap. The crystal will actually spin in a cirlce when placed over the chakra. I remember when my wife was pregnant with my son and we tried this and the crystal spun so hard in such a wide arc I had to hold it tightly to keep it from flying loose from my hands. What I'm trying to say is that this is not a bunch of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo but something that has a real and felt physical presence as well as psychological and physiological affects on our bodies, minds, and lives. A most basic description of the Seven Chakra System can be found on the Chakra Page of the RhythmUS Network Spirituality Section of the site. Many easterners tend to focus the perception of the chakras on 'climbing' this stack to reach and enlightened state of being. However, Anodea refers to the fact that they must be kept in balance in order to maintain a fully healthy existence. This makes more sense to me as well. A person who sits cross-legged all day dreaming about the Oneness of the Universe is not exactly productive in society in the physical realm and a balance between the physical and spiritual is what is required for conscious evolution. There are way too many details given in this book about each individual chakra, generation effects, etc. for me to even begin to attempt to describe them here. What I can say is that if you are interested in the chakra system at all this book lives up to the recommendations I've received on it's behalf and I would highly recommend it to anyone as a great introduction to the subject. Unfortunately the version I read was not this particular revised and expanded edition but I do plan on picking a copy of this new edition up to find out what's inside. I'm sure it's worth it!
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Author: Anne Rice
Title: Merrick
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Rated: *****

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In this episode of the Vampire Chronicles Anne Rice combines characters to create a collaboration with the Mayfair Witches. Merrick is a voodoo practitioner whose mother dies and leaves her in the custody of the Talamasca. From her exposure and education there she becomes intertwined with David Talbot and the vampires Louis and Lestat. One of the main elements of interest in this novel is the that Louis wants Merrick to summon the spirit of Claudia. The only inconsistency I found here was that when the 'spirit' finally appears Merrick first says this is most definitely Claudia and not a meddling ghost but later states the opposite. Unless I misread this it seems that we will never know if this was truly Claudia's ghost or not. Much of the story is told by David and his experiences with Merrick as told to Louis. The tale includes a tale of artifacts and ghosts and a mask that can be used to 'see' spirits. Also, in this episode Louis decides to take his depression a bit further than before and actually decides to commit suicide. The most interesting thing to me personally was the ending of this one. It seems that we will continue the adventures of The Vampire Lestat due to the associations of the vampires with Merrick has brought the wrath of the Talamasca down on Lestat and crew. Lestat, as usual, will not concede to other's wishes and thus we await to learn if this will turn into an all out war between vampires and Talamasca or will the vampire whom Lestat previously annoyed with his adventures in Queen of the Damned not come to his aide and leave him to his own devices?
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