Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Conquest of Illusion - J.J. van der Leeu

The Conquest of Illusion - J.J. van der Leeu

The Conquest of Illusion
 J.J. van der Leeu

In 1710, George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, argued that there is no such thing as matter. What we take as matter, what we take to be "the world" are but our perceptions of some unknown reality. This line of thought became known as "idea-lism" and has been a thread in the history of Western philosophy since then. But this line of thought is very ancient. Plato expressed it in his well-known allegory of the cave, in which the world we perceive is but a shadow of something else, something of which we are generally completely unaware. Such a line of thought is extremely well developed in Eastern thought in such philosophies as Sankhya, Vedanta, and in the practical works of Raja yoga.

This general line of thought has fallen out of favor over the past several centuries in the West, due in large part to the rise of science, and the underlying philosophy of materialism, that has since morphed into the philosophy of physicalism, the dominant, if generally implicit paradigm of the modern world.

In spite of being eclipsed by the dazzling successes of the physical sciences in the West, it is a completely undeniable fact that our conscious awareness forever serves as an intermediary to what ever it is that is being represented as "the world" in our awareness. However, particularly in modern times, this general fact of our experience is neglected in our considerations of the world.

In Conquest of Illusion, van der Leeuw begins from this premise. But he does not construct philosophical arguments. No. This book is about his first-hand experiences from his advanced practice of yoga, exploring both the nature of consciousness and the nature of this thing we call "the world" that appears in our consciousness. van der Leeuw describes the >>result<< of successfully achieving the main goal of yoga, which is direct awareness of the eternal that underlies this "thing" we call existence.

The book is profound in every conceivable respect. In spite of the exponential growth of our current understanding of the material world, including the brain and the cosmos, this book is still apropos. It describes the eternal veritas underlying time, space, the mind, and our relative existence.

Perhaps the single most important quote of this book is:

"The mystery of life in not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced."

It is clear to one informed in such matters that van der Leeuw is describing in a lucid and (relatively) easy to understand fashion what has been described for centuries in Eastern, and specifically Indian philosophy, and in particular in the Kashmiri Shavism school of Indian thought.

The relevance of this book will only continue to grow over time as thinkers again begin to recognize in ever greater measure the implications that the "world" that exists, and this "world" as it appears in our conscious awareness are by no means identical.

Mind Beyond Death - Dzogchen Ponlop

Mind Beyond Death Dzogchen Ponlop

Mind Beyond Death
 Dzogchen Ponlop

Mind Beyond Death is an indispensable guidebook through the journey of life and death. Using humorous analogies and his profound understanding of the Western mind, Rinpoche makes the mysterious Tibetan teachings on the bardos--the intervals of life, death, and beyond-- completely available to the modern reader. Drawing on a breathtaking range of material, Mind Beyond Death shows us how the bardos can be used to conquer death. But the bardos also apply to taking control of life, and learning how to live with fearless abandon. Walking skillfully through the bardos of dream, meditation, and daily life, we then travel deep into the mysterious death intervals and become familiar with their dazzling mindscape. This tour de force gives us the knowledge to transform the greatest obstacle of death into the most powerful opportunity for enlightenment. With nuts-and-bolts meditations and brilliant illumination, Mind Beyond Death offers a clear map that will safely transport the reader through the challenging transitions of life and death

The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda

The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda

The Art of Dreaming
 Carlos Castaneda

Carlos Castaneda tells how, under don Juan's tutelage, he gained control over his dreams and used dreaming as a launching pad to a pervasive but unseen realm of ancestral spiritual forces, good and evil. He goes through tunnels, enters into the consciousness of trees, meets scouts, emissaries and form-changing blobs of energy. Aided by don Juan's companions and fellow apprentices, Castaneda penetrates a realm of "inorganic beings" who set traps for him and attack him, as if to illustrate don Juan's teaching that consciousness is compelled to grow through life-or-death confrontations. For believers, Castaneda's quest offers a tantalizing glimpse of alternate worlds beyond the rational parameters of our mundane reality. 

The Book of Splendours: The Inner Mysteries of Qabalism: Its Relationship to Freemasonry, Numerology and Tarot - Eliphas Levi

The Book of Splendours: The Inner Mysteries of Qabalism:  Its Relationship to Freemasonry, Numerology and Tarot

The Book of Splendours: The Inner Mysteries of Qabalism:
 Its Relationship to Freemasonry, Numerology and Tarot
Eliphas Levi

This is the first part of Eliphas Levis's last great discourse on the mysteries of occultism that was continued and concluded in `The Great Secret'. In it, Levi examines with great precision and insight the inner meanings of Qabalism and their relationship to the occult sciences.

Part One is a commentary on the Siphra Dzeniuta by Simeon Ben-Jechal, which includes an examination of the affinities between Qabalism and Freemasonry. Part Two pursues the correspondences between Qabalism, Numerology and the Tarot.

This edition includes an appendix by Papus (Dr. Gerard Encausse) summarizing Levi's doctrines and teachings and supplying some fascinating information on some of the master's many disciples"

This is not an easy book to review, perhaps because there are so many topics discussed. However, if your looking for practical exercises or a how to, you wont find it here. The book has a lovely section comparing the story of Krishna to Jesus. Also, the Masonic legends of Solomon, Hiram and the building of the temple are also truly wonderful. I'd recommend the book on these points alone.

The first part of the book deals with Judaism struggling to come to grips with a God of wrath. The conclusion is that the God of love slept while God's shadow did not. This does not work for me. From reading this book you discover that Levi's belief is that masonry is a truer Catholic Church. I wonder what he would think of masonry in its present form?

Personally, I don't recall reading much on the Tarot as stated in the review on the back cover of this book. This book is 191 pages long. The appendix by Papus starts at page 143. However, I did find this next quote in the appendix, which is a true diamond, "As long as love is only desire and pleasure, it is mortal. To become eternal it must become a sacrifice,"

Pages 127-142 contain `The elements of the Qabalah in ten lessons'. These are letters of Eliphas Levi to one of his students. I don't really remember much of what I read in these letters. I could say that the Qabalah is really deep and that I need to further digest these pages. I'd rather say that I got a lot more out of reading Mystical Qabalah -- by Dion Fortune.

On the whole I did not mind reading this book, as it gave me further insight into Eliphas Levi's work, while also discovering some nice gems.

The Paradoxes Of The Highest Science - Eliphas Levi

The Paradoxes Of The Highest Science by Eliphas Levi

By the time of his death in 1875, Eliphas Levi was recognized in both Europe and America as the greatest occultist of the 19th century. In life, his work was the inspiration for Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma, the most influential American Masonic book of its day, and in death, it proved to be a seminal influence on figures as diverse as Madame Blavatsky, A.E. Waite, and Aleister Crowley but during his lifetime none of his writings appeared in English. The Paradoxes of the Highest Science first appeared in 1883 in Calcutta as a pamphlet in the Theosophical Miscellanies series. In it, Levi makes an appeal for a balance between science and religion by addressing seven paradoxical statements including Religion is magic sanctioned by authority, liberty is obedience to the Law, and reason is God. Included in this edition are the extensive and illuminating footnotes that were added to Levi's text. Some of these are by the anonymous translator, and some by the 'Eminent Occultist' who seems to have been Madame Blavatsky herself. Levi could have asked for no better commentator upon his work.