Cambodia – Notes on the Awakening

It’s quite early Monday morning in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’m still adjusting to the time, even with a bit of JetZone homeopathic help, so I woke at 4:00 am and meditated, just like we’re advised to do by many advanced teachers and texts. The hotel staff gave me tea gratis, and I’m enjoying it in the garden as a few early rising mosquitoes are enjoying a bit of breakfast gratis from me.

The hotel is beautiful. There’s a huge Christmas tree in the lobby, which seems oddly incongruous, but all traditions are One. The American popular Christmas tunes are not as enjoyable, but they are a polite nod to the traditions of other lands as well.

The garden has an inner courtyard with an elephant head in each of the four directions, and is built on the same mandala pattern we see in so many places, a four-sided square, like the hotep in Abu Ghurob and Dahshur, and the center altar in the Coricancha in Cusco which I believe is where a spring rises.  This is the hotep at Abu Ghurob. I promise Cambodia pictures very soon.

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The trip was long and arduous, and even though I slept a lot on the plane in spurts, I think I’m getting too old for 30+ hours of continuous travel. I’ll break it up next time I’m coming to the other side of the globe. Travel, sleep, then travel some more. But I can say that when we landed in Siem Reap in cloud cover that finally broke to show us a green countryside, I felt a deep, deep peace come over me. My focus shifted from the content of the surface world to using that as a means to find the One Awareness beneath all that activity. Each moment is an opportunity to find Home, I was reminded. Something about this place releases me and tears come easily. I’m sure this will pass into a gentle peacefulness.

The tour starts tonight with a meeting and tomorrow we go to Angkor Wat to start our exploration of these ancient temples. Today, my friend and I are going to the local artisan’s market and then to a silk farm.

The sun has won the day as I type and perhaps the mosquitoes have as well. The lights in the restaurant have come on and more people have joined me on the terrace.

May the peace which passes all understanding be with you always.

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This reviewer really got it!

via Review: School of Hard Knocks by Theresa Crater

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New Release: School of Hard Knocks

School of Hard Knocks is finally out on all platforms and ready for you to read. This one is different. It’s a historical. It’s Southern Fiction. It would be called Women’s Fiction in the NYC publishing world. It has a touch of mysticism in it, because I wrote it after all. Here’s what it’s about:

“The segregation lines are clear in 1950s North Carolina, but the bloodlines—not so much. The past and present intertwine when Maggie Winters risks a friendship with Lily and rescues her daughter and Lily from abuse by the same family that tormented Maggie as a young girl in the 1890s.

Raised on a decaying plantation in 1890s North Carolina, Maggie Winters sees it all—a woman beaten nearly to death, hidden in the barn, and healed by her African-American mother; a man lynched; and the machinations of a white woman hired to teach her to read but who has become determined to marry Maggie’s widowed white father. When Maggie’s father is forced by his Virginia family to marry someone more appropriate, Maggie and her mother are left without protection.

In the 1950s, young Caroline Hauser copes with her mother Lily’s descent into madness by reaching out to the spirit world. Caroline’s mother begs Maggie to help save her child from damnation.

Will appeal to readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help.”

This book started in journal writing from the 1980s and expanded into more bits and pieces when I took Beverly Donofrio’s workshop at the Moravian Writers’ Conference. I was inspired by her brutal honesty of Astonished, the account of her attack by a serial rapist. Such lyrical beauty and terrifying realism.

I finished a polished draft about a year ago and sent it out to agents since it’s on the literary side and I hoped to land a big contract. But I was disabused of this notion by a literary agency that wanted to buy the book, but they were concerned about a white woman writing one major character who was African American.

But I knew Mamie, who is Maggie in the book. She was my mother’s friend and she did help me and my mother out of a very frightening time. Perhaps today my mother would have been diagnosed with post-partum depression, but she was also struggling with a man whose only role model for being a father had been abusive. He later worked his way out of this, but when I was an infant and toddler, life was tough. And he did have that accident driving home from a bar that landed him in jail. And me being psychic (I inherited some of this from my mother), I reached out to the spirits who were hovering around trying to help me through a terrifying time. We all made it through, in large part thanks to Mamie, so this one’s for her and my mother.

So you can see this book is part fiction, part autobiography. By now, it’s hard to separate the two because when we write about a real event, it tends to take a different shape on the page. And obviously I wasn’t alive in 1890, at least not in this form, so I made up a childhood for Maggie.

I hope you like it, but don’t worry if you prefer my Visionary Fiction. My next book is #3 of the Power Places series. Stay tuned. (And remember, we writers depend on reviews.)

Kindle          Other eBook Formats          Print

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Third Fortune/Steele Novel

Hunters of Humans was released on the fall equinox. This is the third novel written by Dion Fortune under the pen name V.M. Steele that Twin Eagles Publishing has saved from obscurity.

I have to say the very best part of this one is Fortune’s sharp insight into the human mind. I quite enjoy her rapid portraits of each character, painted up in a few brush strokes that bring the person’s deepest thoughts and feelings to the fore. Her prose rapidly brings us into the situation describing how even readers of crime novels assume a death in the neighborhood is natural. Then we see Ann reading about a death in her neighborhood which she compares to her own family’s history of heart trouble. We meet her, her father, and then the detectives, and within two pages, we’re off. It’s almost dizzying how quickly and skillfully Fortune brings this complex world to life.

The story both a romance and a mystery. Scotland Yard is called in to determine if the death of a local man was natural or a murder. The two detectives, two types aptly described by Fortune, lodge with a young woman, Ann, and her father. The book is a study of how the younger detective, Austen, and Ann find each other through class barriers that are rapidly falling and in spite of the crimes of her drunken father.

Ann is a reader of mysteries and Austen is the new detective, bringing science to solve the crime along with the older detective who is a master of his trade, although not educated in the new public school. But Ann is an aristocrat, a fallen one, but still. We watch post-war England break down social obstacles. We watch Ann gradually realize that not only is her father responsible for this death, but most likely killed her grandmother and mother, and has Ann in his sights as well.

The book is really about Ann and Austen managing each other’s temperaments.

“He had never paid much attention to women, having joined the police when he was only twenty and being extremely keen on his work . . . .  Consequently, when the flood-gates went down, the tide carried all away, never having spent its strength in backwaters.” (30)

The older detective fears this baby aristocrat will toy with his young apprentice and he shepherds the two through the dangerous psychological waters of both their budding relationship and the trial of Ann’s father for murder. So you see, I haven’t really given the mystery away, because the story is Ann’s realization and her struggle with familial ties and a new relationship outside the bounds of her class. But she doesn’t view it that way. She doesn’t want to disgrace Austen’s career by marrying her, a murderer’s daughter.

The novel is the least esoteric of the three published so far, but it is fascinating watching the psychologist that Fortune was at work. I enjoyed her deep insights and even the look at gender relationships that have changed a great deal. And yet some of those same forces still run through us, so there is always something to learn from reading Dion Fortune.

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A New Spiritual Examination of Dion Fortune’s Novels

Dion Fortune wrote, “The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory, but the novels give the practice.” Penny Billington and Ian Rees have taken Fortune at her word and written a book that explains the spiritual system behind the novels, then offers interesting guided meditations and rituals for the reader to explore on their own.

The Keys to the Temple examines Fortune’s four main esoteric novels in light of the Qabalah and the spiritual journeys undertaken by the protagonists. The book briefly explains the Tree of Life for readers unfamiliar with it, then aligns the four novels with the sephiroth on the central pillar. They match The Goat-Foot God with Malkuth (Earth), The Sea Priestess with Yesod (Moon and the Treasure House of Images), The Winged Bull with Tiphareth (the Sun and home of the sacrificed God), and Moon Magic with Da’ath (fusion of opposites or the Abyss where the personality dissolves into the transcendental elements).

Billington and Rees provide a synopsis for each book, then trace the hero’s experience from his dead-end experience to his meeting with guides and then his magical education through to the transformative ritual that is the culmination of each novel. They point out the ways we share the challenges, disappointments, and restrictions that have so disheartened each hero, thus from the start inviting us to see ourselves in the novels and undertake these transformations ourselves. As the hero progresses, the authors analyze the experiences in the light of the Qabalah and Fortune’s teachings, making parallels between the characters and the spiritual energies inherent in each of the centers on the Tree.

One of the things I found most illuminating was the way the authors described the initial set of centers on the Tree and how this compares to our beginning experiences in our spiritual journey. I started off in a Vedic practice. Eastern philosophy focuses on transcending, on reaching enlightenment. There was no invitation to explore the current personality in my training, and I perked along quite happily for a while, meditating and having some nice experiences, growing quite naturally. Until I’d done enough meditating to start uprooting some of the intense issues seeded by my childhood. Then I hit a road block. My current practice gave me no guidance. Luckily, I found a Zen Buddhist therapist who helped me quite a bit, which was still in the Eastern tradition, but he loved Jung and Reich. Jung was a master of the Western tradition.

The Western path is quite different. Rather than starting with the top as the goal, it works its way through the personality, the more spiritual individuality, and lastly the transcendent. It offers more guidance to the student who runs smack dab into their issues and needs to deal with them before they can go any further. As an aside, I would say I recommend doing both types of meditation, which is a bit of heresy on both sides of this supposed divide, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another blog.

Hod as the library

Billington and Rees talk about this process of resolving personality issues in terms of the four bottom centers on the Tree. We are in Malkuth (earth) and in our journey to Yesod, we bounce back and forth between the two centers on the side pillars, Hod (Though/Mind) and Netzach (Feelings/Natural Energy). Once we’re no longer content to accept the conventional world in Malkuth, our hearts and minds are illuminated by the imagery and spiritual potential experienced in Yesod. As we walk our early path, we bounce around in our feelings and thoughts until the constructs in our personality are softened and the issues resolved. Then it is easier for us to go on to Tipareth, the home of Cosmic Consciousness, if we return to the Eastern side of spirituality.

This is only one of the many pleasures and lessons I took from this book. After their more in-depth analysis of the books, the authors discuss how to proceed on our own spiritual paths, examining initial attitudes and practices, such as not going for glitz and how to set up magical space, all the while showing how these issues are faced by the characters in the novels. Then they offer a series of guided meditations using the imagery from the novels. Each section ends with a suggested ritual to cap off the work with that particular sephirah and set of energies.

All in all, a great read for fans of Fortune’s novels and serious spiritual seekers alike. Click to buy.

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Cambodia’s Celestial City

It was in 1860 that a group of Chinese and Siamese tour guides cut through the dense jungle to reveal the great edifice of Angkor Wat to French naturalist Henri Mouhot. Many say that Mouhot discovered this great former seat of the Khmer Empire, but the place had long been known by local groups.

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Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s celestial city, built to reflect and make concrete the spiritual cosmos. Each temple is considered the home to the god it is dedicated to. The statues, lingams and other artifacts were imbued with the spiritual signature of that god or goddess. Humans go to these temples to align themselves with that particular energy. Why? To raise their consciousness. To achieve enlightenment.

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The Khemitians (Egyptians) had similar rituals. Once a statue or other symbol was completed, the Neter or particular spiritual energy was evoked so that statue radiated the energy of that Neter. People would go and sing or meditate in a particular temple to align with that energy. Those of you who have been to Sekhmet’s shrine in Karnack know what I’m talking about. She’s there. She will interact with you. She will advise and admonish you. Most of all, she will love you more than you can imagine. But I digress.

Angkor Wat is built to reflect the Hindu cosmos. In the center of the universe stands Mount Mehru, the cosmic axis mundi. This is represented by a tower or prasat in each temple that enshrines the principle deity. And I’ll bet when we get there, we’ll find a central core to the whole complex that represents the One Consciousness from which all the deities spring. Then in each temple, following sacred geometry principles, are “subordinate” towers dedicated to the deity’s spouse or “vehicle.” The periphery of the temple is for objects and things associated with the liturgy or ritual performances.

Now before we get too excited about this apparent hierarchy, remember that in Hindu cosmology, the god is the form of spirit, while the goddess (spouse) is the energy that makes the form active. Thus, “vehicle.” (In Western metaphysics, the language is almost the opposite, with masculine being energy and feminine being form, but if you read carefully, the principle is exactly the same.) This is sometimes misunderstood as “subordinate” or lesser than. But this is really a matter of time. The form exists, then is multiplied and spread through the energy of the female. But spiritually, the two are equal. One cannot exist without the other. It is only when the manifest universe dissolves at the end of a huge cycle, represented by one breath of the Great Mother, that the two fold back into the One Consciousness.

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The Khmer rulers would take statues and objects from the temples to align their rule with the cosmos. In ancient Khemit, statues of the Neters were paraded in the town to spread the energy.

The outskirts of the city near Angkor Wat are also full of spiritual artifacts. Water was very important to the civilization and Shiva lingams were placed in the waterways to energize it. Water running into the pyramids in Khemit was energized through the sun and crystals. This video shows the “River of a Thousand Lingas.”

In the 16th century, the Theravadan Buddhists revitalized the site and are still active there today. Monks will lead us in a dawn chant on one of our days in Angkor Wat.

Our Cambodia Wisdom Tour is December 4th – 11th. I’m looking forward to exploring these temples and meditating in them. Sign up by the end of September.

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New Dion Fortune Novel

OMG, it’s good. At least I think so. I couldn’t put it down. Twin Eagles Publishing has released their second V.M. Steele novel, The Scarred Wrists. V.M. Steele is another of Dion Fortune’s pen names. She published four novels as Steele. The books were looked down upon at the time, rejected as trivial and commonplace.

Richard Brzustowicz found himself drawn in when he went to the British Library during a research trip and read them. He writes about this experience in his Foreword. This novel was published in the same year as Fortune’s occult novel The Winged Bull, 1935, and Brzustowicz explores how similar themes are present—a young, vital woman meets a man suffering ill health both mentally and physically and brings both of them new life by their interactions. One has magical content, the other doesn’t, or at least not overtly.

Julian Pharmakos, who has named himself after the Greek scapegoat, must have a red head for a secretary (so he can pass her off as his sister) and hires young, innocent Patricia Stone. But Pat, or Coppernob as she is affectionately nicknamed, is an illegitimate child raised by the resentful husband of her mother who is also his wife, and has had to fight every day for a place in the family that dislikes her. Pat’s father kicks her out of the house when she disobeys him and marches off to her new job the next morning. Pharmakos takes her in, not as a lover, but to protect her.

It turns out he’s a recent convict, now working as a private detective with ties to Scotland Yard and many police chiefs in the area. If you suspect shades of Sherlock, you’re right. Pharmakos has made his home in a dilapidated warehouse, leaving the exterior in its disrespectful condition, but fixing one floor for his exquisitely decorated open-floor home. Fortune anticipates 21st century design here. Having spent so much time in solitary confinement, his nerves can’t stand anything close to walls or prison bars. There’s another floor to fix for Pat. The relationship develops from there.

Fortune’s experience and knowledge as a psychologist is very much in evidence in this novel. She reveals why Pharmakos is in such bad shape, showing an understanding of what is basically PTSD, and demonstrates how it should be treated. One can see why many in the 1930s would have rejected this novel as below Fortune since she was from an upper crust family. The novel deals with the criminal class, and paints such a vivid, realistic picture of the types to be found in this world, one wonders where Fortune got this expertise. It must have been from her practice as a psychologist.

Like her other occult novels, the energetics that play between this young, practical and down-to-earth woman and this artistic, highly sensitive, emotional man result in a transformation of them both. The dynamics of magic are at play, but not obviously so. Another similarity in many of the novels is the mix of classes. Pat is from a solid, middle-class family, but it turns out Pharmakos is an aristocrat. And not just any aristocrat. The family has given the heir the same first name for over 1,000 years. He’s a de Claire, a background he rejects until the very end. The ever-practical Pat thinks that if there is a coronet to be worn, well, she might as well wear it.

This somewhat mitigates the race and class consciousness of the time on display in the book. The novel also suffers from what we writers like to call the “narrative knot,” where the story is downloaded in big chunks at times. Pharmakos nervous breakdowns got to be a bit much at times, but none of that really slowed me down. I enjoyed every minute of it. You probably will, too.

Buy The Scarred Wrists here.

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