Being absent with my graduate studies, I’ve read through quite a lot of books these past few months. Once in a while, I’ve had some time for some pleasure reading. Here are some texts I’ve come across that the reader might enjoy. My reading room is often a tangled mix of genres, but all centering around the path of soul, consciousness studies, and evolutionary thought. Sometimes, a bit of tech writing (You’d think there’d be more of that, considering my studies center around digital technologies, ah well!). Without further ado, here is EL’s first Reading Wednesday:
This book is going down as one of my recent favorites. I’ve just finished it after a few nights, reading it before bed. Lachman makes Jung’s life accessible, and breathes freshness into his story by focusing on Jung’s interesting ties with occult and paranormal phenomenon.
If you aren’t already familiar with the Red Book, Jung experienced what many might call today a psychotic breakdown; hallucinations, visions of death and destruction, and unusual visitations by Biblical and Hellenistic figures. Instead of completely descending into madness, Jung engaged with his visions. He wrote them down. Drew them.
This process, which he came to call “active imagination,” helped Jung through this Dark Night, and come through with the psychological theories he is most famous for today: personality types (introvert, extrovert), theories on the collective unconscious, and much more. The Red book, in a word, was the prima materia, the alchemical soup that Jung’s life work emerged from.
There is a brilliance to Lachman’s style in its simplicity; you glide over the pages, but encounter rich historical facts, contemplative insights and even comparison with other esoteric contemporaries in Jung’s life, like Steiner and Gurdjieff. Lachman’s passion for studying esotericism and the occult pays off well and ensures the reader to be introduced to many intriguing ideas, in a sense placing Jung’s life in context of a richer history.
Towards the end of the book, there is a chapter dedicated to the Red Book’s publication, which I found very interesting. Overall, the text is short and you will probably finish it by the end of the week, but it’s worth it for the interesting stories and occult unraveling that Lachman provides us with.
Yep, I’m on a Lachman kick. After reading Jung, I decided to keep up with the nightly reading ritual and open Swedenborg. While not as personable, or long, as Jung the Mystic, this is just an introduction to Swedenborg’s life, and his strange visionary encounters that led a brilliant scientist, inventor, and statesman to become a prolific mystic. Influential enough for D.T. Suzuki to call him “the Buddha of the North.” With Lachman’s writing, however, you get the impression he was more like the Da Vinci of the North. Like Leonardo Da Vinci, Swedenborg was an avid inventor and forward thinker, making many insights that only modern neuroscientists would discover about the brain, designing a submarines and cars, and probing the mysteries of consciousness. Swedenborg would go on to inspire many counter-cultural traditions, such as William Blake and the Romantics, but he would also catch the attention of Immanuel Kant. As Lachman notes, anyone who studies Western esotericism is inevitably led back to Swedenborg.
Like Jung, Swedenborg goes through an intense period, resembling madness, where it appears that the way he made it through was to document his journeys into Heaven and Hell.
So, for the curious reader, Lachman offers us a brief introduction to the man’s life, his transformations and contributions to Western esoteric philosophy. This book is very brief, with footnotes that take up a good 1/4th of the text. You will probably finish it in a few days, depending on your reading speed. Yet I recommend it anyway. Lachman’s accessibility is an invaluable resource and gift for those of us who either do not have the time to dive into the original works, which tend to be less accessible and obscure.
A few years back, Lachman wrote a nice piece for EnlightenNext Magazine titled “The Buddha of the North: Discovering Swedenborg.” For those who are interested and can’t wait to buy the book, start here.
Admittedly, I’ve just begun my journey into Wilson’s prolific writing career (about 150 books). He is a joy to read. There’s something warm and sophisticated about his books, like they are giant exercises in philosophical story telling. This book is the result of Wilson’s correspondence with Abraham Maslow, who would go on to inspire transpersonal psychology and the human potential movement. You might locate Wilson amongst this crowd.
If there is a secret intention behind this book, among others like it (such as Super Consciousness: the Quest for the Peak Experience), it is to motivate the reader and encourage them to take a positive outlook on human potential, life experience, and the possibility to encounter what Wilson often describes as the “world of meaning.” The potential for ecstatic experience, those peak experiences where our potential for a greater consciousness is suddenly unveiled – Wilson’s Faculty X – are more possible, the more we believe that they are. He goes into a great deal of his theory, which although appearing quite rudimentary (almost an intellectual exercise), is quite uplifting. He cites the example of Maslow’s students, after having talked about peak experiences, began to have them afterwards.
What makes me believe Wilson is right is that this happened to me a few years ago; after an intense reading of spiritual “awakenings,” I had an sudden and unexpected one myself.
Almost needless to say, Wilson’s psychology abandons cynicism and nihilism so common in modern literature and thought. If we can “will” ourself into a life full of richness and wonder, then just as easily (if not easier), we can also put ourselves on re-enforcing downward spirals, which Wilson deeply criticizes modern literature for doing. A better future, and a greater consciousness are promised to us, if we let them. I recommend this text, in particular, for those who want to dive deeper into Wilson’s philosophy. For the newcomer, Superconsciousness: the Quest for the Peak Experience is probably a better starting place.
Alright, that’s it for this week. Happy reading!