The Red Book

The Red Book (1930)
Carl G. Jung, PhD

I am never surprised to hear spiritual teachers refer to the Bible or the Buddha - these are the types of sources I expect to hear quoted by those speaking about nondual consciousness. I was, however, initially surprised to hear so many teachers call back to the insights of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. From Catholic priests to physicists, from philosophers to psychonauts, the number of people teaching in the nondual space who've been influenced by C.G. Jung is impressive. And what most influenced C.G. Jung? According to the man himself, it was his experiences during the years of 1913 to 1917, as seen in this quote from the book's opening pages:
"The years, of which I have spoken to you, when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then." --C.G. Jung, 1957, speaking on the experiences recorded in 'The Red Book'

While continuing to maintain an active clinical practice and family life, Jung spent his evenings and weekends during these years discovering and documenting the "visions", "fantasies" and "imaginations" he encountered while exploring altered states of consciousness. Originally recorded in a series of journals, by 1915 Jung began transcribing his notes into a 400-page book specially ordered to accommodate the illuminations and illustrations he wanted to add to the text. Jung updated and expanded this book repeatedly over the years but never published it, keeping it instead on a shelf in his office to share with selected students and colleagues, many of whom referred to it not by the name Jung had embossed on the spine (Liber Novus, or 'New Book') but as "The Red Book" due to the bright red leather cover. Though many believe Jung intended to eventually publish the book, that he did not do so before his death left the decision to his estate, which initially refused to publish. But after 13 years (!) of editing by Professor Sonu Shamdasani, the book was finally brought to the public in 2009 to the delight of psychonauts everywhere.

So far I've only read bits and pieces of the book as I can't get past the images (and related footnotes), which I've poured over for hours. Being fascinated by how human psychology expresses itself through images, I can only imagine the insights hidden within the choices (by Jung or by the collective mind?) of the specific colors and forms in each image. Some images remind me of ayahuasca art, some remind me of my own visions and still others seem to invite contemplation. Regardless, images from such a mind as Jung's - and from a time when this mind was discovering its broadest dimensions, no less - are definitely part of the draw here. In full, the book contains a reproduction of Jung's original handwritten text and images, a full translation, notes from the translator and editor, an epilogue, appendix and over 350 footnotes, many of them long and full of interesting comments from the editor. It's like book and meta-book, all in one.

I'm sure the hardcover edition is a beautiful thing to behold but if you're looking for the free option, the website Stillness Speaks has you covered. There are also many resources about the Red Book - I found this series of lectures from Professor Lance Owens a helpful orientation to Jung, the book and the context of its creation.

Psychedelic Medicine

Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca (2017)
Dr. Richard Louis Miller et al

In case you're wondering what is meant by 'psychedelic medicine' or why a growing number of people are advocating for this research, here's the author making a case that's about as good as any I've heard so far:
"When we expand our consciousness we liberate ourselves from the slavery that is inherent in all cultural and institutional systems. The slavery derives from repetition of daily life until the behavior becomes institutionalized, thereby creating culture. Rigidified, institutionalized culture is the ultimate peer pressure, which stifles, dominates, and controls both creativity and consciousness expansion. Once a person ingests a psychedelic medicine and experiences the Deep Within and expanded consciousness, there is no going back to narrow consciousness and constricted thinking. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Once we experience alternate realities we can never again say this is the only one reality. When we experience ourselves as electrochemical beings of light, as molecules stuck together taking material form, our lives take on new meaning. Psychedelic medicine can facilitate our using the power of the mind to change our very genetic structure. We can change the slings and arrows of outrageous genetic misfortune into a Cupid's bow of a sculpted self." --from the Introduction to 'Psychedelic Medicine'
Clearly Miller's strong belief in the importance of psychedelics informs his book, a collection of interviews with many of the leading psychedelic researchers of today such as ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, MAPS founder Rick Doblin and psychedelic advocate Amanda Feilding. In the interviews we hear a bit about the history of earlier research, the nature of consciousness and other interesting asides as each scholars discusses their research and its implications for the future with author Richard Miller, an American clinical psychologist, radio host and founder of the highly regarded Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program. Recent headlines have been alerting us to the promise of psychedelic medicine for any number of applications - PTSD, mental illness, terminal illness - and this book offers a timely way to get caught up on much of this important research.

The Harvard Psychedelic Club

The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America (2010)
Don Lattin

Being relatively new to the psychedelic scene, the swirl of new names was initially a bit confusing. Speakers would refer to 'Leary' or 'McKenna' as if we all knew - of course! - who is being talked about. Meanwhile, I'm googling to see which version of 'McKenna' gets the most hits so I can figure out the guy's first name and why people are talking about him. After a few years of this (and just when I think I've got a handle on this who's who), another few names pop up on the radar - Houston Smith and Andrew Weil.
“They came together at a time of upheaval and experimentation, and they set the stage for the social, spiritual, sexual, and psychological revolution of the 1960s. Smith would be The Teacher, educating three generations to adopt a more tolerant, inclusive attitude toward other people's religions. Alpert would be The Seeker, inspiring a restless army of spiritual pilgrims. Weil would be The Healer, devoting his life to the holistic reformation of the American health-care system. And Leary would play The Trickster, advising a generation to "turn on, tune in, and drop out." --from the introduction to 'The Harvard Psychedelic Club'
Actually, I did recognize Weil's face from his work with integrative healthcare models but was unaware of his role in the psychedelic sixties. But thanks to Lattin's book, the way in which all four men - Weil, Dass, Leary and Huston - deeply influenced the cultural revolution of the 1960s has been more fully revealed. To be clear, these aren't the usual stories of acid trip bus rides or commune living adventures but tales of academic in-fighting, political upheaval and personal relationships amid genius-level intelligence. Lattin's writing style is quick and dispassionate, letting the color of the events and characters shine through. And in a nice surprise, Lattin devotes the eighth chapter to (brief) revisits with each man, giving the reader some sense of how these experiences continued to unfold in their lives. The final chapter, 'Conclusion', also offers keen insights about the lessons time has continued recover from these events. Overall, an excellent read for anyone interested in the psychedelic culture.

The World’s Religions

The World's Religions (2009)
Huston Smith

For many people, an awakening brings a new perspective to the topic of religion. For me, having earlier become convinced all religions were doing more harm than good in the world, it was an chance to re-hear the grain of truth at the heart of these texts, a lesson oft-repeated by the nondual spiritual teachers of today. Once it felt safe to go back in water, as it were, I became fascinated once again by these traditions, this time diving into the deeper significance and symbolism contained within these texts and rituals. There is so much human psychology buried in our religious practices and I do enjoy listening to (or reading) an experienced scholar lay bare the multiple layers of lessons about human nature and history hidden within.
“What a strange fellowship this is, the God seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full-throated chorus? We cannot know. All we can do is to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine.” ― Huston Smith, 'The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions'
Case in point, this classic book by Huston Smith, renown religious studies scholar, popular professor and bestselling author. (Originally published as The Religions of Man in 1958.) In his book, Smith introduces the basic structure and teachings of the most prominent traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and primal religions. His approach to the subject - working from the inner dimensions of each religion rather than their institutional structure - provides the reader with instruction that is factual and informative yet manages to open up the heart of each tradition. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to introduce - or reintroduce - themselves to the spiritual landscape of the world today.

The Road to Eleusis

The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1998)
R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A. Ruck

As the U.S. begins to confront the legacy of misinformation and missed opportunities resulting from this country's 'war on drugs', a space is also being made to re-examine the historical role of psychotropics in ancient cultures and religions. From books on Jesus' use of visionary plants to lectures about the ancient Egyptians' use of psychedelics, old and new theories on the topic seem to be springing up regularly.
“Some theophanies seem to occur spontaneously, while others are facilitated by ways that seekers have discovered - one thinks of the place of fasting in the vision quest, the nightlong dancing of the Kalahari bushmen, prolonged intoning of sacred mantras, and the way peyote figures in the vigils of the Native American Church. We do not know if, on the human side, it was anything more than absolute faith that joined earth to heaven on Mount Sinai, or when three of Jesus's disciples saw him transfigured on Mount Hermon, his face shining like the sun and the clothes dazzling white. The Greeks, though, created a holy institution, the Eleusinian Mysteries, which seems regularly to have opened a space in the human psyche for God to enter. The content of those Mysteries is, together with the identify of India's sacred Soma plant, one of this two best kept secrets in history, and this book is the most successful attempt I know to unlock it." --Huston Smith from the preface to 'The Road to Eleusis'
Before there were the religions and cathedrals of today, there were mystery schools, societies run by priests who conducted carefully orchestrated ceremonies, usually lasting several days, in which initiates prepared for and then experienced a ritual meant to expand spiritual awareness; the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece may be the most famous example, with students like Plato, Sophocles and Pythagoras. While the rituals themselves may be lost to time, the question of whether psychotropic plants were used during these ceremonies appears to be settled, thanks to the work of a mycologist, a chemist and a classicist. Wasson (the mycologist) and Hofmann (the chemist) present their findings in the first two short chapters of this book before Ruck ties it all together in the third chapter, 'Solving the Eleusinian Mysteries'. This short book concludes with a review of the supporting documentation and an appendix from Peter Webster on the chemistry of the kykeon. I read this book at the recommendation of Terence McKenna and I'd second his suggestion; it's an informative glimpse of our long history with psychoactive plants and the clever ways in which we've embedded and transmitted this knowledge throughout our history.

True Hallucinations

True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise (1994)
Terence McKenna

I am usually disinclined to investigate the personal lives of teachers - at least not beyond the numerous personal stories many offer to their audiences. But upon hearing numerous direct and indirect references to either this book or the events it describes, curiosity - and Terence's exceptional wordsmithery - got the better of me and I made the time to take in this story of the psychedelic adventures of the McKenna brothers at La Chorrera in the Amazon Basin.
“In the days following that first mushroom experience, the lives of my brother and I underwent a tremendous and bizarre transformation. Not until Jacques Vallee had written 'The Invisible College' (1975), noting that an absurd element is invariably a part of the situation in which contact with an alien occurs, did I find the courage to examine the events at La Chorrera and try to fit them into some general pattern. I have told various parts of our story over the years, never revealing the entire incredible structure to any one listener, knowing full well what it seems to imply about our mental condition during the time of the experiences.” ―Terence McKenna
In 2017, Dennis McKenna published his account of the La Chorrera adventures in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. True Hallucinations is Terence's account of these same events - and what a wonderfully told account it is. But here I should come clean and confess - I didn't read the book but listened to Terence read his book via this nice YouTube share from PhilsMind. It's a funky rendition - natural and psychedelic sound effects and folk rock songs are sprinkled throughout - which adds a touch of the fittingly surreal to the story. But best of all, it's the author reading his words as he meant them when he wrote them - always an enjoyable way to 'read' a book. (FYI - Terence appears to be reading a slightly different version of the book than is currently on the market.)

There Is Nothing Wrong With You

There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate (2001)
Cheri Huber

If you are looking for a warm, loving hug in book form, your search has reached its end. From the welcoming words of the title to practically the last word of the last page, this book is full of encouragement and simple wisdom.
“At some point, now or later, you're going to have to risk being you in order to find out who that really is. Not the conditioned you, not the you you've been taught to believe you are - who you really are. And this perhaps will be the scariest, the most loving, the most rewarding thing you have ever done.” ―Cheri Huber in 'There Is Nothing Wrong With You'
Printed in various large fonts and augmented with simple line drawings and cartoons, these 200+ pages serve as both a quick, heart-warming read and a nice reference book for short lessons or daily meditations. But don't be fooled by the informal appearance of the book; Cheri is an experienced spiritual teacher with a clear understanding of how the conditioned egoic self develops and then maintains the stories of self-criticism that we all have playing in our heads. This insight, combined with Cheri's special brand of loving and compassionate writing, results in a book containing both practical tools for detaching from egoic chatter as well as many warm words of healing wisdom. Definitely a good book for the newly awakened and aware.

A Few Books on Egypt

Along with the movies and videos I just posted about, a number of books on ancient Egypt have also landed on my radar, one of which I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to finish … What I wouldn’t give to have a year to just read.

Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth's Ancient Lost Civilization (2015)
Graham Hancock

Graham picks up the themes he introduced in Fingerprints of the Godsa lost civilization brought advanced technology to various continents after a global cataclysm destroyed their island home - and introduces all the new geological, archeological and astrological evidence that's continued to emerge over the last two decades in support of this view.
“At six thousand or more years older than the stone circles of Stonehenge, the megaliths of Göbekli Tepe, like the deeply buried megaliths of Gunung Padang, mean that the timeline of history taught in our schools and universities for the best part of the last hundred years can no longer stand. It is beginning to look as though civilization, as I argued in my controversial 1995 bestseller 'Fingerprints of the Gods', is indeed much older and much more mysterious than we thought.” --Graham Hancock, 'Magicians of the Gods'
Based on a few recent videos from Graham, it sounds like new evidence from several monolithic sites continues to surface so I'm not sure how up-to-date even this recent book might be. Regardless, I found it a good introduction to Graham's theories about the emergence of ancient cultures. An amusing note - this book, along with Graham's many YouTube lectures on this topic, also exposes the slow but inexorable acceptance by 'the establishment' of the startling ideas Hancock and others first saw rejected 20+ years ago.

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A Course In Miracles

A Course In Miracles (1972)
Dr. Helen Schucman
“The mind is very powerful and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating. It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. It appears at first glance that to believe such power about yourself is arrogant, but that is not the real reason you do not believe it. You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them… There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level.” ― A Course in Miracles
I have a conflicted relationship with this book. An uneasy, lifelong commitment, if you will. It's ... awkward.

If you've started at the beginning of this blog, you've gotten a clear sense by now (because I keep mentioning it) that I'm no fan of organized religions. And yet, the moment I heard Eckhart Tolle describe and then recommend this book during one of his seminars, I bought it and started it that day (Kindle!). Twp things might make that surprising, the first being that the book was written by channeling. Yeah, I know … "Channeling!?" … Weird. And, AND! the book's not just channeled but the channeled spirit is that of Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. How's that for some weirdness to challenge the ol' cultural conditioning? Needless to say, my egoic self was feeling a bit ... conflicted as I was reading this book.
“It is essential to remember that only the mind can create, and that correction begins at the thought level…spirit is already perfect and therefore does not require correction. The body does not exist except as a learning device for the mind.” ― A Course in Miracles
And yet this book is The Book that brought about the profound "re-awakening" that I posted about here. This was the book that filled my head with the practical instruction I was craving to better understand the awakening - and also a book full of references to "the Father" and "the Sonship" and "the Holy Spirit", phrases that grated on my anti-religion ear. I would literally have to stop reading every few pages, when the 'thou' and 'thine' and 'holies' were coming fast and furiously, and 'scrub' my mind; "ok, when I read 'the Father', I'll think 'Source, for 'God', I'll think 'Source', for 'the Sonship', I'll think 'all humanity'. I can do this!"

And then back in I'd go because I couldn't take it in fast enough. This book provided my first exposure to the story I was seeking about why this is all happening. Why a single Source consciousness would hide itself as individual minds, each cloaked in forgetfulness and living out a life against an illusory backdrop of time and egoic identity. Why leave an eternal paradise to experience separation and suffering? What's that about? What lesson is meant to be learned here? This book landed in my hands at the time I was becoming focused on these questions and the explanations and instructions the book offered effortlessly clicked into place. A Course in Miracles will be one of my key resources as I continue exploring my inner self.

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