Okay, time to get -somewhat- serious with spiritual practices and daily habits. I’m gonna proceed with the studies from the book Initiation into Hermetics. As a first step, let’s review the book “Preliminary Practice for Franz Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics”.
So, the system of magic taught by Bardon is highly practical. Apparently, he also wrote his books to match the energies of the first Tarot cards. So, something like this?:
The Magician = Initiation into Hermetics The High Priestess = Practice of Magical Evocation The Empress = Key to the True Quabbalah
Swami Vivekananda: Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
Apart from this, make sure to read all the books in Bardon’s curriculum at least once, just a cursory reading, to get the basic idea of the entire system in your head.
Know what you do, why, and when. Create a plan to track your results, and include the exercises in your daily schedule. Make a daily schedule if you have none, and find a good way to keep track of it.
Venture into the unknown: Make an effort to keep exploring new places and people. Keep learning languages, and make it into a weekly habit (Duolingo, Graded Readers)
Will yourself into success: practice strengthening your willpower, and go jogging twice per week. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Keep silent: the best results are not shared with others but become public through your good work.
Your personal dedication:
A small exercise to improve: press each one of the four element chakras as described:
Fire: Press the point between your eyebrows. That is the Ajna Chakra, to train your will
Air: Press the point in the middle of your forehead. To train your visionary intuition
Water: Press the point right below your hairline. To train your intuitive feeling
Earth: Press the crown area. To train your higher consciousness
Other techniques for balancing your soul: homeopathy, Bach flowers, Acupuncture, and Pranic healing. You can also do the chakra exercises using all the chakras in the body, either from the feet chakra to the crown or vice versa.
Jog twice per week
Read the book “The Inner Structure of Tai Chi” by Mantak Chia
Try to have a balanced diet, and include strengthening exercises in your routine.
This is your time, your opportunity. Don’t waste it!
Described as “An extraordinary story about Johanna’s involvement in the occult and how she learned to distinguish between the beautiful side of evil and the true way of the Lord” I must have seen this book mentioned in another book related to ghosts and the occult that I read recently, called The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts. In that book, we read the story of a group of people who came into contact with discarnate entities -spirits- via a medium. The author of the book starts talking to a spirit that claims to be an old girlfriend that he had when, in a previous life, both lived in Greece. She knows many things about him, and she seems to really love him and knows exactly what to tell him to make him feel good. Soon, his real-life relationship with his girlfriend gets cast aside and he starts to develop a closer relationship with the spirit, which calls herself Philippa. He asks the spirits to give him more information about their past lives, and they happily do so. However, when he actually tries to verify some of those facts, it turns out that they are either incomplete or altogether fake. Then, the spirits turn sour. They come up with all kinds of explanations as to why he was unable to verify their claims. They get angry. He finds out that most, if not all, of the historical and geographical information Philippa has given him is wrong. Heartbroken, he decides not to even confront her, and instead he just distances himself from the spirit sessions.
On a similar line then, we find “The Beautiful Side of Evil“. Of a much more religious preachy nature, the book relates the story of a woman who was able to feel spirits and sense ghosts ever since she was a kid. As an adult, she enrolls as the helper of a Mexican spiritual healer, Pachita. At first, it seems like they are only helping people, providing healing where regular medicine can’t. However, when she starts to question the nature of hers and Pachita’s powers, the spirits seem displeased. She gets attacked, she suffers moments of mental instability and only the help of a devoted Christian community manages to save her from going insane. The last third of the book went a little bit too Christian for my liking, and the message is clear: accept Jesus as your savior or suffer the consequences. Nothing else is good, all spiritism is evil…and get this: EVEN DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS IS EVIL.
Yes, that’s right. Here are the relevant mentions:
I’ve lost count of how many individuals, even while under severe demonic bondage, have said to me, “Oh, but I’ve never been involved in the occult! I just played around with the Ouija board a few times!” (or astrology, or tea-leaf reading, or rod-and-pendulum, or Dungeons and Dragons, or seances, or palmistry, or tarot cards, etc.)
Ouija boards are sold in almost every toy store – frequently next to “Dungeons and Dragons,” a game which is occultic to the core, whatever its devotees may believe.
Putting aside the fact that no, Ouija boards are not sold in almost every toy store (I think I remember asking around in my city and never finding one), I found that statement to be extremely stupid. D&D is occultic to the core? How so? Because it takes place in a world of magic, wizards, and spells? I played D&D and other role-playing games with my friends, and I fail to see how they can be occultic. We never tried to talk to the dead, all we did was pretend like we were people who we weren’t. We were actors. Is acting occultic, then? This is the part of the book that just put me off. I absolutely despise most Christian denominations because they just blindly accept that their interpretation is the only one valid, their book is the only one that contains the truth, and they treat you as if you were ignorant, as if somehow you were the only one incapable of understanding those deep truths that they have received from God…only they did not receive anything from God. Human hands wrote the Bible. That’s the undeniable truth. Everything else is just our own addition.
So, personally, I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, but I really hated the last part. Whereas the author of “The Siren Call…” does actual research, and tries to verify the information he gets from the spirits, the author of “The Beautiful Side...” just meets up with some hardcore Christians that tell her that everything that’s not in the bible is literally satan, and that’s all. Both authors decided to stop interacting with these spirits when they realize that things aren’t as clear and clean as they were led to believe, but I prefer when people switch lanes for a real, valid reason. Going “I stopped having irrational faith on this thing, and started having irrational faith on this other thing“…just doesn’t cut it for me.
Overall: 3/5. Read it if you are curious about spirits, whether they are good or evil, and what plans they might have for the living, or even if you’re an occultist who wonders whether these practices are good for you or not. But don’t expect to find here much in terms of scientific explanations. It’s just “I saw this and that, and then I stopped working with spirits and started praying to Jesus Christ“. That’s the book, in a nutshell.
Far from being a short story, this is 150 pages of good Buddhism knowledge. Perhaps that’s nothing when you take into consideration the thousands of books and millions of pages of manuscripts, tantras, and sutras, so well, maybe it’s better not to complain about having to read a book that is actually shorter than 200 pages. I took those lines I highlighted while I was reading, and tried to put them together into something that could resemble a summary. But this is mostly intended to be a reminder of the book’s contents.
Violence has to be avoided
The self is responsible for all suffering
Death is an error that can be overcome
Old Buddhism is Hinayana. The second Buddhist period sees the rise of Mahayana. Finally, the third period with Tantra and Ch’an.
The First Five Hundred Years: 500 – 0 BC.
Monastic discipline (Vinaya) and Skandhaka, the document which contains some rules to regulate Buddhist life. The 250 rules of Pratimoksha, ecclesiastical offenses. Some of these include having a chair or bed made with legs higher than eight inches. The basic doctrines include a theory of salvation and a theory of the three jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). Searching for security in the material world is futile. In fear of birth and death, Buddhists leave their home lives to attain salvation. To Buddhism, the root of all evil is not sin, but ignorance. They don’t care much to define Nirvana, but rather to realize it within themselves, through effort in meditation. Meditation, which:
Aims at a withdrawal of attention
Shifts attention to a subtler realm
Penetrates into the supra-sensory reality
Mindfulness leads to trance (samadhi) and then to wisdom (prajna). There is almost no limit to the total of different meditational methods reported during the first period.
As for the three jewels: Buddha is the enlightened one. His name was Gautama, or Siddharta (often called Sakyamuni). Tathagata is the spirit of Buddhism, the Dharma-body, or the Buddha nature. “Whoso sees the spiritual law, or Dharma, he sees me“. Buddha incarnated is not really important: what’s important is the Buddha nature. The seven Buddhas. The Boddhisatva theory. Maitreya, the future Buddha. Dharma is the subject of all teachings. It is the one ultimate reality, it is the teachings of the Buddha, and it is also the application of these teachings in our daily life, becoming righteousness or virtue. Sometimes, Dharmas -note the plural- are seen in Buddhist teachings, denoting the individual “things” that we perceive and that give origin to ignorance. Examples of these are the five Skandhas (form, feelings, perceptions, volitional impulses, and consciousness) which constitute the human personality. As per the Sangha (or Samgha) the real Samgha is the invisible church, the Aryans, the holy ones. Of all the Buddhist saints, the Arhats are the most highly prized.
Sects and their disputes
Buddhist sects remained in contact and thus were able to share principles and understand each other. The goal -of enlightenment- may be reached on different roads. Tensions between the elitists who want to keep the Dharma for a small number of Arhats, and those who wish to increase the salvation chances of the common people. As salvation depended on the awareness of certain mental processes, philosophy played an important role in Buddhism. The classification of knowledge, the problems of causality, time, the criteria of what is real and what is not… At this point, a scholar called Mahadeva called into question the holiness of the Arhats. Those who agreed with him separated into the called Mahasanghikas. Those who didn’t were called the Sthaviras, the elders. Buddha became an object of religious faith, more than just a human being. The earth Buddha became then a fictitious creature who was thought to have been sent by the transcendental Buddha to teach the world. The Mahasanghikas taught two important things: 1) that all thought is pure, and 2) that all worldly things are unreal, and that includes verbalized and conceptualized knowledge (even Buddhist knowledge).
The next separation was caused by the question of the person, or “pugdala” (“entity that reincarnates as an individual or person” – Wikipedia). The personalists or Vatsiputriyas claimed that apart from all the impersonal Dharmas, there is still a person that needs to be taken into consideration. “One person, when He is born in the world, is born for the weal of the many. Who is that one person? He is the Tathagata“. For them, the person is a reality in the ultimate sense. Neither identical to the skandhas, nor in the skandhas, nor outside of them.
The third split was caused by the doctrine of Katyayaniputra, who taught that not only present but also past and future events are all real (pan-realism).
What is the place of the common folk in the scheme of things? There are four avenues for them to increase their merit:
observe the five precepts
be devoted to the three treasures
be generous, especially to the monks
worship the relics of the Buddha
The monks, in return, increase the spiritual and material welfare of the community, and also the well-being of the country. Much of Buddhism’s success is owed to its good relationship with Asian rulers. Nevertheless, there was a precarious relationship with the laity, and this invited the development of Mahayana, and the idea that people are as important as dharmas. In the third period, monks were forced to become astrologers, doctors, weather changers, and other professions useful to laymen. “The story of Buddhism becomes unintelligible unless due weight is given to the desires of the dumb common people“.
Asoka, his son, and Buddhism in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). Close contact between Buddhists and rulers infused the latter with a sense of nationalism and led the monks to support national wars. Ceylon was home to the Theravadins.
The Second Period: AD 0 – 500
Mahayana, the great vehicle (Maha means big. Mahatma, Maha Kali). Demand for more equal rights for the laity, and fewer arhats. Mahayana Buddhism was able to travel outside India and was influenced by foreign ideas. The importance of the Sakyamuni Buddha was put aside, making room for the Buddha who is the embodiment of Dharma (the Dharmakaya). Among the Mahayana innovations we count:
shifting the ideal from the Arhat to the Bodhisattva, who remains in touch with the ordinary people.
giving compassion equal importance as wisdom. Paramita, the six “methods to go to the beyond”: giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and wisdom.
a new pantheon of deities, composed of more-than-divine persons (Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samantabhadra), both mythical Buddhas as well as Bodhisattvas.
development of the idea of Skill-in-means (skillful means) the ability to bring out the potential in people through unusual ways.
a new ontological doctrine dealing with emptiness, suchness. Although the “beyond” is considered to be, well, beyond the grasp of intellectual and verbal comprehension
The Yogacarin school (“one whose practice is yoga” – Wikipedia) came up with the final formulation of the Three Bodies of the Buddha. The Dharmakaya is the absolute truth, and reality itself. The Sambhogakaya is the body in unearthly realms. The Nirmanakaya is the one that human beings see on earth, the physical incarnation of the Buddha.
Some of these doctrines were forbidden and esoteric, to the point where it becomes hard to distinguish between true Buddhist innovation and just esoteric knowledge being made available to the populace.
Hinayana developments in India
To hold its position, Hinayana adopted some of the Mahayana theories. They stressed more the idea of “emptiness”. Created the Abhidharma.
Is learning more important than practicing? Buddhaghosa, writer of the Visuddhimagga. Discord between the Mahavihara and the Abhayagirivihara. The latter were more open toward laymen. The Mahaviharas were more conservative.
Expansion into greater Asia
As a world religion, Buddhism was born in Gandhara, India. The Mahayanists were more successful missionaries, given their freedom in interpreting the scriptures. Medical missionaries were also responsible for a great number of conversions. The first large country to be penetrated by Buddhist thought was China. First as a religion of the non-Chinese, but by 500 it was well established throughout the whole of China, developing a state within a state. The Chinese Buddhists weren’t shy about quoting Lao Tzu or the Yellow Emperor. Rulers found the Buddhist priests more amiable than Taoist priests, as they relied on donations from wealthy laymen, and were not inciting rebellions like the Taoists were. Among the first works to be translated into Chinese we find the sutras on Prajnaparamita. The problem of being versus non-being, the emergence of the seven schools.
School of original non-being
Variations in the first school
School of the emptiness of matter
School of the non-being of mind
School of stored impressions
School of phenomenal illusions
School of causal combination
Kumarajiva, the Book of Chao. Buddhism and neo-Taoism. The Icchantikas (“deluded being who can never attain enlightenment” – Wikipedia) are forever excluded from Buddhahood. Achieving Buddhahood in an instant opposes Hindu thought regarding acquired learning. Meanwhile, popular faith concerns itself with rebirth in paradise. Be it Akshobhya’s in the east, Amitabha’s in the west, or Maitreya’s in the future. Founding of the Fellowship of the White Lotus, which would later evolve into Chung-t’u, or school of Pure Land.
The Third Period – AD 500 – 100
The emergence of Tantra. This is the last creative achievement of Buddhism, which enriched it with magical traditions. Mantras, mudras and mandalas were introduced. Systematized into Vajrayana, and the syncretist Kalacakra, with an emphasis on astrology. Whereas common people use magic to acquire power, Buddhists use it to free themselves from powers that are alien to their true being. No longer distant, Buddhahood is right now, “in this very body”. The ideal now is the Siddha. The ambiguous language of Tantra, and the visions of the yogins which they esteemed as more real than reality itself (which makes it difficult to research Buddhism historically).
The monastic system was weakened and spread into groups of self-sufficient Yogins. The wrathful deities, and their feminine counterparts. Cunda, Vasudhara, Usnisavijaya, Vajravarahi, Buddhalocana…dakinis, consorts of the Buddhas and their erotic rituals. The fivefold division of all cosmic forces, each one presided by one Tathagata: Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi. Clothing the highest into the form of the lower, shock therapy, the union of male and female in the ecstasy of love.
Royal patronage of Buddhism in Northern India would come to define its direction for the following centuries. The Buddhists developed their logic preceding the Hindus. Formulation of epistemological theories.
China and Korea
Between 500 and 800 AD were the most productive centuries for Chinese Buddhism. The eight indigenous schools. The Mi-Tsung, is the Chinese version of Tantra. The T’ien-t’ai school aimed at a syncretism of all Mahayana schools. The Pure Land school, and Amidism. O-mi-to-fo, and the legend of Sukhavativyuha. Kuan-yin, the Indian version of Avalokitesvara. The strength of Amidism lies in its democratic spirit: just chant the name and you will be free, all that is required is faith. The Ch’an school, and the introduction of working monks. “A day without work, a day without eating”. Practical realization, simplification of the approach to enlightenment. If you are cold, just burn a statue of the Buddha. Kill the Buddha if he gets in your way. “Strange words and stranger actions“. Buddhahood is achieved through instantaneous enlightenment.
Buddhists were becoming impatient with how long it took for Hinayana or Mahayana to produce any enlightened beings, so the Ch’ans worked for enlightenment “in this life”. After the Arhats, Pratyekabuddhas, Boddhisattvas, and Siddhas, we now have the Roshis. Cultivation through non-cultivation. “Only do ordinary things with no special effort“. “To eat all day yet not to swallow a grain of rice“. The great prosecution of 845.
In Tibet, Buddhism found resistance from the Bon religion. The prosecution of 863. Padmasambhava.
The Last One Thousand Years: AD 1000 – 1978
In India, Buddhism pretty much ended in 1200 due to Mohammedan invasions, much as it was also due to internal strife. Monks left the country, thanks to the international character of Buddhism, contributing in this way to its extinction. The creative impulse had ceased. The division between Hindus and Buddhists had diminished, and Buddhism no longer served a purpose as a separate entity. In Nepal, monks gave up celibacy, and lay Buddhism prevailed. In Burma, Theravada orthodoxy was preserved. Build a pagoda to acquire merits (with the consequence that the country is covered with them). In Laos, the story of Buddhism is shrouded in legend. In China, Amidism and Ch’an ousted all other schools. While the school of Ts’ao-tung stressed quiet sitting and silent meditation, the Lin-chi sect favored rudeness and the “shout and the stick” approach. Nembutsu. The Taiping rebellion.
In Korea, the government was entirely in the hands of the bonzes for long stretches of time, but that changed in 1392 with the change of dynasty. Confucianism gained the upper hand. In Japan, Buddhism reached its creative peak. During the Kamakura period, Amida and Zen schools became the two most prominent forms of Buddhism. The Yozo Nembutsu, the Jodo or Pure Land school. In this age of decay, traditional Buddhist morals are no longer effective, and we must rely on a higher power, that of the Buddha Amitabha. The nationalistic school was founded by Nichiren, who replaced the Nembutsu with the Namu Myoho Renge-kyo. As for the Zen schools, Dogen introduced Ts’ao-tung into Japan, insisting that a decadent age was no reason to aim at less than insight into the highest truth. Zazen is carried out as an absolutely pure religious exercise from which nothing is sought, and nothing is gained. All daily activities should be regarded as post-enlightenment exercises. Bushido, the way of the warrior. Mono-no-aware, sensitivity to beauty. After 1500, there was a revival of Confucianism and military Shintoism in Japan. Only the Zen sect showed signs of vitality.
In Tibet, Indian teachers were invited again after a revival in 1000. Atisa came in 1042. His seminal work, “Lamp illuminating the road to enlightenment“. Tsong-kha-pa, the formation of different Tibetan sects. The Bka-ijdam-pa (Kadampa). The bKa-rclyud-pa (Kaguypa) was founded by Marpa. Their monks were not saints, but human beings. The story of Mila-ras-pa, Tibet’s greatest saint and poet. Gtum-mo, magical heat. The shi-byed-pa, the Sa-skya-pa, the Nying-ma-pa. The latter came up with the concept of hidden treasures, or gter-ma. The biography of Padmasambhava was one of these discovered treasures, as well as the bar do thos grol. The six bardos of the Nyingmapas. The ceremony of gCod (Chod) to offer one’s body to greedy demons. They operate similarly to the left-hand tantra practitioners of India. Creating tutelary deities (yidams), controlling the occult body, and realizing the nature of one’s own mind. A well-rounded personality does not suppress lust, anger, etc., but puts them into their own place. Finally, only the Dge-lugs-pa were able to come out victorious over the Nyingmapas. This sect was founded by Tsongkhapa, the last great thinker of the Buddhist world.
Three great achievements: codification of the canon into two big collections (the Kanjur and the Tanjur). Production of a large quantity of indigenous literature. Lastly, the rooting of Buddhism in the life of people. Tulkus, lamaism. The violence of the fifth Dalai Lama, and the shutting off of the country after the 18th century.
In Mongolia, the Dalai Lama converted the Mongols in 1577 when he journeyed to meet Altan Chagan, ruler of the eastern Mongols to show him his magical powers, forcing rivers to run uphill. Shamanistic sacrifices were thereupon forbidden. The Mongols conquest of Iran meant they built many cultural centers in those lands.
The present situation
Buddhism is now just spending its energies on maintaining itself, having lost the initiative it once had. The Buddha Jayanti, the 2500th anniversary of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment. Prophecies mark this era as the time when monks “will be strong only in fighting and reproving“. Northern Buddhism is under communist control (Mongolia, China, Tibet, and then Southeast Asia), and Buddhism and communism seem to be perfect enemies for each other, although Mahayana Buddhism and Dialectical Materialism seem to be surprisingly close.
Modern warfare, Cambodia. Although the country was neutral during the Vietnam war, it was “bombed back into the Stone age“. In Japan, we have seen a growth of nationalistic Buddhism. It is doubtful whether capitalism has been more kind to the Buddhists than communism.
In the West, Buddhism was absorbed on three different levels: The philosophical, Schopenhauer, Blavatsky, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and abundant literature has been written about the similarities between eastern ideas and those of some of the modern European thinkers. On the historical level, Buddhist manuscripts and documents have attracted the attention of many scholars. On the sectarian level, many Buddhist communities have been formed, primarily in protestant countries. Figures like Alan Watts served as conduits for the spreading of a multiplicity of somewhat disorganized ideas. “How a drop of water could be prevented from ever drying up?”
The answer is: “by throwing it into the sea“.
It was definitely interesting to me to learn about the historical development of Buddhism. Of particular interest was the realization that Buddhism hasn’t been just “the words of the Buddha”, but that the tradition has grown, evolved, and transformed itself into many different things across the span of centuries. Like Christianism, Buddhism was once a well-guarded secret that only a few could understand, with fundamental teachings being written in a language very few people spoke (Sanskrit, whereas Christianism hid behind Latin words). Then, the common folk found a way to open it up, and thus came Mahayana (in Christianism, we got the New Testament).
One thing that is clear to me now is that Buddhism IS A RELIGION. Fine, it is a philosophical religion, and it involves much more debating and thinking about the ontological matter of our own existence, but in the end, you pray to divinities and hope to be reincarnated in another world (be it Samsara or it in a pure land). You wear a uniform (the orange robe) that differentiates you from those who don’t believe in your thing. And you see those others as unintelligent, or incomplete human beings. That’s pretty much what religion is.
Now that I have seen how complex Buddhism is, I have actually lost some faith in it. One of my criticisms of the Bible is how complicated it makes the message of the one -supposedly- true god. He couldn’t just forgive our sins in one swipe of his divine hand, no, he had to come up with an elaborate plan that required him to prepare a specific tribe from a specific location on the planet, and into this tribe, he sent the spirit of the first creature he ever created so that he could give up this very life and somehow fix things up. Why I really don’t know.
Anyway. I really recommend this book, especially if you want to understand Buddhism better. Before you start chanting all those nembutsus, you might want to know where it all came from.
I watched a seminar by Brigit Esselmont, creator of Biddy Tarot, and I’ve had the video sitting on my desktop for the longest time, thinking “I will rewatch it and make some notes”. Well, here they are. All the information and credits go to Brigit Esselmont.
Why learn how to read the tarot
Tarot puts your intuition on speed dial
Tarot helps you make better decisions with greater clarity
Tarot helps you create the life that you want to live
Reasons why Tarot readings are confusing or inaccurate
Rushing the reading (not diving deep into the story behind the cards)
Asking the wrong questions (questions that don’t help the querent!)
Not interpreting the story in the cards (sticking to the surface-level interpretation)
How to create powerful and accurate readings
Create the space. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Like how I don’t like to read when I’m tired. Dress up for it, if you can! Banish the area, burn some incense.
Get to the heart of the question. What exactly would answer the question? What would help the person?
Choose the spread. Decide if you’re going to read 2 cards, 3 cards or a full-blown Celtic Cross.
Shuffle the deck. Put your energy into it. Bring the universal order into your hands.
Read the cards and interpret the story. First, intuitively look and interpret the cards. Write it down. If the cards were a movie, what kind of movie would it be?
Answer the question asked. Don’t forget the person is looking for answers.
Reflect, and ask for feedback. Take a photo, write down the cards you got and your interpretation.
There’s also a very good document with 10 questions you could ask before the reading. Perhaps the querent is not sure what they need to know, see if one of these might help! https://biddytarot.com/10questions
Let’s not forget to say Thank You Very Much! To Brigit Esselmont for all the quality information she’s put out there for people to learn from.