Thursday, September 27, 2007

Psilocybin Mushrooms Of The World

Psilocybin Mushrooms Of The World Cover

Book: Psilocybin Mushrooms Of The World by Paul Stamets

From the author of GROWING GOURMET AND MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS comes the only identification guide exclusively devoted to the world's psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Detailed descriptions and color photographs for over 100 species are provided, as well as an exploration of their long-standing (and often religious) use by ancient peoples and their continued significance to modern-day culture. Some of the species included have just been discovered in the past year or two, and still others have never before been photographed in their natural habitats. THIS GUIDE IS A UNIQUE ADDITION to the literature on mushrooms in general and psychoactive mushrooms in particular. Paul Stamets has brought together a mass of accurate information, both textual and graphic, on mushrooms that contain psilocybin—far more species throughout the world than have ever been presented in this guide, including several species new to science. Anyone interested in interrest distinctive products of nature will find this book an invaluable intelligence, whether from the point of view of the collector, the scholar, and the prospective user. Most psilocybin mushrooms are small, dull-colored fungi that never illustrated much notice in our culture until R. Gordon Wasson brought the ceremonial use of magic mushrooms in Mexico to world attention in 1957. For some time thereafter, large numbers of Americans and I europeans streamed to remote areas of Oaxaca in search of them, unaware equally potent species grew in their own countries, sometimes in their own backyards. This guide makes clear that psilocybin mushrooms are ubiquitous, and, as more people search for them, they will be found in almost every place on earth. Psilocybin resembles melatonin, serotonin, and other neuroregula in its chemical structure.

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Buddhist June Full Moon Poson

Buddhist June Full Moon Poson Image
The regular biweekly PHASES OF THE MOON indicate the new and full moon observance days

"The Poson" full-moon observance day celebration is one of the major Buddhist ceremonies in Sri Lanka, second only to Vesak (or "Buddhist Xmas").

This special ceremony commemorates the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka from India. It is done out of gratitude to the arhat (enlightened being) Mahinda, son of the emperor Ashoka. The emperor sent a missionary expedition to the island consisting of arhats:

Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambhala, Bhaddasala, Samanera Sumana, and Upasaka Bhandhuka arrived in Sri Lanka on the full moon day of June in the year 236 of BCE. The emperor and the Sri Lankan King Devanampiyatissa ("beloved by"devas") were royal friends who had never met. So close were they that the emperor sent his son.

Arhat Mahinda is beloved in Sri Lanka with a special epithet "Second Buddha Maha Mahinda" ("Anubudu Mihindu"). This is not an exaggeration because arhat Mahinda was the one who introduced Theravada Buddhism to Sri Lanka. If Theravada Buddhism exists in the world today, it is because of him.

Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos are the major Theravada countries in the world today. Sri Lankan culture is based on Theravada Buddhism. Written and spoken language, the scriptural language Pali, arts, architecture, and culture are the heritage of Buddhism arriving on the island.

While Vesak is universally celebrated, "Poson" is unique to Sri Lankan Buddhism because it marks the historical beginning of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Buddhists who live in other countries celebrate it around the world: Singapore has a very big celebration as well as Los Angeles' many Sri Lankan temples.

Sri Lankan king meeting the missionary arhat Mahinda


During Poson people place an emphasis on practicing the Dharma ("pratipatti puja") observing the Eight Precepts at monasteries and Dharma centers. Various offerings (giving "dana") is practiced as well. On the island, hundreds of thousands of people visit Mihintale, the historical rocky monastery, where King Devanampiyatissa met Mahinda for the first time.

Among various meritorious deeds performed on "Poson", there are:

* Observing the Eight Precepts
* Poson Parade
* Offering free food and drinks

Observing additional precepts is one of the major parts of every full moon observance day. Many government schools organize Eight Precept programs for students during "Poson" week, which happens nowhere else in the world.

"Pilgrims love to climb a rock (Mihintalava") on which Mahinda landed with his missionary group. It is said that the seven members had developed psychic powers through meditation and arrived on that rock neither by land nor sea. They appeared by means of psychic power.

Apart from these events, there are many other meritorious activities going on all over the country:

* visiting hospitals
* donating blood
* social service
* helping the needy
* freeing cows from slaughter

Offering lights in the name of the Three Gems and Mahinda is one of the major events at Mihintale Monastery, where the entire area is illuminated with traditional oil lamps and electric lights. This display reflects the light of wisdom he brought to Sri Lanka, a land that became a great preserver of the Dharma.

by Ven. Chandawimila, Ph.D.



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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Guide For The Perplexed

The Guide For The Perplexed Cover

Book: The Guide For The Perplexed by Moses Maimonides

IN compliance with a desire repeatedly expressed by the Committee of the Hebrew Literature Society, I have undertaken to translate Maimonides Dalalat al-Hairin, better known by the Hebrew title Moreh Nebuchim, and I offer the first instalment of my labours in the present volume. This contains - A short Life of Maimonides, in which special attention is given to his alleged apostasy. An analysis of the whole of the Moreh Nebuchim. A translation of the First Part of this work from the Arabic, with explanatory and critical notes.

Parts of the Translation have been contributed by Mr. Joseph Abrahams, B.A., Ph.D., and Rev. H. Gollancz - the Introduction by the former, and the first twenty - five chapters by the latter. In conclusion I beg to tender my thanks to Rev. A. Loewy, Editor of the Publications of the Hebrew Literature Society, for his careful revision of my manuscript and proofs, and to Mr. A. Neubauer, M.A., for his kindness in supplying me with such information as I required. M. FRIEDLANDER.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Twelve Keys

Twelve Keys Cover

Book: Twelve Keys by Basil Valentine

When I had emptied to the dregs the cup of human suffering, I was led to consider the wretchedness of this world, and the fearful consequences of our first parents disobedience. Then I saw that there was no hope of repentance for mankind, that they were getting worse day by day, and that for their impenitence God everlasting punishment was hanging over them; and I made haste to withdraw myself from the evil world, to bid farewell to it, and to devote myself to the service of God.

When I had spent some years at the monastery, I found that after I had performed my work and my daily devotions I still had some time on my hands. This I did not wish to pass in idleness, lest my evil thoughts should lead me into new sins; and so I determined to use it for the study and investigation of those natural secrets by which God has shadowed out eternal things. So I read a great many books in our monastery written in olden times by philosophers who had pursued the same study, and was thereby stimulated to a more ardent desire of knowing that which they also knew. Though I did not make much progress at first, yet at last God granted my earnest prayer, and opened my eyes that I might see what others had seen before me.

Thus have I been wishing to reveal to you in this treatise, as far as may be lawful to me, the Stone of the Ancients, that you, too, might possess the knowledge of this highest of earthly treasures for your health and comfort in this valley of sorrow. I write about it, not for my own good, but for that of posterity, and though my words be few and simple, that which they import is of immeasurable magnitude. Ponder them well, that you also may find the Rock which is the foundation Stone of truth, the temporal blessing, and the eternal reward.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Secret Teachings Of The Vedas The Eastern Answers To The Mysteries Of Life

The Secret Teachings Of The Vedas The Eastern Answers To The Mysteries Of Life Cover

Book: The Secret Teachings Of The Vedas The Eastern Answers To The Mysteries Of Life by Stephen Knapp

The Secret Teachings of the Vedas is a great book to look into the lofty spiritual insights of the Vedic literature. I rarely write any such reviews, but I've been reading Knapp's books for some years now and have always found them easy to read and understand the uplifting nature of the Vedic philosophy. I also wanted to say that I don't understand how Henry Booth wrote in to say he was disappointed. It's as if he took a few points he had problems with and forgot all the other significant things in the book.

Like he says Knapp believes you only go from one physical birth to another. This is absolutely untrue since the book spends many pages dealing with the spiritual realm, along with heaven, hell, subtle realms and subtle beings. If that is not life between physical births then what is? Maybe he just didn't get that. Or did he really read the whole book? He also says that Knapp doesn't buy the Big Bang theory, which he says is a proven premise. But that depends on who you talk to. Some scientists are already saying that the Big Bang theory does not uphold the law of matter and energy, and does not properly explain how various elements could have been created. Others feel that the superclusters in space are not what would be expected from an explosive model like the Big Bang, nor would the smooth nature of the background microwave radiation that is detected. So these and other factors point out that there has to be some other explanation. So maybe there is good reason why the Vedic literature does not support what some think is the Big Bang.

Stephen Knapp's book focus on eastern answers to the mysterious horizons explaining the theories about the universe, the souls, life after death and the ideas of the Absolute Lord. It's an indepth introduction to vedic teachings. The easter philosophy is well explained with Chapters one to four giving clear insights into who and what is your real identity and vedas give an understand as to what life really is. Chapters Two and three explain how vedas influence great men of the decade and the vedic background info of its compilation. Fifth chapter focus on Law of Karma and reincarnation. The sixth chapter is on reincarnation of different lives in different bodies. Chapter seven describes a little about universe structure and heaven n hell. Chapter eight reveals the evolution theory and vedic spiritual growth with a cycle of repeated birth and death. Chapter nine gives an insight of human existence. Tenth and eleventh chapter explain how God is Supreme Power whose influence should be recognized in our everyday Life.Chapter Twelve speaks of spiritual world which is found only in vedic literature.

So these theories are changing, as is always the case in science. But the Vedic literature does say that the universe is expanding, which is the premise from whcih the Big Bang theory was developed. So it perturbs me when someone writes a review of something based on their own lack of information. So let me conclude that this book on the Vedic viewpoint remains a great source of spiritual wisdom and insight. There are a lot of other points that this book deals with.

They deserve far better treatment, and Stephen Knapp shows us why. Hidden in the Sanskrit texts of the ancient Vedic writings one can find sublime knowledge on every imaginable subject. The author is doing a great service by making this knowledge easily accessible, and anyone searching for answers to life's problems could much worse than start looking here. Well done Mr Knapp. No one will go wrong with buying this book.

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The Secret Teachings Of The Vedas The Eastern Answers To The Mysteries Of Life

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Aspects Of Occultism

Aspects Of Occultism Cover

Book: Aspects Of Occultism by Dion Fortune

It's really incredible how you start of with books like Kraig's "Modern Magick" and Tyson's "Magician's Workbook", finish them, and get to go back and read where most modern occult authors got their Knowledge From. Anything from the original masters, Fortune in particular, is worth buying, reading, and truly studying.

In this book Dion Fortune discusses evocative magic, the sites of Druid worship, parallels between Christianity and the Qabalah, the astral plane, auras, spiritual healing, power cycles, and our Relationship with the Higher Self. This revised edition includes a new Introduction by Gareth Knight, an index, and an additional essay by Fortune "The Myth of the Round Table." People familiar with Fortune's work will love this book!

Buy Dion Fortune's book: Aspects Of Occultism

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Friday, September 14, 2007

A Book Of Five Rings

A Book Of Five Rings Cover

Book: A Book Of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

I have been Many Years training in the Way of strategy, called Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, and now I will explain it in Writing for the first time. It is now during the first ten days of the tenth month in 1645. I have climbed mountain Iwato of Higo in Kyushu to pay homage to heaven, pray to Kwannon, Goddess of Mercy and kneel before Buddha. I am a warrior of Harima province, Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin, age Sixty Years.

When I reached thirty I looked back on my past. The previous victories were not due to my having mastered strategy. Perhaps it was natural ability, or the order of heaven, or that other schools' strategy was inferior. After that I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realize the Way of strategy when I was fifty.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Asatru As A Warrior Religion

Asatru As A Warrior Religion Cover
Asatru also has strong warrior ethics embodied in it. Nearly all of the gods and goddesses have battle proficiencies of one sort or another. Ancient warriors called upon these war gods and goddesses to bless them in their battles.

Odin, sitting on Hlidskialf, proficient with the spear, magic and deception, represented intelligence warfare. Thor and his mighty Mjolnir represented fierce hand-to-hand combat. Many of the goddesses also exhibited martial virtues. Frigga also shared Hlidskialf with Odin and was proficient in magic and deception. Freya garnered half of the fallen warriors to take back to her hall. The Valkyries, women warriors serving Odin, were known as fierce fighters as well. Without doubt, Asatru embodies a strong warrior ethic.

Perhaps most obvious of Asatru’s warrior spirit is embodied in one of its most recognized and used symbols: the hammer. The hammer represents Thor’s Mjollnir with which he smites the foes of the Aesir and Vanir. This symbol is almost universally recognized as Asatru’s symbol and shows that Asatru sees conflict as a key theme of the universe and being prepared for it and dealing with it are central obligations.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Buddhism Ten Commandments

Buddhism Ten Commandments Image
Buddhism, of course, does not have any "commandments." The Buddha did not reveal the Teaching and Training by commanding, coercing, or ordering anyone to follow the path to enlightenment (which also leads to other happy results in the round of rebirths*).

There are Ten Precepts one may voluntarily undertake to uphold for one's own benefit and the benefit of others, particularly during times of intensive practice. There are also Eight Precepts, which are almost exactly the same, with only one difference (yes, not two).

The merit (good karma) that results in a human rebirth is keeping the Five Precepts, which all practicing Buddhists undertake to maintain. Being a "Buddhist" means that one goes for guidance (sarana) -- almost always mistranslated as "going for refuge" -- to the Buddha, Dharma, and [accomplished] Sangha and keeps the precepts.

Although there are no commandments, there are Ten Courses of Unwholesome Action (explained in detail at AN X.206). They can be read as a kind of Buddhist Ten Commandments for those wishing to be commanded. They are called "courses" (routes, paths, corridors) because they have the karmic potency in and of themselves to lead to woeful rebirths:

* Thou art well advised not to take the lives of living beings.
* Thou art well advised not to take what is not given.
* Thou art well advised not to engage in sexual misconduct.
* Thou art well advised not to commit perjury (speak falsely when questioned as a witness).
* Thou art well advised not to speak divisively (separating those who are united).
* Thou art well advised not to speak harshly (offensively).
* Thou art well advised not to speak frivolously.**
* Thou art well advised not to covet.
* Thou art well advised not to harbor ill-will.
* Thou art well advised not to hold wrong-views.

NOTES


*Other fortunate results include rebirth in heavenly realms or again in the human world. The Dharma encourages good karma that is of benefit in every kind of endeavor. In fact, it is only on account of good karma that living beings enjoy or meet with any benefits in any plane of existence. This is counter intuitive. But the benefits one experiences while engaged in wrongdoing -- for example, when stealing -- are not coming from the wrongdoing. They are coming from good karma performed in the past. Were that karma not in place, or if it gets exhausted, one is unable to have and enjoy even what one has stolen. See The Workings of Kamma (PDF) for an explanation of why this is so.

**Frivolous: chit chatting, speaking what is not timely, not factual, not good, not connected to Dharma [the doctrine or social obligations], not connected to discipline. In other words, speaking out of season, uttering speech not worth treasuring, unpleasant, unrestrained, disagreeable, and unconnected with what is truly profitable). This kind of "low speech" is commonly referred to as "animal talk" ("tiracchana-"katha"), because it is base and drags close to the ground. Animal talk is defined as "talk about leaders and thieves, heads of state and armies, danger and war, eating and drinking, clothes [fashion] and dwellings, cosmetics and scents, relations, vehicles, neighborhoods and marketplaces, towns and districts, women and heroes, street talk, water cooler [the well] gossip, talk about the long since departed, tittle-tattle, talk about the [origin of the] world and sea, gain and loss" (AN X.69, Wisdom Quarterly translation).

Wrong understanding includes holding such pernicious views as: "There is no result of giving, offering, or sacrificing for others. There is no fruit or ripening of good and bad actions (karma). There is no here and now [this world], no hereafter [a world to come]. There is no [special significance to things done to or for one's] mother or father. There are no spontaneously-born beings. There are no noble and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declared [the nature of] this world and of other worlds."

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Improbability Of Monotheism

The Improbability Of Monotheism Cover Looking at history objectively, we have to wonder why monotheism captured men's minds in the first place. Does our observation of nature support it? Consider nature: storm and calm, ice and fire, plants and animals, life and death, sky and earth, all in endless combinations and complexities. The world around us is characterized by a multiplicity of forms and phenomena of very different kinds. It is perhaps more likely to ascribe this wide range of forces, things, and events not to one cause - one spirit or mover or God - but to many. The natural world does not encourage us to believe in a single deity, but in numerous ones.

Is the nature of human populations consistent with monotheism? Just as the world of natural phenomena is complex and varied, so is the array of nations and tribes that make up the human race. The way of Asia is not the way of Africa, which is not the way of Europe - is it logical that one Supernatural Power can be the only true God for all of mankind? Is it not more reasonable to assume (as in fact each tribe and nation insisted until convinced otherwise by fire and sword) that each group has a set of Gods that expresses divinity in accordance with its own vision?

Does the direct spiritual experience of mankind, as witnessed by shamans, mystics, and holy men, support the contentions of monotheism? On the contrary, countless cultures assert that the multiverse is teeming with non-human entities, many of which can be categorized as Gods and Goddesses both major and minor. The claim that there is only one God is by no means the only view. Indeed, the existence of Thor, Odin, and the other Norse Gods was acknowledged by Christian missionaries and chroniclers, while the idea that they are fictional is a more recent development. Of course, the position of the Church was that the old Gods and Goddesses were demons - but the self-serving nature of this claim makes it transparent to all but terrorized peasants.

In summary, monotheism is contradicted by our observation of nature's manifold and differing phenomena, by the widely diverse peoples that make up humanity, by the direct experience of those in every culture who deal with the Otherworld, and even by the testimony of men who claim to follow the One God!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism Cover The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal head of the exiled government of Tibet, and is a member of the leadership of the Gelug -- the largest of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. He is revered by millions of Buddhists and non-Buddhists worldwide. His comments on homosexuality have been very widely reported -- and misreported -- in the media and over the Internet.

Even within this one sect of this one tradition of Buddhism, it is impossible to state a universal position on homosexual sexual activity. One rule applies to the Buddhist sangha -- Buddhist monks and nuns; another applies to the Gelug laity, other rules apply to Buddhists who are not in the Gelug sect, another rule is for the vast majority of persons who are non-Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama, speaking for his sect of Tibetan Buddhism, made a number of statements about homosexuality in the mid to late 1990s:

* 1994: During an interview, he was quoted in OUT magazine as stating:

"If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask 'What is your companion's opinion?' If you both agree, then I think I would say 'if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay'." 1,2

* 1996: In his book "Beyond Dogma," he wrote that:

"... homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact." 3

That is, Tibetan Buddhism prohibits oral, manual and anal sex for everyone - heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals.

* 1997: During at a press conference on JUN-10, he commented:

"From a Buddhist point of view [lesbian and gay sexual activity]...is generally considered sexual misconduct." 4

* 1998: In a meeting with gays and lesbians in San Francisco, the Dalai Lama said that:

"From a Buddhist point of view, men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct. From society's point of view, mutually agreeable homosexual relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless." 5

James Shaheen, editor and publisher of the Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, said that some people were shocked and perplexed by the Dalai Lama's position. Shaheen wrote:

"This view was based on restrictions found in Tibetan Texts that he could not and would not change. He did, however, advise gay Buddhist leaders to investigate further, discuss the issue, and suggested that change might come through some sort of theological consensus."

"Does this mean Buddhism condemns same-sex relationships? Not at all. Contrary to popular perception, the Dalai Lama does not speak for all Buddhists. As the leader of the dominant Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, he speaks for one slice of the world's Buddhist population. The vast majority of Buddhists do not practice in his tradition -- however much they respect and admire him -- and the Tibetan texts the Dalai Lama refers to were written centuries after the Buddha had come and gone."

"Buddhism is perhaps even more diverse than Christianity. In fact, the differences among schools can be so vast that some scholars consider them different religions. Indeed, according to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in southern California, the Buddha never forbade gay sex for lay people as far as we know. 'When he drew the line between licit and illicit sex, it had nothing to do with sexual tastes or preferences,' he says, citing early texts. 'He seemed more concerned with not violating the legitimate claims that other people might have on your sexual partner'."

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