Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Key Of The Mysteries

The Key Of The Mysteries Cover

Book: The Key Of The Mysteries by Eliphas Levi

THIS volume represents the high-water mark of the thought of Eliphas Levi. It may be regarded as written by him as his Thesis for the Grade of Exempt Adept, just as his "Ritual and Dogma" was his Thesis for the grade of a Major Adept. He is, in fact, no longer talking of things as if their sense was fixed and universal. He is beginning to see something of the contradiction inherent in the nature of things, or at any rate, he constantly illustrates the fact that the planes are to be kept separate for practical purposes, although in the final analysis they turn out to be one. This, and the extraordinarily subtle and delicate irony of which Eliphas Levi is one of the greatest masters that has ever lived, have baffled the pedantry and stupidity of such commentators as Waite. English has hardly a word to express the mental condition of such unfortunates. "Dummheit," in its strongest German sense, is about the nearest thing to it. It is as if a geographer should criticize "Gulliver's Travels" from his own particular standpoint.

After our book, there will still be mysteries, but higher and farther in the infinite depths. This publication is a light or a folly, a mystification or a monument. Read, reflect, and judge.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Misunderstanding Buddhism

Misunderstanding Buddhism Image
The world's largest solid gold Buddha statue, Thailand (Flickr/HotDuckZ)


Text by Barbara O'Brien ( Guide)

Buddhists want enlightenment so they can be blissed out all the time. They believe in reincarnation. If something bad happens to you, it has to be because of something you did in a past life. Buddhists have to be vegetarians. "Everybody knows that." Unfortunately, much of what "everybody knows" about Buddhism isn't true.

What follows is a kind of Un-FAQ that lists common but mistaken ideas many people in the West have about Buddhism. [If you can think of any more, please add them through the "Readers Respond" link at the end of this article, or discuss them in the Buddhism forum].


I've read many diatribes against the Buddhist teaching that nothing exists. If nothing exists, the writers ask, who is it that imagines something does exist?

However, Buddhism does NOT teach that nothing exists. It challenges our understanding of "how" things exist. It teaches that beings and phenomena have no intrinsic existence. But Buddhism does not teach there is no existence at all.

The "nothing exists" folklore mostly comes from a misunderstanding of the teaching of anatta [egolessness] and its Mahayana extension, shunyata [emptiness]. But these are not doctrines of non-existence. Rather, they teach that we understand existence in a limited, one-sided way.



Everyone's heard the joke about what the Buddhist monk said to a hot dog vendor -- "Make me one with everything." Doesn't Buddhism teach we are one with everything? In the Maha-nidana Sutra, the Buddha taught that it was incorrect to say that the self is finite, but it is also incorrect to say that the self is infinite. In this sutra, the Buddha taught... Understanding the self requires going beyond concepts and ideas. "What is the Self?"


If you define reincarnation as the transmigration of a soul into a new body after the old body dies, then no, the Buddha did not teach a doctrine of reincarnation. For one thing, he taught there was no soul to transmigrate. However, there is a Buddhist doctrine of rebirth. "Reincarnation in Buddhism"


Some schools of Buddhism do insist on vegetarianism, and I believe all schools encourage it. But in most schools of Buddhism vegetarianism is a personal choice, not a commandment. "Buddhism and Vegetarianism"


The word "karma" means "action," not "fate. Karma for Buddhists 101"


Karma is not a cosmic system of justice and retribution. There is no unseen judge pulling the strings of karma to punish wrongdoers. Karma is as impersonal as gravity. Karma is not the only force... "Buddhism and Morality"


People imagine that "getting enlightened" is like flipping a happy switch... The Sanskrit word ["bodhi "or" budh"] often translated as "enlightenment" actually means "awakening. The Eight Awarenesses of Enlightenment"


This idea comes from a misreading of the First Noble Truth, often translated "Life is suffering." People read that and think, Buddhism teaches that life is always miserable.... Life is "dukkha "[unsatisfactory]. "Dukkha" is a Pali word that contains many meanings. "Life is Suffering? What does that mean?"


"It's a philosophy" or "It's a science of mind." Well, yes. It's a philosophy. It's a science of mind, if you use the word "science" in a very broad sense. It's also religion. Of course, a lot depends on how you define "religion." Most schools of Buddhism are highly mystical, which puts it outside the bounds of simple philosophy. "Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?"


The historical Buddha was a human being who realized enlightenment through his own efforts. Buddhism is non-theistic -- not that there are no gods, just that worshiping gods is not conducive to realizing enlightenment. But the iconic image of the Buddha and other enlightened beings are objects of devotion and reverence for their human potential not as gods. "Atheism and devotion in Buddhism, Introduction to Buddhist Tantra, Gods, Goddesses, and Buddhist Tantra."


When people hear that Buddhists practice "non-attachment," they sometimes assume it means Buddhists can't form relationships. But that's not what it means. "Why do Buddhists avoid Attachment?"

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Minor Groups Of Canonical Daosist Texts

Minor Groups Of Canonical Daosist Texts Cover
1. Taixuan (Great Mystery) (Mostly Meditation)
Originally included the Daode Jing, Zhuang Zi, and Lie Zi. This material was moved to Dongzhen group in Tang dynasty. In today's canon this section is largely devoted to texts of Internal Alchemy (meditation), including the Cantong Ji and the Huang Di Nei Jing. The section also includes the Yunji Qiqian (Canon 3). Some works of the External Alchemy (chemical alchemy) are also here.
2. Taiping (Great Balance) (Mostly charms and rituals)
Includes the Taiping Jing, as well as some Lingbao charms and rituals.
3. Taiqing (Great Pure) (Mostly Non-Daoist Writers)
This section is largely given over in the modern canon to writers who are not normally classified as Daoists, including Mo zi, Sun zi, Hanfei zi, &c. Also here (perhaps to deny its assertion of authorship by Laozi) is the Taishang Ganying Pian, and the Baopu Zi.
4. Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity) also written Zhengyi) (Mostly Liturgy of the Celestial Masters Sect)
Includes the Zhengyi Mengwei Lu (Registers of the Classic Orthodox Practice), used by the Celestial Masters Sect (Tianshi Dao, as well as rituals and charms associated with Celestial Master Daoism. A few Shangqing scriptures are also placed here.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Islamic Teaching About The Devil

Islamic Teaching About The Devil Image
Gordon Creighton's "Flying Saucer Review"


Gordon Creighton of Flying Saucer Review writes: "One of the more curious features of the followers of the various religions is that, being so dogmatically certain that in their own particular little faith they already possess the whole truth about all things in Heaven and Earth, it almost never occurs to any of them to look elsewhere and find out what the followers of other religions may know or may have discovered. This is certainly a pity, for study of all the great world religions -- and notably Islam one of the world's great religions -- yields valuable clues as to the true nature of the "UFO Phenomenon" Islam knows, in fact, of the existence of three entirely separate and distinct species of intelligent beings in the Universe, and indeed can furnish surprisingly precise details regarding their natures and roles and activities. Angels, Men, and JINN'S.

"The first category is that of the Angels or Messengers. The second are Men, with planetary physical bodies assembled from the mineral and chemical elements of our Periodic Table. The third category, is the category of those beings created before man was who are referred to collectively in Arabic as Al-Jinn that means. "to hide or to conceal" indeed a very fitting derivation for the name of these creatures. Whereas the bodies of Angels are of light, the bodies of Al-Jinn consist of "essential fire," or "essential flame," or "smokeless fire," or "smokeless flame." It is specifically stated in the Qur'an (Surah XV, 26 and 27) that they were created before mankind and some scholars speculate these might be the "Pre-Adamic men" whose existence is hinted at here and there in the "Holy Bible." Western occultists have tried to describe them as ether, or as etheric or astral planes. I have also seen it suggested that some sort of plasma is indicated.) The Source of the Jinn's is not very distant from us, yet at the same time somehow very far from us. In other words, on some other dimension, or in some other Space/Time framework, "right here", some other Universe that is here, behind Alice's mirror: "a mirror-universe on the other side of the Space-time Continuum" as it has been neatly put by some investigators.

"Although, the Qur'an (Koran) is not clear on this, it looks as though some of the Jinn's could be fully physical and what we call extraterrestrials, while other species of them are of an altogether and finer sort of matter, corresponding to what various UFO investigators have tried to indicate by such terms as "ultraterrestrial" or "metaterrestrial." In thinking about these ideas, we might bear in mind the theory of the Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky regarding the possible existence of other, more subtle, levels of matter on which the elements of the Periodic Table of our own chemical world are repeated -- and, if I understand him aright, repeated more than once, on more than one level. The early writings of Dr. Meade Layne in the USA about the "Dense Etheric World" from which he maintained that the UFO entities and their craft originated should also be borne in mind. (His book The Coming of the Guardians, was published in 1958, and may prove to have been very important.) Certain of the benevolent Jinn's may well be our "Guardians."

"That there is some close affinity, or some link of destiny between Jinn's and Mankind seems certain, for although the vast majority of the Jinn's are devils, shaytans, nevertheless we are assured in the Qur'an that some among their many species are "goodies" and are capable of salvation. For it is specifically stated that Muhammad was sent as a Messenger to both Mankind and the Jinn's, so that, in the Final Days, some of the Jinn's will enter into Paradise, while the rest of them will be cast down into Hell. Their revelation to IBLIS, the Top Devil (= "SATAN") is in general somewhat obscure. In the Qur'an Iblis is certainly described as a Jinn, but elsewhere in the Qur'an he is also described as an Angel. (Surely the explanation is that Iblis is that same high being, originally of Angelic status, who rebelled against God and is named in the Christian texts as "Lucifer") Had we the space, much more might be said about the Jinn's and their doings, but only a brief account of their main characteristics can here be given. Their principal features, as listed below, are as I have gathered them from all the Muslim written and traditional sources that I have been able to consult over the past 15 years. The reader can see for himself the parallels with the reported features of UFO entities and can draw his own conclusions.

The Chief Characteristics of the Jinn's are: 1. In the normal state they are not visible to ordinary human sight.
2. They are, however, capable of materializing and appearing in the physical world. And they can alternately make themselves visible or invisible at will.
3. They can change shape, and appear in any sort of guise, large or small.
4. They are able also to appear in the guise of animals.
5. They are inveterate liars and deceivers, and delight in bamboozling and misleading mankind with all manner of nonsense. (See the average Spiritualist s.ance for examples of their activities, and also the usual "communications" from UFO entities in close-encounter cases.)
6. They are addicted to the abduction or kidnapping of humans. (The Scotsman Robert Kirk, who wrote "The Secret Commonwealth" in 1691, evidently "knew more than was good for his health," and was killed by them.)
7. They delight in tempting humans into sexual intercourse and liaisons with them, and Arabic literature abounds with accounts of this kind of contact by mankind with both the "goodies" and the "baddies" among the Jinn's. There are also even a considerable number of accounts of encounters between the "goodies" and famous Muslim saints.

"In official Islam - and this cannot be overemphasized -- the existence of the Jinn's has always been completely accepted, even legally, and even to this day, in Islamic jurisprudence. The full consequences implied by their existence were worked out long ago. Their legal status, in all respects, was discussed and fixed, and the possible relations between them and mankind -- especially in relation to questions of marriage and property! -- were seriously examined by jurists, as the greatest and most authoritative Western source, the Encyclopedia of Islam, confirms. Stories of sexual commerce between Jinn's and mankind have been of perennial interest to Arab readers, and it is important at this point to mention that in Chinese literature there is also a considerable tradition of this sort which awaits examination by Ufologists. The great Arabic literary catalogue known as the Fihrist, compiled in the year 373 of the Muslim Calendar ( = A.D. 995) by Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Abi Ya'qub al-Nadim al-Warraq al-Baghdadi, lists no less than sixteen works dealing with this theme. (Compare also the European occultists' records of sexual contact between men and female Sylphs, as well as the copious medieval Christian records relating to Incubi and Succabae." Thanks to Gordon Creighton and Flying Saucer Review Vol. 29, No. 5 (See resources below)


THE TRUE NATURE OF THE "UFO ENTITIES" Gordon Creighton and Flying Saucer Review Vol. 29, No. 5

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Agnosticism Introducing Science Versus Faith

Agnosticism Introducing Science Versus Faith Image
Please join me in welcoming one of the newest member of the Atheist Blogroll, Science versus Faith.

"Hi. My name is K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty. I am from Chennai, India. Under the influence of my mother, I used to be a devout Hindu till about the age of 25. Thereafter, on reading books by Abraham Kovoor, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Robert Green Ingersoll and other authors, I became a skeptic and have remained so for the past 27 years. I believe that only a skeptic can be truly secular."

"I call myself an 'atheist' with regard to the organised religions of the world and their innumerable anthropomorphic gods which are so obviously man-made. Organised religions are nothing but rackets to fool the gullible, and I find it difficult to understand why so many people - some of them even intelligent people - continue to believe in them. "

"I do not look down upon or make fun of religious people; rather, I sympathise with them in the same way as we feel sympathy for a person who is suffering from a mental disease or an addiction. Religious people need help. (I am not being condescending when I say this. This is the plain truth). "

"I call myself an 'agnostic' with regard to the larger question of an undefinable 'Creator' who may or may not be responsible for the Universe. I believe that this question may well be insoluble for the human mind - a mind that evolved to cope with the needs of survival in African jungles and grasslands. But I am confident that science will get as close to finding everything about the knowable Universe as is possible. "

"I have recently started a blog called "Science versus Faith" which can be accessed at "Science versus Faith". This blog is pro-science and anti-blind faith. It makes available at one place classic video excerpts, cartoons, articles and books on the topics of science and religion, and reveals the comical as well as the dark side of human irrationality. I hope you will like it and I look forward to your comments."

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll resource blog for more information.

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Hallucinogenic And Poisonous Mushroom Field Guide

Hallucinogenic And Poisonous Mushroom Field Guide Cover

Book: Hallucinogenic And Poisonous Mushroom Field Guide by Gary Menser

A well written and easy to Understand Book Which clearly defines each type of mushroom with illustrations and photographs (in the appendix). It shows how to identify and distinguish between poisonous and Hallucinogenic mushrooms (a vital skill). It also gives details on habitat. A useful reference guide. The only extra bit of advice I would give those thinking of ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms is to always keep a sample in case something goes wrong so they can easily be identified. If in doubt don't pick. This book will certainly help reduces the confusion between similar looking psychotropic and poisonous mushrooms.

Buy Gary Menser's book: Hallucinogenic And Poisonous Mushroom Field Guide

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Les Trois Livres De La Vie Or De Vita Libri Tres

Les Trois Livres De La Vie Or De Vita Libri Tres Cover

Book: Les Trois Livres De La Vie Or De Vita Libri Tres by Marsile Ficine

The De vita libri tres or Three Books on Life was written in the years 1480-1489 by Italian Platonist Marsilio Ficino. It was first circulated in manuscript form and then published in 1489. It was constantly in print through the middle of the seventeenth century. De vita is a curious amalgam of philosophy, medicine, "natural magic" and astrology, and is possibly the first book ever written about the health of the intellectual and its peculiar concerns. Alongside beautiful passages explaining the immortality and divine source and nature of the soul, there are astrological charts and remedies, sly speeches from various Greek gods arguing with one another, philosophical digressions, hair-raising medieval prescriptions for various ills, attempts at reconciling the Neoplatonism of Plotinus with Christian scripture, and magical remedies and talismans.

Ficino was one of the major philosophical voices of the Italian Renaissance, but he was also a physician, and the son of a physician. De vita is an example of the medical thinking of the early Renaissance, steeped in Galen and Hippocrates and the theory of the four humors and their attendant Aristotelian qualities (e.g., hot, cold, moist,dry), but also beginning to align this viewpoint with the awakening sense of the archetypal significance of the pagan gods, derived from the first exposure in the West for many centuries to the dialogues of Plato and to the Hermetica. (Ficino was the first translator of Plato into Latin.) The result—particularly in the third book—is a work which takes the pagan Classical god-archetypes quite literally, and personifies them with the planets which are named for them. For Ficino, the planets affect the tenor and vigor of the intellectual's mind and the health of his body. But the main thrust of de Vita is the notion that there are remedies and balances that can be undertaken to mitigate their effect—in fact, to change the temper, even the fate, of a human being. In this regard, Ficino shows his deeply humanist point of view, which sets him apart from earlier writers.

The book's thrust depends on the tension Ficino tries to resolve intellectually—a tension that is typical of the syncretism of much of the early Renaissance—between Classical philosophy and religion and Christian belief. By filtering both through cosmology of Plato, Ficino attempts to reconcile these world-views. An English translation by Charles Boer of the De vita was published in 1982. A critical edition and English translation of the Three Books on Life, with the Latin on one page and the English translation on the facing page, with Introduction and Notes, by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark, was re-published in 1998 and again in 2002 by The Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, in conjunction with The Renaissance Society of America.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Dictionary Of Gnosis And Western Esotericism

Dictionary Of Gnosis And Western Esotericism Cover

Book: Dictionary Of Gnosis And Western Esotericism by Wouter Hanegraaff

Under the general heading “Gnosis and Western Esotericism”, this Dictionary brings
together a great range of Historical currents and personalities that have flourished in
Western culture and society over a period of roughly two millennia, from Late Antiquity
to the present. By doing so, it intends not only to provide a comprehensive reference work,
but also to question certain ingrained assumptions about the history of Western religion
and culture, and promote new agendas and analytical frameworks for research in these
domains. What is at stake in such a shift of Perspective can best be Illustrated by taking a
short look at the main terminological conventions that have traditionally been dominant.

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