A quick glance back at twelve books we read last year that stirred our minds and stoked our hearts:
Christopher Bache “Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps to a Deep Ecology of Mind”
In all honesty, we’ve studied this book cover-to-cover a few times a year for the last 3 years straight. Owning two well-thumbed and dog-eared copies, it’s a life-affirming reference guide to individual & collective nonordinary states, and we can’t imagine going forward without it. But multiple readings don’t stop us from recognizing that this singularly unique book remains #1 not only in 2012, but in our years to come. Bache is the courageous, humble, and wise uncle we never had but always wished we did.
Joseph Campbell “The Masks of God” vols. 1 – 4
Looking for an utterly exhaustive and totally illuminating reading project anytime soon? This meaty four-book series by our beloved Prof. Campbell should hit the spot. Leaving no mythological stone unturned, the reader is deftly led through dense thickets of inner & outer meaning, comparing vastly diverse concepts in an effortless manner. These are books where single sentences somehow unite subjects as disparate as aboriginal circumcision ceremonies, James Joyce, and Vedic pantheism. It would be simply overwhelming information coming from most other authors, but Campell’s conversational writing style and methodic structure renders it digestible material for any new or old student of Mythology.
Chuang Tzu “various texts”
Taoism is pretty much our cup of tea: neither a religion nor a philosophy, it simply is a “way” which informs humanity of its permanent & implicit unity with the living Universe. Many ancient and modern teachers have contributed to this profound tradition, but Chuang Tzu’s particular take on the Tao is full of outrageous characters and healthy doses of humor. Check him out.
Mircea Eliade “From Primitives to Zen: A Thematic Sourcebook of the History of Religions”
In this massive volume, Eliade rests his authorship duties and takes on an über-curator role for one of the most enjoyable compilations around of world mythology and esoteric cosmogony. Stuffing over 600 pages with The Good Shit from every conceivable culture through the recorded ages, it now stands as an indispensible reference in our ever-growing library.
Carl Gustav Jung “Aion: Phenomenology of the Self”
Carl Gustav Jung “Answer to Job”
Carl Gustav Jung “Liber Primus / Liber Secundus (The Red Book)”
Carl Gustav Jung “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”
2012 was easily The Year of Jung for us. It’s difficult not to have one’s life drastically improve after assimilating these works. The four titles mentioned above are mere highlights of the dozens of writings we eagerly encountered by the Swiss “psychologist” in the last year. Though recognized universally as a Doctor of the Psyche and Scientist of the Mind, after engaging with his oeuvre, one has to consider Jung in an entirely more accurate light: he was chief among Mystics of the 20th Century. We recently attended a fantastic lecture by modern-day mystic Neil Kramer here in Portland. When he delivered an impressively comprehensive PowerPoint slide listing dozens of historical mystical figures, I thought, “Wow, it’s all there. He got most everybody, spot-on.” But may I suggest just one more name to add to your excellent list, mate? That name would be C. G. Jung. Hey, speaking of Neil Kramer. . . ohhh Neeeeil. . .
Neil Kramer “The Unfoldment”
Here is the one book that was not only read in 2012, but also published in the same year, making it the timeliest entry on our otherwise “catch-up-on-classics-we-should-have-studied-in-college” list. This is the Consciousness / Transformation / Human Potential text we’ve been waiting for. It is crisp, tight, and devoid of any BS that can sometimes accompany writing in this loosely-defined genre. Reading Kramer’s “The Unfoldment” feels like taking a refreshing morning shower in a warm waterfall, after emerging from your tent to the sight of sunrise from the tallest mountain peak in the Pacific Northwest. Bravo Neil, and more please!
Peter Levenda “Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation”
We’ll vouch in a heartbeat that Peter Levanda has been our favorite alternative-research dude and esotericism go-to guy for a few years now. Cutting a side-trail here from his usual level-headed scrutiny of Magikal ritual, alternative energy devices, and secret societies, “Stairway to Heaven” is possibly Levenda’s least controversial study to date. Yet controversy is simply superfluous once you get rolling with this impeccably researched & annotated look at “Ascent Literature” from various underground cultures around the world. Do you have any interest in Kabbalah, alchemy, gematria, Crowley, the merkavah, hermeticism, Gnosticism, Hindu Tantra, or the constellation Ursa Major? If so, this book is highly recommended. If not, then you’re probably better off with any other text on this list.
Joseph Chilton Pearce “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind & Reality”
At times frustratingly obtuse, at other times thrillingly lucid, this is a book that can’t help but hot iron brand its strange & empowering language right into any reader’s brain. “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” is renegade psychology at its best, synthesizing Carlos Castenada, fringe anthropological studies, and the New Testament into a passionate, unorthodox brew.
Alan Watts “Nature, Man, and Woman”
Watts played a leading role in our year’s extensive curriculum, and “Nature, Man, and Woman” is only one of a dozen books we enthusiastically devoured from this “philosophical entertainer.” But what a book it is. The man had quite a knack for eloquently penning thoughts & feelings we all have concerning the nature of reality. Yet most of the time the subtlety of these ideas elude our own articulation. So we turn to someone who made a lifetime career out of perfectly expressing the inexpressible qualities in life. You can’t go wrong with any of Watts’ texts, but this would be a suggested place to start if one is new to him.
Honorable mentions: Robert Anton Wilson’s “The Cosmic Trigger vol. 1”, Richard Tarnas’ “Cosmos and Psyche”, Eric & Marshall McLuhan’s “Theories of Communication”, Maurice Nicholl’s “The New Man” and “The Mark”, Joseph Campbell’s “Myths to Live By”, William Irwin Thompson’s “Passages About Earth”, Aeolus Kephas’ “Homo Serpiens”, and John C. Lilly’s “The Centre of the Cyclone” and “The Scientist”