The Active Side of Infinity – Carlos Castaneda

Experience would have me believe that we find books at the precise moment we are ready to receive their message. Such is the case with this book for me, and come to think of it, every Castaneda book I have read. I have been missing a few from my collection, and finally found them hiding on the shelves downstairs at Watkins Books in London. This was the one I was drawn to at the time: the final book written by the author before his death in 1998.

Castaneda’s books are all about his apprenticeship with a Yacqui Indian Shaman, Don Juan Matus, who may or may not have existed in reality; though this is a detail I find ultimately unimportant to the philosophy. They are a delight to read because the events described are in a simple and light-hearted guise, yet on a deeper level there are some hard-hitting spiritual messages.

Continue reading “The Active Side of Infinity – Carlos Castaneda”

Book List 2016 (Part One)

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I wanted to do a round-up of all the books I read during 2016, because I haven’t reviewed them all. I try to review as many as I can, but I have to admit that it only feels worthwhile if I have something useful to say without giving spoilers. On the whole I have read some fantastic books lately, both fiction and non-fiction, with many of my list scoring 8 or above.

Quantum Confessions – Stephen Oram (8/10)
A well-written debut novel about a future in which objective reality, including both science and religion, is outlawed by a libertarian government with disastrous consequences. This book made quite an impact on me, and has since inspired some of my own work. See my full review here.

Raja Yoga – Swami Vivekananda (9/10)
I have been actively experimenting with Raja Yoga over the last couple of years. It is a method of observing and controlling the body and mind with the aim of tuning our own spiritual experience. It requires a lot of discipline and focus. This book is just 48 pages, but outlines very clearly the method and purpose of the practice. I’m sure I will read it again and again.

The Outsider – Albert Camus (6/10)
This is the first of four existential novels I read this year, and my least favorite though it is generally well loved. It is a short and straight forward read, and it poses some philosophical questions about the way man behaves and how he places his values. But it just didn’t make a huge impact on me. I have seen criticism of the particular translation I read, so I wonder whether that had anything to do with my experience with the book, as I had expected something greater.

The Secret Book of the Golden Flower – Richard Wilhelm/C G Jung (10/10)
This is an old text about esoteric physiology, Taoism and methods for unlocking inner spirituality through yoga and meditation. It is a treasure trove of hints, made even more poignant by the inclusion of C G Jung’s interpretation from a psychological perspective. It showed me where eastern and western philosophies meet, and gave deep insights into the Raja Yoga work I have been doing. Another book I will return to without a doubt.

Continue reading “Book List 2016 (Part One)”

Book List 2016 (Part Two)

If you haven’t already read it, part one of this post is here.

The Fire From Within – Carlos Castaneda (10/10)
This is one of the books I enjoyed most in 2016, even though some of the content was repeated from Castaneda’s previous works. It follows some of the later parts of his shamanic training, in which he learns some complex ideas about heightened awareness and the state of being he is aiming towards. You can read my full review here.

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – Kent Wayne (6/10)
This is the first part of a dystopian science fiction novel written by fellow WordPress blogger Kent Wayne. It has a promising storyline and is engaging and well written. My only issue with it is that this part is too short to really form a clear opinion. I am aware that part two (and maybe three) is already available, so I will be sure to read more of this in 2017.

Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al. (2/10)
Hideous Gnosis is a collection of essays analysing the Black Metal music genre. I found it a very hard going, despite having both a strong background in philosophy and appreciation of the genre. There were some interesting ideas hidden in there, but on the whole it was unnecessarily dense and poorly written. My full review is here.

The Cat Inside – William Burroughs (5/10)
This is a very short read. It is a collection of brief pieces of prose about cats, and the author’s relationship with them throughout his life. It is heart-warming, and shows a different facet to Burroughs than we are used to seeing, but I consider it to be a curiosity rather than an engaging read.

Continue reading “Book List 2016 (Part Two)”

Is it Healthy to Remember our Dreams?


As an advocate of Jungian psychology and dream analysis in general, I’m proud of my high rate of dream recall. I remember at least one dream per night, at least 5 nights a week, and keep a rigorous dream diary. I interpret dreams, and I paint them, in an attempt to better understand the nature of the unconscious and its symbol system. It was put to me today that it is perhaps not a healthy thing to remember so much, as it means I am not only having disturbed sleep but am also interfering with a process that is meant to stay unconscious. I thought about this for a while.
Dream Recall and Disturbed Sleep

The average healthy adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, whereas I need as many as 10 if I am to wake up feeling fully rested. I am also easy to wake in response to external sounds as my family will attest. This suggests that I might indeed be having disturbed sleep and waking often, even if I don’t realise it at the time. Is this a problem?

This is what a typical night’s sleep looks like, for all of us:

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We dream during REM, and have our most restorative sleep during Delta. We have longer periods of Delta sleep towards the beginning of the night, and more frequent bouts of REM as we get closer to natural waking time. There is no evidence to suggest that a lack of REM sleep is problematic for us, but a lack of Delta time means that we never feel fully rested. This quickly takes its toll on our cognitive functions, mood and energy levels. Continue reading “Is it Healthy to Remember our Dreams?”

The Fire from Within – Carlos Castaneda

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It’s about 10 years since I last read anything by Carlos Castaneda. I always found his books entertaining and insightful, and couldn’t put them down once started. But I moved on to other things and never got back to the series until now. This has been a virtue actually: I don’t think I’d have gotten quite so much out of The Fire from Within had I not reached the point of spiritual development I am at today.

All of Castaneda’s books tell the stories of his apprenticeship with Yacqui Indian Sorcerer Don Juan Matus. I use the word sorcerer here, but it might be more appropriate to say he is a shaman, a spiritual teacher or a master of awareness. He teaches Castaneda to see that everything he considers to be real is based upon just one possible configuration of human perception. There are many, many other possibilities out there, and by accessing other ways of seeing we can reach new understandings and make some incredible achievements. Continue reading “The Fire from Within – Carlos Castaneda”

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