Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Spiral Staircase - A Book

I first read a book written by Karen Armstrong a year ago, I had good impression of her great literary talent and her scholarly in-depth research on the subject. It actually prompted me to write an article of honoring all faiths. Little did I know at the time that a year later, I would, through my love to read, establish a kind of affinity with her from her akin to autobiographical work revealing her struggle out of cocoon of spiritual darkness.

Hers was a life of uncommon path. She had experienced seven years of excruciating mental and spiritual pain and suffering as a Catholic nun, and another ten more years difficult time of searching for her own identity after leaving the convent and trying to find her place in a secular life. With decades of long and hard soul searching and bitter-sweet score settling with her past, she was finally able to appreciate that all the suffering she had undergone was spiritually necessary for her to break out of the narrow confine of the convent and reach out to all the world religions with equal revere and understanding.

The book that I read a year ago was "Mohammad - A Prophet for Our Time". After the momentous event of 9/11, the western world was still naive of Islamic world. We are fearful of the power of Islam, believing that Islam was fundamentally a violent and hateful religion. The Muslims were just a bloodletting mob always stand in the ready to instigate conflict and terror. This distorted view was further stereotyped by the five decades long of Middle East conflict. The book about Prophet Mohammad was needed to restore the true spirit of Islam, and Karen did a great job bringing the truth of Islam to the western world.

Now that I have finished reading the book, Spiral Staircase - My Climb out of Darkness, I have gained further understanding of her motive and contribution of writing several books in regards to the fundamental principle of world religions. Other than ritualistic difference, most of the world religions have shared common value and morality in its core. The book, Spiral Staircase was a journey of eventful life. Not many of us can live through life of trial and tribulation unscathed, but reading her book make me realize that at time, we can be remarkably resilient against all odds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blasphemy - A Novel

I don't remember how that I got hold of this novel. At the time, I was searching other books in The Internet certainly has ways of sidetracking what I intend to do. I think it is one of the greatest distractions of all our invention. But on the other hand, sometimes I can be pleasantly surprised that after rummaging through the garbage, a gem can be unexpectedly found in a unsightly pile.

I took a good look of the name, and naturally I was curious of a book with such a profane title. With my entire being dedicated in searching the truth of our existence, you will think I toss the book in a mindless second. But my training in metaphysical study, especially from Jonathan Parker's Enlightenment Series, has taught me a kind of inquisitive marvel of well-rounded approach on all things metaphysical.

So, I checked it out in my local library, and was sufficiently amused for the next few days. Is science/technology really at odds with religion? Can they compliment each other with science peeling away and poking open the veil and the mystery of religion? The story in the blasphemy was mostly religion-bashing and understandably so. We have enough of the occultist's incitement causing colossal conflagration incinerated many thousands of lives throughout human history. Now the scientists, with high tech gadget and voluminous funding, is attempting to take over the role of religion with this four billion dollar project. I thought the story is a bit embellished but yet not overly impossible given the age in which we found ourselves with instant communication round the world through Internet making mobilizing mob demonstration an imminent possibility.

The novel is quite entertaining if not anything else. It is interesting that the last chapter is dedicated to accommodating the entire communication between Isabella and the scientists on site. I guess at the end of the day the author, Douglas Preston, does not want the reader to forget his new vision of god.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Have you ever made a solemn new year resolution determining to eradicate some unwanted habit or to establish a more healthier one? For the first two weeks , you are buzzing with excitement and almost all the world could read your mind of what you are about to do. Yes, it shows, loudly and clearly in the twinkling of your eyes. The enigmatic beginner's luck kicks in and you are invincible. Everything you do seem to resonate with your newly forming habit.

As the humdrum daily routine set in, strangely, in a mysterious and subtle way, you find yourself gradually become unable to keep up with the demand of forming the new habit. You start to slack off, to make excuses for yourself. At the same time, the newness wears off, the excitement loses its steam and before you realize what is happening, you are squarely back to your good old self.

I often contemplate of why it is so hard for us to change. Psychotherapist's research informed us that the majority of our mental programming is hard-wired in our psyche through many years repetitive reinforcement and they reside not in our conscious but in a deeper recess of the mind where sheer determination has not shown much effectiveness to alter its course.

Over the years, the self-development community has devised some effective techniques dealing with this invisible beast of ours. There are worthy techniques like hypnosis, affirmation through alpha state, subliminal programming or other new age methods. All of them might have some measure of success. I personally enjoy using affirmation through alpha state as a way of hopefully creating a lasting change without hypnotherapy's help or the need to acquire some expensive gadget. Whichever method we choose, there is a common thread of persistent and sustained effort that is required on all fronts to ensure the success of our endeavor.

The year 2008 has gotten underway, I have once again set sight just high enough for me to mull over lest I should fall into a state of ignorant contentment.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Halfway Up the Mountain....

"Halfway up the mountain" is a book published in 1999 by Mariana Caplan. This book pointed out the numerous pitfalls and erroneous conception of what the spiritual enlightenment was all about. Many half-baked seekers driven by grandiose and pompous disillusion of showing off the psychic powers mistakenly believed that exhibition of psychic senses is equivalent to reaching enlightenment. Well, not so fast, my friend!

We have come of age with informational explosion through Internet, the once arcane wisdom and esoteric knowledge secretly guarded by the most hidden and impenetrable group of society can now be readily available through online stores with affordable installment payments. There are pseudo masters every where you turn with any topic of your choosing, including the invisible and unmeasurable spirituality.

Science offers concrete evidence and measurable result. Medicine cures and heals. But what exactly spirituality does? I can not pretend that I have the answer. I am very much committed on the path of self development. After seven years of on and off meditation, read dozens of books related to metaphysical teaching and most importantly enlightened by the knowledge and wisdom of mystical nature from Jonathan Parker's Enlightenment Series, I still feel I have some stubbornly unresolved neurosis. There is no quick fix, no fast food way to reach any level of self mastery.

One of the biggest traps of modern spirituality is the issue of ego. Ego is the final frontier that the inspiring aspirant is supposedly trying to confront and conquer. But with our society full of abundant materialism and with fame and fortune waving incessantly in the headline news, there aren't many who can resist the temptation to make a name of himself or herself in the realm of spiritual masters. In the process, Ego got bigger and stronger, the fall from grace is eventually inevitable. For the average seeker, we need not worry about falling from grace yet, but we do need to heed the danger of falling into the habit of perpetual spiritual shopping.