Honestly, I can be a real asshole. Case in point, when I received a copy of “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology” by John Michael Greer. I immediately, without a moment’s pause, tossed it aside. Nothing against nature or the earth, I thought, but I didn’t need to read another “hippy” book about how the earth has much to teach us and let’s learn her ways and live on dirt and etc., etc. I get it, nature is an awesome thing, and I do love it from the window seat in my climate controlled home, but I just didn’t need to read another book about it.
Then I don’t know what happened. I kept shuffling the book from one spot to another in the apartment. For a while its spine stared out at me from under our laptop. Then it was bumping my elbow for a few days while I was working at my computer. You get the idea. Somehow this book, no matter where I shoved it, always seemed to end up in my way. As my mom would say, “Like a pile of horse shit, always in the middle of the road.” Finally I decided the only thing left to do was to read the stinkin’ thing.
Holy crap am I glad I did.
There is no peace sign throwing, tie dyed flag waving, hippy jargon to be found in “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth”. Instead, John Michael Greer uses some of the most basic observable things to be found in nature to explain fundamental principles of modern mystery schools. Consider me very impressed. Many apologies to the venerable Mr. Greer whom I never should have doubted.
Greer breaks down the mystery teachings to seven core principles: The Law of Wholeness, The Law of Flow, The Law of Balance, The Law of Limits, The Law of Cause and Effect, The Law of Planes, and The Law of Evolution. These may sound abstract, but by repeatedly using the familiar setting of a grassy meadow (even this allergy pill junkie can manage reflecting on a grassy meadow) these Laws become easier to understand and to relate with the others. With the addition of an affirmation, a theme for reflection, and a meditation to each Law, these Laws go from being just an informational stepping stone to a mystery practice itself.
After that Greer does an excellent job explaining what magic is like in the Western occult traditions, what it is like, or more precisely, what it should be like to be an initiate in a mystery school, a bit of context of where mystery schools are in the history of spirituality, and lastly an afterword that advises readers as to what to look for in potential mystery schools and suggests a few books.
John Michael Greer’s “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth” is the best book I ever read for explaining the fundamentals of the Western occult traditions. You could give this book to someone who knew absolutely nothing and they would walk away with a better understanding than most. However this book isn’t just for beginners. Although not an expert or an advanced practioner I suspect that someone like that would find this book a wonderful tune up for their practice. A touchstone to some core principles to breathe a little fresh air into your system. I guess what I’m saying is buy this book, buy it now.
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