Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Magic and Alchemy I've found in Books.

"Children don't read to find their identity, to free themselves from guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation.  They have no use for psychology.... They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.... When a book is boring, they yawn openly.  They don't expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish illusions."  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer~

I cannot imagine my life without books. Reading to me is as important as breathing and eating. I know many of you understand exactly the way I feel. If you gave me the choice between going out to a party full of "exciting" people or have a quiet night at home reading a good book, can you guess what I'd choose? I usually have about three books that I'm reading at the time. Currently, I'm reading a book about Medieval England, a computer programming book and book about earth magick. This way, I can satisfy all those parts of myself that crave different worlds and wisdom. So, this will be one of the most challenging posts I have ever written.
Our blogs theme this week was to discuss books that have influenced our spiritual paths or books that we just love. Trying to narrow down all the books that I cherish and have been changed is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. With a lot of thought and difficulty, I've narrowed down my choices to two books. They both have helped me to learn more about myself, they continue to give me pleasure each time I reread them and I think that if you haven't read them you might want to read them for yourselves.
"Goddess in Every Woman" by Jean Shinoda Bolen introduced me to "Archetypal Psychology". Trying to explain what an archetype is, is like trying to explain the quantum of physics which I doubt I'll ever fully understand. I'm going to attempt to give you just the tiniest bit of what an archetype is. Please forgive me if you're still confused at my explanation of archetypes. There are many wonderful resources available if you want to learn more. Archetypes and Archetypal psychology is a world unto itself and each individual has to learn for themselves about this realm.

Dr. Carl Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and like him studied psychology. They both had very different personalities and views of life but one of the major fascinations and psychological theories they agreed upon, was the study of "Archetypal Psychology." Jung and Freud learned more about ancient stories, myths, dream symbols, pantheistic religions and found that cross-culturally there seemed to be reoccurring patterns and images that kept showing up. For example, the wicked witch, the young princess, the wise magician, etc...are all examples of archetypes that we all know and can identify with no matter what culture we live in.Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen is an archetypal psychologist based upon the teachings of Freud and Jung. She wrote the "Goddesses in Every Woman" to help women and men explore those parts of themselves based on the early Greek/Roman Goddesses with an archetypal slant. I first read the book when I was in my twenties and became immediately drawn to archetypal psychology. I have always loved mythology as well as psychology in general. She writes about certain Greek Goddesses and their strengths, weaknesses and the most predominant stories that are associated with them. We can relate to certain deities because we may identify with similar personality traits and life experiences. Back then, I revered Aphrodite and when I read this book, I started to see how I was limiting myself because I only wanted to be considered "Aphrodite like." We're all complex creatures and therefore we don't have just one archetype and that's it. It's when we exclude parts of ourselves that we may not like or wish to develop that we don't really evolve and grow.
As I kept reading "Goddesses..." I began to learn about the other Goddesses and the lessons I could learn from each.Artemis helped me to reclaim my athletic ability I long ago gave up and more importantly why women need to honor other women instead of constantly focusing on my romantic relationship issues with men, which was in the realm of Aphrodite. I wanted to become more like Athena because of her intellectual brilliance and her ability to use logic instead of always coming from pure emotions. Demeter was a goddess of the earth and had strong maternal instincts for her daughter Persephone. I always had strong maternal instincts from my son, but I learned to nurture him more the way Demeter did. Those were just a few examples of what I took away from the book. Today, I still read it and see where I may a bit unbalanced, which archetype I'm currently identifying with and how I've grown from when I first read it. Dr. Bolen also wrote a book called, "Gods in Every Man" which is worthwhile to read for both men and women. Each gender has a masculine side and a feminine side within so it's important to incorporate both qualities. I appreciated how she wrote as so many psychology books tended to be either full of b.s. or they used jargon that went way above my head. If you like mythology and are interested in learning more about archetypal psychology, then this can be a perfect book for you. I hope you check it out and then let me know if you like it or not.

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho is one of my all time favorite books. It's very written externally but within the story there is so much soul and wisdom. It's not a book that teaches how to walk a particular spiritual path or become more psychologically savvy.Who I am spiritually today has been strongly shaped by this book. Santiago is a young sheep herder in young boy who lives in the Andalusian Mountains and has a very quiet and modest life. One night he has a dream where he's in Egypt and discovers a remarkable treasure. He wakes up and realizes how important this dream is and that he needs to travel to Egypt to find his treasure. The books takes us off on this incredible journey of his. He learns about an alchemist who has magical wisdom and is famous because he knows how to speak "the language of the world" which can be used to transform base lead into gold. Alchemists of early times were known for their quest to acquire gold from lead. I saw the gold in the book as a metaphor where some people seek out gold only for material gain only ending up with fools gold and others may walk the path of an alchemist so that they may find the gold within. Santiago goes through many setbacks, challenges and fears that each of us have experienced. He also finds allies who are far different from what he imagined. I reach for this book over and over again when I'm feeling disillusioned, stuck or I can't seem to remember the blessings life has to offer. It doesn't matter what your age is what spiritual path you're on. If you're willing to open yourself up, you may after reading "The Alchemist" find riches you've only dreamed of. "The Alchemist" has become like a beloved friend and mentor to guide me along the way. Paulo Coelho writes a blog that is so full of inspiration and beauty that it doesn't matter if you've read "The Alchemist" or anything else he has written, the blog stands alone because of how wonderful it is.
I would love to know what books are important in your life and the gifts you have received from them. I always look forward to read new books that just may end up as a new best-friend..
"Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own."  ~William Hazlitt~


Rue said...

I love, love, love The Alchemist! Such an incredible book!

Great post! I too read two or three books at once, usually a fiction and then one or two non-fiction.

I really loved Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" - really changed my way of thinking!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I love Goddesses in Every Woman -- it's a true classic! Anything written by Jean Shinoda Bolen is worth reading. I've never read The Alchemist, but your review is so positive and intriguing, I'm going to add it to my "to read" list!

Wendy said...

O.k. this convinces me, I think we need to start a group book blog as we seem to like the same books! What do you think? I'm going to check out "A New Earth" I've heard hes great.
Thank you both for commenting :)

Layla Morgan Wilde said...

Both are classics that I re-read every couple years.

Rochelle said...

I want to read both of those books you love NOW! :) There are a couple of books that I've read over and over the last 20+ years: Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," and A.S. Byatt's "Possession." Pilgrim is a memoir of her time living and studying, in minute detail, the world around her at Tinker Creek, and Possession is about two English literary researchers. I love reading about people who have such a passion for something that they become totally absorbed in every aspect - whether it is the natural world or 19th century poets - I would love to be so consumed but it doesn't seem to be a part of my personality (so which Greek Goddess am I? :>).

Wendy said...

I love Annie Dillard! and I also really loved "Posession". Have you seen the movie w/ Erin Eckhart and I think it was Gwyneth Paltrow? Not as good as the book, but interested.Which Greek Goddess are you? hmmmm, lol...Perhaps a combination of Artemis and Athena. lol...

Lynelle said...

I just finished "Possession," since we are on the topic. It was so passionate and intriguing. I feel like I've become 'possessed' my own self with the story. Excellent read.


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