Thursday, 31 December 2015

Perhaps “no one will live who still remembers it” ~ Wouter Hanegraaff

If there is one blog post that I would recommend to fellow freethinkers, it is “Perspective 2016” by Wouter Hanegraaff. It really is one of my all-time favourites.

Hanegraaff is full professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam, and was President of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) from 2005 to 2013.

In this excellent and timely, and yet also timeless, essay – which will resonate with many who are acquainted with that other mystical tradition, the Sufi Way and the writings of Idries Shah – Hanegraaff writes:

“The world is changing. At this end of the year, with Christmas coming up and a New Year just around the corner, I feel a need to gain some perspective on what is happening all around us, and how it is affecting our very ways of thinking, our very ways of living, our very conceptions of what is possible, our very expectations of where we are going, and most importantly, our very ways of imagining where we should be going ...”

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Escape From the Shadowlands, and Game of Aeons – Free Ebooks

Two ebooks, Escape From the Shadowlands, and Game of Aeons: A short novel, are free for a limited time.

You can download the books using the direct links below, from our Dropbox site:

Enjoy, and have a great holiday!



Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Sufi Mystics: Ancient Wisdom for Dire Modern Times

The Sufis paperback book cover 2015
Just over fifty years ago, in 1964, the writer, thinker and Sufi teacher Idries Shah’s major work, The Sufis, was published. Writer and later winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007, Doris Lessing, writing in The Washington Post, described the work as “a seminal book of the century, even a watershed,” and the poet Ted Hughes wrote that “the Sufis must be the biggest society of sensible men on Earth.” Men and women, that would be. At the time of his death, in November 1996, Shah’s thirty-or-so books on travel, philosophy, psychology and spirituality had sold over 15 million copies in a dozen languages worldwide.

Although others had come before Shah, such as the Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, at the time Shah wrote his first work popularising the subject, the Sufi Way was largely unknown outside of specialist academic and Sufi circles. The closest many had come to Sufism would possibly be to have read the tales in One Thousand and One Nights, which were actually of Sufic origin and designed to surreptitiously convey certain teachings and survive through their popularity.

Many of Shah’s books have teaching tales scattered throughout them, or are collections of such tales, which have multiple layers of meaning that can be revealed like the layers of an onion, rather than the simple morals that we have become accustomed to in the West, via the likes of Aesop. Some, such as the tales of the folksy philosopher and wise fool, Nasrudin, use humour as a vehicle.

According to the Sufis, a wholly scholastic or logical approach to study, or closed thinking, is restrictive and ill-advised, and this is preserved in one of Nasrudin’s jokes:

Nasrudin, ferrying a pedant across a piece of rough water, said something ungrammatical to him. “Have you never studied grammar?” asked the scholar.
“No.”
“Then half of your life has been wasted.”
A few minutes later Nasrudin turned to the passenger. “Have you ever learned how to swim?”
“No. Why?”
“Then all your life is wasted—we are sinking!”

What the Sufis advocate instead, as correctives, are the development and use of perception and intuition, and learning a practical skill which they technically term “swimming”. One of the aims is to awaken what Shah terms our vestigial organs of higher perception, which will help us in our quest toward Truth.

The Sufis talk of finding a hidden treasure of inestimable worth, but since it is buried under a mountain of misbelief and conditioning, a lot of digging has to be undertaken first, a preliminary phase which Shah refers to as learning how to learn. To use an organic metaphor: first of all, the ground has to be cleared of dead wood, undergrowth and weeds before the seeds can be planted; then the seeds are watered and grow out of the ground, and into the air, to be warmed by the sun; and finally they come to fruition and may be harvested. The Sufi materials help clear the ground and scatter those seeds, in the mind and heart of the seeker, and the teacher provides the “water”.

Or, to put it another way (as the Sufis so often do), imagine a princess locked in a dungeon and placed under guard. That is our common plight. It is possible to use the Sufi stories to smuggle hidden messages to the princess, who represents our heart or a higher part of us, via those unsuspecting and greedy guards – guards who are equally a part of our own makeup. By establishing a common language and a secret dialogue, messages can in turn be smuggled out about the princess’ plight. To cut a long and involved story short, by such means, the princess can be freed from the dungeon and regain her rightful place.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Which are the best books to read first?

Which of Etienne de L'Amour and H.M Forester's novels are best read first?

• Etienne de L'Amour

The best book to begin reading is Escape From the Shadowlands or the next book, In Search of Destiny. Although they are preceded by two prequels, they stand on their own and are pretty much self-contained.

Escape From the Shadowlands book cover
(a) Escape From the Shadowlands by Etienne de L'Amour is a soft scifi / mystical adventure ebook available for the Kindle at just $2.99 (or the nearest permitted equivalent outside the US).

☆☆☆☆☆ "Astounding, dizzying journey! Entertaining, enlightening."

If you like Doris Lessing's Shikasta; James Hilton's Lost Horizon; the writer, thinker and Sufi teacher Idries Shah, or the legendary Sarmoun Brotherhood, then give this book a try.

Amazon US Amazon UKGoodreadsBlog post

If you haven't got a Kindle, check out free Kindle reading apps.

In Search of Destiny book cover
(b) In Search of Destiny is set in the disparate realms of the Outlands; Sher Point, the metropolis of the so-called Freelands, and the mystical kingdom of Narayana in the East.

It tells the story of Conrad Harper, who sets out one day to search for his destiny and heart's true desire; of the help offered him by a mysterious organization known simply as the Network; his journeys with the Master of the Tradition, Tenzing Jangbu Rinchen, and of his finding romance and ancient knowledge.

And it shows how ordinary and everyday experiences, which we tend to take for granted and often do not value, can be brought into service and woven together into a rich tapestry with an altogether higher purpose.

☆☆☆☆☆ "The story rocks along as any good adventure story should, but with an added bonus of the sprinkling throughout of bits of wisdom, guidance offered to readers ... I highly recommend you read this most interesting and enjoyable book!" (Amazon US)

☆☆☆☆☆ "If you have ever wanted more in life than programmed work, entertainment, economy-worship, and political sideshows, you'll love this book ... I got my copy free as a review copy, but I would have paid for it easily knowing what I know now!" (Amazon US)

Although In Search of Destiny is book 4 in the Shadowlands series, feel free to read this first.

Amazon USAmazon UKGoodreadsBlog post

If you haven't got a Kindle, check out free Kindle reading apps.

• H.M. Forester
 
Game of Aeons: A short novel by H.M. Forester stands on their own and is self-contained, so that's as good a book as any to read first.

Game of Aeons book cover
Game of Aeons is a soft scifi / virtual reality, available as an ebook for the Kindle at just $2.99 (or the nearest permitted equivalent outside the US).

When do games become reality? Or is "reality" a game?

☆☆☆☆☆ "Very readable. Humour, wisdom about the human condition and the meaning of reality." (Amazon US)
☆☆☆☆☆ "Thought provoking; enjoyable; fascinating idea that a game could be a means of self development" (Amazon UK)
☆☆☆☆ "A good read, indeed. Topical themes, perennial questions." (Goodreads)

Amazon USAmazon UKGoodreadsBlog post

If you haven't got a Kindle, check out free Kindle reading apps.

Enjoy!

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Protocol of the Elders of OpenID

OpenID logo
I had a dream the other night, brought on by a rather elusive and stubbornly intractable software problem I'd been tussling with in my mind for some time (for the developer, that's where the issues so often lay), accompanied by questions – indeed pleas – along the lines of “Why me? What have I done to deserve all this grief? For God's sake, beam me up or something! Get me out of here!” which alternated with half-hearted assertions (that are actually true for solutioneers in a majority of cases) that “There must be a solution to, and a logical reason for this. I just haven't found it yet.”

In the dream, I became aware that there was a stream of information or a channel involved that I had not factored in, as I had not appreciated that it was a part of the system that I was attempting to diagnose. In a certain sense (and this is how I pictured it in my dream), there was something “going right over my head” and I'd been oblivious to this reality.

Is there such a thing as free will?

And then my mind turned to the question of whether there is any such thing as free will (following on from me questioning whether I was fated or doomed to tussle with these problems or if I could simply walk away)? And the answer that was presented to me was both “The matter is out of your hands” and simultaneously “The matter is in your own hands”, and “It's all a matter of protocol.”

Friday, 9 January 2015

[Technical] An off-the-grid networking project

Alternate Net is a project that I've been working on for some time. It will allow people to create a network of web sites independent of the ICANN regulatory body that is responsible, amongst other things, for managing the Internet's domain name system (DNS). While ICANN works with regular domains like ".com", Alternate Net will bypass the regular network of DNS name servers and use the custom top level domain ".altnet".

home.altnet, the home of Alternate Net.

This has been done before, of course, and it's popularly called “The Dark Net” since the web sites and other resources in such private networks do not show up and cannot be accessed from web browsers and other devices that are tied to the official DNS servers. If someone types in a domain like "some-site.altnet" into their web browser, regular DNS servers will send back an NXDOMAIN response (domain not found). Unfortunately, the Dark Net has acquired a very poor reputation, since it hosts all manner of unsavoury, illicit and illegal content and activities – and that is the last thing we want.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The prodigious Work of the Sufis: Book review

The Sufis (2014) by Idries Shah
The Sufis by Idries Shah offers a wide overview of the historical development of the Sufi Way, through the works of individual masters (many of whom were highly successful polymaths), schools and orders, and through a whole host of fields in which they were engaged or through which their work was projected, such as religion, ethics, learning, science, the arts, traditional psychology and (not least) humour. Though it came to maturity in the classical Islamic era, the Sufi Way (which may be thought of in part as the esoteric heart of [exoteric] religion), it is said to have been a vital "yeast" or leaven in societies since time immemorial.

The Sufis shows the extraordinary and largely unknown or unsuspected influence and shaping of society, of what some term the "Ancient Teachings" or the "Secret Doctrine", not only in the East but also gradually diffusing throughout Medieval Christondom, a process which continues to this day, being re-presented as ever in accordance with the needs of time, place and people.

There's little point in reading out a list of the many topics covered by the chapters in the book, but suffice it to say that the Sufis influenced or were behind a great many of our institutions, or that these institutions are relics of previously dynamic Sufic operations. At random, then, we can see this Sufic influence in our poetry; literature; mythology; magic; alchemy; freemasonry; and in the Troubadour movement (with the concept of chivalry, romantic love and hence much modern music that has come along in its wake).