Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Astral Doorways

Astral Doorways

by J.H. Brennan

Today I'm reviewing Astral Doorways by J.H. Brennan.

This is another book that I read a very long time ago. It was one of the very first books I ever bought on astral projection back in the early 1980s. It was originally published in 1971, so the information is a little dated.

I remember reading Graham Nicholls' [very good] book Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience a couple years ago, in which he hailed "Herbie Brennan" as an important mentor and influence. I thought to myself, "I should probably re-read Astral Doorways, because I've forgotten pretty much everything in it. So I put it in my "to read" stack and it eventually bubbled up to the top.

Before chapter 1 even starts, Brennan states:
"Several techniques outlined in this book are dangerous. Readers are advised to take this fact into consideration before attempting to experiment with any of the Doorways."
Well, that's foreboding. That's scary. Either that, or he was just trying to protect himself from lawsuits from irresponsible dabblers in the occult. I prefer the latter explanation.

Brennan is a curious mixture of occultist and scientist, much like Dr. Douglas M. Baker. Much of his information comes from occult traditions, but he's very pragmatic, practical, and scientific about it all. There's no air of the secret, mysterious, or hidden occult knowledge here; it's just the facts as he sees it. There are even a few points of humor. This is unconventional for an "occult" book.

Chapter 1 is "Understanding the Astral" where Brennan lays out the foundation of his beliefs in astral projection and what it is. Curiously, he says:
"The use of the word 'astral' in occult literature never really added up either. It became obvious that the term had more than one meaning. Muldoon's 'Astral Body'* for instance, had no real connection with the Astral Plane. His meanderings had really taken place in the Etheric Body, which was something else again." (pg. 2)
He insists the astral body (as many other authors say):
"...is used only on the Astral Plane. But the trained occultist can use it on the physical as well." (pg. 10)
Chapter 2 is "A Pathway To The Doors". Here the author--much like Salvatore Caesar Scordato--talks about how astral projection all hinges on vivid visualization and how well you can do that:
"Your mental pictures must become crisp and clear. Their colours must be vital and alive." (pg. 11)
He gives exercises to help you develop your ability to visualize, and he stresses practice, practice, practice.

Chapter 3 is "The Ultimate Protection." Here he talks about rituals of protection, complete with a practical example taken from occult sources. I laughed out loud when I read this:
"The Medieval grimoires especially seem to have been composed exclusively by psychopaths." (pg. 19)
ROFL! See what I mean about unconventional? I think my brother Joe, who runs the site Esoteric Archives would probably disagree. The bottom line, he says, is this:
"I cannot over-stress this point. If you run into something nasty on the Astral, it is because something nasty already exists in your mind. The Astral Plane does nothing more than give it form." (pg. 24)
In other words, as Jane Roberts/Seth so famously put it, "You create your own reality" and that applies even more so to the astral plane which is even more flexible. Therefore, Brennan stresses "purity of motive, emotional control and self-awareness."

Chapter 4 is "The Elemental Doorways." Here Brennan explains:
"There are five basic Elemental Doorways to the Astral Plane."
He equates them with various traditions, such as the Golden Dawn, the Hindu Tattvic versions of Akasa, Vayu, Tejas, Apas, and Prithivi, and the alchemical versions of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. He gives techniques for first visualizing, then stepping through, these astral doorways.

He stresses that you need to retrace your steps back to the physical (both symbolically and ritualistically) and close the astral door after you return, so no entities can follow you back and become attached.

Chapter 5 is "The Visions and the Dreams". Here he talks about his friends Nick and Bea Van Vliet, who participated in some experiments using his techniques and also with hypnosis. Bea was able to go into trance quite easily and narrate what was happening in her projections. She was even able to gather information that would later be verified.

Chapter 6 is "The Tarot Doorways." Here Brennan gives another technique that involves using a card from a Tarot deck as the source of visualization, and acts as your doorway.

Chapter 7 is "The Qabalistic Doorways." Brennan talks about the Qabala; an ancient system of Jewish mysticism, and its "Tree of Life."

Chapter 8 is "The Oriental Doorways." Here he talks about harnessing the I Ching, which is an ancient Chinese form of divination (like Tarot) in which you use coins or yarrow sticks to form a variety of hexagram figures. These hexagrams, may likewise be used to answer questions, but Brennan suggests using them as astral doorways.

Chapter 9 is "Hypnosis and the Astral." Here he gives some techniques for using hypnosis and self-hypnosis (responsibly) to achieve astral projection.

Chapter 10 is "The Hypno-Astral Experience." Brennan talks about using hypnosis to induce astral projection in various friends and acquaintances. He got some interesting verifiable information. The quality of the experience was interesting. Some people experience a total feeling of relocation, whereas:
"To Sam, the whole thing was rather like going to the cinema [movies]." (pg. 77)
Chapter 11 is "The Objective Astral" which is more theory than anything. He gives a diagram with concentric rings to represent the material world, surrounded by the astral plane, which is itself surrounded by the "mental" plane, and then the "spiritual" plane. This is similar to what Theosophy teaches.

Chapter 12 is "Astral Entities" where he talks about astral shells (discarded astral bodies, etc.), Artificial Elementals, and similar non-physical entities, like John Kreiter's "Moths."

Chapter 13 is "Heightening the Astral Experience." This is a grab-bag of occult lore, like using "Elemental Doorways", how words are really just vibrations, and using the [Qaballistic] names of God to improve your experiences.

He also talks about several other OBE techniques such as those taught in Tibetan Buddhist traditions, fasting, sleep deprivation, the techniques of the Whirling Dervishes, and Yogic traditions. I found this curious:
"And on no account try to mix visualizations with Yoga postures. Combining the two is a technique on its own. To try it without knowing what you are doing is asking for psychosis." (pg. 98)
I'm not sure I agree, but whatever. And here's something I don't recall reading in any other OBE book: using mantras (spoken or imagined words and phrases) to induce OBEs (which is common), but repeating them faster and faster until they gain their own momentum, take on a life of their own, and throw off all extraneous thoughts. I definitely need to try that out!

Chapter 14 is "Astral Credo". Here Brennan talks a little bit about his philosophy about occultism and astral projection.
"But religion, to be worth anything at all, has to go beyond the Astral Plane. Consequently, a vortex is built up, drawing down power from spiritual levels." (pg. 103)
There are also two appendixes. The first, oddly enough, is about developing psychometry. The other is "Etheric and Astral" in which he tells a few amusing stories about his wife's experiences.

The book was heavy on techniques, but despite that, I was somewhat disappointed. Most of the techniques weren't "practical" in my mind. It covered a lot of ground, but it wasn't very "deep" and it could have been bigger. He had a few narratives from people he knew, but none of his own personal experiences.

The book is 115 pages long, but the margins are tight and the font is small, so there's a "fair" amount of content. The writing and grammar are professional grade. I didn't find any mistakes at all. Not a single misspelled word or grammar problem. None.

I'll give it three and 1/2 out of 5 stars. It was fair to partly cloudy.

11 July 2017
Bob Peterson

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