Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Book Review: The Initiation by Tom Llewellyn

Book Review: The Initiation

by Tom Llewellyn

It's been a long time since I've done a book review for my blog. That's probably because I was so busy last summer that I hardly took any time to read. I always read more in the winter months.

Today I'm reviewing The Initiation: A Progressive Spiritual Manual by Tom Llewellyn. The author was kind enough to send me a review copy. While it's not specifically about lucid dreaming, OBEs, or astral projection, the book progresses toward that end. The last couple chapters are about those things.

I really liked this book. It's spiritual, but well grounded. It's practical, meaning it has lots of easy to understand instructions. It's progressive, meaning each chapter builds on the next and the whole book is a step-by-step journey of becoming.

The book presents something the author calls "The Initiation," which is broken into four doors that have keys, although I don't remember him saying exactly what that is. But each chapter contains part of a key, and builds on the last. Every chapter ends with a sentence to describe which part of which key it represents. For example, chapter 3 ends with this one:
"If you feel you have a clarity about the nature of the false self and an inner commitment to awaken your humanity and see through the illusions of the false mind-matrix then you have in your hands the third part of the key of the first door of The Initiation." (pg. 36)

Llewellyn has good "deep" philosophy based on a number of different spiritual traditions. For example, I really liked this quote:
"In this mysterious paradoxical world, losing yourself and finding yourself go hand in hand. You become lost to the false self and you find the true self. The kind of seeming contradiction that states that, as human beings, we are both nothing and all, can be resolved within the simplicity of our soul's inner smile and child-like understanding." (pg. 5)
And:
"The purpose of the darkness is to make the light stand out." (pg. 7)
It's not about what to do, but also what not to do. No one's more guilty of this than me:
"Spending too much time on the computer or smart phone would also be strong modern examples of habits that lead to unconsciousness." (pg. 16)
It's not just about the practices, but how to integrate it:
"If we are finding it hard to process the weight of our experiences and sense input we will find practices like meditation, time spent in nature, creative art work, therapy and relaxation helpful, as they will help us to sift through our unconscious mind and regain contact with the present moment." (pg. 20)
Here's another quote I liked:
"Searching for a playfulness of heart can help, so that you can learn to rekindle that child-like understanding, which knows and appreciates the sacredness and interconnectedness of life." (pg. 23)
The book isn't so much about exploring out-of-body states, but a complete transformation of the self. For example, I really liked chapter 4, Transcendence, because it talks about shaking ourselves out of our normal patterns:
"In this chapter I will show that there is a lot of suffering in this world and that a normal material life can leave you empty of energetic resources and so you need to have transcendence through turning to the world of spirit." (pg. 37)
I also liked this quote:
"It seems like a paradox, that when we take ourselves out of the net and seemingly put distance between ourselves and others, we actually bring ourselves much closer to them. It's as if only when we free ourselves from the mud, can we see the mud and see how others are caught in it." (pg. 39)
A lot of people resist a spiritual path because they feel like they have to give up their comfortable lives and start living a life of sacrifice and discipline. Llewellyn shows us some middle-ground:
"Although it is clear that sense desire can cause people a lot of suffering we must beware of concepts such as becoming 'desire-less'. Perhaps we should talk more about 'refining' desire. Not only for the above reasons, but also because there is a great need for social and environmental action in this world, and so what we don't necessarily need is a lot of people feeling 'desire-less', 'goal-less', and lacking motivation to positively act in this world. The core principle should always be, in our practice helping us to feel more conscious, awake, connected and loving." (pg. 42)
"The reality is that the more you help others on this planet the more the world of spirit will help you. If you isolate yourself from others, it would be naive to assume that your emotional wellbeing will be supplied by your connection with spirit alone." (pg. 47)
Most of the chapters also contain aphorisms, or things to meditate and reflect on, or affirmations to consider. For example, I liked this one:
"Let the word 'transcendence' pass your lips a thousand million times, yet know that you do not need to transcend the 'True Self', for the nature of the 'True Self' is transcendence itself." (pg. 54)
Chapter 6 is titled "Prayer" and it contains gems like this:
"Prayer in a sense is only a clarifying of the intention that we can then express in action. Prayer will always have power but it gains a far deeper divinity if we are actually expressing our sentiments in our actions." (pg. 69)
I also liked this aphorism:
"For every prayer you say for yourself, say ten for others." (pg. 71)
I've always believed that if we change our beliefs and attitudes, we change our circumstances (as in the Jane Roberts / Seth adage "You create your own reality.") Here's one of the author's "Eckhart Tolle" moments:
"In other words we always want things to be other than what they are. If only that person or situation was a bit different, if only the weather was better if only I was more attractive or younger, if only...then I would be happy. There is a bright light that we can bring into this situation and that light is an 'acceptance of the present moment.' Once you accept the nature of your present moment experience you take a huge chunk of the ego's power away." (pg. 78)
Chapter 9 is "The Path." Llewellyn lists these elements of the path: Fasting, Giving, Discipline, Ethics, Love, Pain, Fear, Persistence and Positive Attitude.

I especially liked what he said about love. He told the story of a well-known Indian Baba called Neem Karoli Baba:
"Once a western disciple came up to him and asked him 'How to meditate.' Initially the Baba told him to go away but as the Westerner was leaving the Baba said "Just meditate like Christ."
"Later the disciple came to him and asked him what he meant. The old Baba closed his eyes and seemed to disappear for a few minutes. When he came back and opened his eyes, he had tears in his eyes. "He lost himself in love. He loved everyone, even those that crucified him. That is the way to meditate, just be like Christ or Gandhi. Just lose yourself in love." (pg. 105)
As for pain, he wrote:
"We always hold one jewel in the face of suffering and pain. This jewel, is the way we can respond."
I also loved this quote about death:
"It is not possible to be really vividly alive unless you are aware of death, because death is woven up into the very fabric of life. The essence of everything is eternal but at the same time transience is woven into all. Death is the other side of the coin of awareness. Everything brightly shivers in the transience of this world." (pg. 122)
In the "third door" section, Llewellyn has lots of meditation exercises, and he's got a lot of them. He has dynamic energy exercises like Robert Bruce. He has breathing exercises like Bhastrika: Bellows Breath, and Kapalabhati: Cleansing Shining Skull Breath. He has lots of exercises, mostly geared toward different kinds of meditation. They're all very solid, and different from most exercises you find in ordinary OBE books, but he uses a lot of these exercises to supplement his OBE techniques.

The "fourth door" is all about inducing lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. He makes some interesting observations. I've always believed that lucid dreams are basically OBEs with a hallucinated dream environment. Llewellyn has a different take:
"Lucid Dreaming body of consciousness and the Astral body of consciousness are like different zones in the same sea. The experience will be different depending on the vehicle and level of consciousness that is being utilized." (pg. 187)
I think he comes closer to the truth when he tries to clarify it later:
"[Lucid dreaming] is like a man sitting in a room watching events on the TV that are happening in the street outside. The events are being represented very well on the television screen, but still it is not the same as being outside." (pg. 189)
That's not to say lucid dreams are less valuable:
"It is wrong to believe that astral projection experiences are necessarily always superior in some way to lucid dream experiences, as this is not the case at all. Lucid dreaming offers a safer, more usual and more protected route of exploration than astral projection, at least in its initial stages does..." (pg. 190)
I really only disagreed with one thing the author said:
"There is no real clear boundary between lucid dreaming and shamanic journeying, so both states, which may very well be the same in essence can be used to explore the same terrains of the spirit." (pg. 193)
In my opinion, lucid dreaming is completely different from shamanic journeying. Lucid dreams occur when the body is completely asleep and inanimate, and your conscious awareness is firmly anchored in the self-created hallucination called the dream. Shamanic journeying is more like Robert Monroe's "Focus Level" experiences in which your conscious awareness remains centered mainly in the physical body, but you observe and even interact using a remote mechanism, much like remote viewing.

Llewellyn also writes about being careful when interacting with spirits, especially those who claim to be guides or masters. He also talks about the need to stay grounded and centered:
"Having said that we should not fall into the trap of abandoning our human spiritual friends and community in some kind of persuit [sic] of a purely non-physical community of enlightened friends." (pg. 199)
This is what he says about transitioning from a lucid dream to an OBE:
"If you want to shift from a lucid dream into an astral projection experience, all you need to do is activate and bring your astral body with you." (pg. 215)
I found that confusing, but he does say that as you get more experience with both, lucid dreaming will start to "phase" into the astral projection state.

The last chapter of the book is about astral projection, and he does give some good exercises. For example, he gives a technique called "Pulsing" which is basically the same as Akhena's "The Fire and the Diamond" technique in which you shift your attention from chakra to chakra, but Llewellyn uses multiple chakras whereas Akhena only used two: the root chakra (Fire) and the third eye (Diamond). He also recommends doing hundreds of "perineum mula-bhanda contractions."

Beginners often ask what to do when "the vibrations" hit. Llewellyn basically recommends the same thing I do, which is:
"Just allow the vibrational waves and energy to build up until it has reached its peak, perfect pitch tone, and this will shift you to the threshold. When this happens you can now exit." (pg. 258)
Achieving OBEs represents the final door of "The Initiation." There's one more chapter about psychic self-defense (or as they say in the UK, "defence") which is largely based on Robert Bruce's teachings.

I liked this book. The writing is mature and well done. It's 282 pages, so there's a good amount of content, and it's high quality. And there are lots of practical exercises.

My only complaint is that there are a lot of small mistakes. I didn't even notice it in the first half of the book, but by the last third I found a mistake on almost every page. I'm not talking about grammar-Nazi mistakes like spelling or even grammar; things like the wrong word (like physic where he meant psychic),  missing words, extra words, etc. Things that a good editor would have caught, but it's easy for authors to miss because they get too close to the work. Still, the content and principles are solid.

I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Bob Peterson
08 January 2019