Iris’ 2019 in Books

My Year in Books is a custom on Goodreads, a social media platform that focuses on discussing, reviewing and recommending books.

I began the year with the intention of reading a fat stack of used-bookstore finds on Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. Nope. Life happened and I decided to distance myself from the Buddhist community I’d been hovering on the edges of. 

I enjoyed what I’d read of “Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-Shes Mtsho-Rgyal” . I found many parallels here to the archetypal roles found in Traditional Wicca – including that Padmasambhava was accused of being a sorcerer! I appreciated the poetic form used to describe someone meant to inspire us. The artwork in my copy is beautiful. I was not surprised to read about Tantric Buddhism, but was surprised to see it so obviously and overtly. (I ought to read more.) It also got me thinking about the roles and experience of women in traditional tantric practice and consent… For now, I prefer the modern approach of tantric sex as a spiritual tool for couples who respect and love each other. 

I got tired of reading about meditation and  Zen Buddhism. “The Three Pillars of Zen” was multiple books wrapped in one and some parts were truly excellent essential reading for occult practitioners. I was very pleased to have been lent Adyashanti’s “The Way of Liberation”, a beautiful and simple work that isn’t tradition specific and was a perfect complement to Roshi Philip Kapleau’s detailed work. I started and stopped other books – I no longer wanted to read other people’s experiences. I wanted to have my own.

I was surprised to really like “Feeding your Demons”, new-agey self-help book inspired by Buddhism. I think it shows an effective, accessible practice that helped me realize things about myself. I especially loved how it emphasized feelings, and not the hows and whys and stories of the past, like other self-help books. I think it offers a helpful way of working with thoughtforms/egregores without explaining them as such.

I enjoyed some great autobiographical books – “Medium Raw” (made me sad and hungry), “Educated” (made me react out loud in public). My feminist book club didn’t pick many selections that interested me, so I didn’t go to many events. “Becoming” was not as good as I’d hoped ( my expectations were unreasonably high), though I thought the novelMy Year of Rest and Relaxationwas an amazing surprise. I independently delighted in “Circe”, “The Bell Jar” and a fair amount of Josephine McCarthy, which may make this the year I’ve read the most female-authored works ever. 

Speaking of Josephine McCarthy, I fell upon the Quareia system of magick and it blew my mind with its scope. I enjoyed “Magic of the North Gate” and have been steadily reading the Quareia Apprentice system. It is an important work – I feel this so much so that I feel increasingly comfortable with stepping back from teaching in the Tradition I received. While there’s no substitute for spending one-on-one time with other practitioners, and I definitely disagree with some of what McCarthy has to say, this system is a full foundation for someone independent, keen and disciplined. It is definitely compatible with other systems. No one can complain anymore about a lack of free resources. It is incredible that occultism has become so mainstream and accessible.

In reading more McCarthy as well as more Crowley this year, it’s interesting to see how different occultists develop and recreate their own systems to teach others. I think we should aspire to be more like them, in the sense of really questioning and understanding the systems we participate in. I’ll chalk up some renewed interest in art, trance, enthneogens (“The Psychedelic Gospels”), astrology (“The 12th House”), death, and herbalism to the influences of those systems, as well as a feeling of rebellious attitude that’s been coming out stronger than ever this year. Combined with some light reading into Gnosticism (“The Gnostic Gospels”, bits of  “The Nag Hammadi Library”) it was the best kind of year of reading I could have asked for – diverse, offering introspection and discussion,  and leaving me curious for more. 

2020 is will be the year I will pack up many books and place them in storage which means I really ought to stop purchasing so many at my favourite used book shops, let go of ones I don’t love or refer to, and read the ones I’ve already got- including The “Egyptian Book of the Dead” and the  Biography of Alexandra David-Neel…

See Iris’ 2019 Reads at Goodreads

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