‘Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.’

I’ve always liked this quote from Satchel Paige. I’m sure he applied it to many situations, though folks often say he was speaking of fear in general or worry that one isn’t doing the task at hand properly. In baseball, of course, looking over your shoulder probably helps the competion more than anything else.

A similar point of view applies in conjure. As Catherine Yronwode writes in her online overview of hoodoo practices, “One of the basic aphorisms passed along from teachers to students is, ‘Lay your trick, walk away, and don’t look back.’ Looking back can have the effect of undermining the careful deployment of curios meant to set the trick to working. It demonstrates as lack of faith or will.”

Personally, I think what’s gaining on a person who constantly looks back is doubt and that those who look back, literally or figuratively, have fallen into an obsessive compulsive (OCD) set of habits in relation to their faith–whether it’s magic, nondenominational spirituality, or a mainstream church approach.

“Faith” implies that a person trusts God and/or his/her spiritual practices. All of us may experience doubts about the way we have chosen from time to time, but generally faith–for me–implies a general certainty about one’s methods and practices (to borrow a phrase from the intelligence community).

For a baseball pitcher, doubting that one will throw a successful pitch is probably going to make it less likely that he/she will do so. This has nothing to do with jinx thinking; it’s more like saying one needs to smoothly throw the ball without clutching up while doing it.

Can we say the same thing about making the law of attraction work? Perhaps. Personally, I think one’s thoughts are vibrations and that negative, unfocussed, and uncertain thoughts produce results we don’t consciously want. 

Practitioners of positive thinking and meditation approaches suggest relaxing and meditating several times a day. If you do that with a high amount of belief in, let us say, an “every day in every way I’m getting better, better, and better,” outlook, then all of that gets rather undone if one takes a negative approach to his/her life during the time between meditation periods. I don’t mean to be flip, but if one is positive about his life and health for 30 minutes twice a day and negative and doubtful the rest his/her waking hours, what kind of emphasis results? 

In a mainstream religion, does one “undo” a prayer by praying for something more than once? I don’t know. However, I’m supersitious about going so. One time a minister asked if I was praying for my mother’s recovery again. When I said “yes,” he responded, “Do you think God didn’t hear you the first time?” Oops.

I tend to believe that thoughts are things and that constantly thinking something one way olr another way is going to manifest in the way one has chosen. I often think a general universal wisdom keeps us being so powerful that one thought would ever work like a Harry Potter spell. If so, we’d think something nasty in anger and see an entire city blow up. Can our faith move a mountain? Probably, but thank goodness it doesn’t move the mountain all at once or we might find a mountain sliding out of control onto the prairie.

What a trangled business all this is: understanding how life and our thoughts actually work. Maybe real life his actually real or maybe it’s an illusion. But either way, looking back and letting doubt take over our thoughts and actions is probably not going to serve us well.

So, I try to follow Satchel Paige’s wisdom and that’s to avoid looking back.


My conjure woman in “Conjure Woman’s Cat” definitely knows better than to look over her shoulder to check on the trick she just placed on the ground.




Chapter One Prize

The Chapter One Prize is open to writers over 18 who are working on an as-yet-unpublished novel. The prize has been established to support and celebrate novelists. This prize aims to find the best opening chapter of a novel-in-progress written in the English language. On March 15, 2021, the three prize winners and honorable mentions will be announced here on the website and via social media, and all entrants will be contacted via email about the results. Prize winners will have the option of showcasing their Chapter One Prize entries on this website.

Source: Chapter One Prize

If you have a novel in progress, this competition looks interesting. Submit your first chapter by the end of the month with an entry fee of $20 and you might win a prize and have your work featured on the Gutsy Great Novelist website.

A lot of people avoid competitions with entry fees. I don’t because the fees are a fair way of raising the prize money. If you win, you enhance your online presence. If you don’t, you’ll probably have a nicely polished first chapter.

I’m planning to send in the first chapter of my novel in progress even though my chapters are very short (Dan Brown length).

Make sure you check the formatting requirements carefully.


My novel in progress is a sequel to “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande” called “Weeping Wall.”

Gathering Power At the Winter Solstice

“Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing. – Deena Wade in Winter Solstice Traditions: Rituals for a Simple Celebration

Without spending time in the darkness of Earth’s soil, seeds would have no power to meet the Spring. Seeds, shoots, leaves, roots, and flowers naturally attune themselves to the energies of the seasons following what’s often called “the great wheel of the year.” Farmers and ranchers and others whose vocations or avocations depend on nature, are better than most of us at following the wheel of the year–out of necessity if not also for spiritual reasons.

Wade says that “In Celebrate the Solstice, [Richard] Heinberg writes that ‘wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle, and what kinds of action (or restraint of action) are appropriate for that phase.’ Attuning our senses to the subtle changes and cycles of the seasons might help us attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in ourselves. By performing simple rituals with personal meaning to celebrate the solstice, these rituals will serve as touchstones to help us cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and appreciation that will carry us through the holiday season with more ease.”

Needless to say, our lives in a science and technology world take us away from nature and the lessons of nature and the literal and spiritual truth found in Ecclesiastes 3:  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

If you follow a Traditional Craft or pagan approach to life, or to some parts of life, then you have the tools, insights, and practices that will help you align, or re-align, yourselves with the seasons, especially Winter and Yule. If you don’t, all is not lost for you can imagine yourself on this day and in this season as a seed–or, if you like, as a person figuratively plugged into a huge battery charger like a cellphone waiting for use.

Wade’s site has a wealth of suggestions. Even reading it brings us power, the power to remember who we are and to act accordingly.


Briefly Noted: ‘Le Mystère des Cathédrales’

With yesterday’s catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame of Paris, I couldn’t help but think of Victor Hugo’s comment in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) that “The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.”

Tourists, Catholics and other Christians, mystics of all faiths, architects, and especially the French nation have used many superlatives to describe the beauty and importance of this cathedral. And yet, the church is more than it seems. It is, as the pseudonymous author Fucanelli wrote in the original version of The Mystery of the Cathedrals, a veritable hermetic textbook in living stone to the alchemical process.

Most people probably view the hermetic symbols as the flourishes of Gothic architecture. However, for students of chemical or spiritual alchemy, the is much to learn from those symbols as well as from The Mystery of the Cathedrals (1926) and its sequel Dwellings of the Philosophers (1929). Modern-day students will find a great deal of help in the work of Carl Jung and others who view alchemy as more than trying to turn lead into gold but as a spiritual/psychological means of becoming wholly one’s divine self.

I have been studying this book since the 1971 English (U.K – Neville Spearman edition) came out and grasp only a fraction of it. As Wikipedia says of the two books, “The books are written in a cryptic and erudite manner, replete with Latin and Greek puns, alchemical symbolism, double entendres, and lectures on and in Argot and Cant, all of which serve to keep casual readers ignorant.”

From the Publisher (The cover shown here comes from a reprint edition.)

In 1926 the fabled alchemist Fulcanelli left his remarkable manuscript concerning the Hermetic Study of Gothic Cathedral Construction with a student. He then disappeared. The book decodes the symbology found upon and within the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe which have openly displayed the secrets of alchemy for 700 years.

From the Book

“The gothic cathedral, that sanctuary of Tradition, Science and Art, should not be regarded as a work dedicated solely to the glory of Christianity, but rather as a vast concretion of ideas, of tendencies, of popular beliefs; a perfect whole, to which we can refer without fear, whenever we would penetrate the religious, secular, philosophic or social thoughts of our ancestors.”

Amazon Reader Review

Wikipedia Photo of 2019 fire

Seminal work by the mysterious master French alchemist Fulcanelli. Companion to his other book “The Dwellings of the Philosophers.” The author explores in depth secrets contained within the Gothic cathedrals of France. He reveals a number of secrets, providing crucial clues into the occult work of the alchemists, contained in these massive repositories of knowledge preserved in stone. Warning: this is not a work for the uninitiated or those unfamiliar with alchemy. In order to understand this book, one must have at the very least knowledge of Gothic art and architecture as well as an understanding of the rudiments of alchemy. This is necessary in order for Fulcanelli’s work to make any sense to the reader. I would recommend Loius Charpentier’s “Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral” and Tobias Churton’s “The Golden Builders” to familiarize oneself with the subject matter before diving headlong into Fulcanelli’s masterpiece.

I agree with the reviewer’s suggestions about reading several other books first before attempting this one. Also, you’ll find an interesting commentary of Mysteries of the Cathedrals included in Jay Widner and Vincent Bridges book The Mysteries of the Great Cross of Hendaye” Alchemy and the End of Time.

In spite of the difficulties, Mysteries of the Cathedrals is time well spent.





Briefly noted: Two books to help you understand the Thoth Tarot

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about authors’ research that gets out of hand, often because the author really likes the subject and gets happily lost in it. In researching my next book, I dusted off two older Tarot books, in addition to the venerable Book of Thoth: Robert Wang’s 1987 Qabalistic Tarot (revised in 2004) and Lon Milo Duquette’s 2003 Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

Tarot card readers will, I think, be debating the differences (and efficacy of) the Rider-Waite Tarot deck vs. the Thoth Tarot deck (among others) forever. I started out with the Rider-Waite deck. Most people do. Waite, it is said, held back on the deck’s symbolism because he considered that revealing more would be to open up Golden Dawn secrets to everyone. I stepped away from the Rider-Waite deck for that reason–no offense to those who love it and rely upon it.

I do take issue with the numerous decks of fortune telling cards with other symbols on them that purport to be tarot cards. They are not. The Tarot is closely linked with the Qabalah, the Tree of Life, alchemy, and astrology, and any deck that doesn’t rely on this symbolism is not truly a Tarot deck even though if may work well for those who who are attuned with its symbolism

Qabalistic Tarot

wangtarotThis book is considered a classic, and rightly so. It shows the relationship between the cards and the hermetic Qabalah and includes several popular decks. Read this one before you read the Duquette book.

From the publisher: Hailed by reviewers as “a masterpiece,” and as “the single most profound reference of its kind,” The Qabalistic Tarot has become the standard in its field, a book essential to all students of Tarot symbolism. It is both a textbook and a sourcebook for the symbols of the Western Hermetic Qabalah, a corpus of mystical ideas which have, for centuries, exerted a powerful influence on the development of Western thought. Dr. Wang explains the Tarot as an externalization of a mystical system which has evolved from approximately the third century C.E. to our own time. He traces the development of Qabalistic ideas from the Neoplatonic through the Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern periods, systematically discussing each Sephira and Path on the Tree of Life. He uses the Tarot images as a point of visual reference, and provides a thorough explanation of the symbolic intricacies of the Paths. The Qabalistic Tarot is recommended as a comprehensive textbook for individual study or for the classroom. The first and only work based on the four major decks in use today, it is the ideal companion book for the Golden Dawn Tarot, the Thoth Tarot, the Rider-Waite Tarot, or the traditional Marseilles deck.”

Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot

thothtarotThis book focuses on the Thoth deck. It discusses, in addition to the correspondences of the cards to the Tree of Life, the rationale behind the differences between this deck and the Rider-Waite deck. The philosophy behind this deck is much larger than the differences between the names and numbers of some of the cards. The author has written a good many books about esoteric subjects, so he brings a lot of research into this work even though it is–on occasion–a bit flippant.

From the publisher: “Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot was his final opus, the culmination of a lifetime of occult study and practice. With artist Lady Frieda Harris, he condensed the core of his teaching into the 78 cards of the tarot. Although Crowley’s own Book of Thoth provides insight into the cards, it is a complicated, dated book. Now, in clear language, Lon Milo DuQuette provides everything you need to know to get the most out of using the Thoth deck.”

These books are valuable especially for those who are interested in the relationship between the Tarot and the Tree of Life.

You may also like:

  • bookofthothBook of Thoth -Crowley’s famous book describing the Thoth Deck is available in various editions from multiple booksellers including Amazon.
  • Book T – Referenced by both of the books in this post, Book T was a Golden Dawn manual listing information about the cards. It can now be found online as a PDF at the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) site among other places.
  • Book of Formation: Referenced in both books here is the ancient Jewish Kabbalah text, the Book of Formation (Sepher Yetzirah), which you can find online here.





Does anyone remember this astral projection exercise?

When I was in high school, I bought a book that purported to teach a variety of psychic techniques. Unfortunately, I no longer remember the name of the book or what happened to it.

Wikipedia photo
Wikipedia photo

The book included an astral projection exercise far different than the usual ones which suggest lying down, meditating and ultimately visualizing oneself floating above the bed.

Here’s what I remember about it:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair and relax at a time when nobody else is home.
  • Stand up and walk to some other location in the house noting what you see along the way.
  • Return to the chair.
  • Close your eyes and visualize taking that same walk through the house, seeing in your mind’s eye what you saw when you physically walked through the house. Remember any smells, textures, lights and shadows, etc. as specifically as you can.
  • Visualize returning to the chair.
  • Now, open your eyes and physically walk through the house again by the same route and return to the chair.
  • Next, visualize taking that walk through the house.
  • According to the book, you will sooner or later return to the chair and find yourself already sitting there. Supposedly when this happens, you will be in your astral body and can experiment with willing yourself to appear in one room or another and, in time, at other places.

I tried this exercise several times, but never made many physical or mental walks through the house because the longer I did it, the more I began to dread that it would work. Why this exercise bothered me, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the loss of control, the idea that I would just stumble across myself rather than lifting away from myself in a controlled way.

Has anyone ever heard of this, much less tried it? If so, did it work?

This is a curiosity question because something about this exercise has always bothered me. I wish I could track it down and read the instructions and rationale again to see why I felt panic rather than curiosity about it.


MoonLightandGhostsAs you might expect, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of books and stories in the paranormal, magical realism and fantasy genres, including “Moonlight and Ghosts.”

Review: ‘The Way of Spirit’ by Joanne Helfrich

The Way of Spirit: Teachings of Rose, Joanne Helfrich (NewWorldView December 7, 2014), 218pp.

The publisher of The Way of Spirit says this spiritual self-help book will help you discover your life’s purpose and the means of achieving your soul’s deepest fulfillment. Whether or not the book is successful in doing that depends on the reader’s point of view about who Rose is and how Joanne Helfrich received Rose’s guidance.

WayOfSpiritHelfrich describes Rose as “an energy personality essence–a multidimensional being who exists primarily outside out physical world of space and time.” Her guidance was received by an energy exchange method of meditation more commonly known as channeling.

Jane Roberts’ popular Seth books of the 1970s introduced the general public to energy personalities, channeling, and a body of metaphysical information summed up by the phrase “you create your own reality.” Helfrich’s book complements Seth’s teachings.

While many readers intuitively felt that Seth’s non-mainstream, impossible-to-prove view of reality was correct, they often had trouble putting his concepts into actual practice in their lives. Subsequently, teachers such as Lynda Dahl (Seth Talk) and channelers such as Vicki Pendley (Elias) and Serge Grandbois (Kris) have explained and/or added to the information Jane Roberts provided via 1,500 trance sessions between 1963 and 1984.

Practical Approach

Helfrich has written a joyful and very practical guidebook for those seeking “big picture” knowledge and personal transformation. Students of Seth will find some overlap here between the concepts in The Way of Spirit and those they already know. Others are likely to become enchanted by Rose’s positive, no-nonsense approach to who you are and what you can accomplish.

Original Seth book - click on cover for current edition
Original Seth book – click on cover for current edition

Unlike some of the “Law of Attraction” books that focused on acquiring fame, fortune and other material world gains, The Way of the Spirit focuses on inner transformation and a compassionate approach to others. Rose sets the tone for the book by saying, “Since you create all of your reality, it stands to reason that when you become heroes pf your own lives, you change yourself and your world for the better.” The approach echoes Joseph Campbell’s (The Hero With a Thousand Faces) admonition that you cannot have a positive impact on the world until you “fix” yourself first.

Rose focuses on the individual: discover who you are, find your purpose and the bedrock intention of your life, own your own reality, interact with others with love and compassion, and understand that transformation comes from alignment with the universe, not by using brute force logic or pushing others aside to get what you desire.

Naysayers will be quick to point out that, like many other spiritual books focused on meeting goals and desires, this book says you don’t automatically get what you want; you get what the universe thinks you need. Many see this fact as a “kings-X” rule that negates of the rest of the books, allowing the authors to say, “well, your law of attraction meditation didn’t work, not because the system is flawed, but because you were trying to attract what you weren’t supposed to have.”

That point is well taken and the “mechanics” of whether or not the workings of “you create your own reality” should be interpreted as “you create your own reality when the universe consents.”

Quite clearly, The Way of the Spirit is about the way of the spirit, not the way of the transitory, illusory physical world of success and failure, rich and poor, or fame and anonymity.

Helfrich - click on photo for author's web site
Helfrich – click on photo for author’s web site

One strength of this positive and enchanting book is the section called practices. These are not recipes or A-to-Z formulas for making reality (or yourself) change before your eyes. As Rose explains it, “Practices are small, regular actions that help you live a happier life. They may be things you already do, but wish to do in a different way. When they become habits, they will transform your life.” These practices are:

  • Access Alternatives – Breaking away from closed thinking patterns
  • Intent Practices – Discovering and expressing your inate abilities
  • Souter – Finding a new way to visualize your breathing
  • Rest in Rose – Finding ways to relax and experience ones essence
  • IDEA – Discovering your foundation beliefs and their alternatives
  • Addressing Fears – Learning the role of fear and an appropriate response to it
  • Vespers – Meditating and exploring ways to channel your essence in day ahead
  • Evening Prayers – Calming your mind and staying connected as you fall asleep

The Way of the Spirit–like Jane Roberts’ Seth books–presents a vastly different view of reality than we are taught in school. Everything we “know” about time and space, physical reality, and cause and effect is challenged here. It’s a lot too take in and it cannot be taken in with an effortless leap of faith no matter how right it sounds in the reading of it.

Joanne Helfrich has created a thought-provoking approach to making things better in our lives. The practice sections give us a way to test drive her ideas without having to throw away the world view that has sustained us for better or worse up to now. This inspirational book is highly recommended.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism novels and short stories that focus on characters making transformational journeys.