Review: ‘What Casts a Shadow?’ by Seth Mullins

“Events are not things that happen to you. They are materialized experiences formed by you, according to your expectations and beliefs.” – Seth via Jane Roberts

whatcastsNOTE:  Over the years, Seth Mullins and I have discussed in various blogs and e-mails our affinity for the metaphysical information from the entity known as Seth who was channeled by Jane Roberts between 1963 and 1984 and subsequently chronicled in a series of books beginning with The Seth Material in 1970 (republished in 2011). Seth Mullins has previously explored spirituality, dreams and reality in Song of an Untamed Land and Song of the Twice Born while I have explored similar themes in my novels.

I hadn’t heard from him in some time when I received an e-mail asking my current address so he could send me a copy of his new novel What Casts a Shadow? (January, 2014).  He said that, among other things, the novel was an exploration of Seth’s view of reality in a contemporary story. Yes, there are multiple Seths here, but the one in Italics refers to the Seth as channeled by Jane Roberts and the Seth without the Italics refers to the author of this inventive novel.

What Casts a Shadow?

While the Seth material channeled by Jane Roberts was immensely popular during the 1970s and 1980s and continues to have a wide following today, my experience is that rather than feeling empowered by the phrase “you create your own reality,” a fair number of people fear and/or angrily reject the idea. For one thing, the idea doesn’t appear to make logical sense. Otherwise, people say either “if I create my own reality, why is my life filled with so many disappointments?” or “my thoughts must be totally screwed up to have created what I’m experiencing.” People had a similar reaction to ideas about “the law of attraction” as presented in The Secret and other books.

Seth Mullins’ protagonist Brandon Chane in What Casts a Shadow? has similar reactions when a psychologist suggests that the “world out there” isn’t out there. After Brandon’s mother died, he was stuck living with a drunken and abusive father who believes neither Brandon nor his new heavy metal rock band will ever amount to anything.

After his father lashes out at him prior to a performance, Brandon thinks: “My world is painted black; my entire inner landscape is barren. All the roads in my head lead to horrific ends. At the bleakest margins of this particular attack, I didn’t even care about the gig. I wanted nothing but oblivion.”

Mullins’ three-dimensional character is in many ways symbolic of creative people who want to express their unique visions of life through art, music, writing and other avenues but simultaneously believe that the world (or fate) is against them. Brandon and his best friend Tommy want to translate their feelings into their music; their music, they hope, will be their salvation.

Brandon reacts to the slings and arrows in his life with violence. Physical fights seem justified and bring release. Writing songs and performing them in front of an audience also bring release, but at the beginning of What Casts a Shadow? the songs aren’t as potent as knocking somebody down.

After a confrontation that involves the police and an interview with a consulting psychologist at the police station, Brandon ends up on Saul’s doorstep. Saul is a licensed therapist who believes individuals create their own reality.

Saul is a “new age” guru with a more or less conventional counseling approach. That is, he doesn’t sell guided-meditation CDs, lead drumming groups in the woods or ask his patients to recite affirmations. Instead, he asks Brandon to see his beliefs as beliefs rather than as facts and to compare his experiences with the states of mind leading up to them.

Mullins has created a protagonist that readers can easily identify with who has dreams that are running afoul of a seemingly apathetic world with bad people in it. Other than Saul’s active listening, Brandon will find clues that he might not be not doomed and worthless: Tommy understands him, his younger sister trusts him, the girl he meets doesn’t run away from him, and the music is evolving. Yet, his violence and anger feel so natural and justified!

Transformation and “success” in Brandon’s world will not come from a magic spell, a miracle drug or the intervention of a benevolent spirit guide. He will have to slog it out like we all do, day by day, doubt doubt, and reaction by reaction. What Casts a Shadow? will pull both open minded and skeptical readers into its story because that story mirrors so much of today’s world.


Book Review: ‘Song of the Twice Born’

Song of the Twice Born: Book 1 The Mirror of SirrusSong of the Twice Born: Book 1 The Mirror of Sirrus by Seth Mullins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seth Mullins has followed his mythic quest novel “Song of an Untamed Land” (2005) with “Song of the Twice Born – Book I: The Mirror of Sirrus.” Set in a mythical land reminiscent of America’s wild west during the age of discovery, this first installment of an epic fantasy trilogy tells the individual stories of a small group of characters who live in a veritable oasis of calm in a world of warring peoples.

This ambitious novel shows what happens to individuals living within perilous times when they are confronted with the more perilous truths about themselves. A dwarf named Sirrus has introduced a magic mirror into the temporary serenity of Aspen Meadows. When an individual gazes into the mirror, s/he sees an unflinchingly accurate portrayal of his or her bedrock truths and goals. In as much as truths are quite startling, if not potentially debilitating, Sirrus provides commentary and spiritual advice.

Since Sirrus’ advice to Eden, Galya, Marek, Brieran, Ejol, Jin and Enofor (whom we met in “Song of and Untamed Land”) is often more blunt than comforting, he asks each of them to spend time contemplating the revelations by recording his or her spiritual experiences in a journal. Like any journal, each entry records the spiritual and psychological truths unearthed via the mirror within the context of memories and day-today life and struggles. Each character must not only come to terms with past triumphs and losses, but with the seeming inevitability of death or capture when either the Assymyan or Churan army overruns their sanctuary.

Mullins paints landscapes, cultures, peoples and spirituality on a wide canvas that may remind readers of such classics as Stephen R. Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” and J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” The epic scope of this story is made human and vibrant by the very personal journal entries of each character. In less capable hands, “Song of the Twice Born” might have become a collection of indirectly related character studies or short stories. Instead, the character’s points of view link together well into a very real and readable transcendent adventure.

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–Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hero’s quest novels, “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey.”