There was a time in my life that my bookshelf contained over a thousand books. I loved books, and have since I have been a young child. There was always something about libraries that inherently felt safe to me, and growing up with intellectuals as parents it was something I could always connect with them about.
There came a time about five years ago where I sold some of my books. I looked at my belongings as a whole and most of them looked meaningless to me. This included books that I had outgrown (or simply no longer had space for).
About two years ago I felt an overwhelming urge to sell, give away, and simply let go of a lot of my books. This was because I looked at most of them and realized that I no longer resonated with them. I no longer needed a basic book telling me about shamanism, a book categorizing the spiritual experiences of yet another white person going to Peru or wherever and having their quest and becoming the “chosen one” to receive supposed initiations, another book describing what Chinese Medicine is based on the Western assimilation of it (describing specific points in specific anatomical locations, or giving specific prescriptions for points based on Western disease category… both of which go against the heart of Chinese Medicine and any real understanding of it).
But there was something beyond simply wanting to consolidate my stuff, to let go of things so I could be physically freer, something beyond not wanting to move with forty boxes of books again…
There was a guru (I wish I remember who it was) who stated (something like) that it is rare for a book to go beyond surface levels and rare for any of them to contain a spark of insight.
Recently I read a modern book of essays about Kundalini yoga and the Kundalini experience. It was striking– there were a few essays in there that I deeply felt, but most of the book (like a lot of books for me these days) felt vapid and inconsequential. Although it was about a purportedly deep topic (Kundalini) that is “existential”– in this case meaning that not many people understand it– most of the authors were researchers and intellectuals who you could tell had no direct experience of Kundalini. They just didn’t get it.
It is impossible to understand certain aspects of spirituality unless you have direct experience of them. You can get into a philosophical argument about if chakras are real (with the typical endless loops of meaningless discussion and quotes from other authors and sources) all day, or all week… but there are some people who directly experience the chakras. They are no longer a myth because they inform their world.
To bring this point home a bit, let us say that someone writes a book about flying an airplane. They are not a pilot and have never actually flown an airplane. They have just read accounts of others who have flown said airplane, they have studied what all of the buttons do, and likely they have been a passenger on the plane.
And now you read a book from someone who has been a pilot for twenty years, who every day flies that plane, who not only intellectually understands what those buttons do but has actually pushed them… someone who has felt the plane lift off, the direct responsibility and fear perhaps of taking care of hundreds of people during a flight, the direct experience of turbulence or something going wrong and the rush of making out alive, the fatigue of having a twelve hour flight to another country and then flying another plane to yet another city right after.
I kept the Kundalini book I am referring to above because it did contain a spark of insight– it was a book where a few of the contributors actually had direct experience and that direct experience is a catalyst for my own thinking, and I am deeply appreciative of these days of anyone that can critically think, and not just regurgitate the same passed down material again and again like a bad game of telephone (for the younger folks, where one person tells someone something, then that person tells another, until it gets to the end of the line/last person and that person repeats what they have been told and it is completely different than what the source/original person actually said).
Most of the books in this world are on that surface level. They are intended for beginners and for people who want the same thoughts, the same material regurgitated again and again. They do not contain any new insights. I realize this sounds harsh, but there is a place for those books in this world. We need people to write on those surface levels and that repetitious loop of material to get a new generation to understand that perhaps the mind and body do interact, or how to do a basic shamanic journey, or that the world can be looked at through a spiritual lens (still on a surface level, but perhaps a bit more deeply down the proverbial rabbit hole). I am in full recognition of this.
But the further you travel down that proverbial rabbit hole, the more spiritual doors you open, the less you need those words of others. The more you have direct experience of a spiritual nature the more meaningless the endless intellectualization and philosophies of others interest you. I still love reading, but I am looking for that spark… those rare people who have something to really say of a spiritual nature from their direct and true experience… the people who have gone beyond the surface levels of simply regurgitating what colors the chakras are or what they mean (by the way, the “rainbow” colors of the chakras were created in the late 70’s/early 80’s to make it easily assimilated by the surface folk, and that is just one example)… and can tell me their insight and give me that spark, an idea or understanding that allows for me to understand an experience I had or moves me forward in some way.
I am not against intellectualism, but most of the thinking in spiritual communities (or really any community) is of the “spiritual regurgitation” variety. It is rare that any one of us critically think or come up with new ideas in this world. I have deep appreciation for anyone that has put in the decades or lifetimes of reading that it takes to find the source material, that material that is filled with original thought, with that spark of insight (or many sparks). I love speaking to people who have studied and truly embodied spirituality, the occult/magic, or really any path by having the combination of truly learning (and not just repeating and regurgitating) combined with direct experience of actually following that path. It is a rarity and a truly powerful combination, and those people can bring tremendous amounts of beauty and insight to this world.
I am now down to around 200 books, a lot of them clinical books, books from my childhood, and the myths and fairy tales of many different cultures. I do have a shelf of spiritual books, either ones that I have not read yet or ones that contain that spark that is so rare. In a world that prizes the mental and intellectual, in a world where we want to hear the same things over and over again to give us comfort and illusion, it is a rare book and person who is willing to go beyond the illusions and creations of those stuck in illusion or intellectualism into the realm of direct experience. And those are the books I keep.
P.S. Yes, I do realize the irony of the fact that I have a book releasing on the spiritual journey, types of Spiritual Awakenings, and the physical experience of awakening called “The Spiritual Awakening Guide” (it is already out on Kindle here) and will be available in print in a few weeks here (it can be pre-ordered right now). You can also (for a limited time purchase a signed copy of the book here (click on Books) or if outside the U.S. contact me to purchase one through Paypal). The focus of my writing is to (hopefully) go beyond those surface levels and the common illusions and regurgitations of the spiritual path. There is so much illusion and falseness and although I always hope for the new-age type “love and light” only, the “you have to only focus on the positive and if you do you will get a new car and nothing bad will ever happen to you and if something bad happens to you you just were not thinking positively enough” trend to pass, it is seemingly here to stay for the moment. So I hope to bring pragmatic, thoughtful work that goes beyond the destructive illusions of this world and give the direct experience of my own path as well as the path of the many clients, patients, and friends I have had the honor to work with.