Book review – Living on the Inner Edge: A Practical Esoteric Tale by Cyrus Ryan

 

About Living on the Inner Edge: A Practical Esoteric Tale

A mystical story, breaking traditional boundaries, new thought, practices, insights, and a way of knowledge. Everyone walks their own path but in the New Age of Spirituality the idea of Group Work was born from the works of the Tibetan Master D.K., where he introduced the idea of group work on the physical plane and in the higher spheres of the Soul, and the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Work which was accomplished through intense group meetings and personal interaction. Living on the Inner Edge is a foray into the world of experimental Group Work which lasted for over 30 years, constantly evolving and synthesizing the essence of different Esoteric Traditions into a new body of discipline that achieved extraordinary results.

My Thoughts

The gnostic or esoteric way of knowing relies on the development of the esoteric sense, a way of perceiving into and through words and experiences to arrive at their deeper meanings, to grasp the essence in terms of inner truth and spiritual purpose. The development of the esoteric sense requires an innate disposition or some sort of pre-existing esoteric hardwiring, along with training in meditation to cultivate the ability to indwell for sustained periods, and guidance in the form of esoteric knowledge. To begin with, the esoteric way of knowing forges a connection between the personality and the soul or Essential Nature and starts the long process of aligning the will of the personality with that of the soul. This process of discriminating between personality and soul natures is the first major step on the path of spiritual evolution and takes immense effort, discipline and perseverance, all of which occur both inside and beyond meditation experience and should become central to daily life.

Living on the Inner Edge portrays this journey and makes it a lived reality for the reader. Many books detail the hows and whys of meditation, few explore the experiential side. Ryan’s testimony sounds a clear note in our current age of confusion.  Importantly, Ryan cautions against blind adherence to any spiritual teachings, repeating them, parrot like, as if that were an indication of spiritual progress.

The memoir opens in Toronto in 1975 when a spiritual group is formed around a teacher, RN, and goes on to depict the evolution of the group, the highs and lows, the tests and the successes and failures. Above all, Living on the Inner Edge describes not a search for meaning but the laying bare of an authentic unfoldment of the soul within, the Essential Nature, of the author. Ryan makes several journeys to India, visits various sacred sites, and has extraordinary experiences along the way that make for an entertaining read. His depiction of the dangers, the struggles and the challenges that face the dedicated seeker are portrayed with insightful explanations. The strange manifestations of the astral, the latching on of Elementals, the confrontation with the consuming Dwelling on the Threshold, are all described in rich detail. The path is long, enlightenment is far away, and the journey begins when the seeker strips away the delusion that they have already arrived at some point of high achievement.

Ryan has a gift for explaining the complex and abstruse in the most lucid and accessible fashion without losing the true essence of meaning. There is an awakening, stimulating, attuning charge to the writing, the memoir told by someone with decades of practical experience and a sincere heart.

This memoir will appeal to readers with at least a passing knowledge of Theosophy and the esotericism of the East, as found in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and a healthy dose of esoteric empathy. Living on the Edge is a journey on the inner planes, where unfoldment occurs at that interface of exoteric and esoteric realities. At the end, Ryan provides appendices containing further explanations and meditation techniques, in what amounts to a very sound and useful guide.

Find Living on the Inner Edge on Amazon

Find Cyrus Ryan at http://www.northernschoolofesotericwisdom.com/

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Book Review: Persian Letters by Mehrdad Rafiee

 

About Persian Letters

Mehrdad Rafiee grew up in Iran at a time of constant change. Born in 1950 in Abadan, as the oil industry was being d nationalised, he went to high school in Kazeroun during the White Revolution of 1963, and attended university in Tehran in the years of social upheaval that led to the Islamic Revolution. This memoir is written in the form of letters addressed to his sons. Mehrdad tells his life story, with diversions into Persian/Iranian history and politics, drawing parallels between the turmoil in his country and that in his life. In writing his memoirs, Mehrdad was inspired by the books of two very special writers: Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul: Memories and the City”, and Azar Nafisi’s “Things I’ve Been Silent About”. For anyone familiar with modern Iran, this book will inform and entertain, as it explains much that lies behind the changes and the culture of Iran and its people. Mehrdad has lived in Australia since 1985.

My Thoughts

As I began reading Persian Letters I asked myself what I knew about Iran. I am embarrassed to admit not a huge amount. I have a sense of Persia, I have read some Rumi, I have found the Iranian people I have met to be warm and gracious. I know it is a large country with its share of desert. Of course, we in the west who are of any decent age would have heard of the Shah and the revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini. And no one with any education can talk of Iran without knowing some of its history with oil. And yes, it is a Shi’ite Muslim nation.

There you have it, the summation of my knowledge prior to reading Rafiee’s book.

Now, I know a lot more, and I have received the perfect form of education, provided in a clear and well written fashion, seeing through the eyes of a man reflecting back on his childhood and his teenage years, and then as an adult before leaving the country of his birth in the early 1980s. Persian Letters is a memoir written as a series of letters to the author’s sons. The reader is gifted a window on an intimate world, a secret world almost, in what is an intriguing and engaging read. Honesty, integrity, the laying bare of family history, customs, and above all the Iranian people’s struggle with change, shine through the pages.

Persian Letters is a Persian tale, not a tale of Islamic culture, but of the ancient culture beneath, rooted in Zoroastrianism. Politics, history, customs and traditions, society, the economy, the entire fabric of Iranian life is woven into a series of entertaining vignettes. I especially enjoyed the gentle irony and some of the subtly critical observations. And the intermingling families, village life, the making of tea!

Rafiee has a unique perspective, largely due to his father’s propensity for change. Rafiee grew up in the privileged enclave of Abadan, an island in Iran’s southwest, almost bordering Kuwait, where thanks to British Petroleum western services were in abundance. So much for the generous British, who had effectively stolen the rights to the oil they extracted from an obliging Iran! Then Refiee’s dad ups sticks and relocates the family to a poor part of southern Iran to battle as a farmer. The narrative also takes in Shiraz and Tehran in what can only be described a feast for the ignorant, and a must read for most of us.

There are footnotes explaining some of the words and providing brief bios of some of the cameo characters. There is just so much to relish in this rather long read. Refiee has given the world a rich tapestry of Persian culture, and a rare insight into the motivations and complexities of a country we hear too little of other than in the negative. Through Refiee’s eyes, the reader is presented with a sharing, giving culture rooted in ancient past, a people resistant to change, and the inevitable struggles of modernisation that ensue. What better way is there to embrace difference than through reading a book such as this. I commend the author for making the effort to write down his story and give it to the world.

Grab your copy of Persian Letters here

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Book Review: Death Sentences by Michael Zimecki

Introducing Death Sentences, a novel written in the form of a memoir and narrated by a guy on death row.

#Death Sentence

About Death Sentences

Peter “Pop” Popovich is a 24-year-old unemployed glazier, anti-Semite and white supremacist who is pushed over the edge by his chaotic mother, his unresponsive lover, an uncaring stepfather and a right-wing hate machine that tells him liberals want to take away his guns and his liberty.
While ‘POP’ waits to be executed for his crimes, he squibs sentences, whole paragraphs, a novel about life on Death Row in which he reprises the life that landed him there.
Death Sentences is loosely based on an incident in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in April 2009, when a lone gunman, convinced that the government was coming to take away his guns, had a four-hour standoff with police.
This explosive novel, reminiscent of the works of Ed Bunker and Charles Bukowski, is a hellish story from the American underclass, its disenfranchised characters long abandoned by government and society and prone to constant failure and excessive violence.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened Death Sentences. This could have been the sort of book I would pass by as not that entertaining or interesting. I am glad I stuck around and delved in, for this is quite a gem of a book for a number of reasons, not least it is well written and instantly engaging.

Meet the bizarrely likeable “Pop”, who is on death row for murder, as he outlines his life of incarceration in a penitentiary in Pennsylvania. There isn’t much to say. Living is limited, humiliation and deprivation are constants and it is little wonder that most inmates commit suicide before they ever get to meet their prescribed death.

What drives this story is Pop’s past and how he came to end up on death row. It is a past that applies to a lot of disenfranchised men in the US.

Pop grows up in Pittsburgh in poverty, surrounded by dysfunction. His mother is an alcoholic who lurches from one disastrous liaison after another. Pop is not stupid but he drops out of school feeling alienated and harbouring deep resentments. He  absorbs the racial hatred that surrounds him. He has a love affair with guns. After a spell in the marines his far-right paranoia is fed by conspiracy theories, expounded by the likes of Alex Jones. It is a potent mix that is not going to end well. Pop is just not capable of being anyone other than who is he, because there is no one in his life to show him another way.

The narrative is fast-paced, raw and punchy. Zimecki applies a cold, hard realism, drawing the reader into a world they would probably rather not have to think about and holds them there as the all-too familiar descent unfolds. By the end of it, the reader will be forgiven for wanting to put on trial the system that led Pop to commit his crimes.

Death Sentences takes the reader to places This Boy’s Life would not dare to go, but could have, if the protagonist/narrator had been more like Pop – especially when it came to bad luck – and made one or two different choices along the way. Zimecki has penned a necessary read; Death Sentences ought to be a set text in high school English.

Book review: Wanderers No More by Michelle Saftich

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich, I am delighted to share my review of its sequel, Wanderers No More.

“The war may be over, but the fight to belong is just beginning.

Left homeless, starving, and almost killed by the Second World War, the Saforo family are refugees fleeing Italy for a better life. The shores of Australia are calling to them and they head off, packing dreams of jobs, a home and … soccer.

But from the moment they get off the boat, adapting to the Australian way of life is harder than

it seems. Their family doesn’t speak right, eat right or even look right. As they struggle to build a simple life against the backdrop of 1950s racism, they start to wonder if they will be outsiders forever.

A true family affair, Wanderers No More will make you laugh, remind you of your family, and warm your heart.”

My thoughts:

Stories of migrant refugees form an important part of the fabric of Australian, and indeed global society, as many many millions of us have been or are refugees, refugees of war, oppression, famine or environmental catastrophe. Port of No Return describes how a small group of families from northern Italy become refugees in World War II, and in Wanderers No More, Saftich portrays the everyday life for these families from the moment they set foot in Australia. The novels fall into the genre of family history memoir, as they are based on true events and real people.

Wanderers No More is an endearing coming of age story sure to put a smile on every reader’s face. Told mostly through the eyes of young Martino Saforo, who arrives with his family in Newcastle after spending four years in various refugee camps in Europe, the novel engages from the first page. The early part of the novel describes the harsh life for European migrants sent to government-run labour camps where they are bonded for two years, the men working on infrastructure projects, including the Snowy River hydro-electricity scheme, mining and roadbuilding. Or on farms slashing sugar cane and the lucky ones in factories. Accommodation was Nissan hut style.

Wanderers No More centres on the trials and tribulations of Martino, his brothers and their friends. The women in the story, the sisters and the mothers, have lesser roles which are not developed but provide texture nevertheless. The cameo role of Martino’s ever-present Nonna represents not only the female element, but Italy itself, with all of its traditions. Through Nonna and Martino, Saftich depicts the homesickness, the coping skills, the resilience and the determination to learn Australian ways and language with enormous sensitivity and insight. Simple acts of kindness are juxtaposed with relentless ethnocentric bullying, mostly in the schoolyard. For Martino, Australia seems a harsh and unforgiving land filled with harsh and unforgiving people. Yet hope is ever present, as is Martino’s passion for soccer, which consumes much of the narrative as the novel progresses. Tragedy is ever present, a ghost at first haunting between the lines, and when it finally manifests, it strikes hard.

Throughout the novel which spans two decades, Saftich deploys emotional restraint, the narrative voice commensurate with the heart and mind of a young boy finding his way, a boy who grows up lost, confused, alienated and hurting in so many ways. Anyone familiar with This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff will understand the narrative approach. With its easy, engaging style, and themes of migration, alienation and belonging, this novel belongs on the set text lists in Australian schools.

Buy this book

Catch up with the author here

Lovesick re-released!

My memoir, Lovesick, came out in 2011 to popular acclaim. I decided to re-release the book and give it a new lease of life after a friend and high school teacher told me he thought it should be much more widely read.

microsoft-word-lovesick-cover

A wild adventure through Thatcher’s Britain, set against a backdrop of the British Indie Music Scene. Naïve, defiant and incisively witty, Isobel Blackthorn fashions her own path through the counter-culture, poverty and politics of the eighties. By turn absurdly funny, sexually charged and heartrendingly sad, Lovesick is an unforgettable, tragi-comic tale of a young woman’s search for her identity.

Pretty girl, nice smile is all Isobel can say about herself. That, and she’s working class. What matters to her is she’s different. After devouring Camus’ The Outsider she realises for reasons strange to her, she is strange to the world. And she’s searching for love. It’s a disastrous mix. Her unquenchable need for romance leads her to Lanzarote, Canary Islands, were she takes unconventionality to extremes. She’d determined to be truly herself, face her fears and go with the flow. But her obsession with the charismatic Miguel, her thirst for danger and an acquired taste for cocaine launch her into the island’s criminal underworld.

“Seen through the eyes of a woman of heart and mind, this is a story that takes the reader on a tempestuous journey through the music and politics, the frenzies and phobias of Thatcher’s England in the 1980s. The passions of the era are enacted in Isobel Blackthorn’s headlong pursuit of love and sexual fulfilment, leading her eventually to the fabled beauty of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a type of anti-England. The hedonism Isobel ‘adopts’ on Lanzarote as a corrective to the bleak outcomes of her political commitment and her quest for love take in, unavailingly, free-wheeling experiments with a smorgasbord of drugs. What shines through in these pages is Isobel Blackthorn’s determination, despite setbacks and episodes of despair, to engage with life truthfully. ” Robert Hillman, The Honey Thief

Here’s a trailer created by the late songsmith and troubadour Alex Legg (1952-2014)

Available in e-book format from Amazon  and Smashwords