In my early twenties I worked as an editor in book publishing and one morning a manuscript arrived in the post from the United States. The accompanying letter said that the book was about astral travelling and out of the body experiences. I smiled because I did not believe in any of that stuff, but I read it anyway because that was my job. I remember sitting at my desk thumbing through it.
A treasure chest
I managed to save some money and supported also by some writing, I left my career in London and went to live in the High Atlas Mountains of southern Morocco, where for two years I prayed, did ceremony, meditated and read books. I drove there in an archetypal Volkswagen camper van. On top of the van was a roof rack. On top of the roof rack was a huge metal trunk that contained nothing but books. It was heavy. Or as hippies of that era used to say – heavy, man! This trunk contained all the great religious and esoteric classics: The Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Koran and other sacred texts such as the Tibetan and Egyptian Books of the Dead. It also contained the heavyweight European esoteric writers such as HP Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner and Alice Bailey. I wanted to read all of them.
I met one Moroccan sorcerer south of Tangier who psychically scanned the trunk and almost fainted. ‘So many powerful spirits,’ he said to me. ‘I would never dare open that trunk. I hope no one tries to steal it. That would be so dangerous for them.’
During my retreat I read every single book in that trunk. It was a real treasure chest and I found abundant riches.
Books for a desert island
Now here’s a question prompted by a conversation with Ann Napier (illustrious co-editor of Cygnus): If I were to take just one of the books to a desert island, which would it be?
The answer is not difficult for me. I respond immediately Alice Bailey’s A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. For those of you who are new to her work, Alice Bailey was in fact the telepathic secretary of the Tibetan Teacher, Djwhal Khul. (I know this is sacrilege for his devotees, but I’ve always thought his name would be perfect for a world music disc jockey. Cool.)
Together they authored some nineteen important books including, for example, Esoteric Healing [200312, £12.00], which I recommended a few issues back, A Treatise on White Magic [200717, £12.00], Initiation, Human and Solar [190408, £6.99] and Serving Humanity [180525, £8.99]. Altogether their books provide an extraordinary all-round education for someone who wants to do post-graduate studies in mysticism and esotericism. A Treatise on Cosmic Fire is the central text of this body of work.
In my opinion and in my experience, it is the most profound and challenging book in the whole field of mystic study. It is written by someone far wiser and more knowledgeable than me. I believe that everyone should have a copy of it in your homes even if you never read it. Like the Bible or Koran or Bhagavad Gita it ought to sit there on your shelves as a gesture of blessing and respect. That is how highly I rate it. It is the most mind-altering, detailed and scholarly esoteric text that I know.
At over 1300 pages it is not an easy read, with challenging and complex new concepts on almost every page. I have read it three times, dip into it regularly and still do not fully understand it. I plan a retreat for myself in 2011 where I just take time out to read it again. To read Cosmic Fire I need to stay alert and always ready for a mental wrestle. If I lose focus for a few words, a whole concept is lost and I have to start again. Sometimes I speed-read it, ignoring what I do not comprehend, and just plough forward; even then I receive insights and subtle shifts in my consciousness.
What do I get from this book? I get answers to the deepest of occult and esoteric questions. How am I to understand the consciousness of an atom or a solar system? What is the material and life-form that make up the energy of our thoughts? What is the actual energetic structure of our souls and what is the difference between soul and spirit? What is the electric and fiery process by which my consciousness flames up to become self-conscious and cosmically awake? These are just a few of the issues addressed in Cosmic Fire.
Here too you will find the authoritative source and text book for how chakras are constructed, the different planes of energy and the different rays of teaching that come through the great Adepts and Liberated Masters. This is the source book for all this material.
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And, of course, I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. It ain’t Harry Potter or happy unicorns. It is heady and its style is a bit old-fashioned. And the cosmic map it provides may not match the map that you currently use.
If I had my way, I – and you – would be able to develop Yogananda’s powers and we would be able to place Cosmic Fire under our pillows and absorb all its teachings by osmosis as we sleep. But I can’t. So I have to read it.
Even if you never read it in full, you can take it down from the shelf when you need an inspirational injection of cosmic consciousness and a profound reminder that what we see and touch materially is but the faintest hit of the true multidimensional cosmos.
All my love, William
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