1988 and no time for books

Cardboard box that once contained monochrome display

This box once contained a monochrome display. Those were the days, when we had time to read books but did not know where to find them. (There are still a few books in this box, though. All non-fiction.)

Using my amazing powers of mind, I recently traveled to the year 1988, in a timeline very close to this one. OK, so it is not some supernatural power that nobody else has – it is just a combination of imagination, memory and Google. (And occasionally dice.) But it works for me.

One thing that struck me was how different 1988 was from now. On the surface of it, things were much the same. Most people had already begun to work in the post-industrial economy, for instance, and the cars did not look all that different from now. It was already common for men and women both to work outside home, and (in sometimes unrelated news) divorce was already common. All significant political parties had the same names, at least in the western world, and the borders between nations were the same as now with a few exceptions (mainly in the communist world). Ordinary people ate pizza, watched TV and occasionally had sex. It does not really look all that different.

But then there are the computers. Oh, we had computers in 1988 too. The IBM Personal Computer was launched in August 1981. I already had one at home, and we had a few at the office too, as had many other offices in the reasonably rich world. But they were not really the same thing as we have today. They were slow and primitive in every way. Their capacity was very small. The pictures on the screen were blocky and usually in monochrome, typically green and black, although by 1988 there were color monitors and color video cards (typically bought extra). They were still blocky though.

The power of computers double roughly once every one and a half year. Let’s see: 3 years = 4 times, 4.5 years = 8 times, 6 years = 16 times, 7.5 years = 32 times, 9 years = 64 times, 10.5 years = 128 times … Conveniently, this means 5 years is approximately 10 times and 10 years approximately 100 times. So the computer 25 years ago was 100*100*10 times weaker than today, overall. 100,000 times. This kind of explains why my smartphone is fantastically more powerful than all the computers of my workplace back in the day.

In 1988, we still had physical file cabinets to store the vast amount of paper required by the bureaucracy. Bored housewives were hired to store and retrieve these papers, and spent much of the day with their butt in the air because some uncharted law of the universe ensures that most of the papers always end up in the two lower drawers, no matter what sorting your choose in advance. Many of these later developed severe back pain and became disabled, although around the time the physical file cabinets disappeared and were replaced by virtual file cabinets which you can still see on your computer screen. Kids these days probably don’t know that the folder icon is actually a picture of something that once existed in the physical world.

There are still books in the physical world, but Amazon.com has for quite a while now sold more ebooks than the sum of paperbacks and hardbacks, and the proportion keeps sliding toward more e and less paper. Of course, there wasn’t an Amazon.com back then. At a time when there were no awesome computer games, no social networks and no YouTube to distract me, I still did not read thousands of interesting books, because I did not know that they existed. And even had I known, I would have had no idea how to get them. Even if I knew the publisher, chances were small that the books were imported to Norway unless they were extremely mainstream (and therefore not all that interesting to me). Although I think I discovered Piers Anthony around that time? That sounds early, but I had read him for several years when someone made a computer game based on one of his Xanth books, and the game was rather bad and mercifully forgotten by most of the world long ago.

Now, I can get almost anything from Amazon.com, and in many cases download the books instantly to my lightweight Samsung tablet. But now I have so many fun things to do that I end up not reading many books. There is never a time for books, it seems.


Frithjof Schuon: “The Fullness of God”

The Realm of Light. Anime

Somehow, this part of the movie “The Laws of Eternity” reminds me of Schuon, and the other way around. I believe the Japanese illustrator tries to show the various luminous souls being connected by beams of Heavenly Light. Somehow the light of Frithjof Schuon has come much closer to me this year.

Something unexpected happened this year: I became able to understand Schuon. I have mentioned before, how I perceived him as being “high above me”, like one of those luminous lights in the sky, metaphorically speaking. When I tried to read his books, I felt like I was facing sheer cliffs or at least rocky outcroppings of precious stone, like diamond or sapphire: Immensely valuable, but unassailable and impossible to take with me. But if I could understand a sentence or two here and there, I was happy: Even a pebble is a good catch in the land of jewels.

By the time I started reading this particular book, early this year, the books were still largely unassailable. I have read two of them off and on through the year. By the time I approached the end of the other book, I began to understand. I am not sure how or why, but now it is rather normal reading. I do not necessarily agree with everything, but that is to be expected. Few people have agreed with Frithjof Schuon, but many more have been inspired.

I have no doubt as to Schuon’s sincerity and personal piety; it is attested by those who knew him during his lifetime, and also shines through in his writing. But his theology is … not for everyone, certainly, and maybe not even for me in part. For instance his Mariology, that is to say, the teaching of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an avatara of the Divine Feminine. I am led to believe that this is pretty close to the mainstream view in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as they both honor her with the name Mother of God and attribute to her various attributes above and beyond those of other saints. I don’t say that this is wrong, but nothing of the kind has been revealed to me or validated to me.

Certainly the Holy Virgin is the archetype of the Church, as the growth of the Christ-life in us (if it ever happens) depends on the same properties, spiritually speaking. (We are not speaking about the physical virginity here, as this is merely the outward sign of the inward purity of her heart which is the actual condition, surely. We are not going to give birth to the new life physically, after all.) But beyond that I don’t understand the big deal, personally. I’d rather not multiply the number of saviors beyond necessity.

As for Schuon’s teachings about the Trinity and specifically the Holy Spirit, I dare not repeat these, hardly even to myself. That is not to say that they are wrong, but I have an understandable phobia when it comes to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in whichever form. Better for a man such as I to say nothing, since I have not been authorized to speak on this matter. To speak even a truth without understanding it is highly dangerous. We were not born (hatched?) as parrots, so should not live as such.

Things being this way, I hesitate to recommend this book to the ordinary Christian. And this is a book about Christianity specifically. Even then, it contains numerous references to other great religions, particularly Islam but also the Vedanta branch of Hinduism.

I have a feeling that I have written this before, but it could just be from the large number of failed attempts to write a review of this book. I should just read it again from the start, I guess. Perhaps I will be able to savor the parts I understood (and there’s some really good stuff in there) the next time. I certainly don’t regret buying it or reading it. I just can’t think of anyone I would dare recommend it to. They probably exist, I just can’t think of any.

That was pretty tame, but I have deleted more about this book than I have written about most others. There has to be an end to that.

“Prayer fashions man”, a review

Screenshot anime Denpa Onna

“When I think about it, I always wonder how much I really understand.”  In this age of social media, when we can surround ourselves with idiots at the touch of a button, it is good to read something that makes me wonder if I’ve really understood anything the way it should be understood.

After months, I finished reading this book, Prayer fashions man, by Frithjof Schuon. As I wrote in my Goodread review: “This book is awesome; don’t read it!”

This requires some explanation, for those who don’t know about Frithjof Schuon. He was a fairly prolific author in religion and metaphysics, following a tradition that is known as Sophia Perennis, the perennial wisdom. It is fairly well described in Wikipedia, and I quote (partly to circumvent future edits there):

“Perennialism is a perspective within the philosophy of religion which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth on which foundation all religious knowledge and doctrine has grown. According to this view, each world religion, including but not limited to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism, and Buddhism, is an interpretation of this universal truth adapted to cater for the psychological, intellectual, and social needs of a given culture of a given period of history. The universal truth which lies at heart of each religion has been rediscovered in each epoch by saints, sages, prophets, and philosophers. These include not only the ‘founders’ of the world’s great religions but also gifted and inspired mystics, theologians, and preachers who have revived already existing religions when they had fallen into empty platitudes and hollow ceremonialism.” 

Yes, this view of religion’s history is strikingly similar to that of the Japanese religion Happy Science, with the notable exception that Schuon and friends didn’t claim to be God or Buddha, and tended to live an austere and secluded lifestyle. I personally find it easier to accept religious teaching from ascetic and taciturn people who receive little of no financial gain or fawning adoration for their efforts.

Be that as it may, Schuon is always a hard read. His words are like crystals, beautiful and precise but hard. Even now, being more familiar with Schuon, I cannot really read his books like textbooks. Rather, I have to read them slowly and wait for bits and pieces of  them to cause a sort of “vertical recall”, similar to a memory but of something I have never learned before. It is this “timeless memory” which remains, often as not, and it may not be directly spelled out in the text.

One may wonder whether he is making his text hard to read on purpose, so as to keep away the casual reader. If so, that is probably a good thing, for when you begin to understand what he writes, it is natural to become deeply disturbed. I don’t really recommend his books for those who are doing well in their religion, for it will almost certainly cause them to either reject their simple faith or the book, possibly both. I also don’t recommend it for the atheist who does well without religion, for he will find it foolish and will also find that Schuon regards him as more foolish than a beast.

I would recommend this book to the rare breed of spiritual offroad adventurer, who finds light in many faiths, but also shadows there, and who is bothered by the superficial nature of modern religion and modern life as a whole. (To Schuon, “modernity” is almost a curse word.) And I would recommend it to those who once were believers, but who grew up and their religion did not grow up with them, those who now feels that there was some goodness in their faith, but it was ultimately just a bunch of humans trying to do something that was far beyond them. For them, it may be useful to look behind the stage, perhaps. If so, I would recommend they start with the last chapter, and read only that for a while. It is the most “humane”, the easiest to read and the most practical part of the books, I think.  I am certainly glad I read it. I hope to live long enough to read it again once it has had time to either change me or be forgotten. But I doubt it can be forgotten.

Madness is not the only danger in books. There is also the danger that something may be seen that cannot be unseen. Whether I walk in this new light or not, I may be judged by it. As I said, this is not a book to take lightly, and I cannot recommend it to just anyone.

From a lower world to a higher

Screenshot Sakurasou, featuring Shiina Mashiro

That is pretty much how I feel when reading books like MOTT or Schuon – like I am being pulled into a life where I grow to become more like myself, or the real me. But while fascinating, it is not necessarily fun, and it does not always feel entirely safe.

My previous entry was about the computer game The Sims 3. So it makes perfect sense that this is about the book Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey into Christian Hermeticism. I have written about it before, but then I haven’t opened it in a long time, at least not often. This time I have begun on chapter 3. I have also downloaded a .pdf file to my home server and copied to my tablet and phablet so I can read it anywhere.

(The book itself is once again out of print, which may boost the interest in the .pdf file. I don’t usually condone stealing; but I think reading this book, no matter in what form, will increase the chance that you will pay for it and other books as well at a later time.)

As I have said before, “lower worlds are the worlds we create, higher worlds are the worlds that create us”. Among these may be considered the worlds of mathematics, for instance, since the unyielding rules of mathematics must exist for the universe to exist in its present form, whereas the opposite is not necessarily true. Of special interest is the worlds of religion, as they deal with the emergence and growth of the human as such, which is the soul. With all due respect for the human body, it is mainly a vessel for the soul. I here mean soul in its widest sense, the psyche in psychology, rather than just the immortal spirit-soul which cannot be proven to those who don’t already know it. It is obvious that all humans have a psyche, and religion is the original psychology, the Teachings of the Mind.

So this book about Christian Hermeticism is thoroughly psychological, but itself it is on a higher level than the everyday psyche. It deals with the archetypes above all, and their relationship to each other and to our actual life. It is not religious in the sense that it pretends to be a message from God. It is well aware that it is merely a link in a long chain, and it goes to great length to show this chain, this tradition, evoking a number of the great souls that make up this timeless community scattered throughout time.

For those who want to stay firmly within the first four dimensions, this book is unwelcome for sure. For it sees our life in space and time as merely a vessel for a much greater being which is not so constrained. Ordinary life is just a starting point. (I originally typed “starting pint”. I guess that works too…) Things escalate from there, or descalate from Heaven perhaps. Anyway, Heaven and the soul meet somewhere, and sweet music arises.

This book is not for everyone, I know. Religious folks will likely find it at least heterodox, if not heretical in places. Irreligious folks will find it babbling about imaginary things which make no sense to them. But for some of us, it speaks about things we know from experience but not as well as Unknown Friend, the author of the posthumous book. A student of non-Christian esoteric traditions, he came to find his home in the Catholic Church later in life, and brought with him what he considered to be in accord with the Truth of that religion, even if it came from elsewhere. But he also eagerly embraced the mystic traditions of the Church, and in this found his anchor. Meditations on the Tarot was his final work, a “lifetome” as a better man than me has said, and it was his wish that it be published anonymously and posthumously.

It is not at all necessary to understand the internal combustion engine to drive a car, nor to understand semiconductors to operate a computer. But to some people it can be very satisfying to have this kind of knowledge, and once in a blue moon it can come in useful. MOTT is a book for religious geeks who want to understand how and why the archetypes of religion work, not just that they work. I don’t think this necessarily makes us better people than others, but it probably makes us better people than we otherwise would have been. For to us, the attraction of metaphysical knowledge combats the attractions of the superficial life and the roaming ego. The two of them are opposed one to another, so we cannot do what we want.

(What I want, incidentally, is to play The Sims 3 all day and still become wise. While the game is conductive to wisdom, it is so only when used in conjunction with a much higher view, from which our life on Earth looks suspiciously similar to that of the Sims:  Short, flat and comical. MOTT is quite conductive to that perspective.)

An infinite number of books

Screenshot anime Minami-ke, Kana and Chiaki

In regard to how stupid you are, I’ve compiled a ten thousand word report.

 In truth, an infinite number of books could be written on how stupid I am. And on many other topics as well.

I recently bought a book called The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. I may review it at some future time, probably at least somewhat favorably. But I have only read 18% of it yet. That is because I stopped at this quote by Neil Gaiman: “I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only because there wasn’t an infinite number of Narnia books to read.”

I don’t have that relationship with Narnia, having only met it as an adult. But the idea of an infinite number of books is something that crops up in my own fiction in recent years. In The 1001st Book, the divine king Thoth of Attalan left behind thousands of books containing the universal magic lore. Wizards spend decades studying it and even centuries (for the final Gift of Thoth was that time spent studying the Truth does not count toward your lifespan), but they never manage to learn it all. It is said in that world that the person who reads and understands all the books of Thoth will be his reincarnation and save the world, but so far no one has come really close.

My choice of name and locale for the story is not incidental, but is plainly inspired by Japanese author and cult leader Ryuho Okawa, who should have reached 900 books any day now. Okawa does consider himself a reincarnation of Thoth as well as of Hermes Trismegistus, each of which is said to have written thousands of books containing all the secret knowledge of the world. Obviously this immense number of books is purely mythological. Only a few scattered fragments of writings purportedly from Hermes Trismegistus remain, although they are tantalizing in their powerful prose and have exerted a subtle but ongoing influence on Christianity and thus western culture.

Speaking of Christianity, we come to the second association. The disciple whom Jesus loved (generally assumed to be John) writes in conclusion of his(?) gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”  Once again, an infinite number of books. Yet in the end the number of books included in the Christian Holy Scriptures was quite limited. Rather than write an unlimited number of books, Jesus Christ entrusted to the Spirit of Truth to expand and bring alive what he had embodied.

The truth is that it is natural for anything higher-dimensional to be infinite in terms of lower dimensions. Did that sound abstract? Think of a mountain, it is 3-dimensional. Think of a photo, it is 2-dimensional (at least the part of it that interests us). You can take an infinite number of pictures of the mountain, from all sides and all heights, and each tiny change in placement of the camera will yield a new picture, even though the mountain is the same. Even if you take them from the same place, the weather and time of day will still make them different. And even after all that, you have only shown the surface of it. Its content, the quality of what it is inside, is not described even after all that.

Therefore, there can always be an infinite number of books, because there are things higher than books. I remember my aunt’s husband saying to me, after I admitted I did not know something: “There could be written thick books about all the things that you don’t know.” And I have been reading such books ever since. And yet there is an infinite number of books that could be written still, about an infinite number of things. Because there are things higher than books, and even something higher than those things. We are immersed in eternity.

Books or money?

Screenshot anime Minami-ke (Kana and Fujioka)

I read books once in a while too. It is nothing to be ashamed of!

I came across an interesting question on Quora: A wizard offers you a choice: $40,000,000, or the ability to absorb one book’s knowledge instantly, once every week. What do you choose, and why?

There were some interesting answers. Some thought that with all that knowledge, you could earn more than 40 million dollars. (Where did that number come from anyway?) Some thought that if you had the money, you could read as many books as you wanted, and the process of reading them is much more enjoyable than just downloading them into your brain. Some pointed out that large amounts of money have negative effects on humans, even though they don’t expect it beforehand.

My favorite answer was that there are already a number of people who have 40 million dollars. But being able to absorb all that knowledge would basically make you a superhero, something that did not currently exist and had never existed before.

I am aware that my view is colored by my living in Norway. Money is not a big deal here. There is next to no difference in living standard between me and my upstairs neighbors, two single unemployables from a foreign country. If you don’t have money, the state will provide. If you have money, the state will take it, although gradually. If the Norwegian welfare state dissolves, whatever causes it is probably powerful enough to wipe out my fortune as well. We are talking about the end of the information age or some such. But whatever that would be, if I survive I presumably still have my knowledge.


In my actual life, I both work and read books. I certainly spend more time at work than I do reading books, but the truth is that I increased my employment from 90% to 100% last year not because I wanted more money, but because I wanted to help people more. I am not sure I have succeeded, but that was my intention. To me, work is an expression of love. So is my journal, and I’m not as good as I wanted at that either. Perhaps reading more books would help.

For in the current reality, I cannot simply put my hand on a book and absorb its knowledge completely into my brain. Even if I read it all the way through, I will rarely have understood it completely. This may be because I have a tendency to pick books that are a bit above me. If it is something I can easily understand, wouldn’t it be enough to read an abstract, summary or review? Unfortunately, I think I tend to reach a bit too high when I buy books, and so I end up finishing only a fraction of the books I start on. Perhaps I should try something easier next time…

Quora is quite interesting, by the way. Perhaps I should make a habit of fishing questions from there if I don’t have anything pressing to say. Or perhaps I should shut up if I don’t have anything pressing to say. Nah, you could probably not make me do that. Not even for $40,000,000. ^_^

The Great Coincidence

You’d think anyone would prefer Heaven over Hell, given the choice. There is a good reason why not, though: Heaven is hard. As in, unyielding, solid, not malleable or bendable like the lower worlds. Some years ago I tried to explain this to some friends, and the were like “Have you read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis?”

I have finally, this late in my life, started reading C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. I rather enjoy it. It is a “spiritual fantasy” really, not an allegory but not intended as a realistic description of the spirit world, from his own preface. But he is not really hiding the religious content, not after the first few pages.

To me, the book is kind of shocking or unnerving. Not because of its religious implications, but because it is familiar in a completely different way. I wrote quite a bit of it before I knew it existed. And it wasn’t even religious. Not in the least. It was pure science fiction.

I was about 19 years old, I think, when these stories began to tell themselves in my head. They varied somewhat, but they had a common framework. There was this ordinary world, and there was a higher world, “the world above ours”. In my stories, it was a physical world, not a spiritual Heaven where souls went. One ascended to it in a secret cave, using a mysterious ladder that had been placed there in some unimaginable past. The main character who discovered this passageway was in for a rude surprise: The “world above ours” was 20 times more real than ours. Mass was that much denser, energy that more energetic. Even lack of energy, such as cold or dark, were more intense. The only time visiting this world was bearable was just after sunset and sunrise, when it was not cold enough to freeze you to ice and not hot enough to roast you alive. Even breathing the air there was painful, and at first you could not drink the water or even venture out of the cave. It would take repeated visits to gradually begin to absorb some of that more intense reality by breathing it in, before you could carefully begin to explore.

Conversely, after a while the muses in my head added a “world below ours” which was that much less real, so that anyone entering there from our world would be amazingly real at first, but gradually dissipate their reality the longer they stayed there and the more they used it.

Now I pick up this book from 1945 and there is this super-real world where even walking on the grass hurts the poor shades from the lower world, where they find themselves half transparent in the light there. I think the first thing that really creeped me out was the mention of the time of day: The very beginning of the dawn. The same time my own characters were able to visit “the world above ours”. The next was the promise that staying there would help them become able to tolerate the world, that the very nature there would assist them.

Conversely, in the world below, people were able to manifest houses simply by willing them into being, but the houses were insubstantial – in other words, the people had supernatural powers by virtue of being more real than the world, but the world itself was less real. It was an eerie echo of my own fiction from years before I heard any rumors of this book. I think the notion that this vertical stacking of worlds had any spiritual meaning only entered my mind 6-5 years ago, after I had started reading the One Cosmos blog.

My stories were, as I said, not at all religious. But the similarity is still more than enough that any literary agent would have pointed out that this was basically a secular take on Lewis’ book, I am sure. Except I had not even heard of it. (I had read Malacandra – Out of the Silent Planet – somewhere around that time, I think. But that was it. I was in my mid to late twenties when I found my second Lewis book, about Perelandra (Venus) and became aware that he had been a fairly active writer for a while.

Now, some may explain this by saying that when enough people have read a book, a morphic field is created which makes it easier to think the same thoughts. (“The 100th monkey effect”.) Or you may say that the spirit of Lewis inspired me from Heaven, because I was in my own way fairly innocent and had a similar temperament to him in his better years. But most would surely say that it is a coincidence. One of the innumerable coincidences that abound in my life. Sometimes I feel that being a Viewpoint Character is a bit like being ta’veren (in the Wheel of Time universe): Strange things happen around you frequently, but you cannot control them or even predict them. Even, it seems, when I am the one doing them!

But it sure is a huge coincidence, don’t you think?

Deliberately reading a book

Of this, I approve. One should show respect for the gate that leads to the hidden truths! If high school kids had to perform a reverent invocation to be allowed through the school gates, they might learn more. Well, better late than never!

Still reading Talent is overrated by Geoff Colvin. It is not hard to read, at least for me. Obviously this varies, and I want to talk about this first.

Mortimer Adler writes in his (no longer so famous) book How to Read a Book that you won’t learn much from a book that is easy to read. That means you already know most of what the author knows, and already think the same way the author does. But if the book is hard to read, there may be two reasons for this: Either the author writes badly, or he is so far above you in knowledge or understanding that you have to struggle to get up to his level.

This, ironically, equates with what Colvin writes about one aspect of “deliberate practice”: It must be in the “learning zone” between the comfort zone and the panic zone. If you stay down in the comfort zone where you already know how to do things, you may have a good time, but you don’t grow. If you go too far above your current skill level, you enter the panic zone where you don’t even know where to begin. You must stay between these to make progress.

Back to Mortimer Adler, who I hope will become more relevant now that Kindle and its competitors have caused a great renaissance of the book. If an author writes badly and you are already on his level, you should be able to see through the bad writing and judge his skill, at which point you may just as well give up on the book (unless you are tasked to review it, I suppose).

But if you are below the author’s level (in that particular field), you have to read the book systematically to extract not only the factual information but the way of thinking which separates the teacher from the student – the book is the teacher, in this case. Most of Adler’s book consists of detailed descriptions of how to go about this. It is systematic, it is a lot of work, and it is not particularly fun. Yes, that means it is a “deliberate practice” as defined by Colvin and (more importantly) the scientists he popularizes, notably Anders Ericsson. In this case, a deliberate practice of thinking.

If you are above the author’s level, you should be able to understand it handily even if the writing is less than perfect. Of course, horrible writing can make even the simplest thought obscure, as Esaias Tegner famously remarks: “The obscurely spoken is the obscurely thought” (“Det dunkelt sagda är det dunktelt tänkta”). However, as mentioned above, the converse is also true: Something may sound obscure to you because your thinking is obscure. So if you are an expert, people need to be really obscure for you not to understand them.

Since I am not an expert in the science of skill development, I think we can safely say that Geoff Colvin writes quite clearly. Since I don’t have a problem following the text when written clearly, he writes at a level close to my current understanding. (He probably has to “dumb down” to do so, of course.) So if you can read me, you should easily be able to read Colvin.

Adler is another matter entirely. He’s so high, high above me. Despite the clarity of his writing, I need to work deliberately to absorb his book. Perhaps I should give it another go, now that I have seen the same thing from a different angle.

From one Dragon to another

Hopefully this Dragon won’t come to a tearful end.

Isn’t that a coincidence. While I was still getting acquainted with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12, I got a notice that Comixology – the electronic comic store – was having a sale on the Wheel of Time comic books (based on the fantasy classic by Robert Jordan). And of course the first of these comics, based on the prologue from the Eye of the World, features the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon. (The main character of the Wheel of Time books is known as “the Dragon reborn”, and I have used this phrase repeatedly as a pun to describe new versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking… except this one. Well, up until now.)

I bought a number of the comics on sale. It seems like the kind of initiative that I would support, as long as it is cheap enough and I don’t have to actually carry the comics around with me every time I move. It made me remember the old days when I used to read the Wheel of Time books. This was back when I read a lot of fiction, especially fantasy but also some science fiction. To be honest, I seem to remember that I bought the first book because of its size: Lots of pages for the money. But I ended up very impressed by it. I still consider it one of the best fantasy books I have ever read, fully comparable to Tolkien. So I enjoyed now seeing it popularized for new readers.

This was the time when the Internet was coming to my native Norway. Common people still did not have Web access, but it was possible to get an email address. I got mine through a BBS called Manhattan. It was not actually located on Manhattan, but here in Norway. The BBS was run by a young man who I still occasionally meet online. Anyway, I got my email address and a subscription to a handful of USENET groups. One of these groups was dedicated to the books written by Robert Jordan. The regulars of that group where younger than me, smart and funny. I had reached the age where most of my classmates were thinking about money and diapers, so I felt more at home with these strangers who read the same books as I did. As it happens, many of us still keep in touch online on a regular basis, for some of us almost daily. Some of them also keep in touch offline, to the point of in some cases being married to each other now. I guess we were a tightly knit bunch…

So I might be a bit sentimental about the Wheel of Time series. But as I see it, the first book was quite a bit better than the rest, and it went gradually downhill from there. When I stopped reading (around book 9 I think) it seems painfully obvious to me that Jordan was stretching the series to “milk” his fans. He seemed more worried that he might outlive the series than the other way around. This also came to pass. Jordan died and Brandon Sanderson took 3 books to finish it. I think it was 3 books, I haven’t seen any of them. He is not one of my favorite authors, although I can see why he was asked to finish the series. I have read 3 of his books. Sanderson has great technique, but I find him sadly lacking in the sense of wonder that is the hallmark of great fantasy writing. Finishing someone else’s work seems a perfect job for him. Perhaps I will read the books one day, at least if human lifespan is greatly extended. As it is, I barely even make progress on the esoteric literature. Of course, reading Wheel of Time comics doesn’t exactly help…

Reading weird books

Esoteric books

Recently bought paper books, sorted in order of descending weirdness. (Most of my recently bought books are e-books, not easily photographed.)

I felt the urge to read Boris Mouravieff’s Gnosis again. It is a rather specific urge, like the book is wordlessly calling to me. So I’ve nibbled at it again. It is interesting as usual. Some things seem very likely to be true. Some seem out and out weird.

For instance, obvious truth: As ordinary people without esoteric practice, we are swept away by the currents of emotions and influences but are not aware of it, thinking instead that we are acting of our own free will. Once we have studied esoteric Truth, we begin to become able to notice when we are being swept away, but we are still not able to stop it. The “A influences” as he calls them, the influences of this world, are still far too strong for us. To attack them head on would be like attacking windmills. Windmills 1, idealist 0.

What people usually do when they begin to observe that they are rarely in control of their own mind and body? Lie. “Cheat until caught, then lie” as a friend used to have as his mail signature. Avoid the truth like the plague. As if it were the rotting corpse of an Ebola victim, ready to infect anyone who passes downwind of it. Construct a fake personality that is the captain of its own fate. I did it all on purpose! Unless it was illegal or hurt someone, then it was someone else’s fault.

To study this more closely, I have picked up a book recommended by Farnam Street (the blog of secular wisdom seeking mentioned in my previous entry). The book is The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. It is about the observation that all normal people cheat a bit, but few dedicate their life to swindling. Therefore there must be a different mechanism behind the everyday cheating and lying that you and I do, different from the all-out sociopath swindlers who are bosses of Wall Street corporations.

I have begun reading it. It is borderline boring so far, but I need to know what I am doing to pull the wool over my inner eye. So I intend to persevere in reading it. Some day.