29.11.12

The Inner Guide Meditation, by Edwin C. Steinbrecher



I recently became fascinated by The Inner Guide Meditation; a relatively obscure and idiosyncratic book first published in the 1960s, after hearing it mentioned by a Jungian astrologer on a you tube video. What made it interesting to me is that even though it's basically been forgotten by contemporary esoteric voyagers the ideas it contains have had an influence on most of the creative visualization based stuff that became popularized in the late 80s on through the 90s (including the neo-shamanic fad). By the end of the 90s if one more book suggested I visualize a cave or pasture where I could meet a spirit guide or step into a tarot card to dialogue with its image I gave my self complete permission to tear up the book and set the shredded remains on fire!

Steinbrecher, a jungian analyst turned astrologer, is probably the guy that sparked that whole genre of guided tarot meditation crap. The only thing is - the actual system that Steinbrecher outlines in this book is one of the most ingenious, creative and innovative modern spiritual systems I have come across; the quixotic love child of jungian concepts, astrology, tarot and the practice of active imagination. That watered down talk-to-a-tarot-card page filling nonsense that would become plastered across every New Age book store, in fact, had its roots in a remarkably unique system of inner work. 

First I tried it out of pure curiosity. I couldn't resist. The book has the fevered tone of an eccentric inventor uncle who had been cooking up something in the attic and inadvertently stumbled onto bizarre new technology that had basically fried his brain. And he wants to tell people - if only they would listen! 

Who can resist that uncle?

As I got drawn deeper into the inner map that this system creates I soon found myself being sucked down, down, down the rabbit hole. And I started feeling good. I mean really good. I wasn't sure if it was due to some sort of self-induced psychotherapy, play, magic or spiritism. But the pull became increasingly irresistible as my energy levels increased, new solutions to problems began popping up and blocks that had dogged me for years seem to be evaporating. 

In some ways its been my dirty little secret because if you read the book you will soon discover it is ten percent C. G. Jung, fifty percent astrology, twenty percent tarot and twenty percent batshit crazy. And I mean CRAAAZY. But its the crazy that makes me love it. It's the kind of crazy that lets you know Steinbrecher stumbled and the plunged headfirst into something that worked. Perhaps a little too well.

So what is IGM?

Superficially it is a kind of meditation - a session of active imagining, really - during which you meet an "inner guide" who then takes you on a journey to the tarot images/energies. Scratch a little deeper and you soon discover there is a whole lot more to it than that. The real meat and genius of the system is in what Steinbrecher refers to as the horoscopic pattern. This is where it gets really interesting. In short, the practitioner of IGM takes their astrological natal chart and then translates it into the corresponding tarot images. Creating a kind of a map of the soul. Then, based on the aspects of the planets in the natal chart certain "high energy" pairs are identified. These are basically planets that have difficult aspects in relation to each other; square or opposition. Or, planets that are ill dignified in their zodiacal placements.


Then, under the tutelage of the Inner Guide you are taken to meet these troubled pairs (represented by the tarot cards images), and in these meetings you begin to negotiate a new truce between these forces in various ways. They tell you what they need from you to get along and also what they need form each other - and then upon agreement they either hold hands (forming a circle with you and the guide), change places or even merge. And in this, admittedly, twee way you begin tweaking and twisting the knobs of your soul.

The first time I had my astrologically opposed saturn and sun (represented by the World and Sun cards) meet and reach this sort of agreement, something astounding happened. The deal was brokered and I rolled my eyes as we all awkwardly held hands (as Steinbrecher prescribes) and I gave them permission to "balance". As I did so I experienced an unexpected, nauseating zap followed by what can only described as an hallucination. A nearly psychedelic whirlpool of garbage released; repressed images, violent movie clips, audible zings and zaps along with shouts and screams. Throughout my body a queer sticky feeling permeated. Within minutes it was gone and I was like, WTF? This effect was so notable, so unmistakable that what started off as bemused curiosity soon changed into fascination. I began reading and rereading the book and working through my whole natal pattern to see what would happen in each instance. Each day I would be surprised in a new way - not always as dramatically but certainly with a consistent sense of interest and energy.

Then the dreams started. Crazy ass dreams each night following an IGM session. Each session usually produced a relating dream and a certain dialogue became established. A call and response dynamic, as certain characters and symbols from the IGM appeared once more in the dream. I would take these back into the meditation and we would work on them again. I was hooked!

You see, the cards begin giving you little errands to run in exchange for their cooperation and pretty soon you are running around hiding a rusty key in the forest to appease Saturn, burning lists of names for Mars, sipping sea water for Cancer and doing all manner of curious things to please the planets. Your spouse begins raising his eyebrow at what is  quirky behavior (even for you). The Other Side is teaching, and you are changing but the whole thing gets the unmistakable quality of a child's game or quest. Its a great deal of fun yet at times desperately serious, uncomfortable and a little embarrassing. 

Whatever it is - it works. 

There are a couple of issues with the book worth mentioning. Firstly, as I mentioned there is a lot of batshit crazy stuff peppered into an otherwise brilliant system. Really whacky talk about adult circumcision as initiation, macrobiotic diets, alien vessels, meta-sexuals - and as was fashion at the time - a real fascination with kundalini experiences. I don't mind, these strike me as the artifacts of an unusual mind as well as the zeitgeist of the 60s.

Steinbrecher also had a pathological, and I mean FIERY, hatred of spiritualists, mediums and channeling. He spends many pages preaching sanctimoniously about and cautioning against "false guides", both inner and outer. I find this very amusing considering that there is so much of talk about working with the shadow throughout the book. It's obvious to me that Steibrecher was projecting his own shame an embarrassment at creating this lunatic departure from traditional psychoanalysis. His efforts to distance himself from the lowbrow hucksterism so prevalent within the spiritualist scene at the time is evident in these rants. Especially when considering that the core mechanism of his book involves working with a spirit guide! Steinbrecher even admits that in all likelihood the guide is not an aspect of the mind but a spirit of the dead. I can see why it is that the IGM method slipped into obscurity because he spends many pages insulting the book's main demographic of readership!

Nonetheless, even the author's repeated denouncement of what forms the core of my religious practice could not make me love this system any less. Sometimes you just have to nod your head along in agreement with your crazy uncle when he goes on about the spy helicopters above the house because you know pretty soon he will forget about them and start telling you about that cool contraption he built in the basement.

It's clever, it's creative and above all it's challenging inner work. This is probably another reason it didn't catch on because there is a whole lot of effort and discipline required here - the planets can be merciless with homework assignments. But if you do the work, the rewards are unmistakable.

Despite mister Steinbrechers protestations I would highly recommend it to anyone working in a mediumistic way or in a spiritualist-derived framework. It is an incredible way to tighten contact with the spirits and clarify mediumistic communication. You might call it kind of spiritist gymnasium where you can practice talking with (and listen to) the numinous realms. There is something unmistakably therapeutic here in a psychological sense too - so if you are interested in C.G. Jung then there is something for you here too. Hardcore Jungians will probably run screaming into the hills when they read how he has butchered archetype theory, however.

The most challenging thing at the outset is translating your own natal chart into Steinbrecher's "horoscopic pattern" of cards. If you are unfamiliar with astrological language this could be discouraging. Don't let that discourage you however! I am making myself available to do just that - so if you need your chart translated into the card archetypes, all you need to do is book a consult with me and I happily do so for you, provided that you send accurate birth information. 

The astrology is another area where I have to respectfully depart from Steinbrecher's opinions because he seemed to adopt wholesale much of the nonsense of modern astrology - like attributing sex to the 8th house and reversing the positions of mother and father in the 10th and 4th houses, respectively.  He insists that the Inner Guide's appearance is determined by the sign on the cusp of 9th house, but, as we all know by now the Good Daemon is traditionally derived from the 11th house. Similary, some of his planetary attributions for the cards are a bit suspect. And I am personally inclined towards Donald Tyson's astrological attributions for the cards more so that the GD system (swapping The Chariot and Temperance around most notably, because, I'm sorry there is nothing warlike or victorious about the crab! And I don't care what Mathers had to say about it). 

In practice this makes little difference because you soon discover the planetary energies are just playing dress-up in the tarot symbols and they morph and change into whatever forms they damn well please. Some of the most notable surprises for me were being introduced to the Emperor (Aries) as an alcoholic Jesus, or discovering that Venus likes morphing between Mary Magdalene and a Fairy Queen respectively - perhaps not that surprising considering that I have Venus in Pisces. Whatever the case may be you will soon begin learning a whole lot more about tarot and astrology because - as a side effect - you discover those symbols from the inside. That certainly was not Steinbrecher's main intention, though it really is a pleasant bonus.

Get the book. Steinbrecher deserves the recognition - and hopefully a new generation of IGM practitioners.

17.11.12

Anamnesis Meditation mix

I was in need of some music to do inner work with. I wanted something trance inductive but most 'shamanic' drumming recordings are either terminally lame with flutes and Casio keyboard or just too boring, so I decided to remedy this in garage band by remixing a couple of tracks integrating overtone singing, atmospherics and tasteful drumming into a single 18 minute atmospheric journey. Enjoy!

6.11.12

Review: Tarot by Alexander Daniloff 2012


Visitors who see my groaning shelf of tarot decks may assume I'm a deck collector. The truth is I'm no tarot collector. That shelf is the discard pile. I hate most tarot decks. Especially these new photoshop monstrosities we see replicating themselves virally.

No.

The need to acquire is based on a single impulse; the childlike hope that there is a deck that is an authentic new expression of the tarot mystery. Not the cheap plastic-coated facsimile that the industry vomits out, but the Tarot that I see with the eye of my heart. A tarot that has been created with the degree of class and skill you would expect to see in the Devil's picture book. A deck therefor that is appropriately artful, crafty even, in its treatment of the greater and lesser arcana; by being cognizant of both tarot tradition and the greater visual tradition that the tarot was borne in, yet, is a new expression of that history. A refreshing night-bloom on the tree of knowledge whose dangerous scent stirs deep anamnesis. Not just a pack of pictures to help spark the imagination but an oracular machine, animating each image as a living sigil; with lines, colors and symbols oscillating and interlocking with the clockwork of the soul in such a way that the simple act of looking allows one to glimpse through the weavings of time - to that place where the seventy eight arcanum whisper and wink conspiratorially like glittering cardboard jewels in Indra's web.


With the eye of my heart I can see this is what the tarot truly is. Perhaps it's the same eye that blinks back at me from La Luna, smug with the knowledge that that deck is remains perfectly hidden somewhere between the towers of Dreaming and Forgetting. It's as if I have once owned this spectral deck I speak of and somehow managed to lose it - and the new habit of searching catalogues, forums and blogs for new tarots isn't so much about novelty and discovery as it has become a sincere attempt to recover a precious lost object. As always, my husband shakes his head in exasperation at the monthly ritual. Each new amazon package is opened hopefully, and then discarded with a grunt.

I'm not sure I will ever manage to recover this archetarot of my soul. I'm not sure I would even want to... but dammit - I have come so very, very close today.

The Tarot by Alexander Daniloff 2012 (which is should not be confused with his major arcana deck from 2010) stands alongside the Marseilles, the Rider-Waite-Smith and the Thoth as a profound expression of Tarot, of that I have no doubt. Perhaps prescient of this fact Daniloff eschewed the obligatory silly deck name for his work and opted simply to give it his own name. This class and grace is evident throughout the Daniloff tarot. Abandoning cheesy fonts or tacky borders - or any of the other gimmicks and trinkets we see encrusting the cards these days - instead focusing on what the cards are actually about: communicating the incommunicable. Expressing that which crouches just beyond the edges of understanding. Perhaps this is why the edges of Daniloff are square cut. And what may have been a practical production decision for this limited edition deck, manages to somehow enhance the impact these images with a serene austerity, allowing the images to live on their own terms.

And what a life!

The foolish might dismiss the Daniloff tarot a "Rider-Waite-Smith clone". As if each new tarot should or even can improve on the allegories of RWS. You see, RWS is a genre. Like jazz or impressionism. When Renoir painted Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette did people say "Oh look, another Monet clone"? Probably. A fresh batch of fools are born in every decade.

However, good artists know how to work in a genre so that their work expands, deepens and comments on it. Great artists can take genre and turn it inside out without resorting to iconoclasm or novelty (the hallmark trick of the modern market) in order to form that pearl beyond price: genius.

Style

This deck has it.

In great walloping buckets full. I'm willing to wager that one night around midnight mister Daniloff went to the crossroads with a pack of pencils, some brushes and an easel. Let's just say he went to go sketch the portrait of a certain blues celebrity whose silhouette seemed unusually pointy in the dim moonlight. And whom, as one would expect, proposed a bargain of sorts.

Because - holy crap - Daniloff illustrated the shit out of this thing. I don't even know where to begin.


Lets begin with how Daniloff's fluid line work snakes and dances across each card like a whirling dervish intoxicated by the wine of Divine Unity. There is a elegance in these compositions that plainly attests that Daniloff is not only a supernaturally skilled draftsman but that he has has also steeped himself in the iconography of the period to which this deck beckons us so very seductively. The man has done his research. From the designs of the swords, to the groundbreaking inclusion of heraldic motifs into the court cards, down to subtle iconographic elements that provoke biblical and apocalyptic narratives. Ideas which so powerfully shaped the medieval period as a whole. Eschatological themes were of course instrumental in shaping the tarot itself, but swept under the rug in favor of an imagined egyptian ancestry.

More viscerally - the linework, design and composition as whole have a startling vibratory tension. Stele-like in the simplicity of arrangement; sometimes airy and dreamlike and at other times perfectly iconic with all the austere religious weight of the period - and somehow all the while remaining perfectly visually consistent. But more than that, it seems there is an energetic effect you experience when looking at each image. Something that you experience with only very, very few decks. By looking at a card a certain state of consciousness is triggered by the image. It's like it slowly starts crawling inside you and readjusting your body's subtle meridians by means of the blackest of sorceries: coloring pencil.

I mean - just look at the Devil.

Now, in a creepy italian accent croak "il diavolo". Aaah, that's what I'm talking about! There is a certain kind of dire symmetry in this image that evokes infernal consciousness in all its sulphuric glory.

The Court Cards

An area of the tarot that few people get too excited about. My system of reading uses the court as a vital feature so it's one of the first things I tend to look at in a new deck. Daniloff did not disappoint in this regard. In fact, he has created one of the most ingenious tarot courts I have ever seen. Breathtaking artwork aside - he has very appropriately decided to tap into the rich heraldic traditions of Europe and design  each suit's court around a motif. The result it stunning.

Further, he has illustrated each figure with such skill that the true character of each court card is plainly readable on the face. It would probably be more accurate to call these court portraits. You wouldn't need to know much about the court cards' traditional attributions in order to read these accurately because their facial features, expressions and attitude say it all. I can almost hear the King of Wands guffaw good-heartedly over his latest conquest. The Page of Swords really does look like a spy - a thoroughly sly looking character, hiding ever so slightly behind the most exquisitely folded banner (a motif on all the Pages). The whole of the Swords court is a blast, let me tell you.


The Minors 

As I mentioned, the minors use the RWS allegories as their basis which will be boon for those who love that tarot genre (as I do). Those RWS allegories have a certain power and momentum behind them - a tradition. But he really does move that tradition forward. While each RWS narrative is there he has either deepened it in some way with his consummate skill at communicating subtle ideas visually or by adding a twist that wasn't there before. The 6 of Cups, for instance is card that in most decks really falls flat (even within the RWS), but Daniloff has managed to take the same two little characters and rework them in such a way that you feel like you are glimpsing a childhood memory. There is a sweetness and nostalgia that's undeniable in this 6 of Cups. There are a few cards that depart strongly from the original RWS template (like the 9 of Pentacles) but in each case for the better in my opinion. Even with these departures he has retained the central figures and scene but changed it in some critical way. The Ten of Swords' with its animated corpse - who is offering a necrotic benediction from within a pulsating dark aureola just bakes my noodle, let me tell you! That card is certainly going to see some serious meditation, scrying and journeying from me and I ain't a path-working kinda guy!

The Majors

Same thing. Takes the majors like some mad virtuoso and just riffs off them in the most mind-boggling way. If you know a bit about art history you are in for a treat - a nod to Hieronymus Bosch here, then tweaking the vatican's nipple there. But these majors are more than historically astute, much more. They are magical glyphs proper. Don't even get me started on the classy zombies tucked away like little easter eggs...

Which brings me to the major that really talks to me like no other: La Morte (Death). Here we find a skeletal-zombie type Angel of Death standing mischievously over the traditional dying figures depicted on the RWS card. This death however has a friendly glint in his eye and rat familiar perched on his shoulder, and he seems to be playing a hourglass musical instrument. It has such humor and charm to it, without diminishing the gravity of that card.


In conclusion

By now you probably realize how much I like this tarot. There is a lot more I could say about it but no amount of florid writing will replace the experience of looking at this beauty in real life. Even better: lay it out on the table and hear its sure, gentle voice speak.

So, what don't I like about the deck? A balanced review should have some negatives, surely?

In this case all the negatives I can point at have mostly to do with the fact that it is a limited edition production. On the one hand this is fabulous for the exclusivity of the deck. It should be treated as a collectable, its that gorgeous. On the other hand, I love this deck so much I want to read with it all the time.

All the time.

And I don't want to ruin a collectable with the wear and tear that full-time professional reader puts on a deck of tarot cards. I sincerely hope that a major publisher offers him an outrageous amount of money so they can pick this masterpiece up and print it in greater quantities. Just so that I can have a Daniloff work deck which I don't need to feel too squeamish about handing to clients to shuffle.

This would also solve a few of the small additional technical gripes I have about the deck. Gripes that are all production related. The card stock is a little flimsy for cards this size. Not terrible but a bit more weight would have done the art justice - especially for a limited edition deck. There are some inconsistencies with the borders being trimmed shorter on the bottom than on the top. Also, the box it comes in looks handmade which is charming but is already loosing its structural integrity and soon will get discarded altogether. Finally, the deck could do with some color correction so that the blacks are consistently black across the whole range of cards. The color on certain cards also looks a little washed out by comparison to other cards which remain very bright. These are small details that only someone who was chained to a DTP work station for almost a decade might notice, but there you go. Details that would easily be fixed by a large publisher like, say, Lo Scarabeo.

Daniloff has clearly given all his talent and vision (and possibly even his soul) to create this spectacular addition to tarot culture and tradition. 

Do not hesitate to go to his site and order it today.