Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Unique Look at Reincarnation

I loved reading “John Lennon and the Bronte Connection," by Jewelle St. James who persuasively establishes (1) that artist/singer/songwriter John Lennon was the reincarnation of artist/writer Branwell Bronte, brother of Emily Bronte, author of the acclaimed novel “Wuthering Heights;” and (2) that Jewelle herself is Emily reincarnated.   

In an earlier book, “All You Need Is Love,” Jewelle wrote convincingly about a prior life of hers with one John Baron, another previous incarnation of John Lennon (as established by Jewelle).  In reviewing that book, I stated: “Jewelle St. James follows her heart, obtains psychic readings from a number of gifted people, and painstakingly seeks out evidence to test the accuracy of the information gathered, and the validity of her beliefs. A sincere and honest approach that totally satisfied my Doubting Thomas aspect! Along the way, Jewelle digs deep into her own intimate issues, the resolution of which provides a glimpse into the mystical workings of the Universe. A truly courageous and inspiring work. I loved it!" The same can be said about Jewelle’s “John Lennon and the Bronte Connection.”  And as with her previous works, the writing here is succinct, and the research meticulous.

From the outset, I recognized that one of the ways in which Jewelle gets signs from “the Universe” is very much in sync with the way signs, at times, come to me—via a chain of insistent synchronicities.  With regard to myself, it’s as if my spirit helpers have to work hard to penetrate my Doubting Thomas default.  Thus, as with Jewelle, “an avalanche of multiple messages will appear” (page 10) to finally convince me that my Sixth Sense is on target. 

Chapter Two includes Barry McGuinness’ engaging analysis of the premise that Jewelle is the reincarnation of Emily Bronte. I found Mr. McGuinness’ presentation to be highly persuasive.

I especially enjoyed Chapter 3, about Jewelle’s journey into New York City (my home town, Brooklyn being one of the five boroughs of NYC) in the Spring of 2012.   Included in this chapter is a passage stating that, “John Lennon was (obviously) John Lennon until he died, and then he returned to all that he is—to all that he as ever been, like we too will one day reunite with the larger part of ourselves.”  That “larger part” being our “oversouls,” altho Jewelle never uses that term (which comes from the Hawaiian kahuna tradition.  On this point, see the works of Hank Wesselman). 

Especially noteworthy in Chapter 3 is Jewelle’s observation that because John Lennon’s “spirit now encompasses his many lifetimes of ‘expression,’ he can communicate with me (and others) through his various past-life personalities.”  This is an extremely astute observation, and universally true, I submit.  Prior lives can communicate with us here on Earth, from the Other Side, even when an aspect of the oversoul has reincarnated.  I have written about this in my own book (“Into The Mystic, From the Streets of Brooklyn”), and it’s wonderful for me to have the concept validated by Jewelle, a person whom I highly respect.  In short, lifetimes are not boxed in by our linear constructs or the laws of physics. After all, what we are talking about here is metaphysics pursuant to which a person’s prior life can still communicate with us from the Other Side, even tho that person (or, more accurately, an aspect of the oversoul from which that person has incarnated) has reincarnated.  In short, our souls can be in more than one place, at one time.

Here, as in her prior works, Jewelle notes how hard it was for her to accept that an incarnation of the great John Lennon was communicating with the presumably unworthy Jewelle. But the assessment of her friend Christine on this point nails it: ‘May I suggest that had John Lennon been anyone other than John Lennon, it may have been easier to accept the synchronicity of all that has happened.’

Like other chapters, Chapter 5 includes an intriguing photo—this one of the Bronte parsonage.  Jewelle relates that she walked thru the parsonage with a group of tourists, and noticed that, “The kitchen is wrong.”  Seconds later she saw a sign on the wall stating that the kitchen had been renovated since the Bronte’s had lived there.  For me, this is a spontaneous and honest validation that the messages coming to and thru Jewelle, were valid.

In Chapter 6, Jewelle notes that on her visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum, being featured was an exhibition: “Sex, Drugs and [not Rock-and-Roll but] Literature.”  Sound a little like John Lennon?  The details are enticing. 

In Chapters 7-9, Jewelle delves into an analysis of the Bronte family that is, in a word, captivating.  Chapter 9 reveals why Jewelle cannot read “Wuthering Heights.” Why?  Well, I don’t want to resort to a spoiler, so suffice it to say here that Branwell prominently figures into the explanation.  In any event, I would agree with Jewelle’s assessment that she proves her case “well-nigh to certainty.”

In Chapter 10, Jewelle focuses on the traits that Branwell and John Lennon shared.  Very interesting also how the two men looked so much alike (see especially Branwell’s drawing of himself presented on the book’s cover, and compare it to the photo of John on page 35).  This begs the question: Can facial resemblance or other physical characteristics in one’s current life serve as an indication of who one was in a prior life?  For me personally, the answer is yes, given that the man I “know” to have been me in a prior life, bears a striking resemblance to the me of yesteryear; or should I say that I, in my youth, bore a striking resemblance to him?   (Birthmarks can be an even more trustworthy indicator than facial similarities, see the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson.)

In Chapter 11, Jewelle notes how a certain “little connection seemed huge.”  This is exactly how my own Sixth Sense operates at times.  And I believe that’s true for many of those who are psychically inclined.  As world-class medium Suzane Northrop (who has endorsed Jewelle’s work) often says, “It’s the little things” that really count. 

Jewelle also notes at one point that she was “so caught up in the wonder of the signs that I often missed the actual messages.”  Been there, experienced that.  The process can be mesmerizing.

Chapter 12 delves further into the mystery of knowing who you were in a prior life.  Jewelle writes, “Of all the clues [of which there were many] and evidence pointing to me as Emily, it was actually this sudden love of birds that convinced me. . . I felt as if they were my friends.  It was like looking at the world with someone else’s eyes and feeling with someone else’s heart.”    The Universe works in mysterious ways.  What Jewelle effectively captures in words is that which, in reality, can usually only be learned by experience. Readers in tune will get this.  Those out of tune, will not.

Jewelle ties things together nicely in Chapter 13, in a most insightful way.  She begins the chapter with the observation that “In this world of their own making, events seemed to show that Branwell, on a subconscious level, possibly remembered his past life as John Baron.”  The analysis supporting this observation is convincing.  Further, the way in which Jewelle expresses her opinion here, i.e., “events seemed to show” [emphasis added] is reflective of how Jewelle modestly expresses herself throughout the book, an approach that is very much welcome.

Chapter 14 begins with “a heart-stopping ‘coincidence’” that will resonate with in-tune readers.  As will Jewelle’s statement that “Spirit-John [Lennon] has cajoled me into ‘owning’ my past life. . . It has taken my whole adult life to know myself.”  I’m certainly glad that Jewelle not only got to know herself, but especially glad that she has shared what she learned and experienced within the pages of “John Lennon and the Bronte Connection,” a book which reaffirms my own spiritual beliefs and experiences.

In short, John Lennon and the Bronte Connection is a wonderfully efficient and spiritually educational work. I would strongly recommend that all open-minded people of a spiritual persuasion read this marvelous book, especially those who are interested in reincarnation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Itzhak Beery's “The Gift of Shamanism” Is a Wonderfully Inspiring Read

I’ve known Itzhak Beery since early 2001, when I first attended the New York Shamanic Circle (“NYSC,” then actually called the “New York Drumming Circle”). I had gone there at the suggestion of Edy Nathan, a powerful healer in her own right, because she felt that shamanism would do me some good. It certainly did!  

I was an active member of the NYSC for a good twelve years before becoming what you might call a “lapsed shamanic student,” participating in the monthly circles only intermittently (at best), and rarely attending workshops and other special shamanic events as I had in the past. (I do keep up with my daily morning shamanic ritual, however, calling in the spirits from the seven directions, and offering thanks while seeking continued protection and assistance.)  

From my time at the NYSC, what I remember most about Itzhak, a founding member of the group, was his warmth and friendliness, and how he made me and others feel so at home from the very beginning, month after month, year after year. At some point, I learned that Itzhak was a shamanic practitioner, but I had no idea of the depth of his involvement until I read his inspiring book, “The Gift of Shamanism.” Nor had I ever heard Itzhak (or other members of the NYSC leadership) share his (or their) own shamanic journeys or mystical experiences. Till now.  

In his thoroughly enjoyable book, “The Gift of Shamanism,” Itzhak shares his awesome experiences as a shamanic healer, providing so many wonderful insights along the way. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in, or curiosity about, shamanism, as well as for those deeply immersed in this ancient spiritual practice.

In the introduction, Itzhak reveals that he has gone from skeptic to believer. This was news to me. Nor did I realize that Itzhak had been raised as a Jewish atheist. I’d never heard of Jewish atheists before!  

In the intro, Itzhak also writes that “[T]he shamanic experience is truly about learning to surrender to the magical and join in the workings of life’s mysterious forces.” This resonates with me completely, tho, as an editor, I’d change “surrender to” to “accept.” It’s a subjective matter. I don’t like the idea of surrendering, and I don't see a need to here.

Later in the introduction, we encounter a subchapter on “WHY A BOOK OF STORIES?” Itzhak answers his own question with, “I choose to write a book of stories that might connect with you emotionally and guide you indirectly into the shamanic way of ‘seeing’.” I agree wholeheartedly with this approach, an approach I followed in my 2007 book “Journey Into the Mystic (From the Streets of Brooklyn)” which (in the interests of full disclosure) Itzhak had so generously endorsed.  

In the first chapter on “How It All Started,” Itzhak begins with a story about a chance encounter at a local bookstore, which rings so true. The author mentions how his upbringing (as an atheistic Jew on a kibbutz ) was the “perfect introduction to the basic principles of shamanism: deep connection to nature, close encounters with death, boundaries of imagination, a sense of history, and the importance of community and storytelling.” The tie-ins are, in a word or two, highly synchronistic. His Albert Einstein quote falls right into place.

In Chapter 2, “Dreaming,” Itzhak begins with a John Lennon quote on how John believed in everything, “until it’s disproved.” I love Lennon, but can’t go along with his philosophy here. As a lawyer (okay I’m a lawyer, I confess), I understand that the burden of proof never rests on one to disprove a negative. It is the responsibility of the person offering the positive version (e.g. “Fairies exist”) to prove his or her point. All that aside, in this chapter, I found particularly interesting Itzhak’s account of a “scary dream that followed me on and off for more than eight years.” The details are intriguing.

Chapter 3 presents Itzhak’s work with past-life regression. I’ve been down this road myself. As the author notes, “Most indigenous societies hold a deep belief in reincarnation.” So do I. And the stories that the author relates support the premise that we have all lived past lives. Captivating!

“Soul retrieval” is the basis of Chapter 4. As Itzhak notes, “It’s hard to describe exactly what a soul is,” yet he achieves that objective. His stories and experiences regarding soul loss and soul retrieval are most illuminating.

Chapter 5 is about plant medicine to which I have never been drawn. Quite the contrary. The plant medicine promise reminds me of the Sixties’ rap which proffered that LSD was the gateway to Nirvana. Didn’t turn out that way, at least, not for me. More like a horror trip thru Hell. From the messages and lessons that Itzhak reports he came back with from his ayahuasca trips, well, frankly, I already knew all that. Granted, it’s one thing to know, and another to experience. And thanks to Itzhak for sharing his ayahuasca experiences which confirm to me that, I’d rather take a walk along the summer shore of Brighton Beach after a glass of wine on at Tatiana’s on the Boardwalk, then embark on a trek thru the Amazon jungle to ingest ayahuasca.

In Chapter 6, the focus is on shapeshifting, with which I am very familiar. Here, as elsewhere, Itzhak’s description of his experiences is very detailed and vivid, adding even more credulity to his accounts.

I very much enjoyed the chapter (7) on “Seeing,” with the mind’s eye. I have never heard the concept expressed more effectively than how Itzhak describes it. Impressive is the stat which Itzhak gives, indicating that “In my workshops…96 percent of the participants successfully see one or true elements about their partner.” I appreciate statistics like this—could have used more of them (e.g., for X number of success stories presented here, there were Y number of failures).  

Chapter 8 is about shamanic journeying, the hallmark of the NYSC. The chapter begins with a quote from Michael Harner, who spearheaded the interest in shamanism among Westerners. ‘All of nature has a hidden nonordinary reality,’ Harner states (via Itzhak). Yes, to be sure. Itzhak writes of journeying to other realities, and while this may sound far fetched to the uninitiated, Itzhak’s experiential stories demonstrate, individually and collectively, how effective and healing shamanic journeying can be.

Candle reading is the topic of Chapter 9. This is a process in which we have occasionally engaged at the NYSC. I like Itzhak’s intro, stating that “[A]round each person’s physical body there is an invisible energetic body or illuminated body, sometimes called the aura, which houses our memories, emotions, traumas, and the spirits of our ancestors and the living. ” The personalized stories are quite moving.

In Chapter 10, Itzhak embarks into psychonavigation, i.e., long distance viewing. Interesting in particular how Itzhak recalls one experience that “had a strong impact on me and that was quite terrifying.” It’s not all a ride down Easy Street, as Itzhak points out (and as I have learned, the hard way).

The experiences Itzhak shares in the chapters on holographic experiences, house clearing, healing ceremonies, Aztec seeing, and using shamanic vision in business, are—like all of the discussions in the book—easy to read, crystal clear, and highly inspiring. I especially appreciate how, throughout the book, Itzhak humbly admits that he continually experienced self-doubt, and would at times dismiss his visions as “a fluke.” Been there, felt that.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Itzhak’s illustrations, which are interspersed throughout the book. His artwork effectively captures shamanism in the act, something I’ve never witnessed before. 

“We Are All Shamans” is the title of the book’s epilogue, which begins, “Learning from my clients’ life stories and from my own childhood, I believe that as young children we come into the world highly open to the world of magic and mystery.” I couldn’t agree more. Itzhak continues with “a few suggestions to help you develop your intuitive skills,” including “Take notes of your life’s strange ‘coincidences,’ [aka, synchronicities] accidents, or flukes. Nothing happens without a reason…” I tend to agree, for the most part, but as Itzhak indicates in his book, sometimes it takes a while to figure out the reason.

In sum, Itzhak Beery’s “The Gift of Shamanism” is a book well worth reading for anyone at all interested in learning about the shamanic way. For those of us who’ve been at it for years, the book is an insightful excursion into, and meaningful validation of, that which we have experienced.

“I love this book,” says premier shamanic teacher/author/anthropologist Hank Wesselman, on the acknowledgements page.

“Ditto!” say I, here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beatles and Stones

Thought I'd post two of my recent Amazon book reviews, one on the Beatles, the other on the Rolling Stones.  For what it's worth,

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on The BeatlesMarch 27, 2015
They say that you can't tell a book by its cover. But the photograph on the cover of "Beatle! The Pete Best Story," speaks volumes. The photo, taken circa 1962, shows John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison sporting early versions of the famous Beatle haircuts that would help usher in "The Sixties." Meanwhile, the hairstyle of their drummer at the time, Pete Best, the most handsome of the four, has an iconic Fifties look. In short, Pete just didn't fit in.

Flashback: November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy is gunned down in triangulated gunfire in Dallas Texas. The TV networks cancel their regularly scheduled programming to cover the assassination. Two days into that coverage, JFK's accused "lone-nut assassin," Lee Harvey Oswald--later shown (for anyone truly paying attention) to be a patsy for the coup d'etat that eliminated JFK and launched the Vietnam War--is shot dead by Jack Ruby on live TV while Oswald is in police custody. Numerous replays follow. The country goes into shock.

About two months later, in January 1964, the Beatles exploded onto the American music scene and began to change the world. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" zoomed to Number 1 on the Billboard charts, and held that position for seven weeks. In February of 1964, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and their popularity in the U.S.A. soared beyond anyone's expectations. They seemed to be just what was needed--a breath of fresh air that literally helped lift the country out of a state of dazed mourning and into a positive reality.

Back in 1964, here in America, we knew the Beatles as John, Paul, George and Ringo [Starr]. Initially, there was no knowledge of prior drummer Pete Best, or bassist Stu Sutcliffe. The "Fab Four" seemed so perfect together, and in retrospect, they were. Only later would there emerge mention of Best and Sutcliffe, and the Beatles' early exploits in Hamburg, Germany.

In his book, Best (with Patrick Doncaster), gives us the early Beatle backstory--the inside look into the heart and soul of the Beatles during their formative years. We get to know them as people, not images. It's truly a great read, if you (as I do) prefer fact to fiction. Highly recommended, especially for Beatle fans. Early photographs of the band (and other people, places, and things), interspersed throughout Best's book, help bring this entertaining tale to life.

In the chapter entitled "The Bombshell," Best explains how he was cut from the band in 1962, as Beatlemania was just taking off in England. Beatles manager Brian Epstein broke the news to him, this way: "The boys [John, Paul and George] want you out and Ringo in...They don't think you're a good enough drummer." Best writes that he was shocked as he considered himself as good as, if not better than, Ringo. Other accounts of the Best-era Beatles--one involving a quote from a music insider describing the Beatles as having `a pounding pulsating beat which I knew would be big box office;' plus quotes of producer George Martin saying that he never wanted Best out of the group--support Best's position.

Best states, "A conspiracy had clearly been going on for some time behind my back, but none of the other Beatles could find the courage to tell me. The stab in the back had been left to Brian...Even Ringo had been a party to it, someone else I had considered to be a pal...I had been betrayed." (Until reading Best's book, I had no idea that he and Ringo had been friends, or that Best later successfully sued Ringo for libel over comments Ringo made about Best.) As Best explains, he had been good friends with the rest of the Beatles, not just some hired hand, as has been implied. Thus, Best's allegations of conspiracy and betrayal ring true. His friends and bandmates had turned on him.

As has been reported elsewhere, Best points out that John Lennon later admitted, `We were cowards when we sacked him. We made Brian do it. But if we told Pete to his face, that would have been much nastier...It would probably have ended in a fight.' To which Best replies, "What would have been so terrible about that?"

Indeed, the early Beatles were no strangers to violence. In fact, during the Hamburg days, Lennon (later to champion "Give Peace a Chance") and Best actually tried to roll a sailor who had befriended them (after McCartney and Harrison had wisely backed off), according to Best. Long story short, the sailor won, and that was the end of it, except for the grueling fears Lennon and Best held that the sailor would one day return with reinforcements.

This was clearly not the sanitized version of the Beatles adroitly packaged by Brian Epstein. Indeed, Best's account of the group's Hamburg days portrays the Beatles as being often wild and out of control. Orgies were common in the Beatles' uninhabitable living quarters, not only with female fans but also with the local prostitutes who, after working hours, would pursue the boys in the band. The Beatles' bizarre antics on stage included masturbatory pantomimes, mooning the audience, and mock and real (Sutcliffe vs. McCartney) fist fights. Their conduct off stage was even worse: they incited a riot, and one Beatle (guess who) urinated from a balcony onto nuns who were passing by.

It was news to me that Best's mother Mona (aka, "Mo") had opened a night club ("The Casbah") in the cellar of her Liverpool home where the Beatles and many other local stars performed the new emerging brand of music.

Interesting to read how Best actually became the original "fifth Beatle" when the band needed a drummer to be with them on their trip to Hamburg. (Stu Sutcliffe was the bass player at the time.) Best's description of the loving relationship between Astrid Kirchherr (who "gave" the Beatles their mop-tops) and Sutcliffe, is quite endearing.

At one point, Best describes how he and McCartney were together arrested for arson and deported from Hamburg. All in all, stories like this demonstrate that Best was not just some drummer the lads picked up until they could find a replacement (as has been propagandized), but one of the boys in the band, a friend, whom John, Paul, and George simply discarded in ruthless fashion.

Other points of interest (fully detailed in the book) include: how Best was the acting manager of the Beatles before Epstein came along; the Beatles' complaining of Sutcliffe's bass playing but (apparently) never complaining of Best's drumming (to his face, at least); the Beatles recording and other adventures with Tony Sheridan; the emergence of Beatle boots; and how Best was the most popular Beatle in Liverpool among the girls, as acknowledged indirectly by McCartney's father, and also supported by the photo on the book's cover, with Best upstaging the others looks-wise.

So sad to read that when Best was trying to make it with his own band after being unceremoniously discarded that "The Beatles contributed to [Best's band's] destruction with their readily-printed gossip that I had never really been a Beatle, that I didn't smile, that I was unsociable, and definitely not a good mixer." I have always loved the Beatles, but love them less after reading Best's book.

Years ago, when I became aware of the Pete Best saga, I wondered how he managed to go on after being deprived of such unimaginable fame and fortune. He writes, "In the depths of depression I decided to take my life, a secret I have kept closely until now," i.e., until the publication of his book. Read about Best's attempted suicide, how he was saved, and later came to write the best book on the Beatles I have ever read.

4.0 out of 5 stars The Rehabilitation of Brian JonesFebruary 7, 2015
I was thoroughly enjoying this book until the author started using the pejorative "conspiracy theory" to describe the accounts of those who say that Brian Jones was murdered -- after the author had set up the discussion with mention of 'JFK-like conspiracy theories,' as if the absurd official story of President John F Kennedy's assassination were true. Given his apparently mainstream-news induced perspective, Trynka's credibility suffered when it came to his analysis of the Brian Jones murder allegations. Indeed, it seems that the author delved into that analysis with an all-but-closed mind. (Still, Trynka's tackling of the issue was most welcome.)

In contrast, the author's perspective of Brian Jones as a highly charismatic musician who could upstage Jagger and Richards is totally in sync with my own view. I will never forget a 1965 Stones concert I attended at the old 14th Street Academy of Music in NYC. There was a magic about Brian on stage that you could sense from the audience, and by just standing there and playing guitar, Brian most certainly did outshine both Jagger and Richards.

Trynka's portrayal of the unholy Oldham-Jagger-Richards triumvirate ganging up on the frail Brian (who, tragically, was too weak to fight back) also rings true because these three back-stabbing mega-creeps are still ragging on the founder of the Stones to this day, some 45+ years after his death. How low can you go? Recently, I heard Oldham on his Sirius radio show "favorably" describe the late Keith Relf--the Yardbird lead singer who was electrocuted while playing guitar--as "a grounded Brian Jones." After that most tasteless putdown of Brian, I can no longer tolerate listening to Oldham's show.

Wonderful to have Trynka set the record straight about Brian's song writing ability and contributions to the Stones' music, but disturbing to read how Jagger and Richards were relentless in their abuse, spiteful dismissal, and ultimate abandonment of Brian. Sadly, having gotten to see Jagger and Richards in this light has dulled my appreciation of their music. I couldn't even watch an early Stones Youtube clip that a friend sent me the other day--the sight of Jagger mugging for the camera during "Satisfaction" made me sick. But if that's the price I have to pay for witnessing the rehabilitation of Brian Jones, I'll take it. Thank you, Paul Trynka.