Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Understanding the Concept of Enlightenment

I have a confession. I never truly understood the concept of “enlightenment,” or the concept of “awakening” either, for that matter. Being the co-publisher of a New Ager oriented magazine, where both terms are used generously by our writers, this may sound like a curious confession. But, bear with me, and I will explain what I myself just started to realize on the subject. I think the lack of understanding is more cultural than spiritual.

In the world of spiritual seekers and explorers that I come from, in my home country Sweden, the words “enlightenment” and “awakening” are rarely used. Having followed for some time how they are used in the States, I might be on the verge of figuring out why this is. Here they seem to mean that you have come to a point where you understand that there is something beyond the material, beyond body, beyond religion, and perhaps even beyond death. Back in Sweden we have other expressions for that - “becoming older” is one of them. This is all well and good. However, in the States there also seems to be a tendency to use the expressions as moving towards the light, the pure, the untouched. This is where the cultural glitch comes in. 

You have to understand that I come from a country where the most popular Christmas tv-show is directed by Ingmar Bergman. And yes, it is just as dark and morose as you would expect it to be. There is a wonderful interview with Bergman that he did many years ago, today available on YouTube, where Bergman casually, even proudly, presents the interviewer with a handwritten note that lists all his inner demons. Reading through the list, Bergman meticulously explains each and every one of his demons, and how they affect his life. “The worst demon is the Disaster Demon,” he says, and continues to explain why. The list goes on. With Bergman’s own words, “There are an enormous amount of them.” There we are. The Swedish psyche on a handwritten note. 

In addition, the concepts of “enlightenment “and “awakening” in the States often seems to be initiated by a dismantling of a fairly sweet world-view. A painful discernment of the world of a sort. This is sometimes referred to as a Kundalini awakening, brushing away all known and true, opening for something larger. In Sweden we call that a nervous breakdown. I am not being cynical. After all, if you grow up in a country with two months of summer on a good year, and a Bergman movie as your Christmas special, a nervous breakdown here and there is not such a big deal. It is expected. To tell you the truth, we take pride in it. When life gets tough we take our best friend for a walk or meet up with our family and get terribly buzzed and pour out all our shortcomings and silliness until we can take no more and either cry sentimentally or laugh our heads off. Next day we go back to work, or life in general, and feel a little better about our place in the world.

Granted, my skepticism towards “enlightenment” and “awakening” is also enhanced by the fact that I’m married to a guy who just happens to have interacted with most teachers, gurus and icons of the New Age arena that you can imagine. Michael’s back-room stories are hilarious. But, not always flattering. Whatever position, the enlightened all have feet of clay. The best-selling author of the-book-on-perfect-relationships cannot hold down an intimate relationship of her own that lasts for more than six months. The harmonious-living-expert is a nasty piece of work that get lawsuits for sexual harassment. The list goes on - just as Bergman’s list of inner demons. My point is not that these teachers’ contributions are not important. They are. My point is that we all have inner demons, and we all have feet of clay. None is more enlightened or awakened than the next person. Frankly, all we can do is stumble along best we can and learn from each other along the way. Which is why I love publishing The Echo World. It is filled with material for the spiritual stumblers … sorry, I mean spiritual seekers or practitioners. 

Speaking of beloved feet-of-clay New Age icons - I hope you haven’t missed Michael’s tell-all-personal story of his interactions with Carlos Castaneda in the previous July issue. This issue contains Part 2. As one of our excellent proofreaders, Susan, put it: “This article is kind of wild.”
So, let’s continue our wild ride of sharing spiritual and alternative knowledge. You, or I, might even get enlightened. If you do, let me know your insights. As an end-note. I may not be part of bringing you enlightenment. But, I am part of bringing you some real good alternative, spiritual information you can find nowhere else.

This is my editorial for the August issue of The Echo World

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Nordic Goddesses, Runes and Magic

Being a Nordic witch living in America is a queer thing. I talk to the goddesses Freja and Hel, cast the runes, and at the same time try to understand what "spirituality" means to the so-called New  Age audience of the USA. I'm still figuring it all out. Meanwhile, I was invited to do an interview with medium Tracey Lockwood. It was fun to talk to someone who came from a very different perspective of spiritual practice, and our conversation was uplifting and ... at least for me ... inspiring. You can find the interview in the link below.

"Witches, Nordic goddesses, and Runes," is the title of a Zoom-interview with Tracey Lockwood. This is a really fun talk with charming and talented medium Tracey.

Several years ago - when writing my book about Nordic goddesses (Nordiska Gudinnor: VarDags magi för Dagen Kvinnor,) I wondered about where they would take me. Little did I know, they would lead me far beyond my beloved home-country Sweden and make me sit and talk about them in a video podcast in the States. Because I have no doubt they made it all happen. Or, at least, were a big part of it.

Here follows a note for my Swedish readers: Boken Nordiska gudinnor: VarDags magi för dagen kvinnor, liksom Vilda runor: magiska tecken i Vardagen, står som "tillfälligt slut" på Adlibris och Bokus. Detta beror på en kort sommarledighet för bokförlaget Livsströmmen. Båda böckerna finns  att beställa hos Häxans Hus under denna tid. Du har väl inte heller missat att jag kommer ha tre kursdagar på Häxans Hus i Skåne då jag är hemma i Sverige i September. Om du är nyfiken - kolla in dem HÄR (En Vild Dag med Runor) och HÄR (En Stark Dag med Freja) och HÄR (Möt Väsen i Häxans Värld.)

Rune -illustration by Sofia Karin Axelsson.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hel - Goddess of Darkness

Sometimes I go dark. Mood-wise that is. I don’t mean getting sad over anything specific, which is totally natural and should be allowed to pass in its own good time. What I mean is brooding dark, chewing on every bitter mind-bone I can dig up with claw like fingers from seemingly abandoned cemeteries of my psyche. This doesn’t sound so attractive, I assume, and perhaps I should stop right there? But I won’t, because for me it is necessary, essential to my overall long-term wellbeing. When I do, I do not want either pharmaceuticals nor positive affirmations as antidotes. There are no antidotes that do the trick, but rather, the trick is to wait it out, to dig a little deeper into that soil and see what I find. I have to do this … until I’m done. The reason, of course, is to know as much about myself as I can so that a part of me doesn’t stab me in the back by pure un-acknowledgment. I probably also need to get it out of my system. I cannot with a good conscience recommend this practice – but if you recognize this – and want to do this as part as your personal and spiritual path – I would like to introduce you to Hel, the Old Norse goddess of Death and Darkness. She is the best company I have ever known for this state of being.

The Old Norse concept of what happens after death – and what death represent – is complex. You can end up a little here and there, according to circumstance. Many Viking diggers have grand visions of Oden’s Valhalla, of Freja’s Folkvagn. I prefer the gloomy underworlds of Helheim, Hel’s queendom. Simply because Hel is assigned to take care of “all the rest.” That is, everybody who didn’t die in war, or at sea. Symbolically, it means she accepts all of us and all our shortcomings and shadows. To invite her, and talk to her, is a strangely soothing and sobering experience. If you want to try – here follows some advice to make her come to you.
Choose a time of the dark hours, or as it is sometimes called, the wolf hour. If you want to wait for the moon to be set right, choose the time of the dark moon, or, as it is often referred to in the States, the new moon, as in “making new.” Suitable colors for altar, candles and clothes are black, blood-red and dark purple. Clear your mind and make sure you prepared a few questions. She may answer, probably in a softer voice than you think. Or, she may give you time to simply contemplate your questions on your own. If she chuckles, don’t get offended. That is just her way.

Here follow some suggestions of questions that I like to use:
What can I understand, if I embrace the darkness?
What are my fears, and how do I deal with them?
Why is life sometimes hard, and is there anything I can do to soften my path?

You get the gist. Fill in whatever questions you like. If you need to – go dark. Hel is waiting to provide you both comfort and answers.

By me from the midmonthly newsletter: Writing, Magic, and Marketing. Sign up for the newsletter made by me, Michael Peter Langevin and friends at www.theechoworld. com 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Changes and Growth

Photograph "Sunflower Mutant," by Sofia Karin Axelsson

This is a special issue, insofar that Michael and I decided to drop some ongoing sections, such as the Poetry Corner and Reviews of Everything Alternative. As Michael has already mentioned, this is only temporary for this issue, and the reason is that we had so many wonderful articles lined up, some that had been put on hold for months on end, so we just wanted to get them all in there. The upcoming issue will look more like “usual,” if there is any such thing as “usual” for The Echo World.
Michael has also mentioned that a permanent change, however, is that we decided to move our free Calendar listings online. We do this because we feel we can serve the readers better by having an expanded version of the Calendar of Events online. We also do this to free up some space in the magazine, which is always a juggling act in print media.

Some people and self-appointed media experts have kept saying for years that “print media is dead.” 
This is not true, obviously. Rather, print media seems to be very happily alive and kicking to me. To sit down in your favorite arm-chair, or in a café, or on a train or plane, and open a crisp issue of your favorite magazine … is quite a treat indeed. There’s many of us who sigh deep in gratitude when we do and won’t give up that luxury for anything. As a side note, advertising in print media continues to have dependability and create traction. 

Nevertheless, since print has its inherent limitations, a strong online presence is a great complement. Print, however much we may enjoy it, is to a certain degree inflexible, costly and limited in space. Once text and images are set in the printing presses, there is absolutely nothing you can do about the result. Printing costs can be deadly, as seen in the fact that the majority of newly started magazines go out of business within the time-span of one to two years. Print magazines are limited to a certain number of pages that can only contain this and that much text and only so many images.

Cover of July issue of The Echo World.

I like to view the print version of The Echo World and its complementary online presence as two strong workhorses pulling a heavy carriage together. And who doesn’t love a classic double-span? Just take a second and visualize the muscles of two horses working in tandem and feel the power. Every time we come out with a new issue we are excited when people that we have dubbed “the social media queens and kings” help us out and re-post their articles, or reviews and ads, and link to our webpage and The Echo World Facebook and Twitter accounts. We hope you haven’t missed our webpage (www.theechoworld.com), where you can find all issues we have published – as well as the Calendar, Directory, sign-up for our newsletter and much more. These queens and kings use all their social media resources to get their material seen. In the process, they spread the knowledge about The Echo World, print as well as digital versions, and everybody gets more exposure, whether its writers or advertisers. So, I want to say, “Thank you!” to our sweet, techno-savvy collaborators who help spread the word about The Echo World. 

On the other hand, if you don’t feel techno-savvy at all, don’t despair. We’re not leaving anyone behind. If you have 50 friends on your Facebook page and want to share one of your poems we printed, that’s still 50 more people who may not have had the chance to see your accomplishment if you hadn’t shared it. And if you can’t stand social media on any level and think that it brings nothing to your table, you can still pick up an extra issue and give it to a friend who you think would appreciate it. As a matter of fact, occasionally, we get handwritten articles and letters sent to us, and as far as time allows, we print them up and publish them. We don’t mind. Diversity and collaborations of all kinds are very important code-words in our book. We all have to be allowed to move in the world the way that feels comfortable to us. There are many ways to keep moving forward together. If you feel so inclined, do whatever feels right to you to keep getting the words of The Echo World out there. This is how we keep growing and allow for more people to enjoy the alternative voices of Virginia – and as it so happens to be – the alternative voices of the world.
Do enjoy a totally-article-packed July issue, in whatever form you savor it. Share when you can – and everybody wins!

My Editorial from the July issue of The Echo World