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Entering the Desert - Book Review by Mark Stavish



Entering the Desert is Williams’ operative manual for inner realization. Many books such as this exist and are easily available. So, I have to wonder, as would any discerning reader:

“What makes this book worth the very fine paper and ink it is printed on?”


Having a gourmet publisher alone does not make a book worth its cover price. Each reader is clearly looking for something new, something different, something unique that will trigger in them some real or imagined promises of inner awakening and hidden power. For, after all, the universe is a hierarchy of power and none should know that better than practitioners of the ‘occult’.


As for new, there is nothing new here: some interesting language, turn of a phrase, emphasis on the importance of the corporeality of spiritual experience. There is the continued emphasis on light – even that of a simple candle flame – for spiritual transformation. A transformation of thought, word, and deed, or as the Tibetans say, “Body, Speech, and Mind”.


Several great South Indian tantric yogis were known to have meditated only on light in various forms and are reported to have transformed themselves into the ‘Body of Light’ or ‘Rainbow Body’ as a result.


As one is quoted as saying:

“What more do I need than to keep my lamp lit beside me? When we light the lamp, we connect to all of our gurus and traditions that have gone before us.”


The single candle is found in the Zohar, and even the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC)made extensive use of this solitary technique. Nothing new here as it has all been said before.


Creation of the inner contemplative ‘Cell’ as Williams calls it is found in other practices as well, too many to list here, but we see it clearly expressed in AMORC’s Ninth Degree, Tantric rites of all sorts (with their red threads forming protective barriers), the Desert Fathers of the early Church, and famous magic circle of the grimoires.


The short liturgy or sadhana he provides takes one from darkness to inner light, from ‘self unto Self, and Self unto self’. The realization of the physical human body as the source of our experiences that provide us with the path of awakening or damnation is clear – and yet so rarely grasped. Ironic really, given the amount of time and resources that are spent on the idea of immortality be it organic or inorganic, from magic or machine.


It is not just the continuity of consciousness that is sought, but the ability to EXPERIENCE the unique opportunities that the earth has to offer. Herein we must also realize the importance of death and that Saturn rules this, and in fact, all Paths and all dharmas.


Illustrations by David S. Herrerías

Emphasis on the desert, night, and fire are all primitive, foundational, and irrefutable realities. They are an awakening of the elemental powers of Earth and Fire (and the courage required to do so) within our bodies and minds. This is where the journey starts, and in a strange way later on, also ends.


Williams provides a short series of aphorism, invocations really, similar to some I have seen for private Enochian workings which we eventually published through the Institute for Hermetic Studies. Each is accompanied by a sigil, and it is left up to the ingenuity of the reader to decide what to do with them if anything. Even doing nothing is doing something.


So, in the end, Entering the Desert is like the spiritual path itself: nothing new, and eternally fresh.

It provides time tested methods as communicated through the personal experience of its author – we call that tradition. Yet, here, the tradition is not one with a name, but that of continuity of experience, and that experience is one of awareness of the reality of our inner life HERE AND NOW.


It is always like the cave in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker asks Yoda, “What is in the cave?” and Yoda says, “Only what you take with you.” It is the same in the desert of the soul.

Like the cave, the desert must be entered into, let this book be your friend and guide on that journey.


Entering the Desert – Pilgrimage to the Hinterland of the Soul (Anathema Publishing, 2017): https://www.anathemapublishing.com/entering-the-desert

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Read Mark Stavish’s review of Craig Williams’ Cult of Golgotha (Anathema Publishing, 2018): https://arisearjuna.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/cult-of-golgotha-a-review-by-mark-stavish-director-of-the-institute-for-hermetic-studies/

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For more information on the Institute for Hermetic Studies: http://www.hermeticinstitute.org/

. Mark Stavish, the Director of Studies for the Institute for Hermetic Studies, is a life-long student of esotericism with over 25 years experience in comparative religion, philosophy, psychology, and mysticism with emphasis on Traditional Western Esotericism.  His articles have appeared in academic, specialty, and mass market publications specializing in spiritual studies, making Mark one of the leading authorities in Hermeticism today.

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