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Friday, April 6th, 2007

Time Event
1:46a
If you want a Shamanic book ...
I'm usually up front with it when I'm in a position to not be particularly objective about a book, but this one is a double-whammy in that regard. Not only have I traveled and studied with Alberto Villoldo frequently over the past quarter century, but Alberto even floated the concept about my possibly co-authoring "a book on soul retrieval" with him back in 1996. Frankly, I'm amazed that it took him so long to get this out (in 2005), as he seemed to be thinking of this as a "next project" back then. Interestingly (and in sharp contrast to his earlier books), there does not seem to be a co-author involved in Mending The Past And Healing The Future with Soul Retrieval, so this seems to be Alberto on his own.

One of the problems I have in dealing with Alberto's books is that, in some of the early instances, I was there for specific events, and they rarely played out on the page the way things had been on the ground. I subsequently found (from Alberto) that his "technique" for "writing" his early books was to assemble all his field notes into a file box and drop it off for his co-author to make some narrative sense of. Not unlike Castaneda, there is a "haziness" of the particulars surrounding the teachings (I recall one time Alberto talking about burning his journals, which totally freaked me out, only to find similar-sounding journals "referenced" in this book!). A startling example of this in Soul Retrieval is referring to his teachers as the Laika ... which seems to be an amalgam of his original Quechuan teachers (Don Eduardo Calderon primarily), and his later work with the Q'ero. Why fictionalize the name? And why pick the name of the dog that the USSR sent to its death in space on Sputnik 2? I'm still trying to figure that one out!

All that being said, Soul Retrieval is quite a good book. Alberto spins out the soul retrieval "process" bit by bit through the chapters, focusing on one thing (and, typically, one "meditation") at a time, but these are woven through with literary allusions (he uses the story of Parsifal extensively, as well as various Biblical snippets such as David & Goliath) and "case studies" from his own consulting practice. Now, having done (earlier) permutations of this work with him, I had several points in the book where I was thinking "Wait, why aren't we doing this now?" or "Huh? What's up with doing that there?" I also felt that at some points he was glossing over material that had featured significantly in various trainings that I'd been through, but I'm aware that this could simply be MY perspective and that the stuff in question is perhaps not as essential to Alberto's current model of soul retrieval. There was a point towards the end of the book, however, that I felt he (or his editor) had made a decision to "abbreviate" the process, as the established "flow" of the book switches and a number of particular exercises are described, but not walked through in detail. As a former editor/publisher I could see the "detailed version" being eyed warily as being "too repetitive", but the resulting parts of the book seem to be "glossed over" rather than fully presented.

Despite its subject (and a few ventures "into the light", as it were) Alberto Villoldo's Soul Retrieval is delightfully "non-newagey", having the feel of a training manual mixed with "clinical" observations, journal notations, etc., and tied together with literary allusions ... a combination that was quite a nice change from my other recent reading! Being a fairly recent release, this is available both in hardcover and paperback, so you should be able to find it in your local store, although I snagged a "like new" copy of the hardback via the Amazon new/used vendors. If you have an interest in this particular Shamanic practice, this is a good one to pick up!


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