Book Review by Come Carpentier
Richard Cook has undertaken in this work to write an autobiography or rather a ‘periplum’ of his rich and adventurous spiritual life journey that illustrates his conviction that, in his own words “a huge transition is underway in human consciousness”. He goes on to state that “…it can be demonstrated that for the last two centuries at least, the Higher Powers and Divine Beings that help God oversee the Universe are also here, accelerating their activities on earth collectively. I call these beings the Aeons, using a term from the ancient Gnostic texts”. He identifies those Aeons as the Elohim –gods and goddesses – clearly designated in the Torah as the creators of the Universe and of all beings in it, including man and he equates them with the Angels of later biblical passages and with the Bodhisattwas of India and East Asia. In that light so-called “monotheism” is inseparable from its “polytheistic” counterpart as all religions attest in one way or another.
In his preface, the author lays out his goal and though his initial textual reference is the esoteric tradition stored in the many volumes pertaining to the Chaldeo-Egyptian Gnosis, he aims to relate those abstruse teachings to many of the other ancient and contemporary spiritual schools of wisdom of East and West which he studied all along his life. Indeed the Greek term “Aeon”, alluding a very long period of time, is an etymological cognate of the Sanskrit “ayus” which also means quasi-eternity and is applied to certain deities and Buddha’s of the Indic pantheon. Cook has concluded from his many years of peregrinations among the most varied mystical and metaphysical communities that “the ultimate goal of Ascension – to attain God realization – (is) to be experienced by many more people to the extent that it becomes the guiding principle of human and planetary life”.
An American who spent thirty two years in the service of the Federal Government, including twenty-one in the unromantic Treasury Department, Cook has been able, sometimes at great personal cost and sacrifice, to juggle a bureaucratic career with a quest for Truth that also helped me to live as a polymath indulging in the most diverse manual and intellectual activities. What may appear confusing to some at least at the beginning of the book is that he weaves together with great confidence topics that are not generally seen as related, such as meditational practices, sacred texts of various religions, contemporary channelings of parallel world entities, UFO sightings, the interpretation of crop circles and expert analyses of American and global political and financial processes of the past and present.
Though some of this inevitably reminds his readers of the theories of Von Daniken, Graham Hancock and many other advocates of extraterrestrial origins and alien spiritual guides, Cook suffuses his narration with the glow of his own meditational practices and experiences so that he never lapses into mere theoretical speculation based on sundry readings. He quickly points out the similarities between allusions to the divine essence in the most diverse testimonies, beginning with Jesus’ own citation of Proverbs 22: “Ye are Gods and all of you children of the Most High” and concluding that “…modern science is beginning to understand that the universe is an embodiment of intelligent infinity”.
One of the early formative influences in Cook’s spiritual journey was the school of Gurdjieff who had such a profound, though relatively little known effect on many prominent personalities of the last century. It is noted in passing that in his often-puzzling volume entitled Beelzebub’s tale to his grandson. Gurdjieff’s eponymous character travels in a celestial vehicle called “Karnak” and run by a perpetual motion engine. Gurdjieff also refers to Aeons in the higher Heavens, thereby hinting that he was an heir of the Gnosis, which our author describes, briefly in its main teachings before drawing the conclusion that the only choice open to human beings of any culture and spiritual tradition is between service to others and service to the self, between altruism and egoism. In subsequent chapters the notion of ego is analyzed, both in terms of yoga as a compound produced by a mind fixated on and deluded by the three lower chakras of the body and as the “false personality” diagnosed by P D Ouspensky, Gurdjieff’s most famous disciple.
In another part of the book Cook comments that all yogas are passages to God realization and that hence all religions have their yogas as “a spiritual path or religion without yoga is an impossibility”.
Some chapters are dedicated to a review of some of the most significant channeling material collected over the last few decades mostly in the US under the alleged dictation of various extraterrestrial, alter-dimensional or divine entities, such as The Nine referred to by Andrija Puharich and Phyllis Schlemmer in their popular tome The Only Planet of Choice or RA channeled by Don Elkins and Carla Rueckert who also wrote Secrets of the UFO. Some of this material is regarded with suspicion by many in America and even more so outside that continent but Cook shows that it fulfilled a very significant function by reviving the awareness of a metaphysical reality in an agnostic and materialistic society and he points out that “truth can only be known by awakened consciousness”. Furthermore those neo-gnostic arcanes inspired Gene Roddenberry, a member of the group gathered around the oracle of The Nine to create his world famous cosmic epic.
In Chapter 8, Cook argues that our planet and mankind are currently in a process of transition to the fourth dimension which he relates to Alexei Dimitriev’s theory of a cosmological vibrational shift linked to the entrance of our solar system into a new area of the Milky Way. He also refers to the Course in Miracles channeled by two Columbia University researchers, Schucman and Thetford in the sixties to highlight the nearly universal message that old age, illness and death are among the illusory perceptions that stem from the ego and have no reality outside of it.
The “Alien” factor reappears in chapter X which quotes the aforecited Only Planet of Choice in its affirmation that Adam is said to have been created by visitors from the sky in the Tarim Basin of Central Asia some 34 000 years ago, more or less as recorded in ancient Tibetan literature. There is also a discussion of the fascinating implication in various Gnostic texts that the so-called Archons, often thought nowadays to designate some of the Extraterrestrials, figuratively “put to sleep” the first humans to keep them in thrall or in a state of ignorance of their real selves. An allegory of that intervention may be found in the Biblical Genesis when the Serpent incited Eve to share with her husband the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil, thus leading to their metaphorical eviction from Eden.
The Kabbala and its very powerful symbol of the Tree of the Sefiroth also holds great fascination for Cook who studied the writings of the Bulgarian master O M Aivanhov, himself a pupil of Peter Deunov and also of Yogi Balaji, Yogananda’s master. After spending years immersed in the rather cold and unsentimental atmosphere of a Gurdjieff study centre run by Hugh Ripman, a World Bank official, near Washington DC, he acknowledges that he was eager for a more emotionally fulfilling and loving way which he found both with the Sufi master Abdullah Dougan from New Zealand and with the Indian spiritual teachers Swami Ramdas and Shivabalayogi (in his ‘second” incarnation as M P Singh), two in a long series of Hindu gurus whom he followed in their writings or in person over the years.
He observes that all those Eastern masters did not turn him away from Jesus Christ, the divine icon familiar from his childhood but rather helped him to discover him, just as the channeled teachings quoted earlier disclosed the cosmic nature of the Christic symbol as the embodiment of a being descended from a higher world or dimension. Some of the writers who contributed to the redefinition of Jesus in his allegorical and archetypical function according to Cook were, after the American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, Emmet Fox and Joel Goldsmith, the New Thought school as well as the books Love without End by Glenda Green and A Course in Miracles. They all tended to describe the phenomenon of Redemption as a spiritual awakening, fundamentally similar to the Hindu Moksha or Buddhist Sambodhi or Satori as to the Sufi Haqiqa or Marifa or the Chinese Tao. There is even a parallel with Nieszche’s controversial address in Thus Spake Zarathustra: “Lo, I teach you the Superman, he is that Lightning, he is that Frenzy”.
The popular Course in Miracles, also related to the RA Material and to Andrija Puharich’s channelings, professed a similar view of the Christ, echoed also by Aivanhov and the neo-Gnostics Bordeaux-Szekely and Samuel Aun Weor, supporting Cook’s conviction that some of the most fundamental breakthroughs in science are rooted in spiritual insights. He reminds us that Nikola Tesla stated that his discovery of the mechanism of wireless transmission of electricity was inspired by a meditation on John’s Book of Revelation and he relates the work of the great Serbian inventor to the insights enshrined in all those wisdom traditions of the past and present.
Cook’s spiritual development appears all in all to owe the most to the Indian traditions, both through his readings of some of the ancient philosophical classics such as the Bhagavat Gita and the Yoga Vahsista and his many years of study at the feet of various living Indian yogis (including Swami Satchidananda who gave him the Sanskrit name of Ramcharandas), who according to Gurdjieff’s classification in The Fourth Way embody the third and highest level of human unfoldment above the Fakir (physical) and the Monk (emotional). Our author remarks accordingly that “the spirituality of the modern world has been defined by Indian teachings more than by any other source” ever since the first Indian philosophical classics were translated into European languages, beginning with Wilkins’s English rendering of the Gita in 1785.
Gurdjieff did not ostensibly acknowledge his own intellectual debt to India and Tibet which is apparent in various ways, also through the influence of various Sufi masters from the Naqshbandi and Chishty orders who adopted many precepts of yoga and Vedanta in their own teachings. His own interest in Sufi silsilas (lineages) leads Cook to reflect on the current resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in its most militant and violent form in various regions of the world and like most objective observers, he cannot help concluding that modern Western civilization through its aggressive expansionistic materialism and its neo-colonialistic policies, consisting in the inoculation of that individualistic, spirit-negating virus everywhere, is contributing powerfully to the arousal and growth of that ominous phenomenon.
As a government servant, aware of some of the murky and nefarious practices and manipulations commonly resorted to by the powers-that-be, our author could not fail to notice the obvious evidence of an insiders’ conspiracy and cover-up behind the dramatic events of September 11, 2001 in the US and he connects the real planners and causes for that atrocity with the long-standing subversion of the American Republic by a banking-financial oligarchy enforcing its will through criminal syndicates and “black operations” which produced repeated bank crashes, the Lincoln and JFK murders as well as the assassinations of other presidents and several wars. He notes philosophically that “government denials in this and other areas (such as the reality of UFOs) mean nothing. Government officials are trained to lie. It is called “security”.” This situation leads him to heed the many doomsday predictions made in recent years about the fate of the United States which appears set on a self-destructive course”.
Among the many intriguing bits of information on many subjects spread throughout the book there are various references to the spiritual progeny of seeds planted by Eastern masters on American soil such as “Sufi Sam”, an heir of both Levi-Strauss Jeans and Rothschild banking fortunes who became a disciple of Pir Inayat Khan, studied Zen Buddhism and Yoga, was given the mystical name Ahmed Murad Chishty and wrote among others, a long poem entitled Siva Siva. Another spiritual “hybrid” of East and West known to Cook is the Cherokee medicine woman Dhyani Ywahoo and yet another unexpected “soul child” of India is Olympic champion Carl Lewis who follows the Indian yoga guru Sri Chinmoy. Cook himself founded the Chesapeake Dhyan Centre and wrote the earlier book In the Footsteps of the Yogi retracing his travels with Shiva Balayogi in the United States in the service of the latter’s spiritual mission.
A critical question raised by this book is the ultimate significance and value of the great syncretistic fusion between Eastern and Western traditions, involving ingredients from India, the Middle East, Central Asia, China, Japan and Tibet as well as from Ancient and Medieval Europe, Pre-Columbian America and even the legacy of some outstanding personalities from the young United States, such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the later Transcendalists Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman. Many people, in Asia, Europe and the western hemisphere are disturbed by what they regard as a threat to the integrity of their respective and distinct traditions in this growing mixture of teachings that for many centuries developed in relative separation from each other.
Can the widespread adoption and combination of sundry elements from Christianity, the Kabbala, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist, Taoism, Islam and Hinduism not lead to the loss of those authentic schools of knowledge through their merger in a global crucible?
The answer to this legitimate question is necessarily complex. Though there is every reason to fear any attempt to blend seemingly heterogeneous diverse superficial cultural ingredients and practices into one globalised hodgepodge, there is no doubt that the history of mankind is made up precisely of such encounters, combinations and tradeoffs without which none of the major religions and civilizations would be what they are. Furthermore there is a fundamental difference between the systematic “imperialistic” tendency to annex select elements of a foreign culture in order to strengthen one’s own while flooding it with one’s own concepts and products (as the colonizing West has done for many centuries in Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas) and the instinctive human urge to exchange and spread knowledge and mutual understanding in order to avoid increasingly devastating misunderstandings and conflicts. Richard Cook’s book provides a telling testimony of the synthesis that has effectively taken place at a certain level in America at least since the Beatnik revolution of the sixties if not before.
The driving impetus of many Indian and Tibetan spiritual masters, even prior to Swami Vivekanda’s address to the Chicago World Religious Council (Cook reports that Shivapuri Baba, a member to Sri Ramakrishna, born in 1826 taught yoga to Queen Victoria in the 19th century) is to spread the Sanathana Dharma to the West, whether in its Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sufi or Sikh form. Yet they see no conflict between their age-old precepts and the actual teachings of Jesus although they are aware of the opposition they always face from the “Abrahamic” clergies and the latter’s dogmatic faithful afraid to lose a self-styled “chosenness” in the eyes of their “True God”.
Responding to that exclusivistic attitude some Indian intellectuals – but almost no traditional guru – have sought to define Hinduism in a similarly dogmatic manner, thereby doing a disservice to the universal nature of the Dharma which they attempt to circumscribe in ethno-cultural terms. There is no doubt that Abrahamic monotheistic faiths are rooted in a notion of divine arbitrariness and irrationality which shuns any logical endeavor to explain the Faith as it rests on textual authority and prophetic proclamation. However the free soul’s quest that begins with meditation and soars towards contemplation of the transcendent and immanent essence of all things, often described as mysticism, enables its adepts to break through the glass ceiling of “semitic” creeds by rising above ecclesiastical hierarchies and legalistic interpreters and enforcers.
It is therefore through the medium of mysticism that all those differences are erased and reconciled while inter-religious conversion becomes meaningless and even harmful, as the wise men and women of al religions have concluded.
In the unity of all souls, Kapila, Zarathustra, Patanjali, The Yellow Emperor, Mahavira, the Buddha, Pythagoras, Lao Tzu, Hermes Trimegistus, Jesus, Plotinus, Dogen, Hildegard von Bingen, Milarepa, Francis of Assisi, Jelal uddin Rumi, Gregory Palamas, Quetzalcoatl, Meister Eckhart, Guru Nanak, Giordano Bruno, John of the Cross, Leonardo da Vinci, Spinoza, the great alchemists converge with Shirdi Sai Baba, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sri Aurobindo, Thich Nhat Hanh …..and innumerable others, known and obscure in all times and places. No intellectual discourse can object to or deny that true Communion of the Saints but that never did nor should prevent people from adhering faithfully to the spirit and word of their respective religious traditions while many who are essentially culturally uprooted such as many modern Americans and Europeans –and as many contemporary Asians and Africans – can be expected to find comfort in syncretistic formulas of the kind that Richard Cook has gradually achieved for himself.
The Indian author Rajiv Malhotra has called a “U-Turn” the process whereby westerners, after following for years “Indic” precepts or gurus, go back to their Judeo-Christian tradition, selectively adding to it elements retained from their “oriental” experiences, not unlike what Muslim spiritual seekers did when they absorbed Indian yoga and Vedanta concepts and practices to build syncretistic Sufism within the Islamic fold.
Cook may be seen on the surface as falling within that predictive framework as, in this later part of his life he reports following some practices of Catholicism, but in fact he remains faithful to the legacy of his many previous guides without disowning any of them. Yet is the true meaning of “catholic” not universal? He recalls in this context the prediction of Aivanhov that the only religion of the future age would be that of the Sun, which in many esoteric traditions, including the Gnostic “Church of John”, the Christ is held to embody as a metaphysical principle.
In that context, we are far past the outdated, puerile belief that humans are the highest life form in an otherwise desertic mechanically evolving cosmos. The universality of life, taught or at least hinted at by all ancient religious and spiritual literatures, becomes a given and the Aeons, Archons as well as all other “Alien” creatures are acknowledged as a matter of fact. Richard Cook places “ufology” and its allied sciences in the wider exopolitical and noospheric framework, a well overdue transition beyond the endless attempt to prove again and again to those in denial that there are spacecraft from Elsewhere in our skies and “beings from above” who come down among us.
In Love without End, Jesus is channeled as announcing “a new era of science and technology where activity is no longer based on explosive forces, as with the internal combustion engine, but on attraction, as with electromagnetism”, This prophecy, earlier voiced by Nikola Tesla and Walter Russell among other pioneers, is widely echoed by many other soothsayers and clairvoyants from East and West and seems to be finding confirmation from recent breakthroughs in physics, astronomy and biology.
Out of this odyssey through Gnostic and Essene symbolism, yogic meditation, “monetary metaphysics”, Taoist therapeutics, Buddhist psychology, Mayan cosmology, Sufi mysticism, accounts of prophetic messages reported by UFO contactees and New Age philosophies this book abstracts a gospel of confident hope rooted in the faith that the law of Nature dictates our ascension as a species into ever higher spheres of being, with the benevolent support of those, our Guardians, extraterrestrial or interdimensional, who reached them much before us.