Soulstone Chronicles: a brilliant tantric novel

Every once in a while, a book, or series, comes along that redefines the possibilities of literature. The Soulstone Chronicles may have the appearance of quirky high fantasy, but its no-holds-barred approach to humor, life, death, love, sex, divinity and violence makes it a brilliant tantric novel.

Tantra is somewhat unique among spiritual traditions in its insistence that everything is real and serves a purpose. It’s not enough to say that some things are bad and are forbidden and shouldn’t be talked about, because life is to be understood and experienced in the widest possible way. If you don’t understand why you want to do things, how can you resolve yourself into a better human being?

In The Soulstone Chronicles, author K.M. Frontain makes extraordinary choices in depicting human behavior. Using almost every idea known to high fantasy, she weaves a tapestry of unforgettable characters to plumb the darkest depths of human behavior and what it means to grow as a human being. Along the way, she creates a kaleidoscope of themes that will shake every preconception you have ever had. Several stand out to me.

1. Life is tough. Accidents, betrayals, murder, torture, dismemberment, bone-chilling horror, rape and obsession happen in real life. It’s better to read about them in a story than to live them.

2. The tough may be daunted, but they don’t give in. Personal honor and commitment may not save the day, but they will save your soul.

3. Moments of delight are to be cherished as wonderful gifts. The humor can be bitter, wry, loving or slapstick farce, but it is a saving grace that restores your perspective and lightens your soul.

4. Your soul is very important and you will suffer and be reincarnated as many times as necessary until you work the way you should.

5. Humans are very sexual beings and to pretend otherwise is foolish. Sex can be a comfort, a battle, a resolution, a creative force, a punishment, a psychological weapon, magic or an act of holy joy, and is often many things at the same time.

6. Everything is connected, sometimes in the damnedest ways. Soulstone is a web of relationships among characters, events, personal and social attitudes, and the entire flow of human and cosmological history. Pull one string, and everything else responds.

7. There are no rules in writing or storytelling except maybe quality and consistency. Use anything and everything, just make it really, really good.

Read Soulstone for the sheer adventure of a tale that mixes gods, elves, dwarves, dragons, witches, assassin-monks, evil sorcerers and humans from thieves to princes. Read it for the romance, the laugh out loud humor, the philosophy, the horror, or the sex. Read it for the superb writing and heart-wrenching, poignant scenes.

Read it for yourself, because reviews will never do it justice. It will grow your soul, just like life itself.


The Soulstone Chronicles can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and iBookstore. The first volume, Bound in Stone: Volume 1, is free to download.

21st century meditation – the concept

Millions of people around the world meditate. From simple breathing exercises to elaborate visualizations, meditation is an attempt to still the chattering of your own mind in order to see, think, or feel more than your daily concerns. Some people use it to reduce the stress of their daily lives, others to gain more insight into themselves, the world or the universe.

There are many forms of meditation. In some we use awareness of our breath or body to calm our thoughts. In some we switch our attention to an external object, thought or image so that our other thoughts will cease.

med-on-images

traditional meditation upon an object

Many people find that focusing on one thing (or no-thing!) is difficult. So other types of meditations have been developed, often guided, in which a complex sequence of visuals erase the normal chatter in our awareness. Imagine a million tiny goddesses floating around your head flowing with milk and honey! This will make your current problems disappear, at least for a while. The specific imagery is not important, it is the reduction of chattering that really counts. Reducing the chatter leaves us relaxed, peaceful, and alert. It leaves us less attached to ordinary things and more open to the universe.

What’s new in the 21st century

In the 21st century we understand much more clearly that everything in space-time is made of energy. That what we treat as solid objects are patterns of energy. That what we label as our thoughts, emotions and desires are patterns of energy. This understanding doesn’t make our thoughts, desires and emotions any less important, but it does offer a new perspective on how to work with them, on how to calm them down.

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21st century meditation – the doing

For an explanation of the concepts used here, see
21st century meditation – the concept


 

This meditation is simple. It involves using the breath to expand each of the energy centers, or chakras, in the body. There is no one way to accomplish this. Use the steps below to experiment and refine your own meditation.

Before beginning, take a moment to release any excess tension in your body. For suggestions, see the post Your body is tensile!

 

 Step 1 – Breathe down

Quantum physics tells us that there are seven dimensions threaded through each point in space-time, and suggests that two of them are threaded together very tightly. An examination of the energy centers in the body tells us that the inner five energy centers are threaded along a main line of polarity between the base and crown chakras. A good first step to opening the inner chakras is to release the tension along the main line. We can do this by breathing down.

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Quantum physics looks at tantra

 

If you want an integrated life, at some point you must integrate your understanding of the objective world with your own subjective insight. What better place to start than by observing the interplay between objective quantum physics and subjective tantra?

scientists

Let’s see how the insights match up by looking at a tantric description of reality in terms of quantum physics. A concise and classic tantric description can be found in the twenty statements in the eleventh century C.E. Pratyabhijñā-hrdayam.

Classical tantric descriptions of reality are very condensed and highly technical. You could almost call them equations of consciousness. For example, pratyabhijñā-hrdayam means heart of recognition. Heart of Recognition means the heart of the teachings concerning recognizing who you are in the fullest sense. Who You are in the Fullest Sense is you fully expanded into the universe.

Each Sanskrit word in the equation can be translated into English in multiple ways. For simplicity, we will rely on the excellent English interpretation of Swami Shantananda in The Splendor of Recognition.

There is one initial explanation to make. Quantum physics has re-defined the word universe to mean eleven dimensions, so what used to be called the universe is now more properly referred to as space-time. We can translate between quantum physics and classical Tantra as follows:

Type of universe Tantric term Quantum physics term
4 dimensions universe space-time
11 dimensions Consciousness or spanda universe

 

In the Pratyabhijñā School lineage of Swami Shantananda, the universe is often referred to as Consciousness. In the Spanda School, the universe is referred to as spanda, or vibrating energy, a term closer to the language of quantum physics. We will keep both meanings in mind, as we explore how the objective insights of quantum physics relate to the subjective insights of tantra.

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Tantra yoga and asana

When I teach a class in tantra yoga, people are always startled by the fact that tantra yoga has no rules. There is no asana. There is no sequence. The focus, you see, is on aware exploration of the body, not some sort of physical sequence that magically opens you up.

Most people in class are startled because their past hatha yoga classes have taught them that asana and sequences are kinda sacred. They are named after famous yogis and reputed to be handed down through millennia of practice. And if you do 108 of anything, you are sure to acquire karma points!

There is a physical and energetic opening that occurs during any conscientious hatha yoga practice, but that is because you are changing physical tensions as you move and moving energy around your body. But all too often, the high you get is the same high as running or bicycling or any other vigorous activity.

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Tantra, the weave of energy

Tantra is a vast subject. Scholars are still unsure if tantra arose from yoga or yoga developed from tantra. In either case, it was part of a world-wide recognition over several centuries of a unitary reality higher than the currents of everyday life. Polytheism gave way to something higher. In the West monotheism flourished, in the East the concept of a unified reality was laid on top of, and subsumed, a patchwork of religious deities.

If you work away the cultural baggage and elaboration, tantra has a few simple things to say:

  • This is it; the world is perfectly real
  • all of reality is vibrating (spanda) and conscious
  • humans are never disconnected from the universe
  • you can improve the connection greatly.

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A history of Tantric traditions

Historical Tantra can be very confusing. In the sense of being a document, a tantra is one of many different writings or scriptures. You find tantras in the Vedic Brahmanical tradition, in Buddhism, in the Jaina traditions, in Shaivism and in other traditions as well! S.C. Banerji’s A Companion to Tantra is an exhausting overview of the diversity of Tantric literature.

Tantra can also be viewed as a religious and cultural movement in early Indic culture. Some scholars believe that it may be a continuation of pre-Vedic shamanic traditions. Another view is that it grew as a reaction against the other-worldly focus of the Vedic Brahmanical tradition and of Buddhism. In this sense, Tantra was concerned with this world, using rituals, magic and sex to promote auspiciousness in the everyday lives of people. [Read more…]