I've tried mushrooms twice in my life. Once was in Amsterdam. It produced a 4-hour laughing attack. It was great fun! Everything was hilarious!
The second time was at Burning Man. I expected a repeat of my Amsterdam experience, but instead was treated to a 4-hour trip of extreme empathy. It was bizarre and deeply revealing.
We all like to think of ourselves as pretty good people. I certainly always pretended to give a shit about my fellow human. However, it wasn't until I took those mushrooms at Burning Man that I realized just how much more empathic I can be. I realized that I am far more disconnected that I was willing to admit to myself.
That's why when I was offered an advanced copy of Esoteric Empathy: A Magickal & Metaphysical Guide to Emotional Sensitivity by Raven Digitalis, I was interested in digging deeper in this important subject.
The book will be released to the public on December 8, 2016, which happens to be the 36-year anniversary of the death of an extremely emphatic man: John Lennon. The book's release probably is also meant to encourage people to gift a book about empathy to someone for the holidays. So should you buy it for yourself or someone else this Christmas?
What turned me off may turn you on
Raven Digitalis is a new age author. Just listen to some of his previous book titles: Shadow Magick Compendium, Planetary Spells & Rituals, and Goth Craft. Yeah, you can see where he's coming from.
More evidence: Digitalis is a Neopagan Priest and cofounder of an “Eastern Hellenistic” nonprofit multicultural Temple called Opus Aima Obscuræ. Yikes! On his website, he claims that he is "trained in Eastern philosophies and Georgian Witchcraft, Raven has been an earth-based practitioner since 1999, a Priest since 2003, a Freemason since 2012, and an empath all of his life. He holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and is also a professional Tarot reader, DJ, small-scale farmer and animal rights advocate."
As a humanist, I am unimpressed with these credentials, but you might find Raven's background attractive. If so, then you may get turned on by this excerpt (while I was turned off):
Make your own magickal gemstone elixir spray by purchasing a small glass spray bottle. On a full moon, put a small piece of black tourmaline in the bottle and add a splash of Witch hazel to entirely submerge the stone. Allow this to sit outside overnight where it will be sure to soak up moonlight and sunlight. Next, add a few drops of your favorite calming essential oil, such as lavender to ease the mind, sage to purify the space, ylang-ylang to calm anxiety, or patchouli for grounding (and for our inner hippies).
Such passages make my eyes roll. However, you may find it extremely useful (especially if you are unfamiliar with the placebo effect).
Esoteric Empathy sometimes goes off onto tangents that are unrelated (or very loosely related) to empathy. For example, it explains about how you should recycle or about many gods and deities that you can believe in.
What I liked
Esoteric Empathy has a section that discusses how mind-altering drugs can have a positive impact. Given my experience, I found this section interesting.
Moreover, Esoteric Empathy offers various exercises for you to improve your empathy. Some were a bit too mystical for my tastes, but a few are worth trying.
Finally, there are a few good quotations, like this one:
A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself--and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to: letting a person be what he really is. - Jim Morisson, lead singer of The Doors
Who should buy Esoteric Empathy?
I found all the spiritual hocus-pocus to be too distracting. I'm clearly the wrong audience. If such new age concepts appeal to you, then you ought to sample the book on Amazon before you buy it.
Digitalis generously and selflessly endorses many other books in Esoteric Empathy. Although you shouldn't judge a book by its title, I did when he recommended The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life's Most Essential Skill. That book seems more what I was hoping for: a practical guide on how to increase your empathy.
Verdict: Esoteric Empathy gets 5 out 10 stars.