In my time in the esoteric world, I have read many books by many different authors. Some of those books I immediately consigned to the rubbish heap, others had bits and pieces that were interesting to me while yet others were gold mines of information that I found useful in my search or, at the very least, quite interesting.
Caitlin Matthews and her husband, John, wrote Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus (re-released under that title in 2004 – had previously been a two volume set), one of the best overview books ever written on the Western Mystery traditions, so I was excited when I found a copy of Caitlin Matthews’ book Psychic Shield: The Personal Handbook of Psychic Protection in my local library. I’ve read some of Ms. Matthews’ other work and have found her to be a calm, clear voice in a field that often seems filled with the strident raspings of the poorly informed. I find Ms. Matthews’ work particularly interesting since she does approach much of what she does from a neo-shamanic point of view.
I will start this review by saying that this is not a book for those in the midst of psychic emergencies (hostile hauntings, curses, magical attack, etc). The work in this book takes time, a lot of patience and the willingness to be truthful with oneself and come to know oneself better. The basic premise of the book is that of nurturing ones souls. Ms. Matthews, like the Norse, views the “soul” as a complex of different parts with different functions and creates a very nice working model for dealing with those different soul parts, recovering their power and even, in some cases, recovering soul parts that have been lost due to trauma. As one would expect from an author with a shamanic practice, Ms. Matthews places a lot of emphasis on meeting and developing a relationship with the “advocates”, those spiritual beings that are willing to work with humans and the various areas of their soul.
As I said, such an approach takes time and patience but, if done with care and attention, will produce a more balanced person who is less likely to be knocked off balance and who has access to techniques that will assist in re-centering and calling on the protective advocates who can help with the situation. If I were running a school of psychic self defense, I might use this book as a primer for the first six months to a year and have my students work through the material methodically in order to put them in a place where they could go on to more advanced study. By the time a student works their way through this book they should be in a place where they have a better understanding of themselves psychologically, an awareness of and ability to work with the spirit world and some basic techniques to assist in times of what Ms. Matthews calls psychic disturbance. In addition, the student should have begun developing a connection to what Ms. Matthews calls the Source of Life, the ultimate protection against anything that goes bump in the night.
That said, as I noted earlier, this is not a book for someone who is in the midst of a psychic emergency. The best thing to do in the event of such an emergency is call in professionals who can assist. Given the difficulty in finding such assistance though it seems to me that one might want to practice an ounce of prevention rather than having to seek a pound of cure. There are, as I have noted throughout this blog, elements of the Otherworld that do not care for humans. Just as one hopes that one never has to use self-defense skills in a real world scenario but still studies martial arts, so one should invest some time and effort in learning how to defend oneself in the Otherworld. Ms. Matthews book is one good place to start and I hope to present reviews of other texts that will be helpful as I go along.