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Author Archives: Gloria Park

About Gloria Park

Gloria K. Park is an avid enjoyer of life, seeker of eudaimonia, and student of esoteric arts. Fairies and trees are among her favorite friends. Plying her trade as lawyer, her passion for oracles, and her devotion to her worldly and otherworldly friends, she does her part in creating magic in the world.

When We Die, by Kenneth J. Doka, PhD

When We Die: Extraordinary Experiences at Life’s End, by Kenneth J. Doka PhD 
Llewellyn Publications, 0738762937, 216 pages, November 2020

I never really thought of when my father might die (his father had died young in his sixties), but one special night a couple of years ago while I was walking in the snow in the forest, I heard a train and went towards it. A thought crossed my mind: perhaps the number of box cars on the train will be the age of my father when he dies.

I counted – it was 80 – and then I thought, he can live longer if I grant him extra years, so I added 8, to get 88. A couple of weeks later he said to me, out of the blue, I will be happy if I can live to 88. As he is now 80, we will have to wait and see if our shared premonitions of his death at 88 will prove to be true.

Have you had a premonition about someone’s death or communications from the deceased? Have you ever felt an invisible presence, seen a ghost, or received a prophetic dream with a message from a deceased loved one? What do you make of these experiences? What would you make of it if others have had similar experiences?

Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, a professor, minister, and counselor, who has written and edited numerous books on death, dying, and bereavement, offers a rich collection of unusual stories surrounding death, dying, and the dead in his book When We Die: Extraordinary Experiences at Life’s End. He recounts a plethora of paranormal experiences he has gathered during his half a century in the field of thanatology, including several stories of his own life. Doka invites us repeatedly to consider what gifts such experiences could bring to us.

The book is comprised of chapters that group stories into various categories, such as Premonitions of Death, Near-Death Experiences, Messages and Mediums, and Ghosts and Apparitions. The book concludes with an essay “We All Live at the Edge of Forever When We Die,” which explores his worldview about our very deep needs relating to death. “Edge of forever” is an evocative phrase threaded throughout the tapestry of this book, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it yet. For now, it is a koan, inviting active meditation into uncharted territory.

Here are two stories of the book that stand out for me. One is when Doka feels the presence of a dear friend by an experience that he remembers as feeling like “every cell in my body was being individually hugged.”1 Another tells of when all five children felt the kiss of their deceased father on their foreheads after his death, as he used to kiss them when they were children.2 These felt particularly poignant because they are experiences of a palpable experience of love from someone who has died. It matched my personal experience that consciousness, love, and even palpable experience survive physical death. I did not know I was so hungry for this validation until I received it. 

More broadly, what could be the gifts of sharing such stories of unusual experiences surrounding death, the dying, and the dead? One gift, as I mentioned already, might be validation of one’s own experience by learning that they are shared by others; another gift could be to invite one to be more open having such experiences. Yet another gift might be that having personal experiences or even just sharing stories of death somehow fosters us to live more deeply, happily, meaningfully.

 “Encounters with death inevitably affect the way survivor’s experience life.”3

Doka notes as he discusses near-death experiences (NDEs). He continues that such effects are also seen in survivors of disasters, illness, or accidents — even without NDEs. Intimacy with our own mortality or others’ often makes us re-greet our lives with more joy, gratitude, and commitment. Who doesn’t want more of that? 

I was drawn to read this book because I wanted to learn more about the possible range experiences related to death. What I discovered was much more than I expected in one way  (there is such a range of experiences!) and less than what I expected in another way (each story is described briefly, as a vignette, not an extended plot).

Because this book is such a rich repository of so many kinds of anecdotes, it would be a good introduction to those who wanted a survey of the range of paranormal experiences that could lead to more reading and exploration of whatever is of deeper interest. By reading this book, I got to narrow and articulate my deeper interest. That is, when younger, I used to wonder, “Is there life after death?” Now I realize my curiosity is about what kind of life or consciousness is there after physical death.

In contemplating the true gifts of When We Die for me, it is that one’s personal experience is the truest guide to what is real about death and that having an open heart and mind is crucial in navigating the mysterious territory of death and of life.

Tarot No Questions Asked, by Theresa Reed

Tarot No Questions Asked: Mastering the Art of Intuitive Reading, by Theresa Reed
Weiser Books, 9781578637133, 304 pages, September 2020

Theresa Reed is clearly on a roll! Tarot No Questions Asked: Mastering the Art of Intuitive Reading, published in September 2020, is her third book published in a fourteen month period. Tarot for Troubled Times: Confront Your Shadow, Heal Your Self & Transform the World, co-authored with Shaheen Miro, was published in July 2019, and Astrology for Real Life: A Workbook for Beginners (A No B.S. Guide for the Astro-Curious) in October 2019. I enjoyed this third book so much I ordered the first two immediately after starting to read it!

Here’s why I loved Reed’s book. First, I vibe with her attitude of empowering others. She wants her readers to benefit from all her experience and generously offers the nuggets of her experience. Second, she expresses herself clearly and simply, without oversimplifying or underestimating the reader. Third, she gives you clear directions throughout. (To begin, she instructs you to get a deck and a journal or two and to journal daily.) Finally, her style of writing makes her easy to read. She uses short sentences — often, very short. She does not hold back on her personal anecdotes. And she lets her sense of humor shine.  All this makes her very easy and very entertaining to read. 

The book is divided mainly into three parts. Part 1: Tarot Basics covers the 78 cards. I like how she discusses each card – what it is and what it is not — and then offers three additional exercises that really teaches the meaning of the card: (1) embodiment practice, (2) a question to ponder, and a (3) Tarotcise (a tarot exercise). For example, for the major arcana card Death (my favorite, apt since I have my Sun in Scorpio), she gives two examples where other cards meant death, while Death card itself primarily means change or transformation. For the embodiment practice for the major arcana card The Star, she invites you to not complain for 30 days. “Sounds easy? It’s not! But it will change your world, I promise. Pick a day and start.”1 (I’m going to start today!) The question to ponder for the major arcana card Judgement is “What makes you feel reborn?”2

The Tarotcize for the major arcana card The Fool is as follows:

“Sit with the Fool card for a few minutes. Which symbols stands out? Take out your journal and begin to riff on that symbol. Make a note of anything that comes to mind. Let your words flow without stopping to edit. Just write what you feel. Put this away and then reflect on your words on a later date. What did you uncover? What kind of connection did you make to this card?”3

I found that if I do the journaling, the fruits of the practice are obvious and convincing. 

These three exercises tailored to each card can really help seep the cards’ meaning into the reader’s body and consciousness. At least, for me, they really did that in such a profound way that learning about the cards for the past several years on my own had not done. The power of a good book by a good teacher!

The same format of explication applies to the 56 cards of the minor arcana cards. In addition, her description of the arc of the progression in the suit cards, from Ace to King, is helpful to show you how one leads to the other. For the Six of Wands, she writes “[a]fter the battle, the victory parade!”4 For the Seven of Wants: “[a]fter the sweet victory dance of the Six of Wands, we now see that the win was short lived.”5

Though I enjoyed Part 1, what makes me heartily recommend this book to others is Part 2: Intuition Basics and Part 3: Road Testing Your Skills. That’s where she distills four decades of her own experience into less than 120 pages. “[I]ntuitive tarot reading” means “you’re relying on your intuition – not the guidebook or manual that came with your tarot deck – to interpret the cards lying in front of you.”6 Intuition for her is “when you understanding something immediately, without any facts, logic, or reasoning”7 and it is like a muscle: “[t]he more you exercise, the stronger it gets!”8  She says something simple but crucial to her method: “A quiet mind hears better. Period.”9 That means the techniques for quieting the mind are essential. That led to the delightful surprise of a five page summary on how to do that. I’ll leave each reader to discover it  —  let me say that with my background of three decades of spiritual practices of various sorts, I loved her summary! 

Part 3 is the how-to section and includes Preparations (setting and intention matters!), three kinds of spreads (one card, Past Present Future, Celtic Cross), Methodology. This part includes her tips on details: Numbers, Timing, Significators, Missing Suits, etc. Reed succinctly offers her insights that she has earned through a lifetime of study and practice in some FAQ-type tidbits. Just the titles alone make me laugh: “That Reading Was Boring AF!,” “That Reading as Totally Wrong!,”  “Can I Ask the Question Again If I didn’t like the Outcome?”10 The book ends with a chapter on “Going Pro” that provides a pretty sweet blueprint for doing just that. 

To put my learning to the test, I did a few readings. I told my friends I’m trying out a new method of reading more from my intuition and impression of the cards than relying on a particular interpretation of the cards. I did a Celtic Cross reading for a friend regarding a worrisome work situation. Simply having read this book gave me a greater sense of confidence in my own interpretation and flow; I spoke what leapt out to me in the imagery as much as “the meaning” of the card.

When the Hierophant appeared in the spread as card 8 (environment, surroundings, and other influences), I said, someone with authority may be able to provide guidance that could resolve the situation. My friend brightened up and said, in fact, she had reached out to someone in such a position and was hoping that her boss would take that person’s input seriously. That gave my friend a sense of confidence that her reaching out to that person had been a good idea and that she could participate more assertively in the resolution of a sticky situation. I felt as though Theresa, through her book, had offered a transmission of her own confidence and years of practice. 

For its breadth and depth, I would say that Tarot No Questions Asked is good for anyone from beginner to experienced. For the beginner because it is easy and entertaining to read, while it can also be truly be a treasure trove of information. For the experienced as well because I deeply respect the depth of “living the tarot” that Reed provides through her embodiment exercises and Tarotcize suggestions. Though her ideas are described simply, they invite practices that can continue to deepen and enrich your readings for a lifetime.

Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle, by Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur

Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, by Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur
Eddison Books, 1859064658, 144 pages, September 2020

KABBALAH – the word itself sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? The word itself always sounded like a mantra in itself, as if just saying it will bring gifts. In fact, the word itself means “to receive” Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur write in Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, and that is the best spirit in which to use this oracle.1 In order to properly receive, you must make room – in your mind, heart, in your being, and in your life. That’s what I found to be true for myself as I set off with this deck because the system presented is complex and takes effort to understand. As with any esoteric art, you must have the deep willingness to experience it for yourself, and for that, you will be richly rewarded. 

This oracle deck and book is a new branch born of a tree with ancient roots in Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition of many centuries. Only about fifty years ago in London, two Kabbalists came up with a novel placement of the twenty-two Hebrew letters on the Tree of Life, the key symbol of Kabbalah. The Tree of Life is a symbol that once seen will be remembered, even if one has no idea what it is really about.

It has ten circles (sefirot) and twenty-two paths (connection between two sefirot) that connect them. From that new juxtaposition of letters, these Kabbalahist articulated a complete divination system, known as Galgal, meaning “wheels.”2 There are fourteen wheels, centered on the various sefiroh of the Tree of Life, and four words from each wheel, comprising, therefore, a total of fifty-six cards, plus a blank one, for a total of fifty-seven.

The four words correspond to four suits: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. In Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, Gilchrist’s gives new life to this divination method, by expanding on the earlier work of early 1970’s, when she was one of the original authors who wrote the instructions for the oracular method of Galgal.

When I first held the deck, the red and white and gold design and coloring made it look and feel somewhat like a jewelry box. Opening it, it felt compact and easy to hold, but sparkling an energy of compressed clarity – like stone. It felt worthy of careful attention. Cherry Gilchrist is a striking name and I wondered if Cherry herself has chosen red as the predominant color because of her name.

I looked her up and discovered that she is quite a character! She has traveled widely, including over fifty trips to Russia, has run a vintage clothing shop and Russian arts businesses, and has performed and taught singing and writing. Gilchrist’s deep interest in astrology and divination, her passion for writing and teaching, and her wide range of life experiences suffuses this deck. 

This book is organized into three parts: Introduction, The Cards, Reading the Cards. Her succinct introduction to Kabbalah and the Tree of Life impressed me with how much information it contains. Given my relatively recent introduction to Kabbalah, I find it worthwhile to keep re-reading that passage.

Each card is explained in three sections: Oracle, Commentary, Interpretations. She explains that the Oracle meanings have been adapted from the original versions by Eddie Prevost and that she has added writing in Commentary and Interpretations for fuller explanation.

The section Reading the Cards presents the unique spread that this deck offers, using the symbol of Tree of Life and astrological houses. Thankfully, the spread is presented in a big sheet that can be unfolded for use. 

As I familiarized myself with the fifty-six concepts, it made me ponder how each oracle deck presents its own map of reality. Tarot uses 78 cards to present its map and symbol of the universe; this Tree of Life deck uses 57. Depending on how you count, almost two dozen of the cards represent people or archetypal characters. For example there is The Beloved, The Servant, The Eater, The Warrior, The Disciple, The Gambler, and the list goes on. There are three body parts: The Head, The Skeleton, and The Heart. The other half of the cards run the gamut of personal to social to spiritual concepts, from the very concrete to interpersonal to the most metaphysical. For example, there is The Seed, The Applause, and Causality. 

This may sound like a lot. So, let me share a reading I did for one of my best friends that was of profound importance to him: how can I find the best wife for me? This reading was of particular importance to me as well because he had helped my partner and me tremendously through our own convoluted path.

As I am more versed with more free-form methods of oracle readings, having the strict structure of this oracle required that we set aside significant time to truly focus and work with this new deck. Since this query concerned the most important project of the year for him, we did the full fourteen card reading. The first card is the First Significator, which speaks to the essential situation or nature of matter. Then comes the twelve cards for each astrological house. Last is the Second Significator, which is the Point of Action or Hope

 My friend’s first card was The Myth. That was fitting because his quest for a wife is at a mythic level of importance. Gilchrist lists among possible meanings “A question concerning religion, an ideal or a cause.”3 The last card of his reading was The Benefactor: “The person who cares and is anxious for the welfare of another.”4 This outcome card felt useful and meaningful since it bespoke the need to work with others who care about his situation and to find allies for his search.

Notably, the only fire cards were in the 9, 10, and 11th houses – all relating to the time frames of the future: far future, future, and near future. Gilchrist notes that the elements are similar to those in astrology, and fire is creative and energizing. I took that to mean that he needs to look where he may not have looked before and that it is important to take action.

Six out of the fourteen cards were earth cards, congruent with the very practical nature of his actions on this project during the past few years. His return to his country of origin after spending the bulk of his adult years in the United States and learning about the marriage institution there has been a sobering experience of learning that it is truly difficult, nearly impossible, to be seen for who he actually is, rather than what his culture fears of people who have lived in the United States. 

Because Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle requires focus to learn, I would recommend this deck to those who are already somewhat familiar and interested in the Kabbalah. From my initial experience, I can see that this is a deck through which deep wisdom will flow to those who are motivated to work to receive it.