I have no idea why this book has so many positive reviews. I guess I’m just a hater (though admittedly I tend to be very critical of Pagan and new agey books.) D.J. Conway is a big name Pagan who has written dozens of titles on dozens of subjects, and astral projection sounds sexy and catchy, so I guess it’s the perfect combination to sell titles. Conway has nearly 40 years of experience, and I really respect that. She’s clearly done a lot for the Pagan community. But buying a book and liking a book are two different things, so while I can see why people would buy this title, I really am flabbergasted as to why so many people like this book.
I borrowed Flying Without a Broom from a friend last summer, and only recently was able to finish it. This is partly because I’m a very busy person, but also because some parts of this book were just too slow to keep my attention. It’s not a very long book, just under 200 pages, and the writing style is very simple and conversational. (Sometimes a bit too conversational to the point where the book seems poorly edited. This is something I have found with a lot of Llewellyn titles, but that’s a post for another day.)
The book starts off with a brief history, myth, and lore concerning astral projection. Conway then goes to talk about the astral plane. She discusses techniques, including traveling the astral through sleep and meditation. Next are a few chapters about the different things one can do while on the astral – time travel, visiting ancient civilizations, meeting spirit guides, healing, and making magic.
I’ve been reading a lot about the astral realms and astral projection, and I’ve also been talking to dozens of people on the subject. Everyone’s experience, perceptions, techniques, thoughts, and opinions concerning the astral and astral projection are all very and incredibly different. I’d caution anyone reading this book to know that Conway’s opinions and experiences are not an end-all and authoritative treatise on the subject. Her book presents as an UPG (unverified personal gnosis), which is important for readers to realize.
One passage in particular: “Some people with very serious problems, such as alcohol and drug addiction, are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to heal. This is because their problems are not basically emotionally derived. Their main problems stem from a lack of self-discipline and self-mastery.”
This statement is one of the most insensitive, inaccurate things I’ve ever read in a new agey book (and I’ve read a lot, I’m sure.) Let me tell you, as someone who is in the mental health industry, who is a priestess, and who is a decent human being, this passage made me see red. Yeah, sure, drug and alcohol addiction are hard problems to heal. But there are people and agencies and drugs and interventions out there that are evidence-based and are proven to be effective. Addiction is not impossible to heal, it’s just hard. Part of an addiction is emotional, and some of it is mental, and some of it is physical, too.
Did you know an alcoholic just can’t stop drinking? They can’t decide one day to be like “well, I guess I’ll stop drinking.” The body goes through withdrawals and sometimes that will kill you. It’s because substances change the body. Different neural pathways are destroyed and built. The body chemistry changes. The way of one’s thinking and feeling changes. Taking substances changes you. It’s not a matter of self-mastery or self-discipline. It’s a matter of existence. Those who are addicted to substances are existing in a different way than they did before they were addicted to substances.
Furthermore, does she not realize the moral implications of her statement? That those who abuse substances are weak, that they just need to try harder, that they make mistakes and they’re really just terrible awful people who aren’t even trying? Substance addiction is a mental illness and there is no shame in a mental illness. Can you imagine telling a diabetic or someone with PTSD to just “get more self-discipline.” How devastating to be the person to hear that!
This is why people must be careful about witchy, hippie dippie, new agey “healers.” These people aren’t healers. They are charlatans. They do not have medical, mental health, or substance abuse training. They just decided to write a book one day and they devote a chapter to “healing” and they don’t know the first thing about healing. How irresponsible! I don’t care how many decades of training these people have in Paganism, because their real world radar and experience is skewed and dangerous. They are doing more harm than good.
This is why I think Pagan “healers” aren’t worth anything if they haven’t had some mundane world training as well. You can astral travel to Atlantis every night for a decade and it won’t mean anything when dealing with a real sickness like substance abuse.
I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater concerning this book, but I really wonder what use people have gotten out of it. Has anyone read this book and had a positive experience? I don’t want to hate D.J. Conway because of one book, but if this is the standard quality of her work, it makes me really curious who her editors are and how she’s managed to publish so much!