Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Flying Without a Broom by D.J. Conway

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.

I was on the fence about this book for most of the time I was been reading it.  Some of the advice on astral projection and lucid dreaming seemed interesting enough, and some of it just seemed hippie dippie.  One section really made me incredibly angry, however.  Her section on healing was super fluffy and made me feel very uncomfortable.  I don’t want to make any claims concerning healing on the astral, but I really recommend that people with physical and mental illness see professionals about their problems and not rely only on the astral or a psychic or spirit healer.  I’m not saying that people should deny the power of these things, but people should be safe and sane in regards to their health. 

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. 

Her sentence "Their main problems stem from a lack of self-discipline and self-mastery” really made me furious.  Can you imagine if you were an addict you read this sentence? It would probably make someone feel like crap, like they had a moral deficit, like they were a failure.  Addiction is NOT a problem of self-discipline and self-mastery.  It is a sickness.  It is an illness.  It is a physical addiction to a substance, which is something that body needs and craves.

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! 


  1. There was a point in time during last summer where I was seriously concerned for Ms Conway. I follow her on FB and was shocked to see some of the things she would post concerning illegal immigrants and a few other *hot button* issues. I in the end had to stop following her posts and do understand she is a very well known BNP that many flock to simply because of her name, but her attitude at this point in my life is just not productive to me.

    Great review and I whole heartedly agree with your findings and assessment of this book

    1. Woah, I seriously had no idea! I really felt like I was being too hard on her with this review, but I was so profoundly upset with it! thanks for taking the time out to comment, as well as reaffirming my Negative Ninny assessment! hahah

      seriously, yikes. Had no idea!

  2. Wow.
    As someone with a diagnosed Emotional Disorder, I can attest that for many, drug and alcohol addiction IS emotionally derived. It is to dumb down the pain in exchange for temporary relief and pleasure.
    People with Borderline Personality Disorder are quite often drug or alcohol addicts or engage in otherwise addictive behaviour and it IS considered an 'Emotional Regulatory Disorder' - I go to group 2 hours/week EVERY week to work on this. It is a grueling process.
    The 'lack of self discipline and self mastery' often STEM from emotions: the fact that either a) we don't care enough about ourselves to do what is best for us, to put our foot down and take the long hard walk away.... or b)because the hurt is so intense that the drugs/alcohol feel like the only way. That just goes for one particular group of people, but it overlaps among the general public for sure.
    People who hurt, people who feel empty, people who are broken --- how ignorant of her to publish such tripe. I was not a fan of her before and certainly am not now. /end rant

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Birch! Your comments are deeply personal and super relevant to this conversation, so I appreciate you wanting to share your thoughts and experiences.

  3. WTF. Addiction stems from a lack of self-discipline and self-mastery? That's it? Just simply try harder and you'll be cured...because you know, you're too weak? YOU saw red! What a piece of garbage. Which is sad...ok, pathetic...because some of her other works are good! As far as this work, and based on this one paragraph alone, I'd not only throw out the baby and the bathwater, but sterilize the tub afterwards.

    1. I've never read anything else by her. Are there titles you enjoyed, Autumn?