Global Resilience Solutions > 2013 > December

Book Review: Nei Kung: The Secret Teachings of the Warrior Sages

In his first book, The Magus of Java, Kosta Danaos wrote of his encounter with a Taoist master living on the island of Java.  Nei Kung is the sequel, attempting to amplify the teachings of this particular Taoist lineage in light of Danaos’ knowledge and experiences onto a much broader set of issues related to human spirituality, society and understanding of the world.

 

It is difficult to adequately convey a unifying impression of Kosta Danaos’ second book; it seems to defy single interpretation, perhaps by design.  It is challenging, diverse, mixing personal experience, concrete technique and informed speculation into something that is less a synthesis than a series of thematically-related inspirational materials.

The book takes a great deal of time explaining Danaos’ speculative views of the spiritual underpinnings of human history, pre-history, evolution, physics and many other subjects, but the real treasures in the book are the fruits of personal experience, some his own and some from those he has encountered along the way.

What really commends Danaos’ book to any spiritual seeker are the personal accounts of spiritual life, almost any one of which would individually have made the book worth reading!  In one passage, Danaos finds himself conversing with the spirits of a mountain in Greece, who ask him to intervene to stop a strip-mining operation.  Accounts of such spirits inherent in the natural world are common to many traditions, including Taoism and both Celtic Druidism and the Celtic Christianity which succeeded it (Celtic saints’ lives are often predominantly accounts of their power in the natural world).  The Eastern Christian mystical tradition is filled with similar phenomena as well.  Consideration and study of these beings, in whatever mode they may exist, is more than timely as we are faced with the damage done to the earth by modern man.

In another account, Danaos meets a man who was literally a week dead and about to be cremated when he returned to his body, having had a profound spiritual encounter.  He woke up with a sudden perfect knowledge of Mandarin, though he had spoken only English before.  These narratives are coupled with a call to meditation and self-cultivation that is earnest and backed by a profundity of experience and conviction.

 

Danaos’ speculations, while undeniably interesting and occasionally enlightening (particularly those pertaining to spirituality in the distant past), are given in something of a shorthand way, leaving the picture too incomplete for the reader to draw conclusions one way or another.  That said, there are many points on which I feel that Danaos is undeniably correct, such as his observations about the enhanced natural faculties of so-called non-civilized peoples.  I believe he is also correct in his reconciliation of divine love with human suffering on the basis of freedom of choice, although how exactly it fits in with the foregoing discussion of guided evolution is not clear.  These passages are worth reading as part of ongoing discussion of these issues, but not enough of a clear picture emerges to evaluate their merits as theories.

Reading what Danaos had to say on the difference between religion and spirituality was timely, as we’ve just finished the first unit on Spirituality for the Resilient Life Code, which contains a detailed account of the institutionalization process as it affects spiritual traditions.  Danaos perhaps doesn’t have a complete picture of the process as it affects Christianity (nor for that matter a very complete view of the original Christian spiritual tradition, though as a Greek, he is more aware of it than most other authors), but he’s on the right track on many points.  In particular, his characterization of the Emperor Constantine’s character and motives is highly amusing.

Danaos’ views on the nature of (human) spirits struck me as the oddest thing about the whole book.  His account is either incomplete or imprecise.  He identifies the spirit with the unconscious- a lower, yin faculty without the power of active thought or decision, a simple reservoir of whatever impressions it gains in life, and helpless to think, learn or act after death.  He advocates meditation as a means not just of merging the conscious with the subconscious, which it is, but of more firmly imprinting the image of the conscious mind onto the subconscious so that we can maintain a more substantial “selfhood” after death.

I am not certain this view squares even with the experiences he recounts, still less with the broader view of many authentic ancient traditions.  Most traditions would identify the spirit not as the subconscious mind, and definitely not as an impotent lower faculty, but rather as the higher faculty on which we are working through meditation in order to render it clear, to bring it to its true nature.  This being the case, we need not have any doubts of the power of a realized spirit, in the body or out of it.  Not only does the reversal of the classical yin-yang associations of body and spirit strike me as odd, but Danaos’ position on the issue reminds me of the conversation of Odysseus with the shades of his fallen companions at the gates of the underworld.  The shades are portrayed as miserable, lifeless shadows, whose only ambition is to drink the blood of living things sacrificed to them, in order to taste a little of life.  Achilles’ shade even says, “I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man’s house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead.”  And remember, these were the great heroes, entitled to the Elysian Fields, not the common mass of humanity.  This was exactly the kind of existential pessimism that the late Romans began to reject in perhaps one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history.

Don’t expect to actually encounter an abundance of practical Nei Kung teachings, despite the title.  At most, this book provides a guide to basic energy-cultivation meditation, coupled with a theoretical picture of what the higher levels look like.  As no doubt with many ancient lineages, when it comes to spreading knowledge beyond the traditional master-disciple relationship, this one is still dipping a toe in the water.

I don’t wish to come across as overly critical; this is a marvellous and inspirational book.  Its overall message is sound, even if its speculations are sometimes scattered or incomplete.

Now, if you would like to acquaint yourself with Kosta’s master, “John Chang”, just click on the link below and turn up your speakers:

 

~Dr. Symeon Rodger


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