Book Review Section

Here we list some of the reviews Tony Butcher has received from Amazon and other places on his four books :

A Trip Beyond Imagination

04 July 2016 by Harriet Divine
A Trip Beyond Imagination by Tony Butcher

There's a part of my life that I rarely write about on here. I've been practicing meditation for more than forty years and have a great interest in all things spiritual, which has taken me many times to India. People who know me personally know all this of course, though somehow I've always felt it was appropriate to keep it all separate from my bookish life. But the other day I got the offer of a review copy of this newly published e-book and enjoyed it so much I thought I'd tell you about it.

'I'm just an ordinary old man', Tony Butcher says in this book, and it's true in many ways, though not in others. He's a retired schoolteacher, happily married since he was 21, has a passion for cricket. Many years ago he learned the practice of transcendental meditation and it evidently filled some kind of gap for him, bringing many benefits to his everyday life. He became a keen to attend various advanced and residence courses, and it was on one of these in early 2001 that he heard of a forthcoming tour of the sacred sites of north India and felt what he describes as a calling to go. The limit of his travel experience had been family holidays in Spain and Greece, but he was soon down at the travel agent booking a flight to Delhi, much to his own and his wife's surprise.

Luckily - though in Tony's view nothing is really just up to luck - he started keeping a diary and it is this that he has edited for the e-book. For anyone who loves or longs to go to India, this will certainly feed the flames. We hear about the flight:

It always occurs to me that setting off on an aircraft journey replicates what happens when we die. First of all we are relieved of our possessions. Next we are separated from our family and friends and herded into a waiting area. Lastly, we are whisked off to another place where life is very different.

We hear about the fabulous Imperial Hotel in Delhi, where the tour party spends their first few nights, and about his first impressions of that glorious, mad, perplexing, loveable country. But we also hear about the ideas that lie behind the tour itself - the company than ran it is dedicated to taking people to visit the most revered spiritual sites in India, places where, whatever their belief system (Hindu, Buddhist, Tibetan etc), devotees have spent their lives looking inwards, turning away from the distractions of the world of the senses. Tony loves every minute of it - from the start it clearly fulfils some deep spiritual need, but he also loves the people, the hotels, the food, the train journeys, the boat rides on the Ganges and much much more, and writes about them with great warmth and enthusiasm. But then, on a visit to a temple dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman, things take an unexpected turn, as he finds himself in front of a shrine dedicated to the goddess Durga:

One look was all it took! It was love at first sight! At the time I didn’t even know that it was a representation of Durga. I began to chant spontaneously. Lots of chants came from deep inside me that I had never heard before. I felt a deep feeling of reverence for her and spontaneously prostrated myself at her feet.

So, in this completely innocent and spontaneous way, Tony's life shot off in a direction he had never anticipated and did not fully understand. As he goes on to explain in the book, from this point on, every time he saw a representation of Durga, whether in a temple, or even just as a cheap statue or painting, this spontaneous chanting would automatically begin. The chants were in the ancient Sanskrit language, and he had no idea what he was saying, but numerous temple priests and sanskrit scholars verified that they were completely authentic. From that day forward,, Tony became an ardent devotee of the goddess, and this continues today.

For a non-Hindu, this all sounds probably very puzzling and inexplicable. Evidently the phenomenon of spontaneous chanting is well-known in India, but occurrences of it are rare today. The explanation he has been given and that he fully accepts is that he must have been a devotee of Durga in a previous incarnation and that the memory of his previous practices has just been brought to the surface. I'm happy with that myself, but it would be interesting to hear an explanation from someone who is totally sceptical about all such matters.

The book is quite short and I read it in a sitting, with huge enjoyment. If you think it might interest you, you can find in Amazon. Fascinating stuff!
Posted at 09:21 AM in Books, meditation | Permalink | Comments (2)
5.0 out of 5 stars It captures the Indian experience very well - the surface cacophony that floods the senses mixed with deep ancient religiousness
8 Jan 2015

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book in one sitting finishing at 4:00 am. It captures the Indian experience very well - the surface cacophony that floods the senses mixed with deep ancient religiousness that is always ready to break through the busy mind with its message of spiritual joy.
And more importantly, can give us a real experience that makes a permanent impact on how we live our lives through all its ups and downs.
This book is always full of surprises so looking forward to future instalments.
5.0 out of 5 stars love and whole attitude was one to be admired
5 March 2015
By N Sadhuramon

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is a travel book with a difference. The writer seems to be very enlightened., I felt very envious. His dedication, love and whole attitude was one to be admired. I have travelled a fair bit in India, but mow realise how much I have missed. Hopefully this will inspire me to enjoy such an experience. I look forward to reading any other books I hope will write. Congratulations for a book written from the heart
5.0 out of 5 stars
17 January 2016
By Liselotte

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very good spiritual travel experience, down to earth - would recommend.
5.0 out of 5 stars
15 December 2014
By Marianne

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

"The Life of a London Yogi"

5.0 out of 5 stars
1 April 2016
By James Follett

Format: Kindle Edition

A very easy to read book. The friendly style is a real page turner amusing and lively but with an underlying message of spiritual values. He gives an alternative view of life to the cult of consumerism and celebrity of today’s population in the western world.

"Yoga Consciousness in Ancient Mystery Religions"

5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening read,
26 Mar 2010
By A Reviewer (California)

A very perceptive insight into the deeper significance of fairy tales. Tony's personal understanding of higher states of consciousness and his research into the ancient mystery schools allowed him to see the hidden meaning and richness of fairy tales as a means to pass knowledge of different levels of initiation and evolution to different levels of individual awareness. An enlightening read.

5.0 out of 5 stars a spiritual travellor,
18 Dec 2007
By Paul B. Douglas-reid  (REAL NAME)   
I love this book!

I have always been interested in spiritual/gnostic archetypes used in ancient stories and this book is a real find.

Beyond archetypes he goes to the real source of spirituality - transcendental consciousness - that knows all and sees all. this is our original progenitor

4.0 out of 5 stars Insights into the mystery religions
1 Aug 2010
This is a short book with broad ambitions. In just over a hundred pages, Tony Butcher traces some of the best known fairy stories from their origins to their present form. He sees stories such as Cinderella as carriers of the teachings of the mystery religions. Hidden within their structure and narrative, Butcher sees the teachings of long forgotten doctrines. He uses the best of previous scholarship as a springboard for his own insights. These take as their framework the teaching of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a modern teacher of an ancient doctrine. But within this framework Butcher's insights are all his own. You can argue with some of his conclusions, but there's no doubting the keenness of his intellect and the breadth of his knowledge. Highly recommended for both the specialist and general reader.

Yoga Consciousness in Ancient Mystery Religions review

Structuralism - one of the sweeping intellectual movements of the 20th century - undoubtedly offered an exciting new tool for the deep analysis of cultural texts.

Everything from literary criticism to anthropology was revolutionised through the structuralist prism, yet both in its key idea – that individuals are condition by the world of signs around them – and its approach, reductionist, it offered but a pessimistic view of subject and audience.

Yoga Consciousness in Ancient Mystery Religions is a book very much in the structuralist vein – 'decoding' the ideologies behind a sign system, in this case, nursery rhymes – but that being said, author Tony Butcher conducts his analysis in a very different, richer way.
The instant comparison that springs to mind is the oeuvre of American mythologist Joseph Campbell, namely seminal work "The Hero With A Thousand Faces".

It is a comparison the author himself raises, before going on to explain why his approach is still so fundamentally fresh and different.
First, some biography: Butcher, a now retired teacher, has been since 1968 a 'passionate', if that is the appropriate term, practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.
He has worked hard to develop his state of consciousness towards a state of spiritual enlightenment and the resultant holistic outlook has firmly left its stamp on his research and its ambition.

Unlike Campbell, who dryly dissected common world myths and shared stories to seek out the psychoanalytical undertones, Butcher invests the whole of his intelligence, emotional included, to produce a book that is much a guide to self-growth as academic study.
Calling upon ancient doctrines, the teachings of TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his own intuition, he argues that popular fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White and Faithful John contain within them hidden yogic instruction for attaining self-mastery and higher wisdom.

It's certainly intriguing to suggest something so deep and profound can be readily found on the shelves of nurseries, and has been there for many generations.

Though the first reaction may be to discount the idea as too fanciful, reserve judgement because Butcher admirably supports the thrust of his argument with some strong background research, compelling evidence and inspired leaps of intellect.

The first section of the book introduces the philosophy underpinning his interpretation, forming a basic history of hidden knowledge, originating in the writings of legendary figure Thoth (also known as Hermes) and stopping off at various mystery religions of the ancient world, including Egypt and Greece. An overview and layman's explanation of the Yoga Sutra and modern-day teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles guru, on the seven states of human consciousness are also given before we come to the second part of the book, analysing ten well-known fairy tales.

In short, Butcher views them as coded messages on how to grow in consciousness, stemming from ancient sources and only made visible to him on account of his learning in Transcendental Meditation.

He declines story variants contained within Charles Perrault's earlier Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oie (Mother Goose Tales) in favour of versions collected by proto-folklorists The Brothers Grimm in the 19th century.

These, he argues, retain the symbols that link back to the most ancient of teachings, at first passed down orally and only later written down, where they spread and evolved through the meetings and mixing of cultures.

Echoing Aarne-Thompson's system of cataloguing fairy tale by motifs, the author breaks down the stories into simple recurring elements, like letters, that include stock situations such as the marriage and characters such as the sisters, or youngest child.

Unlike folklorists Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, however, Butcher gives consideration to the function of each element and does so not to paint a broad allegorical picture but instead to put forward the contention that each fairy tale is to do with the individual's fraught path to enlightenment.

In this light, the forest that Snow White becomes lost in represents the different branches of knowledge, the Seven Dwarfs represent the primary forces of creation and Snow White's crisis is not with a wicked stepmother but the quest to go beyond surface reality to something timeless and real in its truest sense.

Though in its narrow focus Yoga Consciousness could be deemed as reductionist as the psychoanalytic school that deems everything in some way connected with sex, it is ultimately more rewarding.

Like the epiphany that instigated and fuelled the author's exploration of TM back in the sixties, it invites its audience not only to think, but also feel; act as well as consider.

It offers rediscovered insight into the world, the self and their interconnectivity that, if the author's personal testament is anything to go by, can only improve people's lives and sense of well-being.

The message is therefore important and relevant, and the book as a whole makes for a fascinating and exciting read.
Far from the quaint tales we believe them to be, fairy stories could be our most familiar and accessible way into enlightenment and freedom, ironically allowing all of us to leave the nursery behind and step out into the big, wide world.
Anthony Harvison - October 2010

Fairy Stories, the Rig Veda and the Ancient Mysteries
Whenever we think of the Ancient Mystery Religions we immediately think of Ancient Egypt , Greece and Rome. However, Aurobindo says the Eleusinian and Orphic Mysteries followed the same tradition as the Rig Veda.. That is they followed the outward trappings of everyday life to tell one aspect of the story and employed the same terms as the symbols of a deeply hidden psychological quest.

‘Yoga Consciousness in the Ancient Mystery Religions’ reveals that there was a lot of communication between India and the Mediterranean cultures of the old world, consequently the Mystery Religions imported some of the techniques of the Indian Masters of their time.

In fact the author is saying what we all know- there is really only one religion - the Sanatan Dharma - the trunk of the great tree. All the others are branches coming off it. In his book, Tony Butcher resorts time and again to this tradition because it is the only one that makes sense of Fairy Stories.

Tony is not an academic. He says the revelation of what Fairy Stories are really about came about whilst hearing a fourteen year boy read. He also claims to have a close relationship with the goddess Durga who gave him some of the main leads. In fact she was the one that suggested the link between Fairy Stories and the Ancient Mystery Religions.

We are used to regarding Pythagoras as a great Mathematician rather than a Guru who spent many years learning his trade with priests in Ancient Egypt before having his own mystery school in ancient Greece. Similarly, Plato was a kind of Greek Sadhu who discovered the great ocean of bliss within him, whereas today he is perceived as being a dry but erudite intellectual philosopher and not as a realised initiate..

The Mystery Religions were said to have had their birth in Ancient Egypt by Thoth-whom the Greeks call Hermes- after experiencing a revelation by God. The main teachings come from a text called the Hermetica . The mysteries were embedded in the myth of Isis and Osiris. When Initiates like Pythagoras brought the tradition to Greece the myth of Demeter became the main source of the mysteries of the quest.

Although the words were different much of the content is the same as the Sanatan Dharma.. The initiates of the Ancient Mysteries believed in reincarnation. They believed their past karma was dispensed by the planets and finally they knew they were on earth to achieve enlightenment.

Interestingly they called the small self the persona and the Self the Inner Genius. The point of all life on earth was to rid the persona of its attachments and aversions and realise the ultimate truth within.

We also learn from modern Masters like Yogananda, Maharishi and Swami Satyananda that each of the characters in the big epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharat are all aspects of the human psyche. The so-called Fairy Stories used the same convention.
The author uses the description of the seven states of consciousness as defined by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as the link to analyse the Fairy Stories.

Each of the stories analysed shows the development of an individual as he/she ascends to higher states of consciousness until the highest pinnacle of life in Unity Consciousness is reached. Two of the stories illustrate the use of siddhis or super powers found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

It would be a pity to spoil a good read – but just to whet your appetite- each the ball gowns worn by Cinderella stand for the realisation of a higher and more elevated state of consciousness . The third and last symbolises Unity Consciousness - the ultimate goal of all life on earth.

In the ancient world there were secret religious groups called Mystery Schools run by an enlightened guru. These “schools” received their name from the Greek word “Mystere” meaning initiate. Many of the Roman soldiers around at the time of Christ belonged to the Mystery School of Mithras. Also, there is a lot of evidence that Christianity itself began as a Mystery Religion prior to becoming the State religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD.

Many of the notable ancient Greek philosophers like Plato were members. The most well known was Pythagoras,- the same mathematician we heard of at school in connection with the right angled triangle. In actual fact he probably didn’t discover all the secrets of the triangle himself, he probably learned it whilst in Egypt serving guru priests for 20 years. After becoming a master of the mysteries he returned to Greece to found his own Mystery School.

The initiates would be given special techniques to practice in secret, which opened their awareness to penetrate the veil that hides one from the inner illuminations that make sense of our existence on earth Sri Aurobindo says that the Elysian and Orphic Mystery Schools of ancient Greece were the fading remnants of a much more extensive system based upon the ancient texts of the Vedas. The Vedas is actually a living tradition and not just “childish babble from primitive people” as scholars from both the West and the East tend to believe.

Modern gurus like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Aurobindo were true exponents as opposed to being mere intellectual theorists. They brought to light the inner secret, that the Veda in its written form, was composed by enlightened ancient sages called rishis, who described their lucid inner spiritual experiences in a symbolic poetic form.

What the rishis taught to their followers was not a particular religion as a system of worship but practical techniques that opened their awareness to the inner source of their own being. In actual fact they were revealing the real essence of the word “religion”, which in Latin means “binding back to one’s source”.

In actual fact we are sufficiently lucky in modern times to have these ancient techniques available again. Many people are practising them but they are no longer part of a Mystery Religion.

Ton Butcher, the author of “Yoga Consciousness in the Ancient Mystery Religions” is on of these lucky ones. Only five years after learning Transcendental Meditation, he had the inner revelation that so-called Fairy Stories” like Cinderella, were called “wisdom stories” in the distant past and revealed in a codified form the steps of inner steps of spiritual illumination.

As Maharishi once said- “TM sets one on the path to bliss.” The goal of that path is to become established in the home of total knowledge and inner happiness. This is summed up by one Sanskrit word “satchitananda”, meaning the fullness of truth, knowledge and bliss.

This is why so many wisdom stories end with “they all lived happily ever after.” “Who are the all?” one may ask. This is one of the secrets of the code- all the characters in the story are aspects of the same human psyche.
Read the book and you will find out the other characters represent.

Surbiton author Tony Butcher claims to have cracked the Fairy Tale Code
January 21, 2011 - 2:27pm
Some of the most popular children's fairy tales contain hidden messages about the ''meaning of life'', according to a Surrey author.
Stories including Cinderella and Snow White contain symbols that when decoded reveal how to find ''enlightenment'' and ''inner peace''.

This “ancient wisdom” dates back thousands of years to the earliest civilisations and has been transmitted down the ages through “folk narratives”, according to writer Tony Butcher. It may sound like something out of a Dan Brown novels but Mr Butcher, of Surbiton, has dedicated over 30 years to cracking what he calls the “Fairy Tale Code”.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “'Far from being quaint tales only intended for children, these stories are relevant to us all. They contain ancient wisdom that when revealed can serve as a guide to developing the mind and living a fulfilled life. These instructions have been handed down to us from the oldest civilisations of the Egyptians and Greeks and have simply been forgotten.”

Mr Surbiton, 73, first noticed there may be more to fairy tales while working as a special needs teacher in the early 1970s. He would regularly have reading sessions with pupils and started to notice certain situations and characters repeating themselves across stories. A keen yoga practitioner for all his adult life, Mr Butcher realised that there was a connection between these recurring symbols and “yogic wisdom”.

''The common situations and characters work as symbols, representing the self and the journey to enlightenment,” he said. “The spiritual teachings reflect those of yoga, which strive for the expansion of consciousness and the development of mind, body and soul.”
Mr Butcher has explored his theory in new book, Yoga Consciousness in Ancient Mystery Religions, published by Janus. The 200-page book examines 10 common fairy tales including Cinderella, Snow White, Faithful John and Lucky Hans.

Taking Snow White, for example, the Seven Dwarfs represent the primary forces of creation and Snow White's crisis is not with a wicked stepmother but the quest to go beyond surface reality to something “timeless and real in its truest sense”.

"A Walk in the Park"

This review is from: A Walk in the Park (Kindle Edition)

This was immensely enjoyable, the sheer variety of topics Tony has introduced in this book make you always ready for more. I usually read books slowly but I finished Tony's book in three days. One minute involved in a cricket match and the next you are dancing with Rumi's love poetry. Tony by profession is a school teacher so he knows how to write a book accessible to all.

I hope he writes another one like it

Review One : Tony Butcher’s collection belongs to a tradition of religious and spiritual poetry that have inspired people over many generations and whose masters include Rumi, the Persian mystical poet and Gerard Manley Hopkins, the 19th century Jesuit priest who penned exquisite Christian poetry. Many religious poems tend to paint their devotion in the precise colours of their particular faith and culture. The poems in this volume are particularly fascinating because they weave together threads of both Eastern and Western poetry, refusing to confine themselves to any specific doctrine. One of the finest poems is Mary, in which Tony considers her as both the mother of Jesus and the Mother of all Creation from a Vedic viewpoint.

Tony Butcher has lived in England all his life but has made regular visits to India. In 1968, he learnt Transcendental Meditation, which enabled him to enjoy luminous spiritual experiences which clearly inspired many of the gems in this collection. The poems range from the personal, such as A Walk in the Park, to the grand and philosophical, such as The Hoop Dance, which explores the path to enlightenment. Like Gerard Manley Hopkins, Butcher has a profound appreciation for nature and many of his verses sing with pantheism; When You Speak reads like a hymn to God’s creation:

Your perfect syllables -
Each a symphony in seed form -
inspire All creation to sing with you:

Rumi once wrote:
‘Love’s nationality is separate from all other religions / The lover’s religion and nationality is the Beloved’.

These apt lines capture the spirit of this collection, which is a celebration of life, Nature, and above all, love for the Divine.
Deborah Wright author of six best selling novels including “The Rebel Fairy"

A Walk in the Park by Tony Butcher:
A Review by Nikky Goddard
- Ashbooks book Community 26/10/2010
A Walk in the Park is an incredible achievement, encapsulating as it does a lifetime of experience into poetry.

Author Tony Butcher has spent over 40 years on a quest to enlightenment, finding his path using the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation - but more commonly known as the Beatles' guru.

This exceptional collection of covers that deeply personal, inspirational journey from its roots in the vague spiritual yearnings of a young adult to the mature understanding of a yoga devotee.

The book opens with a “small bouquet” of charming love poems dedicated to the muse, Patricia. Butcher's brief but beautiful liaison with Patricia led to a life-changing epiphany experienced in Regents Park whilst in his final term at Sidney Webb Teacher College in 1968.

In the introduction to his work, the poet describes the moment as “being at one with everything” and acknowledging its importance, has named his collection in its honour.

It's from Patricia that Butcher formed his appreciation of the finer, metaphysical qualities of womanhood, which finds its logical and emotional culmination in poem-come-essay “Mary”.

The poet believes this paeon, fascinating in its pantheistic viewpoint of Saint Mary as a universal mother goddess, to be one of his finest poems.

He labels it a “teaching poem” and by that means not only one that instructs the reader but also the writer.

Butcher harks back to the most ancient of bards in his conviction that lyric poetry is not so much devised by the poet as received from a higher plane, coming as he says “hot from the gods”.

Anything that emerges from his own head, by comparison, he feels to just be so much “clever rubbish”.

But regardless of the fountain's origin, Mary is a stunning piece.

Written in rhyming couplets, it resonates with the sublime fervour of British poets such as William Blake and John Donne, and the greats of Sufi poetry, including Rumi.

And in its incorporation of many different traditions from organised religion to mysticism, it has an intelligence to it that impresses like a vedic equivalent of T. S. Elliot's Wasteland.

This is the real heart of Butcher's poetic output and stands in contrast to his earlier work which displays more of an undefined, romantic-era bent for the wonder and force of nature.

Poems such as “Autumn Alchemy” and the rustic “Morning” are still striking but only hint at the depth yet to come.

To return to Sufi and Persian poetry, when we get past the comic juvenilia. (though witty) and explorations of style and substance of the early poems, A Walk in the Park really finds its voice in expressing, essentially, the concept of “tawhid” – union with the eternal.
This study in higher reality ranges in tone from the more sensual, conceit-driven poems such “The Two of You”, to the grand soul-epic that is The Hoop Dance.

Sparked by a redskin shaman performance the poet once had the privilege to observe, it illustrates the meaning and purpose of life to his tribe, and by allegorical extension to everyone in their struggle to find the divine within and true purpose without.
Though this may be the central thrust to his work, there are many pleasant diversions along the way ranging from humour to folk songs to children's verse.

In conclusion, this is a gem of a collection and one that is both to be commended and heartily recommended to those with a love of spiritual, instructive poetry.
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