Let’s Talk About the Price of Books

Let’s Talk About the Price of Books

People have strong opinions about how much books cost, and among every group of readers, I hear or read questions about how to get books cheaper—or for free.

Personally, I hold Amazon responsible for training readers in general to expect $0.99 ebooks and $1.99 paperbacks. Amazon sells books as loss leaders, so their pricing isn’t realistic in the book world.

I’ve been in the publishing industry for twenty years. I launched my first publishing company in 2002, back when “self-publishing” was a dirty word. I’ve learned from traditional publishers and mid-sized independent presses. I was one of the early adopters of on-demand printing, years before CreateSpace, before IngramSpark, back when Ingram’s on-demand printing company, Lightning Source, was in its early years.

On-demand printing has pros and cons. The pro, obviously, is that books are only printed when purchased, saving on warehousing costs. However, bookstores are less likely to carry on-demand titles, and many publishers set up their titles with no returns—a dealbreaker for bookstores, which run on consignment and depend heavily on the ability to return books for full credit.

The biggest disadvantage to on-demand printing is that the unit print cost—the cost to print and bind one copy of one title—is higher than printing larger digital runs (500+ copies on a digital printer where toner sits on the surface of the paper) or offset runs (1000+ copies on an offset printer, where ink from plates is pressed into the paper). These days, the quality of digital printing is nearly indistinguishable from offset printing, a huge increase in quality over the past 20 years. Still, the more copies one prints, the lower the unit cost.

Why does the unit cost matter?

In the traditional book trade, everyone gets a piece of the retail price. A distributor warehouses books and either charges the publishers fees for storage, picking, packing, freight, and returns or takes a cut of the sales price (up to 20%). The distributor sells books to wholesalers (on consignment) at a 55% discount off the retail price. Wholesalers turn around and sell books to bookstores at a 40% discount off the retail price. Bookstores decide if they want to discount the books or not and sell them accordingly to customers. Books that don’t sell within a “season,” or about three months, are returned to the wholesaler for credit. The wholesaler doesn’t want a lot of copies of the same title in stock, so they may return them to the distributor for full credit. The distributor will then charge the publisher for the returns. Along the way, there are always shipping costs.

We have a joke in the book industry: the only people getting rich in publishing are FedEx and UPS.

And, well, Amazon is getting rich too.

Amazon now demands a 57% discount from distributors. Bear in mind, the publisher gets what’s left over after the discounts, so anywhere from 25%-43% of the retail price. Out of that income, they have to pay overhead, salaries, printing costs, shipping, etc. And royalties. They also need to pay their authors royalties from book sales.

Some authors choose to sell their books directly through Amazon. This eliminates the everyone-gets-a-piece issue, but also means bookstores won’t carry their title. And why would they? Bookstores and Amazon are competitors.

In 2022, we now have issues with paper supply shortages, labor shortages, and all sorts of other workplace issues that COVID-19 had caused. This means the cost of paper, shipping, and labor have all gone up. A lot.

Let’s look at a real book. It’s mine. It’ll be coming out later this year. It has a trim size of 5.25” wide by 8” high. It’s small enough to fit into a bag or to hold easily, whereas 6” x 9” trade paperbacks can become unwieldy. It was a design decision.

It has 304 pages. Technically, it has 301 with three blank pages, but offset presses require page count to be divisible by 8 because of how they print signatures. So 304. It’s printed on white paper. Nothing super fancy. The only fancy thing is that part of the cover is embossed. The design practically demands embossing, which is not available through Amazon. And honestly, if you’re going to pay full price for a book, I believe you should get a nice book. Not a mediocre one.

If I sold this book only through Amazon, they require a minimum retail price of $7.50. It will cost $4.50 to print, and that’s without the embossing. But that doesn’t mean I get $3.00 per book. No, that’s Amazon’s take. I get nothing at that price. Zero. I’m giving the book away.

Because Amazon works on a percentage, not a straight fee per book, if I priced this book at $20.00, it would still cost $4.50 to print and Amazon’s take is $8.00. I would get $7.50. Not bad, but it leaves me locked into Amazon.

What if I wanted to list it with IngramSpark as well and use on-demand printing? That same book, to print one copy, will cost $5.54. Still without embossing. If I priced the book at $13.00 and used industry-standard discounts (55%), my compensation is $0.31 per book (not a typo). IngramSpark gets the rest. To get the aforementioned $7.50 I could get above from Amazon, I’d have to price the book through IngramSpark at $29.00 retail.

Now, I could reduce the discount, but that means fewer resellers will carry it. Fewer resellers means fewer places that readers can buy it.

Now, let’s look at printing a medium-sized run digitally and a larger run on an offset press.

I requested a quote for printing 501 copies (discounts kick in over 500) from a local digital book printer I trust. Not including that embossing, copies are $6.11 each. If I printed 1001 copies, the unit price falls to $4.99. 1501 copies drops it to $4.87 per book. But a bonus: this printer is housed with my distributor, so no shipping costs. Yay!

You’ll notice that this is quite a bit more than the $4.50 that Amazon would charge. But again, using Amazon’s KDP Paperback to print the book locks it in for sale only on Amazon. Printing it elsewhere and warehousing it at my distributor means anyone can order it anywhere.

Using digital printing and the industry standard discounts (55% for all but Amazon; 57% for Amazon), if I priced the book at $14.95, I’d be giving it away. If I priced the book at $20.00, I’d be left with $2.50 per book. And that’s not including any other costs beyond printing.

But what if I could get the unit price even lower? I can, with an offset printing. And printing more copies.

My go-to offset printer can print them for $4.80 each if I print 1250 copies. Or if I print 1500 copies, I can get the unit cost down to $4.25 including freight and embossing. I’m not inclined to print more copies than that for a first printing. Initial interest tells me I can probably sell a thousand fairly easily, and if they go fast, then the additional 500 is a buffer until more can be printed. Turnaround time for printing, whether digital or offset, is upwards of two months minimum right now.

So, my best-case scenario: print 1500 copies at $4.25 each including the embossing and freight to my distributor.

Now, in reality, I have timelines to meet, and printers are massively backlogged, so this isn’t actually going to work. I need books available sooner, which means doing a shorter (smaller) print run at that $6.11 unit price while the offset printers are doing a longer (bigger) print run at $4.25 each.

My goal is to make $6.00 per book with the industry discount. That may sound great, but out of that, I need to pay myself (as the author) royalties of 25% or $1.50, plus distribution fees (warehousing, shipping, returns) and overhead (software, internet, licensing, depreciation on equipment, etc.). My time and effort and skill are valuable and deserve compensation. $6.00 doesn’t go very far.

If I average the printing cost per unit, looking at the total number of books to print, it comes out to $4.72 each, including freight and embossing. And that’s about $10,000 up front that I need to pay. To get $6.00 after discounts, I need to price the book at $24.95.

If that sounds like a lot to pay for a book, remember this:

Of that $24.95…

  • Amazon gets $14.22 OR
  • The wholesaler gets $3.74 and the bookstore gets $9.98 when and if the book is sold

Of the $11.00 or so remaining…

  • The printers get $4.72

Of the $6.28 remaining…

  • The publisher gets $4.71 to keep running the company

I get $1.57.

If you really want books to cost less, it’s not the authors or the publishers who have to change.

Dear Body

Dear Body

One Month Ago:

Dear Body,

I’m trying to listen carefully to you, but I’m still not understanding what you need from me. You told me before about needing more restorative sleep and I’m glad we’ve got that sorted out. I know there’s more, though. Please be really, really clear with me about what you need so I can take appropriate action.

Sincerely, Me


Three Weeks Ago:

“It would be worth checking your blood sugar again,” Dresden told me one morning, shortly after I woke up.

“Oh?” I’d been checking it occasionally in the mornings for a fasting number. It had been hanging out in the low 120s for years, my HbA1C test results keeping me in the prediabetes range for over two decades after increasingly severe cases of gestational diabetes with each pregnancy.

I grabbed my test kit and took a reading. 150 mg/dL. That can’t be right. I chose a test strip out of a new container and tried again. 152 mg/dL. Oy.

Maybe it was a fluke, a one-off. Or maybe not. I began testing two hours after every meal and taking a fasting reading every morning for the next several days. My after-meal numbers were largely fine, but my fasting numbers were all over 145 mg/dL.

I made a lab appointment to get my HbA1C checked. It was time, anyway.

Twenty-four hours, a high random blood glucose reading (nearly the same as my own test kit reading), and an A1C of 6.5% later, I made an appointment with my doctor.


Two Weeks Ago:

“You now have type 2 diabetes,” my doctor said. “And celiac disease. And your blood pressure medicine, even at the increased dosage, isn’t working.”

I nodded, knowing all this but not thrilled about hearing it said aloud.

“I’d like to add a second blood pressure medication, as well as add another diabetes medication to your metformin,” she continued.

From her pre-appointment email, I knew we’d be talking about this, so I’d done quite a bit of reading. I knew from my own health history that adding a calcium channel blocker was the best second medication to add for my blood pressure and that a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1) was the best additional diabetes medication.

I told my doctor as much, adding, “All of the other diabetes medications have weight gain as a side effect. I really don’t want to add any more weight.”

“You don’t?” she bantered back.

“I really don’t. In fact, I’d be happy to find someone else to give my extra weight to. Is that possible?”

“I’m afraid not. Losing it is your best option.”

“I’m worried about losing it,” I told her. “If I lose it, someone might find it and try to return it to me. How about I just release it back into the universe to be recycled as some other energy?”

“I like that plan,” my doctor said, finishing writing a prescription. “And this will help.”


One Week Ago:

The new/added blood pressure medicine is taking a bit of adjustment. It makes me very sleepy and dizzy, so I take it at night, but it still leaves me a bit off in the morning. Two very interesting things: my resting pulse is now easily 10+ bpm lower than it was before the added medicine and what had felt (or I had interpreted) as constant low-grade anxiety seems to be gone. Now I’m wondering if I could sense my higher pulse and that felt like anxiety. It’s certainly possible. At any rate, I feel calmer now.

My new diabetes medication is a weekly injection. Among the side effects—or benefits—it slows gastric emptying and decreases appetite. No kidding! I’m now eating one-third to one-half of what I was last week because I feel full sooner and am less hungry throughout the day. Its effect on my blood sugar began working immediately. My fasting blood glucose after the first injection was 95 mg/dL. My fasting blood sugar hasn’t been this healthy in over 22 years.



I’m still getting used to the new medications, but the blood pressure medication’s side effects are slowly easing. I still feel calm more often. I don’t have that feeling like I’m going to jump out of my skin. I’m delighted that my stomach no longer feels hunger as often. My acid reflux has lessened considerably. I can go an entire day with my blood sugar readings never going higher than the 90s. I’ve released five pounds. I’ve had no other side effects.

My way of eating remains a personalized combination of gluten-free, lower-carb, anti-inflammatory, and low caloric density (read: fruits and vegetables especially).

It’s all taking more energy at the moment to pay attention to all of these things and monitor my health, but I’m now aware that my body spoke loudly so that I could take action. These medications may be temporary until I reverse my diabetes and hypertension or they may be long-term. I’m okay with either one.

An overwhelming majority of my first- and second-degree biological family of origin had diabetes, hypertension, and heart and/or kidney disease. Many died from untreated or poorly controlled diabetes, leading to renal and heart failure. I refuse to follow in their footsteps. My genetics may have made insulin resistance, diabetes, and high blood pressure a matter of “when,” not “if,” but I have the power and the resources to manage and potentially even reverse them in a way that my body will accept.

For the record, my body has already rejected several other modalities of healing. Further, I did not know that one person could be allergic to so many essential oils, Chinese herbs, and other supplements. Even with all its faults, Western medicine is working for me right now.


This Afternoon:

Dear Body,

Thank you for speaking to me so clearly. You seem to be much happier now with more medical support. I will continue to listen carefully and will do my utmost best not to make any of my lab or test results mean anything about my worth. I appreciate you housing and guarding me through this lifetime, and I want to take good care of you. You, too, are one of my guides.

With love, Me

Talking with Dresden About Ukraine

Talking with Dresden About Ukraine

A Conversation With Dresden, My Primary Guide

A Conversation With Dresden, My Primary Guide

“Let’s talk a bit about your focus as you move forward with Soul Guides,” Dresden prompted as I prepared to do some editing on the next book.

“O…kay.” I was suddenly concerned. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all. You looked up some of our older conversations about how much of our relationship should go public and I want to make sure your understanding of your growth and healing is clear.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “In April 2006, you said you’d ‘strongly advise against’ my making any public pronouncements about being able to talk with you and Michael and every other guide and messenger who shows up. Then in September 2013, we talked about my motivation for writing a book incorporating our conversations.”

“We did,” Dresden confirmed. “And what was your reason for not writing it?”

“I didn’t want anyone to think I was using your status—not to mention Michael’s—in order to elevate myself.”


“Are you remembering something else?” I asked.

“I’m remembering that you gave that reason initially, but then after we talked, you understood your deeper reason. Which was?”

“Oh. Umm… If I accepted my relationship with you all as true, then I had to accept the things you said about me too. As long as I could hide our relationship, I could hide the things you told and showed me about myself.”

“Precisely,” Dresden said. “And by hiding what you learned about yourself, what were you also hiding?”

“The real me.”

“And what have I been telling you for the past fifteen years or so?”

I looked down at my hands. “To stop hiding.”

“Back in 2006,” Dresden said, “you were not ready to come out and be your full self. You had a lot of healing left to do. In 2013, you began entertaining the idea of writing one or more books involving our relationship, but you had more fear than drive at the time. Since then, you’ve done significant healing and you’ve come out publicly about our relationship in general because you see now how it can help others.”

“I’m still a little worried that people will either think I’m attention-seeking or crazy.”

“They might. That doesn’t make their opinions accurate.”

“No, but they could make life difficult.”

“Could they?” Dresden asked. “Really?”

“Well, they could bad-mouth me all over the internet. Dox me.”

“They could do that,” Dresden said. “But could they alter your relationship with me or Michael or any of your other guides?”

I snorted. “No.”

“What about your relationship with yourself? Could they change that?”

I thought about that, about how secure I am in myself now. “No.”

“Could they alter your relationship with your friends? Your partner and children?”


“Could they take away your home or your livelihood?”

“Not easily, no.”

Dresden came closer. “Then why are you giving them so much power?”

I nodded, understanding. “They’re like the mosquitoes that keep me inside on a beautiful summer evening.”

“Did you know,” Dresden said with humor in his voice, “that your resources—including me and your other guides—make for an extremely effective bug spray?”

I laughed and shook my head. “Okay, I get it. And maybe by sharing this, others who are avoiding mosquitoes can avail themselves of their own effective bug spray.”

“And why do you want them to have that?”

“Because I know what it feels like to be covered in pain. And I don’t want anyone to have to feel that way.”

“For you remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,” Dresden said.

“I mean, not literally,” I said, confused.

“You want to help others because you know what it’s like not to have what you’re offering,” Dresden said. “You know what it’s like to be a stranger, to be a slave to your pain, and you remember that you were brought out of that narrow place, so now you seek to help others.”

“You just made what I’m doing very, very Jewish.”

“It’s not?” Dresden asked, feigning surprise.

“Put that way, I guess it is. I guess I hadn’t framed it that way before.”

“Then you’re welcome.”

“Thanks for being my bug spray too,” I added. “Can I call you DresDEET now?”


“But it flows off the tongue so well.”

“No. Even my metaphors stop before anyone’s name is changed.”

“So,” I shrugged, “I guess I’m going to slap on some bug spray and take us public.”

“Indeed. Go enjoy the beautiful summer evening.”

“Umm… It’s February. In Minnesota. It feels like two below zero.”

I felt Dresden bump my right shoulder. “Did you know that your resources, including your guides, can provide exceptional warmth?”

“Is there anything you can’t provide?”

“I can’t provide relief to your bladder. Go. Now.”

Why I Reject 3D-5D Ascension Theology

Why I Reject 3D-5D Ascension Theology

In 2021, I saw a lot of posts, articles, and other references to what was touted as the “shift” from “3D to 5D” and that it was a kind of ascension. The not-exactly-scientific explanation goes like this: Humanity has been living in a three-dimensional world up to this point (evidenced by fear and anger), and people are “waking up” to the “truth” and are going through or have gone through some sort of spiritual transformation and are now living in five dimensions, where fear and anger have been replaced by love and joy. And it’s their job to wake up everyone else so that all of humanity can ascend to this “5D living” and usher in an age of harmony and love.

Sounds lovely on its face, though I do wonder where the unicorns and rainbows are in all this. And puppies. Can’t forget the puppies.

I thought at first I understood the difference between 3D and 5D. After all, one of my guides taught me back in the early 1980s about the difference between “reality with a lowercase r,” meaning the physical world that we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, and “Reality with an uppercase R,” meaning the world where everything is energy that vibrates at different frequencies.

Yes, one of my guides was teaching me a few of the basics of quantum physics before I even knew what “quantum” was. Or, really, “physics” for that matter. I mean, I was twelve.

So I thought maybe 3D meant reality and 5D meant Reality. I can get behind that.

But that turns out not to be how most people are using it. And how they are using it is a far cry from harmony, love, much less unicorns, rainbows, and puppies.

Before I get into explaining how most people are using these terms and why I reject it (remember, I’m also a suspense writer), I wanted to understand what my guides thought of this whole concept. Maybe I was the one noping out due to my own issues.

One thing many of the 3D-5D Shift folks claim is that this shift is new. It’s going on right now, the kids being born these days are allegedly already living in 5D, and all those who are considered lightworkers (though this term isn’t well-defined) are part of the shift and tasked with “waking up” the rest of the world. It’s not clear if this includes all generations (even Boomers) or if it’s only the special people who have somehow already made this shift to 5D no matter how old or young their chronological age.

As I do with any assertion that doesn’t immediately ring true in my own energy and body, I checked in with my guides. The response I received was this:

“This is no different than it has always been. There have always been those who come to teach and guide. Such intentions, however, do not make them more special than others, for you are all sparks of the divine, whether you are aware of it or not.”

When I asked about this alleged task of waking everyone else up to this new way of being, I received this response:

“Beware of hierarchy. This is the danger for those who refer to themselves as awakened in contrast to those they deem asleep. If such categorizations elevate them above others, then they are not seeing the true divine nature of every soul. Not every soul that incarnates intends to remember the truths about their Home during their incarnation. Some immerse themselves in the physical world and its dualities and extremes for other, equally important experiences. This does not render them in need of the teachings of those who have come to teach.”

This made more sense to me: whatever this shift is, however it might exist, is not new and it’s not for everyone.

But if it’s not new, then how old is it?

Time to go digging. I started with Amazon.

Need a TL;DR summation without all the history and sources? Go here.

The Origins of 3D-5D

The earliest mention of the fifth dimension in book titles/subtitles (not counting novels, math/science textbooks, policy programs, or the musical group by this name) that I could find was Journeys into the Fifth Dimension, published in 1975 by Helena E. Ruhnau, who also authored another book in 1982 titled Light from the Fifth Dimension (The Heaven World). Consistent with this title, other books from the twentieth century also equate 3D to hell and 5D to heaven.

Further, in Light from the Fifth Dimension, Ruhnau identifies herself as “a spiritual messenger for The Great White Brotherhood,” to “bring about the Divine Plan,” and “the warnings and prophesy given by the Christ are being fulfilled” because “we are at the culmination of the Ages.”

Sounds a lot like this 3D to 5D shift. But the book and the terminology are now forty years old. So, not new. And definitely with a Christian lens, so this book is not for the six and half billion non-Christians around the world.

Also, did your eyebrows raise at the mention of “The Great White Brotherhood?” Mine did. I’ll return to this shortly. There’s more cringey stuff in the book’s description, including a reference to recognizing “inferior and psychic spirits.”

While I was wading through books (including out-of-print titles) that referenced this 3D-5D shift or ascension, a few authors of more recent books stood out as having multiple titles on the topic. Of note were Patricia Cota-Robles who in 2005 also wrote about The Violet Flame (I’ll return to this term later too) and Maureen J. St. Germain, who developed what she’s calling MerKaBa in the 1990s and defines it as “a rotating, geometric, crystalline Light-Energy field that extends around the body” and “was used to create this Universe.” Her work also includes what she calls the Christ Consciousness Grid, again implying a Christian lens.

What she doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that the original merkabah/merkavah (מרכבה) is a school of Jewish mysticism—a precursor to Jewish Kabbalah, in fact—and is more than two thousand years old. The Hebrew word merkabah means “chariot,” as in the chariots of Roman times but also the chariot in the prophet Ezekiel’s vision.

Many of these authors who write about this 3D-5D ascension also overtly support or make references to tenets of Theosophy, a religion (as determined by religious scholars) founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) in 1875 and based on her writings, which borrow from numerous other religions (especially Hinduism and Buddhism) as well as Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and the occult. From Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (1980), Bruce F. Campbell writes that Theosophy teaches that there are a core group of “Masters” throughout history whose job it is to guard the world’s ancient spiritual truths and represent “The Great White Brotherhood” (there it is again!) or White Lodge, a secret society that guides and informs humanity’s evolution. They also fight against the “forces of dark” or the Black Lodge or Black Magicians, which seeks to uphold the status quo or keep humanity “in a state of ignorance, bewilderment, and running after false gods.”

Now, those knowledgeable about Theosophy say that “white” refers to divine light and “brotherhood” is all-inclusive, and neither should be confused with race or gender. As I can find nothing to refute that statement, I’m willing to accept it as simply an unfortunate name that would never fly these days. However, that’s not to say that it can’t be used in a racist way by others, no matter how the Theosophists think of it.

The philosopher Jules Evans writes that some did take Blavatsky’s writings about how “the ‘sacred spark’ is missing” in some ethnic groups and developed those ideas into “aggressively racist theories” even though Blavatsky herself was not a white supremacist.

Blavatsky was also co-editor of the magazine Lucifer, which debuted in 1887, and was designed to “bring light to the hidden things of darkness.”

One of the most well-known “masters” identified by Theosophists is Count Saint Germain (1710-1784), credited with the Age of Aquarius and associated with the seventh ray of light, also known as the Violet Flame. (I did say I’d mention this again.) St. Germain (aka Master Rákóczi) is often referred to as an ascended master by Theosophists and believed to be a type of superhuman with the “ability to teleport, levitate, [and] walk through walls.” Numerous Theosophists and other practitioners of esoteric or occult traditions have claimed to have met him (or his spirit), even as recently as 2014.

Guy Ballard (1878-1939) is one of those who claims to have not only met St. Germain but, indeed, to have channeled a series of books dictated by St. Germain. Ballard, along with his wife Edna (1886-1971), founded what they called the “I AM” Movement, later expanded into the Ascended Master Teachings based on that same series of books claimed to be dictated by St. Germain. The Ascended Master Teachings evolved into a religious offshoot of Theosophy and is a precursor of the New Age (spiritual practices that began in the 1970s) movement. The “I AM” Movement considers themselves Christian because one of the most important ascended masters (and another person from whom Ballard claimed to have received dictated messages) is Jesus.

All of these terms—The Great White Brotherhood, the violet flame, St. Germain, I AM, and Ascended Master Teachings—are sprinkled throughout descriptions of this 3D-5D ascension.

But wait, there’s more.


Superhumans and Extraterrestrials

The “I AM” Movement, among others, claims that the ascended masters (but only those they have identified) are more than human—are superhuman or even supernatural—beings, and that through specific meditations, prayers, use of sacred geometry, and summoning the Violet Flame (generated by the I AM Presence) and related closely to the Christian Holy Spirit, an average person can “ascend” or raise their vibrations/energy/body to a higher dimension of existence (5D), similar to the ascension of Jesus. To do so properly and without danger, the I AM Movement stipulates following Ballard’s instructions carefully. Another way of thinking about this is “entering Heaven alive.” (Later, Edna Ballard walked back these statements and said entering the higher dimension was only done after physical death.)

This idea of becoming superhuman or even supernatural while still in human form is a common thread found in numerous spiritual and occult practices and books, including that of chiropractor Dr. Joe Dispenza in his book Becoming Supernatural (2017). Becoming Supernatural also mentions 3D and 5D, although Dispenza references it much the way my guides explained it to me (reality vs. Reality) all those years ago, and the only obvious overlap with the 3D-5D “ascension” is the use of sacred geometry to evoke mystical experiences.

Another strong believer in the idea that humans can become superhuman was Aleister Crowley, born Edward Alexander Crowley (1875-1947), who was a member of the secret society Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which focused on study and practice of the occult. The Golden Dawn and The Great White Brotherhood co-existed, and some people may have been members of both, but the organizations were not related except in content. The “secret chiefs” of the Golden Dawn and the “masters” of Theosophy are arguably similar in nature.

Crowley founded the religion of Thelema in the early 1900s based on numerous esoteric and occult philosophies and practices. He also co-founded the A∴A∴ or Silver Star in 1907, dedicated to the perfection of the human being through magic, mysticism, and spiritual advancement. He also called himself the “Great Beast 666” and his work included psychedelic drugs and extreme sexual practices.

A separate yet related school of thought believes that some of these “ascended masters” or “secret chiefs” were not so much humans who achieved superhuman status but rather hybrids between humans and extraterrestrials and their descendants. A similar idea was the basis for Brad Steiger’s Gods of Aquarius (1976), where he argued that some people weren’t originally human at all but aliens who were born into human bodies, amnesiac to their extraterrestrial origins until they began to “wake up” to their purpose and mission on earth.

Proponents refer to these extra-terrestrials-living-as-humans as starseeds or star people. Those who claim to be such starseeds will state their origins as from the Pleiades, Arcturus, the center of the Earth, or other planets or solar systems. Their awakening to their cosmic origins comes through codes such as repeating numbers (e.g.: 11:11) and synchronicities. Many (though not all) also view society with high skepticism, believing that human governments are engaged in mind control, brainwashing, and attempting to physically degrade the starseeds’ abilities and DNA through Western medicine, specifically medications and vaccinations.

Personally, I think it’s incredibly arrogant to think that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe, so yes, I do believe in life on other planets, in other solar systems, somewhere. Do I think they’ve visited Earth? I don’t know. There’s certainly some still-classified information that makes me wonder.

Do I think there are people who were extraterrestrials born as human? I don’t know. I mean, I’ve had a cluster of darker freckles on my upper left arm my whole life that are in the same position as the visible stars of the Pleiades, but I don’t think that means I’m an alien in that way. I believe all of us came from a place of energy (Source) and incarnated as humans, so in that sense, we’re all aliens.

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), a trance clairvoyant and an American contemporary of Crowley and Ballard, claimed to have made contact with Arcturians, who, he said, were from “the highest civilization in our galaxy.” He believed that Arcturians came to Earth to help humans raise their vibrations to the fifth density (5D living). One of the ways this ascension is allegedly accomplished is by eliminating all negative influences, thus giving birth to the “good vibes only” sentiment.


Conspirituality and Pastel QAnon

There is one more link to this 3D-5D ascension that troubles me deeply. Over time, those “negative influences” that Cayce talked about have come to mean not only emotions like fear and anger (the so-called 3D world), but also all the ways in which such ascension is allegedly thwarted by those in power (“forces of dark” but also “deep state”) through disinformation, mind control and brainwashing by the media, physical alterations through Western medicine, abuse, kidnapping, and even disappearances and murder.

In other words, the beliefs that came out of secret societies like Theosophy also have a shadow side of paranoia and a weakness for adopting conspiracy theories.

This weakness was exploited and subsequently exploded in 2017 by QAnon, a far-right cult that hailed former President Donald Trump as the hero who would expose such “dark forces” operating in positions of power. QAnon often used the term “the storm” to describe the polarization and conflict in society that would usher in “The Great Awakening.”

The Global Network on Extremism & Technology describes QAnon’s “Great Awakening” as “an assortment of a myriad of ideologies, beliefs, political statements, conspiracies, popular culture, and even creative fantasy, blended to produce a comprehensive alternative reality, which outrightly rejects and vilifies the current mainstream socio-political, economic, ideological, and cultural system.”

QAnon also began co-opting language that came from the New Age movement, which itself came from Ballard and before him, Blavatsky, through yoga teachers, wellness/nutrition and fitness coaches, holistic healers, and the spiritual community (as if there is one cohesive community), especially on Instagram. Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate at Concordia University in Canada, collected many of these Instagram posts, some of which have been deleted from their original accounts. He referred to this incursion as “Pastel QAnon.”

These Q followers, using the language often found in mysticism and spirituality, inundated social media with warnings about the threats to believers (“the awakened”) from the mainstream media, government, and the “deep state.” Such warnings often referred to the “red pill,” itself a reference to the movie The Matrix, in which the red pill would free Neo “from the enslaving control of the machine-generated dream world.”

This casting of media and government as evil is easily an echo to Blavatsky’s Black Magicians.

Other terms originally associated with New Age and/or Theosophical beliefs were now being used by QAnon believers often in connection with conspiracy theories (what was dubbed “conspirituality” by sociologists Charlotte Ward and David Voas in 2011) about the so-called deep state, mainstream media (MSM), and big pharma:

  • Company of Heaven
  • Beings of Light
  • New Earth
  • Light Alliance on Earth
  • Global Currency Reset
  • Authoritarian oppression
  • Luciferian
  • Illuminati
  • New World Order
  • Elites
  • Waking up/Awake
  • NESARA/GESARA (National Economic Security and Reformation Act) / Global Economic Security and Reformation Act)
  • Divine Alchemy (moving from carbon-based [3D] to crystalline-based [5D])
  • New paradigm/paradigm shift

Then, when SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, exploded around the world, those same “Pastel QAnon” influencers expanded their repertoire to include anti-mask warnings, allegations that COVID-19 was the work of a secret, evil cabal (often an antisemitic term) in the government to prevent the Great Awakening, and even calls to violence that led to the January 6, 2021 insurrection.


What I found

I could continue—this rabbit hole is deep—but here is what my digging has unearthed:

  • The idea of moving from a 3D (anger/fear) world to a 5D (love/harmony) world is not new and advocates of it have been saying that it’s happening “right now” for well over a hundred years
  • The 3D-5D “ascension” is heavily based in Christianity even if the believers in such do not themselves identify as Christian
  • It creates a hierarchy of the advanced/awakened as endowed with abilities beyond that of those still asleep, who may believe themselves to be on the way to becoming superhuman
  • Some who believe themselves to be awakened and living in 5D may also believe that they are originally from another planet or solar system
  • There is a strong overlap between the 3D-5D shift/ascension and the use of specific meditations, prayers, incantations, magic, and occult practices to achieve that shift/ascension
  • Because of the overlap between Q followers and the spiritual, health, fitness, yoga, nutrition, and healing communities, many spiritual teachers, healers, and coaches are also Trump supporters and believe the Big Lie that Trump only lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud (the courts and the states themselves disagree)
  • This overlap now also means that many spiritual teachers, healers, and coaches believe in conspiracy theories and have thrown in their lot with:
      • Anti-vax
      • Anti-mask
      • White supremacy
      • Antisemitism
      • Anti-LGBTQIA2S+
      • Predicting apocalyptic events (but ascending to 5D will “save” you)
      • Trying to convince others to adopt their beliefs, often by citing YouTube videos and blogs

That is why, when people refer to the 3D-5D shift/ascension, I get nervous. As a Queer Jew who is pro-vaccination, pro-mask, and pro-racial and gender equality, I am well aware that it may not be in my best interest or conducive to my safety to trust these people. It’s not my place to tell them not to believe what they believe, but it is my place to choose with whom I affiliate.

I can hear the arguments from the 3D-5D camp now: “Sheyna, you’re living in your fear. That’s 3D emotion. When you ascend to 5D, you won’t be afraid of us!” Uh-huh. That’s no different from you telling me that I’m going to hell unless I accept Jesus as my lord and savior. This is all just repackaged Christianity. And one thing my guides have been clear on is that religion is a human construct. That would make religion “3D” (and wow, does Christianity deliver on the fear part). You can’t espouse a 100-year-old theology heavily based on Christianity and then tell me it’s not also a human construct.

But even among those who believe in this 3D-5D shift/ascension who do not in any way believe in conspiracy theories or Q-supported disinformation, I still reject it based on its history. It’s a reworked Christian theology masquerading as New Age spirituality. It makes me think of an updated version of the Crusades. Or in the words my friend Nicole shared with me, “It’s recycled rapture bullshit.”

One last thing: there may be a few folks out there who really are using 3D-5D in the way that I originally thought it was, the way that my guides explained the difference between reality and Reality to me. If so, great! I’m on board with that idea. But maybe, given the history and now the blurred commixture with QAnon and conspiracy theories, consider using a different term.


Sources/links (in the order used):
























Self-Expression is a Form of Self-Care

Self-Expression is a Form of Self-Care

Self-expression is a form of self-care. Especially for creatives. Expressing our feelings, our truth of the moment—even if we know it will change minutes or hours or days from now—is also a form of self-care. And the expression of our feelings has often been denied (outside of a therapist’s office) for trauma survivors.

“I can’t share that!” we think. “It will make people feel bad/guilty/angry and they won’t love me anymore.”

That’s really what it comes down to: trauma survivors know from long experience that expressing what we really think and feel will result in pain and rejection.

So we stuff it down. Some of us become experts at stuffing our thoughts and feelings. We become so good at it that we don’t even know we’re doing it…until everything we’ve stuffed explodes and results in body pain, headaches, stomachaches, insomnia, nightmares, asthma, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, depression, overwhelm, isolation, or shutdown.

I’ve had three severe fibromyalgia flares in as many weeks and while I could blame stress and the abrupt weather changes of late, part of it is certainly that I’ve not expressed what I’ve felt for fear of making others upset.

And so today I’m sharing how I feel. Not to elicit apologies in a vague, passive-aggressive manner, but to simply give expression to how I feel. Because it’s a form of self-care. And because in the expression, I can find healing.

How is coaching different from therapy?

How is coaching different from therapy?

While I am a formal mental health counselor and have been trained in various forms of psychotherapy, I am not a licensed therapist and I do not practice therapy.

Here’s how I see the difference:

A therapist helps a person heal their present by addressing what led them to this point (e.g.: trauma, core beliefs, emotional avoidance, etc.). Especially in clinical settings, it requires a “problem/ solution with measurable progress” paradigm. It is the surgery of the psyche, going after the root of the issue.

A coach helps a person change their present by addressing their thoughts, beliefs, and actions in the present moment and moving forward. It can operate as both problem/solution and also support/ celebration/accountability. This is the physical therapy of the psyche.

A healer helps a person change their present by addressing their energetic and physical health in the moment and moving forward. This is the medicine of the psyche.

While there are some overlaps, they largely have their own areas of focus.

When I’m coaching, we honor the past and acknowledge that it has an impact, sometimes profound. But we don’t go digging for it. We don’t go back to the past to try to heal it. That’s for therapy, which I usually recommend be trauma-informed.



I feel like I’m not here.

But my body is.
The pain roaring beneath my skin, slicing through  my organs, curdling in my stomach remind me that my body is here.

My body remembers Octobers past.
My grandfather’s birthday.
My father’s birthday.
My birthday.

Every one a reminder that I was seen at various times as an object, a servant, a plaything, daddy’s good little girl, the subject of grandpa’s “dirty old man” fantasies, a dress-up doll, a mistake, a burden, a problem, a cause of death.

None of these are me.
Growing up, no one saw ME.

Today I feel like I’m not here.
Maybe I don’t see me either.
Not today.

This is what #depression sometimes looks like.

A heavy blanket over the brightness of my soul, threatening to smother it.

And though I know it can’t, I feel my light dim anyway.

Depression crawls into my dark thoughts and whispers, “No one cares. You’ll never be missed. You’re not contributing anything anyone wants. Why bother?”

Depression slows my thinking, my reactions, my body, my energy, until I can’t do anything other than the basic necessities and sometimes not even those.

Sometimes it brings along its cousins, anger and anxiety, to play in the empty spaces previously occupied by confidence and self-esteem.

Depression brings reinforcements while telling me I am alone.

It’s funny. I think the truth is the opposite.

But I can’t feel that right now.

I will again. Depression always leaves.

Until it accepts its defeat, I have no choice but to lay low like a bird in molt.

My old feathers have taken a beating. The new ones will be glorious, at least until they too are battle-scarred and depression peeks around the corner to see if I’m ready to go again.

I don’t want sympathy.
Or pity.

I don’t want hugs.

And all of the “good vibes only” people can take their vibes and put them where the sun doesn’t shine (unless they’re practicing perineum sunning).

I am not strong because I defeat depression, year after year, and especially most Octobers.

I am strong because I am willing to engage with it again and again.

I am strong because I often engage with it publicly.

I am strong because I see the value in even the most “negative” emotions and I am willing to hear what they have to say.

I know I am strong
but I don’t feel like it right now.

I don’t feel like I’m really here.
But my body is.
It remembers.
It hurts.

And it will house and protect my molting self until I’m ready to fly again.

What My Body Was Really Telling Me

What My Body Was Really Telling Me

If you were to really, truly listen to your body, what would it be telling you?

For months now, I was pretty sure my body was telling me to sleep for a week or more. I heard my body say it was tired, really tired, all the time, but I didn’t really LISTEN.

It was while I was brushing my teeth a couple of nights ago that I was bemoaning my body to any guides who were listening. A recent joint dysfunction diagnosis combined with injury in that area and pain that was easily a 10 on the pain scale had me feeling like my body was falling apart or betraying me. And I said as much.

In response, Michael popped in and countered my complaints with this gem: “Your body is a finely tuned instrument. It will tell you what you need to know and when to seek help. Your job is to listen carefully to its messages.”

Well, I thought, that’s not super helpful when I don’t understand the messages I’m receiving. But I decided to try again.

Overwhelmingly, I heard my body say it was tired. Exhausted. Even all of my self–care wasn’t helping.

And then I remembered telling my partner several times that I was waking up more tired than I was when I went to sleep. I sleep with a CPAP and my AHI has been below 2, so I know it’s not apnea (always a concern with waking up more tired).

I’ve also recently been sleeping with my smartwatch on (🚫🍎) at the suggestion of my guides and it tracks my sleep. So I started looking into the statistics.

Lo and behold, I’ve been getting an average of less than 20 minutes of deep sleep each night for the past two weeks. Deep sleep is the restorative sleep when healing happens.

Well, no wonder my body says it’s exhausted.

I’d already increased the amount of magnesium I take at night, recommended by my doctor to help with the joint dysfunction/injury and related inflammation and muscle knots. I was GETTING to sleep well enough, but I often woke with night sweats or pain in my feet or for no obvious reason at all.

I’d chalked all of this up to fibromyalgia or menopause or dehydration or some combination of all three, and other than continuing to try to drink more despite not being thirsty, I figured I’d just have to live with it.

But reading an article in the journal Sleep about the effect of deep sleep deprivation on hormones revealed that in a study published in 2019, sleep deprivation also sent hormones into chaos, including vasopressin, which controls the body’s hydration levels and moderates the feeling of thirst.

Could my struggle to drink enough water be physiological? And could it be caused by sleep issues?

I also know about my body that I LOVE having something heavy over my upper arms and shoulders when I sleep. I’d been using a second blanket over my sheet and regular blanket. But I kept getting an intuitive ping about using my weighted blanket.

So, last night I arranged my regular blanket down at the foot of the bed, spread out my weighted blanket instead, and slept with just that and a sheet. There’s no padding in my weighted blanket; it’s just two layers of cotton with glass beads in between. It’s heavy (20#) but not particularly warm.

I also achieved my hydration goal yesterday for the first time in a long time (many months), drinking 85oz of uncaffeinated, calorie-free liquid (mostly water).

The net effect was that I had to get up three times to use the bathroom, but I got right back to sleep easily. And when I checked my sleep statistics this morning, an astonishing 81% of my sleep was in deep sleep!

I’m still tired today, but my body is more relaxed than it’s been in months, and I can feel in my body that I’m on the right track to better health.

For the first time in six months, I feel hopeful about my physical health. Other than my hip joint issue, all of the other tests to get to the bottom of my symptoms (chief among them being severe fatigue) were normal. My doctors say I’m fine. But my body says it’s so very, very tired. And I finally listened.

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