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on June 10, 2016
I am only 40 pages into this book. Doris writes almost in the old way, not that easy to follow, but I did because it was worth it. There is a great deal of emotion from the narrator at times which brings a humanity realness into scope. I love syfy but this is quite extraordinary. Doris wrote this in the winter of her life. She passed on now, but her forte was fiction and this was a stretch from her usual style. I cannot help but think she was commandered somehow to write about the netherworld of this Universe and its colonies to prepare our mind construct. It was exceptionally real to me the way she wrote a story perhaps the way we all may imagine it to be in the beginning with Giants and early man and woman. That is how far I have gotten and now I am really into it.
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on November 18, 2012
The Nobel Prize winning author Doris Lessing wrote a series of novels that are illuminating insights based on the idea that we here on planet Earth are but one of hundreds of planetary colonies. By the 1970s Lessing was influenced by Sufism and these sci-fi novels reflect her considerable and highly intelligent spiritual wisdom. Lessing's 'Canopus in Argos' series are captivating tales that can open our modern minds to a profound understanding of the deeper meaning of life.

Doris Lessing's first novel in the Canopus in Argo series, 'Re: Colonized Planet 5 - Shikasta' offers her readers crucial insights into our existence here on planet Earth, which is but one of hundreds of the planetary colonies guided by Canopus. Johor is the emissary who writes his reports back to Canopus to be used as instruction for first-year students of Canopean Colonial Rule.

Johor: "I have known more than once what it is to accept the failure, final and irreversible, of an effort or experiment to do with creatures who have within themselves the potential of development dreamed of, planned for ... and then -- Finis! The end!"

We understand that mistakes are made, that there is a certain element of randomness in the universe, which brings about sudden and very destructive catastrophes, or perhaps a blast of radiation from an unknown unexpected source. This is a polarity universe - there are many others - and in such a polarity based structural environment there must be negative forces that of necessity interplay with the positive in order to generate movement and the evolution of forms.

Johor: "This is a catastrophic universe, always; and subject to sudden reversal, upheavals, changes, cataclysms, with joy never anything but the song of substance under pressure forced into new forms and shapes." Hinduism's concept of God's Play as the Divine Lila is surely described by "with joy never anything but the song of substance under pressure forced into new forms and shapes." Lessing is our Muse, Sibyl, and Prophetess. She is not only giving glimpses into our future, she is revealing the very nature of the temporal illusory holographic universe.

Johor: "I am a small member of the Workforce, and as such do as I must. That is not to say I do not have the right, as we all have, to say, Enough! Invisible, unwritten rules forbid. What these rules amount to, I would say, is Love."

Even the best of emissaries become worn down by the tasks they face, but what keeps them from giving up, is simply Love. For Love is what holds the universe together. Love is the one force, the substance that generates all Life in this universe. Love is the essence, the creative and all pervasive permeating power of the Oneness, manifested and unmanifested. Love is what lies beneath the "curtain of each atom" as the Sufi poet Mahmud Shabistari says.

The planet Shikasta is our planet Earth, and Lessing ever so accurately and brilliantly weaves our plight into her fictional tale. This is a polarity universe and thus there are dark tyrannical forces that find ways to infest even the most flourishing of planetary colonies. Shammat is the darkside rogue outpost that was rumoured to have been "colonised by criminals fleeing" yet another empire. Shammat can "succeed only where there is disequilibrium, harm, dismay." Shammat had placed a transmitter that changed the `air' [vibrational frequencies of consciousness] of Shikasta. These transmissions were working only because of "an unexpected malalignment among the stars that sustained Canopus" [the overseeing empire, benevolent and highly evolved].

Lessing reveals the essence of the sphinx-like mysteries of our world and how Life in this universe is perceived on multiple levels and layers of consciousness: "We are all creatures of the stars and their forces, they make us, we make them, we are part of a dance from which we by no means and not ever may consider ourselves separate."

Lessing's profound genius conveys the barriers in consciousness between the emissaries and the evolving colonists. The emissary Johor is attempting to explain to the [benevolent] 'Giants' who have served as an intermediary caretaker race to assist in the evolution of Shikasta's civilization and the human race living and evolving there. But even as Johor speaks, the terrible mind-numbing effects of Shammat's sinister and malevolent transmitter are taking over their consciousness.

Johor: "I saw then that it had begun. The Giants were affected, too ... and I [Johor the emissary] understood that in fact I had been changed without knowing it. I could see that soon I would be the only individual on Shikasta with the power of judgement, of reasoned action."

Johor endeavours to explain to the Giants what will happen and that the ships from Canopus are coming to take them off the planet. "And yet the Giants did not know their state ... there had been a real and drastic change. ... more restlessness, and moments too, when it seemed as if everyone there had lost themselves: their eyes would glaze and wander, and they spoke at random."

Shammat is feeding off Shikasta. These are now familiar ideas that we have heard and read over the last 30 years. Lessing foresaw and wrote it all out brilliantly in 1978.

Johor: "... the more the Natives [the human race apart from and under the benevolent guidance of the Giants who are about to leave the planet] degenerate, the more they will weaken and lose substance [rather like a connecting force, shakti or chi], the better that will be for Shammat ... Shammat cannot feed on the high, the pure, the fine. It is poison to them." This is a primary Law of Magnetism in spiritual practice and occultism. Like attracts like. If our consciousness is pure, the dark forces cannot attach to us. As long as we are in anger, fear and even apprehension of impending catastrophes, these demonic forces can weaken us, interfere with our intentions, and literally eat our energies.

Johor: "The level of the Lock [which connects Canopus to Shikasta and sends strength and harmony to Shikasta via the planet's Ley lines] in the past has been far above the grasp of Shammat. They are lying in wait, for the precise moment when their nature, the Shammat nature can fasten its nasty force onto the substance of the Lock! They are already withdrawing strength, they are feeding themselves ..."

Perhaps Lessing is only speaking metaphorically, which would be powerful enough. Or perhaps the lady Lessing too had visions. I cannot speak for her, I can only point out the amazing accuracy of her writings and especially in regard to the sheer number who came to experience and finally understand what Lessing said over 30 years ago!

Johor explains that within the Canopus empire the very essence of The Degenerative Disease is to "identify ourselves as individuals" and that "every one of us in the Canopean Empire is taught to value ourselves only insofar as we are in harmony with the plan, the phases of our evolution."

I realize that this kind of language gets into political machinations that can easily be misconstrued, and used to manipulate and control. But I believe what Lessing is talking about here is not some off-world form of communism. She abandoned that sort of tyrannical control-based propaganda many years ago. Doris Lessing is a Sufi, a mystic at heart. What she is evoking here is the Oneness, our inherent inter-connectedness, the fact that beneath all our differences in form, we are One.

Perhaps one who does truly understand is the great writer, Noble Prize winner, and Sufi, Doris Lessing. Was Lessing privy to some secret knowledge in her London days with Idries Shah, her good friend and teacher for 30 years? Did Shah's "reintroduction of an ancient teaching" impart an understanding of the cosmic plan that became her five Canopus in Argos novels? I doubt the lady Lessing, who is both Sphinx and Seer, will ever tell!
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on June 21, 2011
The Canopus in Argos series by Doris Lessing are often cataloged under "sci fi" or "fantasy." They are a little of both, I guess, but Lessing's is the conceit of a major novelist. These five books transcend any easy cataloging. In the Canopus series, she writes from third person accounts of observers of earth's whole history, observers who have an interest in influencing earth-life to attain a healthy balance with earth's environment at the same time that earth's creatures struggle to evolve toward a consciousness that has a very long view of what is important and necessary rather than the short view that is so very common among humans. That sounds pretty hippy-dippy, which the books are not. Trust me, like any first-rate author, Lessing has a wide view, a big vision that is both light and dark, and she writes excellently.

Lessing's themes here are only more vital today at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, about 40 years after the books were written.

I found this fifth book in the series, _Planet No. 5_, the most amusing of the five. All of Lessing's strengths are displayed here ... she has such a strong voice!

Each of the five books in the series stands as a complete novel, as this one does, but to grasp fully all the nuance that exists in each of the books, I think it would help to know her full, large vision of this huge novel, broken into five books. And, since this is the fifth of five ...

My recommendation: Read _Shikasta_ first. I suspect you might then, as I did, immediately go on to _The Marriages Between Zones 3, 4 and 5_, and then on to the last three volumes. But, I know, it's a large commitment of time. I found it time well spent, in the hands of one of the best authors of the 20th century.
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on May 16, 2018
Lessing never lets me down, and I have become a fan. A friend introduced me to her work through an excellent short story of hers, and I've never looked back--I'm on schedule to read all her novels.
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on August 4, 2017
Not Lessing's best, but the best speculative fiction I've ever read. I reread it about every 10 years and find new parallels in our current situation every time.
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on April 27, 2017
This is, simply, a masterpiece. Each time I read this book it feels as if I am reading a factual history of the earth.
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on June 19, 2015
this is a complex sociological study of society and history under the guise of a report by an agent of an altruistic galactic empire who is stationed on an earth type planet.part of a five part series it is perhaps closest in nature to issac assimov's foundation trilogy.
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on December 12, 2014
The first in a five book series, yet it can also stand alone. Deeply spiritual, and of the mystic tradition, this book gives the reader a way of thinking about order, and chaos, which is invaluable. Doris Lessing is a great writer, and tells a compelling story. Shikasta will haunt you forever....
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on August 30, 2017
I originally read these in the 1960s. They are especially relevant now.
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on August 23, 2015
How little we know or can imagine what may happen to this planet, or any other, as it has been happening for ages! And the reason for all this: providing experiences developing our consciousness, us the uppermost layer of the planet, or perhaps of this particular solar system.

Remember that Lady Doris was a student and friend of the eminent sage Idries Shah. Thus the extraordinary quality of this whole series Canopus in Argos: Archives of which this volume is a part. Read the whole corpus, I suggest. You will get a wider perspective of what kind of ants, nay bacteria, we are compared to the whole Cosmos. And again, the Purpose of all this: both kind of similar to some parts of some religions and also going so much beyond the popular simplifications, beyond what the author calls Degenerative Disease.

And still it is an easy read, not the dryness of the Western philosophy. Of course if you are capable of transcending the mass media or social media daily nonsense. For people who aspire to thinking as opposed to mechanicality which we mistake for thinking. Be prepared to allow that it is less fictional than you may think.
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