Now, I have to admit, I was very hesitant when I first picked this up, I've been "burned" so many times on books on Peruvian Shamanism (even by authors with whom I'm acquainted), finding woo-woo and wishful thinking in place of actual information and background. Admittedly, I'm a harsh critic, having studied "Incan" shamanic traditions for well over a decade back in the 80's and 90's, and having worked in Peru with Quechuan teachers, and in the US with visiting Q'ero (and "carrying lineages" from both traditions, along with a "mesa"). Needless to say, I was delighted to find the tone and approach of this book being very level-headed, yet "informed".
Frankly, I'm surprised that I hadn't encountered this book in its previous manifestation, having been published by Element as Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge in 1999, preceding this Inner Traditions "revised edition" paperback by five years.
It appears from the into section that Ms. Wilcox initially went to Peru on one of Alberto Villoldo's trips (as I had, perhaps a decade previously), due to a passing mention of him, and some "familiar" patterns of places/activities. She evidently became more connected with Peruvian teachers such as Américo Yábar and Juan Nuñez del Prado, and forged her own path through them towards interacting with the Q'ero.
The book is divided into four fairly logical sections ... The Kawsay Pacha: The World of Living Energy, where she discusses the over-all world-view of the Q'ero ... Walking the Sacred Path: Interviews with the Q'ero, which allows her to get into more detail of the Q'ero, without necessarily having to explain things ... Our Heart's Fire: The Mesa and Healing, this discusses more of the "systems" involved in the Q'ero's practices, and the nature of their training ... and The Flight of the Condor: Putting Andean Practices to Work in Your Life in which she presents several very useful exercises and lets in a little bit of the "mystical" aspect of the Q'ero teachings.
As I've noted, this is all very well done, but there are some things that could have been improved. First of all, there is a wonderful 9-page "Glossary of Andean Mystical Terms" in the back of the book which helps to define (and pronounce: would you have guessed that Kawsay was said COW-sigh?) various Quechuan/Q'ero words used in the book, but this is not comprehensive, there are many instances where a word is introduced in the text (and even italicized to hint that it's defined) but never adequately addressed. Her editors should be rapped across the knuckles with a wooden ruler for not adding those to the Glossary, and insisting that Ms. Wilcox come up with at least an approximate pronunciation and basic definition! The other irritating thing here is that she spends a not insignificant amount of verbiage explaining how the interviews with the Q'ero were limited in time and they didn't get to stuff she wanted to ask, etc. Now, I, obviously, don't have a clue about how "connected" she is to the various westernized teachers/shamen she works with, but it seems to me that if she had to limit the actual interview process, she could have made up for it with an on-going mail exchange with the likes of Americo, Juan, or Fredy "Puma" Quispe Singona (who even came to stay with her in the States), folks who have in-depth personal ties to the Q'ero who should have been able to fill in some of the gaps.
These quibbles aside, Masters of the Living Energy is a really excellent book, and one I'm happy that I actually paid (Amazon's discounted) retail for! In fact, if you're going to get this, that's likely your best bet, as the used vendors only have it for a buck or so off of Amazon's price, so double it up with another book and you'll be ahead with the free shipping.
Again, if you have any interest in the "Mystical Q'ero" (who had been thought of only as "legends" before their re-appearance in the late-50's!), this is probably the most legitimate over-view that's out there ... highly recommended!
This review is excerpted from Brendan Tripp's BTRIPP BOOKS - 2009