Notable Books 13

All books reviewed by Biblio Phyle

So many books to read…where to start?

Frager, Robert. Sufi Talks: Teachings of an American Sufi Sheikh. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2012. Pp. [xviii] + 293. $19.95.

Sufism is often regarded as the esoteric doctrine of Islam. This book is an overview of Sufism by a transpersonal psychologist who was ordained as a Sufi sheikh (or leader of a Muslim religious community). It is well-written, clear and informative. Especially notable are chapter 2, “Transforming Our Egos” (which is Theosophically relevant), chapter 14, “The Lessons of Ramadan” (which shows the moral relevance of the Islamic fasting period), and the appended “Glossary” (which provides useful definitions of Islamic and Sufi terms). Out of synch with Theosophy, however, is the pervasive Islamic and Sufi view of the divine as a personal deity with whom humans can come into a relationship. All of the Abrahamic religions are exoterically theistic, but Judaism and Christianity have esoteric sides that are not. One might expect that of Islamic Sufism also, but not as it is presented in this work.

Mabry, John R. Growing into God: A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Mysticism. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2012. Pp. [xv] + 287. $17.95.

If mysticism is, as Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary defines it, “the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality,” and Christian is what relates to the teachings of Jesus Christ, then Theosophical writers have expounded Christian mysticism abundantly. But one would not know that from this book, whose index has no entries for Theosophy, Besant, Blavatsky, Leadbeater, etc. The book is traditionally Christian in personifying the divine, whereas Theosophy maintains that personhood is a limitation and therefore improper even as a metaphor for the ultimate reality. This book, in the zinger of a teacher of mine, “fills a much needed void.”

Sipe, Joma. Soul of Light: Works of Illumination. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2012. Pp. 126. $26.95.

This is an unusual book. It is a collection of paintings (so called by the author-artist), but the illustrations, which are the heart of the volume, are not what most people might think of as paintings. They are mainly geometric designs on black paper, drawn with gold and silver ink and adorned with small crystals, and the result being often further enhanced by “illumination,” which adds color and vibrancy via the computer to produce what the author describes as an “ethereal quality.” The illustrations are accompanied by texts, which are poems, quotations, commentary, or the like.

The author-artist’s accompanying text speaks of the strong mystical and Theosophical influences (especially from H. P. Blavatsky) that led him to this form of expression. The categories of illustrations include Chakras, the Antahkarana, Mandalas, A Course in Miracles, the Tree of Life, and others. The volume has a foreword by Thomas Ockerse, one of our most prominent Theosophical artists.

In a sense, this is a coffee-table book, but a quite remarkable one and one of the most notable your reviewer has seen in many a year.

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