Notable Books

Notable Books 40

Something New 

A Woman's Work (with Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, J. Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma, and Paksubuh): The Spiritual Life Journey of Ethel Merston, Mary Ellen Korman, Arete Communications, Publishers, Fairfax, CA, 2009, 309 pages, $24.95.

Notable Books 40 b A Womans Work

I love books that quite often work on the fringe of Theosophy. This is how I see a new angle to an idea, a concept, or simply a topic that I didn't understand. This book has a heavy slant toward G. I. Gurdjieff, but just looking at the ‘complete’ title you can see that it covers the 'whole waterfront' to use a cliché. 

Obviously, Krishnamurti was the draw for me; however, many Theosophists are also quite familiar with Gurdjieff. I first ran across Anandamay Ma in Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi 

Here is an interesting (historical) YouTube clip where both of them meet:

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Notable Books 39

Something New

Mystical Journey: An Autobiography, William Johnston, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, Pages 230, $24.00

“Zen and Christianity are the future.”

Thomas Merton, speaking to his editor the day before his accidental death
Currently, I'm reading The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling which was written by an unknown mystic of the 14th century. This is not my first attempt, and I still find it a challenge. The best translation and edited version that I have worked with is by William Johnston. You will note that is the same author as the book under review: Mystical Journey. Because of my high regard for Johnston and his Theosophical overtones I decided to review this last book he wrote before he died. But first, let me provide the details how he and the Society became intertwined.

When I first became active in the Society (American section), I worked closely with Dora Kunz who was president from 1975 to 1987. She and I were co-editors of the Theosophical Research Journal, I chaired the Theosophical Research Institute (TRI), and served on the Educational Committee where Dr. Renee Weber was chairperson. The 'new age' era of the 60s had passed and the invasions of the gurus was in full swing. Many of us on the committees worked very hard to stay current with the trends that came and went. One of the authors that we found reliable was our author William Johnston. He was a Jesuit Priest, wrote his PhD on The Cloud of Unknowning, and spent off and on 5 decades in Japan. One book that was of particular interest to me was his The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism. At that time, anything with the word Mysticism in it was guaranteed to draw a crowd.

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Notable Books 38

Something New

Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison, Gary Tillery, Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2011, Pages 201, $15.95

Notable Books 38 b

I'm sure that many people did not know that Quest had published a book on a member of the Beatles! Since this is the 50th anniversary of the White Album, it only seemed appropriate to review this book. Also, some of you will be surprised (as I was) that our editor-in-chief of Theosophy Forward, Jan Nicolaas Kind, spent some years in the music industry and in that capacity also worked with the 5th Beatle, Billy Preston during a period Billy spent in Europe. He was the keyboard man on their later albums, and a close friend of George! He is mentioned five times in the book. Check Billy out on Wikipedia and be amazed. Since Billy was a close friend of George, Jan passed along a link that also fits nicely with the book under review. George Harrison:

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Notable Books 37

Something New

Evolution of the Higher Consciousness: An In-depth Study into H. P. Blavatsky's Teachings, Pablo Sender, Fohat Productions, P.O. Box 1043, Ojai, CA 93024, 201 pages, $24.95

This is the book that Theosophist have been asking for. A book that brings the teachings of HPB into the present and with great clarity. In fact, if I needed to give a ‘one word’ review of this book it would be CLARITY. It has obviously been classroom tested because of the organization, anticipation of questions, and use of words. I thought the Preface was exceptional. It sets the stage for the double evolution of BOTH spirit and matter.

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Notable Books 36

The Bhagavad Gita: A Guide to Navigating the Battle of Life (A New Translation and Commentary), Ravi Ravindra, Shambhala, Boulder, 2017, Pages xi + 302, $19.95

Notable Books 36 b

I have nothing but very high praise for Dr. Ravi Ravindra’s newest book. I have reviewed Ravi’s book in Notable books before and always found them very readable, inspirational, and a worthy addition to anybody’s bookshelf. This new translation and commentary may be his best. I will leave it up to the scholars as to how well his translation is handled. However, I can safely say that this book is one of the best commentaries that I have read.

I have at least ten various copies of The Gita on my book shelf. Two of them are without commentary, but the other eight offer all levels of interpretation and clarifications. I have learned that essentially all authors have a motive and/or an agenda when they are writing their commentary. I sense that Ravi’s motive was to be as clear in his presentation as he could be. Perhaps his agenda was to reach far and wide to make this so. I see Sri Aurobindo, Gurdjieff (via Madame de Salzmann), Krishnamurti, Cloud of Unknowing, Jesus, numerous Biblical references, Albert Einstein plus others to support his narrative. I also felt that Ravi’s background in science gave his commentaries a feeling of gravitas. This material must have been ‘classroom tested’ as it came across so smoothly.

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Notable Books 35

Something New

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga: 8 Weeks to Strength, Awareness, and Flexibility, Marlynn Wei, 2017, Paperback $13.59

This is not the first time I’ve recommended a book on yoga. Theosophy Forward has also published articles telling us the benefits that all Theosophists will find of interest. For example, here’s a recent link on the benefits of yoga and meditation. Click HERE

Let me remind you that yoga classes at Olcott, the Headquarters of the TS in America, are taught by the lovely Juliana Cesano, who is also the manager of the Quest Bookstore. I have found that the yoga classes I attend are good places to mention Theosophy as an area that reinforces the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I thought I was done writing on this theme for a while, but then along came this remarkable book which is so good, that I need to review it before I can move on to other subjects.

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