Notable Books

Notable Books 27

Something New

Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development, Essays compiled by Kurt Leland, Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2013, Pages xii + 411. 

Simply stated: This is a terrific book! How I wish this well-organized book had been available when I first began reading the works of Annie Besant. Starting over forty years ago I read Besant somewhat arbitrarily without any plan. Frequently, I felt her books and articles were, to some extent, random. Kurt Leland has taken the randomness out of the picture and arranged selected talks such that the power and coherency of thoughts are front and center.   

The subtitle of this book is: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development.  Besant already thought she had accomplished this goal for herself and wanted to share this with others. Leland stresses, “…the goal of occult training, as taught by Besant, was to develop the bodies as vehicles of consciousness so that student could rise to the spiritual plane, where they might be further educated by the Masters.”

This anthology is very well arranged, and a lot of thinking from Leland has gone into its organization. Part 1 begins with “Occultism: Light and Dark”, Part 2 is “Higher Life Training”, Part 3 “Investigation Different Worlds”, and Part 4 “Science of the Superphysical”. If you read the Introduction, you will realize the careful effort Leland has put into choosing the articles, pamphlets, and other sources for his selection. Above all, we hear the call for the spiritual life to be developed first.  

For me, I found his ‘Notes’, beginning on p. 273 and going to p. 368 to be an extremely valuable contribution - above and beyond the book itself. I notice I have marked this section much more than the rest of the other pages. Well done Kurt Leland.  

The author has a web site that very educational and useful. You will discover his depth of study involving Annie Besant.


Something Old

The Dream That Never Dies: Boris de Zirkoff Speaks Out On Theosophy, Boris de Zirkoff (author), Compiled and Edited by w. Emmett Small, Point Loma Publications, Inc., San Diego, CA, 1983, Pages xii + 232. 

Many Theosophists associate Boris de Zirkoff with Blavatsky’s Collected Writings. I never knew Boris de Zirkoff; at least in this life. He died in 1981 and, then, I had been a member Theosophical Society for just over 5 years. His name came up frequently, and many always noted he was a grand-nephew of H.P.B. It was because of him that I read and studied the works of Gottfried de Purucker.  However, to read the many articles that Zirkoff wrote, I had to go hunting at the Olcott library at the Theosophical Society in American in Wheaton, IL. They were all there, but you need time to do the literature search.

This changed when I began developing some material to give T.S. talks on a famous scientist, Sir William Crookes, who also happened to be a member of the T.S. I knew the scientific side of Crookes, being a scientist in my own right. But relating Theosophy and Science and developing a talk was a little more of a challenge. I recalled that Boris de Zirkoff had written a short comment or two about this relationship, so I thought it was worth a try to check the archives at the Olcott library and see if additional information could be found. What I found was a treasure trove of information; including an ‘UNPUBLISHED’ article discussing a similar topic that I was researching. Much of it was in draft form, but obviously, Boris was struck with the same interest as I had. I knew at that moment that I was on the right track and spent the rest of the day in the upstairs archives room reading everything there was in his folder.

I was thrilled when this book under review was published. I have dipped into it on many occasions and always walked away with some new insight. Of course, some items are dated, but the understanding this man offers makes this book one that must find a space on your bookshelf.   


Note from the editor:    

The category Notable Books on Theosophy Forward is compiled by John Algeo and Ralph Hannon

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