Notable Books 2
Published: Sunday, 12 September 2010 03:00
Edited by Bib Leo Phyle – Planet Earth
"Most books, like their authors, are born to die; of only a few books can it be said that death hath no dominion over them; they live, and their influence lives forever." – J. Swartz
A Theosophically immortal book is The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, and a new work to extend its dominion is the one John Algeo reviews here:
Mills, Joy. Reflections on an Ageless Wisdom: A Commentary on "The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett." Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2010 (July release). Pp. xx + 543 + index.
The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett is the quintessential foundation document of Theosophical literature. It was preceded by HPB's Isis Unveiled (a preliminary clarion call) and followed by her culminating books The Secret Doctrine, Key to Theosophy, and Voice of the Silence. But The Mahatma Letters is the earliest and most authoritative statement of distinctive Theosophical teaching. All dedicated Theosophists should know this work. Yet attaining such knowledge involves a problem.
The letters of the Mahatmas were personal communications to one individual. Their content includes universal truths as well as particular information highly localized in both time and space. Consequently understanding these letters is a challenge for present-day readers. That challenge is rendered far less daunting by Joy Mills's work. She has spent a lifetime studying and lecturing on the Letters, along with the rest of the Theosophical canon, and in this volume she has produced a vade mecum that every serious Theosophical student should have next to a copy of The Mahatma Letters, whose access it will greatly ease.
Joy's style is like a conversation with her readers, inviting them to recognize the relevance of the past to the present, with an emphasis on the application of the Letters to their own lives. Her text is appreciative (the word "beautiful" echoes throughout the volume) and raises questions prompting readers to consider the mysteries of life as well as the circumstances in which the Mahatmas wrote their letters to Sinnett. The best summary of this volume is in Joy's own words from her conclusion (pp. 537-8):
"The letters are redolent with the atmosphere of another world, a domain of consciousness that calls us onward to deeper and more comprehensive knowing. As we read with growing inner perception, we may become aware of stepping even momentarily 'out of our world into theirs,' glimpsing however dimly a realm of truth and beauty unparalleled in our ordinary existence. For a little while, we seem to walk with them, Masters of wisdom and compassion, Mahatmas, great souls, Brothers, knowers of 'every first truth,' who are ever sending out upon the world blessings of light and love and the benediction of their presence. . . .
"Every rereading of the letters seems to open a little wider the door to their world. The letters speak of timeless truths. They tell of a road not easy to travel, a way of life at times uncomfortable in its demands on time and energy, a commitment of mind and heart to the noblest ideal: the realization of human solidarity, Universal Brotherhood."
This volume is a magnificent culmination to Joy's own lifetime of study and commitment, a crowning achievement to all her service and teaching. This volume can also guide others onto the same path she has walked. The extent to which it succeeds in doing so will depend on the willingness of those of us who read it to follow its lead in pointing out the way to the ultimate realization that inspired both the outer and the inner founders of the Theosophical Society.
Edited by Bib Leo Phyle – Planet Earth
"A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend". Author Unknown
Notable Books are not limited to new ones. Among the editor's favorite somewhat older volumes that are classics of their kind are the following:
Hoeller, Stephan A. Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing. Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2002. Pp. xii + 257. The author is a bishop in the modern Gnostic Church and so writes as both a scholar with deep knowledge of the subject and as an insider with a sympathetic view of a movement that is often misunderstood. He emphasizes that, as the term naming it indicates, Gnosticism is about "knowing," not the outer world around us, but the inner world of our higher selves.
Hoeller, Stephan A. The Fool’s Pilgrimage: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tarot. 2nd ed. with accompanying CD narrated by Stephen Hoeller. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2004. 1st ed. 1975. Pp. xviii + 132. Bishop Hoeller's knowledge, both inner and outer, is wide-ranging. In this volume he deals with two important systems of esoteric symbolism and relates them to each other: the pack of cards known as the Tarot and associated with the Gypsies and the Hebrew Kabbalah, which is Jewish Theosophy using scriptural interpretation to expound an emanative view of the cosmos.
Abdill, Edward. The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2005. Pp. xiii + 241. This volume is, in the editor's view, the best current introduction to Theosophical thought. Theosophists are often puzzled about what book to recommend to inquirers to give them a good overview of the ideas and ideals of the Theosophical movement that will not puzzle them but keep their attention with its clarity and applications. This is that book.