Notable Books 14
- Published: Sunday, 02 December 2012 18:02
All books reviewed by Biblio Phyle
Now, where shall I begin … ?
All books reviewed by Biblio Phyle
Now, where shall I begin … ?
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.
So many books, so little time - Frank Zappa
An Unnotable Book – By Biblio Phyle
Banitt, Susan Pease. The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD from the Inside Out. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2012. Pp. [xx] + 305. $18.95.
This Quest book deals with traumas, of whatever cause, and how to treat and recover from them, using techniques both Western and Eastern. The book deals with all the multiple aspects of a human being, from an Indic perspective, as evidenced by the titles of five central sections of the book: “Annamayakosha: Mending the Physical Body”; “Pranamayakosha: Healing Your Energy Body”; “Manomayakosha: Enlisting Your Thinking Mind”; “Jnanamayakosha: Mining the Wisdom Mind”; and “Anandamayakosha: Ecstasy and the Bliss Body.” Given the book’s focus and approach, it might be regarded as an application of the Theosophical Society’s third object to healing practice.
LEGACIES OF THEOSOPHY – By Biblio Phyle
Literature & Aesthetics: The Journal of the Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics 21.1 (June 2011). Pp. vii +264.
This journal issue prints papers from a University of Sydney, Australia, conference on “The Legacies of Theosophy: Unveiling Mysteries of the Creative Imaginary.” The subjects covered are important and interesting, beginning with “Theosophy and the Dissenting Western Imagination” by Dara Tatray, the National President of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and ranging over such other topics as Eastern religions, HPB’s historical views from Isis Unveiled to The Secret Doctrine, G. I. Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, Rudolf Steiner, Tarot, sound-color, and Thought Forms and abstract art.
Given the value of the topics and the authoritativeness of the coverage, one might wish that the format and style were more widely accessible. But the papers were given at an academic meeting, most of the authors are academics, and the publication itself is an academic journal. So the presentation is relentlessly academic. An academic reader will find it familiar, but non-academics are likely, unfortunately, to find it, as the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines one sense of academic: “unpractical, merely theoretical.” That is a pity because there is real substance in these articles, behind the formality of presentation. A reader who bravely passes through the forest of footnotes will find the subjects fascinating and highly relevant to the place of Theosophy in the modern world. This is a valuable work. Be of stout heart: “Fare forward. O voyagers,” as T. S. Eliot’s “Dry Salvages” urges us to do.
Tillery, Gary. Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, 2011. $15.95.
The Beatles were a phenomenon. Beginning as a Liverpool group, after a brief stint at the Indra Club in Hamburg, they became popular in Britain. But they did not burst upon the world scene until they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. With their floppy long hair, weird costumes, and raucous musical style, they were unlike any other musical group most viewers of that program had ever seen before. The innocent among us might be forgiven for having thought that those odd lads would never make it in show business. But then some of us later also thought that Americans would never elect a second-rate actor as president of the country.
Of the Fab Four, George Harrison was known as “the quiet Beatle.” Having befriended sitarist Ravi Shankar, he became enamored of Indian spiritual culture and an enthusiastic supporter of the Hare Krishna movement. This biography traces Harrison’s development from a working-class background into a devotee of Krishna, who practiced meditation and japa yoga (the chanting of mantras while fingering a string of beads). His life was, however, not conventionally spiritual, by Hindu or other standards. Like all the other Beatles, he first expanded his consciousness by the use of LSD and continued to use psychedelic drugs throughout his life, which was in some ways more characteristic of his social origins than of a conventional mystic.
This biography is well-written and eminently readable. It is also not simply a celebration of celebrity, but a balanced presentation of George Harrison’s life. That life ranged between an obsession with Indic religiosity, expressed often in charitable assistance to others, and the self-indulgence characteristic of pop stars, encompassing drug use and the defiance of social conventions. Beatles fans will doubtless read this book in the light of their own enthusiasm for the Fab Four. Others may find the portrait of Harrison that comes through it less than consistently appealing.
Gulley, Philip. The Evolution of Faith: How God is Creating a Better Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, HarperOne, 2011. Pp. xi + 212. $24.99.
This is an unusual book. The author was reared as a Roman Catholic, but became a Quaker, and indeed is a pastor in that persuasion. The Quakers (or more formally, the Religious Society of Friends) is divided into a number of independent groups ranging theologically across a broad swath, including evangelical, universalist, and even new thought. Gulley clearly belongs to a liberal wing of the movement.
Much of what he writes would seem compatible to a Theosophist, although he seems to have a skeptical turn of mind (not a bad thing in itself) that rejects anything for which there is not direct, demonstrable evidence, whereas many Theosophists accept concepts for their mutual coherence and usefulness in explaining life’s mysteries, even if they cannot be directly supported by scientific data. Among the traditional Christian doctrines that Gulley rejects are original sin, vicarious atonement, Jesus as the unique Son of God, biblical inerrancy, and a good many others, to all of which Theosophists might adopt the style of evangelists by shouting, “Amen, brother, amen!” The point on which he differs from most Theosophists is that he writes, and presumably thinks, about the divine in theistic terms, that is, as a personal God who messes about in the world.
Gulley also recognizes the indisputable fact that Christianity has changed strikingly over the centuries. And, as the title of his book indicates, he believes that Christianity is evolving into an increasingly better religion, presumably that of his own ministry. There is a great gap between fundamentalist preachers and open-minded clerics like Gulley. One can only applaud that gap and hope that its latter end increases in size and influence.
Not so notable, by Richard Hiltner
PLAGIARISM OF G. de PURUCKER’S ESOTERIC TRADITION
G. de Purucker
This is to inform you that the The Esoteric Tradition was renamed Esoteric Sciences by Hans Petermann. Not one word mentions G. de Purucker.
Please examine the book at http://www.amazon.com/Esoteric-Sciences-v-1/
You will find that it is almost verbatim. Unfortunately, the original Copyright of 1935 has expired and this allowed virtually the entire two volumes be taken and sold by Hans Petermann. Please write your review on this. G. de P. and Truth should be defended especially when it is so obviously wrong.
One can still buy the original two volumes; however, the Theosophical University Publishing has condensed the originals so that after these are sold only the condensed would be available.
The good news is that Herman Vermeulen and others in The Hague – The Netherlands have allowed free downloading of the original two volumes at this address: http://blavatskyhouse.org/ so that they will always be available.
Edited by Bib Leo Phyle - Planet Earth
Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together. By the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). New York: Doubleday Religion, Random House, c. 2010.
This work is of considerable relevance to Theosophists, at whose American Section’s annual 2011 summer meeting in Wheaton, the Dalai Lama spoke as well as gave a public lecture in Chicago.