Book Reviews 1995

The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge, by K. Paul Johnson; State University of New York Press, Albany, 1994; paper, xxii+288 pages.

Fortunately the word myth has come to have a dual meaning, one of which has restored the concept to its rightful place among philosophical ideas, while the other meaning confines it to the popular tradition of "tall stories" or fanciful imaginings. As James Cowan, a contemporary interpreter of the Aboriginal legends of Australia, has put the matter, "Myth is the supreme metaphysical language." Or, as Jocelyn Godwin states in his excellent foreword to the book under review, myth "embodies lost knowledge and higher truths than mere stories."

These statements help us identify the meaning of myth as K. Paul Johnson uses the term in the subtitle of his latest effort to identify the teachers of H. P. Blavatsky; the correspondents of A. P. Sinnett, A. O. Hume, and several other early Theosophists; as well as those spiritually developed individuals referred to in theosophical literature as mahatmas, adepts, or masters. Let us acknowledge at the outset that Johnson is a tireless and careful researcher, that he has opened up, to quote Godwin again, "an entirely new dimension… to the history of Western esotericism at its most complex moment:' and that he has presented to the reader willing to set aside personal bias and prejudgment on the central question of Blavatsky's "teachers" a reasoned and well-documented case for identifying their personae.

Having said that, however, we need to examine the work more closely in order to understand both Johnson's aim and the criteria he used for achieving his purpose. He has not sought to deny the fact that spiritually wise men and women exist, individuals who may be called masters or mahatmas. As Johnson says in his introduction: "To call the occultist view of the Masters a myth is not to deny its value or validity." Rather he proposes that "the Masters were real people whose portrayal has been inflated by myth."

Johnson states unequivocally that he has defined the term "master" on the basis of" objective, measurable factors" and that "because their 'spiritual status' and psychic powers are inaccessible to historical research, these alleged criteria ... arc treated with agnosticism." Fair enough, since the individuals whose biographies he presents were "authorities in one or more spiritual traditions." The question still remains: does being such an authority constitute one a "master”? Perhaps it is that question which haunts the reader throughout this work.

The book itself, following the foreword by Godwin and a very useful introduction by Johnson, is divided into three parts, each consisting of a number of short chapters. Part one, titled "Adepts," consists of biographical sketches of some eighteen individuals, for the most part Westerners by birth, all of whom touched HPB's life in one way or another. Why the term "adept" is used for so widely divergent a group of individuals is not made clear. But here they are, a strange assemblage beginning with Prince Pavel Dolgorukii, HPB’s maternal great-grandfather, whose library, "containing hundreds of books on alchemy, magic and other occult sciences," Johnson proposes "were the most important influence on HPB's conception of the Masters."

Others on Johnson' s list are Albert Rawson. Paolos Metamon, Agardi Metrovitch, Giuseppe Mazzini , Sayyid Jamal ad-Din, Lydia Pashkov, Ooton Liatto, Sir Richard Burton, Dr. James Peebles (questionably entitled to the "Mahatmic status" Johnson suggests for him,) Charles Sotheran (among the original founders of the Theosophical Society,) and Mikhail Katkov ("the dominant figure in Russian journalism when he published HPB's Caves and Jungles of Hindustan in the Moscow Chronicle.”)

Was Rawson indeed the inspirer of HPB' s "confession," in which she wrote, " I loved one man deeply, but still more I loved occult science"? Was Paolos Metamon HPB's "first occult teacher in Egypt" so making him "the most likely original for the Master Serapis"? Was Metrovitch, whose relationship with HPB "is one of the great unsolved mysteries of Theosophical history," H. S. Olcott’s "first initiate teacher"? To what extent did Mazzini's views contribute to HPB’s "vision of the Theosophical movement’s mission?” Was Liatto really the "elusive" master HPB called "Hilarion"? Politics, Masonry, secret societies, Sufism: all figure prominently as interweaving elements in the lives of these "adepts."

Part two of the book is devoted to the biographies of some fourteen additional people whose lives touched Blavatsky's. Johnson calls this section "Mahatmas," although without explanation as to what differentiates them from the "adepts" of the previous section. This group, beginning with the strange story of Swami Dayananda Sarasvati and his Arya Sarna, with which the fledgling Theosophical Society was briefly associated, is composed of Indians, a Sinhalese high priest of Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhist lamas.

Perhaps most relevant for theosophical students are the biographical sketches of Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir, whom Johnson proposes as the most likely candidate for the role of "Master Morya"; Sirdar Thakar Singh Sandhanwalla, founder of the Singh Sabha and Johnson's choice for the "Master Koot Hoomi"; Baba Khem Singh Bedi, the hereditary Sikh guru who qualifies as "The Chohan"; and Sirdar Dayal Singh Majithia, a Punjabi Sikh philanthropist who appears as "Master Dju al Kul." With the addition of these individuals to Johnson's list of "adepts," the story becomes complicated indeed, culminating in pan three, which he has titled "Secret Messages."

Johnson's final chapter ('''The Occult Imprisonment") quite rightly refers to the "fragmentary and labyrinthine nature of the evidence." He is clearly an avid historian, out neither to deny the validity of the concept of mahatmas nor to cast doubt on the spiritual motivation and occult prowess of H. P. Blavatsky. His effort has been to prove what the masters themselves repeatedly said in their letters: they are "men not gods." They are "adepts only when acting as such," as they wrote to A. P. Sinnett.

As for HPB, who brought the idea of mahatmas to the Western world, Johnson is generous in praise: "There is no reason to doubt," he writes in the final chapter, "that from first to last she saw the TS primarily as an agent of spiritual values, and allied herself with whatever political and social forces seemed useful to that purpose at the time."

Some Theosophists may not be happy with Johnson' s conclusion that "HPB's adept sponsors were a succession of human mentors rather than a cosmic hierarchy of supermen." But sincere students cannot help but agree with him and with his further statement: "In one sense, these hidden sponsors were indeed her masters. But in another sense, she may have been greater than any of them. While her portrayal of the masters was often historically inaccurate, the spiritual treasures she gathered and transmitted entitle her to recognition as a Great Soul in her own right."

At the end, many questions remain. Did all this varied assemblage of people from East and West really influence HPB' s thought and particularly her concept of adeptship or mahatmahood? In quite another context, James Santucci, in the October 1994 issue of the journal Theosophical History, quotes the Baha'i historian Robert Stockman on the question of historical influences on an individual or a movement. Stockman, responding to another of Johnson's historical researches, states: "Proving the existence of influence of one person or movement on another is a complicated scholarly task unless the influenced part acknowledges it. It is not adequate simply to show that one person met someone else or encountered another movement to prove an influence." As Santucci rightly points out, Stockman's statement "strikes at the heart of historical methodology," adding further, "This cautionary statement is especially true in theosophical and esoteric studies."

And there is the further question: is this all there is to adeptship or being a mahatma? However skeptical or agnostic one may be, is it possible to establish purely "objective" criteria for judging spiritual wisdom, occult know ledge, and esoteric authority? What weight should be given to HPB's own definition of a mahatma (Collected Writings 6: 239-41,"Mahatmas and Chelas"): "A Mahatma is a personage who, by special training and education, has evolved those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge, which ordinary humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of reincarnations during the process of cosmic evolution.... The real Mahatma is then not his physical body but that higher Manas which is inseparably linked to the Auna and its vehicle (the 6th principle )." Is that state of consciousness a "measurable factor"?

Therefore, has Johnson really "revealed" the masters? Many will cling to the "myth" of god-like, omniscient beings, but HPB' s "teachers" never claimed to be of that genre, nor did she really claim it for them. Others will rejoice that Johnson has "unmasked" the masters, revealing them for what they themselves, in their correspondence with A. P. Sinnett and others, said they were: mortal men with access to and familiarity with occult knowledge. And a "brotherhood" of such individuals? Why not, when we all recognize our affinity with people of like mind, similar interests and objectives, however geographically separated we may be throughout the world?

So while this reviewer applauds Johnson’s work, for he has done his homework well, many questions still remain to be answered. If he has given us a "parade of heroes and eccentrics who wanted to change the world," not all of whom can be said to qualify as "masters," at least he has, as Godwin puts it in his foreword, presented us with "that most delightful of mysteries-an esoteric whodunit." And we could not agree more with Godwin's admonition: "All Theosophists ... should pluck up the courage to read this book." For whether read as a "whodunit" or as fact, it is a remarkable piece of research in a hitherto unexplored field of study.

Spring 1995

Mysticism: Its History and Challenge by Bruno Borchert; Samuel Weiser, lnc., York Beach, Maine, 1994; paper, 456 pages.

This is a fine new book on mysticism, written by Bruno Borchert, a member of the Carmelite Order and senior researcher on art and mysticism at the Titus Brandsma Instituut in Holland. Borchert discusses the nature and history of mystical experience and considers its relevance in our scientific and rational age.

He states at the outset that the phenomenon of mysticism "seems to occur in all religions and cultures; it is different in external form, but in essence everywhere it is the same: it is the experimental knowledge that, in one way or another, everything is interconnected, that all Things have a single source" (his italics)

That realization is the underlying idea of this journal and of the Theosophical Society from which this journal has sprung.

One may arrive intellectually at the concept, but the mystic experiences the realization. It typically happens in moments of insight and can be quite overwhelming as experience. Often the mystic has a compulsion to try to describe the experience, but encounters great difficulty in doing so. Many mystics find the experience so overwhelming that they thereafter fall into silence, feeling they cannot possibly communicate what they have experienced.

In the first part of the book Borchert describes the phenomenon of mysticism. He writes:

Mysticism involves not only an experience of short duration which always has the same characteristics, but also a person who is trying to assimilate this experience into his or her life. What is more, mystics include both the stolid and the emotional types, both the balanced and the unstable, the physically strong and the frail. Also, a balance between two worlds is involved, especially in Western mysticism: one that is flawless, complete, gladdening, and seen in one lucid moment, and another that has to be coped with daily, full of violence, evil, problems and opposition. Between these two worlds the borders are fairly blurred: the borders between daydream and hard reality, between fantastic imagery and true vision, between spiritual and physical impressions (47-48).

Borchert speaks of the need at times to daydream in a problem-free environment, to muse in quiet surroundings, to read light fiction or the latest gossip column. Drugs, dancing, and music are all ways in which people seek respite from the difficult pressures of life.

The striving for ecstatic experience carries risks, Borchert points out, because the border between the dreamworld and reality may disappeal; there is the risk of madness and indeed history is filled with individuals who seem to have passed over the line from ecstasy to madness.

The second and much longer section of the book provides an overview of the history of mysticism, from its apparent origin in shamanism through India, Iran, Israel, Egypt, and Hellenistic and medieval times.

In the final section of his book, Borchelt considers the modern mysticism he sees growing from the challenges of scientific, rational, and technical Western culture. He refers to the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Marilyn Ferguson, and others.

He speaks 011 behalf of a kind of democratization of mysticism for our times. In the final analysis, referring to J. Krishnamurti, he notes that while there are many books and many methods and techniques to offer guidance on the mystical path, nevertheless each of us must choose our own way. "Each case has its own direction, limitations, and possibilities," he declares. "The mystical process has an internal compass, which can be consulted once the way itself is clearly seen, and [which] can help you find your bearings in the maze of life" (364).

Along the way, Borchert's book can serve as a helpful guide to understanding the mystic path and its possibilities and pitfalls.

Spring 1995

Spiritual Politics by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson; Ballantine, New York, 1993; paper, 478pages.

Many of those fascinated by the title of this book will have read other books with catchy titles and been disillusioned. Most, however, will feel that their time has been well spent with McLaughlin and Davidson, because Spiritual Politics clarifies why a mystic's spiritual pilgrimage should include a lifetime of appropriate ventures into political activism.

The reviewer is a world federalist and libertarian, and does not share the theological or political perspective of the authors. Davidson and McLaughlin, however, explain clearly why purifying one's intent through prayer and meditation is essential for healing our political process. They do not expect readers to share their political and theological views, but encourage us to adapt our own theology and politics in a prayerful blending of politics and spirituality.

Too many writers about political activism fail to appreciate that results achieved are dependent primarily upon methods used, And too few writers about meditation techniques also promote political activism.

The authors refer often to their own spiritual pilgrimage. Both were JFK enthusiasts in the sixties and now praise President Clinton. McLaughlin and Davidson met at Findhorn and later started a similar community in Massachusetts known as Sirius. They wrote Nan earlier book on intentional communities called Builders of the New Dawn. Earlier, Davidson had been a Peace Corps volunteer in India. Total assets invested with some type of social sensitivity grew from $40 billion in 1984 to $700 billion in 1992, partly because of his work as head of the Social Investment Forum. He also participated in activities at the United Nations as a representative of World Goodwill. McLaughlin has taught at American University and lectured on political psychology. In recent years they have been in Washington, D.C., with Sirius Educational Resources.

+ So long as the political establishment encourages constituents to imagine themselves as powerless "to fight city hall," an abundance of political apathy is assured. Although organized religion has a reputation for glorifying the status quo, millions of individuals who cherish spiritual values have had faith that "we no longer have to be victims of powerful political forces we don't fully understand or control. What we do, and what we think, affects every other living being in the web of life" (28).

Those who have greater wealth, education, and freedom have responsibilities for solving problems that affect humanity, such as starvation. "People facing starvation today are not likely to worry about the effects of climate change tomorrow" (56).

As McLaughlin and Davidson note, "what is encouraged by the Ageless Wisdom tradition is to first purify our motives for wanting to help, and then to align our personal will with God's will, asking for the highest good to come from our efforts, realizing we may not consciously know the deeper lessons and karmic purposes being played out in a given situation" (393).

To heal the world, they contend, we must develop right relationships. "The principles of unity, cooperation, and serving the common good can be our guideposts along the high road of planetary wholeness.... As more and more individuals around the planet awaken the fire within their hearts, the positive, loving energy field around the planet is strengthened and together we build a new world" (421).

Spring 1995

The imagination of Pentecost: Rudolf Steiner and Contemporary Spirituality by Richard Leviton; Anthroposophical Press, Hudson, N. Y, 1994; paper, 464 pages.

Channeling, the purported bringing forth of messages from beings on the "other side," has become a key aspect of the metaphysical revival of the past decade. Methods of channeling vary, ranging from a person going into a trance and letting another being speak through the person's vocal cords, to just writing down what one hears on the "inner," But how are we to evaluate channelers, the "entities" being channeled, and the information which comes forth?

Richard Leviton, in The Imagination of Pentecost, suggests that one way to evaluate channeling is to consider the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, An early member of the Theosophical Society, Steiner later founded the Anthroposophical Society and is perhaps best known for his educational ideas and for having introduced Waldorf education into the world. Besides being well-versed in Theosophy and Western philosophy, Steiner also claimed to be clairvoyant. He broke from the Theosophical Society when Annie Besant began speaking of a new world teacher and when Steiner's own clairvoyant insights seemed to contradict certain Theosophical concepts. His own ideas were also solidly rooted in the Christian mythos more than in the Eastern tradition on which Theosophy draws.

Leviton gives an overview of Steiner's rather complex ideas, including his evolutionary view of history. In the planet's early his history, Steiner said, humanity bad easy access to the higher dimensions, but individual humans had no egos of their own. As time went on, they began to develop egos, but the price was that they became increasingly materialistic and lost access to the higher dimensions. According to Steiner, this decline had reached its lowest point at the time Christ incarnated on earth in Jesus of Nazareth,

The development of ego was actually a necessary step in human evolution, according to Steiner, but the time had come to bring spirituality back to the planet. By shedding his blood in the crucifixion, Jesus forever established an etheric link between Earth and the spiritual worlds (blood, Steiner said, contains etheric energy). From then on, humanity as a whole has been able to access the spiritual worlds but, unlike ancient times, humans also now have individual wills, In Steiner's view, evolution has taken an upward turn and humanity will therefore become increasingly spiritual.

Steiner also said that Christ returned earlier in this century, but not in a physical body, Christ "came down" to the etheric level of the Earth, where all will eventually be able to see Him after developing spiritual perception.

What does all this have to do with channeling? Steiner frowned on channelers (or mediums, as they were called at the time), who go into a trance and are totally unaware of the messages they bring forth. He said that this is a throwback to earlier times in history when humans did not have individuality. In our age, we must consciously access the spiritual worlds and consciously develop our spiritual abilities. In fact, Steiner said that in the future we will all be able to speak as the Logos, just as the apostles were able to do at Pentecost.

Leviton points out that Steiner would have considered the current fascination with Unconscious channelers who bring forth messages from astral beings a dangerous trend. In fact, Steiner believed that there are two spiritual beings, Lucifer and Ahriman, who try to mislead humanity (even though they, too, are ultimately part of the Divine Plan). Leviton describes these beings in great detail and offers his own ideas about their work.

Leviton has embarked on a monumental task in attempting to show how Steiner's ideas apply in our time. While largely successful, he often presents Steiner's ideas with an excessively reverent attitude. Steiner's warnings against unconscious channeling were hardly new, having been expressed in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions and by H. P. Blavatsky and other early Theosophists as well.

Perhaps what is most troublesome about this book is the fact that although Leviton reiterates Steiner's emphasis on conscious spiritual development, readers are given no idea how to go about developing their own spiritual potential. It is left unclear whether Steiner gave any spiritual exercises for people to do. If he did, Leviton should have included at least some preliminary exercises. In the introduction, Leviton tells of his own spiritual awakening, but it was apparently not achieved through Steiner's techniques.

The Buddha told his followers to test all his words for themselves, and gave techniques for doing so. Without a means of verifying another person's clairvoyant or spiritual revelations for oneself, a person is left with little reason to value those revelations over any other. Without a means for the reader to verify the material, it matters little whether the channeler is conscious or unconscious.

Despite these flaws, Leviton has, on the whole, done a great service in bringing Steiner's ideas into the modern age, In many ways, this book acts as a kind of "Cliff's Notes" for Anthroposophy. Whether one agrees with Leviton or not (and many, including Theosophists, will find points to disagree with), he does stimulate thought and offers an intelligent and spiritually perceptive look at many metaphysical teachings. In a time when books with watered-down, simplistic metaphysics abound, this is an important contribution.

Spring 1995

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Powers, collected by K. Langloh Parker, edited with commentary by Johanna Lambert; Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vt., 1994; paper.

Australian aboriginal culture is thought to have existed in its present form for 150,000 years. These stories may be the oldest in the world. At once touching and potent, they were collected and scrupulously retold around the turn of this century by K. Langloh Parker, one of those amazing Victorian women who broke all the rules and fought her way our of the prejudices of her time to an appreciation of an alien, yet wiser, culture.

Johanna Lambert's commentary is subtle, lucid, and jargon-free, placing these deceptively simple tales within the larger context of the world's great wisdom literature.

This selection concentrates upon the manifold aspects of the Cosmic Feminine. It stands as an antidote against the chronic patriarchal hubris that has brought our planet to its present pitch, but is also effective against that shrill and strident feminism that is no more than patriarchy's equally unenlightened obverse. This is an inspired and unremittingly fascinating book, and beautifully produced and illustrated, too.

Spring 1995

Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution by Ken Wilber; Shambhala Publications/Random House, New York, 1994; hardcover, 816 pages.

A long time ago, human beings lived in perfect harmony with nature and each other. We were not alienated. We did not abuse the planet. No one dominated anyone. We lay down with lion and lamb and every thing was bliss. Then something happened. Call it original sin. In any case, the honeymoon was over. The primal split, the ancient rift, the great gulf between ourselves and the cosmos opened and we were unceremoniously kicked out of the garden. Since then everything has been a mess.

In one version or another, this is a standard new age criticism of the modem epoch. It is also a feminist indictment of patriarchal oppression, an environmentalist assessment of the root of our ecological crisis, or any combination of the above. Ken Wilber's massive new work is an unrelenting attack on this simplistic fairy tale and an incisive analysis of its influence on contemporary social, cultural, and spiritual thought. Wilber has thought long and hard about the state of spirituality, and has concluded that many of its cherished icons and deeply held beliefs are not quite what they seem. His reasons are spelled out in exhaustive detail in the book's densely packed pages, a good 250 of which make up notes to the text.

Wilber is at pains to make clear why he finds the stereotypic anti-modern, anti-masculine, anti-progress critiques unsatisfying, bending over backwards to qualify his reservations with strings of parenthetical remarks. Yet if there is one definite statement to make about this exciting, frustrating, and challenging work, it is this: he will not make many friends with it, a sure sign he is onto something significant.

Wilber's basic theme is that our late twentieth -century intellectual and spiritual milieu is dominated by what he calls a "Descender” worldview, essentially a vision of life that denies the transcendent dimension and that sees the whole of reality in the physical world of the senses. Here we find strange bedfellows. Postmodernists, deconstructionists, reductionists, scientists, feminists, masculinists, "eco-fascists," devotees of the "new physics," and systems theorists all carve out different portions of what Wilber calls the "flat-land cosmology" of the Descender universe. An opposite, though less prevalent. camp is made up of the "Ascenders:” adherents of world- rejection. These include Gnostics, Cathars, Manichaeans, some Platonists, pessimists, like Schopenhauer, Theravadin Buddhists, archetypal psychologists, and an assortment of various "higher self" aficionados.

Both groups are guilty of a tragic partiality. in Wilber 's view, Descenders err by sinking into the physical cosmos in hopes of reaching a false totality: Ascenders by rejecting the physical plane in pursuit of "other worlds:” Both, Wilber argues, are halves of a fractured worldview that bridges the gulf between world-affirmation and world-rejection. He finds a uniting worldview for this split in Plotinus and Friedrich Schelling in the West, in Sri Aurobindo and Nagarjuna in the East. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality traces the sources and analyzes the effects of this debilitating bifurcation across the vast canvas of human history. Understandably, Wilber pays particular attention to the postmodern era, a time when the two opposing camps have at least a chance of coming together-or, equally likely, of recoiling even further apart in a schizoid polarization of the human spirit.

Wilber 's scope is ambitious, nothing less than from the Big Bang to the present era, and he is equally at home with new age gurus or postmodern pundits. The backbone of the work is the idea of "the holon,” a coinage made by Arthur Koestler in his 1967 classic The Ghost in the Machine. Wilber adopts Koestler's concept of "whole/parts" as the basic structural components of reality. Drawing from the work of philosophers Jurgen Habermas, Jean Gebser, and Michel Foucault, as well as the psychologist Jean Piaget, he embarks on a less-than-straightforward narrative of the evolution of the cosmos, life, mind, and civilization. That evolution, according to Wilber, has suffered from the Ascender /Descender split for a good 2,300 years. Wilber concentrates on unraveling the psychological and ontological knots these opposite outlooks have tied in our understanding of ourselves and the universe. In an era of postmodern free-for-alls and deconstructive double-think. Wilber has his work cut out for him. So do his readers.

What Wilber finds lacking in today's worldview is the notion of hierarchy, the Great Chain of Being that for centuries was the accepted vision of "the way things were." Nowadays, hierarchy is a bad word, smacking, for the politically and cosmologically correct, of dominance, oppression, and male superiority. Yet, as Wilber makes amply clear, the various critics of hierarchy confuse its abuse with its genuine character. Their "heterarchic" alternatives share a common flaw: by emphasizing the equal significance of all perspectives, they wind up affirming that anyone perspective is as good as any other, a stance that lands them in a mire of relativism. Confusing "pathological dominator hierarchies," which should be opposed, with authentic levels of Being, the various opponents of the Great Chain-whether deconstructionists, radical feminists, animal rights activists, or cultural relativists---end up with a flatland cosmology that, Wilber contends, confuses broader, though more superficial, "span" with deeper "depth."

The various "holistic" cosmologies and systems theory approaches 10 the environment gel short shrift from Wilber. Although they have indeed "shown that everything is connected to everything else," what they fail to include in their" interlocking systems" is the transpersonal dimension, the realm of value. This cannot be accounted for in holistic cosmologies that base their gauge of significance on size rather than depth. Most of these theorists are of the "bigger is better" school, Wilber argues. They ignore the obvious architectonics of the cosmos: galaxies are unimaginably large entities, enjoying an immense span, yet they are relatively simple. The human brain is a rather small object, cosmically speaking, yet it is infinitely more complex than a galaxy. And as far as we know, it houses perhaps the deepest thing in existence, the mind.

Holistic thinkers err in claiming that because it is more fundamental, the biosphere-the realm of organic life- is more significant than the noosphere- the realm of mind. For Wilber the precise opposite is true. If "the ultimate character pervading the universe is a drive toward the endless production of new syntheses," he tells us, then the holists have their priorities wrong . The noosphere isn't in the biosphere; the biosphere is in the noosphere-embraced, transcended, yet retained. Yet "because evolution is not bigger and better, but smaller and better (greater depth, less span) these theorists ... end up unknowingly recommending regression as our salvation."

Some theorists do not recommend regression unknowingly. Another of Wilber's bêtes noires are the various Romantic schools that have cropped up in the last decade or so. These include the men's movement, eco-feminism, various shamanistic "ways," the "archaic revival," and others. Each school adheres to some version of the "Great Crime," a rundown of which began this review. Each vies with the others in attempting to push back the clock to humanity's supposed pure and pristine participation with nature. Eco-feminists see it in the horticultural age: eco-masculinists, with hunters and gatherers.

The Great Crime of our separation from Mother Earth has led to alienation and oppression, these theorists claim, so, according to Wilber, they hop into their "Way Back Machines" or onto "The Regress Express," in order to return to Day One. Wilber appreciates the value of their sentiments, but says "it is one thing to remember and embrace and honor our roots; quite another to hack off our leaves and branches and celebrate that as a solution to leaf rot."

Seeing as much danger in Romantic regression as in rationalist reduction, Wilber doesn't hesitate to point out some of the questionable aspects of such grand men of alternative thought as C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell. In Jung's archetypes he finds not the numinous symbols today's Jungians do, but a collection of fairly typical, earthbound experiences. Wilber agrees that it is important to embrace these subliminal, prepersonal spheres, but denies that they have anything to do with higher, spiritual planes. (He makes a similar criticism of Stanislav Grof's "Basic Perinatal Matrices") Campbell's work in mythology, Wilber argues, suffers from a hermeneutical confusion. In rejuvenating myth as an alternative to modern rationality, Campbell fails to realize that his appreciation of ancient myths is very different from that of the people for whom myths were a matter of course. Campbell, Wilber tells us, had the benefit of reasoning about the myths, the very quality he is eager to deflate. Jung and Campbell are not the only recipients of Wilber's extensive critique; I mention them only to give an idea of the not-so-cozy corners one is led to in reading (his book.

Although unquestionably a tour de force, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality isn't without its weaknesses. Wilber 's style is breathlessly abstract , and the ubiquitous qualifications break up the narrative flow. And when he leaves his occasionally impenetrable academese, he often descends into chummy argot ("French kissing the Shadow") or ascends into lofty, though nebulous, rhetoric. Having agreed with and appreciated his razor-job on some of our more muddle-headed ideologies, I was less than convinced by his own conclusions.

Having shown up the flaws of Ascenders and Descenders alike, Wilber rolls out his own version of "how things are." Yet more often than not, this is announced in a voice of such singing, almost childlike yearning that, while I had no trouble detecting the emotion, I can't say I came away clear on the ideas. I believe they are there; Wilber is no mean thinker, but perhaps his very urgency blocks straightforward expression. (And having Hegel, Habermas, and Da Free John as spiritual mentors does not ensure a limpid style.) One also wonders about schematizing consciousness. In a closing note, Wilber remarks that when Jean Gebser said that Jesus and Meister Eckhart embodied the "integral structure" (Gebser's term for the newly emerging next phase of human evolution), he was "far short of the mark," and then goes on to state that " beyond" the integral are "the psychic, the subtle, the causal, and the ultimate." This may very well be true, but it did remind me of P. D. Ouspensky's reply to the lady who asked him if the Buddha was the "seventh level of consciousness." "I don't know," Ouspensky replied. "And I don't care."

Without criticizing legitimate hierarchies, the concrete reality of human experience is lost in these abstract pecking orders. Likewise, Wilber's Ascender/Descender motif, though a handy and wieldy tool, is so broad as to include everybody not partial to his take on things. And is everyone either an Ascender or Descender? I can think of at least half a dozen individuals who might find a spot in both camps.

Nevertheless, these quibbles aside, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality is an important book. It is bracing to see a writer associated with "fringe" fields of thought taking on the whole spectrum of late twentieth century culture. If this is Wilber's attempt at a crossover book, it's a good shot. After slapping the wrists of some of the most popular alternative thinkers, Wilber is sure to offend a great many readers, yet this kind of criticism is a tonic. Whether we agree with his assessment or not-and as this is the first of a projected mammoth trilogy we must keep an open mind-this book challenges us to rethink our beliefs in the company of the great books.

Summer 1995

The River by Ma Jaya Sali Bhagavali; Ganga Press, Roseland, Fla., 1994; hardcover, xiii +85 pages.

It is tempting to call epic a poem that fills 85 pages and takes about 75 minutes to read a loud, especially one that addresses the panorama of life and death. But The River is intimate by nature, and is not intended to impress with the immensity of what it describes but to reveal in fleeting moments the ineffable stillness of the spirit.

The first seven lines announce what is to become the recurring motif:

Children play by my River
Sadhus stay by my River
Cities old by my River
Temples made of gold by my River
Cows stray all the day by my River
Young men and women now die
by my River
We are all the widows who cry
by my River

Those ideas recur no fewer than thirty-two times in whole or more often in part as a leitmotif, always recognizable but never quite the same. The poem flows rhapsodically, unfettered either by metrical regularity, strict rhyming scheme, or end-of-line punctuation. The seemingly naive sense of rhyme is one of several characteristics that give The River its flavor. The rhyme may shift suddenly to midline and signal a change of direction. Free association suggests the river's course and creates palpable, sensuous impressions of flowing, cresting, and subsiding. Whether mighty and sonorous or hushed and whispered, the expression is both unpretentious and mystical, calling to mind another poet of divine vision, William Blake.

The author's introduction declares her purpose "to bring to the many the beauty of my River, the Ganga-the sacredness of her abundance, the joy of her waters, and the fact that her holiness can and does heal ... sorrow in this time of the AIDS plague." As founder and spiritual head of the transdenominational Kashi Ashram in Roseland, Florida, Ma Jay Sari Bhagnavati directs her ministry of service for the most part toward society's marginalized, including many HIV-positive people and AIDS patients.

Much of the poem presents imagery of death that might appear horrific to the Western sensibility-corpses burning in the cremation ground, the smell of charred flesh mingling with the scents of jasmine and musk, ashes set afloat upon the river's breast, the black goddess Kali's fearsome dance. The pictorial realism evokes heat and sunlight, the mystery of night, the teeming life along the river's banks at play and at prayer, in joy, ill sorrow, and in release. The river becomes a metaphor for the totality of being, which enfolds life and death together. It presents the naked facts of temporal existence-of birth, growth, maturation, decay, and death, and all their attendant pleasure and pain-in the context of that larger reality, call it God or Brahman. The poem conveys the joy of embracing all of life's aspects and living passionately with fearlessness. The Ganges is also personified as the mother goddess, and finally it is revealed as transcendental reality itself.

Descriptive passages, dialogue, storytelling, allusions to myth, exhortation, and praise present the richness of Shaivite and Tantric Hinduism with an admixture of Zenlike immediacy. The poet speaks through various voices as an observer on the river's bank, a child, an ascetic, and soon, culminating in ecstatic identification with the divinity that the river represents.

Purists may object to four instances of split infinitives, to a pronoun in the wrong case, to two misuses of the word "lay" for "lie," and one occurrence of "piers" where "pyres" is meant. In addition there is a reference to Brahma, the god of creation, where Brahman, the formless reality, is meant. These, however, are minor details that can be corrected in a future printing. More troubling is the unexplained alternation of the Sanskrit "Ganga" (nominative) and "Gange" (vocative) throughout the poem without regard to grammatical sense. The allusions to Hindu myths do not always make themselves sufficiently clear and seem to assume the reader's previous knowledge of the stories. Also, a glossary would have been helpful to those who may not be familiar with the Sanskrit and other Indian terms employed.

Much care has been lavished on the book's design: it is clothbound in black and stamped with gold, with deep red endpapers and rich ivory stock. A Shiva trident symbol head s each page of text, and headbands and a bound-in red ribbon bookmark add to the impression of quality. The glossy 'black dust jacket bears a glowing, full-color reproduction of a painting by the author, who has won critical acclaim for the power of her naturalistic, primitive canvases. The River is a book to be cherished and read again and again.

Summer 1995

Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science edited by Christopher Bamford; Lindisfarne Press, Rochester, Vt.; paper.

The title, subtitle, and a summary of subjects addressed (form, number, geometry, architecture, light, color, music, poetry) effectively describe the contents. Sacred art and architecture put us in touch with the divine. Genuine sacred art can only be produced through sacred science. This was the science of the ancients, a science no less sophisticated and advanced than our own, but directed toward very different values.

Unless our emotional faculties have been utterly destroyed by modern education, it is impossible not to respond to sacred art. But knowing why we respond is a first step toward reacquiring that great, lost wisdom. Homage to Pythagoras is hardly bedtime reading, but anyone interested in understanding that "why" will find the effort expended amply repaid.

Summer 1995

Krishnamurti-Love and Freedom: Approaching a Mystery by Peter Michel; Bluestar Communications, Woodside, CA. 1995; 205 pages.

This year is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jiddu Krishnamurti (May 12, 1895; d. February 17, 1986). The appearance of Peter Michel' s book is therefore timely, doubtless one of many publications we can anticipate in this centennial year.

Michel's work is an excellent introduction to Krishnamurti's life, teachings, and Theosophical connections. Distinctive in several ways, it is likely to stand apart from the crowd of other commemorative studies and appreciations. Although adopting a "friendly" approach, the author looks at certain apparent contradictions and ironic contrasts in Krishnamurti's teachings, there cognition of which is part of the meaning of the " Mystery" in the book's subtitle.

Michel emphasizes the coherence of Krishnamurti's work, from At the Feet of the Master to the last works, such as the Journal (1982) and the Last Talks at Saanen 1985, and also the connection of Krishnamurti's thought with the Theosophical context in which he was fostered and against which he rebelled. For example, Michel points to the following passage from At the Feet of the Master,Krishnamurti's first and most Theosophical book:

There are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and no one who is enslaved by them can make progress. Therefore you must not hold a thought just because many other people hold it nor because it has been believed for centuries, nor because it is written in some book which men think sacred; you must think of the matter for yourself, and judge for yourself whether it is reasonable. Remember that though a thousand men agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value. He who would walk upon the Path must learn to think for himself, for superstition is one of the greatest evils in the world, one of the fetters from which you must utterly free yourself. [61]

The rejection of authority in that passage and its emphasis on self- reliance and independence might as well have been written at the end of Krishnamurti's life as in his early years.

Krishnamurti's distinctive aversion to systems and organizations is one of the apparent contradictions in his life and teachings. After he dissolved the Order of the Star in the East in 1929, his rejection of systematic teachings and organizations promoting them became a major theme. His later creation of the Krishnamurti Foundation to perpetuate his own teachings is seen as something quite different. That organization is merely to assure that "the Teaching" remains available, and the organization is expressly forbidden to interpret it. To an outsider, however, such an organization may appear to be designed to preserve the orthodoxy of Krishnamurti's views and to inhibit their normal evolutionary development and adaptation to changing times and thus to foster a view of them as absolute, infallible or inerrant Truth.

In giving his talks, Krishnamurti often would say, "Let us look into this together," or the like. However, as Michel observes, real dialogue is conspicuously lacking; such apparent invitations were rhetorical introductions to a monologue. Krishnamurti also typically spoke on high levels of abstraction about "love," "fear," and so on. In that way, his discourse is strikingly different from that of the Great Teachers of the past like Christ and the Buddha.

Christ spoke in parables, little stories about ordinary, everyday people and events: about a traveler who was attacked by thieves, about servants who managed their boss’s property well or ill, about guests at a wedding feast, about a father's love for a wayward son, and so on. Similarly when poor Kisa Gotami asked the Budd ha to restore her dead child to life, he did not give her a talk about life and death and suffering and acceptance. He told her he would do what she asked if she could bring him mustard seed from a house where no one had ever died. The Great Teachers of the past have spoken in concrete, immediate terms on the level of the people. Krishnamurti spoke in the rhetoric of abstraction. As Emily Lutyens wrote to Krishnamurti:

You seem surprised that people do not understand you but I should be far more surprised if they did!! After all, you are upsetting everything in which they have ever believed –knocking out their foundations and putting in its place a nebulous abstraction. [127-28, quoted from Krishnamurti- His Life and Death. [85]

Krishnamurti could be clear and practical. That side of him is well shown in an observation reported by Susunaga Weeraperuma: "Always be skeptical of persons who claim to have clairvoyance. It is not that clairvoyance does not exist. It certainly exists. But doesn't it feed your vanity to believe that you have gifts lacking in others?" (162, quoted from Krishnamurti As I Knew Him, 153).

Krishnamurti could also inspire and motivate others to a loyalty to himself and a conviction of his spiritual status. There is abundant evidence of that, including Michel's own obvious high regard for Krishnamurti. But such inspiration seems to have come generally not from Krishnamurti's writings or talks-" the Teaching"-but rather chiefly from personal contact with him. It is another irony that, despite Krishnamurti's efforts to direct attention away from himself and toward "the Teaching," it was his personal charisma that affected the lives of others. People were drawn to him, but not transformed by "the Teaching."

Whether Krishnamurti is right or wrong about the possibility of radical transformation, neither he nor "the Teaching" gives much help in achieving it. He says that the first step is "to understand profoundly the significance of our existence" (54), but that is also the goal. Krishnamurti offers no way for achieving such understanding, and he dismisses traditional methods of approaching it. The fact that Krishnamurti says the ultimate goal is the first step is, in one sense, a profound truth. Blavatsky often talked that way too, but she also provided practical suggestions about what to do. Paradox without praxis makes a thin soup.

Although Krishnamurti himself tried to separate his person from "the Teaching,” ultimately they are inseparable. The content of Krishnamurti's teaching is not his; it is part of the timeless Wisdom Tradition. But the form in which it is set forth, its rhetoric and its focus, are distinctively Krishnamurti's. As Michel says, "Mystical experiences determined Krishnamurti's entire life and cannot be separated from his teachings. It is a radical and distorting contraction to reduce Krishnamurti's being to the factual message of his talks" (163). For that reason, anyone interested in Krishnamurti's teachings must sooner or later attend to his life.

Krishnamurti's life falls into discrete periods. Born in 1895 in southern India, like his namesake Krishna, he was an eighth child. Discovered by clairvoyant observation of his aura by C. W. Leadbeater in 1909, when he was fourteen, Krishnamurti was tagged as the "vehicle" of the World Teacher. That is, a great spiritual individual who had earlier manifested as the Christ and other spiritual teachers was supposed to "overshadow" Krishnamurti by using his body to communicate with humanity.

There was no thought among Theosophists of Krishnamurti himself being the World Teacher; he was merely to be the channel through which the World Teacher would speak. And that was the way things seemed to be developing for the next sixteen or so years. For example, in 1925 in a talk at Adyar to the Order of the Star in the East, which had been established to prepare for the manifestation of the World Teacher, Krishnamurti's voice seemed to change at one point and he began to speak in the first person as the World Teacher instead of in the third person about him. It appeared to some observers that the World Teacher had "taken over" for a brief period.

The year 1925 was however, a crucial one in Krishnamurti's life, marking the end of his first and explicitly Theosophical phase. Michel suggests that two events of that year were especially important for the change which was to come. First was the "nonsense of Huizen." A group of prominent Theosophists at a Theosophical retreat in the Dutch town of Huizen seem to have participated in a collective hysteria in which they imagined that various of their members were being rapidly initiated into advanced levels of spiritual accomplishment. The aging Annie Besant was present at the time but was perhaps already falling into a condition of incompetence that prevented her from putting a stop to the foolishness. C. W. Leadbeater, who was in Australia, did his best to undo the harm after the fact , but was hampered from direct action by his respect for Besant. Krishnamurti, despite his later view that instantaneous enlightenment is possible, did not regard the participants in that event as enlightened beings but found some of them manipulative. He was much upset at the proceedings, Michel believes, because certain matters he regarded as sacred were made to appear ridiculous.

The second crucial event of 1925 was the death of Krishnamurti's brother, Nitya, who had suffered for some while from tuberculosis. Krishnamurti understood from a dream that he had the promise of the Masters that Nitya would get well, but while on a sea journey to Adyar, he received news of his brother's death. The combination of his dislike of certain prominent Theosophists who behaved foolishly and his loss of confidence in the Masters to make all things right led to a crisis, a turning point in Krishnamurti's life.

Thereafter Krishnamurti moved out of a conventional Theosophical worldview and talked about a mystical and less structured sense of oneness with all life and the rejection of all authority and tradition. In 1929 he disbanded the Order of the Star in the East, which had been created for him but was imbued with traditional Theosophical attitudes and beliefs. Eventually Krishnamurti claimed that he him self had achieved oneness with the Ground of Being. As he wrote in a 1932 letter to Emily Lutyens: "I have revolutionized myself!! I can't tell you, mum, what a glorious thing it is to have realized the highest and the most sublime thing" (51, quoted from Krishnamurti-the Years of Fulfillment, 23). From that point on, Krishnamurti presented himself not as the vehicle or mouthpiece of the World Teacher, but as one who had independently achieved the Mystical Union and who could therefore speak of the Real in his own voice and by his own right.

Krishnamurti appears to have been not one, but several persons. There is the young Krishnamurti, nurtured and conditioned by his Theosophical mentors. There is the rebellious and publicly austere Krishnamurti, overthrowing his Theosophical traces and rejecting all authority, teaching ends without means. There is the esoteric Krishnamurti, healing the sick with his hands, describing nature spirits that frolic in the waves, and exorcising the dark powers that sometimes intruded into his life. There is the charismatic Krishnamurti who appeared to many to be just what he claimed: one who had realized his unity with the source of life and who was therefore free from limitations but boundlessly loving and considerate of others.

But there is also the manipulative, dishonest, self-centered Krishnamurti of Radha Rajagopal Sloss's Lives in the Shadows, a Krishnamurti who had a decades-long affair with the wife of his business manager, was involved with the abortions of her pregnancies by him, and eventually fell out with the other man in the ménage a trois. The last Krishnamurti is one that sympathetic biographers tend to ignore or dismiss, but he will not go away. No Krishnamurti biographer has yet adequately come to terms with Sloss's book.

The existence of so many Krishnamurtis raises the question of who the real Krishnamurti was. Per haps Theosophical psychology is as good a vantage point as any for viewing the mystery of "the often extreme bifurcation in Krishna's private behavior and his public message" (Sloss, 102). Each of us is a transcendent individuality that expresses itself in a series of reincarnated personalities.

The personality of Krishnamurti was molded by the conditions around it and behind it. It was as fluctuating and conditioned as any other personality and less morally responsible than many. Behind the personality, however, was an individuality (called Alcyone in early Theosophical literature), which C. W. Leadbeater recognized. It was the source of the charisma to which so many responded. The various Krishnamurtis are mixtures in varying proportions of aspects of the flawed personality and the inspiring individuality.

The value of Krishnamurti's life and teaching cannot yet be assessed with confidence, partly because his influence reaches into distant and sometimes unexpected corners of modern life. Radha Burnier, the inter national president of the Theosophical Society, has suggested one value Krishnamurti has had for the Society, which identified him, nurtured him, formed him, and from which he parted with bad grace. She writes:

HPB warned that most organizations like ours do not survive for more than one hundred years. Generally they become encrusted with dogma and degenerate into some kind of sectarianism. The members tend to rest upon the oars of their past achievements, giving little attention 10 discovery and action in the present. If the Theosophical Society has escaped such a fate, it is in large measure due to Krishnaji's questioning and criticism. This may not have pleased all members of the Theosophical Society, but nonetheless it helped to restore vitality to the pursuit of the fundamental aims of the society. [189, quoted from The American Theosophist, fall 1987, 345]

It is certainly true that Theosophists have had a love/dread relationship with Krishnamurti from the beginning and many still do, just as it is true that Krishnamurti's life and teachings were intimately bound up with the existence and teachings of the Theosophical Society. His presence and his words have been an energizing force for many Theosophists, and his influence on the organizational and intellectual history of the Society is a story not yet completed. Whether that influence could lead to a different sort of dogma and sectarianism is a possibility not to be discounted. There is a tendency to idealize Krishnamurti, to find in him a de facto World Teacher, and to repress his shadow side.

Krishnamurti is indeed a mystery, some aspects of which are likely to remain forever unapproached.

Autumn 1995

Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening the Spirit in Everyday Life. by Sam Keen; Bantam, New York, 1994; hardcover, 308 pages.

The ancient Athenians erected a sacrificial altar adorned with the cryptic inscription "To an Unknown God" lest they run the risk of offending the pride, thereby incurring the wrath, of some unnamed deity inadvertently omitted from their local pantheon. The author of the Act s of the Apostles informs us that when Saint Paul preached to the Athenians, he sought to use this device to his evangelical ad vantage: "What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17.23). Paul's aim, however, was not to add to that Pantheon, but to displace it altogether by identifying Jesus Christ as the One True God and as the proper name of the Ineffable Principle (Logos).

But as Joseph Campbell, Sam Keen's longtime friend, observed, from the pagan point of view Paul's more extensive attribution involved "an elementary mistake; for the Ineffable is not named or by anyone proclaimed, but is manifest in all things, and to claim knowledge of it uniquely is to have missed the point entirely." This confuses the merely unknown with the genuinely unknowable: that which is beyond all names and forms, yet is to be directly experienced through fully awakening to the deepest rhythms of the ordinary acts of daily life.

The "Unknown God" of Keen' s title, then, refers to that unnameable object of mystical experience which is nevertheless absolutely ubiquitous, manifest in and throughout the world. This is Eckhart's Godhead, the God beyond God, which is also present in Boehme's pewter cup; it is the eternal Tao that cannot be told, the nameless source of the mother of the Ten Thousand Things; it is the primordial Buddha-nature of enlightenment in which all things participate. "God is not an object to be known or a problem to be solved by human intelligence," Keen writes, "but is the ground beneath our capacity to understand anything, the totality within which we live, move, and have our being" (69 ).

Only by "getting rhythm and tuning in to the music of the spheres" (5) can we approach this Ground of Being, which is also our own ground, our very soul. Through song and poetry, art and myth, and especially through conscious participation in the rhythms of relationship-relationship to friends and enemies; to family members and lovers; to animals, plants, and soils; to our own soma and psyche -we experience the truth of the spirit. Keen's mysticism is thus light years away from the inward-turning, world-rejecting variety. "I have come to be suspicious," he writes. "of any religion or form of

Book Reviews 1996

Living Buddha Zen by Lex Hixon; Larson Publications, Burdette, N.Y., 1995; paperback.

Alexander Paul Hixon, the "Greatheart," was born on Christmas Day and left this earth on All Saints Day, November I, 1995. His memorial was celebrated in New York on December 8, which was the Blessed Mother's feast day. Every important date regarding this extraordinary man seems to have poetic justice stamped on it, lie was 54 years of age when he died.

Those who knew Hixon understand the significance of what God in the aspect of the mother meant to him. He spent his life seeking the Divine in a myriad of spiritual traditions, but always connecting them to the Universal Mother-whether it was Mother Mary, Goddess Kali, Mother Earth, or Tara. In his book The Mother of the Universe (Quest Books), he writes: "The Great Mother is humanity's most primordial, pervasive, and fruitful image of reality. She expresses herself fluently through and within every sacred tradition." He goes on to comment on the phenomenon of recent sightings of the Mother: "The many authentic appearances of the Virgin Mary- in Mexico, Portugal, Gerabondal, Spain, Lourdes, France, and contemporary apparitions today in Egypt, Mejugorje, and America-are special revelations of her reality for the modern world."

Hixon’s latest book, Living Buddha Zen, was published by Larson shortly before his death following a long and futile bout with cancer. He was to receive transmission in December from his Zen teacher Bernard Tetsugen Glassman Sensei. Other books by Hixon include Mother of the Universe, Mother of the Buddhas, and Heart of the Koran (all published by Quest), and Coming Home (recently reissued by Larson).

Hixon made explorations in "researching the Truth" accessible to all. He was a blend of scholarly intellectual and mystic, able to stay current in four sacred traditions: Ramakrishna Vedanta, Orthodox Christianity, Vajrayana Buddhism, and the Sufi Dervish Order, in which he became successor to Sheikh Muzafer after visiting Mecca in 1980. His title was Sheikh Nur, and he guided Sufis in New York City, New Jersey, Mexico, and Boulder. The profound devotion and love his Sufi students expressed for him is something to see. At the wake, a large band of Sufis brought forest green fabric to cover his casket, threw fragrant flower petals, sang, and praised Allah that he was in Paradise at last.

Years ago under the guidance of Father Alexander Schmemann, Lex and his wife Sheila studied mystical Christianity at Saint Vladimir's Seminary. I attended a service once with them and felt enchanted by the depth of spirit in that church. Every Sunday they went to Saint Vladimir's, despite the fact the church did not agree on his involvement with other religions.

Hixon was exposed to many paths in part from his hosting of a radio broadcast in which he interview ed many of the world 's spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Krishnamurti, Bawa Mahaddin, Pir Vilayat Khan, and others.

I have been blessed to have had the guidance, inspiration, and education Lex Hixon gave me so steadily since I was sixteen and searching. He introduced me to my favorite teacher, Swami Aseshananda, a Hindu monk who looked like Yoda wearing a bow tie. The swami always welcomed Lex to lecture when he was in the northwest.

Everyone in Lex's circle was somehow inducted as a "spiritual debutante," unveiled to "spirituality-society." so to speak. His own spiritual path began with Christianity, under the guidance of Father Deloria, a Lakota Sioux Episcopal priest. Later Hixon converted to Orthodox Christianity, then discovered Zen through Alan Watts. Then he encountered the Gospel of Ramakrishna which led to a meeting with his Indian guru Swami Nikhilananda, with whom he traveled and studied in the last seven years of his life. He also studied Tibetan Buddhism and knew the Dalai Lama. But no path engrossed him more, I think, than the Muslim tradition.

Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies and a friend, said Hixon "had a genius for revitalizing the classics and a reverence."

Toward the end of his life, Lex seemed exhausted by the huge responsibilities he had undertaken. Friends stayed at his house, some for months, some for years. One such friend, who had stayed at his house in 1987, told me she had a dream that Lex got colon cancer and that she told him about it. He ignored the message. What is strange is that this was a man who analyzed everyone's dreams and took them seriously. I feel he had made up his mind to depart this realm for reasons beyond our understanding. He ignored a chance to heal the illness in the early stages. Nevertheless, he has left behind a legacy of great deeds which would fill a book. He gave unbelievable amounts of money to good causes, spiritual organizations, and friends. He built a retreat in the Catskills, with a temple to honor all traditions and open to the public (for information, phone 518/966-5140).

Stephen Levine has said that "Lex has looked into the eyes of the Divine and has burst into flame." In a letter to Lex during his final illness, the Effendi in Istanbul wrote, “The only way to avoid death is not to be born in the first place. In death there is union with the Beloved. The real skill is to reach the secret of death before dying. May Allah make us all obtain that sec ret."

Spring 1996

New Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science: edited by Willis Harman with Jane Clark; Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1994; hardcover.

In a recent article in Shambhala Sun, Willis Harman declared that the key question of our time is one of meaning: What is the central purpose of technologically advanced societies when it no longer makes sense for it to be economic production?

"The seeds of worldwide conflict lie in the enormous and growing disparity between the world's rich and poor peoples." Harman wrote, adding that, "the industrial era paradigm contains no rationale or incentive for more equitable distribution of the earth's resources."

For more than twenty years, Harman has been among the foremost spokesmen for a new metaphysic for modern science. In his new book, New Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, Harman collects fourteen essays by various contributors offering perspectives for the nineties on issues previously raised by E. A. Burtt in his seminal book The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science seventy years earlier.

In suggesting a need for new ontological and epistemological assumptions underlying modern science, Harman and his colleagues do not suggest any kind of closure on what the new assumptions should be. But they do identify principal categories, including a shift away from a fragmented and mechanical conception of the world toward a holistic and organic conception; a shift away from a concern with objectivity toward a concern with subjectivity, including the role of perception and cognition in the process of scientific inquiry; a deep sense of wholeness, of oneness, of everything being part of a universe; and a sense of the validity of deep intuition as one of the ways in which we contact the greater reality.

Harman says that a "respiritualization of society appears to be taking place, but one more experiential and non-institutionalized, less fundamentalist and sacerdotal, than most of the historically familiar forms of religion."

Contributors to this book include scientists , philosophers, and psychologists, among them aerospace engineer Robert Jahn, biologist George Wald, physicist Arthur Zajonc, anthropologist Charles Laughlin, philosopher Lynn Hankinson Nelson, psychobiologist Roger Sperry, and professor of Indian studies and law Vine Deloria, Jr.

Spring 1996

Chaos, Gaia, Eros: A Chaos Pioneer Uncovers the Great Streams of History by Ralph Abraham; HarperSanFrancisco, 1994; paper.

In recent years, mathematicians, physicists, social scientists, and even movie makers have been interested in chaos theory. When reading about this concept, a layperson wonders about its applications to everyday life. How is it useful and why is everyone so excited about it?

Ralph Abraham, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, gives his response in this book. The word "chaos" generally evokes such synonyms as disorder, confusion, and disarray. Webster's Dictionary calls it the "state existing before the creation of distinct forms" or "complete disorder." Abraham, however, defines chaos as a cosmic principle and the source of all creation. When we resist change and cling to order, we are fighting this principle. It may be nature's way of transforming our lives through its ongoing evolution and growth.

Two other principles work hand in hand with chaos. These are "gaia,” the creative order of the living world that helps maintain its existence, and "eros," the creative impulse and spiritual medium that binds chaos and gaia together.

Abraham believes that science is in the throes of a major upheaval. Its traditional role has been to maintain the current paradigm through suppressing any experience that runs contrary to its dogma. It presumes we are each a separate consciousness looking out at a totally determinable mechanistic universe. Its dependence on accurate measurement of phenomena allows it to dismiss information that challenges this view in much the same way that medieval religion denied a sun-centered solar system as contrary to biblical canon.

Abraham argues that science cannot deny the existence of chaos in the rhythm of the planets, whose orbital variations defy prediction, the turbulence of climatic forces in the atmosphere and oceans, and even in the "metapatterns of history."

"Gaia," a term coined by Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, points out the holistic interconnection between the earth, its climate, and all living things. The Gaia Hypothesis, which began in the biological sciences, affirms the intelligence of the whole life system of our planet in creating and regulating the physical conditions optimal for the emergence and maintenance of life. The history of the temperature and climate of the earth, with its regulation by the biosphere and its irregularities (ice ages) caused by chaos in the solar system, is used to illustrate Gaian theory. (page 5)

Eros, according to the Greeks, denoted a spirit that yearned for "that which is missing or demanding love." Abraham compares it to the holy spirit, or logos, that connects soul and body. It is a psychic energy pushing aside order. It prevents stagnation. It promotes growth, transformation, and new life.

Abraham applies chaos theory to the study of history and the myths of each historical period. He states historical evolution takes place through transformations called bifurcations. These bifurcations affect stationary time periods where little change occurs, periodic time periods where a pattern, such as a series of wars, is repeated, and chaotic periods where radical bifurcation occurs. The latter, while appearing the most unsettling, actually leads to the greatest evolution in the era. Examples include the discovery of (the wheel, use of time pieces, the invention of movable type, and the shift from matriarchal to patriarchal culture.

Abraham ties chaos, gaia, and eros together culturally in what he calls the orphic tradition. It encourages balance among matriarchal and patriarchal civilization, regarding all life as sac red, and giving high priority to peace and security. It avoids violence, encourages sexual freedom, promotes myths and rituals focused on love while holding music and mathematics in high regard.

He states that we are in the midst of a scientific and cultural revolution that will, with our enlightened encouragement, allow this orphic tradition to once again blossom and grow. This involves acceptance of chaos (inevitable psychically-inspired transformation) rather than clinging to outdated ego, inspired order, and stagnation.

While applying chaos theory to history, science, myth, religion, and philosophy. Abraham actually says very little about the dynamics of chaos theory itself. While not overburdening the reader with complex mathematics, it would have been useful to walk one through some of the details of this compelling theory. He incorrectly assumes that the reader will have some knowledge of chaos dynamics while reading a book obviously meant for the layperson. This survey of many diverse fields is, at times, only loosely tied together. It does, however, contain a glossary of technical terms as well as a thorough index. The extensive bibliography points the reader to greater exploration of the various fields and to further examination of his overall theme.

Spring 1996

The Balance of Nature's Polarities In New-Paradigm Theory by Dirk Dunbar; Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York, 1994; paper, 165 pages.

Since about 1945, the sense that Western civilization took a wrong turn somewhere has been generally expanding. The world wars were signals that something had gone drastically wrong, and the general belief that enough nuclear weapons existed to wipe out humanity, if not life on earth, was to many a desperate call for a new way of viewing and interacting with the world. Many new ways have been proposed in the past fifty years, from free market capitalism to moral interpretations of quantum physics, to feminism, to hippie enlightenment, to goddess worship.

Dirk Dunbar's book is an attempt to summarize the main threads of spiritual aspect s of these new ways. This "cultural transformation" involves science in the form of Jungian psychology and the new physics, and a broadened awareness of nature, especially in certain strands of feminism and popular music. Dunbar calls the general concatenation of ideas the "new-paradigm theory," and the overall thesis is simply stated in a sentence on his first page: "Western culture is reintegrating a feminine, ecological impulse into its dominantly masculine, rational value system."

The first sections of the book provide crisp explanations of how some of the new paradigm theory's most prominent developers- including Nietzsche, Emerson. Jung, Erich Neumann, Theodore Roszak , Fritjof Capra, Alan Watts, and Riane Eisler, as well as the Eranos meetings and Esalen Institute-have called attention to the problems of Western culture and helped shape the transformation. Collectively, says Dunbar, these scholars alert us to the fact that Western culture has been in a state of psychological and spiritual imbalance for about 2400 years, and at this point in history a general effort is being made to restore balance.

The central figure in this is Nietzsche's Apollonian opposition. Our culture has bee n so long dominated by Apollonian qualities (rationality, logic, and what we generally take to be masculine or yang traits) that Dionysian qualities (intuition, emotion, and general feminine or yin traits) have been subordinated and weakened, leading to an overemphasis on science and a lack of emphasis on our relation to nature, for example, not to mention ourselves. In his conclusion Dunbar says:

Recognizing the Mother Goddess, Dionysus, Shiva, and yin as representations of nature's dark, mysterious, female, receptive, synthesizing, and intuitive principles, and the Father-sky, Apollo, Vishnu, and yang as light, rational, male, aggressive, and discriminating principles, the scholars [of new-paradigm theory] contend that only through balancing the two can individuals and society at large actualize full human worth.

This sentence captures the gist of the book. The most important element of new paradigm theory is that the debilitating split between human beings and nature is being recognized and dealt with in postwar culture through the feminist and environmental movements and through an emphasis on personal psychology in the Jungian tradition. As important to Dunbar's argument as Nietzsche's figures is Erich Neumann's theory or prophecy that the collective Western psyche shifted from feminine to masculine emphasis about 2400 years ago and has only recently entered a stage of reintegration of the two.

Dunbar gives particular attention in the latter half of his book to the American countercultural movement of the sixties. He says that the counterculture was a manifestation of Dionysian aesthetics and more finely, that it was an effort to replace Apollonian, agape driven values with Dionysian, eros-driven values. Jack Kerouac (On the Road, The Dharma Bums) and Robert Pirsig (Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) represent different phases of the countercultural effort to make this replacement.

Further, Dunbar argues in some detail that the rock music of the sixties also embodied the change. A kind of unconscious rebellion was enacted in the music of the fifties, in which performers like Elvis Presley evoked distinctly Dionysian sensibilities. Dunbar points out that Presley in some sense came to be seen as a "god," reinforcing Dionysian sensibilities. The Dionysian evolved, in this view, into full-fledged, conscious rebellion by the late sixties, when the music of the Beatles, the "Rolling Stones, the Doors, and others deliberately invoked Dionysian, eros-driven feelings. He likens this to the popular transformation, in ancient Greece, of Dionysian rites into sophisticated drama. The whole thing signifies to Dunbar not merely a youth rebellion, but a shift of cultural paradigms.

This book is a concise summary of the philosophical and historical ideas about cultural change which have evolved in this century in the West. However, although Dunbar emphasizes the reintegration of feminine elements of the psyche into Western values, he mentions relatively few women. Still it is an excellent introduction to some major interpreters of modern culture.

Dunbar is a clear thinker and philosopher, a fine teacher and musician, and also an accomplished athlete, one of the outstanding players in the history of European professional basketball. His book is a helpful addition to the literature of this turbulent century and well worth the time and energy of anyone interested in the spiritual implication s and potentials of those changes.


Spring 1996

Structures of Consciousness by Georg Feuerstein; Integral Publishing, Lower Lake, Cal., 1995; paperback.

This scholarly work was out of print for several years, and it is good to have it available again, complete with a vivid new cover. Feuerstein's book is the first and only comprehensive introduction to the work of the Swiss cultural philosopher Jean Gebser (1905-1973), who long before the new age movement, arrived at the conclusion that we are witnessing the birthing of a new type of consciousness. In his magnum opus The Ever Present Origin, he named it the aperspectivalarational-integral consciousness.

Feuerstein has been pursuing Gebserian research for the past quarter century. What makes Structures of Consciousness so valuable is that it not merely makes Gebser's generally difficult work accessible, but also critiques and expands it. Consciousness has recently entered scientific discourse so the ideas in the book, skillfully sketched by Feuerstein, will be of interest to many readers of The Quest. I recommend this book highly.

Spring 1996

The Tale of the Incomparable Prince by mDoc mkhar Tshe ring dbang rgyal, trans. by Beth Newman; HarperCollins, 1996; hardcover, 319 pages.

Beth Newman has undertaken the first English translation of the only known Tibetan novel, The Tale of the Incomparable Prince. Writing in the 1720s, the author attempted to combine social and political views with Buddhist teachings in an artistic fashion. He sought to provide a tale for his people without limiting it to the world of scholars who traditionally exchanged such stories among themselves.

The hero of the novel, Prince Kumaradvitiya, is an Eastern equivalent to King Arthur, a symbol of excellence in the arts of war, love, and leadership, who maintains the highest understanding and devotion to morality and universal love. The tale told here combines Eastern teachings such as the Bhagavad-Gita with a more typically Western-style tale such as those of Homer. It is an exciting story about princes and kings, heroes and villains, and, of course, love. It is also a deeply spiritual and philosophical piece that engages a reader's sense of morality.

Unlike its sermon-like predecessors in the Buddhist literary canon, the religious lessons in The Tale of the Incomparable Prince are relayed in a storytelling manner that makes the values and ideals of the tradition accessible to the modern reader.

The story tells of the birth and rebirth of Prince Kumaradvitiya. Prince Kumara is born as the first son and heir of King Suryamati (Wise Sun), the great king of the city Gem of the World. Kumara is born according to prophecy as a brilliant and powerful prince, who inherits wealth, knowledge, political and martial power, and the love of his people. His unimaginable abundance of earthly powers and privileges is displayed in his quest to obtain the magnificent Monahan as his queen. He is called upon to exercise political leadership and military prowess in leading his armies into battle against enemies.

Despite his wealth and success, his instinct is to lead his people according to dharma. Like the Buddha, Kumara understands that earthly riches and pleasures only trap people in samsara, misery. He must, however, first complete this journey towards enlightenment himself before he can return and lead his people and offer them salvation from samsara.

As a religious text, this novel is faithful to the Buddhist tradition, teaching that as karma repays us for drifting from dharma, we have the tendency to make more and more mistakes. This leads us into the never ending cycle of misery called samsara. Tshe ring dbang rgyal writes:

In that fiery place, the Death Lord draws lines
Upon our bodies according to our evil deeds.
Then sharp weapons saw us into that pattern.

The only escape from samsara is the quest to understand and come to terms with the transitory nature of life, which is a ceaseless system of births and rebirths. Our experiences are simply visions of this pool of life as it churns. Everything is impermanent except that everything is impermanent.

The novel mirrors the experiences of the Buddha, who also was born a rich prince, Siddhartha, who abandoned earthly riches for his quest of enlightenment.

Juan Mascaro, who translated the Bhagavad Gita and the Dhammapada, wrote that "There are, however, two great branches of literature not found in Sanskrit. There is no history and there is no tragedy; there is no Herodotus or Thucydides; and there is no Aeschylus or Sophocles or Euripides" (in Juan Mascaro, trans., The Bhagavad Gita, Penguin, New York, 1962, 9-10). Tshe ring dbang rgyal's work proves Mascaro to be quite mistaken, for this is a magnificent piece of literature, filled with poetry, tragedy, and some history. We now have in English a single piece of literature that provides a compelling tale that includes a fictionalized history of ideas and events vital to Tibet and the Buddhist world.


Summer 1996

A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber; Shambhala, Boston, 1996; paper.

Compared to Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, its 800-page, highly acclaimed predecessor, A Brief History of Everything is a stroll in the proverbial park. But not simply because of its shorter page count. The book has been written in an interview format, which makes it more personable, more reader-friendly, and far less intimidating than the earlier book. And Wilber's sprinkling of humor throughout is an unexpected delight. Ken Wilber has come out to play.

Yet make no mistake, this book, which centers on evolution, human development, consciousness, and spiritual realization, is no lightweight. As a distillation and synthesis of his previous works-more than a dozen since his classic, The Spectrum of Consciousness-there's plenty of substance here.

Nonetheless, the effect of this style of presentation makes Wilber's insights seem less "scholarly" and more immediately relevant to day-to-day life. Here's an example: Wilber suggests that, ultimately, Spirit reveals itself in three distinct ways in the physical world-through the sense of "I," the subjective or inner aspect of spirit or consciousness; through the "we" space, the community of spirit that pivots on ethics, morals, and culturally accepted worldviews; and through the "it" domain of objects and things, the measurable outer garment of God studied by science.

This obvious, yet not clearly recognized, distinction was useful. As a management consultant, I have known intuitively that most managerial methodologies are predominantly "it"-focused, using the scientific method to streamline systems. That's all very well and good. At some level I have known that to neglect consciousness and the inner development and growth of individuals within an organization is to become imbalanced and fall short of an organization's ultimate potential. To do so is to cut off the left hand of spirit in expression.

But unlike before, I now possess a potent and clear conceptual model, a more expansive framework that I can share with corporate executives. From my perspective, these individuals need to embrace both domains if they want their organizations to thrive.

In A Brief History of Everything, Wilber describes two streams of spiritual movement -the "ascending path" of evolution, which embodies the realization that in back of all forms, behind the Many, there is the One, and the "descending path," in which the One finds perfect expression as the Many. According to Wilber, it is the inability of "ascenders" and "descenders" to fully integrate these two movements of spirit that has led to fierce battles and bitter gridlock throughout history ascenders and descenders, "still crazy after all these years." This distinction proved immediately helpful to me in my desire to better understand some of the polarizing forces that arc playing themselves out on the world scene, right here, right now.

Warning: This book is not intended for the spiritually immature or dogmatically inclined. Whether you are a new ager, a systems thinker, an unflagging environmentalist, or a hardline fundamentalist-if you have fallen into a sense of complacency and righteousness regarding your own partial take on the good, the beautiful, and the true-Wilber is sure to rattle your cage.

But herein lies Wilber's greatest gift. He sniffs out and exposes limited, dysfunctional, and half-baked thinking like a champion bloodhound in hot pursuit of its quarry. Through an amazing capacity to synthesize and clarify Eastern and Western psychologies and spiritual traditions, he is able to paint a unique and broad panorama where all the puzzle pieces can fall into place.

One can only hope that this book will be a crossover title for Wilber, allowing the brilliance of his insights to shine among a much broader audience.


Summer 1996

A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe:The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science by Michael S. Schneider; HarperCollins. New York, 1994; xxxii +352pages; hardcover.

Number symbolism and mysticism are pervasive in the world's cultural traditions. In the West, the Pythagoreans and the Kabbalists have provided two major approaches to the meaning of numbers; while the East has its own numerological traditions. The symbolism of numbers is also a major concern of Freemasonry and of modern Theosophy. From H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, with its preoccupation with number symbols in the Stanzas of Dzyan and explications of them, to the writings of later Theosophists like Claude Bragdon, who integrated art, architecture, and mathematics, Theosophical literature has treated numbers as emblems of the timeless wisdom.

A Beginner's Guide is an eclectic survey of the symbolism of numbers one through ten as (according to the blurb on the dust jacket) "a wisdom neither ancient nor New Age but timeless." Its author, Michael Schneider, is a mathematics teacher who "designed the geometry harmonizing the statues at the entrance to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City." He writes in the grand tradition of mathematicians who have perceived their calling as all art of order and a yoga of understanding.

In his introduction to the book, the author distinguishes between secular mathematics (which is what is taught in schools and used in ordinary applications), symbolic or philosophical mathematics (which is the main subject of this book-a view of numbers as an expression of the order of creation), and sacred mathematics (the use of numbers to raise consciousness from mayavic to the Real, from the phenomenal to the noumenal, from the typical to the archetypal). It is the possibility of the last that is the real fascination of the study of numbers.

The body of this well-illustrated and clearly written book is divided into ten chapters, one for each of the first ten numbers, 1 to 10. One misses a chapter on zero, mystically or sacredly speaking the most important of the numbers and one of considerable value even in secular mathematics (try multiplying or dividing LClX by XXXlI to see how important 0 is). However, the chapter on I includes the circle, which overlaps the symbolism of zero.

The book includes a wealth of topics related more or less closely to numbers: mandalas, the ouraboros, the geometer's tools, Mobius strips, checkerboards, the vesica piscis, the principle of the arch, primary colors of pigments and light, labyrinths, the Orphic Egg, the Platonic solids, the Golden Mean (also rectangle, triangle, and spiral), the Fibonacci Series, Escher illusions, the Zodiac, Stonehenge, the musical scale, the electromagnetic spectrum, chakras, the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla, ziggurats, the caduceus, mitosis, the I Ching, the DNA molecule, lunar phases, the enneagram, the Otz Chiim, the tetraktys, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Here indeed is God the Geometer's plenty.

It is said that the gods created the universe by numbers. And if each of us is a creator in training, then the title of this attractive, entertaining, and informative volume suggests it is a handbook for future Dhyan Chohans, or universe-creators. Studying the book mayor may not prepare readers to construct a universe. It will, however, tell them much about the inner side of numbers and open their eyes to the rich symbolism of mathematics and geometry.


Summer 1996

God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita. Royal Science of God-Realization by Parahmahansa Yogananda; Self Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, 1996; Two·volume slipcased hardcover, 1,224 pages.

This monumental translation and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, by one of India's illustrious saints, breaks new ground as a revelation of its deepest spiritual, psychological, and metaphysical truths.

One of the most beloved of India's sacred texts, the Gita is considered to embody the essence of the four Vedas, 108 Upanishads, and six systems of Hindu philosophy. A pivotal episode of the great Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, the Gita takes place on the eve of a cataclysmic war in ancient India. Allegorically depicting the moral and spiritual struggle that leads to God-realization, it presents a dialogue in which the Lord Krishna, symbolizing the omnipresent Spirit, imparts counsel to the warrior-prince Arjuna, the soul.

In an illuminating commentary, Yogananda explores the science of yoga encrypted in the Gita, its time-honored tradition of meditation, and the way this ancient discipline makes possible the direct experience of God. In simple but eloquent language, he sets forth a sweeping chronicle tracing the soul's journey to enlightenment. He considers issues of great interest today, including the origin, evolution, and nature of the cosmos; karma and reincarnation; the phenomenon of death and life after death; and the eternal laws of righteousness. Extensive footnotes show striking correlations between the Vedic view of reality and the discoveries of modern science, as well as parallels between the teachings of the Gita and those of the Bible.

Born in northern India, Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) lived and taught in the United States for more than thirty years, after coming here in 1920 as India's delegate to an international congress of religious leaders. His landmark Autobiography of a Yogi, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, is widely regarded as a spiritual classic.

A preliminary serialization of his translation and commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita first began appearing in 1932 in Self-Realization Fellowship's magazine. Toward the end of his life, Yogananda devoted considerable time to revising and expanding this work, and gave instructions to two close disciples regarding editing and annotation for eventual publication in book form. His complete translation and commentaries are now available for the first time in this elegantly designed and illustrated edition, which includes a 37-page index and twelve original color paintings by contemporary Indian artists.


Summer 1996

The Ultimate Maze Book by David Anson Russo; Simon &Schuster, New York, 1991; paper.

Labyrinths are big things these days. A number of recent books have treated walking labyrinthine patterns as a spiritual exercise or have considered the patterns as symbols of our experience of and in the world.

Labyrinths, also called mazes, are of two basic sorts: unicursal, in which a single, undeviating path without options leads through the intricate windings of the pattern; and multicursal, in which a number of paths branch off from each other, offering sets of alternatives, not all of which may lead to the desired end. The term "labyrinth" is sometimes restricted to the unicursal variety, although that may also and less ambiguously be termed a "meander." Multicursal labyrinths are also called "mazes."

The Ultimate Maze Book is about multicursal labyrinths, which are often used as puzzles-frustrating or entertaining, depending on their complexity and the solver's ingenuity, Mazes are of several types, depending on how they are made: turf mazes, hedge mazes, toy mazes (games in which one rolls a little ball through the passages in a glass-topped box), and paper mazes, This book consists of 39 full-page colored maze diagrams on paper that the reader can try to solve. Even the simplest are fiendishly difficult for the tyro. Working mazes is like solving crossword puzzles: it takes talent, experience, and an obsession to finish the task.

The mazes in this book can also be regarded as works of art, for most could be hung on the wall as decorations. Or alternatively they could be used as objects of contemplation, like yantras. Spiritual exercises need not be very far from art and entertainment, for the world, as the Hindu sages tell us, is a game, a divine lila.

There are significant differences between the unicursal meander and the multicursal maze. One may be a gender link, with women preferring the meander, and men the maze. Or they may correspond with different psychological types: the meander with security-seeking introverts and the maze with chance-taking extraverts. Or perhaps they symbolize two spiritual experiences: the meander the certainty of our higher selves, and the maze the confusion of the personalities.

The two forms of the labyrinth certainly differ in their philosophical implications. For the meander proclaims that we will all reach the goal, not all at the same time, but all with the same assuredness. The maze offers no such guaranty. You enter it at your own risk and take your chances.

This book offers many hours of play and contemplation with chance-taking confusion, but no danger if you hit a dead end.

Summer 1996

A Mythic Life, by Jean Houston; HarperCollins, New York, 1996; hardcover, 340 pages.

Peripheral Visions, by Mary Catherine Bateson; HarperCollins, New York, 1994; hardcover, 243pages.

The Way of the Explorer: Art Apollo Astronaut's Journey through the Material and Mystical Worlds, by Dr. Edgar Mitchell, with Dwight Williams; G. P. Putnam: Sons, New York, 1996; hardcover, 230 pages.

All three of these books present what could surely be called mythic lives. All three authors have ranged in their lives across expanses of experience decidedly uncommon in one life.

Jean Houston's career has ranged over psychology, philosophy, anthropology, the new physics, and embodied all of these interests in explorations of human potential. But she is perhaps best known as an extraordinary storyteller in workshops and mystery schools aimed at transforming participants' lives.

Mary Catherine Bateson is a professor of anthropology and English and a prolific author, another profound storyteller who writes movingly of the effort to "construe continuity" in a life that may appear extraordinarily diffuse and scattered in its explorations.

Former astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell's life, beginning on a Texas ranch during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, included training at MIT, walking on the moon, and then exploring the outer dimensions of human consciousness.

Mythic lives, all.

Mitch ell begins his tale this way: "In January of 1971 I boarded a spacecraft and traveled to an airless world of brilliant clarity. The soil there is barren and gray, and the horizon always further than it appears. It is a static world that has only known silence. Upon its landscape human perspective is altered."

By the end of the first page he makes the key point of his book: "What I experienced during that three-day trip home [from the moon] was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness."

A visionary moonwalker, he went on to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which under the direct ion of Willis Harman has become the leading institution in the exploration of consciousness. Mitchell's book is an adventure across space and deep into inner space culminating in his declaration that the gods of the mystic and the theologian have been too small. "They fill the universe. And to the scientist, all I can say is that the gods do exist. They are the eternal, connected, and aware Self experienced by all intelligent beings."

Mary Catherine Bateson's stories draw on experiences living in many cultures Israel, the Philippines, Iran, America. She promotes the idea of lifelong learning and, in a delightful chapter called "Construing Continuity," speaks of how in looking back over a life of seeming discontinuity one can discern or at least "construe continuity."

She writes that:

Often those who have made multiple fresh starts or who have chosen lives with multiple discontinuities are forced by the standard ideas of the shape of a successful career to regard their own lives as unsuccessful. I have had to retool so often I estimate I have had five careers. This does not produce the kind of resume that we regard as reflecting a successful life, but it is true of more and more people, starting from the beginning again and again. Zigzag people. Learning to transfer experience from one cycle to the next, we only progress like a sailboat tacking into the wind. (p.82)

We can, she says, write the story of our lives as continuity or discontinuity. One version of the truth, she says, is that "Everything I have ever done has been heading me for where I am today," and the other version is "It is only after many surprises and choices, interruptions and disappointments, that I have arrived somewhere I could never have anticipated."

Those who have participated at one time or another in one of Jean Houston's workshops will already have heard some of the stories in her book. But all of them bear "rehearing" in this summation of her life to date. Perhaps we should say" lives to date," for Houston's life is characteristic of Bateson's description of the wide-ranging life. From the Hollywood of the forties, where Houston's father Jack was a writer for many of the great comedians, to travels to many countries, to the Parliament of Religions, to the United Nat ions, Jean Houston's life is rich with stories

. All three of these authors, by taking readers on their own mythic journeys, show how to draw out the mythic strands in our own lives.


Autumn 1996

A Parliament of Souls: In Search of Global Spirituality edited by Michael Tobias, Jane Morrison, and Bettina Gray; KQED Books, 1995; paperback, 291 pages.

A Parliament of Souls proceeds on the presumption that with over 5,000 languages and dialects spoken in the world and nearly two hundred countries culturally intermingling in an unparalleled manner, the late twentieth century provides unprecedented opportunity for a human community that is strengthened with dialogue and tolerance. As a speculative hypothesis, this claim was tested in the historic forum provided three summers ago by the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago.

If the 1893 assembly held one hundred years earlier is recalled for initiating inter-religious dialogue and encouraging comparative studies of religion, the 1993 gathering is remembered for creating an international network connecting religious communities worldwide. Unlike the first parliament, the 1993 event was an assembly to which all the religions were invited and almost all participated.

Insightful and sometimes inspiring interviews with twenty-eight spiritual leaders are contained in this book, which was prepared as a companion volume to accompany the acclaimed public television series filmed during the 1993 Parliament. The book provides a spacious spectrum surveying contemporary religion, a virtual spiritual banquet with dishes served by Baha'i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Jain , Jewish , Muslim, Native American, Sikh, Sufi, Taoist, and Zoroastrian adherents.

This commemorative book contains thoughtful presentations from H. H. the Dalai Lama, Harvard Prof. Diana L. Eck, University of Chicago Prof. Martin E. Marty, Notre Dame's Theodore Hesburgh, theologian Hans Kung, former UN Assistant Secretary General Robert Muller, Brother Wayne Teasdale, and Swami Chidananda.

Those represented in the book possess powerful hearts and analytical minds, which they apply to confront the countless crises and problems challenging contemporary societies. Among the perplexing problems raised are the possibility for a universal ethics code, the response required when hatred emanates from religious sources, ways to combat racial prejudice and ethnic bigotry, and the role of personal spirituality in daily life.

Shorn from the academia that dominates comparative religious study, the contributors illumine thoughts and feelings that might seem abstruse or esoteric. Unfortunately, most mass media coverage of the Parliament almost completely missed the wellsprings that flowed profusely during the event. Without contrivance, this aesthetically appealing anthology is pervaded with an intimate and experiential approach, expressing what Tobias describes as "a profound unity in pluralism." It illustrates that while religion sometimes earns an unfavorable reputation, still religious sources provide significant claim that must be addressed by every individual. It confirms the conclusion that the 1993 Parliament evoked, in Tobias' words, "an exhilarating experience to encounter deep feelings conveyed so intimately and shared among friends."


Autumn 1996

The Shambhala Guide to Yoga, by Georg Feuerstein. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. Pp. xi + 190.

This survey of yogic philosophy and practice is made with Georg Feuerstein’s customary lucidity, comprehensiveness, detail, and common sense. It is a book about what yoga is, not how CO do yoga, thus putting first things properly first. Too many people in the West set out to do yoga without knowing just what it is they are doing. Feuerstein corrects that misordering of priorities by giving an overview of the major aspects of the theory that every practitioner should command before beginning serious work.

This Guide makes it clear that yoga is not just an exotic form of calisthenics, but is rather a spiritual discipline based on certain assumptions about the nature of reality. It also makes clear that the full range of yogic practice includes some activities that are potentially dangerous ones for those who are unprepared for them and are unguided by knowledgeable experts in the field. Its thirteen chapters also give a commendably wide coverage of both Hindu and Buddhist yoga.

The book's first four chapters cover the following subjects: the history and purpose of yoga; the main kinds of yoga (jnana, karma, bhakti, mantra, raja, and hatha); the process of transmitting yoga (the teacher, the disciple, and initiation); and the nature of the bliss to which yoga leads and the moral basis for pursuing it (yama and niyama).

The next four chapters deal with specific techniques typical of yogic practice. These include methods of bodily purification (some of which seem bizarre to contemporary Westerners) and the postures that many Westerners exclusively associate with yoga; the rationale of diet; the theory of breath control; and the mental practices of withdrawing one's attention from the outer world (pratyahara), concentrating it (dharana ), making it continuous in meditation (dhyana), and finally getting it all together (samadhi). The use of imagination, practical techniques, and distractions along the way are also covered.

Chapters nine through eleven treat some more specific matters, including mantras, kundalini (with suitable warnings about the dangers of ignorant and premature experiments), and tantra. Treatment of the last subject includes left -hand and sexual tantras, but it also makes clear that they are not the whole of the "subject, which encompasses "a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices," embracing twelve characteristic features. The last two chapters are conclusions. Chapter twelve examines the nature of the samadhi experience, often translated as "ecstasy," that is, a standing outside one's egoic self, but which might more appropriately be translated as "enstasy," a standing within the conscious ness of the unitive Self. The final chapter, "Yoga in the Modern World," looks at the role yoga can usefully play to fill the gap between con temporary religious fundamentalism and secular fundamentalism (based on scientific materialism) and stresses the need for a qualified teacher to direct the performer in that role.

The final chapter both resonates and contrasts with modern Theosophy. H. P. Blavatsky viewed Theosophy as also filling the gap between the two fundamentalisms of religion and science. Furthermore she viewed Theosophy as a kind of yoga (specifically jnana yoga) leading to the ecstatic experience called samadhi in yogic literature. However, she also recognized that for most Westerners guidance by a guru in the Eastern pattern is not feasible, and so she advanced Theosophy as a form of yoga that can be followed without personal instruction- a form of yoga for the West or, more accurately, a yoga not limited to the cultural patterns of the East, though benefiting from its wisdom.

The Shambhala Guide to Yoga is a vademecum for students and intending practicers of Eastern yoga. It fills the need for a survey of the whole subject in a degree of detail that satisfies without satiating the enquirer. Anyone who wants to know both about yoga and how to do it can usefully begin with Annie Besant's Introduction to Yoga as a primer, follow it with this work surveying the whole field as a thorough introductory overview, and then go on to Wallace Slater's useful guides Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga for safe, practical suggestions on doing yoga.


Winter 1996

Science, Paradox, and the Moebius Principle: The Evolution of a 'Transcultural' Approach to Wholeness, by Steven M. Rosen; State University of New York Press, Albany. N.Y, 1994; softcover, 317pages.

According to Stanislav Grof, the literature on creativity clearly demonstrates that significant breakthroughs in the fields of science, art, religion, and philosophy are characteristically the result of an inspiration mediated by nonordinary states of consciousness. Grof has distinguished at least two primary forms of inspiration.

Sometimes an individual is suddenly presented- in a dream, vision, fever, meditation, or other nonordinary state of consciousness- with the solution to a problem on which he or she has been unsuccessfully working, typically for a long time. An example would be the chemist August von Kekule, who arrived at the final solution to the formula of benzene with his dream of the ouroboros and its ingenious suggest ion of the structure of the ring.

In other cases, however, the relationship between intuitive and discursive thinking is reversed - and the individual is presented, out of the blue, with an unprecedented insight into the nature of reality far in advance of its time. It can take years- even decades or centuries - to unfold the implications of such a visionary seed idea. An example is the idea that organic life originated in the ocean, which was initially formulated by the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaxagoras, but which had to await modem evolutionary biology for confirmation. Likewise the now familiar idea that reality is characterized by a mutual interpenetration of all things, which is found in ancient Chinese texts, has been developed more recently by the physicist David Bohm and others as an emerging paradigm in science.

Psychologist and philosopher Steven M. Rosen is a key contributor to the "new paradigm," having worked with Bohm himself. Rosen was initially trained in experimental psychology, but has been diligently laboring for twenty-three years in the fields of theoretical physics, mathematics, parapsychology, topology, cosmology, and phenomenology.

While working on his dissertation, he experienced a hypnogogic vision with a powerful and frightening ecstatic component. He subsequently conjectured this was a kundalini awakening. Four years later, in 1972, his Ph.D. in hand, the process suddenly recommenced. Over a two-week period, Rosen experienced what he has described as a series of visionary insights into the nature of consciousness and the cosmos. These insights utterly transformed his sense of self and reality.

Rosen's new book provides a record of the evolution of his ideas, which he describes as a twenty-plus-year process of "unpacking" that two-week transformative experience. In it he traces "the development of the Moebius principle, a new way of approaching the foundations of science and philosophy. The strategy has been to confront crisis and fragmentation in contemporary thought by offering a concrete intuition of thoroughgoing wholeness" (p.269).

Not all holisms are coherent, dynamic, and creative. Some, like Nazism and other totalitarian ideologies, aim for a closed and rigid totality while sacrificing values such as coherence, comprehensiveness, richness, complexity, and openness to change. Rosen is unwilling to make such sacrifices. Rosen is no conservative traditionalist; he sees such views as preserving dualism by exalting a static, orderly realm of supra historical Being over and above a merely chaotic process of historical Becoming.

It may seem perverse to mention totalitarianism, traditionalism, and the new paradigm in the same breath. But in his important 1989 book, Imaginary Landscape; Making Worlds of Myth and Science, philosopher William Irwin Thompson openly broke with the New Age precisely because of what he had come to regard as its unabashedly reactionary character. Thompson argued for a new, non-authoritarian, non-regressive conception of wholeness, for which we need a living, moving geometry, a new topology of the sacred, a "processual morphology."

If Thompson had been acquainted with Rosen's work, he doubtless would have recognized a kindred spirit. "In the Moebius principle," Rosen writes, "wholeness is sought in the embodiment of paradox…The wholeness in quest ion is utterly fluid and dynamic, an unobstructed boundless flow" (p. 269).

By "paradox," Rosen does not mean sheer contradiction-what he calls the negative sense of the word- for that would license every form of irrationality. The positive sense of paradox is to be "understood in the Zen-related sense of a wholeness so uncompromising that it confounds the dichotomies built into ordinary thinking" (p. 120). This refusal to compromise requires a greater, not lesser, degree of logical clarity. For example, the conflation of intellect and emotion represented in the Nazi motto "Think with the blood!" signals a reversion to pre-ration al modes of thought. As Sam Keen has pointed out, the first step of all totalitarian movement s is to encourage us to project our shadow onto the face of "the enemy."

Rosen invites us to bear in mind Ken Wilber's contribution in drawing attention to "the 'pre/ trans fallacy,' a widespread tendency among theorists to confuse pre-personal [i.e., undifferentiated] and transpersonal [i.e., integrated] dimensions'" of consciousness [p. 213). We must also distinguish what is pre-rat ional (merely irrational) from what is trans-rational. Paradox in this positive sense has a definite trajectory: a movement towards a fully coherent wholeness.

By refusing to yield either side of the paradox that we are at once fully alone and yet fully at one with the universe, we are forced to live what cannot easily be explained, that is, what we are. We must resolve to become a veritable mystery to ourselves.

For Rosen there is no easy guide-no guru-friendly formula-for such enlightenment. The question of personal identity is central. But this is not a symptom of a solipsistic or narcissistic self-preoccupation, for the question of identity cannot be addressed in isolation from questions of our collective human identity. And who, and what, is the "other"? Existential self-inquiry, social self-inquiry, and metaphysical inquiry are mutually irreducible, inseparably related aspects of the whole project.

Rosen is still- and necessarily ever shall be-in the process of working out the radical epistemological, existential, and metaphysical implications of this idea. In his perspicacious critiques of Bohm and Jung and their respective approaches to the problem of wholeness, he offers important hints on the direction in which his investigation must go.

In chapter 14, Rosen notes Bohm's distinction between the implicate order and the holomovement. Whereas the implicate (infinite) order is a stratum of energy, information, or meaning subtly enfolded within our explicate (finite} reality, yet knowable in principle, the holomovement is the "unknown" (and unthinkable) totality as it exists in itself, the unmanifest force behind even the implicate order. Rosen follows David Griffin in regarding the idea of the holomovement as symptomatic of Bohm's occasional "Vedantist mood "; he further asks whether this idea only serves to preserve the very fragmentation of consciousness and reality which Bohm originally set out to question.

At times in my personal exchanges with Bohm, I too have gotten the impression of an ultimate denial of form in favor of that which is formless. For example, he has distinguished symbolic knowing from what he believes to be beyond an, form of thought. Bohm has acknowledged that certain forms of symbolizing may usefully call attention to their own limitations and therefore serve as stepping stones, paving the way for transcendence. But in the end, through the acts of inward awareness and deeply reflective attention, which are distinct from mere forms of thought, form is entirely left behind; it dissolves in an" intelligent perception of the infinite totality." As I see it, the non-duality [of subject and object] thus achieved preserves the higher-order dualism of the finite and infinite, the differentiated and undifferentiable, for by granting formless totality such priority over form, form does not merely vanish hut remains to express itself negatively in the now unsolvable enigma of why there is format all. (p. 262)

Rosen's point , I take it , is this: If thought has no essential and internal relationship to intuition or meditation , and language is at best a dispensable means to an end which is entirely apart from language (to know that which is totally unsayable), then we are left with the same scenario rejected by William Irwin Thompson: the purely relative body/mind dropping off in favor of a purely absolute spirit; time, history, individuality, matter, etc. bespeaking a fall into the world; forms (include the forms of thought and imagination ) as symptoms of error or evil. The unbridgeable gulf between the symbol and the symbolized as expressed in the idea that language is thoroughly metaphorical and opaque and that nonlinguistic intuition, totally literal and transparent to reality, is undeniably dualistic; hence there must be continuity as well as discontinuity between thought and intuition, between prose and poetry, between symbolic language and the absolute reality to which it refers. The ultimate, in short, cannot be regarded as utterly ineffable (or the symbol as merely symbolic, or the body as a mere vehicle of absolute spirit) if we seek a truly uncompromising wholeness, a thoroughly coherent holism.

Rosen parts company both with those versions of mysticism which finally dismiss language and embodiment and the "merely phenomenal world ,"as well as with the postmodernist's insistence that language is all, and that objective reality is nothing more than the texts we happen to read (and we can choose to interpret them any way we like). Neither a relativist nor an absolutist, he calls for a transcendence of these polar opposites, and he takes his visionary cue from the Moebius strip and the Klein bottle. For Rosen, these paradoxical forms arc more than mere models; for a mere model, like a mere symbol, is apart from the thing modeled or symbolized. Yet how can this unity of symbol and referent be expressed in words?"

If I am seeking wholeness in the fullest meaning of the word," Rosen writes, "it is not enough for me merely to write about it; wholeness must be embodied in my own way of writing" (p. 269). How does one put one's whole self into the process of inquiry, and what is this "self" thus interjected? These are difficult questions for both Rosen and his readers to grapple with.

This is an exceptionally sophisticated work which requires complete and careful attention. Rosen is a profound thinker who has made an important contribution to contemporary debates.


Winter 1996

Book Reviews 1998

Cumulative Index to Lucifer, Volumes I-XX, Comp, Ted G, Davy, Edmonton, Alberta, T6E 5G4 Canada: Edmonton Theosophical Society, P O, Box 4587, 1997, Pp iv+224, Cloth.

Theosophy is both progressive and traditional. As modern Theosophy, its expression must be adapted to each generation so that its timeless truths can be communicated in current idiom; yet the writings of the first generation of modern Theosophists have a special claim on our attention as foundational.

The Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) Theosophical Society has long had a program of making available important early works. Their latest publication is a Cumulative Index to volumes 1-20 (September 1887 to August 1897) of Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine, founded and edited during her lifetime by I--l. P. Blavatsky and afterwards by Annie Besant with the assistance during the last years of the magazine of CJ. R. S. Mead.

This index has been prepared by Ted G. Davy with the care and skill of all his work. Its publication in 1997 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the end of the magazine, or at least the end of its publication under the tide Lucifer; the magazine continued under the title The Theosophical Review. This index is a splendid contribution to Theosophical scholarship and an invaluable aid for students of the early writings. The main index (pages 1-164) presents the contents of the ten years of Lucifer by authors' names, subjects, and keywords. There are helpful cross-references for both subjects (Phenomena: see Natural Phenomena, Psychic Phenomena, Occult Phenomena, Unexplained Phenomena) and authors' names, both pseudonyms ("Philanthropos" see Blavatsky, H. Po) and initialisms (A. see Glass, A. M.) when the authors can. be identified.

As some indication of what can be found in this index, the entry for "Olcott, Henry .S. (1832-1907)" includes 145 references to him, followed by 21 entries for items written by him and several that he and HPB cosigned That is the pattern for persons: first references to them are indexed, then contributions authored by them.

The volume ends with several appendixes. One indexes book reviews first by the authors of the books and second by the book titles. The reviewers arc included in the main index. Another index lists the titles of journals and of pamphlets and book mentioned in the pages of Lucifer as having been received. A third appendix indexes by geographical locations and organizations Theosophical activities around the world, as reported in Lucifer.

This index is an invaluable guide to information about the history of the Society and the intellectual currents of early Theosophy. It also serves for fascinating browsing as, for example, one comes upon an article by the Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats and a notice of his lecturing at the Dublin Lodge. All Theosophical students are deeply indebted to Ted Davy for preparing this index and to the Edmonton Theosophical Society for publishing it.
-John Algeo

January 1998

African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity, by Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, Hardback, xxii+282 pages.

Eco Homo: How the Human Being Emerged from the Cataclysmic History of the Earth, by Noel T. Boaz. New York: Basic Books/HarperCollins, 1997, Hardback, x +278 pages.

The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain, by Terrence W. Deacon New York: Norton, 1997, Hardback, 527 pages.

"Mommy, where did I come from?" Though later asked in mere sophisticated forms, that question of childhood is also a perennial question of our adulthood. We want to know where we, as individuals, as a social group, and as a species came from. Three recent books address the question of our origin as a species from three viewpoints: biological, ecological, and mental.

The biological origin of modern human beings has been accounted for by two theories. One holds that our earlier hominid ancestors spread over much of the world's surface and in various locations independently evolved into present-day humanity but that because of interbreeding, we have been becoming increasingly more alike. It is called the "multiregionalist" theory. The other holds that an earlier variety of the human genus evolved into our kind (Homo sapiens) in Africa and thence spread all over the globe, replacing other hominid species and that present-day differences among us are the result of evolutionary differentiation. It is called the "replacement" or more specifically the "Out of Africa" theory.

Recent analysis of the DNA or genetic code in human beings has shown that, although there are relatively great variations in DNA among groups of Africans, human beings outside of Africa are remarkably uniform, having only very slight variations among themselves and sharing their DNA pattern with some Africans. Since variation in the DNA is the result of mutations overtime, the most probable explanation of this surprising fact is that the human genus began in Africa, where it had a long evolutionary history and about 200,000 years ago developed into Homo sapiens, which later spread from Africa to the rest of the world. Such is the thesis of African Exodus, which dates the exodus from Africa about 100,000 years ago, allowing some 100,000 years in Africa for DNA diversification before the exodus began.

The book argues its thesis passionately and with revolutionary self-consciousness as a refutation of the multi-regionalist view, thereby refuting the romantic notion that science is a gradual, accumulative approach to ultimate truth. The book is also self-consciously a political statement, arguing against the thesis of The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, that intelligence is determined by race, with some races being genetically more intelligent than others. Science, far from being politically neutral, is often done in the service of some social agenda.

One of the interesting features of African Exodus is its emphasis on the unity of our contemporary human species. The differences among us are trivial; we are one people. African Exodus makes that point strongly with respect to our genetic inheritance.

Eco Homo basically supports the "Out of Africa" theory, although it presumes a slightly earlier beginning for the exodus of Homo sapiens "Africa is our ancestral homeland, and even today it still contains a stunning three-fifths to four-fifths of all human genetic diversity" (14). While agreeing with the date for the origin of Homo sapiens of 200,000 years ago, Eco Homo places the exodus earlier, between 130,000 and 175,000 years ago.

The characteristic feature of Eco Homo, however, is its attempt to connect the major stages of our biological evolution with changes in the eco logy: land formation, climate, weather patterns, flora and fauna distribution, and so on. It depicts human evolution, not as something independent of the rest of the planet, but as intimately connected with- influenced by and in more recent times increasingly influencing-the environment. Not only are we a unified species, but also we are unified and interdependent with the whole ecology of the planet.

Both books comment on, without explaining, a curious fact. About 20,000 years ago was one of those axial periods of human history when striking changes occur: "There is nothing in the paleontological record of the evolving human body that rivals the rapidity with which Homo sapiens began to evince advanced 'out-of-body' culture- cave art, music, burial of the dead, clothing, personal ornamentation, diverse tools, and so on....If one is drawn to dramatic 'hiccups' in the history of life on this planet, this certainly ranks near the top" (Eco Homo 217). In brief, human culture -our language, marriage and kinship systems, myths, magic, art, social mores and folkways, indeed everything from ethics to etiquette that obviously differentiates our behavior from that of nonhuman animals - began to appear at that time.

Eco Homo also stresses the remarkable fact of human behavior that we call "altruism" and relates it to that budding of culture 20,000 years ago. Altruistic behavior is evoked from the members of a cultural group "when two social conditions are met: There must be a vital need or threat to the group and there must be a strong sense of solidarity with in the group" (227). Altruism is thus a product of the evolution of cultural behavior and has survival value for the community. It has also, to be sure, its dark side: ethnic chauvinism and racism.

One of the great teachers of another axial period in human history, the Master Kung (or Confucius, as we usually call him), had a prescription for that undesirable side effect. He said that we begin with group solidarity within the family, but extend it progressively to the community, the state, the nation, and ultimately all humanity. The building of a world culture that synthesizes and transmutes local distinctions into a universal brotherhood of humanity is the cure for our social ills.

The Symbolic Species looks at the nature and evolution of language and the human brain and finds in their co-development the key to our modern humanity: "The doorway into this virtual world [of uniquely human abstractions, impossibilities, and paradoxes] was opened to us alone by the evolution of language, because language is not merely a mode of communication, it is also the outward expression of an unusual mode of thought -symbolic representation....Biologically, we are just another ape. Mentally, we are a new phylum of organisms"(22-3).

"Symbolic" is being used here in a sense given to the term by Charles Sanders Peirce, who classified "signs" (things that stand for other things) into three types: "icons," which are pictures of what they stand for, such as portraits; "indexes," which are causally connected with the things they stand for, as the position of a weathervane stands for a direction of the wind; and "symbols," which stand for something by social convent ion, as a wedding ring stands for the marital agreement or the letter "c" stands for a particular sound in words (70-1). In fact, the Peircean symbol is really of two kinds. In one, a symbol is connected with what it stands for quite arbitrarily, as the letter "c'' is connected with the sound "cc." In the other, a symbol is connected with what it stands for metaphorically or analogically, as a wedding ring is connected with the marital agreement by its shape (being an endless circle), its material (being of precious metal), and so on. The analogical symbol is far richer than the arbitrary one, and is the basis of much distinctively human life.

The Symbolic Species also points out that ritual is intimately connected with language and other symbolic systems and thus with our essential humanity:

Early hominids were forced to learn a set of associations between signs and objects, repeat them over and over, and eventually unlearn the concrete association in favor of a more abstract one. This process had to be kept up until the complete system of combinatorial relationships between the symbols was discovered. What could have possibly provided comparable support for these needs in the first symbol-learning societies?

In a word, the answer is ritual. Indeed, ritual is still a central component of symbolic "education" in modern human societies, though we are seldom aware of its modern role because of the subtle way it is woven into the fabric of society. [402]

In brief that remarkable budding of culture and altruism 20,000 years ago was the effect of the efflorescence of language and ritual. Voluntary social cooperation and culture are not possible with out symbolic language, and neither is the kind of thinking that lets us create mental worlds, virtual realities of "might-have- been" and "let's-pretend." "The evolution of symbolic communication has not just changed the range of possible objects of consciousness, it has also changed the nature of consciousness itself." To be human is to think symbolically, to see a wedding ring, not just as a metal circle, but as a pledge of fidelity, commitment, and mutual support.

These three books, the work of established academic anthropologists, point each in their various ways to certain principles of the Wisdom Tradition. Those principles include human solidarity, the interdependence of humanity with our environment, the naturalness of altruistic behavior, the uniqueness of the human mind, and the centrality of symbol, metaphor, and analogy to our perception of the world. One of the great teachers of that Wisdom Tradition wrote, "Modern science is our best ally" (Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett 65/11). Although there is much in all three books that followers of the Tradition might take issue with, the affirmation of those principles justifies that statement.

Spring 1998

Thinking about the Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology, by David R. Oldroyd. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. Pp. xxx + 410. Hardback.

Thinking about the Earth traces the history of ideas about the planet we live on from ancient times to the present. The volume reviews concepts concerning the origin of the Earth, its physical and chemical composition, its surface and tectonic evolution, its history of climate change, and interactions with its biosphere.

The book is largely nontechnical and, hence, should be easily accessible to the educated nonspecialist. The author, David Oldroyd, is a professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia, specializing in the history of geology, and the book is very much what might be expected from a science historian. The volume is very well researched, and even relatively minor players in some of the major debates in the Earth sciences during the last two centuries arc accorded their fifteen lines in the limelight.

The book will be of value to anyone in, retested in the development of ideas concerning Earth history, but its coverage of most topics trails off with work from the 1950s to 1960s and it does not attempt to track more recent developments. However, Oldroyd's goal is clearly not to provide an up-to-date review of scientific research but rather to illustrate the historical development of ideas concerning the Earth, and in this regard he succeeds admirably.

A weakness of the volume is that Oldroyd is not willing to admit that certain older ideas about the Earth are demonstrably incorrect and have been conclusively rejected by the Earth sciences community. Indeed, science docs progress with time, consigning some ideas to the trash heap of history.

To give an example, the Earth was once generally held to be the center of the cosmos, about which all other heavenly bodies revolved. This anthropocentric view was subsequently demolished by Newtonian mechanics, which explained the motion of the Earth about the Sun, that of the solar system about the Milky Way galaxy, and that of galaxies through the vastness of intergalactic space as a function of gravitational dynamics. Because Newtonian mechanics is solidly grounded in the laws of physics, a return to a Ptolemaic cosmos is a virtual impossibility.

An analogous case in Oldroyd's volume concerns the face-off between the expanding Earth and plate tectonic hypotheses. Both hypotheses were initially constructed to account for the distribution of continents and oceans on the Earth's surface. According to the expanding Earth hypothesis, the terrestrial sphere once had a solid sialic crust which subsequently split into fragments (i.e., the modern continents) that became separated by ocean basins as the Earth expanded.

The primary problem with this hypothesis is that there is simply no physical mechanism by which the Earth could have expanded by the requisite amount, i.e., roughly a three-fold increase in surface area and more than a five-fold increase in volume. Plate tectonic theory, which I will refrain from discussing here, now has a wealth of geophysical and geochemical evidence in support of it, and the expanding Earth hypothesis has about as much chance of resurrection as a Ptolemaic cosmos.

Philosophically, the point overlooked in Oldroyd's position that current views of the Earth have no greater intrinsic merit than earlier views is that scientific concepts have not merely changed through time but have deepened. By this, I mean that the level of debate has progressed from problems of a broad, fundamental nature to problems that are much more narrowly focused as more information has been generated and analyzed.

As an example, as recently as thirty years ago a major debate within the scientific community concerned the tempo of the evolution of life, i.e., whether it occurred gradually and continuously (as envisioned by Darwin) or whether it occurred episodically following long periods of stasis (the more recent "punctualist" view). Detailed compilations of taxonomic data have led to a widespread consensus among Earth scientists in favor of punctualism, and current research focuses on the factors permitting long-term evolutionary stasis (e.g., "homeostasis," or self-regulating equilibria within biotic communities) as well as those responsible for precipitating rapid evolutionary change (most of which appears to be associated with mass extinction events).

Hence, ideas on a given issue may fluctuate for some period of time, but in most cases enough darn is eventually generated to resolve the issue and scientific debate progresses to a deeper, more detailed level.

In the final section of the book, Oldroyd considers the Gaia hypothesis, one of the most interesting and controversial ideas to tweak established scientific paradigms in recent years. Since its inception, the Gaia hypothesis has fissioned into several versions, reflecting varying emphasis on the holistic, oneness-with-Mother-Earth theme. In the original version published by James Lovelock, the essence of the Gaia hypothesis is that the biosphere has a stabilizing influence on Earth-surface conditions, and that such stability, in turn, promotes a healthy, well-integrated biosphere.

The negative reaction of the scientific community to the Gaia hypothesis resulted, I think, largely from its avid acceptance by New Ager's, who have favored more holistic versions in which the Earth itself is viewed as a living organism. However, the Earth was sterile at some point in the past and will be so again at some point in the future, and it is nothing more nor less than a solid physical substrate on which life has developed (or been introduced) and to which life constantly adapts itself. To his credit, Oldroyd gives a very balanced account of the original Gaia hypothesis and of its potential implications with regard to long-term interactions between the Earth and its biosphere.

Spring 1998

Spiritualism in Antebellum America, by Bret E. Carroll. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. Hardback, xiv + 227 pages.

Historians of American religion have recently displayed a new level of serious interest in alternative spiritualities, past and present, realizing that they have influenced the course of America's radically pluralistic culture and have told American s who they are , virtually as much as "mainstream" religion has done. Bret Carroll's Spiritualism in Antebellum America is a good ex ample of this trend, and fascinating reading it will be for those with a taste {or good scholarly writing and a love of the American past and the manifold varieties of the spiritual quest.

The book is not so much a chronological tracing of the new religion from its beginning in 1848, with the mysterious "rappings" the young Fox sisters heard in their upstate New York farmhouse, up to the Civil War, as it is a thematic study of the new religion in this period, which was something of its golden age. Sensational accounts of mediumship, table-tilting, and spirit trumpets and bells filled the newspapers, and in some places conventional churches were reportedly nearly emptied as seekers swarmed instead to "home circles" and to auditorium programs featuring Spiritualist speakers and "demonstrations."

The chapters of Spiritualism in Antebellum America deal with such topics as "Spiritualist Republicanism," "The Structure of the Spirit World," "The Ministry of Spirits," "The Structure of Spiritualist Practice," and "The Structure of Spiritualist Society." "Republicanism" refers not to the present political party, but to what historians call the "republican" reaction in Jacksonian America against lingering elements of aristocracy, and privilege, in favor of democracy and equality. For many this mood took quite radical forms in the 1830s and 1840s, leading to a rejection of hierarchy and mere traditionalism in religion no less than in the political sphere.

Spiritualism was clearly a beneficiary and expression of this "republican" wave. Anyone could be a medium or form a Spiritualist circle. As Ann Braude has shown in another excellent book on the subject, Radical Spirits, Spiritualism was a movement that offered women opportunities for spiritual leadership and se lf-expression on important issues at a time when they were denied them in virtually all other churches, as well as in affairs of state. Spiritualism was closely connected with most of the progressive guises of the time: abolition of slavery, feminism, socialism, temperance, prison reform, and the decent treatment of Native Americans.

Historians have also come to see how much America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was, in the title of a recent book by Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith. The conventional religions, and even the famous frontier revivals, were only parts of this mix: there were also Deism, magic, Unitarianism, Mormonism, Transcendentalism, occultism, communalism, and then Spiritualism, But against this melange the emergent scientific and industrial revolutions presented yet another challenge, that of sheer materialism. One response to it was what Carroll calls "technical religion," of which he presents Spiritualism as a prime example.

Spiritualists offered their faith" as the most "scientific" of religious as well as the most "democratic." Not only could it he practiced by anyone, but its claims could also be tested by anyone. One could, in principle, check the veracity of what mediums reported about the lives of departed loved ones, or inspect the seance room for hidden props as much as one wished; this was one sect that did not depend on "blind faith" in the infallibility of ancient texts or of a privileged priesthood,

Spiritualism was actually a religion for the technological age in a double sense. Not only was it allegedly the first to be fully subject to scientific verification , it was also the first to be spread by means that the new technologies made available: through the mass print media at a time when literacy was finally approaching universality in a few advanced countries, including the US; through apostles no longer limited to foot , horseback, or sail, but able to carry the message throughout the nation and the world in the relative comfort and speed of hurtling steam trains and ocean liners and even to send messages instantaneously by the telegraph , invented only a few years before the Fox sisters' rappings. No wonder Spiritualist publications had such progressive, up-to-date names as the Spiritual Telegraph and Spiritual Age!

Present -day Theosophists will undoubtedly see in all of this, as did the founders of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky and H. S. Olcott-both one- time students of Spiritualism-a foreshadowing of their movement, founded in 1875 in the wake of the first great Spiritualist age described by Carroll. Here too was a democratic form of spirituality accessible in principle to persons of both sexes and all classes equally, progressive in spirit and embracing many people seriously interested in world improvement. It too made much use of modern media for its dissemination-one thinks of all the Theosophical magazines, of Blavatsky and Olcott sailing by steamship through the newly-opened Suez Canal en route to India, and on a deeper level of the way in which modern Theosophy sought to resolve the burgeoning Victorian science- versus-religion crisis of faith. Theosophy did this, however, in a way that went beyond what Spiritualism ordinarily had to offer. It did not so much submit its claims and "phenomena" to scientific verification, though there was some of this, as appeal to a deeper and older stratum of wisdom, the "Ancient Wisdom," which was postulated as secreted within all real religion and science and which when unpacked could provide common ground for understanding them both.

The partial truth and sometime excesses of early Spiritualism produced scathing rhetoric from the Theosophical side in the nineteenth century. Today, however, with the polemical passion of early Spiritualism largely spent, one can appreciate antebellum Spiritualism, imperfect though it may have been, for the fascinating and courageous movement it often was. Bret Carroll's book will be an aid to that appreciation.

Summer 1998

Tarot and the Tree of Life: Finding Everyday Wisdom
In the Minor Arcana,
by Isabel Radow Kliegman. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, 1997. Paperback, xxv + 220 pages.

Choice Centered Tarot, by Gail Fairfield, foreword by Ralph Metzner. York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1997. Paperback, vi+ 154pages.

What is the tarot? It is a deck of cards consisting of four suits equivalent to present-day playing cards, except that each suit contains an extra face or court card, called the "knight." To these fifty-six cards, called the "minor arcana," are added twenty-two additional trump cards, known as the "major arcana," ranging from a trump card numbered zero (the Fool) to the trump card numbered twenty-one (the World).

The origin of the tarot is a matter for speculation. Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tarot enthusiasts were wont to follow the lead of Court de Gel-elm (1728- 1784) and other French esotericists, who saw in these cards a remnant of mysterious Egyptian sources, especially a legendary book called the Book of Thoth. Others, notably the brilliant writer and esoteric teacher Papus (Dr. Gerard Encausse), drawing on Gypsy legend , discerned Indian symbolism in the cards and attributed the four suits of the minor arcana to the four principal castes of the Hindu social order.

While there is little certainty concerning its origin, the re has never been any doubt about the uses of the tarot. They are threefold: (1) symbolic study of the cosmic and psychic patterns that move our lives, (2) expansion of our consciousness by visual meditations focused on the cards of the major arcana , and (3) divination or securing guidance upon practical matters of a perplexing nature.


The first of the two books reviewed here, Isabel Kliegman's Tarot and the Tree of Life, has a just claim to a unique status because it addresses itself to the minor arcana of the tarot. Although most books about the tarot contain a great deal of information about and insight into the archetypal images and mysterious implications of the twenty-two cards of the major arcana, the fifty-six cards of the minor arcana are almost routinely neglected. Most informed sources assure us that the minor arcana represent the human personality and the manifold structures of creation, while the major arcana symbolize spiritual potencies linked to the cosmos and personhood. To contemplate the spiritual side of universal existence and at the same time to remain uninformed regarding the personal dimension shows an attitude lacking in balance. This imbalance has been remedied by Tarot and the Tree of Life.

According to Isabel Kliegman, the tarot is above all a system of self-knowledge, self-integration, and self-transformation. Vital to this integration is the creative interact ion of the opposites leading to an ultimate and balanced union. A symbol system such as the tarot is eminently suited to facilitate this process, which, as C. G. Jung pointed out, takes place on a level of consciousness other than the rational, one where development expresses itself in symbols. In order to undergo successfully this process, we need to avail ourselves of all our psychological resources. Kliegman tells us in simple but impressive language that the neglected cards of the four suits of the minor arcana are indispensable to our psychological development and ultimate wholeness. These cards are "overlooked looking glasses" into the reality of our souls.

One of the most impressive chapters of this book is the second, entitled "Kabbalah: The Ultimate Gift." In a mere twenty' four pages, the author accomplishes what many have failed to achieve in tomes of many hundreds of pages. She presents a clear and practical exposition of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and its relevance to the basic concerns of everyday life, including the relevance of the Tree of Life to the tarot deck. Since the time of Eliphas Levi in the mid nineteenth century, the Kabbalah has been frequently employed to elucidate the meaning of the tarot cards, especially the twenty-two major arcana, which were attributed to the twenty-two interconnecting "channels" of the Tree of Life. The author expertly elucidates the attributions of the ten numbered cards of the four suits to the ten sephiroth (73-176) and presents a refreshingly original treatment of the court cards of the suits in their relationship to the four olams (regions or worlds) of the Tree (177- 215).

The book is replete with examples of people's experiences with the cards and has a friendly, direct tone that cannot help but set the reader at case when undertaking tarot study. A minor area of difficulty the reader may encounter is the author's use of the modernized phonetic spelling of Hebrew names, which is different from the older spelling to which man y readers are accustomed. The religious context of the book is Jewish, which is the author's faith, but which obviously may not be the religious background of many readers. Fortunately, many of the explications of Jewish religious concepts are given in a commendably universal tone, so that they are readily applicable to all traditions. A remarkable and brilliant instance is the author's commentary on the "Shema Yisrael" (17-1 8).


Gail Fairfield's Choice Centered Tarot possesses a thrust that is rather different from that of the previous book. Its emphasis is primarily on the tarot as a "psychic tool" and thus on divination. There is very little information presented that might create a context (or the symbolism of the cards; one misses the mythological frame, work expounded by Joseph Campbell or by Sally Nicholls. Even more one misses the Kabbalistic context presented by numerous other authors. (The word Kabbalah does not appear in the text.)

It is of course all too true that one of the most popular uses to which the tarot has always been put is that of divination. Yet divination without a larger philosophical and even transcendental context becomes a dreary business. The late Manly P. Hall expressed this well when he wrote: "To those versed in ancient philosophies it appears unfortunate that these cards should be collected and examined mainly in the interest of fortune telling. Man's place in the universe is far more important than the outcome of h is daily concerns" (The Tarot: An Essay, 21).

It is not that the Choice Centered Tarot is without some practical merit. As the noted figure of consciousness studies, Ralph Metzner, points out in his foreword, the author "emphasizes the psychological meanings of the Tarot, showing ... how the card symbols, which at first seem so perplexing, can yield powerful insights and help people come to greater self-understanding and the ability to make creative and responsible choices in all kinds of situations" (iv). Whether this emphasis appears as clearly and consistently as one might wish is an other quest ion.

Certainly the most annoying feature of this book is its frequent and for the most part quite unjustified introduction of "politically correct" motifs into the discussion of the tarot. What is one to make of remarks such as this: "Most Tarot decks are blatantly racist in that they confine themselves to the use of Caucasian images. The exclusion of people of other races ... reinforces the misconception that the Tarot is only relevant to the white race" (8)? The present reviewer has lectured on the tarot to many audiences of a racially mixed composition and has never heard anyone titter this kind of objection. Where race-oriented "PC" is present, the gender-oriented variety of the same thing cannot be far away: "Many decks and books still reflect the more traditional, rigidly defined sex roles... we need to be aware of the sexist and heterosexist attitudes that they reflect and reinforce" (8). Poppycock! Does the Queen of Swords not hold the most masculine of magical symbols, the sword? And can one imagine a feminine figure of more awesome power than the High Priestess, or a more dynamic and energetic one than the woman on the card of Strength?

Both of these books are useful additions to the ever-expanding body of literature on the tarot , but Tarot and the Tree of Life is more complete and more useful than Choice Centered Tarot. The former shows us how we are instructed by the numinous symbols of the cards, while the latter tells us how we may use these same symbols to serve largely personalistic ends. The difference between the two approaches is significant.

Summer 1998

Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die, edited by Sushila Blackman. New York: Weatherhill, 1997. Paperback, 160 pages.

In Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die, Sushila Blackman has collected death stories of Hindu, Tibetan, and Zen masters.

Hindus believe that the last thoughts before death affect one's next incarnation. Hence, it is best to think of God on dying so that one will be forever liberated. A famous example is Mahatma Gandhi's last exclamation, "Sri Ram, Sri Ram, Sri Ram!" as he died from an assassin's bullets.

Tibetan monks practice meditations to Be performed immediately before and after death to effect final liberation or at least reincarnation in desirable circumstances. They study the texts we call the Tibetan Book of the Dead so they can properly navigate the various bardos, or stages between death and rebirth. As the dying person’s life-force leaves the body, a great clear light appears-the light reported in so many near-death experiences. Tibetan masters teach that if one can recognize and merge into that light, one is liberated from all separate existence.

Many of the stories in this book have to do with foreknowledge of death without fear or anxiety. In the Japanese tradition, Zen masters on the verge of death givetheir last words in the form of a death poem, or jisei. The beautiful death poem of Basho, the greatest of Japan's haiku poets, was "Sick, on a journey, yet over withered fields dreams wander on." Several death stories of Zen masters involve humorous behavior or nonsensical statements very much like Zen koans.

The afterword presents an unexpected poignancy. Shortly before completing this book, Sushila Blackman learned that cancer had metastasized to her bones. She had unknowingly been collecting these stories to prepare for her own death, which came a little more than a month after she wrote the afterword.

These stories make the point that death is just another passage in life, which we need not fear. We, like the great beings, can make a graceful exit.

Summer 1998

The Psychic Revolution of the 20th Century and Our Psychic Senses. By Claire G. Walker. Seal Beach, CA: Psychic Sense Publishers, 1997. Pp. xii + 166.

Once in a while, a book comes along that serves as a "bellringer'' to the century rather than to the moment; such a book is that authored by Claire Walker. From the thoughtfully written Author's Note to the concluding Endnotes, she has presented the term psychic in a new light, one that has evolved in the past hundred years. Her fresh approach to the greatly misunderstood psychic faculty restores to it a dignity that is ancient: in concept: and not to be misinterpreted as merely a psychic phenomenon.

Just as the Renaissance was a major turning point in the world's history, the-author believes that now another major direction has been taken, one in which individualism is a thing of the past. Claire Walker envisions the next step in the world's evolution as one of knowledge, wholeness, and spiritual vision.

The author credits the appeal of twentieth-century psychism to an outgrowth of the late nineteenth century as she traces the history of this often misunderstood term. She sets the stage by the founding of the Theosophical Society by H. P. Blavatsky and others in 1875. The author writes appreciatively concerning the struggles and accomplishments of Blavatsky, who brought an organized, rational view of the inner side of reality to the Western world. The author also surveys Theosophy's basic tenets and history, observing that the popular appeal of psychism began about the time of the Society's foundation.

As we stand on the threshold of a new age, till: author states that it will be anything but business as usual. Her extensive research heralds a "New Globalism." If we fail to speak and think in the new language of that Globalism, we will be one with the dinosaurs, for goodwill and genuine brotherhood have not as yet: been realized. The author believes that the well-being of the twenty-first century will not depend on the knowledge of a privileged few but should be available to all inhabitants of the Earth.

Walker states that: the development of the psychic sense is so basic to human nature that it is the one natural resource not threatened by modern civilization and that it: is the next step in the evolution of the planet. She writes that a new image of the World Self will emerge as hundreds of thousands of people learn to balance inner being with outer personality, which is the work of the Universal Soul.

Parents and educators can breathe life into the educational system by recognizing the psi factor as a learning tool, a cherished natural ability that can unlock the inner potential of each child. In this manner the child's creativity can be actualized, allowing knowledge to be intuitive rather than inductive. Many psychically gifted children are now coming into incarnation, and early training and recognition of their abilities will allow their energies to grow into "new channels of doing and thinking."

A new society will emerge when the recognition of the psychic sense as pan of the human constitution provides interaction between the peoples of the earth. A new physics, a new geography, a new language (a new understanding of old terms), a new approach to health and alternative healing, and a new understanding of the development of the five senses that will aid in the awareness of the sixth or intuitional sense will in concert give rise to a new religion, one of world harmony and good will.

The author compares the new science with H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (1:274), which holds that "Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception." The book describes psychic "wholeness" as a fulfillment and a drive that creates a now of energy more important: than pleasure. Living then becomes an art that transcends personality to a spiritual level. The word psychic has meant many things in the past century. On the road to an increased understanding of reality, the psi factor has metamorphosed from parlor tricks and séances to scientific study and growing respect for the ancient spiritual teachings. Psychic, as the author uses the term, docs not refer to sensational phenomena, but to the development of an influence on our every daily thought, choice, and reaction.

We arc indebted to Claire Walker for her clarification of the meaning of the term psychic and for sharing her wisdom and research, her hope and insight: into the future.

June 1998


H. P. Blavatsky's major work, The Secret Doctrine, is both the most basic of all Theosophical books and the most difficult to use. Its wealth of detail and breadth of scope are breathtaking, if not intimidating, for many readers. Any assistance in providing easier and more effective access to this Theosophical monument is good karma. Two works of excellent good karma have recently become available: a new index to the book by John Van Mater and an Electronic edition with a search program from Vic Hao Chin.

A New Index

The Secret Doctrine: Index. By John P. Van Mater. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1997. Softcover, viii+433 pages.

Indexes are valuable tools. Shortly after the publication of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky was praising two students who had "indexed it for themselves, classifying the contents in two portions-the exoteric and the esoteric" (Lucifer 6 [1890]: 333--5). The two indexes hitherto most widely available have been that published by the Theosophy Company in 1939 and that, in the de Zirkoff edition, published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, in 1979, which superseded earlier Adyar indexes.

The new index by John Van Mater has some distinctive and noteworthy features. A pervasive difference is its ordering of subentries under a main entry. For example, the main entry for the term "Race(s)" spreads over four columns and includes more than a hundred subentries. Subentries must be ordered somehow-but how?

The two earlier indexes listed subentries in the order of their volume and page numbers. That order gives the index user an overview of the sequence in which the topics are covered in the book. Also if the user wants to look up all the subentries for a given topic, the page numbers are in the most convenient order for doing so.

The Van Mater index orders subentries alphabetically by a keyword in the subentry. This has the advantages of bringing together subentries dealing with the same aspect of a topic and of letting the user quickly scan long entries for the particular aspect of a subject that is of interest. Each system of ordering has its own virtues and uses; it is good to have both available.

Other noteworthy features of the Van Mater index are its identification of the language source of foreign terms (mainly Sanskrit, of course) and its very helpful cross-references. For example, the entry for mulaprakriti (omitting the diacritics) begins:

Mulaprakriti (Skt.) See olso Pradhana, Prakriti,
Primonal [sic for "Primordial"] Matter, Svabhavat

If one consults the four cross-references under mulaprakriti, other cross-references appear under them and their further cross-references, namely aether, akasa, anima mundi, astral light, daiviprakriti, elements, ether, Father-Mother, hyle, ilus, protyle, world soul. By tracing the web of such cross-references, one can get a fair coverage of a given subject.

Van Mater ends his index with an appendix listing and translating foreign phrases used in The Secret Doctrine. This is especially helpful for us monolingual Americans. The phrases range from the preface's De minimis non curat lex (l:viii "The law does not concern itself with trifles") to a complaint of Euripedes about aoidon hoide dustenoi logoi (2:764 "those miserable stories of the poets"). The last foreign phrase in the book, Satyan nasti paro dharmah (2:798 "There is no religion higher than truth," the motto of the Theosophical Society) is entered in the main index, so is omitted from the appendix.

This volume, both in form and content, has the high quality typical of Pasadena publications. It is a significant and very welcome addition to the array of tools for the study of Theosophy. Students of The Secret Doctrine are in debt to John Van Mater and the Theosophical University Press for this excellent: work.


An Electronic Edition

The Secret Doctrine: Electronic Book Edition. Ed. Vincente Hao Chin, Jr. Quezon City, Philippines; Theosophical Publishing House, 1998. 5 floppy disks, 7.5 megabytes harddisk space.

The Philippines Section of the Theosophical Society, under the presidency of Vic Hao Chin, has brought turn-of-the-century technology to the study of The Secret Doctrine by producing an electronic version of Blavatsky's work.

Currently available on 5 high-density floppies, the text uses the pagination of the 1888 edition (as all modern studies do). It installs on a hard disk, runs under Windows 3.101' Windows 95, and requires 7.5 megabytes of hard disk space for its storage. It includes a search program that allows the reader to look for any word or phrase used in the text (other than special characters or words in diagrams or illustrations).

A search produces a list of sections in which the specified word or phrase is to be found, identified by volume, part, section or chapter numbers, and the title of the section. The sections are ordered in the list according to the frequency with which they contain the word or phrase, with the most abundant use first. For example, mulaprakriti is used in 22 sections of the book, most often in volume 1, pan: 2, section 12 entitled "The Theogony of the Creative Gods," where there are 12 uses, and next most often in the Proem of volume 1, where there are 11 uses, and so on.

Clicking on any given line of the list takes one to the corresponding section of The Secret Doctrine, in which every occurrence of the word or phrase is highlighted for ease of location. The click of a button takes the user from one highlighted use to the next. The text, in whatever amplitude the user desires, can be blocked and copied to a document in the word processor of the user's choice.

If a student wants to know what The Secret Doctrine says about any term or how it uses any expression, this electronic edition is the fastest, most thorough, and most accurate way to find the answer. Through it, one can produce an exhaustive list of every occurrence in The Secret Doctrine of whatever word or phrase one wants to investigate. And because its text can be copied and pasted to another document, it is the easiest way to get quotations, long or short, from the book.

Plans are currently underway to put the program eventually onto a CD with various supplementary materials. However, the electronic edition now available is excellent and highly useful. No serious student of The Secret Doctrine should be without it. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., and his co-workers are owed a very great vote of thanks for their work in producing this electronic version.


The Future

Electronic, globally searchable texts will not put primed indexes out of business-at least, not yet. But they will transform how such indexes are designed and what they are used for.

The availability of computer searches through an electronic text largely obviates the traditional use of printed indexes, which has been to find places in a text where a given word is used and a given subject is discussed. It is pointless to look up a word manually in one printed book, note down the references given for that word, look up each reference in another book, and then copy (either by hand or xerography) the quotations one wants.

That is an obsolete research technique. Instead, one types the word or expression of interest into the electronic program, which then produces in the blink of an eye all occurrences of the word or expression, and one can electronically copy any passages one wants. Such electronic research reduces dramatically the time and effort spent in looking for information.

The existence of electronic texts will significantly alter the design and use of printed indexes, and the electronic texts will themselves evolve as new technology becomes available and as the needs of users call for evolving forms of presentation. Vic Hao Chin's electronic Secret Doctrine is the first, not the last, step in the new technology, just as John Van Mater's index is a transitional step to the new format such indexes will assume. Eventually, the two technologies-electronic text and printed index- will blend.

The key to the future of indexing is in John Van Mater's liberal use of cross-references. Vic Hao Chin's electronic text can be searched only for specific words or phrases used in the text. Thus, if one is interested in what The Secret Doctrine has to say about mulaprakriti, one can direct the program to produce all uses of that word. And it will do so, quickly and reliably. But the electronic program will not, at present, lead one on to synonyms or related terms. That's where the cross-references come

in. In a world of electronic searches, the most valuable part of the \/an Mater index are its cross-references. Future indexes need to amplify and elaborate such cross-referencing; they need to become not so much indexes to the text as thesauruses of related terms, which can be searched for by the computer program.

For example, the Van Mater index includes the complex of cross-references indicated above:

aether, akasa, anima mundi, astral light, daiviprakriti,
elements, ether, Father-Mother, hyle,
ilus, mulaprakriti, pradhana, prakriti, primordial
matter, protyle, svabhavat, world soul

To these might be added other related terms, such as the following (all of which appear in subentries under one or another of the cross-referenced terms):

aditi, aethereal, akasic, alaya, archaeus, asat,
celestial virgin, chaos, cosmic ideation, cosmic
matter, cosmic soul, cosmic substance, devamatri.
devil, dragon, eternal root, fobat, Holy
Ghost, honey-dew, hydrogen, illusion, isvara,
kshetrajna, Kwan-yin, life principle, light of
the logos, limbus, lipikas, logos, magic head,
magnes, maha-buddhi, mahat, matter, Mother,
Mother-Father, nahbkoon, Nebelheim, noumenon,
Oeaohoo, oversoul, parabrahman, picture
gallery, plastic essence, plenum, precosmic
root substance, prima materia, primordial substance,
Ptah, purusha-prakriti, root principle,
serpent, shekinah, sidereal light, Sophia, space,
svayambhu, undifferentiated matter, universal
mind, universal principle, universal soul, unmanifested
logos, unmodified matter, vacuum,
veil, waters of space, web, yliaster, Ymir

To be useful, such related terms would need to be organized into a branching tree of interlocking relationships. The best way to store and access such a tree structure is electronic. Eventually, the thesaurus-index toward which the Van Mater book has made a first step should be incorporated into the search program for the electronic text of The Secret Doctrine so that a user can search automatically not only for specific terms but also for related terms that the user may not even be aware of.

In sum, the two works under review here, the printed index and the electronic text of The Secret Doctrine, are splendid productions that will serve very well the needs of their users for the proximate future. They also point enticingly toward a more, though perhaps not very, distant future in which their technologies will be combined to afford students an unparalleled and previously unimaginable opportunity to study this foundational text of Theosophy.

June 1998

H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885, by Vernon Harrison. Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1997. Hardback, xiv + 78 pages.

A turning point in H. P. Blavatsky's life, which at the time must have seemed to her as well as to those around her to be a calamity, was the 1885 report of the committee of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) "appointed to investigate phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society" That report, written primarily by a young investigator named Richard Hodgson and therefore usually called "the Hodgson Report," reached a devastating conclusion:

For our own part, we regard her neither as the
mouthpiece of hidden seers, nor as a mere vulgar
adventuress; we think that she has achieved a title
to permanent remembrance as one of the
most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting
impostors in history. [4]

Theosophists have always held that the Hodgson Report, the initial effort of a fledgling and ambitious new investigator for the SPR, was biased, distorted, unfair, and unreliable. It would, however, not be unexpected that they should so respond to the report's highly critical judgment of the founder of Theosophy. Others tended to take the report as a soundly based, conclusive expose revealing Blavatsky as a fraud.

In 1986, shortly after the hundredth anniversary of the Hodgson Report, an impartial, critical examination of that report, covering both its methodology and conclusions, was made by a disinterested researcher, Vernon Harrison. Not connected with any Theosophical Society, Harrison had been a member of the Society for Psychical Research for fifty years; he was a professional expert in forgery and a frequent expert witness in legal cases involving forgery and counterfeiting.

The Hodgson Report dealt with a number of issues: (1) various paranormal phenomena performed by or connected with Blavatsky; (2) the putative Blavatsky-Coulomb correspondence; and (3) the authorship of the Mahatma Letters, Harrison confined himself to the last of those issues because forgery was his specialty and because primary evidence relating to that issue still exists, the Letters being available in the manuscript collection of the British Library. Eyewitnesses of the phenomena are now all dead, and the Coulomb letters mysteriously disappeared after having come into the possession of one of Blavatsky's opponents whom she sued for libel and who apparently found that the letters did not support his case.

Harrison's devastatingly critical examination of the Hodgson Report was published by the Society for Psychical Research, as the SPR editor said, "in the interest of truth and fair play, and to make amends for whatever offense we may have given" by the 1885 report. Harrison did not, however, end his investigation of the subject with that publication, but went on to examine critically all of the Mahatma Letters for evidence of forgery or fraud by Blavatsky.

Harrison's 1986 SPR article is reprinted in this volume together with a report of the new evidence from his subsequent investigation. The details of his research must be read in his own words to appreciate the thoroughness, skill, and knowledgeability with which it was conducted, There is also a keen and incisive sense of humor running through his comments. For example, Harrison demonstrates that by the same criteria Hodgson used to "prove" that HPB wrote the Mahatma Letters, he can "prove" that she also wrote Huckleberry Finn and that Dwight Eisenhower wrote Isis Unveiled, for Mark Twain and Ike's handwritings share critical features that Hodgson used to link HPB with the Mahatma Letters.

A1though it is not possible here to do justice to Harrison's full analysis, his concluding expert opinion on the subject can be summarized:

The Hodgson Report is not a scientific study…

Richard Hodgson was either ignorant or contemptuous of the basic principles of English justice…

In cases where it has been possible to check Hodgson's statements against the direct testimony of original documents, his statements are found to be either false or to have no significance in the context...

Having read the Mahatma Letters in the holographs, I am left with the strong impression that the writers KH and M were real and distinct human beings...

Who KH was I do not know, but I am of the opinion that all letters in the British Library initialed KH originated from him…

It is almost certain that the incriminating Blavatsky-Coulomb letters have been lost or destroyed, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that these letters were forgeries made by Alexis and Emma Coulomb...

I have found no evidence that the Mahatma Letters were written by Helena Blavatsky consciously and deliberately in a disguised form of her own handwriting…

I am unable to express an opinion about the "phenomena" described in the first part of the Hodgson Report ... but having studied Hodgson's methods, I have come to distrust his account and explanation of the said "phenomena."

Vernon Harrison concludes that there is much we do not know about Helena Blavatsky and many questions about her life remain unanswered. He believes, however, that "the Hodgson Report is a highly partisan document forfeiting all claim to scientific impartiality" (4), "riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity" (32), and therefore "should be used with great caution, if not disregarded. It is badly flawed" (69).

This book should be in the library of every Theosophist and should be studied by anyone who writes or reads about Blavatsky. It is an extraordinarily important work in HPB's biography and in the history of the Society and of Theosophy.

July 1998

SŌd: The Son of the Man, by S. F Dunlap. Photographic reproduction of the 1861 edition with added notes and bibliography Secret Doctrine Reference Series. San Diego: Wizards Bookshelf, 1998. Paperback, [ii], xxii, [ii] + 162 pages.

Sōd is defined in The Theosophical Glossary as a Hebrew word meaning an arcanum, a religious mystery. The term was well chosen by S. F. Dunlap as the main title of his Sōd: The Son of the Man. He also wrote a sister volume, Sōd: The Mysteries of Adoni. Numerous quotations from both are to be found in H. P. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.

Dunlap appears to have been an unorthodox scholar, which is not to be taken as a criticism. He was ahead of mid nine-(tenth century theology-s-even that of the present time- in recognizing that 2,000 years ago "mystery" traditions were an important element in any number of contemporary religions and that some of these significantly influenced the development of early Christianity.

In Sōd: The Son of the Man, the author compiled an extraordinary collection of references to what he called "infant Gnosticism." Among these are eclectic quotations from the books of the Old and New Testament, the Hermetica, Greek and Latin historians and philosophers, the early Church Fathers, and many others, including later scholars. One of the most interesting of this wide range of sources is the Codex Nazaraeus, an eleventh century document with obviously earlier origins.

Dunlap commences the final chapter of this book with the statement "It is unnecessary to sum up." However, most readers would have welcomed a summary by one who was astute enough to recognize a common thread in the religious philosophies of the Mediterranean area at the commencement of the common era.

Sōd: The Son of the Man is a useful source for a

Book Reviews 1997

The Theosophical Enlightenment, by Joscelyn Godwin. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Pp. xiii +448. Paper.

Joscelyn Godwin is a professor at Colgate University who has distinguished himself as the author of a series of volumes on the history of the esoteric, particularly in its relationship to music.

The Theosophical Enlightenment is one of the most important books ever written on the history of the esoteric. The author with a charming and yet erudite style tells us all we essentially need to know about the English esoteric world from the time of the French Revolution to the early part of this century.

In this volume students of the writings of H. P. Blavatsky will find the essence of the teachings of many of the sages about whom she wrote. In addition these esotericists are linked to the social and political background of their time, and the reader will also be able to trace their links to one another.

The Theosophical Enlightenment is in three parts. The first deals with a revisionist approach to myth which developed into a universal view of history. The persons in this section include Richard Payne Knight, Sir William Jones, Henry O'Brien, Thomas Inman, and Godfrey Higgins, whose Anacalypsis was seen by one contemporary reviewer as a precursor to Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. In this first part Professor Godwin does the reader a signal service in summarizing the 1500 pages of the Anacalypsis.

The second part of this book deals with the esoteric sciences in England up until 1850 and covers such diverse characters as Emanuel Swedenborg, Francis Barrett (author of The Magus) , the novelist Bulwer-Lytton, and Frederick Hockley. The third part views the rise of Spiritualism and deals in some derail with the mysterious Emma Hardinge Britten who was one of the founders of the Theosophical Society. It also outlines the origins of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Christian disciples of Jacob Boehme, and the Rosicrucians associated with such figures as P. B. Randolph and Hargrave Jennings. It also investigates the mysterious Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, treated more fully in The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, by Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel, and John Deveney (Weiser, 1995).

Godwin sees Blavatsky as a product of the skeptical enlightenment of the nineteenth century who brought together in the Theosophical Society the two threads of western and Oriental esotericism, a joining which did not survive the century. He devotes well over 50 pages to the early Theosophical Society and brings forth a number of little known details.

The research in this volume is encyclopedic and fascinating. Very few errors can be noted, although the "legal gentleman" mentioned on page 287 who conducted telepathic experiments with G. H. Felt was W. Q. Judge, and not H. S. Olcott: as supposed (see Path 7: 344).

This volume is dedicated to Leslie Price, who founded the journal Theosophical History and to James A. Santucci, the current editor.

I recommend The Theosophical Enlightenment as essential reading for those students interested in the history of esoteric ideas and in particular for students of H. P. Blavatsky.

-JOHN COOPER {reprintedfrom Theosophy in Australia 60.3, September 1996}

January 1997

Realization, Enlightenment and the Life of Rapture, by A. E. I. Falconar. Dehra Dun, India: English Book Depot (15Rajpur Road, Dehra Dun 248001, India), for Non·Aristotelian Publishing, Isle of Man, 1994. Pp. (iv), vi, 208. ISBN 09510924 3 X. Hardback.

Ted Falconar is a longtime Theosophist who lives on the Isle of Man and travels frequently to India. His new book Realization, Enlightenment and the Life of Rapture is a delineation and interpretation of the spiritual path. It brings together the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom and other spiritual philosophies on the nature of the spiritual path, its difficulties, and ways to overcome them. Courageously, it attempts to describe the indescribable non-dual state of consciousness that has many names but is directly experienced by few.

Falconar says that achieving the non-dual state results in a life of rapture and the conquest of death. He suggests that the death of the desiring ego leads to a rebirth and the entering of the path to enlightenment and rapture.

Paradoxically, the author uses words to illustrate how verbalization gets in the way of achieving this state. He contends that linear, Aristotelian thinking is not only of little value in the quest but actually a hindrance. Western thought has gone down the wrong path in that it makes us more and more connected with the world instead of more detached, thus reifying the world of form and everything in it.

On the other hand, Eastern thought for millennia has taught the unreality of the conceptual world in which we exist and a method by which we can discover the real and thus gain Realization. This freedom, this liberation, is the ultimate aim of the seeker in the Eastern tradition. Realization can only be achieved by letting go and letting be.

Conceptualization and verbalization is not the path of letting go and letting be. Words and concepts are in fact a hindrance to nonverbal experience, which can only be achieved through opening the heart. The opening of the heart, in turn, is achieved through the devotional paths found in yoga, Sufism and other mystical traditions.

Falconer supports his thesis that our desiring egos and attachments are the cause of our suffering by quoting extensively from many of the great yogis, poets, Sufis, and spiritual philosophers, among them Sri Krishna Prem, Ramakrishna, Rumi, Kabir, Arabi and others who have written and spoken about this journey to rapture and the path to immortality:

Freedom can come only from Universal Consciousness for it is forever free, whereas lower selves are forever bound; only when we escape from our lower selves are we freed. [Sri Krishna Prem]

Falconar's discussion of how linear thinking and verbalization cause the main block to spiritual progress is enhanced by his use of nonverbal images, visualizations, and poetry to illustrate practically how we can go beyond the rational mind and so enter the state of rapture.

Happy the moment when we are seated in the palace,
thou and I,
With two forms and two figures but with one
soul, thou and I.
At the time when we shall come into the
garden, thou and I,
The stars of heaven will come to gaze upon us;
We shall show them the moon herself, thou
and I.
Thou and I, individuals no more, shall be
mingled in ecstasy. [Rumi]

One of the book's strongest points is its inclusion of many diverse spiritual traditions. Another is the use of poetry related to the spiritual path, which gives a deeper appreciation of both the poetry and the path.

Do not go to the garden of flowers! O Friend! Go not there.
In your body is the garden of flowers,
Take your seat on the thousand petals of the
And there gaze on the Infinite Beauty. [Kalur]

Falconer describes the spiritual path in a logical and understandable way. And yet, while his writing style is direct, readable, and often quite beautiful, it occasionally demonstrates antagonism toward a scientific point of view. In addition, some might find an overabundance of illustrative quotations.

With this single caveat, I can say that Falconar describes the indescribable as well as I have ever seen it described. This book is a truly marvelous work by a Western mystic who brings to life the familiar Sanskrit petition:

Lead me from the unreal to the real,
Lend me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to immortality.


January 1997

The New Age Movement: The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity, by Paul Heelas. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. Pp. x + 266.

The author of this scholarly, serious, and not unfriendly study of the New Age movement: is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Values and a Reader (roughly equivalent to an American Associate Professor) in the Department of Religious Studies of Lancaster University. The book examines the origins, development, characteristics, and import of the New Age movement, especially in Britain and America.

The New Age movement: is viewed in relationship to "modernity," that: is roughly, contemporary mainstream views and practices. The New Age is said to be ambivalent about mainstream society, on the one hand offering a spiritual alternative to its religious values and on the other hand exemplifying and celebrating some of the characteristics of our time.

Theosophy is treated as part of the New Age movement, three key figures in its incipient development being identified as H. P. Blavatsky, Carl Gustav Jung, and George I. Gurdjieff. However, Theosophy does not figure largely in this study, for the author sees it: as historically seminal rather than contemporarily central to the movement: "Even the Theosophical headquarters in Madras is no longer New Age -and this despite the fact that: the Society (founded in New York) is generally accorded a significant: role in the development of what has happened in the west" (122).

That view is only half right. It is true that contemporary Theosophy is not distinctively New Age; indeed, many Theosophists would think of themselves and of the Society as Perennial Age rather than New Age. Yet there are clearly links between Theosophy and the New Age movement. In as far as the latter has a core Set of ideas, they arc largely compatible with and indeed derived from Theosophy. Most of the ideas set forth as characterizing the New Age in appendix 1 (225-6) are familiarly Theosophical.

The error in the author's view is in assuming that: modern Theosophy has ever been New Age, in the current sense of the term. Certain characteristics of the New Age are nor traditionally Theosophical ones. For example, the New Age is typically anti- or at least non-intellectual; Theosophy has always been in one sense an intellectual movement. Blavatsky spoke of it as a form of jñana yoga, union through knowledge, and the early appeal of Theosophy was to the intelligentsia of both West and East.

Also the New Age is generally countercultural, that is, opposed in lifestyle to the prevailing culture. Theosophists have often been superficially countercultural (for example, being vegetarians and eschewers of furs before such practices became fashionable). But in other ways, they have generally been conventional, educated, middle-class, professional, involved citizens. Relatively few were ever of the drop-out, turn-on persuasion that was much more typical of the early New Age movement.

The New Age tends, as the subtitle of this book indicates, to celebrate and focus upon the "self," that is, the sense of personal identity. Key expressions in this book are self-actualization, self-empowerment, self-enhancement, self-ethic, self-help, self-responsibility, self-spirituality, and self-work ethic. Theosophy too is centrally concerned with "self" bur distinguishes between the personal transitory self, the individual abiding Self, and the transcendent cosmic SELF. Its message is that: of Delphi and the Upanishads: know yourself and, knowing that, nothing else need be known. But the "self" which is to be known in Theosophy is something radically different from that of pop self-culture.

This book is a useful work for the information it contains. A casual reader may find it numbingly data-filled, and the interpretation of the data is sometimes superficial. But the book's virtue is that it contains facts and examines them without either credulity or incredulity and without either naivete or condescension.


January 1997 and June 1997

K. Paul Johnson's House of Cards? A critical examination of Johnson's thesis on the Theosophical Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi, by Daniel H. Caldwell. P. 0. Box 1844, Tucson, AZ85702: published by the author, November 1996. Pp, 43.

The purpose of this monograph, according to the author, is to

give a critique of K. Paul Johnson's thesis relating to H. P. Blavatsky's Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi. .. Johnson in his own introduction to The Masters Revealed [1994, 5-6] summarizes this hypothesis as follows:

Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia, founding president of the Amritsar Singh Sabha, corresponds in intriguing ways to clues about- Koot Hoomi's identity in the writings of Olcott and HPB, .. Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Kashmir has many correspondences to Morya as described by HPB.... Although much of HPB's portrayal of Morya and Koot Hoomi was designed to mislead in order to protect their privacy, enough accurate information was included to make a persuasive case for their identities as these historical figures.

Caldwell analyzes the techniques used in supporting the hypothesis of this identification and examines in detail the best primary evidence on the question, especially the accounts written by Henry Steel Olcott and others concerning their encounters with and knowledge of the persons in question. The monograph includes an appendix by David Reigle on Tibetan sources purportedly used by HPB.

Caldwell (41) concludes:

Johnson has devoted a great deal of time and effort in researching various portions of H. P. Blavatsky's life and the historical identities of her Masters. Johnson's books should he read by every Theosophist and occult student.

Unfortunately, Johnson's books are marred by numerous serious mistakes and inaccuracies.

All in all, Johnson's "identifications'' of the two Masters don't withstand a critical analysis of the sum total of evidence and testimony concerning the adepts involved. I believe that anyone who carefully studies the evidence and seriously thinks through the issues involved will reasonably conclude that Johnson's so-called "persuasive case" about the Masters M and K.H. is nothing but a "house of cards." Even as "suggestions," Johnson's conjectures on these two Masters are highly implausible and dubious when carefully scrutinized in light of all the known facts.

February 1997

Technical Terms in Stanza II, by David Reigle. Book of Dzyan Research Report Cotopaxi, CO: Eastern School Press, 1997. Pp. 8.

This second in a series of discussions of the technical terms used in the Stanzas of Dzyan points out that of seven such terms in stanza 2, two occur also in stanza I (Ah-hi and Paranishpanna) and so need no further treatment (see American Theosophist, 84.3 [Late Spring 1996], 14), and four are relatively straight forward: manvantara, maya, devimatri and matripadma. That leaves only swabhavat, but it is a very great problem indeed.

Swabhavat is the essence or substance principle underlying both spirit and matter, also called mulaprakriti. In The Mahatma Letters the concept and term are attributed to "the Nepaulese Swabhavikas, the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India." But Reigle's efforts to document that attribution ran into a variety of difficulties, which he reports in this study. The problems are in the form of the term (svabhava is more usual), the existence of a Swabhavika school, and the meaning of the term, which Reigle says was rejected by both the Vedantins and existing Buddhist schools.

Reigle's last word is that a Svabhavika tradition may have existed in Nepal in the nineteenth century, as reported by early Buddhist scholars, but have died out. To document it, however, would require searching thousands of pages of Sanskrit texts. Reigle concludes: "Theosophists will have to find it, because no one else is likely to be interested." But the finder will also have to be one like Reigle himself, with background and interest in these philological and historical matters. We hope one day for a monograph on svabhava and the Svabhavikas from his pen.

February 1997

Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. New York: Scribner, 1996. Hardcover, 608 pages.

Mary's Vineyard: Meditations, Readings, and Revelations, by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut. Wheaton, II.: Theosophical Publishing House (Quest Books), 1996. Hardcover, 193 pages.

Handbook for the Soul. Edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. Softcover, 215 pages.

Handbook for the Heart. Edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. Hardcover, 226 pages.

New books aimed at providing guidance on living the spiritual life are flooding into bookstores. Those listed above stand out for their fine selections of readings from many sources. The Brussats guide the reader, in prose, poetry, and prayers, to consideration of the many aspects of life experience. They have divided their choices of material under categories of things, places, nature, animals, leisure, creativity, service, body, relationships, and community.

In addition, they have created an "alphabet of spiritual literacy" on aspects of spiritual practice-such as attention, beauty, being present, compassion, and so on. Their contemplations on these are scattered throughout the book, surrounded by readings from many traditions. Along the way they also include activities and exercises to aid in the spiritual journey.

The authors issue an open invitation to all who wish to join them on the spiritual path, which is by no means an exclusive club:

Spiritual literacy is not concerned with sorting out religious dogmas and beliefs. To be spiritually literate does not require you to master certain texts or to climb to a high rung on the ladder of enlightenment. It is not an esoteric and mysterious practice for the initiated few; indeed, spiritual literacy is the very opposite of such elitism. Some of the most spiritually literate people are children and indigenous people who cannot even read letters on a page. For them and for us, literacy means being able to find sacred meaning in all aspects of life.

The reader can dip at random into the Brussats' book and sharpen the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch - as well as find much food for thought. The authors have devoted themselves for three decades to identifying and reviewing resources for people on spiritual journeys, and that devotion shows in this except ional book. Their projects have included the magazine Values and Visions, the Odyssey cable TV channel, and the Ecunet computer network.

The gifted poet and translator Andrew Harvey and his collaborator Eryk Hanut, photographer, writer, director, and set designer, have produced a beautiful book of meditations, readings, photographs, and spiritual insights on Mary as the Divine Mother. Mary's Vineyard is organized for use throughout the year with daily readings and contemplations. "Creating a sacred environment is not complicated," they write; "it just requires concentration and the constant reminder that the one important thing in your life is to keep your heart open to Divine Love."

Andrew Harvey's books have included The Return of the Mother, Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening, and A Journey in Ladakh, which won the Christmas Humphries Prize. He has also published books of his translations of Rumi, the Sufi poet, as well as a recent book about Rumi, The Way of the Heart.

Two exceptional anthologies of spiritual writing have been assembled by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Handbook for the Soul and Handbook for the Heart gather original writings by authors including Lynn Andrews, Deepak Chopra, Robert Fulghum, Harold Kushner, Thomas Moore, Hugh and Gayle Prather, Ram Dass, Bernie Siegel, Andrew Weil, and Marianne Williamson. The first of these books places its focus on helping the reader to achieve balance in life. T he second book concentrates on the theme of love. The editors are both therapists who have been frequent guests on radio and television programs in addition to maintaining private practices.


March 1997

A Doctor's Guide to Therapeutic TOUCh, by Susan Wager. New York: Perigee Books/Berkeley Publishing Group, 1996. Pp. xix + 154. Paper.

Therapeutic Touch is a concept of which I have been aware since its inception. It is such an intriguing, practical and simple system for helping those with illness that I have followed its growth with great interest and am delighted to see this book come out. While it is titled "a doctor's guide," it is really very appropriate for anyone who is interested in the subject, lay or professional.

Therapeutic Touch has been likened to the laying on of hands, but is quite different both in its basic concept and its application, as you will see when reading this book. The fact that there is healing energy all around us which can be applied universally when understood is the theme of the system, This energy can be transmitted to an ill person through properly trained individuals who allow it to flow through them and our their hands to the energy fields surrounding the person in need.

This healing technique is done selflessly with total lack of feeling of any power on the part of the practitioners, who see themselves as only the instrument or conduit for the energy. In the last twenty years since the practice was formally started by Dora Kunz and Dolores Krieger, its spread has been quite phenomenal and scientific studies to validate its authenticity have been widespread.

Susan Wager has written a book which is dear, easy to understand, and thorough in its description of the system and its application. Its purpose appears to be to expand awareness and understanding of the concept, and it is written in a way which is simple yet profound. Her references are well documented and the personal experiences of various authorities whom she quotes make the reader feel an actual participant in some of the events.

Too often we are prone to pass over or skip entirely the opening section of a book in order to get to the "meat" of it. The introduction (written by Dora Kunz), the preface, and chapter 1 of this book are very important, and a careful reading of this scene-setting beginning will enhance what follows. The fact that the practice is becoming so widely accepted both in the United States and in other countries, and in so many situations, seems to validate its worth.

Briefly, the aspects covered in the book are the presence of energy fields in nature, .present-day ideas on healing, methods used in applying Therapeutic Touch, effects that have resulted, and special areas where results seem most helpful.

Throughout history, whenever a new method of approaching problems has been introduced, there has been conflict of opinion as to its worth among specialists in the field; Therapeutic Touch is no exception. I am sure that is why Susan Wager has waited this long to publish her experiences and understanding. She has allowed sufficient time for scientific studies to be conducted, so she can include their results in her presentation.

No claim is made that Therapeutic Touch provides a miracle cute in any situation. It is made very clear that the recommendation is for the practice to be combined with and supplementary to medical treatment. In this framework it is fast becoming an accepted method of contributing to the growing ability to assist individuals with their health problems.

The central idea of Therapeutic Touch is that human beings are whole entities comprised of physical bodies, thoughts, and feelings. For quite a while, the medical profession not only fragmented the three areas, treating them as mutually exclusive, but also separated organs and functions of the physical body, not considering their interrelatedness in treatment. Recently this has changed, and it is now widely accepted that all aspects of the person affect each other.

In keeping with the new medical view of wholeness, this book describes how Therapeutic Touch recognizes this wholeness and may help the patient on all levels. Even when cure is not possible, this treatment often assists in relieving stress and mental anguish to an extent that the physical pain is much more bearable. It also seems to strengthen the link between doctor and patient and to provide a greater feeling of personal worth in those involved.

The book ends with this statement: "These different approaches to healing need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, as we move into the future and medicine becomes even more high-tech, Therapeutic Touch becomes an important addition to our care of the sick, because it maintains the human connection between practitioner and patient. Health care practitioners can use both the best of medical care, together with Therapeutic Touch as an adjunct, to reduce suffering, relieve pain, and promote healing."

-Willamay Pym

April 1997

Coming into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness, by William Irwin Thompson. New York:  St. Martins Press, 1996. Cloth, 264pages.

William Irwin Thompson has been writing books since 1967, and his newest book, Coming into Being, is the summa of all his writings. Throughout the course of his career, Thompson's objective has been twofold: first, to articulate his vision of what he terms the emerging planetary society, which he sees as rendering obsolete the industrial nation state; and secondarily, his hermeneutic of culture has stressed the continuity of thought between myth, science, and literature. Thompson bases his unitary vision upon the human imagination, and it is to a reimagination of the evolution of consciousness that his new book is directed. Coming into Being is a rich and dazzling tapestry of erudition and wit, which should serve to satisfy the appetites of those readers addicted to such chroniclers of the evolution of consciousness as Erich Neumann, Jean Gebser, or Teilhard de Chardin.

In a movement from West to East that recapitulates T. S. Eliot's quest in "The Waste Land" for the spiritual protein of human wisdom, the reader views in succession the great texts of literate civilization through the X-ray acumen of Thompson's mind. The book opens with a meditation on the origins of life in the evolution of the earliest cells, and here Thompson's style bristles with the kind of poetic lyricism that made famous the prose poems of Lewis Thomas in his book The Lives of a Cell. Thompson then moves forward to a discussion of scientific narratives about human origins, which he sees as the equivalent: of modern myths, and in this respect, Thompson is most characteristically himself in showing how the structures of supposedly objective scientific thought turn out to be isomorphic to mythical narratives. "Science is the conscious content," as he puts it, "but myth is the unconscious structure." The book then moves on through a discussion of neolithic goddess figurines, where the reader is treated to a detailed discussion of the complexities involved in their iconographical fusions of male and female anatomies.

Eventually, the sweeping river of Thompson's narrative arrives at the greater tributaries of such masterpieces of literate civilization as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Rig Veda, the Ramayana, the Upanishads, and the Tao te Ching. Along the way, the reader discovers through Thompson's eyes that the primary aim of Western culture has been the creation and dominance of the masculine ego, with its divorce of the spiritual from the material, as epitomized in Platonic thought. Thompson has a lot to say about themes of gender, and this is probably where his approach to the study of consciousness differs from others. His reading of texts such as the story of Samson and Delilah or Gilgamesh is concerned to point out where the feminine principle of cooperation and creativity is displaced at the hands of aggressive patriarchal heroes. Although this sociological dimension is but one among Thompson's multi-leveled readings-c-his primary intent being the creation of "an imaginary hyper-space in which multiple readings are seen together” it is a dimension of hermeneutic in which he excels, and readers interested in such issues will find them here.

With the sacred texts of the Far East, Thompson shows us in such writings as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita that the traditional Western divorce of consciousness from matter is surpassed by the supramental wisdom that recognizes the animal, vegetable, and mineral domains as analogues of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and sleeping, respectively. With Lao-tzu's mystical philosophy of opposites in the Tao te Ching, we arrive at a recognition of the necessity for a balance of both worlds, the heavenly as well as the earthly.

Readers who are expecting a scholarly analysis in the mode of Eliade or Coomaraswamy should be forewarned that this book "is addressed more to the imagination of culture than to the academic management of scholarly research." The discussions, accordingly, are informal, interdisciplinary, and evocative; they are as richly textured as any page out of the Book of Kells, and should serve to stimulate the imagination of those readers who will have the pleasure of Mr. Thompson's thoughtful company.


June 1997

The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas. London: Century, 1996. Hardcover, xiii + 384pages.

Folklorists tell us that many human societies invent an ancestor myth to explain their origins and to define their values. From Australian aborigines to contemporary philosophers, the invention of ancestral lines connecting the present with days of yore is both a pastime and an act of filial piety. In such myths the paternity of the modern offspring is often imaginary rather than historical, but that is irrelevant to the value of the myth.

No human group seems to have been more fruitful in the creation of ancestor myths than Freemasons. The Hiram Key brings together several older myths, adds some new ones, and seasons the mixture with the authors' prejudices for democracy and against the Roman Catholic Church. The ancestry of Freemasonry proposed in this volume is briefly as follows.

In ancient Egypt, a new king's right to rule was established by a secret ceremony based on the myth of the death of Osiris and the birth of Horus, with whom the old and new kings were identified respectively. During the period when Egypt was occupied by foreign invaders called Hyksos (who included the Hebrews), one of the Hyksos leaders unsuccessfully tried to extract the secrets of the king-making ceremony from a king of Thebes, Seqenenre Tao II, who in the process was killed by three blows to the head. The secret ceremony having been lost with the death of Seqenenre (on whom the figure of Hiram Abif was later to be based), his successor adopted a new secret ceremony based on Seqenenre's death (which became the basis of the later third-degree ritual).

Moses was a member of the Egyptian royal family who, knowing the new ceremony, made himself leader of the Hebrews in their exodus out of Egypt to establish a new state. The leaders of the new nation continued to use the Egyptian secrets, which came to mark the line of King David. During the Babylonian Captivity, however, the Prophet Ezekiel sought to purge Jewish ceremonies of foreign elements, so at that time the Egyptian myth of death and resurrection was rewritten with a Solomonic setting but continued as a secret ritual.

By the time of Jesus, the Qumran Essene community of Jews, who expected the imminent appearance of the Messiah to reestablish Jewish rule in Jerusalem, continued the practice of the resurrection ritual among their inner group. Their political and religious heads respectively were Jesus and John the Baptist. After the death of the latter, Jesus assumed both roles and scandalized some of his own followers by his radically democratic views and actions. After the execution of Jesus, leadership of the community passed to his brother James, later challenged by Paul, who Hellenized the teachings of the community and thereby invented Christianity. Anticipating the destruction of their community, the Qumran leaders hid their most precious scrolls in a vault under the foundations of the Temple at Jerusalem.

A millennium later, the Knights Templar, while searching under the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple for buried treasure, found the scrolls, which contained the resurrection ceremony and a true account of the events around Jesus. The Templars then began to use the resurrection ceremony for entrance into their highest group and developed other ceremonies to commemorate their finding of the scrolls (which were the basis of the later Holy Royal Arch ritual).

When in 1307 the Templars were put down by the Pope and the King of France, their head, Jacques de Molay, was tortured by the Inquisition, using a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion. Removed from the cross, he was wrapped in a winding sheet that the Templars had used in their rituals, on which his form and features were impressed, so that it became the Turin Shroud.

A large number of Templars escaped from the persecutions in two ships, one of which sailed to America, where the Templars arrived nearly two centuries before Columbus. The other ship sailed to Scotland, which was a Templar stronghold. There they took refuge especially around Rosslyn Castle, the estate of the St Clair (or Sinclair) family, who were Grand of the Scottish Templars.

During the following century, Rosslyn Chapel was built as a model of the Temple at Jerusalem, and the precious scrolls discovered by the Templars were deposited in an underground vault beneath the Chapel, where they still await discovery. To safeguard the secrets of the Chapel, William St. Clair invented the first degree ceremony and the Mark Mason degree (of which the second degree was a later development).

That's the skeleton of the tale told in The Hiram Key. Ancestor myths should not be judged as though they were history, even when, as in this case, they masquerade as history. This remarkable story ties together Egyptian, Judaic, Templar, and other links that have been proposed for Masonic history, with the addition of such lagniappes as the Turin Shroud. It is an interesting account, which the authors present as a sort of detective Story with one clue leading on to another and foreshadowings of revelations to come.

As historical fiction, it is a good read. As history, however, it is something else. The "evidence" offered for the baroquely complex thesis is a series of analogs, coincidences, and vague similarities connected by a thread of ah-hah's and exclamation points. By the rules of evidence here used, one improbability is a strong suggestion and two are proof positive.

The authors' learning is wide but correspondingly thin. For example, they say that Sumerian is "one of the few tongues completely unconnected with this root language" Proto-Indo-European (83). Indo-European is one of a large number of language families, all unrelated, as far as evidence goes. Most of humanity's tongues therefore share with Sumerian the distinction of being "completely unconnected" with Proto-Indo-European. This is a small matter, unrelated to the book's argument, but then the authors' whole exposition of Indo-European is unrelated to the thesis of the book. One of the rhetorical techniques of the volume is to toss in a bit of gratuitous information now and again, apparently to impress readers with the work's erudition.

An objection that is more serious, because it relates to the book's value as an ancestor myth, is that the authors do seem to believe they arc dealing with ordinary history. Under that belief, their history of Freemasonry becomes a succession of political acts of violence. If that were the actual case, one would of course accept the fact, but there is not the slightest real evidence for such a view.

The Hiram Key proposes an interpretation of Freemasonry that traces its chief symbols (however improbably) to historical personages and events. This sort of rationalizing of mythology (euhemerism) was rejected scornfully by H. P. Blavatsky, one of the most original and best informed of late nineteenth-century analysts of myths. It is seldom right and is always irrelevant. Myth is not history; it: is cosmology, psychology, poetry, and philosophy. What is important about Hiram Abif? Is it that he was King Solomon's chief builder, or that he was an Egyptian king slain by a rival, or that he was the literary invention of some Freemason in modern times? None of those questions are important Masonically.

What is important Masonically is that Hiram Abif embodies fidelity, beauty, and craftsmanship. He is the third member of a trinity representing Conscious Intention, Material Substance, and Intelligent Energy. The Hiram Key is a good read. But it is bad history, bad mythology, and bad Masonry.


June 1997

The Philosophy of Classical Yoga, by Georg Feuerstein. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions. 1996. Paperback, 140 pages.

I wish that I had known of Georg Feuerstein's Philosophy of Classical Yoga when I was first learning yoga and reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In my passion to understand I would layout fourteen translations of the yoga sutras on the floor and compare the various interpretations, sutra by sutra. In addition, I would examine passages from the Bhagavad Gita, the various Upanishads, and other relevant texts for assistance in gleaning the "hidden" meanings behind such terms as purusha, prakriti, ishvara, citra, abhyasa, vairagya, samprajnata, and asamprajnata samadhi. I labored over the differences and similarities between Patanjali's approach and that of the Samkhya Karika. I now find, in Feuerstein's book, a companion guide that echoes my earlier exploits. But, and here is the grace, he saves us the effort by laying the groundwork through his own prodigious labors.

In this scholarly and in-depth treatise, as in his previous books, Feuerstein once again shows us his passion and insight for interpreting ancient textual meanings. In hi s quest for understanding, he examines the different philosophical, psychological, and practical concepts that form the foundation of yoga. As he takes us through this journey, he carves out a clear trail of references for the reader to follow. What emerges is a picture at once both clear and comprehensible of the entire sphere of classical yoga.

Feuerstein remains faithful to his view of yoga as both a philosophical and practical tool for the transformation of consciousness rather than as a mere compendium of techniques. He also reaffirms that the trail carved out by the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and other Indian texts are, in essence, maps for meditative introspection that are, in the end, best utilized and integrated into daily living, rather than kept on the shelf collecting dust.


June 1997

Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order, by Graham White and John Maze. Chapel Hill, NC.: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. Hardcover, 347page.

Few modern American political figures are more intriguing than Henry A. Wallace, farm journalist, agrarian scientist, New Deal Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President of the United States (1941- 45), and finally quixotic candidate for President on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948. While Wallace stood in the superheated political pressure-cooker of Washington during the Franklin Roosevelt years of depression and World War II, and remained a prominent name in the Truman years of emerging cold war, in some ways he never seemed totally to belong under the capitol dome. Something in him always seemed to be elsewhere. The man from Iowa was also on a deeply personal and often unconventional spiritual quest. From it flowed both the inner alienation and the profound commitment to world order, and to "progress" as he understood it, that kept him in the messy world of politics. His simple, unpretentious way of life seemed to be part of that character. Needless to say, Wallace was loved for his genuine humanity and hopeful visions, and damned by those who saw him as hopelessly naive, with his "head in the clouds" above such things as communism and the real nature of world politics.

The full contours of Wallace's spiritual journey were not widely known during his life. He was in fact a member of the Theosophical Society in America from 1925 to 1935 and was active in the Liberal Catholic Church in Des Moines between 1925 and 1929. He corresponded with the Irish theosophical mystic, poet, and agrarian reformer George Russell (''AE'') and in 1931- 32 successfully took a Theosophical correspondence course from the Temple of the People in Halcyon, California.

In the early New Deal years the Iowan established a complex and controversial relationship with the Russian mystic and artist Nicholas Roerich. Letters Wallace wrote to Roerich often couched in effusive occult language, the so-called "guru letters," were later obtained by political enemies and used against him. Partly because of the political quicksand likely to engulf a public esotericist, about the same time he came to Washington in 1933 Wallace commenced attending a "high" Episcopal church, combining Anglo-Catholic worship with a liberal vision of Christianity and its social mission. All these diverse spiritual resources went into Wallace's role as custodian of the New Deal spirit in its most idealistic form, and his dream that the twentieth century could, in the title of his popular 1943 book, become the "century of the common man."

Henry A. Wallace, the work of two Australian scholars, attempts to interpret this vision and its spiritual sources. Unfortunately the product is a bit uneven. White and Maze appear not especially well informed about the actual culture of American Theosophy. The recent archival work of Mark Kleinman on Wallace's spirituality, published in articles in Peace and Change and The Annals of Iowa, seems not to have been available to them; this material from Wallace's papers would have fleshed out considerably the youthful idealist's relation to Theosophical correspondents and institutions. More surprisingly, White and Maze were also apparently unfamiliar with the subject's later participation in the Episcopal church and his liberal Christian writings like Statesmanship and Religion (1934).

On the other hand, these authors present a full and useful account of the Roerich affair, although here too one suspects there is still more to be known. Whatever the limitations of their information on Theosophy and other forms of unconventional spirituality with which Wallace was involved, they are generally sympathetic in their handling of it.

A complete account of the spiritual life and vision of this extraordinary statesman remains to be written, if indeed the task is possible. For as prominent and recent a figure as he, the subject of several more political than spiritual biographies, extant information and interpretations remain remarkably varied, full of puzzling inconsistencies, and leave a sense of something, perhaps a master key, still missing. If only as a reminder of how much remains to be done by biographers, this book, attempting to balance the picture with serious attention to his spiritual life, is a serviceable starting-point for those seeking fresh perspectives on the man's life and ideas. For those involved in Theosophy and other forms of alternative spirituality, the book is also a salutary reminder that such ideas and ideals can and sometimes do have consequences at the highest levels.


June 1997

How to Use Your Nous, by A. E. I. Falconar. Maughold, Isle of Man: Non-Aristolelian Publishing, 1987, 1997. Pp. ii+30.

Nous is a word borrowed from Greek, rare in American L1SC, but more common in British, where it is usually pronounced to rime with mouse, rather than with moose, as in American use. It means "intelligence" (though the British often use it to mean "gumption, common sense"), and H. P. Blavatsky used it specifically in the sense of "buddhi."

This booklet proposes and correlates several approaches to being "nousful," that is, having an intuitive, nonrational, but very practical insight into the nature of things. One of those is Krishnamurti's teachings on self-realization. Another is Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics, which offers a number of practical suggestions for coping with the world, such as remembering that the name of a thing is not the thing itself, so the word rose is not after all a rose. That may seem obvious, but every day we for, get that principle and respond to the labels we put on things rather than to the things themselves, a process called stereotyping. So we think that all Chinese are inscrutable, or all Italians are great singers, or all Indians are spiritual, or all Americans are materialistic. (Or, as H. L. Mencken remarked, an idealist is one who believes that because a rose smells better than a cabbage, it also makes better soup.)

Korzybski's techniques, called non-Aristotelian thinking, are properly supplemental rather than alternative ways of dealing with the world. Aristotle's logic (which holds that nothing is both A and nor-A, everything is either A or not-A, etc.) is not absolutely wrong; it is just not absolutely right. It: is right part of the time, for particular purposes, but it is not right all of the time for all purposes, as the Buddhist logicians knew, as well as Korzybski. Indeed, Falconar also cites Zen koans and Tibetan visual meditations as alternative ways o dealing with non-Aristotelian reality, along with poetry and mysticism.

This booklet usefully correlates a number of seemingly unrelated techniques to cope with the world, especially Korzybski's, whose approach is sometimes thought to be anti-mystical, but only when mysticism is misunderstood as opposed to empiricism or phenomenology. In fact, the mystic is radically empirical and phenomenological.


July 1997

A Treatise on the Pâramîs, from the Commentary to the Cariyâpitaka, by Acariya Dhammapala. Trans. Bhikkhu Bodi. Kandy, SriLanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1996. Pp. 76.

The third section of H. P. Blavatsky's spiritual guidebook, The Voice of the Silence, called "The Seven Portals," is devoted primarily to a consideration of the Buddhist paramitas, or transcendent qualities to be developed on the Path. The paramitas are generally associated with Northern Buddhism as the qualifications to be developed by a Bodhisattva, but they appear in the Southern canon as well, as does also the concept of the Bodhisattva. The Southern exposition of these qualities is the subject of this book.

The early suttas of Southern Buddhism, written in the sacred language Pali and corresponding to the Sanskrit sutras, mention three types of persons who have attained Nirvana by following three distinct "vanes" or vehicles (that is, spiritual paths):
1. sammasambuddha, a perfectly enlightened Buddha, who achieves Buddhahood without the aid of a teacher, and teaches the dharma to others, founding a dispensation;
2. paccekabuddha, a solitary enlightened person, who achieves Buddhahood without the aid of a teacher, and does not reach others or found a dispensation;
3. arahat, a disciple who achieves Buddhahood through the instruction of a perfectly enlightened Buddha and then teaches others within the bounds of the dispensation of a sammasambuddha.

Later Buddhist writings include stories about the backgrounds of these three types of enlightened persons, including the Bodhisattva, a candidate for Buddhahood, a "germinal Buddha" of the first type. The Bodhisattva became the great ideal of the Northern School, which then tended to treat the other two types (in Sanskrit pratyekabuddha and arhat) as merely provisional or lesser ways. Although the Bodhisattva concept was present also in the Southern School, it lacked the privileged status it had in Northern Buddhism.

One of the jataka (or previous birth) tales of the Southern canon tells that eons ago, the Buddha, then a Bodhisattva born as the ascetic Sumedha, vowed before the Buddha Dipankara (the twenty-fourth Buddha of antiquity) that he would renounce his right to enter nirvana so that he might become a teaching Buddha in the future and thus save multitudes of beings. Having made that vow, he reflected on the qualities needed to achieve it; they were the ten "paramis" (Sanskrit "paramitas''}, which became the "requisites of enlightenment."

The Sanskrit term "paramira'' is from the root "param'' meaning "supreme, beyond." The word is sometimes analyzed as ending in "ita" meaning "gone" and thus is interpreted as "gone beyond" or "gone to the supreme," the notion being that these qualities are those needed by the one who has so gone. The ten paramitas were described by the sixth century Pali commentator Acariya Dhammapala in his "Treatise on the Paramis" as qualities necessary for deliverance. That treatise is put into English in this short book.

The Sanskrit and Pali canons give the following lists of Paramiras:

Sanskrit                                                Pali
giving (dåna)                                         giving
virtue (shîla)                                          virtue                            renunciation
patience (kshânti)                                  patience                        determination
energy (vîrya)                                       energy                          equanimity
meditation (dhyâna)                              [meditation]                  loving-kindness
wisdom (prajñā)                                   wisdom                        truthfulness

The Sanskrit canon has six basic paramitas (those in the first column above, for which Sanskrit terms are given). The Pali canon typically has ten paramis (listed in the second and third columns above). Meditation is not one of those ten, but is added when the ten qualities are reduced to six; then the five qualities in the third column are included in the six of the second column, which are identical with the traditional six paramitas of the Sanskrit tradition.

To these six qualities, Blavatsky added another, which she put in the fourth position, namely virâga, translated as "nonattachment'' or "indifference to pleasure and to pain." They are the seven keys to the seven portals on the path of The Voice of the Silence.

The transcendent qualities are the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian seven cardinal and theological virtues (fortitude, temperance, prudence, justice, faith, hope, and charity). They are part of a universal tradition of ideals of conduct on the Path. The value of this short Treatise is that it sets forth clearly and helpfully the Southern Buddhist version of that tradition.


July 1997

Medical Intuition: How to Combine Inner Resources with Modern Medicine, by Ruth Berger, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995. Pp. 143. Paper.

The author of Medical Intuition, Ruth Berger, is a psychic and a consultant: in the field of intuition who is known to television and radio audiences. Medical Intuition is her second publication, the first being The Secret Is in the Rainbow: Aura Interrelationships, which has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.

Although the praises of two medical physicians preface the text, the author draws attention to an unorthodox approach to health care when she refers in her opening paragraph to persons with supposedly incurable ailments who feel that they are guinea pigs hoping for some "magical treatment" to be discovered in time to save their lives. Berger's response is that their reaction should be to stop waiting and to "listen" to their own bodies.

The direct approach of the book, written in the second person to address the reader directly, is an attractive feature. The format is sometimes a catalog of symptoms and a list of seemingly futile events in an individual's search for recovery.

The author employs lay terms throughout. The general advice is to trust one's instincts as guidance to the right doctor and the right staff (or health care. Yet, states Berger, doctors are not gods.

Medical intuition is described as not about diagnosing illness but about locating energy blockages. The author also considers past-life recall in the healing process as a means of releasing the pain of the past and also of escaping the traumas of childhood. All of this, states Berger, is part of understanding and identifying one's fears and problems. The author never states that any of this is easy; yet she stresses that tapping into the universal consciousness is possible for all through meditation and faith in one's inherent abilities.

Creating order in one's life is one of the keys, says Berger. Medical Intuition may contain information and advice that anyone with pain or other health difficulties is seeking.

-Mary Jane Newcomb

July 1997

Les histoires de Gopal, by Louis Moliné. Trans. Edith Deri. Paris: Editions Adyar, 1995. Pp. [vii] + [146] (71 double pages + [4]). Paper.

Les histoires de Gopal (The Stories of Gopal) center upon a disciple whose dialogues and parables illustrate a philosophical system embodying the concept of God, who exists universally and thus in the consciousness of human beings and in all animate and all inanimate objects; the basis for morality, the means of awakening consciousness in a world of illusion; and the realization of the self.

The format is a series of brief dialogues between Gopal, the disciple, and his Master. Often the Master's questions are subtle, returning Gopal to the concept that the world and all human experiences are illusion. Occasionally, familiar dialogues occur, such as the sequence in which the Master carries a young girl across the water.

Space and time seem nonexistent in some of the dialogues. If the Master asks Gopal to go for water to quench his thirst, Gopal does not question where he will find water in the desert but may become lost in time as well as space during his search. Eventually he finds his way back to the Master with the jug miraculously filled with fresh water. The margin between dream and reality is very thin here as elsewhere in the stories.

Occasionally rather than answers there are only rhetorical questions--the disciple must intuit the appropriate procedure. Unity of existence is never forgotten and serves as guide; it is stressed throughout the collection.

Although death is conceived as the real joy, the Master clarifies that the disciple needs to experience all of life—human love not excluded. Each is a part of the whole, including sinfulness, and must be confronted or even experienced. Even so, all is illusion, and unanswered questions may be the greatest source of learning for the reader.

-Mary Jane Newcomb

July 1997

The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590-1710, by David Stevenson (Cambridge: University Press, 1988, reprinted 1993), xvii + 246 pp.

The history of Freemasonry is a mixture of myth, legend, inference, documentation, and imagination. It is usual, especially in those histories of the Craft written in England or under English influence, to begin Masonic history proper with the formation of the United Grand Lodge in 1717, which brought together four existing London lodges. Obviously, Freemasonry and Freemasonic lodges must have existed earlier; otherwise there would have been nothing to unite into the Grand Lodge. But of the earlier forms of those lodges and their practice, little heretofore has been documented.

David Stevenson, the author of The Origins of Freemasonry, is Professor of Scottish History at the University of St. Andrews. As a good Scotsman, he finds the origins of modern Freemasonry, not in England, but in Scotland more than a century before the formation of the English Grand Lodge. Even more interesting, he also finds those origins partly in the esoteric currents that swept Europe at the time of the Renaissance, thus linking modern Freemasonry with the Wisdom Tradition of the Gnostics, Neo-Platonists, Hermeticists, and others.

In the Middle Ages, skilled workers were organized into trade guilds, which served a number of purposes. They helped to regulate the trades by maintaining standards of competence among the workers and preserving the secrets of their crafts from interlopers. They provided religious, moral, and charitable reinforcement for their craftsmen. They served as social clubs. They developed ceremonies of initiation for newcomers. They developed mythical histories about the origins of their crafts.

Among the various trades, that of the stonemason was unusually suitable for an elaborate craft organization. Whereas most craftsmen were settled in a particular locality, stonemasons were traveling men, moving to sites where their skill was in special demand. Thus they had more need than most for the support of their fellows.

In addition to conventional guilds, which were bodies incorporated by a particular township, stonemasons developed a lodge system, not under municipal control. The early lodge structure was a building on a construction site probably for the use of stonemasons as a workshop, temporary living quarters, and social club. Because they could expect to have strangers turning up and c

Book Reviews 1999

Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. By John Shelby Spong. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998, Hardback, xxiii + 258 pages.

Bishop John Shelby Spong's book provides a stunning criticism challenging organized Christianity with a commonplace observation that thoughtful, postmodern churchgoers can no longer with integrity worship the personal, theistic God venerated through the centuries with the Lord's Prayer, the orthodox creeds, and the Eucharistic sacrifice. Like his distinguished American predecessor, Episcopal Bishop James Albert Pike, Spong admonishes contemporary Christians to change the traditional God image from an unbelievable theistic father figure to the gracious creative source sustaining all being and to present Jesus as a model exemplifying love and human potential rather than a divine messenger dispatched by God to rescue fallen humanity. Spong advises Western religious leaders to relinquish the persuasive manipulation with which they dominate passive churchgoers and to consider unconventional concepts about divinity, afterlife, prayer, worship, ethics, and community.

Within the worldwide religious community, Spong is perceived variously, depending upon the observer's religious perspective. The English theologian is renounced as an embarrassment whom the House of Bishops should censor; simultaneously he is praised as a passionate, progressive critic who provides, even amid controversy, strength and hope to contemporary Christians seeking an honest, living faith with which they can confront pressing problems. Spong is condemned as an articulate atheist who battles the heavenly hosts; or he is seen as one struggling to cast the anachronisms encumbering orthodoxy into history's awaiting dustbin.

What surprises readers about Spong's recent book is the generally mild, unoffensive ideas that provoke fierce controversy among the conservatives of the church. He characterizes God not as a being to whom humans have access but as a presence discovered within the depths of one's being, the capacity to love, the ability to live, and the courage to be. The distinction between these two perspectives is not clear, but suggests a welcome religious humanism.

Prayer is not necessarily words directed heavenward, but simply being present, sharing love, and opening life to transcendence. Renouncing the Eucharist, Spong concludes that a ceremony in which ordained hands transform ordinary elements into Jesus' body and blood will cease. Rejecting the vicarious atonement, the Bishop states that he "would choose to loathe rather than to worship a deity who requires the sacrifice of his son."

Spong's convictions were known and accepted among intelligent and thoughtful individuals centuries ago. The current controversy revived by the Bishop's unorthodoxy indicates the enormous chasm that separates open-minded inquirers from the conservative, apprehensive churchmen clinging desperately to concepts that lost credibility centuries ago. Sometimes the intellectual distance among contemporary Christians seems so vast that the instruments of astronomers are needed to calculate the space.


January/February 1999

Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna: Essays on the Indian Spiritual Traditions. By Ravi Ravindra. Ed. Priscilla Murray. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House. 1998. Paper and hardback, xii + 390 pages.

Christ the Yogi: A Hindu Reflection on the Gospel of John. By Ravi Ravindra. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1998. (Orig. Yoga of the Christ, 1990.) Paperback. xii + 244 pages.

These two volumes by Ravi Ravindra, an active and highly respected Theosophical worker and thinker, will be eagerly welcomed by many travelers on the world's spiritual paths. A professor of both physics and comparative religion at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, trained in both traditional Hindu Vedantic thought and modern science and philosophy, Ravindra is especially accomplished in the creative integration of the Ancient Wisdom and current scientific thought.

That perspective is particularly evident in Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna, a collection of a selection of this prolific writer's essays from many sources and many years. Included are some which I consider absolute gems of cross-cultural collation and perception, including "Perception in Yoga and Physics," "The Indian View of Nature," "Modern Science and Spiritual Traditions," and "Is the Eternal Everlasting?" Compositions like these are not only comparative intellectual exercises, bur clearly the fruit of personal spiritual experience as well as rich personal East-West exploration on many levels, all of which have served as catalysts to bring together various worlds too often separated today--east and west, science and mysticism, heart and mind. Highly recommended to all of those who wish to practice what the title of the opening essay calls "Religion in the Global Village."

Christ the Yogi is a reprint of a work first published in England in 1990 under the title Yoga of the Christ. Both titles are unfortunate insofar as they may serve to put off serious Western Christian readers who would greatly profit from this dazzlingly brilliant spiritual and cross-cultural study of the most mystical of the books of the Bible, the Gospel of John. To them the mention of Yoga might suggest one of those books making far-out claims about Jesus and India, or at best an interpretation of the gospel narrowly based on some Hindu discipline. Actually Ravindra's work is thoroughly in the "mainstream" tradition of esoteric Christian readings of scripture going back to the Greek fathers of the Church and including such modern Theosophists as C. W. Leadbeater and Geoffrey Hodson. The author's focus is always on the text itself.

To be sure, Ravindra often cites parallels to the inner meaning of the text in classic Hindu works, most often the Bhagavad Gita. But the focus is not on making the author of the Gospel of John into a Hindu, but rather on finding in his gospel universal meaning that is also reflected in Hinduism. That search begins with the importance of the "I am," Jesus' Johannine self-designation, which to Ravindra suggests the inner oneness with the divine that is at the heart of Vedanta.

Ravindra's case, as is appropriate to such levels of spiritual realization, rests not so much on argument as on deep inward understanding, and Ravindra's profound, evocative writing on one of the world's greatest spiritual classics leads one well along the road to that kind of understanding. At the same time, it may be added, the author does not overlook the contributions of modern New Testament scholarship to placing the gospel properly in its time, place, and purpose. Christ the Yogi will be a wonderful addition to the library of all those interested in the revival of esoteric Christianity in our time, and no less in their own spiritual growth. Few will finish this book unchanged, either intellectually or spiritually.


January/February 1999

Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness. By Theodore Roszak. New York: Harper &Row, 1975. 271 pp.

Roszak begins by observing the increasing number of "bright, widely read, well-educated people whose style it has become to endorse and accept all thing occultly marvelous. In such circles, skepticism is a dead language, intellectual caution an outdated fashion" (2). His catalog of credulities is, if anything, modest by current standards. Cayce's psychic readings, pyramids built by ancient astronauts, or gone boxes, settlement: of the continents from Lemuria. "Such intellectual permissiveness," Roszak comments, "risks a multitude of sins, not the least of which is plain gullibility."

That observation does not, however, introduce an equally gullible Skeptical Inquirer expose. Instead, Roszak finds, "in this rising curiosity for the marvelous, the popular unfolding of an authentically spiritual quest" leading to "a transformation of human personality in progress which is of evolutionary proportions, a shift of consciousness fully as epoch-making as the appearance of speech or of the tool-making talents in our cultural repertory" (3).

Helena Blavatsky receives extended treatment: (117-25) as the founding mother of the pilgrimage to what: Roszak calls the "Aquarian Frontier," the recognition that consciousness evolves as well as body:

It is not HPB's controversial reputation or personal angularities that concern us here, but rather her ideas. For ultimately she stands or falls by the quality of her thinking, all arguments ad feminam aside. And in this regard, she is surely among the most original and perceptive minds of her time. [118]

HPB stands forth as a seminal talent of our time. Given the rudimentary condition of her sources, her basic intuition (or the teachings of the ancient occult- schools was remarkably astute. And there is no denying her precocity in recognizing how essential a contribution those schools, together with comparative mythology and the Eastern religions, had to make to the discussion of evolving consciousness. [124]

Above all, she is among the modern world's trailblazing psychologists of the visionary mind. At the same historical moment that Freud, Pavlov, and James had begun to formulate the secularized and materialist theory of mind that has so far dominated modern Western thought, HPB and her fellow Theosophists were rescuing from occult tradition and exotic religion a forgotten psychology of the superconscious and the extrasensory. [124]

In a footnote to the last statement, Roszak calls Annie Besant's 1904 lectures published as Theosophy and the New Psychology  "as fresh and ambitious a treatise on the higher sanity as anything produced by the latest consciousness research." It is refreshing to have Blavatsky and Besant given such forthright acknowledgment for their pioneering efforts in re-presenting the Wisdom Tradition of the ancients to modern people.


January/February 1999

The Best Guide to Meditation. By Victor N. Davich. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998. Paperback, xxi + 350 pages.

Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation: A Handbook for Entering Samadhi. By William Bodri and Lee Shu·Mei. York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1998. Paperback, xxii + 252 pages.

I am biased. I believe that one's time is far better spent in meditation than in accumulating more information about meditation. For the seasoned practitioner who already has chosen a meditative path, reading about all the other options often brings confusion. And for the beginner, all that is required is a one-liner- "Sit, follow your breath, and let's talk again in a year."

So I am not certain who the appropriate audience is for these two new additions to the meditative canon. The Best Guide to Meditation is packaged like a travel guide and indeed takes the reader around the world in such a comprehensive account of meditative traditions that one is left exhausted and overwhelmed. Do we really need to confuse beginning meditators with detailed instructions of the Namibian Bone Meditation, which involves the use of six chicken bones, four stones, and two pieces of tree bark as tools for oracular divination? This from the same author Victor Davich-who wisely states repeatedly in the opening chapters that "the only way to really understand meditation is to meditate" and then adequately provides the very basic instructions required to begin.

The back cover of the Guide is designed to attract readers who I suspect aren't reading this issue of Quest. "Who meditates .. aside from Deepak Chopra, the Dalai Lama and The Beatles? Well, Goldie Hawn… and Howard Stern to name a few." I'm not certain who would be grabbed by such an approach, but it represents a marketing mentality that is attempting to "sell" meditation to the masses. In itself, this is not an ignoble goal. But it gives me the uneasy feeling that the already saturated spiritual supermarket in America is about to become a department store. "Want instant gratification?" the cover blurb asks and answers, "Go directly to chapter 2 and you will start meditating immediately!" As if fast-food motivations- getting what you crave, NOW! -can be applied to meditation, which is a process of letting go of all craving.

But to the author's credit, an unsuspecting reader could randomly flip open the Guide almost anywhere and stumble onto a life-changing idea because virtually all of the great teachings of the world's religions are in there, somewhere. Davich succeeds in providing a thorough, albeit oversimplified, overview of human spiritual traditions and practices, anyone of which pursued with single-minded intention would most certainly yield wonderful fruits. But again, the very structure and vast range of the Guide works against the one-pointed, simple approach necessary for the beginner to cultivate a useful meditation practice.

Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation is a more sophisticated work and derives from a Buddhist Sutra in which twenty-five students respond to the Buddha's request to describe the various "dharma doors" they had used to attain samadhi. Each chapter of the book presents a fairly brief introduction to a practice that is presumably derived from this sutra, although the correlation isn't always clear.

The practices described range from the familiar ones of mindfulness meditations, pranayama, bhakti yoga, and prayer, but also include more obscure approaches including the "Zhunti, Vairocana and Amitofo" mantras, and my personal favorite, the "Dazzling White Skeleton Contemplation," in which "you must imagine you are dead and that all your skin and internal organs soften and putrefy. Using an imaginary knife, you cut up your dead body and offer all your organs, skin, flesh and blood to all the demons and ghosts to eat and drink."

As a "Handbook for Entering Samadhi," as the subtitle asserts, everything one needs is included. Someone committing themselves to any one of these twenty-five dharma doors would find themselves on a legitimate and potentially enlightening spiritual path. But for most of us, particularly beginners, it only takes two words, not two books, to provide all the meditation guidance we need: "Just sit."


March/April 1999

The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image. By Leonard Shlain. New York: Viking, 1998. Hardback, xvi + 464 pages.

History, Henry Ford testified in a libel suit against the Chicago Tribune, is bunk. Historians, both professional and amateur, keep trying to prove that the father of the Model T was wrong, their favorite defense being the discovery of causal patterns in historical events. Leonard Shlain, a professional surgeon and amateur historian, is a counsel for the defense.

His brief, The Alphabet versus the Goddess, was bred by Marshall McLuhan out of Marija Gimbutas. A generation ago, McLuhan proposed that the way we say things is actually more important than what we say: the medium is the message. The "same" information conveyed in different ways is in fact different information, for the manner and style of delivery change the import of the information. Within the past" decade, Gimbutas's work has been invoked in support of a new view of prehistoric Europe as a peaceful society devoted to Mother-Goddess worship before the rowdy Father-God-honoring Indo-Europeans swooped down on them and made a mess of things.

Shlain's take on these two ideas focuses on the effect of the development of writing, especially the alphabet. He sees the alphabet as having a powerful influence on how literate people view the world, specifically in promoting left-brain, male orientation over right-brain, feminine perceptions and responses. Although Shlain tries to give the alphabetical devil its due by acknowledging that literacy has its blessings, the tenor of his work is otherwise: the alphabet, by promoting unbalanced male aggressiveness in human behavior, has been the great villain of history through promoting male chauvinism in Europe and other unfortunately literate lands.

Here are some statements of the thesis: "Every society that has acquired alphabet literacy has become violently self-destructive a short time afterward" (77). "A culture's first contact with the alphabet drives it mad. Hunter-killer values thrust to the fore, and nationalism, imperialism, and bloody religious revolution follow" (419).

This alphabetical thesis is set in the context of a kind of Social Darwinism. The story is that, when our hominid ancestors came down from the trees, a variety of anatomical changes evolved, one of whose consequences was to put females at a disadvantage in getting food and making them dependent on the largesse of predatory males, who used their new dominance to their own advantage in breeding. From there it was all downhill. The eventual development of the alphabet was the nail in the coffin of arboreal Eden.

This thesis depends on a series of correspondences. On the one hand, we have left-brain dominance, masculinity, linearity, aggressiveness, alphabetical writing, and so on. On the other hand, we have right-brain dominance, femininity, spatial relations, cooperation, pictorial representation, and so on. The thesis posits that the development of alphabetical writing changed the structure of the brain and accentuated all the left-brain functions. So the decline of human history and what's wrong with the world are due to males and the alphabet. These correspondences form a neat set for which, however, evidence is either thin or nonexistent.

In addition, there is a little problem. The supposedly masculine feature of linearity that Shlain sees in the alphabet is really secondary in writing, being derived from spoken language, which is distinctly linear as well as hierarchical. Sounds come one after another in time, a feature imitated in writing by having letters come one after another in space. Sounds make lip words, which make up sentences, which make up discourses-a distinctly hierarchical structure, imitated in writing. If there is a villain here, it is speech. In fact, a case can be made for speech being more left-brain and masculine-like than written language. Speech happens in time, whereas writing is located in right-brain space. Speech is more abstract than writing, for it is wave impulses in the air, whereas writing is solid material right-brain stuff. Speech is wholly nonpictorial, whereas writing has right-brain pictorial or design potentials, such as Islamic calligraphy or concrete poetry (in which the words of a poem are arranged in the shape of an object or pattern).

If the brain was modified in a masculine, linear way, that modification must have occurred when language evolved, very long before alphabetical or any other writing developed. Hence in our Eden we would have been not just illiterate, but dumb.

The factual errors in the book would take more space to detail than is worth devoting to their listing. A couple of examples must suffice. Purdah (the segregation of women) is said to be a Hindu practice (159); the word is Hindi, but the practice is primarily Muslim. The Aryan invaders are said to have found Sanskrit in India (161)j Sanskrit was the language of the invading Aryans, being sister to the Iranian languages and first cousin to Greek, Latin, and English. The ranks of the Buddha's disciples are said to have excluded women (174); women are reported in Buddhist writings to have been followers of the Buddha during his lifetime.

This effort at rewriting history to show that our ills are the result of male aggression and the alphabet may be politically correct, but it is doctrinaire rather than factual. It proves that Henry Ford was right. History is bunk. But herstory like this is even greater bunkom.


March/April 1999

Emerson among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait. By Carlos Baker. New York: Viking, 1996. Paperback, xv + 608 pages.

Emerson: The Mind on Fire. By Robert D. Rlchardson, Jr. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Paperback, xiii + 671 pages.

Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. By David S. Reynolds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Hardcover, xii + 671 pages.

Two literary giants whose writings enrich American culture live and breathe in these biographies that place the authors within their contexts and establish them properly in American intellectual history.

Princeton University's Carlos Baker, the mentor of several successive student generations who became remarkable scholars, crowned his career with this study in which he pictures nineteenth-century Concord, Massachusetts, as a creative Mecca that fostered a congenial, colorful community composed of unconventional intellectuals. Presenting Emerson as the preeminent resident of Concord, Baker treats such other personalities as Emerson's Aunt Mary Moody, his wife Lidian, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Jones Very, William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, and John Brown.

Robert Richardson's Emerson: The Mind on Fire supplements his Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. The biographer pictures Emerson as student, Harvard Divinity School theologian, mystic, nature lover, independent scholar, Transcendentalist philosopher, passionate liver championing intellectual freedom, and a preeminent contributor to the nation's literature and culture. He presents Emerson as a thinker with an unfathomed emotional depth and as a mystic pulsating with enormous intellectual intensity.

Among the most enlightening and engaging biographies describing the Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman is David Reynolds's Walt Whitman's America. In it, he penetrates the psychological landscape within the poet's personality and reconstructs Whitman's intellectual world. In this biography describing nineteenth-century America and the author of Leaves of Grass, Reynolds greatly enriches American intellectual history.


March/April 1999

Victorian Fairy Painting. Ed. Jane Martineau. London: Merrell Holberton, 1997. Paperback, $29.95, 160 pages.

This work is the catalog of an exhibit organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the University of Iowa Museum of Art. The exhibit was also shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and the Frick Collection, New York. In addition to the catalog proper, consisting of reproductions of the works exhibited with descriptions of them and biographies of the artists, the book contains seven introductory essays on the artistic popularity of the fairy theme in Victorian England.

The first of those essays begins, "Fairy painting, particularly when produced in its Golden Age, between 1840and 1870, is a peculiarly British contribution to the development of Romanticism" (11). Although fairy-like beings populate the lore of cultures all over the world, the modern image of the fairy was largely molded by Victorian productions of Shakespeare's plays, particularly Midsummer Night's Dream, which provided subjects for many of the paintings in this exhibit. Victorian interest in fairies was also reinforced by nineteenth-century spiritualism and its promise of contact with another world.

Two prominent artists in the fairy painting tradition were Richard Doyle and his brother Charles Doyle, the father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And thereby hangs a tale. Arthur Conan Doyle was interested in spiritualism partly because of the early death of his son and in fairies because of his father's and uncle's paintings. He published an article in the Strand Magazine on "Fairies Photographed: An Epic-Making Event" and in 1922 expanded it into a book, The Coming of the Fairies.

The photographs in question (known as the "Cottingley photographs" from a Yorkshire village) were taken by two girls, ten and sixteen years old, who maintained that they really saw fairies but who faked the photographs with cutout figures in order to convince their doubting family. They also convinced an over-credulous Conan Doyle. A Theosophist-Scientist, Edward L. Gardner, later wrote an account of the event as he knew it: Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs and Their Sequel (1945). But the fakery was not exposed until years later, when one of the girls, having grown into an old woman, explained exactly how she and her cousin had arranged the hoax. Yet the perpetrators of the fraud continued to maintain that they had actually seen fairies and only faked the pictures.

An account of the Cottingley photographs was presented in a 1997" movie, Fairytale-A True Story (reviewed in Quest 96.1 [January 1998], 16-17). The movie's version of events played somewhat loose with the facts, but preserved faithfully the ambiguity in the reality of the Cottingley fairies and their photographs. The chief historical inaccuracy in the movie was the transfer of Doyle's credulity to Gardner, who in fact was the more skeptical of the two. What the whole Cottingley episode shows, however, is the abiding fascination fairies have had for English people and others. The lure of Fairie (to use J. R. R. Tolkien's archaic spelling) did not end with the Victorian paintings.

The paintings in this work are a fascinating collection of the graphically elaborate, decorative, mystical, fantastic, hallucinatory, quaint, erotic, charming, evocative, epic, otherworldly, engaging, and esthetic. They are a testament to high Victoriana and to the fascination humans have always felt for another dimension of reality. In that regard, they bear witness to an important fact, namely, that reality is not limited to what our senses can perceive. There have always been those-some of them quite sensible, practical people- who have claimed to have access to another level of reality, a parallel world, as it were. Unless one is a fundamentalist skeptic, there are no grounds for denying the possible reality of such a parallel world.

Most of all, fairy lore-both older and contemporary-speaks to our sense of the fullness and the complexity of the world. The word world comes from Anglo-Saxon wer-eald, the age of man. But that etymological sense is much too limited. The world is not limited to human beings and our concerns-shoes and ships and scaling wax. It embraces far more, including otters and owls and oaks. Indeed, as this exhibit and its catalog show, it also includes frights and fun, fantasies and fairies.


May/June 1999

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. By Georg Feuerstein. Foreword b yKen Wilber. Prescott, AZ: Hohm, 1998. Paperback, xxxii + 686 pages.

Georg Feuerstein has been a vigorous student-scholar of India's religio-philosophical traditions since his fourteenth birthday, when he was given a copy of Paul Brunton's In Search of Secret India. His ongoing penetration into the mysteries and profundities of this most spiritually astute country has led to the publication of more than thirty books and many articles. He ranks high within the top echelon of the world's most prolific, informed, insightful, and lucid writers on the spirituality of India. As ably stated by Ken Wilber in his foreword to The Yoga Tradition, "in Georg Feuerstein we have a scholar-practitioner of the first magnitude, an extremely important and valuable voice for the perennial philosophy, and arguably the foremost authority on Yoga today."

The author states his objective clearly: "to give the lay reader a systematic and comprehensive introduction to the many-faceted phenomenon of Indian spirituality, especially in its Hindu variety, while at the same time summarizing in broad outlines what scholarship has discovered about the evolution of Yoga thus far." The Yoga Tradition is simultaneously (1) a pleasantly readable story of the development and practice of Yoga and (2) a volume of encyclopedic proportions to which the interested student can return again and again for review and the checking of factual data.

The readability of The Yoga Tradition is provided by the author's lucid and engaging writing style, as well as by the format and appearance of the book. Printed in double columns, many pages display bordered quotations of key textual passages. More than 200 illustrations, consisting of photographs (historical persons, sculptured images), line drawings (deities, mythic persons, Yogic postures), diagrams, charts, maps, and lists that summarize comprehensive topics, add to the reading pleasure. Crucial terms and expressions are frequently presented in bold Sanskrit lettering along with English transliteration, thereby allowing the interested student to learn to write and pronounce the formative concepts that make up Yoga.

One of the most useful features of the book lies in the 21 translations of foundational texts. About half of these are translated entirely, with extensive selections from the others. One of the texts, the Goraksha-Paddhati (at 28 pages, the longest of those included), is here translated into English for the first time. Where needed, Feuerstein interpolates helpful clarification and commentary as the translations unfold.

The user-friendly and scholarly nature of the book is enhanced further by the transliteration and pronunciation guide, the endnotes numbering nearly 450, the chronology extending from 250,000 BCE (evidence of the earliest humans on the Indian subcontinent) to 1947CE (India's national independence), a 12-page glossary, an extensive bibliography, and a detailed index, which makes the book particularly useful as a reference tool.

The opening chapters of The Yoga Tradition provide an overview of the subject, with subsequent chapters following a roughly chronological order. The main historical periods are Pre-Classical, Classical, and Post-Classical. Yoga is explicated as it appears in the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and numerous expressions that subsequently developed prior to modern times. Representative of the many forms of Yoga treated are Jnana, Bhakti, Karma, Raja, and Kundalini. The historical review ends with Tantra and Hatha Yoga. The comprehensive coverage of the book is seen not only in Feuerstein's vast presentation of Hindu Yoga but also in his inclusion of chapters on Yoga as it developed in India's three smaller indigenous traditions, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Finally, the author's lifetime involvement in the spirituality of India, resulting in a simultaneous breadth and depth of understanding, is reflected in his ability to distill accurately the distinctive spirit of the native traditions making up India's complex religious heritage. In the book, for example, Hinduism is summarily characterized as a religion of "breathtaking non-dualist metaphysics," Buddhism for its "stringent analytical approach to spiritual life," and Jainism by its "rigorous observance of moral precepts, especially nonviolence."


May/June 1999

Other Creations: Rediscovering the Spirituality of Animals. By Christopher Manes. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Hardback, xii + 240 pages.

Compelled by his daughter's innocent question regarding the death of her pet rabbit, author Christopher Manes embarked on a study of the connection between animals and religion. Not satisfied with his own answer about the rabbit's fate-a journey to "rabbit heaven”- Manes realized that the question was "merely the tip of a vast iceberg concerning our spiritual relations with animals."

The book begins with an account of animals' involvement in early religious systems, including Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Native American. Citing a work entitled the Physiologus, probably composed by an Egyptian monk about 300 AD, Manes gives examples of the historical role of animals in human spirituality. This book was the predecessor of the many Western bestiaries used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. In the second section of his book, "Animal Pans," Manes examines such topics as healing with the aid of animals, meat-eating, animal sacrifice, exorcism through swine, kosher dietary laws, and the Lamb of God.

Often poignant, always insightful, Manes takes the reader on a journey through the wilderness, observing animals in such diverse roles as tribal protectors, children's playthings, and sacred spirits. One such animal is the bear, whose image is the epitome of strength in battle, yet whose cuddly face is as familiar as a stuffed toy. The bear's power is so great that its very name is unspoken, the animal being referred to only as "the brown one" from earliest Germanic times. In other cultures, the bear is known as "winter sleeper," "forest master," "beewolf," or simply the "unmentionable one."

From the caves of Lascaux to the camera lens of James Balog, Manes examines the use of animals in both art and spirituality. Rich with poetry and metaphor, the stories Manes relates touch a sacredness often overlooked in an increasingly mechanical environment. Through these stories, Manes involves us in the question of how we can "again embody our spirituality in the living, organic world of bird wings, coyote music, and the inexplicable migrations of frogs under the garden gate." Manes emphasizes that "we discover spiritual values through animals," rather than merely embody religious themes in animal imagery. Animal lovers, theologians, and literary students will find material ranging from alphabets to zoology in this broad-minded, well-researched, and thought-provoking book.


May/June 1999

Becoming Osiris: The Ancient Egyptian Death Experience. By Ruth Schumann-Antelme and Stephane Rossini. Trans. Jon Graham. Rochester, VT. Inner Traditions, 1998. Paperback, xiv + 126 pages.

This text is well researched, well put together, and beautifully designed and illustrated. Sadly, it does not live up to its subtitle.

It is a very difficult task to resurrect Osiris, not to mention to become Him. It took Isis a great deal of time, energy, sleuthing, and magic-making to find and reconstitute all fourteen parts of the dissected divine body, finding one tiny leg bone or back bone at a time and blowing off the dust. That said, it may be enough that Antelme has found a few bones of Osiris, already well picked over by so many Egyptological buzzards, and reexamined them. She docs note a few interesting bits of often overlooked information.

It may not be fair to insist that the author uplift and transform our understanding of the Osirian tradition wholly. Yet this book does not explain the ancient Egyptian belief in resurrection or the secret of "becoming" Osiris. It does not clarify the meaning of the Osirian Mysteries that so influenced the Greek mystical traditions. It does not offer a full understanding of the various landscapes of the Land of the Dead. It does not give much more than a blurb about the history of the near-death experience, or clarify the similarities and differences between the Egyptian realm, Amentet, and the Tibetan Bardo.

But the book has great pictures—wonderful line art that might make an Egyptian scribe proud. For that reason alone, I can recommend the book. The text, however, seems to be a gloss of Budge's famed Papyrus of Ani version of the Book of the Dead. It could be most fruitfully used, perhaps, by a beginning reader in tandem with Budge's translation and copy of the glyphs. It at least keeps the sacred text from looking like total gobbledygook.

There is no major "aha!" to be had here, but a few mild eyebrow raises might suffice for those with literalist interpretations of Egyptian myth and history. Antelme timidly goes-but nevertheless goes-where darn few Egyptologists dare to have gone before. The author suggests such irreverent ideas as these: the pyramids may have been initiation chambers; the loot in the tombs is more about magic than taking it with you; the Egyptians had complex ideas about sacred geometry and number, and maybe the secret initiations were a little like near-death experiences. These ideas, however, already will be familiar to readers of Schwaller de Lubica, John West, Jeremy Naydler, Robert Masters, Robert Buvall, and Graham Hancock.

It may be a dry bone, but it's at least something for the academics to chew on.


May/June 1999

O Lanoo! The Secret Doctrine Unveiled. By Harvey Tordoff. Illus. Nina O'Connell. Forres, Scotland; Tallahassee, FL: Findhorn Press, 1999. Paperback, 126 pages.

This is a rather curious book by an author whose name is unfamiliar to this reviewer. All we know of Harvey Tordoff is what he himself tells us in the introduction--that he read the abridged version of The Secret Doctrine as a teenager, that he is a retired accountant at present living in the English Lake District, and that he has now read the complete edition of H. P. Blavatsky's most famous work.

Finding The Secret Doctrine a truly formidable work, Tordoff set himself the task of rewriting the basic story. More correctly, we should say that he decided to translate (there is really no other word) the "Stanzas of Dzyan," on which Blavatsky based her two volumes, into a kind of contemporary English. His translation includes, in very abbreviated form, some of Blavatsky's explanations. The result is this slim volume of approximately 10,000 words in the form of an epic "poem." Whereas Blavatsky, in volume 1 of her work, interrupted her commentaries between slokas 4 and 5 of stanza 6, to discuss such topics as the planetary chains, the human principles, the triple evolutionary scheme, classes of monads, and so on, Tordoff summarizes that material in a poetic "aside." And he concludes his epic with an epilogue based on Blavatsky's own conclusion.

The title Tordoff has chosen for his poetic retelling of the stanzas is taken, of course, directly from the stanzas, the term, "lanoo" being simply the mode of address by a teacher to a student or disciple. Black and white illustrations introduce the reader to each section of the text, conveying by means of simple line drawings something of the stanzas' content.

Although it was not Tordoff's intent, or so it seems from his introductory statement, to interpret Blavatsky's work, any rephrasing of the stanzas is inevitably an interpretation of the multilayered meanings of Blavatsky's original translation of these mystical verses from what she claimed to be an ancient tongue she referred to as Senzar. Students of The Secret Doctrine will not all agree, therefore, with the interpretation imposed by the translation or rewording of those stanzas. Nor, of course, does the rephrasing capture the flavor of the words used by Blavatsky, often to express the inexpressible. Just one example, the simplest, may suffice: sloka 2 of stanza 1, as Blavatsky wrote it, is "Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration"; for Tordoff this has become: "Time did not exist, / For what is Time / Without a stare of consciousness? / The illusion of Time / Was waiting to be born / With your perception of changing Matter."

O Lanoo! should be read, then, as one student's effort-a commendable one, we must add-to understand Blavatsky's exposition, particularly those magnificent stanzas on which her work is based and which, when read in the form in which she presented them, do indeed stir the heart, excite the mind, and even awaken the intuition, as she intended they would. But if the neophyte, the aspiring student first coming to Blavatsky's work, thinks Tordoff's translation is a substitute for the original, he or she will be mistaken. No rephrasing can compare to the poetic beauty, the lofty vision, the majesty and power of the words given by Blavatsky to those stanzas that provide the basis for the esoteric story of the origins of a universe and of our humanity.


July/August 1999

The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness. By David Marshak. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Paperback, xii + 246 pages.

This book is a valuable tool for parents and educators. The author, currently a professor in the School of Education at Seattle University, Washington, describes the philosophies of early twentieth-century spiritual teachers Rudolf Steiner, Aurobindo Ghose, and Hazrat Inayat Khan relating to human unfoldment, child rearing, and educational practices from birth to age twenty-one.

This work is unique in its scope both because it describes a spiritual dimension lacking in other parenting and educational literature and because it compares and contrasts the writings of three teachers from distinctly different traditions. Steiner, Aurobindo, and Inayat Khan were contemporaries, all publishing major works early in the twentieth century. Each found that his spiritual quest led him beyond the limitations and values of his own particular religion, culture, and history. In the end, the three shared a common vision of human unfolding based on a spiritual understanding of reality.

As Marshak describes the common vision, the human being is a system of interrelated and interpenetrating energy fields-physical, vital, mental, and spiritual. All beings are organic wholes, with their own spiritual natures, innate wisdom, motive force, and inner teacher. The fields are interrelated with each other and the external world as they unfold. The "qualities" that parents and teachers express are important in this process. Love and wisdom are keys that help to guide and nurture children so that they can recognize their own inner teacher. According to the common vision, parents and teachers are as effective as their commitment to their own self-unfolding.

Maria Montessori, another contemporary who developed a philosophy and methodology of spiritual education, has not been left out of this treatment. Although she differed in some fundamental principles and methodologies, she also articulated much of the common vision. Some of the most important ways in which her vision is identical with or similar to that of Steiner, Aurobindo, and Inayat Khan are listed in an endnote (223-6).

Marshak has written a guidebook to spiritual education. He writes simply and clearly, without losing the depth of his subject. The book is well-organized and user-friendly. The Common Vision sketches the lives of the three spiritual teachers, describes their concepts, takes us to classrooms where each of the visions are being applied, reports the views of teachers and administrators on both applications and methodology, points out commonalties and differences, shares the author's concerns about particular philosophical principles, and focuses on the principles that he regards as relevant today.

Marshak makes it clear that the common vision doesn't end with his book. Readers are invited to build on the common vision with their own insights, discrimination, and common sense. They are called to action-to share the common vision with others-because the future of our world depends upon all of us actively participating in the ongoing evolution of this planet. This is a worthwhile book for anyone interested in parenting and education.


July/August 1999

Holistic Science and Human Values. Transactions 3, Theosophy Science Centre. Adyar, Chennai (600 020, India): Theosophical Society, 1997. Paperback, iv + 166 pages.

This is the third in a series of transactions published by the Theosophy Science Center at approximately two-year intervals. It consists of twelve articles. Most are reprinted from elsewhere, although this does not detract from the value of the collection. There are some very good articles but the quality is variable.

As befits the title, the emphasis is on what may generally, though not exclusively, be regarded as soft science, philosophy, religion, and specific Theosophical concepts. Clearly the aim, is for an integrative approach directed toward a Theosophical readership.

In a thought-provoking article, Ramakrishna Rao suggests that paranormal phenomena and revelatory religious experiences may both be examples of direct access to consciousness, independent of sensory processes. K. T. Selvan, in "Scientific Thought and Education towards an Open Society," presents a brief historical perspective on science, stressing that scientific concepts often have to be modified by new information. In discussing Galileo's overthrow of the geocentric model, he asserts that Galileo presented no facts to support a moving earth nor observations to refute the geocentric view. Yet Galileo did observe with his telescope the moons of Jupiter revolving about the planet, which helped to convince him of the falsity of the geocentric theory.

Particularly interesting is a long article of 36 pages in two parts by John Cobb entitled "The Effect of Religion on Science." It consists of two lectures, whose time and location of delivery are not stilted. Cobb, who is a leading exponent of process thought, following Alfred North Whitehead, is emeritus professor of Theology at Claremont Graduate School in California. He argues persuasively that the type of science undertaken in a particular society is strongly governed by what he refers to as "the soul of its culture," which is closely related to its religious beliefs and outlook. For example, modern analytical science could not have developed in a country like India with a more holistic outlook. On the other hand, the Christian culture of medieval Europe was critically apposite for the development of Western science, as we know it today.

At first these notions seem surprising but they are convincingly argued. In Christianity the world is created by God and ruled by God's laws, which are supreme. Newton and his contemporaries were concerned to elucidate God's laws and to express them mathematically Then a later generation found that they could do very well with the fundamental laws and mathematics, without any concept of God.

Further developments in science, especially the evolution of species, have caused considerable tension in the Christian churches between those who wish to seek accommodation with science and the fundamentalists who reject science for a literal interpretation of the Bible. Cobb argues for changes in the attitude of both religion and science to reach a common synthesis, for which he sees process thought as useful. "The world seems to be composed of energy events rather than material substances."

In Cobb's synthesis, "the entities that evolve are purposively acting agents. God is present in each of them influencing them persuasively. God does not control the process or determine the outcome. But it is because of God that the process leads to entities in which purpose plays a larger role. To say all this does not conflict with standard neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory."

The title of Edi Bilimoria's article "Has Science Been Our Greatest Ally?" alludes to a remark in The Mahatma Letters. He argues strongly for a negative answer after reading twelve works by modern scientists, mostly astrophysicists, cosmologists, and theoretical physicists. He specifically excludes scientists such as Capra, Bohm, and Sheldrake, who may lead to the opposite conclusion, on the grounds that they are not sufficiently influential. As he expects that his article will be controversial, I take up the challenge.

It is not surprising that one would reach a negative conclusion on the basis of such an indigestible collection of works. Many of the authors cited (e.g. Hawking) would certainly reinforce that view, but there are influential scientists who can be regarded as at least partial allies, including Paul Davies, whom Bilimoria scorns, perhaps because he skipped over the last chapter of The Mind of God. Bilimoria correctly emphasizes that scientific method may be fine for scientific technology but is unsuitable for "dealing with ultimate verities"; yet he overlooks the fact that this is indeed just what Davies suggests, even indicating that it may be necessary to turn to mysticism to deal with ultimate questions.

Slips are inevitable in a quick read, but there is no reason for a cheap shot at Davies for saying that in Greek philosophy metaphysics originally meant "that which came after physics," while failing to observe that Davies also pointed out that the term was coined because a discussion of "metaphysics" came after that of "physics" in Aristotle's treatise and that its meaning soon became "those topics that lie beyond physics." Bilimoria is justifiably caustic about physicists' attempts to arrive at a "theory of everything" or TOE, yet he fails to notice that Barrow in his book Theories of Everything stresses that no such theory will ever explain the origin of life and consciousness.

I do agree with Bilimoria when he says that while scientists should be free to speculate as they wish, they should be careful to ensure that their untested speculations are not presented as fact. It is the common failure of many scientists to make this distinction clear that leads to much of the angst against scientists apparent in his article. Yet we must not wish to deny them the right to make personal speculative incursions into philosophical or religious questions. When, in discussing concepts of God, Davies indicates that he can believe in "an impersonal creative principle or ground of being which underpins reality," he should be welcomed as an ally.

Bilimoria is scornful of the so-called Big Bang theory, but I must insist, from my base in astrophysics, that the major features of that theory about the evolution of the universe have long since passed beyond the realm of mere speculation. Furthermore, a rapprochement can be reached between the Big Bang theory and the early part of H. P. Blavatsky's major work, The Secret Doctrine.

It is worthy of note that a gathering of leading cosmologists was held recently at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at Berkeley, one of whose main issues was how to interpret the birth of the universe in a theistic sense. The magazine New Scientist was criticized by several of its readers for reporting some of the views expressed at this conference, but the editor responded that surely it was of interest that so many scientists at the cutting edge of research in the field hold such views. Information at .

It is important to recognize, as both Bilimoria and Davies point out, each in his own way, that the scientific method of inquiry, based on experimental testing of predictions from. theory, while essential for scientific progress, is not suited for reaching an understanding of ultimate questions. A significant minority of prominent scientists have recognized this, including among others Einstein, Pauli, Schrodinger, Bohm, and Davies. There is thus hope that the prophetic statement of The Mahatma Letters will yet be fulfilled.


July/August 1999

Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary: A Translation and Study of Jigme Lingpa's Dancing Moon in the Water and Dakki’s Grand Secret-Talk, By Janet Gyatso. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998. Hardback, xxiv + 360 pages.

Tibet could count its gross national product as the number of great mystics it has produced. One of the foremost among these in recent centuries was Jigme Lingpa, who lived from 1730 to 1798. This remarkable man transformed the spiritual and intellectual landscape of central Asia.

Jigme Lingpa belonged to a category of Tibetan lama known as terton, or "treasure revealer." Tibetan literature speaks of treasures of body, speech, and mind. The "treasure" in this case is a sacred scripture.

The terton phenomenon has played an important role in the development of Tibetan Buddhism, at least in the Bon and Nyingma schools. Both the fifth and thirteenth Dalai Lamas were treasure revealers, a result of their affiliation with Nyingma lineages. According to tradition, the Indian tantric master Padma Sambhava buried many of his "speech treasures" in the mind streams of his disciples, to be recollected and transcribed by them in future lives when the times were ripe.

Jigme Lingpa was a treasure revealer in the Nyingma tradition. During his career he brought forth hundreds of scriptures, most notably the Longchen Nyingtig, or Heart Drop of the Great Expanse, which today serves as the main pillar of Nyingma spiritual practice. Jigme Lingpa received most of his treasures in a meditation, dream, or trance state. Usually the medium of the transmission was a dakini, or mystical female.

In Apparitions of the Self, Janet Gyatso has translated the two autobiographies of Jigme Lingpa found in his collected works: Dancing Moon in the Water and Dakki's Grand Secret-Talk. These are highly esoteric "secret autobiographies" and, although beautiful in language, are difficult of access for the novice. They describe the visions and mystical revelations Jigme Lingpa experienced during his early life, which inspired him to dedicate himself to meditation, teaching, and writing. Fortunately the translator provides more than two hundred pages of commentary and analysis, thus rendering the texts more comprehensible to readers.

The treasure tradition has produced some of Tibet's most inspired literature. Janet Gyatso has performed a remarkable service by making available to an international audience the story of one of Tibet's great sources of this exotic genre. Her book is academic, and thus is not light reading. However, for those with patience and stamina, it yields a rich perspective on spiritual life that both enlightens and entertains.


September/October 1999

Labrang: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery at the Crossroads of Four Civilizations, By Paul Kocol Nietupski. With photographs from the Griebenow Archives. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999, Paperback, 123 pages.

The monastery of Labrang Tashi Kyil, popularly known to Tibetans simply as Labrang, has played an important role in the history of Tibetan Buddhism and its spread throughout the Mongol and Chinese regions of the north and east of Tibet. Founded between 1709 and 1711 by Jamyang Shepa, a monk from Drepung Gomang Monastery and also an important disciple of the fifth Dalai Lama, it served as a bastion of Tibetan culture over the centuries to follow.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950s and the ensuing assault on Tibetan culture saw the closure of Labrang (which was turned into a prison camp for high lamas). However, the wave of liberalization that sweet through China in 1979 led to the reopening of its doors. Today it is once again an active spiritual center serving the peoples of this remote and exotic corner of the world.

After his death, the founder of Labrang, Jamyang Shepa, became known as the first Jamyang Shepa, for a young child was identified as his reincarnation and installed in Labrang, a tradition that has continued until today. The second Jamyang Shepa was one of the seventh Dalai Lama's most important disciples and dharma heirs.

Part of the importance of Labrang lay in its location in Amdo, Tibet's enormous northeastern province, which was once more than two million square miles in size. The monastery served as a spiritual liaison for Lhasa with the Mongols to the north and the Manchus to the east--both of whom were devout followers of Tibetan Buddhism. Children from these two regions, as well as from Han China, came to Labrang for training, and over the generations a steady stream of translations of Tibet's ancient scriptures into Mongolian, Manchurian, and Chinese flowed forth from the pens of the monastery's great scholars.

With the rise of Manchuria to rulership of all China, Labrang became the Manchu Emperor's window onto the lands to the west. Moreover, Labrang lay on the Silk Route and was surrounded by Chinese Turkestan, so its links to the Muslim world were also significant.

Between 1922 and 1949 the Griebenow family lived in Labrang as Christian missionaries. They extensively photographed the monastery and its activities, thus creating perhaps the only extant record of traditional life in the Labrang area to survive the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Marion Griebenow returned to his native Minnesota with the photographs that the family had amassed during their two and a half decades at Labrang. Eventually those photographs were donated to Tibet House in New York, thus ensuring their preservation.

The compiler and author of this extraordinary book, Paul Nietupski of John Carroll University, Cleveland, dedicated several years to pouring over the letters and other documents left in the Griebenow estate, as well as to researching the history of Labrang. His publication of the Griebenow photographs, together with his excellent documentation of them, provides a wonderful introduction to this exquisite monastery, as well as to its people and environs.


September/October 1999

Healing from the Heart: A Leading Heart Surgeon Explores the Power of Complementary Medicine, By Mehmet Oz, with Ron Arias and Lisa Oz. New York: Dutton (Penguin Putnam), 1998, Hardcover, xvi + 202 pages.

Healing from the Heart is a frank, sometimes unsettling foray into the world of modern medicine. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon and medical director of Columbia-Presbyterian's Complementary Care Center, weaves an intensely human story. Disease and dying, health and healing are all universal and deeply personal happenings. Healing is in part the story of Mehmet Oz, how the surgeon-scientist comes to bridge the healing ways of West and East. It is the drama of desperately ill heart patients, loved ones, and professional caregivers, who affirm the place and power of integrative medicine. Healing from the Heart is no less a universal story, the play of conflict and change in human affairs, both disturbing and reassuring. As doctor Dean Ornish notes, here is "a glimpse into what the future of medicine is likely to be-if we're lucky."

Conventional (allopathic) Western medicine is based on drugs, surgery, and high technology. Allopathic doctors are expert at treating life-threatening illnesses and managing symptoms of chronic disease. Patients typically expect their doctor to "fix" serious problems and to keep them symptom-free. Traditional, or "complementary" medicine, such as nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, massage, and self-hypnosis, aims at strengthening the whole person. Traditional therapists often require people to change their lifestyle and take responsibility for themselves. Though such therapies are increasingly used by people on their own, conventional doctors discount them as unproven. Mehmet Oz calls for a synthesis of the two approaches, a dual system that is "one universal healing endeavor." He demonstrates why this integration must happen now and how it can be done.

Healing from the Heart is a wake-up call for healthcare workers. It will be a powerful read for people dealing with heart disease. Mehmet Oz is a keen observer and vivid storyteller who tells about things he knows well. Here is the challenge of heart failure, the rigors of openheart surgery, the struggle for stability during recovery, failures to thrive despite superior technical support. His suffering patients compel Dr. Oz to search for therapies that empower them for self-healing. It is their triumphs together, sometimes against

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