Ancient Wisdom for a New Age: A Practical Guide for Spiritual Growth

Ancient Wisdom for a New Age: A Practical Guide for Spiritual Growth

Terry Hunt & Pal Benedict
Las Vegas, Nevada: Twin Star Nexus, 2012. 414 pages, paper, $18.95.

Ancient Wisdom for a New Age is written in the form of a dialogue in which the questions of an inquirer are answered by the authors. The book offers some praiseworthy suggestions for ways to live the spiritual life. It also discusses humanity’s metaphysical nature and evolutionary journey. The chapter on reincarnation is especially well-done.

Hunt and Benedict have drawn on many resources for the theories they discuss. Their bibliography includes The Mahatma Letters, several works by H.P. Blavatsky, thirteen titles by Alice Bailey, seven by C.W. Leadbeater, and about forty-two others. To their credit, the authors recommend that readers accept only what is reasonable to them and that they keep an open mind so that they might get new insights. Nevertheless, the theories come across as facts rather than theories. Clearly the authors hope those theories, or facts, will be helpful to others in making spiritual progress.

On the practical side, the authors stress what every great spiritual teacher has stressed--the danger of identifying with the personal ego. In fact, they have emphasized it to a fault. Throughout the book, even the simplest pleasures are put down as a hindrance to spiritual growth. We are told that the soul has no interest in football games or movies. Perhaps that is true, but surely harmless entertainment and fun are not a hindrance to spiritual growth.

The authors’ treatment of our emotional nature comes close to suggesting that we eliminate all emotion and operate only from a higher spiritual state of consciousness, as they seem to believe adepts do. Yet in The Mahatma Letters, historical documents written by two adepts named Koot Hoomi and Morya, we find that the adepts have very strong feelings. In one letter, Koot Hoomi said Blavatsky “made [Morya] more than once start in anger, and break his pipe while swearing like a true—Christian.”

Each chapter has numerous subtopics that sometimes include extraneous material and occasionally omit material needed to cover the subtopic. In chapter 2, “The Human Experience,” there is a subsection entitled “The Nature of the Human Soul.” Commendably, the authors point out the need to be scrupulously honest with ourselves and with others. No doubt that is essential if we are to live a spiritual life; but except for saying that “the human soul exists on the very highest levels of the mental realm,” the authors do not tell us much about what the soul is. In the next subsection, “The Levels of Consciousness,” we are told that the most spiritual parts of a human being are atma and buddhi, which are “the very highest vibrational frequencies within us.” That may be true, but how do we discover what high vibrational frequencies are within ourselves?

The authors frequently say that “everything is exactly as it should be.” Perhaps it would be nearer the truth if they had said that everything is the result of action. Surely the sorry world situation is not as things should be. Were that the case, we should leave things as they are. Ignorance, selfishness, and greed have caused great misery to humanity and to nature, but isn’t it our job to do what we can to change ourselves and the world for the better? No doubt the authors would agree with that, but readers could get the wrong idea from the authors saying that things are as they should be.

Ancient Wisdom for a New Age provides some very important advice for those who want to live the spiritual life. In addition to warning about the dangers of identifying with the ego, the authors stress the need for a selfless life. They also point out that the adepts are not willing to become personal teachers for everyone who wants individual guidance, and they strongly discourage mediumship and channeling.

Hunt and Benedict are to be commended for making a noble effort to help spiritual pilgrims on their way. At the same time Ancient Wisdom for a New Age spends too much time on metaphysical theories without providing reasonable evidence for their veracity, and it often answers questions in simplistic and unsatisfying ways. By far the most practical chapter in the book is “Your Spiritual Practice.” To justify the book’s subtitle this chapter might have been expanded and some of the metaphysical theory omitted.

Edward Abdill

Edward Abdill is vice-president of the Theosophical Society in America and author of The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition.