Poems of Bliss - Poems of Contemplation

Poems of Bliss
Geoffrey Hodson
Auckland, New Zealand: Theosophical Publishing House, 2021. 99 pp., paper, NZ$35 plus postage.

Poems of Contemplation
Elizabeth and John Sell
Auckland: Theosophical Publishing House, 2022. 65 pp., paper, NZ$30 plus postage.

Poetry can be defined as a type of writing that formulates a concentrated, imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response. It focuses on the expression of feelings and ideas through the use of distinctive literary styles, sounds, and rhythms.

As part of its innovative publishing program, the Theosophical Publishing House in New Zealand has recently published two outstanding books of poetry by prominent members of the Theosophical Society whose gifts of creating poetry were widely unknown: Poems of Bliss by Geoffrey Hodson (1886‒1983), one of the TS’s most respected teachers and the author of over sixty books about Theosophy, healing, yoga, and the angelic kingdom; and Poems of Contemplation by Elizabeth and John Sell, close associates of Hodson and editors of his collected articles, Sharing the Light (in three volumes).

John Sell was an innovative teacher and workshop leader and the author of Practical Spirituality, published by TPH Auckland in 2019, shortly after his passing. In addition to her editorial pursuits, Elizabeth was a modest yet tireless Theosophical worker, accomplished artist, and counselor to family and friends. As with Joy Mills, whose private poems were discovered, collected, and published after her passing (For a Wayfarer, Quest Books, 2016), few people outside of close family and friends had any idea that the literary gifts of Hodson or the Sells included poetry.

Poems of Bliss was curated by Elizabeth Sell from a trove of Hodson’s unpublished writings that were discovered more than twenty years after his passing. In addition to being the only book of Hodson’s poetry ever published, what sets this little book of thirty-six poems apart from others is that they spring from the author’s clairvoyant investigations, which afforded him direct insights into the subtle realms and served as the wellspring of his deep personal yearnings for spiritual unfoldment. The result is a powerful yet intimate book that both educates and inspires. In “A Goddess of the Indian Sea,” the author writes of his clairvoyant impressions of a sea deva, whose partial message (rendered as poetry) follows:

You see all waves as separate
Whereas in truth all waves are one;
For there is but one great all-inclusive wave
Which is all being.
Find then the secret of the waves
And you will find the secret of yourself;
For what are you too but a wave,
Part of the larger wave of being.

Poems of Contemplation was originally intended to be a small collection of poems given as a memento to close family and friends after Elizabeth’s passing in February 2022. Later it was expanded to include poems written by her husband, John. The collection includes thirty-one beautifully crafted poems on a wide variety of spiritual subjects, including the magic of nature, spiritual unfoldment, personal liberation, and the mystery of death. As a lover of trees, I am particularly fond of Elizabeth’s “Meditation on a Cherry Tree”:


Can we be like those leaves
Cascading in beauty and brilliance,
Before our journey to heights Unknown?
Living fully in loveliness and joy
To our last moment, when we ascend and float
Away to realms anew.

Elizabeth carefully selected dozens of color photographs, drawings, and reproductions of her own acclaimed paintings to complement the poems that appear in these lovely books. Both were printed in the United Kingdom on glossy paper as deluxe paperback editions. For those who appreciate poetry, these two literary gems will provide a wealth of enjoyment, insight, and inspiration.

Nathaniel Altman

Nathaniel Altman has been a member of the TSA since 1970. He became a student of Geoffrey Hodson while attending the Krotona Institute School in 1971 and met the Sells in Adyar in 1975.