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