The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition

The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition

By Edward Abdill
The Theosophical Publishing House, 2006. Paperback, 241 pages.

This book is not only excellent for beginning Theosophists, but long time truth seekers as well. As one who has read many Theosophical books over the years, I was amazed at how clearly Ed Abdill was able to bring out new approaches in this study of the ancient wisdom. Even if you have numerous Theosophical books in your collection, you need to add Ed's book to make it complete; it is that good.

The book begins with an excellent short story about a compassionate monkey. Essentially, a monkey that almost drowns saves a fish from the same fate. Only the fish in this case dies because it has been removed from the water. The moral of the story is: To do the good, we must know what the good is. The innuendo is that this book will help us know what the good is. It should be noted that Ed credits Nelda Samarel, director of the Krotona School of Theosophy and a director on the Theosophical Society's Board, for this story. He freely gives credit where credit is due.

I feel that the book has two major parts. Chapters 1-8 give us the basic teachings of Theosophy in a contemporary setting. The second part, Chapters 9-19, is a brief history of the Theosophical movement and how one can live and interact in this world as a Theosophist.

Abdill begins with the Theosophical view that we must discover truth within ourselves. It must result from our experience rather than from our belief. To help with this discovery process, we are introduced in the beginning to many Theosophical concepts, such as consciousness, motion, and matter. He suggests that there is a reality beyond space and time. Another view is that our life is not separated from the divine life, but at one with it, and the whole universe comes into being by the creative power of motion.

These could be strange concepts to some, but are handled skillfully and clearly in these early chapters. This is done because this background is needed to understand the Theosophical approach such as karma. Since one of the founders of the Theosophical Society (TS), Madame Blavatsky, says, "… karma is the fundamental law of the universe" it seems imperative that we grasp its meaning. Before we simply assume we understand this profound statement, Abdill gives us this clear warning: "If we claim to understand how karma works, we are being either too naive or too sure of ourselves." In reading this, I was struck by how much he sounded like some of the Theosophical giants that have come before us. In the chapter titled "What Survives Death?" Ed discusses, among other things, the previously mentioned concept of karma, and also dharma. He writes that dharma is: "the inner purpose of life. It is an inner pressure that moves us in the best direction to confront and neutralize the selected karmic charge from the past." I have felt for years that dharma rather than karma is more important in our incarnations and this is what we should he focusing on. Abdill supports this approach with the following:

When we fulfill our dharma, or at least as much of it as we can, it is likely that we die. Life's purpose ended, we assimilate the lessons learned and begin a new adventure when we are reborn.

How much clearer can you be? After we fulfill our dharma, we die!

The current President of the Theosophical Society in America, Betty Bland, has written that Ed's book shows a recognizable influence of Emily Sellon and Fritz and Dora Kunz. These are indeed three of the Theosophical giants that came before us. I did not know Fritz, but knew and worked with Dora for over a decade on a number of projects. Emily quite often was involved in many of those projects. From Emily, I learned that one could write and say things very clearly using only a small number of words. I saw Emily's influence not only in the above example of explaining dharma, but also the statement of being naïve in understanding karma.

Continuing with contemporary language, Ed explains basic Theosophy as presented in Madame Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine (SD). Using the three fundamental propositions as given in the SD, we tackle certain conundrums as "Be-ness." We take the Theosophical view that we are the eternal self; a point in unconditioned consciousness. We have a very clear discussion of the spiritual soul and animal soul using more Theosophical words such as buddhi-manas and kama-manas, These concepts are never easy to grasp, especially in reading the SD. However, Ed's book continues to be as concise and clear as any I have read recently.

If you have ever wondered how our body is formed and what holds it together in this life, Ed gives Blavatsky's claim of a surrounding dynamic force field that a clairvoyant can sense and probably see. Again, using her Sanskrit words such as linga sharira, he updates them into the more familiar etheric double, etc. This continues until he has told us what constitutes the "human aura." Then he explains in a Theosophical way what happens to all of this when we die.

In the second half of the book, Ed is now able to discuss the values and virtues of living a Theosophical life. After a brief history of Blavatsky, the TS, and the Mahatmas Letters, we have a number of chapters with familiar themes that a Theosophist would recognize. These include a world view, the path, study, meditation, and service. In the closing chapters further studies are suggested along with some excellent advice in the form of embedded pithy statements. It is worth your time to dig these out and meditate on them every day. Some of my favorites are:

The true Theosophist will develop a deep appreciation of the changing world, but a calm indifference to the changes.

Compassion is not pity.

The fruits of a Theosophical life are ever-increasing inner peace and outer joy.

There are some minor errors that could be expected in any first printing. For example, the famous chemist (incorrectly identified as a theoretical physicist) and Theosophist, Sir William Crookes, is identified in the Index as on page 120. In reality, he is on page 121. There is nothing serious here except that a number of other famous Theosophists are also off by a page in the same paragraph. Perhaps something that could be considered more serious is the omission of William Quan Judge as one of the founding members of the modern day Theosophical Society. This could have been easily noted on page 2 or 121.

In a short piece, Madame Blavatsky wrote about a "Steep and Thorny Road." In it, she says,

[This road] leads to the very heart of the Universe. I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inwardly only…

Ed's book is an excellent start to finding this "secret gateway." Or, for those already on the path, it could prove to be a very clear up-to-date road map.


November/December 2007