Updated: Nov 2
It was my good fortune to have both a mother and father who were
Theosophists. My father was a quiet, introverted man, but it was my mother―a
teacher by profession―who aroused my interest in Theosophy, mostly through
casual conversations in which she responded to my childlike questions.
My portal to the world of theosophical literature was a vintage secretary desk
with a hutch in which my parents stored their books. Although I found many of
them beyond my comprehension, I managed to find a few that could be understood
by a boy of twelve or thirteen years old.
Since those childhood years, I continued to read books on Theosophy. Like
anybody else, I have my favorites. What follows is a short list, which does not
include Blavatsky, since The Voice of the Silence is essentially a translation, and it
is clear that The Secret Doctrine was not written by her alone.
Charles Leadbeater was one of the first authors to have an impact on me. What
is remarkable is how he uses ordinary language to describe extraordinary
phenomena. Say what you want about Leadbeater, it cannot be denied that he was
a keen observer. His descriptions of the unseen realms are clear and lucid. One of
my favorites by CWL is The Inner Life, a compilation of informal talks given at
Adyar circa 1910.
How can one talk about CWL without mentioning Annie Besant? To this day
she remains one of my favorite authors. Her writings convey a sense of power and
breadth of vision that inspires both awe and respect. Her most challenging book is
A Study in Consciousness, a serious work that cannot be read over a single
weekend. Its panoramic view of the unfoldment of consciousness is epic. Besant’s
use of metaphor and allegory is found in From the Outer Court to the Inner
Sanctum, which describes the path of discipleship as only Besant can.
When I first read The Science of Yoga by I.K. Taimni in 1992, it was a struggle.
Over the ensuing three decades, I have returned to it again and again, gradually
coming to understand it more and more. His insightful commentary on Patanjali’s
Yoga Sutras, in my opinion, is simply the best out there. (I have six other
translations.) I also recommend Man, God and the Universe. What I appreciate
about Taimni is his ability to explain obscure or subtle concepts in a clear and
Like Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson was a clairvoyant. His inspired writings on
the devic kingdom are found in The Brotherhood of Angels and Men. I remember
looking at my parent’s copy and being mesmerized by the marvelous drawings of
angels. Hodson also wrote convincingly on the path of discipleship, giving the
reader the sense that he spoke from personal experience. In this regard, my favorite
is The Yogic Ascent to Spiritual Heights.
And I should not forget to mention G. de Purucker, whose intimate knowledge
of esotericism is astounding. He must have had many incarnations in India. His
writings are not easy to read if one is unfamiliar with Sanskrit terms, but those who
persevere will be rewarded. Perhaps, the best entrée into Purucker would be the
three-volume Dialogues of G. de Purucker. It is written in a question-answer
format and taken from his classes given at the Theosophical Society in Point
In closing, I would caution readers not to dismiss a book simply because it is
old. We should not judge authors of the past by the stylistic standards of today. To
do so is to shut ourselves off from their wisdom. Besides, is it not obvious that the
style used by contemporary authors will seem outdated fifty or sixty years from
now? Seek out the substantive ideas in books and do not let stylistic elements stand
in the way.