The Theosophical Forum – August 1940

THE THEOSOPHIST'S BOOK SHELF — Chas. E. Ball

We can heartily agree with the late G. K. Chesterton who remarked in one of his humorous books that most things suffered from having been over praised, and gave a ridiculous list — including drink, love-making, and lawn-tennis! We might add reading, for unless directed to some end well defined, reading is but a specious trifling of the mind. The great point for us is that a right course of study and reading, of history particularly, gives that foundation of character and judgment which provides criteria for an understanding of life, men, and women. The present generation, generally speaking, are literally rudderless. The old good authors are rediscovered now and again by real lovers of literature and recommended to the hoi polloi, but to what avail?

As occult students we must try to catch that errant modern mind, awake as it is to the ephemerally important, and switch it on to what is eternally important. Times and circumstances will help us, for if Westerners go on much further on present lines, they will have spent so much on armor that nothing will remain to defend, as the eighteenth century cynic warned. It would seem that a principle of co-ordination is wanting. The poor drowning waifs of civilization seize on any loose floating spar or overturned boat near them. As we have the priceless wireless today which enables thousands of shipwrecked ones to be saved, so, likewise have we the knowledge of Occultism in the persons of thousands of its practising students, and the "Still small Voice" is reaching and will reach some of the drowning ones.

But a great army of men and women, real and human — because of their "soul-knowledge" — is required to lead and guide those minds which are opening towards the LIGHT of THEIR OWN SOULS but who may still go astray for lack of a pilot.

There is, of course, much palaver today about a New Age and a juster world, and it is time for a prior consideration of the ideal men and women who are to build it. Otherwise we may literally jump out of our hitherto-organized barbarism into a new and more fantastic dis-organized devilry. Surely, this is only common sense?

One outstanding and most noticeable point in the biographies of men who have moved the world in the past centuries is that they so often had excellent mothers!

In the oldest scriptures honor was always given to the female sex as to the male sex, and Manu has a verse to the effect that where women are treated with kindness and honor there the gods are favorable. Alternatively it augurs no good for a country "where women rule," meaning obviously something like we have in Europe today.

Now, in this connexion of women, fathers, family life, etc., which is at the basis of all society, the works of Katherine Tingley are priceless, and the ideas inculcated will have to be grasped by the modern "psychology" monger if he wishes to see through the mephitic fog of animalism masquerading as sex-knowledge and beauty, the value of which is obvious by the women's faces in any "civilized" city.

For the modern person trying to get an understanding of life there are many books which contain a stream of thought leading to the Theosophical Ocean, for today one must lead the newspaper-snippet reader along easily. His mind is debilitated by thrillers and ideologies enough to stupefy an Atlantean, and he had better bathe first of all in such limpid water as the good Emerson's writings and the other New England Transcendentalists, for simplicity and an honest child-like outlook are absolutely necessary if one is to co-ordinate one's nature and feel the true rhythms of the "Dance of Siva."

Works on Buddhism are beautiful and fascinating too because of their smack of the ancient, blunt and definite statement of the foundation facts of human existence. Newspapers might with advantage reproduce that Buddhist picture of the world in the grip of the Demon of Desire, and print some selections from the Life of Milarepa, for instance. The lives of the Saints are nearly as fascinating as the lives of scoundrels surely, once one has the proper key — that's the point — to what the would-be Saint is trying for.

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi is truly romantic, and his and other saints" lives prove them to have been happy, something which the fool worldling is always chasing after and never catches.

One great value of some study of Buddhism is its tendency to eliminate from a student's mind "cast iron" ways of viewing things; and the modern interest in the Zen school displays this (see Alan W. Watts's The Legacy of Asia). The molds of mind of the twentieth century, though fractured irremediably, have to be further treated in order to bring out that Cosmic framework of Things behind the phenomenalism which is all that modern man, even though an exact scientist, sees. A splendid book on the doctrine of Buddha is: Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot: Addresses on Religious Subjects by the Rt. Rev. Soyen Shaku, Translated from the Japanese by Daisetz Tietaro Suzuki (the apostle of Zen).

In its own wonderful way Buddhism shows that there is no orthodoxy in these matters. Each human being as he advances in the understanding of his own divine nature becomes his own teacher:

What one with such a heart wills is what makes the bird sing and the flower smile, what has raised the mountain and makes the water flow. He is hungry and the universe wishes to eat; he is asleep and all the world hibernates. This sounds extraordinary, but the enlightened understand it perfectly well. — Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot

One of the first books a young student of Theosophy should tackle is H. P. Blavatsky's The Key to Theosophy, as by doing so he will save much trouble for himself and others by seeing the answers to the jejune questions all inquirers pelt one with. The Ocean of Theosophy and the other books of W. Q. Judge, and most important that book, par excellence, for continual reading by mystics, H. P. B.'s The Voice of the Silence, should all be required reading. There follow in due course the stupendous Secret Doctrine, following the most interesting and readable Isis Unveiled, and the fascinating volumes of the present Leader, Dr. G. de Purucker.

As the study of these vast subjects proceeds the student will realize the value of his background of culture. It is a sort of vise to his passport, for many good men have died and become books, and their works do contain some of the syllables which go to spell the great secret.


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE