Book Reviews

The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition by Edward Abdill, Quest Books, Wheaton, IL, 2005; ISBN 0835608425, 241 pages, paperback, $15.95.


Clear and understandable, The Secret Gateway discusses basic theosophical ideas and how they apply to our lives and the universe around us. That truth is found in nature and ourselves, and must be experienced by each of us in order to be understood, is a thread that runs through the entire book. The first section deals with the three fundamental propositions of The Secret Doctrine — an ineffable cosmic principle, cyclic action, and spiritual evolution through becoming — as well as with the nature and evolution of our consciousness. The author’s treatment is direct and practical, avoiding theosophical jargon and not losing itself in metaphysical abstractions. Discussion of the Theosophical Society focuses on the writings of its chief founder, Helena Blavatsky; her teachers, the Mahatmas; and the Society’s objectives. The final section discusses the spiritual path and how through study, meditation, and service each of us progresses toward transcendence of our human limitations, either slowly through natural evolutionary processes or more quickly through entering the portals described in Blavatsky’s Voice of the Silence. With its warm and easy style, this book is an excellent and timely introduction to theosophy. — Sarah Belle Dougherty

Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chodron, Shambhala Publications, Boston, 2006; ISBN 1590304012, 105 pages, hardback, $12.99.


When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. . . . And you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently, endless opportunities to dissolve the seeds of war where they originate — in the hearts and minds of individuals like you and me.— pp. 99-100

American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron reaches out in a direct, contemporary way to all who wish to seek peace, beginning with themselves and their personal relationships. She offers helpful, concrete suggestions on how to keep from acting on aggression and other negative feelings, and how instead to use them as a means to self-knowledge and the development of compassion for all beings. — S.B.D.

The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos by Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams, Riverhead Books, New York, 2006; ISBN 1594489149, 400 pages, hardcover, $26.95.


This plea for a living, modern cosmology expands the mind, stimulates intuition, and fires imagination. It examines subjects like creation, time, space, and matter, seeking to express scientific findings in terms we can relate to by adapting symbols from world traditions. The authors — professors of physics and philosophy of science respectively — feel that current scientific theories are essentially correct but, rather than implying the hollowness of human life, they can equally well show that each one of us is at the center of the universe and responsible for its well being. Their discussion blends explanations of current science with symbols drawn from many cultures, reminding us of the power of myth and metaphor to preserve and express a higher order of reality. The authors hope that, individually and as a society, we will begin to embody modern knowledge in the stories and symbols we use to shape our lives. — Eloise Hart

The Mind Has Mountains: Reflections on Society and Psychiatry by Paul R. McHugh, md, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2006; ISBN 0801882494, 272 pages, hardback, $25.00.


In this collection of essays, the former director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examines with wit, common sense, and humanity several trends in modern psychiatry, particularly where he feels it has “lost its way” and harmed patients and the public. He debunks the pretension that psychiatrists and psychologists know the “deep secrets” of human nature because of their special training and experience, and provokes thought with controversial views. The book includes critiques of such subjects as Freudianism, physician assisted suicide, the Teri Schiavo case, repressed and recovered memories, multiple personality disorder, surgical sex-change and sex-correction operations, the over-prescription of psychiatric medicines, and the diagnosing of personality differences as psychological disorders. — S.B.D.

(From Sunrise magazine, Winter 2007; copyright © 2006 Theosophical University Press)

Nature is a Volume written in celestial hieroglyphs, in a true Sacred-writing; of which even Prophets are happy that they can read here a line and there a line. — Thomas Carlyle

Theosophical University Press Online Edition