Book Review

Helena Blavatsky edited and introduced by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2004; Western Esoteric Masters Series, ISBN 155643457x, 220 pages, paperback, $14.95.

This satisfying anthology of H. P. Blavatsky's writings focuses on her relationship to the Western esoteric tradition embodied in such movements as Kabalism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and Rosicrucianism. General editor of the Western Esoteric Masters series, Dr. Goodrick-Clarke is Vice-Chairman of Keston College, Oxford, and Director of the Centre for Western Esotericism at the University of Wales, Lampeter.

The book begins with a sympathetic introduction to Blavatsky's life, writings, efforts, and legacy. The first part presents selections relating to spiritualism and occultism, the ancient wisdom tradition, secret brotherhoods, oriental and western kabala, mesmerism, magic, and hermetic philosophy. The second section covers various theosophical ideas with special emphasis on their relation to western traditions: Buddhism and Brahmanism, cosmology, microcosm and macrocosm, evolution, and personal growth. Much of the material is drawn from Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky's first book which deals more extensively with occidental subjects, but The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, her Esoteric Instructions, and several articles are also culled. Each chapter contains clear editorial notes, giving context to passages which are carefully chosen and which read along smoothly -- although a change in type face between the notes and excerpts would have been helpful. Taken together, the result is a thoughtful introduction to Blavatsky's intellectual exposition of theosophy in a Western context. -- Sarah Belle Dougherty

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If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. -- Dalai Lama