Category Archives: theosophy

Theosofie * Rudolf Steiner (isbn 9060385152)

The first of the Steiner books in Dutch is from the time that Steiner still stood with one leg in the Theosophical Society of H.P. Blavatsky. He was asked later why he didn’t change the title, but he didn’t want to. Theosophy is the essential Steiner book. In fairly simple terms he gives his view on the world, the constitution of man, what happens when you die and how he came to these ideas. Essential read in any case and when you want to read Steiner, I suggest you start with this one.

The Bhagavad-Gͮt͢ * translated and elucidated by William Quan Judge (isbn 0911500278)

The Bhagavad-Gͮt͢ is a small piece of the Indian warrior-epos the Mah͢bh͢rata which is supposedly written by the Vy͢sa, but who he was and when he lived is unknown. The Gͮt͢ is usually regarded as the Bible of the Hindus, but this is only partly true.
The Gͮt͢ has been translated countless times in the last century and you can buy it in almost any bookshop nowadays. William Quan Judge was one of the founders of the Theosophical Society in the end of the 19th century and one of the earlier men to bring Eastern wisdom to the west. In my opinion he also made one of the better translations of the Gͮt͢ and this translation has been published again and again by Theosophical publishers.

The poem tells the story of Arjuna who stands on the battlefields of the Kurukshetra in the middle of the two hostile armies of the Pandavas and the Kurus. Arjuna fights an inner battle because his enemy is also his family and the doesn’t want to kill any of them. In short, this is the ground of his discussion with Krishna who -during the story- seems to be a personal god, a creator-god and the eternal Deity itself.
Most translations of the GÍ®tÍ¢ put too much focus on the outwardly story of the story, namely Arjuna who doesn’t want to fight in the beginning and Krishna giving him reasons why going into the battle won’t harm him by bringing bad Karma, etc. The actual purpose of the story is that Krishna teaches Arjuna to overcome the lower aspects of his personality by means of 17 forms of Yoga (this is why this translation is subtitled “The Book Of Yoga”), which form the ‘chapters’ of the book.

My Dutch translation opens with a genealogical tree, which is very helpfull, because many family names appear in the story and different names refer to the same person(s), etc. A good translation is very enjoyable to read if the poetic manner of writing is maintained. Judges translation is a good one. The chapters are divided in shlokas (verses) that are numbered and Judge had the practical idea to print the text itself on the right pages and the explanations not with footnotes, but just in reference to the shlokas on the left pages. For example, when he wants to explain the term “SvabhÍ¢va” from shloka 14 of chapter 5, the left page there will say “14 SvabhÍ¢va …”, so it is possible to just read the text and ignore the explanations if you like. What I personally also like about this translation, is that Judge didn’t try to find/make English words for untranslatable terms such as “Achyuta” or words that are better explained than replaced by an English ‘equivalent’ such as “KÍ¢la” which could be translated as “hell”, but this word in the sentence wouldn’t do much good. The Sanskrit terms stay in the text and they are explained on the left pages. read more

Buddhist Catechism * Henry Steel Olcott (isbn 0835600270)

Unbelievable how many times this little book has been reprinted. It is from the hand of colonel Olcott who stood at the cradle of the Theosophical Society of Blavatsky. In a simple form Olcott presents the basics of Buddism. This is for the present day partly known information. The history of Buddhism, the life of Siddarta, etc. But you will also read things that even people who know something of Buddism do not know. This surely makes this little book a nice piece of general information. Also the text was agreed upon by all kinds of Buddists that Olcott asked to read his text, so the catechism is surely ‘unsectaric’. Another nice point is that the doctrines are very ‘Blavatsky-like’. You will also learn the underflow of Blavatsky’s writings, so this is interesting for everyone interested in Theosophy. Surely a book that deserves to be reprinted over and over. Too bad about the irritation Q&A-form though.

The Fates Of Princes Of Dyfed * Kenneth Morris (Cenydd Morus) (ISBN: 1417980214)

Morris was an early Welsh Theosophist who was also a writer. He met a group of Irish writers who where interested in their past. Morris took up the idea to rewrite the Mabinogion to one story using elements of other Celtic myths. The result saw the light of day as early as 1914. Yet, the Dutch translation was only recently released. This book is published very luxery. A hard cover, wonderfull colour drawings.

The story is about the testing of mankind to become immortal. I think the book is meant to be read to children, because it is too difficult for them to read it themselves (many Welsh names, for example) but the book is a bit too ‘fairyish’ for adults. But on the other hand, however I seldom read novels or books with stories, I found this one quite enjoyable. Obvious Celtic themes, dreamy pasages and when I couldn’t remember who was who, I could just look it up in the back. Also I do have a translation of the Mabinogion, I don’t remember much I read. This may mean that I either didn’t read that little book too well, or it didn’t capture my imagination enough for me to remember them. I think this book may, if I can remember the names!

This book is highly recommanded to people who like books with Celtic themes (it is rather ‘Arthurish’), especially people with children who want to read them stories with native themes.

The Masks Of Odin * Elsa-Brita Titchenell (Theosophical University Press 1986 * isbn 0911500731)

However this book is 20 years old, the Dutch translation just saw the light of day. It seems that also the Dutch section of the Theosophical Society realised that people also want to learn about their own past. This book can be regarded as the Theosophical answer to the Antroposophical book Tussen Wodan en Widar (‘between Wodan and Widar’ reviewed elsewhere). Titchenell uses the first half of the book to give Theosophical explanations of Norse concepts. These ideas are often far-fetched and very suggestive. Often she doesn’t name her sources which makes it hard to look things back. The first half of the book is by far not as interesting as the Antroposophical book that has a similar idea.
The second half of the book consists of translations of texts, mostly from the Elder Edda (that the writer still ascribes to Saemund). However she claims that she used an Icelandic original and an old Swedish tranlation, the titles of many texts differ and there are a few other discripancies. “-vida” often becomes “-kvädet”, such as in “Hymiskvädet” for “Hymiskmál”. In the case of “Baldrs Draumer” the title is totally different and somehow became “Vägtamskvädet” and “Rigsthula”, “Kvidet om Rig”. Then we have one text that I only know from this book. “Odens Korpsgalder” is a part of the Edda according to Titchenell, but mostly left out because it is too hard to explain. Further I noticed that the “Svipdagsmál” is in only one of the three Elder Edda translations that I have, strange! What is also strange that the writer writes the names differently. What is usually an “i” in the last accent, becomes an “e”, so “Hymir” becomes “Hymer”, “Ymir”, “Ymer”, etc.

Titchenell has a few weird ideas. “Lorride” is Thor’s electrical counterpart; “Trudgälmer” is the first sound and “Cosmic Thor”; Thor’s sons are “energy” (Modi) and “power” (Magni).
Other odd things. Vidar (one of Odin’s sons) will avenge his father during Ragnarök with Mjölnir! A few verses before the writer rightly translates that Thor’s hammer will be possessed by the two sons that I just named. “Hjkidskáf” is Odin’s (and Frigg’s) throne and the name is usually translated as ‘high throne’, Titchenell makes ‘shelf of compassion’ of it (in the English text in a note, in the translation in the text!). More interesting are the six constellations that the writer filters out of the “Hymskvädet” in with Thor fishes up the Midgardsomr.

All this make the book the book twofold. Sometimes the ideas are a bit too outrageous, but to have another translation of the texts gives a good way to compare them and the writers explanations are sometimes very interesting. I would say that this book is an alright read if you have some background in the subject. You will get a few unorthodox ideas which will force you to think about certain ideas that you might have had. If you are new to the Norse mythology, I suggest that you better first read a few other books about it. Just have a look in my book reviews section. read more