Huge amounts have been written, some is excellent, some mis-leading. I though I’d suggest what I think is most useful, in particular from the main sources that many other writers derive their work from.
Theosophy books. In classical theosophy, I would read “The Mahatma Letters to AP Sinnett”. It’s a very interesting book – quite a lot of it is about the core theosophical teachings, but a lot of it is also about the social difficulties in India at the time – how difficult it was for the English to accept that a bare-foot Indian might be their spiritual superior.
The letters themselves are in the British Library, and you can go and see them (you need to take your passport and a proof of your address, such as a utility bill, and then you will be issued with a day readers card. They don’t like large groups visiting - the reading rooms are VERY silent and concentrated.
I write more about the Mahatma Letters and how they were written in another section - It’s a very interesting book.
The works of Madame Blavatsky (the Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled) are difficult to read – there are pearls there, but the style is difficult. It might be best to buy her collected writings on a CD (for about £30), and then search for key-words.
The Theosophical Society now offers an online “Diploma in Theosophy”, which is very good
Alice Bailey books. These are very good, and I have got a lot from them. For a beginner, perhaps the best thing to do is to read “Ponder on This” which has extracts from all her books organised around keywords. If you make a note of the quotes that interest you most, then see which book is noted most often. If you want to go further, that is probably the book for you to read next. The Lucis Trust offers a range of courses and meditation meetings connected to the books. The books were dictated to Alice A Bailey by Master DK, and they give “a view from a Master’s perspective” which I like, but many people don’t. There are some quotes in another section
Agni Yoga books. These were received by Helena Roerich (the wife of Nicholas Roerich, the famous painter) and were transmitted by Master M. They are the Yoga of Fire, and apparently are the teachings for the coming age. There are 17 books, and serious students start with the first one (“Leaves from Morya’s Garden” Volume I) and read a bit every day – a page or a verse, and then keep going in this way in order around the full cycle of the books. I have written seperate sections giving an overview of the books, and about “Brotherhood” and “Heart”
To me, the three sets of books mentioned above are the best modern “high” teachings. All other modern teachings “received” from God, Masters, gurus, teachers, angels, etc. are probably secondary (this is a polite way of saying it), but if you find something you like, good luck
Rudolf Steiner. I never got on so well with his books, though “Occult Science – on outline” was good, and I found his “Agriculture” most interesting. He seems to write what he saw and experienced himself rather that anything that has been dictated to him, or to validate any theories, and I think that his personal approach is very valuable.
Gurdjieff. His two major books are “Beelzebub’s tales to his Grandson” which is (probably) a novel, and at least he has the grace to be entertaining in what he writes. Gurdjieff himself said that it should be read three times, first as if reading the newspaper, next as if reading aloud and only then with the goal of understanding - Once for the mechanical part of thinking, once for the moving center, once for 'being mentation.' I have read it twice.
“Meetings with Remarkable Men” is unusually both a very good read, and a good film
Sri Aurobindo. He was acknowledged as the leading teacher in India in the 30’s and 40’s, and he developed a new form of yoga called “Integral Yoga” at his Ashram in Pondicherry. The Auroville international spiritual community was at founded by his co-worker, The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) in Tamil Nadu state. I have read part of Aurobindo’s book “The Divine Life”, and I was very impressed by his strict use of reason in explaining the nature of things. I include some quotes from it here
These are the main teachings of our time
I’d also like to mention some 1950’s authors – they had a freshness in their work that is often lost now, and each in their own way had a open field to work in.
- Dane Rudhyar was an astrologer who wrote many interesting and informative books, including especially “The Planetarisation of Consciousness”, “Culture, Crisis and Creativity”, and “An Astrological Mandala”,
- Alan Watts wrote 2 particular books that I like, “The Way of Zen”, and “Nature, Man and Woman”,
- Abraham Maslow, “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature” is a classic of humanistic psychology
- Eric Berne, “Games People Play” – one of the funniest books ever written, should be essential reading
- Alexander Lowen – “Bioenergetics” – the only worthwhile book I've read on healing
That’s 11 authors/groups/books – if you were to read those, you would have made a good start !!
I’ll add some spiritual fictional works in the Arts section of the site.