The Devotional Books


Many people, both outside and within the Theosophical Movement, seem to think that Theosophy is something purely theoretical or intellectual. This is simply not true.

Alongside such important books as “The Secret Doctrine,” “The Key to Theosophy,” “Isis Unveiled,” and “The Ocean of Theosophy,” there is also a well defined group of books which are often referred to as the “devotional books.”

Robert Crosbie, founder of the ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists), once wrote, “There is plenty of material, as well as help, in the devotional books to the realization of the heart doctrine, for they are designed to awaken the Buddhic faculty – that of Intuition, the only means by which light can come to you or anyone. . . . You have had much of the intellectual side; there should be as much of the devotional; for what is desirable is the awakening of the spiritual consciousness, the intuition – Buddhi – and this cannot be done unless the thoughts are turned that way with power and purpose.” (“The Friendly Philosopher” p. 9, 13)

There should be “AS MUCH” of the devotional, for true Theosophy is the Heart Doctrine, not the Eye Doctrine or Head Doctrine warned against in “The Voice of the Silence.”

An old issue of “Theosophy” magazine once said that the devotional literature is for “those who find the Teachings of Theosophy expressive of their highest ideals and conformable to reason and experience, and who are desirous of entering the PATH.”

The most important and powerful of these books – at least for the sincere and serious aspirant towards the Masters of Wisdom or Theosophical Mahatmas – is “The Voice of The Silence,” translated by H. P. Blavatsky from the Book of the Golden Precepts.

Also of high importance is the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Indian Theosophy of 5,000 years ago, which is immensely practical and helpful in the circumstances and situations of daily life for anyone, whether interested in chelaship (discipleship) or not. Also immensely practical are the Yoga Sutras or Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. The Gita and the Yoga Sutras are available in two different versions in the ULT literature, the oldest being renditions and interpretations of these texts by HPB’s most trusted colleague and co-founder William Q. Judge and the more recent being entirely literal and textually accurate translations by Raghavan Iyer. From Judge we also have “Notes on the Bhagavad Gita,” completed after his death by his pupil and colleague Robert Crosbie.

The Dhammapada – the most well known compilation of the sayings and precepts of Buddha – is also part of this literature, as is “The Light of Asia,” Sir Edwin Arnold’s masterful poetic account of the life and teachings of the Buddha. There is also “Light on the Path,” a short but profound treatise recorded by Mabel Collins from the Master Hilarion and which HPB stated to be partly derived from the same Book of the Golden Precepts on which “The Voice of The Silence” is based. Collins also published a sort of sequel to “Light on the Path,” titled “Through The Gates of Gold.”

Also considered helpful for the “heart” or “devotional” side of our nature are the Upanishads of ancient India and the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu or Lao Tse of ancient China. The versions of these that are available in the ULT are in some respects very far from being literal translations but they are inspiring nonetheless. Of course, it does not matter what translation one uses, as long as one does indeed use it.

Many wise, helpful, practical, and inspiring letters from William Judge to numerous Theosophists all over the world have also been published as “Letters That Have Helped Me,” three volumes bound in one.

It is interesting to note that HPB requested that passages from the Bhagavad Gita and “The Light of Asia” be read at her funeral and on the anniversary of her passing each year. This occasion came to be known as White Lotus Day.

The student of Theosophy may succumb to a lack of balance between Manas (or the “head”) and Buddhi (or the “heart”) if he confines himself primarily or solely to the more intellectually stimulating of the books. But also – and we see this particularly in the New Age Movement to an alarming extent – there is a great risk of developing the heart forces while neglecting the mental and intellectual forces.

The ideal is to attain the perfect and healthy balance of the two. This can be achieved through making use of the whole of the Theosophical literature, which essentially provides us with everything we need at this point in time.

Almost all the books mentioned above can be obtained most affordably through Theosophy Company, the publishers for the United Lodge of Theosophists. Many ULT Lodges around the world also offer an inexpensive mail order service for Theosophical books. For more details, please see our Books on Theosophy page.

“Search for the Paths. But, O Lanoo, be of clean heart before thou startest on thy journey. Before thou takest thy first step, learn to discern the real from the false, the ever-fleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to separate Head-learning from Soul-wisdom, the “Eye” from the “Heart” doctrine.” (“The Voice of the Silence” p. 25, original edition)

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Walking within the garden of his heart, the pupil suddenly came upon the Master, and was glad, for he had but just finished a task in His service which he hastened to lay at His feet.

“See, Master,” said he, “this is done; now give me other teaching to do.”

The Master looked upon him sadly yet indulgently, as one might upon a child which can not understand.

“There are already many to teach intellectual conceptions of the Truth,” he replied. “Thinkest thou to serve best by adding thyself to their number?”

The pupil was perplexed.

“Ought we not to proclaim the Truth from the very housetops, until the whole world shall have heard?” he asked.

“And then -“

“Then the whole world will surely accept it.”

“Nay,” replied the Master, “the Truth is not of the intellect, but of the heart. See!”

The pupil looked, and saw the Truth as though it were a White Light, flooding the whole earth; yet none reaching the green and living plants which so sorely needed its rays, because of dense layers of clouds intervening.

“The clouds are the human intellect,” said the Master. “Look again.”

Intently gazing, the pupil saw here and there faint rifts in the clouds, through which the Light struggled in broken, feeble beams. Each rift was caused by a little vortex of vibrations, and looking down through the openings thus made the pupil perceived that each vortex had its origin in a human heart.

“Only by adding to and enlarging the rifts will the Light ever reach the earth,” said the Master. “Is it best, then, to pour out more Light upon the clouds, or to establish a vortex of heart force? The latter thou must accomplish unseen and unnoticed, and even unthanked. The former will bring thee praise and notice among men. Both are necessary: both are Our work; but – the rifts are so few! Art strong enough to forego the praise and make of thyself a heart center of pure impersonal force?”

The pupil sighed, for it was a sore question.

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6 thoughts on “The Devotional Books

  1. Hi, I was wondering if you had any suggestions about some good translations of the Dhammapada?

    1. There are many translations of the Dhammapada but the only two with which I’m personally familiar are the Theosophy Company edition (which says in its foreword that “This is not a new translation. It is only a rendition. Over a score of translations have been consulted in its compilation and of course our debt of gratitude to them is large.”) and the one by Thomas Byrom, published by Shambhala.

      I would call these “good” in the sense that they’re clear, accessible, and inspiring, and – in the case of the Theosophy Company edition – fairly detailed and philosophical. But I’m unaware as to how closely and accurately they reflect the original ancient text.

      In the article “World-Improvement or World-Deliverance” H.P. Blavatsky remarks that “Neither the Dhammapada nor the Sutta Nipata are … a proof to us in their now mutilated and misunderstood text.”

      So we should perhaps not take ANY translation of the Dhammapada, the oriental ones included, as being entirely accurate in regards to either the letter or spirit of Buddha’s actual teachings but it’s still worth reading nevertheless.

  2. In your opinion, what is the best translation of the Vivekachudamani? And, is it worth reading?

    1. Mohini M. Chatterji (or Chatterjee) translated the Vivekachudamani (Adi Shankaracharya’s “Crest Jewel of Wisdom”) for “The Theosophist” magazine in 1886. This is the version that HPB quotes from and refers to in “The Secret Doctrine.”

      Considering that Mohini was a chela or disciple of the Master Koot Hoomi and that Shankaracharya was “the greatest of the Esoteric masters of India,” “the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages,” and “one of the greatest minds that ever appeared on Earth” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine”) it must be worth reading or, rather, meditatively reflecting and pondering upon.

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