The Wisdom Series
by Timothy Freke
Six volumes Godsfield Press, 1999, U.K.

Reviewed by Dada Jyotirupananda

In this series, Timothy Freke—traveler, teacher and student of various esoteric traditions—has compiled a plethora of quotations and stories to illustrate the positive, uplifting essence of six spiritual traditions. These include: Christian Mystics, Hindu Gurus, Pagan Philosophers, Sufi Sages, Tibetan Lamas and Zen Masters.

This series of chapbooks are quite useful both as gifts and to give the reader a glance at some of the more universal ideas to come from these teachings and religions. None of the volumes pretends to be a comprehensive study; but in books averaging 60 pages, it’s hard to do better than he did in giving some reasonable view of these teachings.

Each volume starts with a short introduction by Mr. Freke. Each of the four to six chapters per volume also briefly introduces the topic of the chapter. As I am somewhat schooled in yogic practices I first picked up "The Wisdom of the Hindu Gurus." I was satisfied with his introduction, considering that two pages can’t pretend to sum up ten to fifteen millennia of spiritual development, thought and practice. "The various Hindu spiritual paths, known as ‘yogas’ are different routes to the same truth." True enough, though I would have preferred he explain that he’s (apparently) using the term Hindu in the older sense, to refer to India itself, rather than in the more narrow sense of a particular religious doctrine. Perhaps because this is not a historical book, he didn’t mention that many of the spiritual practices and philosophies of India were born far before there was anything called the Hindu ‘religion.’

Reading through all the volumes one can see that Freke does a good job of finding the more universal truths of each tradition. Can he be saying that the one essential truth has simply found various interpretations, depending on time, place and person?

Some samples:

"The intense desire for God-realization is itself the way to it." – Anandamayii Ma (Hindu Gurus)

"All meditation must begin with arousing deep compassion." – Milarepa (Tibetan Lamas)

"You are a fragment torn from God. You have a portion of him within you." – Epictetus (Pagan Philosophers)

"The one that brought me here, will have to take me home." – Rumi (Sufi Sages)

"God is nearer to me than I am to myself." – Meister Eckhart (Christian Mystics)

"When everything is seen as one, we return to the source and stay where we always have been." – Seng-T’san (Zen Masters)

The illustrations and design of the series is quite exquisite and this alone will certainly attract a fair amount of readers