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The Five Books You Would Take To A Desert Island And Why

October 01, 2000

Obadiah Harris is president of the Philosophical Research Society and a former director of community education at Arizona State University.

1. "The Secret Teachings of All Ages," by Manly Palmer Hall

It's a wondrous book that reveals the finest flowerings of Western esoteric thought. After reading its sections about Pythagoras, Francis Bacon and others, you feel like you know them.

2. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare"

Shakespeare penetrates deeply and comprehensibly into the human psyche and the dynamics of human relationships: religion, philosophy, politics, love. Any one of his plays is an expose of human potential at its best, and worst. But the villains, of course, represent the weaknesses we must accept, and overcome.

3. "The Parables of Jesus," edited by Robert Funk, Bernard Scott and James Butts

It's the result of years of research by scholars who peeled back--like an onion--to its core the meanings of what it was that Jesus most likely said. In reading his parables, this book advises, we should never ask, "What does it say?" Instead, we should ask, "What did it say?"

4. "The Bhagavad Gita"

The Gita is India's Sermon on the Mount. It's about karma, about action, about how to do your work, how to play your part in this cosmic drama to the best of your ability--and leave the rest to God. It says every individual being has his or her own rhythm of being and law of becoming.

The fundamental task of our lives is to discover that rhythm and live out that law.

5. "The Miracle of Mindfulness," by Thich Nhat Hanh

It teaches what is so crucial in our busy lives: how to remain mindful and present by learning to develop quietude in the midst of noise, calm in the midst of disturbance, peace in the midst of violence, and silence in the midst of discord.

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