Index of Contents
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 1
With the appearance in this issue of documents shedding additional light on the events of 1946 involving the dismissal and resignation of a number of prominent members of the Theosophical Society (Covina), it is appropriate to review the material that has already appeared in Theosophical History regarding this episode. The January 1998 issue contains a biography of the late Leader of the Theosophical Society (Covina) Arthur L. Conger. As an introduction to this article, I observed that although the article reviewed his entire Theosophical career, the article’s ultimate value would be established on the documentation and analysis of the events of 1946 (TH VII/1: 2). Based on primary sources found in the archives of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), the author, Alan Donant, suggested that the “night of the long knives” (to quote Adam Warcup’s phrase published in The American Theosophist and quoted by Mr. Donant on page 47) was a description that could not be justified in the light of the documentation presented. I leave the reader to review this article and the amended and expanded version published by the Theosophical University Press (Pasadena, 1999). The evidence that Mr. Donant does present—implied and explicit—is as follows:
1. The fact that Colonel Conger “was confined to a wheelchair by Parkinson’s disease” (17. Note: All references are derived from the revised edition published the Theosophical University Press).
2. The assumption that “it was a prejudice against his disability and his being head of the ES [Esoteric Section] that lay at the heart of the turmoil to come” (17. Note: In the revised edition, Mr. Donant adds the phrase that is missing in the TH article, “For a few.” Although Mr. Donant quotes Lolita W. Hart’s message to the Cabinet dated October 1, 1945 mentioning “objections as to his physical fitness on his arrival,” this is not conclusive evidence that the events that were to take place in 1946 were based on the question of sound health. Nor was it necessarily calling into question Col. Conger’s role as Leader of the T.S. The nexus of “prejudice” and the departure of many of the prominent members of the T.S. cannot be established on this meager evidence. It should be added, however, that Miss Hart’s message [note 62] was not in the original TH article, so whereas the evidence was lacking in that article, there is now at least some justification for Mr. Donant’s assumption.
3. “Resignations from positions of responsibility in Colonel Conger’s administration were indeed asked of some headquarters members after nearly eight months of their continuous public expressions of dissatisfaction” (18. Note: This statement is added in the revised edition. The “dissatisfaction” is not articulated, but it might be assumed that it is based upon the Colonel’s illness and his role as Leader).
4. Mr. Donant distinguishes those members asked to leave Headquarters, asked to resign from positions at Headquarters, left headquarters voluntarily, or left either Headquarters and/or official positions under circumstances that apparently had nothing to do with the problems arising in 1946. The point of Mr. Donant’s argument is that most of the members identified as opponents to Col. Conger’s leadership should not be included. Many never lived at Headquarters during the Colonel’s tenure, some were asked to resign due to a reorganization of the administration, including the Trustees of Theosophical University (20-22). Yet, it is not entirely clear why the four Trustees (Henry T. Edge, Marjorie Tyberg, Judith Tyberg, and Florence Collisson) were asked to resign. The only explanation given is that “Trustees and Officers of the University ‘hold office during the pleasure of the Board of Trustees’” (21).
Questions are therefore answered about the life of Colonel Conger and his role as Leader, but questions remain. In the January 1998 issue of Theosophical History (2), I wrote that “[t]his paper is not intended to be the last word on the subject or to close the book on the episode [of 1946].” Despite comments—pro and con—on the article, no one until now has presented evidence to support or question the article’s veracity.
Appearing in this issue are a series of documents that shed more light on this period accompanied by a historical introduction by Kenneth R. Small, the son of W. Emmett Small, one of the participants in the 1946 “dismissals.” The documents, culled from the Point Loma Publications archives, are incredibly important because they not only complement Mr. Donant’s article but also add a whole new dimension to the discussion. Mr. Small’s introduction will make their importance abundantly clear.
Contrary to points (1) and (2) above, the issue raised regarding Colonel Conger’s leadership was not his physical disability but his claim to being “Outer Head.” The questions put forward by Helen Harris to Colonel Conger define the problem in the December 21, 1945 Esoteric Section Council Meeting:
Do I understand from your remarks that you consider then yourself as a Teacher amongst us? In what significance is that Outer Head used, that you are to be accepted as a Teacher as H.P.B. was?
Colonel Conger answered in the affirmative basing his claim on his belief that “the Masters sent him to tide over the present situation” (from the notes of Grace F. Knoche in the Dec. 21, 1945 meeting). Dr. Edge in the same meeting states quite explicitly that “some of us are not convinced of [this claim].” Documents 3, 4, and 5, therefore, make sense of the somewhat cryptic remark of Mr. Donant’s in the second point above (“and his being head of the ES”). For non-Theosophists and even some Theosophists, the Esoteric Section has presented difficulties in understanding its place within the organizational structure. Inseparable from the Theosophical Society yet separate as an organization, the E.S. assumes a higher level of esoteric authority and teaching. The leader of the E.S., the Outer Head, is therefore much more than an administrative leader. He or she also assumes duties of esoteric import as “Messenger of the Masters” and Teacher of esoteric truths. There appeared to be no objection to Colonel Conger’s becoming and remaining Leader of the T.S., but his claim as Outer Head certainly did raise protests. The documents (3, 4, and 5) raise only the esoteric issue, not the physical disability issue. They seem to indicate that the Colonel’s disability was not a major concern or impediment to his remaining Leader of the T.S.
In addition to these documents, others have been reproduced since they are mentioned in Mr. Small’s introduction. Document 1 (G. de Purucker’s statements to the Cabinet on his successor, Jan. 25, 1935) is the one document that has been partially reproduced in the revised edition of Mr. Donant’s article published by the Theosophical University Press (15-16).
|The French Connection
Was Swedenborg a spy?
The Wallace Project at the Open University
|The Conger Papers:1945–1951:Part 1
|Historical Introduction by Kenneth R. Small
|Document 1: “The Leader’s Private Office (Jan. 25, 1935)”
Document 2: “Important Statement By Dr. G. de Purucker (Jan. 12, 1941)”
Document 3: “E.S. Council Meeting (Dec. 21, 1945)”
Document 4: “Private Meeting With Col. Conger (Dec. 23, 1945)”
Document 5: “Meeting With Col. Conger (Jan. 6, 1946)”
Document 7: “Document Appointing Wm. Hartley (March 27, 1946)”
Document 10: “Notice Closing the Esoteric School (Feb. 14, 1946)”
Document 11: “Notice of Col. Conger’s Death. (Feb. 24, 1951)”
|Rules And Regulations Of Brahmanical Asceticism
|Ananda W.P. Guruge
|Krishnamurti and the Rajagopals
|Jean Overton Fuller
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 2
Two articles appear in this issue that are of importance from different perspectives: Kim Farnell’s “Walter Richard Old: The Man Who Held Helena Blavatsky’s Hand” and Dan Merkur’s “Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy.”
The first article recounts the life of one of the most influential astrologers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Walter Richard Old (1864–1929). Known in astrological circles as Sepharial and from 1895 as Walter Gornold in private life, his name does appear prominently in Theosophical circles during Madame Blavatsky’s lifetime. In fact, Miss Farnell writes that “[a]lthough it is commonly recorded that he was a friend of Helena Blavatsky and a member of the Theosophical Society his involvement goes far beyond that often hinted at.” This involvement was not only intellectual but experiential as well. In 1886, Old had a “mystical experience” which was later published in Lucifer. The article, “My Unremembered Self: The Experience of An Astral Tramp,” describes his vision of meeting his own self. The epithet “Astral Tramp,” given by Blavatsky herself, is an apt one because of Old’s tendency to roam about her residence in astral form, a significant ability within the Theosophical Society since it was perhaps the primary reason for its existence in the early years according to John P. Deveney. His work in the T.S. included serving as General Secretary of the British Section in 1890-1891 and receiving, as a member of the Inner Group, occult training from Madame Blavatsky. The title of Miss Farnell’s article is reflective of Old’s presence at the death of Madame Blavatsky in May, 1891. The rest of the story of his involvement in Theosophy and in the Society, which eventually ended by 1896, was not of crucial importance so far as the history of the T.S. is concerned; it does, however, reveal some interesting reactions to significant events at that time, most notably the Judge affair. No matter what our final assessment is of Old as a Theosophist, any addition to our knowledge of late nineteenth century Theosophy is most welcome.
Miss Farnell’s paper was first presented at the Theosophical History Conference in 1997, around the time when she was completing a book on Walter Old. The book has since come out as The Astral Tramp: A Biography of Sepharial (Ascella Publications 1998) ISBN 1-898503-88-5. Trained as a journalist and a professional astrologer since 1990, Kim Farnell has written for numerous astrological periodicals and lectured widely in the U.K. She currently writes sun sign columns for British magazines and teaches astrology for a Japanese school. Her next book, a collection of biographical essays of nineteenth-century astrologers, will appear on CD next year.
Copies of The Astral Tramp may be obtained direct from the author for £9.99, with additional airmail postage of £3. Miss Farnell may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, by fax at 44 171 358 9690 (fax), or by mail (54 Sprules Road Brockely, London SE4 2NN).
The second paper, Dan Merkur’s “Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy,” was first presented at the 1999 Western Esotericism Consultation Session of the American Academy of Religion. According to Dr. Merkur’s thesis, the view that different alchemical recipes are to be read simultaneously on the metallurgical and the mystical levels and that the transmutation of base metals into gold was isomorphic with an ecstatic process of mystical transformation, is false. The paper discusses the original assumption of isomorphism, including that of Carl. G. Jung, and then proceeds to establish, in agreement with the historian John Read, Paracelsus as the initiator of an alchemy possessing both chemical and spiritual ingredients. Dr. Merkur then discusses some of the assumptions of spiritual alchemy, including the use of psychoactive drugs and scrying stones “to experience the spiritual nature of the sublunar and ethereal realms, respectively.” Furthermore, in the light of the writings of the Welsh alchemist Thomas Vaughan (ca. 1621-1665), there is every reason to assume that alchemists “also adapted the kabbalah’s procedures for incarnating souls during marital sex.”
Dr. Merkur, the author of Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions (Albany: SUNY, 1993) and the recently published The Mystery of Manna (Park Street Press, 2000), has taught at Syracuse University and Auburn Theological Seminary and is currently living in Toronto.
In addition to these articles, James B. Robinson reports on the 1999 Kalachakra Initiation held in Bloomington, Indiana. Dr. Robinson captures the significance of the Initiation as well as the air of a major happening that is becoming increasingly familiar to the Western world yet still retaining the sense of a wondrous and unprecedented event for the participants.
Since this is the fifteenth year of Theosophical History, the original editor, Leslie Price, has contributed his account of the origins of the journal and the Theosophical History Centre. This is, I believe, the first time that this account has appeared in print. It clearly establishes the motive that underlies the necessity of its existence as an independent and neutral journal. Although Leslie discontinued the editorship in 1989, he still continues to take an active role despite taking on a new project, the Psychic Pioneer (see below).
The book reviews contained in this issue reveal that important publications do not appear only in English. Joscelyn Godwin reports on a most important study (Aleister Crowley e la tentazione della politica) on “the most controversial esotericist of the twentieth century,” Aleister Crowley, by the Italian scholar Marco Pasi. After reading the review, it is hoped that this book, based on Dr. Pasi’s philosophy thesis at the University of Milan, is translated into English so it can reach a wider audience.
The second review, ‘. . .Een Kern van Broederschap. . .’: 100 Jaar Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1897-1997 by Ruud Jansen, concerns the history of Theosophy in The Netherlands. The role of the Dutch in modern art (L. M. Lauweriks and P. Mondria(a)n) and its connection to Theosophy make this an important subject, and this is justifiably emphasized by the reviewer, Alfred Willis. As with the previous book, an English translation would certainly be welcome.
- Astral Projection or Liberation of the Double and the Work of the Early Theosophical Society (Theosophical History Occasional Papers, vol. VI). Astral projection is also accepted as undisputed fact by Franz Hartmann, who describes some of his own experiences in the upcoming Some Fragments of the Secret History of the Theosophical Society (Theosophical History Occasional Papers, vol. VIII).
|In the Beginning
|A Report on the Kalachakra Initiation in Bloomington, Indiana
|James Burnell Robinson
|Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy
|Walter Richard Old: The Man Who Held Helena Blavatsky’s Hand
|Aleister Crowley e la tentazione della politica
|“…Een kern van Broederschap…’: 100 Jaar Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1897-1997
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 3
The 1997 International Theosophical History Conference (July 11, 12, and 13) is the source for two papers that appeared in this and the past issue: Kim Farnell’s “Walter Richard Old: The Man Who Held Helena Blavatsky’s Hand” appearing in the last issue, and the article appearing in this issue, “The Disappointed Magus: John Thomas and His ‘Celestial Brotherhood’” by Robert A. Gilbert. The Celestial Brotherhood, or as it was known to the general public, “the British and Foreign Society of Occultists,” was a short-lived organization that in the words of Mr. Gilbert: “mimicked, consciously or otherwise, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Both worked a system of progressive grades; both professed to receive teachings from hidden Adepts on the inner planes; both practiced magical and quasi-magical rituals; and both had an autocratic and eccentric earthly Chief.
There were also differences, however, which help explain why it is less well known than its rival. Among these differences were the lack of organization and resources on the part of the Celestial Brotherhood. What helped to distinguish the Celestial Brotherhood was its founder, John Thomas (1826-1908), and two members who briefly joined the Brotherhood, John Yarker and Major Francis George Irwin, both of whom were Rites and Orders masons associated with a number of occult organizations, including the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. John Thomas was a psychic who claimed to be gifted with second sight or precognition and who had a sixth sense for seeing frightening and horrifying forms described either as “Submundanes” or “Elementals.” As a child, he was devoted to Christianity; later, he became a curative Mesmerist by his early twenties who then progressed successively to herbalism (which he called the “Psychology of Botany”), astrology, spiritualist mediumship, and occultism. The first mention of his British and Foreign Society of Occultists was in July 1884, which appeared in the inaugural issue of The Seer and Celestial Reformer, later renamed The Occultist (announced in the December 1884 issue of The Seer) beginning with the January 1885 issue “at the behest of ‘the Leaders or Masters of a certain “Noble Order.” . . .” This “Noble Order” was the H.B. of L. or the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, so the obvious references were to Peter Davidson and Thomas Henry Burgoyne. Whatever connection existed between the leaders of the H.B. of L. and Thomas ended abruptly with The Occultist remaining under the purview of Thomas and Davidson and Burgoyne introducing a new magazine, The Occult Magazine, in February 1885. Thomas gives his version in the July 1886 issue of The Occultist,which is reproduced on page 312 of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor by Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel, and John P. Deveney (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995).
The information provided in this paper advances our knowledge of one of a number of lesser known occult groups in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. As recently as 1995, with the publication of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, the authors state on page 303 in their introduction to the cover page of The Seer and Celestial Reformer reproduced in their book that they “know nothing about the ‘British and Foreign Society of Occultists’, in which the H.B. of L. appears to have had a part.” With this paper, much of what was unrevealed then is now unveiled.
In addition, Theosophical connections also exist in direct and indirect ways. The numerous and sometimes improbable connections between the founders of the Theosophical Society and rival occultists was first emphasized in 1994 in The Masters Revealed by K. Paul Johnson and in The Theosophical Enlightenment by Joscelyn Godwin, followed by The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, John P. Deveney’s Pascal Beverley Randolph (SUNY, 1997), and a number of articles that have appeared in earlier issues of this journal. We learn from Mr. Gilbert in the present article that the “founder of [the journal] Modern Astrology,” Alan Leo, was a member of the T.S. along with his colleague, H.S. Green. Leo was also a member of Brotherhood and frequent contributor to Thomas’ The Occultist, having the Order name of “Agorel.” When Leo initiated Modern Astrology, Thomas reciprocated by contributing to Leo’s journal, as did his associate H.S. Green.
There can be no doubt Mr. Gilbert’s article adds to our understanding of the occult milieu of the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, and for this we are most grateful. Articles such as this give hope that sooner or later more light will be shed on other mysterious organizations, such as the Berean Society, the organization to which C.G. Harrison presented his lectures entitled The Transcendental Universe (published by Lindisfarne Press, 1993).
The author, Robert A. Gilbert, is a resident of Bristol, England, an antiquarian bookseller and an historian of ideas specializing in the occult revival of the nineteenth century. He has written extensively on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its members, notably on A.E. Waite, including a contribution to the Theosophical History Centre (London) pamphlet series, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section (1987).
Two book reviews are also included in this issue: Wege und Abwege, a Festschrift to the late Ellic Howe, reviewed by Robert Hütwohl, and The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel, reviewed by Robert Boyd. The first book is a multi-lingual collection of articles on a wide variety of topics. Individuals and organizations mentioned in Robert Gilbert’s “The Disappointed Magus,” also appear in this book, including John Yarker, McGregor Mathers, William Wynn Westcott, and the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. By good fortune, Mr. Gilbert also contributed an article to this book entitled “Provenance unknown: a tentative solution to the riddle of the Cipher Manuscript of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.” Another contributor who is no stranger to Theosophical History is John Hamill, whose article appearing in the collection is entitled “The Seeker of Truth: John Yarker 1833-1913.”
The second review has as its background the heart of Eastern occultism: Tibet. Well known for her trips and interest in this mysterious land, Alexandra David-Neel is shown in this book to demonstrate a similarity of interests and wanderlust to that of H.P. Blavatsky. The connection between these two extraordinary women is not coincidental, however. Readers may recall that Daniel Caracostea’s article on David-Neel in the July-October 1991 issue entitled “Alexandra David-Neel’s Early Acquaintance with Theosophy: Paris 1892.” Both the book (and review herein) and Mr. Caracostea’s article complement one another very well.
|Blavatsky Archives Online Update
|H. P. Blavatsky letter to Dmitrij Nikolaewitsch, circa 1890
|Translated by Yuri Zinchenko
Editing and notes by Robert Hütwohl
|The Disappointed Magus: John Thomas and His “Celestial Brotherhood”
|Robert A. Gilbert
|Wege und Abwege
|The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 4
Theosophical History has often included articles on individuals who have had some importance in the Theosophical Movement, either directly or indirectly. John Thomas (VIII/3), Walter Richard Old (VIII/2), Cyril Scott and Rose Allatini (VII/6 and Occasional Papers, Vol. VII), and Ferdinand T. Brooks (VII/3) are but a few examples from recent issues. With this issue still another prominent Theosophist is highlighted, Lady Caithness (née María Mariategui, 1830-1895), one of the most important members of the Society in its more formative years. Theosophists may know the Countess of Caithness from the biographical entry by Boris de Zirkoff in the Blavatsky Collected Writings (vol. VII), 361-63, where mention is made of her many writings and her position as first President of the Société Théosophique d’Orient et d’Occident in 1883. Now, much more light is shed on her and her family in the present article (“Lady Caithness and Her Connection with Theosophy”) by Joscelyn Godwin. Not only was the Countess a Theosophist and close friend of Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott, as is reported in the BCW, she was also a devoted Roman Catholic and devotee of Allan Kardec and his views on reincarnation, interests that might be viewed as somewhat contradictory to some. Professor Godwin notes that her approach to the exclusivistic and dogmatic Christianity of her time was not the same as that of Madame Blavatsky or others who were antagonistic to this Christian perspective, but she rather was more of a “rebuilder.” “[T]he Bible and the Christian sacraments are for her symbols, not to be taken at their exoteric or face value,” so writes Professor Godwin.
Unlike H.P. Blavatsky, who did not place much emphasis on reincarnation in her early writings, Lady Caithness was a reincarnationist who derived her teaching from Allan Kardec’s Livre des Esprits (1857) and who retained her belief in this teaching to the end of her life. Her devotion to the spiritism of Kardec is in fact reflected in her article, “The Life and Works of Allan Kardec,” which appeared in the June 1874 issue of The Spiritualist, and continued in her later works. Apparently, this belief was accepted by her son, the Count of Medina Pomar, who wrote a novel on reincarnation, Through the Ages, in the mid-1870s. Her contribution to early Theosophy lies essentially in this area. As Dr. Godwin has written: “As for her philosophy, she was obviously ahead of her time in embracing the theory or doctrine of reincarnation, which became a pillar of the Theosophical Society’s teaching.”
It is obvious that Dr. Godwin’s article attests to Lady Caithness’s importance in the early Theosophical Movement. Her name deservedly belongs alongside the names of such prominent women of the Movement as Annie Besant, Katherine Tingley, and Anna Kingsford, to name but a few.
The author of the article, Joscelyn Godwin, has been associated with Theosophical History since its inception. Known for his many works on esoterica including Robert Fludd, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, Athanasius Kircher, The Mystery of the Seven Vowels, Arktos, L’Ésotérisme musical en France, The Theosophical Enlightenment, and co-author of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, as well as numerous contributions to this journal, Dr. Godwin is currently Professor of Music at Colgate University in New York.
Three book reviews are included in this issue: Cult Fictions: C.G. Jung and the Founding of Analytical Psychology by Sonu Shamdasani, reviewed by Robert Ellwood, Emeritus Professor of the University of Southern California; Dan Merkur’s The Mystery of Manna—The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible, and Rocco A. Errico’s Let There Be Light—The Seven Keys, both reviewed by Mark Stavish, the head of The Institute for Hermetic Studies in Wyoming, Pennsylvania.
|Lady Caithness and Her Connection with Theosophy
|Cult Fictions: C.G. Jung and the Founding of Analytical Psychology
|The Mystery of Manna—The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible
Let There Be Light—The Seven Keys
|Land of the Fallen Star Gods
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 5
A.P. Sinnett, although one of the pioneers who helped to shape and define Theosophical teachings in the public mind from the early 1880s, has not enjoyed the sustained popularity in the Theosophical Movement as have other leaders. This marginalization is due to a variety of reasons, one of which was his often antagonistic rivalry toward the grande dame of Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky. The rivalry between the two included disagreements over selected Theosophical teachings, among which was the well-known Mars-Mercury controversy and Sinnett’s colonialist and elitist attitudes reflected in his preference to reserve Theosophy only for the upper classes of society.
Despite this competition existing between Blavatsky and Sinnett, it was Sinnett who, as editor of the Allahabad-based newspaper, the Pioneer, played a major role introducing Blavatsky to the Anglo-Indian elite. Michael Gomes, the author of “Theosophy in A.P. Sinnett’s Pioneer,” documents this contribution of Sinnett’s. A review of the issues, now located in the National Library of Calcutta, reveals a steady stream of editorials, articles, and letters—including some written by Blavatsky—from the March 3, 1879 to October 14, 1880 issues. By the end of 1882 Sinnett was removed from the editorship of the paper by the new owners of the paper, who were not at all sympathetic to the Theosophical Society or its founders. Perhaps as Sinnett surmised, he was removed from the editorship because of his increasing involvement with Theosophy—a reasonable assumption given the position of the owners and the sentiment of the Anglo-Indian public.
The author, Michael Gomes, is a frequent contributor to Theosophical History, and is the author of The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement (Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), Theosophy in the Nineteenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography (NY and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1994), and an abridgement of Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1997). He recently gave the Blavatsky Lecture on July 31, 2000, which is sponsored by the Theosophical Society in England, entitled “Creating the New Age: Theosophy’s Origins in the British Isles.”
Other contributors to this issue include Joscelyn Godwin (Professor of Music at Colgate University in New York), whose article “Lady Caithness and Her Connection with Theosophy,” appeared in the last issue; Jean-Pierre Laurant (Lecturer in Religious Sciences at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, the Sorbonne), whose book, L’Ésotérisme chrétien au xixe siècle, was reviewed in the October 1995 issue of Theosophical History; Robert Boyd, a frequent contributor to this journal; and Robert Ellwood, Professor Emeritas, University of Southern California.
|Theosophy in A.P. Sinnett’s Pioneer
|Ecrits pour Regnabit: Revue Universelle de Sacré-Cœur. Recueil posthume and Le Lièvre qui rumine. Autour de René Guénon, Louis Charbonneau-Lassay et la Fraternité du Paraclet. Avec des documents inédits
|The Mystery of Manna—The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible
|Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons
|The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 6
One of the aims of this journal is not only to publish articles on the Theosophical Movement—whose main inspiration is H.P. Blavatsky—but also to print articles reflective of Western esotericism—including Rosicrucianism, theosophy, the philosophy of Swedenborg, and in this issue, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The author of the article appearing herein, David L. Smith, offers convincing evidence that Emerson was not only a modernist “in his affirmation of the spiritual possibilities inherent in the most unsettling forms of modern life” (to quote from the author’s abstract) but also an esotericist reflecting Platonic philosophy and exhibiting many of the criteria of Western esotericism proposed by Antoine Faivre: “a correspondence metaphysic, a view of nature as living or organic, an emphasis on imagination, and a project of transmutation.” To quote from Dr. Smith’s abstract:
Recent works by Geldard, Versluis, and Hanegraaff have rightly stressed the esoteric heritage underlying Emerson’s Platonism and the spiritual path implied in his works. But how does this relate to the modernist Emerson who abandons all foundations for thought and declares himself “an endless seeker with no past at my back?” This paper will examine the relationship between Emerson the esotericist and Emerson the modernist, looking for ways in which the two reinforce each other. In the process, it will suggest an approach to the wider issue of understanding esoteric spirituality in relation to modernity.
Dr. Smith delivered this paper at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (1999) held in Boston. He is currently teaching in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Central Michigan University. Before that, Dr. Smith had taught at William and Mary College and Syracuse University after receiving his Ph.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to this article is a review essay of four books, published in German, pertaining to Anthroposophy and its founder, Rudolf Steiner. As Mr. Zander quite correctly points out, Anthroposophy should not be considered wholly separate and apart from the Theosophy of H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant as is often done in Anthroposophical circles. Some influence of Theosophy on Anthroposophy must be acknowledged, yet how much remains to be determined by scholars of modern esotericism. It is in this context that Mr. Zander offers his critique.
Helmut Zander is the author of Geschichte der Seelenwanderung in Europa. Alternative religiöse Traditionen von der Antike bis heute (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1999 and Darmstadt: Primus-Verlag, 1999.
Two additional reviews are included in this issue: Cassadaga: The South’s Oldest Spiritualist Community, edited by John J. Guthrie, Jr., Phillip Charles Lucas, and Gary Monroe and reviewed by Robert Boyd; and Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition by Arthur Versluis and reviewed by Mark Stavish.
|Esotericism and Modernism: The Case of Emerson
|David L. Smith
|New Publications about the History of Theosophy in Germany
|Cassadaga: The South’s Oldest Spiritualist Community
|Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 7
The Biblical Fall of Adam plays an important role in Blavatskian Theosophy as it does in Christian orthodoxy and in Christian theosophy. Numerous studies of the Fall no doubt exist in Christian orthodox theology; few, however, occur within the confines of Christian theosophy, with recent notable exceptions appearing in Antoine Faivre’s analysis of Franz von Baader’s (1765–1841) interpretation (Access to Western Esotericism [Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994], 201-74, esp. 216-32) and Arthur Versluis’ discussion of Boehme’s views (Wisdom’s Children [Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999], 139-42). If Christian theosophical interpretations deviate from Western Christian literalism and orthodoxy, one would expect H.P. Blavatsky’s version to differ as well, since her writings are for the most part derivative of Western esotericism (The Secret Doctrine I, 192, II. 62-63, 104, 139, 185, 192-93, 227-28, 261, 279, passim, and Isis Unveiled II. 277, 293-99). Following the gnostic doctrine of falling into matter and the novel teaching of cross-breeding to produce animals and giants, the evolution of humanity in Blavatsky’s writings include a cyclic downturn and upturn beginning with a descent from the higher, spiritual spheres into the lower, material realm, followed again by an ascent to higher, purer, spiritual spheres: all within the context of cycles, of the progression of Root Races, of temporary setbacks through the yugas and Falls. Yet, the article appearing in this issue, “H.P. Blavatsky and Orthodox Theology,” focuses neither on the similarity of teachings in Christian theosophy and Blavatskian Theosophy nor on the disparity of Christian orthodoxy and Blavatskian Theosophy with Christian literalism but rather on the similarity of certain teachings and attitudes between Eastern Orthodoxy and Blavatskian Theosophy vis-à-vis the Fall of humanity.
This article serves as a reminder to scholars that Blavatsky’s attitudes toward Christianity and interpretation of Christian doctrine must allow for her cultural background, a large part of which embraces Eastern Orthodoxy. It is hoped that studies as the one appearing in this issue will initiate further consideration of this hitherto neglected area.
The author, Brendan French, is a recent newcomer to the fields of Western esotericism and Blavatskian Theosophy, having just completed his doctoral thesis in the History of Ideas at the Department of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney, entitled The Theosophical Masters: An Investigation into the Conceptual Domains of H. P. Blavatsky and C. W. Leadbeater. This article will be the first of a series of articles to appear in future issues. Currently, Dr. French is living in Sydney and is teaching courses in the history of Western esotericism at the Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sydney.
Four books are also reviewed in this issue: Antoine Faivre’s Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition, Joseph Ross’ recently released Krishnamurti: The Taormina Seclusion1912, Clement Salaman’s The Way of Hermes—New Translation of The Corpus Hermeticum and The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius, and J.S. Gordon’s Land of the Fallen Star Gods.
Two of three reviewers have contributed a number of book reviews in past issues: Associate Editor Robert Boyd and Mark Stavish, the head of The Institute of Hermetic Studies (Wyoming, PA). The third, Dr. Olav Hammer, appears in Theosophical History for the first time. Dr. Hammer is assistant professor in History of Religions at the University of Amsterdam, whose research includes the areas of Western esotericism, new religious movements, and issues of religion and modernity. His latest publication is Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age (Brill 2001). He is currently working on a monograph about anthroposophy.
|H. P. Blavatsky And Orthodox Theology
|Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition
|Krishnamurti: The Taormina Seclusion‑1912
|The Way of Hermes –New Translation of The Corpus Hermeticum and The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistius to Asclepius
|Land of the Fallen Star Gods
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 8
J.E.M. Latham, the author of “A Forgotten Theosopher: James Pierrepont Greaves,” has the distinction of writing the first modern monograph of the Christian theosopher James P. Greaves: Search for a New Eden: James Pierrepont Greaves (1777-1842): The Sacred Socialist and His Followers (Madison and Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and London: Associated University Presses, 1999). An admirer of Jacob Boehme (1575-1642), Greaves’ theosophy was defined by a transformative experience in 1817 that governed his life as one of accepting God’s love and wanting nothing of this world. He went on to apply his theosophy to his attitudes on sexuality (complete chastity) and diet (vegetarianism) and also took an interest in the works of the Swiss educational reformer, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), who also reflected Greaves’ brand of theosophy. Because of this agreement, he became a close friend of the educator, who taught that the “purpose of education . . . was not to impart knowledge but to realize the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual powers innate in the child.” Pestalozzi wrote in a letter to Greaves that “there is in the child an active power of faith and love” (quoted from Latham, Search for a New Eden, 46), an observation that Greaves must have taken to heart since he applied Pestalozzi’s views while serving as instructor of English at Yverdun and Clindy. Thus began Greaves’ involvement in education, which was to continue for a number of years.
In 1837, Greaves, now living in London and serving as the founder-leader of the Aesthetic Institution (Aesthetic here referring, in the words of Francis Foster Barham, to “the internal spiritual sense, which when duly exercised, instantly judges between good and evil” [Search for a New Eden, 80], gathered around him a number of admirers to discuss his theosophy of Love.
One year later, he, with a few of his followers, set up Alcott House, a community to further his theosophy. Greaves’ death in 1842, however, deprived the community of his charismatic personality. As a result, Concordium (its name since 1841) lost its cohesion, thereby resulting in the dispersal of its members in 1847.
Dr. Latham’s summation of Greaves’ life at the end of her book (232) reveals his ineffectual goodness, causing one to wonder whether any leader must sacrifice some benevolence and goodwill if material, political, or economic success is to be achieved.
The author of the article studied English literature at the universities of London and Indiana. She has taught at Kingston Polytechnic (Surrey) and at Open University and has written articles on radicalism, encyclopedia articles on Greaves and Sophia Chichester for the New Dictionary of National Biography, and the above-mentioned Search for a New Eden.
In addition to this article, three reviews appear in the issue: Ethical Vegetarianism: From Pythagoras to Peter Singer, edited by Kerry S. Walters and Lisa Portmess; Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, edited by Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede; and Familiar Spirits by Alison Lurie. James Gregory, the reviewer of the first book, is a graduate of Oxford and Cambridge and is currently in the stages of completing his doctoral research at the University of Southampton on the vegetarian movement in Britain from c. 1840-1901.
Leslie Price, the founder of Theosophical History and its former editor, is now the editor of the electronic journal Psychic Pioneer, which may be found at http://www.psypioneer.com.
Robert Boyd, an Associate Editor of Theosophical History, has contributed numerous reviews to the journal.
Finally, Robert Boyd’s review of Joseph Ross’ Krishnamurti: The Taormina Seclusion-1912 evoked a response from Jean Overton Fuller, who has authored a new biography of Krishnamurti. Although published in German as Krishnamurti: der geist weht wo er will, it is due to be published in English as Krishnamurti and the Wind.
|Comment on Krishnamurti: the Taormina Seclusion-1912
|Jean Overton Fuller
|Response to Miss Fuller’s Communication
|A Forgotten Theosopher: James Pierrepont Greaves
|Jackie E. M. Latham
|Ethical Vegetarianism: From Pythagoras to Peter Singer
|Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 9
One of the more intriguing individuals who had connections with the early Theosophical Society and its leaders was Albert Leighton Rawson. Already the subject of a lengthy article by Paul Johnson in the II/7 (July 1988) issue of Theosophical History, A.L. Rawson’s connections to the paramasonic Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine and to the Algerian Sufi Abd al-Kader are further investigated by John Patrick Deveney through primary source materials from Masonic archives. Although these sources at Mr. Deveney’s disposal dispel Rawson’s exaggerated role in the order, his connection with it and the claim that it was connected with the Bektashi Dervishes raises even more questions about the possible association of Blavatsky and the early Theosophical Society with these organizations. Furthermore, the Masonic connection of George Henry Felt, one of the formers of The Theosophical Society, is definitely established from internal evidence. In my article on Felt, appearing in the VI/7 (July 1997) issue of Theosophical History, I could only suggest his association with Freemasonry from secondary sources, but Mr. Deveney has proven Felt’s Masonic association as both a member of the Shrine, joining about a year earlier than Rawson (1877), and as a 32° member of the Scottish Rite.
The Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge allows us a glimpse of H.P. Blavatsky’s evolved thoughts on the Stanzas of Dzyan in The Secret Doctrine. Like the lost third volume of The Secret Doctrine, a volume mentioned by Blavatsky herself so in all probability a reality, there is a third part of the Transactions that is unbeknowst to most Theosophists. Daniel Caldwell (Blavatsky Archives) communicates in this issue that part three of the Transactions does indeed exist, although only partially. It is Mr. Caldwell’s hope that this example of Blavatsky’s mature teachings will be made available to the Theosophical world.
A second communication is from Associate Editor Karen-Claire Voss, who takes issue with some comments and analyses of Dan Merkur in his article, “Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy” (Theosophical History, April 2000). Also included are the following reviews: Daniel Caldwell’s The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky: Insights into the Life of a Modern Sphinx (review by W. Michael Ashcraft) and three brief reviews of Darcy Küntz’s The Golden Dawn Source Book and The Golden Dawn Source Works: A Bibliography, and A Chronology of the Golden Dawn: Being a Chronological History of a Magical Order 1378-1994 by Mary Greer and Darcy Küntz (review by Ted G. Davy).
|Missing Material by H.P. Blavatsky Discovered: Part I
|A Response to Dan Merkur’s “Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy”
|Albert L. Rawson, Abd al-Kader, George H. Felt and the Mystic Shrine
|John Patrick Deveney
|The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky: Insights into the Life of a Modern Sphinx
|W. Michael Ashcraft
|The Golden Dawn Source Book
The Golden Dawn Source Works: A Bibliography
A Chronology of the Golden Dawn: Being A Chronological History of a Magical Order 1378-1994
|Ted G. Davy
Theosophical History: Vol. VIII, No. 10
Dan Merkur continues his examination of Western spiritual alchemy in his article, “Spiritual Alchemy in King Lear,” with the observation that Lear’s madness is a mystical experience. The article discusses the importance of paganism in King Lear, the prisca theologica in the characters of Edgar, Cordelia, and Kent, and the alchemical perfection of Lear’s nature from “an implicit conversion from pagan atheism to prisca theologia….” Dr. Merkur also provides a insightful contrast between The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz with King Lear, in which Lear avoids the extremes of an “orthodox Lutheran perspective” discussed in The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. Rather than the “transformed, christianized Rosencreutz,” Lear undergoes a “mystical transformation from the amorality of magico-mystical possession states to the piety and ethics of prisca theologia.”
Elsewhere in the issue is an interesting bit of history surrounding the scourge of Blavatsky, William E. Coleman. Coleman was the individual who accused Blavatsky of plagiarism, a serious charge, but one he apparently also committed. John Patrick Deveney, the author of this communication, “Sauce for the Goose: William Emmette Coleman’s Defense to a Charge of Plagiarism,” captures Coleman’s own convoluted definition of plagiarism in order to escape from the same charge brought against him by fellow contemporary, W.H. Burr.
Also appearing in this issue are reviews by Robert Ellwood and Leslie Price. Dan Merkur replies to Karen-Claire Voss’ reaction to his initial article, “Methodology and the Study of Western spiritual Alchemy.”
|More on Methodology in Alchemy
|Sauce for the Goose: William Emmette Coleman’s Defense to a Charge of Plagiarism
|John Patrick Deveney
|Spiritual Alchemy in King Lear
|Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History
|Creating the New Age: Theosophy’s Origins in the British Isles—The Blavatsky Lecture 2000