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Volume XVII

Index of Contents


Theosophical History: Vol. XVII, No. 1
January 2014

Besides her considerable contributions to esotericism, H.P. Blavatsky is also well known for her travels and adventures.  Her competence as travel commentator is abundantly displayed in the collection From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan, which constitutes a series of articles originally written in Russian describing various aspects of Indian culture, archeological sites, religious practice, Hindu divinities, prominent individuals, and much more.  It makes for entertaining reading by one who experienced “living in India, unlike the English who were merely surrounded by India at a proper distance” (16).

Her experiences in India after 1879 give us a sense of her travels in her earlier life, including a certain degree of embellishment and exaggeration in her descriptions.  An example of an early adventure is an explosion that took place on the steamship Eunomia—on which Blavatsky claimed to be a passenger—on June 21, 1871.  This claim first appeared in the New York Daily Graphic on November 13, 1874, and is now explored in this issue by Erica Georgiades, who provides enough evidence for one to come to the conclusion that she probably was not a passenger on board the Eunomia.  This conclusion is based upon the absence of her name on all three passenger lists quoted in newspaper accounts at the time, as well as Blavatsky’s propensity to exaggerate events and facts.  Apropos the latter claim, Blavatsky claims, in the article appearing in the Daily Graphic, that only seventeen of four hundred passengers survived, both figures exaggerations of the actual numbers: about 100 passengers total on board and between fifty to sixty losing their lives.

An additional example of Blavatsky’s tendency to exaggerate also appears in the same article.  Therein, she states that she was married at age sixteen to a seventy-three gentleman, Nikofor Blavatsky.  Far from being an old man he was at the time of the marriage about forty years of age, still much older than Blavatsky, certainly, but whose own age was closer to eighteen.  Given her tendency to manipulate the facts, it is not difficult to lean more to the aforementioned conclusion.  Ms. Georgiades, however, is very cautious in her assessment of the evidence and does not rule out the possibility of Blavatsky being on board the ship, mainly due to the passenger recording procedures of the company that owned the vessel.  One certainly cannot dispute this assessment, so it is best not to form a definitive conclusion regarding Blavatsky’s participation in this episode.

This is not the whole story, however.  A second mystery arises from this account with the inclusion of the enigmatic Agardi Metrovich (or Mitrovitch).  For an opera singer associated with the carbonari who was involved romantically with Blavatsky and who may have accompanied her at the time of the accident, almost nothing is known of him except for Blavatsky’s own recollection in a letter to A.P. Sinnett (no.  LX in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, 142 – 148), and in The Memoirs of Count Witte (1).  The principal reason for this anonymity is answered by Blavatsky: the name “Metrovich” is a nom de guerre after the name of a Hungarian town of that name (2).  If so, it would explain the difficulty in identifying him.   In any event, the identification of this mysterious individual has been the object of research of Ms. Georgiades, who will present her research at the Theosophical History Conference (see below).

Erica Georgiades, the author of “H.P. Blavatsky and the Wreck of the S.S. Eunomia,” is known to many in the Theosophical world as chief editor of the electronic magazine Hypatia, the editor of FOTA [The Friends of Theosophical Archives] Newsletter, and steering member of the FOTA Committee. In 2012 she organized an international conference in Greece, “Esoteric Traditions in the Ancient and Contemporary World.”

In addition to this article, the issue contains remembrances of the author of The Occult Roots of Nazism and Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who died in 2012.  The contributions of Dr. Goodrick-Clarke to the field of Western Esotericism and to the Centre cannot be overstated.  Two of his students at Exeter (Jeffrey Lavoie and Tim Rudbøg) and one colleague (Joscelyn Godwin) offer their impressions and memories of Dr. Goodrick-Clarke.

“Buddhism in New York” originally appeared in the New York Sun and then reprinted in The Day Star in 1886.  The article, introduced by Jerry Hejka-Ekins of Alexandria West Archives in Turlock, California, reveals a Theosophical connection, since there may have been direct contact between the reporter and William Q. Judge, mentioned in the article as President of the Aryan Theosophical Society.  Also of interest is the mention of 1872 (“fourteen years” prior to the year the article appeared: 1886) as the year when the Buddhist movement was inaugurated in New York. It would appear that the “Buddhism” referred to in this article is actually the Theosophical Society, which, of course, was founded a few years later (1875).

The final entry is Dr. Joscelyn Godwin’s review of Asia Mysteriosa, an important primary document originating from an occult movement, the Polaires.  Of most interest are the individuals associated, directly or indirectly, with the movement, including such figures Arturo Reghini, Maurice Magre, and René Guénon.

(1) Bibliographical information available in the article appearing in this issue, “H.P. Blavatsky and the Wreck of the S.S. Eunomia.”
(2) I could not verify the existence of such a Hungarian locale.  Perhaps “Metro-“ is a reference to the Mátra Hills in northern Hungary; “vich” (“wicz”) indicates a patronymic.

Editor’s Comments James Santucci
Remembrance: Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953 – 2012) J. Herbert Stack (Introduction by Leslie Price)
Review: The Voice of the Silence by H.P. Blavatsky Joscelyn Godwin
Jeffrey D. Lavoie
Tim Rudbøg 
“Buddhism in New York” (The Day Star, September 30, 1886)  Introduction by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
H.P. Blavatsky and the Wreck of the S.S. Eunomia Erica Georgiades
Asia Mysteriosa (Asia the Mysterious): The Oracle of Astral Force as a Means of Communication with “The Little Lights of the East” Joscelyn Godwin

 


Theosophical History: Vol. XVII, No. 2 
April 2014

John Drais: In Memoriam Sally Lee, Abbot of the Paracelsian Order (Dulzura, CA)
John Drais’s Theosophical Connection Ken Small, Point Loma Theosophy Network
The Paracelsian Order and Its Theosophical Work Remarks prepared for the New Religious Movements Class at California State University, Fullerton (October 17, 2013)
Communication David and Nancy Reigle
Magicians, Muslims, and Metaphysicians: The American Esoteric Avant-Garde in Missouri, 1880-1889 Patrick D. Bowen
L’Énigme René Guénon et les “Supérieurs Inconnus”: Contribution à l’étude de l’histoire mondiale “souterraine.” [The Enigma of René Guénon and the “Unknown Superiors”: A Contribution to the Study of “Subterranean” World History.]  Joscelyn Godwin

 


Theosophical History: Vol. XVII, No. 3
July 2014

Interest in the Theosophical and esoteric impact on the arts has been ongoing for many decades, culminating with the milestone publication and exhibit of The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. More recently, the University of York’s History of Art Professor Liz Prettejohn initiated a project entitled “Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c. 1875–1960,” in 2012. Since its inception, the University of Amsterdam sponsored a conference in 2013, with a future conference to be held at Columbia University in New York entitled “Theosophy and the Arts” (October 9-10, 2015). The first article in this issue, “Zöllner’s Knot: Jean Delville (1867–1953), Theosophy, and the Fourth Dimension,” reflects author Massimo Introvigne’s continued interest in the subject matter appearing in “Enchanted Modernities.” As a participant in the conference, he presented a paper entitled “Čiurlionis’ Theosophy: Myth or Reality?” followed by “Painting the Southern Border: New Religions, the Mexican Revolution, and Visual Arts,” which was presented at the 2014 American Academy of Religion at San Diego.

“Zöllner’s Knot” is an especially significant article because of Delville’s extensive connections with the esoteric subculture. Delville was a Theosophist, no doubt, but he also had connections with esotericists Joséphin Péladan, Papus (Gérard Encausse), and Édouard Schuré among others, and organizations such as Rosicrucianism, Martinism, Spiritualism, and Freemasonry, a reminder that Theosophy was not the only influence in his life and illustrating his esoteric eclecticism. As a Theosophist, however, Delville is perhaps the only painter to appear in the 1937 and 1938 International Theosophical Year Book of The Theosophical Society (Adyar) in addition to Nicholas K. De Roerich, not only for his artistic abilities but for his devotion to Theosophical work, including his role as Organizing Secretary and first General Secretary of the as secretary of the Belgian Theosophical Society from 1911 to 1913 of the Belgian Theosophical Society. The controversy surrounding the World Teacher Movement and J. Krishnamurti damaged his relationship with the Theosophical Society, although he continued on good terms with its president, Annie Besant.

Delville barely was mentioned in The Spiritual in Art, but with the greater understanding of the role of Western esotericism as an integral part of Western culture and not simply as an aberration, Delville deserves to be reexamined as a major artist. The article provides an excellent argument for this view in the context of the major forces governing the art world during Delville’s active years.

Massimo Introvigne is the Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions (CESNUR).

“P. C. Mukherji and Theosophical Archaeology” is a fascinating insight in the colonialist view of archeology in India and the Theosophical perspective. Furthermore, the value of The Theosophist from its inception in 1879 to the end of the nineteenth century cannot be overstated. Aside from archival material, many of the activities and interests of its leaders are chronicled in the pages of the journal’s pages and Supplements, which serves as a veritable goldmine for historians. This was somewhat evident in Professor Baier’s article, “Mesmeric Yoga and the Development of Meditation within the Theosophical Society” (Vol. XVI, No. 3-4), and even more so in the present article. Keeping in mind the third reason for founding The Theosophist (“the necessity for an organ through which the native scholars of the East could communicate their learning to theWestern world, and, especially, through which the sublimity of Aryan, Buddhistic, Parsi, and other religions might be expounded by their own priests and pandits, the only competent interpreters”), it is no wonder that the policy of the Theosophists, especially Blavatsky and Olcott was what Dr. Huxley describes as “Indology for the Indians,” a view that was in direct opposition to Belittle and conquer. How the Babus and pandits fared vis-à-vis government agencies such as the Archaeological Survey of India, is illustrated in the example of Rājendralāla Mitra and Purna Chundar Mukherji.

More so, however, is Mukherji’s correspondence with Blavatsky, occurring in the pages of The Theosophist, which reveals Blavatsky’s own knowledge concerning the topics raised by Mukherji, including the age of the Buddha. It is in this exchange that Theosophic archaeology comes to the fore, especially so with the period of the Buddha’s birth and death and the Hellenization thesis (how far Alexander the Great penetrated India). The former topic is pertinent today, especially with some recent publications on this topic, especially so with When did the Buddha Live?: The Controversy on the Dating of the Historical Buddha, edited by Heinz Bechert (1996).

The author, Dr. Andrew Huxley, is Emeritus Professor in the School of Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

Two book reviews on Annie Besant’s Esoteric Christianity or the Lesser Mysteries and a series of essays compiled by Kurt Leland is the final offering. The reviewer, Rev. Kevin Tingay is a retired parish priest in the Church of England.

Editor’s Comments James Santucci
 Zöllner’s Knot: Jean Delville (1867–1953), Theosophy, and the Fourth Dimension Massimo Introvigne
P.C. Mukherji and Theosophical Archaeology Andrew Huxley
Esoteric Christianity Or The Lesser Mysteries
Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development
Kevin Tingay

 


Theosophical History: Vol. XVII, No. 4
October 2014

The contents of the current issue include Kurt Leland’s account of his editing and annotating C.W. Leadbeater’s The Chakras, Lynda Harris’ report on the 2014 International Theosophical History Conference, and Robert Gilbert’s review of Jeffrey Lavoie’s new book, A Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion:  The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey.

My interest in Mr. Leland’s report was immediately aroused with his mention of “untrustworthy editions” and “unexplained excisions and rewordings” that were encountered while compiling and annotating selected writings of Annie Besant, which was published in 2013 under the title Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development and reviewed in the last issue.  This has been an ongoing problem for a number of years, with perhaps the most egregious example being C.W. Leadbeater’s The Masters and the Path.  During the 1988 Theosophical History Conference, Gregory Tillett first brought this situation to the public eye.  His address, subsequently published in Theosophical History, Vol. III, No. 2 (April 1989), raised the issue of “historical dishonesty” by citing the following practices:

  1. omitting inconvenient material
  2. editing out inconvenient material
  3. including incomplete statements likely to mislead
  4. including misleading statements
  5. making false statements

The significance of Mr. Leland’s report is not only his acknowledgement of this problem but also his taking steps to correct the aberrant editions.  Let us hope that other, future editions will do likewise, which will certainly be indicative of a major shift in publishing policy evident in earlier editions. Mr. Leland is to be commended for his work on The Chakras and his previous compilation, Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development.

Lynda Harris provides an extended summary of the papers presented at the 2014 International Theosophical History Conference.  The titles are wide-ranging and suggest new areas of research such as Boaz Huss’ presentation on the “Sincere Jews” and Shinichi Yoshinaga’s presentation on Hirai Kinza.  The lesson learned from this conference, and past ones as well, is that there is still much to be discovered from the records of the past.

Kurt Leland is the creator of the Annie Besant Shrine, an online bibliography of Besant’s six-hundred-plus books and pamphlets and selected articles, with links to any that appear in digital form (<http://www.kurtleland.com/annie-besant-shrine>). As mentioned above, he has compiled and annotated Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development (Quest 2013), which was reviewed by Kevin Tingay in the preceding issue (Vol. 17, No. 3). Mr. Leland is currently compiling a master index of Annie Besant’s lectures and is in the process of completing a history of the evolution of the Western chakra system.

Lynda Harris has degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Boston University, and The Courtauld Institute of Art, and has taught extra-mural diploma classes for the University of London.  Her book on Cathar art, The Secret Heresy of Hieronymus Bosch, was published in 1995. Her articles have appeared in Psypioneer, Insight, and The Quest.

Dr. Robert A. Gilbert is a retired antiquarian bookseller, writer and lecturer specializing in Western Esotericism during the Victorian era. He received his doctorate from the University of London, his thesis focusing on the publication and distribution of 19th century esoteric literature in England. Dr. Gilbert is the author The Golden Dawn Companion (1986), The Golden Dawn Scrapbook (1997); A.E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts (1987), and Gnosticism and Gnosis, an Introduction (2012).  Currently he is the editor of The Christian Parapsychologist

Editor’s Comments Leslie Price
The Chakras: An Editorial Report Kurt Leland
Report on The International Theosophical History Conference: 20–21 September, 2014 Lynda Harris
A Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion. The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey Robert A. Gilbert