Volume I (1993)
Witness for the Prosecution: Annie Besant’s Testimony on Behalf of H.P. Blavatsky in the N.Y. Sun/Coues Law Case
by Michael Gomes
The actual testimony given by Mrs. Besant on May 4, 1891 during the proceedings held in the New York Supreme Court. Of special interest is Mrs. Besant’s explanation of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society and her views of Madame H.P. Blavatsky.
Volume II (1993)
Joan Grant: Winged Pharaoh
by Jean Overton Fuller
Miss Fuller’s work on the British novelist is based both on her observations of Miss Grant while a guest at her home during a long weekend in 1944 and on an extensive investigation of her literary works and life. Was John Grant’s Winged Pharaohhistorical fiction or the record of true memory? Miss Fuller attempts to unlock the mystery through her knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Volume III (1994)
Ammonius Saccas and His Eclectic Philosophy as Presented by Alexander Wilder
by Dr. Jean-Louis Siémons
Dr. Alexander Wilder, the author of The Eclectic Philosophy (1869), was one of the early Vice-Presidents of the Theosophical Society (1878) and the person responsible for editing and indexing H.P. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled. The present study examines Dr. Wilder’s sources for his study on Ammonius Saccas and Neo-Platonism.
Volume IV (1995)
W.T. Brown’s “Scenes in My Life”
by Michael Gomes
William Tournay Brown’s most detailed account of his life under the pseudonym Carwood Gerald Clarke, includes the letter he received from the “Unknown Brother,” Koot Hoomi, “regarded by many as the most remarkable of the age,” and his tete-a tete with a Brahmin who was “well dressed, handsome, and seemingly of about 40 years of age” while “crossing the plain on the outskirts of Lahore City,” presumably the Master in the flesh. Also of special interest is Brown’s positive assessment of H.S. Olcott, quoting in full both a letter from Olcott to Brown and an address by Olcott to the Prayag Psychic Theosophical Society, entitled “India, Past, Present and Future.”
Krishnamurti and the World-Teacher Project: Some Theosophical Perceptions
by Govert W. Schüller
Mr. Schüller examines the literature (Theosophical as well as non-Theosophical) with great acumen and clarity. Included are the assessments of (in alphabetical order) John Algeo, Alice Bailey, Annie Besant, Radha Burnier, Jean Overton Fuller, Geoffrey Hodson, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Cyril Scott, Rudolf Steiner, and Albert E.S. Smythe. Mention is also made of the highly controversial book, Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti (reviewed in TH III/7-8). Krishnamurti and the World-Teacher Project was released on May 25, 1997.
Astral Projection or Liberation of the Double and the Work of the Early Theosophical Society
by John Patrick Deveney
An information sheet on the Theosophical Society published around 1897 describes the T.S. as “an International Body . . . which was founded at New York, U.S., on the 17th day of November 1875, with three well-defined objects . . . .” Although somewhat ambiguous, the impression to the casual reader is that the T.S. at its inception had three objects, the first of which is “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity . . . .” This is the impression that still exists today among many Theosophists and historians with passing knowledge on Theosophy. A careful reading of the events that led to the formation of the Theosophical Society and its activities during the New York years (1875-1878) leaves no doubt that this is an erroneous view. Although a number of studies have revealed the original goals and activities of the Society, no study has exhibited such an extensive investigation of this topic as John Patrick Deveney’s Astral Projection or Liberation of the Double and the Work of the Early Theosophical Society. Mr. Deveney culls his information from a host of primary sources that leave the reader with little doubt that magic, occultism, theosophy all imply that acquiring successful practical experience, not simply knowing the theory, was the main purpose in founding the Society.
Madame Blavatsky’s famous lamasery is mentioned as a training school for magic, especially the separation of the astral body from the physical body. Isis Unveiled is largely based on the separability of the astral and physical bodies. Madame Blavatsky herself possessed this ability or at least claimed this ability well into the 1880s. Other members, such as Damodar, Stainton Moses and Elliott Coues supposedly possed the same ability. The role of George Henry Felt in the founding of the Society, what it means to be a “chela” and achieve “Chelaship,” and the possible implications of the early objects upon the later T.S. are all discussed. In short, this study serves as a corrective to the misconceptions and general ignorance of the early T.S. that seem to be widespread to the present day.
Mr. Deveney is very well qualified to write on this topic. The author of the newly published Paschal Beverly Randolph (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996) and co-author of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1995), he has a grasp on the literature of the period that is unsurpassed.
Cyril Scott And A Hidden School: Towards The Peeling Of An Onion
by Jean Overton Fuller
For the musical world, Cyril Scott is a composer, but for Theosophists he is the author of the three “Initiate” books: The Initiate, The Initiate in the New World, and The Initiate in the Dark Cycle. Originally signed “by His Pupil” and only later identified as Scott, the question remained, had Scott really met a Master, Sir Thomas, or was the whole story fictitious? Jean Overton Fuller’s investigations have led her to the house where Scott really received his teachings, not in the West country but in Sussex. There it was that he was given the instruction to marry Rose “the Viola of his books” though it was given in the name of one of Blavatsky’s teachers. Who was he told that she and he had been in their immediately past life? Why had they spent seven years hesitating as to whether they should marry? Rose wrote a book, Despised and Rejected, which was the object of a prosecution, and banned. That was known. But Jean Overton Fuller has discovered that Scott also wrote a book that was banned. This banned autobiography and Rose’s novels in a labyrinthine way point up incidents and situations in their own lives and those of their associates. After the death of their link with their Teacher, they became fascinated by the astrology of David Anrias, who unfortunately put them against Krishnamurti. But H.K. Challoner, author of The Wheel of Rebirth, comes into it too, as we glimpse principally through Rose’s novels, each one a layer of an onion, to be peeled off to reveal another layer of mystery beneath.
Some Fragments of the Secret History of the Theosophical Society
by Franz Hartmann, M.D.
Volume VIII of the Series is an essay written by one of the notable members of the Theosophical Society, Dr. Franz Hartmann (1838-1912). The essay, Some Fragments of the Secret History of the Theosophical Society, is a rewritten version of his earlier Report of Observations Made During a Nine Months’ Stay at the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar (Madras), India (1884). As Boris de Zirkoff notes in his bibliographical sketch of Hartmann (Blavatsky: Collected Writings, VIII, 443): “To describe the activities of Franz Hartmann while at Adyar would be tantamount to writing the history of the Theosophical society at the time.” Michael Gomes, in his introduction to the letter of H.P. Blavatsky to W.Q. Judge dated May 1, 1885 (see Theosophical History, vol. V, no. 2: 48) writes:
“[Hartmann] traveled to Adyar in 1883 to attend the yearly December convention of Theosophists. Col. Olcott named him to an eight-man Board of Control administering the affairs of the headquarters during the Colonel’s and Madame Blavatsky’s absence in Europe in 1884. In October of that year Hartmann published a 60-page pamphlet, A Report of Observations Made During a Nine Month’s Stay at the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Madras, India, detailing the events that led to the expulsion of Monsieur and Madame Coulomb from the Society during the summer of 1884, and edited the 152-page Report of the Result of an Investigation into Charges Against Madame Blavatsky, Brought by the Missionaries of the Scottish Free Church at Madras and Examined by a Committee Appointed for that Purpose by the Council of the Theosophical Society, issued in March 1885.”
The compiler (who includes an introduction, biography and additional footnotes) to Hartmann’s essay, Robert Hütwohl, summarizes its contents:
“Hartmann states he later had time to think over the matters concerning the “Hodgson/shrine affair” and was able to come to different conclusions [than those expressed in the Hodgson Report], having considered the original report as “a premature expression of my opinion.” Hartmann was trained in the epistemological scientific method as a medical doctor, but also had a strong mystical bent. This helped him to observe and reach conclusions both from a scientific as well as a Theosophical viewpoint. Hartmann places some blame on Col. H.S. Olcott for initially inviting the Society for Psychical Research to investigate the shrine process, an experiment never originally intended to be purveyed under a magnifying glass of scientific scrutiny. He draws careful analogies to the fact that we are constantly bathed in a world of illusion. Comparing our world of deceptions to the current scientific world of men of authority who refuse to give up their own influential impostures, he saw many in the Theosophical community giving permission to allow themselves to be deceived. But he also assures us the Hodgson Report is premised upon the fact that the root of psychical phenomena is purely epistemological and has no basis as stemming from another, even if illusory, world of being.”
Hartmann also does not readily implicate Mr. Hodgson for his investigation. He felt that Theosophists should give thanks to both Hodgson and H.P.B. for performing a duty-bound service of opening their eyes and at least questioning what it is they saw as illusions or phenomenal “exposures” from the psychic world. But this was part of the Theosophical training H.P.B. had administered in order for the pupil to develop discrimination or viveka and eventually wisdom or jñâna. Questioning the motives of both H.P.B. and Hodgson, both were decreed as guiltless in their own way, although he writes more upon the activities of H.P. Blavatsky than upon Hodgson. Hartmann mentions in non-occult language the process of transferring letters by occult means from a Mahatma to a chelâ. There is a discussion of the instances of occult phenomena both within and without Blavatsky’s presence and attempts to explain in common language the processes involved. Hartmann also gives the results of the Hodgson investigation and describes at length H.P. Blavatsky’s demeanor at the time, based on his own observations. Finally, Hartmann mentions the crucial point that since the “theosophical society” was not founded on the basis of phenomena but rather on the “Universal Brotherhood of Man,” it should, therefore, not be judged or found guilty of “genuinely” produced phenomena.
The Unseen Worlds of Emma Hardinge Britten: Some Chapters in the History of Western Occultism
by Robert Mathiesen
One of the lesser known and ignored founders of the Theosophical Society and one of the prominent figures in Spiritualism, Emma Hardinge Britten (1823-1899) is the subject of a major study by Robert Mathiesen, Professor of Slavic Languages at Brown University in Rhode Island (USA). Dr. Mathiesen writes:
Emma Hardinge Britten (1823-1899) is, for most people, a forgotten figure, who seems to merit no more than a footnote in the separate histories of Spiritualism, the Theosophical Society and nineteenth-century occultism. Only recently, due largely to Joscelyn Godwin and John Patrick Deveney, has her historical importance begun to be reassessed. The present monograph is meant to broaden and deepen our understanding of the several important roles which she played in public and in private throughout the years of her long life.
To this end, Professor Mathiesen includes chapters on Hardinge Britten’s early life (1823-1856), her career as Spiritualist, the identity of the Chevalier Louis de B___, his role in the publication of Art Magic and Ghost Land, the occult society in which he was a member, the “Orphic Circle,” and her involvement in the early years of the Theosophical Society. Appendices include a chronology of Emma Hardinge Britten’s life and a bibliography of her books. An extensive bibliography and notes are also included.
Volume X (2005)
The Coulomb Case
by Michael Gomes
The one event that was to leave a permanent stain upon the reputations of the Theosophical Society and of H.P. Blavatsky was the publication of an exposé in The Madras Christian College Magazine (September and October 1884) claiming fraud of the most serious proportion allegedly perpetrated by Madame Blavatsky. This publication brought into question the very existence of Blavatsky’s Masters and the letters that they supposedly wrote to such individuals as A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume.
This book recounts the story of Emma Coulomb’s charge that Blavatsky faked the Mahatma letters; it also chronicles the investigation by the S.P.R. of the Theosophical Society’s and Blavatsky’s claims of communication with the Masters through its representative, Richard Hodgson. Original documents are reproduced to shed more light on this episode.
Volume XI (2008)
Aquarian Evanglist: The Age of Aquarius as It Dawned in the Mind of Levi Dowling
by John Benedict Buescher
A biography of Levi H. Dowling (1844-1911), author or channel of The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ (1908). At first a Church of Christ evangelist, Dowling later became a New Thought healer, a spiritualist, and a Theosophist. As a spiritualist, he channeled The Aquarian Gospel, a supplement, in his opinion, of the four Gospels. This work described Jesus as an initiate into an esoteric brotherhood in Egypt, and a traveler to India and Tibet. After its publication, he formed an occult society in Los Angeles known as “The Aquarian Commonwealth.” The Aquarian Gospel influenced the development of esotericism, being extensively quoted by AMORC founder Spencer Lewis in his Mystical Life of Christ, playing a part in the countercultural “Age of Aquarius” in the 1960s, and in the 1964 founding of the Five Percent Nation by Clarence 13X.
Volume XII (2009)
Agarttha: A Guénonian Manipulation?
by Marco Baistrocchi
René Guénon (1886-1951) continues to wield immense influence through his “Traditionalist” principles and the “Perennialist” school that follows them. A secret Islamic initiate from his early years, he later lived openly as a Muslim, and his Western followers have mostly chosen the same path. A fierce opponent of Theosophy (see his Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion), of Spiritualism, and of all occultist movements, Guénon laid down a rigid principle: that spiritual seekers must follow one of the great religions, and that esoteric aspirations are worthless without exoteric practice.
Marco Baistrocchi (1941–1997), a diplomat by profession, was a traditionalist of a contrary kind: a scholar and enthusiast for the Greco-Roman tradition, its revival in Renaissance Neoplatonism, and for Asiatic wisdom, especially Buddhist. Respectful of Guénon’s achievement and insights, he wondered how such an intelligent man could have fallen for the absurd myth of Agarttha, the underground kingdom with its science-fiction trimmings and apocalyptic “King of the World.” Baistrocchi puts the Agarttha myth’s origins and Guénon’s agenda under merciless scrutiny, and concludes that the whole affair was a deliberate manipulation, designed to shut off Western seekers from Eastern wisdom and to divert them, first into Catholicism, then into Islam.
Whether or not the reader agrees with all of Baistrocchi’s arguments, they are an education in the uses of myth and the undercurrents of modern esotericism.
This Occasional Paper includes a Foreword by Dr. Piero Fenili, collaborator with the author on the journal Politica Romana, and an Afterword by the translator, Joscelyn Godwin.
Volume XIII (2012)
Free Love, Universal Reform and Fraud: the Economics and Transformation of American Spiritualist Camp-Meetings in the Nineteenth Century
by John Patrick Deveney
Volume XIV (2013)
by Nicolas van Gelder
Sydney, Australia is the home to the headquarters of the Esoteric School of Theosophy in Australia, known as The Manor. Leased by members of the Theosophical Society in 1922 and purchased with the help of a loan from Krotona, the headquarters of the Esoteric School in Hollywood, The Manor became the main center of Theosophical activities during the 1920s, including the establishment of a radio station (2GB) and The Australian Newspaper, Limited, and was home to a number of well-known Theosophists at the time: C.W. Leadbeater, Dr. Mary E. Rocke, Theodora Elizabeth van Motman Schiff, the Australian soprano Joan Hammond, and the actress Enid Lorimor. It was also the home of a young boy under the care of Ms Lorimor, that young boy being Peter Fitch, a future actor who was to be awarded an Oscar for his last film, Network, in 1977.
The author, Nicolas van Gelder, has reasons beyond the purely academic for writing this history. Many members of his family, including his great-grandmother Elizabeth van Motman Schiff and his grandparents Karel and Melanie van Gelder, lived at The Manor from 1922 to 1929. Mr. van Gelder’s account, along with some 70 pictures from his personal collection, sheds considerable insight into the lives of the residents living at The Manor, especially during the 1920s.