Sunday, October 12, 2014
Charles Johnston (1867-1931) was one of the first western theosophists to start translating Indian scriptures from the Sanskrit. Johnston wrote close to 500 articles during his life, as well as pamphlets, booklets, and eight books. Jon W. Fergus, the compiler, in the biographical sketch that opens Volume 1 of Hidden Wisdom: Collected Writings of Charles Johnston, says “by quantity alone, Mr. Johnston, ranks among the most prolific theosophical writers. In quality he may, perhaps, likewise rank.”
The present work, in four volumes, represents all “theosophical” articles from the pen of Charles Johnston that have been located to date. These are drawn largely from Theosophical periodical magazines between the years of 1886 and 1932. The articles have been arranged by subject matter, and the volumes organized to reflect certain overarching themes.
Volume 1: Wisdom Traditions of East and West, a long section on the Wisdom of India; Volume 2: The Wisdom of India and Western Wisdom; Volume 3: In the Light of Theosophy, which covers articles related to Theosophy and symbolism, consciousness, etc.; Volume 4: Miscellaneous articles, including biographical sketches of Blavatsky and Olcott. Each volume is over 500 pages, some over 700 pages.
Concurrent with it are publication of separate volumes containing his translations on the Bhagavad-Gita, Sankaracharya, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Upanishads, and the Tao Teh King, all of which can be obtained from Kshetra Books.
Added to his achievements was the fact that he was married to Blavatsky’s niece Vera Vladimirovna de Zhelihovsky.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
The Autumn 2014 issue of SPICA, the Postgraduate Journal for Cosmology in Culture from the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales, carries “A Critical Biography of Dane Rudhyar” by Sanaa Tanha, which looks at the influences on his multifaceted career as composer, artist, writer, and astrologer:
|Antiphony, Dane Rudhyar, 1949|
Rudhyar’s career is given in detail at the Rudhyar Archival Project site which lists his books, articles, musical compositions and a catalogue of his art work. For Rudhyar (1895–1985) music was “a direct release of psychic energy whose source is an inner feeling or experience.” Rudhyar’s music was featured recently as part of the “Museum and Music” series at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University. The program connects with the exhibit on view, “Enchanted Modernities: Mysticism, Landscape and the American West,” which includes paintings done by Rudhyar and other members of the Transcendental Painting Group that flourished in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the 1930s.
|Dane Rudhyar, 1956|
Utah Public Radio gives a guided tour of the “Enchanted Modernities: Mysticism, Landscape and the American West” exhibit currently at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. “As we ascend the steps leading to the exhibit, we are first confronted by a large, looming black and white photograph of the Founder of Modern Theosophy, Madame Helena Blavatsky.”
One of the curators of the exhibition tells the reporter: The picture that greets you is one of her in her characteristic pose looking directly into the camera, unflinching. This is often a pose which is taken up by many Theosophists in photographs because they felt that this could show their power. You could see into their eyes and see into their soul. You have to begin with Blavatsky to understand Theosophy in the 19th and 20th century. Everything kind of flows from there. So the exhibition begins with Blavatsky as well.
It goes on from there. The rest of the story can be heard here. The exhibit will be on view until December 2014.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
* England’s Independent reviews the recent BBC4 programme The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings:
The artist and critic began his 90-minute programme by tracing the history of abstract art back to its origins in the fascinating 19th-century Theosophy movement of Helena Blavatsky. From here he moved on to the colours and shapes of Kandinsky, Pollock, Rothko and more.
Artists still seem to be relating to Blavatsky. In a recent New York Times interview with conceptual artist Alexander Melamid, to make his point, he found it necessary to say:
Art is not only physical pollution, it’s intellectual pollution. Spiritual pollution. I belong to the down-the-drain generation. We were promised salvation by art. I was a passionate believer, until I realized it was one of those allegiances, like spiritualism or theosophy. All of this kind of semi-religious teaching, like Mary Baker Eddy or Madame Blavatsky.
* Sam Harris's latest book Waking Up continues to garner attention. Perhaps it is the claim of the book's subtitle: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. Chapter 1 can be read here. Mentioning Mme. Blavatsky, he says:
The conversation between East and West started in earnest, albeit inauspiciously, with the birth of the Theosophical Society, that golem of spiritual hunger and self-deception brought into this world almost single-handedly by the incomparable Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875. Everything about Blavatsky seemed to defy earthly logic: She was an enormously fat woman who was said to have wandered alone and undetected for seven years in the mountains of Tibet. She was also thought to have survived shipwrecks, gunshot wounds, and sword fights. Despite the imponderables in her philosophy, Blavatsky was among the first people to announce in Western circles that there was such a thing as the "wisdom of the East." This wisdom began to trickle westward once Swami Vivekananda introduced the teachings of Vedanta at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
* The following passage from W.B. Yeats’s The Trembling of the Veil on his experiences with Madame Blavatsky in London makes its appearance online:
Besides the devotees, who came to listen and to turn every doctrine into a new sanction for the puritanical convictions of their Victorian childhood, cranks came from half Europe and from all America, and they came that they might talk. One American said to me, “She has become the most famous woman in the world by sitting in a big chair and permitting us to talk.” There was a woman who talked perpetually of “the divine spark” within her, until Madame Blavatsky stopped her with—“Yes, my dear, you have a divine spark within you and if you are not very careful you will hear it snore.”
Sunday, September 28, 2014
The academic journal of esotericism, Aries, from Brill in the Netherlands, carries a piece in the Volume 14, no. 2 issue, by Massimo Introvigne on “Reginald W. Machell (1854–1927): Blavatsky’s Child, British Symbolist, American Artist”:
An indication of the artist's popularity among Theosophists can be seen in this stained glass window version of Machell’s “The Path” in the Library of the Leeds Theosophical Society in England.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
|Pekka Ervast's Rosicrucian jewel|
English readers may be familiar with his play on the life of H. P. Blavatsky: “H.P.B.” Four Episodes from the Life of the Sphinx of the XIXth Century translated into English and published by the Theosophical Publishing House of London in 1933. The website Lux Fennica which deals with all things Finnish and occult carries the following quote on its header:
June 1903: Pekka Ervast met in Stockholm Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s associate for many years. She told him about Blavatsky’s prediction concerning Finland. “Ground seems to give way under everyone’s feet and darkness will reign in the whole world. Let the Theosophists then remember to turn their gazes towards the North, for the light will come from Finland. Thus spake Madame Blavatsky.”
It should be noted that over time Blavatsky has been cited as saying similar things about the Irish and the Spanish.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
* The site Honor and Magic reprints an October 1874 letter from Blavatsky that starts her Collected Writings in English. The letter titled “Marvellous Spirit Manifestations” was published in the October 30, 1874, New York Daily Graphic. It lists the different materialized spirit forms she saw while at the Eddy mediums in Vermont, which led to her meeting Col. Olcott. Whether they were actually spirits of the dead was another thing, as she noted when pasting this article in her Scrapbook. The site has recently put up a guide to another American woman Theosophist of whom more needs to be known, Mrs. Josephine Cables Aldrich, “an author, editor, and philanthropist prominent in the early Theosophical Movement,” who led the movement from Rochester New York, and published one of the earliest occult magazines in America, The Occult Word. Copies of this scarce publication can now be read at the The International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals (IAPSOP) database.
* The Montreal Theosophy Project has been charting the development of the recent rise of the recognition of Blavatsky’s influence: “By the 1980s, with the publication of the entirety of her complete works, spearheaded by Boris de Zirkoff, HPB's reputation was on the upswing. In 1985, a serious historical research project, the Theosophical History journal begins publication. Michael Gomes’ The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement in 1987 arguably brings a more objective and accurate level of research to theosophical publications. His 2009 Penguin Books abridgement of The Secret Doctrine made a key Blavatsky work accessible to a wider audience.”
* The Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK gives some background on an obscure female swami, “Maji”, whom Olcott and Blavatsky met in Benares at the end of 1879, and who offered independent testimony about the Masters. “Although apparently fairly well known in certain circles during her lifetime (1826-1898), she is very much unknown today, even in India and amongst the Hindus of Benares, now named Varanasi.”