Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blavatsky in Canada

The Walrus, “Canada’s best magazine,” has an insightful piece on the influence that a group of Canadian Theosophists exercised on the arts in the 1920s and 30s. Under the headline of “The Secret: The Group of Seven’s infatuation with the occult mysticism of Madame Blavatsky,” Brett Grainger writes:

While current debates over the role of religion in public life are flush with hostile caricature and mutual mistrust, few realize that previous generations brought spiritual resources to bear on questions of national identity without succumbing to either the xenophobia of fundamentalism or the wan procedural pieties of the secular nation-state.

Theosophy has had a long and distinguished history in Canada. Its first Lodge, the Toronto Theosophical Society, whose 1891 charter was one of the last to bear HPB’s signature, included the first woman to practice medicine in Canada and her daughter, the first woman to gain a medical degree in Canada, along with the writer, Algernon Blackwood, Roy Mitchell, who helped develop Canadian theater, Albert E.S. Smythe, whose son Connie (also a member) built Maple Leaf Gardens that helped make hockey Canada’s most familiar sport. Theosophy even has its own entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia, as can be seen here.

Through the artists known as The Group of Seven, Theosophy, or more accurately HPB’s ideas (as Theosophy in Canada favored the Blavatskian type), entered into the national dialogue. “And artists like Lawren Harris and Emily Carr were Canada’s answer to Emerson — homegrown prophets who glimpsed in the country’s vast landscapes a faint evocation of Nature’s nation,” says Grainger. The rest of the article can be read here.

Pine Tree and Red House, Winter, 1924, by Lawren Harris
sold for $2.8 million in 2007

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments to this blog are subject to moderation, and may appear at our sole discretion, if found to add relevance to the site's topics.