Thursday, April 14, 2011

W.Y. Evans-Wentz and Blavatsky

Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup and Walter Evans-Wentz
photographed circa 1919

The online journal, Berfrois, for April 13 has a promotional piece by Donald Lopez Jr. for his The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography featuring much the same slant as in the book. Referring to W.Y. Evans-Wentz, who was responsible for bringing the text to public attention, he writes:

He was a devotee instead of several of the Hindu swamis of the day, and his deepest devotion was to the Theosophical Society, founded by the Russian medium Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and the American Civil War veteran, Colonel Henry Olcott (1832-1907) in New York in 1875. Although largely forgotten today, the Theosophical Society was very influential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially among European and American artists and writers (from William Butler Yeats to L. Frank Baum). They believed that the mystical traditions of all religions arose from a single core, set forth to the world by a series of Mahatmas or “great souls,” who included Jesus and the Buddha. Once living on the island continent of Atlantis, in recent centuries the Mahatmas, seeking to escape the increasing levels of magnetism elsewhere in the world, had congregated in Tibet.

And so on and so forth, the rest of which can be read here. All this, by-the-way, for a text attributed to a semi-legendary figure, Padmasambhava, and “discovered” hundreds of years later and made the basis of a spiritual belief!

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