Sunday, July 31, 2011

Magnificent Obsession

The last 25 years of the 20th century can be characterized as having something of a Blavatsky renaissance. The trend seems to have no intention of letting up, and the first decade of the 21st century has seen a rise in scholarly papers and references in numerous books and conferences to H.P. Blavatsky. The same cannot be said of the modern Theosophical movement. Joy Dixon’s Divine Feminine (2001), which dealt with the interaction of women’s rights and Theosophy in the early part of the 20th century, and Michael Ashcraft’s Dawn of the New Cycle (2002) on theosophical educational life at Point Loma, California, still hold the field. So, the five volumes published by Joseph Ross since 1989 are valuable additions. His books, comprised of extensive quotes from relevant documents, including letters from Besant, Leadbeater, Krishnamurti and others, tell the tale of Krotona, the Theosophical community established in the Hollywood Hills in 1912 and later moved to Ojai, California, where it still exists. It is like have an extensive archive delivered to your door.

Joseph Ross at work

Yet as valuable a record as his books are, they have not really been welcome by the Theosophical Society in America. Perhaps it is because they contain the inclusion of material from the Society’s Esoteric School, which no one would have access to otherwise. Perhaps it is because the Theosophical Society in America does not have the reputation of being a gay friendly organization (there are tales of certain office holders going out of their way to demean and denigrate those who are perceived to be gay).

Still Mr. Ross continues on and has just released the fifth volume in his Krotona series, which takes the story from 1927 to 1931. A sample of the book can be read here. While it is good to get such things without charge, it is also good to support such work by buying the book, for like all collectibles issued by individuals, the run is limited, they are rarely reprinted and existing copies end up being priced out of accessibility. The book and other volumes in the series can be ordered from Joseph Ross’s site Krotona Archives.

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