Sunday, September 23, 2012

News Flash: Academics discover Blavatsky

Brill’s forthcoming Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions, edited by Inken Prohl and John Nelson, contains a useful entry on “Theosophy and Related Movements in Japan” by Kenta Kasai. While the most of the focus is on later expressions of Theosophy in the twentieth century—Krishnamurti and the World Teacher movement, the Anthroposophic movement, and Alice Bailey—there is some coverage of the initial impact of Theosophy, which was at first seen as a Western form of Buddhism in Japan, and Colonel Olcott’s 1891 visit to the country. Olcott’s attempt to gain consensus between the different Japanese Buddhist schools deserves a study unto itself, but fails to get any attention here. The book, which is scheduled for an October release, is listed at €192. / $267. US.

Framed Framed picture of Olcott displayed at   
 the Henry Steel Olcott Memorial Sangika Dhane Ceremony held at
 the Sakamuni International Buddhist Center, Hachioji, Tokyo, Oct. 22, 2011

Also forthcoming from Brill is its Handbook of the Theosophical Current, edited by Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein.

Few religious currents have been as influential as the Theosophical. Yet few currents have been so under-researched, and the Brill Handbook of the Theosophical Current thus represents pioneering research. A first section surveys the main people and events involved in the Theosophical Society from its inception to today, and outlines the Theosophical worldview. A second, substantial section covers most significant religions to emerge in the wake of the Theosophical Society - Anthroposophy, the Point Loma community, the I AM religious activity, the Summit Lighthouse Movement, the New Age, theosophical UFO religions, and numerous others. Finally, the interaction of the Theosophical current with contemporary culture - including gender relations, art, popular fiction, historiography, and science - are discussed at length.

If you are only considering works coming from academic presses or courses given at the university level as research, then the supposition that Theosophy has been “so under-researched” might have some validity. Theosophists, their critics, and supporters have had the results of their research published for over a century and a quarter. The price for the Handbook of the Theosophical Current, scheduled for November release, is €168. / $234. US.

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