Sunday, October 6, 2013

Enchanted Modernities: Blavatsky, the Aura and Colour Theory

Orélia Astraea Revol assesses the recent Enchanted Modernities Conference in her blog at the Ritman Library: “For three days last week Amsterdam was the epicentre for anyone interested in the relationship between the arts and anthroposophical and theosophical currents. From September 25th – 27th the international scholarly conference Enchanted Modernities – Theosophy, Modernism & the Arts took place on two locations, the Singelkerk and Doelenzaal, bringing together more than 150 bright minds working in the fields of art, scholarship and Western esotericism.”

The piece, “Enchanted Modernities – Some Thought-Forms on the Metaphysical in Art,” provides a useful abstract of some of the talks, beginning with the keynote address on the first day by Prof. Raphael Rosenberg of the University of Vienna entitled “Mapping the Aura in the Spirit of Art and Art Theory: Blavatsky, Leadbeater, Besant, and Steiner.”

The concept of thought-forms as formulated by theosophists Annie Besant and later Charles W. Leadbeater including its series of abstract images seems to be connected with the phenomenon of synaesthesia, Rosenberg argued. This phenomenon was also discussed by Madame Blavatsky and attracted the attention of psychologists around 1880. According to Blavatsky, synaesthesia could be understood as a form of higher perception and clairvoyance. As such she went back to Swedenborg and Oetinger and their theories on higher perception. She regarded theosophy as superior since it allowed man to see with the ‘Naked Eye’ beyond the natural object or physical world: a domain of perception regular science did not have access to. It was synaesthesia, therefore, which proved there indeed existed a world beyond the physical realm. Blavatsky connected the phenomenon with the aura, claiming that the colours seen by people susceptible to synaesthesia are auratic. People with this ability can ‘see’ an oval extra-sensory aura surrounding every human being which reveals their feelings, moods and characters.

The rest of her impressions on the Enchanted Modernities Conference can be seen here.

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