Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blavatsky News

*   England’s Independent reviews the recent BBC4 programme The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings:

The artist and critic began his 90-minute programme by tracing the history of abstract art back to its origins in the fascinating 19th-century Theosophy movement of Helena Blavatsky. From here he moved on to the colours and shapes of Kandinsky, Pollock, Rothko and more.

Artists still seem to be relating to Blavatsky. In a recent New York Times interview with conceptual artist Alexander Melamid, to make his point, he found it necessary to say:

Art is not only physical pollution, it’s intellectual pollution. Spiritual pollution. I belong to the down-the-drain generation. We were promised salvation by art. I was a passionate believer, until I realized it was one of those allegiances, like spiritualism or theosophy. All of this kind of semi-religious teaching, like Mary Baker Eddy or Madame Blavatsky.

*   Sam Harris's latest book Waking Up continues to garner attention. Perhaps it is the claim of the book's subtitle: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. Chapter 1 can be read here. Mentioning Mme. Blavatsky, he says:

The conversation between East and West started in earnest, albeit inauspiciously, with the birth of the Theosophical Society, that golem of spiritual hunger and self-deception brought into this world almost single-handedly by the incomparable Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875. Everything about Blavatsky seemed to defy earthly logic: She was an enormously fat woman who was said to have wandered alone and undetected for seven years in the mountains of Tibet. She was also thought to have survived shipwrecks, gunshot wounds, and sword fights. Despite the imponderables in her philosophy, Blavatsky was among the first people to announce in Western circles that there was such a thing as the "wisdom of the East." This wisdom began to trickle westward once Swami Vivekananda introduced the teachings of Vedanta at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.

*   The following passage from W.B. Yeats’s The Trembling of the Veil on his experiences with Madame Blavatsky in London makes its appearance online:

Besides the devotees, who came to listen and to turn every doctrine into a new sanction for the puritanical convictions of their Victorian childhood, cranks came from half Europe and from all America, and they came that they might talk. One American said to me, “She has become the most famous woman in the world by sitting in a big chair and permitting us to talk.”  There was a woman who talked perpetually of “the divine spark” within her, until Madame Blavatsky stopped her with—“Yes, my dear, you have a divine spark within you and if you are not very careful you will hear it snore.”

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