Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nehru and Theosophy

On a visit to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, Ian Smith was surprised to see the reference to Jawaharlal Nehru’s involvement with Theosophy.

One thing I hadn’t known was that the young Nehru had links for a time with the esoteric philosophy of Theosophy, popularised by Helena Blavatsky in the late 19th century.  His boyhood tutor Ferdinand T. Brooks got him interested in it and he was initiated into the Theosophical Society at the age of 13 by the versatile Annie Besant, a friend of the family who wasn’t just a Theosophist but also a writer, socialist, women’s rights activist, supporter of home-rule for Ireland and India, and member (and later president) of the Indian National Congress.  Here’s a wall-display that’s dedicated to her.

Nehru’s involvement with Theosophy is covered in Michael Gomes’ “Nehru Theosophical Tutor” published in Theosophical History, vol. 7, no. 3, July 1998. It looks at the career of his tutor, F.T. Brooks, who influenced his interest in Theosophy.

Of his time among the Theosophists, Nehru writes in his Autobiography:

I have a fairly strong impression that during these theosophical days of mine I developed the flat and insipid look which sometimes denotes piety and which is (or was) often to be seen among theosophist men and women. I was smug, with a feeling of being one-of-the-elect, and altogether I must have been a thoroughly undesirable companion for any boy or girl of my age.

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