Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scriabin, again

HPB’s name has much been in the London papers over the last fortnight in relation to performances of Scriabin’s works. In the August 25 London Evening Standard, the paper’s music critic, Barry Millington, reviewed the previous evening’s performance by the Sydney Orchestra of Scriabin’s Third Symphony (The Divine Poem) at the Proms (London’s 8 week summer concert series at the Royal Albert Hall), mentioning:

Scriabin was an eccentric and a visionary whose works were essentially vehicles for his mystical beliefs, influenced by the theosophist Madame Blavatsky. The Divine Poem is one such inspiration and enacts in part some sort of cosmic struggle involving the divinity and humanity.

This did not save it, for: It was not perhaps Ashkenazy’s [the conductor] fault if Scriabin’s ecstatic effusions sometimes seemed to disappear up their own metaphysics. Nor was it the fault of the players, who rose to the challenge of the score splendidly.

The Express of August 22 carries a review of another performance of Scriabin, this time his Symphony No 1, by the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, also at the Proms. The program featured Scriabin and Stravinsky, and the reviewer, Claire Colvin, noted

Scriabin's mysticism (he was a follower of theosophist Madame Blavatsky) may explain the formlessness of the six movement symphony which wafted like ectoplasm into a final ode to divinity. What a relief after that to hear Stravinsky's The Firebird, written for Diaghilev's ballet at the Paris Opera.

Scriabin died at the age of 45, 95 years ago. Apparently his sound is still too ahead of its time. Notice in the mention of Blavatsky there is now no need for a qualifier. She is simply “Madame Blavatsky” without the usual pejorative.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Major Publishing Event: The Secret Doctrine Commentaries

There was a time when books issued by the various theosophical groups were well-crafted, well-thought out creations. They were meant to be companions for a lifetime, their very presence, they way they looked, a source of upliftment. But those days belong to nostalgia. Theosophical books became utilitarian and then badly made—books whose spines would crack after two or three handlings. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the volume recently issued by the I.S.I.S. Foundation in the Netherlands: The Secret Doctrine Commentaries: the Unpublished 1889 Instructions, transcribed and annotated by Michael Gomes. It hearkens back to a time of beautiful, well-made theosophical books.

The book comprises the twenty shorthand reports of meetings held in London from January 10 to June 20, 1889, published here for the first time. An edited version of the first ten meetings was issued in 1890 and 1891 as Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge. The material is basically questions on The Secret Doctrine posed to HPB and her responses. Aside from the content, the thing that makes the book so interesting is that we are able to see who the questioners were. They were some of the leading Theosophists of the time: Bertram and Archibald Keightley, who helped edit The Secret Doctrine, G.R.S. Mead before he began his career as a Gnostic scholar, Annie Besant as a new member, among others, and the queries were based on deep study, especially when they started dealing with issues that became the basis for The Key to Theosophy. As usual, HPB is erudite, profound, witty and sometimes exasperated.

In reply to one question she says: Manas does not come to be happy and to be developed. Manas comes because it is too pure; and being too pure, it has neither merit nor demerit. Therefore, it must come and suffer a little bit, and have the experience of everything that can be got in this cycle of imagination. And therefore, the same experiences will make it fit to emerge in the Absolute. It contains all the experiences in this blessed world, and the worlds that have been and will be.

To another she advised: Now you have got to study for yourselves. The only thing I can give you is just to put the “Key” in your hands and say: “This opens this way, and this that way,” and so on. You understand that whereas one person will understand well, another will understand less. You have to use your high faculty; intellect has nothing to do here; materialistic science would step in.…you have to take the whole thing and then proceed from the universals to the particulars. Otherwise you cannot grasp the thing. It is impossible. You have to skip many things, or to embrace it in a general sense, and then begin it in the first manifestation that you can; otherwise, you cannot make to yourself a clear representation. To me it is as clear and intelligible as can be. It may be because I am an innocent fool, but it has never presented to me any difficulty.

The importance of the book cannot be overestimated. It is the major amount of new doctrinal material from H.P. Blavatsky since the 1890s. It ranks with events like A. Trevor Barker’s publishing The Mahatma Letters or Israel Regardie’s volumes on The Golden Dawn: the release of material that had been limited to a select few. If we have any criticism, it is the price: 59 euros, at present over 75 dollars U.S. While this is not exorbitant for European publishers—books from Brill in the Netherlands, and Routledge in England are priced much higher—most Theosophists may find it so. Theosophy Company in Los Angeles was supposed to issue this material as a series of booklets, similar to their Blavatsky and Judge series, but have not done so yet even though they have had Gomes’s transcription for the same amount of time it took to produce the present book.

For over a quarter of a century Michael Gomes has been making an important contribution to our understanding of Theosophy. His publications, too lengthy to list, can be seen in a bibliography posted by Katinka Hesselink here. His abridgments of HPB’s Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine have served to bring her greater accessibility. May circumstances continue to allow him the ability to produce what has benefited so many and brought a greater recognition to HPB. To use the words of the eminent scholar of religion, Dr. Robert Ellwood, in his review of Gomes’s recent abridgment of The Secret Doctrine for Penguin: Gomes is to be commended for doing this job in the elegant, painstaking way one would expect from him. His is a book every Theosophist and spiritual explorer ought to have at hand, to pick up for adventures in occult knowledge at odd moments, which will often turn into hours.

The Secret Doctrine Commentaries: the Unpublished 1889 Instructions, transcribed and annotated by Michael Gomes, over 700 pages hardcover, can be ordered here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scriabin—A Life in Colour

BBC Radio 3 will be devoting a program on Saturday, August 21, 2010, at 12:15 GMT to “the extraordinary music and story of the Russian composer, pianist, mystic and philosopher,” Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915). It will be hosted by Peggy Reynolds, a regular broadcaster on arts and music for BBC Radio, who is Reader in English at Queen Mary, University of London. She was also the host for “Travels with Blavatsky,” which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in December 2004, the first such program to be devoted to Blavatsky on BBC Radio.

The program description for “Scriabin—A Life in Colour” is as follows:

At the turn of the twentieth century this remarkable figure's music and ideals challenged the very nature of individual and musical expression. His compositional technique and style evolved extraordinarily during of his life - his early piano pieces, reflecting his adoration of Chopin, are romantic and fresh while his later compositions explore new reaches and innovations in harmony. His ten piano sonatas are staples of the piano repertoire, and his miniature piano pieces are considered masterpieces of 20th century pianism. Scriabin loved to discuss philosophy and became enthralled by the theosophy movement of Madame Blavatsky. He was convinced that he was destined to produce an all-consuming work of art - an apocalyptic work of cosmic proportions which would transfigure mankind and its universe. The unrealised Mysterium (Final Mystery) would embrace music, sound; colour and light; dance; fires, incense, perfumes; tastes, pain and other tactile experiences. Scriabin's works from 1902 until his death in1914 were all influenced by this vision. His orchestra works include the Divine Poem (1903), the Poem of Ecstasy (1907), and the Poem of Fire or Prometheus (1909) a multi-sensory work for which Scriabin orchestrated a part for colour keyboard which was to project a constantly evolving stream of colours as the visuals to the sonic portion of the score.

Definitely ahead of his time. The influence of Blavatsky on Scriabin is an area that deserves further study, especially in relation to the correlation of colour and sound that they both shared. An example of Scriabin’s key-color association can be seen here.

Blavatsky and the Kabbalah

It is a point to take note of when Moshe Idel, one of the world's most eminent scholars of Jewish mysticism, finds it necessary to mention H.P. Blavatsky as an influence in the context of his writings. In his book, Old Worlds, New Mirrors: On Jewish Mysticism and Twentieth-Century Thought, published by University of Pennsylvania Press at the end of last year, in the chapter on “The Function of Symbols in Gershom Scholem” (who made the academic study of Kabbalah understandable to layman), he writes on page 85:

Scholem’s emphasis on the role of symbolism in a preeminently medieval literature such as Kabbalah is corroborated by other scholars dealing with medieval material in general, with Christian mysticism, and even with Kabbalah. So, for example, we find similar views, expressed long before Scholem’s characterization quoted above, in the writings of G.G. Coulton, W.R. Inge, and Madame Blavatsky. For our purpose it is sufficient to quote Madame Blavatsky, a follower of the Renaissance Christian kabbalists who formulated their conception of the Kabbalah in a way accepted and further developed by many modern scholars of the Kabbalah: “The Kabbalist is a student of ‘secret science,’ one who interprets the hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabbalah, and explains the real one of these meanings.”

The citation is from Isis Unveiled, 1:xxiv, and Idel gives what he believes to be the “common source” for these writers: the German Christian kabbalist Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522), “who presented Kabbalah as a preeminently symbolic form of discourse.” Blavatsky would have been the first to take issue with his contention that she was a follower of “Christian kabbalists,” though he probably means that she, like them, saw the Kabbalah as a key to symbolic interpretation.

HPB certainly had an interest in the Kabbalah, and it is mentioned as an authoritative source in her writings. It is a loss that Henk Spierenburg did not live long enough to add a compilation on “H.P. Blavatsky and the Kabbalah” to his series. From the very beginning of her printed comments on the subject, she differentiates between the Kabbalah as promulgated in the works of Western occultists (the Rosicrucian or Hermetic Kabbalah) and the Jewish and the Oriental Kabbalah. “The Rosicrucian Cabala is but an epitome of the Jewish and the Oriental ones combined—the latter being the most secret of all.”—“A Few Questions to ‘Hiraf’,” July 1875.

She was certainly familiar with the literature that was available at the time, and her handwritten notes on the subject, published in Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 6, pp. 315-321, are actually a digest of what is found in Christian Ginsburg’s 1865 book on the Kabbalah, as indicated by Paul Foster Case in the June 1926 issue of The Theosophist.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

“I am of Paul: and I of Apollos”

Under the above heading Boris de Zirkoff wrote in the Sept-Oct 1948 issue of his magazine, Theosophia:

The imperative need in the present Theosophical Movement is for a broad, all-encompassing, genuine and sincere spirit of universality. Upon this corner-stone of good-will and brotherliness should be erected a structure of enduring worth, in which a free give-and-take of ideas and plans, of ideals and methods would bind all parts of the now disunited Movement into one network of correlated endeavor and mutual helpfulness. Wherever a spirit of narrow sectarianism predominates, the Movement ceases to be Theosophical, whatever else it may be. Wherever aloofness, suspicion, intolerance, and arrogant self-righteousness prevail, then and there the spirit of the Masters and of H.P. Blavatsky is replaced—probably in ignorance or in foolishness—by a “theosophical” modification of churchism, wherein the exclusiveness of a small coterie parades under the peacock-feathers of a vaunted superiority over others. This trend is definitely out of season and out of line in a world which, even apart from the Theosophical Movement, is attempting to build a global civilization to replace the smouldering wrecks of nationalistic nightmares.

His words seem to have gone unheeded. From his arrival at Point Loma, California, in the 1920s as a young Russian émigré, to his death in 1981, Boris de Zirkoff devoted his life to the publication of a uniform edition of HPB’s then out-of-print magazine and journal output. Almost 1000 pieces were collected and published in the 14 volumes of the H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings series. De Zirkoff also collected all the available letters of Blavatsky, arranging them chronologically and retranslating several. After his death the project was taken over by John Cooper of Australia, and, after his sudden death, by John Algeo, who in 2004 was able to bring out the material collected by de Zirkoff for the first volume of The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky.

One would think Theosophists would be jubilant at the prospect of the Blavatsky Collected Writings series nearing completion. But there were those who found the inclusion of this or that letter not to their liking, as it did not agree with their image of Blavatsky, and took the opportunity to cast aspersions on the motives of Dr. Algeo, his editorial committee, the publisher, and the Theosophical Society (Adyar), and by implication, Boris de Zorkoff and John Cooper, who had intended to publish the same material.

There was a letter from 1872 that had been translated from the Russian in Theosophical History in 1995 that was not liked, even though Dr. Algeo had prefaced it with the disclaimer: “The genuineness of this letter has been questioned by a number of researchers.” There were letters that these critics incorrectly referred to as the Solovyov letters (they were actually letters from Blavatsky to Alexander Aksakov). But what about letter 121 in this volume, where Blavatsky writes to her aunt in 1878: “I was almost in California with K*** and Olcott.” No such trip is known to have occurred at that time, when her whereabouts are mapped with day-to-day precision. This letter would show her to be a fabricator, if it is from her; and no worse than the ones critics of the book complained about. Perhaps it also is a forgery?

But here lies the inherent danger of censorship: where does it stop, when an individual or individuals decide that they are right and everyone else who thinks differently wrong? It can only end with the fatwā, the auto-da-fé, the banning of books, and the justification of ethic cleansing. Once Theosophists start using the language of hate, then they have nothing new to offer the world, for they have degenerated into just another sect and set up hard-and-fast dogmas of their own.

No one is denying the right of individuals to critique this, that or any other thing, for as HPB says in Isis Unveiled: “It is not alone for the esoteric philosophy that we fight, nor any modern system of moral philosophy, but for the inalienable right of private judgment,” but this right must be extended to others with the realization that there are those who see things differently. This was the thing that made Theosophy unique in the history of religions and philosophies: the ability to hold different views and disagree and yet rise above such disagreement to work for a common goal. If the Mahatmas can write: “It is an every day occurrence to find students belonging to different schools of occult thought sitting side by side at the feet of the same Guru,” why can’t Theosophists try to emulate this?

Dr. Algeo has expanded his editorial committee to include Leslie Price, Joscelyn Godwin, John Patrick Deveney, and Michael Gomes, among others. If these people, whose work has done so much to bring about a greater recognition of Blavatsky, are also attacked because of their connection with this project, then it will be clear that it is not really about defending Blavatsky but about building up one’s reputation at the expense of others.

As William Quan Judge noted: Members of the Theosophical Society have been known to burn with a passionate longing to act as agents for Karma, forgetting that the sword of the Executioner is a two-edged sword; forgetting also that they do not know Karma, and are held responsible by Karma for the mischief they will inevitably work. The absurdity of such an attitude of mind does not deprive it of a certain pathetic aspect. See these people, impure themselves, thinking they can either forcibly purify the world or can legitimately punish others for their impurity! The pathetic aspect comes in when they are so deluded as to call the proceeding “self-sacrifice.” It would be real self-sacrifice for such people to sit still and attend to their immediate duty.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blavatskiana: the Hodgson Report, Pt 2

No mention of the Hodgson report would be complete without reference to the response of Theosophists, especially that of K.F. Vania and Victor Endersby.

Vania was author of Madame H. P. Blavatsky, Her Occult Phenomena and the Society for Psychical Research published in Bombay, India, in 1951. The book looked at Hodgson’s report in detail, especially in the Indian context, noting where it was in variance with the facts. 

Endersby’s The Hall of Magic Mirrors was published in New York in 1969. It also took a detailed look at Hodgson’s report, especially in relation to the “Shrine,” a cabinet that hung in a room adjacent to Mme. Blavatsky’s residence at the theosophical headquarters at Adyar. The shrine was noted as a means for communicating with the Mahatmas. Letters were put into the shrine and replies were received therein, sometimes instantaneously. Mme. Coulomb, a housekeeper at the headquarters claimed that she helped remove and insert the Mahatma replies. But as Michael Gomes observes in his Coulomb Case, she was not able to produce the collateral evidence necessary to substantiate her claim, that is, any of the correspondence put into the shrine that she claimed to have removed from it.

Both Endersby and Vania had some commonalities: both self-published their books, and both were intimately involved with the United Lodge of Theosophists but later fell out of favor with this group. Vania knew B.P. Wadia, a leading Indian member of the group, but left to pursue his research on the defense of Blavatsky, eventually becoming a member of the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society in Bombay, the oldest surviving branch of that organization. Endersby was actively involved with the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles in California but later ran afoul with its leadership. He went on to publish his own journal, Theosophical Notes, from December 1950 to April 1978. Jerry Hejka-Ekins has a revealing biographical study of him, “Victor A. Endersby, a Pioneering Independent Theosophist,” in Keeping the Link Unbroken: Theosophical Studies Presented to Ted G. Davy on His Seventy-fifth Birthday, edited by Michael Gomes in 2004.

Blavatsky and Abstract Art

The website, Walking Paris with Henry Miller, gives some details about the influence abstract artist Frederick I. Kann (1884-1965) may have had on the American novelist, Henry Miller. Kann was one of Miller’s closest friends and benefactors during his early years in Paris [in the 1930s] and he makes an appearance in Tropic of Cancer as “Kruger.” In his novel, Miller paints Kann as a “spiritual-minded individual” eager for an audience to listen to his obsessive prattling over esoteric subjects. Miller shared several of Kann’s theosophical and astrological interests and, as he was then living hand-to-mouth and often homeless, was willing to exchange an obliging ear for the occasional meal or a place to sleep for the night.

In 1941 they met again when Miller was making a tour of America and stopped in Kansas City where Kann was teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute. Kann’s esoteric bent had led him to Freemasonry and he regaled Miller in his customary manner with discussions of Tibet, Madame Blavatsky and Krishnamurti. Miller stayed for a weekend and before he left Kann presented him with a prized copy of The Phoenix by Manly P. Hall.

Kann, who was born in Czechoslovakia, had emigrated to Canada in 1910, by 1928 he was living in Paris where he taught and exhibited his paintings. In 1934 he was part of a show that also included works by Delaunay, Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy, and Mondrian, among many others. He returned to America in 1936 and settled in Los Angeles in 1942. The catalog accompanying a retrospective of his work in 2007, “Frederick Kann: Creative Spirit, Visionary Mind,” notes that
His name appeared alongside some of the most important modern masters of the 20th century, yet the exact character of his work remained unknown until very recently. Kann’s paintings reflect the international impulse toward abstraction during the 1920s and 1930s. His emphasis was not only on the formal elements of color, form, and line, but how they could be used to convey spiritual, mystical, scientific, and cosmological ideas. In 1938 Kann wrote, 'Nature is not only the sensual perception of distance, but the intelligent penetration of its interior working process.'”

The rest of the account of the interaction between Kann and Miller can be read here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Orthodoxy and Theosophy: the Vera Johnston story

The site of The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas,, which “exists to promote the study of the history of the Orthodox Christian Church in the New World,” has an interesting piece on HPB’s niece, Vera Johnston (1864-1923). Titled “Orthodoxy and Theosophy: the Vera Johnston story,” it looks at her involvement with the seminary of the Russian Orthodox Church near Tenafly, New Jersey. Established in 1912 on fourteen and a half acres, it housed a dormitory, classrooms, offices, and a chapel that was dedicated to St. Platon. Her husband, Charles Johnston (1867-1931), was listed as “Teacher of English Language” there in 1918. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, the loss of financial assistance from the Church of Russia led to severe financial distress for the seminary, and St. Platon's Orthodox Theological Seminary closed in 1924.

The writer suggests, “Vera Johnston had converted—or, re-converted—to Orthodoxy. She was involved, almost on a day-to-day basis, with the life of the Russian Mission. The thing is, she doesn’t seem to have given up Theosophy. Her husband Charles, who was also involved in the Russian Mission, remained a major figure in the Theosophical movement,” without realizing that she could have remained a Christian while being a Theosophist. There is also some confusion, giving her mother’s name as Vera Blavatsky, instead of Vera Zhelihovsky, as can be seen here.

The mention of the Order of the Living Christ that Charles and Vera Johnston participated in throws some light on one of the more obscure theosophical creations. The Order was essentially an attempt to merge Christianity and Theosophy. The group believed in reincarnation, but adopted the externals of Anglo-Catholicism (traditional Anglicanism). They revered the works of Helen Blavatsky and her associates, but also had a deep fascination with early Christian mysticism. Members saw it as perfectly acceptable to be a part of the Order and still participate in the life of, for instance, the Episcopal Church. It is likely that Vera Johnston shared this philosophy, and she may well have considered herself an Orthodox Christian while simultaneously adhering to beliefs which Orthodoxy recognizes as patently heretical. All this, while teaching future priests at the official seminary of the Russian Archdiocese in America.

The pages of the Theosophical Quarterly, the Journal of the now defunct Theosophical Society in America, which the Johnstons were members of, show a growing interest in Christian mystics and saints as it drew toward the end of its run in 1938. Ernest Temple Hargrove, another member of the group, was caretaker of the Chapel of the Comforter in New York City at the time of his death in 1939. The Griscom family built a religious retreat, Chapel Farm, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York, which became the center of activity for the Order of the Living Christ (Genevieve Ludlow Griscom, who bought the property in 1920s, was married to the industrialist, Clement Acton Griscom, 1868-1918, their son Ludlow Griscom, 1890-1959, was a noted ornithologist). In 1969 the property was sold to Manhattan College.

Blavatskiana: the Hodgson Report

Sooner or later anyone interested in H.P. Blavatsky will come across the statement that she was declared a fraud by a Society for Psychical Research (SPR) that existed in London during her lifetime. But, as Leslie Price, a member of that Society has remarked, “Any writer or speaker who says the SPR exposed Madame Blavatsky is only exposing his own ignorance.

In 1884 the SPR appointed a Committee for the purpose of taking such evidence on the nature of theosophical phenomena as was possible during the visit of Olcott and Blavatsky to England at that time. The Committee’s cautious preliminary report, gathering the statements of Theosophists, was issued later that year. But news of an exposure by two recently dismissed members of the staff at the Theosophical headquarters at Madras caused them to send a member of the Committee, Richard Hodgson, to gather further evidence in India. Hodgson’s report, covering almost 200 pages, was published in the SPR Proceedings at the end of 1885. Based on his findings the Committee appended their oft-quoted verdict naming her “one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting imposters in history.”

Hodgson looked for a motive behind such a widespread imposition, ruling out financial gain and a “morbid yearning for notoriety,” concluding instead that Blavatsky’s theosophical work was a cover for her activities as a Russian spy. Mme. Blavatsky wanted to sue for libel but was advised against such action by a committee of distinguished members of the Theosophical Society.

Over the years the aura infallibility that surrounded Hodgson’s report has slowly been eroding, due in part to the attitude of the SPR itself. In a letter to Time magazine in 1968, the Hon. Secretary of the SPR wrote of Hodgson’s report that “Any accusations therein are the responsibility of the author and not this organization.” In 1960 Walter A. Carrithers, a member of the SPR published an analysis on Hodgson’s report questioning its reliability, and, in 1986, the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published a critical examination of the handwriting portion Hodgson’s report by Vernon Harrison, another member.

When Annie Besant was considering joining the Theosophical Society in 1889, HPB suggested that she read Hodgson’s report, for she never shied away from people deciding the truth of the matter for themselves. If all of this is overwhelming, Michael Gomes’ The Coulomb Case, published in 1984 and reissued twenty years later, provides an overview of the events leading up to Hodgson’s report with a number of original documents relevant to its understanding.

Most of the other items mentioned here are now online. Hodgson’s report can be accessed in the SPR’s 1885 Proceedings through Google books. The SPR preliminary report is at Blavatsky Archives. Walter Carrithers’ book, Obituary: the Hodgson Report, (published under his pen name Adlai E. Waterman) can be read here, and Vernon Harrison’s appraisal here. Aside from having an original edition of Hodgson’s report, the copy would be the facsimile issued by Arno Press in New York in 1976, The Society for Psychical Research Report on the Theosophical Society, with an Introduction by James Webb. It includes the folding plates of the original, plus Hodgson’s subsequent attempt to justify his narrative, and a pamphlet by William Kingsland criticizing the report.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Monuments of Unaging Intellect

Erica Georgiadis has uploaded the text of the stanzas from the first volume of The Secret Doctrine on YouTube. Ranging from four to nine minutes, the videos feature graphics and acoustics and can be accessed here.

The musician John Gilbert has uploaded his reading of chapters from Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled on Internet The first five chapters of volume 1 can be heard here, and chapters six to ten here.

The connection between Blavatsky and abstract music is part of musical lore, her inspiration of Alexander Scribian (who wanted to orchestrate the Secret Doctrine) being one of the best known. Her influence on modern composers has also been a matter of conjecture, as one musical site recently noted:

I forgot to give you this... This is how Flying Lotus introduced “Heave(n)”, a brief track that would seem it has been left off the new album “Cosmogramma” (Warp, 2010). Now it surfaces accompanied by an intriguing promo video where a bunch of slaves push and pull (heave) their terrain and human condition towards the low tiers of the sky (heaven)... perhaps influenced by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s work.

The short track by Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison, nephew of the late Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane known for their meditative music) can be heard here.

Who’s Who of Indian Women

The Indian Gender Resource Center has added the following entry on Annie Besant (with a reference to HPB) to their encyclopedic “Who’s Who of Indian Women.” She is one of the few non-Indian women to be included, along with the likes of Mother Theresa.

Besant, Annie: (1847–1933) was a prominent Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule. In 1890 Annie Besant met Helena Blavatsky and over the next few years her interest in Theosophy grew and her interest in left wing politics waned. She traveled to India and in 1898 helped establish the Central Hindu College in India. In 1902 she established the International Order of Co-Freemasonry in England and over the next few years established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1908 Annie Besant became President of the Theosophical Society and began to steer the society away from Buddhism and towards Hinduism. She also became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress. When war broke out in Europe in 1914 she helped launch the Home Rule League to campaign for democracy in India and dominion status within the Empire which culminated in her election as president of the India National Congress in late 1917. After the war she continued to campaign for Indian independence until her death in 1933. After her death, her colleagues, J. Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, Dr. Guido Ferrando, and Rosalind Rajagopal, built Happy Valley School, now renamed Besant Hill School in her honour.

Some additions and corrections should be noted. Annie Besant met HPB in 1889, which led her to join the Theosophical Society; she became its President 1907. In 1913 she helped organize Scouting for Indian youth, as the Scout movement in India was only open to British and foreign Scouts. Her founding of the Central Hindu College paved the way for the present Benares Hindu University, the largest residential university in Asia. The Government of India issued a commemorative stamp for her on October 1, 1963.

Commemorative bust of Besant at Central Hindu College, Varanasi