Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blavatsky News

* A draft of a paper by Marco Deyasi, “Community Without Borders: Symbolism, Theosophy, and Anti-Colonialism in France, c. 1890,” has been posted on the University of Idaho website. While Deyasi, who is an art historian at the University of Idaho, has done much reading in the French journals of the period, some of his assumptions are off, such as “Mme Blavatsky claimed that she had been contacted from the afterlife by two ancient Asian sages who revealed their wisdom to her,” which she never claimed. In fact, quite the opposite, she steadfastly maintained that her teachers were living men.

Saying, “She maintained that the world’s religions were fundamentally the same and that universal precepts could be revealed through wide-ranging study,” is really not correct. Her belief is that there was an ancient universal wisdom religion that modern religions are distortions of, though containing at their core a commonality, not that they “were fundamentally the same.” Sigh.

* The latest issue of the Toronto Journal of Theology, Volume 28, no. 1, has an informative article on “Theosophical Influences on the Painting and Writing of Lawren Harris: Re-Imagining Theosophy through Canadian Art” by Michael Stoeber.

Stoeber’s paper explores the nature and role of theosophical ideas in the visual art and writings of Lawren Harris (1885–1970), a prominent painter in Canada and the United States. “It clarifies and analyzes the way in which he drew upon theosophical theory in relating art to spiritual transformation and liberation, and in the development of his views of the soul, the artistic process, and intuitive and mystical experiences. It also illustrates how theosophical beliefs and ideas influenced and informed some of Harris’s paintings.” Harris became a member of the Toronto Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1924, and their brand of Theosophy leaned heavily toward Blavatsky.

* The Smart Set, the online magazine covering culture and ideas, arts and science, global and national affairs from Drexel University, charts Henry Steel Olcott’s journey toward becoming the most notable Western Buddhist of his time. In “The Man from New Jersey,” Stefany Anne Golberg notes

Unlike Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott wasn’t particularly mystical. The Theosophical Society was much more interesting to Olcott as a platform for humanitarian causes and for the genuine study of life in all its natural, religious, scientific, and miscellaneous facets. But it was Blavatsky who got Olcott thinking about Eastern religions as well as the occult. And when he learned of Buddhism, it was a revelation.

Golberg’s piece draws a comment from Andrew Sullivan.

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