Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Secret Doctrine Commentaries Online

The full text of Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine Commentaries has been put online at the site of the ULT/Phoenix. The pagination differs from the 2010 edition published by the I.S.I.S. Foundation of the Hague, and the text could stand to have gone through a little more proofreading. In 2010, in response to the exorbitant price of the Dutch edition, the book was posted online by a group of students but soon removed by the publisher. It remains to be seen how long this one will stay up. The formatting is not the most elegant of layouts but it gives the reader who did not have access to the print edition a chance to see what all the fuss is about. It contains the largest amount of unpublished philosophical material by Blavatsky to appear since 1897. The text, here titled The Secret Doctrine Dialogues: H. P. Blavatsky’s Talks With Students, based on Michael Gomes’ transcription of the 1889 stenographic reports of the weekly meetings at London’s Blavatsky Lodge, January 10 to June 20, can be accessed here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blavatsky News

*  The news service Russia & India Report of July 19 carries an extensive piece on “Madame Blavatsky in India: A forgotten legacy.” It notes:

It is interesting to see that most people in India associate the Theosophical Society as something of the past and only with freedom fighter Anne Besant, who was actually herself inspired by the Russian mystic. It is largely forgotten that that the Theosophical Society is still very much in existence and has numerous branches all over India. What is even more fascinating is that in a country where religion plays such a dominant role there still exists an organisation which believes that “there is no religion higher than truth.”

*  The Hindu of July 20 looks at the life and legacy of the Irish critic and poet James Cousins (1873-1956). Cousins had been a member of the the Dublin Theosophical Society, read Mme. Blavatsky and moved to India in 1915 to work with Annie Bessant. He and his wife Margaret Cousins spent the rest of their lives extolling the virtues of the arts in India, education and women’s rights. The article, “An ‘Indo-Anglian’ legacy”, surmises:

James H. Cousins, sketch by Mirra Alfassa
Despite the many-sided achievements of James and Margaret Cousins in India, they are sadly 
forgotten figures today. This is both sad and puzzling: A literary critic and historian par excellence, Cousins introduced the term ‘Indo-Anglian’, perhaps for the first time, in the critical idiom of the subject in his book, New Ways in English Literature, 1917. Similarly, his contribution in the field of art history and art criticism are equally impressive, just as his understanding and appreciation of Indian mysticism and spirituality in the cross-cultural context, remains unparalleled.

Above all, Cousins would be known for the deep and abiding friendship he cherished across cultural, ideological and political barriers. The institutions that Cousins served and the founders of movements: Tagore, Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo and Annie Besant, with whom he shared deep affinities, are today gone. But the legacy of liberal thinking beyond the East-West boundaries that James Cousins deeply believed in and promoted would serve the contemporary world well.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography

Arvind Sharma, author of many books on various aspects of Hinduism especially that of Advaita Vedanta, has a new book scheduled for release at the end of July. This time Professor Sharma presents us with Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography. The reference to the influence of Theosophy on Gandhi’s spiritual development is perfunctory, mentioning briefly Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and that he had read Blavatsky’s Key to Theosophyat the insistence of some Theosophist friends and remarks that the book stimulated in him the desire to read books on Hinduism.” Two theosophists, “who happened to be related,” invited him toward the end of his second year in London to read the Bhagavad Gita with them in its English translation by Edwin Arnold, The Song Celestial. The book would become the cornerstone of his philosophy. Sharma comments:

Thus we encounter here once more an illustration of the archetype of the “stranger” (or in this case “strangers”), who reveals the treasure hidden at one’s own hearth.

Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography is published by Yale University Press.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Reviews are In

Reviews of Patricia Gruben’s play about H.P. Blavatsky that had its debut in Vancouver are in. The character of Richard Hodgson is changed into that of a young Canadian physicist who tries “to untangle the mysteries behind the paranormal phenomena attributed to Helena Blavatsky from a scientific perspective.” One reviewer finds this helps put the story into a larger context:

Making Hodgson a scientist was an interesting choice, because while the story is centred on Blavatsky and Hodgson, it’s really about the 19th Century as a whole: an age struggling towards reason, trying to build an understanding of the universe based on science instead of faith. Darwin killed God, so they said, or at least made Him unnecessary, but many people were still hungry for miracles and revelation. Add to that a more connected world enabling increased contact with other cultures, and it made for a strange and potent mix. Blavatsky’s Theosophy borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism and various mystery religions, but also the language of science, and tried to connect all of them into a sort of Grand Unified Spiritual Theory.

I expected [Gruben’s play] The Secret Doctrine to just be a critique of a fraud and/or the weird pseudo-scientific philosophies she [Blavatsky] preached, but it gave me a lot of food for thought. I love when that happens!

Another review is given here.