Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blavatsky and Alexandra David-Néel

In their “Persons of Interest” series, the site The Thinker’s Garden“a place to uncover Knowledge, marvel at strange Sights, and approach the Mysterious. It is not an academe, though we hope it will stimulate intellectual curiosity and it is not a forum, though topical discussion is encouraged. It is in its most basic sense an ambulatory and storehouse of ideas”—looks at the lives of Alexandra David-Néel and Helena Blavatsky.

The occult revivalist, feminist, and orientalist Helena Blavatsky was several years older than Néel and shared a strong and abiding attraction to Eastern mysticism. When she was a child, the young aristocrat appeased her bibliophilic appetite by constantly immersing herself in the volumes of esoteric literature within her great-grandfather’s library.… Critics to this day still question the veracity of her teachings and narratives; nevertheless as the patron and founder of the Theosophical Society, Blavatsky presided over one of the first European organizations to transmit Indian philosophy to Western audiences.

Blavatsky in Dublin, Reviews

The Irish Times of July 5 reviews the A Modern Panarion: Glimpses of Occultism in Dublin exhibition now on view at Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery. The piece, “Delving into the arcane: the legacy of Æ’s hidden murals,” looks at Blavatsky’s influence on Irish arts and the recent rediscovery of some of Æ’s theosophically inspired murals

Established in New York in 1875 by a small group of people centred on Helena Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott and Dublin-born William Quan Judge, the society held that a body of ancient, hidden knowledge lay behind all the world’s religions and, similarly, that hidden laws lay beyond the bounds of conventional scientific thought.

In Ireland, George Russell (Æ), James M Pryse and others set up a branch in Dublin, based at number 3 Ely Place. “It was a kind of commune and in many ways idealistic, even utopian,” says [the curator Pádraic E.] Moore. “The theosophists were, and are, completely non-sectarian. They believe in universal freedom and equality.”

The Wall Street Journal in its review focuses more on the artists that comprise the show, though noting that

The popularity of Theosophy in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries was considerable, rapidly attracting a community of adherents worldwide from amongst the many disenchanted people who sought spiritual guidance and vital inspiration in an increasingly secular and industrialized world.