Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reginald W. Machell

The academic journal of esotericism, Aries, from Brill in the Netherlands, carries a piece in the Volume 14, no. 2 issue, by Massimo Introvigne on “Reginald W. Machell (1854–1927): Blavatsky’s Child, British Symbolist, American Artist”:

Reginald Willoughby Machell (1854–1927) was a promising young artist from a prominent family in North-West England when he was introduced to Madame Blavatsky in 1886. Machell joined the Theosophical Society, abandoned his academic style and decided to devote his life to creating a didactic art aimed at illustrating Blavatsky’s doctrines. When the Theosophical Society split after Blavatsky’s death, Machell sided with the American faction led by William Q. Judge and later by Katherine Tingley. In 1900, the artist moved to Lomaland, Tingley’s Theosophical colony in California, where he remained for the next 27 years of his life. He continued to paint Theosophical subjects and to write articles on the relationship between Theosophy and the arts. He also emerged as a successful wood carver and as a gifted teacher of younger Theosophical painters, who formed the so called Lomaland Art Colony. Best remembered for a single iconic Theosophical painting, The Path, Machell was extremely popular for several decades among all branches of the Theosophical movement. At the same time, his almost exclusive focus on Theosophy led to his marginalization in wider artistic circles, although other teachers recruited by Tingley for the Lomaland art school, including Maurice Braun (1877–1941), eventually managed to be accepted by the American art establishment.

An indication of the artist's popularity among Theosophists can be seen in this stained glass window version of Machell’s “The Path” in the Library of the Leeds Theosophical Society in England.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blavatsky and Finland

Pekka Ervast's Rosicrucian jewel
The name of Pekka Ervast (1875-1934) may not be well-known outside Finland but at one time he was regarded as the Rudolf Steiner of Scandinavia. He joined the Theosophical Society in 1895 and soon became known to Col. Olcott and Annie Besant through his work for the movement there. When the Finnish Section of the Theosophical Society came into being in 1907 he was elected its first General Secretary. The connection was not to last; by 1920 he had left the organization and founded a Rosicrucian Society where he was to devote the rest of his life.

English readers may be familiar with his play on the life of H. P. Blavatsky: “H.P.B.” Four Episodes from the Life of the Sphinx of the XIXth Century translated into English and published by the Theosophical Publishing House of London in 1933. The website Lux Fennica which deals with all things Finnish and occult carries the following quote on its header:

June 1903: Pekka Ervast met in Stockholm Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s associate for many years. She told him about Blavatsky’s prediction concerning Finland. “Ground seems to give way under everyone’s feet and darkness will reign in the whole world. Let the Theosophists then remember to turn their gazes towards the North, for the light will come from Finland. Thus spake Madame Blavatsky.” 

It should be noted that over time Blavatsky has been cited as saying similar things about the Irish and the Spanish.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blavatsky News

*   The site Honor and Magic reprints an October 1874 letter from Blavatsky that starts her Collected Writings in English. The letter titled “Marvellous Spirit Manifestations” was published in the October 30, 1874, New York Daily Graphic. It lists the different materialized spirit forms she saw while at the Eddy mediums in Vermont, which led to her meeting Col. Olcott. Whether they were actually spirits of the dead was another thing, as she noted when pasting this article in her Scrapbook. The site has recently put up a guide to another American woman Theosophist of whom more needs to be known, Mrs. Josephine Cables Aldrich, “an author, editor, and philanthropist prominent in the early Theosophical Movement,” who led the movement from Rochester New York, and published one of the earliest occult magazines in America, The Occult Word. Copies of this scarce publication can now be read at the The International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals (IAPSOP) database.

*   The Montreal Theosophy Project has been charting the development of the recent rise of the recognition of  Blavatsky’s influence: “By the 1980s, with the publication of the entirety of her complete works, spearheaded by Boris de Zirkoff, HPB's reputation was on the upswing.  In 1985, a serious historical research project, the Theosophical History journal begins publication. Michael Gomes’ The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement in 1987 arguably brings a more objective and accurate level of research to theosophical publications. His 2009 Penguin Books abridgement of The Secret Doctrine  made a key Blavatsky work accessible to a wider audience.”

*   The Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK gives some background on an obscure female swami, “Maji”, whom Olcott and Blavatsky met in Benares at the end of 1879, and who offered independent testimony about the Masters. “Although apparently fairly well known in certain circles during her lifetime (1826-1898), she is very much unknown today, even in India and amongst the Hindus of Benares, now named Varanasi.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Illustrating Blavatsky’s Cosmogenesis

The site HIEROPHAGE carries an appreciation on September 3 of Ron Regé, Jr.’s new project: illustrating the stanzas of Dzyan from Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine. Regé says he was inspired by the Michael Gomes abridgement of the book to create his picture of The Secret Doctrine. He concludes that

The fact that HPB and Theosophy in general isn’t more well known today is obviously a result of our Patriarchal age. There aren’t many female founders of spiritual thought, in ancient or in modern times, are there? The rumors and accusations and misrepresentations of Madame Blavatsky and her followers are the same sort that are made towards any founder of a system of belief. I think Madame Blavatsky wasn’t able to rise above it because she was a woman, and I think Theosophy ended up on the margins because of the threat of its inclusiveness. As well as anyone with any sort of new age beliefs, aspects of metaphysical science appeal to certain christians, as well as some scientific atheists. 

Appreciating Madame Blavatsky as the matriarch of these ideas, and increasing interest in basic Theosophical thoughts might be a helpful and unifying goal for our struggling society. There are texts and systems and language we can use to help us talk to each other about these new ideas regarding consciousness. It’s Theosophy. 

The volume *COSMOGENESIS* is 40 pages / 5.5x8.5” / xerox on yellow paper A signed and numbered edition of the first printing of 125 copies is available here.