Sunday, September 25, 2011

Einstein and Blavatsky

The Hill, a congressional newspaper published daily when the U.S. Congress is in session, carries a piece by Bernie Quigley titled “Einstein Revisited.” The writer wonders whether recent challenges to Einstein’s theory of the speed of light may end up challenging the world’s god-like faith in him, adding:

Rumor from his niece had it that he got it all from Madame Blavatsky and her book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888, incomprehensible to all but the best mathematicians. “There is no religion higher than truth,” the Russian savant wrote in her introduction.

Which would be an excellent slogan for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

Einstein’s familiarity with Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine remains to be decisively proved. The rest of the piece can be read here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Theosophical History

The journal Theosophical History has released its issues for January and April 2011. Vol. XV, No. 1, for January 2011 has some reminiscences by Stephan Hoeller on Ernest Wood in the 1950s. Michael Gomes contributes Col. Olcott’s annotations to an 1892 translation of Blavatsky’s Caves and Jungles of Hindostan, containing his observations on the events narrated. Marc Demarest comments on a November 13, 1875 newspaper article about the Theosophical Society stressing its occult interests. Of interest to us is the newspaper’s assertion that “Madame Blavatsky says that she saw in India marvels that convinced her beyond the possibility of doubt that magic was a genuine art, and that unearthly beings can be invoked by men.” This would make it one of her earliest statements about being in India. The volume closes with reviews of books related to René Guénon.

Vol. XV, No. 2 for January 2011, includes a stinging reply to Stephan Hoeller’s memories of Ernest Wood, an article on “Frank Lloyd Wright, Theosophy and Modern Conceptions of Space,” and reviews by John Patrick Deveney and John Algeo. Issues can be ordered here from Theosophical History, a worthy enterprise deserving of support by all those who have an interest in Mme. Blavatsky.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Dharmapala Anniversary

The Sunday Times newspaper in Sri Lanka carries a lengthy biographical sketch on September 18 honouring Anagarika Dharmapala’s 147th birth anniversary, which fell on September 17. Titled “I have work to do in bringing the peace of the Buddha westward,” it notes the influence of Blavatsky on his life:

When Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky revisited Sri Lanka, enroute to India in 1884, Anagarika had already expressed to Madame Blavatsky his desire to study theosophy and occultism from Himalyan spiritualists.

His father and elders objected but Madame Blavatsky persuaded them to give their consent. Once in Adyar in India, she also convinced the young Anagarika, that rather than studying theosophy and occultism, learning the Pali language would enhance his future aspirations.

This is followed by an equally eulogistic piece announcing “Today’s generation should honour him for his contribution to Buddhist education,” both of which can be read here.

Dharmapala on stage at the 1893 Parliament of Religions
seated next to Swami Vivekananda

Blavatsky News

* The International Business Times of September 17 has an article about the proposed Passenger Terminal Building that will link Hong Kong and Shengzen in Mainland China. The writer says: Hong Kong and Shengzen are two leading cities growing with a common destiny. The two entities are related to one another and both incorporated under the People’s Republic of China, with borders defining geographic boundaries of political entities and legal jurisdictions. A symbol: Two major cities growing as one, and together becoming truly “the parts of a part.” There are no symbols, without a deep and philosophical meaning attached to them, “nothing could be preserved in human memory without some outward symbol.” (Madame Blavatsky).

* The Journal of World History for September 2011 has a study by Vahid Fozdar on the function of Freemasonry in India: “‘That Grand Primeval and Fundamental Religion’: The Transformation of Freemasonry into a British Imperial Cult.” Fozdar notes: The Historians of the Raj have usually given the role of validating Hinduism and other Indian religions—and, consequently, in contributing to Indian nationalism—to another Western organization: the Theosophical Society (TS), founded by Helena P. Blavatsky and Henry Olcott.

In light of recent research on the role of Protestant Christianity in the British Empire, this article explores the possibility that the British actually carried to India a “religion” besides Protestantism, something that mimicked a religion so closely that it could virtually serve as an alternative to Christianity for purposes of imperial consolidation—namely, Freemasonry. The article posits that British Freemasonry, although it emerged from a Christian environment, progressively de-Christianized itself in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and increasingly espoused a religious universalism, which in turn allowed it to serve as an institutionalized, quasi-official, and de facto “civil religion” for the British Empire in India.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Soul Inspirations

Wes Davis, editor of An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, reviews R.F. Foster’s new book on Yeats, Words Alone: Yeats and his inheritances, just published from Oxford University Press. Titled “Putting Sweet Sounds Together,” it appears in the September 1 Wall Street Journal. Davis says: “Mr. Foster, an Oxford historian whose two-volume biography of Yeats has become the standard of reference, is less occupied with tracking particular lines of literary influence in Words Alone than in capturing the mindset to which Yeats was heir. Along the way, however, he does highlight instances of direct inspiration.”

One of those inspirations being Mme. Blavatsky. “Yeats’s fascination with occult oddities like the psychic Madame Blavatsky and the secretive group known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn accords more easily with his nationalist ideals. What looks like a flight from history simply underlines the presence of the past.

Like most of his generation who were drawn to Theosophy, Yeats drew on a number of sources: William Blake and his visionary poetry, the fairy tales and ghost lore of rural Ireland, Mme. Blavatsky’s Theosophy with its stress on Eastern scriptures, the hermetic kabbalah and ritual of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the works of Plato and the Neoplatonists as translated by Thomas Taylor, G.R.S. Mead’s works on gnosticism, and more. Foster’s new book, Words Alone, “draws out themes which had particular resonance for Yeats, offering a new interpretation of the influences surrounding the young poet as he began to ‘hammer his thoughts into a unity.’”

Wes Davis’s review can be read here.

The Parable of the Sower

A reader suggests that Osho’s reference to Mme. Blavatsky as a seed-sower may have a grain of truth in it in spite of his flowery language. In the Preliminary Explanation to E.S. Instruction 3, speaking of her work, H.P.B. writes:

It is the parable of the Sower put once more into practice, and a fresh lesson to be derived from its new application. The seeds that fall into good ground will bring forth fruit an hundredfold, and thus repay in each case the waste of those seeds which will have fallen by the wayside, on stony hearts and among the thorns of human passions. It is the duty of the Sower to choose the best soil for the future crops. But he is held responsible only so far as that ability is directly connected with the failures, and that such are solely due to it; it is the Karma of the individuals who receive the seeds by asking for them, that will repay or punish those who fail in their duties to their HIGHER SELF.

They are simply the seeds in which lurks the potentiality of every truth, the germ of that progress which will be the heirloom of only the seventh perfect Race. A handful of such seeds was entrusted to me by the keepers of these truths, and it is my duty to sow them there, where I perceive a possibility of growth.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Osho on Blavatsky

The Times of India for August 15 carries this apocryphal tale about Mme. Blavatsky from a talk given by Osho (1931-1990):

Madame Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society used to carry two bags in her hands, always. Either going for a morning walk or traveling in a train—those two bags were always in her hands. And she was throwing something out of those bags—from the window while sitting in the train—onto the side of the train.

People would ask, “Why do you do this?”

She would say, “This has been my whole life's habit. These are seasonal flower seeds. I may not come back on this route again, but that does not matter. When the season comes and the flowers will blossom, thousands of people who pass every day in this line of railway trains will see those flowers, those colors. They will not know me. That does not matter.

“One thing is certain: I am making a few people happy somewhere. That much I know. It does not matter whether they know it or not. What matters is that I have been doing something which will make somebody happy. Some children may come and pluck a few flowers and go home. Some lovers may come and make garlands for each other. And without their knowing, I will be part of their love. And I will be part of the joy of children. And I will be part of those who will be simply passing by the path, seeing the beautiful flowers.”

Osho’s record on Blavatsky is mixed, sometimes he ridicules, sometimes he references her favorably as in the piece of folklore he transmits above.