Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye


London Review of Books, July 5, 2012, has a long and detailed article on Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) by Perry Anderson, entitled “Gandhi Centre Stage.” It includes the following allusion:

“The composition of Gandhi’s faith, [Kathryn] Tidrick [author of Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life (2007)] has shown, was born of a cross between a Jain-inflected Hindu orthodoxy and late Victorian psychomancy [‘occult communication between souls’], the world of Madame Blavatsky, theosophy, the planchette and the Esoteric Christian Union. The two were not unconnected, as garbled ideas from the former — karma, reincarnation, ascetic self-perfection, fusion of the soul with the divine — found occult form in the latter. Little acquainted with the Hindu canon itself in his early years, Gandhi reshaped it through the medium of Western spiritualisms of the period.”

The Esoteric Christian Union was an organization founded in 1891 by Edward Maitland, coauthor with Anna Kingsford of The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ. She was president and he vice president of the British Theosophical Society for a while. Gandhi learned about Theosophy and met both H. P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant when he was in London. He also became friends with Archibald and Bertram Keightley, and read Blavatsky’s The Voice of Silence, which influenced his work in South Africa. Gandhi became a representative for the Esoteric Christian Union in South Africa.


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