Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Concerning the Spiritual

CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL: THE INFLUENCE OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY ON AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS, 1890-1934 by Jenny McFarlane, Australian Scholarly Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012, pp. xx + 205.

The influence of Theosophy on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art is well-known, having been documented extensively by Wassily Kandinsky in Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1914), Sixten Ringbom in The Sounding Cosmos (1970), and elsewhere, including by myself in “Art, Kandinsky, and Self-Transformation,” Theosophist 125 (September 2004): 447–50. However, what this book does is to trace that influence specifically in Australia. It does so by presenting a Theosophical view of art as “an alternative tradition of visuality.” That is, in this Theosophical view, art is not a representation of external substance, but rather of internal meaning. The book is academic (in several senses of that term) and thorough. It is a valuable addition to the literature, although not intended for the general reader.