Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Nicholas Roerich: The Treasures Within

Kathleen F. Hall – Canada

Nicholas Roerich was a spiritually inspired artist whose visionary paintings depict vistas beyond our usual perception of human reality. Roerich’s paintings are alive with the color and light of other worldly realms allowing us to encounter visually that which we may have imagined, grasped, or somehow inherently recognize as the spiritual essence behind the veil of our unseeing eyes; Roerich’s paintings seem intent to inspire, educate and reveal the glorious mysteries of the ancient wisdoms in the landscapes of our souls.


Svetoslav Roerich. Nicholas Roerich with Sacred Casket.
(1928)
Tempera on canvas. 
Private assembly, USA.
http://www.tanais.info/

Nicholas Roerich was born October 9, 1874, in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father was a liberal-minded and well-respected lawyer whose many friends included scientists, scholars, and artists.  These family friends would often visit the Roerich household and would engage in lively discussions that left an impression on young Nicholas. Roerich’s grandfather, Fyodor Ivanovich Roerich also lived with the family until his death at 105; he had a large collection of Masonic symbols that fascinated Nicholas and his brothers, and these too left an impression on Nicholas that would later be revealed through his life’s work.


Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
http://www.roerich-izvara.ru/eng/vid.htm

Read more: Nicholas Roerich: The Treasures Within

“English Book of the Dead”: Tibetan or Theosophical?

[A friend, Thomas Wittenberg, sent us an article from the journal Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly (summer 2011). It is a review of a new edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz; the editor of the new version (Princeton University Press, 2011; $19.95. 192 pp.) is Donald S. Lopez, Jr.; the Buddhadharma reviewer of the new edition is Roger Jackson, a professor of Asian Studies and Religion at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.]

The Tibetan text Bardo Thodol (“Liberation through Hearing While in the Intermediate State”) was first published in English in 1927 by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, characterized as an “American traveler, scholar, and Theosophist.” The editor of the new version calls the well-known and influential English version, somewhat surprisingly, “not really Tibetan,” “not really a book,” and “not really about death.” The book had significant influence on the Beatles, movies like Jacob’s Ladder, TV shows like Twin Peaks, and respected authors on death like Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross and Raymond Moody. However, the editor argues that it is not really about death because it focuses on tantric practices used by the living, not really a book because it is based on only a fragment of the original, and not really Tibetan because it was inspired by and focuses on a Theosophical view of reality. Nevertheless, the reviewer concedes that the English book “has indeed become a ‘timeless world spiritual classic,’ whose influence will continue to be felt despite all we now know about its composition and contents.”

Read more: “English Book of the Dead”: Tibetan or Theosophical?

Recent Periodical References to Notable Persons and Theosophy

John Algeo –USA
H. G. Wells and H. P. Blavatsky



H. G. Wells

The New York Times (May 8, 2011) includes a review of a new book on survival after death: The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death, by John Gray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The reviewer, Clancy Martin, a professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, writes: “[H. G.] Wells’s great fantasies charged the batteries of mystically inclined intellectuals like Madame Blavatsky, G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky and especially [Maxim] Gorky.” It is clear that Professor Martin is not a historian because that statement is chronologically impossible. Blavatsky’s life dates are 1831 to 1891; H. G. Wells’s are 1866 to 1946, and he did not begin to publish until 1895, four years after HPB died, so any influence of Wells on Blavatsky is an impossibility. The reverse, influence of Blavatsky on Wells, is, however, a distinct possibility. Even a philosopher should be able to distinguish properly between a cause and a consequence.

Read more: Recent Periodical References to Notable Persons and Theosophy

The Influence of Jacob Böhme’s Theosophical Ideas on the ‘Farbenlehre’ (Theory of Colors) by Philipp Otto Runge

Melanie Öhlenbach – Germany

[This essay was first published in Masonic and Esoteric Heritage: New Perspectives for Art and Heritage Policies. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the OVN, Foundation for the Advancement of Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in the Netherlands, October 20-21, 2005. Ed. A. Kroon, M. Bax, J. Snoek. The Hague, Netherlands: OVN Foundation, 2005. It is reproduced here in a revised form.]

Melanie Öhlenbach studied Study of Religions and German Literature at the Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany, and Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam and graduated in June 2007 (M.A). She works as a freelance journalist in Bremen, Germany, today. This paper is based on her article “Lilie, Licht und Gottes Weisheit. Philipp Otto Runge und Jacob Boehme” in Aries, Journal for the study of Western Esotericism 5 (2005) 2 (Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden).

Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810) is considered as one of the most important artists of early German Romanticism. Even though his ideas of a new artistic direction were not unique to his time, he formulated a distinctive spiritual theory to create Wahre Kunst (True Art) and worked all his life to put these ambitions into practice.


Philipp Otto Runge

Read more: The Influence of Jacob Böhme’s Theosophical Ideas on the ‘Farbenlehre’ (Theory of Colors) by...

Understanding the Functions of an Occult Space

Helmut Zander – Germany

[This essay was first published in Masonic and Esoteric Heritage: New Perspectives for Art and Heritage Policies. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the OVN, Foundation for the Advancement of Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in the Netherlands, October 20-21, 2005. Ed. A. Kroon, M. Bax, J. Snoek. The Hague, Netherlands: OVN Foundation, 2005. It is reproduced here in a revised form.]

Helmut Zander is Privtatdozent for modern history at the Humboldt University in Berlin and is heading a project on the religious topography in Northrhine-Westphalia at the Ruhr University in Bochum.

In the years before World War I, Theosophists of the German Branch of the Theosophical Society Adyar began building rooms and buildings for the celebration of their arcane rites. The most famous edifice of these was the Johannesbau in Dornach (in Switzerland, near Basel). It was officially regarded as a stage for Rudolf Steiner’s mystery plays, as a platform for eurhythmy (which is a Theosophical form of dancing), and as an auditorium for Steiner’s lectures.

However, until recently, the real functions of this building were unknown. These secret functions are the subject of my essay.¹

Read more: Understanding the Functions of an Occult Space

Art, Theosophy, and Kandinsky

John Algeo – USA


The influence of Theosophy on modern culture is a well-kept secret, even from many Theosophists. To be sure, certain influences have been exaggerated. For example, the story that Albert Einstein kept a copy of The Secret Doctrine on his desk, though often repeated, is not supported by reliable documentation. Nevertheless, certain influences are beyond question, for example, those that Theosophy had on modern art, notable that of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century and the founder of modern abstract art.

Art historians sometimes assert that abstract art is nonrepresentational—depicting nothing, being just a pattern of colors and shapes. That, however, was not Kandinsky view. He believed that his art was esoteric. His abstract paintings certainly did not represent the outer or exoteric form of things; they were intended to represent in inner side of reality. Kandinsky thought such art is a way to transform oneself—both the artist who produces it and the viewer who contemplates it. In arriving at that conclusion, Kandinsky was greatly influenced by Theosophy.

Read more: Art, Theosophy, and Kandinsky

Theosophy and Architecture (part 2)

Marty Th. Bax – The Netherlands 

Theosophy and Architecture: K. P. C. de Bazel’s Dutch Trading Company Building in Amsterdam.

[This essay was first published in Masonic and Esoteric Heritage: New Perspectives for Art and Heritage Policies. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the OVN, Foundation for the Advancement of Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in the Netherlands, October 20-21, 2005. Ed. A. Kroon, M. Bax, J. Snoek. The Hague, Netherlands: OVN Foundation, 2005. It is reproduced here in a revised form.]

Theosophy and Architecture (part 2)

Chaos

On the exterior, lines are expressed in a subtler form, but before I elaborate on this, I first want to discuss the overall design. The building rests on a foundation of coarsely cut, greyish-green stone, called syenite (a granite-like igneous stone) from Hessen, Germany. De Bazel became acquainted with this type of stone through Lauweriks in 1912, when he visited his friend Lauweriks at his inauguration as the new head of the German section of the Theosophical Society. (Lauweriks thus was successor to Rudolf Steiner, who had just withdrawn to found his Anthroposophical Society.) This dark foundation of syenite can Theosophically be explained as ‘dense matter’. To the Theosophist this is the first and ‘lowest’ of the three main stages of cosmic evolution. It is chaos, the pre-mineral, undifferentiated cosmic state of matter from which all forms emerge.

Optically the foundation forms a solid, immovable block of granite although, apart from the entrance, two small shops penetrate the façade. These shops were not De Bazel’s idea, by the way. They were forced upon him by both the directors and the municipality. The directors wanted to have small cashier shops and the municipality thought the façade would appear more inviting to the public passing by. But they never served the purpose in the end. These are the parts of the façade which are now under much dispute between the City of Amsterdam and the Cultural Heritage Office.

Read more: Theosophy and Architecture (part 2)

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