Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Raj Patel and Benjamin Creme

Morton Dilkes – USA

Benjamin Crème                                    Raj Patel

The connection between Theosophy and contemporary culture is often surprising and sometimes weird. A recent example is attested by an article in the New Yorker magazine of November 29, 2010, entitled “Are You the Messiah?” The focus of the article is Raj Patel, a naturalized U.S. citizen, economist, and scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, who is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and more recently The Value of Nothing, a New York Times best-seller book. He is a left-leaning activist who has criticized the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and United Nations.

Read more: Raj Patel and Benjamin Creme

The Big Bang and Theosophy

Astrophysicists generally hold that our universe began with a Big Bang, before which nothing existed. That would make our universe a unique event in cosmic history. Now, however, two mathematicians (British Roger Penrose and Armenian V. G. Gurzadyan) have argued that cosmic microwave radiation includes a pattern of concentric circles, which they explain as possibly gravitational waves resulting from the collisions of supersized black holes existing before the Big Bang. In a New York Times report they propose “that our universe may ‘be but one aeon in a (perhaps unending) succession of such aeons.’ What we think of as our ‘universe’ may simply be one link in a chain of universes, each beginning with a big bang and ending in a way that sends detectable gravitational waves into the next universe.” The Times report concludes that our “universe — however we define it — . . . contains more wonders than we can begin to imagine.” That is essentially a Theosophical view of the cosmos.

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The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


PLOT SUMMARY: Harry, feeling neglected and resentful at Privet Drive with no news of Voldemort or the Order of the Phoenix, is attacked by a pair of Dementors, which he drives off with his Patronus. Then he is taken to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix at No. 12, Grimmauld Place. On his return to Hogwarts, he finds that Dolores Umbridge is Dark Arts instructor but teaches only theory, without practice. She eventually takes over the running of Hogwarts. So Harry begins secretly to instruct a group of students called "Dumbledore's Army" in practical self-defense. Harry has a vision that he is inside a snake biting Arthur Weasley, who ends in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, where Harry and the Weasleys visit over Christmas. Prof. Snape is supposed to teach Harry Occulmency, to prevent Voldemort from invading his mind. But the lessons go badly until Harry accidentally gets access to Snape's memories of his father' boorish behavior as a young man; Snape refuses to continue the lessons. Hermione gets an interview with Harry published, which alerts people to the facts of Voldemort's return. Hagrid returns from a trip unsuccessfully to enlist the giants on Dumbledore's side, but he brings back with him his half-brother, the giant Grawp. Harry has another vision that Voldemort is torturing Sirius in the Department of Mysteries, but it is an illusion planted by Voldemort to trick Harry into coming there, so he can be forced to retrieve a prophecy concerning himself and Voldemort that the latter wants to know. Harry goes and is trapped by the Death Eaters. A band of the Order of the Phoenix, including Sirius, come to rescue him, but Sirius is killed by his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. After Dumbledore gets Harry back to Hogwarts, he explains that the prophecy means that either Harry or Voldemort must kill the other. But that is not predetermination; rather it is a consequence of Voldemort's having identified Harry as the one of whom the ambiguous prophecy spoke, thus forcing Harry to respond or be killed himself.

QUEST: Harry's general quest in this book is to go through his Dark Night of the Soul and particularly to learn what secret weapon Voldemort wants (the prophecy) and why Voldemort has been trying to kill him.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

The Shocking Bolter: Lady Idina Sackville

Catherine Wathen – USA

Theosophy was highly influential in the early twentieth century among upper-class Britons. That influence is alluded to in a new biography of one of the most scandalous members of the time and class: Lady Idina Sackville (1893-1955). The biography, by Lady Idina’s great-granddaughter, Frances Osborne, is entitled The Bolter (New York: Knopf, 2009). The title is an allusion to the fact that Lady Idina had five husbands from whom she bolted whenever a new male caught her fancy. Note that it was not Idina who was influenced by Theosophy, but her mother and some others of her kith and kin!

Ms Osborne is unfortunately badly informed about Theosophy and so makes a number of wrong generalizations about it. Those errors have, in the interest of faithful quotation, been left in the following extracts from the book. But readers of Theosophy Forward will know that, pace Ms Osborne, Theosophy is not “a religion,” but a spiritual philosophy; it is not a “cult” (which is a dismissive term for religious bodies one does not like); it is considerably more than a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism; and it certainly has nothing to say about a “God” that one can communicate with. A number of simple factual errors have been omitted from the following quotations or simply passed over to save the need for correcting them. But here, with various of its misconceptions and factual errors, are some of the book’s observations about Theosophy among the flappers of the Jazz age:

“[Idina’s mother] Muriel then took to a new religion. Her mother had brought her up to pursue two things: the vote for women and scientific knowledge. Muriel now made her own mark by breaking away from the latter dramatically. She took up with an Irishwoman called Annie Besant, who was in the process of attempting to overturn almost every convention she encountered. Besant, who had long been separated from her own husband, had been an advocate of Marxism, then social democracy. She had organized a groundbreaking strike by the young women working for the match manufacturer Bryant and May, in which she succeeded in helping them improve their pay and conditions. She had then been put on trial for publishing a book advocating birth control. She was freed on appeal, but the court case had lost her her own children; full custody of them was given to her estranged husband. She then published a book, The Law of Population. This also argued for birth control, and declared that abundant recreational sex within a marriage was healthy for women.

Read more: The Shocking Bolter: Lady Idina Sackville

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

PLOT SUMMARY: Toward the end of Harry's usual miserable summer with the Dursleys on Privet Drive, he is rescued by the Weasleys, who take him to their home and then to the Quidditch World Cup. That night after the game, a “Dark Mark” appears in the sky: a green skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth, which is Voldemort’s ominous sign. A week later, Harry, Hermione, and the Weasley students return to Hogwarts, where they meet Mad-Eye Moody (or at least someone who looks like him) as the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, and Dumbledore announces that Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament with the other two largest European schools of Wizardry: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. A champion is to be chosen from each school by the magical Goblet of Fire, which produces the names of Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, and Cedric Diggory . . . but then unexpectedly, a fourth—Harry Potter—who is both underage and the second champion from Hogwarts. His name was slipped into the Goblet by the false Mad-Eye Moody (really a minion of Voldemort's) as part of a plot to trap Harry. The Tournament's first task requires each champion to
retrieve a golden egg from a clutch of real eggs between the legs of a nesting dragon. Harry flies on his broom around the fire-breathing dragon until he can get the golden egg. The second task is for each of the champions to enter the Hogwarts lake and find in its depths the merpeople, who have taken four persons that the champions would “sorely miss”—for Harry, Ron. Harry reaches the four hostages first, but is unwilling to take Ron and leave the others behind, so he is the last to return, but he gets points for his unselfish concern for others. The third task is for the champions to find their way through a maze past magical dangers and seize the Triwizard Cup, thereby winning the Tournament. Harry and Cedric together pass the last danger and agree to take the Cup together, creating a tie. But when they do so, the Cup turns out to have been transformed by the false Mad-Eye Moody into a magical device that transports them to the Riddle family graveyard, where Cedric is killed and Harry's blood is used to re-embody Voldemort, who challenges Harry to a wizard duel. Their wands (which have the same magical core, a tail feather from the phoenix Fawkes) connect and form a golden web-dome around the two antagonists, shutting everyone else out. From Voldemort's wand the images of those he has killed emerge, including Harry's parents, who instruct Harry when to break the connection and escape by using the Cup to return to Hogwarts and eventually to the Dursley's for the summer.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

The Dalai Lama and the Theosophical Society

Compiled by: S. T. Adelante

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together

Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso – Tibet, India, and the world

[The following passage from page 6 of the Dalai Lama's book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together (New York : Doubleday, 2010) is by courtesy of Dennis Delorme of Canada, who got it from David Reigle of the USA. The sentiments expressed here were also in an article in the New York Times of May 25, 2010, entitled "Many Faiths, One Truth]

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Looking back to this trip in 1956, I realize that my visit to the Theosophical Society in Chennai (then Madras) left a powerful impression. There I was first directly exposed to people, and to a movement, that attempted to bring together the wisdom of the world's spiritual traditions as well as science. I felt among the members a sense of tremendous openness to the world's great religions and a genuine embracing of pluralism. When I returned to Tibet in 1957, after more than three months in what was a most amazing country for a young Tibetan monk, I was a changed man. I could no longer live in the comfort of an exclusivist standpoint that takes Buddhism to be the only true religion. When tragic political circumstances in 1959 forced me into exile in India to live as a refugee, I was paradoxically offered the freedom to deepen my personal journey of understanding and engagement with the world's faith traditions.


Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part Two

Kathleen F. Hall - Canada

[Part 1 of this article traced the life and work of the major Canadian artist Lawren Harris from socially conscious urban cityscapes through lyrical landscapes to transcendent, mystical interpretations of the land. This part examines Theosophical influences that led Harris to abstraction in a process that mirrors his own evolution into spiritual realization.]

The influence of the spiritual writings and paintings of Kandinsky can also been seen in Harris’s work. Harris read Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art and understood Kandinsky’s references to Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant’s book Thought-Forms, which Harris had read as well (Adamson). That book identifies colours with symbolic meanings based on states of consciousness that descend from spirit to matter: yellows, higher intelligence; blue, spirituality; and pale azure, union with the divine. Thought-Forms describes a radiating vibration that people emit when formulating a thought, with which colours combine to create a distinct form visible to clairvoyants. Adamson (p. 133) quotes from Thought-Forms to describe how these forms relate to art:

"In many respects, a work of art was a materialized thought-form of the artist, containing a spiritual significance and adhering to the three principles underlying all thought forms: 1. Quality of thought determines color. 2. Nature of thought determines form. 3. Definiteness of thought determines clearness of outline."

Read more: Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part Two

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