Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part One

Kathleen F. Hall - Canada

"The power of beauty at work in man, as the artist has always known, is severe and exacting, and once invoked, will never leave him alone, until he brings his work and life into some semblance of harmony with its spirit" (Harris, "Theosophy and Art").

Lawren Stewart Harris is well-known as a Canadian landscape painter and the founder of the Group of Seven. He was also a Theosophist whose art was highly influenced by his spirituality. Over the course of his career, Harris engaged in seeking spiritual knowledge, which in turn caused his work to evolve and change from an objective interpretation of the Canadian landscape to a non-objective representation of the spiritual.

Harris was born October 23, 1885 in Brantford, Ontario, but as a youth moved to Toronto. While a young college student attending University College, the University of Toronto, he was recognized for his artistic ability and was encouraged to study art in Europe. Consequently, in 1904 he attended art school in Berlin. In Europe, Harris had three important encounters that were to have a great influence on his life and art. One was an exhibit of nineteenth-century German art, including works by Caspar David Friedrich, whose vast open landscapes provoked a heightened spiritual sensibility. Another was meeting Paul Thiem, a poet, philosopher, Theosophist, and regionalist painter, who quite possibly introduced him to a Theosophical art exhibit in Munich at this time (Adamson). The third was the opportunity to go on hiking and sketching trips into the mountains. These three events marked a course for the direction that Harris’s life would follow thereafter.

In 1908, Harris returned to Toronto and began going on sketching and painting trips into the Canadian wilderness. He also became a member of the Arts and Letters Club, where he developed a friendship with Roy Mitchell, a Theosophist. Mitchell, then secretary of the Toronto Theosophical Society, introduced Harris to the writings of Madam Blavatsky and eastern mysticism. Over the next few years Harris worked on his paintings and studied Theosophical and other spiritual writings.

In 1916, Harris enlisted in the army, following his brother Howard, who had enlisted a year earlier. During the next two years, Harris struggled with army life and suffered the deaths of his close friend, Tom Thomson (one of the original members of the Group of Seven), and of his brother, who had been killed in action. These losses caused Harris to suffer a nervous breakdown, which took him more than a year to recover from. During his recovery period, Harris immersed himself in painting, sketching trips into the mountains, and readings on spirituality and mysticism. Among the works he read were the Upanishads and books by Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge. He also read P. D. Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum and Richard Burke’s Cosmic Consciousness (which Ouspensky quoted). Harris thought that these two books belonged together because they were “illumined by the light of a radiant understanding . . . [and] here at last we have given us a reasoned, spiritual basis for our conviction that art is the beginning of wisdom into the realm of eternal life” (Adamson, 135-6). These books made a great impression on him and most likely propelled the shift in his artwork that would soon manifest.

Read more: Lawren Harris and Theosophy – Part One

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor


Book 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

PLOT SUMMARY: Harry Potter, the orphaned son of wizards, is left as an infant with muggle relatives who are not wizards and are afraid of wizardry. At the age of eleven, he is called to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, where his best friends are Ron and Hermione, he becomes a star player in Quidditch, a game something like basketball, but played in the air on flying brooms. He learns that his parents were killed by an evil wizard called Voldemort, whose spirit has possessed a Hogwarts teacher and seeks to find a hidden Philosopher's Stone, which can prolong Voldemort's life. Harry foils that effort to gain the stone and so ends his first school year.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Truth Seeker D. M. Bennett

John Algeo – USA

DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett (1818-82) was a Theosophist who deserves to be more widely known. Roderick Bradford is doing his best to see that Bennett’s accomplishments are better recognized. In 2006, Bradford published a 412-page biography: D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books). And in 2009, he produced an hour-long video program of the same title (available on both standard-definition DVD and high-definition Blu-Ray DVD from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Bennett was one of the best known and most effective free-thinkers of the nineteenth century. He fought for freedom of belief and expression against such supporters of the narrow ecclesiastical establishment of that time as Anthony Comstock (1844-1915). Comstock, a virulent “reformer” who got control of what could be legally sent through the U.S. mail, prosecuted Bennett and sent him to prison, ostensibly for circulating immoral literature (shades of Annie Besant) but actually for violating Comstock’s intolerant views. Even during Comstock’s life, his name became a new word in English: “Comstockery,” which the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines as “strict censorship of materials considered obscene [or] censorious opposition to alleged immorality (as in literature).” He was America’s most infamous book-burner.

Read more: Truth Seeker D. M. Bennett

Albert Schweitzer and Theosophy

Introduction compiled by S. T. Adelante

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, philosopher, musician, physician & humanitarian, 1875 - 1965

Albert Schweitzer was born on January 14, 1875, in Kaysersberg, a town near Strasbourg in Alsace, Germany (now part of France). Schweitzer has been called the greatest Christian of his time. He based his personal philosophy on a “reverence for life” and on a deep commitment to serve humanity through thought and action. For his many years of humanitarian efforts, Schweitzer was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize.

By the time he was twenty-one, Schweitzer had decided on the course for his life. For nine years he would dedicate himself to the study of science, music, and theology. Then he would devote the rest of his life to serving humanity directly. Before he was 30, he was a respected writer on theology, an accomplished organist, and an authority on the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. His book The Quest of the Historical Jesus ruffled some scholarly feathers when it was first published in 1905.  He was very courageous in his quest for truth!

Read more: Albert Schweitzer and Theosophy

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Introduction: Harry Potter and the Ancient Wisdom

Ancient Wisdom

The Ancient Wisdom is a way of looking at ourselves and our place in the universe that is probably as old as the human species. It is the inner side, the heart, of all the great religions, as well as of simpler forms of spiritual belief held by people around the world. It is likely inherent in us through our shared collective unconscious, perhaps implanted in our nascent human minds by those spiritual forebears of ours whom H.P.B. calls the Lords of the Flame.

The Ancient Wisdom has been communicated in many ways. It is sometimes set forth more or less straightforwardly, as in the philosophical discussions of the Hindu Upanishads or in Madam Blavatsky’s master work, The Secret Doctrine. But more often it is expressed by symbols and allegory, as in the Bhagavad-Gita or in works like The Legend of Bagger Vance (novel written by Steven Pressfield and movie directed by Robert Redford) or in the rituals of Freemasonry. The Ancient Wisdom can arise in any of us by dreams, reveries, or meditations, welling up spontaneously from the archetypes of the collective unconscious—as the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung posited. The Ancient Wisdom is also found in myths from cultures around the globe, as well as in those humble cousins of myth, folk tales or fairy stories, all springing from the collective unconscious.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Kandinsky and Theosophy

Catherine Wathen – USA
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), the father of modern abstract painting, is arguably the most famous and influential artist of recent times. He was also deeply influenced by Theosophy. In 2009, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, one of the chief repositories of his art, has staged a major exhibit of his work to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1959 opening of its building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Read more: Kandinsky and Theosophy

The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire

Morton Dilkes — USA

The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire (Cornell University Press, 2008) is a study of the cultural interchange between Buddhism and Victorian Britain. The author refers to this interchange as “hybridity,” which has an “unavoidable reference to miscegenation” (p. 8). The core of this 273-page book consists of four long chapters on “The Life of the Buddha in Victorian England,” “Buddhism and the Emergence of Late Victorian Hybrid Religions,” “Romances of Reincarnation, Karma, and Desire,” and “Buddhism and the Empire of the Self in Kipling’s Kim.” Theosophy and Theosophists are mention throughout the volume, but their central treatment is on pages 63-87 of the second chapter, on “Late Victorian Hybrid Religions.” Theosophy is the major subject of that chapter, the rest being background material on Spiritualism and a definition of the term “hybrid religion.”

Read more: The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire

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