Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

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 (Lauweriks thus was successor to Rudolf Steiner, who had just withdrawn to found his Anthroposophical Society.)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)

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

PLOT SUMMARY: Harry reaches his seventeenth birthday, the age at which wizards come of age and after which his mother’s magic can no longer protect him in the Dursley’s home, so he leaves for a safe house of one of his fellow wizards. As he flies away, Voldemort attacks him, but Harry escapes. Ron, Hermione, and Harry get bequests from Dumbledore’s will: respectively, a deluminator (which turns lights off and on), a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the snitch Harry caught in his first Quidditch game. Voldemort takes over the Ministry of Magic, destroying the protection of the safe house, so the three friends have to flee. They hunt for the missing Horcruxes, which must be destroyed before Voldemort can be defeated. They find one, the Slytherin locket, but have no way to destroy it, so they take it with them on their search for the others. The locket, however, affects their moods, and Ron deserts Harry and Hermione, who continue their search until Harry discovers the sword of Gryffindor at the bottom of a lake, and Ron (guided by the deluminator) returns to help Harry retrieve it and uses it to destroy the locket. In Hermione’s copy of the Tales, they find the story of three brothers who won from Death the three Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, most powerful of all wizard wands; the Resurrection Stone, which can summon the spirits of the dead; and the Cloak of Invisibility, the cloak Harry’s father left him. The three are captured by Voldemort’s men but escape after Harry has disarmed Draco Malfoy of his wand. Then Voldemort, having learned that the Elder Wand is in Dumbledore’s tomb, retrieves it. The three companions steal another of the Horcruxes, the Hufflepuff cup, from Gringott’s bank, and Hermione destroys it with a basilisk fang. They return to Hogwarts and retrieve another Horcrux, the Ravenclaw diadem, which is destroyed accidentally by Draco’s companion Crabbe with a magical fire spell. Harry learns that he himself if a Horcrux and goes to face Voldemort, accompanied by the spirits of his parents and teachers whom he invokes with the Resurrection Stone, which was hidden inside the snitch Dumbledore left him. Voldemort cannot kill Harry because he used Harry’s blood for his own resurrection, but Voldemort does kill the fragment of his soul inside Harry, thus freeing Harry from being a Horcrux. In the following battle at Hogwarts, Nevil Longbottom slays the serpent Nagini with the Gryffindor sword, thus destroying the last Horcrux and removing Voldemort’s remaining protection. Voldemort tries to kill Harry with the Elder Wand, but Harry is its proper owner now because its ownership had passed from Dumbledore to Draco, when Draco disarmed the headmaster in the tower, and from Draco to Harry, when Harry disarmed Draco. Voldemort’s killing curse rebounds on himself, and he dies from his own magic. Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny have married and have three children. Ron and Hermione have married and have two children. They have all gathered on the platform for the Hogwarts Express train to see their school-aged children off to Hogwarts.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Cities and Civilization

Morton Dilkes – USA

Cities are the source of civilization. The truth of that statement is attested by the very etymology of the word civilization, whose stem is the Latin word civis, meaning “city.”

Madam Blavatsky also bore witness to the connection between cities and civilization in The Secret Doctrine (2:198), where she wrote of the first physical humanity on our planet: “The whole human race was at that time of ‘one language and of one lip.’ This did not prevent the last two Sub-Races of the Third Race from building cities, and sowing far and wide the first seeds of civilization under the guidance of their divine instructors.” Earlier, in Isis Unveiled (2:508), she had referred to the mythic figures of Hermes and Cain as those who “build cities, civilize and instruct mankind in the arts.” And later, in an 1892 article in Lucifer (CW 13:100), she noted: “Some Homeric heroes also, when they are said, like Laomedon, Priam’s father, to have built cities, were in reality establishing the Mysteries and introducing the Wisdom-Religion in foreign lands.”

Read more: Cities and Civilization

The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Prof. Abditus Questor

Book 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

PLOT SUMMARY: Narcissa Black Malfoy is frantic with worry about her son, Draco, whom Voldemort has given the task of killing Dumbledore; so she gets Snape to take the Unbreakable Vow: to carry out the deed himself if it seems Draco will fail, and Snape cannot refuse because doing so would blow his cover as a counterspy. Dumbledore uses Harry as an inducement to recruit Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts as a teacher of Potions. Harry has to use a textbook from the Potions classroom, which has elaborate, innovative, and very successful marginalia by its former owner, the "Half-Blood Prince" (who we eventually learn was Snape, so called after his mother's maiden name, "Prince"). Harry learns from Dumbledore that Voldemort's mother was Merope Gaunt, the daughter of Marvolo Gaunt, the last direct descendant of Slytherin; she used a love potion to attract a handsome muggle, Tom Riddle, but was abandoned by him before she died bearing his child, Tom Marvolo Riddle (Jr.), anagrammed as "I am Lord Voldemort." The child was raised in an orphanage, whence Dumbledore brings him to Hogwarts. There Tom learned from Slughorn that a Horcrux is an object in which a wizard can hide a fragment of his soul, which is fragmented when the wizard commits a murder, which rips the soul apart. The wizard cannot be killed as long as any of the Horcruxes still exist. Voldemort (we eventually learn) deliberately splits his soul into seven parts, with six Horcruxes: his school-days diary (destroyed in book 1), a Gaunt family ring (destroyed by Dumbledore in book 6), a Slytherin locket, a Hufflepuff cup, a Ravenclaw diadem, and the serpent Nagini (all destroyed in book 7 by, respectively, Ron, Hermione, a magical Fiendfire started by Crabbe, and Neville Longbottom). In addition, Voldemort unintentionally and unknowingly also split his soul when he killed James and Lily Potter and attacked the infant Harry, making Harry a seventh Horcrux, which explains some of his abilities (such as talking with serpents) as well as his mind connection with Voldemort. Dumbledore, who is dying from injuries received when he destroyed the Horcrux ring and from poison he drank while attempting to recover the Horcrux locket, is disarmed by Draco, who cannot bring himself to commit the murder, so Snape (after a plea by Dumbledore to do it), kills the headmaster. Dumbledore's body is encased in a marble tomb at Hogwarts.

Read more: The Ancient Wisdom of Harry Potter

Theosophy and Architecture (part 1)

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 1)

Introduction

The building of the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (Dutch Trade Company) (1919-1926) is a long-time favourite of mine. When I started my PhD research on Theosophy and Art in the Netherlands in 1987, I came across this building in the literature on Karel de Bazel (1869-1923, a Theosophical architect and designer whose most famous work is the subject of this article). I was struck by the peculiarity of it, not only by itself but also with the vision and total work of the architect. It is curiously un-Western in appearance, a pleasure to the eye because of its fine sculpturing, but monolithic in appearance and emphatically turned inward. I was sure from the start that there was more to this building than the literature suggested.

Read more: Theosophy and Architecture (part 1)

Luther Burbank: Theosophical Horticulturist

John Algeo – USA

Luther Burbank (1849–1926) was doubtless the world’s most productive and innovative horticulturist. He developed more than 800 new plant varieties, including the Shasta daisy, the Freestone peach, and the Russet potato, which is now the most prominent in the world, used for example to make McDonald’s french fries. He was a friend of Thomas Edison and of Henry Ford, combining the inventive and productive geniuses of those two in his botanical work, detailed in a recent biography: The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants, by Jane S. Smith (New York: Penguin Press, 2009).

Burbank may have known nothing about the Theosophical Society, but he was Theosophical in his attitudes and his work procedures. He was also a friend of Paramahansa Yogananda, who says in his Autobiography of a Yogi that Burbank’s “heart was fathomlessly deep, long acquainted with humility, patience, sacrifice” and that Burbank believed the secret of improved plant breeding was love. Yogananda’s autobiography was dedicated “to Luther Burbank, an American Saint.”

Read more: Luther Burbank: Theosophical Horticulturist

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