Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Blavatsky and Egypt

“The mid-Victorian period showed a marked interest in spiritualism, the occult and esoteric thinking, and Egypt provided a magnificent backdrop. The larger-than-life Madame Blavatsky gave rise to the Theosophy movement, and it is no coincidence that her first volume was entitled Isis Unveiled.” John Ray, reviewing The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy (Oxford Univ. Press) in The Times Literary Supplement, Jan. 11, 2013, p. 8.

A Theosophical chemist and the touchy art collector. Hermann Hille vs. Albert C. Barnes

Marty Bax – The Netherlands

[This article appeared on the site Bax Art Concept & Services in October 2012. It is reproduced on Theosophy Forward and slightly edited with the kind permission of the author. Follow this link for more interesting articles and posts: http://baxpress.blogspot.nl/]

This story begins with a German organic chemist Hermann Hille. Hermann was born on June 7, 1871 in Mölln, Northern Germany, the city where the famous prankster Till Eulenspiegel presumably died in 1350. The young Hermann studied in Würzburg and received his PhD in 1900 in Heidelberg for his 42-page study Ueber das primäre und sekundäre symmetrische Hydrazid der Propionsäure und Valeriansäure. This title showed the twenty nine year old Herman to be very intelligent in his field and he was soon recruited by a young American chemist, Albert Coombs Barnes, who lured him into an adventure in the USA. It was to be a great adventure.

Read more: A Theosophical chemist and the touchy art collector. Hermann Hille vs. Albert C. Barnes

Mondrian and Theosophy – Part two


Robert P. Welsh – USA
[This article originally appeared in a book called The Spiritual Image in Modern Art containing a series of articles compiled by Kathleen J. Regier published by Quest Books. All images are purely educational illustrations to an academic review of the subject].


A young Piet Mondrian

If the Devotion comprised an attempt by Mondrian to give artistic expression to an esoteric, clairvoyant experience of "astral" colors appropriate to the preliminary stages of Theosophic initiation, then the Evolution triptych transports us to more exalted realms of occult knowledge. Above all, it is the title of this composition which betrays the ''higher spheres" to which its content relates. Evolution is no less than the basic tenet in the cosmological system predicated by Mme Blavatsky and, as such, replaces the Christian story of Creation as an explanation for how the world functions. This cosmology is analogous to Hindu and other mythologies which stress a perpetual cosmic cycle of creation, death, and regeneration. It also has much in common with the Darwinian scientific theory of evolution. Darwin's only essential mistake, in Blavatsky's opinion, was to substitute matter for spirit as the motivating force in the universe. In her own world view, matter, though constituting a necessary vehicle through which the world of spirit was to be approached, clearly stands second in importance to the latter phenomenon, from which, to be sure, matter is said to have been born. The resulting concept of spirit as the active and matter as the passive force in the world is, of course, deeply rooted in a wide range of mystical tradition reaching far back into the past, as the writings of Blavatsky profusely attempt to illustrate. 1  More to the point, this conceptual polarity was universally accepted as a cardinal doctrine throughout the Theosophic and other intellectually related late nineteenth century spiritualist movements and also is present within the subsequent Anthroposophy of Steiner and the Christosophie of Schoenmaekers. The same polar conception pervades the art theoretical writings of Mondrian, be-ginning with his letter to Querido of 1909, and is epitomized in his Sketchbook of circa 1912-14. In the latter text he specifically alludes to the Theosophic Doctrine of Evolution as a determining factor in the history of art. 2 In short, Mondrian could not have chosen as the theme of his monumental triptych a doctrine which was more central to Theosophic teaching than this.

Read more: Mondrian and Theosophy – Part two

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

[from HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement, by Sylvia Cranston and Carey Williams, research assistant, 3rd rev. ed. (Santa Barbara, CA: Path Publishing House, 1999; c. 1993), pp. 495-6.]


Gustav Mahler

Until his death in 1911, Mahler received little attention as a composer. It was as a conductor that he was renowned in Europe and later in America. His symphonies and other compositions were in advance of their time and were received with puzzlement rather than acclaim. He prophesied, “My time will come,” and so it has. He is now regarded as a great master.

Read more: Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Theosophy, Fantasy, and Mary Poppins

John Algeo – USA

Chapter 2: The First Book of the Series: Mary Poppins

Travers, Pamela L. Mary Poppins. London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1998, c. 1934.

Mary Poppins, the first book of the series (with 161 pages of text), begins in the house at Number 17, Cherry Tree Lane, the home of the Banks family, consisting of Mr. Banks (appropriately a bank officer), his harassed wife, their four children (Jane, Michael, and the twins John and Barbara), a cook, a serving girl, and a general-work man who avoids work as much as he can. There was a nanny also, but she has left without notice, leaving Mrs. Banks frantic about how to replace her.

Read more: Theosophy, Fantasy, and Mary Poppins

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.

Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W. T. Stead

The Times Literary Supplement of July 13, 2012, on page 30 has a review of a new book: Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W. T. Stead, by W. Sydney Robinson. Stead was an important figure for whom the Theosophical Encyclopedia includes an article. The TLS review, however, presents a more personal glimpse into his life, including this: “Married for years and the head of a large family, Stead routinely sought the company of attractive young women, always swearing that such friendships were innocent. Time and again, Robinson describes his subject’s female associates in similar terms — ‘an attractive young socialist called Annie Besant’ [etc.].”


A young Annie Besant




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