Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

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.

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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)


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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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