Alexander Scriabin (1872 – 1915)

[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. 497-8.]

In his foreword to Faubion Bowers' The New Scrabin, the noted Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy wrote:

“I consider Scriabin one of the greatest composers . . . . His music has a unique idealism . . . . The basis of his thought was an indestructible faith and loyalty to Art as a means of elevating man's spirit and of showing light, goodness, and truth. Although one cannot say that without understanding his philosophy one cannot understand his music, one penetrates deeper into his music if one studies what compelled Scriabin. One cannot separate the man-as-philosopher from the composer of such beautiful music.”

Alexander Scriabin

What, then, was Scriabin's philosophy? Boris de Schloezer, the composer's Russian biographer, discloses that Theosophy was the only very strong outside influence he ever received. In Faubion Bowers's two-volume biography of Scriabin, detailed information on this is provided.

According to Bowers's account, early in the century Scriabin read a French translation of Helena Blavatsky's The Key to Theosophy and wrote at the time (May 5, 1905): "La Clef de la Théosophie is a remarkable book. You will be astonished at how close it is to my thinking." Bowers writes that "from now on more and more of his friends and adherents were drawn from the Theosophical Society." His colleagues mention that "Scriabin's conversations were full of theosophy and the personality of Blavatsky." A French translation of The Secret Doctrine was one of his cherished possessions.

In 1922, Scriabin's apartment in Moscow was designated as a state museum and restored to appear exactly as it had been in his lifetime. His books, including The Secret Doctrine, were located and repurchased. This apartment, says Bowers, had a tremendous influence rising composers and was "a gathering place for youth."

After his contact with theosophy, Scriabin's work became permeated with mystical undertones. Musicologist Gerald Abraham contrasts composer's first orchestral work, a piano concerto composed in 1896-97, with the composer's greatest composition, his symphonic tone poem, Prométhée le poème du feu, written in 1909-10, and comments: "It seems hardly credible that in only thirteen years a composer could have evolved from the graceful, elegant, rather Chopinesque concerto to a work which was regarded in his day as in the very front of the avant-garde."

Bowers observes: “There have been few specifically mystical composers such as Scriabin. Scriabin's closest counterparts are found not in music but in poetry with William Blake, or in painting with Nicholas Roerich. . . . Scriabin's philosophy above all else wanted transubstantiation in music.”

The composer wished to reawaken human beings to their essential selves. Scriabin wrote that "in the mysteries of antiquity there was real transfiguration, real secrets and sanctities," but “all our little saints of today have forgotten their powers of old,” When all these “little saints” were trying to expose Blavatsky as a fraud, Scriabin defended her “by saying that all truly great people were subject to that kind of trumped-up ‘ignominy.’”

In 1987 de Schloezer's biography of Scriabin was published for the first time in an English translation. Among the many references to Theosophy and HPB that occur throughout the book de Schloezer writes:

“[Scriabin] felt greatly beholden to Mme. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine in his own development; indeed he felt tremendous admiration for Mme. Blavatsky to the end of his life. He was particularly fascinated by her courage in essaying a grandiose synthesis and by the breadth and depth of her concepts, which he likened to the grandeur of Wagner's music dramas. . . . The theosophic vision of the world served as an incentive for his own work. "I will not discuss with you the truth of theosophy," he declared to [de Schloezer] in Moscow, "but I know that Mme. Blavatsky's ideas helped me in my work and gave me power to accomplish my task."

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