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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Blavatsky Book Review: Eric Kurlander, Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, part 2

In my piece on The Morning of the Magicians in June 2018, I wrote: ‘’As covered fairly extensively in our May 2018 posts, due probably to the current socio-political realities (i.e. the rise of right-wing nationalistic politics with xenophobic agendas due to refugee problems), there has been a recent upswing in interest in the relation of politics and the occult, including the influence of the theosophical movement on Nazism.’’ 
At the time, I noted the above-average media coverage of the Kurlander book and was consternated by the widespread uncritical acceptance, with a solitary exception. Fortunately there has been more critical responses since then, as more reviews from academic journals have come out. Below is a selection that has many perceptive and knowledgeable observations of great interest, in response to a work that can be said to have a perspective of an anti-esoteric modern materialist rationalism in the vein of The Greeks and the Irrational (1951) by E. R. Dodds, (empirical logic=rational=good vs. supernatural=irrational=bad).

Hitler’s Monsters? A Look at German “Scientific Occultism” and Fascism
Andreas Sommer March 4, 2019

I can only suppose Eric Kurlander’s work on his book Hitler’s Monster’s. A Supernatural History of the Third Reich (Yale University Press, 2017) has been motivated by similar feelings of anxiety  and helplessness. At least this might explain (though by no means excuse) this unhelpful historical scapegoating exercise. Because impartial, rigorously researched historical scholarship the book is not. Yale University Press advertises Hitler’s Monsters as the “definitive history of the supernatural in Nazi Germany”, but the most detailed review of the book, by a historian of religion and politics at Heidelberg University, begs to differ (Strube, 2017).

Anti-Fascist Holism and Jewish Parapsychology: Another Look at Hitler’s Monsters
Andreas Sommer October 13, 2019 

Interestingly, Kurlander himself states that “Given occultism’s broad impact on Weimar culture, including a number of left-wing and Jewish artists, it would be inaccurate to suggest that occultism was inherently racist or fascist” (Kurlander, 2017, p. 76). Yet, as we have already seen, his book as a whole tells a rather different story: It lumps together all sorts of sometimes competing ‘esoteric’ ideas and Eastern philosophies in his shorthand of ‘occultism’ as a pastime of anti-Semites and other villains, only to contrast it with an equally absurd depiction of ‘mainstream science’ as an aggregate of self-evident anti-fascism.

Scholarship as Simulacrum: The Case of Hitler's Monsters
Eva Kingsepp  Ariès - Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, 2019

Instead, after a brief accountof the book’s narrative content, regarded as part of contemporary occulture, the rest of this article discusses its form as part of scientific discourse, with focus on the author’s treatment of his referenced sources being misinterpreted and/or distorted in order to support the narrative.

Eric Kurlander, Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich 
Lisa Pine January 11, 2018

Hitler’s Monsters leaves open the question of how to integrate the supernatural into the mainstream of scholarship on Nazi Germany, where it continues to play a secondary role. While demonstrating the ubiquity of supernatural thinking at the highest levels of the regime, Kurlander recognizes that occultism constitutes only one of multiple factors necessary to explain Nazi atrocities. “The Third Reich’s crimes took on monumental dimensions because the Nazis drew both on border scientific theories peculiar to the Austro-German supernatural imaginary as well asa broader European mix of eugenics, racism, and colonialism” (232).

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Blavatsky - New Book Releases - Moon Laramie, Daniel Caldwell, Pablo Sender, Harvey Tordoff

Blavatsky Unveiled: The Writings of H.P. Blavatsky in modern English. Volume I

London: Martin Firrell Company, 2020. 356 pages, paperback. New.


"Blavatsky Unveiled" with Moon Laramie with the VCTS

Blavatsky Unveiled, Volume I is the only the beginning of an ambitious publishing project to present many of HPB’s colossal writings in modern English.


A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas – Daniel Caldwell

Almost all of H.P.B.’s critics have doubted the actual existence or reality of her Masters. Nevertheless, more than twenty five people testified to having seen and/or been in contact with the Mahatmas during Madame Blavatsky’s life time. In the pages of this book, the reader will find the detailed accounts and testimonies of most of these witnesses in which they relate their sightings, encounters and meetings with H.P.B.’s Adept Teachers.


The Mahatmas and Their Chelas in India – Daniel Caldwell

In the pages of this book, the reader will find the detailed accounts and testimonies by seven Indian members of the early Theosophical Society who met H.P.B.’s Adept Teachers.


Evolution of the Higher Consciousness – Pablo Sender
An In-depth Study into H. P. Blavatsky’s Teachings

In this book Pablo Sender explores the writings of Mme. Blavatsky, tracing her teachings on the evolution of the higher consciousness throughout her voluminous writings. This book presents her teachings in a systematic way, explaining her frequently obscure words so that the earnest student can grasp their meaning.

The book not only explores the philosophy but also has four chapters devoted to the application of these teachings.

Dzyan - the Movie - Harvey Tordoff

This well-researched script connects her early life with her later writings involving the Book of Dzyan, as seen psychically through the eyes of a brother and sister at the end of the 20th century. The brother and sister have their own secrets which are only gradually revealed. Dzyan is an esoteric book describing the history and evolution of the cosmos, the solar system and mankind. Mind blowing!

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Blavatsky Book Review: Isis Unveiled

To mark the release of Blavatsky Unveiled: The Writings of H.P. Blavatsky in modern English. Volume I, by Moon Laramie (a post on this work to follow) below is an edited summary of Isis Unveiled from a previous analysis of Blavatsky’s first magnum opus (see Isis Unveiled Summary on left sidebar).

Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled was tremendously well-received at the time, an instant best-seller, a critical success, going through many reprintings and was the essential theosophical textbook for the first five years of the movement.  Upon moving to India, more explicit oriental esoteric information began to be presented in the pages of the Blavatsky-edited, The Theosophist and the success of A. P. Sinnett’s The Occult World and especially Esoteric Buddhism effectively superceded Isis as the essential theosophical textbook for the next five years; so much so that Blavatsky herself was critical of Isis  and felt the need to present a revised edition, which eventually became The Secret Doctrine, itself effectively superceding Esoteric Buddhism as the fundamental theosophical reference work.However, despite Blavatsky’s own perhaps overly severe critiques of her own work, posterity has been kind to Isis. Scholars such as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and Gary Lachman have praised the work and it has seemed to have aged well, standing the test of time and perhaps proving to be more accessible than the mind-boggling Secret Doctrine. Despite the complex writing style, the book makes for an excellent introduction and compendium of essential esoteric, theosophical and spriritual concepts.

The very dense, erudite writing style can be challenging, but I don’t really think the work has deep organizational and editing flaws, but rather the confusing nature of the work is merely due to some superficial hurdles that, if understood, one can see the inherent coherence of the work as a whole. Morever, it is interesting to note that The Secret Doctrine contains many verbatim passages from Isis, credited and uncredited, and there are many more striking passages that remain fundamental and enlightening examples of Theosophical concepts that have lost none of their relevancy.  As Michael Gomes has written: ”a thread of continuity emerges with startling clarity through the labyrinth of words, highlighting the basic concepts Blavatsky was trying to explain”.

Primo,  the work juxtaposes, compares and contrasts modern writings with a great variety of ancient writings; now the jumping back and forth from present to past ideas are sometimes a bit abrupt and unclear, but once this basic structure is understood, then the basic themes of each chapter becomes clearer.

Secundo, the chapter titles and descriptions are a little vague and do not convey the actual contents as clearly as they could. By digging a little deeper, one can see that all the chapters do have very specific and coherent themes and detailed arguments.

Tertio, the page headings, although meant to be helpful topic summaries, probably suffer from being a little too cryptic and are often phrased with an overly ironic and exotic tendency that are more distracting than useful in conveying the seriousness of the subject matter; my favorite example being ”Do flying guitars unconsciously cerebrate?” (vol. 1, p.233), a rather surrealistic question, but upon reading the page one encounters a very deep analysis of some important documentation of supernatural phenomena.

Isis Unveiled  Vol. I is a remarkable work in many ways. It can serve as a basic primer in esoteric philosophy and the occult sciences. It also introduces new theosophical concept s of spiritual evolution and it contains several interesting running sub-themes.

An important aspect is the skeptic outlook towards science – there is an impressive amount of hardcore scientific research and critique of modern empirical scientific method; therefore it offers considerable insight into the area of philosophy of science. Moreover, the polemic aspect is bold and forceful; this is clearly a project of intellectual reform aimed both at the materialist science and academic fields as well as the spiritualist corner.

 The Basic ideas that govern both volumes can be summarized as follows:

1- Comparing, critiquing and contrasting ancient and modern science and religion (and rehabilitating the former);

2- Comparing ancient and modern western knowledge with eastern culture (and rehabilitating the latter);

3- Using the first two points (with wider comparative research) to posit the existence of a universal, perennial wisdom;

4- Using the first 3 points to introduce notions of esoteric philosophy (which includes a holistic, essentialist multi-modal ontological world view, a cyclical view of history, a pro-Atlantis anthropological theory, and a Darwin-informed concept of spiritual evolution);

5- Using these notions of esoteric philosophy to build a new synthesis of (a) ancient and modern science; (b) eastern and western knowledge; (c) science and religion.

6- Arguing for the idea of India as a pre-eminent cradle of civilization.

7- Critiquing and clarifying the problem of spiritual phenomena and magic using esoteric principles.

8- Positing the existence of adepts, who through their acquired spiritual knowledge, have been the caretakers of a primordial divine wisdom since the earliest existence of humanity.

It is important to understand the context of alternative spirituality that existed prior to the publication of Isis, notably from the 1850s to about 1900 there was a remarkable wave of spiritualistic phenomena, materializations, etc…and Isis is very much concerned with these questions and debates and so this can be considered an important work in the history of spiritualism and modern spiritual movements.

The scope of the research is impressively wide and eclectic and it can be said to be attempting to lay down the foundations of a new worldview and indeed, many of the themes have been adapted to contemporary spiritual and new age movements, so Isis can be considered a touchstone work for modern spirituality and also a seminal work in the history of alternative science.

The second volume of Isis Unveiled, dealing with religion, although looser in structure, is nonetheless a sprawling, ambitious study in comparative religion. The first seven chapters mainly comprise a fairly detailed and original study of early Christianity through the first five centuries, relying on the studies of the time, mainly Supernatural Religion by Cassels, with the eighth chapter filling out the history of esoteric movements up to her time.

At the same time, the first eight chapters pursue other goals, mainly to critique perceived problems with the current Christian churches and pointing out the historical causes and to present a reform project by presenting an esoteric study of key Judeo-Christian theological concepts such as the Trinity and the Logos through perennialist comparative studies involving Hinduism, Buddhism, Greek Paganism, Zoroastrianism and Gnosticism, among others.

She has a notably pro-Gnostic stance, both Jewish and Christian, foreshadowing the remarkable resurgence of Gnosticism in the latter half of the twentieth spurred by the famous Qumran and Nag Hammadi discoveries. Indeed her writings are quite consonant with the contents of those texts, especially in her noting the importance of Jewish Gnosticism. She also presents groundbreaking research on Mandean Gnosticism with her use of the Ginza (Codex Nazareus). Morever, her portrayal of Jesus prefigures the alternative biographical studies of Jesus and the historical view of a simpler early Christianity that challenges the later assumptions of the Nicean council.

The final four chapters, are more focused and self-contained: chapter nine adds more study of theosophical concepts of spiritual evolution in ancient scriptures that prefigure the Secret Doctrine, chapter ten presents a specific critique of the dogma of the Devil, adopting a Miltonian/Masonic esoteric interpretation of the fall of Lucifer, chapter eleven gives a solid comparative overview of Hindusim, Christianity, and Buddhism while chapter twelve serves as a general conclusion for both volumes, emphasizing magical practices found in eastern religions.

With the remarkable subsequent rise of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as Gnosticism, Sufism and the Kabbalah in the West and the continued decline and necessary reforms by the Christian churches, this work can be seen as remarkably prescient and influential (one is tempted to see this work as the founding charter for modern new age and alternative spirituality) and many of the ideas and theories are still relevant 140 years later.

On the writing of Isis by Geoffrey Farthing:

The semantics of Isis by David Reigle:

Introduction to abridged Isis Unveiled by Michael Gomes:

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Blavatsky and Epidemics

Looking at some of Blavatsky’s writings on the topic of epidemics, I came across at least four pieces, which touch upon four different discussions of possible causes, making for a complex task of summarizing her views. One notices first of all, how closely she followed contemporary scientific discussions. Secondly, her occult explanations can be broadly described as a holistic cosmic-psychic-chemical perspective where human life is intimately connected with astronomical activity which affects the earth through diverse subtle channels.

 Astrological influences

Thus if science cannot explain the cause of this physical influence, what can she know of the moral and occult influences that may be exercised by the celestial bodies on men and their destiny; and why contradict that which it is impossible for her to prove false? If certain aspects of the moon effect tangible results so familiar in the experience of men throughout all time, what violence are we doing to logic in assuming the possibility that a certain combination of sidereal influences may also be more or less potential?

Isis Unveiled I, Chap. 8, pp. 273-279

Sunspots (& Jupiter-Saturn conjunction)

Interestingly, she also refers to two Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions, the one in 1881 having major consequences, and another in 1563, where a ''terrible plague broke out and raged in all Europe, carrying off thousands upon thousands of victims.''

Once the probability, or even the simple possibility, of an occult influence exercised by the stars upon the destiny of man admitted—and why should the fact appear more improbable in the case of stars and man than in that of the sunspots and potatoes?—and astrology becomes no less an exact science than astronomy. The earth, Prof. Balfour Stewart, F.R.S., tells us—“is very seriously affected by what takes place in the sun” . . . a connection is strongly suspected “between epidemics and the appearance of the sun’s surface.”*

Stars and Numbers, [The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 9, June, 1881, pp. 199-201] Collected Writings, Vol. 3, p. 192-201

Decomposing corpses

Too numerous interments within a limited space and a comparatively short time saturate the earth with the products of decomposition to such a degree, as to make it incapable of further absorbing them, and the decomposition under such a condition being retarded its products escape directly into the atmosphere, bringing on epidemic diseases and plagues. “Let the dead bury their dead”—were wise words, though to this day no theologian seems to have understood their real and profound meaning. There were no funeral rites or ceremonies at the death of either Zoroaster, Moses, or Buddha, beyond the simple putting out of the way of the living the corpses of them who had gone before.

The Efficacy of Funeral Ceremonies, [The Theosophist, Vol. IV, No. 9, June, 1883, pp. 221-22] Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. 4, P. 504-508


It is not asserted for the first time now that all such mysterious epidemics as the present influenza are due to an abnormal exuberance of ozone in the air. Several physicians and chemists of note have so far agreed with the occultists, as to admit that the tasteless, colourless and inodorous gas known as oxygen—“the life-supporter” of all that lives and breathes—does get at times into family difficulties with its colleagues and brothers, when it tries to get over their heads in volume and weight, and becomes heavier than is its wont. In short—oxygen becomes ozone.

The Last Song of the Swan [Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 30, February, 1890, pp. 445 453] Blavatsky Collected Writings Vol. 12, pp.104-111

William Q. Judge on Microbes and theosophical life-atoms

The theosophists also assert that this microbe theory obtains in the mental and moral spheres, and that epidemics of a moral character may break out among men, causing sudden changes of character in persons who before that were very discreet. The French revolution, in which rivers of blood ran, was brought to its awful pitch by the sudden increase of mental microbes, which produce moral disease sweeping over vast numbers of men.

William Q. Judge of Brooklyn Tells of the Microbe Theory, The Brooklyn Eagle, 1892

Interestingly, all of these theories have given rise to more modern research, for example :

Modern articles on sunspots :

Wickramasinghe NC, Steele E, Wainwright M, Tokoro G, Fernando M, et al. (2017)Sunspot Cycle Minima and Pandemics: The Casefor Vigilance? Astrobiol Outreach 5: 159. doi:10.4172/2332-2519.1000159 See:

Wickramasinghe, Nalin & Qu, Jiangwen. (2020). Space weather and pandemic warnings?. Current science. 117. 1554.

 Modern articles on ozone :

Washam C (2009)Double Trouble: Flu Intensifies Effects of Ozone. Environ Health Perspect. 117(2): A74.

Kesic MJ, Meyer M, Bauer R, Jaspers I (2012) Exposure to Ozone Modulates Human Airway Protease/AntiproteaseBalance Contributing to Increased Influenza A Infection. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35108.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Blavatsky Letter to J. Ralston Skinner 5

Here we have a fresh mystery: an unidentified and undated single page from the Harvard collection.The content is quite original and intriguing and could indicate that her correspondence with Skinner continued beyond the short period of the dated letters.

The Skinner collection also has several letters from scholars referenced in Skinner's writings such as John William Draper, Hargrave Jennings, Augustus Le Plongeon, John A. Parker, Gustavus Seyffarth, and Charles Piazzi Smyth.There are also letters from Bertram Keightley and Countess Wachtmeister sent on Blavatsky's behalf during her period of correspondence with Mr. Skinner when she was ill.

Here therefore we have : -(1) a date assignment, viz. 3447 B.C. – (2) the statement that the alphabet was devised to indicate the state of the heavens of that time and thirdly (3) the most ancient alphabet as it has been transmitted down to us.

(In addition)  to this let your attention be also directed to this strange fact :- The vowels are distinct in their very nature from consonants. Vowels are the true signs of sounds, and consonants only the frame on which the sounds can be given by help of the vowels. From this consonants have been compared to the human frame without the vital spark which the vowel signature represents. For this reason of distinctiveness it would be most natural to classify the two parts separate as vowels by themselves and consonants by themselves. Why therefore are they found scattered here and there through or among the consonants of the alphabet – irregularly. It is notorious that-with the ancients the 7 planets were indicated by the 7 vowels and when sung on a musical scale with our range of notes, as do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si but only so but the order of planets representation was fixed from the lowest or most obscure to the higher or clearer sound, as from Saturn to Luna. Thus, in music : c d e f g a

Monday, 7 December 2020

Blavatsky Letter to J. Ralston Skinner 4 - May 27, 1889

The final two Blavatsky letters mainly discuss a Tibetan artifact (shrine, Holy of Holies, with a prayer-wheel) and a gold ring that she sent to Mr. Skinner. This small episode adds yet another mysterious element to the correspondence, because there exists considerable lore regarding the legacy of Blavatsky's rings, See:

Maycot Crownhill Upper Norwood London ES May 27

I have forwarded today per steamer ‘’Alaska’’ little bronze shrine Tibetan & aerolique (1), gold ring- for you & insured the package through agent. Let me know when you receive them. Do not allow anyone to wear or even touch that ring , except yourself. ‘’HPB’s’’ pkg is sent through Dr. Buck.  The right arm pains so terribly that I can hardly write. It is terrible to be doomed to comparative inaction. I wish I could write a long letter. I have so much to say. But the pain in my arm cannot prevent you from writing surely. What are you evolving just now? I am reading the MSS with more attention than ever. It is a wonderful thing and your letter, the last still more so. If could only meet you I would say more than I can write. But I will never live long enough to see America again anyhow your ever sincerely HPB

(1) word uncertain - possibly aerolique, meaning air-operated, in reference to the prayer-wheel mechanism of the Tibetain shrine artifact.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Blavatsky Letter to J. Ralston Skinner 3 - April 5, 1889

Constance Wachtmeister

The entire Blavatsky correspondence with J. Ralston Skinner is now available online at the Harvard archives:

The Blavatsky-W.Q. Judge correspondence is also on-line:

The letter transcribed below is date April 5, 1889 from Ostende (Belgium). The events described have been documented, see Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and "The Secret Doctrine"by the Countess Constance Wachtmeister and others (London : Theosophical Publishing Society ; New York : The Path, 1893),  Chapter 10, pp. 72-78

The doctor referred to is William Ashton Ellis (b London, Aug 20, 1852; d London, Jan 2, 1919). English writer and translator. His father was a surgeon and following medical studies at St George's Hospital, London, Ellis held the post of Resident Medical Officer at the Western Dispensary from 1878. In the mid-1870s, however, he became (in his own words) ‘a devotee of Wagner's works’ and resigned his post in 1887, devoting himself over the following 28 years to the single-minded pursuit of Wagner studies.

My dear Mr. Skinner – I had never to (pay) prepay one cent – why should you send me this dollar then? – In a week or so, fate will have decided whether I will answer your very, very valuable letter + our correspondence increase + multiply or – whether the present are the last lines you will have from me, in this life. (Five days ago/ today is the 17th – I am in bed) two physicians proclaimed it impossible I should live over 48 hours-I was found to make my will, i.e. leave my old body to my friend Countess Wachtmeister in case of my death otherwise the city authorities would not have permitted them to take it way to London for cremation – Once more I cheated death it seems, but it can come back every hour. It was entire cessation of the function in the kidneys for several days – coma approaching – sleep of dying but Css Wachtmeister in her despair telegraphed to London Lodge to ask for help + a good English physician (one of our Theosophists who had never seen or met me) came here that same night + saved my life in a week’s time- There’s devotion!! He was director of Westminster dispensary & now lost the situation – why they should so cling to poor, old, useless me – is very strange to me but they all do! Show this to dear Dr. Buck – say immediate danger is over but kidneys function still very bad. I am so weak – whatever happens you will receive my photograph – the shrine + ring. May the powers that protected you hitherto, bless & protect you still – if I die, do not think or believe evil of me when people abuse me. For me – death is deliverance, but I wish I could finish Secret Doctrine. My love to brother Buck + thanks to both of you. Yours ever H. P. Blavatsky