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Wednesday 7 February 2024

Blavatsky on Norse Scandinavian Mythology

One of the many innovations that Blavatsky brought to the study of world religions is the integration of esoteric and mystical interpretation into the burgeoning study of Norse mythology. An introduction to her fairly extensive writing on the subject. Note that Blavatsky's interest was of a spiritual nature. She did not give any political interpretations and did not prioritize specific racial interpretations of this topic.

In the Scandinavian Cosmogony — placed by Professor Max Muller, in point of time, as “far anterior to the Vedas” in the poem of Voluspa (the song of the prophetess), the Mundane egg is again discovered in the phantom-germ of the Universe, which is represented as lying in the Ginnungagap (1)— the cup of illusion (Maya) the boundless and void abyss. In this world’s matrix, formerly a region of night and desolation, Nebelheim (2) (the mist-place, the nebular as it is called now, in the astral light) dropped a ray of cold light which overflowed this cup and froze in it. Then the Invisible blew a scorching wind which dissolved the frozen waters and cleared the mist. These , called the streams of Elivagar, (3) distilling in vivifying drops, fell down and created the earth and the giant Ymir, (4) who only had “the semblance of man” (the Heavenly man), and the cow, Audhumla (5) (the “mother” or astral light, Cosmic Soul) from whose udder flowed four streams of milk (the four cardinal points: the four heads of the four rivers of Eden, etc., etc.) and which “four” allegorically are symbolized by the cube in all its various and mystical meanings. (Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, 387)

1- Ginnungagap

boundless and void abyss

cup of illusion (Maya)

2- Nebelheim, Nifiheim

mist-place

the nebular as it is called now, in the astral light

3- streams of Elivagar

waters (chaos)

4- Ymir, giant, semblance of man

Heavenly man

5 -Audhumla, cow,

“mother” or astral light, Cosmic Soul

 four streams of milk

four cardinal points: the four heads of the four rivers of Eden, cube

 

(1) There is no obvious reference to an egg here, in Blavatsky's main source,  Asgard and the Gods (WilhelmWagner, 1880), p. 22:' Allfather, the Uncreated, the Unseen, dwelt in the depth of the abyss and willed, and what he willed came into being.' Similar to Hiranyagharba myth? Although more recent research equates the egg with the rune Haglaz.

Ginnungagap (Scand.). The “cup of illusion” literally ; the abyss of the great deep, or the shoreless, beginningless, and endless, yawning gulf; which in esoteric parlance we call the “World’s Matrix”, the primordial living space. The cup that contains the universe, hence the “cup of illusion”. (Theosophical Glossary)
 
(2) Nifiheim (Scand.). The cold Hell, in the Edda. A place of eternal non-consciousness and inactivity. (See Secret Doctrine, Vol. II., p. 245). (TG)
 
(3) Elivagar (Scand.). The waters of Chaos, called in the cosmogony of the Norsemen “the stream of Elivagar”. (TG)
 
(4) Ymir (Scand.). The personified matter of our globe in a seething condition. The cosmic monster in the form of a giant, who is killed in the cosmogonical allegories of the Eddas by the three creators, the sons of Bör, Odin, Wili and We, who are said to have conquered Ymir and created the world out of his body. This allegory shows the three principal forces of nature—separation, formation and growth (or evolution) conquering the unruly, raging “giant” matter, and forcing it to become a world, or an inhabited globe. it is curious that an ancient, primitive and uncultured pagan people, so philosophical and scientifically correct in their views about the origin and formation of the earth, should, in order to be regarded as civilized, have to accept the dogma that the world was created out of nothing!  (TG)
 
(5) Audumla (Scand.) The Cow of Creation, the “nourisher”, from which flowed four streams of milk which fed the giant Ymir or Örgelmir (matter in ebullition) and his sons, the Hrimthurses (Frost giants), before the appearance of gods or men. Having nothing to graze upon she licked the salt of the ice-rocks and thus produced Buri, “the Producer” in his turn, who had a son Bör (the born) who married a daughter of the Frost Giants, and had three sons, Odin (Spirit), Wili (Will), and We (Holy). The meaning of the allegory is evident. It is the precosmic union of the elements, of Spirit, or the creative Force, with Matter, cooled and still seething, which it forms in accordance with universal Will. Then the Ases, “the pillars and supports of the World” (Cosmocratores), step in and create as All-father wills them.  (TG)

Saturday 30 December 2023

Blavatsky's Epic New Year Message for 1889

Back in the day, Blavatsky could write a mean New Year's message. Some are quite epic in scope. Why not begin the New Year in style with all the proper esoteric gravitas from one of the eminent occult philosopher's of recent times?
 
THE YEAR IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE YEAR!
DECEMBER, 1888, AND JANUARY, 1889
[Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 17,January, 1889, pp. 353-359]

LUCIFER sends the best compliments of the season to his friends and subscribers, and wishes them a happy New Year and many returns of the same. In the January issue of 1888, Lucifer said: “. . . . let no one imagine that it is a mere fancy, the attaching of importance to the birth of the year. The earth passes through its definite phases and man with it; and as a day can be coloured so can a year. The astral life of the earth is young and strong between Christmas and Easter. Those who form their wishes now will have added strength to fulfil them consistently.” He now repeats what was said and adds: Let no one mistake the importance and potency of numbers—as symbols. Everything in the Universe was framed according to the eternal proportions and combinations of numbers. “God geometrizes,” and numbers and numerals are the fundamental basis of all systems of mysticism, philosophy, and religion. The respective festivals of the year and their dates were all fixed according to the Sun—the “father of all calendars” and of the Zodiac, or the Sun-god and the twelve great, but still minor gods; and they became subsequently sacred in the cycle of national and tribal religions.

A year ago, it was stated by the editors that 1888 was a dark combination of numbers: it has proved so since. Earthquakes and terrible volcanic eruptions, tidal waves and landslips, cyclones and fires, railway and maritime disasters followed each other in quick succession. Even in point of weather the whole of the past year was an insane year, an unhealthy and uncanny year, which shifted its seasons, played ducks and drakes with the calendar and laughed at the wiseacres who preside over the meteorological stations of the globe. Almost every nation was visited by some dire calamity. Page 277

Prominent among other countries was Germany. It was in 1888 that the Empire reached, virtually, the 18th year of its unification. It was during the fatal combination of the four numbers 8 that it lost two of its Emperors, and planted the seeds of many dire Karmic results.

What has the year 1889 in store for nations, men and theosophy, and what for Lucifer? But it may be wiser to forbear looking into Futurity; still better to pray to the now ruling Hosts of Numbers on high, asking them to be lenient to us, poor terrene ciphers. Which shall we choose? With the Jews and the Christian Kabalists, the number of their deity—the God of Abraham and Jacob—is 10, the number of perfection, the ONE in space, or the Sun, astronomically, and the ten Sephiroth, Kabalistically. But the Gods are many; and every December, according to the Japanese, is the month of the arrival, or descent of the Gods; therefore there must be a considerable number of deities lurking around us mortals in astral space. The 3rd of January, a day which was, before the time of Clovis, consecrated to the worship of Isis—the goddess-patroness of Paris who has now changed her name and become Ste.-Geneviève, “she who generates life”—was also set apart as the day on which the deities of Olympus visited their worshippers. The third day of every month was sacred to Pallas Athene, the goddess of Wisdom; and January the 4th is the day of Mercury (Hermes, Budha), who is credited with adding brains to the heads of those who are civil to him. December and January are the two months most connected with gods and numbers. Which shall we choose?—we ask again. “This is the question.”

We are in the Winter Solstice, the period at which the Sun entering the sign of Capricornus has already, since December 21st, ceased to advance in the Southern Hemisphere, and, cancer or crablike, begins to move back. It is at this particular time that, every year, he is born, and December 25th was the day of the birth of the Sun for those who inhabited the Northern Hemisphere.Page 278

It is also on December the 25th, Christmas, the day with the Christians on which the “Saviour of the World” was born, that were born, ages before him, the Persian Mithra, the Egyptian Osiris, the Greek Bacchus, the Phoenician Adonis, the Phrygian Attis. And, while at Memphis the people were shown the image of the god Day, taken out of his cradle, the Romans marked December 25th in their calendar as the day natalis solis invicti.

Sad derision of human destiny. So many Saviours of the world born unto it, so much and so often propitiated, and yet the world is as miserable—nay, far more wretched now than ever before—as though none of these had ever been born!

January—the Januarius dedicated to Janus the God of Time, the ever revolving cycle, the double-faced God—has one face turned to the East, the other to the West; the Past and the Future! Shall we propitiate and pray to him? Why not? His statue had 12 altars at its feet, symbolising the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the twelve great gods, the twelve months of the solar year and—the twelve Apostles of the Sun-Christ. Dominus was the title given to the Sun by the ancients; whence dies domini, dies solis, the “Sun-days.” Puer nobis nascitur dominus dominorum, sing the Roman Catholics on Christmas day. The statue of Janus-January carried engraved on his right hand the number 300, and on his left, 65, the number of the days in the Solar year; in one hand a sceptre, in the other a key, whence his name Janitor, the door-keeper of the Heavens, who opened the gates of the year at its beginning. Old Roman coins represent Janus bifrons on one side, and a ship on the other.

Have we not the right to see in him the prototype of Peter, the fisherman of the celestial ship, the Janitor of Paradise, to the gates of which he alone holds the keys? Janus presided over the four seasons. Peter presides over the four Evangelists. In Occultism the potency and significance of Numbers and Numerals lie in their right application and permutation. If we have to propitiate any mysterious number at all, we have most decidedly to address Janus-Peter, in his relation to the ONE—the Sun. Now what would be the best thing for Lucifer and his staff to ask from the latter for 1889? Our joint wishes are many, for our course as that of true love, does not run altogether smooth. Page 279

Thus addressing the bright luminary in perpetual abscondito beyond the eternal fogs of the great city, we might ask him for a little more light and warmth in the coming year than he gave us in the year 1888. We might entreat him at the same time to pour a little light into the no less befogged heads of those who insist on boycotting Lucifer under the extraordinary notion that he and Satan are one. Shine more on us, O, Helios, Son of Hyperion! Those on whom thou beamest thy greatest radiance must be, as in the legend of Apollo, good and kind men. Alas, for us. The British Isle will never be transformed, in this our cycle, into the isle of Aea, the habitat of Helios, as of the children of that God and the Oceanide Perseis. Is this the occult reason why our hearts become, with every year, colder and more indifferent to the woes of mankind, and that the very souls of the multitudes seem turning into icicles? We ask thee to shed thy radiance on these poor shivering souls.

Such is Lucifer’s, our Light-bearer’s fervently expressed desire. What may be that of the Theosophical Society in general, and its working members in particular? We would suggest a supplication. Let us ask, Brethren, the Lord on High, the One and the SOLE (or Sol), that he should save us from the impudent distortion of our theosophical teachings. That he should deliver us in 1889 from his pretended priests, the “Solar Adepts” as they dub themselves, and their sun-struck followers, as he delivered us once before; for verily “man is born unto trouble,” and our patience is well-nigh exhausted!

But, “wrath killeth the foolish man”; and as we know that “envy slayeth the silly one,” for years no attention was paid to our ever increasing parodists. They plagiarized from our books, set up sham schools of magic waylaid seekers after truth by deceiving them with holy names, misused and desecrated the sacred science by using it to get money by various means, such as selling as “magic mirrors” for £15, articles made by common cabinet makers for £1 at most. Page 280

With them, as with all  charlatans, fortune-tellers, and self-styled “Adepts,” the sacred science of Theosophia had become when kabalistically read—Dollar-Sophia. To crown all, they ended by offering, in a most generous manner, to furnish all those “awakened” who were “disappointed in Theosophical Mahatmas” with the genuine article in the matter of adeptship. Unfortunately the said article was traced in its turn to a poor, irresponsible medium, and something worse; and so that branch of the brood finally disappeared. It vanished one fine morning into thin air leaving its disconsolate disciples thoroughly “awakened” this time, and fully alive to the sad fact, that if they had acquired less than no occult wisdom, their pockets, on the other hand, had been considerably relieved of their weight in pounds and shillings. After their Exodus came a short lull. But now the same is repeated elsewhere.

(I cut this part. See original.  For whatever reason, for better and for worse, Blavatsky was influential, and it took about five minutes for imitators to emerge. She attests here to the extent of Theosophical influence in her own time.)

Therefore, let us, in our turn, recite a heartfelt conjuration (the ancient name for prayer), and invoke the help of the powers that be, to deliver us from the painful necessity of exposing those sorry “make-believes” in Lucifer once again. Let us ring the theosophical Angelus thrice for the convocation of our theosophical friends and readers. If we would draw on us the attention of Sol on High, we must repeat that which the ancients did and which was the origin of the R.C. Angelus. Page 283

The first stroke of the bell announced the coming of Day; the appearance of Gabriel, the morning messenger, with the early Christians, of Lucifer, the morning star, with their predecessors. The second bell, at noon, saluted the glory and exalted position of the Sun, King of Heavens; and the third bell announced the approach of Night, the Mother of Day, the Virgin, Isis-Mary, or the Moon. Having accomplished the prescribed duty, we pour our complaint and say:—

Turn thy flaming eye, O SOL, thou, golden-haired God, on certain trans-atlantic mediums, who play at being thine Hierophants! Behold, they whose brain is not fit to drink of the cup of wisdom, but who, mounting the quack’s platform, and offering for sale bottled-up wisdom, and the homunculi of Paracelsus, assure those of the gaping mouths that it is the true Elixir of Amrita, the water of immortal life! Oh, bright Lord, is not thine eye upon those barefaced robbers and iconoclasts of the systems of the land whence thou risest? Hear their proud boasting: “We teach men the science to make man”(!). The lucrative trade of vendors of Japanese amulets and Taro cards, with indecent double bottoms, having been cut off in its full blossom in Europe, the Eastern Wisdom of the Ages is now abandoned. According to their declarations, China, Japan, old India and even the Swedenborgian “land of the Lost Word” have suddenly become barren; they yield no more their crop of true adepts; it is America, they say, the land of the Almighty Dollar, which has suddenly opened her bowels and given birth to full-blown Hierophants, who now beckon to the “Awakened.” Mirabile dictu! But if so, why should thy self-styled priests, O great SUN, still offer as a bait a mysterious Dwija, a “twice born,” who can only be the product of the land of Manu? And why should those pretended and bumptious servants of thine, oh Sûrya-Vikarttana, whose rich crop of national adepts, if “home-made,” must rejoice as a natural rule in purely Anglo-Saxon and Celto-German names, still change their Irish patronymics for those of a country which, they say, is effete and sterile, and whose nations are “dying out”? Page 284

Has another Hindu name and names been discovered in the Great Hub, as a peg and pegs whereon to hang the modest pretensions of the Solar Magi? Yea, they belie truth, O Lord, and they bend their tongues like quill pens for lies. But—“the false prophets shall become wind, for the word is not in them.”

TO DARE, TO WILL, TO ACHIEVE AND KEEP SILENT is the motto of the true Occultist, from the first adept of our fifth Race down to the last Rosecroix. True Occultism, i.e., genuine Raj-Yoga powers, are not pompously boasted of, and advertised in “Dailies” and monthlies, like Beecham’s pills or Pears’ soap. “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes; for the wise man feareth and keeps silent but the fool layeth open his folly.”

Let us close by expressing a hope that our Theosophist brothers and sisters in America will pause and think before they risk going into a “Solar” fire. Above all, let them bear in mind that true occult knowledge can never be bought. He who has anything to teach, unless like Peter to Simon he says to him who offers him money for his knowledge—“Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of (our inner) God may be purchased with money”—is either a black magician or an IMPOSTOR. Such is the first lesson taught by Lucifer to his readers in 1889.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Blavatsky and neo-theosophy (3/3) Myth Theory, Philosophy of History, Sociology of Pop Culture

 
HBO’s  Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God, Docuseries was the 8th most watched show on Max in its first of three episodes (and the second episode reached #3) . It is the tragic story of Amy Carlson and an alternative spirituality group with an eclectic mix of beliefs and practices with some questionable elements that have raised eyebrows. The theology of Love Has Won has been described as fluid, combining New Age spirituality, conspiracy theories, and elements from mainstream Abrahamic religions.
 
In the first two parts, I examined how certain concepts of esoteric cyclical history may have filtered down into the Love Has Won 'Galactic A-Team' chart in a more modern mass media pop culture form. In this post, I'd like to take a brief look of how these original ideas have been developed along more rational lines. It begins with a passage from H. P. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled I, ch. 1, p. 34, about the doctrine of cycles:

‘’Thus, all those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind, like Buddha-Siddartha, and Jesus, in the realm of spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napoleon the Great, in the realm of physical conquests, were but reflexed images of human types which had existed ten thousand years before, in the preceding decimillennium, reproduced by the mysterious powers controlling the destinies of our world.’’ (34)

William Q. Judge elaborates on this notion in The Ocean of Theosophy, chapter 4, 1893; (he further elaborates on the subject in his first essay on the Bhagava Gita, 1895:

‘’In these cycles we can include mixed characters who have had great influence on nations, such as King Arthur, Pharaoh, Moses, Charlemagne reincarnated as Napoleon Bonaparte, Clovis of France reborn as Emperor Frederic III of Germany, and Washington the first President of the United States of America where the root for the new race is being formed.’’

Without getting into the complexities of it, there is a notion of the esoteric role of prominent historical figures, who are involved in the cyclical repetition of archetypal patterns. This concept has actually received one of the more serious studies in the recent academic interest in Theosophical history with a notion that Garry W. Trompf terms 'Macrohistory: Trompf, G. (2013). Theosophical Macrohistory. In Olav Hammer, Mikael Rothstein (Eds.), Handbook of the Theosophical Current, (pp. 375-403). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004235977_019

In the second and best of three papers on Theosophical Macrohistory, he outlines a general overview of the concept in Blavatsky’s writings and the main continuations in other Theosophical writers. As a critical survey, it ambitiously aims to intertwine a historiography, theoretical study, and biography. The critical aspects fail mainly because of the limited space for such an extensive, pioneering undertaking and the limited availability of consistent materials in a burgeoning field of study. It is remarkable that the paper almost succeeds in this, before faltering with superficialities and inaccuracies. It does manage to succeed in touching upon most of the essential problems of the topic and as such can be considered a solid basis for future developments.  He does for example, cite the Blavatsky and Judge passages noticed above, seeing them as more or less consistent and connected (380-81; 390-91). Whatever one thinks of Blavatsky’s ideas, the paper does convincingly establish that her views are intelligible, hence amenable to rational analysis according to academic concepts of macrohistory.

Jeffery Lavoie, despite mixed motives and retaining familiar tired academic misconceptions, has undertaken a solid study of the Theosophical doctrine of cycles, benefiting from the more advanced state of scholarship since Trompf’s paper. Jeffrey D. Lavoie, “Saving Time: Time, Sources and Implications of Temporality in the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky” (PhD diss., University of Exeter, 2015). https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10871/25014/LavoieJ.pdf?sequence=3

It’s a rather complex subject and as been indicated in the first two posts, the idea has been developed variously in different neo-Theosophical currents. The general notion of individual agency in a context of archetypal history has been developed by several comparative mythology scholars, in considering the relation of myth and history. Mircea Eliade elaborates how historical accounts have a complex interaction with mythology, how poetic historical sagas and even local legends have a tendency to become mythologized: 'A series of contemporary events is given an articulation and an interpretation that conform with the atemporal model of the heroic myth.' (Cosmos and History: , The Myth of the Eternal Return, 1958. Chapter 1, 'Myths and History')

Georges Dumézil, in "From Myth to Fiction: The Saga of Hadingus", (1970) further elaborates on the complex inter-connection between myth, history and fiction. He considers how the early mythology of a people can be creatively transposed into the epic of their origin or the "history" of their kings, or the source of their fiction. The Saga of Hadingus, written by twelfth-century Danish "historian," Saxo-Grammaticus, provides an instance of this kind of transposition, demonstrating how the saga can be seen as a literary structure derived from the religious structure of the myth. https://www.amazon.ca/Myth-Fiction-Saga-Hadingus/dp/0226169723

Joseph Campbell further considers Freudian and Jungian psychological concepts: archetypal patterns found in mythology are found to appear subjectively in dreams. Therefore patterns of mythical heroes have individual applications.: 'Moreover, if we could dredge up something forgotten not only by ourselves but by our whole generation or our entire civilization, we should become indeed the boon-bringer, the culture hero of the day-a personage of not only local but world historical moment (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949).

Moreover, Eliade furthermore mentions how forms of mythical, archetypal patterns are present in modern mainstream mass media popular culture via novels and films: 'The cinema, that 'dream factory', adopts and uses innumerable mythical motifs: the combat of the hero and the monster, combats and trials of initiation, exemplary figures and images (the 'Young Girl', the 'Hero', the land of paradise, 'Hell', etc.) Even reading has a mythological function (The Sacred and the Profane, 1957, Chapter 4, 'The sacred and the profane in the modern world',p. 174).

Edgar Morin posits the heavy mythologizing power present in the Hollywood star system: 'Thus the stars, patterns of culture in the literal sense of the term, give shape to the total human process which has produced them. The star is indeed a myth: not only a daydream but an idea-force. The characteristic of the myth is to insert itself or incarnate itself somehow within life. If the myth of the stars incarnates itself so astonishingly within reality, it is because that myth is produced by that reality, i.e., the human history of the twentieth century. But it is also because the human reality nourishes itself on the imaginary to the point of being semi-imaginary itself. (The Stars, An account of the star system in motion pictures, 1957) p, 183.

So with a recent article on Robin Williams, this notion of how popular culture figures become viewed as historical figures of some transcendent historical significance takes us full circle, as it where. Whether the archetypal structures appear after the historical events or are coeval with them is debatable, suffice to point out that there is a noticeable tendency in human nature to view historical figures in an archetypal, idealized way (The celebrity worship of "Love Has Won": Why Robin Williams may have resonated with a cult. Melanie McFarland December 4, 2023 https://www.salon.com/2023/12/04/love-has-won-robin-williams-culture/ ).

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Blavatsky and neo-theosophy (2/3) (spiritualism)

HBO’s  Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God, Docuseries was the 8th most watched show on Max in its first of three episodes (and the second episode reached #3) . It is the tragic story of Amy Carlson and an alternative spirituality group with an eclectic mix of beliefs and practices with some questionable elements that have raised eyebrows. The theology of Love Has Won has been described as fluid, combining New Age spirituality, conspiracy theories, and elements from mainstream Abrahamic religions.
 
A striking collage entitled ‘The Galactic A-Team’ featuring modern western pop culture celebrities from film and music and the ascended master version of the Count of Saint-Germain. In reading a few articles on the subject, a few more neo-theosophical elements could be glimpsed among the Christian, millenialist, QAnon and New Age elements. Among this rather baroque appearance, I happened to recognize a few discernible elements, and so I thought it would be feasible to attempt a brief analysis as it could give some insight into how theosophical influences figure in contemporary new religious movements.

Since much of the Galactic A-Team has to do with recently deceased pop culture celebrities, it would seem useful to touch upon the question of spiritualism in new religious movements.
I don’t know if there is much awareness of how big a movement spiritualism was in the late 19th century. The striking phenomena that was occurring was attracting considerable attention, including from the scientific field, there were millions of followers, with various magazines, and mediums giving séances and demonstrations. Theosophical Society founder Henry Olcott had a strong interest in the movement, and was interested in the scientific investigation of the phenomena. His first book, People from the Other World, details his reports on this and recounts his first encounter with H. P. Blavatsky A.P. Sinnett  also had a strong interest in studying these phenomena. Although much dismissed today, the accounts of deceased people physically manifesting in front of people garnered a lot of attention, similar to the phenomena of UFOs and crop circles today, perhaps.
 
As well as communication from the deceased, there were also mediumnistic communications from spiritual beings produced via automatic writing, known today as channelling. Theosophist T. Subba Row gave a critique of one such text, from William Oxley, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita from an entity named Busiris, whose interpretations Row was not much impressed with. 

Theosophy and Spiritualism
 
Blavatsky and Olcott began early on writing to spiritualist magazines and eventually began to introduce elements of esoteric philosophy and occultism, which contradicted the spiritualist beliefs. Eventually Blavatsky would introduce theosophical views on reincarnation which explained that communications with departed souls are really with discarded astral bodies of the deceased and not the spiritual essence of the person, which could generally not be contacted. Moreover she considered that attempts to contact the deceased was undesirable and that séances were harmful and problematic. 
 
Moreover, she maintained that various mischievous entities from the astral plane were wont to impersonate famous historical figures, and thus most communications from such beings were false and unreliable. See, for example,Theosophy and Spiritism, 1883. Additionally, early theosophists also pointed out the dangers and pitfalls of psychic practices related to the astral plane. See for example,  Astral Intoxication - William Q. Judge 1887, and a Judge letter concerning the Oahspe writings, November 28, 1890.
 
Also, it is be noted that Blavatsky never claimed to engage in such practices[a]  and gave comparatively few explanations as to the nature of her own methods of communications with adepts and mahatmas, but explained that the occult training required to do so, makes it differ considerably from spiritualism. Occult communication with living adepts, who are human beings, is a difference process than communication with beings of an astral or spiritual nature. 
 
However, many people in the mainstream, especially those who reject the possibility of living spiritual adepts, don’t care to make the distinctions that Blavatsky proposed and tend to conflate her with spiritualism and call her a medium, taking special pleasure, it would seem, in retroactively attributing the more mediumnistic term of ‘ascended masters’ to her, a term which belongs to a much later time with very different people and organizations.
 
Complications
 
There are, however, some difficulties that could be pointed out in the problem of distinguishing theosophy from spiritualism. In Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky does not totally reject spiritualist practices, making a distinction between mediumship and mediatorship, where one can communicate with more spiritual beings proper. 

Moreover, there were some cases where the adepts did try to use mediumnistic methods to communicate. Four such cases can be cited, William Stainton Moses, Mabel Collins
, Anna Bonus Kingsford, and Laura Holloway. Indications are given in the literature about how difficult it was to find a suitable person and how delicate the process was. Despite having produced one text each with Moses, Kingsford, and Holloway, and three texts from Collins, all four attempts ultimately failed and communication had to be broken off. There is also the intriguing case of Emma Hardinge Britten, a prominent spiritualist who was also a founding member of the Theosophical Society, whose book, Art Magic, was favorably mentioned in the Mahatma Letters.

Strangely, there might even be a kind of adept prototype for the Galactic A-Team, with the mysterious beings communicating to William Stainton Moses, who were composed of seven circles of seven spirits, said to be the souls of prominent historical spiritual and philosophical figures, who were related to functions that might be a more accurate depiction of the seven rays, so developed in neo-theosophy. Note that the seven rays doctrine was not so elaborately detailed in Blavatsky’s writing, with T. Subba Row only giving out rough indications, stating that the first two rays could not really be mentionedsee The Occultism of Southern India.
 
First circle of seven spirits:
1-Imperator Servus Dei, chief of a band of forty-nine spirits ( 7 x 7)
2-Rector, deputy and lieutenant, control manifesting spirits
3- Doctor, the Teacher, superintendence of spirits of wisdom and knowledge
4-5- Two Guardians of the earth
6-7- Two guardians of the spheres
 
Each member of the first circle presiding over one the next six circles:
 
Circle 1- Guardians and inspiring spirits Supervision of the whole band.
Circle 2- Spirits of love. Religion, love to God; charity, love to man; gentleness, tenderness, pity, mercy, friendship, affection.
Circle 3- Intuition, perception, reflection, impression, reasoning and the like.
Circle 4- Knowledge–of men, of things, of life, whose charge is caution and comparison, of causality and eventuality, and the like.
Circle 5- Art, science, literature, culture, refinement, poetry, paintings, music, language.
Circle 6- Mirth, wit, humour, geniality and joyous conversation.
Circle 7- Physical manifestations.

Spiritualism today

Additionally, I think that it would be good to consider that Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, arrived in an alternative spirituality movement that had already been quite active since about 1850, with the Spiritualism movement being the dominant current, therefore, it would be quite difficult to make a mark in an already effervescent field. Therefore, even though the early theosophical writings discourage spiritualism, many theosophists did pursue such practices. 

A little known part of theosophical history is the relationship of A.P. Sinnett with Maude Boyle-Travers, whom he used as a medium to supposedly contact the Mahatmas after communications were broken off with him, as described in The Mahatma Letters. Considering the major influence that he had on C. W. Leadbeater, one could even consider him the godfather of the new age, in which the little known figure of Maude Boyle-Travers, who later married William Scott-Elliot,  could be considered a more specific godmother of the new age.

Ultimately, I don't think that Blavatsky had much success in changing the beliefs of the spiritualists. However, considering that a program from a local annual spiritualist conference that I've seen was almost entirely comprised of activities based on esoteric practices and world spiritual traditions, one could say that the spirit world has virtually adopted the theosophical charter. Therefore, the new age movement could be better described as the result of the  spiritualist movement absorbing the theosophical world view into their practices, with the related esoteric and new thought philosophies. Personally, I think that many people find the surrounding materialistic society too stifling, and so come to depend on any kind of other-worldly experience for reassurance. Blavatsky was aware of the problem of weird spiritual beliefs.
 
In the case of the Love Has Won group, without having watched the documentary series, I would then say that it seems to be a case of advanced absorption of the theosophical current by spiritualistic practices. One pertinent reason why I consider this historical excursion useful is because I noticed that in more recent works, such as Graham Nicholls' Navigating the Out of Body Experience: Radical New Techniques, which mentions related techniques of astral healing, the author surveys the literature  on astral projection, including theosophical texts, but only goes as far back as CW Leadbeater, and seems unaware of the more cautionary explanations found in the earlier literature.

Part 1 

Still have some backlog for a 3rd post, which I couldn't fit it - more mainstream ramifications of 1st Blavatsky quote, myth theory, philosophy of history, sociology- Stay tuned...

Friday 24 November 2023

Blavatsky and neo-theosophy (1/3)

HBO’s  Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God, Docuseries was the 8th most watched show on Max in its first of three episodes (and the second episode reached #3) . It is the tragic story of Amy Carlson and an alternative spirituality group with an eclectic mix of beliefs and practices with some questionable elements that have raised eyebrows. The theology of Love Has Won has been described as fluid, combining New Age spirituality, conspiracy theories, and elements from mainstream Abrahamic religions.
A striking collage entitled ‘The Galactic A-Team’ featuring modern western pop cultures celebrities from film and music and the ascended master version of the Count of Saint-Germain. In reading a few articles on the subject, a few more neo-theosophical elements could be glimpsed among the Christian, millenialist, QAnon and New Age elements. Among this rather baroque appearance, I happened to recognize a few discernible elements, and so I thought it would be feasible to attempt a brief analysis as it could give some insight into how theosophical influences figure in contemporary new religious movements.

My theory is that there is a specific passage from Blavatsky that has been noticed and has gradually morphed into something very different, but one can still trace the timeline back to the source, from 2023 to 1877. It begins with a passage from H. P. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled I, ch. 1, p. 34, about the doctrine of cycles:

‘’Thus, all those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind, like Buddha-Siddartha, and Jesus, in the realm of spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napoleon the Great, in the realm of physical conquests, were but reflexed images of human types which had existed ten thousand years before, in the preceding decimillennium, reproduced by the mysterious powers controlling the destinies of our world.’’ (34)

William Q. Judge elaborates on this notion in The Ocean of Theosophy, chapter 4, 1893; (he further elaborates on the subject in his first essay on the Bhagava Gita, 1895:

‘’In these cycles we can include mixed characters who have had great influence on nations, such as King Arthur, Pharaoh, Moses, Charlemagne reincarnated as Napoleon Bonaparte, Clovis of France reborn as Emperor Frederic III of Germany, and Washington the first President of the United States of America where the root for the new race is being formed.’’

Without getting into the complexities of it, there is a notion of the esoteric role of prominent historical figures, who are involved in the cyclical repetition of archetypal patterns.

Moreover, Blavatsky occasionally makes disclosures of historical figures who are agents working for the lodge of Mahatmas, such as Saint-Germain, Cagliostro, and Anton Mesmer. They are considered as adepts, initiates or students of occultism of a lower degree. These are two different concepts, but are often inter-related.

With the writings of C.W. Leadbeater, which I designate as neo-theosophy, as I consider that there are considerable differences with Blavatsky’s writings, one could say that there is an elaboration of historical spiritual and occult figures, with details about their past lives attributed to contemporary members of the Theosophical Society. One could say that the degree of spiritual advancement gains more prominence as many members of the theosophical society become designated as initiates. Moroever, the higher spiritual beings in Blavatsky’s writings, such as Sanat Kumara, which were not described in detail, and not in anthropomorphic terms, are elaborately described as such in Leadbeater’s writings. To a certain extent, human adepts become more god-like and diving beings become more human-like. Communication with both seem to be portrayed as being more frequent and less difficult than in Blavatsky’s writings.

This tendency continues in the writings of Alice Bailey, with the following passages, for example:

“These are the things which the triangle at Yalta attempted to do. These they may not have consciously recognised as the work asked of them on account of their discipleship, but they automatically worked this way because they correctly sensed human need.” (The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, 3.7, 1957)

"Napoleon; Bismarck, the creator of a nation; Mussolini, the regenerator of his people; Hitler who lifted a distressed people upon his shoulders; Lenin, the idealist, Stalin and Franco are all expressions of the Shamballa force and of certain little understood energies." (The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, 2.3, 1957)

In these two passages, Bailey attributes the notion of archetypal historical actors and occult historical agents to contemporary political figures, sometimes conflating the two in one person. This esoteric engagement in contemporary political events of World War Two, had some controversial repercussions, beginning with a possible influence on the notorious ‘Morning of the Magicians’. Indeed, the history of theosophical responses to the Second World War would make for an interesting study. Current Bailey groups often reject such passages as errors of transmission.

This hyper-spiritualization tendency further continues with the Church Universal Triumphant and the notion of Ascended Masters. Where adepts where initially considered to be human beings with a physical body who could engage in astral projection, now they are portrayed as angelic beings solely functioning in a spiritual world. Moreover, there is an extensive elaboration with the introduction of an extended list of spiritual beings of different types, with a hierarchical categorization according to the concept of the seven rays, a concept presented in Blavatsky’s writings, but which did not have the specific detailed elaborations that were introduced by Leadbeater.

With the Benjamin Crème group, this type of spiritualized elaboration continues on a more concrete level with an extensive array of historical figures from throughout world history from different fields, from politics to science to art and some more modern western pop culture figures, including:

Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Dirk Bogarde, Marlon Brando, Jim Morrison, Georges Brassens, George Burns, Greta Garbo, Jerry Garcia, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, Peter Sellers, and Eartha Kitt.

The two aspects of historical agents which were conflated with Alice Bailey and termed 'disciples' in Bailey’s writings, are now given the higher status of ‘initiates’.

A final step that would take us closer to the A-Team assembly can be gleaned from The Circle of Initiates: Past and Present,  Klaire D. Roy, 2016 where are listed along with Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, we have Robin Williams and Walt Disney.

She claims to receive communications from the so-called DK, supposedly a disciple (chela) from Blavatsky’s days, later associated with Alice Bailey, although the main Alice Bailey groups have received the work negatively. The list that she presents is shorter, and more focused on more recent western pop culture celebrities.

Theosophical concepts are considered to be part of the UFO religion movement, and so these types of portrayals expanded into an extra-terrestrial framework as well. Millenialist and millenarian elements started to appear in all of these movements, which lead to  a certain influence on the QAnon conspiracy movement. Therefore I would describe the ‘Galactic A-Team’ as a more westernized pop culture version of the cast of initiates of the Benjamin Creme group, with added aspects from UFO religions and QAnon movements. 

A quote from Michael Barkun, referring to the Hatonn communications, describes a similar process:
'What we actually have is a highly derivative form of Theosophy— bits and pieces of what should really be termed neo-Theosophy, almost certainly lifted from sects that had themselves broken away from the larger Theosophical movement, such as the “I AM” Religious Activity in the 1930s and 1940s or the more recent Church Universal and Triumphant, and that have provided the Hatonn materials with a fragmentary and superficial Theosophical gloss.'

I’ve tried to give a brief outline of a rather complicated development, that I hope serves to show how a rather picturesque assemblage began from some more straightforward, albeit esoteric considerations of alternative histories. I wouldn’t call this a logical development, but rather the result of series of deviations, with each new series of teachings having been met with opposition or rejection from a previous group. But this is not all. I think that to give a more complete explanation, it would be good to give an overview of the spiritualist movement and present some considerations on how Blavatsky’s esoteric historical notions have developed along more rational lines. To be continued…

Part 2