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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky, and Theosophy: An Eyewitness View of Occult History by Rudolf Steiner, Christopher Bamford (Introduction) (Anthroposophic Press) Without the spiritualist movement and the amazing personality of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the creator of the Theosophical Society, the spiritual revolution of the twentieth century the so-called New Age, with all its movers and shakers would be unimaginable. And the work of Rudolf Steiner, G.I. Gurdjieff, Ren Gunon, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sri Aurobindo, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, and C.G. Jung could not have become what it was. 

In Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky, and Theosophy, a fascinating volume on the Theosophical movement, Rudolf Steiner, one of its primary participants, tells his story in his own words. Steiner tells us of the origins of the theosophical movement in spiritualism and somnambulism. We hear Steiner's own version of the relationship between Anthroposophy and Theosophy through his White Lotus Day Lectures, given over several years, on the anniversary of Madame Blavatsky's death.

Steiner then moves into the realm of occult history, where he relates Theosophy to its historical ground in Western esotericism, especially Rosicrucianism. He reveals events from the seventeenth century that led to the emergence of Freemasonry and other secret societies, as well as the hidden history of the creation of Theosophy in the nineteenth century and the conflicts that still reverberate today between the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic esoteric streams.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a respected and well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, particularly known for his work on Goethe's scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his earlier philosophical principles into an approach to methodical research of psychological and spiritual phenomena. His multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, philosophy, religion, education (Waldorf schools), special education (the Camphill movement), economics, agriculture (biodynamics), science, architecture, and the arts (drama, speech and eurythmy). In 1924 he founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which has branches throughout the world.

Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky, and Theosophy provides a unique perspective on spirituality as only Rudolf Steiner can. This is a must-read for so-called New Agers and those who seek to understand them.

Initiates of the Theosophical Masters by K. Paul Johnson (SUNY) 

The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Great White Lodge by K. Paul Johnson (SUNY) 0791420647

The Theosophical Enlightenment by Joscelyn Godwin (SUNY) Johnson is becoming the most astute historian of the Theosophical movement writing today. In Initiates of the Theosophical Masters, a continuation of the demythologization of 20th century theosophical past, Johnson provides the first systematic treatment and historical survey of the disciples of Madame Blavaksky's masters without sectarian special pleading which has made the literature so obscure and full of blind alleys. The study offers initial offerings about how the various aspects of the movement developed Though I doubt if all his thesis will prove out in further research, it is an admirable beginning. Johnson's The Masters Revealed is somewhat quixotic, but offers the best separation of fable from history of the founders of the Theosophical Society. In many ways Johnson's theses provide a beginning at independent, non-fabulous accounts of whom the real cohorts of HPB were. Godwin's own work is much influenced by the imaginal British school, and has produced several important studies of the esoteric tradition in music. The Theosophical Enlightenment is the most thorough study of the revolution in occultism initiated by Madame Blavasky's Theosophical Society in 1875. Godwin's account steers a critical course between the sectarian controversies of the occult factions and hostile attacks by the religious establishment and the skeptical academy. This is a wonderful work, witty, charming and profound. It is the best account of late 19th century occultism currently available. Recommended.

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