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Freemasonry Pt 1: Weeding Out The Kooks

 We’ve covered the Golden Dawn, we’ve covered Spiritualism and Theosophy. If you were doing something crazy and far out in the Victorian era, we’ll get to it, but at long last we turn our gaze on the single most influential secret society of all time: Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is without a doubt the most misunderstood, misrepresented centerpiece for every sort of fantastical, paranoid and flat out apeshit speculation since the poor Knights Templars found their medieval history rewritten into one insane yarn after the other.

But wait! It was Freemasonry that invented these very fantasy stories about the Knights Templar. And while there are many fingers to point at why Freemasonry is the target of such utterly balls out loony stories: anti masonry organizations, the Catholic Church (hates freemasonry, automatic excommunication if you join a Lodge) and just plain idiotic, gullible or sneakily savvy faux “researchers” who can’t resist incredulous speculation, Freemasonry itself bears a large responsibility for all the tall tales.

Mention Freemasonry and you might hear several different things: they’re behind some kind of political plots back in the day, they’re behind the American revolution, the French revolution, they’re part of the secret society that plots and runs the world (One World Government, Elders of Zion, Illuminati, etc), they’re descended from the Knights Templar, they’re descended from the builders of ancient Egypt, they’re descended from the builders of the Tower of Babel, from the builders of Solomon’s Temple, the whole thing was invented by Cromwell…

They’re an occult society, they’re an occult society but you only get to the occulty things when you get to the high levels, they’re behind Jack The Ripper, they’re behind the Gnomes of Zurich and the global banking system and proof can be found as hidden clues on the American dollar bill.

Whew! I can’t keep up with all this crap. So where does it come from?

Well, ignoring the political stuff which comes from anti masonic sources and conspiracy buffs and which we’ll get into tomorrow (and in any case, all talk of politics is outright forbidden inside any Lodge), the stuff that has religious and fantastical connotations comes from Masonry itself.

Let’s stop being coy and start talking about what Freemasonry really is.

Freemasonry is a fellowship of men (and in some forms like Co-masonry both men and women) who believe in a higher power and are interested in morality, self improvement and fellowship. The lodges use architectural symbols and signs of recognition passed down from the medieval stonemasons guild where it’s origins REALLY lay, along with a medieval morality tale about Hiram Abiff, the murdered architect for King Solomon’s Temple to teach members about morals, honor and respect for one another and Gd.

So where’s all the weirdness come in?

Freemasonry descends from a medieval stonemason’s guild of the British Isles. The guild used powerful initiation ceremonies to initiate its member into 2 degrees, Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craftsman. Religion was mixed into every aspect of daily life, it being the middle ages and all, and so religious morality was mixed into every aspect of the guild.

Masons as part of the guild were not bound to a specific land, they were “free” to roam from site to site constructing churches, cathedrals and large buildings requiring great skill on the part of the workers.

In the middle ages allegory was a part of daily life and the psyche of Europe. They saw allegory in everything. The Mason’s Guild for instance, wove allegory into the very tools of the trade. A level, protractor, the stone itself, all had meaning beyond just their tasks, they had spiritual meanings, and allegories were woven into deeply into the very craft.

During the late 1600s, especially near the end, the guild became less and less about working craftsmen and slowly began accepting outside members and focusing on it’s religious and moral themes. It added a 3rd degree, Master Mason.

In 1717 four lodges came together as a Grand Lodge and modern Freemasonry was born.

The initiations were powerful and affecting, the lessons deeps and compelling. The new Master Mason degree focused around a story where Solomon’s chief architect Hiram Abiff is killed (by 3 ruffians looking for the his secret Master Mason’s word which would give them the ability to pass as Master Masons) and his body hidden. The initiate, ritually acting out  certain aspects of the story, must find Hiram’s body and recover it.

The story is rife with deep meanings and symbologies and Freemasonry refuses to attach one single meaning to it, leaving it open to interpretation and discussion. The experience of this degree was greatly impacting and the powerful experiences of Freemasonry’s rituals and the depths of the moral lessons led to a huge surge in Freemasonry compared to the many, many other fellowship clubs that dotted 18th century England.

Due to its religious guild roots, Freemasonry came with some intriguing origin stories. One of the oldest is thus:

Before the Flood, some guy named Lamech invented geometry and some other sciences. Fearing punishment for their sins, his disciples built two great pillars inside which they inscribed all the information they had learned. One pillar was built to withstand fire, the other flood.

Well, BOOM! Flood it was. Yet the pillar survived, and Noah’s great grandson, Hermes Trismegistus (the reknowned Hermes) discovered it and taught it to the Egyptians. From there it passed down to the builders of the Tower of Babel, who developed the signs of Freemasonry to communicate with each other using body language after Gd  pulled the whole speech and language fiasco.

From there the knowledge was passed to Solomon and his builders and after building the great Temple of Solomon various Masons took the great and ancient knowledge to the four corners of the Earth.

What a story!

So this was the first origin story Freemasonry claimed. But after it began to spread to non builders, some of the upper classes began to join. The associations with manual labor was…ooh. No no no. A tad shall we say, demeaning? Surely old bean we can do just a bit better, hm?

So another origin myth got started, this one centering around the Knights of the Crusades holding sacred knowledge in the Promised Land from the heathens. This story was proposed by Andrew Ramsey in 1736. Soon afterwards the Knights in question were changed from the Hospitallers to the long forgotten Knights Templar, and THAT my friends is how the Knights Templar first found themselves at the center of ridiculous speculation about all sort of the comsic debris that annoys the living crap out of me. Seriously, bring up a conspircay theory involving the damn Knights Templar ONE MORE TIME and i will punch you. I will too. I will stop this car, come back there, and give you something to REALLY cry about.

But wait! There’s more! See, as Freemasonry grew each Grand Lodge operated independently from each other, so different lodges started coming up with different origin stories.

Furthermore, once you had completed the 3 degrees you were done with initiations. Initiations were REALLY REALLY fun. They were compelling, engaging, impacting and one could contemplate them deeply for some time after. So, where there is demand, there shall be supply. New degrees with new initiations and stories started popping up like wildfire. The most well known is the Scottish degrees, and it is because of the Scottish degrees that you may know of Freemasonry as going up to 33 degrees. However, during the 18th and 19th centuries somewhere around 2,000 different degrees were floating around various lodges, many not recognized by other lodges.

And that’s where a lot of the weird stuff comes from.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more Freemasonry extravaganza: either the Hanover and Jacobite kerfuffle, OR, my FAVORITE, the AWEsome Palladium Affair. Serious, the Palladium affair is one of the best historical tidbits i’ll ever tell you about.

Word to the Widow’s son, yo.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Compte Saint Germain

In examining the more colorful forms of spirituality that appeared during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there are some interesting  figures who movements like Theosophy drew upon and reimagined  into a mythological status. The Compte Saint Germaine is perhaps one of the most notable.

In the 1700s a socialite adventurer possessing wit and intirgue could live their lives travelling the courts of Europe, entertaining and seducing their way through high society. Ask Casanova. Be delightful and interesting and the courts of Europe will open for you. You could indeed make a living thourgh sheer personality.

A figure such as Saint Germaine was perfect for such a role. He was a raconteur bar none (Raconteur: one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes) in an age where “conversation very nearly counted as one of the fine arts”. He was undeniably bright, colorful and highly intelligent. He knew six languages and was skilled musician, composer, painter and chemist as well as a bit of a physician. He loved to drop hints that he had been alive for centuries and had known some of the great figures of history with just enough detail to titillate. He was beloved even by those he defrauded.

As with many others of the day who made their way into high society through personality, his origins were very intentionally shrouded in mystery. He first showed up in Holland in 1735 and soon after made a splash in  London. Those were early days of Freemasonry and Jacobite vs. Stuart conspiracies and Saint Germain soon found himself implicated in a Jacobite conspiracy. He was eventually cleared of all charges but none the less left the country quickly afterwards.

For the next 12 years he dashed around from Vienna to India before coming to France in 1757and becoming a sensation at Versailles. Saint Germaine was an extraordinary storyteller, the most charming and interesting person in any given room and a sublime boaster. The key was that he boasted of utterly incredible things not the least of which was being numerous centuries old, but was sharp and talented enough to pull off just enough doozies so that he remained impressive amongst those who didn’t buy the far fetched tales and inspired the less cynical into, if not belief, then the suspension of disbelief. King Louis XV thought highly enough of Saint Germain to entrust him with a secret diplomatic mission, however the mission went atrociously wrong and Saint Germain had to flee France in order to avoid a stay in the Bastille as punishment.

Versailles, 1700s

In 1762 he was in Holland, involved in a shady deal where a Dutch industrialist got taken for 100,000 gulden. He then lived in Italy and Germany. He won an honorary commision as a Russian general for providing the Russian navy with a healing tea (made with Senna) and eventually spent the last years of his life in the homes of various wealthy German noblemen who found his company worth the upkeep. He died in 1784.

All well and fine. He cut a dashing figure, inspired much talk and left a fairy amusing legend after his death. However, he has since become a strangely popular, larger than life, Master of Higher Worlds and all godlike knowledge figure within the the New Age movement.

How did this happen?

Well, for one thing, although Saint Germain was only a rather lukewarm Freemason, after his death some Lodges needed fodder for their  ever increasing, newly uncovered hidden knowledge from which new and fun degrees and initiations could be invented. Actually, most Lodges were coming up with new degrees and “new uncovered knowledge” because going through new theatrical initiations is an enormous part of the fun of Freemasonry. So, Saint Germain, having left a bit of a legend, got used in some of these. This kept his name alive.

In 1836 a set of memoirs was published by a lady in waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette about the eve of the French Revolution. In them, they described how Saint Germain appeared to the Queen to warn her of the coming revolution. Naturally, these memoirs were eventually utterly discredited, but the legend was stoked.

Finally, Compte Saint Germain was picked up by Helena Blavatsky who pretty much wrote the entire blueprint for the eventual beliefs of the New Age movement. By the time she and her successor Annie Besant were done with him, Saint Germain had become one of the members of the Great White Lodge, the secret body of enlightened Masters who were guiding the world to its new age. The White Lodge eventually became the Ascended Masters, and Saint Germain, who had not been particularly interested in the occult or talked of it in any legnth, none the less became a central figure in the pantheon of those great Illuminated Ones communicating occult teachings from the Ascended Spheres to receptive New Agers down here in the muck. Seriously, in some circles, he is on par with Jesus, if not surpassing.

Before Blavatsky and Besant

After. Extreme Makeover has got NOTHING on Theosophy.

Fascinating, huh? And thus, in a way, Saint Germain did achieve a mark of immortality.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Theosophy: So What’s It All About, Anyway?

Now that we’ve covered the history of Theosophy, let’s end our little sojourn with a discussion of what the movement was all about.

Basically, Spiritualism began the idea that ghosts and occultish things could be reasoned out and studied scientifically. However, Spiritualism was ill equipped to do so, for although many people interested in it took this approach, the mediums central to Spiritualism were mostly (if not all) pulling tricks, cons and wishful thinking.

As its most basic, Theosophy carries on this idea to a far greater extant and with far more knowledge. Spiritualism had limited access to esoteric ideas but Blavatksy assembled an immense amount of western AND eastern esotericism before she even began the Society. So Theosophy set out to explore studiously and to the extant it was capable, scientifically these spiritual and occult matters.

Theologically, Theosophy begins with the notions that Everything Is One and  As Above So Is Below. These are also the basic tenants of Western esotericism as a whole.

There is an Ultimate Absolute from which everything manifests. Things like…. you know, Universes manifest, live out their huge, cosmic but ultimately finite cycles and then reintegrate with the Absolute.

Once manifested there are 3 categories: Spirit, Consciousness and Matter, all interconnected and undergoing cycles of evolution. The universe and all within it evolves including souls, which go from a small low state to a high godlike state, free of karma.

The cosmos itself goes through a 7 step evolution and the entire human race also goes through 7 stages of evolution. 7 is the most important and holy number in the universe. Duh.

Human civilization, like everything else in the universe, develops through cycles of seven stages or epochs or “root races”. In the first age, humans were essentially pure spirit;

in the second age, they were known as Hyperboreans (in which humans strayed from their mystical otherworldly homeland in the Far North, becoming more ape-like and evil in the process);

in the third age, they were Lemurians (tall, sexually hermaphroditic, egg-laying beings, mentally undeveloped but spiritually more pure than the following root races);

in the fourth, Atlanteans (the nadir of the cycle, created after the Lemurians were sunk into the ocean for turning to bestiality and other transgressions).

The present fifth age, in which most of humanity belongs to the Aryan root race which originally developed out of the “cream” of the Atlantean civilization, is a time of reawakening of humanity’s psychic gifts. Like the older races before it, the Aryan root race will also eventually die out in time, to be replaced by the more advanced peoples of the sixth root race which is set to develop on the re-emerging Lemurian continent.

Got it?

Easy to read diagram

Blavasky has also asserted a Gnostic view of the world. Gnostics were an ancient Plato based religion that embraced Christianity whole heartedly when it came around. During the first 3 centuries Gnostics and Orthodox Christianity (i.e. the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches back when they were one) were the most influential strains of Christianity and they duked it out fiercely for centuries. Eventually in the 4th century Orthodoxy won and Gnostic texts were systematically destroyed to remove the dreaded heresy from history. Gnosticism survived in small crevices into the 16th century when a revitalization resulted in thousands of Gnostics being burned alive by the Catholic Church. Wiped out again, in the past several decades numerous Gnostic texts have been discovered which have given us more comprehensive glimpses into the movement.

Why do i bring this up? Gnosticism believes that this world was NOT created by the true God, but by a lesser and ultimately flawed god (the offspring of Wisdom, Sophia who had an offspring…. an emanation really, that was out of harmony with the Absolute) and this flawed offspring, desiring to be like the true God, created his own world, which is flawed and full of suffering and ugliness.

This flawed lesser god is at odds with the one true God, and in Gnosticism, Christ is sent from beyond by the one true God to save humanity from the evil world it is stuck in.

So you could indeed say, according to a Gnostic viewpoint that Satan is the actual creator of the world.

As you can imagine this does not go over well with a more classic Christian viewpoint. I’ve gone off on this long tangent because this point has been picked up by many fundamentalist Chistians and as a result will often come up in any general discussion of Blavatsky and it should be explained.

Theosophists practice meditation and the development of their spiritual abilties. Most of these abilities fall into the older definition of clairavoyance, which covered a lot of ground back then and now has various sub definitions like ‘remote viewing’, psychic ability, astral travel, premonition, visions, etc.

But basically, clairovoyance is the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses. Theosophists often try to develop this as much as possible. It is through this that they may contact the Hidden Masters as well as go on visions where they can see other places and times and learn about epochs, the workings of the universe and places like Atlantis.

Theosophy came up with the idea of Hidden Masters, highly spiritually evolved people who try to influence human events to help the species evolve.  This group of Masters is called The Great White Lodge. At first these  Masters were actually alive, but Guy Ballard and Alice Bailey later ran with the idea to create the Ascended Masters paradigm, which includes people both dead and evolved beyond mere matter.  Evolve your clairavoyant abilities enough and supposedly they may contact you to teach you.

This idea has led to the later channeling phenomenon where people channel “evolved” beings like Seth or Ramtha who blather on patronizingly at length.

The Lodge of The Great White Lodge

I would also point out that the “Hidden Masters guiding human events” idea did indeed mutate into the New World Order. The woman who put together the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Juliana Glinka, directly took Theosophy’s The Great White Lodge and turned it into an evil body (of Jewy type people) ruling the world nefariously. The stupid fucking Protocols eventually led to a non antisemitic but equally hysterical John Birch Society who coined the term New World Order and today we all know the idea that there’s a secret bunch of dastardly hand wringing Mr. Burns out there (in some cases still kind of Jewy) pulling the world’s strings.

I could sit here all day and list the number of Theosophical ideas that mutated throughout the 20th century.

Theosophy would explore any esoteric idea and try it out. It used Blavatsky’s material as a template to explore their own visions and insights. We’ve been over the World Teacher thing at length yesterday, but i’ll retouch on the concept as New Age uses the World Teacher at length. Blavatsky predicted the coming of a World Teacher, on par with Buddha or Jesus who would help the Aryan root race evolve.

(if all this talk of Aryan evolution over lesser races makes you uncomfortable, this entire concept has indeed been used ENORMOUSLY by both Nazi and neo-Nazi organizations. It was not what Blavatsky meant at all as far as i can discern. Ayran root race talk got picked up and thrown into Nazi occultism in the 1930s and 40s. Later in the 70s Nazi occultism got revitalized by the Temple Of Set, a highly influential satanic occult group and from there disseminated out to neo nazis occult groups by The White Order of Thule amongst others.)

Blavastky can indeed be connected with almost every occult movement in the 20th century until the Druid movement and Wicca finally started a new paradigm. (although Wicca can trace back to Crowley’s sex magic and the Golden Dawn. Seriously, I really could draw these lines around this all day)

However, what she really did was this: she collected western and eastern occultism, put it in one library so to speak and assembled a group to study and practice it. She then went on to develop an intricate cosmology, the cosmology pulling from interesting and creative crosses between Qabbalic and Hindu ideas. How power hungry she was or wasn’t, how deceitful she was or wasn’t i honestly don’t know. How much of it is great wisdom and how much utter horseshit? I’m sure you all have your own opinions. Theosophy’s influence over 20th century spiritual and esoteric thought is enormous, truly, more enormous than i can get across unless i dedicated an entire blog posts to following all the ideas from Theosophy to where they ended up.

Not bad for a Russian princess.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Theosophy Post Blavatsky: The Trouble With Messiahs

The Theosophy Symbol

When Helena Blavatsky died in 1891, she left a strong movement. Her last book, the massive 2 volume The Secret Doctrine contained an enormous amount of deep thinking, wild assertions, challenging revelations and talking points to last for years. Indeed, the Secret Doctrine attracted all manner of interested new potential members and for anyone interested in the occult or heady spiritual matters divergent form the dominant paradigms laid out by Christianty, Theosophy was one of the most deep and intellectually stimulating games in town.

However, all movements founder after the death of their leaders, especially when said leader is responsible for all the great insights and revelations of the movement. Desputes began popping up, certain factions broke off, but what destroyed Theosophy didn’t finally occur until around 1909.

Enter upon our stage Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater.

Annie Besant and Charles Leabeater

Charles Leadbeater became involved in Theosophy in 1883 and met Blavatsky the following year. He moved to India, to Theosophy’s main headquarters, became a vegetarian, started practicing clairavoyance and claimed he was “visited” (astrally or telepathically) and trained by some of the same Secret Masters who had trained Blavatsky. He also became close with Charles Olcott, Blavatsky’s right hand man, and moved steadily up the chain.

In 1894 he met Annie Besant who herself has just become interested in Theosophy. He told her he could help her become clairavoyant, and supposedly over the next year did just that. They would then go on clairvoyant journeys together, exploring space, dimensions, thought forms and history. They wrote several books on what they discovered and saw.

By 1906 Annie was almost at the top of the Theosophy ladder, but Charles Leadbetter got into trouble when it came out that he was advising some boys to masturbate. He said he did this to keep them celibate which was necessary for spiritual development. This caused quite a ruckus and he was expelled from Theosophy.

In 1907 Annie became President. She had Leadbetter reinstated (although these types of allegations continued to come up for the rest of his career) and the two of them pursued their visions and spiritual direction which brought down the movement.

Annie allied Theosophy with some groups she was quite fond of, Co-Freemasonry (a branch of Freemasonry which admitted women), and the Liberal Catholic Church, an esoteric form of Christianity. This caused some schisms but not the giant ruckus that would truly decimate the Society.

What really did it was the World Teacher Project.

“Blavatsky had stated in 1889 that the main purpose of establishing the Society was to prepare humanity for the future reception of a “torch-bearer of Truth”, an emissary of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy that according to Theosophists guides the evolution of Humankind. This was repeated by Besant as early as 1896; Besant came to believe in the imminent appearance of the “emissary”, who was identified by Theosophists as the so-called World Teacher.”

Junni Krishnamurti, the new World Teacher/ Messiah

Well, in 1909 they found him.As it turns out, what a coincidence, living just next door to Theosophy’s headquarters in India, was a 14 year old boy Leadbetter discovered who was this great Teacher, the next Jesus and Buddha. Jiddu Krishnamurti was put into care of Theosophists, his father being too poor to care for him well, and Annie started grooming him for his great future role and established The World Teacher Project to trumpet his Messiahood.

She also began the group The Star In The East, which would follow and spread his teachings. These became the new center of Theosophy alongside Blavatsky’s work.

It was too much for some and the final straw for others. Theosophy began cracking and splitting. The worst split came in 1912 when Rudolph Steiner decided he had enough, split from Theosophy and took over 90% of German Theosophists with him. Steiner went on to have a long and distinguished career and to be honest, i have a real soft spot for him.

However, Annie held what remained together, raised Junni to be the World Teacher, the next Messiah, and she was also his surrogate mother. The movement then grew and after WWI attracted a larger and larger following

In 1929 The World Teacher, now grown and ready to assume his rightful place as the new Spiritual Master of this era, stepped upon stage and announced to Theosophists and The Star of the East that he thought the entire thing was deluded. He firmly stated he was not any World Teacher, the whole thing was well intentioned but misguided and then walked away.

Junni Krishnamurti

My sincere hats off to Junni Krishnamurti. He’s practically my hero for this. What i’m applauding isn’t the destruction of Theosophy, although it was indeed shattered irreparably after this, but the fact that a man with power and followers handed to him on a silver platter, who could have ruled his little own cult and been a god to them, actually had the state of mind, heart and spirit to do the honest and noble thing, and walk away from it.He went on to have a long distinguished career writing and teaching spiritual philosophy, but he refused to have any group form around him.

He’s almost an advertisement for Theosophy. They managed to produce a spiritual guru so advanced he refused the job. Seriously, that gets huge props in my book. They’re obviously doing something right.

Theosophy never recovered. Most groups quietly disbanded and the few that remained kept quiet and continued their work out of any spotlight. The ideas Theosophy presented and discussed in detail continued to be disseminated and covered until finally, when the New Age movement sprang up, they rebranded Theosophy in its own image.

Tomorrow we shall conclude this series by examining just what on earth Theosophy was all about anyway, and what they believed and practiced.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Theosophy’s Reign

 

With her massive, two volume book Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky not only discusses close to the entirety of Western  Occultism and Spiritualism, but all out attacks the scientific materialism and religious orthodoxy of her day. Few Victorian views on these subjects remained unchallenged.

Borrowing heavily from notable occultist Eliphas Levi and PB Randolph, she argues for a root mysticism, theological philosophy and set of spiritual teachings based on Hermetic tradition, which the world had more or less ignorantly and foolishly turned its back on.

Dense, comprehensive, passionate and intelligent, for anyone interested in any of the subject amterial it was impossible to ignore. Released at the height of Spiritualism, it offers a massive philosophical discussion to a movement increasingly overwhelmed with spectacle and as it turned out, fraud.

A year after publication, Blavtksy and Orcott went to India and set up a Society headquarters in Adyar, near Bombay. She stayed for 5 years, writing articles, performing minor miracles and working to establish an Indian religious revival (in opposition to the British Colonial government).

Theosophy Society headquarters in Adyar

Finally, one day, Blavatksy went to England for a lecture tour.

It is here that we come to the Coulomb affair, which i mentioned yesterday.

So. A couple who had befriended Blavatksy back in 1871 got in touch with her again, down on their luck and in Sri Lanka, not too far from Blavatksy. Blavatksy brought them to Adyar and gave them housekeeping jobs at the Society’s headquarters. It should be mentioned, years before, Blavatsky met them after she had been shipwrecked and was destitute herself.

Now it’s 1884. Blavatksy and Olcott head over to England for her lecture tour. While away, the Society For Psychical Research show up to investigate Blavatksy and all these claims of superpowers that are flying around Adyar. They find fraud. A whole bunch of it. Not only do they find plenty of evidence that all these minor miracles impressing the locals and various visitors are tricks, but they get detailed confessions from the Coulombs who had been involved in manufacturing the miracles.

The SPR published their report in 1885 and scandal broke loose. Newspaper headlines on five continents caused immense trouble and by the end of it, Olcott broke with Blavatksy and forbade her from stepping foot in Adyar again. She set up adddress in London where she lived for the rest of her life.

Now. The Theosophical Society has a different take on things in which the Coulumbs are nefarious plotters and responsible for all the shenanigans and choas. Let’s review.

In May 1884 the SPR came and investigated Blavatsky. They found fraud and the Coulumbs’ confessions, both on their part and Blavatksy’s. ALSO in May, 1884, the same month (just after this fraud trouble) the Coulumbs are expelled from the Society and they promptly go to the Christian Mission with letter purportedly written by Blavatsky to Emma Coulumb, which once again illustrates fraud. In September 1884 these letters are published in the Christian College Magazine.

The Society maintains that in fact, the Coulumbs were at constant odds with the Society and this was all a plot they devised.

 “When the Coulombs felt their position in India to be fairly secure, and as they became acquainted with various members, visitors and inquirers, they began to express dissatisfaction with their relatively humble lot. Before long Madame Coulomb tried to extort or beg money from wealthy persons interested in the Society, notably from the native prince, Harrisinji Rupsinji. Madame Coulomb whispered about tales of her own powers and of her ability to find “hidden treasures, sometimes intimating that Madame Blavatsky’s powers were from the “Evil One.” The Coulombs were more or less constantly in communication with the establishments of the missionaries near by, and Madame Coulomb, in particular, engaged in fractious religious disputes with resident members of the Society.

“With (Blavatsky) and Olcott gone, the Coulombs refused to accept any orders or obey any instructions from the resident members of the Council; they opposed access to H.P.B.’s apartments and declared that she had placed them in independent control of her quarters and the conduct of the household. On the other hand, the members of the Council living at headquarters, distrusting the Coulombs utterly, were more or less harsh and contemptuous toward them, communicating with them only by letter, and refusing to eat with them, or to eat the food provided by Madame Coulomb. Her they charged with extravagance and waste, and suspecting that she profited personally from the handling of the domestic funds, they set about auditing her daily expenditures. Vain, sensitive, and smarting under their grievances, both real and imaginary, the Coulombs planned a dual revenge.”

The Society maintains that they forged the letters and installed the trick devices in the “Occult Room” which the SPR then found. The secret doors and sliding panels were to noisy and heavy to actually be of use in deceit and were clearly installed very recently, by the Coulombs as their plot to piss all over the society was carried out.

So there you have it.

Despite the allegations and bad publicity, The Theosophical Society continued to grow. And in 1888 Blavatsky released her other massive two volume tomb, her magnum opus: The Secret Doctrine.

The Secret Doctrine mined Eastern and hindu mysticism this time. It lays out a sprawling cosmology, an immense reimagining of reincarnation and cycles of time. It talks of root races and giant evolutionary journeys upwards from elements to human and beyond. We’ll get into it more in our 4th segment when we discuss Blavatsky’s teachings.

It is The Secret Doctrine that is Theosophy’s core teaching and doctrine and which all who came after here were to draw on, elaborate and debate. It attempts to connect eastern wisdom with modern science, a pastime that has grown quite big over the last few decades as books linking Quantum mechanics and eastern teachings continue to flood the market.She did it first, yo.

Atlantis, bitches.

It’s got the history of the universe, the cycles of meta-nature (i don’t believe she called it that), humanity and root races, ATLANTIS… we finally get Atlantis, it was not a major discussion in esoteric circles like it is today, and teh only reason it is today is because of Blavatksy and The Secret Doctrine. It’s also got the lost continent of Lemuria, Hyperborea… fucking HYPERBOREA , WHERE CONAN IS FROM! (Actually, Robert Howard did in fact steal Hyperborea from Blavatksy to use as the forgotten Age when magic and Conan The Barbarian wandered the Earth. Which is really cool if you ask me.

Long story short, The Secret Doctrine is where idea after idea came from that went on to be major players in 20th century occult and spirituality circles.

Sadly for Blavatsky, but fortunately for me since i’m getting really tired of writing, she died only three years later, in 1891, at 60 years old.

Tomorrow we will discuss the Theosophical Society post Blavatsky, always fun since you’re guaranteed lots of stories about disputes and rivalries and high school level cat fighting. After THAT we’ll have a post going into detail about some of the many ideas put forth by Theosophy and where some of them led. (A great deal of her race-root material and ideas is used in neo nazi occult circles, something i would imagine she would be horrified at, as she dreamed of a Brotherhood uniting all Man)

Until then.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Victorian Religion: Blavatsky and the Beginning Of Theosophy

We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our “spiritual Self” is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. ” –Madame Blavatsky

Helena Blavatsky

While Spiritualism in the Victorian era began the dissemination of the ideas of Emanuel Swedengor, while it brought into mass consciousness an interest in the paranormal, the occult and the spiritual away from a strict Christian theology, while it can be seen as the grandfather of all that came after it: The Golden Dawn, the New Age Movement and even Wicca, it’s influence is vastly and utterly overshadowed by Helena Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society.

Beginning as a Spiritualist but at its height in 1875 quietly forming an entirely new entity, Blavatsky did right everything Spiritualism did wrong.  Spiritualism had begun and was fueled by spectacle. People expected to see spirits manifesting for the manifestations to be more and more outrageous. This naturally led to a plethora of frauds and charlatans scampering up to prominence to deliver what the audience wanted.

Theosophy Symbol

Theosophy did the opposite. It focused on content and study; on personal revelation and the voluminous output of Blavatsky and her many, dense revelations and assertions. In doing this, it dominated the esoteric and non Christian spiritual landscape for the next century.

You may not be familiar with Theosophy today as after Blavatsky’s death it gradually faded from prominence, (although it does still remains active today) but all of its major ideas simply popped up in other areas, especially New Age. There are very few primary New Age ideas that do not originate in Theosophy.

Helena Blavatsky was born Helena Petrovna in Ukraine in 1831.Her mother was a well known write and her family a German officer in the military. The family had a large library which young Helena was enamored with. Her great grandfather had been a member of the leading 18th century occult Masonic order, the Rite of Strict Observance and the library contained a wealth of occult and esoteric books.

When she was 19 (1850) her father married to off to an old Russian nobleman, Nikifor Blvatsky. She became Helena Blavatsky, stuck around a few months and at the first opportunity left and began an extensive travelling life that lasted years.

She travelled to the Orient and while there learned a wealth of knowledge about their forms of religious, spiritual and occult ideas. She was intensely smart, extraordinarily well read, and hungry for knowledge. The Theosophical party line is that she spent a great deal of time as a pupil under the Masters Of Tibet.

These Masters of Tibet are very important because from them emerges a core Theosophical idea: that of The Hidden Masters. the Hidden Masters are a body of people working to preserve and disseminate important spiritual knowledge that will lead the way to the next great evolution of Man. They exist here on Earth, but many have already moved on, they watch and communicate as pure spirit entities. We’ll get more into this later.

These Master of Tibet played a large role in early Theosophy and Blavatksy claimed they had taught her great psychic abilities (or more accurately, brought out and developed her natural psychic abilities) and were thus able to communicate to her, through her and even perform psychic feats using her as a vessel. More on this later.

As you can imagine, skeptical researchers who are not members of the Society paint a different picture. They claim she spent these years as a circus performer, medium and adventuress. What is not in doubt is that by 1858 when she finally returned to visit her family she was well versed in Sufism, Qabbalah, Coptic Christianity, the Druze (esoteric, gnostic sect of Ismaliism, a branch of Shia Islam as well as an extraordinary plethora of Eastern theologies, beliefs and practices. She was a walking international esoteric library.

Her first attempt at a society, the Spiritualist organization of Societe Spirite in Cairo lasted  only a few years and ended badly. She began it with a French medium, Emma Coulomb and her husband who come into play again in Blavatsy’s life. In our reality this next time is called: “Tomorrow’s Blog Post”.

In 1873 she finally came to America. There she met Col. Henry Olcott. He was a top notch publicist and organizer and the two of them began living together and planning to build an organization that would  teach the wisdom Blavatsky had collected.

Their friend Henry Sotheran, himself a high ranking Freemason and occultist, suggested the name “Theosophical Society” (Society of Divine Wisdom). The rest, as they say, is history. The Society began in 1875. It’s tenants:

  1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
  2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.
  3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

It built itself slowly for the next two years. During this time Blavatsky was furiously writing a massive book, the one that would blow up and land Theosophy firmly on the center stage of international esoterica: Isis Unveiled.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Fall Of Spiritualism

By the beginning of the 20th century Spiritualism was being attacked rabidly by skeptics. To Spiritualism’s credit, it claimed to be a scientific religion, not asking its followers to take anything on pure faith but offering direct experience of communication with the dead and what they had to say. Some mediums, the more famous ones, would willingly allow some scientists and reporters to test them and try to debunk them.

However, over time more and more mediums were debunked. Many of the big ones were debunked at some point, even if just once. Their followers were quick to write it off, but as the decades passed from 1848, more and more fraud was uncovered. In no small part this was because people expected crazier and crazier stuff to happen and what the audience craves will be delivered by someone, somewhere.

When the Fox sisters admitted fraud in 1888 it was a vicious blow. However, Margaret recanted a year later, then died and dead bones were then uncovered in the basement of their original house, giving credence to their original story of a spirit telling them of his murder there. Of course, an investigator then claimed some of the bones were animal bones and the whole bone pile had been placed there after the fact. However, all this did was to create an endless argument between Spiritualists and skeptics. Spiritualists felt persecuted and claimed skeptics would go to any length to dismiss the volume of evidence and skeptics pointed out that Spiritualists wanted to believe so much that they would ignore all evidence to the contrary.

The shenanigans associated with sceances had grown to unbeleivable proportions. Table tipping, flying objects and chalkboards writing themselves were matched with ghostly appearances. For instance: a medium would call up a spirit. He would then retire to lie down as the effort had drained him. A few minutes after retiring into another room a figure in a glowing white cloak would appear some rooms away. Wow! Uncle Bob! Of course the face was covered by the shawl so it couldn’t be verified to actually be Uncle Bob… but no matter, clearly it was.

Now, someone with even a shred of skepticism or common sense cannot help but be utterly unconvinced that this is anything but a charade. And indeed, on some occasions an excited participant would rush the ghostly figure and Whoops! turns out it wasn’t Uncle Bob, it was the medium. This sort of thing did not help Spiritualism’s reputation.

Many mediums would lock themselves in a cabinet. They would be tied up and verified to not be able to escape. The seance would take place and all manner of shenanigans would ensue. But clearly, the medium could not be responsible to trickery since she was verifyably tied up in a sold oak cabinet… remember, these were the days before famous magicians doing escape acts so this sort of the thing was not in such doubt.

Even so, frauds continued to be uncovered, but the fact was also there were over 10,000 mediums practicing in the US alone and Spiritualsim was too big to just disappear. None the less by the time the 20th century rolled around Spiritualism’s growth had evened out and it was beginning to recede.

Spiritualism floundered but then came WWI. Young men died in droves and left grieving relatives. Millions of dead. Millions. The world had never seen a war like this or death on this scale, ever. The grieving turned to Spiritualism to comfort them and communicate with their poor sons, husbands and brothers. Spiritualism was back, baby.

And then came Harry Houdini.

Harry Houdini was a sensation as a magician. He performed tricks onstage never before seen or dreamt of. He could escape from straightjackets, sealed containers, for heaven’s sake the guy could be shackled head to foot, nailed into a crate, the crate flung into the water and inside of 57 seconds the crate was empty.

He was also interested in the paranormal, but the more he looked, the more he found trickery and fraud. Thus in the 1920s he decided to take on phony psychics and mediums.

As part of the Scientific American commitee $5,000 was offered to anyone who could demonstrate abilities that he could not debunk. George Valentine of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania was the first to step up and the first to go down. Houdini attended the seance but rigged the medium’s chair to alert a stenographer in the next room exactly when he would leave it. The voices around the room and the moving objects all occurred exactly when Valentine would be, invisibly to the attendees sitting in the dark, out of his chair.

After this Houdini’s crusade went into overdrive. He would attend seances in disguise along with a reporter and sometimes a police officer. At the height of the paranormal phenomenon Houdini would leap up and reveal hidden strings, devices or the mediums themselves sneaking about the room causing the activity. Years before Scooby Do, Houdini was a one man “those meddling kids”.

The most convincing thing he did was that he learned how to do all the paranormal feats himself. Whatever the popular mediuims did he did too. He did them on stage for audiences then deconstructed the trick for them. He offered $10,000 to anyone who could exhibit supernatural phenomenon he couldn’t imitate.

There was a draw, however.

Mini''s husband, Mina, Harry Houdini and in back a colleague of Scientific American.

One of the biggest mediums in the US was Mina Crandon. She amazed those who came to her. Her prayers were read by the US Army. She was at the  height of notoriety, and even Houdini’s own Scientific American commitee investigated her for 3 months (without his knowledge) and was about to declare her genuine.

Houdini went to a seance. He sat politely. Bells rang, stuff moved, her spirit control Walter talked. At the end Houdini got up, thanked her and left. At his hotel he then went into detail about how the bell had rung and the megaphone had flown while her feet and hands were touching Houdini and his companion. (She rang the bell with her foot and threw the megaphone from her head)

The next month Houdini returned and brought a box. Mina was placed in the box. Too holes on either side allowed her hands to be held. Mina reluctantly agreed and her husband and Houdini got into a fierce argument. When the seance came, a rather remarkable development occured. The bell that was to ring had a stopper, an eraser in it to prevent ringing. Outside the box, at Margarey’s feet Walter the spirit pointed out was a type of detractabve ruler capable to accomplishing deceit during one the manifestations, planted there rather clumsily to discredit her. Mina’s husband and her supporters claimed that Houdini, unable to debunk Mina, had resorted to trickery and fraud himself.

Houdini was aghast and said it was nonsense. But the conflict ended in a draw. The box was never given a proper chance to work as the entire showdown was derailed by allegations now against Houdini. One must admit, it’s pretty brilliant if one wants to be so cynical as to see it as a ploy by Mina and her husband.

Both sides declared victory and to this day, on the net, pro skeptics claim victory for Houdini, and pro-paranormal phenomenon adherents claim victory for Mina.

In addition, the spirit guide Walter claimed Houdini would die in a year. Houdini lived past the year mark, but only just. Interesting.

Alas though, despite Houdini’s death over the next few years Mina was exposed. Houdini had wanted the commitee to declare her a fraud but one of them, Dr. Bird absconded. A few years later he admitted that he was approached by Mina to devise tricks to fool Houdini and was in fact aware that she was fraudelant.

She was also known for producing huge amounts of ectoplasm, as gooey, stringy substance that was all the rage. (see Ghostbusters). Her hands and feet would be held and yet it would appear all over her.

Ectoplasm

Well, get this: her vagina. She had a thin canistor in her vagina, and wore skirts with no underwear. She shot it upwards. No one in those days would possibly submit a woman to a cavity search, even the staunchest of skeptics (although Houdini wanted to). The female mediums in the Victorian era when submitting to scrutiny would not be well searched as it was simply unthinkable from a societal standpoint.

It was a faked thumbprint that took Mina down and led to her tricks being one by one exposed. She started drinking heavily and became emotionally unbalanced. Eventually she died at age 54.

Houdini of course promised to communicate with his wife from beyond the grave if he could. He never did but mediums have claimed to receive his communications over the decades.

And so Spiritualism dissolved, although a Spiritualist Church is still active. Gone is the showmanship and crazy hijinks that enthralled the Victorian crowd. Now it’s all mediums speaking and of course channeling.  Channeling under its current definition became a craze back in the 60s and 70s with Jane Robert’s Seth books and continues today with JZ Knight’s popular Ramtha entity.

Probably the most damning indictment of Spiritualism is this: all those crazy manifestations, all those wild shenanigans caused by spirits… none of it survived. As technology increased absolutely none of it was able to stand up. Had something been genuine, it would continue. Scientific inquiry would be forced to contend with it, but all of it is gone, every trick having been exposed decades ago. Only mediums speaking and channeling remains.

Spiritualism does continue today, although it is a shadow of the popularity of its heyday. Mediums continue to practice, kids continue to buy Ouiji boards and the New Age movement is definitely a direct continuation of Spiritualism mixed with a bunch of Blavatsky’s Theosophy. However, there is no argument that after the 1920s Spiritualism fell far and low and ceased to be a real player in either the religious or occult popular consciousness.

Blavatsky’s Theosophy became the new big player and Blavatsky’s psychic visions and immensely dense cosmology overshadowed all other spiritual and occult movements, although the Golden Dawn gives her a good run for her money as far as affecting occult beliefs and practices in the 20th century. Indeed The Golden Dawn can in part be connected to the most important recent development in occult and religion: Wicca.

It is not for me to say every single aspect was trickery, although clearly, it’s difficult to arrive at many other conclusions. Can people communicate with the dead? Nowadays i’m given utter horseshit like John Edwards sent to convince me, so i lean towards the negative but am open to having my mind blown. I have in my lifetime seen some instances of psychic ability that i simply cannot deny, so i remain open, although i find the vast majority of people claiming various powers to be mostly trying to take my money or seeking attention.

Still, seances continue and the Ouiji boards continues to give goosebumps and stories to kids generation after generation. As said before, the subconscious is staggering, and the worlds existing within ourselves are truly as wide as an entire inner universe. Play around with it and crazy stuff WILL happen. Just… be cool with the Kool Aid and remember there’s a huckster around every corner.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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