The contents of the current issue include Kurt Leland’s account of his editing and annotating C.W. Leadbeater’s The Chakras, Lynda Harris’ report on the 2014 International Theosophical History Conference, and Robert Gilbert’s review of Jeffrey Lavoie’s new book, A Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey.
My interest in Mr. Leland’s report was immediately aroused with his mention of “untrustworthy editions” and “unexplained excisions and rewordings” that were encountered while compiling and annotating selected writings of Annie Besant, which was published in 2013 under the title Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development and reviewed in the last issue. This has been an ongoing problem for a number of years, with perhaps the most egregious example being C.W. Leadbeater’s The Masters and the Path. During the 1988 Theosophical History Conference, Gregory Tillett first brought this situation to the public eye. His address, subsequently published in Theosophical History, Vol. III, No. 2 (April 1989), raised the issue of “historical dishonesty” by citing the following practices :
1) omitting inconvenient material
2) editing out inconvenient material
3) including incomplete statements likely to mislead
4) including misleading statements
5) making false statements
The significance of Mr. Leland’s report is not only his acknowledgement of this problem but also his taking steps to correct the aberrant editions. Let us hope that other, future editions will do likewise, which will certainly be indicative of a major shift in publishing policy evident in earlier editions. Mr. Leland is to be commended for his work on The Chakras and his previous compilation, Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development.
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Lynda Harris provides an extended summary of the papers presented at the 2014 International Theosophical History Conference. The titles are wide-ranging and suggest new areas of research such as Boaz Huss’ presentation on the “Sincere Jews” and Shinichi Yoshinaga’s presentation on Hirai Kinza. The lesson learned from this conference, and past ones as well, is that there is still much to be discovered from the records of the past.
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Kurt Leland is the creator of the Annie Besant Shrine, an online bibliography of Besant's six-hundred-plus books and pamphlets and selected articles, with links to any that appear in digital form (<http://www.kurtleland.com/annie-besant-shrine>). As mentioned above, he has compiled and annotated Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development (Quest 2013), which was reviewed by Kevin Tingay in the preceding issue (Vol. 17, No. 3). Mr. Leland is currently compiling a master index of Annie Besant’s lectures and is in the process of completing a history of the evolution of the Western chakra system.
Lynda Harris has degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Boston University, and The Courtauld Institute of Art, and has taught extra-mural diploma classes for the University of London. Her book on Cathar art, The Secret Heresy of Hieronymus Bosch, was published in 1995. Her articles have appeared in Psypioneer, Insight,andThe Quest.
Dr. Robert A. Gilbert is a retired antiquarian bookseller, writer and lecturer specializing in Western Esotericism during the Victorian era. He received his doctorate from the University of London, his thesis focusing on the publication and distribution of 19th century esoteric literature in England. Dr. Gilbert is the author The Golden Dawn Companion (1986), The Golden Dawn Scrapbook (1997); A.E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts (1987), and Gnosticism and Gnosis, an Introduction(2012). Currently he is the editor of The Christian Parapsychologist.
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Sydney, Australia is the home to the headquarters of the Esoteric School of Theosophy in Australia, known as The Manor. Leased by members of the Theosophical Society in 1922 and purchased with the help of a loan from Krotona, the headquarters of the Esoteric School in Hollywood, The Manor became the main center of Theosophical activities during the 1920s, including the establishment of a radio station (2GB) and The Australian Newspaper, Limited, and was home to a number of well-known Theosophists at the time: C.W. Leadbeater, Dr. Mary E. Rocke, Theodora Elizabeth van Motman Schiff, the Australian soprano Joan Hammond, and the actress Enid Lorimor. It was also the home of a young boy under the care of Ms Lorimor, that young boy being Peter Fitch, a future actor who was to be awarded an Oscar for his last film, Network, in 1977.
The author, Nicolas van Gelder, has reasons beyond the purely academic for writing this history. Many members of his family, including his great-grandmother Elizabeth van Motman Schiff and his grandparents Karel and Melanie van Gelder, lived at The Manor from 1922 to 1929. Mr. van Gelder’s account, along with some 70 pictures from his collection, sheds considerable insight in the lives of the residents living at The Manor, especially during the 1920s.
PUBLICATION DATE: August, 2013
PRICE: $27.00 (plus postage)