Besides, Spiritualism, another American New Age movement, depended on and gave expression to Western occultism. Spiritualism drew heavily from Mesmerism and Swedenborgianism, both of which were pioneers of western occultism. An occultist is one who operates outside established religion and has a concern for theories and practices based on esoteric knowledge.
Occultism often includes the study of writings felt to contain secrets known to ancient civilisations but subsequently forgotten. A two-millennia-old alternative to Christianity, occultism has had several periods of florescence. The most important, the Fama Fraternitatis, told of a secret brotherhood founded by Christian Rosenkreutz, a noble German youth who had travelled widely and studied occult lore. The brothers, or 'adepts', were mysterious persons who possessed superior knowledge or powers.
They were said to go about 'doing good, shedding healing influences, disseminating knowledge, and bringing mankind back to its paradisal state. The tracts were a means for a group of Lutherans to present an apocalyptic message of universal reform. They formulated a Pansophia or theosophy, which they hoped might serve as a non-sectarian foundation by which people of differing religious views could live peacefully.
Rosicrucianism was probably also a strong influence on Freemasonry. Both combine an esoteric approach to religion, religious tolerance, an emphasis on good works, and an attachment to Egyptian symbolism. The ideas of initiation and lodges, utilised later in the Theosophical Society and elsewhere, were developed by the Masons. The Freemasonic movement dates from , when the Grand Lodge of London was established. It can be assumed that Theosophical Society borrowed its organisational structure, particularly the idea of the Lodges, from the Freemasonry Movement.
Campbell, the number of participants at the height of the spiritualist movement around has been estimated between one and two million. The population of the United States was then about twenty-five million, and only one in seven Americans was officially a member of a religious group. Thus, even though only a small portion of those who participated in spiritualism were ever officially part of a formal spiritualist church, the level of participation in the movement is a significant fact of nineteenth-century American religion. All these practices were adopted by the Theosophical Society as well when it came into being in It has often been argued that the esoteric occult practices provided an alternative to the anxieties of the industrialised West.
American scientists had supported it, and by the s there was a growing pressure to harmonise religion and evolutionary theory. The esotericism and the mystic occult lore that the Orient symbolised was an underlying, secretive tradition of all religiosities: western or eastern. These organisations were somehow trying to address this issue.
However, the Theosophical Society was more successful than the other two above-mentioned movements and for the Theosophist leaders, India started becoming a part of their self-perception. But it must be kept in mind that the Theosophical Society drew largely from the New Age Movements, both in terms of ideology as well as organisational structure. The American social situation from which the Theosophical Society emerged was one of great upheaval and the religious situation posed a challenge to orthodox Christianity.
The forces that had surfaced in spiritualism included anticlericalism, anti-institutionalism, eclecticism, social liberalism, and belief in progress and individual effort. Occultism was mediated to America in the form of Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. Contemporaneous developments in science led to a renewed interest in reconciling science and religion. There was also a hope that Asian religious ideas could be integrated into a grand religious synthesis.
However, Theosophy was not an easy thing. Emerging out of a complex spiritual web, it upheld a theological doctrine that was a conglomeration of multiple philosophical strands. Blavatsky claims that it is the Mahatmas or the theosophical masters who dictated these books to her and hence these texts stand as the outline of the theosophical principle.
Some important theological inputs also come from the works of Annie Besant and C. Leadbeater: two most prominent theosophist ideologues in the post-Blavatsky era. Theosophy comes from two Greek words: Theo and Sophia. The attempt of Theosophy is to seek the direct knowledge of the unknown, esoteric nature of the Divine. The investigation of humanity, the universe and the divine stands as the central tenet of Theosophy. Theosophical teaching puts man in the centre of its description of the cosmos, because the final salvation, which shall bring unity with the divine, and which has consequences for both man and cosmos begins in man and his growing spiritual realisation and liberation.
According to Madame Blavatsky, the ancient wisdom lay hidden in the ancient civilisation and the cradle of civilisation is undoubtedly the Orient. She also claimed that the Great White Brotherhood—the community to which her Mahatmas belong—lay in Tibet, and in order to communicate with them it was necessary to turn towards India. Now, this idea of an Aryanised, golden ancient past of Hindu India was an outcome of the research done by Max Mueller.
Max Mueller, a German- born linguist who later became the Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University, reached his conclusion by studying the linguistic structure of Sanskrit, grouping this age-old language with the Indo-European branch of languages.
Harekrsna Movement: The Unifying Force of the Hindu Religion
In his view, India had been the cradle of civilisation, which stood at par with European civilisation. However, his notion of the greatness of Indian civilisation was shared by a section of British officials who viewed India from a romanticised and idealised point of view. This trend started from William Jones, who with the establishment of the Asiatic Society of Bengal set the tune for romantic Orientalism. Blavatsky took lead from the works of William Jones and Max Mueller.
She often quoted Max Mueller while claiming India as a land of the Aryans and Hinduism as the oldest and richest wisdom across the world. From here, the Theosophical Society developed a fascination for the Aryan ideal. Her initial interest in India and Hindu spirituality dated back to the s when she visited India and made a failed attempt to reach Tibet via Nepal. At the same time the shrewd lady might also have realised that the Indians would gladly welcome a foreign organisation eager to promote and discuss their religion and culture.
As theosophy attempted to legitimise the Hindu past, taking ancient Hindu heritage to the world stage, it suited the Indian purpose both spiritually as well as politically. It provoked the western educated middle class of India to use their Hindu identity as a political tool. However, these are questions that can always be raised although their answers are not easy to obtain.
As a matter of fact, Blavatsky found Hindu spirituality a very distinctive belief system suitable for her mystical and spiritualist purpose and guided her theosophical movement on the lines of Hindu spirituality. The uniqueness of the theosophical movement in India rests on the fact that theosophy initiated its own brand of modernity, thus creating a nexus between religion and politics in a much more pronounced way than the other neo-Hindu organisations did. Professor Gauri Vishwanathan tells us how the theosophists cite race theory to get Hindu converts.
Blavatsky and her followers saw Aryans as the fifth root race on earth and the highest in contemporary times. As one of the most influential of these movements, theosophy appeared in response to decolonisation and home-rule appeals. Theosophy was contextualised as an activity grounded in the domestic and international alignments of the 19th and the early 20th centuries, and created a greater appeal than the other eccentric, mystic fringe movements of contemporary periods.
For this reason, it was obvious for the Theosophical Society to encounter the other socio-religious forces of contemporary India. Blavatsky, while writing for a New York-based journal, called the Arya Samajists 'learned mystics', comparing them with the Gnostics. These organisations viewed Christian proselytisation as a dangerous threat to Hindu society and to India as a whole and hence, winning converts from both Islam and Christianity folds became a common part of their programme.
It was quite logical for the Christian missionaries as well to launch counter-propaganda against the theosophists and other organisations. The anti-theosophist stance of the Christian groups in India was reflected in the work of J. Interestingly, the attack from Christian opponents was not threatening enough to fetch a longstanding bonding between the neo-Hindu religious groups.
The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj had to address the similar spiritual space as both Blavatsky and Dayanand claimed themselves as spokespersons of the Hindu past and wished to act as agencies of Hindu revivalism.
Unifying Force of Hinduism: The Harekrsna Movement - Haripada Adhikary - Google книги
Their correspondence began cordially through the active middleman-ship of Moolji Thackersay, a Gujarati wealthy mill-owner whom Colonel Olcott met during a sea voyage in Moolji introduced Olcott to Harrychand Chintamon, who in turn, helped the theosophists to get in touch with Dayanand. However, Harrychand soon turned an adversary to the theosophist founders when they landed in Bombay in , although the connection with Dayanand and his Arya Samaj continued until , when a dispute led to the split between the two organisations.
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19th-century Indian biographers
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