Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque

Tobias Churton is described by his current publisher as “Britain’s leader scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism.” His 2016 study Occult Paris is therefore based on many years of study and wide reading. This makes it uniquely valuable as a source of information on individuals in that city who contributed to the esoteric milieu of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Although there was little known contact between the French and American members of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor after Max Theon relocated to Paris in 1886, two Parisians were especially significant among the spiritual ancestors of The Church of Light. Marie, Countess of Caithness, was associated with Emma Hardinge Britten during the 1870s and 80s and influenced Britten’s books Art Magic and Ghost Land.  Gerard Encausse, best known as Papus, was the most influential individual ever involved with the French HBofL,  although his greatest fame was as the chief proponent of Martinism.  Churton’s expertise on the esoteric subculture of fin-de-siecle Paris makes him a reliable guide to the labyrinth of orders and magi that flourished therein: Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Martinists all being relevant to the ancestry of the HBofL. From the publisher’s web page for the book:

Exploring the magical, artistic, and intellectual world of the Belle Époque, Tobias Churton shows how a wide variety of Theosophists, Rosicrucians, Martinists, Freemasons, Gnostics, and neo-Cathars called fin-de-siècle Paris home. He examines the precise interplay of occultists Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, and founder of the modern Gnostic Church Jules Doinel, along with lesser known figures such as Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Paul Sédir, Charles Barlet, Edmond Bailly, Albert Jounet, Abbé Lacuria, and Lady Caithness. 

The book is so information dense that it reads almost as a reference work rather than a narrative written for popular audiences, but in that role it has great value for filling in many blanks in my own understanding of the era and that of comparable readers. Churton’s subsequent book, Deconstructing Gurdjieff, is more chronological and less thematic, hence more fun to read.  I am pleased that he found useful and cited my own research relating Gurdjieff to Mme. Blavatsky. But for readers of this blog interested in getting deeper into the French background and associates of the spiritual ancestors of the CofL, Occult Paris provides a wealth of relevant and useful background that no other book to my knowledge offers, and perhaps no other author could. .

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Subtitle Change

After reviewing the tag cloud for this blog, I realized that the previous subtitle for History of the Adepts (the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in America) was misleading because incomplete.  Truth in advertising would suggest a subtitle more representative of the actual content of blog posts over the years.  The HBofL was short-lived in the United States, lasting just over two decades. While the group occupies a pivotal position in the story of the 19th century roots of The Church of Light, it is by no means the sole predecessor organization. Its name was problematic in that the Hermetic content of the lessons was just one part of a broader synthesis, and Hermeticism thrived not in Luxor (upper Egypt) but in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.  After the HBofL in America dissolved in 1908-09 following the death of Alma Theon, it took a decade to regroup as the Brotherhood of Light which was formed officially on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Then in November 1932 it was formally recognized as The Church of Light.

Source traditions for the Brotherhood of Light and The Church of Light are reflected in four authors specifically cited by Elbert Benjamine: Emma Hardinge Britten, Thomas H. Burgoyne, Sarah S. Grimke, and Genevieve Stebbins. Four other founders of the HBofL, Peter Davidson,  Hurrychund Chintamon, Thomas Moore Johnson, and Max Theon, identify several additional lines of spiritual influence.  Linking each with individual exponents, these would be 1) Spiritualism and Rosicrucianism (Britten) 2) Astrology and Tarot (Burgoyne) 3) New Thought and Transcendentalism (Grimke) 4) Yoga (Stebbins) 5) Freemasonry (Davidson), 6) Hinduism and Theosophy (Chintamon), 7) Hermeticism and Neoplatonism (Johnson) and 7) Kabbalah (Theon).

The short-lived HBofL was a microcosm of the macrocosm of the revival of esoteric traditions in late 19th century America. It was the sole direct ancestor of the Brotherhood of Light and Church of Light, but due to the diversity of its sources the collateral ancestry incorporates European and Asian esoteric teachings as well as several movements that emerged in late 19th century America. “Spiritual ancestors of The Church of Light” is therefore a more inclusive description of the range of topics covered in this blog than the previous subtitle.

 

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Anthony Hern– Acknowledgment and Gratitude

As we complete the second volume of Letters to the Sage, one enjoyable task has been writing additional acknowledgments for individuals and institutions whose assistance was crucial to research on the letters.  In this volume, there are twenty individuals and five institutions or organizations to thank, which is roughly average for my own books and the first volume of LTS.  In all the books I’ve authored or coedited, there are a total of 148 individuals and 58 institutions and organizations thanked in acknowledgments. Many of these were people I knew, and others communicated by correspondence or email. But the person who was my greatest literary benefactor was a man I never met, spoke to on the telephone, or communicated with by email, Anthony Hern of London, England. In 2000 he wrote a report of how his research at the Indian Office Library ended up being published in my book The Masters Revealed.

This research, undertaken in 1993, seems with hindsight to have been destined to occur. I live on the same street as the IOL building then was, and my long time friend Leslie Price had asked if I would do some research for him at the IOL, to follow up a lead he had been given in 1983 by Peter Hopkirk, author of a number of very readable books (‘The Great Game’ and ‘Silk Road to China’ etc.), that there may be records relating to Blavatsky in the IOL. I looked for and found the secret records of the British Government in India relating to HPB and Col Olcott’s visit to India in 1888/89 [sic-typo, 1878-9. KPJ.]

In addition K. Paul Johnson, who has known Leslie since 1986, was keen to see if there were any records in the IOL that would be relevant to his own research for his then forthcoming book ‘The Masters Revealed’ (SUNY Press 1994 ISBN 0791420639). Therefore, it was serendipity that we were also able to offer him the results of the main research that I had done at the IOL and it subsequently formed the basis of the third section of his book. Leslie Price and I considered that by allowing him to make use of the material we had found relating to HPB and Col. Olcott’s visit to India in 1888 [1878-9], we would be able to make the information widely available in the shortest possible time. We were also aware that we did not have the time, resources or enough subject matter to be able to produce a full blown book project. We also thought that, as K. Paul Johnson’s book dealt with the topic of likely candidates for HPB’s Masters, the information of the British India Government records relating to her travels in India at an important time, would be relevant to the theme of Paul’s book. Happily, Paul was amenable to our suggestion.

See the Blavatsky Archives for the full report by Hern.

Working on the acknowledgments for the Alexander Wilder letters has got me thinking about gratitude for decades of assistance from people all around the world.  At the time I wrote the various acknowledgments, I was grateful to the series of individuals who helped with individual projects. Now after decades of such help, I’m deeply thankful not just for the series of individuals who helped me, but for the fact that there were so many with such diverse expert knowledge. As stated in The Masters Revealed, first and foremost thanks for that book went to Mr. Hern and Leslie Price for adding the international diplomatic correspondence that was the core of the third section of the book.  Leslie continues to be a friend and benefactor to whom I can regularly give thanks. I am unable to thank Tony Hern personally as he died in 2008, but owe it to his memory to state that his research added enormously to the value of my SUNY Press books on Theosophy.  Since he wrote no other material on Theosophical history, his contribution is in danger of being forgotten so I want to make it clear that a treasure trove of 19th century letters was both “manna from heaven” for my research in the 1990s and an omen of the same kind of unexpected primary source discovery with Patrick Bowen and the Thomas Moore Johnson correspondence.

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New and Forthcoming Publications by Patrick D. Bowen

Collaborating with Patrick Bowen on Letters to the Sage has been a five year investment of time and energy, which we both look forward to completing this year. Meanwhile, he has two other recent publications in 2017 and another forthcoming in 2018. In Victorian Muslim Patrick addresses the milieu that led him to be interested in Thomas Moore Johnson: late 19th century Western converts to Islam.  Abdullah Quilliam, the most prominent figure in early British Muslim history, is the subject of a scholarly collection published by Hurst Publishing in England, and distributed internationally by Oxford University Press.  From the publisher’s description:

In this timely book, leading experts of the religion, history and politics of Islam offer new perspectives and shed fresh light on Quilliam’s life and work. Through a series of original essays, the authors critically examine Quilliam’s influences, philosophy and outlook, the significance of his work for Islam, his position in the Muslim world and his legacy. Collectively, the authors ask pertinent questions about how conversion to Islam was viewed and received historically, and how a zealous convert like Quilliam negotiated his religious and national identities and sought to indigenise Islam in a non-Muslim country.

Patrick’s chapter, “Abdullah Quilliam and the Rise of International Esoteric-Masonic Islamophilia,” identifies Quilliam as a member of more than a dozen fringe Masonic groups, most of them associated with John Yarker. This connects him to Letters to the Sage through Yarker’s correspondence with Johnson and their shared interest in Sufism (although Johnson was not a Mason.)

The second of three volumes of Patrick’s History of Conversion to Islam in the United States is subtitled: The African American Islamic Renaissance, 1920-1975.  Published by Brill Publications in the Netherlands, the book (in the words of the publisher’s website)

offers an in-depth account of African American Islam as it developed in the United States during the fifty-five years that followed World War I. Having been shaped by a wide variety of intellectual and social influences, the ‘African American Islamic Renaissance’ appears here as a movement that was characterized by both great complexity and diversity. Drawing from a wide variety of sources—including dozens of FBI files, rare books and periodicals, little-known archives and interviews, and even folktale collections—Patrick D. Bowen disentangles the myriad social and religious factors that produced this unprecedented period of religious transformation.

More directly relevant to Letters to the Sage is a chapter Patrick contributed to a forthcoming 2018 publication from Oxford University Press, Imagining the East: the Early Theosophical Society.  The chapter title, `”The real pure Yog”: Yoga in the Early TS and H.B. of L.’ is taken from a question asked by  Josephine Cables in one of her letters to Thomas Moore Johnson. Here is a summary by the author:

This chapter argues two main points: First, that the H.B. of L., the Western occult order that was the main competitor of the TS in the 1880s, obtained an interest in yoga directly from its being promoted in the Theosophist magazine in the early 1880s. Second, that, as a result of this Theosophical influence, in 1885 the H.B. of L. became possibly the first Western organization to require the study and practice yoga for all of its members. Using previously unmined letters of early members of the TS and the H.B. of L., this chapter traces the history of yoga in these organizations. Yoga was introduced into the Western organized occult community in the early 1880s when considerable attention was paid to it in the pages of the Theosophist. This led to some English and American readers of the journal to start independently studying yoga. Then, in 1885, the newly-formed H.B. of L., a Theosophist-heavy organization that focused on practical occultism, began instructing members to read about and practice Theosophy-connected forms of yoga as a way to prepare for occult initiation. After 1885, the order ceased explicitly recommending yoga, but it retained some of the practices and ideas that it had originally gained from yoga, incorporating them into its revised teachings. Meanwhile, when some of the early members of the H.B. of L. left the group, such as Rev. William Ayton, they continued to take an interest in yoga and encourage others to study and practice it. In fact, it appears that it was primarily through Ayton that Aleister Crowley and other British occultists became interested in yoga.  

I will also have a chapter in the same collection, “Theosophy in the Bengal Renaissance,” which relates to the second volume of LTS through Alexander Wilder’s admiration for Peary Chand Mitra which features in several of his letters.

 

 


							
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The Most Valuable Five Pages I Ever Wrote

This week a random thought led me to look on Amazon for a four volume reference book to which I contributed a biographical entry in 2005. The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, published by Thoemmes Press in Bristol, England, contains 2698 pages of which my entry on Helena Blavatsky occupies just under five. It was extremely encouraging to be invited to contribute in such august company, as almost all the 500+ contributors were academicians.  But the official price for a new copy from Bloomsbury Publishing (which succeeds Thoemmes in a merger) is $1620.00, while the 2010 online edition, published after Bloomsbury was included under the Oxford University Press online imprimatur, is $975.99. 

Just knowing I’d contributed one among 1086 entries made me want to see the physical book or the electronic version someday but the prices were well beyond anything I’d consider. However, I found a used copy for $58 and ordered it as a resource for the final annotations to the Letters to the Sage volume 2, written by Alexander Wilder. Wilder does not appear in the entries, but seven people of major interest in the forthcoming Wilder collection do: Bronson Alcott, Borden P. Bowne, Moncure Conway (of special interest to me as the only Transcendentalist Virginian of note), Mary Baker Eddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Torrey Harris, and William James.

I expected it to be a USED copy but it was totally pristine and unused so it is especially pleasant to handle while checking for details to add to the footnotes of the Wilder letters about people he mentions. All of his acquaintances mentioned in the letters fall into the 1860-1960 time frame of the Dictionary and many were “modern American philosophers” so it could be a gold mine of information for a lot of minor characters.  I will be writing future blog entries about some of the seven figures of special interest, but for a month will be diving into this treasure trove for background on our entire cast of correspondents.

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Alexander Wilder on the Rosicrucians

(Slides shown below are taken from the June 2017 pre-conference presentation on Letters the Sage in Albuquerque.) One of the last articles to appear under the name of Alexander Wilder was published in the July 1907 number of The Rosicrucian Brotherhood, edited by Sylvester C. Gould. Gould was allied with Thomas Moore Johnson at the time in a neo-Sufi group that is discussed in the introduction to Letters to the Sage, Volume 1.

Johnson had first encountered Rosicrucianism in St. Louis in the 1870s:

The first known Rosicrucian order in the U.S. had been established by Paschal Beverly Randolph:

The man to whom Randolph left his group, Freeman B. Dowd, joined the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor during Johnson’s tenure as council president.

Wilder’s article provides a detailed summary of what was known and speculated about Rosicrucian history. Even though he was writing for Gould’s allegedly Rosicrucian Brotherhood’s journal, he concluded with a note of utter skepticism about contemporary claimants:

There have been secret fraternities as far back as the history of mankind. All the ancient priesthoods in every country had mysteries and a secret society among themselves. Ancient science was kept carefully hidden. It may have been necessary; some, like swine, tread all learning under foot; others, like dogs, tear the teacher.

The Pagans, who after Theodosius, adhered to their worship, hid their secrets, their initiation, and their mystic jargon. I conjecture the magic and witchcraft of the Middle Ages to have been the Mithraic Institute which had been disseminated through the Roman empire. I suppose that the Rosicrucians have existed; I doubt whether there are any now. All of whom I knew that pretended to be such were charlatans. None of our present secret societies antedate that Order; certainly they do not come up to its sublime ideal. There may be something of the kind in the East, but the Moslems have pretty effectually annihilated the most of them. The communes of later date can hardly be considered as heirs or successors of the old brotherhoods. If any test was required to show this it would be found in their love of display, their meritricious exhibitions, and their assiduous endeavors to become notorious.

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Alexander Wilder in a new series edited by Mark Jaqua

The first time I heard the phrase “bridge to nowhere” was in my first semester of college in Louisiana. Also called the “Sunshine Bridge,” this crossing of the Mississippi became the punchline of a joke because it was built before there were highway connections to it on both banks of the river. The allegation was that Governor Jimmie “You are my Sunshine” Davis had put the bridge where it would financially benefit his political allies rather than best serve the people of Louisiana. The phrase reappeared in recent years as description of a boondoggle public works project in Alaska. But for me, working with the letters of Alexander Wilder to Thomas Moore Johnson, I’ve wondered if this correspondence is a “bridge to nowhere” in terms of potential readership, since both Wilder and Johnson have been out of print for a century– so no one will care about their relationship. But in 2015, publication of the Collected Works of Thomas Moore Johnson, the Great American Platonist by Prometheus Trust brought back one of our heroes to print for the first time in a century. Important and valuable as that project was, it is equaled by Mark Jaqua’s bringing Alexander Wilder back into print in 2016 and 2017, which amounts to four volumes of about 400 pages each.  The editorial contributions are worthy of the texts and add to the reader’s enjoyment.

While editing the letters of Wilder to Johnson, which are almost entirely from the 1880s, I felt that both these men were erudite and honorable, but perhaps so focused on highly technical questions of Greek philosophy that modern readers couldn’t relate. The striking revelation of Jaqua’s series for me is that what I considered a sequel to Wilder’s literary career is actually more of a prequel. Even though he was over 60 in 1886 when his correspondence with Johnson nearly stopped, Wilder’s literary productivity was just beginning. The majority of the longer articles in Jaqua’s four volume reprint series were written in Wilder’s 70s and 80s. And instead of the stale preaching on behalf of this or that belief system we might expect from a man of this age, Wilder has a voice that is fresh, accessible, wide-ranging in explorations, and most of all RELIABLE. Although his writings for Johnson’s publication in the 1880s are as challenging and specialized as his letters of the period, in the 1890s and 1900s Wilder became a much more popularly-accessible author both in subject matter and style.

Although as a historical researcher I’d have preferred a chronological arrangement of the articles rather than by subject, as a spiritual seeker I commend Mark Jaqua for bringing back into print a 19thc writer whose voice is more fresh and compelling than any of his “movement leader” contemporaries in Theosophy, Spiritualism, New Thought or Christian Science.  My tribute to Jaqua’s labors will be to quote his Wilder series in future blog posts.  Meanwhile, and for what it is worth, my opinion as an individual is that Wilder deserves appreciation in the 21st century more than all those who were promoting idiosyncratic 19th century belief systems that exalted themselves as spiritual authorities.  Wilder didn’t care about competing 19thc belief systems nearly as much as he cared about ancient wisdom. Nor did he evince any “I’m the world’s greatest authority” egomania. That makes him, for this 21st century seeker, a far more reliable and unbiased guide than any of his contemporaries. Of course he had his biases, as we all do. But in his letters to Johnson he consistently comes across as the best friend an esoteric scholar and seeker could have wished for, someone spotlessly honest and sincere and generous in all his dealings.  This makes me welcome publication of his writings in this new series, as a rare combination of historical significance, spiritual inspiration, and engaging readability.

 

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Rainbow Body by Kurt Leland

The most educational reading experience for me is a book that includes a large amount of information with which I am already familiar, illuminated by a larger amount of new information which provides new context that makes it more meaningful. If most of the information in a book is familiar already, I’m bored, and if none is familiar I’m lost. Reading Kurt Leland’s Rainbow Body, I never felt for a moment bored nor lost. The concept of the book is inspired and the author’s voice engaging. Most impressively, the research connects what for most readers are heretofore scattered and unrelated fragments of knowledge, making a coherent historical narrative that brings order to seeming chaos. The author’s website provides a chapter outline.

The back cover copy summarizes the book:

Based on the teachings of Indian Tantra, the chakras have been used for centuries as focal points for healing, meditation, and achieving a gamut of physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits, from improved health to ultimate enlightenment. Contemporary yoga teachers, energy healers, psychics, and self-help devotees think of the chakra system as thousands of years old. Yet the most common version in use in the West today came together as recently as 1977.

Never before has the story been told of how the Western chakra system developed from its roots in Indian Tantra, through Blavatsky to Leadbeater, Steiner to Alice Bailey, Jung to Joseph Campbell, Ramakrishna to Aurobindo, and Esalen to Shirley MacLaine and Barbara Brennan.

Almost all of my experience with group meditation has involved Search for God groups sponsored by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, which use guidelines involving the Lord’s Prayer and the chakras. Familiar with the concept in Theosophical books and the Radhasoami Tradition, I had noticed some connections between the Cayce readings’ meditation technique and each of those source lineages and mentioned them in my book on Cayce in 1998.  After having not given thought to the subject in two decades, I was pleased to learn of Kurt Leland’s new book about various chakra systems, which can be fairly described as exhaustively thorough. I hoped it would deliver a lot of new information that would help contextualize what I already knew, and was more than satisfied on that score. But the book delivers far more than I had hoped for, being not just a catalog of all the different teachings on chakras from various sources but a masterpiece of detective work tracing all their intricate links. This is evident throughout the book but hit home for me with Leland’s discussion of Cayce’s role in the developments he surveys.

Leland notes that the Glad Helpers healing prayer group, which met from 1931 through 1944, presented various ideas and diagrams to the entranced Cayce, including a “correlation of churches with spiritual centers…identical to that in Pryse’s Apocalypse Unveiled.” Links of chakras to the endocrine glands, planets, and colors were also presented to Cayce for approval in trance. One chart approved in a reading had “correspondences between specific words of the Lord’s Prayer and the seven spiritual centers and glands. All were confirmed.” Leland notes that this derives from a diagram from the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception by Max Heindel which was slightly modified by Cayce after being presented to him by the Glad Helpers. These parallels are relevant to readers of Letters to the Sage for two reasons. Pryse was one of Thomas M. Johnson’s most intriguing correspondents, if not one of the more prolific, and addressed issues in his letters that foreshadow  those he wrote about years later in his books.  Letters to the Sage includes three letters from Pryse to Johnson, the first of which is the longest, dated November 20, 1887. Unlike most letters in the collection, this one goes into detail about occult physiology, the astral light, magnetism, and meditation techniques. Although Heindel is not mentioned in the correspondence, there is a neo-Rosicrucian subtext to the emergence of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (through literary links to Emma Hardinge Britten and Edward Bulwer-Lytton) which makes him a figure of interest to my research.

In his discussion of Cayce, Leland applies a typology of different types of teachers about chakras:

He was apparently not an innovator, consolidator, or disseminator. As a medium working with spiritual contacts, he could perhaps be called a validator– which was exactly his role in relation to the lists brought to him by the Glad Helpers. The Glad Helpers themselves played the role of consolidators in their synthesis of information from Pryse and Heindel, which was innovative in its application of the endocrine glands and the chakras to the Lord’s Prayer and Revelation.

The typology of innovator, consolidator, disseminator, validator used by Leland helps him trace the multiple lines of transmission of various models of the chakras from Blavatsky to the present. Although I was aware of the influence of Bhagat Singh Thind, a disseminator in Leland’s typology, on the Cayce readings, the book’s information on the influence of James Pryse and Max Heindel reveals them to be of equal or greater significance.

Rainbow Body provides a felicitous combination of thorough research, engaging narrative, and illuminating explanation. It deserves to reach a wide audience of readers approaching the topic from different backgrounds.

 

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G.R.S. Mead on The Light of Egypt

 

One pleasure of working with the T.M Johnson correspondence is that the most prolific writers of letters to Johnson– Alexander Wilder, Silas Randall, and Elliott Page– were also the most eloquent and judicious. Wilder, Randall, and Page were sympathetic and cooperative friends in their letters, but only Wilder remained a lifelong friend after the demise of The Platonist in 1888. I have just completed a preliminary step in creating a personal name index for the Wilder letters, and found 248 individuals mentioned therein. Only two are sharply criticized, a Christian clergyman and a high-ranking British Theosophist, for the same offense–unfriendly treatment of Wilder inspired by sectarian fanaticism. The Reverend Holland’s antipathy disrupted Wilder’s enjoyment of the Concord School of Philosophy and the American Akademe of Philosophy. G.R.S. Mead exemplified the rivalry among various Theosophical factions, leading Wilder to conclude:

The fact, I apprehend is that with “Brotherhood” this resembles the Parisians of 1792 when the demand was to be a brother or be killed. I always found Mr. Mead a very instructive writer. Every man has a niche in which he is valuable, and so I thought of him. But with factional bickerings I will have nothing to do.

It was most encouraging to see a review of LTS Volume I in the blog Blavatsky News, in which Mark Casady accurately notes that the heart of the book is the letters from Randall and Page, each of whom provides something of a spiritual autobiography unfolding over a few years of correspondence. Although the review mistakenly classifies Randall as a Theosophist, if this incites Theosophical readers to examine his letters they will not be disappointed; he is very critical of the TS but never mean-spirited in his remarks. Page likewise was invariably civil and engaging in his letters, up to the point where he broke with Johnson and the HBofL around the same time that Randall left the Brotherhood for family reasons.

Mead is an opposite case from Page and Randall in that his epistolary friendship with Johnson developed seven years after his bitter attacks on the HBofL. Casady’s blog post gave a link to Mead’s scathing review of The Light of Egypt, whose primary but not sole author was Thomas H. Burgoyne. Burgoyne and Mead were polar opposites in several dimensions. The former, a “smart, cute adventurer” from working class origins in the North, devoted his pen to writing for the HBofL, while the latter was a well-educated, upper middle class Londoner whose early writings were almost entirely Theosophical in nature. Both were highly partisan against various perceived enemies– based more on the mutual grudges of Emma Hardinge Britten and HPB than on their personal interests.  The harsh and unfair quality of Mead’s attack on Burgoyne and associates was a reflection of Burgoyne’s rhetoric against Theosophists. But in 1909 both men repudiated the organizations for which they had gone into battle against eacb other, and never sank to the depths of sectarian propaganda again. (While Burgoyne stopped being Burgoyne in the early 1890s, his subsequent persona entailed a burying of hatchets about which I have much more to say in upcoming posts.) In an effort to understand how Mead changed over time, I acquired a collection of his works with a very informative introduction by Clare Goodrick-Clarke. He was both an employee of the TS and a personal disciple of Blavatsky sworn to obedience, in 1889 when the TLOE review came out. The introduction explains:

In addition to handling all Blavatsky’s correspondence and working daily with her on her books and articles, Mead soon assumed further organizational responsibilities. In 1889 he was appointed, together with Bertram Keightley, joint-secretary of the Esoteric Section (E.S.) of the Theosophical Society, which Blavatsky founded in October 1888 for more advanced students. (p3)

The E.S. was founded at the suggestion of W.Q. Judge, who had recognized that 5 of 7 members of the TS  Board of Control were also involved in the HBofL, including Johnson. These prominent American Theosophists were targeted as “the enemy” against whom a rival secret society needed to be created as a bulwark. But the American HBofL dissolved in 1909 and was replaced by a public successor group, the Brotherhood of Light, nine years later. By contrast the E.S. that Judge suggested to unite Blavatsky loyalists against the HBofL renegades became within a few years the means whereby the TS broke up into multiple hostile factions most of which still survive.

What seems most tragic in hindsight is that Mead had more in common with Johnson and Wilder than he did with anyone else in the TS, and yet he targeted them as “enemies of the Faith” while embroiling himself in controversies that were beneath his dignity as a scholar. While in 1889 he had sided with Judge against the HBofL, in the 1890s he was literally inquisitorial in his fury at the TS Vice-President, demanding Judge’s resignation from office, and interrogating him at length for what amounted to a heresy trial.  He had formerly issued strong public criticism of Olcott in the Judge affair. He was equally public in his ultimate split with the TS over the autocracy of Annie Besant, but had been devoting his scholarship in Hermetic directions for several years:

From 1898 Mead extended his Theosophical studies to the Hermetic literature, named after its supposed authorship by Hermes Trismegistus or Thrice-Great. Like other currents of Hellenistic spirituality, the Hermetica had its origin in the interaction between Greek and Eastern ideas, and myths and religious beliefs at Alexandria in the first centuries A.D. (p. 16)

In February 1909 Mead resigned from the Theosophical Society…Mead and some seven hundred members of the British Section resigned in protest. While repelled by Leadbeater’s conduct, Mead felt that the case highlighted a more fundamental flaw in the mission and constitution of the Society. Mead particularly objected to the invocation of the Mahatmas’ authority concerning the internal affairs and governance of the society. He prized Theosophy as a quest for divine wisdom and a love of truth, with the aids of study, reason, and gnosis. He could not reconcile this search for divine wisdom with blind obedience to the Mahatmas’ supposed dogmas and directives…He intended this new association to be “genuinely undogmatic, unpretentious, claiming no pseudo-revelations, and truly honest inside and out.”(pp. 20-22)

He was one of the first Theosophists to articulate a Western theosophy rooted in Orphism and Neo-Platonism, which he then related to the Valentinian, Basilidean, and other Gnostic texts, and the Corpus Hermeticum. In this respect his path reflects that of other Theosophists such as Rudolf Steiner, Anna Kingsford, W.B. Yeats, and Dion Fortune, who each embraced Western esoteric sources after an experiment with the Orientalism of modern Theosophy.(p.32)

The evidence suggests to me that Mead and Johnson were excellent role models in their burying of the TS vs. HBofL hatchet by becoming friendly correspondents as each distanced himself from organizational responsibilities in the respective groups.  Had Wilder survived a few more years, Mead might well have patched up their relationship and welcomed him as a friend of the Quest Society, an organization that would have appealed to Wilder more than any of the competing Theosophical groups. 

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“The British Birth of the Occult Revival, 1869-1875” by Patrick D. Bowen

A groundbreaking article appeared in Theosophical History Vol. XIX Issue 1, January 2017, pp. 5-37. Co-editor of Letters to the Sage Patrick D. Bowen has analyzed the careers of Kenneth Mackenzie and associates and discovered evidence suggesting intertwined roots of many post-1875 occult groups in the work of a group of British Freemasons. He writes:

By 1875, this group of British Masons [i.e. Robert Wentworth Little, John Yarker, Kenneth R.H. Mackenzie, Richard Morrison (Zadkiel), and Francis George Irwin] and their ideas had instigated a chain reaction that ultimately resulted in a wide variety of occult groups springing up in England, the U.S., and many other Western countries over the next thirty years, some of which, such as the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, went on to become incredibly influential in Western religious culture…Most of the individuals connected to this were Masons who were members of the Masonic research group known as the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).(p5)…The present paper offers an explanation for not only why these particular men started producing new “occult” doctrines and orders, but also why these had the impact that they did on the ensuing florescence of the occult revival. (p6)

Patrick focuses on one book as especially influential. This is particularly important to the history of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor because its name seems to be derived from two orders described in the Royal Masonic Cyclopedia.

Mackenzie in particular looms especially large in the story of the early stage of the occult revival. Although he did not have the reigns of a truly influential “fringe” Masonic organization like Yarker, he provided two significant intellectual resources for the revival: 1) a publicly available practical justification for creating new occult orders, which was accompanied by a model of an ideal occult order that many of the subsequent occult orders would share several similarities with; and 2) his Royal Masonic Cyclopedia (1875-77), a book that compiled the period’s occult ideas and information about the new orders in a single, easy-to-read work.(p.7)

Although Freemasonry was the shared affiliation of Mackenzie and his closest associates, a Rosicrucian theme is also prominent in the particular Masonic group that was most influential in what Patrick calls the “British birth of the occult revival”:

From 1869 through 1875, the English Masonic community was suddenly exposed to a relatively high concentration of new occult doctrines. Virtually all of the individuals responsible for this were members of a recently formed Masonic group SRIA, created to study Masonic history and esotericism… While we cannot say for certain how much these men believed in the historicity of their occult claims, we know that one of them, Kenneth R.H. Mackenzie, publicly acknowledged that inventing occult groups and doctrines was necessary if the world was to achieve true peace, unity, and justice.(p32)

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First academic review of Letters to the Sage

“Johnson has been a neglected figure, known only to scholars of Neoplatonism and esotericism. This most useful, well produced volume—and forthcoming volumes—will provide new source material for scholars and introduce him to a wider public.”– Jay Bregman, University of Maine, Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 2017, pp. 250-253

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/668578/summary

Jay Bregman is Professor of History at the University of Maine. A preview is available through Project Muse that includes the entire first page, which covers the overall gist of the book. The review runs almost four pages. Later pages go into detail about specific correspondents in the collection, and provide more depth about their importance, but these first three paragraphs assess Johnson and his networks of acquaintances:

Letters to the Sage comprises the first volume of correspondence to the nineteenth-century American Platonist Thomas M. Johnson (TMJ), who was also active in the contemporary occult revival. The volume consists of letters from occultists, American and foreign, some of them famous. It also provides some clues to the status and nature of his Platonic activities, and recounts conversions from orthodox Christian denominations to religious syncretism, occult thought, and Neoplatonism (e.g. “I finally exchanged my faith in Jesus Christ for … spiritualist freethinking,” S. H. Randall, Oct. 29, 1883, 371).

Bowen’s introduction and notes provide a useful overview of the occult revival and the individuals corresponding with TMJ (including useful comparative schematic diagrams of courses of study and texts). The Introduction attempts to make sense of the maze of relationships, and helps out by highlighting some important passages in the letters, with some analysis. It presents “the sage of the Osage” not only as the translator and missionary of Neoplatonism who edited the Platonist and an American Thomas Taylor (the great English Neoplatonist, who most influenced him), but also as a person of “many hats” (9): attorney, mayor, school board president of Osceola, Missouri, and a leader in the American esoteric community. There are two hundred eighty-six letters from forty-eight correspondents (most of them to Johnson). 1 Collectively they offer “a clear glimpse into the previously little understood rebirth of organized American esotericism in the 1880’s” (10). The letters are organized by correspondent to better highlight insight into specific developments.

Some letters provide an intimate look into the dynamics of the 1880s US rebirth of Theosophy; others from obscure figures help fill in the in gaps of the spread of esoteric movements and their offshoots nationwide. Thus they advance our knowledge of “American Metaphysical Religion.” The correspondence with the first American Muslim convert, A. R. Webb, involved with Johnson’s Theosophical Society Lodge, speaks to the history of Islam in America. In one letter from an Indian Muslim Sufi, “Ruswa” correctly states that Ishraq (“Illuminationism”) is the Persian form of Neoplatonism. TMJ also published Sufi material in the Platonist.

(see linked article for footnotes and the rest of page 1)https://muse.jhu.edu/article/668578/summary

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Abijah Alley of Long Holler, Virginia

Barns at Union Village, 1916

The July 2017 edition of the American Communal Societies Quarterly  features a 40 page article which is the first investigation by academic scholars of a remarkable 19th century Virginian, Abijah Alley (1791-1866) of Long Hollow (aka holler) in Scott County. When I first learned of the research of Nancy Gray Schoonmaker on Alley’s role as a pioneer southern mystic, a Scott County connection jumped out at me: Abijah’s father Thomas Alley in the early 19thc had belonged to the Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church, which is best known for its place in Melungeon history. The first known written appearance of the word Melungeon is in 1813 records of this church, and some families from the church soon migrated to what would become the 20th century “Melungeon heartland,” Blackwater Valley and Newman’s Ridge in nearby Hancock County, Tennessee. Joined by Shaker historian Christian Goodwillie, Dr. Schoonmaker tells Alley’s story in this new study. It opens with this description of its subject:

Abijah Alley had the gift of prophecy. He also wrote, painted, farmed, and traveled. Sources tell us his peregrinations took him to the Shaker community at Union Village, Ohio; later in Cincinnati and across the Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky; to visit the president in Washington; to Europe; in the Holy Land; to Texas. And that when he returned to his family’s Appalachian property he constructed a replica of King Solomon’s temple for his home.

A mercurial religious visionary, Alley blazed an irregular trail through the first half of nineteenth-century America. Despite his remarkable life he has thus far eluded biographers. This article attempts to bind together the disparate threads of his pilgrimage into a narrative telling of his spiritual journey.

Abijah Alley, with his claims to spirit communication, is a rare example of this phenomenon reaching the rural South, but the research of Schoonmaker and Goodwillie connect this to his long and complicated tenure among the Shakers of Union Village, Ohio. Prior to the new publication, all that was known of Abijah Alley involved his life in Scott County, where he built a replica of Solomon’s Temple in logs as his home, wrote a book containing the revelations from his visits to the spirit world, and acquired a group of followers called the “Little Band.” Abijah’s book, home, and followers are all now lost to history, making him a vivid example of what a 2011 book defines as “Lost Communities of Virginia.” I am currently preparing for a series of historic walks through lost communities in my own region a hundred miles east of Abijah’s family holdings. We have five Virginia destinations which range from “still there but totally transformed” to “gone but we know where it was located.” However, Abijah’s lost community of believers, his lost sacred book, and his lost homesite make his “Little Band” even more quintessentially an example of the phenomenon, since even their locations are yet to be determined.

The fact that the Cincinnati region was home to Shaker communities in an era when spirit communication was thriving is testimony to the pattern seen in Letters to the Sage, in which western migration in the mid-19thc produced a wild proliferation of “alternative spiritualities” such as Mormonism in Missouri and Utah.  Briefly, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor tried to exemplify the communal impulse in 1886 but within weeks the scheme to form a colony in north Georgia collapsed. Two of the most prolific and significant of Moore Johnson’s correspondents (J.D. Buck and Silas Randall) were in the Cincinnati area, and a third (Helen Sumner) had spent the 1850s in northern Kentucky. Johnson’s most prolific and influential correspondent of all, Alexander Wilder, had spent several years of his youth in the now-lost spiritual community of John Humphrey Noyes in Oneida, NY.  Johnson and Wilder were both deeply influenced by Bronson Alcott whose own failed communal experiment is now memorialized in the Fruitlands Museum.

The most important message for me is that the southwestern VA mountains, despite their seeming isolation from national and international currents of religious change, were home to a man like Abijah Alley. A man whose (quoting Schoonmaker and Goodwillie)

charisma and religious fervor secured the attention and devotion of followers who recognized something of the prophet in him. Finally, Abijah Alley’s visionary work planted seeds of the nascent Spiritualist movement in the American South. They grew and bore fruit, just as the seeds Alley retrieved from the Holy Land bloomed for a time around his temple at Long Holler.

The July 2017 issue is Vol 11, no 3, published by Richard W. Couper Press, available for $10 per issue or $35 annually to: American Communal Societies Quarterly, Hamilton College Library, 198 College Hill Rd., Clinton NY, 13323, checks payable to Trustees of Hamilton College.

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Alice Barr Johnson in the Journal of the Johnson Library and Museum

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Troubled Emissaries

In 2016, Alexandria West, a non-profit based in Turlock, California, published Troubled Emissaries: How H.P. Blavatsky’s Successors Transformed the Theosophical Society from 1891 to 1895 by Brett Forray. The conflicts over spiritual authority leading to eventual breakup of the Theosophical Society discussed in this book shed light on Letters to the Sage and vice versa. In discussing the 1895 convention of U.S. Theosophists in Boston that formalized the secession of the former American Section, Forray quotes “Jasper Niemand,” pen name of Julia Keightley, arguing that this was the fourth transformation the organization had undergone in the U.S. in twenty years:

The T.S. took on a third form, and passed out of the Board of Control stage into that of the late American Section, and the fourth stage was reached at Boston Convention, 1895, when the original parent body [Aryan Lodge in New York City] and branches voted autonomy and became the Theosophical Society in America by an overwhelming majority. In each instance the society outgrew the old form and reincarnated anew in conditions more favorable to the work. (p. 289)

Here Niemand describes the original Theosophical Society of the 1870s as the first form or stage, the 1884-6 Board of Control as the second, the American Section established in 1886 as the third, and the 1895 autonomous Theosophical Society in America as the fourth. This helps to explain why both Alexander Wilder and Thomas Moore Johnson were much less involved in the TS in the 1890s than they had been in the 1870s and 1880s. Wilder was a very prominent figure in the first 1870s “incarnation,” having edited and written the introduction to Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled and becoming a Vice President of the Society for a time. As part of the Board of Control, Johnson was deeply involved in the Society during the second phase which coincided with the rise of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in the mid-1880s.   During this phase, five of the seven original members of the T.S. American Board of Control (Buck, Cables, Johnson, Page, and Shelley) were also members of the HBofL.

Forray quotes a Canadian Theosophical editor, A.E.S. Smythe, in a 1939 explanation of why there was still a need to delve into the painful sectarian splits of the 1890s TS:

I have been arraigned from time to time for ever alluding to some of these past incidents. I have done so without malice and only as historically necessary in order to explain why some things are as they are. But if we import personal prejudices and hostile sentiment into historical study it will never get anywhere. Why mention these matters at all? I am asked. The psycho-analysts will tell you that as long as they lie concealed in the mind there can never be peace. Let us not be afraid to face either the past or the future in our present consideration of the life before and around us. Otherwise we may continue to make the same old mistakes that our predecessors made, and what is often worst of all, be proud to make them. (A.E.S. Smythe, Digging Up Old Bones, The Canadian Theosophist, Oct. 15, 1939)

Forray’s 2016 statement about the present need for a fresh consideration of the period suggests that little progress has been made in understanding the bitter controversies of the 1890s between partisans of Annie Besant and William Q. Judge:

What is especially missing in a discussion about the relationship between Judge and Besant is an objectivity to closely review and analyze, for example, their explanations about Mahatmic messages that is detached from the ideologies and apologies professed by the remaining Theosophical groups favoring either protagonist. It is one thing to recognize a person’s achievements; it is another as an extension of those achievements to idolize that person beyond the possibility of examination.(pp. 352-3)

By the early twentieth century, this tendency to idolize Theosophical leaders and engage in conflict over their competing claims was apparent to Alexander Wilder and became a source of frustration for him. Three letters from Wilder to Johnson in the forthcoming second volume of Letters to the Sage show that by the twentieth century the divisions among Theosophists had created a mine field for him as a writer and editor. On September 20, 1900, he wrote to Johnson about the fate of a translation he was working on:

Another matter is that of possible publication.  On that I am at sea. Col. Olcott of The Theosophist a year or more ago offered to print it at Madras and furnish me 500 copies. That was quite generous. Yet I apprehend it would appear in an unattractive form.

Mr. J.B. Fussell now of Point Loma (San Diego, California) wrote me that may be Mrs. Tingly, of the American Theosophists (illegible) might be induced to publish it; allowing me nothing for my work. As I have not undertaken it with any expectation of pay, that consideration does not influence me. Whether it would be advisable to publish it under these auspices is worth considering. I wish it to stand on its own merits, and not to entangle myself with any class of individuals.

On February 22, 1906, Wilder reported to Johnson that he had met H.W. Percival in October 1904, when he stated the intention to start a new magazine for which he wanted a series of papers on Plato’s dialogues, which Wilder agreed to provide. The new magazine, The Word, described itself as “Theosophical” but Wilder was unenthusiastic about the label.

Since the establishment of the Theosophical Society in 1875, it has split into several minor rival bodies. The American Society divided from those of the Eastern Continent; then the friends of Dr. Buck divided from those of Mrs. Tingley, and I apprehend that those at 244 Lennox Avenue [headquarters for Percival] are separate and apart from the others. I have taken no pains to ascertain, and I wish to hold aloof from their quarrels.

Two later letters indicate that the Plato series Wilder wrote for Percival’s Word continued until his death in 1908. In one of his last letters, dated August 1, 1907, he wrote to Johnson about his frustrations with G.R.S. Mead:

He visited me once, some 15 or more years ago. I was much pleased with him. But I have been diverted by his curious treatment of myself. When Lucifer was published and Theosophical Review, they sent me several volumes. But Mr. Hargrove desired me to write articles in the Later Platonists, etc. So the London men cut me off. Some seasons after, I was reinstated, and then again discarded. The fact, I apprehend is that with “Brotherhood” this resembles the Parisians of 1792 when the demand was to be a brother or be killed. I always found Mr. Mead a very instructive writer. Every man has a niche in which he is valuable, and so I thought of him. But with factional bickerings I will have nothing to do.

Several correspondents who appear in Volume I of Letters to the Sage figure prominently in Forray’s new book. Dr. J.D. Buck appears as a fanatical proponent of American secession from Adyar, and G.R.S. Mead as a passionate opponent thereof. James Pryse also plays a prominent role in pivotal events both in London and in the U.S.  Any readers of Letters to the Sage will find Troubled Emissaries a reliable, well-researched, and instructive guide to the 1890s experiences of American Theosophists.  As the above excerpts reveal, in the forthcoming second volume, Wilder’s last letters to Johnson give a twentieth century retrospective glance at the effects of the 1890s disruptions within the Theosophical Society.

 

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At Long Last Osceola

More than four years have elapsed since I began collaborating with Patrick Bowen on the transcription, annotation, and biographical sketches for Letters to the Sage. But only last week did I finally get to Osceola, Missouri where Thomas Moore Johnson, Sage of the Osage, was born and spent most of his life. This visit followed the biennial convention of the Church of Light in Albuquerque, where a three hour preconference was devoted to Johnson and his correspondents. That presentation will be the source of several future updates to this blog. After the conference and before the visit to Osceola, I was able to meet Patrick Bowen at last after four years of collaboration, while visiting friends in Colorado.

I am very grateful to Mary Ann Johnson Arnett, a great-granddaughter of Thomas Moore Johnson, and her husband Jim Arnett for welcoming me to their Kansas home where they have collected memorabilia of the Johnson family and St. Clair County that whetted my appetite for the next day’s visit to Osceola. Before visiting the Johnson Library and Museum, the Arnetts took me to the St. Clair County Historical Society Museum just off the quaint town square. Welcoming us to the museum was Osceola resident and author Meredith Anderson, who with his wife Linda has written more than a dozen books many of which focus on 19th century Missouri. Downstairs exhibit space is broken up into several rooms, one of which is devoted to the Johnson family of Osceola, which include the wedding dress of Alice Barr Johnson, wife of TMJ, and a top hat that he wore. The upstairs of the former church building contains a large meeting hall, and the picture above shows Jim Arnett in the meeting hall. On the way to the Johnson Library and Museum, we stopped at the cemetery where Thomas and Alice Johnson are buried, next to the gravesite of their son and his wife.

We then proceeded to the Johnson Library and Museum which overlooks the former Osage River which is now a branch of Truman Lake. I have previously posted a YouTube video of Tom Johnson’s tour of the building, but having him lead me through the buildings in person was a great honor and a memory I will keep the rest of my life. At the end of the tour we all had an unexpected surprise from Larry Lewis, whose collateral ancestor Edwin Lewis is mentioned in the Letters as the only Osceola friend of TMJ to follow him into both the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. Larry is author of a new history of Osceola, and just that morning he had learned by email that his book had been nominated to the State Historical Society of Missouri for best book of the year on Missouri history. I have just gotten back home and not yet begun the book, but Larry pointed out to me on page 90 he mentions Letters to the Sage, names Patrick and me as coeditors, and gives publishing information. This is a big milestone for us, the first new book in which LTS is mentioned. I would have expected it to be in some academic tome but being mentioned in a book about Osceola from someone intimately acquainted with the TM Johnson descendants is ten times more gratifying. Before heading back home I enjoyed lunch with Larry and his wife Ruth and the Arnetts within sight of Osceola’s town square, and learned even more about the town’s history. Here is a review of the new book.

Part 2: after arriving back in Virginia I read Larry Lewis’s book and added the following remarks:

Any small county seat would be fortunate to have its stories told by a native with Mr. Lewis’s qualifications. A descendant of the earliest settlers of St. Clair County, he spent ten years of childhood there before being relocated by his father’s wartime employment in Connecticut, and then spent most of his adult life elsewhere. Returning for good after retirement from the Episcopal ministry in 1997, he has been involved in many aspects of town life, including becoming a founding board member of the Johnson Library and Museum established in 1999. His accounts combine the nostalgic glow of family memories and objective description of disasters and decline following the 1861 burning of the town by Kansas Jayhawks and the creation of Truman Lake in the 1970s which ruined what had once been a lively waterfront district on the Osage River.

Chapter 6, “Emily’s Cat,” opens with a description of his first cousin Emily Johnson’s pet Iamblichius, a name with which Lewis was unfamiliar until decades later when he developed an interest in her grandfather Thomas Moore Johnson. Although TMJ was long gone by the time Larry arrived on the scene, “Miz Moore Johnson,” his widow Alice, survived until 1948 and is fondly remembered to this day. The chapter focuses largely on the life and work of TMJ, and includes a description of the varied scholars and writers who have taken an interest in him in recent years. These passages are excerpted from pages 89 and 90:

Word about Thomas Moore Johnson is getting around. Scholars on the east and west coasts and parts between are seeking information with a view to writing about the mystical phase of Johnson’s thinking. The scholar K. Paul Johnson in Virginia has documented Moore Johnson’s 1880s relation to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor [in this blog-KPJ]…Far to the west, in southern California, poet and musician Ronnie Pontiac published a novella-length study of Thomas M. Johnson in the March 19, 2013 issue of Newtopia Magazine…Johnson is cast as a hero in an article by Patrick D. Bowen published the following year…for the journal Theosophical History…Here’s the opening sentence of Bowen’s conclusion: “This article has, hopefully, demonstrated that a number of key developments in American esotericism can be traced to Missouri in the 1880s and that Thomas M. Johnson was a key player in all of these.” Classicist Jay Bregman at the University of Maine, a specialist in the influence of Neoplatonism on the thought of New England Transcendentalism and its offshoots, in his article “Thomas M. Johnson the Platonist” explains the attraction of devotees of the esoteric for Johnson and his Neoplatonist friends…across the Atlantic in Great Britain..the Prometheus Trust published in 2015 the Collected Works of Thomas M. Johnson, the Great American Platonist…Near the beginning of 2016, Patrick Bowen and K. Paul Johnson published Letters to the Sage

In his book published later in 2016, Mr. Lewis brings the unique perspective of an Osceola resident with family lies to the Johnsons to his own work which combines memoir, Civil War history, ecological commentary, and thoughts about the present and future of his home town. I highly recommend the book to anyone who has taken an interest in Thomas Moore Johnson.

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