Radiance from Halcyon

my Amazon.com review of the book, followed by a comment:

The Temple of the People is the smallest and least-known group in the family tree of the Theosophical movement. But its small membership has had a substantial cultural influence in twentieth century California, as described in Paul Ivey’s Radiance from Halcyon. The group was the source of a burst of creativity that expressed itself in a wide array of endeavors. As an art historian, Ivey is well qualified to appreciate the group’s unique contributions. His treatment of the Temple is profoundly sympathetic yet completely objective, striking a perfect balance.

The opening chapters set the stage with a chronological explanation of the Temple’s emergence in the wake of the “Judge secession” crises of the mid-1890s and the subsequent splintering of American Theosophists into multiple competing sects. The author explains the community’s relocation from Syracuse, New York to the California coast and the teachings conveyed by its leaders. In these chapters Ivey meets the standard set by the best Theosophical history books (notably Joscelyn Godwin’s The Theosophical Enlightenment) in terms of thorough research and documentation, and the clarity of his writing. But the heart of the Halcyon story he tells is found not in the teachings of the leaders but in their implementation by the community members. The most memorable parts of Ivey’s book are the later chapters, which are thematic rather than chronological in approach.`

Ivey explores the social/political experimentation of the group and its architectural, medical, musical, and fine arts expressions. Most surprising and interesting is the final chapter, depicting scientific advances produced by members of the community as an expression of its anticipation of “the Avatar.” The other surviving branches of American Theosophy have inspired historical writing that ranges from uncritical propaganda to hypercritical debunking. The Halcyon group, in its obscurity, has been spared all such distorting accounts. As the sole author to explore its legacy in detail, Paul Ivey has surpassed all previous authors in the field of Theosophical history. Radiance from Halcyon is an engaging portrait of a long-overlooked American Utopian experiment. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Theosophy or the history of the central California coast, but any reader who appreciates unexplored byways of twentieth century spiritual movements will find it enjoyable and illuminating.

Church of Light readers will find this aspect of Theosophical history more relevant than most, due to the twentieth-century California setting, the emphasis on health, and the progressive political views of the community. While the Temple of the People is in the mainstream of Theosophy in terms of accepting reincarnation and messages channeled from Masters, the cultural atmosphere seems nonetheless more harmonious with that of the Church of Light than other Theosophical organizations. IMO, KPJ

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