Norman Astley Thomas H. Burgoyne

Judging Burgoyne

Kevin Dann’s last book Enchanted New York is a very entertaining walking tour of Manhattan along Broadway visiting many sites of historic interest. In the endnotes about Blavatsky he offers a very kind and generous appraisal of my own research:

K. Paul Johnson’s The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge (SUNY Press 1994) is a superb, wide-ranging, and poliically astute study of the “elusive teachers” of HPB.

I was delighted by the entire book with one exception that hit close to home. Chapter Four, Occult Manhattan 1848-1898 includes the Letters to the Sage correspondents Olcott, Judge, Burgoyne, and their fellow TS Founders Britten and Wiggin who both figured in my Sarah Stanley Grimke research in Boston. But in a place associated with Judge, one of the least reliable sources in TS history, he condemns “Burgoyne” and “Zanoni”-

Burgoyne’s pen name for these lessons (tellingly, in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel of the same name, the main character is an adept whose occult powers divorce him from human emotion)– always signed his name with a swastika, and when one reads his mad magical announcements, one wonders if the being who later inspired the corruption of that ancient symbol of life had not taken hold of Burgoyne, It was certainly an “imperial” vision that he soon expected to reign.

I explained how misguided this was in a previous post, but did not make the point that Burgoyne was never in New York until he became Norman Astley in 1892. The Theosophical Society leaders claimed to reconcile science, religion, and philosophy but tended in practice to subordinate science and philosophy to a unique new religious sect; this also describes the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. Members whose obsessions were more philosophical than religious ended up marginalized like Johnson and Wilder in the TS or Grimke and the Astleys in the HBofL. All these authors in the History of the Adepts series prioritized philosophy and science over religion unlike the later leaders of the organizations. Co-editing their letters and then republishing their works with new research has involved “putting them on the map” figuratively but l literally would like to see Carnegie Hall, first site of the New York School of Expression, added to the tour, with tributes to Genevieve Stebbins and Norman Astley who opened it there in 1893. Or better yet, The West Side YMCA to which the School moved in 1898 and is also still standing.,Stebbins’%20school%2C%20The%20New%20York%20School%20of%20Expression%2C%20was,existed%20until%20I%20provided%20proof.