Theosophy . The Theosophical Movement . Theosophical HistoryNumber 6 — May 2002
Apart from giving us valuable glimpses into the lives, work and philosophy of people, biographical information also helps us to understand historical developments and perspectives. The Campbell Library has much interesting biographical material in its collection and here are just a few samples.
A Lonely Disciple — Monograph on T. Subba Row 1856-90 by N.C. Ramanujachary, 1993, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 59 pages.
T. Subba Row was an influential figure in The Theosophical Society for a short time after he became a member in 1882. In the Foreword to A Lonely Disciple Radha Burnier, the current President of the Society, writes: ‘Such was his erudition and occult knowledge that he played an important role during the formative years of the Society. His speeches and writings contained in two publications, The Philosophy of The Bhagavad Gita and Esoteric Writings, strike the reader even to-day by their range and depth’. His occult knowledge was highly respected by H.P. Blavatsky to the extent that she quoted him extensively in her major publication, The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.
In 1883 the Society resolved to award a medal in Subba Row’s honour. At his death at age 34 years, even though he was no longer a member of the Society, it was decided that the medal should be awarded annually ‘.... to the author of the most valuable contribution of the year to Theosophical literature ....’. Between 1885 and 1997, thirty-nine medals have been awarded.
So Rich a Life by Clara Codd (1876-1971), 1951, Institute for Theosophical Publicity, Pretoria, 431 pages.
Clara Codd was a serious student of theosophy who made a distinguished contribution to the theosophical movement as writer and lecturer. She wrote various books on theosophy and meditation and in 1956 was awarded the Subba Row Medal for her work. She was an International Lecturer for The Theosophical Society and also served as General Secretary to the Society in Australia and in South Africa. Like many workers in the theosophical movement she also had been active in working toward creating a better society for all — for example she was involved in education and socialism and was a suffragette, being imprisoned for her beliefs and activities.
Autobiography, Chapters in the Course of My Life - 1861-1907,by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), 1999, Anthroposophic Press, New York, 415 pages.
In this biography, originally written as seventy weekly instalments for an Anthroposophic newsletter, Steiner covers the first 35 years of his life and conveys some idea of his inner life, his personal relationships and the events that shaped him.
Steiner was a member of The Theosophical Society and became leader of the Society in Germany. In 1913 he left that organisation and established the Anthroposophical Society which, among other things, is well-known throughout the world for its Rudolf Steiner Schools and their important contribution to education.
The Dutch Orientalist Johan van Manen: his life and work, by Peter Richardus, 1989, Kern Institute, Leiden, 80 pages.
Johan van Manen (1877-1943) is another extraordinary and esteemed scholar who made a very valuable contribution to The Theosophical Society - as well as to eastern literature and culture. His many activities, as Richardus says, ‘lead from behind Dutch dykes to Himalayan heights‘. In his youth van Manen became an active member of the theosophical movement — he was already interested in other languages, cultures and religions, particularly that of Tibet. He served as private secretary to Charles Leadbeater at The Theosophical Society at Adyar during the time of the discovery and early education of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Between 1910 and 1916 Van Manen worked as an Assistant Director of the Adyar Library at the international headquarters of the Society.
He left the Society and then settled in West Bengal in order to dedicate himself to ‘Tibetology’. After working in the Imperial Library and the Indian Museum in Calcutta he was elected General Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1923 and served to 1939. During that time he significantly increased the already respected stature of that Society.
The Candle of Vision “AE” (George William Russell, 1867-1935), 1965, Quest, Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, 175 pages.
Originally published in 1918, this book is an important record of a mystic life. Russell, who wrote under the pseudonym of AE, was a key figure in the great Irish literary renaissance of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such was his status, he was awarded an honorary degree of Litt.D. from Yale University.
While a student at the School of Arts in Dublin he met William Butler Yeats through whom he was introduced to theosophy. A Dublin Lodge of The Theosophical Society was formed in 1886 with the enthusiastic support of Russell, Yeats, Charles Johnson, John Eglinton and other leading intellectuals, artists and writers. Russell’s contact with theosophy seemed to be a ‘catalyst that enhanced his own consciousness and brought about a true spiritual awakening’.
H.P. Blavatsky Her Life and Work for Humanity, by Alice Cleather, 1922, Thacker Spink & Co, Calcutta, 124 pages.
This publication is an expansion of a series of articles written for the Journal of the Maha Buddhi Society (Calcutta), a Buddhist monthly, and suggested by the editor, the Venerable Anagarika Dharmapala. Cleather writes: ‘.... it is as a personal pupil of the late Madame H.P. Blavatsky .... and as an exponent of what she alone taught, that I address my readers .... I deal with her life in so far as it was bound up with her work’. Cleather is ideally placed to communicate some of the flavour of the early days with Blavatsky as she was a member and note-taker of the Inner Group personally directed by Blavatsky, and would have had intimate knowledge of her, of her ideas and of her influence.
H.P.B. — In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) by Some of her Pupils 1931, The Blavatsky Association, London, 197 pages.
Most of the articles featured in this publication appeared, after Blavatsky’s death in 1891, in the monthly magazine Lucifer, and were first published in book form in that year. The authors were influential and important members of the Society - such as G. R. S. Mead, Constance Wachtmeister, Charles Johnson, Walter Old, Franz Hartmann, W. Q. Judge and H.S. Olcott — and in the articles they present their impressions of, and experiences with, Blavatsky. Lucifer was co-founded by Blavatsky in 1887 and a complete collection is held by The Campbell Library.
This 1931 edition is essentially a reprint of the original book but it also contains a character sketch by W.T. Stead, Editor of the Review of Reviews, and the editorial from the New York Tribune published just after Blavatsky’s death and which began: ‘Few women in our time have been more persistently misrepresented, slandered, and defamed than Madame Blavatsky, but though malice and ignorance did their worst upon her there are abundant indications that her life-work will vindicate itself, that it will endure, and that it will operate for good....’. It continued: ‘Madame Blavatsky held that the regeneration of mankind must be based upon the development of altruism .... This alone would entitle her teachings to the candid and serious consideration of all who respect the influences that make for righteousness’.
In April 2002 this unique Union Index was updated for the 4th time on The Campbell Library web page. It has proven to be a very valuable research aid and contains indices to some 100 periodicals with about 112,000 entries.
We are pleased to have been able to add over 1,000 entries for Theosophia to the Index. This is an important theosophical periodical that was edited by Boris de Zirkoff from 1944 until his death in 1981. Its objectives, slightly modified over the years, were: ‘To uphold and promote the original Principles of the modern Theosophical Movement, and to disseminate the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy as set forth by H. P. Blavatsky and her Teachers‘. Writers included, as well as de Zirkoff himself, many esteemed scholars and thinkers. After his death in 1981, a special ‘Tribute’ issue was edited and published by Dara Eklund and the wide range of contributors highlights the influence of this independent and highly-respected scholar.
The addition of Theosophia to the Index was greatly helped by the exchange of surplus periodicals and photocopies between The Campbell Library and the Edmonton Theosophical Society in Canada, for which the Library is very grateful. We would be pleased to hear from others who may wish to exchange surplus periodicals or photocopies of periodicals with the Library so that we can fill gaps in each other’s collections.
Fifty of the articles written for Theosophia by de Zirkoff appear in The Dream that Never Dies: Boris de Zirkoff speaks out on Theosophy, compiled and edited by W. Emmett Small and published in 1983. De Zirkoff is also well-known and respected as the compiler of Blavatsky Collected Writings published in fourteen volumes. He was awarded the Subba Row Medal in 1980 in grateful recognition of his ‘untiring efforts, during several decades, to make available to the world the wealth of knowledge contained in H. P. Blavatsky‘s writings’.
The Campbell Theosophical Research Library
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The Campbell Theosophical Research Library is a specialist research and reference facility which aims to encourage the quality study of, and research into, theosophy, the theosophical movement and its history, and subjects related to the objects of The Theosophical Society. It has a comprehensive range of books, periodicals and other material covering these areas. It also has material that, while not directly related to the theosophical movement, gives a wider historical and cultural context. Anyone interested in its collection is welcome to use the Library which is available by appointment - please note that material may not be borrowed. Photocopying facilities are available.
The Library is a part of The Theosophical Society in Australia. The Society is a non-sectarian organisation that has no dogma and stands for freedom of search and belief.
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