Expanding Mind with Gary Lachman

Madame Blavatsky by Gary Lachman

On the most recent 'Expanding Mind' podcast, the wonderful Erik Davis talks to the equally wonderful Gary Lachman about secret masters, mysterious teacups, and the origins of the New Age:

The topics discussed all come from Gary's new book, Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality

Pioneer. Visionary. Provocateur. Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky — mystic, occult writer, child of Russian aristocrats, spiritual seeker who traveled five continents, and founder (with Henry Steel Olcott) of the Theosophical Society — is still being hailed as an icon and scorned as a fraud more than 120 years after her death. But despite perennial interest in her life, writings, and philosophy, no single biography has examined the controversy and legacy of this influential thinker who helped define modern alternative spirituality—until now.

Gary Lachman, the acclaimed spiritual biographer behind volumes such as Rudolf Steiner and Jung the Mystic, brings us an in-depth look at Blavatsky, objectively exploring her unique and singular contributions toward introducing Eastern and esoteric spiritual ideas to the West during the nineteenth century, as well as the controversies that continue to color the discussions of her life and work.

(Full disclosure: Publishers Tarcher/Penguin currently have a paid banner ad here on TDG for another book by Gary, Jung the Mystic. This had no bearing on my posting of this story. Gary's a good friend of TDG - he has a featured blog here - and I'm a big fan of both his work and Erik Davis'.)

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jupiter.enteract's picture
Member since:
21 January 2005
Last activity:
8 hours 28 min

...I worked for years for the Theosophical Society (as editor and lecturer), I learned a host of fascinating new things from Gary's book--and not just about Blavatsky and Theosophy. (Such as: who knew that Rasputin walked all the way from Siberia to Jerusalem as part of a pilgrimage? Or that the practice of cremation in America was first initiated by Theosophists?) A great read.

epgrondine's picture
Member since:
23 October 2006
Last activity:
8 weeks 5 days

and I don't mean to be a nag, but could Gary tell us about any new materials he stumbled upon about the relationship between Blavatsky and Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon? If he's saving them for a book, that is okay, I understand.

E.P. Grondine
Man and Impact in the Americas

alanborky's picture
Member since:
29 January 2009
Last activity:
43 weeks 8 hours

This's off topic Greg but upto what seems only a few years ago you used to make a comment early on in each year to the effect how terrifyingly fast time was flying because January was already over and now we were into December.

You may even've been still making such remarks and I merely missed them but the reason I ask's because my experience of Januarys was usually pretty similar to yours but this January seems to've lasted glorious aeons to me and I was just wondering if you too'd been getting more bang for your Jan than usual.

If so has the arrival of 2013've initiated changes to our temporal perceptions?

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
8 hours 7 min

Our genetically ingrained heritage is to spend January sitting around the firepit eating dried squash and meat while telling stories and dozing off a lot. It is no time to be running about in the snow while hungry beasts lurk. I intend to stay truthful to my forefathers.

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
Last activity:
20 hours 26 min

i wish it were that simple for me LOL This month can't go fast enough for me and I wish it were March!

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
Last activity:
20 hours 26 min

I thought this was a great podcast and I too would like to here more from Gary on his wealth of knowledge in the occult world ;)

Thanks for sharing

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
8 hours 7 min

Just for the sheer number of anecdotes Blavatsky assembled together in Isis Unveiled she should be regarded as remarkable.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/the/iu/iu010...

"In 1864, in the French province of Le Var, near the little village of Brignoles, lived a peasant named Jacques Pelissier, who made a living by killing birds by simple will-power. His case is reported by the well-known Dr. d'Alger, at whose request the singular hunter gave exhibitions to several scientific men, of his method of proceeding. The story is told as follows: "At about fifteen or twenty paces from us, I saw a charming little meadow-lark which I showed to Jacques. 'Watch him well, monsieur,' said he, 'he is mine.' Instantly stretching his right hand toward the bird, he approached him gently. The meadow-lark stops, raises and lowers his pretty head, spreads his wings, but cannot fly; at last he cannot make a step further and suffers himself to be taken, only moving his wings with a feeble fluttering. I examine the bird, his eyes are tightly closed and his body has a corpse-like stiffness, although the pulsations of the heart are very distinct; it is a true cataleptic sleep, and all the phenomena incontestably prove a magnetic action. Fourteen little birds were taken in this way, within the space of an hour; none could resist the power of Master Jacques, and all presented the same cataleptic sleep; a sleep which, moreover, terminates at the will of the hunter, whose humble slaves these little birds have become."

the described mouth's picture
Member since:
11 January 2011
Last activity:
1 year 46 weeks

awesome

the crest of the wave . tumblr . com
quickened tendrils . tumblr . com

the described mouth's picture
Member since:
11 January 2011
Last activity:
1 year 46 weeks

I really appreciate the attitude described here, leading up to the 22 minute mark, towards imperfect sources as well as critics of those sources, and that that determination (or reluctantly obligation), to withhold judgment on a matter being investigated, is called skepticism!

the crest of the wave . tumblr . com
quickened tendrils . tumblr . com