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theosophy

︎Painting, Tantric, Philosophy   
︎ Ventral Is Golden


Founded in 1875 by Ukranian mystic, Helena Blavatsky, Theosophy is seen as a phenomenological appraoch to uniting religious and scientific thought, and played a huge part in bringing eastern spiritual concepts into western cultures.




Altered states of consciousness have been one of the main catalysts for all forms of new media throughout history, from shamanic healing, to Romantic literature, to global digital culture. They serve as a vehicle upon which shifts in consciousness can take place. But what do we mean by altered states, and when do we experience them?

The general feeling is that an altered state is something quite trivial. A psychedelic trip perhaps, the hypnogogia produced by overworking, the 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' induced by eating too much MSG, or the intake of Theobromine, the bitter alkaloid contained within chocolate and caffeine that crosses the blood-brain barrier to stimulate mood and heart rate. By looking at these examples, we notice that our relationship to 'altered states' is more of a partnership, a collaboration, between ourselves and an external mass of stimuli.

Digital communication for example also has certain ingrained effects that induce altered states.

The notion of long distance communication through some kind of hyper dimension, that becomes condensed into a social media interaction, is available not only to the peripheral subcultures and mystic cults of the past, but now they are available to the blue collar, computer literate everyman.



The teachings of Theosophy were derived from Helena Blavatsky, a Ukrainian born mystic, a spiritual scientist and 'Mother of the New Age', who's teachings have somewhat lost their linguistic importance at least in today’s discoure.
Many beleive Blavatsky to have been a charlatan, capitalising on the susceptible nature of her public.
During her seances, it is recorded that ectoplasm would emerge from her mouth as a way for spirits to communicate with the material realm. In addition, Blatvasky claimed to be receiving instruction for her teachings telepathically, via two members of an Indian secret brotherhood living in Tibet.
This was a claim made even more curious due to Blavatsky’s use of specific terms included in an esoteric glossary of religious concepts known to the eastern mind, that would have been very difficult for a western woman to acquire in those times.

Fraudulent claims of supanatural activities aside, how can we relate this to our modern context? Could it be argued that the popular equivalent of the communicative ectoplasm or astral projection for our digital species is the hashtag, which through algorithms, stimulate the 'paranormal', instantaneous thrill, or original rapture of communicating with 'the other'. 
This sensation is what was considered a pure feeling of exaltation or ecstasy, a 'standing outside of oneself', where in our case, the hashtag or a tweet for example, becomes a method of evoking a spirit from the faceless mass, the 'other realm', which otherwise belongs to a digitally encoded Faerie; a place where the spirits dwell.

Through her work, Blavatsky's aim was to globalise a spiritual view, by revivifying the religions that were being supressed by Christianity. It is considered that her work laid the foundations for what we now regard as the comparative study of religion.



“The hashtag or a tweet for example, becomes a method of evoking a spirit from the faceless mass, the 'other realm', which otherwise belongs to a digitally encoded Faerie; a place where the spirits dwell.“

Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist who was heavily influenced by Theosophy, as well as other methods of inducing altered states. He suffered from Synesthesia, a neurological phenomena, whereby a blending of the senses takes place, allowing the individual to taste colour or hear landscapes for example, in a peculiar ‘cross-talk’ of the brain’s hemispheres.

Scriabin was fascinated by the applied science aspects of theosophy, using colour-coded, harmonic tones within his musical compositions, and around 1910 began to conceive of the 'clavier à lumières', the keyboard of lights.
Although the images in this post are of unknown authorship, but belong to the Theosophical teachings of 1930's Europe, they accompany the ideas of Scriabin and Blavatsky, being representative of the dynamic relationship, or pursuit of a new technology, that allows new permissions of thinking and creating.


Indeed influenced by the doctrines of Theosophy (‘to collect and diffuse the knowledge and laws of the universe’), Scriabin developed an applied science of synesthesia toward what would have been a pioneering multimedia performance: his unrealised magnum opus 'Mysterium', which was expected to have been an all-consuming week-long performance of music, scent, dance, and light in the foothills of the Himalayas, that was somehow to bring about the blissful dissolution of the world through multi-sensory stimulation.



Since its formal conception in the late 1800’s, Theosophy has continued to play an important role in modern Western thought, through artists such as Wassilly Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and Alma af Klint. It has also seen a re-emergence through educational theorists such as Rudolf Steiner (as Anthroposophy) and Maria Montessori and Connectivist theory.

After the media scandals that Blavatsky had suffered, which threatened to undermine her work in broadening the scope of religious and philosophical thought, she handed the Theosophical mantle onto policital activist Annie Besant.


“Since its formal conception in the late 1800’s, Theosophy has continued to play an important role in modern Western thought.”








Further Reading ︎
Images sourced from Lexicon Magazine
HELENA BLAVATSKY BIO
SCRIABIN BIO
PROMETHEUS : THE POEM OF FIRE
MYSTERIUM


Mark