… only, in the last 24 hours, it’s fallen into my field of view three times in quick succession.
First, I’m on the tube, reading Robert Irwin’s wonderful biography of his journey to the east and embrace of Sufi Islam, Memoirs of a Dervish. Just as I got on, I noticed one of those posters for the School of Economic Science. I’ve always wondered what they are about, with their promise of everyday philosophy. No more. Irwin writes of his encounter way back in the late 60s:
Though their posters in the tube stations advertised courses on philosophy, what one actually got was sub-occult tripe derived from Ouspensky.
Second, I’m back home, reviewing The Tibetan Book of the Dead, A Biography, by Donald S. Lopez, one of a new series from Princeton University Press, ‘Lives Of Great Religious Books’. (If Lopez’s is anything to go by, the series looks great.) His thesis is that this best-known of Tibetan texts, in the west, actually owes more to theosophy than it does to anything Tibetan, and it’s hardly known at all in the land beyond the snowy range. Walter Evans-Wentz, the editor, was a Victorian theosophist, and brought it to the west as a piece of ancient wisdom, newly discovered, just in time to save a lost generation.
Third, in the evening, I’m reading Gary Lachman’s latest, Jung The Mystic, in preparation for our discussion on 2nd June at the RSA, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jung’s death. He discusses the early part of Jung’s life, when he was very interested in spiritualism – as were many at the time, to the extent that people talked of the ‘invasion of the spirit people’. Leading these colourful characters, Lachman writes, was Madam Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy.
Is someone trying to tell me something…