[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]


Dec 20, 1994 08:58 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

One month ago tomorrow the American Academy of Religion seminar
on Theosophy and Theosophic Thought was held in Chicago.  My
apologies for not reporting on it sooner, and to Jerry H-E for
not sending handouts as promised.  Warning-- if you ever travel a
long distance on Amtrak, allow more than a 5 hour margin of
error! The seminar started at 3:45, and that is when my train,
due in at 11:25, got to Chicago.  After running through the city
streets to my hotel, checking in, taking the shuttle, etc., and
finally getting to the Hilton where it was held, I had missed
half the meeting.  And it took most of the other half to get my
body and mind out of overdrive.  Thus, it is all a blur in my

A few points might be of interest, though.  It was very well
attended, about fifty people spilling out of the seminar room
into an anteroom.  Among well-known FTS present were John and
Adele Algeo, Tony Lysy, William Metzger, and Robert Ellwood.
When I arrived the two scholars from France, Antoine Faivre and
Jean-Pierre Laurant, had finished their presentations, and James
Santucci was almost done reading another in absentia.  (Hope I
recall correctly).  James Burnell Robinson of the U.  of Northern
Iowa was the "responder." Frankly I don't find the standard AAR
seminar format very edifying-- many ten-minute summaries of
papers, no questions or discussion, one official responder.  Even
if I hadn't been physically and mentally frazzled, it would have
been a blur.

The second half included presentations by Michael Gomes on 19th
century Theosophical literature, Marva Selvidge (sp.?) on Anna
Kingsford and William Maitland, and Joscelyn Godwin on the
Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.  J.  Patrick Deveney was the

After the presentations was a business meeting, where a future
anthology of scholarly articles was discussed.  It seemed most of
the topics were already assigned, with different people covering
different periods and subjects.  A second such anthology (it was
called something else) was possibly in the works.

Most satisfying to me was the chance to mingle informally
afterwards, first in the seminar room and then over dinner.
Among non-FTS people of note present were the Director and Sales
Manager of SUNY Press, the daughter of Elizabeth Clare Prophet,
the Director of Research for the Baha'i National Center, and
Arthur Versluis, author of Theosophia (Lindisfarne 1994).

Sorry this is so sketchy, but if anyone has questions I'll try to
answer.  One definitely was left with the impression that we were
off to a roaring start.  It would be interesting to know what
theos-l folks think about the advantages and disadvantages of the
fact that academic study of Theosophy is/will be overwhelmingly
dominated by non-Theosophists.  It doesn't bother me at all,
since I'm more used to being attacked from my "right" (believers)
than from my "left" (nonbelievers).

In closing, I'd like to deny for the record a weird rumor about
me that I was told was circulating in the TS.  This is that I had
at one time had visions of the Masters, but later concluded that
these were illusory, and out of frustration/disappointment I
wrote my books to destroy the concept.  Anyone who has known me
for the last several years knows that this is a fabrication from
start to finish.  No visions, no disappointment, no destructive

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application