Tag: Theosophy

Recent talks, and a forgotten teacher

Here are some links to some talks I’ve given in recent months.

A Secret History of Consciousness, a three part series of lectures for the Theosophical Society, based on my book A Secret History of Conscious

In Part One: The Search for Cosmic Consciousness, I look at some contemporary scientific views about consciousness, and contrast these with the experiences of R.M. Bucke, William James, P.D. Ouspensky and others with what they called “cosmic consciousness.” How cosmic was it? Find out.

In Part Two: Esoteric Evolution, I trace a counter-tradition of evolutionary thought, beginning with Madame Blavatsky’s critique of Darwin, and leading to Rudolf Steiner’s strange union of theosophical cosmology and Goethean epistemology.

In Part Three The Presence of Origin, I give an overview of the life and work of the German-Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser, whose ideas about the “structures of consciousness” offer important insights into our contemporary post-everything world.

Here’s a video of a symposium on the Swedish mystic and artist Hilma Af Klint that I contributed to some years ago at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, 2013.

A cheery conversation about death.

A talk about Owen Barfield.

The “forgotten teacher” mentioned above is Maurice Nicoll, who taught the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Work in England for many years in the first half of the last century. Nicoll started out as the leading British disciple of Jung, but after meeting Ouspensky in late 1921, he switched his allegiance to the Fourth Way. Nicoll spent a year at Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, and on his return to London continued his studies under Ouspensky. In 1931, he was deputised to teach the Work himself, which he did until his death in 1953. He is most known for his exhaustive Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and for his books The New Man, The Mark, – which deal with an “esoteric” reading of the Gospels – and Living Time, which marked him as, in J.B. Priestley’s words, a “time-haunted man.” He was also the author of the first book on Jung’s psychology written in English, Dream Psychology. Nicoll was also a deep reader of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, and those familiar with Swedenborg’s, and Jung’s, ideas, will be aware of their presence in the later volumes of Nicoll’s Commentaries.

I have been asked to write a book about Nicoll, a sympathetic but critical study to complement the portraits of him left by some of his followers. A Go Fund Me page has been set up, asking support for this project. Readers of this blog know that I’ve written books about Jung, Ouspensky, and Swedenborg, and that Gurdjieff often turns up in my other books. I’ve written an article about Nicoll, published in Quest magazine a few years back, that should explain why he is important. The fact that he had Jung, Gurdjieff, and Ouspensky for teachers is enough to make him unique among modern seekers of wisdom. But that he introduced Jungian and Swedenborgian ideas into a Fourth Way teaching makes him an unusual instructor in that tradition. Nicoll was also keenly interested in the latest developments in science, in the work of Erwin Schrodinger, and the early findings in split-brain psychology, which was just beginning to get started toward the end of Nicoll’s life. Gurdjieff had entrusted Nicoll with the task of bringing the science of the west and the wisdom of the east into some creative union and in his last days he began to do just that.

Nicoll has been served well by his earlier biographers, Beryl Pogson and Sam Copley, but they were students and understandably biased toward their teacher. A recent discovery of a 1000+ page set of Nicoll’s diaries, covering crucial times in his life, also makes a new, non-partisan study of his life and work timely. Among other things, Nicoll’s diaries show a man struggling to find some way of life, some discipline, that could help him to unify and harmonise what for him were two mutually powerful but often antithetical drives, toward the spirit and toward the senses, toward the inner life of the soul, and the outer one of the body. A short video of an interview with me about Nicoll and why he deserves a new look can be found at the Go Fund Me page.

A Season of Consciousness

Here’s a round up of some upcoming talks for spring and summer. One hopes that sometime soon they can take place in real time, but until then, we must zoom – which, of course, doesn’t mean that I will lecture at a breakneck speed…

On 24 April I will be speaking about Owen Barfield, consciousness and language, for the Santa Cruz branch of the Anthroposophical Society. Barfield was the great friend of C.S. Lewis, one of the Inklings – along with Lewis and Tolkien – and a follower of Rudolf Steiner. But he was also a brilliant thinker in his own right, and I will be speaking about how in the history of language, Barfield discerned an evolution of consciousness. If you are interested in getting some background to the talk, I write about Barfield in A Secret History of Consciousness and Lost Knowledge of the Imagination

Starting 13 June, and continuing on 27 June and 11 July, I will be giving a three-part series of talks for the Theosophical Society in London based on my book A Secret History of Consciousness.

Part 1, The Search for Cosmic Consciousness, looks at the limits of the “nothing but” school of consciousness studies, and at the work of R.M. Bucke, William James, P.D. Ouspensky and others in their quest to expand the field of human consciousness so that it can encompass the cosmos.

Part 2, Esoteric Evolution, looks at the influence of Madam Blavatsky’s Theosophy on Rudolf Steiner, and how, by grafting elements from German Idealism and the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great poet and scientist, onto Blavatsky’s Theosophy, Steiner developed a suggestive philosophy of consciousness.

Part 3, The Presence or Origin, looks at the work of Jean Gebser, a little know philosopher and spiritual thinker whose ideas about the “structures of consciousness” and the “breakdown” of our current “mental-rational” structure can help shed some light on our turbulent times.

On 19 June, I will be giving a two hour presentation on “Beyond the Robot: Consciousness and Existentialism,” based on my book, Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, for the Pari Center, in Tuscany, Italy. (And yes, I would very much have liked this one to have been in real time…) Some of my readers will know that Wilson was one of the most important and insightful philosophers of consciousness of the past two centuries. My talk will focus on his attempt to create a “new existentialism,” a positive one driven by optimism and meaning, to replace the grim, stoical vision of Heidegger, Sartre and Camus, which ended in a cul-de-sac. My presentation is part of a series, “What is Consciousness,” which includes presentations by Iain McGilchrist, Bernardo Kastrup, Roshi Richard Baker – whom I had the great pleasure of meeting at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, at the end of 2019, just on the cusp of Coronamania – and others.

On 26 June I will be the keynote speaker at the Annual Convention of the Swedenborg Church of North America. I will be speaking about my new book, Introducing Swedenborg: Correspondences, an essay on the influence Swedenborg’s ideas about “correspondences” between the natural and spiritual worlds had on modern culture. I’m not sure if this is open to the public. If it is, I will post the details forthwith.

On 18 July, my talk for the Last Tuesday Society, “A Dark Muse: Writers and the Occult,” based on my book The Dedalus Book of the Occult: A Dark Muse (published in the US as A Dark Muse: A History of the Occult), will look at how ideas about the occult and esoteric have influenced some of the greatest writers and poets of the past few centuries. August Strindberg, Fernando Pessoa, Arthur Rimbaud, J. K. Huysmans are some the recipients of this seductive muse’s inspiration.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the letting up of locking down, but remember to stay safe and well.

Colin Wilson: Beyond the Robot, A Talk for the Theosophical Society

Here’s a link to a video of a talk I gave on 29 February 2020 on Colin Wilson’s life and ideas for the Theosophical Society here in London. As often happens with my talks, Part 1 ran over the original hour scheduled, so it was agreed that I would return later this year to give Part 2. The first part deals with Wilson’s early career, with The Outsider and the “new existentialism” he tried to establish through the books of the “Outsider Cycle.” Part 2 will deal with Wilson’s ideas about the occult, the paranormal and mystical experience. As readers of Wilson know, all of his work is centered around the question of the evolution of consciousness.

As you may notice, toward the beginning of the video I mention an odd synchronicity I had on the way to the talk. En route I stopped at a local market. While in the checkout queue, I casually looked at the magazine rack. There were a stack of Vogue magazines with most of the cover of the top one obscured by the magazines in the lower rack. But what was visible were the words “The Outsider.” As it turned out, this was the title of an article about a current pop singer and had nothing to do with Wilson. But as I was on my way to talk about The Outsider, I took it as a sign. It was the kind of synchronicity that Wilson himself would have loved, and it will feature in the book about precognitive dreams and synchronicity that I am about to start. It’s tentative title is Time and the Dreaming Mind.

Here’s a link to my tweet about this.

Happy New Year

And may 2019 be gentle to us all. Many thanks to all of you for making 2018 possible. Without you it couldn’t have happened. That’s something to think about. In the meantime, I wish I could give you all something in return. Alas, all I have is a link to my latest interview with Jeffrey Mishlove for his excellent New Thinking Allowed series. It’s about Madame Blavatsky. She may have been teetotal, but I bet New Years’s Eve was a hoot – or a Koot Hoomi – with her around. My next interview with Jeffrey, about Colin Wilson, will be released in January, and I’ll post the link when it is. Until then, all the best and sincere wishes for a truly human new year.

Imagination at Midnight

Recently I gave a talk to the Theosophical Society here in London about my book Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Here’s a link to the video of the talk. I’m always happy to speak at the TS. The audience is always intelligent and friendly and open to new ideas.

In other news, I’m being interviewed on the late Art Bell’s radio program, Midnight in the Desert, this Wednesday evening, December 12, at 11:00 Pacific Time. I’m getting up at 6:00 AM on Thursday morning in order to do it, compliments of the time difference between London and the west coast. Dave Schrader is at the helm these days. I did wonder if they knew that Midnight on the Desert is the title of an autobiographical book by J. B. Priestley? They do now because I told them. In any case, it looks like it will be a broad conversation about my work in general. They take questions, so if you are up and listening, please check in.

Thinking Allowed

Recently I was interviewed by Jeffrey Mishlove for his Thinking Allowed series of podcasts. This is the first of what will most likely turn out to be several such conversations. We talked about Rudolf Steiner in this one, and yesterday Jeffrey interviewed me about my book Dark Star Rising. The next installment we have planned is a chat about Madame Blavatsky. I enjoy Jeffrey’s interviews; he clearly knows the subjects and he guarantees a good discussion by asking intelligent questions. Here’s one place in which thinking is definitely allowed.

Occult Politics in Spain

I’ve recently heard from Javier Sierra, author of the bestselling The Secret Supper, that the Spanish edition of Politics and the Occult will be released in May. Javier is responsible for having the book come out with Planeta, and for arranging for me to take part in the International Symposium for Occulture that will take place in Madrid and Leon in October. I’ve been reading Javier’s latest work, The Master of the Prado, about the hidden influence of occult ideas on much of western art, and am finding it fascinating. Oddly enough, I’ve also recently heard that the Spanish edition of The Caretakers of the Cosmos has also just come out, with IAO Arte Editorial.  With Ediciones Atalanta publishing Spanish editions of my Rudolf Steiner and A Secret History of Consciousness, it looks like I am fairly well represented in the Spanish speaking world.

Jeffrey J. Kripal asks me all about our Secret Teachers

I recently had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Jeffrey J. Kripal about my new book The Secret Teachers of the Western World for the Reality Sandwich website. For those of you who don’t know, Jeffrey is one of the most exciting and thought provoking academic thinkers working in the ‘alternative’ milieu today; among his many books are Mutants and MysticsAuthors of the Impossible and most recently, The Super Natural, co-written with Whitley Strieber. I am flattered and honored that Jeff took the time to read and think about my book and to ask the kinds of questions writers like to answer. Here’s a link to the interview.

Secret Teachers at the Library Journal

Here is a review of The Secret Teachers of the Western World from the Library Journal:

Library Journal

11/15/2015
Lachman (Evolution of Consciousness, California Inst. of Integral Studies; Politics of the Occult) presents this work as “a serious study of our ‘rejected knowledge’ and an engagement with some of the people pursuing it today” and successfully achieves his first goal of a scholarly study of the “rejected” knowledge of the Western esoteric tradition. This comprehensive history engagingly traces a way of thinking and living that was often at the margins of accepted Western society. While it would be easy to sensationalize such a past, Lachman deftly navigates between the extremes of presenting a unified “conspiracy” behind hermeticism and a polemical attack on its opponents. It is an academic work, not a practitioner’s guide, which ranges from discussions on Plato to Carl Jung and onto the New Age as well as current explorations in alternative spiritual traditions. Lachman further briefly considers important mystics from the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions who informed the esoteric tradition. VERDICT This solid introduction to occult and esoteric history provides a sensible foundation for any reader who finds appeal in the current interest in participatory spirituality as distinct from simply holding specific religious beliefs.—Daniel Wigner, South Plains Coll., Lubbock, TX