Membership lists Theosophical Society online

Without the Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, our modern art would have looked very different. No other western esoteric organization or its offshoots had so much influence on the forming of modern art theories. Art historian and OVN-board member Marty Bax has been researching the membership records on the Theosophical Society since the 1980s. She has transcribed many of the records held in archives in India.
Because the original documents are accessible to so few, Bax has created an online database, in which they can be searched. The membership records of 1875-1905 are now online, covering no less than 26.000 members with their biographical data.
The records are part of a larger database, TheArtArchives, which Bax is using to make the archives of her art historical bureau accessible, including documents on Piet Mondriaan. Acces is provided through paid subscription, as is now common for many (genealogical) archive databases.


Exhibitions in Strasbourg

The Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg is hosting an exhibition on the theme of Les Frères Réunis à Strasbourg, une loge maçonnique engagée until 5 February 2012. It marks the 200th anniversary of the lodge and shows a selection of objects and documents on 19th century freemasonry.
This masonic exhibition will coincide with a larger exhibition on the relationship between art and the occult, organized in the Musee d'Art Modern et Contemporain, also in Strasbourg: L’Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l’occulte, 1750-1950. That exhibition runs until 12 February 2012 and is also discussed in the recent column by OVN board members Marty Bax and Andrea Kroon.

Pranks and Initiation Rituals

The initiation rituals of many fraternal and student organizations are associated with harmless, if not humiliating or painful pranks. Author Julia Suits uncovered a curious sales catalogue by the DeMoulin Brothers Company which offered equally curious attributes to help organize these pranks. These items, dating from 1896-1930 are highlighted in a new book: The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: The Curious World of the Demoulin Brothers and Their Fraternal Lodge Prank Machines - from Human Centipedes and Revolving Goats to ElectricCarpets and Smoking Camels. The author has uploaded an old film clip on YouTube, to help demonstrate what the book is about. It seems an excellent 'stocking filler' for students and scholars in the field of study.

Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica reopens

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam was frequently in the news in 2011 because of financial difficulties. A Dutch bank impounded the historical collection and the Dutch State, which owns part the core collection, transferred books and manuscripts to the Dutch National Library. This effectively split the collection in two and the bank intended to sell the impounded books. A protest and petition were organized by international scholars in the field of study. While attempts to save the library were made, a media silence was imposed.

Although it remains unclear exactly how it was achieved, the BPH has announced that it will formally reopen on 16 December 2011. The organizational and ownership structure of the library has been reviewed, which will hopefully prevent any problems reoccurring.
Keynote speaker prof. Wouter Hanegraaff (Chair for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam) will give a lecture ‘Per aspera ad fontes’ to mark the reopening on 16 December 2011. This will coincide with the opening of a new exhibition ‘Oneindig Vuur’ (‘Never ending fire’) in the BPH building. The library collection will then be accessible again to students and scholars from 19 December onwards (while the state-owned part of the collection presumably remains accessible in the National Library in The Hague). For more information: bph@ritmanlibrary.nl

Art & Western Esotericism

From 1996 onwards OVN board members Marty Bax and Andréa Kroon, together with fellow art historians Marijo Ariens and Audrey Wagtberg Hansen, have realized various projects aimed at drawing attention to the relationship between ‘art & western esotericism’. Because their goals have largely been realized, Bax and Kroon feel the time has come to focus on other lacunas in their knowledge of art history. They have marked the end of their joint ‘lobby’ for this fascinating subject with an interesting column on the subject.

Groningen University Master Program

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the Groningen University will launch a new Master program Concealed Knowledge: Gnosticism, Esotericism, and Mysticism (60 ECTS, entirely taught in the English language) as of the academic year 2012-2013.
The one-year program consist of 3 modules, 1 tutorial/ internship/ additional module, and a master thesis. The modules are: Knowledge, Secrecy, and Revelation in Antiquity; Medieval Mysticism, Kabbalah, and Contemporary Culture; Modern Esotericism between East and West. All modules are characterized by an approach that is well-established in Groningen: an awareness of (a) the historical dimension that reaches back to antiquity; (b) the fact that religion in the West is pluralistic (including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but also pagan and other religious options); and (c) that the notion of 'Western' must be critically engaged in terms of postcolonial debate and processes of globalization.
It is also possible to combine this program with a two-years Research Master. For details of the program, please see the University website.

Date change for Lexington conference

The National Heritage Museum in Lexington (USA) announces a call for papers for its biannual symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, to be held on 28 April 2012 (please note the change from the previously announced date!). The deadline for paper proposals has been extended to 2 January 2012. For more information, check the museums blog.