Theosophy came to Sydney in the early twentieth century. Dara Tatray is president of Theosophical Society in Sydney and in this interview she talks about the organisation’s beginnings in the late nineteenth century, its many notable members, its continuing close connection with India, and the ideas which attract its members. In the excerpt below Dara talks about the theosophy’s long term cultural influence.
The Theosophical Society [TS] has had a very strong influence on the culture of our times, which is becoming more widely recognised by academics around the world and you’ll find cultural references to theosophy in a lot of different places that you don’t expect to see – in literature and in cartoons. There’s a Beavis and Butthead cartoon featuring Madame Blavatsky [a founder of the TS], unfortunately, on MTV. But these ideas, which I keep emphasising are not beliefs of the organisation but are ideas that are looked at by the members, they’ve been quite influential. It’s mainly through the Theosophical Society that those ideas reached into what we now think of as the ‘New Age’. So as a kind of a cultural player in the city it has had a fairly substantial impact which is not widely recognised. But when you look at the people who used to be members of the Society around the world: the top scientists, the top inventors like Thomas Edison, the top writers, the spiritualists, the intellectuals; and Yeats the poet, lots of poets, artists, Kandinsky, Scriabin, so many people who were sometimes just briefly, and sometimes for longer, members of the Society, you can see that these ideas have had quite an impact on what I would call the eternal counterculture, the sort of perennial philosophy counterculture, and the TS has been a quiet player in that.