Into the Mystic memoir – Ojai

http://ionamiller.weebly.com/into-the-mystic-memoir3.html
INTO THE MYSTIC
Memoir 3, cont.
Iona Miller, 2010
Frame 5 – KROTONA – Esoterics, a Drug-Free Alternative to Altering Consciousness
but another Social Engineering Project: Spiritual Enlightenment & Human Potential
Picture
Left, Krotona Library

“To be sensitive to the beauty of something is to perceive the totality of it. The mind that is thinking in terms of a part can never perceive the whole. In the whole the part is contained, but the part will never make up the whole, the total.”— Krishnamurti, New Delhi 1960

Metaphysics: It’s Not What You Think

***meta- (also met- before a vowel or h) combining form
1 denoting a change of position or condition : metamorphosis | metathesis.
2 denoting position behind, after, or beyond: : metacarpus.
3 denoting something of a higher or second-order kind : metalanguage

METAPHYSICS means neither supernatural nor magical. It means ‘beyond physics,’ beyond the observables of particles and describes the non-physicality of virtual vacuum field effects, at least in current usage. They are real but inherently non-observable energy dynamics whose EFFECTS are never-the-less observable.

The Esoteric Tradition

I knew about Theosophy from the Theosophical Society in Pasadena, an offshoot of Blavatsky’s school of occult science. It split at the turn of the century from rival Katherine Tingley, who had another center headquartered in Point Loma, a wanna be California Utopia. Just like schisms in Christianity, rivalries logically ran counter to the self-professed purpose of Theosophy — essential Oneness. The word is derived from the Greek theos (god, divinity) and sophia (wisdom). Its philosophy is a contemporary presentation of the perennial wisdom underlying the world’s religions, sciences, and philosophies. With a bit of paranormal thrown in.

In 1877, two years after forming the Theosophical Society, Blavatsky published her first major work, Isis Unveiled — two volumes showing the universality of theosophic ideas in ancient and modern religions, and their basis in nature. The following year Blavatsky and Olcott left America for India, where they worked for recognition of the value of Oriental religions and philosophies, especially among the educated classes who were rejecting their own traditions in favor of modern Western materialistic education.

They also sought to expose religious superstition and dogmatism. At the same time, Blavatsky facilitated the study of Western mystical traditions such as Gnosticism, Kabbala, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism. Her claim that esoteric spiritual knowledge is consistent with new science is considered the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age thought started with Blavatsky.

Ojai is only 90 minutes but a world away from LA. I became a Valley Girl, that is Ojai Valley. California harbored a number of arcane schools but none exceeds the charms of Krotona, nestled in the artists colony of Ojai Valley like Shangri La. Krotona started in the Hollywood Hills before moving to the Ojai sanctuary. Krotona Colony was a lost Oasis of old LA. The faithful hoped to study philosophy, appreciate nature, celebrate performance and otherwise live a fuller life — all in the Hollywood Hills would-be utopia.

In 1875, as industrial America rose with avarice, mystic Helena Blavatsky and fellow occultists in New York established the Theosophical Society. Its rituals were a healing blend of clairvoyance, science and Freemasonry, dedicated to charitable works and brotherly love. Twenty-five years later, at Theosophy’s international headquarters in Adyar, a town in southern India, activist Annie Besant formed a sect that promoted meditation as a unifying force for human good.

Albert P. Warrington, a lawyer in Virginia, dedicated his life to the Adyar branch and became its American leader in 1912. Warrington picked up 11 acres west of Beachwood Canyon and north of Franklin Avenue, below where the Hollywood sign stands today, to create a Californian Adyar settlement. He called it Krotona after the Greek school founded by Pythagoras, who applied musical theory to harmonize the body, mind and spirit. The Krotona colony was up by 1919. It was an oasis for the faithful, conceived in an unrealized plan by Pasadena architects Arthur S. and Alfred Heineman, with buildings by San Diego’s Mead & Requa, Harold Dunn, Elmer C. Andrus and amateur designer and theosophist Marie R. Hotchener. It included the Krotona Court for educational programs; the Moorish-style Grand Temple of the Rosy Cross for ritual performance; the curious Science Building for experiments to verify theosophical mysteries.

Eccentric New Yorker Grace Shaw Duff stayed in one of the bungalows and willas of the true believers. She was the daughter of author and entertainer Henry Wheeler Shaw, known as Josh Billings. After Mark Twain, he was America’s most renowned humorist, credited for popularizing “a squeaky wheel gets the grease” and “the one thing money can’t buy is the wag of dog’s tail,” a homily in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” Duff wrote too, along serious, theosophical lines, and she republished 18th century tracts on early Christian mystics.

Duff’s house was the Ternary, designed by Arthur Heineman on land acquired in 1914 adjacent to Warrington’s original purchase. Its three wings around a garden court were in a modern Moorish style that blended California Spanish traditions with eastern motifs, just as Theosophy synthesized Asian and western beliefs. Its name, meaning three, reflected Theosophy’s way to an enlightened world: Build a community without discrimination; study religion, philosophy and science; explore the inexplicable.

Fundamental to utopian colonies was living with nature. The Ternary was on a landscaped plateau just below Krotona’s Italian gardens. From a stadium in this terraced Saranath, an audience watched as the Buddha came to life in theatrical performance that used Duff’s house as a mystical set. The hills were alive with prayer and faith until L.A. sprawl crowded Warrington’s idyllic retreat. In 1924, he moved his community to Ojai, where the Krotona School of Theosophy continues today. In Hollywood, original Krotona buildings remain, altered for mundane, contemporary life. The Ternary is an apartment house, and the Italian gardens are subdivided.

Reminiscent of the symbolism of Hermetic gardens, Krotona Flight is a monumental staircase located on Vista del Mar Avenue, at the southwestern edge of Beachwood Canyon. Though less famous than the granite staircases of Hollywoodland to the north, it is arguably more fascinating. Like the Hollywoodland stairs, Krotona Flight had its practical and decorative uses but also an equally important symbolic function. Designed by the architectural firm of Mead and Requa, Krotona Flight was built in 1914-1915. The stairs not only provided access to the Knudsen residence to the east but served as the south entrance to the hillside Krotona Colony, the utopian community founded by the Theosophical Society in 1912.

Krotona colonists used the stairs to get to and from the trolley hub at Argyle and Franklin Avenues. Returning from their jobs in Hollywood and Los Angeles, they only had to walk uphill for a couple of blocks–passing land that was then mostly fields–before reaching the stairs. Although the original plans called for a large gateway at the bottom of Krotona Flight, it was never built. Instead, the stairs fulfilled the function of delineating the Colony from the ordinary world.

The fountain on the first landing, though no longer working, makes it plain the stairs were more than functional. Writes the architectural historian Alfred Willis of Krotona Flight: “Simple yet grand, this staircase once symbolized for those who climbed it the ascent into those spiritual realms of which Krotona in Hollywood was a kind of earthly correspondent.” (Architronic v. 8, 1998)

Vatican of the New Age

Probably the only one in the world, Ojai has a street named for Annie Besant in the Theosophical colony. She was a feminist convicted of indecency and sentenced to a three-month prison term for distributing birth-control devices in Victorian England. So diverse were her radical activities that her biographer, Arthur Nethercot, needed two volumes to tell her story, The First Five Lives of Annie Besant, and The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant. During one of her “lives,” she was a member of the same Crotona Fellowship to which Gerald Gardner belonged.

It is the home of the Krishnamurti Foundation, devoted to promoting the thought of the late Jiddu Krishnamurti, a child protégé of Annie Besant, who in 1926 proclaimed him to be the new Messiah. He later repudiated the role but remains renowned among theosophists for his lectures. The Oak Grove School he founded still operates here. In his later days he had a strong friendship with physicist David Bohm with whom he exchanged deep theories of reality.

Scattered across Ojai like seeds in raspberry jam are other theosophical shrines: the Liberal Catholic Church of Our Lady and All Angels, a theosophical-Catholic religious chimera; Meditation Mount, a center of Alice Bailey’s “New Group of World Servers”; the Ecumenical Ministry of the Unity of All Religions; the Symphony of Life Religious Science Church, and tiny World University of America, housed in a former motel, where one can earn a Master’s degree in theosophical philosophy. The community Art Center offers open participation in monthly sessions of the Sufi Dances of Universal Peace.

With its Mediterranean climate Ojai (oh-hi) was full of blossoming orange groves, olives, lush tropical vegetation, and hot springs. It was matched by clean white Mediterranean architecture, the Arcade and a landmark bell tower. It has an ancient feel to it, a primordial air — a spiritual beauty. In Ojai I acquired a vocabulary for my consciousness expanding experiences. Others had systematically explored the inner terrain.

Ojai is a California Condor sanctuary (Sespe) on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest, which had been set afire by an intoxicated Johnny Cash shortly before I moved there the first time of many. Your heart never leaves “The Nest [or Valley of the Moon],” the meaning of its Chumash Indian name. The valley became the Spanish land grant cattle ranch of Fernando Tico in 1837.

Ojai isn’t on the way to anywhere and is a celeb retreat. Less than 8,000 live there now; roughly 3000 families. The whole valley is only 3 miles wide and 10 miles long. The 60s art rock group Spirit comes from there, and sums up the essence of the place, surrounded by the nearly impenetrable backcountry of Sespe Wilderness. That nest gave birth to my higher spirit. It gave me my first husband. We were initially mentored there by Rebecca, who was a dead ringer for Joan Baez.

Shangri La of My Heart

When Hollywood needed a setting for Shangri-La, a mythical paradise of eternal youth, it found what it was looking for in the Ojai Valley. Jagged mountain peaks served as a backdrop for a procession of Tibetan monks; grassy meadows cradled romping lovers; orange groves, flowering shrubs, and ribbons of water flowed into worn stone basins. ”Lost Horizon,” directed by Frank Capra, was filmed in the 30’s, but those in the know had been rejuvenating themselves in Ojai for decades before that. The Topatopa Bluffs turn a radiant golden-pink in the setting sun, enhancing the magic. The ridge looks like a giant recumbent Indian with head-dress is slumbering on the mountaintops. In the 70s, it was the fictional home of the Bionic Woman.

Ojai is a geo-thermal area. Wheeler Hot Springs, a thermal spa in the hills above Ojai (now closed), started as a resort in the 1870’s and reached a peak in the giddy days of Prohibition and bootleg barons. The Oaks at Ojai, a rambling, vaguely Spanish-style structure within the town proper, is by comparison a relative newcomer, having drawn guests seeking a Spartan regime in comfortable surroundings since 1977, but the Ojai Valley Inn (1876) was much older. The catch to Shangri-La was that you kept your youth only as long as you stayed there in the oasis of palms, cedars and citrus trees, with its pungent hot waters. The holographic memories of my youth are still stored there.

I rented a cottage up the mountain from Ojai at Wheeler Hot Springs, which had been decimated by a recent flood and so closed to the public at that time, making it a private playground. Matilija Hot Springs further down the road below Matilija Dam hadn’t fared much better. One natural sulphur spring-fed tub remained intact. I had grown up enjoying Desert Hot Springs virtually every weekend of SoCal winters, but this water was smellier.

I didn’t really need healing waters as much as a sanctuary from LA and immersion in nature. Our whole surf gang intended to move there, and I went in advance with a friend who was a Gypsy guitar-player and plenty of trickster ideas. My OC friends moved directly to Takilma, Oregon instead, but it took me a couple of more years to unknowingly, magnetically wind up in the same place again.

WHS was a real survivor, re-built several times after fires, bombings (by the Costello gang, during Prohibition), etc. Seventy-five miles north of LA, it re-opened in 1973 but closed in 1996. From the 1,486 foot elevation, the road was so steep we could make the 15-minute drive into Ojai coasting in neutral most of the way. WHS had been used for Halloween parties by the Sierra Club. Ripley’s certified it as the world’s smallest post office. Jack Dempsey used it as a training camp. Art Linkletter owned it for a brief time.

To call Wheelers a town is too generous. It was barely a roadside attraction. We duped the naive owners (Escrow closed just weeks before the devastating flood) into thinking we were married and it became an hippie enclave with a rotating cast of characters hiking across the chapparrel forest. Later I lived other places about the valley — Meiner’s Oaks, in the guest house of the Krotona landscaper, then up near the Thatcher School in the East End. Happy Valley School, counts Aldous Huxley and Jiddu Krishnamurti among its founders. My daughter was born in the tiny Ojai hospital. The valley kept calling me back. I still hear the siren sound. There I learned to peel back the mystic veil over a deeper reality

Zapped by the Violet Ray

The Age of Aquarius arrived early in Ojai, when the Theosophical Society moved a west coast outpost there.
Undoubtedly, each person brings a unique perspective to the study of Theosophy, a unique particular emphasis. One person may be particularly interested in studying the common, esoteric threads uniting the multiplicity of world religions. Or studying other esoteric subjects, such as Gurdjieff’s writings or Wilhelm’s I Ching.

Another may devote the vast majority of their study to The Secret Doctrine, coming to the fullest possible understanding of the Three Fundamental Propositions. Still others are drawn more to tmystic exts such as The Voice of the Silence or At the Feet of the Master, small but powerfully transformative tomes that illustrate the practical application of high Theosophical ideals to one’s own life. Some find expositions of psychic phenomena fascinating, opening them to a world entirely beyond everyday sense perceptions.

The Secret Doctrine teaches that everything in existence stems ultimately from the ineffable, incomprehensible ground of being described as the Absolute. Anything below this level of being is “maya,” illusion. The Society’s motto, “There is no religion higher than truth,” points to the over-arching search of the seeker — the search for truth. Distraction by the illusory nature of anything less than Truth itself is to lose sight of the Path.

If the highest Truth is found beyond all form, in this boundless Absolute, then anything containing the characteristics of form, limitation and definition falls short of Truth in some way. The logic in this line of thought is sound, but can lead to the development of a value system that looks down upon an interest in phenomena. How often is this word, “phenomena,” used in a condescending manner to describe interests deemed by the speaker to be inferior? What effect does this have?

The current notion of ethereal “Indigo Children” meme is an offshoot of an offshoot of Theosophy. Alice Bailey’s seven ray philosophy was a metaphysical fusion of meditation and spiritual psychology. Like Madame Blavatsky, she held a vision of herself ushering in an impending Aquarian Age, full of disembodied Masters of Wisdom and dubious channels.

Notions of spiritual hierarchy turned into a “spiritual supermarket” full of self-styled, “branded” instant-experts with their hands down your pockets, burning up the lecture circuit and churning out book after rehashed book. Discipleship and service became exploitation, even by unconscious well-meaning “light-workers.” Mastership became a confidence game.

Tavistock directed Stanford Research to undertake the work under the direction of Professor Willis Harmon. This work later became known as the “Aquarian Conspiracy”. Esalan was the “consciousness growth” prototype of the “hot tub spirituality” that followed — the psychosynthesis of the California ideology. Even the well-meaning can have toxic EFFECTS, which speak louder than their flowery parroted words. “The Way” became “my way, or the highway” — the Babel of idiosyncratic models and “churches” with narcissistic high-fallutin degrees that would shame freemasonry even while it copied it. Well, after all, it was the “Me” Generation.

The now ubiquitous Law of Attraction comes from Theosophy. But it is a materialistic magic disguised as spirituality. Still there are more houses, yachts, and vacations on vision boards and in “mind movies” than verities. Even “personal best” can be a narcissistic dream, rather than a vision of true potential. It all depends on who the dreamer is. It ain’t no Secret. I say “the method works if you do” at the proper level of pro-active application. Thus, to me, most current New Age thought looks a lot like Psych 101 with old age Theosophy, replete with obsolete 19th century thinking, including hidden racism and nationalism. In other words, what Robert Anton Wilson called a Reality Wormhole to the past. The problem is the -isms, rather than their content — the way of thinking.

Among Theosophists, I saw the effects of religious schizm that overlapped with pet theories. There I learned about fanatics, projection, cult behavior, zealotry, obsessiveness, delusional and magical thinking and a variety of other aberrations of misplaced energy, dependence and over-compensation. 2012 apocalypticism arose from the same root.

Indigo represents the highest color of aura, the intuitive seer with an open third eye. Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange and Indigo or violet are the ascending Theosophical rays, colors of the chakras. The standard Theosophic Sixth Ray of Idealism, Devotion, and True Religion is predominantly the Ray of Alchemical Transmutation — the violet fire which makes the psychophysical self into a crucible.

Metagifted Indigo adults, gifted sensitives, are imagined as the forerunners of civilization. But maybe they are just the “hopium” for our future. After all, even in science models are only theories. Indigo values include freedom, vision, truth, growth, sensitivity, inclusiveness, holistic-perception and heart-centeredness. Indigos are the “town criers” and societal watchdogs, serving notice and calling attention to injustices and problems of the world.

The Hippie movement of the 1960’s could be thought of as a precursor which rose up against the “system” before imploding in the 1970’s. Drugs were intrinsic to the Hippie Culture as if it had been engineered. There is credible evidence, in both the greater LA and San Francisco area that the government supplied the drugs. Today is only slightly different. Many of the mind numbing drugs available are sold legally by the big pharmaceutical companies for mood control. But self-centered philosophies [solipsism] can be as mind numbing and distracting from shared reality as drugs.

From a number of different perspectives the highly perceptive are voicing our collective need to re-think our civilization to create a better future for the planet and the human race. Some appear abrasive because they are blunt, easily bored, always ask why, and often do not suffer fools kindly. Viewed in terms of personality types, they are intuitive thinkers or feelers and empaths. Typology doesn’t really evolve, so you are either that type or not in your essential nature. Rebellious spirits perceive and fight against outside control in favor of the “authentic self,” much as it is described by Maslow, Transactional Analysis, Gestalt and transpersonal psychology.

In 1968 I underwent another paradigm shift “into the mystic.” Esoterics offered a holistic drug-free alternative to altering consciousness. It was the first answer to my question: “How do you do it without drugs?” Meditation was the comprehensive answer, often combined with types of magic. The third drug-free alternative is experiential therapy, either with or without a navigational guide. I followed all these paths developing them in conjunction with one another, learning the mysteries of Eastern and Western traditions. Later, this would be recontextualized in my Jungian studies and practice.

I was exposed to the mothership of esoteric memes — Theosophy, as full immersion experience. I landed in Ojai, California, an artists colony, Theosophical center and home of Krotona, which began as a Utopian oasis in Hollywood. Krotona put a premium on Forbidden Knowledge and extraordinary human potential. It was the esoteric vanguard of “Be All You Can Be,” living on as many planes as you can imagine and stabilize. It was essentially a path of self-initiation, even more encouraged by Krishnamurti and his offshoot Foundation.

Let’s Play A Game — GLOBAL ARCHITECTRONICS

Krotona was like Virtual Reality training before VR, developing not only conceptual but experiential self-knowledge on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. I grokked the model and never really abandoned it. It came from the syncretism of ancient eras and sustained the best of the past with an eye toward an emergent future — dubbed the Aquarian Age. It encourage self-reliant spirituality without religious strictures. It was a sort of Jedi warrior training of higher self development. Some of the most useful information came from seeing where others had stalled out in the process and why, and figuring out how to overcome those challenges and adversities.

This theosophical center with its huge library of metaphysics was a virtual Castalia for the impressionable mind. Castaglia was home of the Muses and the abstract realm of the intelligentsia in Herman Hesse’s Magister Ludi (aka “The Glass Bead Game”). Hesse’s books were favorites of the sixties and early-seventies turned-on generation, along with those of J.R.R. Tolkien and Carlos Castaneda. Of all these works, the austere Glass Bead Game was the least approachable, yet keenly sought, as it had about it the scent of surpassing wisdom.

It is complex but briefly, there is a game, played with glass beads. Its subject matter is the entire sweep of human civilization. In order to even begin to play it, one must have already become an absolute master of at least one entire branch of human culture, with its many sciences and arts. The game seems to be played by simply stringing beads on a thread. But of course, it isn’t so simple, as each bead represents something quite huge about human experience. Putting it together in a good way was tantamount to synthesizing an entire civilization. Who achieves the highest is named Magister Ludi – The Master of the Game.

Turbo-charging the Energy Body or Body of Light

The bead game is played in the 23rd century by members of that society’s intellectual elite. The players seem to be extremely intellectual, to a fault. That is why much of the book seems so austere and difficult. And yet, Joseph Knecht, the one who achieves mastery in the course of the book, gradually transcends himself and, at the end, becomes a glowing being who no longer even speaks, but whose radiant presence is sought out by all the others. How did this happen? That is the mystery of the book, never revealed or even discussed, but left for the reader to ponder.

So, how does one set out to become a potentiated HOMO LUMEN? That is the question. My answer to that one became Magick which became my vocation. Then I wondered if that was crazy, and my answer was, no — look to Jungian Psychology and transpersonal psychologies, which validate such experiences while not literalizing them. For a firm foundation, build on the personality psychologies of Gestalt and Transactional Analysis, and hypnotherapy. Beyond that, pick a spiritual Path and work it diligently with devotion, practice and compassionate service. Learn the distinction between mind and its contents. Become mindful of primordial awareness. Enjoy the inner journey as a natural extension of embodied life. Embody that spirituality — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Since its founding in 1967, the Krotona School of Theosophy has been helping students deepen their understanding of theosophy, the ancient wisdom, in its many forms, and has encouraged them to live a spiritually oriented life. The school emphasizes “transformative education” which focuses on spiritual renewal. Such studies lead students to orient themselves to eternal truths in a changing world. The school, an integral part of the Krotona Institute, supports the work of The Theosophical Society and its three objects, which are concerned with: 1) The unity of all people; 2) The study of comparative religion, philosophy and science; and 3) The investigation of unexplained laws of nature and our latent powers. School programs reflect the peace and special presence that make Krotona the spiritual center it is.

The theosophical Krotona was named after the school founded in Sicily by Pythagoras. Krotona’s mission was to educate the whole, full person. Pythagorus invented the Western musical scale and the principle of harmony. But his notion of harmony wasn’t confined to music: it underscored education. Krotona aimed at developing rich harmony of body, spirit and mind. His notion of culture included intellectual culture, creativity culture, and physical culture.
Krotona had esoteric classes for everything, just like you find everywhere now, but then it was rare to non-existent. The whole town was like living in a cult, so even the public library was full of wonderful philosophy books – things very rare in those days, including the natural food movement.

It was around that time the Krishnamurti Foundation was established for the “Un-guru.” I was lucky enough to see his Oak Grove talks, and had many ‘wise old woman’ mentors who directed my studies and goals, shortcutting my process of shopping the ‘spiritual supermarket’. They also introduced me to a deeper appreciation of art and science, with an eye toward the esoteric and leading edge. Today many embrace this sort of fusion in their worldview.

Those inter-related mystical paths showed me a holistic worldview and that one person could work to make a difference in the world. The “unguru” Krishnamurti was an exemplar role model of human potential. He was a World Citizen and World Teacher, long before the web made that a possibility for the masses — a realization of Tielhard de Chardin’s noosphere. In the 90s, the net became a new Utopia which many imagined would solve the fundamental problems of humanity through communication and education. Cyberspace was an electronic astral plane with a group soul of its own that opened our collective Third Eye and exposed much formerly forbidden knowledge.

Through Theosophy, and the excellent library and teachers there, I learned about various mystic arts and how they were used to damp the chatter of the mind. I was immersed in an alternative worldview far older than our Great Society before I became ingrained with consumer culture. I learned astrology from a former Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. I learned more than she thought she was teaching since she loved her daily Port. She would get drunk and rave about being “possessed by Koothomi” and ask me to slap her in the face.So, before the vogue for channelling, I learned “don’t go THERE”! But she was a terrific astrologer, named Marion…with many cats.

Of all of the occult arts, magick seemed to be the most intriguing because it had the most depth. Qabala seemed a hobby one could neither exhaust nor conquer. I’m not through with it yet and it isn’t letting loose of me. My study ranged far and deep, and of course Crowley was a big part of that. My first real magick book was Regardie’s TREE OF LIFE. I really got into it. Realizing this was not exactly the “norm,” I began investigating Jungian psychology, also, to keep a reality check on myself.

Later, I learned transpersonal and personality psychologies doing hypnotherapy and dreamhealing with Dr. Krippner. By the early 70’s, I was an avid Jungian.I began writing to crystallize my thoughts on the interface between mysticism and depth psychology. This eventually became THE HOLISTIC QABALA, whose outline came through in one of those blissfully flowing experiences where it all comes together. I also included basics of the psychological/esoteric crossover material in The Modern Alchemist. A continuing interest of mine is the relationship of psyche and matter…that interface where nothing becomes something, or psyche “matters”.

KROTONA BACKSTORY:

In 1875, as industrial America rose and avarice trounced charity, mystic Helena Blavatsky and fellow occultists in New York established the Theosophical Society. Its rituals were a healing blend of clairvoyance, science and Freemasonry, dedicated to charitable works and brotherly love. Twenty-five years later, at Theosophy’s international headquarters in Adyar, a town in southern India, activist Annie Besant formed a sect that promoted meditation as a unifying force for human good. Albert P. Warrington, a lawyer in Virginia, dedicated his life to the Adyar branch and became its American leader in 1912.

California, with its cheap land for private paradises, was home to more utopian colonies than any other state. Warrington picked up 11 acres west of Beachwood Canyon and north of Franklin Avenue, below where the Hollywood sign stands today, to create an Adyar settlement. He called it Krotona after the Greek school founded by Pythagoras, who applied musical theory to harmonize the body, mind and spirit.

Proving that faith can move mountains, or at least truck loads of dirt, the Krotona colony was up by 1919. It was a veritable Vegas CityCenter-style oasis for the faithful, conceived in an unrealized plan by Pasadena architects Arthur S. and Alfred Heineman, with buildings by San Diego’s Mead & Requa, Harold Dunn, Elmer C. Andrus and amateur designer and theosophist Marie R. Hotchener. It included the Krotona Court for educational programs; the Moorish-style Grand Temple of the Rosy Cross for ritual performance; the curious Science Building for experiments to verify theosophical mysteries; and bungalows and villas of the true believers, who included New Yorker Grace Shaw Duff.

Duff came to her characteristically Victorian eccentricity with star credentials as the daughter of author and entertainer Henry Wheeler Shaw, known as Josh Billings. After Mark Twain, he was America’s most renowned humorist, credited for popularizing “a squeaky wheel gets the grease” and “the one thing money can’t buy is the wag of dog’s tail,” a homily in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” Duff wrote too, along serious, theosophical lines, and she republished 18th century tracts on early Christian mystics.

Duff’s house was the Ternary, designed by Arthur Heineman on land acquired in 1914 adjacent to Warrington’s original purchase. Its three wings around a garden court were in a modern Moorish style that blended California Spanish traditions with eastern motifs, just as Theosophy synthesized Asian and western beliefs. Its name, meaning three, reflected Theosophy’s way to an enlightened world: Build a community without discrimination; study religion, philosophy and science; explore the inexplicable.

Fundamental to utopian colonies was living with nature. The Ternary was on a landscaped plateau just below Krotona’s Italian gardens. From a stadium in this terraced Saranath, an audience watched as the Buddha came to life in theatrical performance that used Duff’s house as a mystical set.

The hills were alive with prayer and faith until L.A. sprawl crowded Warrington’s idyllic retreat. In 1924, he moved his community to Ojai, where the Krotona School of Theosophy continues today. In Hollywood, original Krotona buildings remain, altered for mundane, contemporary life. The Ternary is an apartment house, and the Italian gardens are subdivided.

Oscar Wilde, no stranger to misery, wrote: “A map of the modern world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing.” Living now in our Distopia, with global wars, churches in schism, fractious politics and investment bankers doing God’s work, it’s hard to imagine a 21st century Utopia. But — all it will take is faith in a better way.
more –
http://ionamiller.weebly.com/into-the-mystic-memoir3.html

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~ by ionamiller on September 5, 2010.

One Response to “Into the Mystic memoir – Ojai”

  1. An absolutely engaging, extremely informative and inspiring as a discovery – by that hands-off serendipity that led me here – in fact on a strange whim of appearance in a face – yes face-book – (through our mutual ‘friend’ Albert Webre) and through what must be Italian blood in my veins, overhauled now, ostensibly nine times towards seniority. I read quickly but with great interest your clear explanations and I suppose because of sharing the generation, some similar activity and interests and especially Theosophy and its many branching offspring. I, of course bring another peculiar life course and related interests – different but complementary in a way that seems as if it could be of some use in rounding things off some more. I speak of Roderich and Laurency and have some incipient Web material. But I do not wish to emphasize anything except my delight in discovering, at this late date, your effort in conveying your journey and discoveries around such important and still, one could well say, little-known histories and body of Knowledge. Thank you. I shall continue reading. Namaste.

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