Communication Congrès AFEA 2013 – Angers, 22-26 mai

Congrès AFEA 2013 – Angers, 22-26 mai

« From occultism and spiritualism to idealism and mysticism, American metaphysical religion in the making: Theosophy and New Thought. »

 For the past few decades, movements, religions, spiritual or religious communities referred to as ‘metaphysical’ have received significant public attention in American culture. But long before these movements came on the scene, two major American-born religions pioneered this metaphysical terrain: New Thought and Theosophy. Did they evolve hand in hand, or did one inherit from the other? From New Thought’s power of ‘positive thinking’ or the connection between mental health and physical well-being, or even God as a universally present Divine Mind, to Theosophy’s consideration of human beings as “sparks of divinity”: which impact have the two movements had on each other?

Known as ‘the religion of businessmen’ as William James put it, the New Thought movement, is part of American metaphysical religion, which is more than a century old. It is also at the core of the American religious pluralism heritage. Between Western idealism and Eastern mysticism (highly praised by Theosophy), New Thought has developed practical applications of metaphysical spirituality for everyday life. Both movements lay the stress on the fact that ‘metaphysical’ is a wide-encompassing label for people who challenge existing boundaries between secular and religious, or even between religion and spirituality. Unlike most of its counterparts, New Thought is undergoing a period of renewal both in its theological content and in its membership.

In this paper, I will offer an overview of the historical evolutions and interactions between Theosophy and New Thought by looking into their common roots, before considering the conceptual differences of cosmology and the relation to God in both movements. I will then examine one of the major features of theosophical and metaphysical ideas: the therapeutic scheme that has prevailed in the two structures, and its impact on the membership, while identifying the reasons for New Thought current growth and renewal.



Atelier 6. De la théosophie au New Age : les enfants d’Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Bernadette Rigal Cellard (Université Bordeaux 3)

Bien que le New Age en tant que mouvement soit relativement récent, ses racines sont millénaires puisqu’elles nous parviennent d’Égypte, de Chine, d’Inde, du Japon, de Grèce, des druides, des Amérindiens, du christianisme mystique, etc. Cette transmission s’est opérée en grande partie grâce aux travaux ultra syncrétiques de H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) et à sa Theosophical Society fondée en 1875 à New York.

Cet atelier s’intéressera aux différents modes d’adaptation des enseignements retransmis par H. P. Blavatsky. Comment les grands groupes du New Age se positionnent-ils par rapport à ces ésotérismes venus de tous les points du globe ? Quelle est la vitalité des différents courants occultes et métaphysiques à vocation thérapeutique ? Sont-ils dynamiques, dormants, ou en déclin ? Qui sont leurs membres, comment rayonnent-ils ? Parviennent-ils à transformer leur quête personnelle en perfectionnement de leur environnement et du monde, dessein originel de la théosophie ? L’idée sera aussi de tenter de cerner l’impact des enseignements de H. P. Blavatsky et de son entourage non seulement sur la scène religieuse et spirituelle mais aussi sur l’ensemble de la culture et de la société américaines des XXe et XXIe siècles.

Les propositions de communication doivent être envoyées à Bernadette Rigal-Cellard, avant le 15 décembre 2012.

From Theosophy to the New Age : Where Have the Children of H. P. Blavatsky Gone ?
Bernadette Rigal Cellard (Université Bordeaux 3)

Even though the New Age as a movement is relatively recent, its roots reach back to Egypt, China, India, Japan, Greece, the druids, Amerindians, Christian mysticism, etc. Such transmission was essentially made possible by the ultra syncretic writings of H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) and by her Theosophical Society founded in New York in 1875.

This panel will look at the ways the esoteric teachings of H. P. Blavatsky have been adapted by the numerous groups belonging to the occult-metaphysical and therapeutic tradition. Are these groups vibrant, dormant, or declining ? Who are their members ? How do they relate to the outside world : Do they successfully transform their individual quest into the betterment of mankind and nature (which was the design of Theosophy) ? One of our purposes will be to delineate the impact of H. P. Blavatsky’s teachings not only on the religious and spiritual stage, but also on American culture and society at large.


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