PRE-ORDERS NOW AVAILABLE - BOOK RELEASED JANUARY 22 2021
Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater originally published in 1905, is a 143 page, illustrated book that offers a look into a chapter of the past that has largely been forgotten. Besant and Leadbeater were the third wave leaders of the Theosophical Society. Theosophy is an occult movement founded in New York City in the late 1800s. It was a time when ideas about individuality, religion, art and science were up in the air as the structures of society were shifting. The aim of Theosophy was to unify all religions, create world peace and further the “unlimited capacities of man”, proclaiming that “there is no religion higher than truth”. Annie Besant was a British socialist, women's rights activist, anti-colonialist, and pro-union fighter whose spiritual journey eventually led her to Theosophy. She fought for birth control, and was arrested when she put out a book on family planning. Besant's close collaborator in the Theosophical movement was C. W. Leadbeater, to whom she credited as helping her gain clairvoyance. Together they wrote about topics such as the human aura, the history of mankind, and the chemical structure of the universe. According to the teachings of Theosophy, thoughts and emotions create distinctive patterns of color and form in the human aura—visible only to those who are gifted with a sufficient degree of clairvoyance and can see beyond our normal perceptions. The quality of thought determines the aura’s color and shape; a person who is selfless and generous, possesses an aura that is radiant and clear; for those who are selfish and insensitive—their aura is cloudy and muddy. These artist impressions were made available only in Thought Forms and are radically different than anything else made at that time. Thought Forms challenges the classic art history narrative that has been taught in school. In this narrative of Modernism, Wassily Kandinsky is widely viewed as one of the most important founders of abstraction, and his manifesto On the Spiritual in Art is mandatory reading in art school. What was never mentioned however, was that Kandinsky was a member of the Theosophical Society, and had acquired a copy of their book Thought Forms a few years before he abandoned conventional ways of painting. It’s worth mentioning that Piet Mondrian was also deeply influenced by Theosophy and later on, Jackson Pollock was as well. Last year the Guggenheim held the first US retrospective of Hilma af Klint’s paintings. She was a member of the Theosophical Society and was undoubtably influenced by the spiritualistic currents of the time. Theosophy was the first occult group to open its doors to women, and it deeply questioned gender roles, many of these ideas are also in Af Klint’s paintings. This show was one of the first times the all-male origin story of abstraction was challenged within the ivory tower. Af Klint, made these paintings before Kandinsky, and she was a woman. Thought Forms came out before Af Klint began her abstract paintings and it is certain that she must have come across this book. We’re republishing this beautiful, overlooked book, so that it may be widely accessible and no longer omitted from the past. Thought Forms offers a reminder that the history of modernist abstraction and women’s contribution to it is still being written. Theosophy’s motto seems as appropriate today as it did in 1880, “there is no religion higher than truth".