Mar
13

In Her Own Words: Anne Evans’ Spiritual Path

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This is the second in a four part blog post about Anne Evans’ journey with theosophy. All quotes are from an article written by Anne Evans in 1909.* The article came to light after the publication of my biography about Anne Evans.

Those of you who have read my historical biography of Anne Evans may remember that a major challenge to the writing arose early in the research: Anne Evans ordered all her personal materials destroyed when she died. This made very difficult the task of finding answers to some questions essential to understanding this dynamic woman leader in Denver’s cultural development. One such question: why did this daughter of two devout Methodists, who made unique and indispensable contributions to the establishment of Methodist churches in Colorado – and to the establishment and growth of the University of Denver, originally a Methodist foundation – not herself affiliate with a Methodist Church in Denver as an adult? Why, instead, did she “take the road less travelled by” and become a member of the Theosophical Society in America?

portrait-of-anne-evans-2-dpl-western-history-collection

Anne Evans, 1940, Denver Public Library Western History Collection

In a 1909 article that has come to light since the book’s publication, Anne Evans tells us exactly why. She says that, when she returned to live in Denver after completing her education in Paris, Berlin and at the Art Students’ League in New York, “The attitude of my most clear-thinking friends was either that of scientific materialism or of agnosticism, and I looked upon myself as a weak and mild specimen of the latter class.” By scientific materialism, she makes it clear that she is referring to the evolutionary theories of Darwin and Huxley.

Considering that many school boards throughout the country are still under pressure to avoid the teaching of evolution or, at the very least, to offer parallel courses in “creation science”, Anne Evans’ remarks about this issue are quite startling. “It was past the time when that great wave of enthusiasm for the new-shorn and naked truth could have swept me quite off my feet; the active fighting days were over; to proclaim oneself an evolutionist and a religious doubter was but following the line of least resistance, instead of calling for the courage and independence it once had demanded. Darwin and Huxley were too victorious to need recruits…” (And this was almost 100 years ago.)

However, she goes on to explain that for her, agnosticism lacked an important ingredient that “religionists” had: “a stiffer springboard from which to leap into unselfish action, as well as a more assured resting-place.” She also admits to “loving the concrete body of worship and adoration which I had occasionally sensed.” But still, the viewpoint of the Christian churches “as presented to me seemed wofully (sic) lacking in reason.” So for many years she simply avoided discussing religious beliefs with her devout friends, whether they were Roman Catholics, Christian Scientists or members of any other denomination. “Since to them these subjects were evidently vital, it would have been discourteous to exhibit my apathy and distrust.

Her attitude towards the Theosophical Society at the time was even more skeptical. “The Society then existed on the dim horizon of my thoughts as a body of fanatics, charlatans and dupes, engaged in a profitless and foolish enterprise. Far from meaning Divine wisdom, the word theosophy was vaguely indicative of clairvoyance, spiritualism and legerdemain…” The steps by which Anne Evans’ attitude towards theosophy was transformed are the subject of my next two blogs.

The article referred to is Why I joined the Theosophical Society, in the Theosophical Quarterly, January 1909, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 220-224.

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The book may be obtained through
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For information about Anne Evans & the book: Jillian.Allison@state.co.us
303-620-4933
This project is co-published with the Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library.
© 2011-2012 By Barbara Sternberg. All right reserved.