During the early 1900’s author Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, hosted a salon on Saturday evenings at their apartment in Paris. Guests included the artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Mattise and Juan Gris, the novelists Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis and the art collectors Claribel and Etta Cone. All manner of cultural topics were discussed. If I were able to invite five people, alive or dead, to a gathering to discuss esoteric spiritual topics, who would they be?
My first guest, would have to be the Ukrainian writer and mystic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who founded The Theosophical Society in 1875. Among the society’s aims are the comparative study of philosophy, religion and science, and the investigation of the hidden powers latent in human beings. Blavatsky would have much to share about her travels across the globe seeking divine truth from great spiritual teachers. A fiery character, often with a cigar in her hand, she would be more than willing to challenge ideas contrary to her own.
My second guest, would be Colin Wilson. Described as the optimistic philosopher, Wilson aimed to create a new and more positive form of existentialism. He rose to fame in 1956 with his best-selling work, The Outsider. The book explores the lives of great thinkers who have been considered outsiders from mainstream society, among them Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka and Albert Camus. Following the success of The Outsider, Wilson wrote many books exploring psychology, the occult and the paranormal.
My third guest, would be nineteenth century Swedish theosophist and artist Hilma af Klint. Af Klint was one of a circle of women artists belonging to a group called The Five. The group organised séances to contact beings they called the High Masters. Through her communications with the High Masters, af Klint was instructed to create abstract paintings revealing the powerful invisible forces of the inner and outer worlds.
My fourth guest, would be American actress Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine has long had an interest in reincarnation. She believes that in previous existences she was the peasant-girl mistress of French king Charlemagne and before that lived on the lost continent of Atlantis. These revelations prompted actor Yves Montand’s wry comment, ‘Shirley MacLaine, who does she think she isn’t?’ A dedicated theosophist, in the 1980s she wrote two best-selling books on the subjects of spirituality and metaphysics, Dancing In The Light and Out On A Limb. The latter was made into a successful TV movie starring MacLaine and Charles Dance.
My fifth and final guest, would be American author Christopher Penczak. Penczak provided inspiration for me when I first began to tread my own spiritual path. A prolific writer on paganism and spiritual healing, his work includes books on magick, reiki and the power of the mind. He is an ordained minister of the Universal Brotherhood Movement and has promoted inter-faith understanding and co-operation.
A witch, a philosopher, an artist, a Hollywood actress and the founder of Theosophy would be the choices for my esoteric dinner party guest list. With the presence of some big personalities, sparks might fly, but one thing would be certain: by the close of the evening, I would have discovered a great deal with the help of these fascinating people and their spiritual experiences. I feel sure they would leave me feeling inspired to move onward to new spiritual horizons.