Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gustaf Fröding and Esotericism

In the introduction to The Philosopher´s Stone, Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency writes: ”There exists a vast literature of which, amazingly, the general public appears to be entirely ignorant.” That this statement also includes most academic scholars becomes very obvious when reading Gustaf Fröding – och jag (Gustaf Fröding – and I) by the author Rolf Erik Solheim. This is a pioneering work about the famous Swedish poet, an in-depth study of the lifeview and worldview of Fröding and how it relates to ideas in The Esoteric Tradition.

Rolf Erik Solheim is a Norwegian engineer (M.Sc.), writer and lecturer who, besides his interest in natural science and technology, for many years has been deeply fascinated by esotericism in literature. When in the Spring of 2013 he, at a hotel in Värmland, found the book Frödings mystik (Fröding`s Mystique) by Olle Holmberg, Solheim ”borrowed” this volume and it was the beginning of a long journey of discovery. Very early on in his research Solheim realized that almost no writer or academic scholar had studied the worldview of Fröding, nor had any understanding of its foundation and sources. Solheim regularly update his findings at the website, Framtiden är din (The Future Is Yours) created together with his wife Anne.

Rolf Erik Solheim during a lecture at Kristinehamn Public Library October 8, 2016

In 2016 Solheim published a summary of his research in the yearbook of the Gustaf Fröding Society now later extended in the latest work Gustaf Fröding – And I. The title has been changed several times as the author also wished to include how his own spiritual search has been affected by this study: ”The journey with Fröding is also a personal journey where I narrate how I wrote the book and how the established Fröding scholars regarded my project almost as a molestation of the mainstream view of Fröding.” (p. 19) Since the Olle Holmberg study, published in 1921, no in-depth study has been made of Fröding´s esoteric worldview. Solheim found out the hard way that all writers including academic scholars are metaphysical illiterates. Hopefully this will change because of the renaissance of academic interest in the once taboo subject Western Esotericism. It is slowly been recognized that The Esoteric Tradition is the third intellectual force or pillar in cultural history besides religion and science.

Yerbook of the Gustaf Fröding Society 2016

Gustaf Fröding spent the latter part of his tragic life at different mental institutions and hospitals. His most precious possession during these final years was a portrait of Goethe. His friend, poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt, visited Fröding and noted: ”Goethe´s ´Geist´ was to Fröding something much more than spirit in the ordinary sense, an all-consciousness. In his Graal poetry the Divine Spark, which according to Fröding exist in every human being, is connected to this all-consciousness.” (p. 46). This deep attachment to Goethe reveal a spiritual affinity as Goethe was a member of the secret Rosicrucian fraternity which he disguised as The Fellowship in the Tower in his second novel Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship.

Gustaf Fröding 1910

An important discovery was made by Solheim in the Fröding archive at Uppsala University Library. Among the 133 volumes many are filled with notes and comments by Fröding himself, especially in the collected works of philologist and Orientalist Max Müller. The comments give many clues to Fröding´s worldview and spiritual quest. When Solheim found these comments he took no less than 600 pictures as reference to his book. Of interest is that one book in the Fröding archive is the Swedish edition of Theosophist Alfred Percy Sinnett´s Esoteric Buddhism.

Gustaf Fröding wrote three small booklets presenting his worldview. The most important bears the title Om lifsmonader. Ett lifsförklaringsförsök (On Life Monads. An attempt to Explain Life), privately published in 1898. The idea of the evolution of consciousness that Fröding tried to formulate in his booklets was usually misunderstood or completely ignored by later scholars and writers, revealing their ignorance of The Esoteric Tradition. Solheim give many examples from literary reviews and books how mainstream academics viewed these works, often referring to Fröding´s mental illness: ”balmy”, ”a curiosity”, ”hocus pocus”, ”reduced capacity for reasoning power”, ”a low point in Fröding´s production” etc.

A major part of the book consists of Solheim´s quotes and references to various historical and contemporary authors who from different viewpoints discuss the same ideas and problems as Fröding. Here we find Plato, Pythagoras, Leibnitz, Goethe as well as Roger Penrose and Max Tegmark. But there is also a few quotes from esotericists Roberto Assagioli and Henry T. Laurency. This may be a bit confusing to the reader as there is no summary of the basic ideas in the core Esoteric Tradition – Helena P. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, Henry T. Laurency. Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli was the founder of Psychosynthesis but also secretly a disciple of the Tibetan adept who dictated the works published by Alice Bailey. Regarding his connection to the Tibetan, Assagioli kept a strict ”wall of silence”.

Three pages are devoted to Pythagoras and hylozoics with some short comments on the writings of the erudite Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency. To fully understand the unique contribution of Laurency to esoteric philosophy, a more extensive chapter should have been included. Especially as Solheim recognize Laurency as an expert esotericist: ”If Fröding had known that the worlds foremost monad thinker a few years after his death would study philosophy at Uppsala University he had possibly asked the All-Consciousness permission to live a few more years to meet him.” (p. 208). Henry T. Laurency studied philosophy at Uppsala University in the beginning of the 20th century.

Together with the author at Kristinehamn Public Library 2016

These few critical comments are not meant to dimish the importance of Solheim´s work. Hopefully new generations of scholars will continue this line of investigation and fully realize how ideas in The Esoteric Tradition has influenced our culture. Gustaf Fröding´s contemporary author Selma Lagerlöf was  also very much influenced by esotericism, which fortunately several scholars have discovered. Next in line is Gustaf Fröding and here Rolf Erik Solheim has laid the groundwork with his excellent and pioneering research.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Akualele Research Group

For the UFO historian and sociologist the 1950s is a period of special interest. As a result of the frequent and global reports of unknown craft in the sky coupled with claims of contact with space people the decade witnessed the emergence of the first civilian UFO societies. They ranged from scientifically oriented research organizations to more or less religious or cultist groups. If you happened to live in Hawaii during the 1950s and had an interest in UFOs there was one man you couldn´t miss – Riley Hansard Crabb, founder of the Honolulu-based Akualele Research Group in 1956. Akualele is a local Hawaiian word for ”fire spirits” or ”flying gods”.

Riley Crabb with friends in Honolulu April 1949. Probably photo from workplace

Riley Crabb (1912-1994) was especially well equipped to deal with unexplained phenomena. His mother, Mrs. Eunice Crabb, was a student of esotericist and philospher Manly Palmer Hall. As a young man growing up in Minneapolis, Riley, in 1934, discovered the very extensive library of the Theosophical Society in Minneapolis. This collection of Esoterica he ”tried to read through in record time”. Interest in psychic research led to co-operation with  Mrs Nellie Thompson, a clairvoayant lady whose talents were sometimes used by the detectives of the Minneapolis polis force. During these years he also married his first wife Marion Crabb (Marion M. Strese) who was a materialisation medium. It must have been a very special learning experience for Riley living together with a medium with such unusual abilities. At times presumably quite upsetting if Marion didn´t have control of her psychic powers.

Military service took Riley Crabb to Hawaii in 1944. After the war he continued living in Honolulu, marrying his second wife Judith (Judy) Crabb in 1950 or 1951. Interested in both Eastern and Western esoteric traditions Riley, during these years in Hawaii, became a student of the local Kahuna philosophy and magical practices, learning from Kahunas Charles Kenn, Kino Lau, David (Daddy) Bray.

David (Daddy) Bray

In a Round Robin article 1962 Riley Crabb reminisced about these times: ”During the four years I worked at the Naval Supply Center, Pearl Harbor I became well acquainted with one of the safety engineers, a Caucasian-Hawaiian from the island of Molokai. He knew of my interest in Flying Saucers and told me of his own early childhood experiences with Akualele. He had an uncle who was one of the 57 varieties of Kahunas. By appropriate rhythmical breathing and chanting this uncle could call up an Elemental and give it a temporary form in the shape of a glowing ball of light. Another Kahuna across the valley had similiar abilities. They were probably initiates of the same Mystery School. They were friendly rivals, too, and to entertain themselves - and show off their prowess - in the long Molokai evenings, these pagan sorcerers would create highly charged globes of electrical ether and send them back and forth between them! The engineer told me of those long-remembered nights there in the tropic darkness of his home island, sitting at a respectful distance from the Kahuna, and watching open-mouthed as the ghostly, glowing globe came floating down out of the darkness.” (Round Robin, vol. 18, no. 3, April 1962, pp. 30-31)

Interest in flying saucers started in 1950 and in 1951 Riley became a member of Borderland Sciences Research Associates (BSRA), founded by Meade Layne in 1946. He became intensively fascinated by the subject and began lecturing on UFOs in Honolulu 1954. This led to many TV and radio appearances and lectures to both civilian societies, clubs and military personnel. On January 27, 1955 he was interviewed on the popular TV program Betty´s Guest Book, the CBS outlet in Honolulu:

”Betty Smyser: We have a guest who is an expert on a very unusual subject, Flying Saucers. His name is Riley Crabb. This is so nice of you to come down and tell us about a subject which is so fascinating. And, is it believable?
Riley Crabb: Yes, that´s what we´ll find out during your show.
Betty Smyser: First Riley, how did you become interested in inter-planetary travel?
Riley Crabb: One of the radio engineers here in Honolulu, back in 1950, gave me a copy of True Magazine which had one of their first articles on the subject. Prior to that I dismissed them as hallucinations, but the factual material in the article startled me. Shortly after that I had a chance to join the Borderland Sciences Research Associates, a group with headquarters in San Diego. We compile material of this kind and analyse it to see what truth is in it.”

Combined with his lecturing, media appearances, UFO and Kahuna studies Riley was elected President of the Theosophical Society in Hawaii 1955. This combination of interests, esotericism and UFOs, would become the hallmark of Riley Crabb´s continued work. The Esoteric Tradition was the worldview, theory or paradigm he always referred to in his writings and lectures. He explained this background in a letter to Hope Troxell, March 2, 1959: ”I take factural data as reported by contactees in newspapers, magazine articles and books and try to correlate it with the known or accepted teachings of the wise men of our race. I established this method of arriving at understanding when I began lecturing in Honolulu in June, 1954 and also used it as the basis for the work of the Akualele Research Group which I organized two years later.”

It was almost inevitable that Riley would also found a UFO group in Hawaii. He organized a first presentation on February 26, 1956 at Reef Hotel, Waikiki, naming the meeting The First Honolulu Space Convention. Riley suggested the name Saucer Research Group but changed it to Akualele Research Group. During 1956-1957 meetings, or conventions, were held around once a month. Although interest was great it was obviously not so easy to form a research group as evidenced by this leaflet about the Convention April 1, 1956.

But the Akualele Research Group was eventually formed in 1956 and a small newsletter was published regularly, the Akualele Research Group Bulletin. From what I can understand of the newsletters there was very little field investigation of UFO reports. Activity was concentrated around meetings with lectures and social gatherings. Riley Crabb gave a summary of the group meetings in a letter to Morris Jessup, June 10, 1956: ”… space conventions. We´re having about one a month at the Reef Hotel in Waikiki… We expected 20 or 30 people and over a hundred showed up. There were 160 at the last convention. I givet hem reviews of books, analyses of newspaper clippings, and slide illustrations of Flying Saucers and related material. If you ever come out this way we can guarantee you a pretty good audience for whatever you might want to say.”

Honolulu Star-Bulletin January 19, 1957

First page of Akualele Research Group Bulletin, April 7, 1957

When Riley and Judy Crabb left Hawaii, moving to California in August 1957, it seems that the activity of both Akualele Research Group and the Theosophical Society in Hawaii more or less ceased. This was probably due to the very active and dominant personality of Riley Crabb. His message in the last Bulletin August 1, 1957, indicates that their move will be the end of the group. In the BSRF archive I have only found an incomplete collection of Akualele Research Group Bulletin. There are several issues missing. If anyone of our colleagues reading this blog have access to this newsletter, physical or digital copies would be much appreciated.