Thursday, December 04, 2008
THE DANGERS OF THE FAR RIGHT
Some of you may have read the book, THE PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW MASS. It was published in 1990, and set out a list of arguments against the changes that resulted from Vatican II. I found this book greatly disturbing when I read it shortly after publication and before the advent of flat-rate access to the web which happened in the early months of 1997. The book is still in print, and is still being offered in quantity discounts by TAN. Back in the early nineties, I ordered a quantity of them and gave them to several people I knew who were struggling with the changes made in the Church. It is the only time I have ever done such a thing. I was that impressed with the book.
The author is Rama P. Coomaraswamy, M.D., son of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and Coomaraswamy's fourth wife. Coomaraswamy was well known in Northeast American art circles for his work as curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and educated in London, he was a Sri Lankan Tamil legislator, a philosopher, an expert in geology, an Oriental art expert, and a metaphysician who developed the concept of the Perennial Philosophy. He wore many hats. He divorced his first wife, Ethel Mary Partridge, his third wife, Stella Bloch, and died while married to his fourth wife, Dona Luisa Runstein, who was the mother of Rama, the author of the book. (source: Wikipedia)
It is, however, Ananda's second wife who is of particular interest. She was English, and became famous as Ratan Devi, musician and singer of Indian songs. The Sunday Times' writer Richard Boyle's article on Ananda and his relationship with Aleister Crowley and Ratan Devi is posted online. The following is taken from that article which was sent in by a reader:
Coomaraswamy was then married to his second wife, Ratan Devi, who was a musician from Yorkshire. He had recently arrived in New York after a spell in India and, according to Crowley, 'introduced himself to me, knowing my reputation on Asiatic religions and Magick'. Coomaraswamy wanted to launch Ratan Devi's career in New York, and asked Crowley for his advice. Crowley invited the couple to dinner at his apartment so that Ratan Devi might perform part of her repertoire of Indian Songs.
He was impressed, for he describes her as possessing 'a strange seductive beauty and charm, but above all an ear so accurate and a voice so perfectly trained, that she was able to sing Indian music, which is characterized by half and quarter tones imperceptible to European ears'. Crowley introduced the Coomaraswamys to several influential people and wrote a prose poem about Ratan Devi's singing for Vanity Fair. Soon afterwards the singer made a successful debut, for which Crowley largely took credit, claiming that he had 'taught her how to let her genius loose at the critical moment'.
It was predictable that Crowley and Ratan Devi should fall in love. According to Crowley it was a situation that suited Coomaraswamy perfectly. 'The high cost of living was bad enough without having to pay for one's wife's dinner,' writes Crowley. 'All he asked was that I should introduce him to a girl who would be his mistress while costing him nothing. I was only too happy to oblige as I happened to know a girl with a fancy for weird adventures'.
There was even a suggestion of divorce, but when Ratan Devi's career began to blossom, Coomaraswamy apparently changed his mind. After that the relationship began to develop complications, especially when Ratan Devi became pregnant. Coomaraswamy persuaded her to go to England for the confinement against Crowley's will. The voyage caused a miscarriage which is what Crowley suspected Coomaraswamy wanted to happen.
When Ratan Devi returned to America, Crowley was in New Orleans and she wrote daily imploring him to go back to her. Crowley would only do so under one condition: that she make a clean break from Coomaraswamv and the past. This she was reluctant to do, for as Crowley explains, "Her unhappy temperament kept her at war with herself. She wouldn't burn her bridges. I maintained firm correctness and it all came to nothing'.
This is not the end of the saga, however. When writing of his relationship with Ratan Devi some years later, Crowley admitted that 'my heart is still not wholly healed'.
Mark Sedgwick, Traditionalist author known for his book AGAINST THE MODERN WORLD: TRADITIONALISM AND THE SECRET INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, recounts the story of Crowley and Ananda Coomaraswamy in his bolg.