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Thursday 19 December 2013

Arkham Occult Societies Preview VI

I'm finishing up the post-writing editing pass of the Arkham Occult Societies book, so I thought I'd share at least one more preview about the many groups detailed in this sourcebook, meant to serve as a list of groups and NPCs for a sandbox-style campaign.

So today I'll talk about the Arkham Theosophical Lodge.
Theosophy's heyday was back in the 1880s and 1890s, under the reign of the charismatic Madame Blavatsky, but of course it was still a significant force in 1910.  Even so, by that time international Theosophy was badly broken up in schisms; there's a lot of information about that in the Occult chapter of the Raiders of R'lyeh main book.  In the United States, the Theosophical movement had separated from the international movement, and broken up into a couple of different groups; and in some areas, it had started to go out of fashion.

I decided I wanted Arkham's Theosophical lodge to be one of those places. It was important that the setting have some groups that were up and coming, some that were at a peak of influence or importance or enthusiasm, and of course, there also needs to be some that have entered into decadence.
So the Theosophists in Arkham have found themselves reduced from a peak of 200 members in the glory days to about 20 dedicated old men and old ladies; in part because many less-dedicated enthusiasts left the order from dissent or quarrels, in part because the U.S. was beginning to see a rise in other, newer metaphysical interests (like the "New Thought" movement, which drew inspiration from the theosophists and would become the direct ancestors of both the "New Age" as we know it today and the "self-help" movement), and in part because the leaders of the Theosophical lodge had become insular and uninterested in drawing in new blood. They've suffered from a common problem in some esoteric groups: they've turned into a group of social companions who are wary of anyone new coming in and stirring things up, they've become more a tea club than a serious working group.

Theosophists in Raiders of R'lyeh tend to be a fount of (non-mythos) esoteric knowledge, even though a lot of it is largely fantastic supposition and very little of it is practical.  They have high Occultism skills but almost no real magical training; to quote Aleister Crowley in his definition of Theosophists: "they're people who talk a great deal about yoga, and do no work".

The Arkham Theosophical Lodge's average member-age is over 60. Many of them are well-read, but they're blissfully ignorant of just how truly weird or terrifying Arkham's occult underbelly really is.  Most of them have a sense of disdain for anyone who actually engages in some kind of practical occult activity... except for one little old lady.  A lifelong spinster she has, for years, "tapped the table" to communicate with the spirit of her long-dead father; sincerely believing she could communicate with his spirit to get advice on all kind of mundane affairs.  While she's never hid this fact, she's also well-aware that the others in the lodge look down on her involvement in such activities, considering it to be of a "lower spiritual vibration" than reading Blavatsky's books out loud or talking about the writings of the "mahatmas".

Lately, however, she's been talking about it even less, since to her surprise in one of her sessions a few months back, she received another communication, a much clearer voice than she'd ever heard (or thought she heard) from her dear deceased father.  The voice told her that it was an "archangel" and representative of "ascended masters", and that it had a plan for her. Soon, these entities said, she will have to bring others into her fold, to reveal great new teachings to the world...


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