[i'm collecting notes here in preparation for winnowing the traditional-but-farfetched cites]
Yeats and AE had been enthusiastic occultists since highschool, soon after JAJ's birth. The Theosophical Society was a major influence, but they maintained their own independence, and blended their own Irish tradition and esthetics (and drugs). Joyce stumbled on some of Yeats' occult writings in 1901 at age 19, during his apostasy from the Church, and pursued Theosophical teachings for a year before wholly outgrowing them. In his 1904 "Holy Office" he dramatically burned his bridges. But he remained extremely superstitious for the rest of his life: numerology, omens, dreams, ESP.
FW includes Theosophy in its survey of religious beliefs including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Egyptian, Greek, African, etc. The names Blavatsky, Olcott and Leadbeater are never hinted. Krishnamurti clearly is.
theosoph [fweet-10] [wiki] [1875-Society]
Blavatsk [fweet-28] Hahn [fweet-12] [bio]
221.13 "Madam d'Elta" fortuneteller
"Isis Unveiled" [fweet-12] [1st ed] (maya, emanations, athanor, aether, atman, Manu)
075.05 "the besieged bedreamt him stil and solely of those lililiths undeveiled which had undone him"
014.16 "ginnandgo gap"
032.04 "son of Hokmah"
119.26 "our own vulgar 432"
198.18 "Emme for your reussischer Honddu jarkon!"
231.18 "Joshua Croesus, son of Nunn!"
232.11 "herzian waves"
"The Secret Doctrine" [fweet-1]
050.10 "austral plain"
"Mahatma Letters" [fweet-7]
Colonel Olcott [fweet-1]
AP Sinnett [fweet-1] 352.13?? "hory synnotts"
Besant [fweet-2] (234.05, 432.32)
Yeats: A Vision
Waite: The Occult Sciences
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1906
Maria Hayden: famous 19th century American medium
Hester Travers Smith "Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde"
1881: 16yo WBY meets 14yo Charlie Johnston [cite]
1882: Feb: Society for Psychical Research was formed in England by Dubliner William Barrett.
1884? Dowden introduces WBY et al to Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism [cite]
or late 1884: WBY's London aunt Isabella Pollexfen Varley sends him Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism
1885: WBY lends 'Esoteric Buddhism' to CJ [rff45] (cf rbd25 says converted to Theosophy in 1884 by Sinnett's 'Occult World')
1885: 16Jun: WBY, ?AE, and CJ found Dublin Hermetic Society (also 18yo Claude Falls Wright, 18yo 'doubter' Charles Weekes, WK (or HM??) Magee, Alaud Ali) [rff47, lfae274. rbd25 says AE stood away.] (this would be replaced by a Theosophical lodge in 1886, then revived by AE from 1898-1933) WBY on Hermetic Society: "A little body of young men hired a room in York Street... and began to read papers to one another on the Vedas, and the Upanishads, and the Neoplatonists, and on modern mystics and spiritualists. They had no scholarship, and they spoke and wrote badly, but they discussed great problems ardently and simply and unconventionally as men, perhaps, discussed great problems in the medieval universities." [rff46]
1886: Apr: Dublin Lodge of Theosophical Society founded by CJ [rff47] Charter members were: CJ, LAM Johnston (sister?), maybe WBY?, 22yo FJ Gregg, ?21yo HM Magee, EA Seale, WF Smeeth, RA Potterton [rff552]
1886-87: spiritualist experiments are the rage in Dublin [rff51]
1887: spring: CJ meets HPB [memoir] introduces WBY [rff62] [cite] [cf CJ]
1887? WBY meets Mathers at British Museum
1887? WBY claims initiated into Hermetic Students in Charlotte street (in May or June???) [wbya160] included Mathers and 71yo WA Ayton
1888: Nov: Secret Doctrine published
1888: Dec: WBY joins TS ES
1890: 07Mar: WBY joins Golden Dawn [wbya453]
1890: 09Dec: AE finally joins TS [rbd25]
April 1891: Mr and Mrs Frederick J Dick, tenants of 3 Upper Ely Place, Dublin, establish a small residential community of Theosophists with 23yo DN Dunlop, ?24yo Hamilton Malcolm Magee, ?31yo Edmund J King, 24yo GW Russell [lfae-xxxii, 144]
1891: 08May: death of HP Blavatsky [cite]
1891: 15May: 'Lucifer' notes that "five members and one associate" of TS Dublin Lodge have started Household [cl1y264]
1891: Aug? WBY uses Household as Dublin refuge over next few years [rff114]
1891: 02Nov: MaudG joins Golden Dawn [gyL21]
1892: Oct (to 1897): Dunlop edits Irish Theosophist [lfae250] INDEX!
A. Crowley on WBY? [story]
1898: Mar: AE quits Theosophical Society, disapproving of Katherine Tingley [lfae-xxxii] [bio&pic] (rbd25 says dispute of article he wrote, plus hierarchical procedures)
1898? AE revives Hermetic Society, weekly meetings [rbd25]
1898: Jun: AE married a sentimental English Theosophist named Violet North. (He had resigned from the Theosophical Society a few months earlier, disagreeing with its new leader.)
no-date: JAJ finds 'unpublished book' of Yeats stories on bookcart [SH176. Kenner says 1897 versions were in Savoy magazine? or edition of 110 copies? cite)
quote from 'Adoration of the Magi': (three wise Aran Islanders are mystically summoned to Paris to the bed of the dying mistress of a symbolist painter [Moreau's died in 1890] who will 'give them secret names'-- 'Harsh sweetness,' 'Dear bitterness,' 'O solitude,' 'O terror'-- 'and thereby... transform the world' permitting 'the coming again of the gods and the ancient things')
"'When the Immortals wish to overthrow the things that are today and to bring the things that were yesterday they have no-one to help them except one whom the things that are today have cast out. Bow down and very low, for they have chosen this woman in whose heart all follies have gathered, and in whose body all desires have awakened; this woman who has been driven out of Time and has lain upon the bosom of Eternity.'" [1st sentence as quoted at SH192]
fave quote from 'Tables of the Law': [mbk215] (Owen Aherne in Dublin shows the narrator the only surviving, priceless copy of a heretics' bible by Joachim Abbas, and announces he's setting out to find the secret law prophesied by Abbas, to promote a supreme art of peaceful living. Ten years later he returns haunted by his realisation that sin is necessary to know God, yet sin is impossible for him because he understands his own being too well. The narrator is terrfied by this closing hallucinated glimpse of that knowledge.)
"Suddenly I saw, or imagined that I saw, the room darken, and faint figures robed in purple, and lifting faint torches with arms that gleamed like silver, bending above Owen Aherne; saw, or imagined that I saw, drops, as of burning gum, fall from the torches, and a heavy purple smoke, as of incense, come pouring from the flames and sweeping about us. Owen Aherne, more happy than I who have been half-initiated into the Order of the Alchemical Rose, or protected perhaps by his great piety, had sunk again into dejection and listlessness, and saw none of these things; but my knees shook under me, for the purple-robed figures were less faint every moment, and now I could hear the hissing of the gum in the torches. They did not appear to see me, for their eyes were upon Owen Aherne; now and again I could hear them sigh as though with sorrow for his sorrow, and presently I heard words which I could not understand except that they were words of sorrow, and sweet as though immortal was talking to immortal. Then one of them waved her torch, and all the torches waved, and for a moment it was as though some great bird made of flames had fluttered its plumage, and a voice cried as from far up in the air, 'He has charged even his angels with folly, and they also bow and obey; but let your hearts mingle with our hearts, which are wrought of Divine Ecstasy, and your body with our bodies, which are wrought of Divine Intellect.' And at that cry I understood that the Order of the Alchemical Rose was not of this earth, and that it was still seeking over this earth for whatever souls it could gather within its glittering net; and when all the faces turned towards me, and I saw the mild eyes and the unshaken eyelids, I was full of terror, and thought they were about to fling their torches upon me, so that all I held dear, all that bound me to spiritual and social order, would be burnt up, and my soul left naked and shivering among the winds that blow from beyond this world and from beyond the stars; and then a voice cried, 'Why do you fly from our torches which were made out of the wood of the trees under which Christ wept in the gardens of Gethsemane? Why do you fly from our torches which were made of sweet wood after it had vanished from the world and come to us who made it of old times with our breath?'" [WBY later deleted last 13 words, apparently, and made other small changes I've restored from SH178]
no-date: JAJ acquires signed copy of Yeats' 1891 "John Sherman and Dhoya" [cite]
no-year: "One night in early spring, standing at the foot of the staircase in the library, he said to his friend 'I have left the Church' ...through the gates of Assisi." [PoA04] SH138 places it during Isabel's illness but before the L&H speech (mostly Mangan 1902) and doesn't mention Francis (Byrne implies it was 1903!?? jfb85)
cf 1909 Trieste notebook "Having left the city of the church by the gate of sin he might enter it again by the wicket of repentance if repentance were possible." [wod96]
07Apr (Easter): Stannie claims he refused his Easter duty before James [mbk103, no year, but implausibly reports J comparing the Mass to his poetry at this time]
no-date (pre-Mar1902): 'bitter and painful altercation' with mother about apostasy [rjj10, mbk134] May calls James a 'mocker' [L2-132, no-date]
Tables-inspired poem? [e82, linebreaks collapsed here]
I intone the high anthem, Partaking in their festival. Swing out, swing in, the night is dark, Magical hair, alive with glee, Winnowing spark after spark, Star after star, rapturously. Toss and toss, amazing arms; Witches, weave upon the floor Your subtle-woven web of charms...
Some are comely and some are sour, Some are dark as wintry mould, Some are fair as a golden shower. To music liquid as a stream They move with dazzling symmetry; Their flashing limbs blend in a gleam Of luminous-swift harmony. They wear gold crescents on their heads, Hornèd and brilliant as the moon...
07May (Tue): JAJ buys Olcott's Theosophical Studies [e76, pc172] (later?) Buddhist Catechism (interest lasts until Aug 1902?)
no-context: "in 6 months I shall be a theosophist" [June 1923 note for FW]
read everything that came into his hands about Theosophy: Swedenborg, Blake, Blavatsky, Olcott, Leadbeater, Besant [rjj11] writes poem 'Nirvana'? [mbk131]
no-date: "...Extravagance followed. The simple history of the Poverello [St Francis] was soon out of mind and he established himself in the maddest of companies. Joachim Abbas, Bruno the Nolan, Michael Sendivogius, all the hierarchs of initiation cast their spells upon him. He descended among the hells of Swedenborg [etext] and abased himself in the gloom of Saint John of the Cross [etext]. His heaven was suddenly illuminated by a horde of stars, the signature of all nature, the soul remembering ancient days... he came forth at last with a simple purpose-- to reunite the children of the spirit, jealous and long-divided, to reunite them against fraud and principality. A thousand eternities were to be reaffirmed, divine knowledge was to be re-established." [PoA04]
1901: Most likely in the spring of 1901 Joyce went thru a major series of changes that left almost no dateable traces. Probably the sequence began with his dabbling in the literature of St Francis and the early Franciscans, which somehow led to his 'leaving the Church' in a stronger sense than in 1898, and then coincidentally his discovery of Yeats's occult fiction, "The Tables of the Law" and "The Adoration of the Magi". These stories triggered a year of occult researches, mainly Theosophy, that offered enough conceptual novelty to keep Joyce occupied for a considerable time, though he later claimed those efforts were a total waste. He admits in Stephen Hero that he was naive enough at first to believe Yeats's hallucinations were fact-based: Stephen had "no pains to believe in the reality of their existence" (SH178). But they were so over-the-top apocalyptic that this implies Joyce expected literally to meet 'Immortals' around any random Dublin corner, summoned by Yeats and his fellow adepts. Stannie claims Joyce read all of 'Adoration' to a Capuchin monk that summer, but this memory could have been influenced by SH's claim that Stephen was tempted to recite it from memory (but resisted).
Theosophists: Blavatsky, Olcott (Theosophical Studies-- PC172, Buddhist Catechism JJ2 76), Besant, Leadbeater
in 1931, JAJ took a series of notes (in VI.B.33) from AE Waites’s The Occult Sciences (1891), which has a vague closing chapter on theosophy [fweet-9] (II.1, II.2)