James Morgan Pryse

From Theosophy Wiki
Revision as of 16:14, 22 November 2023 by SysopJ (talk | contribs) (→‎Articles)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
James Morgan Pryse, H. P. Blavatksy, and G. R. S. Mead

James Morgan Pryse (November 14, 1859 - April 22, 1942) was an American Theosophist born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He assisted William Quan Judge and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in setting up publishing operations.

Theosophical Society involvement

James Morgan Pryse

He and his brother John Morgan Pryse purchased and operated newspapers and printing plants in Nebraska, Montana, and Wisconsin, finally moving to Los Angeles in 1886. He joined the Los Angeles Lodge of the Theosophical Society on August 7, 1887.[1]

The brothers were soon invited by W. Q. Judge to New York to assist him with the printing work. They formed the Aryan Theosophical Press which printed the Esoteric Instructions of H. P. Blavatsky and other Theosophical works.

At the request of Mme. Blavatsky James Pryse went to London in 1889 and became one of HPB’s staff in Avenue Road. While there, he set up the HPB Press.

An encounter with the Master

In August 1889, while still in Los Angeles, California, Mr. Pryse had the following experience:

One evening [in 1889] while I was thus meditating the face of H.P.B. flashed before me. I recognized it from her portrait in Isis, though it appeared much older. Thinking that the astral picture, as I took it to be, was due to some vagary of fancy, I tried to exclude it; but at that the face showed a look of impatience, and instantly I was drawn out of my body and immediately was standing "in the astral" beside H.P.B. in London. It was along toward morning there, but she was still seated at her writing desk. While she was speaking to me, very kindly, I could not help thinking how odd it was that an apparently fleshy old lady should be an Adept. I tried to put that impolite thought out of my mind, but she read it, and as if in answer to it her physical body became translucent, revealing a marvellous inner body that looked as if it were formed of molten gold. Then suddenly the Master M. appeared before us in his mayavi-rupa. To him I made profound obeisance, for he seemed to me more like a God than a man. Somehow I knew who he was, though this was the first time I had seen him. He spoke to me graciously and said, "I shall have work for you in six months." He walked to the further side of the room, waved his hand in farewell and departed. Then H. P. B. dismissed me with the parting words, “God bless you,” and directly I saw the waves of the Atlantic beneath me; I floated down and dipped my feet in their crests. Then with a rush I crossed the continent till I saw the lights of Los Angles and returned to my body, seated in the chair where I had left it.[2]

Later years

In 1895, Mr. Pryse followed W. Q. Judge when most of the American Section seceded from the Theosophical Society based in Adyar. Pryse wrote,

In 1895 by advice of Mr. Judge and Dr. Keightley, I shipped the original H.P.B. Press, which belonged to Dr. Keightley, to Dublin, joined the lodge there, and for over a year helped Russell and the others to get out the Irish Theosophist.[3]

Pryse continued his theosophical work in the Point Loma community, but eventually lost faith in the leadership of Katherine Tingley.[4] He died on April 22, 1942, in New York.

Advertisement for Pryse book


The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 35 articles by or about James M. Pryse, and he also wrote several important books and pamplets:

  • "Brotherhood". Universal Brotherhood. (March, 1898). Available at Theosophical University Press.
  • "The Evangel according to Iôannês. Universal Brotherhood. (September, 1898). Available at Theosophical University Press.
  • "Memorabilia of H.P.B.". The Canadian Theosophist. (March 15, 1935), 1-5. Available at Blavatsky Archive. This is a reminiscence of H.P.B.'s final illness and death.
  • The Restored New Testament. Los Angeles: John M. Pryse and London: John M. Watkins, 1914. Subtitled "The Hellenic fragments, freed from the pseudo-Jewish interpolations, harmonized, and done into English verse and prose, with introductory analyses, and commentaries, giving an interpretation according to ancient philosophy and psychology and a new literal translation of the synoptic gospels, with introduction and commentaries." 848 pages. Available in several versions at Internet Archive.
  • The Apocalypse Unsealed. New York: John M. Pryse, 1910. 244 pages. Subtitled: "being an esoteric interpretation of the initiation of Iôannês (Apokalypsis Iōannou) commonly called the Revelation of (St.) John : with a new translation". Available at Internet Archive. A gnostic work.
  • Reincarnation in the New Testament. New York: Theosophical Society, 1904. 109 pages. Three versions available from Internet Archive.
  • The Magical Message According to Iônannês (To kata Iōannon Euangelion). Subtitled "commonly called the Gospel according to [St.] John". New York: Theosophical Publishing Company of New York, 1909. 248 pages. Two versions available at Internet Archive.
  • The Sermon on the Mount and Other Extracts from the New Testament. New York: Elliott B. Page & Co., 1899. Subtitled "a verbatim translation from the Greek". Available at Internet Archive.
  • Prometheus Bound.
  • Adorers of Dionysos. Los Angeles: John M. Pryse, 1925. This is a study of symbolism in Euripides' The Bachhanals and a sequel to Prometheus Bound, per review by M. L. T. in The Messenger 13.6 (November, 1925), 118. Illustrations by J. Augustus Knapp. Available online at Google Books and Internet Archive.

Online resources



  1. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at http://tsmembers.org/. See book 1, entry 4042 (website file: 1B/31).
  2. A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas Case 61, compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell
  3. James Morgan Pryse, "George William Russell, Poet of the Inner Life," The Canadian Theosophist 16.6 (August 15, 1935). Available at KatinkaHesselink.net.
  4. Emmett A. Greenwalt, California Utopia: Point Loma: 1897-1942 2nd revised edition (San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, 1978), 207