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VHL Notebooks 3/2011: Vácslav Havel (Atom) – The Book of Life

May 25, 2011


It is generally known that Václav Havel’s grandfather, Vácslav Havel (1861–1921), was an entrepreneur in the building industry and supporter of Czech culture. It is almost unknown, however, that in his declining years he came one step closer to the role of a creator: he became the author of a book dealing in a very peculiar way with themes at the borderline of religion, science, and philosophy. But this author-thinker extension of his personality remained unrevealed until now because he published the work under a pseudonym.

Vácslav Havel on one hand supported Czech theosophy – Czech Theosophical Society got its seat in the newly built Lucerna - on the other hand he also devoted himself to practical spiritualism. And his only book, The Book of Life, is engaged in this very theme. He issued the book under the auspices of Czech Theosophical Society in 1920 (in a newly established edition, Manifestations of the Unknown) under the pseudonym of “Atom.

How can we evaluate this “spiritually scientific,” that is, esoterically-spiritistic, preoccupation of Vácslav Havel and the people around him? Spiritistic practice with tables covered with letters and talking mediums can be ridiculed easily in itself. What is important, however, is not about contemporary specific techniques of communication with the spiritual world, but about the will to communicate, the desire to cross the frontiers of materialism and positivism in the direction towards “some kind of” spirituality – and about crossing these frontiers with the help from methods which could seem “alternatively” scientific. The Book of Life, “experienced and interpreted” by Vácslav Havel, can be trivialised as a tendentious bizarreness – or on the contrary it can be taken seriously as the first text written by a member of the Havel family which presents a summary of philosophical and religious opinions of the author.


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