Theosophical Museum

October 11, 2006 at 6:45 pm (Theosophical Museum)

The Stranger Creek Theosophical Museum is renown for its lovely grounds. On the estate of the Arthur Olcott are many small chapels and temples that are open to members for prayer and meditation.


Entrance to the Gardens


Small Gnostic Chapel


Temple to Amen-Ra


Shrine To Hermes

Temple to the Moon Goddess

Temple to the Teutonic Gods

13 Comments

  1. Maribel Geers said,

    Thank you for transcribing Miss Petrona’s lecture on the Isles of the Blessed. I was fortunate to be in the audience last Wednesday and thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and especially the spirited discussion that followed.

    Could you possibly provide me with a recipe for the delicious chocolate cookies served at the reception? (Not the brandy snaps, but the ones with coconut in them.) I have had these cookies twice before at theTheosophical Society, and admit that the hope of finding them again is one of the reasons why I am such a frequent guest. Perhaps someone on the hospitality committee (Eleanor?) would be so kind as to provide the recipe. Unless, of course, it is meant to be kept secret.

  2. John said,

    I asked around the Society and discovered that Eleanor George is indeed the “author” of the cookies you enquired about. She told me that she follows a recipe which in her family is called “Mother’s Chocolate Cookies”–the original mother being, in fact, Eleanor’s great grandmother. Here is the formula, as related to me by Eleanor:

    Mother’s Chocolate Cookies

    1/2 cup all-purpose flour                     3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder                   2 eggs, stirred to break up yolks
    1/4 teaspoon salt                                       1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    12 ounces chopped dark chocolate   1 1/2 cups shredded sweet coconut
    1/4 cup butter                                            1 cup crushed English toffee

    Heat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir dry ingredients together and set aside. Melt butter and 8 ounces of the chopped chocolate together. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients until well-blended. Stir in coconut, crushed toffee, and remaining chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 12 – 15 minutes until edges are just a bit firm. Cool a couple minutes on baking sheet, then slide parchment paper with cookies onto rack to cool completely.

    Sorry, Maribel–I forgot to ask how many this makes. You will have to try it and see.

    Yours,

    John

  3. Maribel Geers said,

    I am sorry to trouble you at such a sad time, but I wonder if whoever is minding these postings now that John has passed might put me in touch with Eleanor directly. I do not wish to be a nuisance, but I have tried the cookie recipe exactly as provided–I admit I have tried it several times–and I am convinced that something is missing from the ingredients or possibly from the instructions. My point is, they are not the same–or rather they do not have the same effect–as those served at the Theosophical Society functions I have attended. Mind you, they are very delicious. It is just that so many things in this life are delicious but once savored are quickly gone and forgotten. When you reach my age you begin to lose interest in transitory pleasure and to long for something more enduring. I have said too much already, but would so appreciate you passing this query on to Eleanor.

    Yours,

    Maribel

  4. H. D. Gemson said,

    As some bit of an antique hunter and story collector myself, the posting about Eleanor’s grandmother and the cookies reminded me of a tale about Jennie Beansely’s cookies, which were once the toast of high tea at Linden College. Jennie always said that there was a bit of her grandmother in the cookies she made. Wasn’t the college staff shocked to learn that she was speaking the the god’s truth. When Jennie’s antics were finally discovered by her neighbor, no one believed that she had done until the family crypt was opened and the funerary urns, including of the family’s pets, were found to be empty. Of course the local paper never mentioned the details out of deference to the college. But, thereafter, teas at the college when they were finally resumed seven years later became closed door affairs, restricted to faculty, students and the invited.

    Yours Faithfully,

    H. D. Gemson

  5. Eleanor George said,

    For Maribel Geers:

    The recipe I provided you through poor John is faithful to the letter and please rest assured that there is no “missing” or “secret” ingredient as in the case H.D. Gemson has cited. Yet there may be more to discuss. Might I suggest we meet at the Cafe Vienna (perhaps Tuesday next at 11 a.m.?). I admit I am intrigued by the distinctive tone of your inquiry and wish to extend to you whatever comfort I might bring as well as to satisfy my curiosity.

    Yours,

    Eleanor

    p.s. Even now I sometimes dream of Jennie’s exquisite cookies and–whatever has been said and written about them, and no matter that it all proved true–I would serve them at my grandaughter’s wedding tomorrow if only I could get my hands on them. Some foods are like that–that’s the truth.

  6. H. D. Gemson said,

    Here follows a transcript of my talk presented today at the Theosophical society.

    Fellow Citizens:
    We are fast approaching the 120th anniversary of a watershed event in the history of our town. Yes, I am speaking of the Great Squirrel Gathering of 1891. I come before you today because I am asking your support in the collection of memorabilia and in forming an executive committee to organize the commemorations of the event.

    Did you know that
    • Jeralang (literally “Java Squirrel”) Street was named after the Squirrel Migration of 1891 and not for Augustus Jeralang? (Augustus wasn’t even born when the migration occurred!)
    • Linden College contains over 30 specimens of different squirrels.
    • The word squirrel comes from the ancient Greek words for “shadow” and “tail.”
    • An internet search for squirrel migration yields 828,000 results.
    • Squirrels are very clever and can get into bird feeders even those that you might not think that they could. Even those that have special “squirrel guards” on them supposedly designed to keep them out!

    [At this point, I show my slides of squirrels, photos taken mostly in my backyard].

    But even more remarkable is the fact that squirrels migrate and that one of the last great squirrel migrations began and ended in our community, specifically the Squirrel Gathering of 1891. While not as big as the estimated half billion squirrels that crossed southeastern Wisconsin in 1842, the Squirrel Gathering of 1891 that unleashed its fury on Stranger Creek was unusual for the docile behavior of the squirrels. I have in my possession a rare steroptic photo of the event which pictures squirrels sitting in rows along the main street. I estimate that there must be as many as 50,000 squirrels in the photograph. Newspaper accounts in the Strange Courier (predecessor to the Quick Dispatch) describe thousands of squirrels sitting on their haunches and softly chittering to themselves, something I view as particularly significant.

    Compare the squirrels that visited our community with the ones that John James Audubon and John Bachman describe in their 1845 work The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America: “Onward they come, devouring on their way every thing that is suited to their taste, laying waste the corn and wheat-fields of the farmer; and as their numbers are thinned by the gun, the dog, and the club, others fall in and fill up the ranks, until they occasion infinite mischief….” as cited on http://www.scarysquirrel.org.

    In my personal view, these squirrels were provoked. I suspect that the guns, dogs, etc. were the agents of this provocation. Fortunately, the members of the Stranger Creek community and their pets acted with cooler heads when the squirrels began their swarm in the early August of 1891.

    Initial accounts of the squirrels in Stranger Creek suggested that they were rabid, but that conclusion was quickly disproved as the squirrels proved quite passive, excepting that they refused to be touched.

    Here is the full account from the Strange Courier from August 4, 1891:
    “Where first the inhabitants thought they had been witnessed to a curse of biblical proportions in the form of these bush-tailed rodents, they in fact were proved to be quite tame. Three days the squirrels occupied the main street, CHATTERING SOFTLY [emphasis mine – H.D.G]. When approached, they parted way, an effect not unlike the parting of the flood waters described in scripture. On the fourth day, the assembled squirrels convened an orderly line and marched back into Witches’ Grove.”

    The paper goes on to say that school was canceled and all work stopped so that everyone could WATCH the squirrels.

    Since the anniversary is not until 2011 we have plenty of time to plan a commemoration and raise money for it. I have opened an account at the bank, and you may all make out checks to “2011 Squirrel Heaven.” I am looking into tax exempt status for this account at the present.

    I propose the following events but I am open to more suggestions:

    • Creation of a permanent monument or exhibit about the migration to be in a prominent location.
    • A parade with school children dressing as acorns and adults as squirrels.
    • A series of lectures on squirrels, their habitats, eating preferences, ways of thinking, etc., etc.
    • A baking contest of nut foods.
    • A visit by Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
    • Squirrel impersonation or Mr. and Mrs Squirrel contest.
    • A demonstration of carving a wood stump (ideally into a squirrel) with a chain saw.
    • Painting a large squirrel on the water tower with the words “120 years of squirrels” on it.
    • A memorial service for the estimated 35,000 squirrels killed on the roads yearly.
    • Other “county-fair” like activities, etc., etc.

    So far I have contacted several people at the college. My good friend Elizabeth is checking the archives for historical materials related to the gathering in specific and squirrels in general. Professor Thompson has agreed to report any squirrel finds (REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE) in his archaeological digs. Coach Protista is seriously considering a squirrel mascot for the school to join the familiar favorite Vlad the Viking.

    I am also raising money and a lot is needed as I expect that this will cost a lot of money. I personally have taken out a second mortgage and can do so now after the passing of my late wife. The local girl scout troop has agreed to donate a percentage of their cookie sales to this cause (exclusive to the cookies that have nuts in them like those peanut butter ones I like). And you will see collection jars with an attractive picture of a squirrel on them at the finer establishments around town. So I ask you to think of the squirrels and PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY.

    Also, if you have any mementos about the migration “squirreled away” [note to self: wait for laughs], I urge that you to turn these over to me so that they can be documented and sent to the college for conservation if need be. More attractive items will be used in the museum display with photographs and measurements taken to be sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. for their PERMANENT records.

    Finally, this is all in the planning stage so I am open to new ideas. But we need to act quickly or 2011 will be here before we know it.

    Thank you for your kind attention this day.

    H.D. Gemson
    2011 Squirrel Heaven, Founder and Executor President in Chief

  7. Maribel Geers said,

    Harold, I was enthralled by your talk last Wednesday and want you to know you have my backing 100%, although I must decline your invitation to join the executive committee–I cannot abide meetings.

    With your permission, I’m gung-ho to get going on my idea of gathering recipes for a community cookbook that we can sell at Theosophical Society events to fundraise for the 120th anniversary celebration. I have already spoken with Eleanor and she, too, is eager to help.

    By the way, I found the recipe I told you about (for “Belgian Squirrel”) in my well-thumbed copy of Herter’s Bull Cook. I will save the recipe itself for our community cookbook. In general, this is what they have to say about the culinary delights of squirrel meat:

    “There are very few people whom I have talked to who know something about eating and do not rate squirrel at the top of the list when it comes to eating wild animals. Squirrel meat is light-colored, fine-textured, with a mild delicate flavor. Squirrel meat is far superior to venison or moose and ou do not tire of it as easily as you do such meats when you have it for a more or less steady diet. I have eaten fried squirrel, roasted squirrel and stewed squirrel in the Central, Southern and Eastern states and I just love them in any of these styles.”

    Eleanor and I have roughed out the chapter headings for the cookbook and I will share those soon in a posting to the community aimed at soliciting recipes. Perhaps a contest would inspire some interest.

    Now, there is one last thing I must add before leaving the subject of squirrels and I pray that you will not take offence. Harold, your backyard contains too many squirrels. It is neither healthy nor neighborly to have so many in such a small space, and I believe that the ruckus they are causing (to say nothing of the abberant behavior they exhibit) is at least in part due to overcrowding. It also doesn’t help that you have so many different varieties mixed together. It is simply not natural. Because of your standing in the community, there are those who would hesitate to say so, but there: I’ve said it.

  8. H.D. Gemson said,

    Dear Reverend Talisman,

    I greatly enjoyed your inspirational words this evening and the potluck is always a treat. I resist the temptation of having tuna casserole during the week knowing that I can have my fill of it on Fridays.

    I have a pressing theological matter I must put to you. I have always found Leviticus to be one of the most useful and informative texts in the Old Testament for all of its information on burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings and etc etc. There is much wisdom in there for practitioners of many stripes! (No pun intended).

    My concern is over Leviticus 11.29-46, which discusses, as you know, “unclean animals.” Leviticus 11.29 is what most worries me. Jahweh writes, “These are unclean for you among the creatures that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, the mouse, the great lizard according to its kind, the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon.” The last ones seem like a no-brainer to me, but what concerns me is this notion of creatures like mice that “swarm.” Do you think that this includes squirrels? I mean there have been many well documented cases of squirrels swarming as I have mentioned to you, but squirrels are not listed here nor can I find any information about squirrels in the Old of New Testament unless I missed something.

    I worry especially about the spiritual progress of fellow citizens like Maribel Geers who advocates and promotes eating squirrels, something I personally cannot abide. (I have seen her cast many a hungry eye on my backyard sanctuary). Maribel, the Old Testament might allow you to go into your neighbor’s vineyard and eat his grapes, but you cannot come into my yard to get the squirrels. Jahweh wrote NOTHING that allows THAT.

    And, good reverend, how should we interpret the following? 11.41 “All creatures that swarm upon the earth are detestable….” It seems that the Jahweh is being a little harsh in that section especially when he extends his comments to prohibiting all associations with swarming creatures. Jahweh then writes, “You shall not make yourself detestable with any creature that swarms; you shall not defile yourselves with them and so become unclean.” To my lay-person’s eyes, Jahweh seems to be implying that I should not associate with squirrels. I really find that hard to believe even though so much of the other information in Leviticus affirms my personal experience. Does Jahweh define “swarm” anywhere? Is a swarm different from a migration or a gathering? Or am I just playing word games and denying the Truth?

    I look to your guidance on this issue.

    H.D. Gemson
    2011 Squirrel Heaven, Founder and Executor President in Chief

  9. Maribel Geers said,

    You needn’t get all huffy, Harold–and you certainly needn’t bring in a third party to support your name-calling. Just because I enjoy a bit of squirrel now and then doesn’t make me a “heathen”, whatever the Reverend (or the Good Book, for that matter) has to say about it. And contrary to your accusation, I do not covet that mess in your backyard for my dinner table. I am as likely to skin my own squirrels as I am to pull legs off a frog. Not very likely, is what I mean. I’ve always been squeamish that way.

    I can see that I offended you after all, which was never my intention. Still, you are missing the point. What you call your “sanctuary”, folks in Stranger are calling a Public Nuisance. Complaints run the gamut. First there is the noise (“infernal”, “at all hours of the night”, “like a buzz saw”, etc.). Then there is the stench (“pungent”, “penetrating”, “getting worse all the time”, etc.). Finally, there are health implications, both real and imagined (“rabies”, “respiratory ailments”, “squirrel flu”, “air-borne scabies”, etc.). Folks are talking about filing lawsuits and/or running you out of town–which has always proved particularly difficult here in Stranger Creek.

    Rather than commemorate the Great Squirrel Gathering, people are suggesting that we may be coming to the end of a test period not unlike the 120-year warning God gave Noah exhorting that the people change their ways. And we all know how that turned out.

    I hope you will accept my advice and discourage further gathering of squirrels at this particular time and place. You simply must take responsibility for encouraging them to disperse. After all, there is nothing so special about your back yard except the quantity of feed you’ve been providing all these years. The squirrels are not stupid.

    I do apologise for assuming that you liked the cookbook idea. In retrospect, I see that my own enthusiasm for the notion caused me to badly misread your body language at the time–especially your repeated runs to the men’s room which I mistakenly assumed were due to the quantity of sherry you consumed that evening. I shall speak of it no more.

    Yours,
    Maribel

  10. G.L.Herter said,

    I appreciate the citation Maribel. I can see you still have the 1963 edition of my work. I further go on to say there, “If I get to eating too much squirrel, I make sure to have it Belgian style as I never tire of it that way.”

    In my current edition, I recommend the TurChukSquirl as superior even to Belgian Squirrel. It not only makes an impressive holiday dish that will be sure to get comments at the table, but will leave you full for days.

    To make one of these for your holiday table, thoroughly clean and debone the squirrels and lard with thick bacon. Stuff these into the cavity of a large, deboned Woodchuck. If there is any extra room, fill with sausage. Then stuff the stuffed Woodchuck into a large Wild Turkey. Season well and roast at 325, 40 minutes per pound (total weight).

  11. H.D. Gemson said,

    Dear Maribel Geers,

    As all the great hagiographies reveal, mighty deeds are only accomplished through great spiritual battles. St Anthony fought demons, Nichiren faced down samurai, Gandhi pounded the British, and Richard Simmons shames the obese. If I can be so bold to add myself to this list of luminaries it will only be because I have my own delicious burdens, to quote Walt Whitman, and one of these is you Maribel Geers. AND for that I LOVE YOU, because it is only by your SCORN that I will Become Great.

    Jahweh writes in the Old Testament (i.e., the BIBLE): “Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his [or her] head, and let the whole congregation stone him [or HER — my insertion H.D.G].” (Leviticus 24.13). He then notes “Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, life for life” (24.18). BUT that was the OLD WAYS. In the second half of the BIBLE, WE are taught FORGIVENESS. EVEN IF WE ARE NAILED TO A GIANT CROSS, OR ANKH, OR THE GOLDEN ARCHES, WE MUST FORGIVE.

    So, I LOVE YOU MARIBEL. And I am not just saying that just because my wife is gone and you are my neighbor and I have always been attracted to you. No, I am saying it because you are allowing me to practice Patience. LIke a rock, I shall not be moved but be like my furry friends taking refuge in their bushy tails against the storms, I shall take refuge in my patience and love for humanity and YOU.

    You speak of the Great Flood, and I agree totally that we must pay attention to NATURAL PHENOMENON since THESE are CRITICAL to our survival. That is why I am constantly watching the skies and READING the faces and speech acts of my squirrel friends.

    For nature give us PROPHECY as do Dreams. Allow me to share my reoccurring dream with you.

    I had a DREAM in which I saw the holy Squirrels lead us out of disaster. In my dream, they are glowing and singing a spiritual dream-path song, which goes something like this:

    Ten by ten by twenty we go
    Row upon row
    Marching with nuts in hand
    Little heaven’s marching band
    Marching from grove to home
    To save you all and bring you some
    Happiness, Blessings, good faith and Cheer
    A message we bring every 120th year.

    In my dream the squirrels called and everyone followed. ALL of us went to the Great Light TREE which is the essence of our BEING. You and I Maribel will join them. We shall dance eternally with our furry rodent friends round this TREE.

    AS all the NUTS are GATHERED
    YOU TOO SHALL BE SAVED!!!!

    Love (and I really do mean it),
    H.D. Gemson
    2011 Squirrel Heaven, Founder and Executor President in Chief

  12. Maribel Geers said,

    Dear, dear Harold–

    Of course I am flattered, but must remind you that there is absolutely Nothing Wrong with the woman you have. We are born to be attracted to all sorts of friends and neighbors (that is one lesson your squirrels have surely taught you). But once we choose our life’s partner we must restrain ourselves and it does not help to stir things up.

    I believe, Harold, that you are lonely and that is all (or Almost All). Furthermore, your attachment to those squirrels is both symptom and cause of that loneliness. You know that Dottie would never have left if you hadn’t let those infernal squirrels into the house. And the incident with Pook was simply the Last Straw. Dottie is a good, good woman and it is the consensus of the women of Stranger Creek that she’d have been more than justified to have left long before. (And she may well have done so, were it not so awfully difficult to leave here.)

    I spoke with Dottie last Tuesday and she said to let you know that the stump has healed, finally, and Pook is able to walk again which is certainly a welcome convenience. Dottie worries that her back will never be the same. She misses you and has faith that This Too Shall Pass and she will be able to return. She hopes before winter as sleeping alone is very cold. (I am resolved by by friendship to both of you to keep that incentive well in place.)

    On another subject, I need to warn you that the cookbook project has taken on a life of its own and I am no longer in a position to put a halt to it. Eleanor is not one to drop a thing once she’s taken it on (an admirable quality in most cases) and has plunged ahead without me. Perhaps it is for the best, as you will need funds for your effort–especially now that you must compete with the Nascar which seems to have more successfully inspired the generosity of our citizenry. Perhaps 2011 seems too long to wait for the fruits of the fundraising. Or perhaps the peculiar photo on your fundraising cans might be off-putting. A more endearing pose (along the lines of Potter’s “Squirrel Nutkin”) or at least something with less tooth might be more effective.

    In any case, I have spoken with Eleanor and she is open to the idea of suggesting a substitution (perhaps chicken, dark meat only) for the many squirrel recipes that have already been submitted. I do empathize with your aversion to the thought of eating something you have named. I understand that cat can be prepared exactly the same as rabbit and yet I find the notion repellant.

    Yours in loyal friendship (and that is all),

    Maribel

    p.s. I have spoken with Giles at the conservatory about setting your verse to music in time for the Thanksgiving Parade–something rousing. We must think of a way to compete with the Nascar contingency..

  13. Maribel Geers said,

    My Dear Eleanor,

    I so enjoyed visiting with you last Tuesday and appreciate your taking time for me on Halloween of all days–certainly a busy time for you. I have always known there was something special about your cooking, and now I understand much better. I will sadly give up trying to replicate your equisite bakery and try to be satisfied with what I come by at Theosophical Society events, the Stranger County Fair, and such.

    Thank you for inviting me to join your Sunday Seers Circle. I am, as you suggested, giving the matter some serious thought, as I am not one to jump into things.

    I finally have the recipe I promised you–for the darkest chocolate cake you can imagine: perfect for this time of year. It is my own invention, and took first prize at the fair in 1987. I have made it every year since then, but only once, each fall, as it is VERY RICH. I’m sorry it took so long to get it to you but it had gone missing as things often do around my house. At first I was worried that I had misplaced it, but when I noticed that my three 9″ cake pans were also gone, I knew I just had to be patient. Sure enough, this morning everything was back where it belongs. So here it is, my recipe for:

    INDIAN SUMMER CHOCOLATE CAKE

    3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
    1 cup boiling water
    1 T. instant expresso

    3/4 cup butter, softened
    2 cups dark brown sugar
    3 large eggs, room temp.

    1 cup sour cream
    1 cup pureed pumpkin
    1 T. vanilla

    2 cups flour
    2 cups walnuts, finely grated
    1 1/2 t. baking soda
    1 t. cream of tartar
    1/2 t. salt
    1/4 t. cinnamon
    1/4 t. fresh nutmeg

    Preheat oven to 350. Line 3 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper; butter parchment and dust with cocoa. Pour boiling water over chopped chocolate. Sprinkle with expresso powder and set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. In small bowl, stir together the sour cream, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and set aside. In medium bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients. Stir chocolate until smooth, then beat it into the creamed mixture. Add remaining wet and dry ingredients alternately, beating JUST until no streaks remain. Divide batter evenly among the pans, smooth tops, and bake about 35 minutes until tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto racks and cool completely.

    Filling: Melt 2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate. Beat into 1/2 cup sour cream. Beat in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1 t. vanilla. Use this mixture between layers.

    Topping: Sift together 1/4 cup each of powdered sugar and cocoa. Beat with 2 cups icy cold heavy cream and 1 T. vanilla until stiff peaks form. Use to coat sides and top of cake.

    Garnish with chocolate leaves (to celebrate Autumn!).

    Yours,
    Maribel

    p.s. I took your advice and have been sleeping like a charm.

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