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Periodical: Star of the East (Seattle, Sydney)

Summary:  From Pat Deveney's database:

Star of the East.
A New Thought Journal issued monthly for the help of self and others by the practice of systematical concentration of mind; in Unity with the Universal Soul.
1905--1912 Monthly
Seattle, WA, then Sydney, Australia, Melbourne, Australia, and India.
Editor: M.E. Stevenson / Sister Avabamia, editor; managed by J.S. Warner.
Succeeded by: Vedanta Universal Messenger
1/1, July 1905-1912.
4 pp., $1.00-$2.00 a year (including, in America, membership in The Mystic Chain), 4s. 6d. when published in Australia.

The journal is a testament to the creativity of "M.E. [May Elizabeth] Stevenson" and her ability to re-invent herself and adapt as one or another of the facets of the New Thought-occult-spiritualist amalgam came to the fore. Stevenson was her married name but that marriage and her early (and later) life are untraceable, possibly because, as an article in Prabuddha Bharata says, she was Swedish and immigrated to the United States. The snippets of biography that remain have been uncovered by Philip Deslippe and Marc Demarest. Stevenson appears in the mid-1890s as the medium for messages received from her Guardian Angel, E.O. Edholm, but even at that time she was already touting an Ancient Order (or Oriental Order) of Psychics (which brought her into conflict in 1896 with Senor Julian Segunda de Ovies in Buffalo, who had his own Psychical Research Society, the Order of Eighty), and advertising her services as a psychometrist, chirologist, etc. In Chicago in 1896 she ran afoul of Sydney B. Flower who pilloried her and her Improved Order of Psychic Research in "Not Very Oriental" in the second issue of his new Hypnotic Magazine. The Order's purpose, he claimed, was to establish "one great mental battery" by adherence to Stevenson's strict keto regimen:

"Special rules are adopted for governing individual cases, or, as we say, degrees. Thus one form of psychometry, as is well known, enables one to locate gold in the soil. Those possessing such power we recommend to eat meat of all kinds and fats and starchy foods, because the cold, strong atmosphere with which they must deal is likely otherwise to take from their bodies much of the magnetism which thrives on heat. The spirit of the dead may hypnotize a subject as effectually as could a living person. In this way mediums are bound in a spell which we do not acknowledge. We claim that while the power may come to us from without, possibly in the guise of a spirit, yet that spirit is not in itself the power. The spirit is as much a subject of the power as we are ourselves. We are moved by the same force that sends us the spirit. We call it intellectual energy. We know also that one can put himself in another's house, for example, hear people converse and tell them long afterward exactly what they said. We call that soul flight. Then thought transfer, mental telegraphy and many other phases of development are questions that must all be considered."

In late 1898 she was arrested in Pittsburgh for fortune telling and running a spurious "intelligence" office (job placement for young women), and then moved on to Chicago and then California and Washington. She coupled the work of her order with schools of inner breathing techniques, attributing the skill first to her time as a pupil of the "Royal Central Institute of Stockholm" (a gymnastics school) and then, vaguely, to India. In the early years of the twentieth century she published the three volumes of her Master Thought Library: Thought Communication by Magnetism (San Francisco, 1903, by Stevenson as "Teacher of the Hindoo Breathing School"); Internal Breathing as a Body Builder: A Hand-book for Students of the Internal System of Breathing (San Diego, 1904); and A Soul's Travel Among the Flowers: A Full Account Given in the Symbolic Language of the Flowers of a Soul's Experience while Absent from the Body for Ten Days (Seattle, 1905, with portrait of the author).

By the time this journal was begun, in Seattle in 1905, Stevenson had consolidated her various enterprises in The Mystic Chain, membership in which came free with a subscription -- although only "ordained" members could purchase lessons like "A Key to the Temple of Nature." The journal's manager was J.S. Warner, said to have been Stevenson's then husband, and it appeared originally as an undistinguished New Thought journal, with articles on concentration, brotherly love, success, suggestion, will development, and occasional lessons on breathing, etc. The journal contained small advertisements for Stevenson's lectures and books, and for a time for her ointment "for the feeding of the nerves and softening of the skin," which was soon abandoned. She seems to have written all the content with the possible exception of short articles by "Alba Odegaard" (which is likely her pseudonym) on the inner workings of the Mystic Chain and Odegaard's visitations on another plane to the Patriarch and the High Priest of the group.

In the journal in January 1907, Stevenson announced to members of her Mystic Chain that "by the beginning of the year 1907, your soul servant, the Editor of this little paper, will enter upon a higher plane of soul-action, which means more faithful service to you and others than in the past (if such can be), and we shall hereafter be known by the name by which we are identified as a soul in a higher degree of soul expression. . . . [We] will ask that all our students and readers of the Star hereafter address us as 'Sister Avabamia,' which means servant chosen, because by that name we can give every one who lives in soul and seeks power more light, and it will help both us and those among whom we labor in a Spiritual way." This transformation almost certainly relates to her encounter with Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna movement. Stevenson had long referenced Indian wisdom in her work and from 1907 on she began to include in the journal references to Vedanta and excerpts from Swami Vivekananda, Swami Abhedananda, and others of the Ramakrishna movement. She claimed to have met Vivekananda (1862-1902), dropping lines like "as our beloved teacher, the late Swami Vivekananda so often used to tell us" and "No matter how long he spoke, he was fresh after two hours of speaking as he was at the commencement of his lecture." She let it be known that the "Divine Ramakrishna" himself had appeared to her in 1907 and told her to "take the message of messages, the truth of truths, and go to the children beyond the seas." She took the mission field to be Australia and New Zealand and February 1908 announced her departure to carry the word of Vedanta and her ideas to the Antipodes, where she announced: "We have been sent here by the divine command of our great Master Ramakrishna, under the leadership of our most beloved Swami Abhedananda, who is the successor of the Blessed late Swami Vivekananda, in the western world." She was a great success, continuing the journal in Sydney and then Melbourne, starting a Vedanta School and Reading Club and delivering more than 1,200 lectures (the newspapers claimed) in Australia and New Zealand on women's issues and Vedanta. In all this, her relationship with the formal Ramakrishna Vedanta Society hierarchy was strained. Although her missionary successes were praised in the Vedanta Society's journals she remained a "lay" outsider to the society. She continued to call herself, as she had in the United States, "an independent missionary of India" and by 1910 she began to style the journal "the Vedanta missionary magazine in the English colonies." In October 1911, as she was on her way to India and Ceylon, word spread among among members of the Vedanta Society that she was intending to raise money from the Indians for her work there -- an unheard of reversal of what had become the accepted norm -- and Stevenson was forced publicly to proclaim that she had no intention of charging for her work, a decided change from her earlier methods. The squabble continued when the Vedanta Society refused to recognize two of her new Vedanta Centers and came to a head in 1912 when her journal (at least one issue of which was published in India) carried an article by a man who complained about the subordinate position allotted women in India, citing chapter and verse from the Vedas and other canonical writings. Thereafter no more is heard of Stevenson/Avabamia.

Issues:Star Of The East V1 N6 Dec 1905
Star Of The East V2 N1 Jul 1906
Star Of The East V2 N3 Sep 1906
Star Of The East V2 N5 Nov 1906
Star Of The East V2 N7 Jan 1907
Star Of The East V2 N8 Feb 1907
Star Of The East V2 N11 May 1907
Star Of The East V2 N12 Jun 1907
Star Of The East V3 N1 Jul 1907
Star Of The East V3 N2 Aug 1907
Star Of The East V3 N3 Sep 1907
Star Of The East V3 N4 Oct 1907
Star Of The East V3 N5 Nov 1907
Star Of The East V3 N6 Dec 1907
Star Of The East V3 N7 Jan 1908
Star Of The East V3 N8 Feb 1908
Star Of The East V3 N9 Mar 1908
Star Of The East V3 N10 Apr 1908
Star Of The East V3 N12 Jun 1908
Star Of The East V4 N1 Jul 1908
Star Of The East V4 N2 Aug 1908
Star Of The East V4 N4 Oct 1908
Star Of The East V4 N5 Nov 1908
Star Of The East V4 N6 Dec 1908
Star Of The East V5 N1 Jul 1909
Star Of The East V5 N2 Aug 1909
Star Of The East V5 N3 Sep 1909
Star Of The East V5 N4 Oct 1909
Star Of The East V5 N5 Nov 1909
Star Of The East V5 N6 Dec 1909
Star Of The East V5 N7 Jan 1910
Star Of The East V5 N8 Feb 1910
Star Of The East V5 N9 Mar 1910
Star Of The East V5 N10 Apr 1910
Star Of The East V5 N11 May 1910
Star Of The East V5 N12 Jun 1910

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