2 Nov 2014
White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia located on 3240 Sansom St in the University City area has a special fascination for me. The White Dog logo on the cup to the right has something to do with it. The building at 3240 Sansom has something to do with it. The cafe itself has little to do with it, but the cafe used to hold annual gatherings when people interested in the enigmatic Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) would gather to give lectures and discuss Blavatsky's value to spirituality and feminism, and that has a lot to do with it.
The White Dog legend:
The cafe was opened by Judy Wicks in 1983. Wicks sold it in 2009 to go on to other things as an entrepeneur. Wicks vision in 1983 was to integrate good, healthy food with an intimate cafe atmosphere and support social causes with some of the profit. She chose the name based on a story told about Madame Blavatsky who resided in that building around 1875. An odd, perhaps stray white dog that came to her there, seemed to effect a miraculous cure on her gangrenous leg that was scheduled for amputation. Allegedly, the dog would lay on the infected leg and it healed, although W. B. Yeats heard a different version.
The story of how Wicks learned of Blavatsky after she bought the building is here:
"Finally, in a book, The Letters of Helena Petrovska Blavatsky From 1875 Onwards, Wicks found a letter Blavatsky wrote from 3420 Sansom. In it she described her recovery from a diseased leg, explaining that she had dismissed the surgeons who recommended amputation ("Fancy my leg going to the spirit land before me!") and instead had a white dog sleep across her leg by night, ''curing all in no time."
"I love dogs, and I thought it was a good image - dogs are friendly and warm," Wicks said, explaining how the letter led to the White Dog Cafe.
"Who knows about the dog part? Who knows?" Pochos said. "Half of what is written about HPB is lies and innuendo. She might have been being sarcastic."
"It might not have been a dog, but a symbol," acknowledged Wicks, who has a brown dog herself.
"Yeats wrote that he once heard Blavatsky say she used a "white dog, cut open," but Yeats thought HPB was perhaps merely trying to shock, Conner said. ''I much prefer the local version," Conner said.""
The article also states:
"In theosophy, Blavatsky attempted to understand the fundamental truths behind both religion and science and seek a greater, universal truth.
"Since the late-night knock on her door, Wicks has tried to learn what she can about Blavatsky, but it has been rocky going. Some of the biographies, which Pochos derides as full of lies and slander, call Blavatsky a fraud.""
Fraud may be too tame a description, but let's move on!
How I got the cup in a most unmiraculous way twenty years ago and why I write about it continues below.
We met at the White Dog Cafe. It was 1994 on a pleasant, sunny autumn day in Philadelphia. I forget her name after all these years, but she was a former member of a large New Age sect, the same one that I broke away from in 1980. I will call her Kathy. She left the sect five years before we met, but she was yet having recovery problems associated with all the indoctrination and left over cult behaviors that yet triggered her emotions. I suggested we meet in Philly at that location for a couple of reasons. Her train arrived in Philly and I wanted to bring home to this now forty-year-old woman who spent fifteen of her young years, from age twenty to thirty-five, believing in the teachings of a psychic medium who channeled some of the same "Masters" of the White Brotherhood as Blavatsky had. That psychic, Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1939-2009) led her cult following called Church Universal and Triumphant (aka Summit Lighthouse) from 1973 until Prophet began suffering from dementia in the mid to late 1990s. When Kathy was a member, the CUT had over ten thousand supportive "Keepers of the Flame" devotees.
See this book review on Lambs To Slaughter I wrote a long time ago to get some idea of the sect in its heyday. http://www.csj.org/pub_csj/csjbookreview/csjbkrev122lambs.htm
Kathy, as I wanted to call her (the sect insisted members use their formal names as nicknames had evil magic energies that could ruin your aura), had been on staff with the CUT in California, but lost her faith in it in 1988 when the sect was moving its center to Montana to prepare for the coming endtime. The CUT built huge survival shelters, enough to house over a thousand core members. The prophecy by the Leader and her support cast warned of coming attack from the Soviets, an attack that would change the world economy around 1990. Note that the erstwhile Elizabeth Prophet did not predict the fall of the Soviet empire by 1989.
Anyway, the CUT and its founders traced their validity to Blavatsky's claims to channel missives from the same "masters" including Koot Hoomi (Kuthumi), Comte de Saint Germaine (St. Germain), Morya (El Morya) and others. See my review of a recent Blavatsky biography by Gary Lachman.
Kathy and I had a good visit while eating a simple meal in the somewhat pricey and claustrophobically arranged cafe. I shared what information I could hoping it would help Kathy overcome old phobias about karmic debts by betraying the Ascended Masters, her name as Katherine, and wearing evil colors like black and gray.
On my way out, I purchased the coffee cup as a souvenir. I still use it perhaps more than any other cup in our collection at home. The eight-ounce size fits my needs, it reminds me of why I continue to help people with post-cult issues, and I do like the logo.