Maud MacCarthy

Other names: 

Maud Mann

Swami Omananda Puri

Date of birth: 
04 Jul 1882
City of birth: 
Clonmel, County Tipperary
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
02 Jun 1967

MacCarthy was a talented violinist who had trained at the Royal College of Music and toured with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. From an early age, MacCarthy claimed to experience mystical visions and she maintained an interest in esoteric spirituality throughout her life. In 1905, she accompanied the soon-to-be president of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, on a visit to India where MacCarthy was deeply influenced not only by the religious practices of South Asia, but also its music.

This is an interest she further developed with her second husband, the composer John Foulds, whom she married in 1915. They collaborated on his World Requiem and MacCarthy wrote and spoke about Indian music in the UK. She also had an interest in the visual arts and was a founder member of the Theosophical Arts Circle (1907-14) and wrote for their journal, Orpheus. Foulds and MacCarthy met a young man, referred to only as 'The Boy' in her writings, who was employed in a gas works in the East End of London. According to MacCarthy, 'The Boy' possessed great spiritual powers and could channel an initiated spiritual group known as 'The Brothers'. In 1935, MacCarthy, Foulds and 'The Boy' moved to India where they established an ashram to promulgate these spiritual teachings. After Foulds death, MacCarthy took the name Swami Omananda Puri.


Annie Besant, John Foulds.

Published works: 

Some Indian Conceptions of Music (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1913)

The Temple of Labour: Four Lectures of the Plan Beautiful in relation to Modern Industrialism (London: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1926)

The Boy and the Brothers by Swami Omananda Puri (London: Victor Gollancz, 1959)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Transactions of the Theosophical Art-Circle (‘Music in East and West’, 3 (1907), pp. 10-11; ‘International Arts’, 4 (1908), pp. 18-22)

Theosophist (‘True Art: Letter to a Young Painter (Benares, May 1908)’, 30 (1908), pp. 203-6)

Proceedings of the Musical Association (‘Some Conceptions of Indian Music’, 38 (1911-12), pp. 41-65)

Vâhan (‘The Brotherhood of the Arts’, 23.8 (March 1914), p. 159)

Secondary works: 

Mansell, James, 'Music and the Borders of Rationality: Discourses of Place in the Work of John Foulds' in Grace Brockington (ed.) Internationalism and the Arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Siècle (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009)

Turner, Sarah Victoria '“Spiritual Rhythm” and “Material Things”: Art, Cultural Networks and Modernity in Britain, c.1900-1914', unpublished PhD thesis (University of London, 2009)


McCarthy, Maud, ‘Music in East and West’, Transactions of the Theosophical Art-Circle 3 (1907), p. 10.


People speak vaguely of the genius of East or West, as though there existed a fixed impassable gulf between the two. Is it not rather true that genius of an identical nature all the world over - or of identical types, as political, scientific, or artistic - although [in] widely different circumstances, and national or religious prejudices, may for the time being veil these identities? Is it not likely that, could we pierce these veils, we might in freeing genius of its shackles discover the purely human - the international - type beneath?