Gustaf Strömberg

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Ketternath Bhagwandin and Gustaf Strömberg

Strömberg characteristically greeting the sunrise in his garden in 1961

The main sources of information on Strömberg are the materials preserved by Frances Paelian and now in the Archives and Special Collections of North Park University, Chicago, Illinois, and the Archives of the International New Thought Alliance, Mesa, Arizona.

Gustaf Strömberg's Life

Strömberg's life has been summarized by the North Park facility as follows:

Gustav Benjamin Stromberg was born December 16, 1882 in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was educated in Gothenburg, and later at the University of Stockholm and Kiel University in Germany. He received his PhD in the field of astronomy from the University of Lund, Sweden in 1916. He worked for a period of time with the Swedish Meteorological Commission where he studied the harmonic analysis of air temperature in Stockholm, 1894-1911, based on sun and moon phases. As a result of this work he published Stromberg's Kalendar, a long-range weather forecast almanac.
Stromberg emigrated to the United States in 1916 and the following year was employed at the Mount Wilson Observatory near Pasadena, California, where he later became a prominent astronomer. At the New York World's Fair in 1939-40 his name was listed on the 'Wall of Fame' as one of the Americans of foreign birth who had made outstanding contributions to American civilization. Stromberg published a book, The Soul of the Universe, in 1938 and 1940, in which he expressed his philosophical views of the universe. The book brought him a measure of notoriety, as did his 1959 work, The Searchers (Nya Vidder).
After a term of research with the U. S. Navy and Air Corps during the Second World War, Stromberg retired from Mount Wilson in 1946. For the remainder of his life, he was very interested in developing a mechanism using solar power, particularly in the distillation of salt water. He filed a patent on February 24, 1955 for a "new type of heat engine", however his design was not accepted by the scientific community as a whole, so it never saw fruition.
Gustav Stromberg married Helga Henning before emigrating to America. Helga was well known in the west coast Swedish community and some literary circles for her poetry written under the nom de plume of Syster Benediction. Gustav lived with his wife Helga in Pasadena, California until his death on January 30, 1962.

Obituary in the Feb. 2, 1962, The Star News of Pasadena, CA:

STROMBERG--Dr. Gustaf B. Stromberg of 1388 N. Marengo Ave., passed away Jan. 30, 1962, at his home. A native of Sweden, he had been a resident of this vicinity the past 46 years. He is survived by his wife, Helga Stromberg and five nephews in Sweden. He was a member of the University Club. Services will be held Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10 a.m. in the Lamb Funeral Home, 4!5 East Orange Grove Blvd., conducted by Dr. Elmer M. Gifford. Interment private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Heart Fund.

Interment was in the Pasadena Mausoleum, with a view of Mount Wilson Observatory.

Entry in Who Was Who:

STROMBERG, Gustaf (Benjamin), astronomer; b. Gothenburg, Sweden, Dec. 16, 1882; s. Bengt Johan Gustaf Lorentz and Johanna Elisabeth (Noehrman) S. prep. edn., Real Sch., Gothenburg, 1892-1902; student U. Kiel, Germany, 1904-05; Candidate of Philosophy, U. Stockholm (Stockholms Hogskola), Licentiate of Philosophy, 1915; Ph.D., U. Lund, Sweden, 1916; m. Helga Sofia Henning (pen name Sister Benediction), May 11, 1914. Came to U.S., 1916, naturalized, 1922. Instr. in astronomy, U. Stockholm, 1906-13; asst., Stockholm Obs., 1906-13; astronomer Mt. Wilson Obs., 1917-46. Sci. research work for U.S. Navy and Air Force 1943-45. Mem. Am. Astron. Soc., A.A.A.S., Internat. Astron. Union, Royal Astron. Soc., Eng. Am. Phys. Soc., Royal Soc. Scis. Sweden, Sigma XI. Club: University. Author of sci. papers most of which deal with. statis. astronomy, stellar motions, the intrinsic brightness of stars, and the philosophy of science. Listed among citizens of foreign birth who have made outstanding contributions to American Culture in the Walk of Fame at the N.Y. World's Fair, 1940. Author: The Soul of the Universe, 1940; The Searchers, 1947: A Scientist's View of Man, Mind, and the Universe, 1966. Home: 1383 N. Marengo Av., Pasadena, Cal. 91103. Died Jan. 30, 1962; buried Pasadena Mausoleum.

Albert Einstein wrote in relation to The Soul of the Universe, "Very few men could of their own knowledge present the material as clearly and concisely as he has succeeded in doing."

The Searchers listing in

Telephone Between Worlds listing in

In New Thought circles, Strömberg is best remembered as a regular contributor to Science of Mind magazine.

Strömberg's monthly Science of Mind column before and after the addition of his portrait. The upper one is dated April 1957 and the bottom one May 1957.

Photograph published in Svenska Dagbladet November 21, 1938

Apparently the same photograph cropped differently, as published in Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen on January 12, 1939

Published in the Swedish-language paper Reformatorn without indication of date

Gustaf and Helga Strömberg

Strömberg's inscription to his wife in the first edition of his first book, The Soul of the Universe

Helga Strömberg, August 1963

Photograph from Nov. 1967 (17:2) Voice of Astara. Caption:

Artist Frances Paelian with Helga Stromberg and Helen Paelian [mother of Frances] present Astara with oil portraits of Robert [Chaney, of the Astara Foundation], the late astronomer Dr. Gustaf Stromberg, and the late Garabed Paelian of Bell Laboratories. Both scientists were noted in their fields and authored several lessons for Astara. The paintings, along with one of Earlyne [Chaney; see immediately below] by Frances, will eventually be displayed in Astara's museum.
The Paelians were close friends of the Strömbergs.

Frances Paelian and Earlyne Chaney
Photograph from June 1967 (16:9) Voice of Astara

Photograph from June 1967 (16:9) Voice of Astara Caption:

Astarian Helga Stromberg, wife of the late astronomer Dr. Gustaf Stromberg, presents a 100-year-old figurine of Christ to Earlyne for Astara's museum. Between Mrs. Stromberg and Earlyne is a reprint of an American Weekly article ["My Faith"] by Dr. Stromberg:

The article, one of a series of 22 statements written by scientists in The American Weekly, in this case April 18, 1948, is republished as the final appendix of the second edition (1948) of Strömberg's The Soul of the Universe. The first paragraph of Strömberg's "My Faith" is:
I believe that behind the physical world we see with our eyes and study in our microscopes and telescopes, and measure with instruments of various kinds, is another, more fundamental realm which can not be described in physical terms. In this non-physical realm lies the ultimate origin of all things, of energy, matter, organization and life, and even of consciousness itself.
The series of articles was published as a booklet, The Faith of Great Scientists (Hearst Publishing Co, Inc., 1948), and Strömberg's contribution also was republished in various other places, including an Alcoholics Anonymous booklet, "As I See It-": Thoughts, Excerpts and Miscellaneous Writings (St. Louis: The Auxiliary AA Group, no date). This booklet includes, among its 35 writings and cartoons, popular New Thought writer Emmet Fox's "God Must Live in You," "The Golden Key," and "Prayer is the Answer."

Helga Strömberg's Life

North Park University's summary of Helga Strömberg's life:

Helga Stromberg (nee Henning) was born March 14, 1886 in Gothenberg, Sweden. After graduating from secondary school in 1904, Helga attended a teachers college in Stockholm for a year. She then attended a nurses training school in Hamburg, Germany and in 1913 joined a Swedish Red Cross ambulance team serving in Serbia, where she was decorated. In 1914 she married a student of astronomy, Gustav B. Stromberg (MSS 22) in Paris, France. In 1916 Gustav received a stipend from the Mt. Wilson observatory, and the two moved to Pasadena, California where they lived the rest of their lives.
Helga started writing poetry in Pasadena under the nom de plum of Sister (or Syster) Benediction. She was published quite frequently in the Swedish-American press and the Pasadena Star. She also had six poem collection published, three in English and three in Swedish. She became an honorary member of the Eugene Field Society in 1940.
Helga's husband Gustav died in 1962, and Helga continued to live in the same house, 1383 North Marengo, until her death on July 7, 1971 at the age of 85.
Friday, July 9, 1971, Star-News:
Rites Pend For Poetess Stromberg
Funeral Services are pending for long time Pasadenan and noted poet, Helga Stromberg, who died Wednesday at 85.
Mrs. Stromberg, the widow of scientist and astronomer Dr. Gustaf Stromberg, was a native of Sweden, having moved to Pasadena in 1921.
Known in the world of literature as Sister Benediction, Mrs. Stromberg had published some five books of poems, three in English, two in her native Swedish.
The mass of her published work, some of which has appeared in the Star-News, concerned itselfwith "the things of the spirit."
Lamb Funeral home in Pasadena is handling arrangements.

Perhaps Gustaf and Helga Strömberg, possibly in Sweden

Perhaps the Strömberg home in Pasadena

Gustaf Strömberg's father, who was important in introducing the Good Templars, a major temperance organization, into Sweden. Photograph published in Göteborg in November 4, 1954, issue of Klipp-nytt

Frances Paelian

She is a graduate of Lincoln School of Teachers College, New York, and studied art at the national Academy of Design, New York, and the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. A member of the American Artists Group of New York City, her murals have appeared in Fifth Avenue shops, and she has been a designer of greeting cards, as well as a writer.

In an article, "The Forerunners: Dr. Gustaf Stromberg: The Ultimate Secret," in the Sept.-Oct. issue of The Beacon, she makes numerous observations about his life and thought. A few are:

Strömberg's Thought

Dr. Stromberg's human side was a delightful one. In social situations he behaved with candour and innocence, like a fun-loving schoolboy. He had a child's exuberance and zest for life. . . .

Although the young Stromberg was bound by his obligation to play the game of physics by its rules, his driving need transcended all limitations. Yet it was from within the area of science itself that the astronomer drew his material. . . .

It seemed to Dr. Stromberg that the non-physical forces, ignored by science, were often the most important things in our lives. . . .

To him, the "mind" was not synonymous with the physical brain. . . .

Dr. Stromberg could not conceive of this combination of intricate organisation and purpose without the existence of some unifying, co-ordinating overall intelligence. . . .

Strömberg, late in his life, wrote what Frances Paelian in The Beacon called his "culminating summation and clarification of a lifetime of seeking." It is titled "Space, Time, and Eternity," and was published as an article in the Journal of The Franklin Institute, 272 (August 1961): 134-44, and after his death as a booklet, with some simplifications made by Strömberg very shortly before his death, by Astara Foundation.

He draws on J. G. Bennett's idea of a five-dimensional universe, as well as the H. S. Burr and F. S. C. Northrop "electro-dynamic theory of life," or life field. Strömberg notes:

Bennett calls the new axis the eternity axis, and it runs perpendicular to Minkowski's time axis; since it is also perpendicular to the three space axes, it defines a realm beyond the four-dimensional space-time world of physics. We may call this recently discovered world the "Eternity Domain of the Universe." Bennett tells us that the reason why we have no immediate experience of events which take place in this nonphysical realm is that we are "eternity blind." p. 136

Strömberg proposes that this eternity domain is the source of all that we know in everyday experience. Moreover, he characterizes it is the context for understanding human immortality.

The introduction of an extra-physical dimension in our world picture has made it possible to form a scientific picture of the survival of the human soul at death. When the immaterial force field in the brain contracts, as do other living fields in the absence of oxygen, the contraction proceeds so that this field finally has no size at all, although its essential properties remain intact. When it has completely disappeared from the physical world, it becomes what may be described as a "living source." In other words, it returns to the mental world from which it originally came. As evidenced from the "death visions" described earlier, all memories in their minutest details can be recalled in an instant. This indestructible memory complex forms an essential part of the indivisible entity we call a soul, which apparently does not have to be associated with matter. It seems that the eternity domain is our real "home," and from there we make short excursions to the physical world of space and time. During such a trip or trips we learn many lessons which may be helpful in our further development. pp. 141-42
The final section of this paper is called "The Eternity Domain as a Living Being":
It is obvious that the mental characteristics attributed to the eternity domain are those manifiested in the human mind. The human mind is not simply a collection of mental elements, like sensations, feelings, thoughts, and memories, but it is a highly integrated unit, to which may be given the name Person, a word which literally means the sound emanating from a masked individual on a theatrical stage. A person is generally regarded as a being with some degree of intelligence, and the "mask" mentioned above may be considered something which hides him from the eyes of the public. This integrated mental unit called a person has often been called a soul, or its equivalent in the various languages spoken on earth. . . .

The eternity domain is regarded as the realm in which all mental characteristics are "rooted." It is very difficult to picture this domain as a loose combination of mental elements, like various types of sensations, feelings of love and hate, pleasure and pain, of satisfaction and remorse. A characteristic property of the eternity domain is the absence of space separation, and therefore it should not be thought of as having any separated "parts." A separation in time may exist which separates the past from the future, although there is some evidence that even this may be bridged under conditions which would make pre-cognition possible. . . .

In view of what has here been said about the meaning of the term person, it is justifiable to apply this name to the nonphysical and mental realm called the eternity domain. It can now be described as an Almighty, Wise and Living Person, the Creator of all things, physical, mental, and spiritual. In our mind we have an "image" of this Person, and an idea of His existence and nature. We are created in His image, but although this image is incomplete and our idea of it is distorted and colored by our own animal instincts, it is still an image of something greater than ourselves and of His whole creation. We can also understand that this Person in His wisdom may select one or more souls to carry important messages and admonitions to other human souls, while they are still associated with animal bodies and therefore have the animal instincts of selfishness and lust for unrestricted power. Some of these messages we can also hear directly when we listen to the voice of the "Cosmic Conscience." They tell us unequivocally that the essence of Divine law can be expressed in the simple admonition: "Love ye one another!"

For many centuries men of nearly all races have conceived of a Being or Spirit greater than themselves from which all things have originally come. It has been given various names, such as the Great Spirit, Jehovah, and Allah. Plato called it the World Soul (Anima Mundi), and Giordano Bruno gave his life in defending Plato's idea. In Vedantic idealism it has been called Parama-Brahman, a Sanskrit word meaning "The ultimate spiritual essence."

In the English language it is called God. pp. 142-44

So ends Strömberg's final published writing. Despite his reference to Parama-Brahman (his endnote is to Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, page 178, seemingly a misprint for p. 176, rather than a more detailed study of Hindu thought), it seems fair to classify Strömberg as a Personalist, as was another notable columnist for Science of Mind, Ralph Tyler Flewelling.

Strömberg and Ernest Holmes

To be added.

A Final Glimpse of Strömberg

In a typescript, "Gustaf Stromberg: The Most Interesting Character I Have Ever Met," Frances Paelian writes that the Strömbergs were popular and often invited out. She mentions that at Mt. Wilson Observatory "he met his fellow-Swede, Greta Garbo. He always smiled when he recalled this and her remark about his romantic task of living under the stars." Writing, probably by Frances Paelian, on an envelope containing a Sept. 8, 1970, Look magazine article by John Bainbridge, "Garbo is 65":

G and Garbo were walking in
the moonlight at Mt Wilson.
She said "Have you a wife"
"Yes" he said [perhaps exclamation point]
"Too bad!" she replied.

Gloria Swanson on T.V. said her life
was entirely changed by meeting a
wonderful man! ("Jesus!" Thought)
"No, Gustaf Stromberg, he made me
understand life.)


To be added.

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Created Oct. 1, 2000
by Alan Anderson

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