Calling People Liars
Feb 08, 1994 02:25 PM
by K. Paul Johnson
The exchange between Arvind and JHE on whether Foster Bailey
may have lied reminded me of some painful exchanges I've had.
Several angry letters to Gnosis accused me of "calling HPB a
liar." Eldon questioned me on this very point, and then never
responded to my explanation.
Now in my opinion, to point out that HPB made mutually
contradictory statements, which implies that some of them
cannot be true, leads immediately to the question of what she
was concealing and why. Pointing out the conflicts is by no
means "calling someone a liar" in the sense of an attack meant
to undermine a person's reputation. I have never attacked HPB
in my life and never will. But I have most definitely been
attacked, and viciously, by Theosophists who think that they
are defending HPB from my supposed attacks.
What gives here? I suggest that somewhere in each of us is the
potential of an authoritarian personality, with the need to
believe we have access to completely reliable truth from an
authority which cannot be questioned. Certainly that manifests
itself in religion but also among Marxists, Freudians, etc.
But the thing I don't get is that HPB is so relentlessly
anti-authoritarian (in a rather in-your-face mode at times) as
to make it seemingly impossible to set her up as exactly the
thing she most warned against-- a religious authority.
While Terry's historical perspective is helpful in placing
post-HPB developments in context, why stop there? Putting HPB
in context of the sources from whom she learned takes us back a
step further. Why accept hers as the final word on Kabbalah,
Masonry, Vedanta, etc. when each of those traditions supplies
us with voluminous sources which existed long prior to her? I
suggest that going back to the Source be understood as a
direction, not a goal. We never get all the way back (unless
the Radhasoami folks really do know how) but we can always
understand each phenomenon in terms of the preexisting context
from which it arose.
To Arvind-- re Joscelyn and HPB's mistakes:
Her reading of Tibetan Buddhism immediately comes to mind as a
possible basis of his comments. She admits straightforwardly
that her knowledge of the subject is quite limited-- as is
shown by her use of the term dugpa to identify Black
magicians. Any Tibetan will tell you that the Gelugpa regard
the redhat (unreformed) Buddhists with respect and by no means
think they are some evil brotherhood with which the good guys
are engaged in some cosmic struggle. Another example is her
reading of the doctrine of the three kayas, which again any
scholar of Tibetan Buddhism will regard as misleading--
suggesting that the three vestures are somehow distinct
alternatives when in fact they are simultaneous realities.
One could hardly write as voluminously as HPB on so many
complex subjects without some errors. She
freely admitted that her work contained mistakes and never
tried to present herself as the absolute authority which many
would make of her today.
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