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Re: Wrapping up 1995

Jan 01, 1996 05:54 AM
by liesel

Several side comments.

The way you describe the evolution of HPB literature reminds me of a
satirical work by Anatole France "La Pucelle". La pucelle the virgin is
Joan of Arc & France describes how each succeding generation pictures her
& writes & thinks about her. Each generation changes things around a little
& also makes it a little juicier. The last telling of the tale is not at all
like the original.

You say among Theosophists.."truth is held as the highest ideal than which
there is no dharma higher." I just want to tell you that I think there are
still a few around who stick to that.

Then you talk about Theosophical "orthodoxy". It would be nice if you were
being facetious but I'm afraid you weren't. I wonder how our founder who
repeatedly voiced that she wasn't infallible & that lateron more knowledge
would become available would feel about that.

Member Theosophy International
Member Human Race Fifth Root

>1995 was a remarkable year for the Theosophical movement in the
>United States which attained a level of literary prominence it
>has not had for many decades. Five books and a dozen or so
>reviews of them showed great diversity in approaches to HPB and
>her influence in history. Sylvia Cranston's HPB first
>published in hardcover in 1993 was released in paper in 1994
>and continues to be widely available in bookstores and
>well-represented in libraries. Its reviews were decidedly
>mixed with Theosophical journals unanimously enthusiastic but
>pans in Library Journal Publisher's Weekly and elsewhere.
>Although evasive on many key issues of HPB's life the book did
>successfully establish her significance as a historical and
>literary influence and conveyed a large amount of information
>hitherto scattered among many obscure sources. In 1993 Peter
>Washington's Madame Blavatsky's Baboon first appeared in
>England. Although rather shallowly researched Washington's
>book was so well-written and entertaining that when reprinted
>in the US in 1995 it was extremely successful in sales and reviews.
>Occupying the middle ground between Cranston and Washington
>were Joscelyn Godwin's The Theosophical Enlightenment late
>1994 and my The Masters Revealed 1994 and Initiates of Theosophical
>Masters 1995. All three books approached HPB with
>considerably more respect and appreciation than did Washington
>but with considerably less uncritical adulation than Cranston.
>The Masters Revealed has so far been a surprising critical and
>popular success despite some scathing letters and reviews from
>Theosophists. My own opinion in that Godwin's is by far the
>best of the current crop of Theosophical history books and is
>being ignored because less controversial and polarizing than
>the others.
>In the midst of such a literary explosion one would hope that the
>leaders of the Adyar and Pasadena TS's and the ULT would be
>rejoicing. After all a fairly clear goal of the Cranston book
>they unanimously promoted was to include HPB in the world's
>consciousness at this moment in history. She is vastly better
>known to the American public at the end of 1995 than she was at
>the beginning of 1993 but instead of welcoming this as an
>opportunity many Theosophists are reacting as if it were a
>spiritual crisis. Large numbers of letters denounced a fairly
>friendly article on Olcott in Smithsonian magazine as well as a
>clearly hostile piece in Wired on HPB. A positive review of
>The Masters Revealed attracted mainly negative letters to the
>Editor of The Quest. In general the mood within the inner sanctum of
>Theosophy in America does not seem to be celebratory of the
>movement's newfound visibility but rather outraged at
>scrutiny by a world that does not accept Theosophical claims
>at face value. What seems to be happening is that inclusive
>rhetoric is belied by the karma of exclusive attitudes.
>Theosophists have long talked in inclusive terms. Theosophy is
>held to be a universal spiritual current present in a vast
>variety of traditions. All people are said to be welcome in
>the Theosophical movement as long as they believe in universal
>brotherhood. Tolerance of diverse views is proclaimed and
>truth is held to be the highest ideal than which there is no
>dharma higher. Each Theosophist is invited to nourish his or
>her own unique spiritual perceptions through the literature of
>the movement. But what happens when there is an explosion of literature
>looking at HPB and Theosophy from many different standpoints?
>Does the leadership of any of the three Theosophical
>organizations encourage members to read *all* the various
>books to weigh them carefully *not in comparison to a litmus
>test of Theosophical belief but according to their instrinsic
>plausibility*? What appears to be happening is quite the
>contrary. The implicit message from many quarters has been: *only*
>Sylvia Cranston's book has any value as a guide to
>understanding HPB and Theosophical history. *Everything* else
>being written even though by members of Theosophical
>societies is fundamentally *threatening* to Theosophy
>*heretical* in its view of HPB and to be ignored if possible
>and attacked when necessary.
>As I look into 1996 wondering about the future of the
>Theosophical movement the key questions occupying my mind
>concern the balance between inclusive and exclusive trends.
>Will the organizations continue to encourage a fortress
>mentality among Theosophists that sees our Truth under attack
>by Opposing Forces? Will articles and books presenting a less
>than Cranstonian halo around HPB continue to attract fierce
>denunciation? Will the mindset persist that has seen
>Cranston's book as the Last Word about HPB the final
>refutation of Calumnies and Slanders after which there is no
>more left to write? Will this mindset continue to poison Theosophical
>minds with the idea that anything slightly varying from
>orthodoxy must be denounced as evil?
>Or will there be a dawning recognition that the evolution of a
>body of literature is a *dialectical* process in which each
>thesis inevitably suggests its antithesis in which each honest
>work attempts to synthesize what has gone before and in which
>there will be an endless succession of new and conflicting
>interpretations? That *progress* means not the final and
>absolute triumph of *our way of seeing HPB* but rather an
>evolving literature that probes all the possibilities
>inconsistencies implications?

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