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Re: Changing Blavatsky's Words

May 18, 1997 08:02 PM
by Bart Lidofsky

Eldon B. Tucker wrote:

> changes. The best example of too much editing was what Annie Besant
> did to her three-volume edition of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, which is now
> out of print. It was replaced by Boris de Zirkoff's edition, which I'd
> tend to consider a good example of editing.

        Isn't TPH bringing back the 3 volume edition (with explanation
Besant's editing)?

> >       B) Words change meaning over time; I have heard that John Algeo is at
> >work at a new Theosophical Glossary.
> In reprinting books we can add editorial comments and footnotes
> offering explanations, or judiciously replace an obsolete word or two.
> When I computerized ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, for instance, I replaced
> "milliard" with "billion".

        I have found Blavatsky's THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY invaluable in
understanding her other works. I have also read quite a bit of late 19th
century literature and esoterica, and am therefore more familiar with
the language of the time than most. As time goes on, however, there will
be more need of commentary.

> They -- the Mahatmas -- were relating what they knew to the science of their
> day. Some of the comparisons or discussions would prove wrong when the
> science they were talking about is itself proven wrong. The error may have
> been in making an analogy to something that was untrue and then extrapolating
> based upon that analogy.

        Exactly. However, it was not always the science of the day that
wrong. If, for example, someone tells you that there is something called
a molecule which is the center of an atom and contains positive and
negative charges, you might reply that a molecule contains positive and
neutral charges. Now, you don't know that it is a nucleus that is being
misdescribed to you, but someone reading your reply, "a molecule is made
of positive and neutral charges" would question your knowledge of

> >Similarly, Blavatsky's comments on
> >hypnotism are clearly based on an improper definition of hypnotism
> >(especially as evidenced in the Theosophical Glossary).
> The discussion about hypnotism can get lengthy. My general comment regarding
> it would be to classify it among techniques of manipulation and thought
> control, techniques that could be used for the good or to harm others.
> I'd agree that what HPB says of hypnotism and what we understand by that term
> nowadays is different.

        If one is familiar with the history of hypnotism, a simple
reading of
the THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY shows that HPB's ideas of hypnotism comes from
third-hand accounts, which were in error, even from the knowledge of the
time. Interestingly enough, however, she shows mesmerism being postively
used in her NIGHTMARE TALES, which were written about the same time as

        Bart Lidofsky

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