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Fear and loathing of Theosophical history-- who is served?

Feb 17, 2006 08:35 AM
by kpauljohnson


Since Carlos asked me which was better, Radha Burnier's open 
hostility or John Algeo's ambivalence and machinations, I thought I'd 
answer him.  Despite the manipulative aspects of his behavior, I 
think that John has a genuine desire to promote Theosophical history--
within certain limits of Adyar tolerance of course.  Whereas Radha is 
indifferent or hostile to anything historical, as best I can tell.  
BTW her look didn't say to me "I hate you" or anything like that, 
just "I am alarmed by the possibility you might find out and expose 
something I want kept secret."

In 1996, The Theosophist featured an article entitled "The Masters 
Revealed" which pointedly avoided acknowledging that there was any 
book by this title about which the non-review was obliquely 
commenting.  This was strange since the book had been widely reviewed 
in the Theosophical world during the previous couple of years, mostly 
favorably. Dara Eklund wrote in this piece: "Who then are the 
Masters? How may we know them? For the beginning student it is first 
vital to know their message. If we, illumined by the heart, act by 
the heart's guidance, we will by this light reveal them to 
ourselves...neither the brain-mind, nor the psychic approach work." 
This echoes a theme found in John Algeo's review of TMR, that 
evidence and reasoning are completely inappropriate and irrelevant as 
approaches to the subject of the Masters.  Objectivity is out, total 
subjectivity is in.  Whose interests are served by promulgating this 

Mindful that we cannot know others' intentions or motives, we can 
still identify peoples' interests and suggest how these were served 
or frustrated.  What interests were involved in the championing of my 
work by such eminent Theosophists as John Cooper, Joy Mills, Geoffrey 
Farthing, William Laudahn, Leslie Price, Michel Caracostea?  What 
interests were served by dismissing it as unworthy of any serious 
attention, as Dara Eklund and presumably her editor Radha Burnier 
wished to do?  What interests were served by the attacks of Daniel 
Caldwell and John Algeo, admitting some value in the books but 
contemptuously dismissing them on certain issues that were considered 
crucial to Theosophists?

I suggest we look back for an answer a few years to the reception of 
Dr. Tillett's The Elder Brother in the Theosophical world.  Radha 
wrote a contemptuously dismissive note in The Theosophist, never 
naming the book or author but saying that its allegations about CWL 
were all malicious and disproven.  So assertion without any 
supportive argument, and ostrich-like head-in-the-sand rejection of a 
scholarly book, were already established as standard practice at The 
Theosophist a dozen years before I experienced the same.  The 
American Theosophist was similarly contemptuous and dismissive of The 
Elder Brother but never named the book or its author as I recall.

The Adyar TS was polarized during my years in it between the HPB-
focused, more serious students and the CWL-focused psychism devotees 
and ES members.  Cooper, Mills, Farthing above all, and Caracostea 
were in the former camp.  For them, (my guess) scholarly 
investigation of the Masters supporting the credibility of HPB's 
sources(within limits) would both strengthen their side and weaken 
the CWL side.  Because no such evidence as I had voluminously 
collected establishing the reality of HPB's Masters could possibly be 
presented to support CWL's claims!  And the Adyar ES is based on 
CWL's revelations.

So how did a couple of HPB-leaning Adyar members, Daniel Caldwell and 
Dara Eklund, end up in alliance with the CWL devotees, denouncing a 
book that was perceived as much more damaging by that faction than by 
the above-named HPB students?  Serving the interests that just wanted 
the whole subject stifled before it started to undermine any claims 
about the esoteric status of the leaders?  I don't know, but 
presumably their access to TPH and the main power figure in it, John 
Algeo, outweighed any qualms they might have about protecting CWL 
from scrutiny. This was a real shame for the movement, because the 
meme "it is inherently anti-Theosophical to ask historical questions 
about the Masters" served to cover CWL's a**, continuing to make it 
impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff.  HPB can withstand the 
kind of scrutiny I pursued; CWL cannot.  Since he rather than she is 
the real basis of the ES, it is his historical reputation rather than 
hers that the Adyar TS is most sensitive about.  Hence the ostrich 
reaction to Tillett's excellent biography. 

What strikes me most about how things evolved is that the reaction 
against TMR played perfectly into the hands of the CWL faction in the 
Adyar TS.  Yes, it is impious, a spiritual crime to ask historical 
questions about the Masters.  Whose interests were served by that?  
Whose were harmed?

I have far more questions than answers.

Looking back over the archives I found a lot of pleas from me for 
civility and mutual respect.  Knowing now that this was a hopeless 
cause because there was a provocateur actively working against it all 
along, I will repost these to give a sense of Theos-l ten years ago:

Confrontations and mistrust:
win-win vs. win/lose and lose/lose
HPB vs. Theosophical orthodoxy
Theosophist a fighting word
Scholars and jackals


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