Algeo's "HPB Letters"
Sep 14, 2006 08:52 AM
Some 20% of the ‘Algeo Letters’ are Fake
THE T.P.H. EDITION OF
“LETTERS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY”
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) considered books as semi-magic objects. Although he would not use the word aura, he clearly sensed the presence of a subtle energy around them. A student of Kabalah and ancient literature, Borges seems to have known many a deep aspect of the occult philosophy in the last years of his life.
In the 1970s – while I lived in Buenos Aires – two friends and I had a long conversation with him. Those four hours and a half had a lasting impact on my perception of things. By then Borges was already old and blind, and had to write his books by dictation. But he kept buying books for himself and made no secret of the reason. During one of his public talks in Buenos Aires, he said to hundreds of persons, keeping his lifeless eyes typically fixed at some vague, abstract region in the space immediately above his head:
“I have this cult for the book. (...) I keep playing at not being blind; I keep buying books and filling my house with them. Someone gave me the other day the Brockhause Encyclopedia. I felt the presence of the book at home. I felt it like a kind of happiness. There they were, over twenty volumes with their gothic characters which I can’t read, with the maps and illustrations that I can’t see, and yet the book was there. I felt like a friendly radiation coming from that book. The book is one of the possibilities of happiness that we have as men.” (1)
Books do have “auras’, indeed. Unfortunately, not all of them are quite healthy. Life is not easy, and some books have rather sickening auras, as one of the Adept-Teachers who inspire the theosophical movement indicated. Referring to a book edited by Mrs. Annie Besant in the years before she entered the Theosophical Society, the Master said:
“I would rather avoid the unpleasant discussion (...) I have not read the work – nor ever will; but I have its unclean spirit, its brutal aura before me (...) The sooner we leave the subject, the better.” (2)
More than one century later, the book entitled The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky - Volume I , edited by Mr. John Algeo and published by the USA T.P.H. in 2003, might be in the same broad category of books with an unhealthy aura. Mr. Algeo included in it forged texts full of disgusting lies and libels, cleverly mixed among authentic documents. In those pages H.P. Blavatsky – the woman who worked day and night for the good of mankind and who gave the world such wonderful books as The Voice of the Silence and The Secret Doctrine – is made to describe herself as a mean person; a Russian spy (“letter” 07); someone who helped torture a cat to death during “occult” experiences ( “letter” 76); someone who would like to sell her soul (“letter” 53); and someone whom the devil got into trouble in her youth (“letter” 69) – to name but a few examples of Mr. John Algeo’s “work”.
Out of the 136 “letters” published by Mr. John Algeo, at least 27 documents are certainly false.(3) That makes 20 percent of the total. One out of five letters of the volume is false. Nearly all the 27 forged documents are deeply offensive to H .P. Blavatsky, and more treacherously so since they are presented as if signed by HPB herself. Mr. Algeo, who happens to be the international vice-president of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, has accomplished what no anti-theosophical initiative had done so far: a serious, partially successful attempt to have the worst falsehoods against the Old Lady included in the so-called theosophical literature and, worse, in the very body of books which are ascribed to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
A single woman travelling around the world in that rigid and authoritarian society of the 19th century, H.P.B. used her brilliant pen to tirelessly denounce the blind dogmas of the different religions and churches; to propose universal brotherhood as the only real basis for world peace; to criticize the scientific ilusions of her time, and to bring to the world the wisdom of all times, which is always simultaneously new and ancient. But in the short term she disturbed many established routines and could only offer to people a dangerous, difficult, steep and narrow way to inner truth in their own hearts. She had but a few loyal friends to help her face many powerful enemies, who were ready to do anything to stop or hinder her work. Libelling her was one of the first things to do.
More than one century later, it seems we are dealing with a renewed attempt to destroy her at the moral level and thus prevent or make it more difficult for Adyar theosophists to come back to the original teachings and “rediscover” them, now that the neo-theosophy of Mr. Charles Leadbeater loses its strength.
It is possible that the conscious or unconscious logic behind Mr. Algeo’s “editorial work “ aims at preserving for some time more the ritualistic movements which make the real power-structure of the Adyar theosophical society, and which were created by the Bishop C.W. Leadbeater in the first part of the 20th century. I have nothing to say against the personal good faith of Mr. Algeo, and have no interest in judging anyone’s intentions. Yet Mr. John Algeo’s editorial actions have at least three main aspects in his volume of “Letters”.
In the first place, there is a group of 22 false documents whose “originals” never appeared (“Solovyov letters”, and the “Spy Letter”). Of these, 21 were kindly copied by Algeo from the collections of attacks to the theosophical movement published initially by Mr. Vsevolod Solovyov and later by Walter Leaf. Of this I have already written. (4) Henry Olcott, who could hardly be accused of being too loyal to Blavatasky, had to admit in his memories that Solovyov’s texts against H.P.B. were published only after her death, because that “made it safe for him to tell his falsehoods about her”. According to Olcott, this fact shows Solovyov to be “as heartless and as contemptible, though fifty times more talented, than the Coulombs”. (5)
The Coulombs forgeries against HPB – made under the inspiration of the Vatican missionaries in India – are far more famous than the ones fabricated by Solovyov. In fact, Mr. Solovyov did not even present any false originals of his “letters”. He just published the false texts and libels, and that was enough for Mr. Algeo to accept them as “Blavatsky Letters”. As to the Russian Spy letter, obviously false, it is not clear yet who forged it. This should be investigated.
Besides the Solovyov Letters, John Algeo included in the volume a second and different set of false texts and libels, whose originals also never appeared. These texts were made up by a person who belonged to the Society for Psychical Research, Mrs. Eleanor Sidgwick. These are “Letters” 108, 115, 116, 118 and 125, besides one of the three versions of “Letter” 117. Mr. John Algeo admits, in a small note at the end of each of these texts:
“Original unavailable. Transcribed from a copy in the Archives of the Society for Psychical Research in Cambridge University Library. The copy, of poor legitimacy, was made presumably by Eleanor Sidgwick, who freely abbreviated and paraphrased the material she copied.”
How could Mr. Algeo ascribe these texts to H. P. Blavatsky, if they come from the Society for Psychical Research, SPR, whose open campaign against HPB was dismantled by the very same SPR in 1986, after a technical research led by Mr. Vernon Harrison, clearly indicated that all “proofs” against HPB were false and forged? There is no legitimacy for any documents coming from the SPR and dealing with H.P.B. Algeo writes that these forgeries have “poor legitimacy”, which is a violent understatement. Thus he destroys his own legitimacy as an editor.
One third aspect of the editorial work of Mr. Algeo is that he fragmented or ignored the Letters of H.P. Blavatsky as published by Mr. William Judge in the magazine The Path in 1894-1895.
Mr. Judge knew her personally. One of the three main founders of the theosophical movement, he worked in direct touch with H.P.B. and was loyal to her all the way from 1875 up to his death in 1896. Judge also made several important contributions to the theosophical literature. No experienced editor could ignore or try to dismantle his rendering of the letters.
On the other hand, in order to pretend to be scientific, sub-scholars often prefer the dead letter instead of the living spirit. The HPB letters as edited by Judge are nice to read. The reader enjoys them. They are not a collection of fragments separated by idle speculations. But Algeo preferred to cut and fragment the material available. He separated one piece from the other with long and boring discussions about useless details.
One enlightening example of this is given by the “Letters” 80 and 87 in his volume. The small fragment miscalled “Letter” 80 corresponds in fact but to the second half of a paragraph quoted by William Judge from her letters and published by him in January 1895. The reader will have to jump over “letters” 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, and 86, in order to finally meet the first half of the same paragraph quoted by William Judge!
Such is the “scholarship” used by Mr. Algeo in his strange volume. Great part of the book is a collection of disconnected sentences and groups of sentences or paragraphs separated one from another like islands in a (shallow) ocean of pseudo-academic commentaries. In addition to it, of course, one out of five fragments or texts is simply false.
And yet there is a bright side to this. The publication of the Algeo Letters has given many theosophists new food for thought, and some of them have already come into action in several countries in order to restore the truth.
Best regards, Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
(1) Conversando com Jorge Luis Borges (Talking to Jorge Luis Borges), Carlos Cardoso Aveline, a text published in the portuguese magazine “Biosofia”, Lisbon, Summer 2001, pp. 10-13, see p. 12.
(2) The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TUP edition, 1992, Letter LXXXVI, page 405, lower half of the page. In the 1972 Adyar edition of t he Mahatma Letters, see p. 399. In the Philippines TPH, 1993, Chronological edition, it is the Letter 119, p. 408.
(3) This is an initial assessment. Further research may reveal the number is actually greater and – besides the 27 false letters – one of the three versions presented by Algeo of his “Letter 117” is certainly false, too.
(4) See my article Defending the Old Lady, in The Aquarian Theosophist, September 2005, pp. 1-9, or in “FOHAT” magazine, Canada, in its Fall 2004 edition. A Portuguese translation of the text was published in Portugal by the magazine Biosofia in its edition of Winter 2004-2005, pp. 25-31. A brief summary of it was published as a letter in Sunrise, the magazine of the Theosophical Society, February/March 2005, p. 82.
(5) The sentence comes from H.S. Olcott’s “, vice-president of the T.S,the letter enclosed and e the book The Letters of H.tters of H. learn so much during more than twoOld Diary Leaves” (TPH-India, 1972, volume III, p. 185). A longer quotation of his words about Solovyov or Solovioff: “Among the visitors of H.P.B. was that talented Russian Solovioff, whose book, which appeared long after dear H.P.B.’s death, made it safe for him to tell his falsehoods about her, shows him to be as heartless and contemptible, though fifty times more talented than the Coulombs.”
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