Betrayals and history
Apr 07, 2004 09:23 AM
Dear Pedro and all,
Thanks for another interesting post which provides food for
thought. I'm particularly interested in one notion:
> Probably this is the reason why when I became aware of
> the controvesies surrounding "Theosophy and
> Neo-Theosophy" I didn't give them much attention,
> although I am familiar with the main arguments. And
> that is still my point of view. Theosophical
> historians may argue any way they want to try to prove
> that Besant and Leadbeater "betrayed" HPB, that they
> distorted the her teachings.
In no case are such arguments coming from Theosophical *historians*
to my knowledge. They have come from Theosophical polemicists,
mostly outside the Adyar TS but also within it. My portrayal of
Besant was generally favorable, but focused largely on her first
trip to India. Dr. Tillett doesn't use highly charged concepts like
betrayal in describing CWL's doctrinal innovations. Nor have I seen
such emotionally charged terminology coming from authors like Gomes,
Santucci, Price, Prothero, Dixon, et al. in discussing Theosophical
It seems to me that "betrayal" is a ubiquitous feature in the
history of spiritual movements, in a certain sense. Successors
often change emphases and teachings and organizational forms in ways
that the founders would have deplored. If we honestly consider what
HPB or Olcott would have thought of the Adyar TS in the 1920s, I
don't think there is any alternative to concluding that they'd have
been horrified and regarded it as a huge betrayal of everything they
stood for. There are so many warnings from both of them against the
kind of atmosphere that Besant and Leadbeater imposed on the Society.
But going back to the early days, it's also evident that Olcott felt
betrayed by HPB (remember the night he contemplated suicide after
Hodgson gave him a letter in which HPB ridiculed his credulity?).
HPB at times felt betrayed by Olcott, as a number of her letters
complain. Sinnett and HPB are another pair with feelings of mutual
betrayal. Besant felt betrayed by Judge for pawning off fake
Mahatma letters. Judge felt betrayed by Besant for turning against
him and siding with Olcott. Look into the later Point Loma history
if you want to see a whole bunch of Theosophists feeling betrayed by
one another, the Covina/Pasadena TS vs. the Point Loma
independents. It all comes down to people behaving in ways we
didn't expect them to, that we had trusted them not to do, whether
it's personal conflicts or doctrinal disputes.
Historians generally try to avoid judgmental language about such
situations. When it comes to something as basic as betraying the
trust of parents who place their children in someone's care, though,
it's pretty hard not to express feelings of moral outrage. Dr.
Tillett was far more nonjudgmental in tone than I could have been
writing about these circumstances.
That left me and leaves
> me perfectly cold, for I know, from my earliest
> association with theosophical studies, that the
> essence of their contribution to theosophical
> literature is a message of altruism and selfless
> service. And this is the essence of Theosophy
> according to HPB.
A message that Besant lived, but not IMO CWL.
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- From: Pedro Oliveira <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application