Jan Nicolaas Kind -- Brazil
Is my Blavatsky better than yours?
It seems that within our circles some hardliners are still trying to prove that they have invented the wheel. Some have divided the Theosophical landscape into those who know and those who lie. There are those who are exclusively connected with the truth, whatever truth that might be, and those who are forever on the loose.
On one social networking site, readers are constantly treated to patronizing and abominable exposes by a moderator who apparently has appointed himself as the conscience of the TS Adyar, while elsewhere some website authors and their editors have the tendency to proclaim whatever it is they feel like proclaiming. Their articles and editorials are stuffed with the well-known model verbs like “must,” “have to,” “should,” “ought to,” and “shall.” They present themselves as the good shepherds watching over the flock.
It is as if the Pharisees are talking to us again. We receive instructions about what is right and what is wrong and all under the banner of H. P. Blavatsky’s endorsement. But who is handing out such an endorsement? Is it H.P.B. herself or some who find themselves qualified to speak in her name?
Having studied this wonderful Russian phenomenon for many years, I tend to think that she would approve further development of what she brought to our world. She came with her own unique message and gave us the opportunity to think and to work out what she gave to us. I do not believe for one moment that she wanted to be the “ultimate messenger,” and that was certainly not her starting point.
Some believe that they represent her uniqueness and splendor, by claiming that all those who might have slightly different points of view or interpretations are nothing but falsifiers or conspirers even, with their only objective: to destroy all that Theosophy stands for. So much for the tolerance and openness so clearly advocated by H.P.B. herself.
In a recent publication on the internet, John Algeo again was attacked and slandered as if he were the worst scum on this planet. What did H.P.B. herself write about such attacks?
“IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY?”
[Lucifer, Vol. III No.16, December, 1888, pp. 265-73]
“Condemn no man in his absence; and when forced to reprove, do so to his face, but gently, and in words full of charity and compassion. For the human heart is like the Kusuli plant: it opens its cup to the sweet morning dew, and closes it before a heavy shower of rain.”
“In fact, the duty of defending a fellow-man stung by a poisonous tongue during his absence, and to abstain, in general, 'from condemning others' is the very life and soul of practical theosophy, for such action is the handmaiden who conducts one into the narrow Path of the 'higher life,' that life which leads to the goal we all crave to attain.”
Well, here you go, no room for doubt. In the January 2013 issue of The Aquarian Theosophist, the editor, using his very recognizable prose again went after John Algeo in a manner that certainly wouldn’t have pleased H.P.B.
The criticisms that some letters included in John Algeo’s compilation, The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky, should not have been published there, or should have had a clearer introduction, are legitimate. But they were, and we have to live by the facts; we can very clearly learn from this state of affairs. There was a consensus at the time among the editors of that book that this publication would require some intelligence from the reader as well. Five years ago, in an interview with Katinka Hesselink, John Algeo, in response to this issue, commented as follows:
2. There was quite a storm around the publication of The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky, which you and your wife worked so hard to create. Had you expected the storm and can you explain to my readers what the storm was about?
The first volume of the H.P.B. Letters needed, for various reasons, to be gotten out quickly. Consequently, it has a number of flaws, most of which have not been commented on, but of which we are keenly aware. We are working more slowly and deliberately on volume 2 now and expect it to be better. For example, we will take more care to comment on matters that may disturb some readers. However, the basic principles of this edition embrace the following: We will include all letters that have been reasonably attributed to H.P.B., even those that some Theosophists reject because they are not consistent with their view of her.
Of H.P.B., one might say what Walt Whitman said of himself in Song of Myself:
“Do I contradict myself?” / Very well then I contradict myself / (I am large, I contain multitudes).
H.P.B. was too great a person to fit into any narrow slots that we who admire her may imagine her as filling. Our including a letter in the volume is not a statement that we believe it to be genuinely hers, rather that it has been reasonably attributed to her. Most of the surviving letters are not autograph copies (that is, in her own handwriting), but instead are transcriptions made by others and often “improved” or otherwise changed by the transcribers. It is impossible to affirm the genuineness of the texts of most of the surviving copies of letters. Our aim was and will be to include the earliest and most authentic texts we can find of all letters that have, with some cogency, been attributed to H.P.B. Readers are free to decide for themselves which are genuine or how much of any given letter is what she actually wrote. We will, however, try to provide readers with as much help in reaching such a decision as we can. But those decisions will often depend on a given reader’s prejudgment about what is or is not Blavatsky-like. As the old saying goes, de gustibus non disputandum est, that is, to each his own decision.
3. Would you have handled things differently if you had known the reservations people would have with the publication?
We would have included more admonitory warnings, but not changed the principles on which the edition is based, which I believe to be the only honest basis for making such an edition.
Link to original interview: http://www.allconsidering.com/2008/john-algeo-interview/
No further comments from this end. It is clear: It could have been done better, but due to circumstances the book John and his wife Adele worked so hard on became a perfectly “imperfect” publication. For commentators and editors just to warn future readers to be cautious in reading this book would be more than sufficient. There is no need for proclaimers or any type of “Misters Know-it-all” to go out there, to issue pathetic ultimatums and throw mud at those people who have earned the appreciation and respect from thousands around the world. Stalwart workers for the Theosophical cause are being referred to as "amateurish and ethically naïve", but who is actually talking here?
John Algeo is a fine man, a hard worker ever dedicated to the cause. He has the ability, a unique one, to admit a mistake and to make up for it. Now, in his eighties and after having lost his Adele and being confronted with declining health, he continues to work for Theosophy to the best of his capacities. In the eighty “something” years of this incarnation he has done a lot of good and, YES, he made mistakes, but who doesn't…?
His respect and love for H. P. Blavatsky and her writings are indisputable. Some thirteen years ago I actually saw him working at the Adyar archives with Adele to collect material for the book. Intention and dedication is what counts; seeing them working so much together was and still is an inspiring example for me.
We all can approach H.P.B. from our own vantage point, from our own tradition. Sometimes it becomes clear that there are big differences, but isn’t that great? Wouldn’t it be terribly boring to have an agreement on everything?
So one can ask oneself: “Is my Blavatsky better than yours?” Do we have to come to this point? Is John Algeo’s, Radha Burnier’s or any editor’s Blavatsky better than anyone else’s Blavatsky? Of course not. Let’s finally learn that our Theosophical House is big enough for all of us and that instead of going after one another we should really and finally learn to listen to each other in order to benefit our planet. This is just one example of how to do it: