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The Embellishment of Truth

Understanding Self-Delusion
in the Esoteric Movement
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 
 
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The following text reproduces Chapter Twenty of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013.
 
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“A disposition not to interfere in any way
with beliefs which are illusions prevails with
many who dislike the pain caused by such tearing
away of the veil. And the argument that illusionary
beliefs, creeds, and dogmas should not be done away
with so long as the believer is happy or good has been
used by the Christian Church (….…) as a potent
means of keeping the mind of man in an iron chain.”
 
(William Q. Judge, in his article
“Iconoclasm Towards Illusions”)
 
 

Since ancient times, it has been a well-established axiom in Eastern and Western philosophies that the ideas of Truth, Beauty and Goodness are deeply interconnected, and that they are impossible to separate from one another. 
 
Goodness and Beauty are usually pleasant, and Robert Crosbie quoted the Laws of the Manu, known in India for thousands of years:
 
“Let him say what is true.
Let him say what is useful.  
Let him say what is pleasant.
Let him utter no disagreeable truth.
Let him utter no agreeable falsehood.” [1]
 
As to the West, let’s see one example from Ancient Greece. In his dialogue “Philebus”, Plato presents a conversation with Socrates. The philosopher is discussing the inner and alchemical process by which we learn to combine in the proper way different subtle substances in our consciousness, so that we attain Goodness. Socrates explains:
 
“... Any want of measure and symmetry in any mixture whatever must always of necessity be fatal, both to the elements and to the mixture, which is then not a mixture, but only a confused medley which brings confusion on the possessor of it.”
 
Protarchus agrees, saying: “Most true”. Socrates proceeds:

“And now the power of the good has retired into the region of the beautiful; for measure and symmetry are beauty and virtue all the world over. (…..) Also we said that truth was to form an element in the mixture. (…..) Then, if we are not able to hunt the good with one idea only, with three we may catch our prey; Beauty, Symmetry, Truth are the three, and these taken together we may regard as the single cause of the mixture, and the mixture as being good by reason of the infusion of them.” [2]

Goodness, truth, symmetry and beauty are inseparable realities acting through an integrated process, an “infusion”. Yet for the student of esoteric philosophy it is not enough to simply accept this idea. He must know that the dynamic unity of these substances is beyond the field of perception given by his five senses and personal memory, and that it can only be understood at the inner level.
 
Let us examine, for instance, the Beauty that is present in Truth. It cannot be always seen. It is fundamentally hidden and only occasionally external. Things are often not really what they seem, and the Truth beneath the surface can easily appear - or be construed and presented - as something bad, ugly, painful, unfriendly, aggressive, or even heretical and dangerous.
 
The beauty of the spiritual path leading to self-knowledge is also internal, and to think that it must always show itself externally has been for centuries a great source of unnecessary illusion and suffering. Therefore all appearances of beauty, truth and goodness should be carefully examined by every student. Walking along this arduous path, he will gradually learn how to prevent self-illusion and how not to mislead others.
 
Whenever a group or section of the theosophical movement starts embellishing truth so that it gets more attractive to the world and to the people at large, there is danger. Truths which appear to be ugly may be swept aside. Those who insist in raising uncomfortable facts will be considered dangerous people. Credulity will come in and people will forget these classical words of a Mahatma:
 
“Credulity breeds credulity and ends in hypocrisy”.[3]

Once artificial beautification of truth leads people to credulity, it soon creates the need for more and more embellishment of reality. Later on, a moment will come when this group of theosophists has no clear criteria any longer to distinguish truth from illusion or fact from fiction. Once the apparently ugly truths have started being eliminated from the field of our conscious sight, it follows that the apparently beautiful lies, illusions and falsehoods begin to replace Truth. An old saying states that lies are ashamed of their ugliness, so they disguise themselves as truths. That is why our Teachers recommend that students should have the courage to choose truth at all times, regardless of appearances. It is a question of spiritual survival, and HPB wrote: “Our motto was from the first, and ever shall be: ‘THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH’. Truth we search for, and, once found, we bring it forward before the world, whencesoever comes.” [4]

However, the theosophical movement as a whole has had a steady pattern of wrong choices with regard to this question. Big and small examples of “truth embellishment” or self-delusion can be found in the several theosophical groups and institutions around the world - and most probably in our own lives, too. Therefore, while looking at the mistakes made by other persons or by the esoteric movement at large, each student should have enough courage to remember that all human karma is his own, and illusion is not something to be identified and condemned in others only.
 
The moral beauty present in acknowledging and correcting our mistakes runs underneath the deceiving surfaces of life, and it has long-term effects. According to the Golden Stairs given to esoteric students through HPB, to have an open mind and to make a brave declaration of principles are two necessary steps for those who would like to have access to the inner Temple of Truth.[5] This means challenging routine.
 
An open mind and a courageous declaration of principles are essential practices for groups and institutions, as well as individuals. With these two instruments the theosophical movement can learn from its own mistakes. This should not be too complicated according to a popular saying in Brazil, which explains: “The wise ones learn from other people’s mistakes; the moderately ignorant learn from their own mistakes; only complete fools do not learn even from their own mistakes.”
 
We should be humble enough to admit and to discuss our failures, in order not to repeat them. If we accept we don’t know things we don’t know, at least we will have an open mind, and this is the first Socratic step for starting to learn a new lesson at a higher level.
 
With an open mind we can also say what we think. Let us see, then, in this spirit, four examples of self-delusion in the history of the esoteric movement. Occasions when truth was embellished or simply abandoned because it did not seem to appear beautiful enough at the eyes of the public. Four moments when untruthfulness was seen as irresistibly beautiful, elegant, even charming.

One
 
In 1884-85, when HPB was accused by the Society for Psychic Researches (S.P.R.) of being a “fascinating case of fraud”, leading theosophists in India decided it would be easier not to challenge the offenders by defending HPB and the Truth against the slanderers. HPB got sick and had to leave Adyar never to come back.
 
It took one hundred years for the very S.P.R. to honestly make a public acknowledgement that after all HPB was  NOT a  fraud.  Instead, she had been the VICTIM of the  forgeries fabricated by  her accusers.[6]

Two

During the 1890s, William Q. Judge was accused by the Adyar T.S. (led by Henry Olcott and Annie Besant) of forging messages supposedly coming from the Mahatmas.
 
The editors of the book “The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950”[7] received a document written by Mr. B. P. Wadia, a well-known theosophist. The text, signed in December 15, 1947, says:

“Not only Col. Olcott, but also Mrs. Besant came to perceive the error of her ways in later years. A respected member of the Adyar Society who had fully studied the Judge Case interviewed Mrs. Besant specially on the subject. In course of the serious conversation, Mrs. Besant admitted that what was presented to her was on the whole accurate and that she had come to a conclusion some time previously that Judge did not forge those letters; and that the messages received by him were genuine. On being requested to say that much only, if not more, to the Theosophical public the world over Mrs. Besant demurred and remarked that it was such an old and forgotten matter - ‘Why revive it?’ On permission being sought by the friend to make her view public, she flatly refused. This came as a shock to the gentleman who was refused this permission, for he fully expected that in the interests of historical veracity Mrs. Besant would agree to say in public what she so readily admitted to him in private conversation, completely exonerating Mr. Judge from manufacturing bogus Mahatma messages.” [8]

Three

In the year 2000, the Theosophical Publishing House/Quest Books published the volume “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky”, by Daniel Caldwell. This 451 pp. book is a collection of testimonies, false and true, about the life of H.P. Blavatsky. With this book Daniel Caldwell inaugurated a new “editorial policy” adopted by the Adyar Society in America, which consists of publishing libels invented by the old enemies of H.P. Blavatsky and of the theosophical movement. The new editorial “policy” consists in publishing these false accusations scattered amidst authentic documents, which makes it harder for the inexperienced student to identify the falsehoods. In the volume “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” - while believing the editor has selected authentic documents - the reader will bump into many of the lies written against HPB. There he will see two texts by Emma Coulomb (pp. 35-36 and pp. 210-215) with no word from the editor Daniel Caldwell admitting he is publishing documents which have no trace of truth in them whatsoever.
 
Caldwell’s book contains two texts by Mr. Solovyov with attacks against HPB; one false testimony by Mr. Richard Hodgson, several false accusations against HPB made by Moncure D. Conway and many other unjust attacks aimed at her who is not here to defend herself. The slandering material includes utter disrespect for two Sacred Teachers and Their names, in one of the libels signed by Emma Coulomb. Its reproduction by a Publishing House which calls itself “Theosophical” is something which surpasses the limits of absurdity. HPB wrote long enough in “The Key to Theosophy”[9] about the abuse of sacred names, even when the cause of such a desecration is not a collection of deliberate lies against the theosophical philosophy.
 
As to this kind of action, there are two levels of karma: the karma of actively publishing falsehoods against the Masters and HPB, and the karma of anyone who knows about this and does nothing. This will not be the karma of earnest students. In the Preliminary Memorandum of the Esoteric Section of Theosophical Society, issued in 1888, H.P. Blavatsky made an inspiring quotation from the Book of Discipline in the schools of Dzyan and from a letter of a Master:

“He who wipeth not away the filth with which the parent’s body may have been defiled by an enemy, neither loves the parent nor honours himself. He who defendeth not the persecuted and the helpless (…..) hath been born too soon in human shape.” [10]

The editor of “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” wrote at the preface of the book: “These reminiscences by her relatives, acquaintances, friends, co-workers, and enemies give a vivid portrayal of Madame Blavatsky’s personality and allow the reader to enter into the historical milieu of her time.” But he forgot the profound difference between an enemy and a liar.
 
An enemy, says the dictionary, is an adversary or an opponent - often an honest person. A liar is a person who tells lies - or who knowingly helps propagating them. Enemies may say unpleasant truths and we should be able to learn from them. The problem is not with enemies, then, but with false testimonies. The editor of “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” wrongly called “reminiscences” the old, well-known slanders. He and TPH-Wheaton considered them beautiful enough to go to the public.

Four

In 1999-2000, while working as an editor in the translation into Portuguese language of the “Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, I made an issue-by-issue study showing the irreconcilable difference between the Teachings of the Masters and the writings of C.W. Leadbeater. I submitted the study to Ms. Joy Mills, former International Vice-President of the Adyar T.S. and a well-known student of the Mahatma Letters. Joy confirmed my evidence and conclusions. She wrote that Leadbeater’s clairvoyant books are mostly “science-fiction”, but recommended that I should remain quiet and silent about that. In July 2002 I submitted the same comparative study to Ms. Radha Burnier. In her answer to me, Ms. Burnier carefully avoided taking a clear position on the subject. In this case, it seems that Truth was not considered beautiful enough to see the light of the day.
 
The occult effects and dangers of any conscious departure from Truth were clearly pointed out by Master K.H. in the Letter XXX of the “Mahatma Letters”. Addressed to Mr. Allan O. Hume, the letter makes a vivid comparison between the practical methods employed by the Adepts of the Eternal Truth and - the Jesuits. It is something to think about and to meditate. 
 
The Mahatma writes:

“My dear Sir, we will hardly ever agree in our ideas of things, and even of the value of words. You have once upon a time called us Jesuits; and, viewing things as you do, perhaps, you were right to a certain extent in so regarding us, since apparently our systems of training do not differ much. But it is only externally. As I once said before, they know that what they teach is a lie; and we know that what we impart is truth, the only truth and nothing but the truth. They work for the greater power and glory (!) of their order; we - for the power and final glory of individuals, of isolated units, of humanity in general, and we are content, nay forced - to leave our Order and its chiefs entirely in the shade. They work, and toil, and deceive, for the sake of worldly power in this life; we work and toil, and allow our chelas to be temporarily deceived, to afford them means never to be deceived hereafter, and to see the whole evil of falsity and untruth, not alone in this but in many of their after lives. (…..) They are trained to deceive; we - to undeceive...[11]

The occult obstacles challenging institutions which call themselves theosophical get more serious, then, when they decide that they prefer publishing things they know to be falsehoods, and when they decide that they prefer not to publish crucial information which they know to be true.
 
What do the Masters of the Truth Eternal expect from us, students of their esoteric philosophy? In a purely abstract sense, perhaps it is not too difficult to understand. In the precise moment when HPB was suffering the most severe attacks coming from those very same persons whose untrue words are now “innocently” publicized by “theosophical” editors, the Mahatma K.H. wrote these words, which we have quoted before:

“Courage then, you all, who would be warriors of the one divine Verity; keep on boldly and confidently; husband your moral strength not wasting it upon trifles (…).” [12]

To some, defending the truth with any small degree of personal sacrifice may seem too passionate. Perhaps one or two people could even say that such an odd attitude causes a problem to the free exercise of hypocrisy which they consider necessary to live well in these days.
 
Yet for a sincere student of Dharma there could be hardly anything more beautiful, kind, good, pleasant, useful or worthwhile than helping protect the Teaching, and the Teacher’s Work, from those poor personalities who do not know, or do not wish to know the road to inner Truth.
 
Such a student must be aware of the fact that this same alchemical process or struggle takes place inside his own consciousness all the time as long as he is linked to human karma. There is no other path to go: in order to liberate himself, he has to help liberating others. In order to liberate others, he has to liberate himself. There is no difference between peace unto oneself and peace unto all beings. And peace is the substance of human future. [13]

 
NOTES:
 
[1] “The Friendly Philosopher”, Robert Crosbie, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1945, 415 pp., see p. 48.
 
[2] “Philebus”, a dialogue by Plato, included in the volume Plato, published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Great Books of the Western World, Chicago, London, Toronto, 1952, 814 pp., see pp. 637-638.
 
[3] Letter 46, dated 1900, from Mahatma K.H. to Annie Besant, in “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, transcribed and compiled by C. Jinarajadasa, first series, Sixth Printing, 1973, TPH, Adyar, Madras/Chennai, India, 183 pp., see page 99.  
 
[4] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, vol. IX, 1986, 488 pp., see p. 07.
 
[5] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, volume XII, 1980, 859 pp., see p. 503.
 
[6] See “H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR, an examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885”, by Vernon Harrison, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, USA, 1997, 78 pp.
 
[7] Published by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles.
 
[8] “The Judge Case, a Conspiracy Which Ruined the Theosophical CAUSE”, by Ernest Pelletier, Edmonton Theosophical Society, a one-volume edition with 983 pages in two parts. See p. 443, second part.
 
[9] “The Key to Theosophy”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Bombay, India, 367 pp., 1987. See pages 298-301.
 
[10] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, volume XII, 1980, 859 pp., see pp. 502-503. 
 
[11] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., Pasadena, 1992, 493 pp., see Letter XXX, pages 231-232. In the Chronological Edition of the “Mahatma Letters” (TPH-Philippines, 1993), see Letter 74, pp. 222-223.
 
[12] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., 493 pp., see Letter LV, p. 322 (Letter 130 in the Chronological Edition). The facsimile of these words is reproduced in the opening of Part One in the present volume.
 
[13] An initial version of the above Chapter was first published as an article by FOHAT magazine, Canada, in its Summer (July) 2005 edition, and by “The Aquarian Theosophist”, at the August 2005 edition, pages 1 to 7.

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In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  
 
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The Embellishment of Truth




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