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On Trying to Look Like a Scholar

 
An Examination of Pseudo-Scientific
Approaches Regarding H. P. Blavatsky
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 

Bernard Shaw (left), Albert Einstein (center) and Mark
Twain (right) all had something to say on Science and on Academic Life 
 

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The first part of “On Trying to
Look Like a Scholar” was initially
published at “The Aquarian Theosophist”,
May 2006 edition, Supplement, p. 18. Its
second part appeared for the first time in the same
journal, in November 2005 (Supplement), pp. 16-17.
 
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1. The Temptation to Look Like a Scholar
 
Mr. Richard Hodgson, the author of the fake 1885 Report of the Society of Psychical Research calling H.P. Blavatsky a fraud, happened to set a general pattern later followed by researchers like John Algeo, K. Paul Johnson, Daniel Caldwell and others.  
 
Although these authors and compilers defend different views in a number of ways, they all have some fundamental ground in common. They may have cared too much for their personal images as “scholars” and  “men of science”. They became prisoners of their own images as academics, and as  people who are supposed to behave as if they had “modern and skeptic minds”.
 
In a text significantly called “Judges or Calumniators?”, H.P. Blavatsky writes something which perfectly applies to what we see in a handful of  pseudo-scholars who were active in the last few decades:
 
“A little logic, please, Messrs. Judges and Slanderers. How could the London Psychical Research Society pronounce in favour of all the phenomena described in ‘The Occult World[1]  and elsewhere without risking its title of ‘scientific’? How would its acceptance of all that was attributed to me by the phenomenalists have been received by the scientists who deny wholesale the existence of intelligent forces outside of man? It was a question of life or death, of the to be or not to be of Hamlet. (...)  One or the other: (a) either to declare publicly that the charges of the Coulomb lady were inventions (...) and be flooded in a flood of ridicule, forever losing caste, as they say in India ; or (b) sailing with the current, it would have to proclaim, in order to keep from sinking, that all the phenomena, the Mahâtmans and their agents, were a huge imposture.” [2]
 
A deep desire to look like smart scientific guys is likely to be also a significant part of the motivation of the  21st century Soloviofs, Hodgsons, Sidgwicks  and Coulombs. This is no true scholarship, though, and it does not help true scientific research. But how could it be possible that people well-acquainted with theosophical literature - like John Algeo and Daniel Caldwell  - would start publishing ill-disguised collections of libels against HPB? They did this with remarkable ease of manners, as if circulating obvious lies against HPB were perfectly acceptable in theosophical circles. In fact, it might be a form of jesuitry, possibly unconscious.
 
2.  Do Real Scholars Circulate Libels?
 
Such an “editorial policy” could not be ascribed to any inclination on the part of such scholars to act like men of science. One does not need to know much about universities to perceive that they are not in the business of publishing libels against great people who lived in the past. University and academic life is no excuse for publishing lies against H.P. Blavatsky or Masters of the Wisdom.
 
Theosophy needs independent researchers, and it is not difficult for theosophists to see the failings of modern academic life.  They are not entirely new. A long time ago, North-American author Mark Twain had his reasons to clarify:
 
“I never allowed school to interfere with my studies”.
 
And it is said that Irish thinker George Bernard Shaw confessed:
 
“At a certain moment, I had to interrupt my education to enter University”.
 
Twain and Shaw were not alone: while referring to the pedagogical methods based on examinations, adopted by modern universities, Albert Einstein said:
 
“Most teachers lose their time asking questions to discover that which the student doesn’t know, while the true art [of education] consists in discovering that which the student knows, or is able to know”. [3]
 
Einstein adopted the platonic view of education, according to which knowledge is to be found fundamentally within, not outside, the learner. Most university teachers follow their institutions in ignoring this basic principle of the search for knowledge and wisdom.  
 
Bernard Shaw questioned with these words that which one could call organized ignorance:
 
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” [4]
 
As to conventional academic life and “institutionalized knowledge”, Shaw wrote:
 
“When a man teaches something he does not know to somebody who has no aptitude for it, and gives him a certificate of proficiency, the latter has completed the education of a gentleman. A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.” [5]
 
Although  universities often have a lot to learn before they can be more useful in teaching,  academic scholars and editors are fundamentally honest people. They never publish or teach what they know to be false. There is a wide difference, therefore,  between even the poorest  academicism and any conscious intellectual falsehood, however clever and disguised in academic language. 
 
I will not repeat here the lies that John Algeo published in his illegitimate volume The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky (TPH, Wheaton, 2003). Students who have the time - and the stomach - to read it should examine them in full to see whether such libels can be tolerated by one who has respect for Truth and ethics. [6]
 
What is the significance of remembering that there is no academic support for the publishing of false information or personal libels against great thinkers of humanity?
 
The fact is that Universities deserve our respect. In the long run,  academic science, which includes History, is an ally to esoteric philosophy and occult science, as we see clearly stated in the Mahatma Letters (see Letter 65 in the Chronological Edition, or Letter 11 in the non-chronological editions).   
 
There is an interesting statement about this issue in the Great Master’s Letter, which consists in reality of a report made by one of the Mahatmas about the Great Master’s (or Chohan’s) view on the Theosophical movement.
 
The first paragraph of the document says:
 
“The doctrine we promulgate being the only true one, must - supported by such evidence as we are preparing to give - become ultimately triumphant, like every other truth. Yet it is absolutely necessary to inculcate it gradually; enforcing its theories (unimpeachable facts for those who know) with direct inferences, deduced from and corroborated by the evidence furnished by modern exact science.” [7]
 
The paragraph makes it clear that in spite of many obstacles, modern and conventional science is a natural partner for the theosophical movement in the search for truth.  The same, however,  cannot be said of libelers, old and modern.

NOTES:
 
[1] “The Occult World”, a book by A. P. Sinnett.
 
[2] “The Collected Writings”, H.P. Blavatsky, TPH, USA,  volume VII, third printing,  1987, p. 335.
 
[3] “The Quotable Einstein”, Brazilian edition, “Assim Falou Einstein”,  Ed. Civilização Brasileira, RJ, 1998, 258 pp., see p. 63.
 
[4] “Man and Superman”,  Bernard Shaw, Penguin Plays, Penguin Books, first published in 1903,  see 1977 edition, p. 260.
 
[5] “Man and Superman”,  Bernard Shaw, Penguin Plays, Penguin Books, p. 253.
 
[6] I recommend, for instance, Letters 7, 11, 12, 17, 33, 37, 45, 53, 54, 55, 60, 61, 69, 70, 72, 76, 85, 90 and 94, which are  among the forged  documents published as authentic. 
 
[7] “Theosophy” magazine,  Los Angeles,  volume XXXVIII, number one, November, 1949,  p. 6.
 
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On Trying to Look Like a Scholar




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