Thursday, January 14, 2010

Theosophical Magazine Publishes Article “Against Blavatsky”

The Quest magazine is the journal of the Theosophical Society in America (Adyar). The Winter 2010 issue publishes an article by its editor, Richard Smoley, titled “Against Blavatsky: René Guénon’s Critique of Theosophy.” It deals mainly with Guénon’s 1922 book Le théosophisme: Histore d’une pseudo-religion, translated into English in 2003 as Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion. The article chronicles not so much Guenon’s criticisms of Blavatsky’s history, which form less than a third of the book, but his disagreement with theosophical teachings on karma, reincarnation, and spiritualism. So the use of HPB’s name in the title of the article is somewhat disingenuous, because the majority of Guénon’s book was equally critical of later theosophical leaders, Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater, and events like the proclamation by them of J. Krishnamurti as the coming world teacher. Guénon’s ideas about theosophical teachings were drawn from their books as well. Guénon (1886-1951) is regarded as something of a poseur today. By knocking “false” esotericists like Blavatsky, he made it safe for the academic world to recognize “true” esotericism. According to the writer of the article, the philosophical differences between Blavatsky and Guénon were not as great as Guénon made out.

The rest of the articles in the Quest, which no doubt reflect the interests of the group’s membership, are outside the purview of this site. One, “Roots and Shoots: Theosophy in the United States,” would have benefited by a peer review (the Blavatsky Association of London is given as an offshoot of American Theosophy !).

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