Sunday, February 14, 2010

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

The Daily Beast is an American news website run by Tina Brown, formerly editor of Vanity Fair, with contributors like Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice. At times it gets as many as three million visits a month. Recently (Jan 6. 2010) it featured a piece on HPB by Simon Doonan, a fashion commentator known for his sharp tongue and also being an arbiter on what’s in and what’s out. Mme. Blavatsky, he says, is now cool. What he writes about her is of course a muddle of fact and fiction, blended together to shock.

The cool thing about La Blavatsky was not the fact that she made a living scaring the crap out of people by pretending to bring their relatives back from the dead. No, the cool thing is that, along with all the creepy bonkers extortionate stuff, Madame B and her Theosophism propelled groovy new concepts like racial equality and brotherly love into the brutality of the Victorian Imperialist Industrialist Age. She also popularized ideas about karma and positive thinking and—hello!—YOGA!

It doesn't matter that HPB had a noted antipathy to communicating with the dead. Why let Truth ruin a good smear. So, she was a con artist and mystic, who still has something of value to say to us today! Yet it is indicative of the level of awareness about HPB that someone like the writer of this piece even knows who Blavatsky is and that a site like The Daily Beast devotes so much space to her. The rest of his piece, and the comments it provoked, can be read here.

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