Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baseball in the Garden of Eden

In every country where Theosophy has taken root, it has been assimilated in a distinct and local way: in India and Australia, it was through political and educational life; in England, in areas like woman’s suffrage and other social movements; in various parts of Europe and Canada, in the arts; in the U.S.A., through fiction, music, and a connection with baseball.

The story of Theosophy’s connection with the sport of baseball usually gets a passing reference, mainly because of Abner Doubleday’s involvement with the group. John Thorn, who has numerous books on the subject of baseball, has written Baseball in the Garden of Eden: the secret history of the early game, just published by Simon and Schuster. Doubleday had been named President, pro tem, of the Theosophical Society after Olcott and Blavatsky left for India in 1879. After his death in 1893 he was elevated to founder of baseball mainly through the efforts of a group of Theosophists and their cadre, most notably, Albert Goodwill Spalding, the sporting goods magnate, and his second wife, Elizabeth Mayer, a close friend of the theosophical leader, Katherine Tingley—at least this is Thorn’s belief:

Theosophists were a secret society opposed to organized religion, hoping to convert the masses through spiritual flimflam. More troubling to those inclined to see conspiratorial plots in Theosophy were its philosophical underpinnings in Tibetan Buddhism. While widely respected today, this religion was regarded by Orientalists of the nineteenth century as Lamaism, a faith radically apart from mainstream Buddhism and one that was dominated by magic or even black magic. Blavatsky fed this flame with her slight of hand tricks and her “precipitated” letters from venerable Tibetan masters (the “Himalayan Brotherhood”), written documents that would mysteriously appear in her possession following a question arising from a session with skeptics.

Which shows that one can be an expert in one area and not in another.

Doubleday’s distinguished early career in the Union Army during the American Civil War has already been covered in the Blavatsky News post of July 15, 2010, on Thomas Barthel’s Abner Doubleday: a Civil War biography published last year.

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