Thursday, March 3, 2011

“Women’s History Month Celebrates Female Cannabis Connoisseurs”

This was the headline posted by the magazine Cannabis Culture on March 1. The feature, listing, among others, H.P. Blavatsky, directs the reader to the site, Very Important Potheads, which has profiles of several female connoisseurs mentioned, including an entry on Blavatsky, which can be read here. The source for its information of her indulging is A.L. Rawson, “a close friend of Blavatsky for over forty years,” who wrote:

“She had tried hasheesh in Cairo with success, and she again indulged in it in this city under the care of myself and Dr. Edward Sutton Smith, who had had a large experience with the drug among his patients at Mount Lebanon, Syria. She said: ‘Hasheesh multiplies one’s life a thousandfold. My experiences are as real as if they were ordinary events of actual life. Ah! I have the explanation. It is a recollection of my former existences, my previous incarnations. It is a wonderful drug and it clears up profound mystery.’”

VIP comments: The modern day Theosophical Society denies hashish had any great influence on Blavatsky’s life, admitting she may have experimented with it in her youth, but that is about the extent of it. But a number of well known authors, such as Benjamin Walker and the much respected English writer Colin Wilson, thought her use of cannabis was relevant enough to have commented on it. The Theosophists point to a couple of negative comments towards hashish Blavatsky made near the end of her life when her health had deteriorated from chain-smoking cigarettes, and found herself unhappily surrounded by scandal. Many people have blamed a substance for their own personal downfall, and marijuana makes just as good a scapegoat as any. As many of us have experienced, few seem as self-righteous as the reformed addict. The Theosophists also challenge the legitimacy of A.L. Rawson, suggesting his claims are suspect. The fact is that A.L. Rawson was one of a few life-long friends Blavatsky had, and she herself attested to the validity of his character.

The “validity” of Rawson’s character has been the subject of a good piece of investigative journalism by John Patrick Deveney, “The Travels of H.P. Blavatsky and the Chronology of Albert Leighton Rawson: an unsatisfying investigation into H.P.B.’s whereabouts in the early 1850s,” published in the October 2004 issue of Theosophical History. Simply put: Rawson = suspect.

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