Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blavatsky and Hinduism

Arvind Sharma in his new book, Hinduism as a Missionary Religion, to be released later this month from the State University of New York Press (176 pages, $70.00), questions whether this is so. In the course of his examination he turns to the Theosophical Society. “Some readers will doubtless wonder whether the Theosophical Society is to be regarded as a Hindu body. Whether in itself Hindu or not, there can be little doubt that the Theosophical Society constituted an element in the evolving neo-Hindu worldview. To be sure, it was founded in New York in 1875 by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, but its headquarters were moved to Adyar, near Madras, in 1882.”

Looking at the evidence, he adds: “It is also significant that membership in the Theosophical Society did not involve severing connections with one’s ancestral faith. Indeed the claim was made that a Theosophist was enabled to penetrate to the heart of his or her own religious tradition….Thus—in its origin, aspirations, and influence—the Theosophical Society seemed to share the neo-Hindu ethos in which the non-desirability of conversion in general, and the non-missionary character of Hinduism in particular, are important ingredients.”

Arvind Sharma is Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. According to one estimate: “He has published over fifty books and five hundred articles in the fields of comparative religion, Hinduism, Indian philosophy and ethics, and the role of women in religion.” He is General Editor of the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Indian Religions.

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