Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beatrice Hastings’ Defence of Madame Blavatsky

Beatrice Hastings examination of the case for H.P. Blavatsky marks an important milestone in the objective study of Blavatsky’s life. Previous attempts were mainly the work of Theosophists who started out from a position of defending Blavatsky. Alvin Boyd Kuhn’s 1930 Theosophy: A Modern Revival of the Ancient Wisdom, based on his PhD Thesis at New York’s Columbia University, did not devote much space to the controversies in Blavatsky’s life focusing instead of her philosophical contribution. The publication of the two volumes of Hastings’ Defence of Madame Blavatsky in 1937 showed that the historical evidence could serve to give a more accurate understanding to a story that had been left to partisans.   

The website, Theosophy Canada, has now put up most of Mrs. Hastings Defence work, including the journal she started, New Universe, to promote interest in her project. Unfortunately, further intended volumes did not appear and she later abandoned the project due to a stream of criticism from Theosophists who questioned her motivation. Responding, she wrote in 1939:

 “The situation resolves itself into something like this: 1. None of you apparently can comprehend or believe that a person can do anything for nothing: that is, nothing of the vulgar sort, a reward in money or notoriety, or both. 2. You were all at first unwarily enchanted to find someone capable of lifting the stigma from you as followers of Theosophy. 3. You became subconsciously or even consciously annoyed at its being done by an outsider. 4. Nos. 1 and 3 linked. And No. 1 grew and dominated and gave you vulgar ground for attacks on me, but yet, you wanted me to go on and finish. This, fortified by your own superficial interpretation of reincarnation and karma in which I have stated I do not concur; for, seeing that I have not even that as a hope or a fear — what can be my motives in undertaking this defence of Madame Blavatsky? Nothing is left for you to think but that I must be aiming at money and notoriety or both.

 To the latter, reply is needless for me. I have almost always written anonymously and I have nothing to gain but something to risk by being identified, however erroneously, with the T.S. So — 5: You get together and decide to ‘put me on the stand.’ I am not going to retail what I have done. The public part of it is there for everyone to see. The private part you may reflect on if you choose by rereading my letters to you all — right from the beginning with my reply to Barker’s letter to me about the Hare book, which started me along the path where I have had shock after shock at the extraordinary, incredible selfishness, greed and cruelty of Theosophists.”

An overview of Beatrice Hastings contribution to the field of Theosophical history is given by Michael Gomes in his 1987 introduction to her posthumously published volume Solovyoff's Fraud. The Wikipedia entry on her makes no mention of her foray into this area. Beatrice Hastings remarkable life before her involvement with Theosophists can be read in our previous post about her here.

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