Sunday, December 11, 2011

Misinformation Files

With alarming regularity people seem to feel the need to write about and interpret the life of H.P. Blavatsky. It only takes a few sentences to show an unfamiliarity with the subject. In a recent post about “Madame Blavatsky and the New Age” at the site Unexplained Mysteries, William B. Stoecker writes:

She claimed to have occult powers, but the Society for Psychical Research claimed to have exposed her as a fraud,” and, “she said that she met her ‘ascended master’ in London when she was twenty.” Both statements are untrue. The Society for Psychical Research never “claimed” such a thing (as Leslie Price, a long time member of the SPR, has written: “any writer or speaker who says the S.P.R exposed Madame Blavatsky is only exposing his own ignorance”). And Blavatsky never used the term “ascended master.”

Such statements can be credited to a too ready reliance on second hand sources, but what is one to make of this: “she also claimed that the bringer of enlightenment was a spirit called Lucifer; the name literally means ‘light bearer,’ but Christians believe that this refers to Satan, a bringer of a false enlightenment,” which certainly is a misrepresentation of her ideas?

And then this gets thrown in for good measure: “Some researchers also claim that Hitler was personally influenced by Blavatsky, and kept a copy of The Secret Doctrine near him at all times. This, too, is impossible to verify.” Nothing is harder to verify than a fact. But any “researcher” who makes such a claim is writing fiction not providing factual evidence. It shows a remarkable naivety not only for what happened to theosophists and Blavatsky’s writings under the Third Reich but also about the nature of Blavatsky’s work (as if it can be boiled down to the use of a swastika).

This latest contribution to Blavatsky studies ends with: “But of course, Madame Blavatsky can hardly be held responsible for what even some of her followers did after her death, let alone a woman [Alice Bailey] who was expelled from the society. So we are left pretty much where we started: Blavatsky was an ambiguous person, probably something of a charlatan, but not necessarily evil. Yet, overall, her legacy has been a destructive one.” So, let’s see if we get this piece of logic right: the Gospels portray Jesus as saying many exemplary things but because the churches created things like the Inquisition we are accurate in saying:
Yet, overall, her [His] legacy has been a destructive one. Right?

No one is denying the ability of people to pen such things but asking us to take them seriously is another matter.

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