Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blavatsky on Buddhism and Anna Kingsford

Theosophical History, vol. XVI, no. 1, dated January 2012, has just been released. It features a reprint of a newspaper interview with Mme. Blavatsky from the New York Sun of May 6, 1877, titled “Catechizing a Buddhist,” where Blavatsky explains the tenets of Buddhism, and a reprint of two obscure pieces relating to the Anna Kingsford’s Hermetic Lodge of the Theosophical Society: its Prospectus and a December 21, 1883, letter from Blavatsky to Kingsford. The main article deals with the early years of Edward Arthur Wilson (1874-1934?), known as Brother XII, who ran a theosophically influenced group, the Aquarian Foundation, during the 1920s.

John Patrick Deveney who supplies the notes to Blavatsky’s “interview” in the N.Y. Sun points out that Blavatsky had written to her sister on June 8, 1877, saying she had finished an article on Nirvana and the conceptions of the ancient Buddhists concerning God, the immortality of the soul and cosmogony for a newspaper. So it may be less of an interview and more of a piece written by Blavatsky. This would explain the editorial note added to that day’s issue advising: “Don’t believe in Buddhism unless you are very sure what you are about.”

Some of the ideas attributed to Blavatsky presage her later pronouncements:

“Buddhism,” said Madame Blavatsky, “is the ‘wisdom religion,’ and it underlies all religions in their purity. It is perfect monotheism, for it accepts one boundless, infinite incomprehensible principle, which the intellect of man can not understand. It is a philosophy, as well as a religion, and you must be careful not to confound the philosophy with the myths and dogmas and inconsistencies and absurdities with which the superstition of many generations of worshipers has encumbered it.”

Single issues are available for $8.00 /£5.00 from Theosophical History.

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