People who have followed the public side of my ‘philosophical evolution’ for some time will know, and in my last article I repeated, that I have a ‘Theosophical past’. The writings of Blavatsky, De Purucker, but also Steiner came at the right time when I was ready for some more serious studies and I learned a lot from them. Later I moved on to other things, but of course I still have a nice shelf with Theosophy in my library, which I seldom to never check these days. It has never been like I took everything I read for granted, but I still found somewhat of a worldview in these writings and a lot of inspiration to discover things. My later pursuits and literature were elsewhere and often very much against Blavatsky and anything that had to do with Theosophy. I’m not offended when somebody tells me that Blavatsky’s books are a load of bullocks, I just take a remark like that for granted and I respect the writings with all its flaws, just for the fact that they helped me grow. Perhaps a lot of Theosophical ideas will come out of me when somebody pushes, but I also have the impression that people misinterpret lot of what is written in order to prove that they are wrong, or otherwise: I have interpreted them incorrectly and/or used in my personal scheme of ideas workably.
In any case, I was just reading an article of Harry Oldmeadow from the third volume of the scholarly esoteric publication Esoterica. Contrary to the current trend to try to discredit Blavatsky (“Agehananda Bharati dismissed The Secret Doctrine as “a melee of horrendous hogwash and of fertile inventions of inane esoterica””), Oldmeadow has a few nice remarks:
Nonetheless, Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup was sufficiently confident of Blavatsky’s account of the Bardo to endorse her claim that she had been initiated into “the higher lamaistic teachings”. whilst no less an authority than D.T. Suzuki was prepared to say that her explication of Buddhist teachings in The Voice of Silence (1869) testified to an initiation into “the deeper side of Mahayana doctrine”
And even though “Blavatsky never stepped on Tibetan soil”; why not? Why couldn’t she have been the initiate that she said she was? I agree that Blavatsky had an “‘omnivorous mind’ to assimilate whatever she found useful” (Hanegraaff), but does that mean that everything that came from her hands is crap?
I like the idea of Blavatsky having been initiated into certain mysteries. It takes a little bit off that thick layer of mud that has been put on her name and fame by many different persons. It may show that she had esoteric insight afterall.
I can’t turn into a Theosophical witch-hunter. I didn’t feel ‘at home’ in the Theosophical movements that I saw. I agree with the many loops and holes in the literature, but this literature has definately been very valueable to me, so when I do read something positive about Blavatsky, I’ll just make a note of it:
There is no question that Blavatsky played a significant role in wedding Western esotericism and Eastern religious traditions and in popularizing concepts such as maya, karma, and meditation. Indeed, it has recently been argued that perhaps the signal achievement of the Theosophical movement, of which Blavatsky remains the presiding deity, has been its role in generating interest in and respect for Eastern religious conceptions. However, it should also be noted that Blavatsky’s purported shift from a “Hermetic” (i.e., Western) to an “Oriental” perspective has been greatly exaggerated. Hanegraaff, drawing on the work of Helmuth von Glasenapp and Jörg Wichmann, persuasively argues that this shift is “more apparent than real” and that theosophy as a whole, despite its popularisation of some Indian doctrines, “is not only rooted in western esotericism, but has remained an essentially western movement”.