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Bigamous Bohemian

Apr 16, 1998 02:26 PM
by K Paul Johnson

Supporting Bart's rejoinder to Lmhem that HPB was not just
accused of nicotine addiction and foul language, but "guilty" of
them, I must add bigamy and Bohemianism to the "sins" of which
she is demonstrably "guilty." (All this in quotes because I
don't see these as sins or matters of guilt.)

HPB admittedly married Michael Betanelly without bothering to
ascertain whether Nikifor Blavatsky was dead or not, and later
found out that he was indeed alive. And by almost any definition
of a Bohemian lifestyle in Victorian terms, HPB had one. Leaving
her husband and family to wander the world, often in the company
of men to whom she was not married or women who were themselves
unconventional; living with Olcott when both were married to
others; practicing mediumship; associating with political
radicals in Italy and elsewhere in Europe; smoking like a
chimney; all these things would seem Bohemian behavior to HPB's
contemporaries, however harmless they may seem to us now.

It seems pretty obvious to me, concerning HPB's detractors and
her unmitigated admirers, that we're in the same territory as the
Willey vs. Clinton discussion that was recently promoted by the
media. I was astounded by the stupidity of the question "Do you
believe that a) Clinton is telling the truth or b) that Willey
is?" It is perfectly obvious that neither is; both are shading
their description of the event and aftermath to make themselves
look good. Similarly with HPB vs. Coulombs, or Solovyov, etc.
No one is telling the whole truth, everyone is shading things to
make themselves look totally pure and innocent, and the truth is
obviously somewhere in between or beyond what anyone is saying.

But I can't prove the obviousness of this; you either get it or
you don't, and there's no point in arguing with either the "all
good" or "all bad" versions of HPB.


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