[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Newsweek mentions Theosophy

May 05, 1998 08:28 AM
by K Paul Johnson

The current Newsweek (5/11/98) mentions Theosophy in an article
on pp. 64-65, "A Scratch in the Teflon Lama."  The article is
about the conflict within Tibetan Buddhism over the worship of
Dorje Shugden, but becomes a quasi-book review of Donald S.
Lopez, Jr.'s *Prisoners of Shangri-La* (University of Chicago
Press) which examines Western distortions of Tibet.  The review
doesn't mention HPB, but does say:

In this century, spiritual seekers from the West invented a very
different Tibet.  Several were eccentric American theosophists
who mined the Tibetan Buddhist texts (which they knew only in
translation) for the secrets of ancient occult knowledge.  Their
personal agendas-- much like those of New Age spiritual seekers
of today-- advanced the image of Tibet as a treasure chest of
mustic lore long lost to the West.(p. 65)

That image is not entirely inaccurate, but glamorizes and
mythologizes a real living culture.  It was recently asked here
how HPB and Theosophy conflict with genuine Tibetan
understandings of their religion.  Jerry has mentioned one
aspect, interval between births, but there are several.  For
example the doctrine of the three kayas is presented by HPB as
alternative choices of vehicle, where in Tibetan tradition they
are simultaneous and not separable.  Alexandra David-Neel, a
one-time Theosophist, reports in her Magic and Mystery in Tibet
that her Tibetan lamas regarded the stories about the Mahatma
letters as ridiculous and took them as a joke, insisting that no
real lama would do such things.  I'm no expert on the topic but
will comment that here is another subject where HPB clearly has
learned a lot more by the end of her life than she knew when
writing *Isis* which makes the colossal error of calling Ladakh
"central Tibet."  In posthumously published material she makes it
pretty clear that she has access to Tibetan primary source material but
does not fully understand it, warning that she might be mistaken
in her presentation.


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application