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Re: Truth or Untruth?

May 06, 1998 01:44 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

I must admit that my present schedule has permitted me little more than
a passing glance at this discussion string.  However, what little I have
seen, has left me a bit disturbed about what appears to be a word
manipulation game.  It is my understanding that in common usage the word
"untruth" is a
kind way to say that a person *lied.*  A "lie" is distinguished by an
intent to deceive.  I understand "incorrect" information to be "untrue",
but unless the information was given with the intent to deceive, I would
neither call it an "untruth" or a "lie."  What is untrue is also
problematical.  HPB's information about the three kayas may be incorrect
according to our knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, but this does not mean
that the information is necessarily untrue in itself.

Paul's example of Krishavarma also raises another point regarding
whether a statement is true, untrue, incorrect or a lie ("an untruth").
In the case, the source is a series of letters published as "HPB
Speaks."  This is a series of letters that suddenly appeared in Europe
under suspicious circumstances and were in the possession of a man who
was trying to sell them to the highest bidder.  Several theosophical
historians have already posed the opinion that these letters are filled
with historical inaccuracies and statements that conflict with
statements that HPB makes in other letters that we know to be
authentic.  Therefore, I believe that in the name of fairness, an
historian is obligated to first qualify that the authenticity of the
evidence is in dispute before presenting it.  If these letters are
indeed not authentic, then the incorrect information is not HPB's fault,
but the forger's, who we can safely assume created a "lie" or an
"untruth" if you prefer.  If the letters are authentic, then it still
leaves the question: what would be HPBs motivation for writing this?

K. Paul Johnson wrote:

> The question of how much of HPB's claims about her personal
> history, her Masters, the sources of her teachings, etc. are true
> and how much untrue is the central question facing anyone who
> tries to study her objectively.  Anyone who asserts at the outset
> that she always told the truth is simply ignoring the facts.
> Nothing wrong with that for those who choose that path, but then
> to make such a position the basis of harsh personal attacks on
> others is indeed wrong.
> Just one example of an obviously false statement will suffice to
> prove that she didn't *always* tell the truth.  Just one example
> of a demonstrably true claim suffices to prove that she didn't
> always lie.  Which leaves us in the position of having to decide
> when she told the truth and when not, and why.  Unless we opt out
> of that difficult question and try to create a climate where no
> one is allowed to bring it up without being attacked and
> ostracized.  Some religions like it that way; Theosophy was
> certainly not intended to foster such a climate.
> One example of deliberate untruth, from TMR:
> ...Krishnavarma is described by HPB in letters she wrote her Aunt
> Nadyezhda from New York in 1877.  She mentions a Krishnavarma who
> had come to New York from Multan in the Punjab by cart (?!) and
> was staying with the Founders.  He had praised Nadyezhda's last
> letter to HPB and forwarded it to Swami Dayananda.  HPB proceeds
> to tell of a trip "almost to California" that she and Olcott had
> taken with Krishnavarma:
> In Milwaukee and Nevada alll the ladies were all the time
> walking near our windows and the terrace where we were sitting to
> look at Krishnavarma; he is exceptionally beautiful although of
> the color of a light coffee.  In his long white pyjama dress and
> a white narrow turban on his head with diamonds on his neck and
> in bare feet he is really a curious sight among the Americans in
> black coats and white collars...When one sees him the first time
> he seems not more than 25, but there are moments he looks like a
> 100 years old man.(HPB Speaks, vol. 1, pp. 198-99)
> The facts: Swami Dayananda's disciple Krishavarma never visited
> the TS Founders in America, first meeting them in Bombay in 1879.
> They had corresponded prior to departure with him and other Arya
> Samaj members.  Olcott and HPB never went together to Milwaukee
> or to Nevada.  And all the details are invented.
> What does this tell us about HPB?

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