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HPB's letter on Krishnavarma: Truth, Untruth, or Hyperbole?

May 09, 1998 09:07 PM
by Daniel H Caldwell

W. Dallas TenBroeck wrote:

> I note that the letter that has
> been offered as "proof" in question is challenged as to
> authenticity.  I also note that reference has or is to be made to
> Mr. Ted Davy, as one who has studied the question extensively.
> It would be good to have his answer.
> Can some other basis for validating the charge of "untruth" be
> offered ?  This one appears to be shaky.
> Dallas
> PS:
> In regard to the letter quoted.  I have the following questions:
> Is the source from which the quotation is reproduced in HPB's own
> handwriting ?  Is it in Russian or in English ?  In other words
> was this translated ?  Has any unmarked "editing" been inserted ?
> As I recall the book H.P.B. SPEAKS (Vols. I & II) were edited by
> Mr.Jinarajadasa.  He also is no longer here to add his testimony
> on this matter.
> I note that others have already questioned the authenticity of
> the said letter.


You probably have already seen Jerry HE's latest reply on this
HPB letter in which Krishnavarma is mentioned but I requote
Jerry's reply below:

>My apologies to you both.  As I recall, Paul only cited HPB Speaks, and gave
>no other details.  I'm swamped with work here so I did not take the time to
>look for the letter, and it has been many many years since I read at the
>book.  My memory not being as good as it once was,  the Korsakoff series,
>was the only thing I recalled off hand being in those two volumes.  As far
>as I know it is only the Korsakoff letters that are is dispute (those were
>the letters that Elsie was involved with). As I said before, my comment had
>nothing to do with the content of the letters, but only concerned an issue
>of fairness.  Since the letter is question was not one of those in dispute,
>then, of course, my comment does not apply here.

Dallas, please note that Jerry now concedes that "the letter in question
was not one of those in dispute [by Fuller or Davy]."

This HPB letter re Krishnavarma is written in Russian, was translated
into English and published in HPB SPEAKS, Volume I, pp. 189-203.  I have
a microfilm copy of the letter.

In an article in THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY, April, 1996, p. 51, footnote 6,
John Patrick
Deveney, Joscelyn Godwin and Michael Gomes writes as follows on "the
letter in

"Jinarajadasa dates the letter to 1877, but it was clearly written in
Krishnavarma is one of the undigested lumps in H.P.B.'s biography.  In
same letter to her aunt, dated July 3rd, H.P.B. says that she had just
returned from a trip with Krishnavarma and Olcott that had taken her
as far as California.'. . . What is known of H.P.B.'s whereabouts leaves
little time for this trip, and it appears to be hyperbole to impress her
as does her claim that Krishnavarma brought $20,000 in gold for the
Society. . . ."

Hyperbole is defined as "extravagant exaggeration."

Compare this assessment with Paul Johnson's original comments:

> 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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