Myths, Dugpas, and HPB
May 14, 1998 02:18 PM
by K Paul Johnson
There's so much to think about in today's digest that I'm
responding to several of you and hoping to tie some things
togetehr. Tony wrote:
> Mythically, which means a fiction?
A truth at one level, a fiction at another.
> You mentioned about Theosophy and "Theosophy" in another mail. Why should
> it in this case be so difficult to grasp that "The Secret Doctine" in its
> physical body, so to put it, is a book, but that there are 6 other basic
> levels to it.
Fine, as long as we accept that there may be things in it that
are not true literally in the physical world, but are true at
some other level, psychologically.
> within. Why see the libraries and caves as a physical thing in the ground
> or rock somewhere - in some sort of way it is the so called historical track
> which so easily can become (or is) myth, because it tends to plod along on
> the outside.
Here you are using myth in a pejorative way, which I was not. I
would agree with you, though, that a metaphorical interpretation
of those cave libraries is more suitable. History need not be
reductionist. If I say that historical evidence shows HPB in
contact and collaboration with such and such persons situated in
time and space with political, social, psychological agendas,
that DOES NOT MEAN that there is nothing spiritual going on
beyond all that. To explain the juxtaposition of my title and
subtitle in TMR a bit: by the title I refer to history, the
Masters revealed (partly, tentatively) as the network of HPB's
historical sponsors and mentors. By the subtitle I mean several
things. (It's "Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White
Lodge," BTW.) Mainly that although the mentors and sponsors were
historical, the idea that they all knew one another, belonged to
one big club, that everything in HPB's public career was
orchestrated by this unanimous monolithic hierarchy, is mythical.
Not true historically, but perhaps in some higher metaphysical
sense true. Think of the people in your own life. Although they
didn't all knowingly try to influence you in the same way, the
sum total is a pattern that looks meaningful, as if there was
some higher purpose uniting all those influences.
Now to Dugpas:
> their branch of the faith (there are four in Tibetan Buddhism) are known to
> the gelugs, or Yellow Hats. Part of the conflict lies in the fact that they
> believe that the Dalai Lama (who is also a Gelug, but who, as spiritual and
> political leader of Tibet, attempts to befriend all four branches) is a
> traitor because he is promoting dialogue with another major branch, the
> Niyingma, or Red Hats. The Shugden believe that even talking to a Nyingma,
> let alone touching one of their religious works, is a sin.
Thanks for this fascinating info! The author, obviously not an
insider, is a bit mixed up in that the Nyinga are not the only
red hats, so are the Kargyutpa. But anyhow, this bit is
wonderful and makes me revise some of my ideas. My basis for
saying that "the Gelugpa simply don't view the red hat sects as a
band of evil magicians" is the testimony of two Western initiates
into Tibetan Buddhism. But both of them learned their view from
the Dalai Lama, who clearly does not accept such a
characterization. However, the Shugden people's attitude is the
first glimpse I've seen of a historical basis for where HPB might
have gotten her own portrayal of "dugpas." And thus strengthens
the case for some personal acquaintance with Tibetan Buddhism.
(Which I had considered in her favor anyhow, despite evidence of
some distortions.) So I will eat humble pie and say that maybe
this horrific view of red hats is something she got from Tibetan
sources after all. But will continue to say that it is horrid
and totally untheosophical to demonize a particular religious
sect in this way. As the passage below indicates, it can lead to
It is believed
> that Lobsang Gyato was a very active intermediary between the Red Hats and
> the Yellow Hats. Hence the murder investigation (of Lobsang Gyatso)......"
David Green didn't directly refer to this aspect of the Shugden
story, and I would comment that no one has had any doubts about
the presence of demonic beings in Tibetan religion. It's the
evil brotherhood business that I doubted. And of course HPB
universalizes the concept of dugpas to go far beyond the
Nyingmapa, whom she does not mention specifically. So she takes
a parochial example of intra-religious hatred, and blows it up on
a cosmic screen into a grand battle between good and evil lodges.
That's mythical thinking.
> As you seem to be up in this subject, do you know of anywhere where HPB
> refers to "The Tibetan Book of the Dead?" Have never found a reference by
> her to it, but she does refer to "The Egyptian Book of the Dead," several times.
> Why see it as fear, rather than as very good advice? Not to see or the
> ignorance of their existence would seem to be the more fearful if that word
> has to be used. It seems to be rather more, or rather different, than an
> evil band of black magicians.
In its historical roots, yes. In HPB's expression, no. And I
say it is very bad advice based on the kinds of people who
believe in it, and the way they have thought and felt and acted
in the history of esoteric movements including our own.
> We agree on the first point (she knew the occult doctrines), but I
> must have missed the next part of the discussion: I thought HPB's
> Teachers were from the Great Lodge of Adepts. What difference does it
> make what their nationalities were? Those great beings are such by
> their inner development, not by belonging to this or that particular
> outer form of race, creed, etc. Part of HPB's work was to call
> attention to the fact of the existence of the Great Lodge, not only in
> historical personages, but in universally found doctrines and in our own
> inner potential.
Although this was to Jerry, I'll comment. The Great Lodge of
Adepts is not a club, not an organization of any kind, not
something you can ever pin down as existing historically, because
it is a metahistorical ideal. So it matters what the
nationalities of HPB's particular teachers were, since what she
learned from them in the way of written doctrines was colored by
their religious and national backgrounds, ALTHOUGH what she
learned from them experientially about the meaning of life was
> Whoa! Jerry, I was beginning to agree with most of what you wrote,
> up until this point! I really have to differ with you here. HPB did
> not add up every idea she encountered in the world's religions, then
> pick and choose which ones she decided would be called "theosophy," much
> less the ones she just "agreed with for reasons of her own." Instead,
> she STARTED with the ancient wisdom teachings, and weighed the world's
> religions and philosophies against that standard.
I think here we have a chicken-or-egg conundrum. Wes, I think
you're asserting something that is not true historically, but is
true psychologically. HPB did in fact encounter sequentially the
teachings of Christianity, Sufism, Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism,
Freemasonry, Vedanta, Sikhism, Buddhism Theravada and Mahayana,
etc. And she did in fact weave together strands of all these
ideas as can be seen in her writings. If you are asserting that
historically she came upon a single group of people who had
already worked out the synthesis found in her late writings, then
I will tell you this is historically untrue. Or rather you can
find no evidence for it and plenty of evidence against it. On
the other hand, you can be stating something true
psychologically. HPB, as she encountered all these diverse
teachings and teachers, weighed them all against her inner
touchstone and selected only those elements that accorded with
her inner sense of a universal wisdom tradition. Moreover, in
her travels around the world she notice that the wisest and most
impressive adepts in each of those traditions were those who had
the most universal outlook and had the greatest interest in
reconciling their own tradition with others. In that inward
sense, your claim holds water, I think.
I'm not claiming any final insights into any of this, just trying
to point to a truer understanding as best I can construe it based
on what little I have learned.
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