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Dogmatism in and out of Theosophy

Jun 19, 1998 12:15 PM
by K Paul Johnson

There's a lot to respond to in the last bunch of digests but I
must comment first that I wrote the post Theosophy=HPB? without having
read Kym's by the same title.  Spent yesterday driving to
Richmond and back for a museum meeting with a fellow Scorpio, a
woman, who several times said the very words I was thinking.
Seems to be more of this with Kym.

Anyhow, first to Sophia: I think you were applying my remarks too
specifically to your brother.  I have two friends who have
written in other fields entirely but have gotten the kind of
hostility I've received, worse and from more people. So when
I wrote I was thinking of Juan Cole, Ph.D., who has written about
Baha'u'llah from the point of view of a trained historian who is
also a sympathetic Baha'i believer.  Nevertheless, his critical
and questioning approach to Baha'i history caused him to receive
voluminous hate mail from fellow believers and ultimately to be
treated with such hostility by Baha'i leaders that he felt
obliged to leave the religion.  David C. Lane, Ph.D., is a
practicing devotee of the Radhasoami Faith who is also an
academician trained in critical thinking.  His writings, which
take a critical, skeptical approach to Radhasoami history, have
caused him to receive tremendous denunciation from his fellow
believers.  Although no academician myself, I tried to approach
HPB with a combination of sympathy and critical objectivity, and
tasted the same kinds of negative energies projected my way that I
saw Cole and Lane receive in such abundance.

Now you might say that all the Baha'is who "defended" the
traditional view of Baha'i, and all the Radhasoami disciples who
"defended" their own traditional view of their gurus, and all the
Theosophists who "defended" their traditional view of HPB, did so
out of only the highest and purest motives-- those you cite
in apparent defense of your brother.  But the emotional tone of
their remarks, should you read them all, is transparently evident
to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.  While none of
the Baha'is can be honest enough with themselves to say "I hate
Cole," and none of the RS people will admit "I hate Lane," and
none of the "defenders" of HPB will call what they feel toward me
"hate," the emotions are there for the world to see in their
writings.  And when I try to explain to myself where all this
comes from, when I try to look into the hearts of the people
who attack authors for taking an "irreverent" approach to their
idols, I see *fear*.  That's not the only thing there: cognitive
processes are going on simultaneously with the emotional ones.
But the primary factor determining *how* these people express
their disagreement is *emotional* in nature.

To Martin: since >90% of my books on HPB is historical background
on her associations and <10% is an effort to interpret the
aforesaid information and its implications about her claims
regarding Masters, I don't mind at all if people accept the
former and reject the latter.  The primary service I meant to
offer was to provide readers material with which to make their
own interpretation, while offering my own as a tentative

Nathan Greer and Tony Lysy are not examples of the kind of
dogmatism and orthodoxy I was describing as reigning in the Adyar
TS.  Radha is, and John Algeo surprised me by turning out to be
the same.  Just because a person is dogmatic and orthodox in his
view of HPB doesn't mean that person cannot range into other
areas and display the virtues of an open mind and questing
spirit.  What's at issue, though, is the *center* of the belief
system, and I feel that most of those in positions of power in the various
Theosophical societies *centered* in a dogmatic view of HPB that
she herself would, if she could speak to us today, condemn in the
strongest terms.

Yes, Martin, I understand what you mean about the logic tying the
pieces together.  Being an intuitive type, my strength is at
recognizing relevant connections, not at systematic analysis of
details.  There's nothing unfair about critics pointing out that
my books are strong in the former and weak in the latter.  What's
unfair is thousands and thousands of words
condemning the latter in the most harsh and contemptuous tones,
juxtaposed with a few grudging acknowledgments that maybe the
books do unearth a tidbit or two of useful information.  But life
is unfair to everyone so I don't feel especially put upon!

We all have our crosses to bear :)


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