Re: To Brigitte
Nov 10, 2001 06:10 PM
by Gerald Schueler
<<<Brigitte: By discovering the roots of humanity in India, by adopting its monistic idealism and studying its primeval language Sanskrit, Romanticism
hoped to further their ideals of a restoration of a past golden age, to build a future utopia on a vision of unity of the various nations, of
mankind with nature, and of science and philosophy with art.>>>
JERRY: Maybe so, but this was certainly not Blavatsky's goal. Her restoration lies millions of years in the future and thus remains purely theoretical.
<<<<In German-speaking states, this positive Orientalism developed into a German nationalist agenda. The affinities between the German and Sanskrit language were used to construct a mythic history in which the germans were heirs to the glorious civilisation of the ancient Indians. A fanciful etymology, linking the Indian self-designation arya with the German word Ehre, underpinned this nationalist history.
Germans and Aryans were soon conceived as a "race" with superiour qualities. If one mode of positive Orientalism was pan-Germanic and racist, a different Orientalist discourse developed the themes of
Romanticism. A particulary important form of the Oriental Renaisance was the influence of the East on American transcendentalism. Theosophy maybe partly can be seen as an amalgam of both discourses:
Blavatsky's synthezising genius adopted both the Romantic and the racial versions of positive Orientalism. She constructed a historical myth wich
incorporated races and sub- races.>>>
<<<Isis bears witness to the shift eastward: the title alludes to Egyptian mysteries, while the work itself contains numerous references to India.
However , India is still described as one recipient among many others of a primeval wisdom.>>>
JERRY: Yes, because India is the home of Hinduism, Vedanta, and Buddhism. And most "recipients" came to be such through Indian missionaries and translators. In early Tibet, for example, Buddhist teachings were only considered legitamite if written in Sanskrit. And Indian teachings are said to have entered Egyptian thought via the famous library at Alexandria.
<<<By the time the theosophical doctrines expounded in the Mahatma Letters, the references to ancient India had become so central to theosophy as to
motivate Alfred Sinnet to choose to name the new doctrine Esoteric Buddhism. Blavatsky herself was hardly overjoyed by Sinnet's equation, calling his book 'an excellent work with a very unfortunat title.>>>
JERRY: Here I have to agree with Blavatsky. Sinnet's book should have been titled Exoteric Buddhism. There is, in point of fact, little to no esotericism in it. Where are the 4 Nobel truths? Where is vajrayana or tantricism? Where is the meaning of mandalas and mantras revealed?
<<<The India that has entered theosophy however is an imagined India. Throughout Blavatsky’s work, the Orient continues to be a homogenized and
JERRY: Yes, especially when viewed from our 21st century perspective. There are many errors in her teachings of Buddhism too, which we all must acknowledge in light of the countless excellent English translations now available. But, for her time and with the tools that she had at hand, I think she did a princely job.
<<<In the Mahatma Letters there are passages where Tibetan lamas and Theravada (Pali) scriptures coexist without any sense of the anachronism
JERRY: Agreed. I don't think Blavatsky was aware of all of the various schools and levels of Tibetan teachings. Her Masters certainly should have been, but perhaps they preferred not to go into that in their letters, I don't know. In fairness, HH the Dali Lama has said that all levels of Tibetan Buddhism are "right" but some simply go farther than others in expounding the esoteric teachings.
<<< Items of theosophical vocabulary are taken from Sanskrit or coined in a kind of Theosophical Hybrid Sanskrit.>>>
JERRY: Agreed. I consider the poor Theosophical terminology to be one of the major reasons that Theosophy never caught on with the public, and the main reason why I usually put things in my own words. Illogical terms like "dual monad" don't help anyone.
<<<Concepts are taken from Hindu or Budhist sources and subjected to varying degrees of modification.>>>
JERRY: But not consciously/deliberately.
<<<It started with the idea of an "Oriental Cabbalah" in Blavatsky’s Hiraf article, wher she mentioned. The idea of an "Oriental Cabbalah"was common in Western, esoteric circles during the time of Blavatsky, but these where Western,
misconcepted ideas of the Orient of wich Blavatsky probably read in the litterature of the time.>>>
JERRY: Agreed. She quotes from many experts of her day, and therein got some wrong ideas. But again, for her time, I think she did quite well, and she does have more correct things than wrong.
<<<It is rather in these quarters that we have to look for expressions by HPB early on regarding "the eastern Cabalah" and so on. ...
And as proof, it is a transformed version of exactly this, "western" caballah of renaissance Italy instead of India, that Blavatsky takes
as the foundation of her "synthesis" by. Blavatsky?s Globes in the SD correspond with the Sephiroth, and her planes are identical with those on the Tree of Life. All she did was to re-arrange their positions so that they are circular or chain-like instead of tree-like. Meaning the basis of this structure is "western Cabbalah", and then gradually at the rate she finds them, ads more and more Sanskrit names to it wich she learned from Subba Row and so on.. >>>
JERRY: I have said this for years. Her figure in SD vol 1 compares her globes and planes with those of the Tree. Actually, I prefer her arrangement, because it forces all motions and forces to be circular. Few Theosophists understand this, and image all sorts of weird things about the globes and planes, trying to conceptualize on the basis of her own descriptions in the SD, while knowing virtually nothing of the Qabala. The origins of the Qabala, like the origins of her circular model, make no difference to me at all. When used as a model of the inner worlds, they work quite well. Thats enough for me.
<<<By the way I just finished reading “Integral Psychology” by Ken Wilbur, (for a pro a discussion on it see; http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/habermas/index.cfm/xid,1546927/yid,16750067
Do you know this book and how do you see this in relation to other modern attempts of new paradigms. ? (see also;
Wilbur had its first(long time ago) book published by Quest by the way and also wrote some articles for Quest Magazine. Do you think there is anybody today about to come up with a similar good
synthesis as Blavatsky’s, but using modern (21th century) source material
JERRY: I came across Wilber while working on my 2nd Ph.D. minoring in transpersonal psychology. He is a leader in the field. I do like most of his work, and I have several of his books. He merges Theosophy, or at least theosophy and Eastern ideas, with modern psychology, and I applaud him for it.
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