[From The High Country Theosophist, Apr. 1995, 76-78]
The Masters in Vaudeville - Again
K. Paul Johnson has written The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge, SUNY Press, 1994. It is a confused and lurching presentation of a very old canard - that H.P. Blavatsky concocted her Masters to cover up - something. That "something" is the only new wrinkle that Johnson's speculative thesis offers.
Joscelyn Godwin's Foreword says: "The theme of this book is that HPB's Masters were not the Himalayan sages whom she invented to distract her co-workers, but a large group of men and a few women who helped, encouraged, or collaborated with her, in a life's work that was not only spiritual but socially idealistic and fiercely political." (xviii) The "fiercely political" motive of H.P. Blavatsky and the Occult Brotherhood is the dominant note of Johnson's book.
To show how right Solomon was, that "there is nothing new under the sun," let us look at part of an 1885 letter of H.P. Blavatsky to the Russian journal Rebus.
"While it is perfectly true that I dearly love my native land and everything that is Russian, and not only have no sympathy for, but simply hate Anglo-Indian terrorism, the following is nevertheless equally true: as I do not feel any right to interfere in anyone's family affairs, and even less so in political affairs, and have strictly adhered to the Rules of our Theosophical Society, in the course of my six-years' stay in India, I have not only abstained from expressing my `antipathies' before Hindus, but, as I love them and wish them well from all my heart, I have tried, to the contrary, to have them resign themselves to the inevitable, to console them by teaching patience and forgiveness, and to instill in them the feelings of loyal subjects.
In gratitude for this, the perspicacious Anglo-Indian government saw in me a `Russian Spy,' from the very first day of my arrival in Bombay... Only at the end of two years... in this useless ferreting of my political secrets - which never existed anyway - the government quieted down. `We made fools of ourselves'- I was told quite frankly... by a certain Anglo-Indian official, and I had politely to agree with him...
It came to the point where they [Theosophy's enemies] made an attempt to misrepresent the whole Theosophical Society... as nothing else than a vaudeville with changing stage-settings and a screen behind which were hidden my plans and activities as a `Russian Spy.' " (1)
Paul Johnson's only new twist on the "Russian Spy" motif is "...the interests she served were Indian, not Russian..." (226). So H.P. Blavatsky was a "Hindu Spy," not a Russian one; what an innovation.
Johnson's effort to be objective resulted in an almost perfect indifference to any of H.P. Blavatsky 's or the Adepts' own explanations of their goals and objectives. As a typical example of Johnson's interpretive skills consider page seven of his Introduction. Here is part of his quotation of H.P. Blavatsky writing to Sinnett:
"I know one thing, that if it came to the worst and Master's truthfulness and notions of honour were to be impeached - then I would go to a desperate expedient. I would proclaim publicly that I alone was a liar, a forger... that I had indeed invented the Masters and thus would by that `myth'... screen the real K.H. and M. from opprobrium. (2)
Johnson then writes (underlining added): "HPB had several reasons to prefer the accusation of inventing the Masters to that of conspiring with them in deception."
Even if the rest of the letter were not read, anyone familiar with H.P. Blavatsky could hardly give such a deformed reading. She is simply saying her reverence for the utter truthfulness and integrity of the Masters will not allow her to see them constantly called liars and sneaks. In sentences Johnson does not quote, H.P. Blavatsky says "I will not see Them desecrated." Also she speaks of a "new sacrilege... that a Mahatma, whoever he may be, had acted deceitfully..."
Of course spiritual devotion is not a quality everybody has in equal measure, if they have any at all. One can only follow his best lights. However, as the wise Swami Paramānanda (1884-1940) wrote:
"One can dull one's own sensibilities by a rude approach to great and sacred things... Without true reverence there can be no fineness of perception." (3)
(1) Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 6, p. 408-10
(2) From letter 70 in HPB Letters to A.P. Sinnett.
(3) Vedanta Centre pamphlet