Material has been moved from the discussion on "In my own words"

We ask that you respect the intent of discussions posted on this site.  It is a failure in moderation that led us to allow a meta discussion where the intent of the posting was to get users to explain what Faivre's characteristics of Esotericism and Theosophy meant in their own words.

What is important for you to understand is that we have decided on this course of action and have done so for the last year and a half.  We're not backing away from our usage of Faivre, so whether or not this is the correct way for Theosophy.Net to proceed is not the question.

The affected parts of the discussion have been copied here.  If you have questions or comments or want to continue the discussion, please do so in this forum.

===============================

 Reply by Govert Schuller yesterday

Delete

Dear all,

This is an older e-mail with some thoughts I shared with some of you about half a year ago. I reread it and think it will contribute to the discussion. The pivotal concepts to make sense of the following is the difference between the etic and the emic as developed in anthropology. See wikipedia athttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emic_and_etic.

===

I have not followed the development of Theosophy.net in detail. I am aware of your recent stance of, let's say, activating a more academic position regarding Theosophy without really giving up on a belief in the truth and value of different esoteric practices. My concern here is that by doing so you are moving from an emic point of view to a somewhat muddled etic pov. That is, from a Theosophical view based on the teachings of HPB and others, to an academic view developed by Faivre, Hanegraaff and other scholars who do not necessarily belief in Theosophy, though you keep some belief intact. This is quite a shift, because you seem to go from a committed, subjective believing position into a seemingly neutral, objective, observing position, but then bring that back into an emic position. I'm not saying that that's impossible or wrong, but it looks to me like a complex hybrid to satisfy an overall non-dogmatic position. My own work on experiential theosophy falls in that category by taking theosophical concepts serious, but then use philosophical methods from the school of phenomenology to 'anchor' such concepts in one's own personal, reflective experience.

Anyway, just to be clear and by thinking aloud, I think that the (pure) etic position makes sense for a) Theosophists who just like to explore what academia has to say about Theosophy, b) Theosophists who like to incorporate the academic stance, as far as that might be possible (which is not a given), c) Theosophists with an understanding of science who like to check if their Theosophical worldview might survive academic standards (and if they see an incompatibility, they might have to make a choice), d) those who, for whatever reason, lost their faith in Theosophy, and like to figure out what Theosophy is from a more neutral etic viewpoint, e) persons interested in Theosophy for personal, spiritual reasons, but want a second opinion from academia, f) persons interested in Theosophy out of curiosity, g) critics who like to look deeper into Theosophy to be in a better position to deliver skeptical challenges to Theosophy and/or develop outright refutations of different positions within Theosophy, h) academics who are trained in the development of etic positions through an emphatic understanding of emic positions and last i) academics of a more skeptical stance who develop not merely etic positions, but also hypotheses to explain Theosophy from different angles like psychology, sociology and, now up and coming, evolutionary psychology.

The last two academic positions have to be well understood in their difference. The first one, h), concerns itself with the world view of the believer and how to best understand it from within the life world of the believer himself. Crucial to that investigation is the careful suspension, or bracketing, by the investigator of the truth and value of the investigated belief. It might not necessarily develop a skeptical position. Such methodology is grounded in phenomenology. The second, i), is equally legitimate, but concerns itself with scientific explanations of the production/construction of the beliefs investigated. This line of investigation also, and maybe only initially, suspends the truth and value of the beliefs investigated, but can, and often will, develop a position quite antithetical to the believer's emic pov. 

And for clarity's sake, my own position is a combination now of c, d, g, h and i. And I started out in a, b and c. So, be careful if you start out on this road. 8^)

  •  

Top of Form

▶ Reply

Bottom of Form

Permalink Reply by Joe Fulton yesterday

Delete

So there is a coherent whole that isn't readily apparent at this point.

And sometimes we confuse the means with the end.

You are right where it comes from a shift in a belief system based on the writings of HPB and her followers to an academic view based primarily on the works of Faivre, Hanegraaff, etc.

However, please understand that what we are going for is a Theosophy that addresses the lives and the things that most people are concerned about, about living a happier, more fulfilled daily life.  To understand how the work of Faivre, Hanegraaff and others fit into this schema we use the analogy of a car manufacturer.  Think of the academic works as the high level engineering.  This is the world of physics, CAD and engineering.  It is a world of abstraction and complexity, as are Faivre's Characteristics of Esotericism and Theosophy.  At the consumer end lies sales and marketing or the way we describe what the engineers and scientists have done in a way that people can relate to.

We clearly recognize at Theosophy.Net that Faivre's characteristics are at that level and that it is foolhardy to attempt to directly represent those to the public and expect someone with a high school education (whom we refer to as the "educated well-informed") to grasp these ideas at the level we are discussing.  However the practical application must tie to the framework established, or as a certain person once said "Occultism does not depend upon one method, but employs both the deductive and the inductive. The student must first learn the general axioms."  On Theosophy.Net Faivre's work is what constitutes the general axioms.

So the next step on our journey is to work on looking at the implications and uses for specific items within the framework we are using to see how these can be explained and applied to the lives of most people.  These discussions are beginning to take place and will show up in initial forms within this group shortly.  We're hoping that as you see the ideas flesh out from the abstract to the practical that you will start filling in the blanks with products from your own intuition.  These will give way to specific projects and activities designed to give people tools for developing the connections in their own lives using Creative Imaginations, Correspondences, Mediations and other tools implied within Faivre's framework.

In addition to the ideas and projects generated by the core group on this site we hope that everyone who can understand the characteristics of Esotericism and Theosophy can reason from the known to the unknown and come up with some really, really neat stuff.  We don't have any intent of being top-down about how and what we do here.  However, leave no mistake in your minds, we do have a point of view.

 

 Reply by Dewald Bester 21 hours ago

Delete

hi

i think i have most in common with Govert.  my own experience of postgraduate religious studies at a university is that you cannot serve 2 masters - the academic and religious.  you will inevitably fall one side or the other.

nor can this site serve 2 masters.  Faivre's definitions are, and will be, rejected by academia, for the very reason they are appropriated on this site, because they smack of an 'insiders' bias. 

the future of academic discourse appears to me to be 'empty/floating signifiers'.  if one could define 'theosophy', you could define 'religion', but universities have not been able to successfully define even the topic they study, 'religion'.  and i dont think this problem will be solved here.

on the whole, i too like the definitions of faivre, naturally so, i already hold those beliefs.  From an academic side though i could only see the faivre parameters as serving a limited religious agenda.

if it were admitted that those Faivre parameters serve more a 'religious' agenda, and less an 'academic' one then that would make sense to me.  at least to the academic side of me.

that is the true power of this site, it is opening up the concept ''theosophy' from a narrow Blavatsky definition.  it does this through limited, uncritical, use of academic thought, and the purpose of the site is essentially a religious one.

i guess that is how i see it at the momentrgds, dewald

  •  

Top of Form

▶ Reply

Bottom of Form

Permalink Reply by John E. Mead 1 hour ago

Delete

Dewald -

"my own experience of postgraduate religious studies at a university is that you cannot serve 2 masters"

The separation is not all that strong, and the trend is that academic arguements are arguing an approach that is a continuum. So, it is not a Black/White matter.

Also:

"From an academic side though i could only see the faivre parameters as serving a limited religious agenda."

are you serious?? we have a religious conspiracy at hand?

A couple examples where the emic-etic is viewed as complimentary:

== == ==

(note: emic=inside; etic = outside)

http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln101/McCutcheon%...

"Or is it All Just a Question of Degree? 
But is this divide between insider and outsider as great as MacIntyre presumes? Instead of being limited only to either the insider's or the outsider's viewpoint, we might ask whether there is a mediating position in this debate. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz might provide just such a position. Geertz argues that, instead of seeing the insider and outsider positions as polar opposites, involving an either/or from the researcher, perhaps it is all a question of degree. Using a terminology capable of suggesting the relative, more-or-less nature of one's viewpoint (that of experience-near and experience-distant perspectives), Geertz suggests that we have misunderstood the work of studying other people if we think our only options are either an "ethnography of witchcraft as written by a witch" or "an ethnography of witchcraft as written by a geometer." The challenge--or, as Geertz puts it, the trick--is to take the experience-near concepts of our informants and to place them "in illuminating connection with experience-distant concepts theorists have fashioned to capture the general features of social life." Where an informant might talk of "fear," the psychologist might talk of "phobia"--but just what are the relations between these two concepts? Surely fear does not exhaust the notion of phobia, demonstrating that the usefulness of such scholarly categories as "phobia" is, at least in part, to be judged by the degree to which they can be used to distinguish and compare, on one level, the similarities and differences in the reports and behaviors of the people we study. Therefore, where the scholar strives to compare, interpret, and explain what they think the insider is experiencing, the informant is most often involved simply in experiencing it."

== == ==

http://books.google.com/books?id=PaO3jsaGkeYC&q=Emic-Etic+disti...

P 422 Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology (Springer 2010)

== == ==

It is not hard to find more examples of viewpoints that are examining what is the emic-etic continuum.

John

  •  

Top of Form

 Reply by John E. Mead 11 hours ago

Delete

Possibly this way of looking at it helps:

One can define mammals by their characteristics.

One can define rodents by their characteristics,

One can also define Primates by their characteristics,

Does that limit, or define, or create in any way, what a specific Rodent, or what a specific Primate will look like, think like? How about the habitat and diet, mental capability/capacity of rodents, primates? No it does not.

But one can determine a mammal, rodent, and primate when you stumble into one.

 

Permalink Reply by Govert Schuller 11 hours ago

Delete

Joe,

Thanks for the further clarification. It therefore looks like that that the way you want to use academia puts you in the camp of b): "Theosophists who like to incorporate the academic stance, as far as that might be possible (which is not a given)."

The "not a given" caveat refers to the idea that not all academic stances are equally useful for Theosophists. Hanegraaff differentiates between three of them:

1) religionists, who use academic means to defend their religion. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga would be a good example;

2) reductionists, who try to explain religion as a natural phenomenon. For example see Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained" and, for Theosophists very important, Olaf Hammer who wrote "Claiming Knowledge"; 

3) phenomenological empiricists, who carefully suspend the truth and value claims of the religious worldviews they investigate. The pioneer in this methodology as applied to Theosophy and New Age thinking is Hanegraaff, whose "Empirical method in the study of esotericism" is the basic paper defending that methodology.

So, to even further refine the classification of the stance you are taking, it looks like that Hanegraaff would classify you with the religionists, because you use some of the etic constructs by academics to further an emic esotericist position. I'm not stating this to just put you in a pigeonhole or problematize that position. It's just the outcome of legitimate etic procedures, which, once embraced, will have to be respected. Of course, as any science, it is in principle open to corrections based on further empirical considerations.

  •  

Top of Form

▶ Reply

Bottom of Form

Permalink Reply by John E. Mead yesterday

Delete

"lost their faith in Theosophy"

(etic or emic)

To talk about "Faith" in theosophy is weird. There is no one/unique/perennial theosophy.

I have my personal experiences and interactions with the External world, Divinity within myself, and Insights/intellectus which forms a set of emic data comprising my theosophy.

Joe has his personal experiences and interactions with the External world, Divinity within himself, and Insights/intellectus which forms a set of emic data comprising his theosophy.

You have your experiences and interactions with the External world, Divinity within yourself, and Insights/intellectus which forms a set of emic data comprising your theosophy.

There is no "Faith" to hold or deny.

A categorization allows one to track the constellations over time, and to recognize an esotericism and theosophy.

These have a complimentary connection

One cannot get trapped in the fallacy of an excluded-middle.

Without the categorization, there is no definition of what you are studying.

  •  

Top of Form

▶ Reply

Bottom of Form

Permalink Reply by Govert Schuller 10 hours ago

Delete

Dear John,

I think that if a definition is based on a categorization then, of course, without categorization there is no definition.

I do not think the emic-etic differentiation has an excluded middle and would therefore be somehow fallacious. I think that what Joe is trying to pull off, and what I tried before, is something of a hybrid construction using both. Dewald thinks this is impossible, because you cannot serve two masters, the religious and the academic. I think it is possible, but then you have to make clear choices in case of conflict, for example between the scientific theory of plate tectonics and the alleged existence of Atlantis (I know that the excluded middle between the two is represented by David Pratt).

I agree that there is no one unique western esotericism, but that there is one and unique Blavatskyan Theosophy.

I agree we all have our own unique history, interpretative schemata and personal experiences, but Blavatskyan Theosophy claims to transcend such situated, historical peculiarities and presents a solid product of long ages of scientific experimentation and inter-subjective double-checking.

Because the bulk of Blavatskyan Theosophy is beyond our capacity to verify, once one is engaged in studying it, there will be a point, or a sequence of points, at which certain claims are experienced as believable or not. The cumulative effect of such experiences might be conversion. Maybe the best one could do is to relate to Theosophy as if it were a plausible hypothesis, but that is hard to maintain without some psychological and rational training. Most Theosophists I know are true believers, even if they would deny it.

  •  

Top of Form

▶ Reply

Bottom of Form

Permalink Reply by Joe Fulton 6 hours ago

Delete

I'm glad you didn't design my car, computer or any other device that required an engineer or some other person with a level of knowledge far beyond mine in order to deal with the theory. Following this either/or logic the architect or engineer is an infidel and I should not trust anything they say or do because they don't use the same words. You must grasp this point if you are to have any idea of what we are out to do.  We have multiple audiences and we cannot possibly  speak to all of them in exactly the same way.  We do our best to address each in accordance to what the situation requires.

I buy a product for what it can do for me and because there was someone around to communicate the benefit in terms I can understand.

What we are doing here is no different than what anyone else who deals with complicated ideas and has to bring them to the level of understanding of a normal human being.

So, from that point of view, honestly Govert, we are only serving one master and that is truth.  We use the tools at hand to accomplish our work.  If it's engineering we use a computer.  If it's changing oil we use a funnel and a pan.

Where it comes to choices we are not afraid, not one bit. Where it comes to these choices, sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes it's not.  In many cases the facts are clear and the arguments one way or another don't leave much room for doubt.  In other cases, it's a muddle and no matter what point of view you take, half of the people (and usually more) will believe you wrong to the bottom of their hearts. Are we so afraid to make a mistake that we become paralyzed?  No.  We learn and become better for it.

Thanks for coming along and keep questioning.

  •  

Top of Form

 

Views: 395

Replies to This Discussion

My sense of what is going on here is far more basic than questions concerning the suitability of Dr. Faivre's or anyone else's methodology. John Mead's comment regarding our personal and external interactions etc. is closer to ground zero.  

But first, let me begin by laying out a little background by saying that during the 1990s I was very much involved in the attempts at that time to bring our theosophical (note the small "t") interests into a recognized academic discourse community. Dr. Faivre's Access to Western Esotericism provided a methodology that (at the time) appeared to be a workable model. The AAR provided us, on a trial bases, space in their conference program to meet and make a case for the Academy to accept Perennialism as a viable subject for recognition in the discourse community embraced by the AAR. Accordingly, several of us wrote and presented peer reviewed papers at the annual meetings, They were quite successful and attracted respectable audiences. Many people from the New Religious Movement also took an interest in us as well as the Swedenborgian group (They were both recognized groups in the AAR/ SBL alliance that was going on at the time) because there was clearly an overlap in what we were doing. Ultimately, the trial period came to an end, and the AAR declined to accept a Perennialism group into their discourse community. It was not because of lack of representation of credible people. Aside from Dr. Faivre, we had working with us the late Huston Smith, Donald Lopez and many others of note. This background would be a good place to launch into issues of methodology. Govert Schuller made an opening salvo (above) addressing this subject, and there is much more to say on this subject. But, I would like to delay further comment on this for the moment and return to a most more basic issue that I see reflected in John Mead's comment:

First of all, (correct me if I'm wrong here) the kind of theosophy that initially inspired this web site was that presented by Blavatsky. If this site expands itself to explore the many other theosophies out there. I'm all for that. However, I submit that those responsible for this site all have a primary responsibility to keep these various theosophies straight and not allow one to be confounded with another. Aside from the other historical uses of the word theosophy (i.e. Kaballah, some forms of Christian mysticism etc. which is again another subject), there is little dispute that Blavatsky's writings were tremendously influential in the spinning off of numerous spiritual and occult organizations and the so called "New Age Movement" itself. These too are theosophies of sorts. The problem (as I see it) has not been with Blavatsky, but with the systematic reinterpretation and adaptation of her writings into various doctrinal systems which many readers have mistakenly taken as representing Blavatsky. Once again, the recounting and documentation of that history would require a book: and some published historical accounts have indirectly touched upon this problem. 

With this said, here are the fundamental problems concerning Blavatsky's discourses that require consideration prior to a discussion concerning a methodology to be applied to any form of theosophy, esoterism or prennialism.  

1. The subject Blavatsky was addressing (she was stuck with the word "Theosophy." Esotericism would have been a better term, and is one she used more in her later writings, after her separation from Olcott.) was only outlined. There are many blanks in her discourses. Imaginative readers have filled in those blanks and many of them have written their own books. Let's not confuse source from secondary literature.

2. Blavatsky employed a combination of literal and metaphorical language in her discourses. It is important that readers have the skills to discern the difference. There is nothing mystical about this. It is a matter that many people who are interested in these subjects and try to contribute here have very weak reading skills, It is a matter of education. But too often, people manage to slip through the educational system without ever learning these skills. This is an ongoing problem in our society, and a problem when these people show up on discussion boards.  

3. Blavatsky was a product of her own culture. Thus, in casual conversation she easily fell into communicating according to those norms. One thing that receives little attention here is this bravado and exaggeration was and still is very much a part of normal casual communication among Russians. A lack of recognition of this cultural difference has created some very unfortunate mis-interpretations. An obvious example is the mistaking Blavatsky's stories in The Caves and Jungles of Hindustan as accurate historical accounts. They are not--and were never intended to be. 

4. A fourth consideration is a link to the problem of methodology. It is the primary distinction between circular and non-circular thinking. This is fundamental factor that distinguishes a methodology from religious thinking: i.e. "The Bible is the word of God because the Bible says so."  This is a fundamental trap in this culture that allows for so many people who are interested in theosophy to treat it as if it were a religion. It is not a religion.  

In conclusion, I see two problems: (1): The necessity for many students of theosophy to sharpen their reading and thinking skills, so that is can be possible to discuss the subject at all in a rational manner.  (2) The development of a suitable methodology for the discussion and exploration of the subject that would be acceptable to an academic discourse community.  Work needs to be done on the first before there is any hope to even approach the second.  

personally, i find this thread very interesting.  (though i concede i inadvertently went off topic - again)

i find myself in total agreement with Jerry Hejka-Ekins concluding points 1) and 2).

that is the type of debate i would like to participate in, and which i incorrectly thought we were engaging in.

the divide between academic discourse and this site, on this issue, is apparent.   in my opinion, it is simply not possible to keep defending Faivre as 'academic' divorced from the whole field of the academic study of esotericism.  I think it important that 'theosophy' try to re-enter the academic community - (why i think this would need to be examined by myself.  do i have a religionist agenda to push?  do i really find academic ideas intellectually unsatisfying?)  how it does this will be the million dollar question. 

rgds, Dewald

Dear Jerry,

You might be right that to think at the level of Faivre and Hanegraaff requires quite some skill acquisition in critical reading and thinking. And even then, it is not easy to organize one's thoughts and express them clearly such that a constructive contribution can be made to this community. 

Thanks for pointing out these four fundamental problems with Blavatsky's work. They're food for thought for  Theosophists, academics and skeptics alike.

Govert

Wonderful post Jerry , excellent and very educative and balanced ,  had a great time reading your post and re reading it ......

Interesting points, Joe, if I understand you right.

There are academics of esotericism and New Religious Movements who are completely skeptical about the worldviews they investigate and are therefore seen by the investigated believers as dangerous unbelievers who unconsciously serve the dark force. This tension, which I think many researchers and their subjects are aware of, can lead to interesting situations in which a lot of strategizing and counter-strategizing is happening. I have seen up close interesting variations of conflict of interests, half-hidden agendas and even collusion between researchers and their subjects. These can be instructive stories.

There is also a little tension (though it is in the open and debated) within the academic community between the empiricists in the mold of Faivre and Hanegraaff and the reductionists like Olaf Hammer. Hammer thinks that the metaphysically neutral stance of the phenomenological empiricists is too kind, even possibly apologetic, to the 'crazy' ideas of the esotericists. The Italian esoterologist Introvigne, on the other side, thinks Hammer's debunking attitude is counter-productive to really understand the field of esoteric streams.

Because Faivre et al are neutral (they say they are methodologically agnostic) about the meta-empirical realities T/theosophy claims access to and knowledge about, their research can be most easily absorbed by T/theosophy.

But Faivre is also open to look at some phenomena from a more skeptical, sociological position. He stated that it might be "more pertinent and fruitful to study the forms of Egyptomania or Egyptophilia proper to Westerners themselves, for if there is Egyptian esotericism, it is primarily in our modern imaginary" (Faivre, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition, xxvi).

i find the mention of Egypt fortuitous.  Because it highlights the predicament that in many instances esoteric thoughts are in conflict with mainstream academics.  let us say we wish to locate Faivre's typology in the ancient egyptian religion.  (I do not think this was his own intent) but presumably it is that of theosophy.  (Unless we exclude Egypt from 'theosophical' thought.)

i know of no real mainstream academic egyptologist who will concede any esoteric thought in ancient egypt - that is, no initiations in the greek sense, no pyramid mysteries etc.  this is exemplified by erik hornung and his 'Secret lore of egypt.'  he distinguishes between egyptology proper and egyptosophy.  The only possible academic opening i noted (I must unfortunately only speak of english language sources because of my own language deficiencies) was Jeremy Naydlers 'Shamanic wisdom in the pyramid texts'.

There is possible middle theosophical ground, like John Gordon's Egypt, child of Atlantis.  I did not think though this was convincing in an academic arena, but then i dont think the book was intended for that arena.

To my mind then there is a predicament.  we believe there was an esotericism in ancient egypt - let us say exemplified by Faivre's typology - otherwise we should drop his typology, or confine it to set historical situations like he did.  But no modern mainstream academic concedes this.  Unlike most academic egyptologists, 'esoteric egyptologist' probably dont translate out of hieroglyphics and dont spend their entires lives devoted to egyptology.

So what do we do?  do we carp from the sidelines saying esotericism must be there simply because, say, HPB (or any esoteric source) said it was?  to ask the question, how do we establish the 'theosophical thought' as a legitimate perspective within the academic community - let us say the Egyptological community in this instance?

put aside 'esotericism' in ancient egyptian religion, and take a more basic issue.  Egyptologists, in the main, do not even accept that the usual greek/christian division of body, soul and spirit, were used in the egyptian religion. The body, soul and spirit, distinction, as far as i can see permeates esoteric/theosophical thought.  how do we even begin to engage with professional egyptologists on their own ground?  We can say they are wrong, but what force does that carry?

if we do not think that engaging the academy is important, or relevant, then that is ok, there is no obligation.  i think it important myself.  (That is also one thing which made Blavatsky, in some ways, different from other esotericists, her works engage with the sciences of her day in an intelligent manner.  so her works allow this type of engagement with the academy.  channelling etc does not have this rational ground to work off.)

Dewald

Dewald,

You are posing some important questions above about the relationship between esotericism and academia. 

From the academic perspective the, by you mentioned, Egyptologist Erik Hornung makes a strong case to keep the two separate:

It is possible to make an academic study of of esoteric matters, which is what I intend to do here. It is also possible for adherents of esoteric doctrines to adduce knowledge from the academic discipline of Egyptology with profit and incorporate it into their systems. But one must at all costs avoid hopelessly mixing the two areas of interest, as unfortunately continues to happen--especially when esoteric doctrines are covered with some academic veneer and thus purportedly "proven." (The Secret Lore of Egypt,3)

Hornung seems to have some sympathy for esotericism, but thinks its truths "elude any and all experimental verification" (Hornung, 4).

The esoteric is a way of thinking unto itself, irrational and intuitive, aimed at the overarching unity of nature and the correspondences within it and at the possibility of unbounded transubstantiation. It lives on the magic of the mysterious, believing itself to be in possession of a higher state of consciousness that remains closed to those who are not yet "initiated" into these mysteries" (Hornung, 4)

This might be applicable to most of western esotericism, but not necessarily to one of its constituent parts, the "occult movement", started by Elivas Levi and continued and expanded by Blavatsky. According to Faivre this movement "sought to combine into one single worldview the findings of experimental science and the occult sciences cultivated since the Renaissance. The movement also wanted to demonstrate the emptiness of materialism" (Faivre, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition, 26). This is clearly a part of the Theosophical program, which on top of that even had the audacity to correct nineteenth century science by claiming that the primordial tradition of which it was a partial expression was essentially scientific.

Based on that claim it becomes understandable that some Theosophists like to make inroads into academia and try to make corrections to mainstream science by arguing in favor of some of Blavatsky in principle verifiable statements. The paradigmatic example here would be the work of the Theosophist David Pratt in the field of geology and anthropology. He tries to make the case that the theory of plate tectonics can be refuted and that, given some archeological findings, that h*** sapiens is way older than scientifically accepted. 

The other side of this scientific, occult stream in western esotericism is that it opens itself up for refutation of its products and criticism of its procedures by academia. Again, for theosophy important here is the Swedish esoterologist Olav Hammer who explicitly stakes out the position that specific occult-scientific claims should be refuted to show their spuriousness. Besides that he delivers a in-depth analysis and critique of emic epistemology and rhetoric as applied by Theosophy and the New Age. He thinks theosophy is a form of scientism, which he defines in his chapter "Scientism as a Language of Faith" as:

Scientism is the active positioning of one's own claims in relation to the manifestations of any scientific discipline, including, but not limited to, the use of technical devices, scientific terminology, mathematical calculations, theories, references and stylistic features--without, however, the use of methods generally approved within the scientific community, and without subsequent social acceptance of these manifestations by the mainstream of the scientific community through e.g. peer reviewed publication in academic journals (Claiming Knowledge, 206).

As a last observation I like to propose the idea that the relationship between the descriptive, phenomenological study of esotericism (Faivre, Hanegraaff) and the more explanatory, social study of it (Hammer) can be seen as complementary and not necessarily antagonistic (Introvigne). The template for this idea is the way phenomenology and neuroscience cooperate in the cognitive sciences to better understand the workings of the mind. Phenomenology provides a very subtle description of conscious phenomena from inside out and neuroscience, using scans and other probes, tries to look from outside in. By listening and adjusting to each other they are complementary in a fruitful manner (See: Evan Thompson, Mind in Life; Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind). I can see a similar exchange between the describers and explainers of esotericism. As far as the verification of the different scientific truth claims by Theosophy are concerned, those will have to be fought out in the different academic disciplines where they are relevant.

i really enjoyed this thread.  i dont think i could say much more without specifically referencing blavatsky and esotericism though, which isnt the purpose here.

my concluding thoughts on hornung and hammer, is that a radical historical contextualising of, in my case, blavatsky's works, would overcome both their slightly self-referring definitions. at least, in my opinion, some/many blavatsky statements could be found to be within the speculation of mainstream thought, at least in respect of an undeveloped mid to late 19th century egyptology.(I could not say if the same could be said for all esoteric speculation on ancient egypt.)

(that still leaves the problem of what to do with her ideas now in the 21st century though.)

I thought hornung's definition of esotericism specifically excluded any rational content, which is nonsense, and not particularly philosophical on his part.

Olav Hammer, by managing to combine blavatsky, sheldrake and shirley maclaine in 1 overarching methodology, has only aroused my deep suspicion of his hermeneutic underpinnings.

thanks, Dewald

RSS

Search Theosophy.Net!

Loading

What to do...

Join Theosophy.Net Blogs Forum Live Chat Invite Facebook Facebook Group

A New View of Theosophy


About
FAQ

Theosophy References


Wiki Characteristics History Spirituality Esotericism Mysticism RotR ToS

Our Friends

© 2020   Created by Theosophy Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service