[10-20-18 Just an informal email exchanged with an old friend who had encountered some negative personal information about the Eastern teacher Swami Rama.]

Hi, Jeff—Windstorm day in my locale today.

Thus, I probably should add to the gale:

Thank you for your thoughts on Swami Rama. Good and maybe not-so-good in everyone as usual, I suppose. Perhaps there is even the chance that, despite considerable devotee-testimony to the contrary, Swami might have been merely a Fourth- or Fifth-Degree individual (Degree of Self-awareness) who was in the habit of utilizing/indulging Fourth-Level (kama-manas, "desire-mental") consciousness for the role-playing purpose of furthering his career of trying to get as many people as possible to kneel in his presence.

Anyway, by way of contrast, and as I have mentioned to you several times previously (but I'm not sure I have ever quite convinced you of this), I continue to "See" you as possibly at least at the early stages of Sixth-Degree Self-awareness. (Incidentally, Six is the top of every "truly esoteric" Psycho-Spiritual continuum; Seven is always just representing total Dissolution/Re-Absorption (c.f. Nirvikalpa Samadhi) with no Witness left to observe and report on anything).

Why might I intuitively rank you higher in such a "Transcendental Hierarchy"? Because from my perspective it seems like you have displayed unusual "Mindfulness" throughout your whole life—and this may have helped you in many practical ways. In other words, you were probably often and regularly able to maintain a "Once-Removed Vantage" instead of completely merging with everyday physical, emotional, and/or mental "tainted" types of consciousnesses which could have led you toward a lot more life- and/or health-endangering screw-ups. So . . . perhaps if Swami had used you as a role model, who knows?, he might be alive today rather than having passed away at only age 71.

Speaking of which, and which I have probably also mentioned to you many times, I think it may be good policy to evaluate individuals who are widely promoted as "Transcendental Transmitters" and/or "Soteriological Guides" with an exception to something which would otherwise be an invalid yardstick—that is, ad hominem argument (evaluating a person or his/her personal circumstances rather than only his/her stand-alone ideas). Indeed, if particular "Preternatural Teachings" are not just earth-worthless, unfalsifiable abstractions, it is my view that one might expect to see some practical, terrestrial, physical, emotional, and/or mental "rub-off" benefits in the lives of those who promulgate/bloviate-about them. And . . . perhaps included in such benefits one might even expect to see some evidence of moment-to-moment improved Mindfulness leading to improved longevity.

But look at the "Big Three" you and I first encountered in our Theosophical studies so many years ago: Rudolf Steiner (dead at 64); Helena Blavatsky (59); Max Heindel (54). Sure, medicine etc. had not advanced so far at the time they lived, and this might explain some of their early departures; however, Annie Besant made it to 85 and Krishnamurti 90. Nothing absolutely persuasive about all this, of course. . . .

Thank you again for your email, Jeff. I am always interested in the many insightful things you say; for example, this sentence: "The East may be composed of many 'younger souls' as Heindel alluded to." [Max Heindel, 1865-1919, Rosicrucian Fellowship]

Here, my own inclination is that it is highly unlikely, if not actually impossible, that any H. sapiens primate could ever know something like this with such casual 100% certainty. Indeed, many of us who subscribe to the epistemological definition of Theosophy (found on theosophy.net) are pretty-much resigned to the limitation that we are only in possession of vague, intuitive "inklings" or "intimations" about the most remote subjects in Theosophy. By coincidence, the little writing I am presently working on (it will re-animate "Captain Theosophy") actually takes a look at H.P.Blavatsky for possibly displaying some similar over-steppings. A sample:

"Such a definitional re-orientation was necessary, in the Captain’s view, because many of H.P. Blavatsky's teachings were no longer looking so good as more and more light from twentieth-century science shone upon them. For example, contemporary biology was finding evidence that humans and apes had progressed up separate evolutionary branches after leaving a ferret-like common ancestor perhaps 10 million years ago; however, Blavatsky’s ISIS UNVEILED clearly asserted that the gorillas and orangutans seen in modern zoos had actually 'de-volved' from former H*** sapiens into their present, less-cerebral, poorer-postured, more hygiene-dubious configurations.

"For another example, contemporary paleoanthropology was turning up some very modest and sketchy, yet impressive and hard-earned, information about the 3- or 4-million-year-old forerunners in the hominid line (the australopithecines); however, Blavatsky’s arcane compendium confidently revealed many more, apparently-a-lot-easier-to-have-come-by, details about humanity's 'Third-Race' progenitors—the twelve-foot, four-armed, cave- or hole-dwelling, telepathic Lemurians, often with eyes on backs of their heads, who lived somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere of our planet no less than 40 million years ago.

"How such precise descriptions could have been passed along so reliably millennium after millennium for an extra 36-37 million years compared to the rough sketches modern paleoanthropologists were now so hesitantly venturing to present was anyone’s guess.

"The most popular guess within the Theosophical Society at that time, of course, was that it had all been Preternaturally transmitted, courtesy of Madam Blavatsky’s 'Mahatma' guides (Morya, Koot Hoomi, et al.). These 'Masters' were not only regarded as 'Accuracy Underwriters' for this nearly-from-the-dinosaur-era information, but more than a few members also believed that that the Mahatmas, or Others of their same 'Brotherhood,' were still living in some non-GPS-friendly place like Tibet and were continuing to guide the Society by means of something like the 'Astral' equivalent of wi-fi. . . .

"Captain T found it harder and harder to persuade himself that certain of Madam Blavatsky's teachings were LITERALLY true. Nevertheless, he always remained persuaded that there were many UNIQUE BENEFITS—not only philosophical and 'Spiritual,' but also down-to-earth psychological and physiological—available by FIGURATIVELY interpreting H.P.B.'s greatest work, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, while at the same time experimentally adopting a Theosophical life-style which encouraged the cultivation and 'temporary trust' of one’s own INTUITIONS—the potential source of POSSIBLY-NOT-OTHERWISE-OBTAINABLE knowledge. . . .

"Therefore, it was never Captain T’s intention to completely throw the old Russian woman out with her bathwater. . . ."

I guess that should be enough Windstorm for today, my old friend.
Richard
[comments welcome at theosophy.net]

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Comment by Dewald Bester on October 26, 2018 at 3:43am

Hi Richard

I would separate out some of the questions raised by your article.

1) Can Theosophical (HPB) statements be justified in their contemporary late 19th cent. setting. I would argue, yes. I wont dwell on that.

2) The real question is what to do with her writings now, when the world appears to have decisively moved on from much late 19th century thought. One option, the retreat into 'figurative' and 'metaphorical' explanations of what she was trying to say. Didnt John Algeo write on this? I don't think this is the only option. And it slips into a sort of regress. What did she say and mean 'figuratively', and 'metaphorically'? Can I then say those figurative meanings are also meant to be be figuratively understood? 

Here is my logical progression:

Reject the notion that there is a preferred language that the world wants to be described in. i.e. there is not 'right' way to describe the world.

Reject the notion that we are moving towards the 'True' and correct way of describing the world.

[I think that this can be supported with reference to some mainstream philosophical trends of today. There are, of course, alternate and competing trends, but that is the point, partly].

Accept that we are describing the world for our own purposes.

Accept that we are all (theosophists, scientists, christians, atheists) describing the world for specific purposes.

Once that is accepted I can't see any reason why someone may not choose to take hbp literally - if it makes sense to them according to what they take as the evidence. The logic and coherence of her system allows for the inferential leaps you find odd and outdated. But that is because you are inhabiting a different language game. I think, if you are suggesting, that some positions are less 'rational' than others, on shaky ground.

Here, in my opinion, is your key phrase "Here, my own inclination is that it is highly unlikely, if not actually impossible, that any H. sapiens primate could ever know something like this with such casual 100% certainty."

The logic of your critique flows from this position. So, if I ask a question: Can we raise a justifiable argument today for different anthropologies and ontologies than the one you accept and proffer?

I'd like to think yes.

Rgds

Dewald

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