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THE EMBELLISHMENT OF TRUTH:

Understanding Self-Delusion
in the Esoteric Movement


CARLOS CARDOSO AVELINE

 

© 2011 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö

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The present text has been first published by FOHAT magazine, Canada, in its Summer (July) 2005 edition, and by “The Aquarian Theosophist”, at the August 2005 edition, pages 1 to 7. It was revised by the author in January 2011.

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Since ancient times, it has been a well-established axiom in eastern and western philosophies that the ideas of Truth, Beauty and Goodness are deeply interconnected, and that they are impossible to separate one from another.  

Goodness and Beauty are usually pleasant, and Robert Crosbie quoted the Laws of the Manu, known in India for thousands of years: 

“Let him say what is true.
Let him say what is useful.  
Let him say what is pleasant.
Let him utter no disagreeable truth.
Let him utter no agreeable falsehood.” [1]  

As to the West, let’s see one example from Ancient Greece. In his dialogue “Philebus”, Plato presents a conversation with Socrates. The great philosopher is discussing the inner and alchemical process by which we learn to combine in the proper way different subtle substances in our consciousness, so that we attain Goodness. Socrates explains: 

“... Any want of measure and symmetry in any mixture whatever must always be of necessity fatal, both to the elements and to the mixture, which is then not a mixture, but only a confused medley which brings confusion on the possessor of it.” 

Protarchus agrees, saying:  “Most true”.  Socrates proceeds:  

“And now the power of the good has retired into the region of the beautiful; for measure and symmetry are beauty and virtue all the world over.  (...)  Also we said that truth was to form an element in the mixture.  (...) Then, if we are not able to hunt  the Good with one idea only, with three we may catch our prey; Beauty, Symmetry, Truth are the three,  and these taken together we may regard as the  single cause of the mixture, and the mixture as being good by reason of  the infusion of them.” [2]  

No doubt. Goodness, truth, symmetry and beauty are inseparable realities acting through an integrated process, an “infusion”. Yet for the student of esoteric philosophy simply accepting this idea is not enough. It is also necessary to know that the dynamic unity of these substances is beyond the field of perception given by the five senses and personal memory, and that it can only be understood at the inner level.  

Let’s examine, for instance, the Beauty present in Truth. It cannot be always seen. It is fundamentally hidden and only occasionally external.  Things are often not what they seem, and the Truth beneath surfaces can easily appear - or be construed and presented - as something bad, ugly, painful, or even unfriendly, aggressive, heretical and dangerous.  

The beauty of the spiritual path leading to self-knowledge is also internal, and to think that it must always show itself externally has been for centuries a great source of unnecessary illusion and suffering.  Therefore all appearances of beauty, truth and goodness should be carefully examined by every student.  Walking along this arduous path, he will gradually learn how to prevent self-illusion and also how not to mislead others. 

Truth is frequently difficult to accept, and H.P. Blavatsky warned us about the many obstacles to sincerity. She wrote:   

“Sincerity is true wisdom, it appears, only to the mind of the moral philosopher. It is rudeness and insult to him who regards dissimulation and deceit as culture and politeness, and holds that the shortest, easiest, and safest way to success is to let sleeping dogs and old customs alone. But if the dogs are obstructing the highway to progress and truth, and Society will, as a rule, reject the wise words of (St.) Augustine, who recommends that ‘no man should prefer custom before reason and truth’, is it a sufficient cause for the philantropist to walk out of, or even deviate from the track of truth, because the selfish egoist chooses to do so?” [3]  

Therefore, whenever a group or section of the theosophical movement starts embellishing truth so that it gets more attractive to the world and to the people at large, there is danger.  Truths which appear to be ugly may be swept aside. Those who insist in raising uncomfortable facts will be considered dangerous people. Credulity will come in and people will forget these classical words of a Mahatma:  

“Credulity breeds credulity and ends in hypocrisy”. [4]   

Once artificial beautification of truth leads people to credulity, it soon creates the need for more and more embellishment of reality.  Later on, a moment will come when this group of theosophists has no clear criteria any longer to distinguish truth from illusion or fact from fiction.  Once the apparently ugly truths have started being eliminated from the field of our conscious sight, it follows that the apparently beautiful lies, illusions and falsehoods begin to replace Truth.  An old saying states that lies are ashamed of their ugliness, so they disguise themselves as truths. That is why our Teachers recommend that students should have the courage to choose truth at all times, regardless of appearances. It is a question of spiritual survival, and H.P.B.  wrote:  

“Our motto was from the first, and ever shall be: ‘THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH’. Truth we search for, and, once found, we bring it forward before the world, whencesoever comes.” [5]  

Yet the theosophical movement as a whole has had a steady pattern of wrong choices with regard to this question. Many great and small examples of “truth embellishment” or self-delusion can be found in the several theosophical groups and institutions around the world - and most probably in our own lives, too. Therefore, while looking at the mistakes made by other persons or by the esoteric movement at large, each student should have enough courage to remember that all human karma is his own, and illusion is not something to be identified and condemned in others only.  

The moral beauty present in acknowledging and correcting our mistakes runs underneath the deceiving surfaces of life, and it has long-term effects. According to the Golden Stairs given to esoteric students through HPB, to have an open mind and to make a brave declaration of principles are two necessary steps for those who would like to have access to the inner Temple of Truth. [6] This means challenging routine.  

An open mind and a courageous declaration of principles are two essential practices for groups and institutions, as well as individuals.  With these two instruments the theosophical movement can learn from its own mistakes. This should not be too complicated according to a popular saying in Brazil, which explains:    

“The wise ones learn from other people’s mistakes; the moderately ignorant learn from their own mistakes; only complete fools do not learn even from their own mistakes.”  

We should be humble enough to admit and to discuss our failures, in order not to repeat them.  If we accept we don’t know things we don’t know, at least we will have an open mind, and this is the first Socratic step for starting to learn a new lesson at a higher level.  

With an open mind we can also say what we think. Let us see, then, in this spirit, a few examples of self-delusion in the history of the esoteric movement.  Occasions when truth was embellished or simply abandoned because it did not seem to appear beautiful enough at the eyes of the public. Moments when untruthfulness was seen as irresistibly beautiful, elegant, even charming.   

In 1884-85, when HPB was accused by the Society for Psychic Researches (SPR)  of being a “fascinating case of fraud”, leading theosophists in India decided it would be easier  not to challenge the offenders by defending HPB and the Truth against the slanderers. HPB got sick and had to leave Adyar never to come back. It took one hundred years for the very SPR to honestly make a public acknowledgement that after all HPB was NOT a fraud. Instead, she was the VICTIM of the forgeries and falsehoods fabricated by her accusers. [7]   

During the 1890s, William Q. Judge was accused by the Adyar T.S. (led by Henry Olcott and Annie Besant) of forging messages supposedly coming from the Mahatmas.  The editors of the book “The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950”[8] received a document signed by Mr. B. P. Wadia, a well-known theosophist. The document, signed in December 15, 1947, says:  

“Not only Col. Olcott, but also Mrs. Besant came to perceive the error of her ways in later years. A respected member of the Adyar Society who had fully studied the Judge Case interviewed Mrs. Besant specially on this subject. In course of the serious conversation, Mrs. Besant admitted that what was presented to her was on the whole accurate and that she had come to a conclusion some time previously that Judge did not forge those letters; and that the messages received by him were genuine. On being requested to say that much only, if not more, to the Theosophical public the world over Mrs. Besant demurred and remarked that it was such an old and forgotten matter - ‘Why revive it?’ On permission being sought by the friend to make her view public, she flatly refused. This came as a shock to the gentleman who was refused this permission, for he fully expected that in the interests of historical veracity Mrs. Besant would agree to say in public what she so readily admitted to him in private conversation, completely exonerating Mr. Judge from manufacturing bogus Mahatma messages.” [9]

During the first part of the 20th century, Mr. C. W. Leadbeater and Mrs. Annie Besant proudly announced to the world that Lord Christ himself would personally come back in a public way, together with the higher self of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, and both would eliminate most of the world’s problems, including wars and poverty, before the end of that century. [10] It had all appearance of a beautiful dream - or at least of an embellished fancy.  Christ’s “vehicle” and instrument in the Second Coming was to be Mr. Jiddu Krishnamurti, with the help of the Liberal Catholic Church led by Leadbeater. At the same time, Leadbeater also described with all sort of details, in the first editions of his book “The Inner Life”, the  advanced human civilization which according to him lives on the physical plane in the planet Mars, with its large cities, social organizations, agriculture and so on.  Not content with the fantastic information about Mars, Leadbeater also let the world know that physical plane houses of people living on the planet Mercury  have doors which are several feet above the soil, so that people have to take considerable jumps to get to them. But this is not a problem, since gravity in Mercury happens to be much less intense than on Earth. [11] For some unexplained reason, however, the Adyar T. S. has apparently forgotten in recent years that these clairvoyant reports have ever been written and sold around the world under the name of Theosophy. The 1978 USA edition of “The Inner Life” did not include the text on Mars and Mercury. Several clairvoyant books written by C.W. Leadbeater seem to have silently disappeared into thin air. Unfortunately, many other absurdities present in his books are still for sale worldwide. The truth about
Leadbeater’s mistakes has not been considered beautiful enough, perhaps, to be honestly presented to the public. 

In the year 2000,
the Theosophical Publishing House/Quest Books published the unfortunate volume “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky”, by Daniel Caldwell. This 451 pp. book is a collection of testimonies, false and true, about the life of H. P. Blavatsky.  With this book, Daniel Caldwell inaugurated a new “editorial policy” adopted by the Adyar Theosophical Society in America, which consists of publishing lies and libels invented by the old enemies of H. P. Blavatsky and of the theosophical movement as if they were authentic documents. The new editorial “policy” also includes publishing these false accusations scattered amidst authentic documents, which makes it harder  for the unexperienced student to identify the falsehoods whose effect - if unresisted -  would be killing HPB’s memory and destroying its spiritual vibration at the moral, ethical and occult levels, which are inevitably interconnected. Thus HPB’s image could be apparently put at the same level as some other “theosophical” leaders, perhaps. In the disgusting volume “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” - while believing the editor has selected truthful documents - the reader will bump into many of the lies written against HPB. There he will see two texts by Emma Coulomb (pp. 35-36 and pp. 210-215) with no word from the “editor” Daniel Caldwell admitting he is publishing documents which have no trace of truth in them whatsoever.

Caldwell’s book also contains two texts by Mr. Solovyov with attacks against HPB; one false testimony by Mr. Richard Hodgson, several false accusations against HPB made by Moncure D. Conway and many other unjust attacks aimed at her who is not here to defend herself.  The disgusting material includes utter disrespect for two Sacred Teachers and Their names, in one of the libels signed by Emma Coulomb. Its reproduction by a Publishing House which calls itself “Theosophical” is something which surpasses and goes relatively far beyond the limits of absurdity. HPB wrote long enough in “The Key to Theosophy”[12] about the abuse of sacred names, even when the cause of such a desecration is not a collection of deliberate lies against the theosophical philosophy. 

As to this kind of action, there are two levels of karma: the karma of actively publishing lies against the Masters and HPB, and the karma of anyone who knows about this and does nothing.  This will not be the karma of earnest students. In the Preliminary Memorandum of the Esoteric Section of Theosophical Society, issued in 1888, Mrs. Blavatsky made an inspiring quotation from the Book of Discipline in the schools of Dzyan and from a letter of a Master:  

“He who wipeth not away the filth with which the parent’s body have been defiled by an enemy, neither loves the parent nor honours himself. He who defendeth not the persecuted and the helpless (...) has been born too soon in human shape.” [13]   

I can only agree with these wise words.   

It is true that the editor of “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” wrote at the preface of the book: “These reminiscenses by her relatives, acquaintances, friends, co-workers, and enemies give a vivid portrayal of Madame Blavatsky’s personality and allow the reader to enter into the historical milieu of her time.” But he forgot the profound difference between an enemy and a liar. An enemy, says the dictionary, is an adversary or an opponent - often an honest person.  A liar is a person who tells lies - or who knowingly helps propagating them. Enemies may say unpleasant truths and we should be able to learn from them. The problem is not with enemies, then, but with false testimonies. The editor of “The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky” wrongly called “reminiscenses” the old, well-known falsehoods and proved lies.  He and TPH-Wheaton considered them beautiful enough to go to the public.

In 1999-2000, while working as an editor in the translation into Portuguese language of the “Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett”, I made an issue-by-issue comparative study showing the radical and irreconcilable differences between the HPB/Masters Teachings and the fantastic writings of C. W. Leadbeater. I submitted the study to Ms. Joy Mills, former International Vice-President of the Adyar T.S., and a well-known student of the Mahatma Letters. Ms. Joy confirmed my evidences and conclusions. She wrote that Leadbeater’s clairvoyant books are mostly “science-fiction”, but recommended that I should remain quiet and silent about that.  In July 2002 I submitted the same comparative study to the international president of the Adyar T.S., Ms. Radha Burnier. In her answer to me, she carefully avoided taking any clear position on the subject. In this particular case too, it seems that Truth was not considered beautiful enough to see the light of the day.   

In 2003, the Theosophical Publishing House-Wheaton published the volume entitled “Letters of H. P. Blavatsky - Volume I”  with some 20 per cent of false letters whose “originals” never appeared. Most of them are the result of the creative imagination of Mr. Vsevolod Solovyov. Their content is disgustingly offensive to Truth and to the theosophical movement.  Mr. John Algeo, the editor of the forgeries, half-admitted in a message to Ms.Dara Eklund (of which I have a xerox copy), that he made this mistake in spite of having been warned beforehand about the subject. Yet he refuses to publically acknowledge his wrongdoing or to take the steps necessary to correct the situation. Once more, untruthfulness has been considered good and beautiful enough to go to the public. Truth, on the other hand, does not seem to be the right thing to offer the public.  

The Case and the accusations against William Q. Judge, as the careful Leadbeaterian descriptions of human physical life and civilization in Mars and Mercury, or  the libels and forged letters against HPB,   and the information about  the spectacular coming back of Christ and Julius Caesar in the 20th Century - all these  seem to have the same degree of  inaccuracy.  

The occult effects and dangers created by this process of departure from Truth were clearly pointed out by Master K.H. in the Letter XXX of the “Mahatma Letters”. Addressed to Mr. Allan O. Hume, the letter makes a vivid comparison between the practical methods employed by the Adepts of the Eternal Truth and - the Jesuits. Something to think about and to meditate.  The Mahatma writes:   

“My dear Sir, we will hardly ever agree in our ideas of things, and even of the value of words. You have once upon a time called us Jesuits; and, viewing things as you do, perhaps, you were right to a certain extent in so regarding us, since apparently our systems of training do not differ much. But it is only externally. As I once said before, they know that what they teach is a lie; and we know that what we impart is true, the only truth and nothing but the truth. They work for the greater power and glory (!)  of their order; we - for the power and final glory of individuals, of isolated units, of humanity in general, and we are content, nay forced - to leave our Order and its chiefs entirely in the shade. They work, and toil, and deceive, for the sake of worldly power in this life; we work and toil, and allow our chelas to be temporarily deceived, to afford them means never to be deceived hereafter, and to see the whole evil of falsity and untruth, not alone in this but in many of their after lives. (...) They are trained to deceive; we - to undeceive...” [14]  

The occult obstacles challenging institutions which call themselves  theosophical get more serious, then, when they  decide they  prefer publishing  things they  know to be  falsehoods and lies, and when they decide they prefer not to  publish crucial information which they know to be true.  

What do the Masters          of the Truth Eternal expect from us, students of their esoteric philosophy? In a purely abstract sense, perhaps it is not too difficult to understand, in part.  In the precise moment when HPB was suffering the most severe attacks coming from those very same persons whose untrue words are now “innocently” publicized by “theosophical” editors, the Mahatma K.H. wrote: 

“Courage then, you all, who would be warriors of the one divine Verity; keep on boldly and confidently; husband your moral strength not wasting it upon trifles but keeping it against great occasions like the present one.” [15]  

To some, defending the truth with any small degree of personal sacrifice may seem too passionate. Perhaps one or two people could even say that such an odd attitude does not have the amount of hypocrisy necessary to live well in these days.  

Yet for a sincere student of Dharma there could be hardly anything more beautiful, kind, good, pleasant, useful or worthwhile than helping protect the Teaching, and the Teacher’s Work, from those poor personalities who do not know, or do not wish to know the road to inner Truth.   

Such a student must be aware of the fact that this same alchemical process or struggle takes place inside his own consciousness all the time as long as he is linked to human karma.  There is no other path to go: in order to liberate himself, he has to help liberating others. In order to liberate others, he has to liberate himself. There is no difference between peace unto oneself and peace unto all beings.   

NOTES: 

[1] “The Friendly Philosopher”, Robert Crosbie, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1945,  415 pp., see p. 48.  

[2] “Philebus”, a dialogue by Plato, included in the volume Plato, published by  Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Great Books of the Western World, Chicago, London, Toronto, 1952, 814 pp., see pp. 637-638.   

[3] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, Wheaton(USA), London (UK), Madras (India), Volume IX, second printing, 1986, 488 pp., see p. 06.  

[4] Letter 46, dated 1900, from Mahatma K.H. to Annie Besant, in “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, transcribed and compiled by C. Jinarajadasa, first series, Sixth Printing, 1973,  TPH, Adyar,  Madras/Chenai,  India, 183 pp., see page 99. 

[5] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH,  Volume IX, 1986, 488 pp., see p. 07.  

[6] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH,  Volume XII, 1980,  859 pp., see p. 503.  

[7] See “H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR, an examination of  the Hodgson Report of 1885”, by Vernon Harrison, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, USA, 1997, 78 pp.  

[8] Published by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles.  

[9] “The Judge Case, a Conspiracy Which Ruined the Theosophical CAUSE”, by Ernest Pelletier, Edmonton Theosophical Society, a one-volume edition with 983 pages in two parts. See p. 443, second part.  

[10] See “MAN, Whence, How and Whither”, by C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant,  TPH, Adyar. The Brazilian Edition of this work only recently disappeared from bookshops.  

[11] Readers can examine Mr. Leadbeater’s remarkable clairvoyant description of physical  life on  Mars and Mercury in the magazine “Theosophical History”, January 1988, pp. 142-148.  

[12] “The Key to Theosophy”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Bombay, India, 367 pp., 1987. See pages 298-301.  

[13] “H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, Volume XII, 1980,  859 pp., see pp . 502-503.  

[14] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., Pasadena, 1992,  493 pp., see Letter XXX, pages 231-232. In the Chronological Edition of the “Mahatma Letters” (TPH-Philippines, 1993),  please see Letter 74, pp. 222-223.  

[15] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., 493 pp., see Letter LV, p. 322  (Letter 130 in the Chronological Edition).

 

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