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Defending the Old Lady

 
A Commentary on “The Letters of
H.P. Blavatsky - vol. I”, Edited by John
Algeo, TPH-Wheaton, USA, 2003, 632 pp.
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 
Facsimile of the 2004 Letter of Mrs. Burnier saying she has nothing to do
with the inclusion of the obviously spurious letters in the TPH-USA volume.
 
 
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The following text reproduces Chapter Eighteen of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013.
 
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Included in “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky - Volume I” we can see some 27 letters which are said to be written by HPB, but whose originals never appeared. They contain numerous brutal attacks and disguised slanders against the main founder of the modern esoteric movement.
 
In most cases, the false letters ascribed to Helena P. Blavatsky were obtained exclusively from their publication by Mr. Vsevolod S. Solovyov, as the editor John Algeo rightfully indicates after the text of each of them.
 
Mr. John Algeo, who was at the time the international vice-president of the Adyar Theosophical Society, adopted the Solovyov documents as “true” or “probably true”. In doing this, he preferred not to take into consideration the central fact that Solovyov was a well-known slanderer and an outstanding public enemy of the Theosophical movement and of HPB’s, personally. Algeo also ignored the fact that there are no indications suggesting that these texts might be authentic. 
 
No theosophical historian gives credit to Vsevolod Solovyov. His accusations are utterly false, as Sylvia Cranston demonstrates in “HPB, The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky”.[1]
 
In another important book - “Blavatsky and Her Teachers” - Jean Overton Fuller reports that Solovyov forged and published several letters, which he ascribed to HPB. In one of them, Solovyov makes HPB “confess” she “invented” the whole idea of the Masters.[2]
 
In a third well-known biography of the Old Lady, “When Daylight Comes”, by Howard Murphet, we read - at page 193 - that Solovyov played the role of “a muckracking journalist looking for a good story at any cost to truth”.[3] On the same page 193, Howard Murphet quotes H. S. Olcott, the president-founder of the Theosophical Society. According to HSO, the fact that Solovyov’s texts against HPB were published only after her death, which “made it safe for him to tell his falsehoods about her, shows him to be as heartless and contemptible, though fifty times more talented, than the Coulombs”. [4]
 
John Algeo, who seemed to be a careful linguist and scholar, failed to leave these letters unpublished. And he failed even to mention that Mr. Solovyov, sole source of these texts, was one of the bitterest enemies of HPB and of the theosophical movement in all times, and most likely forged these letters, completely or in part. In fact, Algeo seems to implicitly indicate to the reader that the letters are authentic. The very name of the Theosophical Publishing House appearing on the volume, and the fact that it is published as part of the Collected Writings of HPB give even more weight to the false impression that these letters should be taken as authentic.
 
Most of the Algeo-Solovyov letters are addressed to Mr. A. N. Aksakoff. Besides the texts commented below, other letters included in the U.S.A.-TPH volume were obtained exclusively from Mr. Vsevolod Solovyov’s book.
 
Among the false texts published as authentic are Algeo letters 7, 11, 12, 17, 33, 37, 45, 53, 54, 55, 60, 61, 69, 70, 72, 76, 85, 90 and 94. Some of the most offensive “Letters” in the volume are 7, 12, 17, 33, 37, 53, 69 and 76. But in several other Algeo-Solovyov letters HPB appears as someone obsessed by money, a mean person, morally and intellectually limited to subjects of little importance.
 
Commentaries on some of the texts in the book “Letters of H.P. Blavatsky - volume I”:
 
Letter 7 - In this text, famous for being a collection of absurdities, HPB is made to offer her services to the Russian Secret Police. A thorough examination of Algeo Letter 7 is presented in the next Chapter, “A Masterpiece of Editorial Forgery”.
 
Letter 8 - It serves as a preparation for reading Algeo Letters 11 and 12.
 
Letters 11 and 12 - The “HPB” fabricated by the enemies of the esoteric movement writes as if she were morally guilty of all kinds of undignified behavior. One of the sentences in Algeo Letter 12, at page 49, says: “These are the bitter fruits of my youth devoted to Satan, his pomps and works!”
 
At page 47, Letter 12, she writes: “Though you have the right, like any honorable man, to despise me for my sad reputation in the past, you are so condescending and magnanimous as to write to me. .... If I have any hope for the future, it is only beyond the grave, when bright spirits shall help me to free myself from my sinful and impure envelope.”
 
There are many other sentences ascribed to HPB which are extremely hard to take as true if not ridiculously false.
 
Algeo Letters 11, 12, 17 and others may be entire forgeries. Other possibility is that false interpolations have been included in their “transcriptions” made by Mr. Solovyov. Both from inner evidence and from the source of these letters, it is easy to see that they include many false sentences.
 
In the book “Blavatsky and Her Teachers”, Jean Overton Fuller correctly identifies the false letter which Algeo published as authentic and included in his volume as Letter 11. Here “HPB” is made to talk about free love and to say that “there is no salvation” for her “but death”.
 
In 1999, I heard that such a letter would be published as part of the “Collected Writings”. Mr. Pedro Oliveira, the former International Secretary of the T.S. Adyar, told me that. At the time, I wrote to the USA-TPH asking about any continuation of the “Collected Writings” after the Volume XV - Cumulative Index. I had a response saying that no other volume was in preparation. In the year 2000, when I detected rumours in the Brazilian Section of the T.S. questioning HPB’s purity of life, I wrote to Pedro Oliveira for clarification and he avoided the subject.
 
Letter 17 - In this text the false “HPB”, an astral voodoo doll created to cause harm to the mission of the real Monad who once worked under the name of HPB, is made to say: “If you hear that the Blavatsky of many sins has perished, not in the bloom of years and beauty, by some curious death, and that she has dematerialized forever...” (page 71). And then she attacks her own family (page 72).
 
Letter 33 - These words are ascribed to her: “... yet, there is only one thing I am seeking and struggling for - that people should forget the former Blavatsky, and leave the new one alone. But it seems hard to achieve.” And the text goes on along similar lines.
 
Letter 37 - This Algeo letter says: “In a detailed account (…..), Olcott makes of me something mysteriously terrible, and almost leads the public to suspect that I have either sold my soul to the devil or am the direct heiress of Count de Saint-Germain or Cagliostro. Do not believe it (.....).” In the same page, a few lines below: “Moreover the spirit of John King is very fond of me, and I am fonder of him than of anything on earth. He is my only friend, and if I am indebted to anyone for the radical change in my ideas of life, my yearnings, and so forth, it is to him alone.”
 
Later on, we can read:
 
“This is why I have laid down the rule never in any case to permit outsiders to utilize my mediumistic powers.” (pp. 141-142)
 
Letter 53 - “I am ready to sell my soul for spiritualism, but nobody will buy it, and I am living from hand to mouth ...” (page 194)
 
Letter 69 - “I really cannot, just because the devil got me into trouble in my youth, go and rip up my stomach now like a Japanese suicide...” And also: “My position is cheerless - simply helpless. There is nothing left but to start for Australia and change my name forever.” (page 260)
 
Letter 76 - Among other Algeotic absurdities, the founder of the theosophical movement is made to describe a scene in which she and other people torture a cat and cause the death of the animal by electrification (page 288), during “an occult experience”.
 
In the preface of this volume with “Letters of HPB”, John Algeo carefully reveals minor aspects of his “Editorial Principles” on issues like References, Transliteration, Translations and Order. He does not say that he includes a whole collection of slanders against HPB.
 
The very title of Algeo’s volume - “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky” - invites the reader to take for granted that all the Letters have been authentically written by HPB. Any fair editorial approach would at the very least mention that they cannot be ascribed to HPB, and that many of them have been forged or distorted by Mr. Solovyov.
 
One must take into consideration the fact that these letters are all dated after 1870, when a letter from the Mahatmas, delivered to HPB’s aunt, made it clear that HPB was already in full touch with them and a full disciple.[5] Therefore no one could say that when HPB wrote these letters she was naive, had not been taken into discipleship properly, etc.
 
Of course, the members of the “Editorial Committee for the Letters of HPB” - Dara Eklund, Daniel Caldwell, R. Elwood, Joy Mills, Nicholas Weeks - have a degree of responsibility with regard to the publication of these slanders. In a letter to me dated June 6th 2004, Mr. Algeo says that each member of the Editorial Committee “was sent all materials as they were prepared”, and every member “responded to those materials, without mentioning the matters of your concern.” 
 
This, however, is not true, as Ms. Dara Eklund told me in a letter dated 17 May 2004:
 
“My husband Nicholas Weeks had cautioned Algeo about the Solovyov letters, but he made the final decision...”
 
Dara sent me copy of an e-mail from John Algeo to her, written in May 2004 after receiving my first letter to him and to Dara. In the e-mail Algeo states:
 
“The question of the reliability of Solovyov has already been broached to me by Leslie Price, so I have it in mind. I’ll see whether I can get some general caveat into the next printing, and more particular notes on his particular failings into the next edition. I was of course aware that Solovyov (like others who have quoted or extracted HPB’s letters) cannot be taken at face value, and there is a general statement about that in the volume. But because Boris included those letters in his collection, I was not as critical about them as I probably should have been.”
 
In this paragraph John Algeo mentions Solovyov’s “particular failings”.
 
According to the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, “failing” means “the act or state of one who or that which fails”. Therefore failings is not the word for what Solovyov did. He tried to do harm and happened to have a considerable success indeed. Even now his lies are publicized.
 
One could argue that most of these letters were translated by Boris de Zirkoff, who included them in his personal files decades ago.
 
But this does not mean that Zirkoff thought they were authentic. Boris published other false accusations and forged letters against HPB in the volume VI of her Collected Writings. He did so clearly identifying the texts as forgeries, from their very titles, and included frank commentaries by HPB herself on such libels. No ambiguity was possible. No reader could possibly think those forged texts were true. Whereas Algeo silently adopted as true the attacks against HPB. It is clear, therefore, that there is an oceanic distance between the two editorial treatments with regard to the attacks against the Old Lady.
 
In a letter to Algeo dated 25th May 2004, I submitted to him 12 technical questions:
 
1) What proofs do you have that the Solovyov letters, whose originals never appeared, are true?
 
2) Why do you implicitly believe, as an editor, that Solovyov is a reliable historical source?
 
3) Who made the historical discovery that Henry S. Olcott, Jean Overton Fuller, Howard Murphet, Sylvia Cranston and so many other students are wrong, and Mr. Solovyov is, after all, a reliable source of documents concerning H.P. Blavatsky?
 
4) What are the scientific evidences that corroborate such a powerful discovery?
 
5) Or do you accept the evidences that Solovyov is a liar and a traitor to Truth?
 
6) But then, why publish his stuff as true with no warning?
 
7) Or rather, why to publish it at all?
 
8) Who gave the letter ascribed to H.P.B. and published as number 7, to the Russian Public Archives where it is now?
 
9) You must have proofs or evidences that the originals of Letter 7, now in these Public Archives, were not forged either by Mr. Solovyov or by Mr. and Mrs. Coulomb.
 
10) What are these proofs and evidences, please?
 
11) Has any expert in forgeries examined these “originals”?
 
12) Please remember that the last time an expert examined the so-called “proofs” against HPB, the Old Lady was found not guilty. HPB was found a victim of forgery, and the SPR, Society for Psychic Research, honestly made a public apology in April 1986, one hundred years after condemning HPB on false evidence. Why not to try a good expert in forgeries for the Letter 7, if it has not been done yet?
 
While these 12 questions to John Algeo had no answers, the international president of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) honestly wrote to me about the issue. In order to understand what was going on with the Adyar Society’s editorial policies, I had asked an explanation from Ms. Radha Burnier. Upon receiving my evaluation of Algeo’s editorial work, she answered in a letter dated 24 June 2004:
 
“I agree about the wisdom of including in ‘The Letters of HPB’ published by TPH Wheaton the obviously spurious ones. You must ask an explanation, not from me (who have nothing to do with it, and have not been consulted) but from the Editorial Committee in the U.S.”
 
It is a significant fact that Mrs. Burnier stays away from these attacks against HPB. 
 
In a personal letter to me dated 5 May 2004, Jean Overton Fuller admitted:
 
“It is very strange, Algeo being a Theosophist and indeed Vice-President.” In the same letter Jean says that the publication of the Solovyov letters as if they were authentic is something “really very damaging”.
 
Algeo did partially accept he made a mistake in publishing the Solovyov letters. But his confession was made privately, and such a public mistake must be corrected in a public way, as I requested from him in a letter dated 19 June 2004:
 
It would be obviously not fair that the misinformation would go to the many, and that the honest admission of the mistake would be made to one or two people only. You know that modern newspapers use to admit their mistakes. When any publication makes a mistake, the rule goes (and in most cases the law says) that the acknowledgment and correction should be as public as the misinformation publicized. As to the religious world, even the Pope John Paul II has admitted publically several of Vatican’s past crimes against the Jews, the native peoples, during the Inquisition, etc.”
 
“Therefore I would like to make a suggestion. Would you please make a public note or statement (in ‘Quest’ magazine, for instance), visible enough to be noticed, admitting that the Solovyov letters - once fully examined the evidences available - cannot be considered authentic, but quite the opposite, as they have been likely forged?” 
 
“If you do that, I will not feel obliged to try to build an amount of general critical consciousness about the issue, so that in the second edition the wrongs are corrected.”
 
“I do not have the option of doing nothing about the issue, unless someone proves to me that Solovyov is a reliable source on theosophical history and on the life of HPB. The reason I can’t remain inert is that I have a heartfelt ethical duty to practice a valiant defence of those who are unjustly attacked. (I believe you are familiar with this particular step of the Golden Stairs.) ”
 
Algeo wrote about making corrections in the next edition. There is no need for such a long delay in correcting the mistake done. Such a future correction would leave the whole first edition in error. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that a second edition will appear any time soon, as Ms. Joy Mills, member of the Editorial Committee, acknowledged in a letter to me dated August 5th, 2004:
 
“We appreciate your concern over any letters in the published work, ‘The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky’, that may be spurious. Corrections can only be made if and when there is a further edition of this first volume of the letters. Meanwhile, I assure you that we will take into consideration your several comments and objections.”
 
It is a rather difficult-to-solve mathematical problem for me to understand why Ms. Joy Mills (an ex-international vice-president of the Adyar Society) should come to the conclusion that “nothing can be done” before the “if and when” of a new edition occurs. The real question is: “even if there would be another edition soon, why wait to make the correction?” I wrote on 9 July 2004 to Dara Eklund, with copy to Mr. Algeo:
 
“Why waiting? Why should we circulate (.....) falsehoods - by action or by omission - to the two or three thousand readers of the first edition (….). Why not making an errata, a leaf with a rectification, which would circulate with each new volume to be sold? (…..) It would be an (…..) adequate and professional attitude on the part of Mr. John Algeo and his Committee.”
 
And I added in the same letter:
 
“...Once Mr. Algeo has a clear perception of the injustice made to HPB, he will be happy to acknowledge the mistake as soon as possible, as every able and experienced editor does worldwide nowadays. In previous letters I have already mentioned the apologies of the Vatican with regard to several of its crimes. I also mentioned the wise tradition of errata and editorial apologies which editors openly do whenever needed. (….) But I believe you will agree with me that a public mistake cannot be corrected with a secret amendment.”

The Psychoanalysis of an Editorial Policy
 
In a handwritten postcard dated 19 July 2004, Dara Eklund reiterated to me that in her view all editorial responsibility belongs to Mr. John Algeo, and said that indeed “he would not need to wait ten years to do that” [i.e., the amendments]. [6]
 
Patience should be practiced in esoteric philosophy, along with firmness. Several years after Dara’s commentary, the January 2013 edition of The Aquarian Theosophist made the same suggestion in the article entitled “H.P.B. Defense Project - 2013, an Opportunity to Change for the Better”(pp. 3-4).There was still no positive reaction. In an article published in the July 2005 edition of the Adyar magazine “The Theosophist”, Algeo had confessed: “It may be the case that those letters are indeed forgeries.”[7]  But he did not admit that they are evidently fraudulent, and that he had no proof whatsoever to the contrary. 
 
How could Algeo’s actions be rationally explained? What is the conscious or unconscious purpose of belittling HPB? There may be deep psychological processes involved. Recognizing the basic fact of HPB’s purity of life has implications which make it a challenging task for some. If you have a spiritual leader who led a pure life, you try to purify yourself, your emotions and motives, as much as you can. For those who are not interested in this difficult but central task, it may be a false cause of relief and comfort to imagine HPB as having led an impure life. Solovyov’s lies may then help these people along the initially wide and nice path of self-justification, self-indulgence and self-illusion
 
The purity of life of HPB has little to do with conventional or popular moralism, which is normally attached to some degree of hypocrisy. Self-discipline and purity of life for true aspirants to wisdom have to do with Yoga as science.
 
The reason for theosophists to follow HPB’s example and try to lead pure lives has to do with Occult Science and with the process of cause and effect. It is essential, along 21st century and afterwards, that people have the chance to understand that the Mahatmas’ Teachings came through a decent person, a Jnana Yogi, an Upasika, a female disciple.
 
Sacred knowledge is attached - not for religious reasons, but for scientific ones - to a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, a loyal sense of duty to the Teacher, a brave declaration of principles and a valiant defence of those who are unjustly attacked. These are but some of the main steps indicated by the Mahatmas to those who want to be true aspirants for lay discipleship. [8]
 
 
NOTES:
 
[1] “HPB, The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky”, by Sylvia Cranston, published by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Books, N.Y., USA, 1994, 648 pp. See Chapter 2 in Part 6, pp. 298-310.
 
[2] “Blavatsky and Her Teachers”, by Ms. Jean Overton Fuller, East-West Publications, 1988, 270 pp., see Chapter 67, pp. 186-188. 
 
[3] “When Daylight Comes”, by Howard Murphet, TPH, Quest Books, USA, copyright 1975, 277 pp. See Chapter 22, pp. 191-194.
 
[4] The sentence comes from H.S. Olcott’s “Old Diary Leaves”, TPH-India, 1972, volume III, p. 185.
 
[5] See “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, edited by C. Jinarajadasa, TPH, 1973, Second Series, Letter 1, by Mahatma K.H.
 
[6] The present Chapter examines but a few fundamental mistakes and forms of disrespect for truth and ethics in Algeo’s volume. For other faults in the editorial work of “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky - Vol. I”, see the review by John Patrick Deveney, from New York, in the magazine “Theosophical History”, July 2004, pp. 31-36. “Theosophical History” was published by Mr. James Santucci, Department of Comparative Religion, California State University, USA.
 
[7] “Discord is the Harmony of the Universe”, an article by John Algeo in “The Theosophist”, a monthly magazine, Adyar, India, July 2005, see p. 371.
 
[8] The above Chapter is an enlarged and updated version of a text published under the same title by “Fohat” magazine in its Winter 2004 edition. It was also published in “The Aquarian Theosophist”, September 2005, pp. 1-9. A Portuguese language translation of its initial version was published in Portugal by the magazine “Biosofia” in the edition of Winter 2004-2005.

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In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  
 
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Defending the Old Lady




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