An editor of our Dutch magazine ‘Theosofia’ told me once that theosophy was boring. She said it with a self-evident air, even while she clearly felt the magazine ought to be made… I was amazed: I had never considered theosophy boring. Having read all of Blavatsky’s work as well as biographies of the main theosophical leaders, about a dozen Krishnamurti books and more – I would consider myself pretty much an authority about how boring theosophy is, or isn’t.
So why is it that theosophical magazines today really ARE usually boring?
I think it’s mainly due to the avoidance of controversy.
This morning on waking up I decided that I’d treat myself to a morning of watching a romantic movie. I picked ‘legally blonde’ out of my extensive DVD collection. It turns out, when you look for it, that Legally Blonde is actually a pretty feminist movie. It teaches girls to go after what they want, to be more than just a pretty face and even to befriend other girls.
However the one thing the chief character Elle Woods is not, is boring. Watching it I thought: I refuse to be boring.
Of course, for me, trying to be boring would be going against nature. I couldn’t manage even if I tried. I’ve always been outspoken and have only managed to calm that down a bit by learning to occasionally hold my tongue. However, I could, if I tried, make myself very unhappy trying to be boring.
Is theosophy boring? Well, you’d think so if you looked at what theosophists insist on discussing online. It’s either their leaders faults, or historical intricacies nobody else thinks relevant. Even worse: theosophical magazines manage to talk about theosophy with the sting pulled out.
Radha Burnier herself is, as usual, not all that bad. She talks about how living utilitarianism, aka greed, and love don’t go hand in hand. Well, even if I don’t quite agree with that – after all, it’s pretty utilitarian to help someone succeed in life. It’s also a great way to support someone and an expression of love (or can be). Still, it is at least a relevant topic even if her conclusion is predictable AND wrong (in my opinion).
Then we have N.R. Narayana Murthy talking about sustainability. You know, if Radha hadn’t been convinced by Jiddu Krishnamurti to run for president of the TS, I think she would have gone on to do great things for the eco-movement in India. Of course sustainability is an important goal that I fully support. However we have all heard it before, haven’t we? Especially since the article doesn’t do anything more than summarize all the areas where India could become more sustainable and give some stats on the topic. When Olcott discussed practical things that India could improve on in The Theosophist, he really kicked but. He confronted India with things they didn’t do very well and could change. In short: he was controversial and not boring. Somehow Narayana doesn’t manage either.
Then again: it is a symptom of our time that it’s way easier to point out a problem than come up with solutions that are believable.
Next up Mary Anderson. I greatly respect Mary Anderson, but I haven’t read a worse article from her hand. She goes into definitions, extremism and man’s true nature. Ultimately she concludes with something every Adyar theosophist has heard a million times before: ‘Spirituality, the realization of the Oneness of all, is ultimately the most practical thing in the world!’ (explanation point in original).
Then we get Ricardo Lindeman about Plato and the origins of theosophy. He quotes Leadbeater on Plato and mentions, using an unconvincing quote, that Plato believed in reincarnation. Then he says ‘his famous book is a work…’ What famous book? Didn’t Plato write several? Then we get a lot of quotes – from Blavatsky, from the Bible, Origen, Leadbeater – and it seems that what he’s really talking about is a history of reincarnation throughout ancient Greece and Rome. The whole point of the article seems to be that Plato supported reincarnation, but all we really get to support this claim is one quote that he believed in justice. Which is a whole different thing, obviously. It takes a theologian to connect the dots. But then, perhaps that’s just what Ricardo Lindeman is.
Then we get Samdhong Rinpoche on meditation. This is an interesting fragment, also because it actually contrasts Tibetan forms of meditation on the Buddha with early theosophy’s instruction to meditate on the master.
I do wonder what the editors were thinking allowing Mary and Ricardo’s submissions in this state. Or perhaps they had nothing better to publish? Did they even try to get them a bit more polished?
I’m starting to think that the Theosophical Society is intending to be boring. That the editor of Theosofia who shocked me was expressing unofficial policy. I’m still naive enough to think it’s nothing intentional, though of course belief does shape the result. By believing that theosophy was boring she was closing the door to all the ways her magazine could become interesting.
Well, I think I’m outvoted here: theosophy clearly IS boring. The only article in the last issue of The Theosophist that I’d be willing to publish on my own site is by a Buddhist who’s kind enough to be a life long theosophist.
So what happened? Why is theosophy boring these days? It’s not as if the world today doesn’t have loads of things going on that theosophy could shed light on. And what about all the controversial things Blavatsky says? Contrast them with today’s issues and you’d potentially get even more controversy. Mixing up theosophical classics with the results of modern psychology is another source of contrast. Sure, we might find out Blavatsky was wrong occasionally, but that oughtn’t to bother us. We’re about freedom of thought, remember?
Oh, I forgot, we don’t do controversy.
Instead we do ‘stab in the back’ where we could have the different sides confront each other publicly. We do gossip, instead of members being informed and getting a say. The result is, funnily enough, controversy about all the wrong (and yes boring) things … and in the most public and dirty of venues: online. And when I stand up for truth on there, I get reprimanded…
No wonder the Theosophical Society keeps shrinking.
Are we still even trying to be a place ‘Between degrading superstition and still more degrading brutal materialism, the White Dove of Truth has hardly room whereon to rest her weary unwelcome feet.’ (from the Maha Chohan letter) Without actually talking about specific superstitions and specific versions of brutal materialistic philosophy – both of which are rampant in todays world – the TS can hardly be the place where that dove sets its foot.
Even worse: the result is boring.