West Meets East
This chapter explores the conflict between Enlightenment rationality and religion, which was reflected in the two major founding figures of the Theosophical Society: Colonel Henry Steel Olcott who was president for life and Madame Blavatsky, the “corresponding secretary.”. It considers this movement, a pulling toward and a pushing away from the domination of the Enlightenment, especially in relation to the fate of the visionary consciousness at the end of that century. It discusses two techniques that Blavatsky employed for both letter and thought transference. It examines Damodar Mavalankar, an Indian convert who gave up his wealth, caste status, and his child bride, renouncing his family's version of Hinduism for Blavatsky's esoteric Buddhism. The final section discusses how charismatic leaders such as Blavatsky produced what might be called epistemic breaks through preexisting traditions of thought and consciousness, into which may be poured new sets of ideas or epistemes.
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