The following good work from a person engaged in trying to free people from cultish programming is far better than most. It demonstrates person is aware of mind control techniques employed in influencing people. Having said that I will now try to show how this piece is in fact an evidence of SPIN or influence that person engaged in doing it might not even personally realize. For example Catholic exorcists are taught incantations and rituals to use that they may not or usually will not understand either derivation or history thereof.
“Psychological Manipulation and Society Cultic Studies Journal Psychological Manipulation and Society Vol. 11, No. 2, 1994 Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America Peter Washington. Schocken Books, New York, NY, 1995, 470 pages. Reviewer: Joseph P. Szimhart
Theosophy as discussed in Peter Washington's highly informative and entertaining survey has less to do with any sophisticated notion of "divine wisdom" than it has with a host of preposterous pretenders who successfully attracted thousands of seekers devoted to experiencing and unveiling hidden truths. In short, Theosophists attempted to make occultism respectable in an age of scientism. According to Washington, these neo-occultists and their progeny have essentially failed, as jacket liner notes tell us, in a ‘curious comedy of passion, power and gullibility.’
Heading list is Madame Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–1891), whose colorful character ranged from ribald to sublime. HPB, as she has been known to Theosophists, cofounded Theosophical Society (TS) with Colonel Henry S. Olcott and a few others who were interested in spirit contact and psychic phenomena in New York in 1875. In today’s New Age jargon, HPB became main "channeler" for TS. Within a few decades TS stimulated an ever-splintering amalgam of groups and cults, more important of which Washington portrays with solid reporting from an impressive array of source material and his personal research. In each case a charismatic "guru" has either received "ancient wisdom" from some mysterious sect, self-proclaimed enlightenment, or metaphysical source, while also assuming an exalted position as guru, messenger, teacher, master, or adept in eyes of disciples and students.
Following HPB and Olcott (aka Jack and Maloney), Washington tackles lives and influences of second generation of Theosophists, including politically motivated Annie Besant, channeler Charles W. Leadbeater, Katherine Tingley, Rudolf Steiner (who broke from TS and founded Anthroposophy and Waldorf schools), G.I. Gurdjieff, and many of their significant followers. Jiddu Krishnamurti, who became famous for abdicating his title of "the world teacher" or Theosophical messiah in 1929, a role imposed on him at age 13 by Leadbeater, is given a thorough treatment by Washington. In contrast, he only briefly describes and sometimes only mentions more recent splinter groups and leaders from TS amalgam, like Elizabeth Prophet and her Church Universal and Triumphant, George King and Aetherius Church, Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov and Universal White Brotherhood, Lloyd Meeker and Emissaries of Divine Light, Idries Shah and Society for Understanding Fundamental Ideas, and Raëlian Movement. Washington also covers history of esoteric School of Economic Science founded by Leon MacLaren and his connection with Transcendental Meditation’s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He concludes his text with a solid, dispassionate look at J.G. Bennett’s life as it was influenced by Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Shah, Subud cult, and finally Catholicism.
Some important TS offshoots are missing in Washington’s survey, such as Agni Yoga Society founded by Nicolas and Helena Roerich in early 1920s, Arcane School founded also in 1920s by Alice A. Bailey, and I AM Activity founded by Guy and Edna Ballard in mid-1930s. To those who have studied history of Theosophy as it has influenced these and other groups not mentioned by Washington, these may appear as glaring omissions. But pervasiveness of Theosophy’s influence, especially with thousands of New Age movement teachers and sects throughout world, would take volumes to merely summarize. Washington nevertheless accomplishes his mission to give us a clear taste of Western guru tradition, its roots, and its effects on certain disciples.
The book’s title is derived from a stuffed baboon that stood prominently among Blavatsky’s exotic paraphernalia in her flat in New York. The baboon was dressed complete with spectacles holding a copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species, mocking that controversial scientist. Blavatsky saw herself as Ancient Wisdom’s counterpoint to that "strutting gamecock" of science, whom she often railed against in her two fantastic, notoriously plagiarized tomes, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. HPB more than anyone has influenced Western occult tradition with notion of spiritual evolution as it allegedly occurs through rounds of "root races" reincarnating. Some of her racist notions later crept into Nazi philosophy, even though Hitler disavowed Theosophical Societies.
A most revealing passage from Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon describes P.D. Ouspensky, a Fourth Way or Gurdjieff School leader, who near end of his life in 1947 was very depressed (confusion and depression have been common ailments of lifelong disciples of Western guru tradition). He took to escaping from students in his car with his cats. Ouspensky would park his car at some destination, sit in back seat staring out of a window while cuddling his pets. "Returning home from one journey, he spent rest of night in car while a female pupil stood over him at window, her arm raised as if in benediction. A cat would never be so stupid" (p. 337). This passage not only reveals depths of delusion both guru and follower might reach, but it also reveals Washington’s insensitivity to perhaps deluded but nevertheless struggling, dedicated victims of such gurus.