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Georges Méautis: “Theosophy and Theosophism” Dissects Rene Guenon’s Critique, 1922

Swiss scholar, Georges Méautis (under the pseudonym of Paul Bertrand, professor at the University of Neuchâtel and president of the “Société Suisse de Théosophie”), in 1922 wrote a response to Rene Guenon’s critique of Modern Theosophy, in Theosophy and Theosophism: Response to a Criticism of Theosophy by René Guénon (Paris: Publications Théosophiques. Trans. and Intro., Godwin, Joscelyn. FOTA Newsletter, Special Summer). In the Friends of the Theosophical Archives (FOTA), Joscelyn Godwin graced us with an Introduction on Rene Guenon in the Special Edition, Autumn 2016. An earlier rebuttal in Rebuttal of Rene Guenon also dealt with this same issue—

Perhaps it was too early for Méautis to spot the essential weakness of Guénon’s work, which was to lump together Blavatskian Theosophy—already an entity with distinct evolutionary stages—with later developments by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater that some call “Neo-Theosophy.” Méautis’s strength lies in pointing out Guénon’s selective use of available sources; by picking out the most egregious examples, he saps the whole foundation and demonstrates that Le Théosophisme, in short, is no “history.” In Leslie Price’s words, “Guénon is a case study in the misuse of archival material. He was given a dossier, but employed it not as a historian, weighing up the contents, but as a polemicist.”  (…) historians of the Traditionalist movement (if not the Traditionalists themselves) recognize how much Guénon owed to Theosophy. Richard Smoley writes, in a balanced evaluation of Guénon’s book:

Ironically, one reason for Guénon’s attitude may be that he and Blavatsky were in many ways not so far apart. In fact scholar Mark Sedgwick, whose book Against the Modern World is the best introduction to the impact of Guénon’s thought, sees Theosophy as one of Guénon’s chief influences (Sedgwick, 40–44). We have already seen that Blavatsky and Guénon agreed about the existence of a universal esoteric tradition. They both made liberal use of Sanskrit terms in expounding their ideas, and they agreed about the dangers of spiritualism, arguing that spiritualistic séances do not enable one to make contact with dead individuals but merely with their astral shells, which have been shucked off as the spirit ascends to higher planes.

To these common grounds we could add the reconciliation of religious differences through their esoteric roots; a cyclical concept of history including a former, more subtle state of matter; the encouragement of Oriental studies as giving access to a wisdom largely lost in the West; the analysis of the multiple states of the human being; and the use of symbolism, especially geometric, to explain metaphysical realities.”

— Joscelyn Godwin, Introduction.

FOTA SPECIAL: THEOSOPHY AND THEOSOPHISM, AUGUST 2016

2 Comments »

  1. I am a student of Sanskrit and I can say that the difference between the Sanskrit terms in the work of Blavatsky and Guénon is that Guénon knows the Indian language very well and knows its usage and context, but Blavatsky uses wrong words and out of context, invents meanings and alters the meaning of the words. Guénon is one of the few precious Westerners who help the student of Sanskrit, but Blavatsky is a terrible example, either because of her total ignorance of Sanskrit (and probably of Vedanta as well) or because of the fraudulent words she uses.

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    • Your point? You refuted nothing however. Which words also? You make it seem a competition. I cannot speak for a dead woman, so these are her words.

      “I have never boasted of any knowledge of Sanskrit, and, when I came to India last, in 1879, knew very superficially the philosophies of the six schools of Brahmanism. I never pretended to teach Sanskrit or explain Occultism in that language. I claimed to know the esoteric philosophy of the trans-Himalayan Occultists and no more. What I knew again, was that the philosophy of the ancient Dwijas and Initiates did not, nor could it differ essentially from the esotericism of the “Wisdom-religion,” any more than ancient Zoroastrianism, Hermetic philosophy, or Chaldean Kabbala could do so. I have tried to prove it by rendering the technical terms used by the Tibetan Arhats of things and principles, as adopted in trans-Himalayan teaching (and which when given to Mr. Sinnett and others without their Sanskrit or European equivalents, remained to them unintelligible, as they would to all in India)—in terms used in Brahmanical philosophy. I may have failed to do so correctly, very likely I have, and made mistakes—I never claimed infallibility (…) In my writings in The Theosophist I have always consulted learned and (even not very learned) Sanskrit-speaking Brahmans, giving credit to every one of them for knowing the value of Sanskrit terms better than I did. The question then is not, whether I may or may not have made use of wrong Sanskrit terms, but whether the occult tenets expounded through me are the right ones—at any rate those of the “Aryan-Chaldeo-Tibetan doctrine” as we call the “universal Wisdom-religion.” (Re-Classification of Principles; Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. VII, pp. 347-348.)”

      Disprove that the doctrines she explains have no existence, and then you will have a point, but unless you’ve lived under a rock, that will be extremely difficult for you. You don’t even have the “she got those doctrines from Islam” argument as well. Guenon and those who usually follow him are very rude to Theosophists. Your comment is quite rude and uninformative as well.

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