Elbert Benjamine

Dogmatism versus Occultism

Approaching the Brotherhood of Light lessons as documents of early twentieth century esotericism, we often find Elbert Benjamine referring to contemporary events in ways that require us to read between the lines. I have personally witnessed this phenomenon in the latter half of the twentieth century among reincarnationist followers of many different spiritual teachers:

The student upon his first approach to occult science is impressed generally with the notion that he must accept unquestioningly the dogma of human reincarnation as the foundation of truth if he is to accept any part of occult teachings. So fully has this subtle doctrine permeated western esoterics that few have the hardihood to express their opinions if these are contrary to the popular current. It is so firmly entrenched that anyone daring to present the opposite side of the question is, if possible, immediately squelched, discredited, and made an object of discountenance and suspicion. [Astrological Signatures, pp. 117-118]

For more than twelve years this blog has featured discussion of dozens of “adepts” in various lineages that can be seen as “ancestral” without any negative repercussions.  But “the Masters” or “the Mahatmas” runs up against biases that are insurmountable because “the Masters” means only two authors of the Mahatma Letters, the most sacred of scriptures.  No one can ever learn anything historical about the alleged authors, cannot seek their birth dates and places and parents’ names: no evidence and reasoning allowed.  Anyone who tries to be reasonable and evidence based thereby proves his spiritual and intellectual inferiority;  this was written in all seriousness in two official publications as “refutations” of historical research, so I understand Elbert when he writes:

Now, I am convinced it is a most dangerous omen when people permit themselves to be so dominated by any new idea, religious or political, that they fear to hear it criticized. It is an augur of approaching mental slavery. Prohibiting critical investigation has been the method employed through countless ages by religious and political autocracies, and where successful has never failed effectually to block the path of mental and spiritual progress. Error must ever be hedged and protected by a wall of prejudice and intolerance, but truth is strong enough to withstand in the open the assault of mental conflict. [Astrological Signatures, p. 118]

That final line is reassuring and sent me to Google Books looking to see recent citations of my historical research and found eight titles from 2020, eleven from 2021, and six from 2022, almost all citing my first two SUNY Press books. Not all of these would be relevant enough to feature in future blog posts, but many will be. Here are the most recent ones, from last year —

Accelerating Human Evolution by Theosophical Initiation: … – Page 399

Yves Mühlematter · 2022 de Gruyter

Performance and Modernity – Page 278

Julia A. Walker · 2022 Cambridge University Press

The Sacred Life of Modernist Literature

Allan Kilner-Johnson · 2022 Bloomsbury Press

A Woman’s Empire: Russian Women and Imperial Expansion in Asia

Katya Hokanson · 2022 University of Toronto Press

The Religious Revolution: The Birth of Modern Spirituality.

Dominic Green · 2022 Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Celebrating the Male Mysteries: Revised and Extended Edition

R. J. Stewart · 2022 Aeon Books