Gary Lachman Blasts Me for "Animus" against His "Ironic" Article on Helena Blavatsky
In the realm of who’s mad at me now, we can add Gary Lachman, the Blondie bassist turned occult apologist, who wrote to Blavatsky News this week to criticize my review of his Fortean Times article on why Helena Blavatsky should be rehabilitated. I had chided Lachman for his lack of scholarly rigor and his apparent misreading of facts, so it did not surprise me that he (a) chose to engage a third party rather than me directly to offer criticism and (b) completely misread my blog post in order to create a sense of self-vindication.
Here’s what Lachman told Blavatsky News:
It is odd that a mere mention of a ‘suspicion’ that Einstein may have read HPB brings out the kind of animus that Jason Colavito directs at my Fortean Times Article. I even send the reader to the web link that traces this idea and says unambiguously that it is most likely not true. If I wanted to perpetuate an untruth, would I send the reader to a source saying the opposite? I in no way say that Einstein ‘referred continuously’ to the Secret Doctrine or any other of HPB’s writings. But I guess one can’t be ironic or write with tongue in cheek about these matters. There are too many experts on both sides waiting to pounce on the slightest inaccuracy.
So let’s take this apart line by line.
Let’s start with what Lachman actually said about Einstein in this month’s Fortean Times:
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was initiated into the Theosophical Society; and there is even suspicion that Albert Einstein kept a well-thumbed copy of The Secret Doctrine by his bedside.
That’s it. So, let’s look at the source Lachman cites, which I linked to previously. It’s a blog post on Theosophy.net by Leon Maurer and it completely accepts the idea that Einstein read Blavatsky:
How Did Albert Einstein Intuit (Grok) E=mc^2? That's easy... He looked it up in The Secret Doctrine. […] A niece of Einstein reported that a copy of the Secret Doctrine was always on his desk.
Remember, this is the exact link Lachman gave in his Fortean Times article. My guess—and this is only a guess—is that Lachman has confused this blog post for a follow-up post by a different writer on Theosophy.net that debunks the story. Nevertheless, the link he sends his readers to is one that supports the Einstein-Blavatsky connection, so on this point Lachman is wrong. One might also wonder why he would choose to include information that he now asserts he has always believed to be false, but that is another question.
Second, Lachman accuses me of claiming he said Einstein “referred continuously” to The Secret Doctrine. In my blog post, I used those words after summarizing the positions of several other claimants, including S. L. Cranston, Eunice Layton, and Jack Brown. These are the authors who made the claim, along with other online sources; specifically, as my very next paragraph makes plain, I was referring directly to Boris de Zirkoff who specifically stated that “A set of the Secret Doctrine was always on the desk of Albert Einstein.”
Later authors, building on Zirkoff, turned this into frequent or constant reference, as a look at any number of online sources attests. Jeffrey D. Lavoie in The Theosophical Society (2012) claimed that Einstein consulted The Secret Doctrine “from time to time” throughout his life; Robert Kleinman in The Four Faces of the Universe (2007) claimed Einstein was reading the book at the moment of his death, leaving it open and unfinished on his desk; and the joint authors of The Laws of Life (2004) simply assert that Einstein “avidly studied” The Secret Doctrine. Thus, my summary that a “modern story” exists of Einstein’s continued reference to the book.
Lachman is therefore either unable to understand my posting or has purposely misrepresented it in order to make it look as though I am incorrectly attributing ideas to him. But even if I was referring to him, what is one to take from the words “well-thumbed” if not that it had been frequently read?
Lachman’s next claim is that he was writing “ironic[ally] or tongue in cheek” and therefore should not be held accountable for the stories he tells. Let us counter that with two points. First, there is no indication in the paragraph that he is speaking ironically. Here is the context:
Practically all the major figures of modern esotericism and spirituality—names like Rudolf Steiner, PD Ouspensky, GI Gurdjieff, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Dion Fortune, RA Schwaller de Lubicz, and many more—emerged from Theosophy’s ample folds. TS Eliot lampooned her in his modernist masterpiece The Waste Land; Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was initiated into the Theosophical Society; and there is even suspicion that Albert Einstein kept a well-thumbed copy of The Secret Doctrine by his bedside. Small wonder, perhaps, that the esoteric historian Christopher Bamford questioned why Blavatsky was not counted, along with Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, as one of the “creators of the twentieth century”.
Did you detect in that paragraph that Lachman does not believe his own words?
But let us admit that he is correct; this brings me to point two: I will accept that he was writing ironically with tongue and cheek and therefore does not want us to accept any of his claims as true. Consequently, I will respect his wishes and accept that his discussions of the occult are not to be taken seriously and can therefore be safely ignored.
His final point is that I have pounced on his “inaccuracy” with “animus.” Again, Lachman fails to see that I merely criticized him for presenting a story that he now admits to believing as false buried within a list of true facts; the rest of my discussion of the Einstein claim was historical background. Lachman seems to feel that as an occult writer he should be able to propose without criticism or scrutiny the complete abandonment of five centuries of scientific discovery on the flimsy grounds that Helena Blavatsky could make a tea cup appear by “psychical power”, but any attempt to evaluate his claims is necessarily animus and hatred of his “truth”—a truth he now admits he does not believe and did not mean for readers to take seriously!
And to top it all off, instead of raising his concerns here on this blog where I made my critique, he sends them to Blavatsky News, knowing they will be repeated without challenge.
5/31/2013 05:11:04 am
Jason, I can see that you are in a sort of righteous fight for history truth, which is admirable taken at face value. As a challanger of fake history, you will surely come under continuous attacks as you expose fraud and lies.
5/31/2013 05:23:24 am
What do you expect from such congenital crackpot?.
5/31/2013 11:04:16 am
We don't know, what? You tell. Follow-up by even worse than such congenital crackpot?
5/31/2013 04:47:34 pm
You`re such an egocentric & overinflated win-bag,I wasn't talking about you but about Gary Lachman. Once again you missed a decent opportunity to shut up.Do us a favor,find the largest Rune-stone & go crawl back under it.
5/31/2013 07:40:11 pm
Oh Tara, weren't we both talking about Gary?
5/31/2013 09:54:28 pm
Gunn.This is precisely the source & nature of our "disagreement". This blog is not about you,not about me.Despite our "differences" on many occasions,I praised you .But as soon as you start talking about the KRS rune-stone,you are boring me to death (& considering the reactions from other commentators,I am not alone to feel this way). As I told you before,I have nothing personal against you.
6/1/2013 01:24:33 am
Gunn, you're 'boring her to death' by talking about the KRS.
6/1/2013 01:26:15 am
Here's a suggestion... Why don't we try talking about my actual blog posts instead of the Kensington Rune Stone every day?
6/1/2013 01:58:10 am
Tara, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth. Are you evil, or not? Are you the "garbage" lady, or not? Anyone visiting here can go back several months and witness your vomit all over the blog. You seem to be overflowing with vomit, and when you are called on it, suddenly you wipe off your mouth and become a Gunn praiser. Quite unorthodox of you, I'd say.
6/1/2013 02:02:36 am
Jason, nobody's talking about runestones. You always come in late.
6/1/2013 02:06:31 am
Hi Steve! Just in time, as I planned on leaving here yesterday. I hope this lesson for your kids doesn't get R-rated. I left Jason a gracious ending message, but got no response, until now he feels compelled to talk about the Kensington Runestone. Why do people keep bringing this up? Why can't they just let it go?
6/1/2013 04:02:14 am
Gunn,I especially enjoy the part when you play the victim.Good versus evil,the Manichean scenario according to the adorable Christian old coot.
Gunn is Great
6/1/2013 04:54:16 am
Tara, I especially dislike the part when you play the wicked blog witch, spewing forth vomit, but, oh well, I guess it goes with this territory.
6/1/2013 06:17:52 am
Gunn, you don`t "get it", probably because we live in a different age. For dinosaurs like yourself, women are designed to stay home,function as breeding organisms,mind their own business (cooking & washing your dirty underwear) & leave opinionated argumentation to the "superior" gender.I hope you appreciate the irony of the situation?. You consider yourself as intellectually & morally superior,yet you are arguing with an arrogant 24 yr old. Quite an accomplishment indeed....
6/1/2013 08:19:02 am
I detect a sensitivity towards gender issues, Tara. Well, wouldn't you be pleased and surprised to know that I was the stay-at-home parent for several years to three daughters, two of whom have advanced degrees--as well as my wife. Women couldn't be in better hands than with good ole Gunn. Perhaps you don't have a good relationship with your father? You don't like old men? I don't consider myself superior, or of a superior gender, and I actually wash my wife's underwear along with doing all the rest of the laundry, dishes, etc. I won't have to change my ways for retirement...I already know how to pull my fair share.
6/1/2013 10:38:40 am
Gunn,you have the right to depict me in the most negative fashion, but please spare me the psychoanalysis part.You are not very good at it.You first accused me of being utterly sarcastic,cynical & vehemently vile,now you decided I am an "angry young lady". I`m not an "angry young lady",I just tell it like I feel.
6/1/2013 12:23:58 pm
Well, Tara, you often attack folks sounding as though you do have something personal against them--the same with Opher and a few others, but yes, let's move on. Hopefully, this is ending full-circle, with visitors to this blog treating one another decently.
6/1/2013 05:19:28 pm
@Gunn is great.Indeed it comes with the territory & I don't mind people acting & (or) reacting as negatively as I do.I never complained about it.I am not here to defend Jason, but if you are a regular on this blog,you`d have noticed that more than often Jason is the subject of particularly violent attacks (including death threats,lawsuits,campaign of character assassination & the like),but he always behave in the most respectful manner.I am one amongst his regular readers who considers that it is appropriate to fight fire with fire.Let`s be honest,we are (both sides) engaged in a psychological & verbal warfare,it`s fair game, the end justifies the means. Thank you for the feedback.
6/1/2013 05:29:21 pm
@Gunn.You dont have to leave,no one is chasing you out,but this is a free world.Wishing you all the best.
5/31/2013 07:04:15 pm
Actually, for a win-bag (sic) Mr Gunn seems to me to be properly inflated.
6/2/2013 12:11:22 pm
Well, there's your problem, Dave. For proper pomposity, push your psi profusely, pursuant to the perils of popping--per se, 120 psi or so. It allows excellent exhalation at incredible extension.
6/2/2013 08:33:53 pm
Very clever! I'm glad someone understood my feeble attempt at humor!
5/31/2013 07:50:53 pm
Dave, why bother being a pompous windbag at all? Don't confuse me with yourself or Tara, okay? Don't be so bold, or so dumb, either, because who is Dave, and why are you considered important enough to comment about Ms Jordann (sic) at all? Why don't you just crawl under a stonehole rock and leave my witch friend alone! What did she ever do to you? Exactly.
6/1/2013 07:04:47 pm
The cool thing about the internet is that anyone with a computer and internet connection is important enough to comment on anything.
6/2/2013 07:38:43 am
Hello Davie,enjoying your 15 minutes of fame?
6/1/2013 03:05:58 am
Gunn is Great
6/1/2013 03:20:16 am
Gunn does not suck. Gunn is Great!
6/1/2013 03:21:48 am
Oh, thanks for your ardent support, Gunn is Great.
Gunn is Great
6/1/2013 03:23:11 am
Don't mention it.
6/2/2013 05:01:55 am
6/2/2013 08:36:56 pm
Tara,,, at my advanced age I have no interest in fame. I hope you are having a nice day,
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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