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Theosophical labors of loss

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  • kpauljohnson
    Hey, The new book The Lost Land of Lemuria by Sumatha Ramaswamy from the University of California Press:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 8, 2005
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      The new book The Lost Land of Lemuria by Sumatha Ramaswamy from the
      University of California Press:


      is the most recent academic study I know of that devotes attention
      to Theosophy. The author borrows the term and idea "labors of loss"
      from Georges Bataille, but adapts it to her own purposes. She
      defines labors of loss as "those disciplinary practices,
      interpretive acts, and narrative moves which declare something as
      lost, only to "find" them through modernity's knowledge protocols,
      the very act of discovery and naming constituting the originary

      Ramaswamy's main interest is in the labors of loss surrounding
      Lemuria in Tamil culture since HPB's time. She starts out surveying
      Lemuria as a scientific construct based on a need to explain
      geological facts in terms of lost continents. Then she goes on to
      its occultist adaptations, with HPB as the original "loss laborer"
      and Cayce as a more recent one. But the bulk of the book focuses on
      Tamil notions of a lost Tamil homeland that extended for thousands
      of miles into the Indian ocean.

      I recommend the book for anyone interested in those topics, but am
      posting about it to extend the "labors of loss" model to other
      aspects of Theosophy. Theosophy itself is a labor of loss, that is,
      HPB defines "ancient wisdom" as lost and then "finds" it. One can
      apply the model to Judeo-Christianity, with Eden as a lost paradise
      and salvation through Christ the way to "find" our way back. Many
      other religions can be interpreted in light of this model.

      But it also applies to other areas, for example historical
      reconstruction of the mainstream variety. I find myself focusing on
      the "lost" civilizations of eastern North Carolina, that is "free
      mulattos" who became "white" but retained memories of Indian
      ancestry, or Unionists whose descendants "submerged" all memory of
      their fight for the Union against the Confederacy, only for another
      generation to "find." And so on...

      It can be said that any explanatory scheme that explains everything
      explains nothing. But for the time being I will be thinking mainly
      about how it applies in the very narrow subject area of my current
      research. However, I would also suggest that "labors of loss" is
      what we see on theos-talk a lot of the time. Blavatskian
      teachings "lost" under piles of Leadbeaterian, Baileyite, etc.
      reinterpretations, but "restored" by the labors of present-day
      rediscovers. Or, in the shorter term, the 1980s hopes and dreams of
      young Theosophists envisioning revival/reform, "lost" after a
      generation of organization inertia, "found" in the recollections of
      those now-middle-aged reformer/revivalists.


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