H. P. BLAVATSKY
Original SourcesVolume I
[ electronic copies of Volumes II & III are to be added ]
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H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) was the principal founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875, and the major inspiration of the resulting Theosophical Movement. Her best known works are Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888). Of almost equal importance were her voluminous periodical writings, contributed to the Theosophist, which she founded in India in 1879, to Lucifer, begun in London in 1887, to the Path, edited by William Q. Judge in the United States, to some less known Theosophical journals, and a few other nineteenth-century periodicals.
The articles of Madame Blavatsky are an invaluable source of Theosophical teaching and explanation. Practically all of these articles were reprinted in the monthly magazine Theosophy, issued in the United States by The Theosophy Company, beginning in 1912. Then, in 1963, to make them more easily accessible to students, the articles were gathered into pamphlets which were made available over a period of years to subscribers to Theosophy. These articles make the content of the present three volumes, The Articles of H. P. Blavatsky.
The order of the articles in these books is that of their appearance in the pamphlets. The content of the pamphlets was selected according to a scheme of related interests. Some classification of the articles has been possible, but is based chiefly on the Theosophical intentions of the author rather than accommodation to the “fields” of modern learning. She wrote chiefly for Theosophical students, although with universal appeal.
In each volume the articles making its content are listed by title in the order printed, and in this, the first volume, the articles in all three volumes are given alphabetically, for easy location.
While no claim of completeness is made for this assemblage of H.P.B.’s periodical writings, it may be said that all her major articles are included, and some of her notes and comment on letters and contributions to the magazines she edited are also provided. A subject index following the model of the Theosophy Company supplementary Index to The Secret Doctrine will be found at the end of the third volume.
[VOLUME ONE CONTAINS 58 ARTICLES, LISTED HERE BY PAGE NO.]
Old Philosophers and Modern Critics ................................... 12
What Is Theosophy? ......................................................... 39
What Are the Theosophists? ............................................... 48
Is Theosophy a Religion? ................................................... 56
“Let Every Man Prove His Own Work” ................................ 69
What of Phenomena? ........................................................ 79
Our Three Objects ............................................................ 83
Philosophers and Philosophicules ........................................ 91
The Tidal Wave ............................................................... 99
Why I Do Not Return to India ............................................. 106
She Being Dead Yet Speaketh ............................................ 115
The Origin of Evil ............................................................ 124
The Fall of Ideals ............................................................. 137
Civilization, the Death of Art and Beauty .............................. 149
On Pseudo-Theosophy ................................................. ….. 161
The Mote and the Beam ..................................................... 176
A Paradoxical World ........................................................ 187
Is Denunciation a Duty? ............................................... ….. 199
A Year of Theosophy ................................................... ….. 210
1888 ......................................................................... ….. 215
A Puzzle from Adyar ........................................................ 217
The Organisation of the Theosophical Society ....................... 223
The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future ...... ……. 245
A Society Without a Dogma ......................................... ….. 260
Recent Progress in Theosophy ........................................... 265
“To the Readers of ‘Lucifer’ ”............................................. 279
Why the “Vahan”? ........................................................... 284
Lodges of Magic ............................................................. 287
Mahatmas and Chelas ....................................................... 293
Are Chelas “Mediums”? ................................................... 295
Chelas ........................................................................... 299
“The Theosophical Mahatmas” .......................................... 301
Chelas and Lay Chelas ..................................................... 308
Madame Blavatsky on “The Himalayan Brothers” ................. 315
Can the Mahatmas Be Selfish? ........................................... 321
Is Creation Possible for Man? ............................................ 324
Answers to Queries .......................................................... 328
Old Hindu Ships .............................................................. 335
Does Vaccination Prevent Smallpox? .................................. 337
The Missing Link ............................................................ 341
The Number Seven .......................................................... 345
The Number Seven and Our Society .................................... 351
The Cycle Moveth ........................................................... 355
Our Cycle and the Next .................................................... 367
Karmic Visions ............................................................... 382
The New Cycle ............................................................... 397
The Last Song of the Swan ................................................ 409
Premature and Phenomenal Growths ................................... 420
Le Phare de L’Inconnu ..................................................... 424
World-Improvement or World-Deliverance .......................... 447
What Shall We Do for Our Fellow-Men? ............................. 459
My Books ...................................................................... 475
Mistaken Notions on the “Secret Doctrine” ........................... 485
Seeming “Discrepancies” .................................................. 488
“Isis Unveiled” and the “Theosophist” on Reincarnation ......... 491
“It’s the Cat!” ................................................................. 496
The Year is Dead, Long Live the Year! ................................ 504
“WHAT IS TRUTH?”
Truth is the Voice of Nature and of Time—
Truth is the startling monitor within us—
Naught is without it, it comes from the stars,
The golden sun, and every breeze that blows. . . .
—W. Thompson Bacon
. . . Fair Truth’s immortal sun
Is sometimes hid in clouds; not that her light
Is in itself defective, but obscured
By my weak prejudice, imperfect faith
And all the thousand causes which obstruct
The growth of goodness. . . .
HAT is Truth?” asked Pilate of one who, if the claims of the Christian Church are even approximately correct, must have known it. But He kept silent. And the truth which He did not divulge, remained unrevealed, for his later followers as much as for the Roman Governor. The silence of Jesus, however, on this and other occasions, does not prevent his present followers from acting as though they had received the ultimate and absolute Truth itself; and from ignoring the fact that only such Words of Wisdom had been given to them as contained a share of the truth, itself concealed in parables and dark, though beautiful, sayings.1
This policy led gradually to dogmatism and assertion. Dogmatism in churches, dogmatism in science, dogmatism everywhere. The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and Scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, “there cannot be.” There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.
1 Jesus says to the “Twelve”—“Unto you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables,” etc. (Mark iv. 11.)
p. 2 H. P. BLAVATSKY
In every age there have been Sages who had mastered the absolute and yet could teach but relative truths. For none yet, born of mortal woman in our race, has, or could have given out, the whole and the final truth to another man, for every one of us has to find that (to him) final knowledge in himself. As no two minds can be absolutely alike, each has to receive the supreme illumination through itself, according to its capacity, and from no human light. The greatest adept living can reveal of the Universal Truth only so much as the mind he is impressing it upon can assimilate, and no more. Tot homines, quot sententiae—is an immortal truism. The sun is one, but its beams are numberless; and the effects produced are beneficent or maleficent, according to the nature and constitution of the objects they shine upon. Polarity is universal, but the polariser lies in our own consciousness. In proportion as our consciousness is elevated towards absolute truth, so do we men assimilate it more or less absolutely. But man’s consciousness again, is only the sunflower of the earth. Longing for the warm ray, the plant can only turn to the sun, and move round and round in following the course of the unreachable luminary: its roots keep it fast to the soil, and half its life is passed in the shadow. . . .
Still each of us can relatively reach the Sun of Truth even on this earth, and assimilate its warmest and most direct rays, however differentiated they may become after their long journey through the physical particles in space. To achieve this, there are two methods. On the physical plane we may use our mental polariscope: and, analyzing the properties of each ray, choose the purest. On the plane of spirituality, to reach the Sun of Truth we must work in dead earnest for the development of our higher nature. We know that by paralyzing gradually within ourselves the appetites of the lower personality, and thereby deadening the voice of the purely physiological mind—that mind which depends upon, and is inseparable from, its medium or vehicle, the organic brain—the animal man in us may make room for the spiritual; and once aroused from its latent state, the highest spiritual senses and perceptions grow in us in proportion, and develop pari passu with the “divine man.” This is what the great adepts, the Yogis in the East and the Mystics in the West, have always done and are still doing.
But we also know, that with a few exceptions, no man of the world, no materialist, will ever believe in the existence of such adepts, or even in the possibility of such a spiritual or psychic
development. ‘‘The (ancient) fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”; the modern says, “There are no adepts on earth, they are figments of your diseased fancy.” Knowing this we hasten to reassure our readers of the Thomas Didymus type. We beg them to turn in this magazine to reading more congenial to them; say to the miscellaneous papers on Hylo-Idealism, by various writers.
For Lucifer tries to satisfy its readers of whatever “school of thought,” and shows itself equally impartial to Theist and Atheist, Mystic and Agnostic, Christian and Gentile. Such articles as our editorials, the Comments on “Light on the Path,” etc., etc.—are not intended for Materialists. They are addressed to Theosophists, or readers who know in their hearts that Masters of Wisdom do exist: and, though absolute truth is not on earth and has to be searched for in higher regions, that there still are, even on this silly, ever-whirling little globe of ours, some things that are not even dreamt of in Western philosophy.
To return to our subject. It thus follows that, though “general abstract truth is the most precious of all blessings” for many of us, as it was for Rousseau, we have, meanwhile, to be satisfied with relative truths. In sober fact, we are a poor set of mortals at best, ever in dread before the face of even a relative truth, lest it should devour ourselves and our petty little preconceptions along with us. As for an absolute truth, most of us are as incapable of seeing it as of reaching the moon on a bicycle. Firstly, because absolute truth is as immovable as the mountain of Mahomet, which refused to disturb itself for the prophet, so that he had to go to it himself. And we have to follow his example if we would approach it even at a distance. Secondly, because the kingdom of absolute truth is not of this world, while we are too much of it. And thirdly, because notwithstanding that in the poet’s fancy man is
. . . . . . . the abstract
Of all perfection, which the workmanship
Of heaven hath modelled . . . . . .
in reality he is a sorry bundle of anomalies and paradoxes, an
p. 4 H. P. BLAVATSKY
empty wind bag inflated with his own importance, with contradictory and easily influenced opinions. He is at once an arrogant and a weak creature, which, though in constant dread of some authority, terrestrial or celestial, will yet—
. . . . . . . like an angry ape,
Play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven
As make the angels weep.
Now, since truth is a multifaced jewel, the facets of which it is impossible to perceive all at once; and since, again, no two men, however anxious to discern truth, can see even one of those facets alike, what can be done to help them to perceive it? As physical man, limited and trammelled from every side by illusions, cannot reach truth by the light of his terrestrial perceptions, we say—develop in you the inner knowledge. From the time when the Delphic oracle said to the enquirer “Man, know thyself,” no greater or more important truth was ever taught. Without such perception, man will remain ever blind to even many a relative, let alone absolute, truth. Man has to know himself, i.e., acquire the inner perceptions which never deceive, before he can master any absolute truth. Absolute truth is the symbol of Eternity, and no finite mind can ever grasp the eternal, hence, no truth in its fulness can ever dawn upon it. To reach the state during which man sees and senses it, we have to paralyze the senses of the external man of clay. This is a difficult task, we may be told, and most people will, at this rate, prefer to remain satisfied with relative truths, no doubt. But to approach even terrestrial truths requires, first of all, love of truth for its own sake, for otherwise no recognition of it will follow. And who loves truth in this age for its own sake? How many of us are prepared to search for, accept, and carry it out, in the midst of a society in which anything that would achieve success has to be built on appearances, not on reality, on self-assertion, not on intrinsic value? We are fully aware of the difficulties in the way of receiving truth. The fair heavenly maiden descends only on a (to her) congenial soil—the soil of an impartial, unprejudiced mind, illuminated by pure Spiritual Consciousness; and both are truly rare dwellers in civilized lands. In our century of steam and electricity, when man fives at a maddening speed that leaves him barely time for reflection, he allows himself usually to be drifted down from cradle to grave, nailed to the Procrustean bed of custom and conventionality. Now conventionality—pure and simple—is a congenital Lie, as it is in every case a “simulation of feelings according to a received stand-
“WHAT IS TRUTH?” p. 5
ard” (F. W. Robertson’s definition); and where there is any simulation there cannot be any truth. How profound the remark made by Byron, that “truth is a gem that is found at a great depth; whilst on the surface of this world all things are weighed by the false scales of custom,” is best known to those who are forced to live in the stifling atmosphere of such social conventionalism, and who, even when willing and anxious to learn, dare not accept the truths they long for, for fear of the ferocious Moloch called Society.
Look around you, reader; study the accounts given by world-known travellers, recall the joint observations of literary thinkers, the data of science and of statistics. Draw the picture of modern society, of modern politics, of modern religion and modem life in general before your mind’s eye. Remember the ways and customs of every cultured race and nation under the sun. Observe the doings and the moral attitude of people in the civilized centres of Europe, America, and even of the far East and the colonies, everywhere where the white man has carried the “benefits” of so-called civilization. And now, having passed in review all this, pause and reflect, and then name, if you can, that blessed Eldorado, that exceptional spot on the globe, where Truth is the honoured guest, and Lie and Sham the ostracised outcasts? You cannot. Nor can any one else, unless he is prepared and determined to add his mite to the mass of falsehood that reigns supreme in every department of national and social life. “Truth!” cried Carlyle, “truth, though the heavens crush me for following her, no falsehood, though a whole celestial Lubberland were the prize of Apostasy.” Noble words, these. But how many think, and how many will dare to speak as Carlyle did, in our nineteenth century day? Does not the gigantic appalling majority prefer to a man the “paradise of Do-nothings,” the pays de Cocagne of heartless selfishness? It is this majority that recoils terror-stricken before the most shadowy outline of every new and unpopular truth, out of mere cowardly fear, lest Mrs. Harris should denounce, and Mrs. Grundy condemn, its converts to the torture of being rent piecemeal by her murderous tongue.
Selfishness, the first-born of Ignorance, and the fruit of the teaching which asserts that for every newly-born infant a new soul, separate and distinct from the Universal Soul, is “created”—this Selfishness is the impassable wall between the personal Self and Truth. It is the prolific mother of all human vices, Lie being born out of the necessity for dissembling, and Hypocrisy out of the desire
p. 6 H. P. BLAVATSKY
to mask Lie. It is the fungus growing and strengthening with age in every human heart in which it has devoured all better feelings. Selfishness kills every noble impulse in our natures, and is the one deity, fearing no faithlessness or desertion from its votaries. Hence, we see it reign supreme in the world and in so-called fashionable society. As a result, we live, and move, and have our being in this god of darkness under his trinitarian aspect of Sham, Humbug, and Falsehood, called Respectability.
Is this Truth and Fact, or is it slander? Turn whichever way you will, and you find, from the top of the social ladder to the bottom, deceit and hypocrisy at work for dear Self’s sake, in every nation as in every individual. But nations, by tacit agreement, have decided that selfish motives in politics shall be called “noble national aspiration, patriotism,” etc.; and the citizen views it in his family circle as “domestic virtue.” Nevertheless, Selfishness, whether it breeds desire for aggrandizement of territory, or competition in commerce at the expense of one’s neighbour, can never be regarded as a virtue. We see smooth-tongued Deceit and Brute Force—the Jachin and Boaz of every International Temple of Solomon—called Diplomacy, and we call it by its right name. Because the diplomat bows low before these two pillars of national glory and politics, and puts their masonic symbolism “in (cunning) strength shall this my house be established” into daily practice; i.e., gets by deceit what he cannot obtain by force—shall we applaud him? A diplomat’s qualification—“dexterity or skill in securing advantages” —for one’s own country at the expense of other countries, can hardly be achieved by speaking truth, but verily by a wily and deceitful tongue; and, therefore, Lucifer calls such action—a living, and an evident Lie.
But it is not in politics alone that custom and selfishness have agreed to call deceit and lie virtue, and to reward him who lies best with public statues. Every class of Society lives on Lie, and would fall to pieces without it. Cultured, God-and-law-fearing aristocracy, being as fond of the forbidden fruit as any plebeian, is forced to lie from morn to noon in order to cover what it is pleased to term its “little peccadillos,” but which Truth regards as gross immorality. Society of the middle classes is honeycombed with false smiles, false talk, and mutual treachery. For the majority religion has become a thin tinsel veil thrown over the corpse of spiritual faith. The master goes to church to deceive his servants; the starv-
ing curate—preaching what he has ceased to believe in—hoodwinks his bishop; the bishop—his God. Dailies, political and social, might adopt with advantage for their motto Georges Dandin’s immortal query—“Lequel de nous deux trompe-t-on ici?”—Even Science, once the anchor of the salvation of Truth, has ceased to be the temple of naked Fact. Almost to a man the Scientists strive now only to force upon their colleagues and the public the acceptance of some personal hobby, of some new-fangled theory, which will shed lustre on their name and fame. A Scientist is as ready to suppress damaging evidence against a current scientific hypothesis in our times, as a missionary in heathen-land, or a preacher at home, to persuade his congregation that modem geology is a lie, and evolution but vanity and vexation of spirit.
Such is the actual state of things in 1888 a.d., and yet we are taken to task by certain papers for seeing this year in more than gloomy colours!
Lie has spread to such extent—supported as it is by custom and conventionalities—that even chronology forces people to lie. The suffixes a.d. and b.c. used after the dates of the year by Jew and Heathen, in European and even Asiatic lands, by the Materialist and the Agnostic as much as by the Christian, at home, are—a lie used to sanction another Lie.
Where then is even relative truth to be found? If, so far back as the century of Democritus, she appeared to him under the form of a goddess lying at the very bottom of a well, so deep that it gave but little hope for her release; under the present circumstances we have a certain right to believe her hidden, at least, as far off as the ever invisible dark side of the moon. This is why, perhaps, all the votaries of hidden truths are forthwith set down as lunatics. However it may be, in no case and under no threat shall Lucifer be ever forced into pandering to any universally and tacitly recognised, and as universally practised lie, but will hold to fact, pure and simple, trying to proclaim truth whensoever found, and under no cowardly mask. Bigotry and intolerance may be regarded as orthodox and sound policy, and the encouraging of social prejudices and personal hobbies at the cost of truth, as a wise course to pursue in order to secure success for a publication. Let it be so. The Editors of Lucifer are Theosophists, and their motto is chosen: Vera pro gratiis.
They are quite aware that Lucifer’s libations and sacrifices to the goddess Truth do not send a sweet savoury smoke into the noses of the lords of the press, nor does the bright “Son of the Morning” smell sweet in their nostrils. He is ignored when not abused as—veritas odium paret. Even his friends are beginning to find fault with him. They cannot see why it should not be a purely Theosophical magazine, in other words, why it refuses to be dogmatic and bigoted. Instead of devoting every inch of space to theosophical and occult teachings, it opens its pages “to the publication of the most grotesquely heterogeneous elements and conflicting doctrines.” This is the chief accusation, to which we answer—why not? Theosophy is divine knowledge, and knowledge is truth; every true fact, every sincere word are thus part and parcel of Theosophy. One who is skilled in divine alchemy, or even approximately blessed with the gift of the perception of truth, will find and extract it from an erroneous as much as from a correct statement. However small the particle of gold lost in a ton of rubbish, it is the noble metal still, and worthy of being dug out even at the price of some extra trouble. As has been said, it is often as useful to know what a thing is not, as to learn what it is. The average reader can hardly hope to find any fact in a sectarian publication under all its aspects, pro and con, for either one way or the other its presentation is sure to be biassed, and the scales helped to incline to that side to which its editor’s special policy is directed. A Theosophical magazine is thus, perhaps, the only publication where one may hope to find, at any rate, the unbiassed, if still only approximate truth and fact. Naked truth is reflected in Lucifer under its many aspects, for no philosophical or religious views are excluded from its pages. And, as every philosophy and religion, however incomplete, unsatisfactory, and even foolish some may be occasionally, must be based on a truth and fact of some kind, the reader has thus the opportunity of comparing, analysing, and choosing from the several philosophies discussed therein. Lucifer offers as many facets of the One universal jewel as its limited space will permit, and says to its readers: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve: whether the gods that were on the other side of the flood which submerged man’s reasoning powers and divine knowledge, or the gods of the Amorites of custom and social falsehood, or again, the Lord of (the highest) Self—the bright destroyer of the dark power of illusion?” Surely it is that philosophy that tends to diminish, instead of adding to,
“WHAT IS TRUTH?” p. 9
the sum of human misery, which is the best.
At all events, the choice is there, and for this purpose only have we opened our pages to every kind of contributors. Therefore do you find in them the views of a Christian clergyman who believes in his God and Christ, but rejects the wicked interpretations and the enforced dogmas of his ambitious proud Church, along with the doctrines of the Hylo-Idealist, who denies God, soul, and immortality, and believes in nought save himself. The rankest Materialists will find hospitality in our journal; aye, even those who have not scrupled to fill pages of it with sneers and personal remarks upon ourselves, and abuse of the doctrines of Theosophy, so dear to us. When a journal of free thought, conducted by an Atheist, inserts an article by a Mystic or Theosophist in praise of his occult views and the mystery of Parabrahmam, and passes on it only a few casual remarks, then shall we say Lucifer has found a rival. When a Christian periodical or missionary organ accepts an article from the pen of a free-thinker deriding belief in Adam and his rib, and passes criticism on Christianity—its editor’s faith—in meek silence, then it will have become worthy of Lucifer, and may be said truly to have reached that degree of tolerance when it may be placed on a level with any Theosophical publication.
But so long as none of these organs do something of the kind, they are all sectarian, bigoted, intolerant, and can never have an idea of truth and justice. They may throw innuendoes against Lucifer and its editors, they cannot affect either. In fact, the editors of that magazine feel proud of such criticism and accusations, as they are witnesses to the absolute absence of bigotry, or arrogance of any kind in theosophy, the result of the divine beauty of the doctrines it preaches. For, as said, Theosophy allows a hearing and a fair chance to all. It deems no views—if sincere—entirely destitute of truth. It respects thinking men, to whatever class of thought they may belong. Ever ready to oppose ideas and views which can only create confusion without benefiting philosophy, it leaves their expounders personally to believe in whatever they please, and does justice to their ideas when they are good. Indeed, the conclusions or deductions of a philosophic writer may be entirely opposed to our views and the teachings we expound; yet his premises and statements of facts may be quite correct, and other people may profit by the adverse philosophy, even if we ourselves reject it, believing we have something higher and still nearer to the truth. In any case, our
p. 10 H. P. BLAVATSKY
profession of faith is now made plain, and all that is said in the foregoing pages both justifies and explains our editorial policy.
To sum up the idea, with regard to absolute and relative truth, we can only repeat what we said before. Outside a certain highly spiritual and elevated state of mind, during which Man is at one with the Universal Mind—he can get nought on earth but relative truth, or truths, from whatsoever philosophy or religion. Were even the goddess who dwells at the bottom of the well to issue from her place of confinement, she could give man no more than he can assimilate. Meanwhile, every one can sit near that well—the name of which is Knowledge—and gaze into its depths in the hope of seeing Truth’s fair image reflected, at least, on the dark waters. This, however, as remarked by Richter, presents a certain danger. Some truth, to be sure, may be occasionally reflected as in a mirror on the spot we gaze upon, and thus reward the patient student. But, adds the German thinker, “I have heard that some philosophers in seeking for Truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image in the water and adored it instead.” . . . .
It is to avoid such a calamity—one that has befallen every founder of a religious or philosophical school—that the editors are studiously careful not to offer the reader only those truths which they find reflected in their own personal brains. They offer the public a wide choice, and refuse to show bigotry and intolerance, which are the chief landmarks on the path of Sectarianism. But, while leaving the widest margin possible for comparison, our opponents cannot hope to find their faces reflected on the clear waters of our Lucifer, without remarks or just criticism upon the most prominent features thereof, if in contrast with theosophical views.
This, however, only within the cover of the public magazine, and so far as regards the merely intellectual aspect of philosophical truths. Concerning the deeper spiritual, and one may almost say religious, beliefs, no true Theosophist ought to degrade these by subjecting them to public discussion, but ought rather to treasure and hide them deep within the sanctuary of his innermost soul. Such beliefs and doctrines should never be rashly given out, as they risk unavoidable profanation by the rough handling of the indifferent and the critical. Nor ought they to be embodied in any publication except as hypotheses offered to the consideration of the thinking portion of the public. Theosophical truths, when they transcend a certain limit of speculation, had better remain concealed from
“WHAT IS TRUTH?” p. 11
public view, for the “evidence of things not seen” is no evidence save to him who sees, hears, and senses it. It is not to be dragged outside the “Holy of Holies,” the temple of the impersonal divine Ego, or the indwelling Self. For, while every fact outside its perception can, as we have shown, be, at best, only a relative truth, a ray from the absolute truth can reflect itself only in the pure mirror of its own flame—our highest Spiritual Consciousness. And how can the darkness (of illusion) comprehend the Light that shineth in it?
Lucifer, February, 1888
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND
N one of the oldest philosophies and religious systems of prehistoric times, we read that at the end of a Mahâ-Pralaya (general dissolution) the great Soul, Param-Atmâ, the Self-Existent, that which can be “apprehended only by the suprasensual,” becomes “manifest of itself.”1
The Hindûs give this “Existence” various names, one of which is Svayambhû, or Self-Existent. This Svayambhû emanates from itself the creative faculty, or Svâyambhuva—the “Son of the Self-Existent”—and the One becomes Two; this in its turn evolves a third principle with the potentiality of becoming Matter which the orthodox call Virâj, or the Universe.2 This incomprehensible Trinity became later anthropomorphized into the Trimûrti, known as Brahmâ, Vishnu, Shiva, the symbols of the creative, the preservative, and the destructive powers in Nature—and at the same time of the transforming or regenerating forces, or rather of the three aspects of the one Universal Force. It is the Tridanda, the triply manifested Unity, which gave rise to the orthodox Aum, which with them is but the abbreviated Trimûrti. It is only under this triple aspect that the profane masses can comprehend the great mystery. When the triple God becomes Shârîra, or puts on a visible form, he typifies all the principles of Matter, all the germs of life, he is the God of the three visages, or triple power, the essence of the Vedic Triad. “Let the Brâhmans know the Sacred Syllable [Aum], the three words of the Sâvitrî, and read the Vedas daily.”3
After having produced the universe, He whose power is incomprehensible vanished again, absorbed in the Supreme Soul.
. . . Having retired into the primitive darkness, the Great Soul remains within the unknown, and is void of all form. . . .
When having again reunited the subtile elementary principles, it introduces itself into either a vegetable or animal seed, it assumes at each a new form.
1 See Manava Dharma Shastra (Laws of Manu), i, 5, 6, 7, 8, et seq.
2 Every student of Theosophy will recognize in these three consecutive emanations the three Logoi of the Secret Doctrine and the Theosophical Scheme.
3 Compare Manu, iv. 125.
It is thus that, by an alternative waking and rest, the Immutable Being causes to revive and die eternally all the existing creatures, active and inert.4
He who has studied the speculations of Pythagoras on the Monad, which, after emanating the Duad, retires into silence and darkness, and thus creates the Triad, can realize whence came the Philosophy of the great Samian Sage, and after him that of Socrates and Plato. The mystic Decad (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10) is a way of expressing this idea. The One is God; the Two, Matter; the Three, combining Monad and Duad and partaking of the nature of both, is the phenomenal World; the Tetrad, or form of perfection, expresses the emptiness of all; and the Decad, or sum of all, involves the entire Kosmos.
Let us see how the Brâhmanical ideas tally with the pre-Christian Pagan Philosophies and with Christianity itself. It is with the Platonic Philosophy, the most elaborate compend of the abstruse systems of ancient India, that we had better begin.
Although twenty-two and a half centuries have elapsed since the death of Plato, the great minds of the world are still occupied with his writings. He was, in the fullest sense of the word, the world’s interpreter. And the greatest Philosopher of the pre-Christian era faithfully mirrored in his works the spiritualism of the Vedic Philosophers, who lived thousands of years before himself, with its metaphysical expression. Vyâsa, Jaimini, Kapila, Patanjali, and may others, will be found to have transmitted their indelible imprint through the intervening centuries, by means of Pythagoras, upon Plato and his school. Thus is warranted the inference that to Plato and the ancient Hindû Sages the same wisdom was alike revealed. And so surviving the shock of time, what can this wisdom be but divine and eternal?
Plato taught of justice as subsisting in the soul and as being the greatest good of its possessor. “Men, in proportion to their intellect, have admitted his transcendent claims”; yet his commentators, almost with one consent, shrink from every passage which implies that his Metaphysics are based on a solid foundation, and not on ideal conceptions.
But Plato could not accept a Philosophy destitute of spiritual aspirations; with him the two were at one. For the old Grecian Sage
4 Compare Manu, i. 50, and other shlokas.
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there was a single object of attainment: real knowledge. He considered those only to be genuine Philosophers, or students of truth, who possess the knowledge of the really-existing, in opposition to mere objects of perception; of the always-existing, in opposition to the transitory; and of that which exists permanently, in opposition to that which waxes, wanes, and is alternately developed and destroyed.
Beyond all finite existences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas, and principles, there is an Intelligence or Mind [Nου̑ς Nous, the Spirit] the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded; the ultimate substance from which all things derive their being and essence, the first and efficient Cause of all the order, and harmony, and beauty, and excellency, and goodness, which pervade the universe—who is called, by way of preeminence and excellence, the Supreme Good, the God (ὁ ϴϵὸς), “the God over all” (ὁ ϵ̓πὶ πâσι ϴϵὸς.)5
It is not difficult for a Theosophist to recognize in this “God” (a) the Universal Mind in its cosmic aspect; and (b) the Higher Ego in man in its microcosmic. For, as Plato says, He is not the truth nor the intelligence, “but the Father of it”; i.e., the “Father” of the Lower Manas, our personal “brain-mind,” which depends for its manifestations on the organs of sense. Though this eternal essence of things may not be perceptible by our physical senses, it may be apprehended by the mind of those who are not wilfully obtuse.6 We find Plato stating distinctly that everything visible was created or evolved out of the invisible and eternal Will, and after its fashion. Our Heaven—he says—was produced according to the eternal pattern of the “Ideal World,” contained, like everything else, in the dodecahedron, the geometrical model used by the Deity.7 With Plato, the Primal Being is an emanation of the Demiurgic Mind (Nous), which contains within itself from eternity the “Idea” of the “to-be-created world,” and this Idea it produces out of itself. 8 The laws of Nature are the established relations of this Idea to the forms of its manifestations. Two thousand years later, we find the great German philosopher Schopenhauer borrowing this conception when stating that:
These forms are time, space and causality. Through time and space the idea varies in its numberless manifestations.
5 Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy, xi. 377.
6 This “God” is the Universal Mind, Alaya, the source from which the “God” in each one of us has emanated.
7 Compare Timaeus Locrius, p. 97.
8 See Movers' Explanations, p. 268.
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 15
Thus, if Theology has often disfigured ancient Theosophy, Modern Psychology and Modern Science have disfigured Ancient Philosophy. Both borrowed without any acknowledgement from the Ancient Wisdom and reviled and belittled it whenever they could. But, for lack of comprehension of the great philosophical and theosophical principles, the methods of Modern Science, however exact, must end in nullity. In no one branch can it demonstrate the origin and ultimate of things. Instead of tracing the effect from its primal source, its progress is the reverse. Its higher types, it teaches, are all evolved from antecedent lower ones. It starts from the bottom of the cycle, led on step by step in the great labyrinth of Nature, by a thread of Matter. As soon as this breaks, the clue is lost, and it recoils in affright from the Incomprehensible, and confesses itself powerless. Not so did Plato and his disciples. With them, as with us, the lower types were but the concrete images of the higher abstract types. The Spirit, which is immortal, has an arithmetical, as the body has a geometrical, beginning. This beginning, as the reflection of the great universal Archæus, is self-moving, and from the centre diffuses itself over the whole body of the microcosm.
Is it the sad perception of this truth, the recognition and the adoption of which by any man of Science would now prove suicidal, that makes so many Scientists and famous scholars confess how powerless is Physical Science, even over the world of Matter?
Almost a century separated Plato from Pythagoras,9 so that they could not have been acquainted with each other. But both were Initiates, and therefore it is not surprising to find that both teach the same doctrine concerning the Universal Soul. Pythagoras taught his disciples that God is the Universal Mind diffused through all things, and that this Mind by the sole virtue of its universal sameness could be communicated from one object to another, and be made to create all things by the sole will-power of man. With the ancient Greeks, too, Kurios was the God-Mind (Nous). “Now, Koros (Kurios) signifies the pure and unmixed nature of intellect —wisdom,” says Plato in the Cratylus. Thus we find all the great philosophers, from Pythagoras through Timæus of Locris and Plato down to the Neo-Platonists, deriving the Mind-Soul of man from the Universal Mind-Soul.
Of myths and symbols, the despair of modern Orientalism, Plato
9 Pythagoras was born in 580 and Plato in 430 B.C.
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declares, in the Gorgias and Phædo, that they were the vehicles of great truths well worth seeking. But commentators are so little en rapport with the great Philosopher as to be compelled to acknowledge that they are ignorant where ‘‘the doctrinal ends, and the mythical begins.” Plato put to flight the popular superstitions concerning magic and dæmons, and developed the exaggerated notions of the time into rational theories and metaphysical conceptions. Perhaps these would not quite stand the inductive method of reasoning established by Aristotle; nevertheless they are satisfactory in the highest degree to those who apprehend the existence of the higher faculty of insight or intuition, as affording a criterion for ascertaining truth. For there are few myths in any religious system but have an historical as well as a scientific foundation. Myths, as Pococke ably expresses it,
Are now proved to be fables, just in proportion as we misunderstand them; truths, in proportion as they were once understood. Our ignorance it is which has made a myth of history; and our ignorance is an Hellenic inheritance, much of it the result of Hellenic vanity.10
Basing all his doctrines upon the presence of the Supreme Mind, Plato taught that the Nous, Spirit, or Rational Soul of man, being “generated by the Divine Father,” possessed a nature kindred to, or even homogeneous with, the Divinity, and capable of beholding the eternal realities. This faculty of contemplating reality in a direct and immediate manner belongs to God alone; the aspiration for this knowledge constitutes what is really meant by Philosophy—the love of wisdom. The love of truth is inherently the love of good; and predominating over every desire of the soul, purifying it and assimilating it to the divine, thus governing every act of the individual, it raises man to a participation and communion with Divinity, and restores him to the likeness of God. Says Plato in the Theætetus:
This flight consists in becoming like God, and this assimilation is the becoming just and holy with wisdom.
The basis of this assimilation is always asserted to be the preexistence of the Spirit or Nous. In the allegory of the chariot and winged steeds, given in the Phædrus, he represents the psychical nature as composite or two-fold; the thumos, or epithumetic part, formed from the substances of the world of phenomena; and the thumoeides (ϴυμοєιδϵ́ς), the essence of which is linked to the eternal
10 India in Greece, Preface, p. ix.
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world. The present earth-life is a fall and a punishment. The Soul dwells in “the grave which we call the body,” and in its incorporate state, and previous to the discipline of education, the noëtic or spiritual element is “asleep.” Life is thus a dream, rather than a reality. Like the captives in the subterranean cave, described in the Republic, our backs being turned to the light, we perceive only the shadows of objects, and think them the actual realities. Is not this the idea of Mâyâ, or the illusion of the senses in physical life, which is so marked a feature in the Hindû Philosophy? But these shadows, if we have not given ourselves up absolutely to the sensuous nature, arouse in us the reminiscence of that higher world that we once inhabited.
The interior spirit has some dim and shadowy recollection of its antenatal state of bliss, and some instinctive and proleptic yearnings for its return.
It is the province of the discipline of Philosophy to disenthral the Soul from the bondage of sense, and to raise it into the empyrean of pure thought, to the vision of eternal truth, goodness, and beauty, thus uniting it to Spirit.
The soul cannot come into the form of a man if it has never seen the truth. This is a recollection of those things which our soul formerly saw when journeying with Deity, despising the things which we now say are, and looking up to that which really is. Wherefore the nous, or spirit, of the Philosopher [or student of the higher truth] alone is furnished with wings; because he, to the best of his ability, keeps these things in mind, of which the contemplation renders even Deity itself divine. By making the right use of these things remembered from the former life, by constantly perfecting himself in the perfect mysteries, a man becomes truly perfect—an initiate into the diviner wisdom.
The Philosophy of Plato, we are assured by Porphyry of the Neoplatonic School, was taught and illustrated in the Mysteries.11 Many have questioned and even denied this; and Lobeck, in his
11 “The accusations of atheism, the introducing of foreign deities, and corrupting of the Athenian youth, which were made against Socrates, afforded ample justification for Plato to conceal the arcane preaching of his doctrines. Doubtless the peculiar diction or ‘jargon’ of the alchemists was employed for a like purpose. The dungeon, the rack, and the faggot were employed without scruple by Christians of every shade, the Roman Catholics especially, against all who taught even natural science contrary to the theories entertained by the Church. Pope Gregory the Great even inhibited the grammatical use of Latin as heathenish. The offence of Socrates consisted in unfolding to his disciples the arcane doctrine concerning the gods, which was taught in the Mysteries and was a capital crime. He was also charged by Aristophanes with introducing the new god Dinos into the republic as the demiurgos or artificer, and the lord of the solar universe. The Heliocentric system was also a doctrine of the Mysteries; and hence, when Aristarchus, the
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Aglaophomus, has gone to the extreme of representing the sacred festivals as little more than an empty show to captivate the imagination. As though Athens and Greece would for twenty centuries and more have repaired every fifth year to Eleusis to witness a solemn religious farce! Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, has exploded such assertions. He declares that the doctrines of the Alexandrian Platonists were the original Esoteric doctrines of the first followers of Plato, and describes Plotinus as a Plato reïncarnated. He also explains the motives of the great Philosopher for veiling the interior sense of what he taught.
Hence we may understand why the sublimer scenes in the Mysteries were always in the night. The life of the interior Spirit is the death of the external nature; and the night of the physical world denotes the day of the spiritual. Dionysus, the night-sun, is, therefore, worshipped rather than Helios, orb of day. In the Mysteries were symbolized the preëxistent condition of the Spirit and Soul, and the lapse of the latter into earth-life and Hades, the miseries of that life, the purification of the Soul, and its restoration to divine bliss, or reünion with Spirit. Theon, of Smyrna, aptly compares the philosophical discipline to the mystic rites, and his views may be summarized from Taylor as follows:
Philosophy may be called the initiation into the true arcana, and the instruction in the genuine Mysteries. There are five parts of this initiation: I. the previous purification: II. the admission to participation in the arcane rites: III. the epoptic revelation; IV. the investiture or enthroning; V.—the fifth, which is produced from all these, is friendship and interior communion with God, and the enjoyment of that felicity which arises from intimate converse with divine beings. . . . Plato denominates the epopteia, or personal view, the perfect contemplation of things which are apprehended intuitively, absolute truths and ideas. He also considers the binding of the head and crowning as analogous to the authority which anyone receives from his instructors, of leading others into the same contemplation. The fifth gradation is the most perfect felicity arising from hence, and, according to Plato, an assimilation to divinity as far as is possible to human beings.12
Such is Platonism. “Out of Plato,” says Ralph Waldo Emerson, “come all things that are still written and debated among men of
Pythagorean taught it openly, Cleanthes declared that the Greeks ought to have called him to account and condemned him for blasphemy against the gods.” But Socrates had never been initiated, and hence divulged nothing which had ever been imparted to him.
12 Thomas Taylor, Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, p. 47.
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thought." He absorbed the learning of his time—that of Greece from Philolaus to Socrates; then that of Pythagoras in Italy; then what he could procure from Egypt and the East. He was so broad that all Philosophy, European and Asiatic, was in his doctrines; and to culture and contemplation he added the nature and qualities of the poet.
The followers of Plato generally adhered strictly to his psychological theories. Several, however, like Xenocrates, ventured into bolder speculations. Speusippus, the nephew and successor of the great Philosopher, was the author of the Numerical Analysis, a treatise on the Pythagorean Numbers. Some of his speculations are not found in the written Dialogues; but as he was a listener to the unwritten lectures of Plato, the judgment of Enfield is doubtless correct, that he did not differ from his Master. Though not named, he was evidently the antagonist whom Aristotle criticized, when professing to cite the argument of Plato against the doctrine of Pythagoras, that all things were in themselves numbers, or rather, inseparable from the idea of numbers. He especially endeavoured to show that the Platonic doctrine of ideas differed essentially from the Pythagorean, in that it presupposed numbers and magnitude to exist apart from things. He also asserted that Plato taught that there could be no real knowledge, if the object of that knowledge was not carried beyond or above the sensible.
But Aristotle was no trustworthy witness. He misrepresented Plato, and he almost caricatured the doctrines of Pythagoras. There is a canon of interpretation, which should guide us in our examination of every philosophical opinion: “The human mind has, under the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the same feelings in all ages.” It is certain that Pythagoras awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age, and that his doctrines exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of Plato. His cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle of unity beneath the forms, changes, and other phenomena of the universe. Aristotle asserted that he taught that “numbers are the first principles of all entities.” Ritter has expressed the opinion that the formula of Pythagoras should be taken symbolically, which is entirely correct. Aristotle goes on to associate these numbers with the “forms” and “ideas” of Plato. He even declares that Plato said: “forms are numbers,” and that “ideas are substantial existences—real beings.” Yet
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Plato did not so teach. He declared that the final cause was the Supreme Goodness—τὸ ἀγаϴὸν.
‘‘Ideas are objects of pure conception for the human reason, and they are attributes of the Divine Reason.”13 Nor did he ever say that “forms are numbers.” What he did say may be found in the Timæus: “God [the Universal Nous or Mind] formed things as they first arose according to forms and numbers.”
It is recognized by Modem Science that all the higher laws of Nature assume the form of quantitative statement. What is this but a fuller elaboration or more explicit affirmation of the Pythagorean doctrine? Numbers were regarded as the best representations of the laws of harmony which pervade the Kosmos. In Chemistry the doctrine of atoms and the laws of combination are actually, and, as it were, arbitrarily defined by numbers. As Mr. W. Archer Butler has expressed it:
The world is, then, through all its departments, a living arithmetic in its development, a realized geometry in its repose.
The key to the Pythagorean dogmas is the general formula of unity in multiplicity, the One evolving the many and pervading the many. This is the ancient doctrine of emanation in a few words. Even the apostle Paul accepted it as true. “Εξ αὐτου̑, καὶ δἰ αὐτου̑, καὶ ϵἰς αὐτὸν τά πάντα”—Out of him and through him and for him all things are—though the pronoun “him” could hardly have been used with regard to the Universal Mind by an Initiate—a “Master Builder.”
The greatest ancient Philosophers are accused of shallowness and superficiality of knowledge as to those details in exact Science of which the moderns boast so much; and Plato cannot escape the common fate. Yet, once more his modem critics ought to bear in mind, that the Sodalian Oath of the Initiate into the Mysteries prevented his imparting his knowledge to the world, in so many plain words. As Champollion writes:
It was the dream of his [Plato's] life to write a work and record in it, in full, the doctrines taught by the Egyptian hierophants; he often talked of it, but found himself compelled to abstain on account of the solemn oath.
Plato is declared by his various commentators to have been utterly ignorant of the anatomy and functions of the human body; to have known nothing of the uses of the nerves for conveying sensations;
13 History of Philosophy, by Cousin, I. p. ix.
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and to have had nothing better to offer than vain speculations concerning physiological questions. He has simply generalized the divisions of the human body, they say, and given nothing reminding us of anatomical facts. As to his own views on the human frame, the Microcosmos being, in his mind, the image in miniature of the Macrocosmos, they are much too transcendental to obtain the least attention from our exact and materialistic sceptics. The idea of this frame being formed out of triangles, like the universe, seems preposterously ridiculous to several of his translators. Alone of the latter, Professor Jowett, in his introduction to the Timæus, honestly remarks that the modern Physical Philosopher
hardly allows to his notions the merit of being “the dead men’s
bones” out of which he has himself risen to a higher knowledge;14
forgetting how much the Metaphysics of olden times have helped the “physical” Sciences of the present day. If, instead of quarrelling with the insufficiency and at times the absence of strictly scientific terms and definitions in Plato’s works, we analyze them carefully, the Timæus alone will be found to contain within its limited space the germs of every new discovery. The circulation of the blood and the law of gravitation are clearly mentioned, though the former fact, it may be, is not so clearly defined as to withstand the reiterated attacks of Modern Science; for, according to Prof. Jowett, the specific discovery that the blood flows out from one side of the heart through the arteries, and returns to the other through the veins, was unknown to him, though Plato was perfectly aware “that blood is a fluid in constant motion.”
Plato’s method, like that of Geometry, was to descend from universals to particulars. Modern Science vainly seeks a First Cause among the permutations of molecules; but Plato sought and found it amid the majestic sweep of worlds. For him it was enough to know the great scheme of creation and to be able to trace the mightiest movements of the Universe through their changes to their ultimates. The petty details, the observation and classification of which have so taxed and demonstrated the patience of modern Scientists, occupied but little of the attention of the old Philosophers. Hence, while a fifth-form boy of an English school can prate more learnedly about the little things of Physical Science than Plato himself, yet, on the other hand, the dullest of Plato’s disciples could tell more about great cosmic laws and their mutual relations, and could
14 Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato, ii. 508.
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demonstrate a greater familiarity with and control over the Occult Forces which lie behind them, than the most learned professor in the most distinguished Academy of our day.
This fact, so little appreciated and never dwelt upon by Plato’s translators, accounts for the self-laudation in which we moderns indulge at the expense of that Philosopher and his compeers. Their alleged mistakes in Anatomy and Physiology are magnified to an inordinate extent in order to gratify our self-love, until, in acquiring the idea of our own superior learning, we lose sight of the intellectual splendour which adorns the ages of the past; it is as if one should, in fancy, magnify the solar spots until he should believe the bright luminary to be totally eclipsed.
The wholesale accusation that the ancient Philosophers merely generalized, and that they practically systematized nothing, does not prove their “ignorance,” and further it is untrue. Every Science having been revealed in the beginning of time by a divine Instructor, became thereby sacred, and capable of being imparted only during the Mysteries of Initiation. No initiated Philosopher, therefore—such as Plato—had the right to reveal it. Once postulate this fact, and the alleged “ignorance” of the ancient Sages and of some initiated classic authors, is explained. At any rate, even a correct generalization is more useful than any system of exact Science, which only becomes rounded and completed by virtue of a number of “working hypotheses” and conjectures. The relative practical unprofitableness of most modern scientific research is evinced in the fact that while our Scientists have a name for the most trivial particle of mineral, plant, animal, and man, the wisest of them are unable to tell us anything definite about the Vital Force which produces the changes in these several kingdoms. It is unnecessary to seek further than the works of our highest scientific authorities themselves for corroboration of this statement.
It requires no little moral courage in a man of eminent
professional position to do justice to the acquirements of the Ancients, in the
face of a public sentiment which is content with nothing less than their
abasement. When we meet with a case of the kind we gladly give the bold and
honest scholar his due. Such a scholar is Professor Jowett, Master of Baliol
College, and Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford, who, in his
translation of Plato’s works, speaking of “the physical philosophy of the
ancients as a whole,” gives them the following credit: 1. “That the nebular
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theory was the received belief of the early physicists.” Therefore it could not have rested, as Draper asserts,15 upon the telescopic discovery made by Herschel. 2. “That the development of animals out of frogs who came to land, and of man out of animals, was held by Anaximenes in the sixth century before Christ.” Professor Jowett might have added that this theory antedated Anaximenes by many thousands of years, as it was an accepted doctrine among the Chaldeans, who taught it exoterically, as on their cylinders and tablets, and esoterically in the temples of Ea and Nebo—the God, and prophet or revealer of the Secret Doctrine.16 But in both cases the statements are blinds. That which Anaximenes—the pupil of Anaximander, who was himself the friend and disciple of Thales of Miletus, the chief of the “Seven Sages,” and therefore an Initiate as were these two Masters—that which Anaximenes meant by “animals” was something different from the animals of the modern Darwinian theory. Indeed the eagle-headed men, and the animals of various kinds with human heads, may point two ways: to the descent of man from animals, and to the descent of animals from man, as in the Esoteric Doctrine. At all events, even the most important of the present-day theories is thus shown to be not entirely original with Darwin. 3. Professor Jowett goes on to show “that, even by Philolaus and the early Pythagoreans, the earth was held to be a body like the other stars revolving in space.” Thus Galileo—studying some Pythagorean fragments, which are shown by Reuchlin to have still existed in the days of the Florentine mathematician,17 being, moreover, familiar with the doctrines of the old Philosophers—but reässerted an astronomical doctrine which prevailed in India in the remotest antiquity. 4. The Ancients “thought that there was a sex in plants as well as in animals.” Thus our modern Naturalists had but to follow in the steps of their predecessors. 5. “That musical notes depended on the relative length or tension of the strings from which they were emitted, and were measured by ratios of number.”
15 Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 240.
16 “The Wisdom of Nebo, of the God my instructor, all-delightful,” says verse 7 on the first tablet, which gives the description of the generation of the Gods and creation.
17 Some Kabalistic scholars assert that the original Greek Pythagoric sentences of Sextus, which are now said to be lost, existed at that time in a convent at Florence, and that Galileo was acquainted with these writings. They add, moreover, that a treatise on Astronomy, a manuscript by Archytas, a direct disciple of Pythagoras, in which were noted all the most important doctrines of their school, was in the possession of Galileo. Had some Rufinus got hold of it, he would no doubt have perverted it, as Presbyter Rufinus has perverted the above-mentioned sentences of Sextus, replacing them with a fraudulent version, the authorship of which he sought to ascribe to a certain Bishop Sextus, See Taylor’s Introduction to Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. xvii
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6. “That mathematical laws pervaded the world and even qualitative differences were supposed to have their origin in number.” 7. “That the annihilation of matter was denied by them, and held to be a transformation only.” “Although one of these discoveries might have been supposed to be a happy guess,” adds Prof. Jowett, “we can hardly attribute them all to mere coincidences.” We should think not; for, from what he says elsewhere, Prof. Jowett gives us a full right to believe that Plato indicates (as he really does) in Timæus, his knowledge of the indestructibility of Matter, of the conservation of energy, and the correlation of forces. Says Dr. Jowett:
The latest word of modern philosophy is continuity and development. but to Plato this is the beginning and foundation of Science. 18
In short, the Platonic Philosophy was one of order, system, and proportion; it embraced the evolution of worlds and species, the correlation and conservation of energy, the transmutation of material form, the indestructibility of Matter and of Spirit. The position of the Platonists in the latter respect was far in advance of Modern Science, and bound the arch of their philosophical system with a keystone at once perfect and immovable.
Finally few will deny the enormous influence that Plato’s views have exercised on the formation and acceptance of the dogmas of Christianity. But Plato’s views were those of the Mysteries. The philosophical doctrines taught therein are the prolific source from which sprang all the old exoteric religions, the Old and partially the New Testament included, belonging to the most advanced notions of morality, and religious “revelations.” While the literal meaning was abandoned to the fanaticism of the unreasoning lower classes of society, the higher classes, the majority of which consisted of Initiates, pursued their studies in the solemn silence of the temples, and also their worship of the One God of Heaven.
The speculations of Plato, in the Banquet, on the creation of the primordial men, and the essay on Cosmogony in the Timæus, must be taken allegorically, if we accept them at all. It is this hidden Pythagorean meaning in Timæus, Cratylus and Parmenides, and other trilogies and dialogues, that the Neo-Platonists ventured to expound, as far as the theurgical vow of secrecy would allow them.
18 Introduction to Timaeus, Dialogues of Plato, i. 590
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The Pythagorean doctrine that God is the Universal Mind diffused through all things, and the dogma of the soul’s immortality, are the leading features in these apparently incongruous teachings. Plato’s piety and the great veneration he felt for the Mysteries, are sufficient warrant that he would not allow his indiscretion to get the better of that deep sense of responsibility which is felt by every Adept. “Constantly perfecting himself in perfect Mysteries, a man in them alone becomes truly perfect,” says he in the Phædrus.19
He took no pains to conceal his displeasure that the Mysteries had become less secret than they were in earlier times. Instead of profaning them by putting them within the reach of the multitude, he would have guarded them with jealous care against all but the most earnest and worthy of his disciples.20 While mentioning the Gods on every page, his “Pantheistic Monism” is unquestionable, for the whole thread of his discourse indicates that by the term “Gods” he means a class of beings far lower in the scale than the One Deity, and but one grade higher than external man. Even Josephus perceived and acknowledged this fact, despite the natural prejudice of his race. In his famous onslaught upon Apion, this historian says:
Those, however, among the Greeks who philosophized in accordance with truth, were not ignorant of anything . . . nor did they fail to perceive the chilling superficialities of the mythical allegories, on which account they justly despised them. . . . By which thing Plato, being moved, says it is not necessary to admit anyone of the other poets into the “Commonwealth,” and he dismisses Homer blandly, after having crowned him and pouring unguent upon him, in order that indeed he should not destroy, by his myths, the orthodox belief respecting the One [Deity].21
Those, therefore, who can discern the true spirit of Plato’s Philosophy, will hardly be satisfied with the estimate which Prof. Jowett, in another part of his work, lays before his readers. He tells us that the influence exercised upon posterity by the Timaeus is partly due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of its author by the Neo-Platonists. He would have us believe that the hidden meanings which they found in this Dialogue, are “quite at variance with
19 Cory, Phaedrus, i. 328.
20 This assertion is clearly corroborated by Plato himself, who says: “You say that, in my former discourse, I have not sufficiently explained to you the nature of the First. I purposely spoke enigmatically, that in case the tablet should have happened with any accident, either by land or sea, a person without some previous knowledge of the subject, might not be able to understand its contents” (Plato, Ep. ii. p. 312; Cory, Ancient Fragments, p. 304).
21 Josephus, Against Apion, ii. p. 1079.
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the Spirit of Plato.” This is equivalent to the assumption that Prof. Jowett understands what this spirit really was; whereas his criticism upon this particular topic rather indicates that he does not penetrate it at all. If, as he tells us, the Christians seem to find in his work their Trinity, the Word, the Church, and the creation of the World, in a Jewish sense, it is because all this is there, and therefore it is but natural that they should have found it. The outward building is the same; but the spirit which animated the dead letter of the Philosopher’s teaching has fled, and we would seek for it in vain through the arid dogmas of Christian theology. The Sphinx is the same now, as it was four centuries before the Christian era; but the Œdipus is no more. He is slain because he has given to the world that which the world was not ripe enough to receive. He was the embodiment of truth, and he had to die, as every grand truth must, before, like the Phɶnix of old, it revives from its own ashes. Every translator of Plato’s works has remarked the strange similarity between the Philosophy of the Esoteric and the Christian doctrines, and each of them has tried to interpret it in accordance with his own religious feelings. So Cory, in his Ancient Fragments, tries to prove that it is but an outward resemblance; and does his best to lower the Pythagorean Monad in the public estimation and exalt upon its ruins the later anthropomorphic deity. Taylor, advocating the former, acts as unceremoniously with the Mosaic God. Zeller boldly laughs at the pretensions of the Fathers of the Church, who, notwithstanding history and chronology, and whether people will have it or not, insist that Plato and his school have robbed Christianity of its leading features. It is as fortunate for us as it is unfortunate for the Roman Church that such clever sleight-of-hand as that resorted to by Eusebius is rather difficult in our century. It was easier to pervert chronology, “for the sake of making synchronisms,” in the days of the Bishop of Cæsarea, than it is now, and while history exists, no one can help people knowing that Plato lived six hundred years before Irenæus took it into his head to establish a new doctrine from the ruins of Plato’s older Academy.
* * *
This doctrine of the Universal Mind diffused through all things underlies all ancient Philosophies. The tenets of Bodhism, or Wisdom, which can never be better comprehended than when studying the Pythagorean Philosophy—its faithful reflection—are derived from this source, as are the exoteric Hindû religion and early Chris-
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 27
tianity. The purifying process of reincarnations—metempsychoses —however grossly anthropomorphized at a later period, must only be regarded as a supplementary doctrine, disfigured by theological sophistry, with the object of getting a firmer hold upon believers through a popular superstition. Neither Gautama Buddha nor Pythagoras, nor yet Plato, intended to teach this purely metaphysical allegory literally. None of them addressed himself to the profane, but only to their own followers and disciples, who knew too much of the symbological element used even during public instruction to fail to understand the meaning of their respective Masters. Thus they were aware that the words metempsychosis and transmigration meant simply reincarnation from one human body to another, when this teaching concerned a human being; and that every allusion of this or another sage, like Pythagoras, to having been in a previous birth a beast, or of transmigrating after death into an animal, was allegorical and related to the spiritual states of the human soul. It is not in the dead letter of the mystic sacred literature that scholars may hope to find the true solution of its metaphysical subtleties. The latter weary the power of thought by the inconceivable profundity of their ratiocination; and the student is never farther from truth than when he believes himself nearest its discovery. The mastery of every doctrine of the perplexing Buddhist and Brâhmanical systems can be attained only by proceeding strictly according to the Pythagorean and Platonic method; from universals down to particulars. The key to them lies in the refined and mystical tenets of the spiritual influx of divine life. “Whoever is unacquainted with my law.” says Buddha, “and dies in that state, must return to the earth till he becomes a perfect Samanean. To achieve this object, he must destroy within himself the trinity of Mâyâ. He must extinguish his passions, unite and identify himself with the law [the teaching of the Secret Doctrine], and comprehend the religion of annihilation,” i.e., the laws of Matter, and those of Karma and Reïncarnation.
Plato acknowledges man to be the toy of the element of necessity—which is Karma under another name—in appearing in this world of matter. Man is influenced by external causes, and these causes are daimonia, like that of Socrates. Happy is the man physically pure, for if his external soul (astral body, the image of the body) is pure, it will strengthen the second (the lower Manas), or the soul which is termed by him the higher mortal soul, which,
p. 28 H. P. BLAVATSKY
though liable to err from its own motives, will always side with reason against the animal proclivities of the body. In other words, the ray of our Higher Ego, the lower Manas, has its higher light, the reason or rational powers of the Nous, to help it in the struggle with Kâmic desires. The lusts of man arise in consequence of his perishable material body, so do other diseases, says Plato; but though he regards crimes as involuntary sometimes, for they result, like bodily disease, from external causes, Plato clearly makes a wide distinction between these causes. The Karmic fatalism which he concedes to humanity does not preclude the possibility of avoiding them, for though pain, fear, anger, and other feelings are given to men by necessity,
If they conquered these they would live righteously, and if they were conquered by them, unrighteously.22
The dual man—i.e., one from whom the divine immortal Spirit has departed, leaving but the animal form and the sidereal, Plato’s higher mortal soul—is left merely to his instincts, for he has been conquered by all the evils entailed on matter,23 hence, he becomes a docile tool in the hands of the Invisibles—beings of sublimated matter, hovering in our atmosphere, and ever ready to inspire those who are deservedly deserted by their immortal counsellor, the Divine Spirit, called by Plato “genius.”24 According to this great Philosopher and initiate, one
Who lived well during his appointed time would return to the habitation of his star, and there have a blessed and suitable existence. But if he failed in attaining this in the second generation he would pass into a woman [become helpless and weak as a woman], and should he not cease from evil in that condition he would be changed into some brute, which resembled him in his evil ways, and would not cease from his toils and transformations [i.e., rebirths or transmigrations], until he followed the original principle of sameness and likeness within him, and overcame, by the help of reason, the latter secretions of turbulent and irrational elements [elementary dæmons] composed of fire and air, and water and earth, and returned to the form of his first and better nature.25
These are the teachings of the Secret Doctrine, of the Occult Philosophy. The possibility of man losing, through depravity, his
22 Timaeus. See Prof. Jowett’s work.
23 This is the teaching of Esoteric Philosophy and this tenet was faintly outlined in Isis Unveiled. With Plato the triple man alone is perfect, i.e., one whose Body, Soul, and Spirit are in close affinity.
24 And by Theosophists the Higher Ego or Buddhi-Manas.
25 Plato’s Timaeus.
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 29
Higher Ego was taught in antiquity, and is still taught in the centres of Eastern Occultism. And the above shows quite plainly that Plato believed in Reincarnation and in Karma just as we do, though his utterances in respect to the subject were in a mythical form.
There was not a Philosopher of any notoriety who did not hold to this doctrine of metempsychosis, as taught by the Brâhmans, Buddhists, and later by the Pythagoreans, in its Esoteric sense, whether he expressed it more or less intelligibly. Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, Synesius and Chalcidius, all believed in it; and the Gnostics, who are unhesitatingly proclaimed by history as a body of the most refined, learned, and enlightened men,26 were all believers in metempsychosis. Socrates entertained opinions identical with those of Pythagoras; and, as the penalty of his divine Philosophy, was put to a violent death. The rabble has been the same in all ages. These men taught that men have two souls, of separate and quite different natures: the one perishable—the Astral Soul, or the inner, fluidic body—which must not be confused with the Astral Body or “double”; the other incorruptible and immortal —the Augoeides, or portion of the Divine Spirit—Atmâ-Buddhi; that the mortal or Astral Soul perishes at each gradual change at the threshold of every new sphere, becoming with every transmigration more purified. The Astral Man, intangible and invisible as he may be to our mortal, earthly senses, is still constituted of matter, though sublimated.
Now, if the latter means anything at all, it means that the above teaching about the “two souls” is exactly that of the Esoteric, and of many exoteric, Theosophists. The two souls are the dual Manas: the lower, personal “Astral Soul,” and the Higher Ego. The former —a Ray of the latter falling into Matter, that is to say animating man and making of him a thinking, rational being on this plane—having assimilated its most spiritual elements in the divine essence of the reïncarnating Ego, perishes in its personal, material form at each gradual change, as Kâma Rûpa, at the threshold of every new sphere, or Devachan, followed by a new reincarnation. It perishes, because it fades out in time, all but its intangible, evanescent photography on the astral waves, burnt out by the fierce light which ever changes but never dies; while the incorruptible and the immortal “Spiritual Soul,” that which we call Buddhi-Manas and the individual Self, becomes more purified with every new incarna-
26 See Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
p. 30 H. P. BLAVATSKY
tion. Laden with all IT could save from the personal Soul, it carries it into Devachan, to reward it with ages of peace and bliss. This is no new teaching, no “fresh development,” as some of our opponents have tried to prove; and even in Isis Unveiled, the earliest, hence the most cautious of all the modern works on Theosophy, the fact is distinctly stated (Vol. i, p. 432 and elsewhere). The Secret Doctrine does not concede immortality to all men alike. It declares with Porphyry that only
Through the highest purity and chastity we shall approach nearer to [our] God, and receive, in the contemplation of Him, the true knowledge and insight.
If the human soul has neglected during its life-time to receive its illumination from its Divine Spirit, our personal God, then it becomes difficult for the gross and sensual man to survive his physical death for a great length of time. No more than the misshapen monster can live long after its physical birth, can the soul, once that it has become too material, exist after its birth into the spiritual world. The viability of the astral form is so feeble, that the particles cannot cohere firmly when once it is slipped out of the unyielding capsule of the external body. Its particles, gradually obeying the disorganizing attraction of universal space, finally fly asunder beyond the possibility of reäggregation. Upon the occurrence of such a catastrophe, the personal individual ceases to exist; his glorious Augoeides, the immortal Self, has left him for Devachan, whither the Kama Rûpa cannot follow. During the intermediary period between bodily death and the disintegration of the astral form, the latter, bound by magnetic attraction to its ghastly corpse, prowls about, and sucks vitality from susceptible victims. The man having shut out of himself every ray of the divine light, is lost in darkness, and, therefore, clings to the earth and the earthy.
No Astral Soul, even that of a pure, good and virtuous man, is immortal in the strictest sense; “from elements it was formed—to elements it must return.” Only, while the soul of the wicked vanishes, and is absorbed without redemption—i.e., the dead man has impressed nothing of himself on the Spirit-Ego—that of every other person, even moderately pure, simply changes its ethereal particles for still more ethereal ones. While there remains in it a spark of the Divine, the personal Ego cannot die entirely, as his most spiritual thoughts and aspirations, his “good deeds,” the efflorescence of his “I-am-ship,” so to speak, is now at one with his
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 31
immortal Parent. Says Proclus:
After death the soul [the spirit] continueth to linger in the aërial body [astral form], till it is entirely purified from all angry and voluptuous passions . . . then doth it put off by a second dying the aërial body as it did the earthly one. Whereupon, the ancients say that there is a celestial body always joined with the soul, which is immortal, luminous, and star-like.
Between Pantheism and Fetichism, we have been repeatedly told, there is but an insignificant step. Plato was a Monotheist, it is asserted. In one sense, he was that, most assuredly; but his Monotheism never led him to the worship of one personal God, but to that of a Universal Principle and to the fundamental idea that the absolutely immutable or unchangeable Existence alone, really is, all the finite existences and change being only appearance, i.e., Mâyâ.27 His Being was noumenal, not phenomenal. If Heracleitus postulates a World-Consciousness, or Universal Mind; and Parmenides an unchangeable Being, in the identity of the universal and individual thought; and the Pythagoreans, along with Philolaus, discover true Knowledge (which is Wisdom or Deity) in our consciousness of the unchangeable relations between number and measure—an idea disfigured later by the Sophists—it is Plato who expresses this idea the most intelligibly. While the vague definition of some philosophers about the Ever-Becoming is but too apt to lead one inclined to argumentation into hopeless Materialism, the divine Being of some others suggests as unphilosophical an anthropomorphism. Instead of separating the two, Plato shows us the logical necessity of accepting both, viewed from an Esoteric aspect. That which he calls the “Unchangeable Existence” or “Being” is named Be-ness in Esoteric Philosophy. It is Sat, which becomes at stated periods the cause of the Becoming, which latter cannot, therefore, be regarded as existing, but only as something ever tending—in its cyclic progress toward the One Absolute Existence—to exist, in the “Good,” and at one with Absoluteness. The “Divine Causality” cannot be a personal, therefore finite and conditioned, Godhead, any more with Plato than with the Vedântins, as he treats his subject teleologically, and in his search for final causes often goes beyond the Universal Mind, even when viewed as a noumenon. Modern commentators have attempted on different occasions to prove fallacious the Neo-Platonic claim of a secret meaning underlying Plato’s teachings. They deny the presence of “any definite
27 Sophistes, p. 249.
p. 32 H. P. BLAVATSKY
trace of a secret doctrine” in his Dialogues;
Not even the passages brought forward out of the insititious Platonic letters (VII, p. 341e, II, p. 314c) containing any evidence.28
As, however, no one would deny that Plato had been initiated into the Mysteries, there is an end to the other denials. There are hundreds of expressions and hints in the Dialogues which no modern translator or commentator—save one, Thomas Taylor—has ever correctly understood. The presence, moreover, of the Pythagorean number-doctrine and the sacred numerals in Plato’s lectures settles the question conclusively.
He who has studied Pythagoras and his speculations on the Monad, which, after having emanated the Duad, retires into silence and darkness, and thus creates the Triad, can realize whence came the Philosophy of the great Samian Sage, and after him that of Socrates and Plato.
Speusippus seems to have taught that the psychical or thumetic soul was immortal as well as the Spirit or rational soul, and every Theosophist will understand his reasons for it. Unless a personality is entirely annihilated, which is extremely rare, the “thumetic soul,” our lower Manas, is in one sense and portion of itself immortal—i.e. the portion that follows the Ego into Devachan. He also—like Philolaus and Aristotle, in his disquisitions upon the soul—makes of Ether an element; so that there were five principal elements to correspond with the five regular figures in Geometry. This became also a doctrine of the Alexandrian school.29 Indeed, there was much in the doctrines of the Philaletheans which did not appear in the works of the older Platonists, but was doubtless taught in substance by the Philosopher himself, though, with his usual reticence, he did not commit it to writing, as being too arcane for promiscuous publication. Speusippus and Xenocrates after him, held, like their great Master, that the Anima Mundi, or World-Soul, was not the Deity, but a manifestation. Those Philosophers never conceived of the One as an animate Nature.30 The original One did not exist, as we understand the term. Not till he had united with the many—emanated existence (the Monad and Duad)—was a Being produced. The τίμιον, honoured—the something manifested—dwells in the center
28 Vide Hermann, I, pp. 544, 744, note 755.
29 Theo. Arith., p. 62; on Pythag. Numbers.
30 Plato: Parmenid., 141 E.
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 33
as in the circumference, but it is only the reflection of the Deity, the World-Soul.31 In this doctrine we find all the spirit of Esoteric Bodhism, or Secret Wisdom.
Though some have considered Speusippus as inferior to Aristotle, the world is nevertheless indebted to him for defining and expounding many things that Plato had left obscure in his doctrine of the Sensible and Ideal. His maxim was “The Immaterial is known by means of scientific thought, the Material by scientific perception.”32
Xenocrates expounded many of the unwritten theories and teachings of his master. He, too, held the Pythagorean doctrine, with its system of numerals and mathematics, in the highest estimation. Recognizing but three degrees of knowledge—Thought, Perception, and Envisagement (or knowledge by Intuition), he made Thought busy itself with all that which is beyond the heavens; Perception with things in the heavens; Intuition with the heavens themselves. The source of these three qualities is found in the Hindû Mânava Dharma Shâstra, speaking of the formation (creation, in vulgar parlance) of man. Brahmâ—who is Mahat, or the Universal Soul—draws from its own essence the Spirit, the immortal breath which perisheth not in the human being, while to the (lower) soul of that being, Brahmâ gives the Ahânkara, consciousness of the Ego. Then is added to it “the intellect formed of the three qualities.”
These three qualities are Intelligence, Conscience and Will; answering to the Thought, Perception and Envisagement (Intuition) of Xenocrates, who seems to have been less reticent than Plato and Speusippus in his exposition of soul. After his master’s death Xenocrates travelled with Aristotle, and then became ambassador to Philip of Macedonia. But twenty-five years later he is found taking charge of the Old Academy, and becoming its President as successor of Speusippus, who had occupied the post for over a quarter of a century, and devoting his life to the most abstruse philosophical subjects. He is thought more dogmatic than Plato, and therefore must have been more dangerous to the schools which opposed him. His three degrees of knowledge, or three divisions of Philosophy, the separation and connection of the three modes of cognition and comprehension, are more definitely worked out than by Speusippus. With him, Science is referred to “that essence which is the object of pure thought, and is not included in the phe-
31 See Stobæus’ Ecl., i. 862.
32 Sextus: Math., vii. 145.
p. 34 H. P. BLAVATSKY
nomenal world”—which is in direct opposition to the Aristotelian-Baconian ideas; sensuous perception is referred to that which passes into the world of phenomena; and conception, to that essence “which is at once the object of sensuous perception and, mathematically, of pure reason—the essence of heaven and the stars.” All his admiration notwithstanding, Aristotle never did justice to the Philosophy of his friend and co-disciple. This is evident from his works. Whenever he is referring to the three modes of apprehension as explained by Xenocrates, he abstains from any mention of the method by which the latter proves that scientific perception partakes of truth. The reason for this becomes apparent when we find the following in a biography of Xenocrates:
It is probable that what was peculiar to the Aristotelian logic did not remain unnoticed by him (Xenocrates); for it can hardly be doubted that the division of the existent into the absolutely existent and the relatively existent, attributed to Xenocrates, was opposed to the Aristotelian table of categories.
This shows that Aristotle was no better than certain of our modem Scientists, who suppress facts and truth in order that these may not clash with their own private hobbies and “working hypotheses.”
The relation of numbers to Ideas was developed by Xenocrates further than by Speusippus, and he surpassed Plato in his definition of the doctrine of Invisible Magnitudes. Reducing them to their ideal primary elements, he demonstrated that every figure and form originated out of the smallest indivisible fine. That Xenocrates held the same theories as Plato in relation to the human soul (supposed to be a number) is evident, though Aristotle contradicts this, like every other teaching of this philosopher.33 This is conclusive evidence that many of Plato’s doctrines were delivered orally, even were it shown that Xenocrates and not Plato was the first to originate the theory of indivisible magnitudes. He derives the Soul from the first Duad, and calls it a self-moving number.34 Theophrastus remarks that he entered into and elaborated this Soul-theory more than any other Platonist. For he regarded intuition and innate ideas, δόξἁ, in a higher sense than any, and made mathematics mediate between knowledge and sensuous perception.35 Hence he built upon this Soul-theory the cosmological doctrine, and proved the necessary
33 Metaph., 407, a. 3.
34 Appendix to Timaeus.
35 Aristot., De Interp., p. 297.
OLD PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS p. 35
existence in every part of universal Space of a successive and progressive series of animated and thinking though spiritual beings.36 The Human Soul with him is a compound of the most spiritual properties of the Monad and the Duad, possessing the highest principles of both. Thus he calls Unity and Duality (Monas and Duas) Deities, showing the former as a male Existence, ruling in Heaven as “Father Spirit” and an uneven number; and the latter, as a female Existence, Mother Soul, the Mother of the Gods (Aditi?), for she is the Soul of the Universe.37 But if like Plato and Prodicus, he refers to the Elements as to Divine Powers, and calls them Gods, neither himself nor others connected any anthropomorphic idea with the appellation. Krische remarks that he called them Gods only that these elementary powers should not be confounded with the dæmons of the nether world38 (the Elementary Spirits). As the Soul of the World permeates the whole Cosmos, even beasts must have in them something divine.39 This, also, is the doctrine of Buddhists and Hermetists, and Manu endows with a living soul even the plants and the tiniest blade of grass—an absolutely Esoteric doctrine.
The dæmons, according to this theory, are intermediate beings between the divine perfection and human sinfulness,40 and he divides them into classes, each subdivided into many others. But he states expressly that the individual or personal soul is the leading guardian dæmon of every man, and that no dæmon has more power over us than our own. Thus the Daimonion of Socrates is the God or Divine Entity which inspired him all his life. It depends on man either to open or close his perceptions to the Divine voice. Like Speusippus, he ascribed immortality to the psychical body, or irrational soul. But some Hermetic philosophers have taught that the soul has a separate continued existence only so long as in its passage through the spheres any material or earthly particles remain incorporated in it; and that when absolutely purified, the latter are annihilated, and the quintessence of the soul alone becomes blended with its divine Spirit, the Rational, and the two are thenceforth one.
It is difficult to fail to see in the above teachings a direct echo of the far older Indian doctrines, now embodied in the so-called “Theosophical” teachings, concerning the dual Manas. The World-Soul,
36 Stob., Ecl„ i. 62.
37 Stob: Ibid.
38 Krische: Forsch., p. 322, etc.
39 Clem: Stro. Alex., v. 590.
40 Plutarch: De Isid., ch. 25, p. 360.
p. 36 H. P. BLAVATSKY
that which is called by the Esoteric Yogâchâryas “Father-Mother,”41 Xenocrates referred to as a male-female Principle, the male element of which, the Father, he designated as the last Zeus, the last divine activity, just as the students of the Secret Doctrine designate it the third and last Logos, Brahmâ or Mahat. To this World-Soul is entrusted dominion over all that which is subject to change and motion. The divine essence, he said, infused its own Fire, or Soul, into the Sun and Moon and all the Planets, in a pure form, in the shape of Olympic Gods. As a sublunary power the World-Soul dwells in the Elements, producing Daimonical (spiritual) powers and beings, who are a connecting link between Gods and men, being related to them “as the isosceles triangle is to the equilateral and the scalene.”42
Zeller states that Xenocrates forbade the eating of animal food, not because he saw in beasts something akin to man, as he ascribed to them a dim consciousness of God, but
For the opposite reason, lest the irrationality of animal souls might thereby obtain a certain influence over us.43
But we believe that it was rather because, like Pythagoras, he had had the Hindû Sages for his Masters and Models. Cicero depicts Xenocrates as utterly despising everything except the highest virtue;44 and describes the stainlessness and severe austerity of his character.
To free ourselves from the subjection of sensuous existence, to conquer the Titanic elements in our terrestrial nature through the Divine, is our problem.45
Zeller makes him say:
Purity, even in the secret longings of our heart, is the greatest duty, and only Philosophy and Initiation into the Mysteries help toward the attainment of this object.46
This must be so, since we find men like Cicero and Panætius, and before them, Aristotle and Theophrastus his disciple, expressed the highest regard for Xenocrates. His writings—treatises on Science, on Metaphysics, Cosmology and Philosophy—must have been legion. He wrote on Physics and the Gods; on the Existent, the One
41 See The Secret Doctrine, Stanzas, Vol. I.
42 Cicero. De Natura Deorum, i. 13. Strob., or Plut., De Orac. Defect., p. 416, c.
43 Plato und die Alte Akademie.
44 Tusc., v. 18, 51.
45 Ibid. Cf. p. 559.
46 Plato und die Alte Akademie.
and the Indefinite; on Affections and Memory; on Happiness and Virtue; four books on Royalty, and numberless treatises on the State; on the Power of Law; on Geometry, Arithmetic, and finally on Astrology. Dozens of renowned classical writers mention and quote from him.
Crantor, another philosopher associated with the earliest days of Plato’s Academy, conceived the human soul as formed out of the primary substance of all things, the Monad or the One, and the Duad or the Two. Plutarch speaks at length of this Philosopher, who, like his Master, believed in souls being distributed in earthly bodies as an exile and punishment.
Herakleides, though some critics do not believe him to have strictly adhered to Plato’s primal philosophy, 47 taught the same ethics. Zeller presents him to us as imparting, like Hicetas and Ecphantus, the Pythagorean doctrine of the diurnal rotation of the earth and the immobility of the fixed stars, but adds that he was ignorant of the annual revolution of the earth around the sun, and of the heliocentric system. 48 But we have good evidence that the latter system was taught in the Mysteries, and that Socrates died for “atheism,” i.e., for divulging this sacred knowledge. Herakleides adopted fully the Pythagorean and Platonic views of the human soul, its faculties and its capabilities. He describes it as a luminous, highly ethereal essence. He affirms that souls inhabit the milky way before descending into “generation” or sublunary existence. His dæmons, or spirits, are airy and vapourous bodies.
In the Epinomis is fully stated the doctrine of the Pythagorean numbers in relation to created things. As a true Platonist, its author maintains that wisdom can only be attained by a thorough enquiry into the Occult nature of the creation; it alone assures us an existence of bliss after death. The immortality of the soul is greatly speculated upon in this treatise; but its author adds that we can attain to this knowledge only through a complete comprehension of numbers; for the man unable to distinguish the straight line from the curved will never have wisdom enough to secure a mathematical demonstration of the invisible, i.e., we must assure ourselves of the objective existence of our soul before we learn that we are in possession of a divine and immortal Spirit. Iamblichus says the same
47 Ed. Zeller: Philos. der Griechen.
48 Plato und die Alte Akadamie.
thing; adding, moreover, that it is a secret belonging to the highest Initiation. The Divine Power, he says, always felt indignant with those “who rendered manifest the composition of the icostagonus,” viz., who delivered the method of inscribing in a sphere the dodecahedron.
The idea that “numbers” possessing the greatest virtue produce always what is good and never what is evil, refers to justice, equanimity of temper, and everything that is harmonious. When the author speaks of every star as an individual soul, he only means what the Hindû Initiates and Hermetists taught before and after him, viz., that every star is an independent planet, which, like our earth, has a soul of its own, every atom of Matter being impregnated with the divine influx of the Soul of the World. It breathes and lives; it feels and suffers as well as enjoys life in its way. What naturalist is prepared to dispute it on good evidence? Therefore, we must consider the celestial bodies as the images of Gods; as partaking of the divine powers in their substance; and though they are not immortal in their soul-entity, their agency in the economy of the universe is entitled to divine honours, such as we pay to minor Gods. The idea is plain, and one must be malevolent indeed to misrepresent it. If the author of Epinomis places these fiery Gods higher than the animals, plants, and even mankind, all of which, as earthly creatures, are assigned by him a lower place, who can prove him wholly wrong? One must needs go deep indeed into the profundity of the abstract metaphysics of the old Philosophies, who would understand that their various embodiments of their conceptions are, after all, based upon an identical apprehension of the nature of the First Cause, its attributes and method.
When the author of Epinomis, along with so many other Philosophers, locates between the highest and the lowest Gods three classes of Daimons, and peoples the Universe with hosts of sublimated Beings, he is more rational than the modern Materialist. The latter, making between the two extremes—the unknown and the invisible, hence, according to his logic, the non-existent, and the objective and the sensuous—one vast hiatus of being and the playground of blind forces, may seek to explain his attitude on the grounds of “scientific Agnosticism”; yet he will never succeed in proving that the latter is consistent with logic, or even with simple common sense.
Lucifer, July, August, 1892
WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?
HIS question has been so often asked, and misconception so widely prevails, that the editors of a journal devoted to an exposition of the world’s Theosophy would be remiss were its first number issued without coming to a full understanding with their readers. But our heading involves two further queries: What is the Theosophical Society; and what are the Theosophists? To each an answer will be given.
According to lexicographers, the term theosophia is composed of two Greek words—theos, “god,” and sophos, “wise.” So far, correct. But the explanations that follow are far from giving a clear idea of Theosophy. Webster defines it most originally as “a supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent attainment of superhuman knowledge, by physical processes, as by the theurgic operations of some ancient Platonists, or by the chemical processes of the German fire-philosophers.”
This, to say the least, is a poor and flippant explanation. To attribute such ideas to men like Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Jamblichus, Porphyry, Proclus—shows either intentional misrepresentation, or Mr. Webster’s ignorance of the philosophy and motives of the greatest geniuses of the later Alexandrian School. To impute to those whom their contemporaries as well as posterity styled “theo-didaktoi,” god-taught—a purpose to develop their psychological, spiritual perceptions by “physical processes,” is to describe them as materialists. As to the concluding fling at the fire-philosophers, it rebounds from them to fall home among our most eminent modern men of science; those, in whose mouths the Rev. James Martineau places the following boast: “matter is all we want; give us atoms alone, and we will explain the universe.”
Vaughan offers a far better, more philosophical definition. “A Theosophist,” he says—“is one who gives you a theory of God or the works of God, which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis.” In this view every great thinker and philosopher, especially every founder of a new religion, school of philosophy, or sect, is necessarily a Theosophist. Hence, Theosophy and Theosophists have existed ever since the first glimmering of nascent thought
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made man seek instinctively for the means of expressing his own independent opinions.
There were Theosophists before the Christian era, notwithstanding that the Christian writers ascribe the development of the Eclectic theosophical system to the early part of the third century of their Era. Diogenes Laertius traces Theosophy to an epoch antedating the dynasty of the Ptolemies; and names as its founder an Egyptian Hierophant called Pot-Amun, the name being Coptic and signifying a priest consecrated to Amun, the god of Wisdom. But history shows it revived by Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the Neo-Platonic School. He and his disciples called themselves “Philalethians”—lovers of the truth; while others termed them the “Analogists,” on account of their method of interpreting all sacred legends, symbolical myths and mysteries, by a rule of analogy or correspondence, so that events which had occurred in the external world were regarded as expressing operations and experiences of the human soul. It was the aim and purpose of Ammonius to reconcile all sects, peoples and nations under one common faith—a belief in one Supreme Eternal, Unknown, and Unnamed Power, governing the Universe by immutable and eternal laws. His object was to prove a primitive system of Theosophy, which at the beginning was essentially alike in all countries; to induce all men to lay aside their strifes and quarrels, and unite in purpose and thought as the children of one common mother; to purify the ancient religions, by degrees corrupted and obscured, from all dross of human element, by uniting and expounding them upon pure philosophical principles. Hence, the Buddhistic, Vedantic and Magian, or Zoroastrian, systems were taught in the Eclectic Theosophical School along with all the philosophies of Greece. Hence also, the pre-eminently Buddhistic and Indian feature among the ancient Theosophists and Alexandria, of due reverence for parents and aged persons; a fraternal affection for the whole human race; and a compassionate feeling for even the dumb animals. While seeking to establish a system of moral discipline which enforced upon people the duty to live according to the laws of their respective countries; to exalt their minds by the research and contemplation of the one Absolute Truth; his chief object in order, as he believed, to achieve all others, was to extract from the various religious teachings, as from a many-chorded instrument, one full and harmonious melody, which would find response in every truth-loving heart.
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Theosophy is, then, the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization. This “Wisdom” all the old writings show us as an emanation of the divine Principle; and the clear comprehension of it is typified in such names as the Indian Buddh, the Babylonian Nebo, the Thoth of Memphis, the Hermes of Greece; in the appellations, also, of some goddesses—Metis, Neitha, Athena, the Gnostic Sophia, and finally—the Vedas, from the word “to know.” Under this designation, all the ancient philosophers of the East and West, the Hierophants of old Egypt, the Rishis of Aryavart, the Theodidaktoi of Greece, included all knowledge of things occult and essentially divine. The Mercavah of the Hebrew Rabbis, the secular and popular series, were thus designated as only the vehicle, the outward shell which contained the higher esoteric knowledge. The Magi of Zoroaster received instruction and were initiated in the caves and secret lodges of Bactria; the Egyptian and Grecian hierophants had their apporrheta, or secret discourses, during which the Mysta became an Epopta—a Seer.
The central idea of the Eclectic Theosophy was that of a single Supreme Essence, Unknown and Unknowable—for—“How could one know the knower?” as enquires Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Their system was characterized by three distinct features: the theory of the above-named Essence; the doctrine of the human soul—an emanation from the latter, hence of the same nature; and its theurgy. It is this last science which has led the Neo-Platonists to be so misrepresented in our era of materialistic science. Theurgy being essentially the art of applying the divine powers of man to the subordination of the blind forces of nature, its votaries were first termed magicians—a corruption of the word “Magh,” signifying a wise, or learned man, and—derided. Skeptics of a century ago would have been as wide of the mark if they had laughed at the idea of a phonograph or telegraph. The ridiculed and the “infidels” of one generation generally become the wise men and saints of the next.
As regards the Divine essence and the nature of the soul and spirit, modern Theosophy believes now as ancient Theosophy did. The popular Diu of the Aryan nations was identical with the Iao of the Chaldeans, and even with the Jupiter of the less learned and philosophical among the Romans; and it was just as identical with the Jahve of the Samaritans, the Tiu or “Tiusco” of the Northmen, the
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Duw of the Britains, and the Zeus of the Thracians. As to the Absolute Essence, the One and all—whether we accept the Greek Pythagorean, the Chaldean Kabalistic, or the Aryan philosophy in regard to it, it will lead to one and the same result. The Primeval Monad of the Pythagorean system, which retires into darkness and is itself Darkness (for human intellect) was made the basis of all things; and we can find the idea in all its integrity in the philosophical systems of Leibnitz and Spinoza. Therefore, whether a Theosophist agrees with the Kabala which, speaking of En-Soph propounds the query: “Who, then, can comprehend It since It is formless, and Non-existent?”—or, remembering that magnificent hymn from the Rig-Veda (Hymn 129th, Book 10th)—enquires:
“Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?
Whether his will created or was mute.
He knows it—or perchance even He knows not;”
or again, accepts the Vedantic conception of Brahma, who in the Upanishads is represented as “without life, without mind, pure,” unconscious, for—Brahma is “Absolute Consciousness”; or, even finally, siding with the Svabhâvikas of Nepaul, maintains that nothing exists but “Svabhâvât” (substance or nature) which exists by itself without any creator; any one of the above conceptions can lead but to pure and absolute Theosophy—that Theosophy which prompted such men as Hegel, Fichte and Spinoza to take up the labors of the old Grecian philosophers and speculate upon the One Substance—the Deity, the Divine All proceeding from the Divine Wisdom—incomprehensible, unknown and unnamed—by any ancient or modern religious philosophy, with the exception of Christianity and Mohammedanism. Every Theosophist, then, holding to a theory of the Deity “which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis,” may accept any of the above definitions or belong to any of these religions, and yet remain strictly within the boundaries of Theosophy. For the latter is belief in the Deity as the all, the source of all existence, the infinite that cannot be either comprehended or known, the universe alone revealing It, or, as some prefer it, Him, thus giving a sex to that, to anthropomorphize which is blasphemy. True, Theosophy shrinks from brutal materialization; it prefers believing that, from eternity retired within itself, the Spirit of the Deity neither wills nor creates; but that, from the infinite effulgency everywhere going forth from the Great Centre, that which produces all visible and invisible things, is but a Ray containing in itself the generative and conceptive power, which, in its turn, pro-
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duces that which the Greeks called Macrocosm, the Kabalists Tikkun or Adam Kadmon—the archetypal man, and the Aryans Purusha, the manifested Brahm, or the Divine Male. Theosophy believes also in the Anastasis or continued existence, and in transmigration (evolution) or a series of changes in the soul1 which can be defended and explained on strict philosophical principles; and only by making a distinction between Paramâtma (transcendental, supreme soul) and Jivâtmâ (animal, or conscious soul) of the Vedantins.
To fully define Theosophy, we must consider it under all its aspects. The interior world has not been hidden from all by impenetrable darkness. By that higher intuition acquired by Theosophia—or God-knowledge, which carried the mind from the world of form into that of formless spirit, man has been sometimes enabled in every age and every country to perceive things in the interior or invisible world. Hence, the “Samadhi,” or Dyan Yog Samadhi, of the Hindu ascetics; the “Daimonion-photi,” or spiritual illumination of the Neo-Platonists; the “sidereal confabulation of soul,” of the Rosicrucians or Fire-philosophers; and, even the ecstatic trance of mystics and of the modern mesmerists and spiritualists, are identical in nature, though various as to manifestation. The search after man’s diviner “self,” so often and so erroneously interpreted as individual communion with a personal God, was the object of every mystic, and belief in its possibility seems to have been coeval with the genesis of humanity, each people giving it another name. Thus Plato and Plotinus call “Noëtic work” that which the Yogin and the Shrotriya term Vidya. “By reflection, self-knowledge and intellectual discipline, the soul can be raised to the vision of eternal truth, goodness, and beauty—that is, to the Vision of God—this is the epopteia,” said the Greeks. “To unite one’s soul to the Universal Soul,” says Porphyry, “requires but a perfectly pure mind. Through self-contemplation, perfect chastity, and purity of body, we may approach nearer to It, and receive, in that state, true knowledge and wonderful insight.” And Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who has read neither Porphyry nor other Greek authors, but who is a thorough Vedic scholar, says in his Veda Bháshya (opasna prakaru ank. 9) —“To obtain Diksh (highest initiation) and Yog, one has to practise according to
1 In a series of articles entitled “The World’s Great Theosophists,” we intend showing that from Pythagoras, who got his wisdom in India, down to our best known modern philosophers and theosophists—David Hume, and Shelley, the English poet—the Spiritists of France included—many believed and yet believe in metempsychosis or reincarnation of the soul; however unelaborated the system of the Spiritists may fairly be regarded.
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the rules . . . The soul in human body can perform the greatest wonders by knowing the Universal Spirit (or God) and acquainting itself with the properties and qualities (occult) of all the things in the universe. A human being (a Dikshit or initiate) can thus acquire a power of seeing and hearing at great distances” Finally, Alfred R. Wallace, F.R.S., a spiritualist and yet a confessedly great naturalist, says, with brave candour: “It is ‘spirit’ that alone feels, and perceives, and thinks—that acquires knowledge, and reasons and aspires . . . there not unfrequently occur individuals so constituted that the spirit can perceive independently of the corporeal organs of sense, or can perhaps, wholly or partially, quit the body for a time and return to it again . . . the spirit . . . communicates with spirit easier than with matter.” We can now see how, after thousands of years have intervened between the age of Gymnosophists2 and our own highly civilized era, notwithstanding, or, perhaps, just because of such an enlightenment which pours its radiant light upon the psychological as well as upon the physical realms of nature, over twenty millions of people today believe, under a different form, in those same spiritual powers that were believed in by the Yogins and the Pythagoreans, nearly 3,000 years ago. Thus, while the Aryan mystic claimed for himself the power of solving all the problems of life and death, when he had once obtained the power of acting independently of his body, through the Atman—“self,” or “soul”; and the old Greeks went in search of Atmu—the Hidden one, or the God-Soul of man, with the symbolical mirror of the Thesmophorian mysteries;—so the spiritualists of today believe in the faculty of the spirits, or the souls of the disembodied persons, to communicate visibly and tangibly with those they loved on earth. And all these, Aryan Yogins, Greek philosophers, and modern spiritualists, affirm that possibility on the ground that the embodied soul and its never embodied spirit—the real self, are not separated from either the Universal Soul or other spirits by space, but merely by the differentiation of their qualities; as in the boundless expanse of the universe there can be no limitation. And that when this difference is once removed—according to the Greeks and Aryans by abstract contemplation, producing the temporary liberation of the imprisoned Soul; and according to spiritualists, through mediumship—such an union between embodied and disembodied spirits becomes possible. Thus was it that Patanjali’s
The reality of the Yog-power was affirmed by many Greek and Roman writers, who
call the Yogins Indian Gymnosophists; by Strabo, Lucan, Plutarch, Cicero (Tusculum),
Pliny (vii, 2), etc.
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Yogis and, following in their steps, Plotinus, Porphyry and other Neo-Platonists, maintained that in their hours of ecstacy, they had been united to, or rather become as one with God, several times during the course of their lives. This idea, erroneous as it may seem in its application to the Universal Spirit, was, and is, claimed by too many great philosophers to be put aside as entirely chimerical. In the case of the Theodidaktoi, the only controvertible point, the dark spot on this philosophy of extreme mysticism, was its claim to include that which is simply ecstatic illumination, under the head of sensuous perception. In the case of the Yogins, who maintained their ability to see Iswara “face to face,” this claim was successfully overthrown by the stern logic of Kapila. As to the similar assumption made for their Greek followers, for a long array of Christian ecstatics, and, finally, for the last two claimants to “God-seeing” within these last hundred years—Jacob Böhme and Swedenborg—this pretension would and should have been philosophically and logically questioned, if a few of our great men of science who are spiritualists had had more interest in the philosophy than in the mere phenomenalism of spiritualism.
The Alexandrian Theosophists were divided into neophytes, initiates, and masters, or hierophants; and their rules were copied from the ancient Mysteries of Orpheus, who, according to Herodotus, brought them from India. Ammonius obligated his disciples by oath not to divulge his higher doctrines, except to those who were proved thoroughly worthy and initiated, and who had learned to regard the gods, the angels, and the demons of other peoples, according to the esoteric hyponia, or under-meaning. “The gods exist, but they are not what the hoi polloi, the uneducated multitude, suppose them to be,” says Epicurus. “He is not an atheist who denies the existence of the gods whom the multitude worship, but he is such who fastens on these gods the opinions of the multitude.” In his turn, Aristotle declares that of the “Divine Essence pervading the whole world of nature, what are styled the gods are simply the first principles.”
Plotinus, the pupil of the “God-taught” Ammonius, tells us that the secret gnosis or the knowledge of Theosophy, has three degrees —opinion, science, and illumination. “The means or instrument of the first is sense, or perception; of the second, dialectics; of the third, intuition. To the last, reason is subordinate; it is absolute knowledge, founded on the identification of the mind with the object known.”
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Theosophy is the exact science of psychology, so to say; it stands in relation to natural, uncultivated mediumship, as the knowledge of a Tyndall stands to that of a school-boy in physics. It develops in man a direct beholding; that which Schelling denominates “a realization of the identity of subject and object in the individual”; so that under the influence and knowledge of hyponia man thinks divine thoughts, views all things as they really are, and, finally, “becomes recipient of the Soul of the World,” to use one of the finest expressions of Emerson. “I, the imperfect, adore my own perfect”—he says in his superb Essay on the Oversoul. Besides this psychological, or soul-state, Theosophy cultivated every branch of sciences and arts. It was thoroughly familiar with what is now commonly known as mesmerism. Practical theurgy or “ceremonial magic,” so often resorted to in their exorcisms by the Roman Catholic clergy—was discarded by the theosophists. It is but Jamblichus alone who, transcending the other Eclectics, added to Theosophy the doctrine of Theurgy. When ignorant of the true meaning of the esoteric divine symbols of nature, man is apt to miscalculate the powers of his soul, and, instead of communing spiritually and mentally with the higher, celestial beings, the good spirits (the gods of the theurgists of the Platonic school), he will unconsciously call forth the evil, dark powers which lurk around humanity—the undying, grim creations of human crimes and vices—and thus fall from theurgia (white magic) into göetia (or black magic, sorcery). Yet, neither white, nor black magic are what popular superstition understands by the terms. The possibility of “raising spirits” according to the key of Solomon, is the height of superstition and ignorance. Purity of deed and thought can alone raise us to an intercourse “with the gods” and attain for us the goal we desire. Alchemy, believed by so many to have been a spiritual philosophy as well as physical science, belonged to the teachings of the theosophical school.
It is a noticeable fact that neither Zoroaster, Buddha, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Confucius, Socrates, nor Ammonius Saccas, committed anything to writing. The reason for it is obvious. Theosophy is a double-edged weapon and unfit for the ignorant or the selfish. Like every ancient philosophy it has its votaries among the moderns; but, until late in our own days, its disciples were few in numbers, and of the most various sects and opinions. “Entirely speculative, and founding no school, they have still exercised a silent influence upon philosophy; and no doubt, when the time arrives, many ideas thus
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silently propounded may yet give new directions to human thought”—remarks Mr. Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie IXº . . . himself a mystic and a Theosophist, in his large and valuable work, The Royal Masonic Cyclopædia (articles Theosophical Society of New York and Theosophy, p. 731).3 Since the days of the fire-philosophers, they had never formed themselves into societies, for, tracked like wild beasts by the Christian clergy, to be known as a Theosophist often amounted, hardly a century ago, to a death-warrant. The statistics show that, during a period of 150 years, no less than 90,000 men and women were burned in Europe for alleged witchcraft. In Great Britain only, from A.D. 1640 to 1660, but twenty years, 3,000 persons were put to death for compact with the “Devil.” It was but late in the present century—in 1875—that some progressed mystics and spiritualists, unsatisfied with the theories and explanations of Spiritualism, started by its votaries, and finding that they were far from covering the whole ground of the wide range of phenomena, formed at New York, America, an association which is now widely known as the Theosophical Society. And now, having explained what is Theosophy, we will, in a separate article, explain what is the nature of our Society, which is also called the “Universal Brotherhood of Humanity.”
———3 The Royal Masonic Cyclopædia of History, Rites, Symbolism, and Biography. Edited by Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie IXº (Cryptonymous), Hon. Member of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge, No. 2, Scotland. New York, J. W. Bouton, 706 Broadway, 1877
ARE they what they claim to be—students of natural law, of ancient and modern philosophy, and even of exact science? Are they Deists, Atheists, Socialists, Materialists, or Idealists; or are they but a schism of modern Spiritualism,—mere visionaries? Are they entitled to any consideration, as capable of discussing philosophy and promoting real science; or should they be treated with the compassionate toleration which one gives to “harmless enthusiasts”? The Theosophical Society has been variously charged with a belief in “miracles,” and “miracle-working”; with a secret political object—like the Carbonari; with being spies of an autocratic Czar; with preaching socialistic and nihilistic doctrines; and, mirabile dictu, with having a covert understanding with the French Jesuits, to disrupt modern Spiritualism for a pecuniary consideration! With equal violence they have been denounced as dreamers, by the American Positivists; as fetish-worshippers, by some of the New York press; as revivalists of “mouldy superstitions,” by the Spiritualists; as infidel emissaries of Satan, by the Christian Church; as the very types of “gobe-mouche,” by Professor W. B. Carpenter, F.R.S.; and, finally, and most absurdly, some Hindu opponents, with a view to lessening their influence, have flatly charged them with the employment of demons to perform certain phenomena. Out of all this pother of opinions, one fact stands conspicuous—the Society, its members, and their views, are deemed of enough importance to be discussed and denounced: Men slander only those whom they hate—or fear.
But, if the Society has had its enemies and traducers, it has also had its friends and advocates. For every word of censure, there has been a word of praise. Beginning with a party of about a dozen earnest men and women, a month later its members had so increased as to necessitate the hiring of a public hall for its meetings; within two years, it had working branches in European countries. Still later, it found itself in alliance with the Indian Arya Samaj, headed by the learned Pandit Dayanand Saraswati Swami, and the Ceylonese Bud-
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dhists, under the erudite H. Sumangala, High Priest of Adam’s Peak and President of the Widyodaya College, Colombo.
He who would seriously attempt to fathom the psychological sciences, must come to the sacred land of ancient Aryâvarta. None is older than she in esoteric wisdom and civilization, however fallen may be her poor shadow—modern India. Holding this country, as we do, for the fruitful hot-bed whence proceeded all subsequent philosophical systems, to this source of all psychology and philosophy a portion of our Society has come to learn its ancient wisdom and ask for the impartation of its weird secrets. Philology has made too much progress to require at this late day a demonstration of this fact of the primogenitive nationality of Aryâvart. The unproved and prejudiced hypothesis of modern Chronology is not worthy of a moment’s thought, and it will vanish in time like so many other unproved hypotheses. The line of philosophical heredity, from Kapila through Epicurus to James Mill; from Patanjali through Plotinus to Jacob Böhme, can be traced like the course of a river through a landscape. One of the objects of the Society’s organization was to examine the too transcendent views of the Spiritualists in regard to the powers of disembodied spirits; and, having told them what, in our opinion at least, a portion of their phenomena are not, it will become incumbent upon us now to show what they are. So apparent is it that it is in the East, and especially in India, that the key to the alleged “supernatural” phenomena of the Spiritualists must be sought, that it has recently been conceded in the Allahabad Pioneer (Aug. 11th, 1879), an Anglo-Indian daily journal which has not the reputation of saying what it does not mean. Blaming the men of science who “intent upon physical discovery, for some generations have been too prone to neglect super-physical investigation,” it mentions “the new wave of doubt” (spiritualism) which has “latterly disturbed this conviction.” To a large number of persons including many of high culture and intelligence, it adds, “the supernatural has again asserted itself as a fit subject of inquiry and research. And there are plausible hypotheses in favour of the idea that among the ‘sages’ of the East . . . there may be found in a higher degree than among the more modernised inhabitants of the West traces of those personal peculiarities, whatever they may be, which are required as a condition precedent to the occurrence of supernatural phenomena.” And then, unaware that the cause he pleads is one of the chief aims and objects of our Society, the editorial writer remarks
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that it is “the only direction in which, it seems to us, the efforts of the Theosophists in India might possibly be useful. The leading members of the Theosophical Society in India are known to be very advanced students of occult phenomena, already, and we cannot but hope that their professions of interest in Oriental philosophy . . . may cover a reserved intention of carrying out explorations of the kind we indicate.”
While, as observed, one of our objects, it yet is but one of many; the most important of which is to revive the work of Ammonius Saccas, and make various nations remember that they are the children “of one mother.” As to the transcendental side of the ancient Theosophy, it is also high time that the Theosophical Society should explain. With how much, then, of this nature-searching, God-seeking science of the ancient Aryan and Greek mystics, and of the powers of modern spiritual mediumship, does the Society agree? Our answer is: with it all. But if asked what it believes in, the reply will be: “As a body—Nothing.” The Society, as a body, has no creed, as creeds are but the shells around spiritual knowledge; and Theosophy in its fruition is spiritual knowledge itself—the very essence of philosophical and theistic enquiry. Visible representative of Universal Theosophy, it can be no more sectarian than a Geographical Society, which represents universal geographical exploration without caring whether the explorers be of one creed or another. The religion of the Society is an algebraical equation, in which so long as the sign = of equality is not omitted, each member is allowed to substitute quantities of his own, which better accord with climatic and other exigencies of his native land, with the idiosyncrasies of his people, or even with his own. Having no accepted creed, our Society is very ready to give and take, to learn and teach, by practical experimentation, as opposed to mere passive and credulous acceptance of enforced dogma. It is willing to accept every result claimed by any of the foregoing schools or systems, that can be logically and experimentally demonstrated. Conversely, it can take nothing on mere faith, no matter by whom the demand may be made.
But, when we come to consider ourselves individually, it is quite another thing. The Society’s members represent the most varied nationalities and races, and were born and educated in the most dissimilar creeds and social conditions. Some of them believe in one thing, others in another. Some incline towards the ancient magic, or secret wisdom that was taught in the sanctuaries, which was
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the very opposite of supernaturalism or diabolism; others in modern spiritualism, or intercourse with the spirits of the dead; still others in mesmerism or animal magnetism, or only an occult dynamic force in nature. A certain number have scarcely yet acquired any definite belief, but are in a state of attentive expectancy; and there are even those who call themselves materialists, in a certain sense. Of atheists and bigoted sectarians of any religion, there are none in the Society; for the very fact of a man’s joining it proves that he is in search of the final truth as to the ultimate essence of things. If there be such a thing as a speculative atheist, which philosophers may deny, he would have to reject both cause and effect, whether in this world of matter, or in that of spirit. There may be members who, like the poet Shelley, have let their imagination soar from cause to prior cause ad infinitum, as each in its turn became logically transformed into a result necessitating a prior cause, until they have thinned the Eternal into a mere mist. But even they are not atheist in the speculative sense, whether they identify the material forces of the universe with the functions with which the theists endow their God, or otherwise; for once that they cannot free themselves from the conception of the abstract ideal of power, cause, necessity, and effect, they can be considered as atheists only in respect to a personal God, and not to the Universal Soul of the Pantheist. On the other hand the bigoted sectarian, fenced in, as he is, with a creed upon every paling of which is written the warning “No Thoroughfare,” can neither come out of his enclosure to join the Theosophical Society, nor, if he could, has it room for one whose very religion forbids examination. The very root idea of the Society is free and fearless investigation.
As a body, the Theosophical Society holds that all original thinkers and investigators of the hidden side of nature whether materialists—those who find in matter “the promise and potency of all terrestrial life,” or spiritualists—that is, those who discover in spirit the source of all energy and of matter as well, were and are, properly, Theosophists. For to be one, one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and try to identify oneself with it. To revere that Presence, the invisible Cause, which is yet ever manifesting itself in its incessant results; the intangible, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proteus: indivisible in its Essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there, and everywhere and nowhere; is All, and Nothing; ubiquitous yet one;
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the Essence filling, binding, bounding, containing everything, contained in all. It will, we think, be seen now, that whether classed as Theists, Pantheists or Atheists, such men are near kinsmen to the rest. Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought—Godward—he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with “an inspiration of his own” to solve the universal problems.
With every man that is earnestly searching in his own way after a knowledge of the Divine Principle, of man’s relations to it, and nature’s manifestations of it, Theosophy is allied. It is likewise the ally of honest science, as distinguished from much that passes for exact, physical science, so long as the latter does not poach on the domains of psychology and metaphysics.
And it is also the ally of every honest religion—to wit, a religion willing to be judged by the same tests as it applies to the others. Those books, which contain the most self-evident truth, are to it inspired (not revealed). But all books it regards, on account of the human element contained in them, as inferior to the Book of Nature; to read which and comprehend it correctly, the innate powers of the soul must be highly developed. Ideal laws can be perceived by the intuitive faculty alone; they are beyond the domain of argument and dialectics, and no one can understand or rightly appreciate them through the explanations of another mind, even though this mind be claiming a direct revelation. And, as this Society, which allows the widest sweep in the realms of the pure ideal, is no less firm in the sphere of facts, its deference to modern science and its just representatives is sincere. Despite all their lack of a higher spiritual intuition, the world’s debt to the representatives of modern physical science is immense; hence, the Society endorses heartily the noble and indignant protest of that gifted and eloquent preacher, the Rev. O. B. Frothingham, against those who try to undervalue the services of our great naturalists. “Talk of Science as being irreligious, atheistic,” he exclaimed in a recent lecture, delivered at New York, “Science is creating a new idea of God. It is due to Science that we have any conception at all of a living God. If we do not become atheists one of these days under the maddening effect of Protestantism, it will be due to Science, because it is disabusing us of hideous illusions that tease and embarrass us, and putting us in the way of knowing how to reason about the things we see. . . .”
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And it is also due to the unremitting labors of such Orientalists as Sir W. Jones, Max Müller, Burnouf, Colebrooke, Haug, St. Hilaire, and so many others, that the Society, as a body, feels equal respect and veneration for Vedic, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and other old religions of the world; and, a like brotherly feeling toward its Hindu, Sinhalese, Parsi, Jain, Hebrew, and Christian members as individual students of “self,” of nature, and of the divine in nature.
Born in the United States of America, the Society was constituted on the model of its Mother Land. The latter, omitting the name of God from its constitution lest it should afford a pretext one day to make a state religion, gives absolute equality to all religions in its laws. All support and each is in turn protected by the State. The Society, modelled upon this constitution, may fairly be termed a “Republic of Conscience.”
We have now, we think, made clear why our members, as individuals, are free to stay outside or inside any creed they please, provided they do not pretend that none but themselves shall enjoy the privilege of conscience, and try to force their opinions upon the others. In this respect the Rules of the Society are very strict: It tries to act upon the wisdom of the old Buddhistic axiom, “Honour thine own faith, and do not slander that of others”; echoed back in our present century, in the “Declaration of Principles” of the Brahmo Samaj, which so nobly states that: “no sect shall be vilified, ridiculed, or hated.” In Section VI of the Revised Rules of the Theosophical Society, recently adopted in General Council, at Bombay, is this mandate:
It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express, by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section (sectarian division, or group within the Society) more than another. All must be regarded and treated as equally the objects of the Society’s solicitude and exertions. All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world.
In their individual capacity, members may, when attacked, occasionally break this Rule, but, nevertheless, as officers they are restrained, and the Rule is strictly enforced during the meetings. For, above all human sects stands Theosophy in its abstract sense; Theosophy which is too wide for any of them to contain but which easily contains them.
In conclusion, we may state that, broader and far more universal
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in its views than any existing mere scientific Society, it has plus science its belief in every possibility, and determined will to penetrate into those unknown spiritual regions which exact science pretends that its votaries have no business to explore. And, it has one quality more than any religion in that it makes no difference between Gentile, Jew, or Christian. It is in this spirit that the Society has been established upon the footing of a Universal Brotherhood.
Unconcerned about polities; hostile to the insane dreams of Socialism and of Communism, which it abhors—as both are but disguised conspiracies of brutal force and sluggishness against honest labour; the Society cares but little about the outward human management of the material world. The whole of its aspirations are directed towards the occult truths of the visible and invisible worlds. Whether the physical man be under the rule of an empire or a republic, concerns only the man of matter. His body may be enslaved; as to his soul, he has the right to give to his rulers the proud answer of Socrates to his judges. They have no sway over the inner man.
Such, then, is the Theosophical Society, and such its principles, its multifarious aims, and its objects. Need we wonder at the past misconceptions of the general public, and the easy hold the enemy has been able to find to lower it in the public estimation. The true student has ever been a recluse, a man of silence and meditation. With the busy world his habits and tastes are so little in common that, while he is studying, his enemies and slanderers have undisturbed opportunities. But time cures all and lies are but ephemera. Truth alone is eternal.
About a few of the Fellows of the Society who have made great scientific discoveries, and some others to whom the psychologist and the biologist are indebted for the new light thrown upon the darker problems of the inner man, we will speak later on. Our object now was but to prove to the reader that Theosophy is neither “a new fangled doctrine,” a political cabal, nor one of those societies of enthusiasts which are born today but to die tomorrow. That not all of its members can think alike, is proved by the Society having organized into two great Divisions—the Eastern and the Western —and the latter being divided into numerous sections, according to races and religious views. One man’s thought, infinitely various as are its manifestations, is not all-embracing. Denied ubiquity, it must necessarily speculate but in one direction; and once transcending the
WHAT ARE THE THEOSOPHISTS ? p. 55
boundaries of exact human knowledge, it has to err and wander, for the ramifications of the one Central and absolute Truth are infinite. Hence, we occasionally find even the greater philosophers losing themselves in the labyrinths of speculations, thereby provoking the criticism of posterity. But as all work for one and the same object, namely, the disenthralment of human thought, the elimination of superstitions, and the discovery of truth, all are equally welcome. The attainment of these objects, all agree, can best be secured by convincing the reason and warming the enthusiasm of the generation of fresh young minds, that are just ripening into maturity, and making ready to take the place of their prejudiced and conservative fathers. And, as each—the great ones as well as small—have trodden the royal road to knowledge, we listen to all, and take both small and great into our fellowship. For no honest searcher comes back empty-handed, and even he who has enjoyed the least share of popular favor can lay at least his mite upon the one altar of Truth.
Theosophist, October, 1879
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION?
“Religion is the best armour that man can have,
but it is the worst cloak.” —Bunyan
IT is no exaggeration to say that there never was—during the present century, at any rate—a movement, social or religious, so terribly, nay, so absurdly misunderstood, or more blundered about than Theosophy—whether regarded theoretically as a code of ethics, or practically, in its objective expression, i.e., the Society known by that name.
Year after year, and day after day had our officers and members to interrupt people speaking of the theosophical movement by putting in more or less emphatic protests against theosophy being referred to as a “religion,” and the Theosophical Society as a kind of church or religious body. Still worse, it is as often spoken of as a “new sect”! Is it a stubborn prejudice, an error, or both? The latter, most likely. The most narrow-minded and even notoriously unfair people are still in need of a plausible pretext, of a peg on which to hang their little uncharitable remarks and innocently-uttered slanders. And what peg is more solid for that purpose, more convenient than an “ism” or a “sect.” The great majority would be very sorry to be disabused and finally forced to accept the fact that theosophy is neither. The name suits them, and they pretend to be unaware of its falseness. But there are others, also, many more or less friendly people, who labour sincerely under the same delusion. To these, we say: Surely the world has been hitherto sufficiently cursed with the intellectual extinguishers known as dogmatic creeds, without having inflicted upon it a new form of faith! Too many already wear their faith, truly, as Shakespeare puts it, “but as the fashion of his hat,” ever changing “with the next block.” Moreover, the very raison d’etre of the Theosophical Society was, from its beginning, to utter a loud protest and lead an open warfare against dogma or any belief based upon blind faith.
It may sound odd and paradoxical, but it is true to say that, hitherto, the most apt workers in practical theosophy, its most devoted members were those recruited from the ranks of agnostics and even
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 57
of materialists. No genuine, no sincere searcher after truth can ever be found among the blind believers in the “Divine Word,” let the latter be claimed to come from Allah, Brahma or Jehovah, or their respective Kuran, Purana and Bible. For:
Faith is not reason’s labour, but repose.
He who believes his own religion on faith, will regard that of every other man as a lie, and hate it on that same faith. Moreover, unless it fetters reason and entirely blinds our perceptions of anything outside our own particular faith, the latter is no faith at all, but a temporary belief, the delusion we labour under, at some particular time of life. Moreover, “faith without principles is but a flattering phrase for willful positiveness or fanatical bodily sensations,” in Coleridge’s clever definition.
What, then, is Theosophy, and how may it be defined in its latest presentation in this closing portion of the XIXth century?
Theosophy, we say, is not a Religion.
Yet there are, as everyone knows, certain beliefs, philosophical, religious and scientific, which have become so closely associated in recent years with the word “Theosophy” that they have come to be taken by the general public for theosophy itself. Moreover, we shall be told these beliefs have been put forward, explained and defended by those very Founders who have declared that Theosophy is not a Religion. What is then the explanation of this apparent contradiction? How can a certain body of beliefs and teachings, an elaborate doctrine, in fact, be labelled “Theosophy” and be tacitly accepted as “Theosophical” by nine-tenths of the members of the T.S., if Theosophy is not a Religion?—we are asked.
To explain this is the purpose of the present protest.
It is perhaps necessary, first of all, to say, that the assertion that “Theosophy is not a Religion,” by no means excludes the fact that “Theosophy is Religion” itself. A Religion in the true and only correct sense, is a bond uniting men together—not a particular set of dogmas and beliefs. Now Religion, per se, in its widest meaning is that which binds not only all men, but also all beings and all things in the entire Universe into one grand whole. This is our theosophical definition of religion; but the same definition changes again with every creed and country, and no two Christians even regard it alike. We find this in more than one eminent author. Thus Carlyle defined
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the Protestant Religion in his day, with a remarkable prophetic eye to this ever-growing feeling in our present day, as:
For the most part a wise, prudential feeling, grounded on mere calculation; a matter, as all others now are, of expediency and utility; whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment may be exchanged for a far larger quantum of celestial enjoyment. Thus religion, too, is profit, a working for wages; not reverence, but vulgar hope or fear.
In her turn Mrs. Stowe, whether consciously or otherwise, seemed to have had Roman Catholicism rather than Protestantism in her mind, when saying of her heroine that:
Religion she looked upon in the light of a ticket (with the correct number of indulgences bought and paid for), which, being once purchased and snugly laid away in a pocket-book, is to be produced at the celestial gate, and thus secure admission to heaven....
But to Theosophists (the genuine Theosophists are here meant) who accept no mediation by proxy, no salvation through innocent bloodshed, nor would they think of “working for wages” in the One Universal religion, the only definition they could subscribe to and accept in full is one given by Miller. How truly and theosophically he
describes it, by showing that
. . . true Religion
Is always mild, propitious and humble;
Plays not the tyrant, plants no faith in blood,
Nor bears destruction on her chariot wheels;
But stoops to polish, succour and redress,
And builds her grandeur on the public good.
The above is a correct definition of what true theosophy is, or ought to be. (Among the creeds Buddhism alone is such a true heart-binding and men-binding philosophy, because it is not a dogmatic religion.) In this respect, as it is the duty and task of every genuine theosophist to accept and carry out these principles, Theosophy is Religion, and the Society its one Universal Church; the temple of Solomon’s wisdom,* in building which “there was neither hammer,
* Whose 700 wives and 300 concubines, by the bye, are merely the personations of man’s attributes, feelings, passions and his various occult powers: the Kabalistic numbers 7 and 3 showing it plainly. Solomon himself, moreover, being, simply, the emblem of Sol—the “Solar Initiate” or the Christ-Sun, is a variant of the Indian “Vikarttana” (the Sun) shorn of his beams by Viswakarma, his Hierophant-Initiator, who thus shears the Chrestos-candidate for initiation of his golden radiance and crowns him with a dark, blackened auréole—the “crown of thorns.” (See the “Secret Doctrine” for full explanation.) Solomon was never a living man. As described in Kings, his life and works are an allegory on the trials and glory of Initiation.
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 59
nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building” (I Kings, vi.); for this “temple” is made by no human hand, nor built in any locality on earth—but, verily, is raised only in the inner sanctuary of man’s heart wherein reigns alone the awakened soul.
Thus Theosophy is not a Religion, we say, but Religion itself, the one bond of unity, which is so universal and all-embracing that no man, as no speck—from gods and mortals down to animals, the blade of grass and atom—can be outside of its light. Therefore, any organization or body of that name must necessarily be a universal BROTHERHOOD.
Were it otherwise, Theosophy would be but a word added to hundreds other such words as high sounding as they are pretentious and empty. Viewed as a philosophy, Theosophy in its practical work is the alembic of the Mediæval alchemist. It transmutes the apparently base metal of every ritualistic and dogmatic creed (Christianity included) into the gold of fact and truth, and thus truly produces a universal panacea for the ills of mankind. This is why, when applying for admission into the Theosophical Society, no one is asked what religion he belongs to, nor what his deistic views may be. These views are his own personal property and have nought to do with the Society. Because Theosophy can be practiced by Christian or Heathen, Jew or Gentile, by Agnostic or Materialist, or even an Atheist, provided that none of these is a bigoted fanatic, who refuses to recognize as his brother any man or woman outside his own special creed or belief. Count Leo N. Tolstoy does not believe in the Bible, the Church, or the divinity of Christ; and yet no Christian surpasses him in the practical bearing out of the principles alleged to have been preached on the Mount. And these principles are those of Theosophy; not because they were uttered by the Christian Christ, but because they are universal ethics, and were preached by Buddha and Confucius, Krishna, and all the great Sages, thousands of years before the Sermon on the Mount was written. Hence, once that we live up to such theosophy, it becomes a universal panacea indeed, for it heals the wounds inflicted by the gross asperities of the Church “isms” on the sensitive soul of every naturally religious man. How many of these, forcibly thrust out by the reactive impulse of disappointment from the narrow area of blind belief into the ranks of arid disbelief, have been brought back to hopeful aspiration by simply joining our Brotherhood—yea, imperfect as it is.
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If, as an offset to this, we are reminded that several prominent members have left the Society disappointed in theosophy as they had been in other associations, this cannot dismay us in the least. For with a very, very few exceptions, in the early stage of the T.S.’s activities when some left because they did not find mysticism practiced in the General Body as they understood it, or because “the leaders lacked Spirituality,” were “untheosophical, hence, untrue to the rules,” you see, the majority left because most of them were either half-hearted or too self-opinionated—a church and infallible dogma in themselves. Some broke away, again under very shallow pretexts indeed, such, for instance, as “because Christianity (to say Churchianity, or sham Christianity, would be more just) was too roughly handled in our magazines”—just as if other fanatical religions were ever treated any better or upheld! Thus, all those who left have done well to leave, and have never been regretted.
Furthermore, there is this also to be added: the number of those who left can hardly be compared with the number of those who found everything they had hoped for in Theosophy. Its doctrines, if seriously studied, call forth, by stimulating one’s reasoning powers and awakening the inner in the animal man, every hitherto dormant power for good in us, and also the perception of the true and the real, as opposed to the false and the unreal. Tearing off with no uncertain hand the thick veil of dead-letter with which every old religious scriptures were cloaked, scientific Theosophy, learned in the cunning symbolism of the ages, reveals to the scoffer at old wisdom the origin of the world’s faiths and sciences. It opens new vistas beyond the old horizons of crystallized, motionless and despotic faiths; and turning blind belief into a reasoned knowledge founded on mathematical laws—the only exact science—it demonstrates to him under profounder and more philosophical aspects the existence of that which, repelled by the grossness of its dead-letter form, he had long since abandoned as a nursery tale. It gives a clear and well-defined object, an ideal to live for, to every sincere man or woman belonging to whatever station in Society and of whatever culture and degree of intellect. Practical Theosophy is not one Science, but embraces every science in life, moral and physical. It may, in short, be justly regarded as the universal “coach,” a tutor of world-wide knowledge and experience, and of an erudition which not only assists and guides his pupils toward a successful examination for every scientific or moral service in earthly life, but fits them for the lives
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 61
to come, if those pupils will only study the universe and its mysteries within themselves, instead of studying them through the spectacles of orthodox science and religions.
And let no reader misunderstand these statements. It is Theosophy per se, not any individual member of the Society or even Theosophist, on whose behalf such a universal omniscience is claimed. The two—Theosophy and the Theosophical Society—as a vessel and the olla podrida it contains, must not be confounded. One is, as an ideal, divine Wisdom, perfection itself; the other a poor, imperfect thing, trying to run under, if not within, its shadow on Earth. No man is perfect; why, then, should any member of the T.S. be expected to be a paragon of every human virtue? And why should the whole organization be criticized and blamed for the faults, whether real or imaginary, of some of its “Fellows,” or even its Leaders? Never was the Society, as a concrete body, free from blame or sin—errare humanum est—nor were any of its members. Hence, it is rather those members—most of whom will not be led by theosophy, that ought to be blamed. Theosophy is the soul of its Society; the latter the gross and imperfect body of the former. Hence, those modem Solomons who will sit in the Judgment Seat and talk of that they know nothing about, are invited before they slander theosophy or any theosophists to first get acquainted with both, instead of ignorantly calling one a “farrago of insane beliefs” and the other a “sect of impostors and lunatics.”
Regardless of this, Theosophy is spoken of by friends and foes as a religion when not a sect. Let us see how the special beliefs which have become associated with the word have come to stand in that position, and how it is that they have so good a right to it that none of the leaders of the Society have ever thought of disavowing their doctrines.
We have said that we believed in the absolute unity of nature. Unity implies the possibility for a unit on one plane, to come into contact with another unit on or from another plane. We believe in it.
The just published “Secret Doctrine” will show what were the ideas of all antiquity with regard to the primeval instructors of primitive man and his three earlier races. The genesis of that Wisdom-Religion, in which all theosophists believe, dates from that period. So-called “Occultism,” or rather Esoteric Science, has to be traced in its origin to those Beings who, led by Karma, have incar-
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nated in our humanity, and thus struck the key-note of that secret Science which countless generations of subsequent adepts have expanded since then in every age, while they checked its doctrines by personal observation and experience. The bulk of this knowledge—which no man is able to possess in its fullness—constitutes that which we now call Theosophy or “divine knowledge.” Beings from other and higher worlds may have it entire; we can have it only approximately.
Thus, unity of everything in the universe implies and justifies our belief in the existence of a knowledge at once scientific, philosophical and religious, showing the necessity and actuality of the connection of man and all things in the universe with each other; which knowledge, therefore, becomes essentially Religion, and must be called in its integrity and universality by the distinctive name of Wisdom-Religion.
It is from this Wisdom-Religion that all the various individual “Religions” (erroneously so called) have sprung, forming in their turn offshoots and branches, and also all the minor creeds, based upon and always originated through some personal experience in psychology. Every such religion, or religious offshoot, be it considered orthodox or heretical, wise or foolish, started originally as a clear and unadulterated stream from the Mother-Source. The fact that each became in time polluted with purely human speculations and even inventions, due to interested motives, does not prevent any from having been pure in its early beginnings. There are those creeds —we shall not call them religions—which have now been overlaid with the human element out of all recognition; others just showing signs of early decay; not one that escaped the hand of time. But each and all are of divine, because natural and true origin; aye—Mazdeism, Brahmanism, Buddhism as much as Christianity. It is the dogmas and human element in the latter which led directly to modern Spiritualism.
Of course, there will be an outcry from both sides, if we say that modern Spiritualism per se, cleansed of the unhealthy speculations which were based on the dicta of two little girls and their very unreliable “Spirits”—is, nevertheless, far more true and philosophical than any church dogma. Carnalised Spiritualism is now reaping its Karma. Its primitive innovators, the said “two little girls” from Rochester, the Mecca of modern Spiritualism, have grown up and
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 63
turned into old women since the first raps produced by them have opened wide ajar the gates between this and the other world. It is on their “innocent” testimony that the elaborate scheme of a sidereal Summer-land, with its active astral population of “Spirits,” ever on the wing between their “Silent Land” and our very loud-mouthed, gossiping earth—has been started and worked out. And now the two female Mahommeds of Modern Spiritualism have turned self-apostates and play false to the “philosophy” they have created, and have gone over to the enemy. They expose and denounce practical Spiritualism as the humbug of the ages. Spiritualists—(save a handful of fair exceptions)—have rejoiced and sided with our enemies and slanderers, when these, who had never been Theosophists, played us false and showed the cloven foot denouncing the Founders of the Theosophical Society as frauds and impostors. Shall the Theosophists laugh in their turn now that the original “revealers” of Spiritualism have become its “revilers”? Never! for the phenomena of Spiritualism are facts, and the treachery of the “Fox girls” only makes us feel new pity for all mediums, and confirms, before the whole world, our constant declaration that no medium can be relied upon. No true theosophist will ever laugh, or far less rejoice, at the discomfiture even of an opponent. The reason for it is simple:—
Because we know that beings from other, higher worlds do confabulate with some elect mortals now as ever; though now far more rarely than in the days of old, as mankind becomes with every civilized generation worse in every respect.
Theosophy—owing, in truth, to the levée in arms of all the Spiritualists of Europe and America at the first words uttered against the idea that every communicating intelligence is necessarily the Spirit of some ex-mortal from this earth—has not said its last word about Spiritualism and “Spirits.” It may one day. Meanwhile, an humble servant of theosophy, the Editor, declares once more her belief in Beings, grander, wiser, nobler than any personal God, who are beyond any “Spirits of the dead,” Saints, or winged Angels, who, nevertheless, do condescend in all and every age to occasionally overshadow rare sensitives—often entirely unconnected with Church, Spiritualism or even Theosophy. And believing in high and holy Spiritual Beings, she must also believe in the existence of their opposites—lower “spirits,” good, bad and indifferent. Therefore does she believe in spiritualism and its phenomena, some of which are so repugnant to her.
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This, as a casual remark and a digression, just to show that Theosophy includes Spiritualism—as it should be, not as it is—among its sciences, based on knowledge and the experience of countless ages. There is not a religion worthy of the name which has been started otherwise than in consequence of such visits from Beings on the higher planes.
Thus were born all prehistoric, as well as all the historic religions, Mazdeism and Brahmanism, Buddhism and Christianity, Judaism, Gnosticism and Mahomedanism; in short every more or less successful “ism.” All are true at the bottom, and all are false on their surface. The Revealer, the artist who impressed a portion of the Truth on the brain of the Seer, was in every instance a true artist, who gave out genuine truths; but the instrument proved also, in every instance, to be only a man. Invite Rubenstein and ask him to play a sonata of Beethoven on a piano left to self-tuning, one-half of the keys of which are in chronic paralysis, while the wires hang loose; then see whether, the genius of the artist notwithstanding, you will be able to recognize the sonata. The moral of the fabula is that a man—let him be the greatest of mediums or natural Seers—is but a man; and man left to his own devices and speculations must be out of tune with absolute truth, while even picking up some of its crumbs. For Man is but a fallen Angel, a god within, but having an animal brain in his head, more subject to cold and wine fumes while in company with other men on Earth, than to the faultless reception of divine revelations.
Hence the multi-coloured dogmas of the churches. Hence also the thousand and one “philosophies” so-called (some contradictory, theosophical theories included); and the variegated “Sciences” and schemes, Spiritual, Mental, Christian and Secular; Sectarianism and bigotry, and especially the personal vanity and self-opinionatedness of almost every “Innovator” since the mediæval ages. These have all darkened and hidden the very existence of truth—the common root of all. Will our critics imagine that we exclude theosophical teachings from this nomenclature? Not at all. And though the esoteric doctrines which our Society has been and is expounding, are not mental or spiritual impressions from some “unknown, from above,” but the fruit of teachings given to us by living men, still, except that which was dictated and written out by those Masters of Wisdom themselves, these doctrines may be in many cases as incomplete and faulty as any of our foes would desire it. The “Secret Doctrine”—a
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 65
work which gives out all that can be given out during this century, is an attempt to lay bare in part the common foundation and inheritance of all—great and small religious and philosophical schemes. It was found indispensable to tear away all this mass of concreted misconceptions and prejudice which now hides the parent trunk of (a) all the great world-religions; (b) of the smaller sects; and (c) of Theosophy as it stands now—however veiled the great Truth, by ourselves and our limited knowledge. The crust of error is thick, laid on by whatever hand; and because we personally have tried to remove some of it, the effort became the standing reproach against all theosophical writers and even the Society. Few among our friends and readers have failed to characterize our attempt to expose error in the Theosophist and Lucifer as “very uncharitable attacks on Christianity,” “untheosophical assaults,” etc., etc. Yet these are necessary, nay, indispensable, if we wish to plough up at least approximate truths. We have to lay things bare, and are ready to suffer for it—as usual. It is vain to promise to give truth, and then leave it mingled with error out of mere faint-heartedness. That the result of such policy could only muddy the stream of facts is shown plainly. After twelve years of incessant labour and struggle with enemies from the four quarters of the globe, notwithstanding our four theosophical monthly journals—the Theosophist, Path, Lucifer, and the French Lotus—our wish-washy, tame protests in them, our timid declarations, our “masterly policy of inactivity,” and playing at hide-and-seek in the shadow of dreary metaphysics, have only led to Theosophy being seriously regarded as a religious sect. For the hundredth time we are told—“What good is Theosophy doing?” and “See what good the Churches are doing!”
Nevertheless, it is an averred fact that mankind is not a whit better in morality, and in some respects ten times worse now, than it ever was in the days of Paganism. Moreover, for the last half century, from that period when Freethought and Science got the best of the Churches—Christianity is yearly losing far more adherents among the cultured classes than it gains proselytes in the lower strata, the scum of Heathendom. On the other hand, Theosophy has brought back from Materialism and blank despair to belief (based on logic and evidence) in man’s divine Self, and the immortality of the latter, more than one of those whom the Church has lost through dogma, exaction of faith and tyranny. And, if it is proven that Theosophy saves one man only in a thousand of those the Church has lost, is not
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the former a far higher factor for good than all the missionaries put together?
Theosophy, as repeatedly declared in print and viva voce by its members and officers, proceeds on diametrically opposite lines to those which are trodden by the Church; and Theosophy rejects the methods of Science, since her inductive methods can only lead to crass materialism. Yet, de facto, Theosophy claims to be both “Religion” and “Science,” for theosophy is the essence of both. It is for the sake and love of the two divine abstractions—i.e., theosophical religion and science, that its Society has become the volunteer scavenger of both orthodox religion and modern science; as also the relentless Nemesis of those who have degraded the two noble truths to their own ends and purposes, and then divorced each violently from the other, though the two are and must be one. To prove this is also one of our objects in the present paper.
The modern Materialist insists on an impassable chasm between the two, pointing out that the “Conflict between Religion and Science” has ended in the triumph of the latter and the defeat of the first. The modern Theosophist refuses to see, on the contrary, any such chasm at all. If it is claimed by both Church and Science that each of them pursues the truth and nothing but the truth, then either one of them is mistaken, and accepts falsehood for truth, or both. Any other impediment to their reconciliation must be set down as purely fictitious. Truth is one, even if sought for or pursued at two different ends. Therefore, Theosophy claims to reconcile the two foes. It premises by saying that the true spiritual and primitive Christian religion is, as much as the other great and still older philosophies that preceded it—the light of Truth—“the life and the light of men.”
But so is the true light of Science. Therefore, darkened as the former is now by dogmas examined through glasses smoked with the superstitions artificially produced by the Churches, this light can hardly penetrate and meet its sister ray in a science, equally as cobwebbed by paradoxes and the materialistic sophistries of the age. The teachings of the two are incompatible, and cannot agree so long as both Religious philosophy and the Science of physical and external (in philosophy, false) nature, insist upon the infallibility of their respective “will-o’-the wisps.” The two lights, having their beams of equal length in the matter of false deductions, can but extinguish each other and produce still worse darkness. Yet, they can
IS THEOSOPHY A RELIGION? p. 67
be reconciled on the condition that both shall clean their houses, one from the human dross of the ages, the other from the hideous excrescence of modern materialism and atheism. And as both decline, the most meritorious and best thing to do is precisely what Theosophy alone can and will do: i.e., point out to the innocents caught by the glue of the two waylayers—verily two dragons of old, one devouring the intellects, the other the souls of men—that their supposed chasm is but an optical delusion; that, far from being one, it is but an immense garbage mound respectively erected by the two foes, as a fortification against mutual attacks.
Thus, if theosophy does no more than point out and seriously draw the attention of the world to the fact that the supposed disagreement between religion and science is conditioned, on the one hand by the intelligent materialists rightly kicking against absurd human dogmas, and on the other by blind fanatics and interested churchmen who, instead of defending the souls of mankind, fight simply tooth and nail for their personal bread and butter and authority—why, even then, theosophy will prove itself the saviour of mankind.
And now we have shown, it is hoped, what real Theosophy is, and what are its adherents. One is divine Science and a code of Ethics so sublime that no theosophist is capable of doing it justice; the others weak but sincere men. Why, then, should Theosophy ever be judged by the personal shortcomings of any leader or member of our 150 branches? One may work for it to the best of his ability, yet never raise himself to the height of his call and aspiration. This is his or her misfortune, never the fault of Theosophy, or even of the body at large. Its Founders claim no other merit than that of having set the first theosophical wheel rolling. If judged at all they must be judged by the work they have done, not by what friends may think or enemies say of them. There is no room for personalities in a work like ours; and all must be ready, as the Founders are, if needs be, for the car of Jaggennath to crush them individually for the good of all. It is only in the days of the dim Future, when death will have laid his cold hand on the luckless Founders and stopped thereby their activity, that their respective merits and demerits, their good and bad acts and deeds, and their theosophical work will have to be weighed on the Balance of Posterity. Then only, after the two scales with their contrasted loads have been brought to an equipoise, and the character of the net result left over has become evident to all in its full and intrinsic value, then only shall the nature of the verdict
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passed be determined with anything like justice. At present, except in India, those results are too scattered over the face of the earth, too much limited to a handful of individuals to be easily judged. Now, these results can hardly be perceived, much less heard of amid the din and clamour made by our teeming enemies, and their ready imitators—the indifferent. Yet however small, if once proved good, even now every man who has at heart the moral progress of humanity, owes his thankfulness to Theosophy for those results. And as Theosophy was revived and brought before the world, viâ its unworthy servants, the “Founders,” if their work was useful, it alone must be their vindicator, regardless of the present state of their balance in the petty cash accounts of Karma, wherein social “respectabilities” are entered up.
Lucifer, November, 1888
“LET EVERY MAN PROVE HIS OWN WORK”
SUCH is the title of a letter received by the Editors of Lucifer. It is of so serious a nature that it seems well to make it the subject of this month’s editorial. Considering the truths uttered in its few lines, its importance and the bearing it has upon the much obscured subject of Theosophy, and its visible agent or vehicle—the Society of that name—the letter is certainly worthy of the most considerate answer.
Fiat justitia, ruat cælum!
Justice will be done to both sides in the
dispute; namely, Theosophists and the members of the Theosophical Society
on the one hand, and the followers of the
Divine Word (or Christos), and the so-called Christians, on the other.
We reproduce the letter:
To the Editors of Lucifer
What a grand chance is now
open in this country, to the exponents of a noble and advanced religion (if
such this Theosophy be) for proving its strength,
righteousness and verity to the Western world, by throwing a penetrating and illuminating ray of its declared light upon the terribly harrowing and perplexing
practical problems of our age.
Surely one of the purest and least self-incrusted duties of man, is to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow man?
From what I read, and from
what I daily come into immediate contact with, I can hardly think it would be
possible to over-rate in contemplation, the intense
privation and agonizing suffering that is—aye, say it—at this moment being endured by a vast pro-
p. 70 H. P. BLAVATSKY
portion of our brothers and sisters, arising in a large measure from their not absolutely having the means for procuring the bare necessaries of existence.
Surely a high and Heaven-born religion—a religion professing to receive its advanced knowledge and Light from “those more learned in the Science of Life,” should be able to tell us something of how to deal with such life, in its primitive condition of helpless submission to the surrounding circumstances of—civilization!
If one of our main duties is that of exercising disinterested love towards the Brotherhood, surely “those more learned” ones, whether in the flesh, or out of it, can and will, if appealed to by the votaries, aid them in discovering ways and means for such an end, and in organising some great fraternal scheme for dealing rightly with questions which are so appalling in their complexity, and which must and do press with such irresistible force upon all those who are earnest in their endeavours to carry out the will of Christ in a Christian land? L. F. Ff.
October 25, 1887.
This honest-spoken and sincere letter contains two statements; an implied accusation against “Theosophy” (i.e., the Society of that name), and a virtual admission that Christianity—or, again, rather its ritualistic and dogmatic religions—deserve the same and even a sterner rebuke. For if “Theosophy,” represented by its professors, merits on external appearance the reproach that so far it has failed to transfer divine wisdom from the region of the metaphysical into that of practical work, “Christianity,” that is, merely professing Christians, churchmen and laymen, lie under a like accusation, evidently. “Theosophy” has, certainly, failed to discover infallible ways and means of bringing all its votaries to exercise “disinterested love” in their Brotherhood; it has not yet been able to relieve suffering in mankind at large; but neither has Christianity. And not even the writer of the above letter, nor any one else, can show sufficient excuse for the Christians in this respect. Thus the admission that “those who are earnest in their endeavours to carry out the will of Christ in a Christian land” need the help of “those more learned,” whether (pagan adepts) “in flesh, or (spirits?) out of it” is very suggestive, for it contains the defence and the raison d’être of the Theosophical Society. Tacit though it is, once that it comes from the pen of a sincere Christian, one who longs to learn some practical means to relieve the sufferings of the starving multitudes—this admission becomes the greatest and most complete justification for the existence of the Theosophical Brotherhood; a full confession of the absolute
“LET EVERY MAN PROVE HIS OWN WORK” p. 71
necessity for such a body independent of, and untrammelled by, any enchaining dogmas, and it points out at the same time the signal failure of Christianity to accomplish the desired results.
Truly said Coleridge that “good works may exist without saving (?) principles, therefore cannot contain in themselves the principles of salvation; but saving principles never did, never can exist without good works.” Theosophists admit the definition, and disagree with the Christians only as to the nature of these “saving principles.” The Church (or churches) maintain that the only saving principle is belief in Jesus, or the carnalized Christ of the soul-killing dogma; theosophy, undogmatic and unsectarian, answers, it is not so. The only saving principle dwells in man himself, and has never dwelt outside of his immortal divine self, i.e., it is the true Christos, as it is the true Buddha, the divine inward light which proceeds from the eternal unmanifesting unknown all. And this light can only be made known by its works—faith in it having to remain ever blind in all, save in the man himself who feels that light within his soul.
Therefore, the tacit admission of the author of the above letter covers another point of great importance. The writer seems to have felt that which many, among those who strive to help the suffering, have felt and expressed. The creeds of the churches fail to supply the intellectual light, and the true wisdom which are needed to make the practical philanthropy carried out, by the true and earnest followers of Christ, a reality. The “practical” people either go on “doing good” unintelligently, and thus often do harm instead; or, appalled by the awful problem before them, and failing to find in their “churches” any clue, or a hope of solution, they retire from the battlefield and let themselves be drifted blindly by the current in which they happen to be born.
Of late it has become the fashion for friends, as well as for foes, to reproach the Theosophical Society with doing no practical work, but losing itself in the clouds of metaphysics. Metaphysicians, we are told, by those who like to repeat stale arguments, have been learning their lesson for the last few thousand years; and it is now high time that they should begin to do some practical work. Agreed; but considering that the Christian churches count nearly nineteen centuries of existence, and that the Theosophical Society and Brotherhood is a body hardly twelve years old; considering again that the Christian churches roll in fabulous wealth, and number
p. 72 H. P. BLAVATSKY
their adherents by hundreds of millions, whereas the Theosophical Brotherhood is but a few thousand strong, and that it has no fund, or funds, at its disposal, but that 98 per cent of its members are as poor and as uninfluential as the aristocracy of the Christian church is rich and powerful; taking all this into consideration, there would be much to say if the theosophists would only choose to press the matter upon the public notice. Meanwhile, as the bitterest critics of the “leaders” of the Theosophical Society are by no means only outsiders, but as there are members of that society who always find a pretext to be dissatisfied, we ask: Can works of charity that will be known among men be accomplished without money? Certainly not. And yet, notwithstanding all this, none of its (European) members, except a few devoted officers in charge of societies, will do practical work; but some of them, those especially who have never lifted a finger to relieve suffering, and help their outside, poorer brothers, are those who talk the most loudly, and are the bitterest in their denunciations of the unspirituality and the unfitness of the “leaders of theosophy.” By this they remove themselves into the outer ring of critics, like those spectators at the play who laugh at an actor passably representing Hamlet, while they themselves could not walk on the stage with a letter on a salver. While in India, comparatively poor theosophists have opened gratuitous dispensaries for the sick, hospitals, schools, and everything they could think of, asking no returns from the poor, as the missionaries do, no abandonment of one’s forefathers’ religion, as a heavy price for favours received, have the English theosophists, as a rule, done a single thing for those suffering multitudes, whose pitiful cry rings throughout the whole Heavens as a protest against the actual state of things in Christendom?
We take this opportunity of saying, in reply to others as much as to our correspondent, that, up till now, the energies of the Society have been chiefly occupied in organising, extending, and solidifying the Society itself, which has taxed its time, energies and resources to such an extent as to leave it far less powerful for practical charity than we would have wished. But, even so, compared with the influence and the funds at the disposal of the Society, its work in practical charity, if less widely known, will certainly bear favourable comparison with that of professing Christians, with their enormous resources in money, workers, and opportunities of all kinds. It must not be forgotten that practical charity is not one of the declared
“LET EVERY MAN PROVE HIS OWN WORK” p. 73
objects of the Society. It goes without saying, and needs no “declaration,” that every member of the Society must be practically philanthropic if he be a theosophist at all; and our declared work is, in reality, more important and more efficacious than work in the everyday plane which bears more evident and immediate fruit, for the direct effect of an appreciation of theosophy is to make those charitable who were not so before. Theosophy creates the charity which afterwards, and of its own accord, makes itself manifest in works.
Theosophy is correctly—though in this particular case, it is rather ironically—termed “a high, Heaven-born religion.” It is argued that since it professes to receive its advanced knowledge and light from “those more learned in the Science of Life,” the latter ought and must, if applied to by their votaries (the theosophists), aid them in discovering ways and means, in organising some great fraternal scheme, etc.
The scheme was planned, and the rules and laws to guide such a practical brotherhood, have been given by those “more learned in the Science of (practical daily, altruistic) life”; aye verily “more learned” in it than any other men since the days of Gautama Buddha and the Gnostic Essenes. The “scheme” dates back to the year when the Theosophical Society was founded. Let anyone read its wise and noble laws embodied to this day in the Statutes of the Fraternity, and judge for himself whether, if carried out rigorously and applied to practical life, the “scheme” would not have proved the most beneficent to mankind in general, and especially to our poorer brethren of “the starving multitudes.” Theosophy teaches the spirit of “nonseparateness,” the evanescence and illusion of human creeds and dogma, hence, inculcates universal love and charity for all mankind without distinction of race, colour, caste or creed”; is it not therefore the fittest to alleviate the sufferings of mankind? No true theosophist would refuse admission into a hospital, or any charitable establishment, to any man, woman or child, under the pretext that he is not a theosophist, as a Roman Catholic would when dealing with a Protestant, and vice versa. No true theosophist of the original rules would fail to put into practice the parable of the “Good Samaritan,” or proffer help only to entice the unwary who, he hopes, will become a pervert from his god and the gods of his forefathers. None would slander his brother, none let a needy man go unhelped, none offer fine talk instead of practical love and charity.
p. 74 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Is it then the fault of Theosophy, any more than it is the fault of the Christ-teachings, if the majority of the members of the Theosophical Society, often changing their philosophical and religious views upon entering our Body, have yet remained practically the same as they were when professing lip Christianity? Our laws and rules are the same as given to us from the beginning; it is the general members of the Society who have allowed them to become virtually obsolete. Those few who are ever ready to sacrifice their time and labour to work for the poor, and who do, unrecognised and unthanked for it, good work wherever they can, are often too poor themselves to put their larger schemes of charity into objective practical form, however willing they may be.
“The fault I find with the Theosophical Society,” said one of the most eminent surgeons in London to one of the editors, quite recently, “is that I cannot discover that any of its members really lead the Christ-life.” This seemed a very serious accusation from a man who is not only in the front rank of his profession, and valued for his kindly nature, by his patients, and by society, and well known as a quiet doer of many good deeds. The only possible answer to be made was that the Christ-life is undeniably the ideal of every one worthy in any sense of the name of a Theosophist, and that if it is not lived it is because there are none strong enough to carry it out. Only a few days later the same complaint was put in a more graphic form by a celebrated lady-artist.
“You Theosophists don’t do enough good for me,” she said pithily. And in her case also there is the right to speak, given by the fact that she leads two lives—one, a butterfly existence in society, and the other a serious one, which makes little noise, but has much purpose. Those who regard life as a great vocation, like the two critics of the Theosophical movement whom we have just quoted, have a right to demand of such a movement more than mere words. They themselves endeavour very quietly to lead the “Christ-life,” and they cannot understand a number of people uniting in the effort towards this life without practical results being apparent. Another critic of the same character who has the best possible right to criticise, being a thoroughly practical philanthropist and charitable to the last degree, has said of the Theosophists that their much talking and writing seems to resolve itself into mere intellectual luxury, productive of no direct good to the world.
“LET EVERY MAN PROVE HIS OWN WORK” p. 75
The point of difference between the Theosophists (when we use this term we mean, not members of the Society, but people who are really using the organization as a method of learning more of the true wisdom-religion which exists as a vital and eternal fact behind all such efforts) and the practical philanthropists, religious or secular, is a very serious one, and the answer, that probably none of them are strong enough yet to lead the “Christ-life,” is only a portion of the truth. The situation can be put very plainly, in so many words. The religious philanthropist holds a position of his own, which cannot in any way concern or affect the Theosophist. He does not do good merely for the sake of doing good, but also as a means towards his own salvation. This is the outcome of the selfish and personal side of man’s nature, which has so coloured and affected a grand religion that its devotees are little better than the idol-worshippers who ask their deity of clay to bring them luck in business, and the payment of debts. The religious philanthropist who hopes to gain salvation by good works has simply, to quote a well-worn yet ever fresh witticism, exchanged worldliness for other-worldliness.
The secular philanthropist is really at heart a socialist, and nothing else; he hopes to make men happy and good by bettering their physical position. No serious student of human nature can believe in this theory for a moment. There is no doubt that it is a very agreeable one, because if it is accepted there is immediate, straightforward work to undertake. “The poor ye have always with you.” The causation which produced human nature itself produced poverty, misery, pain, degradation, at the same time that it produced wealth, and comfort, and joy and glory. Life-long philanthropists, who have started on their work with a joyous youthful conviction that it is possible to “do good,” have, though never relaxing the habit of charity, confessed to the present writer that, as a matter of fact, misery cannot be relieved. It is a vital element in human nature, and is as necessary to some lives as pleasure is to others.
It is a strange thing to observe how practical philanthropists will eventually, after long and bitter experience, arrive at a conclusion which, to an occultist, is from the first a working hypothesis. This is, that misery is not only endurable, but agreeable to many who endure it. A noble woman, whose life has been given to the rescue of the lowest class of wretched girls, those who seem to be driven to vice by want, said, only a few days since, that with many of these outcasts it is not possible to raise them to any apparently happier lot. And
p. 76 H. P. BLAVATSKY
this she distinctly stated (and she can speak with authority, having spent her life literally among them, and studied them thoroughly), is not so much from any love of vice, but from love of that very state which the wealthy classes call misery. They prefer the savage life of a bare-foot, half-clad creature, with no roof at night and no food by day, to any comforts which can be offered them. By comforts, we do not mean the workhouse or the reformatory, but the comforts of a quiet home; and we can give chapter and verse, so to speak, to show that this is the case, not merely with the children of outcasts, who might be supposed to have a savage heredity, but with the children of gentle, cultivated, and Christian people.
Our great towns hide in their slums thousands of beings whose history would form an inexplicable enigma, a perfectly baffling moral picture, could they be written out clearly, so as to be intelligible. But they are only known to the devoted workers among the outcast classes, to whom they become a sad and terrible puzzle, not to be solved, and therefore, better not discussed. Those who have no clue to the science of life are compelled to dismiss such difficulties in this manner, otherwise they would fall, crushed beneath the thought of them. The social question as it is called, the great deep waters of misery, the deadly apathy of those who have power and possessions—these things are hardly to be faced by a generous soul who has not reached to the great idea of evolution, and who has not guessed at the marvelous mystery of human development.
The Theosophist is placed in a different position from any of these persons, because he has heard of the vast scope of life with which all mystic and occult writers and teachers deal, and he has been brought very near to the great mystery. Indeed, none, though they may have enrolled themselves as Fellows of the Society, can be called in any serious sense Theosophists, until they have begun to consciously taste in their own persons, this same mystery; which is, indeed, a law inexorable, by which man lifts himself by degrees from the state of a beast to the glory of a God. The rapidity with which this is done is different with every living soul; and the wretches who hug the primitive taskmaster, misery, choose to go slowly through a tread-mill course which may give them innumerable lives of physical sensation —whether pleasant or painful, well-beloved because tangible to the very lowest senses. The Theosophist who desires to enter upon occultism takes some of Nature’s privileges into his own hands, by that very wish, and soon discovers that experiences come to him with
“LET EVERY MAN PROVE HIS OWN WORK” p. 77
double-quick rapidity. His business is then to recognise that he is under a—to him—new and swifter law of development, and to snatch at the lessons that come to him.
But, in recognising this, he also makes another discovery. He sees that it takes a very wise man to do good works without danger of doing incalculable harm. A highly developed adept in life may grasp the nettle, and by his great intuitive powers, know whom to relieve from pain and whom to leave in the mire that is their best teacher. The poor and wretched themselves will tell anyone who is able to win their confidence what disastrous mistakes are made by those who come from a different class and endeavour to help them. Kindness and gentle treatment will sometimes bring out the worst qualities of a man or woman who has led a fairly presentable life when kept down by pain and despair. May the Master of Mercy forgive us for saying such words of any human creatures, all of whom are a part of ourselves, according to the law of human brotherhood which no disowning of it can destroy. But the words are true. None of us know the darkness which lurks in the depths of our own natures until some strange and unfamiliar experience rouses the whole being into action. So with these others who seem more miserable than ourselves.
As soon as he begins to understand what a friend and teacher pain can be, the Theosophist stands appalled before the mysterious problem of human life, and though he may long to do good works, equally dreads to do them wrongly until he has himself acquired greater power and knowledge. The ignorant doing of good works may be vitally injurious, as all but those who are blind in their love of benevolence are compelled to acknowledge. In this sense the answer made as to lack of Christ-like lives among Theosophists, that there are probably none strong enough to live such, is perfectly correct and covers the whole question. For it is not the spirit of self-sacrifice, or of devotion, or of desire to help that is lacking, but the strength to acquire knowledge and power and intuition, so that the deeds done shall really be worthy of the “Buddha-Christ” spirit. Therefore it is that Theosophists cannot pose as a body of philanthropists, though secretly they may adventure on the path of good works. They profess to be a body of learners merely, pledged to help each other and all the rest of humanity, so far as in them lies, to a better understanding of the mystery of life, and to a better knowledge of the peace which lies beyond it.
But as it is an inexorable law, that the ground must be tilled if the harvest is to be reaped, so Theosophists are obliged to work in the world unceasingly, and very often in doing this to make serious mistakes, as do all workers who are not embodied Redeemers. Their efforts may not come under the title of good works, and they may be condemned as a school of idle talkers, yet they are an outcome and fruition of this particular moment of time, when the ideas which they hold are greeted by the crowd with interest; and therefore their work is good, as the lotus-flower is good when it opens in the midday sun.
None know more keenly and definitely than they that good works are necessary; only these cannot be rightly accomplished without knowledge. Schemes for Universal Brotherhood, and the redemption of mankind, might be given out plentifully by the great adepts of life, and would be mere dead-letter utterances while individuals remain ignorant, and unable to grasp the great meaning of their teachers. To Theosophists we say, let us carry out the rules given us for our society before we ask for any further schemes or laws. To the public and our critics we say, try to understand the value of good works before you demand them of others, or enter upon them rashly yourselves. Yet it is an absolute fact that without good works the spirit of brotherhood would die in the world; and this can never be. Therefore is the double activity of learning and doing most necessary; we have to do good, and we have to do it rightly, with knowledge.
* * * * *
It is well known that the first rule of the society is to carry out the object of forming the nucleus of a universal brotherhood. The practical working of this rule was explained by those who laid it down, to the following effect:—
He who does not practise altruism; he who is not prepared to share his last morsel with a weaker or poorer than himself; he who neglects to help his brother man, of whatever race, nation, or creed, whenever and wherever he meets suffering, and who turns a deaf ear to the cry of human misery; he who hears an innocent person slandered, whether a brother theosophist or not, and does not undertake his defence as he would undertake his own—is no theosophist.
Lucifer, November, 1887
WHAT OF PHENOMENA?
To the Editors of Lucifer:
“I avail myself of your invitation to correspondents, in order to ask a question.
“How is it that we hear nothing now of the signs and wonders with which
Neo-theosophy was ushered in? Is the ‘age of miracles’ past in the Society?”
“Occult phenomena,” is what our correspondent apparently refers to. They failed to produce the desired effect, but they were, in no sense of the word, “miracles.” It was supposed that intelligent people, especially men of science, would, at least, have recognized the existence of a new and deeply interesting field of enquiry and research when they witnessed physical effects produced at will, for which they were not able to account. It was supposed that theologians would have welcomed the proof, of which they stand so sadly in need in these agnostic days, that the soul and the spirit are not mere creations of their fancy, due to ignorance of the physical constitution of man, but entities quite as real as the body, and much more important. These expectations were not realized. The phenomena were misunderstood and misrepresented, both as regards their nature and their purpose.
In the light which experience has now thrown upon the matter the explanation of this unfortunate circumstance is not far to seek. Neither science nor religion acknowledges the existence of the Occult, as the term is understood and employed in theosophy; in the sense, that is to say, of a super-material, but not super-natural, region, governed by law; nor do they recognize the existence of latent powers and possibilities in man. Any interference with the every-day routine of the material world is attributed, by religion, to the arbitrary will of a good or an evil autocrat, inhabiting a supernatural region inaccessible to man, and subject to no law, either in his actions or constitution, and for a knowledge of whose ideas and wishes mortals are entirely dependent upon inspired communications delivered through an accredited messenger. The power of working so-called miracles has always been deemed the proper and sufficient credentials of a messenger from heaven, and the mental habit of regarding any occult power in that light is still so strong that
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any exercise of that power is supposed to be “miraculous,” or to claim to be so. It is needless to say that this way of regarding extraordinary occurrences is in direct opposition to the scientific spirit of the age, nor is it the position practically occupied by the more intelligent portion of mankind at present. When people see wonders, nowadays, the sentiment excited in their minds is no longer veneration and awe, but curiosity.
It was in the hope of arousing and utilizing this spirit of curiosity that occult phenomena were shown. It was believed that this manipulation of forces of nature which lie below the surface—that surface of things which modern science scratches and pecks at so industriously and so proudly—would have led to enquiry into the nature and the laws of those forces, unknown to science, but perfectly known to occultism. That the phenomena did excite curiosity in the minds of those who witnessed them, is certainly true, but it was, unfortunately, for the most part of an idle kind. The greater number of the witnesses developed an insatiable appetite for phenomena for their own sake, without any thought of studying the philosophy or the science of whose truth and power the phenomena were merely trivial and, so to say, accidental illustrations. In but a few cases the curiosity which was awakened gave birth to the serious desire to study the philosophy and the science themselves and for their own sake.
has taught the leaders of the movement that the vast majority of professing
Christians are absolutely precluded by their mental condition and attitude—the
result of centuries of superstitious teaching—from calmly examining the
phenomena in their aspect of natural occurrences governed by law. The Roman
Catholic Church, true to its traditions, excuses itself from the examination of
any occult phenomena on the plea that they are necessarily the work of the
Devil, whenever they occur outside of its own pale, since it has a lawful
monopoly of the legitimate miracle business. The Protestant Church denies the
personal intervention of the Evil One on the material plane; but, never having
gone into the miracle business itself, it is apparently a little doubtful
whether it would know a bona-fide miracle if it saw one, but, being just
as unable as its elder sister to conceive the extension of the reign of law
beyond the limits of matter and force, as known to us in our present state of
consciousness, it excuses itself from the study of occult phenomena on the plea
that they lie within the province of science rather than of religion.
WHAT OF PHENOMENA? p. 81
Now science has its miracles as well as the Church of Rome. But, as it is altogether dependent upon its instrument-maker for the production of these miracles, and, as it claims to be in possession of the last known word in regard to the laws of nature, it was hardly to be expected that it would take very kindly to “miracles,” in whose production apparatus has no part, and which claim to be instances of the operation of forces and laws of which it has no knowledge. Modem science, moreover, labours under disabilities with respect to the investigation of the Occult quite as embarrassing as those of Religion; for, while Religion cannot grasp the idea of natural law as applied to the supersensuous Universe, Science does not allow the existence of any supersensuous universe at all to which the reign of law could be extended; nor can it conceive the possibility of any other state of consciousness than our present terrestrial one. It was, therefore, hardly to be expected that science would undertake the task it was called upon to perform with much earnestness and enthusiasm; and, indeed, it seems to have felt that it was not expected to treat the phenomena of occultism less cavalierly than it had treated divine miracles. So it calmly proceeded at once to pooh-pooh the phenomena; and, when obliged to express some kind of opinion, it did not hesitate, without examination, and on hearsay reports, to attribute them to fraudulent contrivances—wires, trapdoors, and so forth.
It was bad enough for the leaders of the movement, when they endeavoured to call the attention of the world to the great and unknown field for scientific and religious enquiry which lies on the borderland between matter and spirit, to find themselves set down as agents of his Satanic Majesty, or as superior adepts in the charlatan line; but the unkindest cut of all, perhaps, came from a class of people whose own experiences, rightly understood, ought certainly to have taught them better: the occult phenomena were claimed by the Spiritualists as the work of their dear departed ones, but the leaders in Theosophy were declared to be somewhat less even than mediums in disguise.
Never were the phenomena
presented in any other character than that of instances of a power over perfectly
natural though unrecognized forces, and incidentally over matter, possessed
by certain individuals who have attained to a larger and higher knowledge of
the Universe than has been reached by scientists and theologians, or can ever
be reached by them, by the roads they are now respectively pursuing. Yet this
power is latent in all men, and could, in time, be
p. 82 H. P. BLAVATSKY
wielded by anyone who would cultivate the knowledge and conform to the conditions necessary for its development. Nevertheless, except in a few isolated and honourable instances, never was it received in any other character than as would-be miracles, or as works of the Devil, or as vulgar tricks, or as amusing gape-seed, or as the performances of those dangerous “spooks” that masquerade in séance rooms, and feed on the vital energies of mediums and sitters. And, from all sides, theosophy and theosophists were attacked with a rancour and bitterness, with an absolute disregard alike of fact and logic, and with malice, hatred and uncharitableness that would be utterly inconceivable, did not religious history teach us what mean and unreasoning animals ignorant men become when their cherished prejudices are touched; and did not the history of scientific research teach us, in its turn, how very like an ignorant man a learned man can behave, when the truth of his theories is called in question.
An occultist can produce phenomena, but he cannot supply the world with brains, nor with the intelligence and good faith necessary to understand and appreciate them. Therefore, it is hardly to be wondered at, that word came to abandon phenomena and let the ideas of Theosophy stand on their own intrinsic merits.
Lucifer, February, 1888
OUR THREE OBJECTS
All the performances of the human heart at which we look with praise or wonder are instances of the resistless force of Perseverance. It is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united by canals. . . . Operations incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings. —Johnson
So it is, and must be always, my dear boys. If the Angel Gabriel were to come down from heaven and head a successful rise against the most abominable and unrighteous vested interest which the poor old world groans under, he would most certainly lose his character for many years, probably for centuries, not only with upholders of the said vested interest, but with the respectable mass of people he had delivered. —Hughes
Post nubila Phæbus.—After the clouds, sunshine. With this, Lucifer enters upon its fifth volume; and having borne her share of the battle of personalities which has been raging throughout the last volume, the editor feels as though she has earned the right to a period of peace. In deciding to enjoy that, at all costs, hereafter, she is moved as much by a feeling of contempt for the narrow-mindedness, ignorance and bigotry of her adversaries as by a feeling of fatigue with such wearisome inanities. So far, then, as she can manage to control her indignation and not too placid temperament, she will henceforth treat with disdain the calumnious misrepresentations of which she seems to be the chronic victim.
The beginning of a volume is the fittest time for a retrospect; and to such we now invite the reader’s attention.
If the outside public know Theosophy only as one half sees a dim shape through the dust of battle, the members of our Society at least ought to keep in mind what it is doing on the lines of its declared objects. It is to be feared that they overlook this, amid the din of this sensational discussion of its principles, and the calumnies levelled at its officers. While the narrower-minded of the Secularists, Christians and Spiritualists vie with each other in attempts to cover with opprobrium one of the leaders of Theosophy, and to belittle its claims to public regard, the Theosophical Society is moving on in dignity towards the goal it set up for itself at the beginning.
Silently, but irresistibly, it is widening its circle of usefulness and endearing its name to various nations. While its traducers are busy at their ignoble work, it is creating the facts for its future histori-
p. 84 H. P. BLAVATSKY
ographer. It is not in polemical pamphlets or sensational newspaper articles that its permanent record will be made, but in the visible realization of its original scheme of making a nucleus of universal brotherhood, reviving Oriental literature and philosophies, and aiding in the study of occult problems in physical and psychological science. The Society is barely fourteen years old, yet how much has it not accomplished! And how much that involves work of the highest quality. Our opponents may not be inclined to do us justice, but our vindication is sure to come later on. Meanwhile, let the plain facts be put on record without varnish or exaggeration. Classifying them under the appropriate headings, they are as follows:
When we arrived in India, in February, 1879, there was no unity between the races and sects of the Peninsula, no sense of a common public interest, no disposition to find the mutual relation between the several sects of ancient Hinduism, or that between them and the creeds of Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Between the Brahmanical Hindus of India and their kinsmen, the modem Sinhalese Buddhists, there had been no religious intercourse since some remote epoch. And again, between the several castes of the Sinhalese—for, true to their archaic Hindu parentage, the Sinhalese do still cling to caste despite the letter and spirit of their Buddhist religion—there was a complete disunity, no intermarriages, no spirit of patriotic homogeneity, but a rancorous sectarian and caste ill-feeling. As for any international reciprocity, in either social or religious affairs, between the Sinhalese and the Northern Buddhistic nations, such a thing had never existed. Each was absolutely ignorant of and indifferent about the other’s views, wants or aspirations. Finally, between the races of Asia and those of Europe and America there was the most complete absence of sympathy as to religious and philosophical questions. The labours of the Orientalists from Sir William Jones and Burnouf down to Prof. Max Müller, had created among the learned a philosophical interest, but among the masses not even that. If to the above we add that all the Oriental religions, without exception, were being asphyxiated to death by poisonous gas of Western official science, through the medium of the educational agencies of European administrations and Missionary propagandists, and that the Native graduates and undergraduates of India, Ceylon and Japan had largely turned agnostics and
OUR THREE OBJECTS p. 85
revilers of the old religions, it will be seen how difficult a task it must have been to bring something like harmony out of this chaos, and make a tolerant if not a friendly feeling spring up and banish these hatreds, evil suspicions, ill feelings, and mutual ignorance.
years have passed and what do we see? Taking the points seriatim we
find—that throughout India unity and brotherhood have replaced the old
disunity, one hundred and twenty-five Branches of our Society have sprung up in
India alone, each a nucleus of our idea of fraternity, a centre of religious
and social unity. Their membership embraces representatives of all the better
castes and all Hindu sects, and a majority are of that class of hereditary
savants and philosophers, the Brahmans, to pervert whom to Christianity has
been the futile struggle of the Missionary and the self-appointed task of that
high-class forlorn hope, the Oxford and Cambridge Missions. The President of
our Society, Col. Olcott, has traversed the whole of India several times, upon
invitation, addressing vast crowds upon theosophic themes and sowing the seed
from which, in time, will be garnered the full harvest of our evangel of
brotherhood and mutual dependence. The growth of this kindly feeling has been
proven in a variety of ways: first, in the unprecedented gathering of races,
castes, and sects in the annual Conventions of the Theosophical Society;
second, in the rapid growth of a theosophical literature advocating our
altruistic views, in the founding of various journals and magazines in several
languages, and in the rapid cessation of sectarian controversies; third, in the
sudden birth and phenomenally rapid growth of the patriotic movement which is
centralized in the organization called the Indian National Congress. This
remarkable political body was planned by certain of our Anglo-Indian and Hindu
members after the model and on the lines of the Theosophical Society, and has
from the first been directed by our own colleagues; men among the most
influential in the Indian Empire. At the same time, there is no connection
whatever, barring that through the personalities of individuals, between the
Congress and its mother body, our Society. It would never have come into
existence, in all probability, if Col. Olcott had suffered himself to be
tempted into the side paths of human brotherhood, politics, social reforms,
etc., as many have wanted him to do. We aroused the dormant spirit and warmed
the Aryan blood of the Hindus, and one vent the new life made for itself was
this Congress. All this is simple history and passes unchallenged.
p. 86 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Crossing over to Ceylon, behold the miracles our Society has wrought, upon the evidence of many addresses, reports, and other official documents heretofore brought under the notice of our readers and the general public. The castemen affiliating; the sectarian ill-feeling almost obliterated; sixteen Branches of the Society formed in the Island, the entire Sinhalese community, one may almost say, looking to us for counsel, example and leadership; a committee of Buddhists going over to India with Col. Olcott to plant a cocoanut—ancient symbol of affection and good-will—in the compound of the Hindu Temple in Tinnevelly, and Kandyan nobles, until now holding aloof from the low-country people with the haughty disdain of their feudal traditions, becoming Presidents of our Branches, and even travelling as Buddhist lecturers.
Ceylon was the foyer from which the religion of Gautama streamed out to Cambodia, Siam, and Burma; what then, could be more appropriate than that there should be borne from this Holy Land a message of Brotherhood to Japan! How this message was taken, how delivered by our President, and with what magnificent results, is too well known to the whole Western World to need reiteration of the story in the present connection. Suffice it to say, it ranks among the most dramatic events in history, and is the all sufficient, unanswerable and crowning proof of the vital reality of our scheme to beget the feeling of Universal Brotherhood among all peoples, races, kindreds, castes, and colours.
One evidence of the practical good sense shown in our management is the creation of the “Buddhist Flag” as a conventional symbol of the religion apart from all sectarian questions. Until now the Buddhists have had no such symbol as the cross affords to the Christians, and consequently have lacked that essential sign of their common relation to each other, which is the crystallizing point, so to say, of the fraternal force our Society is trying to evoke. The Buddhist flag effectually supplies this want. It is made in the usual proportions of national Ensigns, as to length and width, and composed of six vertical bars of colours in the following order: Sapphire blue, golden yellow, crimson, white, scarlet and a bar combining all the other colours. This is no arbitrary selection of hues, but the application to this present purpose of the tints described in the old Pali and Sanskrit works as visible in the psychosphere or aura, around Buddha’s person and conventionally depicted as chromatic vibrations around his images in Ceylon and other countries. Esoterically,
OUR THREE OBJECTS p. 87
they are very suggestive in their combination. The new flag was first hoisted on our Colombo Headquarters, then adopted with acclaim throughout Ceylon; and being introduced by Colonel Olcott into Japan, spread throughout that Empire even within the brief term of his recent visit.
Calumny cannot obliterate or even belittle the least of these facts. They have passed through the fog of today’s hatred into the sunshine which lights up all events for the eye of the historian.
II. ORIENTAL PHILOSOPHY, LITERATURE, ETC.
No one unacquainted with India and the Hindus can form a conception of the state of feeling among the younger generation of college and school-bred Hindus towards their ancestral religion, that prevailed at the time of our advent there, ten years ago. The materialistic and agnostic attitude of mind towards religion in the abstract, which prevails in Western Universities, had been conveyed to the Indian colleges and schools by their graduates, the European Professors who occupied the several chairs in the latter institutions of learning. The text books fed this spirit, and the educated Hindus, as a class, were thoroughly sceptical in religious matters, and only followed the rites and observances of the national cult from considerations of social necessity. As for the Missionary colleges and schools, their effect was only to create doubt and prejudice against Hinduism and all religions, without in the least winning regard for Christianity or making converts. The cure for all this was, of course, to attack the citadel of scepticism, scientific sciolism, and prove the scientific basis of religion in general and of Hinduism in particular. This task was undertaken from the first and pursued to the point of victory; a result evident to every traveller who enquires into the present state of Indian opinion. The change has been noted by Sir Richard Temple, Sir Edwin Arnold, Mr. Caine, M.P., Lady Jersey, Sir Monier Williams, the Primate of India, the Bishops and Archdeacons of all the Presidencies, the organs of the several Missionary societies, the Principals and Professors of their colleges, the correspondents of European journals, a host of Indian authors and editors, congresses of Sanskrit pandits, and has been admitted in terms of fervent gratitude in multitudes of addresses read to Col. Olcott in the course of his extended journeys. Without exaggeration or danger of contradiction, it may be affirmed that the labours of the Theosophical Society in India have infused a fresh and vigorous life
p. 88 H. P. BLAVATSKY
into Hindu Philosophy; revived the Hindu Religion; won back the allegiance of the graduate class to the ancestral beliefs; created an enthusiasm for Sanskrit Literature that shows itself in the republication of old Encyclopædias, scriptures and commentaries, the foundation of many Sanskrit schools, the patronage of Sanskrit by Native Princes, and in other ways. Moreover, through its various literary and corporate agencies, the Society has disseminated throughout the whole world a knowledge of and taste for Aryan Philosophy.
The reflex action of this work is seen in the popular demand for theosophical literature, and novels and magazine tales embodying Oriental ideas. Another important effect is the modification by Eastern Philosophy of the views of the Spiritualists, which has fairly begun, with respect to the source of some of the intelligence behind mediumistic phenomena. Still another is the adhesion of Mrs. Annie Besant—brought about by the study of Esoteric Doctrine—from the Secularist party, an event fraught with most important consequences, both to our Society, to Secularism and the general public. Sanskrit names never previously heard in the West have become familiar to the reading public, and works like the Bhagavad-Gita are now to be found in the bookshops of Europe, America and Australasia.
Ceylon has seen a revival of Buddhism, the circulation of religious books by tens of thousands, the translation of the Buddhist Catechism into many languages of the East, West and North, the founding of theosophical High Schools at Colombo, Kandy and Ratna-pura, the opening of nearly fifty schools for Buddhist children under the supervision of our Society, the granting of a national Buddhist Holiday by the Government, and of other important privileges, the establishment of a vernacular semi-weekly Buddhist journal in Colombo, and one in English, both composed, printed and published from the Society’s own printing-office. And it has also seen us bring from Japan seven clever young Buddhist priests to learn Pali under the venerated High Priest Sumangala, so as to be able to expound to their own countrymen the Buddhistic canon as it exists in the Southern Church twenty-five centuries after the nirvana of Buddha.
it is not to be doubted or denied that, within its first fourteen years of
existence, the Theosophical Society has succeeded to an extent beyond all
expectation in realizing the first two of its three
OUR THREE OBJECTS p. 89
declared objects. It has proved that neither race, nor creed, neither colour, nor old antipathies are irremovable obstacles to the spread of the idea of altruism and human brotherhood, Utopian dream as it may have been considered by theorists who view man as a mere physical problem, ignoring the inner, greater, higher self.
Though but a minority of our members are mystically inclined, yet, in point of fact, the key to all our successes as above enumerated is in our recognition of the fact of the Higher Self—colourless, cosmopolitan, unsectarian, sexless, unworldly, altruistic—and the doing of our work on that basis. To the Secularist, the Agnostic, the Sciolistic Scientist, such results would have been unattainable, nay, would have been unthinkable. Peace Societies are Utopian, because no amount of argument based upon exoteric considerations of social morals or expediency, can turn the hearts of the rulers of nations away from selfish war and schemes of conquest.
Social differentiations, the result of physical evolutions and material environment, breed race hatreds and sectarian and social antipathies that are insurmountable if attacked from the outside. But, since human nature is ever identical, all men are alike open to influences which centre upon the human “heart,” and appeal to the human intuition; and as there is but one Absolute Truth, and this is the soul and life of all human creeds, it is possible to effect a reciprocal alliance for the research of and dissemination of that basic Truth. We know that a comprehensive term for that Eternal Verity is the “Secret Doctrine”; we have preached it, have won a hearing, have, to some extent, swept away the old barriers, formed our fraternal nucleus, and, by reviving the Aryan Literature, caused its precious religious, philosophical and scientific teachings to spread among the most distant nations.
we have not opened regular schools of adeptship in the Society, we have at
least brought forward a certain body of proof that adepts exist and that
adeptship is a logical necessity in the natural order of human development. We
have thus helped the West to a worthier ideal of man’s potentialities than it
before possessed. The study of Eastern psychology has given the West a clue to
certain mysteries previously baffling as, for example, in the department of
mesmerism and hypnotism, and in that of the supposed posthumous relations of
the disincarnate entity with the living. It has also furnished a theory
of the nature and relations of Force and Matter capable of practical verification by whomsoever may learn and follow out the experimental methods of the Oriental Schools of Occult science. Our own experience leads us to say that this science and its complementary philosophy throw light upon some of the deepest problems of man and nature: in science, bridging the “Impassable Chasm,” in philosophy, making it possible to formulate a consistent theory of the origin and destiny of the heavenly orbs and their progeny of kingdoms and various planes. Where Mr. Crookes stops in his quest after the meta-elements, and finds himself at a loss to trace the missing atoms in his hypothetical series of seven, Adwaita Philosophy steps in with its perfected theory of evolution of differentiated out of undifferentiated matter, Prakriti out of Mulaprakriti—the “rootless root.”
With the present publication of the “Key to Theosophy,” a new work that explains clearly and in plain language what our Esoteric Theosophy believes in and what it disbelieves and positively rejects, there will remain no more pretexts for flinging at our heads fantastic accusations. Now the “correspondents” of Spiritualistic and other Weeklies, as well as those who afflict respectable daily papers with denunciations of the alleged “dogmas of the Theosophists” that never had any existence outside our traducers’ heads, will have to prove what they father upon us, by showing chapter and verse for it in our Theosophical publications, and especially in the “Key to Theosophy.”
They can plead ignorance no longer; and if they would still denounce, they must do so on the authority of what is stated therein, as every one has now an easy opportunity offered him of learning our philosophy.
To close, our Society has done more within its fourteen years of life to familiarize Western thinkers with great Aryan thought and discovery than any other agency within the past nineteen centuries. What it is likely to do in the future cannot be forecast; but experience warrants the hope that it may be very much, and that it will enlarge its already wide field of useful activity.
Lucifer, September, 1889
PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES
We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools.—Locke
Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified knowledge; Science is partially unified knowledge; Philosophy is completely unified knowledge.—Herbert Spencer, First Principles.
NEW accusations are brought by captious censors against our Society in general and Theosophy, especially. We will summarize them as we proceed along, and notice the “freshest” denunciation.
We are accused of being illogical in the “Constitution and Rules” of the Theosophical Society; and contradictory in the practical application thereof. The accusations are framed in this wise:
In the published “Constitution and Rules” great stress is laid upon the absolutely non-sectarian character of the Society. It is constantly insisted upon that it has no creed, no philosophy, no religion, no dogmas, and even no special views of its own to advocate, still less to impose on its members. And yet—
“Why, bless us! is it not as undeniable a fact that certain very definite views of a philosophic and, strictly speaking, of a religious character are held by the Founders and most prominent members of the Society?”
“Verily so,” we answer. “But where is the alleged contradiction in this? Neither the Founders, nor the ‘most prominent members,’ nor yet the majority thereof, constitute the Society, but only a certain portion of it, which, moreover, having no creed as a body, yet allows its members to believe as and what they please.” In answer to this, we are told:
“Very true; yet these doctrines are collectively called ‘Theosophy.’ What is your explanation of this?”
We reply: “To call them so is a ‘collective’ mistake; one of those loose applications of terms to things that ought to be more carefully defined; and the neglect of members to do so is now bearing its fruits. In fact it is an oversight as harmful as that which followed
p. 92 H. P. BLAVATSKY
the confusion of the two terms ‘buddhism’ and ‘bodhism,’ leading the Wisdom philosophy to be mistaken for the religion of Buddha.”
But it is still urged that when these doctrines are examined it becomes very clear that all the work which the Society as a body has done in the East and the West depended upon them. This is obviously true in the case of the doctrine of the underlying unity of all religions and the existence, as claimed by Theosophists, of a common source called the Wisdom-religion of the secret teaching, from which, according to the same claims, all existing forms of religion are directly or indirectly derived. Admitting this, we are pressed to explain, how can the T.S. as a body be said to have no special views or doctrines to inculcate, no creed and no dogmas, when these are “the back-bone of the Society, its very heart and soul”?
To this we can only answer that it is still another error. That these teachings are most undeniably the “back-bone of the Theosophical Societies” in the West, but not at all in the East, where such Branch Societies number almost five to one in the West. Were these special doctrines the “heart and soul” of the whole body, then Theosophy and its T.S. would have died out in India and Ceylon since 1885—and this is surely not the case. For, not only have they been virtually abandoned at Adyar since that year, as there was no one to teach them, but while some Brahmin Theosophists were very much opposed to that teaching being made public, others—the more orthodox—positively opposed them as being inimical to their exoteric systems.
These are self-evident facts. And yet if answered that it is not so; that the T.S. as a body teaches no special religion but tolerates and virtually accepts all religions by never interfering with, or even inquiring after the religious views of its members, our cavillers and even friendly opponents, do not feel satisfied. On the contrary: ten to one they will non-plus you with the following extraordinary objection:
“How can this be, since belief in ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ is a sine qua non for acceptance as a Fellow of your Society?”
It is vain to protest any
longer; useless, to assure our opponents that belief in Buddhism,
whether esoteric or exoteric, is no more expected by, nor obligatory in, our
Society than reverence for the monkey-god Hanuman, him of the singed tail, or
belief in Mahomet and his canonized mare. It is unprofitable to try and explain
that since there are in the T.S. as many Brahmins, Mussulmans, Parsis,
PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES p. 93
Jews and Christians as there are Buddhists, and more, all cannot be expected to become followers of Buddha, nor even of Buddhism, howsoever esoteric. Nor can they be made to realize that the Occult doctrines—a few fundamental teachings of which are broadly outlined in Mr. Sinnett’s “Esoteric Buddhism”—are not the whole of Theosophy, nor even the whole of the secret doctrines of the East, but a very small portion of these: Occultism itself being but one of the Sciences of Theosophy, or the WISDOM-Religion, and by no means the whole of Theosophy.
So firmly rooted seem these ideas, however, in the mind of the average Britisher, that it is like telling him that there are Russians who are neither Nihilists nor Panslavists, and that every Frenchman does not make his daily meal of frogs; he will simply refuse to believe you. Prejudice against Theosophy seems to have become part of the national feeling. For almost three years the writer of the present—helped in this by a host of Theosophists—has tried in vain to sweep away from the public brain some of the most fantastic cobwebs with which it is garnished; and now she is on the eve of giving up the attempt in despair! While half of the English people will persist in confusing Theosophy with “esoteric bud-ism,” the remainder will keep on pronouncing the world-honoured title of Buddha as they do—butter.
It is they also who have started the proposition now generally adopted by the flippant press that “Theosophy is not a philosophy, but a religion,” and “a new sect.”
Theosophy is certainly not a philosophy, simply because it includes every philosophy as every science and religion. But before we prove it once more, it may be pertinent to ask how many of our critics are thoroughly posted about, say, even the true definition of the term coined by Pythagoras, that they should so flippantly deny it to a system of which they seem to know still less than they do about philosophy? Have they acquainted themselves with its best and latest definitions, or even with the views upon it, now regarded as antiquated, of Sir W. Hamilton? The answer would seem to be in the negative, since they fail to see that every such definition shows Theosophy to be the very synthesis of Philosophy in its widest abstract sense, as in its special qualifications. Let us try to give once more a clear and concise definition of Theosophy, and show it to be the very root and essence of all sciences and systems.
Theosophy is “divine” or
“god-wisdom.” Therefore, it must be
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the life-blood of that system (philosophy) which is defined as “the science of things divine and human and the causes in which they are contained” (Sir W. Hamilton), Theosophy alone possessing the keys to those “causes.” Bearing in mind simply its most elementary division, we find that philosophy is the love of, and search after wisdom, “the knowledge of phenomena as explained by, and resolved into, causes and reasons, powers and laws.” (Encyclopedia.) When applied to god or gods, it became in every country theology; when to material nature, it was called physics and natural history; concerned with man, it appeared as anthropology and psychology; and when raised to the higher regions it becomes known as metaphysics. Such is philosophy—“the science of effects by their causes” —the very spirit of the doctrine of Karma, the most important teaching under various names of every religious philosophy, and a theosophical tenet that belongs to no one religion but explains them all. Philosophy is also called “the science of things possible, inasmuch as they are possible.” This applies directly to theosophical doctrines, inasmuch as they reject miracle; but it can hardly apply to theology or any dogmatic religion, every one of which enforces belief in things impossible; nor to the modern philosophical systems of the materialists who reject even the “possible,” whenever the latter contradicts their assertions.
Theosophy claims to explain and to reconcile religion with science. We find G. H. Lewes (History of Philosophy, vol. I., Prolegomena, p. xviii.) stating that “Philosophy, detaching its widest conceptions from both (Theology and Science), furnishes a doctrine which contains an explanation of the world and human destiny.” “The office of Philosophy is the systematisation of the conceptions furnished by Science. . . . Science furnishes the knowledge, and Philosophy the doctrine” (loc. cit.). The latter can become complete only on condition of having that “knowledge” and that “doctrine” passed through the sieve of Divine Wisdom, or Theosophy.
Ueberweg (History of Philosophy) defines Philosophy as “the Science of Principles,” which, as all our members know, is the claim of Theosophy in its branch-sciences of Alchemy, Astrology, and the occult sciences generally.
Hegel regards it as “the contemplation of the self-development of the Absolute,” or in other words as “the representation of the Idea” (Darstellung der Idee).
The whole of the Secret Doctrine—of which the work bearing that
PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES p. 95
name is but an atom—is such a contemplation and record, as far as finite language and limited thought can record the processes of the infinite.
Thus it becomes evident that Theosophy cannot be a “religion,” still less “a sect,” but it is indeed the quintessence of the highest philosophy in all and every one of its aspects. Having shown that it falls under, and answers fully, every description of philosophy, we may add to the above a few more of Sir W. Hamilton’s definitions, and prove our statement by showing the pursuit of the same in Theosophical literature. This is a task easy enough, indeed. For, does not “Theosophy” include “the science of things evidently deduced from first principles,” as well as “the sciences of truths sensible and abstract”? Does it not preach “the applications of reason to its legitimate objects,” and make it one of its “legitimate objects”—to inquire into “the science of the original form of the Ego, or mental self,” as also to teach the secret of “the absolute indifference of the ideal and real”? All of which proves that according to every definition—old or new—of philosophy, he who studies Theosophy, studies the highest transcendental philosophy.
We need not go out of our way to notice at any length such foolish statements about Theosophy and Theosophists as are found almost daily in the public press. Such definitions and epithets as “new fangled religion” and “ism,” “the system invented by the high priestess of Theosophy,” and other remarks as silly, may be left to their own fate. They have been and in most cases will be left unnoticed.
Our age is regarded as being pre-eminently critical: an age which analyses closely, and whose public refuses to accept anything offered for its consideration before it has fully scrutinized the subject. Such is the boast of our century; but such is not quite the opinion of the impartial observer. At all events it is an opinion highly exaggerated since this boasted analytical scrutiny is applied only to that which interferes in no way with national, social, or personal prejudices. On the other hand everything that is malevolent, destructive to reputation, wicked and slanderous, is received with open embrace, accepted joyfully, and made the subject of everlasting public gossip, without any scrutiny or the slightest hesitation, but verily on a blind faith of the most elastic kind. We challenge contradiction on this point. Neither unpopular characters nor their work are judged in our day on their intrinsic value, but merely on their author’s personality and the prejudiced opinion thereon of the
p. 96 H. P. BLAVATSKY
masses. In many journals no literary work of a Theosophist can ever hope to be reviewed on its own merits, apart from the gossip about its author. Such papers, oblivious of the rule first laid down by Aristotle, who says that criticism is “a standard of judging well,” refuse point blank to accept any Theosophical book apart from its writer. As a first result, the former is judged by the distorted reflection of the latter created by slander repeated in the daily papers. The personality of the writer hangs like a dark shadow between the opinion of the modern journalist and unvarnished truth; and as a final result there are few editors in all Europe and America who know anything of our Society’s tenets.
How can then Theosophy or even the T.S. be correctly judged? It is nothing new to say that the true critic ought to know something at least of the subject he undertakes to analyse. Nor is it very risky to add that not one of our press Thersites knows in the remotest way what he is talking about—this, from the large fish to the smallest fry;* but whenever the word “Theosophy” is printed and catches the reader’s eye, there it will be generally found preceded and followed by abusive epithets and invective against the personalities of certain Theosophists. The modern editor of the Grundy pandering kind, is like Byron’s hero, “He knew not what to say, and so he swore”—at that which passeth his comprehension. All such swearing is invariably based upon old gossip, and stale denunciations of those who stand in the moon-struck minds as the “inventors” of Theosophy. Had South Sea islanders a daily press of their own, they would be as sure to accuse the missionaries of having invented Christianity in order to bring to grief their native fetishism.
How long, O radiant gods of truth, how long shall this terrible mental cecity of the nineteenth century Philosophists last? How much longer are they to be told that Theosophy is no national property, no religion, but only the universal code of science and the most transcendental ethics that was ever known; that it lies at the root of every moral philosophy and religion; and that neither Theosophy per se, nor yet its humble unworthy vehicle, the Theosophical Society, has anything whatever to do with any personality or personalities! To identify it with these is to show oneself sadly defective in logic and even common sense. To reject the teaching and its
* From Jupiter Tonans of the Saturday Review down to the scurrilous editor of the Mirror. The first may be as claimed one of the greatest authorities living on fencing, and the other as great at “muscular” thought reading, yet both are equally ignorant of Theosophy and as blind to its real object and purposes as two owls are to day-light.
PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHICULES p. 97
philosophy under the pretext that its leaders, or rather one of its Founders, lies under various accusations (so far unproven) is silly, illogical and absurd. It is, in truth, as ridiculous as it would have been in the days of the Alexandrian school of Neo-Platonism, which was in its essence Theosophy, to reject its teachings, because it came to Plato from Socrates, and because the sage of Athens, besides his pug-nose and bald head, was accused of “blasphemy and of corrupting the youth.”
Aye, kind and generous critics, who call yourselves Christians, and boast of the civilisation and progress of your age; you have only to be scratched skin deep to find in you the same cruel and prejudiced “barbarian” as of old. Were an opportunity offered you to sit in public and legal judgment on a Theosophist, who of you would rise in your nineteenth century of Christianity higher than one of the Athenian dikastery with its 500 jurors who condemned Socrates to death? Which of you would scorn to become a Meletus or an Anytus, and have Theosophy and all its adherents condemned on the evidence of false witness to a like ignominious death? The hatred manifested in your daily attacks upon the Theosophists is a warrant to us for this. Did Haywood have you in his mind’s eye when he wrote of Society’s censure:—
O! that the too censorious world would learn
This wholesome rule, and with each other bear;
But man, as if a foe to his own species,
Takes pleasure to report his neighbour’s faults,
Judging with rigour every small offence,
And prides himself in scandal. . . .
optimistic writers would fain make of this mercantile century of ours an age of
philosophy and call it its renaissance. We fail to find outside of our
Society any attempt at philosophical revival, unless the word “philosophy” is
made to lose its original meaning. For wherever we turn we find a cold sneer at
true philosophy. A sceptic can never aspire to that title. He who is capable of
imagining the universe with its handmaiden Nature fortuitous, and hatched like
the black hen of the fable, out of a self-created egg hanging in space, has
neither the power of thinking nor the spiritual faculty of perceiving abstract
truths; which power and faculty are the first requisites of a philosophical
mind. We see the entire realm of modern Science honeycombed with such
materialists, who yet claim to be regarded as philosophers. They either believe
in naught as do the
Secularists, or doubt according to the manner of the Agnostics. Remembering the two wise aphorisms by Bacon, the modern-day materialist is thus condemned out of the mouth of the Founder of his own inductive method, as contrasted with the deductive philosophy of Plato, accepted in Theosophy. For does not Bacon tell us that “Philosophy when superficially studied excites doubt; when thoroughly explored it dispels it;” and again, “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth of philosophy bringeth man’s mind about to religion”?
The logical deduction of the above is, undeniably, that none of our present Darwinians and materialists and their admirers, our critics, could have studied philosophy otherwise than very “superficially.” Hence while Theosophists have a legitimate right to the title of philosophers—true “lovers of Wisdom”—their critics and slanderers are at best philosophicules—the progeny of modern PHILOSOPHISM.
Lucifer, October, 1889
THE TIDAL WAVE
The tidal wave of deeper souls,
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares,
Out of all meaner cares.
THE great psychic and spiritual change now taking place in the realm of the human Soul, is quite remarkable. It began towards the very commencement of the now slowly vanishing last quarter of our century, and will end—so says a mystic prophecy —either for the weal or the woe of civilized humanity with the present cycle which will close in 1897. But the great change is not effected in solemn silence, nor is it perceived only by the few. On the contrary, it asserts itself amid a loud din of busy, boisterous tongues, a clash of public opinion, in comparison to which the incessant, ever increasing roar even of the noisiest political agitation seems like the rustling of the young forest foliage, on a warm spring day.
Verily the Spirit in man, so long hidden out of public sight, so carefully concealed and so far exiled from the arena of modern learning, has at last awakened. It now asserts itself and is loudly re-demanding its unrecognized yet ever legitimate rights. It refuses to be any longer trampled under the brutal foot of Materialism, speculated upon by the Churches, and made a fathomless source of income by those who have self-constituted themselves its universal custodians. The former would deny the Divine Presence any right to existence; the latter would accentuate and prove it through their Sidesmen and Church Wardens armed with money-bags and collection-boxes. But the Spirit in man—the direct, though now but broken ray and emanation of the Universal Spirit—has at last awakened. Hitherto, while so often reviled, persecuted and abased through ignorance, ambition and greed; while so frequently turned by insane Pride “into a blind wanderer, like unto a buffoon mocked by a host of buffoons,” in the realm of Delusion, it remained unheard and unheeded. Today, the Spirit in man has returned like King Lear, from seeming insanity to its senses; and, raising its voice,
it now speaks in those authoritative tones to which the men of old have listened in reverential silence through incalculable ages, until deafened by the din and roar of civilization and culture, they could hear it no longer. . . .
Look around you and behold! Think of what you see and hear, and draw therefrom your conclusions. The age of crass materialism, of Soul insanity and blindness, is swiftly passing away. A death struggle between Mysticism and Materialism is no longer at hand, but is already raging. And the party which will win the day at this supreme hour will become the master of the situation and of the future; i.e., it will become the autocrat and sole disposer of the millions of men already born and to be born, up to the latter end of the XXth century. If the signs of the times can be trusted it is not the Animalists who will remain conquerors. This is warranted us by the many brave and prolific authors and writers who have arisen of late to defend the rights of Spirit to reign over matter. Many are the honest, aspiring Souls now raising themselves like a dead wall against the torrent of the muddy waters of Materialism. And facing the hitherto domineering flood which is still steadily carrying off into unknown abysses the fragments from the wreck of the dethroned, cast down Human Spirit, they now command: “So far hast thou come; but thou shalt go no further!”
Amid all this external
discord and disorganisation of social harmony; amid confusion and the weak and
cowardly hesitations of the masses, tied down to the narrow frames of routine,
propriety and cant; amid that late dead calm of public thought that had exiled
from literature every reference to Soul and Spirit and their divine working during
the whole of the middle period of our century—we hear a sound arising. Like a
clear, definite, far-reaching note of promise, the voice of the great human
Soul proclaims, in no longer timid tones, the rise and almost the resurrection
of the human Spirit in the masses. It is now awakening in the foremost
representatives of thought and learning; it speaks in the lowest as in the
highest, and stimulates them all to action. The renovated, life-giving Spirit
in man is boldly freeing itself from the dark fetters of the hitherto all-capturing
animal life and matter. Behold it, saith the poet, as, ascending on its broad,
white wings, it soars into the regions of real life and light; whence, calm and
godlike, it contemplates with unfeigned pity those golden idols of the modern
material cult with their feet of clay, which have hitherto screened from the
THE TIDAL WAVE p. 101
their true and living gods. . . .
Literature—once wrote a critic—is the confession of social life, reflecting all its sins, and all its acts of baseness as of heroism. In this sense a book is of a far greater importance than any man. Books do not represent one man, but they are the mirror of a host of men. Hence the great English poet-philosopher said of books, that he knew that they were as hard to kill and as prolific as the teeth of the fabulous dragon; sow them hither and thither and armed warriors will grow out of them. To kill a good book, is equal to killing a man.
The “poet-philosopher” is right.
A new era has begun in literature, this is certain. New thoughts and new interests have created new intellectual needs; hence a new race of authors is springing up. And this new species will gradually and imperceptibly shut out the old one, those fogies of yore who, though they still reign nominally, are allowed to do so rather by force of habit than predilection. It is not he who repeats obstinately and parrot-like the old literary formulae and holds desperately to publishers’ traditions, who will find himself answering to the new needs; not the man who prefers his narrow party discipline to the search for the long-exiled Spirit of man and the now lost Truths; not these, but verily he who, parting company with his beloved “authority,” lifts boldly and carries on unflinchingly the standard of the Future Man. It is finally those who, amidst the present wholesale dominion of the worship of matter, material interests and selfishness, will have bravely fought for human rights and man’s divine nature, who will become, if they only win, the teachers of the masses in the coming century, and so their benefactors.
But woe to the XXth century if the now reigning school of thought prevails, for Spirit would once more be made captive and silenced till the end of the now coming age. It is not the fanatics of the dead letter in general, nor the iconoclasts and Vandals who fight the new Spirit of thought, nor yet the modem Roundheads, supporters of the old Puritan religious and social traditions, who will ever become the protectors and Saviours of the now resurrecting human thought and Spirit. It is not these too willing supporters of the old cult, and the mediaeval heresies of those who guard like a relic every error of their sect or party, who jealously watch over their own thought lest it should, growing out of its teens, assimilate some fresher and more beneficent idea—not these who are the wise men of the future.
p. 102 H. P. BLAVATSKY
It is not for them that the hour of the new historical era will have struck, but for those who will have learnt to express and put into practice the aspirations as well as the physical needs of the rising generations and of the now trampled-down masses. In order that one should fully comprehend individual life with its physiological, psychic and spiritual mysteries, he has to devote himself with all the fervour of unselfish philanthropy and love for his brother men, to studying and knowing collective life, or Mankind. Without preconceptions or prejudice, as also without the least fear of possible results in one or another direction, he has to decipher, understand and remember the deep and innermost feelings and the aspirations of the poor people’s great and suffering heart. To do this he has first “to attune his soul with that of Humanity,” as the old philosophy teaches; to thoroughly master the correct meaning of every line and word in the rapidly turning pages of the Book of Life of Mankind and to be thoroughly saturated with the truism that the latter is a whole inseparable from his own Self.
How many of such profound
readers of life may be found in our boasted age of sciences and culture? Of
course we do not mean authors alone, but rather the practical and still
unrecognized, though well known, philanthropists and altruists of our age; the
people’s friends, the unselfish lovers of man, and the defenders of human right
to the freedom of Spirit. Few indeed are such; for they are the rare blossoms
of the age, and generally the martyrs to prejudiced mobs and time-servers. Like
those wonderful “Snow flowers” of Northern Siberia, which, in order to shoot
forth from the cold frozen soil, have to pierce through a thick layer of hard,
icy snow, so these rare characters have to fight their battles all their life
with cold indifference and human harshness, and with the selfish ever-mocking
world of wealth. Yet, it is only they who can carry out the task of
perseverance. To them alone is given the mission of turning the “Upper Ten” of
social circles from the broad and easy highway of wealth, vanity and empty
pleasures into the arduous and thorny path of higher moral problems, and the
perception of loftier moral duties than they are now pursuing. It is also those
who, already themselves awakened to a higher Soul activity, are being endowed
at the same time with literary talent, whose duty it is to undertake the part
of awakening the sleeping Beauty and the Beast, in their enchanted Castle of
Frivolity, to real life and light. Let all those who can, proceed fearlessly
with this idea uppermost in their mind,
THE TIDAL WAVE p. 103
and they will succeed. It is the rich who have to be regenerated, if we would do good to the poor; for it is in the former that lies the root of evil of which the “disinherited” classes are but the too luxuriant growth. This may seem at first sight paradoxical, yet it is true, as may be shown.
In the face of the present degradation of every ideal, as also of the noblest aspirations of the human heart, becoming each day more prominent in the higher classes, what can be expected from the “great unwashed”? It is the head that has to guide the feet, and the latter are to be hardly held responsible for their actions. Work, therefore, to bring about the moral regeneration of the cultured but far more immoral classes before you attempt to do the same for our ignorant younger Brethren. The latter was undertaken years ago, and is carried on to this day, yet with no perceptible good results. Is it not evident that the reason for this lies in the fact that [except] for a few earnest, sincere and all-sacrificing workers in that field, the great majority of the volunteers consists of those same frivolous, ultra-selfish classes, who “play at charity” and whose ideas of the amelioration of the physical and moral status of the poor are confined to the hobby that money and the Bible alone can do it. We say that neither of these can accomplish any good; for dead-letter preaching and forced Bible-reading develop irritation and later atheism, and money as a temporary help finds its way into the tills of the public-houses rather than serves to buy bread with. The root of evil lies, therefore, in a moral not in a physical cause.
If asked, what is it then that will help, we answer boldly:—Theosophical literature; hastening to add that under this term, neither books concerning adepts and phenomena, nor the Theosophical Society publications are meant.
Take advantage of, and profit by, the “tidal wave” which is now happily overpowering half of Humanity. Speak to the awakening Spirit of Humanity, to the human Spirit and the Spirit in man, these three in One and the One in All. Dickens and Thackeray both born a century too late—or a century too early—came between two tidal waves of human spiritual thought, and though they have done yeoman service individually and induced certain partial reforms, yet they failed to touch Society and the masses at large. What the European world now needs is a dozen writers such as Dostoevsky, the Russian author, whose works, though terra incognita for most, are still well known on the Continent, as also in England and America
among the cultured classes. And what the Russian novelist has done is this:—he spoke boldly and fearlessly the most unwelcome truths to the higher and even to the official classes—the latter a far more dangerous proceeding than the former. And yet, behold, most of the administrative reforms during the last twenty years are due to the silent and unwelcome influence of his pen. As one of his critics remarks, the great truths uttered by him were felt by all classes so vividly and so strongly that people whose views were most diametrically opposed to his own could not but feel the warmest sympathy for this bold writer and even expressed it to him.
In the eyes of all, friends or foes, he became the mouthpiece of the irrepressible no longer to be delayed need felt by Society, to look with absolute sincerity into the innermost depths of its own soul, to become the impartial judge of its own actions and its own aspirations.
Every new current of thought, every new tendency of the age had and ever will have, its rivals, as its enemies, some counteracting it boldly but unsuccessfully, others with great ability. But such, are always made of the same paste, so to say, common to all. They are goaded to resistance and objections by the same external, selfish and worldly objects, the same material ends and calculations as those that guided their opponents. While pointing out other problems and advocating other methods, in truth, they cease not for one moment to live with their foes in a world of the same and common interests, as also to continue in the same fundamental identical views on life.
That which then became necessary was a man, who, standing outside of any partizanship or struggle for supremacy, would bring his past life as a guarantee of the sincerity and honesty of his views and purposes; one whose personal suffering would be an imprimatur to the firmness of his convictions, a writer finally, of undeniable literary genius:—for such a man alone, could pronounce words capable of awakening the true spirit in a Society which had drifted away in a wrong direction.
Just such a man was Dostoevsky—the patriot-convict, the galley-slave, returned from Siberia; that writer, far-famed in Europe and Russia, the pauper buried by voluntary subscription, the soul-stirring bard, of everything poor, insulted, injured, humiliated; he who unveiled with such merciless cruelty the plagues and sores of his age. . . .
is writers of this kind that are needed in our day of reawakening; not authors
writing for wealth or fame, but fearless apostles of the living Word of Truth;
moral healers of the pustulous sores of our century. France has her Zola who
points out, brutally enough, yet
THE TIDAL WAVE p. 105
still true to life—the degradation and moral leprosy of his people. But Zola, while castigating the vices of the lower classes, has never dared to lash higher with his pen than the petite bourgeoisie, the immorality of the higher classes being ignored by him. Result: the peasants who do not read novels have not been in the least affected by his writings, and the bourgeoisie caring little for the plebs, took such notice of Pot bouille as to make the French realist lose all desire of burning his fingers again at their family pots. From the first then, Zola has pursued a path which though bringing him to fame and fortune has led him nowhere in so far as salutary effects are concerned.
Whether Theosophists, in the present or future, will ever work out a practical application of the suggestion is doubtful. To write novels with a moral sense in them deep enough to stir Society, requires a great literary talent and a born theosophist as was Dostoevsky—Zola standing outside of any comparison with him. But such talents are rare in all countries. Yet, even in the absence of such great gifts one may do good in a smaller and humbler way by taking note and exposing in impersonal narratives the crying vices and evils of the day, by word and deed, by publications and practical example. Let the force of that example impress others to follow it; and then instead of deriding our doctrines and aspirations the men of the XXth, if not the XIXth century will see clearer, and judge with knowledge and according to facts instead of prejudging agreeably to rooted misconceptions. Then and not till then will the world find itself forced to acknowledge that it was wrong, and that Theosophy alone can gradually create a mankind as harmonious and as simple-souled as Kosmos itself; but to effect this theosophists have to act as such. Having helped to awaken the spirit in many a man—we say this boldly, challenging contradiction—shall we now stop instead of swimming with the Tidal Wave?
Lucifer, November, 1889
WHY I DO NOT RETURN TO INDIA
To my Brothers of Aryavarta,
In April, 1890, five years elapsed since I left India.
Great kindness has been shown to me by many of my Hindu brethren at various times since I left; especially this year (1890), when, ill almost to death, I have received from several Indian Branches letters of sympathy, and assurances that they had not forgotten her to whom India and the Hindus have been most of her life far dearer than her own Country.
It is, therefore, my duty to explain why I do not return to India and my attitude with regard to the new leaf turned in the history of the T.S. by my being formally placed at the head of the Theosophical Movement in Europe. For it is not solely on account of bad health that I do not return to India. Those who have saved me from death at Adyar, and twice since then, could easily keep me alive there as They do me here. There is a far more serious reason. A line of conduct has been traced for me here, and I have found among the English and Americans what I have so far vainly sought for in India.
In Europe and America, during the last three years, I have met with hundreds of men and women who have the courage to avow their conviction of the real existence of the Masters, and who are working for Theosophy on Their lines and under Their guidance, given through my humble self.
In India, on the other hand, ever since my departure, the true spirit of devotion to the Masters and the courage to avow it has steadily dwindled away. At Adyar itself, increasing strife and conflict has raged between personalities; uncalled for and utterly undeserved animosity—almost hatred—has been shown towards me by several members of the staff. There seems to have been something strange and uncanny going on at Adyar, during these last years. No sooner does a European, most Theosophically inclined, most devoted to the Cause, and the personal friend of myself or the President, set his foot in Headquarters, than he becomes forthwith a personal enemy to one or other of us, and what is worse, ends by injuring and deserting the Cause.
WHY I DO NOT RETURN TO INDIA p. 107
Let it be understood at once that I accuse no one. Knowing what I do of the activity of the forces of Kali Yuga, at work to impede and ruin the Theosophical Movement, I do not regard those who have become, one after the other, my enemies—and that without any fault of my own—as I might regard them, were it otherwise.
One of the chief factors in the reawakening of Aryavarta which has been part of the work of the Theosophical Society, was the ideal of the Masters. But owing to want of judgment, discretion, and discrimination, and the liberties taken with Their names and Personalities, great misconception arose concerning Them. I was under the most solemn oath and pledge never to reveal the whole truth to anyone, excepting to those who, like Damodar, had been finally selected and called by Them. All that I was then permitted to reveal was, that there existed somewhere such great men; that some of Them were Hindus; that They were learned as none others in all the ancient wisdom of Gupta Vidya, and had acquired all the Siddhis; not as these are represented in tradition and the “blinds” of ancient writings, but as they are in fact and nature; and also that I was a Chela of one of Them. However, in the fancy of some Hindus, the most wild and ridiculous fancies soon grew up concerning Them. They were referred to as “Mahatmas” and still some too enthusiastic friends belittled Them with their strange fancy-pictures; our opponents, describing a Mahatma as a full Jivanmukta, urged that, as such, He was debarred from holding any communication whatsoever with persons living in the world. They also maintained that as this is the Kali Yuga, it was impossible that there could be any Mahatmas at all in our age.
These early misconceptions notwithstanding, the idea of the Masters, and belief in Them, has already brought its good fruit in India. Their chief desire was to preserve the true religious and philosophical spirit of ancient India; to defend the Ancient Wisdom contained in its Darshanas and Upanishads against the systematic assaults of the missionaries; and finally to reawaken the dormant ethical and patriotic spirit in those youths in whom it had almost disappeared owing to college education. Much of this has been achieved by and through the Theosophical Society, in spite of all its mistakes and imperfections.
Had it not been for Theosophy, would India have had her Tukaram Tatya doing now the priceless work he does, and which no one in India ever thought of doing before him? Without the Theo-
p. 108 H. P. BLAVATSKY
sophical Society, would India have ever thought of wrenching from the hands of learned but unspiritual Orientalists the duty of reviving, translating and editing the Sacred Books of the East, of popularizing and selling them at a far cheaper rate, and at the same time in a far more correct form than had ever been done at Oxford? Would our respected and devoted brother Tukaram Tatya himself have ever thought of doing so, had he not joined the Theosophical Society? Would your political Congress itself have even been a possibility, without the Theosophical Society? Most important of all, one at least among you has fully benefited by it; and if the Society had never given to India but that one future Adept (Damodar) who has now the prospect of becoming one day a Mahatma, Kali Yuga notwithstanding, that alone would be proof that it was not founded at New York and transplanted to India in vain. Finally, if any one among the three hundred millions of India can demonstrate, proof in hand, that Theosophy, the T.S., or even my humble self, have been the means of doing the slightest harm, either to the country or any Hindu, that the Founders have been guilty of teaching pernicious doctrines, or offering bad advice—then and then only, can it be imputed to me as a crime that I have brought forward the ideal of the Masters and founded the Theosophical Society.
Aye, my good and never-to-be-forgotten Hindu Brothers, the name alone of the holy Masters, which was at one time invoked with prayers for Their blessings, from one end of India to the other—Their name alone has wrought a mighty change for the better in your land. It is not to Colonel Olcott or to myself that you owe anything, but verily to these names, which, but a few years ago, had become a household word in your mouths.
it was that, so long as I remained at Adyar, things went on smoothly enough,
because one or other of the Masters was almost constantly present among us, and
their spirit ever protected the Theosophical Society from real harm. But in
1884, Colonel Olcott and myself left for a visit to Europe, and while we were
away the Padri-Coulomb “thunderbolt” descended. I returned in November, and was
taken most dangerously ill. It was during that time and Colonel Olcott’s
absence in Burma, that the seeds of all future strifes, and—let me say at
once—disintegration of the Theosophical Society, were planted by our enemies.
What with the Patterson-Coulomb-Hodgson conspiracy, and the faint-heartedness
of the chief Theosophists, that the Society did not then and there collapse
WHY I DO NOT RETURN TO INDIA p. 109
be sufficient proof of how it was protected. Shaken in their belief, the faint-hearted began to ask: “Why, if the Masters are genuine Mahatmas, have They allowed such things to take place, or why have They not used Their powers to destroy this plot or that conspiracy, or even this or that man and woman?” Yet it had been explained numberless times that no Adept of the Right Path will interfere with the just workings of Karma. Not even the greatest of Yogis can divert the progress of Karma, or arrest the natural results of actions for more than a short period, and even in that case, these results will only reassert themselves later with even tenfold force, for such is the occult law of Karma and the Nidanas.
Nor again will even the greatest of phenomena aid real spiritual progress. We have each of us to win our Moksha or Nirvana by our own merit, not because a Guru or Deva will help to conceal our shortcomings. There is no merit in having been created an immaculate Deva or in being God; but there is the eternal bliss of Moksha looming forth for the man who becomes as a God and Deity by his own personal exertions. It is the mission of Karma to punish the guilty and not the duty of any Master. But those who act up to Their teaching and live the life of which They are the best exemplars, will never be abandoned by Them, and will always find Their beneficent help whenever needed, whether obviously or invisibly. This is of course addressed to those who have not yet quite lost their faith in Masters; those who have never believed, or have ceased to believe in Them, are welcome to their own opinions. No one, except themselves perhaps some day, will be the losers thereby.
As for myself, who can charge me with having acted like an imposter? with having, for instance, taken one single pie* from any living soul? with having ever asked for money, or with having accepted it, notwithstanding that I was repeatedly offered large sums? Those who, in spite of this, have chosen to think otherwise, will have to explain what even my traducers of the Padri class and Psychical Research Society have been unable to explain to this day, viz., the motive for such fraud. They will have to explain why, instead of taking and making money, I gave away to the Society every penny I earned by writing for the papers; why at the same time I nearly killed myself with overwork and incessant labour year after year, until my health gave way, so that but for my Master’s repeated help, I should have died long ago from the effects of such voluntary hard labour.
* Pie, i.e.,
“penny.” A pie is the smallest Anglo-Indian coin.—Eds.
p. 110 H. P. BLAVATSKY
For the absurd Russian spy theory, if it still finds credit in some idiotic heads, has long ago disappeared, at any rate from the official brains of the Anglo-Indians.
If, I say, at that critical moment, the members of the Society, and especially its leaders at Adyar, Hindu and European, had stood together as one man, firm in their conviction of the reality and power of the Masters, Theosophy would have come out more triumphantly than ever, and none of their fears would have ever been realized, however cunning the legal traps set for me, and whatever mistakes and errors of judgment I, their humble representative, might have made in the executive conduct of the matter.
But the loyalty and courage of the Adyar Authorities, and of the few Europeans who had trusted in the Masters, were not equal to the trial when it came. In spite of my protests, I was hurried away from Headquarters. Ill as I was, almost dying in truth, as the physicians said, yet I protested, and would have battled for Theosophy in India to my last breath, had I found loyal support. But some feared legal entanglements, some the Government, while my best friends believed in the doctors’ threats that I must die if I remained in India. So I was sent to Europe to regain my strength, with a promise of speedy return to my beloved Aryavarta.
Well, I left, and immediately intrigues and rumours began. Even at Naples already, I learnt that I was reported to be meditating to start in Europe “a rival Society” and “burst up Adyar” (!!). At this I laughed. Then it was rumoured that I had been abandoned by the Masters, been disloyal to Them, done this or the other. None of it had the slightest truth or foundation in fact. Then I was accused of being, at best, a hallucinated medium, who had mistaken “spooks” for living Masters; while others declared that the real H. P. Blavatsky was dead—had died through the injudicious use of Kundalini—and that the form had been forthwith seized upon by a Dugpa Chela, who was the present H.P.B. Some again held me to be a witch, a sorceress, who for purposes of her own played the part of a philanthropist and lover of India, while in reality bent upon the destruction of all those who had the misfortune to be psychologised by me. In fact, the powers of psychology attributed to me by my enemies, whenever a fact or a “phenomenon” could not be explained away, are so great that they alone would have made of me a most remarkable Adept—independently of any Masters or Mahatmas. In short, up to 1886, when the S.P.R. Report was pub-
WHY I DO NOT RETURN TO INDIA p. 111
lished and this soap-bubble burst over our heads, it was one long series of false charges, every mail bringing something new. I will name no one; or does it matter who said a thing and who repeated it. One thing is certain; with the exception of Colonel Olcott, everyone seemed to banish the Masters from their thoughts and Their spirit from Adyar. Every imaginable incongruity was connected with these holy names, and I alone was held responsible for every disagreeable event that took place, every mistake made. In a letter received from Damodar in 1886, he notified me that the Masters’ influence was becoming with every day weaker at Adyar; that They were daily represented as less than “second-rate Yogis,” totally denied by some, while even those who believed in, and had remained loyal to Them, feared even to pronounce Their names. Finally, he urged me very strongly to return, saying that of course the Masters would see that my health should not suffer from it. I wrote to that effect to Colonel Olcott, imploring him to let me return, and promising that I would live at Pondicherry, if needed, should my presence not be desirable at Adyar. To this I received the ridiculous answer that no sooner should I return, than I should be sent to the Andaman Islands as a Russian spy, which of course Colonel Olcott subsequently found out to be absolutely untrue. The readiness with which such a futile pretext for keeping me from Adyar was seized upon, shows in clear colours the ingratitude of those to whom I had given my life and health. Nay more, urged on, as I understood, by the Executive Council, under the entirely absurd pretext that, in case of my death, my heirs might claim a share in the Adyar property, the President sent me a legal paper to sign, by which I formally renounced any right to the Headquarters or even to live there without the Council’s permission. This, although I had spent several thousand rupees of my own private money, and had devoted my share of the profits of The Theosophist to the purchase of the house and its furniture. Nevertheless I signed the renunciation without one word of protest. I saw I was not wanted, and remained in Europe in spite of my ardent desire to return to India. How could I do otherwise than feel that all my labours had been rewarded with ingratitude, when my most urgent wishes to return were met with flimsy excuses and answers inspired by those who were hostile to me?
The result of this is too
apparent. You know too well the state of affairs in India for me to dwell
longer upon details. In a word, since my departure, not only has the activity
of the movement there
p. 112 H. P. BLAVATSKY
gradually slackened, but those for whom I had the deepest affections, regarding them as a mother would her own sons, have turned against me. While in the West, no sooner had I accepted the invitation to come to London, than I found people—the S.P.R. Report and wild suspicions and hypotheses rampant in every direction notwithstanding—to believe in the truth of the great Cause I have struggled for, and in my own bona fides.
Acting under the Master’s orders I began a new movement in the West on the original lines; I founded Lucifer, and the Lodge which bears my name. Recognizing the splendid work done at Adyar by Colonel Olcott and others to carry out the second of the three objects of the T.S., viz., to promote the study of Oriental Literature, I was determined to carry out here the two others. All know with what success this had been attended. Twice Colonel Olcott was asked to come over, and then I learned that I was once more wanted in India —at any rate by some. But the invitation came too late; neither would my doctor permit it, nor can I, if I would be true to my life-pledge and vows, now live at the Headquarters from which the Masters and Their spirit are virtually banished. The presence of Their portraits will not help; They are a dead letter. The truth is that I can never return to India in any other capacity than as Their faithful agent. And as, unless They appear among the Council in propria persona (which They will certainly never do now), no advice of mine on occult lines seems likely to be accepted, as the fact of my relations with the Masters is doubted, even totally denied by some; and I myself having no right to the Headquarters, what reason is there, therefore, for me to live at Adyar?
The fact is this: In my position, half-measures are worse than none. People have either to believe entirely in me, or to honestly disbelieve. No one, no Theosophist, is compelled to believe, but it is worse than useless for people to ask me to help them, if they do not believe in me. Here in Europe and America are many who have never flinched in their devotion to Theosophy; consequently the spread of Theosophy and of the T.S., in the West, during the last three years, has been extraordinary. The chief reason for this is that I was enabled and encouraged by the devotion of an ever-increasing number of members to the Cause and to Those who guide it, to establish an Esoteric Section, in which I can teach something of what I have learned to those who have confidence in me, and who prove this confidence by their disinterested work for Theosophy and
WHY I DO NOT RETURN TO INDIA p. 113
the T.S. For the future, then, it is my intention to devote my life and energy to the E.S., and to the teaching of those whose confidence I retain. It is useless that I should use the little time I have before me to justify myself before those who do not feel sure about the real existence of the Masters, only because, misunderstanding me, it therefore suits them to suspect me.
And let me say at once, to avoid misconception, that my only reason for accepting the exoteric direction of European affairs, was to save those who really have Theosophy at heart and work for it and the Society, from being hampered by those who not only do not care for Theosophy, as laid out by the Masters, but are entirely working against both, endeavouring to undermine and counteract the influence of the good work done, both by open denial of the existence of the Masters, by declared and bitter hostility to myself, and also by joining forces with the most desperate enemies of our Society.
Half-measures, I repeat, are no longer possible. Either I have stated the truth as I know it about the Masters, and teach what I have been taught by them, or I have invented both Them and the Esoteric Philosophy. There are those among the Esotericists of the inner group who say that if I have done the latter, then I must myself be a “Master.” However it may be, there is no alternative to this dilemma.
The only claim, therefore, which India could ever have upon me would be strong only in proportion to the activity of the Fellows there for Theosophy and their loyalty to the Masters. You should not need my presence among you to convince you of the truth of Theosophy, any more than your American brothers need it. A conviction that wanes when any particular personality is absent is no conviction at all. Know, moreover, that any further proof and teaching I can give only to the Esoteric Section, and this for the following reason: its members are the only ones whom I have the right to expel for open disloyalty to their pledge (not to me, H.P.B., but to their Higher Self and the Mahatmic aspect of the Masters), a privilege 1 cannot exercise with F.T.S.’s at large, yet one which is the only means of cutting off a diseased limb from the healthy body of the Tree, and thus save it from infection. I can care only for those who cannot be swayed by every breath of calumny, and every sneer, suspicion, or criticism, whoever it may emanate from.
Thenceforth let it be clearly understood that the rest of my life
is devoted only to those who believe in the Masters, and are willing to work for Theosophy as They understand it, and for the T.S. on the lines upon which They originally established it.
If, then, my Hindu brothers really and earnestly desire to bring about the regeneration of India, if they wish to ever bring back the days when the Masters, in the ages of India’s ancient glory, came freely among them, guiding and teaching the people; then let them cast aside all fear and hesitation, and turn a new leaf in the history of the Theosophical Movement. Let them bravely rally around the President-Founder, whether I am in India or not, as around those few true Theosophists who have remained loyal throughout, and bid defiance to all calumniators and ambitious malcontents—both without and within the Theosophical Society.
Theosophist, January, 1922
(written April, 1890
SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH
[In the will of the late H. P. Blavatsky was made the request that her friends should assemble on the anniversary of her death and read passages from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Light of Asia. This was accordingly done on May 8th, in Adyar, London, New York, and other places. In New York, among other interesting items reported at the time, Mrs. J. Campbell Keightley read, after a few introductory remarks, extracts from the private letters of H.P.B. In response to many requests we print these as follows. The remarks, being extemporaneous, are quoted from memory.]
Mr. President, Friends:
This being the first occasion upon which I have ever spoken in public, I will ask you to condone my inexperience while I make a few remarks upon the extracts chosen from the letters of Madame Blavatsky to a few friends.
In regard to Mme. Blavatsky, the world, to use a phrase of Charles Lamb, was “the victim of imperfect sympathies.” It failed to know her; that failure was its own great loss. Among the many accusations flung at her was one which, at the last ditch, it never failed to make; it said that Mme. Blavatsky had no Moral Ideal. This was false.
She had this ideal; she had also the Eastern reverence for an ideal—a reverence to the Western world unknown. We might hence expect to find her teaching that Ideal to a great extent under the privacy of a pledge, and there are indications of this in all that has been published concerning the Esoteric School. That her ideal was ever present to her mind and heart these extracts from private letters to her friends will show.
Her main teachings can be reduced to the following propositions:
That Morals have a basis in Law and in fact.
That Moral Law is Natural Law.
That Evolution makes for Righteousness.
That the “fundamental identity of all souls with the Oversoul” renders moral contagion possible through the subtle psychic medium.
That the Spiritual Identity of all Being renders Universal Brotherhood the only possible path for truth-seeking men.
She distrusted the appeal to sentiment. She saw that existing religions fail in it; that modern civilization frustrates it; that
emotionalism is no basis for the Will which annuls all temptations of the flesh, and the Faith which shall make mountains move.
Hence she taught the scientific aspect and bearing of sin. Taught that Universal Law, in every department, rigidly opposes and avenges the commission of sin, showing the free will of man counterbalanced by the declaration “Vengeance is mine, saith the Law; I will repay.” She taught that the awful responsibility of the occultist, extending down to the least atom of substance, forever forbade our asking that question of Cain which we do ask daily—“Am I my Brother’s keeper?” She taught that the deep reply reverberated down the ages, as we may read it in our bibles: “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the ground.”
Justice she taught, and the true discrimination of it; Mercy, too, and Love. She wrote of one: “He has developed an extraordinary hatred to me, but I have loved him too much to hate him.” Above all she taught that “the pure in heart see God”; taught it as a scientific fact; showed it to be, so to say, materially as well as spiritually possible through the spiritual laws working in the one Substance, and, in the showing, lifted our courage higher than the visible stars.
The first of these extracts from H.P.B.’s letters is dated Nov. 29, 1878, and is interesting from the fact that it speaks of the original institution of three degrees of the T.S., a fact often disputed in these later days.
YOU will find the aims and purposes of the Theosophical Society in the two inclosed circulars. It is a brotherhood of humanity, established to make away with all and every dogmatic religion founded on dead-letter interpretation, and to teach people and every member to believe but in one impersonal God; to rely upon his (man’s) own powers; to consider himself his only saviour; to learn the infinitude of the occult psychological powers hidden within his own physical man; to develop these powers; and to give him the assurance of the immortality of his divine spirit and the survival of his soul; to make him regard every man of whatever race, color, or creed, and to prove to him that the only truths revealed to man by superior men (not a god) are contained in the Vedas of the ancient Aryas of India. Finally, to demonstrate to him that there never were, will be, nor are, any miracles; that there can be nothing ‘supernatural’ in this universe, and that on earth, at least, the only god is man himself.
SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH p. 117
“It lies within his powers to become and to continue a god after the death of his physical body. Our society receives nothing the possibility of which it cannot demonstrate at will. We believe in the phenomena, but we disbelieve in the constant intervention of ‘spirits’ to produce such phenomena. We maintain that the embodied spirit has more powers to produce them than a disembodied one. We believe in the existence of spirits, but of many classes, the human spirits being but one class of the many.
“The Society requires of its members but the time they can give it without encroaching upon that due to their private affairs. There are three degrees of membership. It is but in the highest or third that members have to devote themselves quasi entirely to the work of the T.S. . . .
“Everyone is eligible, provided he is an honest, pure man or woman, no free lover, and especially no bigoted Christian. We go dead against idolatry, and as much against materialism.”
“Of the two unpardonable sins, the first is Hypocrisy—Peck-sniffianism. Better one hundred mistakes through unwise, injudicious sincerity and indiscretion than Tartuffe-like saintship as the whitened sepulchre, and rottenness and decay within. . . . This is not unpardonable, but very dangerous, . . . doubt, eternal wavering—it leads one to wreck. . . . One little period passed without doubt, murmuring, and despair; what a gain it would be; a period a mere tithe of what every one of us has had to pass through. But every one forges his own destiny.”
“Those who fall off from our living human Mahatmas to fall into the Saptarishi—the Star Rishis, are no Theosophists.”
“Allow me to quote from a very esoterically wise and exoterically foolish book, the work and production of some ancient friends and foes: ‘There is more joy in the Kingdom of Heaven for one repentant sinner than for ninety-nine saints.’ . . . Let us be just and give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, however imperfect, even vicious, Caesar may be. ‘Blessed be the peacemakers,’ said another old adept of 107 years B.C., and the saying is alive and kicks to the present day amongst the Masters.”
“The Esoteric Section is to be a School for earnest Theosophists who would learn more (than they can from published works) of the true Esoteric tenets. . . . There is no room for despotism or ruling in it; no money to pay or make; no glory for me, but a series of misconceptions, slanders, suspicions, and ingratitude in almost an
p. 118 H. P. BLAVATSKY
immediate future:1 but if out of the . . . Theosophists who have already pledged themselves I can place on the right and true path half a dozen or so, I will die happy. Many are called, few are chosen. Unless they comply with the lines you speak of, traced originally by the Masters, they cannot succeed.21 can only show the way to those whose eyes are open to the truth, whose souls are full of altruism, charity, and love for the whole creation, and who think of themselves last. The blind . . . will never profit by these teachings. They would make of the ‘strait gate’ a large public thoroughfare leading not to the Kingdom of Heaven, now and hereafter, to the Buddha-Christos in the Sanctuary of our innermost souls, but to their own idols with feet of clay. . . . The Esoteric Section is not of the earth, earthy; it does not interfere with the exoteric administration of Lodges; takes no stock in external Theosophy; has no officers or staff; needs no halls or meeting rooms.... Finally, it requires neither subscription fees nor money, for ‘as I have not so received it, I shall not so impart it,’ and that I would rather starve in the gutter than take one penny for my teaching of the sacred truths. . . . Here I am with perhaps a few years or a few months only (Master knoweth) to remain on earth in this loathsome, old, ruined body; and I am ready to answer the call of any good Theosophist who works for Theosophy on the lines traced by the Masters, and as ready as the Rosicrucian pelican to feed with my heart’s blood the chosen ‘Seven.’ He who would have his inheritance before I die . . . let him ask first. What I have, or rather what I am permitted to give, I will give.”
“Many are called but few are chosen. Well, no need breaking my heart over spilt milk. Come what may, I shall die at my post, Theosophical banner in hand, and while I live I do fervently hope that all the splashes of mud thrown at it will reach me personally. At any rate I mean to continue protecting the glorious truth with my old carcass so long as it lasts. And when I do drop down for good, I hope in such Theosophists as . . . and . . . to carry on the work and protect the banner of Truth in their turn. Oh, I do feel so sick at heart in looking round and perceiving nothing save selfishness, personal vanity, and mean little ambitions. What is this about ‘the soldier not being free’?3 Of course no soldier can be free to move about his physical body wherever he likes. But what has the esoteric
1 Dated December 1, 1888. Subsequent events proved the prediction true.
2 Her correspondent had quoted the Simla letter of “K.H.” in The Occult World.
Referring to the dilemma of an F.T.S.
soldier in the army, presented to her.
SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH p. 119
teaching to do with the outward man? A soldier may be stuck to his sentry box like a barnacle to its ship, and the soldier’s Ego be free to go where it likes and think what it likes best. . . . No man is required to carry a burden heavier than he can bear; nor do more than it is possible for him to do. A man of means, independent and free from any duty, will have to move about and go, missionary-like, to teach Theosophy to the Sadducees and the Gentiles of Christianity. A man tied by his duty to one place has no right to desert it in order to fulfill another duty, let it be however much greater; for the first duty taught in Occultism is to do one’s duty unflinchingly by every duty. Pardon these seemingly absurd paradoxes and Irish Bulls; but I have to repeat this ad nauseam usque for the last month. ‘Shall I risk to be ordered to leave my wife, desert my children and home if I pledge myself?’ asks one. ‘No,’ I say, ‘because he who plays truant in one thing will be faithless in another. No real, genuine Master will accept a chela who sacrifices anyone except himself to go to that Master.’ If one cannot, owing to circumstances or his position in life, become a full adept in this existence, let him prepare his mental luggage for the next, so as to be ready at the first call when he is once more reborn. What one has to do before he pledges himself irretrievably is, to probe one’s nature to the bottom, for self-discipline is based on self-knowledge. It is said somewhere that self-discipline often leads one to a state of self-confidence which becomes vanity and pride in the long run. I say, foolish is the man who says so. This may happen only when our motives are of a worldly character or selfish; otherwise, self-confidence is the first step to that kind of Will which will make a mountain move:
“ ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can’st not then be false to any man.’
“The question is whether Polonius meant this for worldly wisdom or for occult knowledge; and by ‘own self’ the false Ego (or the terrestrial personality) or that spark in us which is but the reflection of the ‘One Universal Ego.’
“But I am dreaming. I had but four hours’ sleep. . . . Give my sincere, fraternal respects to . . , and let him try to feel my old hand giving him the Master’s grip, the strong grip of the Lion’s paw of Punjab (not of the tribe of Judah) across the Atlantic. To you my eternal affection and gratitude.
p. 120 H. P. BLAVATSKY
“To live like cats and dogs in the T.S. is positively against all rules—and wishes of ‘the Masters,’ as against our Brotherhood—so-called—and all its rules. They are disgusted. They look on, and in that look (oh Lord! if you could only see it as I have!) there’s an ocean deep of sad disgust, contempt, and sorrow. . . . The ideal was besmeared with mud, but as it is no golden idol on feet of clay it stands to this day immovable . . . and what the profane see is only their own mud thrown with their own hands, and which has created a veil, an impassable barrier between them and the ideal. . . without touching the latter. . . . Have a large Society, the more the better; all that is chaff and husk is bound to fall away in time; all that is grain will remain. But the seed is in the bad and evil man as well as in the good ones,—only it is more difficult to call into life and cause it to germinate. The good husbandman does not stop to pick out the seeds from the handful. He gives them all their chance, and even some of the half-rotten seeds come to life when thrown into good soil. Be that soil. . . . Look at me—the universal Theosophical manure—the rope for whose hanging and lashing is made out of the flax I have sown, and each strand it is twisted of represents a ‘mistake’ (so-called) of mine. Hence, if you fail only nine times out of ten in your selections you are successful one time out of ten —and that’s more than many other Theosophists can say. . . . Those few true souls will be the nucleus for future success, and their children will. . . . Let us sow good—and if evil crops up, it will be blown away by the wind like all other things in this life—in its time.”
“I am the Mother and the Creator of the Society; it has my magnetic fluid, and the child has inherited all of its parent’s physical, psychical, and spiritual attributes—faults and virtues if any. Therefore I alone and to a degree . . . can serve as a lightning conductor of Karma for it. I was asked whether I was willing, when on the point of dying—and I said Yes—for it was the only means to save it. Therefore I consented to live—which in my case means to suffer physically during twelve hours of the day—mentally twelve hours of night, when I get rid of the physical shell. . . . It is true about the Kali Yuga. Once that I have offered myself as the goat of atonement, the Kali Yuga4 recognizes its own—whereas any other would shrink from such a thing—as I am doomed and overburdened in this life worse than a poor weak donkey full of sores made to drag up hill a cart load of heavy rocks. You are the first one to whom I tell
4 Kali Yuga—the Dark Age, the present cycle.
SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH p. 121
it, because you force me into the confession. . . .You have a wide and noble prospect before you if you do not lose patience. . . . Try to hear the small voice within.”
“Yes, there are ‘two persons’ in me. But what of that? So there are two in you; only mine is conscious and responsible—and yours is not. So you are happier than I am. I know you sympathise with me, and you do so because you feel that I have always stood up for you, and will do so to the bitter or the happy end—as the case may be.”
“He may be moved to doubt—and that is the beginning of wisdom.”
“Well, sir, and my only friend, the crisis is nearing. I am ending my Secret Doctrine, and you are going to replace me, or take my place in America. I know you will have success if you do not lose heart; but do, do remain true to the Masters and Their Theosophy and the names. . . . May They help you and allow us to send you our best blessings. . . .”
“There are traitors, conscious and unconscious. There is falsity and there is injudiciousness. . . . Pray do not imagine that because I hold my tongue as bound by my oath and duty I do not know who is who. . . . I must say nothing, however much I may be disgusted. But as the ranks thin around us, and one after the other our best intellectual forces depart, to turn into bitter enemies, I say—Blessed are the pure-hearted who have only intuition—for intuition is better than intellect.”
“The duty,—let alone happiness—of every Theosophist—and especially Esotericist—is certainly to help others to carry their burden; but no Theosophist or other has the right to sacrifice himself unless he knows for a certainty that by so doing he helps some one and does not sacrifice himself in vain for the empty glory of the abstract virtue. . . . Psychic and vital energy are limited in every man. It is like a capital. If you have a dollar a day and spend two, at the end of the month you will have a deficit of $30.”
“One refuses to pledge himself
not to listen without protest to any evil thing said of a brother—as though
Buddha our divine Lord—or Jesus—or any great initiate has ever condemned any
one on hearsay. Ah, poor, poor, blind man, not to know the difference between
condemning in words—which is uncharitable—and withdraw-
p. 122 H. P. BLAVATSKY
ing in silent pity from the culprit and thus punishing him, but still giving him a chance to repent of his ways. No man will ever speak ill of his brother without cause and proof of the iniquity of that brother, and he will abstain from all backbiting, slandering, and gossip. No man should ever say behind a Brother’s back what he would not say openly to his face. Insinuations against one’s neighbor are often productive of more evil consequences than gross slander. Every Theosophist has to fight and battle against evil,—but he must have the courage of his words and actions, and what he does must be done openly and honestly before all.”
“Every pledge or promise unless built upon four pillars—absolute sincerity, unflinching determination, unselfishness of purpose, and moral power, which makes the fourth support and equipoises the three other pillars—is an insecure building. The pledges of those who are sure of the strength of the fourth alone are recorded.”
“Are you children, that you want marvels? Have you so little faith as to need constant stimulus, as a dying fire needs fuel! . . . Would you let the nucleus of a splendid Society die under your hands like a sick man under the hands of a quack? . . . You should never forget what a solemn thing it is for us to exert our powers and raise the dread sentinels that lie at the threshold. They cannot hurt us, but they can avenge themselves by precipitating themselves upon the unprotected neophyte. You are all like so many children playing with fire because it is pretty, when you ought to be men studying philosophy for its own sake.”
“If among you there was one who embodied in
himself the idea depicted, it would be my duty to relinquish the teacher’s
chair to him. For it would be the extreme of audacity in me to claim the
possession of so many virtues. That the
do in proportion to their respective temperaments and stages of Bodhisatvic development
possess such Paramitas, constitutes their right to our reverence as our
Teachers. It should be the aim of each and all of us to strive with all the
intensity of our natures to follow and imitate Them. . . . Try to realize that
progress is made step by step, and each step gained by
Withdrawal means despair or timidity. . . . Conquered passions, like slain
tigers, can no longer turn and rend you. Be hopeful then, not despairing. With
morning’s awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher
Self. ‘Try’ is the battle-cry taught by the teacher to each pupil. Naught else
is expected of you.
One who does his best does all that
can be asked. There is a moment when even a Buddha ceases to be a sinning mortal and takes his first step toward Buddhahood. The sixteen Paramitas (virtues) are not for priests and yogis alone, as said, but stand for models for us all to strive after—and neither priest nor yogi, Chela nor Mahatma, ever attained all at once. . . . The idea that sinners and not saints are expected to enter the Path is emphatically stated in the Voice of the Silence.”
“I do not believe in the success of the . . . T.S. unless you assimilate Master or myself; unless you work with me and Them, hand in hand, heart. . . . Yes; let him who offers himself to Masters as a chela, unreservedly, . . . let him do what he can if he would ever see Them. . . . Then things were done because I alone was responsible for the issues. I alone had to bear Karma in case of failure and no reward in case of success. . . . I saw the T.S. would be smashed or that I had to offer myself as the Scapegoat for atonement. It is the latter I did. The T.S. lives,—I am killed. Killed in my honor, fame, name, in everything H.P.B, held near and dear, for this body is Mine and I feel acutely through it. ... I may err in my powers as H.P.B. I have not worked and toiled for forty years, playing parts, risking my future reward, and taking karma upon this unfortunate appearance to serve Them without being permitted to have some voice in the matter. H.P.B. is not infallible. H.P.B. is an old, rotten, sick, worn-out body, but it is the best I can have in this cycle. Hence follow the path I show, the Masters that are behind—and do not follow me or my Path. When I am dead and gone in this body, then will you know the whole truth. Then will you know that I have never, never, been false to any one, nor have I deceived anyone, but had many a time to allow them to deceive themselves, for I had no right to interfere with their Karma. . . . Oh ye foolish blind moles, all of you; who is able to offer himself in sacrifice as I did!”
Path, June, July, August, 1892
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
THE problem of the origin of evil can be philosophically approached only if the archaic Indian formula is taken as the basis of the argument. Ancient wisdom alone solves the presence of the universal fiend in a satisfactory way. It attributes the birth of Kosmos and the evolution of life to the breaking asunder of primordial, manifested Unity, into plurality, or the great illusion of form. Homogeneity having transformed itself into Heterogeneity, contrasts have naturally been created; hence sprang what we call Evil, which thenceforward reigned supreme in this “Vale of Tears.”
Materialistic Western philosophy (so misnamed) has not failed to profit by this grand metaphysical tenet. Even physical Science, with Chemistry at its head, has turned its attention of late to the first proposition, and directs its efforts toward proving on irrefutable data the homogeneity of primordial matter. But now steps in materialistic Pessimism, a teaching which is neither philosophy nor science, but only a deluge of meaningless words. Pessimism, in its latest development, having ceased to be pantheistic, having wedded itself to materialism, prepares to make capital out of the old Indian formula. But the atheistic pessimist soars no higher than the terrestrial homogeneous plasm of the Darwinists. For him the ultima thule is earth and matter, and he sees, beyond the prima materia, only an ugly void, an empty nothingness. Some of the pessimists attempt to poetize their idea after the manner of the whitened sepulchres, or the Mexican corpses, whose ghastly cheeks and lips are thickly covered with rouge. The decay of matter pierces through the mask of seeming life, all efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.
Materialism patronizes Indian metaphors and imagery now. In a new work upon the subject by Dr. Mainlander, “Pessimism and Progress,” one learns that Indian Pantheism and German Pessimism are identical; and that it is the breaking up of homogeneous matter into heterogeneous material, the transition from uniformity to multiformity, which resulted in so unhappy a universe. Saith Pessimism:
This [transition] is precisely the original mistake, the primordial sin, which the whole creation has now to expiate by heavy
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 125
suffering; it is just that sin, which, having launched into existence all that lives, plunged it thereby into the abysmal depths of evil and misery, to escape from which there is but one means possible, i.e., by putting an end to being itself.
This interpretation of the Eastern formula, attributing to it the first idea of escaping the misery of life by “putting an end to being”—whether that being is viewed as applicable to the whole Kosmos, or only to individual life—is a gross misconception. The Eastern pantheist, whose philosophy teaches him to discriminate between Being or Esse and conditioned existence, would hardly indulge in so absurd an idea as the postulation of such an alternative. He knows he can put an end to form alone, not to being—and that only on this plane of terrestrial illusion. True, he knows that by killing out in himself Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence, or the “will to live”)—he will thus gradually escape the curse of rebirth and conditioned existence. But he knows also that he cannot kill, or “put an end,” even to his own little life except as a personality, which after all is but a change of dress. And believing but in One Reality, which is eternal Be-ness, the “causeless Cause” from which he has exiled himself into a world of forms, he regards the temporary and progressing manifestations of it in the state of Maya (change or illusion), as the greatest evil, truly; but at the same time as a process in nature, as unavoidable as are the pangs of birth. It is the only means by which he can pass from limited and conditioned lives of sorrow into eternal life, or into that absolute “Be-ness,” which is so graphically expressed in the Sanskrit word sat.
The “Pessimism” of the Hindu or
Buddhist Pantheist is metaphysical, abstruse, and philosophical. The idea that
matter and its Protean manifestations are the source and origin of universal
evil and sorrow is a very old one, though Gautama Buddha was the first to give
it its definite expression. But the great Indian Reformer assuredly never meant
to make of it a handle for the modern pessimist to get hold of, or a peg for
the materialist to hang his distorted and pernicious tenets upon! The Sage and
Philosopher, who sacrificed himself for Humanity
by living for it, in order
to save it, by teaching men to see in the sensuous existence of matter
misery alone, had never in his deep philosophical mind any idea of offering a
premium for suicide; his efforts were to release mankind from too strong an
attachment to life, which is the chief cause of Selfishness—hence the creator
of mutual pain and suffering. In his personal case,
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Buddha left us an example of fortitude to follow; in living, not in running away from life. His doctrine shows evil immanent, not in matter, which is eternal, but in the illusions created by it: through the changes and transformations of matter generating life—because these changes are conditioned and such life is ephemeral. At the same time those evils are shown to be not only unavoidable, but necessary. For if we would discern good from evil, light from darkness, and appreciate the former, we can do so only through the contrasts between the two. While Buddha’s philosophy points, in its dead-letter meaning, only to the dark side of things on this illusive plane; its esotericism, the hidden soul of it, draws the veil aside and reveals to the Arhat all the glories of Life Eternal in all the Homogeneousness of Consciousness and Being. Another absurdity, no doubt, in the eyes of materialistic science and even modern Idealism, yet a fact to the Sage and esoteric Pantheist.
Nevertheless, the root idea that evil is born and generated by the ever increasing complications of the homogeneous material, which enters into form and differentiates more and more as that form becomes physically more perfect, has an esoteric side to it which seems to have never occurred to the modem pessimist. Its dead-letter aspect, however, became the subject of speculation with every ancient thinking nation. Even in India the primitive thought, underlying the formula already cited, has been disfigured by Sectarianism, and has led to the ritualistic, purely dogmatic observances of the Hatha Yogis, in contradistinction to the philosophical Vedantic Raja Yoga. Pagan and Christian exoteric speculation, and even mediæval monastic asceticism, have extracted all they could from the originally noble idea, and made it subservient to their narrow-minded sectarian views. Their false conceptions of matter have led the Christians from the earliest day to identify woman with Evil and matter—notwithstanding the worship paid by the Roman Catholic Church to the Virgin.
But the latest application of the misunderstood Indian formula by
the Pessimists in Germany is quite original, and rather unexpected, as we shall
see. To draw any analogy between a highly metaphysical teaching, and Darwin’s
theory of physical evolution would, in itself, seem rather a hopeless task. The
more so as the theory of natural selection does not preach any conceivable
extermination of being,
but, on the contrary, a continuous and ever
increasing development of life. Nevertheless, German ingenuity has
contrived, by means of
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 127
scientific paradoxes and much sophistry, to give it a semblance of philosophical truth. The old Indian tenet itself has not escaped litigation at the hands of modem pessimism. The happy discoverer of the theory, that the origin of evil dates from the protoplasmic Amoeba, which divided itself for procreation, and thus lost its immaculate homogeneity, has laid claim to the Aryan archaic formula in his new volume. While extolling its philosophy and the depth of ancient conceptions, he declares that it ought to be viewed “as the most profound truth precogitated and robbed by the ancient sages from modern thought”!
It thus follows that the deeply religious Pantheism of the Hindu and Buddhist philosopher, and the occasional vagaries of the pessimistic materialist, are placed on the same level and identified by “modem thought.” The impassable chasm between the two is ignored. It matters little, it seems, that the Pantheist, recognizing no reality in the manifested Kosmos, and regarding it as a simple illusion of his senses, has to view his own existence also as only a bundle of illusions. When, therefore, he speaks of the means of escaping from the sufferings of objective life, his view of those sufferings, and his motive for putting an end to existence are entirely different from those of the pessimistic materialist. For him, pain as well as sorrow are illusions, due to attachment to this life, and ignorance. Therefore he strives after eternal, changeless life, and absolute consciousness in the state of Nirvana; whereas the European pessimist, taking the “evils” of life as realities, aspires when he has the time to aspire after anything except those said mundane realities, to annihilation of “being,” as he expresses it.
For the philosopher there is but one real life,
which is a state differing in kind, not in degree only, from that of any of the
planes of consciousness in the manifested universe. The Pessimist calls
“Nirvana” superstition, and explains it as “cessation of life,” life for him
beginning and ending on earth. The former ignores in his spiritual aspirations
even the integral homogeneous unit, of which the German Pessimist now makes
such capital. He knows of, and believes in only the direct cause of that unit,
eternal and ever living, because the
uncreated, or rather not evoluted. Hence all his efforts are
directed toward the speediest reunion possible with, and return to his
condition, after his pilgrimage through this illusive series of visionary lives,
with their unreal phantasmagoria of sensuous perceptions.
p. 128 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Such pantheism can be qualified as “pessimistic” only by a believer in a personal Providence; by one who contrasts its negation of the reality of anything “created”—i.e., conditioned and limited—with his own blind unphilosophical faith. The Oriental mind does not busy itself with extracting evil from every radical law and manifestation of life, and multiplying every phenomenal quantity by the units of very often imaginary evils: the Eastern Pantheist simply submits to the inevitable, and tries to blot out from his path in life as many “descents into rebirth” as he can, by avoiding the creation of new Karmic causes. The Buddhist philosopher knows that the duration of the series of lives of every human being—unless he reaches Nirvana “artificially” (“takes the kingdom of God by violence,” in Kabalistic parlance)—is given, allegorically, in the forty-nine days passed by Gautama the Buddha under the Bo-tree. And the Hindu sage is aware, in his turn, that he has to light the first, and extinguish the forty-ninth fire1 before he reaches his final deliverance. Knowing this, both sage and philosopher wait patiently for the natural hour of deliverance; whereas their unlucky copyist, the European Pessimist, is ever ready to commit, as to preach, suicide. Ignorant of the numberless heads of the hydra of existence, he is incapable of feeling the same philosophical scorn for life as he does for death, and of, thereby, following the wise example given him by his Oriental brother.
Thus, philosophic pantheism is very different from modern pessimism. The first is based upon the correct understanding of the mysteries of being; the latter is in reality only one more system of evil added by unhealthy fancy to the already large sum of real social evils. In sober truth it is no philosophy, but simply a systematic slander of life and being; the bilious utterances of a dyspeptic or an incurable hypochondriac. No parallel can ever be attempted between the two systems of thought.
The seeds of evil and sorrow were indeed the earliest result and consequence of the heterogeneity of the manifested universe. Still they are but an illusion produced by the law of contrasts, which, as described, is a fundamental law in nature. Neither good nor evil would exist were it not for the light they mutually throw on each
1 This is an esoteric tenet, and the general reader will not make much out of it. But the Theosophist who has read Esoteric Buddhism may compute the 7 by 7 of the forty-nine “days” and the forty-nine “fires,” and understand that the allegory refers esoterically to the seven human consecutive root-races with their seven subdivisions. Every monad is born in the first and obtains deliverance in the last seventh race. Only a “Buddha” is shown reaching it during the course of one life.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 129
other. Being, under whatever form, having been observed from the World’s creation to offer these contrasts, and evil predominating in the universe owing to Ego-ship or selfishness, the rich Oriental metaphor has pointed to existence as expiating the mistake of nature; and the human soul (psüche), was henceforth regarded as the scapegoat and victim of unconscious over-soul. But it is not to Pessimism, but to Wisdom that it gave birth.
Ignorance alone is the willing martyr, but knowledge is the master, of natural Pessimism. Gradually, and by the process of heredity or atavism, the latter became innate in man. It is always present in us, howsoever latent and silent its voice in the beginning. Amid the early joys of existence, when we are still full of the vital energies of youth, we are yet apt, each of us, at the first pang of sorrow, after a failure, or at the sudden appearance of a black cloud, to accuse life of it; to feel life a burden, and often curse our being. This shows pessimism in our blood, but at the same time the presence of the fruits of ignorance.
As mankind multiplies, and with it suffering—which is the natural result of an increasing number of units that generate it—sorrow and pain are intensified. We live in an atmosphere of gloom and despair, but this is because our eyes are downcast and riveted to the earth, with all its physical and grossly material manifestations. If, instead of that, man proceeding on his life-journey looked—not heavenward, which is but a figure of speech—but within himself and centered his point of observation on the inner man, he would soon escape from the coils of the great serpent of illusion. From the cradle to the grave, his fife would then become supportable and worth living, even in its worst phases.
Pessimism—that chronic suspicion of lurking evil
everywhere—is thus of a two-fold nature, and brings fruits of two kinds. It is
a natural characteristic in physical man, and becomes a curse only to the
ignorant. It is a boon to the spiritual, inasmuch as it makes the latter turn
into the right path, and brings him to the discovery of another as fundamental
a truth; namely, that all in this world is only
transitory. It is like a chink in the dark prison walls of earth-life, through
which breaks in a ray of light from the eternal home, which, illuminating the
senses, whispers to the prisoner in his shell of clay of the origin and the
dual mystery of our being. At the same time, it is a tacit proof of the
presence in man of that which knows, without being told, viz:—that there
p. 130 H. P. BLAVATSKY
another and a better life, once that the curse of earth-lives is lived through.
This explanation of the problem and origin of evil being, as already said, of an entirely metaphysical character, has nothing to do with physical laws. Belonging as it does altogether to the spiritual part of man, to dabble with it superficially is, therefore, far more dangerous than to remain ignorant of it. For, as it lies at the very root of Gautama Buddha’s ethics, and since it has now fallen into the hands of the modem Philistines of materialism, to confuse the two systems of “pessimistic” thought can lead but to mental suicide, if it does not lead to worse.
Eastern wisdom teaches that spirit has to pass through the ordeal of incarnation and life, and be baptised with matter before it can reach experience and knowledge. After which only it receives the baptism of soul, or self-consciousness, and may return to its original condition of a god, plus experience, ending with omniscience. In other words, it can return to the original state of the homogeneity of primordial essence only through the addition of the fruitage of Karma, which alone is able to create an absolute conscious deity, removed but one degree from the absolute All.
Even according to the letter of the Bible, evil must have existed before Adam and Eve, who, therefore, are innocent of the slander of the original sin. For, had there been no evil or sin before them, there could exist neither tempting Serpent nor a Tree of Knowledge of good and evil in Eden. The characteristics of that apple-tree are shown in the verse when the couple had tasted of its fruit: “The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew” many things besides knowing they were naked. Too much knowledge about things of matter is thus rightly shown an evil.
But so it is, and it is our duty to examine and combat the new pernicious theory. Hitherto, pessimism was kept in the regions of philosophy and metaphysics, and showed no pretensions to intrude into the domain of purely physical science, such as Darwinism. The theory of evolution has become almost universal now, and there is no school (save the Sunday and missionary schools) where it is not taught, with more or less modifications from the original programme. On the other hand, there is no other teaching more abused and taken advantage of than evolution, especially by the application of its fundamental laws to the solution of the most compound and abstract problems of man’s many-sided existence. There, where
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 131
psychology and even philosophy “fear to tread,” materialistic biology applies its sledge-hammer of superficial analogies and prejudiced conclusions. Worse than all, claiming man to be only a higher animal, it maintains this right as undeniably pertaining to the domain of the science of evolution. Paradoxes in those “domains” do not rain now, they pour. As “man is the measure of all things,” therefore is man measured and analysed by the animal. One German materialist claims spiritual and psychic evolution as the lawful property of physiology and biology; the mysteries of embryology and zoology alone, it is said, being capable of solving those of consciousness in man and the origin of his soul.2 Another finds justification for suicide in the example of animals, who, when tired of living, put an end to existence by starvation.3
Hitherto pessimism, notwithstanding the abundance and brilliancy of its paradoxes, had a weak point—namely, the absence of any real and evident basis for it to rest upon. Its followers had no living, guiding thought to serve them as a beacon and help them to steer clear of the sandbanks of life—real and imaginary—so profusely sown by themselves in the shape of denunciations against life and being. All they could do was to rely upon their representatives, who occupied their time very ingeniously if not profitably, in tacking the many and various evils of life to the metaphysical propositions of great German thinkers, like Schopenhauer and Hartmann, as small boys tack on coloured tails to the kites of their elders and rejoice at seeing them launched in the air. But now the programme will be changed. The Pessimists have found something more solid and authoritative, if less philosophical, to tack their jeremiads and dirges to, than the metaphysical kites of Schopenhauer. The day when they agreed with the views of this philosopher, which pointed at the Universal Will as the perpetrator of all the World-evil, is gone to return no more. Nor will they be any better satisfied with the hazy “Unconscious” of von Hartmann. They have been seeking diligently for a more congenial and less metaphysical soil to build their pessimistic philosophy upon, and they have been rewarded with success, now that the cause of Universal Suffering has been discovered by them in the fundamental laws of physical development. Evil will no longer be allied with the misty and uncertain Phantom called “Will,” but with an actual and obvious fact: the Pessimists will henceforth be towed by the Evolutionists.
p. 132 H. P. BLAVATSKY
The basic argument of their representative has been given in the opening sentence of this article. The Universe and all on it appeared in consequence of the “breaking asunder of Unity into Plurality.” This rather dim rendering of the Indian formula is not made to refer, as I have shown, in the mind of the Pessimist, to the one Unity, to the Vedantin abstraction—Parabrahm: otherwise, I should certainly not have used the words “breaking up.” Nor does it concern itself much with Mulaprakriti, or the “Veil” of Parabrahm; nor even with the first manifested primordial matter, except inferentially, as follows from Dr. Mainlander’s exposition, but chiefly with the terrestrial protoplasm. Spirit or deity is entirely ignored in this case; evidently because of the necessity for showing the whole as “the lawful domain of physical Science.”
In short, the time-honoured formula is claimed to have its basis and to find its justification in the theory that from “a few, perhaps one, single form of the very simplest nature” (Darwin), “all the different animals and plants living to-day, and all the organisms that have ever lived on the earth,” have gradually developed. It is this axiom of Science, we are told, which justifies and demonstrates the Hindu philosophical tenet. What is this axiom? Why, it is this: Science teaches that the series of transformations through which the seed is made to pass—the seed that grows into a tree, or becomes an ovum, or that which develops into an animal—consists in every case in nothing but the passage of the fabric of that seed, from the homogeneous into the heterogeneous or compound form. This is then the scientific verity which checks the Indian formula by that of the Evolutionists, identifies both, and thus exalts ancient wisdom by recognizing it worthy of modern materialistic thought.
This philosophical formula is not
simply corroborated by the individual growth and development of isolated
species, explains our Pessimist; but it is demonstrated in general as in
detail. It is shown justified in the evolution and growth of the Universe as
well as in that of our planet. In short, the birth, growth and development of
the whole organic world in its integral totality, are there to demonstrate
ancient wisdom. From the universals down to the particulars, the organic world
is discovered to be subject to the same laws of ever increasing elaboration, of
the transition from unity to plurality as “the fundamental formula of the
evolution of life.” Even the growth of nations, of social life, public
institutions, the development of the languages, arts and sciences, all this
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 133
and fatally the all-embracing law of “the breaking asunder of unity into plurality, and the passage of the homogeneous into multiformity.”
But while following Indian wisdom, our author exaggerates this fundamental law in his own way, and distorts it. He brings this law to bear even on the historical destinies of mankind. He makes these destinies subservient to, and a proof of, the correctness of the Indian conception. He maintains that humanity as an integral whole, in proportion as it develops and progresses in its evolution, and separates in its parts—each becoming a distinct and independent branch of the unit—drifts more and more away from its original healthy, harmonious unity. The complications of social establishment, social relations, as those of individuality, all lead to the weakening of the vital power, the relaxation of the energy of feeling, and to the destruction of that integral unity, without which no inner harmony is possible. The absence of that harmony generates an inner discord which becomes the cause of the greatest mental misery. Evil has its roots in the very nature of the evolution of life and its complications. Every one of its steps forward is at the same time a step taken toward the dissolution of its energy, and leads to passive apathy. Such is the inevitable result, he says, of every progressive complication of life; because evolution or development is a transition from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, a scattering of the whole into the many, etc., etc. This terrible law is universal and applies to all creation, from the infinitesimally small up to man for, as he says, it is a fundamental law of nature.
Now, it is just in this one-sided view of physical nature, which the German author accepts without one single thought as to its spiritual and psychic aspect, that his school is doomed to certain failure. It is not a question whether the said law of differentiation and its fatal consequences may or may not apply, in certain cases, to the growth and development of the animal species, and even of man; but simply, since it is the basis and main support of the whole new theory of the Pessimistic school, whether it is really a universal and fundamental law? We want to know whether this basic formula of evolution embraces the whole process of development and growth in its entirety; and whether, indeed, it is within the domain of physical science or not. If it is “nothing else than the transition from the homogeneous state to the heterogeneous,” as says Mainlander, then it remains to be proved that the given process “produces that com-
p. 134 H. P. BLAVATSKY
plicated combination of tissues and organs which forms and completes the perfect animal and plant.”
As remarked already by some critics on “Pessimism and Progress,” the German Pessimist does not doubt it for one moment. His supposed discovery and teaching “rest wholly on his certitude that development and the fundamental law of the complicated process of organization represent but one thing: the transformation of unity into plurality.” Hence the identification of the process with dissolution and decay, and the weakening of all the forces and energies. Mainlander would be right in his analogies were this law of the differentiation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous to really represent the fundamental law of the evolution of life. But the idea is quite erroneous—metaphysically as well as physically. Evolution does not proceed in a straight line; no more than any other process in nature, but journeys on cyclically, as does all the rest. The cyclic serpents swallow their tails like the Serpent of Eternity. And it is in this that the Indian formula, which is a Secret Doctrine teaching, is indeed corroborated by the natural Sciences, and especially by biology.
This is what we read in the “Scientific Letters” by an anonymous Russian author and critic:
In the evolution of isolated individuals, in the evolution of the organic world, in that of the Universe, as in the growth and development of our planet—in short wherever any of the processes of progressive complexity take place, there we find, apart from the transition from unity to plurality, and homogeneity to heterogeneity, a converse transformation—the transition from plurality to unity, from the heterogeneous to the homogeneous. . . . Minute observation of the given process of progressive complexity has shown, that what takes place in it is not alone the separation of parts, but also their mutual absorption. . . . While one portion of the cells merge into each other and unite into one uniform whole, forming muscular fibres, muscular tissue, others are absorbed in the bone and nerve tissues, etc., etc. The same takes place in the formation of plants. . . .
In this case material nature repeats the law that acts in the evolution of the psychic and the spiritual: both descend but to reascend and merge at the starting-point. The homogeneous formative mass or element differentiated in its parts, is gradually transformed into the heterogeneous; then, merging those parts into a harmonious whole, it recommences a converse process, or reinvolution, and returns as gradually into its primitive or primordial state.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL p. 135
Nor does Pessimism find any better support in pure Materialism, as hitherto the latter has been tinged with a decidedly optimistic bias. Its leading advocates have, indeed, never hesitated to sneer at the theological adoration of the “glory of God and all his works.” Büchner flings a taunt at the pantheist who sees in so “mad and bad” a world the manifestation of the Absolute. But, on the whole, the materialists admit a balance of good over evil, perhaps as a buffer against any “superstitious” tendency to look out and hope for a better one. Narrow as is their outlook, and limited as is their spiritual horizon, they yet see no cause to despair of the drift of things in general. The pantheistic pessimists, however, have never ceased to urge that a despair of conscious being is the only legitimate outcome of atheistic negation. This opinion is, of course, axiomatic, or ought to be so. If “in this life only is there hope,” the tragedy of life is absolutely without any raison d’être and a perpetuation of the drama is as foolish as it is futile.
The fact that the conclusions of pessimism have been at last assimilated by a certain class of atheistic writers, is a striking feature of the day, and another sign of the times. It illustrates the truism that the void created by modern scientific negation cannot and never can be filled by the cold prospects offered as a solatium to optimists. The Comtean “enthusiasm of Humanity” is a poor thing enough with annihilation of the Race to ensue “as the solar fires die slowly out”—if, indeed, they do die at all—to please physical science at the computed time. If all present sorrow and suffering, the fierce struggle for existence and all its attendant horrors, go for nothing in the long run, if Man is a mere ephemeron, the sport of blind forces, why assist in the perpetuation of the farce? The “ceaseless grind of matter, force and law,” will but hurry the swarming human millions into eternal oblivion, and ultimately leave no trace or memory of the past, when things return to the nebulosity of the fire-mist, whence they emerged. Terrestrial life is no object in itself. It is overcast with gloom and misery. It does not seem strange, then, that the Soul-blind negationist should prefer the pessimism of Schopenhauer to the baseless optimism of Strauss and his followers, which, in the face of their teachings, reminds one of the animal spirits of a young donkey, after a good meal of thistles.
One thing is, however, clear: the absolute necessity for some
solution, which embraces the facts of existence on an optimistic basis. Modern
Society is permeated with an increasing cynicism
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and honeycombed with disgust of life. This is the result of an utter ignorance of the operations of Karma and the nature of Soul evolution. It is from a mistaken allegiance to the dogmas of a mechanical and largely spurious theory of Evolution, that Pessimism has risen to such undue importance. Once the basis of the Great Law is grasped—and what philosophy can furnish better means for such a grasp and final solution, than the esoteric doctrine of the great Indian Sages—there remains no possible locus standi for the recent amendments to the Schopenhauerian system of thought or the metaphysical subtleties, woven by the “philosopher of the Unconscious.” The reasonableness of Conscious Existence can be proved only by the study of the primeval—now esoteric—philosophy. And it says “there is neither death nor life, for both are illusions; being (or be-ness) is the only reality.” This paradox was repeated thousands of ages later by one of the greatest physiologists that ever lived. “Life is Death,” said Claude Bernard. The organism lives because its parts are ever dying. The survival of the fittest is surely based on this truism. The life of the superior whole requires the death of the inferior, the death of the parts depending on and being subservient to it. And, as life is death, so death is life, and the whole great cycle of lives form but one existence—the worst day of which is on our planet.
He who knows will make the best of it. For there is a dawn for every being, when once freed from illusion and ignorance by Knowledge; and he will at last proclaim in truth and all Consciousness to Mahamaya:
Broken thy house is, and the ridge-pole split!
Delusion fashioned it!
Safe pass I thence—deliverance to obtain. . . .
Lucifer, October, 1887 H.P.B.
THE FALL OF IDEALS
ALAS, whether we turn East, West, North or South, it is but a contrast of externals; whether one observes life among Christians or Pagans, worldly or religious men, everywhere one finds oneself dealing with man, masked man—only Man. Though centuries lapse and decades of ages drop out of the lap of time, great reforms take place, empires rise and fall and rise again, and even whole races disappear before the triumphant march of civilization, in his terrific selfishness the “man” that was is the “man” that is—judged by its representative element the public, and especially society. But have we the right to judge man by the utterly artificial standard of the latter? A century ago we would have answered in the negative. Today, owing to the rapid strides of mankind toward civilization, generating selfishness and making it (mankind) keep pace with it, we answer decidedly, yes. Today everyone, especially in England and America, is that public and that society, and exceptions but prove and reinforce the rule. The progress of mankind cannot be summed up by counting units especially on the basis of internal and not external growth. Therefore, we have the right to judge of that progress by the public standard of morality in the majority; leaving the minority to bewail the fall of its ideals. And what do we find? First of all Society—Church, State and Law—in conventional conspiracy, leagued against the public exposure of the results of the application of such a test. They wish the said minority to take Society and the rest en bloc, in its fine clothes, and not pry into the social rottenness beneath. By common consent they pretend to worship an Ideal, one at any rate, the Founder of their State Christianity; but they also combine to put down and martyrise any unit belonging to the minority who has the audacity, in this time of social abasement and corruption, to live up to it.
* * * * *
Do we not all know such self-devoting men and women in our midst? Have we not all of us followed the career of certain individuals, Christ-like in aspirations and practical charity, though, perhaps, Christ-denying and Church-defying in intellect and words, who
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were tabooed for years by bigoted society, insolent clergy, and persecuted by both to the last limits of law? How many of such victims have found justice and the recognition they merit? After doing the noblest work among the poor for years, embellishing our cold and conventional age by their altruistic charity, making themselves blessed by old and young, beloved by all who suffer, the reward they found was to hear themselves traduced and denounced, slandered and secretly defamed by those unworthy to unloosen the latchets of their shoes—the Church-going hypocrites and Pharisees, the Sanhedrim of the World of Cant! . . .
Thus, out of the many noble ideals trampled practically in the mud by modem society, the one held by the Western World as the highest and grandest of all, is, after all, the most ill-treated. The life preached in the Sermon on the Mount, and the commandments left to the Church by her Master, are precisely those ideals that have fallen the lowest in our day. All these are trampled under the heel of the caitiffs of the canting caste de facto—though sub rosa of course, cant preventing that they should do so de jure—and shams are substituted in their place. . . .
The great scandal of modern religion as a rule of life is, that taking modern Society all around in a broad way, it does not command any attention at all. It has failed not so much to show what ought to be done and left undone—for of course even the maxims of the church as far as words go, cover a great deal of ground—as it has failed to show with any adequate force why this or that should be a guiding principle. The modern church, in fact, has broken down as a practical agency governing the acts of its followers—i.e., of the millions who are content to be called its followers, but who never dream of listening to a word it says.
Fully conscious that a great deal it says is
very good, its
exponents (blandly ignorant how bad is a great deal of the rest) think it is
owing to the perversity of mankind that people at large are not better than
they are. They never realize that they themselves—the Dry Monopole of social
wines—are primarily to blame for having divorced the good codes of morals
bequeathed to them from the religions of all time, from the fundamental
sanctions which a correct appreciation of true spiritual science would attach
to them. They have converted the divine teaching which is the Theosophy of all
ages into a barbarous caricature, and they expect to find their parrot echoes
of preposterous creeds a cry that will draw the worldlings
THE FALL OF IDEALS p. 139
to their fold, an appeal which will stir them up to the sublime task of spiritualizing their own natures. They fail to see that the command to love one another must be ineffective in the case of people whose whole conceptions of futurity turn upon their chances of drawing a lucky number in the lottery of the elect, or of dodging the punishment that would naturally be their due, at a happy moment when the divine mind may be thrown off its balance by reflecting on the beauty of the Christian sacrifice. The teachers of modern religion, in fact, have lost touch with the wisdom underlying their own perverted doctrines, and the blind followers of these blind leaders have lost touch even with the elementary principles of physical morality which the churches still continue to repeat, without understanding their purpose, and from mere force of habit. The ministers of religion, in short, of the Nineteenth Century, have eaten the sour grapes of ignorance, and the teeth of their unfortunate children are set on edge. . . .
Of all the beautiful ideals of the Past, the true religious feeling that manifests in the worship of the spiritually beautiful alone, and the love of plain truth, are those that have been the most roughly handled in this age of obligatory dissembling. We are surrounded on all sides by Hypocrisy, and those of its followers of whom Pollock has said that they were men:
Who stole the livery of the court of heaven,
To serve the devil in.
Oh, the unspeakable hypocrisy of our age! The age
when everything under the Sun and Moon is for sale and bought. The age when all
that is honest, just, noble-minded, is held up to the derision of the public,
sneered at, and deprecated; when every truth-loving and fearlessly
truth-speaking man is hooted out of polite Society, as a transgressor of
cultured traditions which demand that every member of it should accept that in
which he does not believe, say what he does not think, and lie to his own soul!
The age, when the open pursuit of any of the grand ideals of the Past is
treated as almost insane eccentricity or fraud; and the rejection of empty
form—the dead letter that killeth—and preference for the Spirit “that giveth
life”—is called infidelity, and forthwith the cry is started, “Stone him
to death!” No sooner is the sacrifice of empty conventionalities, that yield
reward and benefit but to self, made for the sake of practically working out some
grand humanitarian idea that will help the masses, than a howl of indignation
and pious horror is raised: the
p. 140 H. P. BLAVATSKY
doors of fashionable Society are shut on the transgressor, and the mouths of slanderous gossips opened to dishonour his very name.
Yet, we are daily served with sanctimonious discourses upon the blessings conferred by Christian civilization and the advantages offered by both, as contrasted with the curses of “heathenism” and the superstitions and horrors of say—the Middle Ages. The Inquisition with its burning of heretics and witches, its tortures at the stake and on the rack, is contrasted with the great freedom of modern thought, on one hand, and the security of human life and property now, as compared with their insecurity in days of old. “Is it not civilization that abolished the Inquisition and now affords the beggar the same protection of law as the wealthy duke?” we are asked. “We do not know,” we say. History would make us rather think that it was Napoleon the First, the Attila whose iniquitous wars stripped France and Europe of their lustiest manhood, who abolished the Inquisition, and this not at all for the sake of civilization, but rather because he was not prepared to allow the Church to burn and torture those who could serve him as chair à canon. As to the second proposition with regard to the beggar and the duke, we have to qualify it before accepting it as true. The beggar, however right, will hardly find as full justice as the duke will; and if he happens to be unpopular, or an heretic, ten to one he will find the reverse of justice. And this proves that if Church and State were un-christian then, they are still un-christian, if not more so now.
True Christianity and true civilization both ought to be opposed to murder, however legal. And yet we find, in the last half of our departing century more human lives sacrificed—because of the improved system and weapons of warfare, thanks to the progress of science and civilization—than there were in its first half. “Christian civilization,” indeed! Civilization, perhaps; but why “Christian”? Did Pope Leo XIII personify it when in an agony of despair he shut himself up on the day when Bruno’s monument was unveiled, and marked it as a dies iræ in Church History? But may we not turn to civilization, pure and simple? “Our manners, our civilization,” says Burke, “and all the good things connected with manners . . . have in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles. . . . I mean the spirit of a gentleman and the spirit of religion.” We are quite willing to test the character of the age by these ideals. Only, it has always been hard to say just what definition to give to the term “gentleman”; while as to religion, ninety-
THE FALL OF IDEALS p. 141
nine out of every hundred people one meets would, if asked, reply in such a fashion as to make it plain that they had confounded religion with theology.
* * * *
But perhaps we have to look for true Christianity and true civilization and culture in the modern higher courts of Law? Alas, there are modern judges of whom their Lord (our Karma) would say, “Hear what the unjust judge sayeth.” For, in our day, the decree of justice is sometimes uttered in the voice of the bigots who sit in Solomon’s seat and judge as the Inquisitors of old did. In our century of Christian civilization, judges emulating their predecessors of the tribunal of the sons of Loyola, employ the more exquisite instruments of moral torture, to insult and goad to desperation a helpless plaintiff or defendant. In this they are aided by advocates, often the type of the ancient headsman, who, metaphorically, break the bones of the wretch seeking justice; or worse yet, defile his good name and stab him to the heart with the vilest innuendoes, false suppositions concocted for the occasion but which the victim knows will henceforth become actual truths in the mouth of foul gossip and slander. Between the defunct brutal tortures of the unchristian Inquisition of old, and the more refined mental tortures of its as unchristian but more civilized copy—our Court and truculent cross-examiners, the palm of “gentleness” and charity might almost be given to the former.
Thus we find every ideal of old, moral and spiritual, abased to correspond with the present low moral and unspiritual conceptions of the public. Brutalized by a psychical famine which has lasted through generations, they are ready to give every ideal spiritual Regenerator as food for the dogs, while like their debauched prototypes, the Roman populace under Nero, Caligula, and Heliogabalus, they crowd to see bull-fights in Paris, where the wretched horses drag their bleeding bowels around the arena, imported Almehs dancing their loathsome danse du ventre, black and white pugilists bruising each other’s features into bloody pulp, and “raise the roof” with their cheers when the Samsons and Sandows burst chains and snap wires by expanding their preter-natural muscles. Why keep up the old farce any longer? Why not change the Christmas carol thus:
Gladiator natus hodie.
Or change the well-known anthem after this fashion:
p. 142 H. P. BLAVATSKY
“Glory to Gold in the highest
And on earth strife, ill-will toward men.”
* * * *
In a world of illusion in which the law of evolution operates, nothing could be more natural than that the ideals of Man—as a unit of total, or mankind—should be forever shifting. A part of the Nature around him, that Protean, ever-changing Nature, every particle of which is incessantly transformed, while the harmonious body remains as a whole ever the same, like these particles man is continually changing, physically, intellectually, morally, spiritually. At one time he is at the topmost point of the circle of development; at another, at the lowest. And, as he thus alternately rises and sinks, and his moral nature responsively expands or contracts, so will his moral code at one time embody the noblest altruistic and aspirational ideals, while at the other, the ruling conscience will be but the reflection of selfishness, brutality and faithlessness. But this, however, is so only on the external, illusionary plane. In their internal, or rather essential constitution, both nature and man are at one, as their essence is identical. All grows and develops and strives toward perfection on the former planes of externality or, as well said by a philosopher, is—“ever becoming”; but on the ultimate plane of the spiritual essence all Is, and remains therefore immutable. It is toward this eternal Esse that every thing, as every being, is gravitating, gradually, almost imperceptibly, but as surely as the Universe of stars and worlds moves towards a mysterious point known to, yet still unnamed by, astronomy, and called by the Occultists—the central Spiritual Sun.
was remarked in almost every historical age that a wide interval, almost a
chasm, lay between practical and ideal perfection. Yet, as from time to time
certain great characters appeared on earth who taught mankind to look beyond
the veil of illusion, man learnt that the gulf was not an impassable one; that
it is the province of mankind through its higher and more spiritual races to
fill the great gap more and more with every coming cycle; for every man, as a
unit, has it in his power to add his mite toward filling it. Yes; there are
still men, who, notwithstanding the present chaotic condition of the moral
world, and the sorry débris of the best human ideals, still persist in
believing and teaching that the now ideal human perfection is no dream,
but a law of divine nature; and that,
THE FALL OF IDEALS p. 143
had Mankind to wait even millions of years, still it must some day reach it and rebecome a race of gods.
Meanwhile, the periodical rise and fall of human character on the external planes takes place now, as it did before, and the ordinary average perception of man is too weak to see that both processes occur each time on a higher plane than the preceding. But as such changes are not always the work of centuries, for often extreme changes are wrought by swift acting forces—e.g. by wars, speculations, epidemics, the devastation of famines or religious fanaticism —therefore, do the blind masses imagine that man was, is, and will be the same. To the eyes of us, moles, mankind is like our globe—seemingly stationary. And yet, both move in space and time with an equal velocity, around themselves and—onward.
Moreover, at whatever end of his evolution, from the birth of his consciousness, in fact, man was, and still is, the vehicle of a dual spirit in him—good and evil. Like the twin sisters of Victor Hugo’s grand, posthumous poem “Satan”—the progeny issued respectively from Light and Darkness—the angel “Liberty” and the angel “Isis-Lilith” have chosen man as their dwelling on earth, and these are at eternal strife in him.
The Churches tell the world that “man is born in sin,” and John (1st
Epist.iii.,8) adds that “He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil
sinneth from the beginning.” Those who still believe in the rib-and-apple fable
and in the rebellious angel “Satan,” believe, as a matter of course, in a
personal Devil—as a contrast in a dualistic religion—to a personal God. We,
Theosophists of the Eastern school, believe in neither. Yet we go, perhaps,
further still than the Biblical dead letter. For we say that while as
Entities there is neither god nor devil, that both exist, nevertheless. And
we add that both dwell on earth in man, being, in truth,
the very man
himself, who is, as a physical being, the devil, the true vehicle of
and as a spiritual entity—god, or good. Hence, to say to mankind, “thou
hast the devil,” is to utter as metaphysical a truth as when saying to all its
men, “Know ye not that god dwelleth in you?” Both statements are true. But, we
are at the turning point of the great social cycle, and it is the former fact
which has the upper hand at present. Yet, as—to paraphrase a Pauline
text—“there be devils many . . . yet there is but one Satan,” so while we have
a great variety of devils constituting collectively mankind, of such grandiose
Satanic characters as are painted by Milton, Byron and
p. 144 H. P. BLAVATSKY
recently by Victor Hugo, there are few, if any. Hence, owing to such mediocrity, are the human ideals falling, to remain unreplaced; a prose-life as spiritually dead as the London November fog, and as alive with brutal materialism and vices, the seven capital sins forming but a portion of these, as that fog is with deadly microbes. Now we rarely find aspirations toward the eternal ideal in the human heart, but instead of it every thought tending toward the one central idea of our century, the great “I,” self being for each the one mighty center around which the whole Universe is made to revolve and turn.
When the Emperor Julian—called the Apostate because, believing in the grand ideals of his forefathers, the Initiates, he would not accept the human anthropomorphic form thereof—saw for the last time his beloved gods appear to him, he wept. Alas, they were no longer the bright spiritual beings he had worshipped, but only the decrepit, pale and worn out shades of the gods he had so loved. Perchance they were the prophetic vision of the departing ideals of his age, as also of our own cycle. These “gods” are now regarded by the Church as demons and called so; while he who has preserved a poetical, lingering love for them, is forthwith branded as an Anti-Christ and a modern Satan.
Well, Satan is an elastic term, and no one has yet ever given even an approximately logical definition of the symbolical meaning of the name. The first to anthropomorphize it was John Milton; he is his true putative intellectual father, as it is widely conceded that the theological Satan of the Fall is the “mind-born Son” of the blind poet. Bereft of his theological and dogmatic attributes Satan is simply an adversary;—not necessarily an “arch fiend” or a “persecutor of men,” but possibly also a foe of evil. He may thus become a Saviour of the oppressed, a champion of the weak and poor, crushed by the minor devils (men), the demons of avarice, selfishness and hypocrisy. Michelet calls him the “great Disinherited” and takes him to his heart. The giant Satan of poetical concept is, in reality, but the compound of all the dissatisfied and noble intellectuality of the age. But Victor Hugo was the first to intuitively grasp the occult truth. Satan, in his poem of that time, is a truly grandiose Entity, with enough human in him to bring it within the grasp of average intellects. To realize the Satans of Milton and of Byron is like trying to grasp a handful of the morning mist: there is nothing human in them. Milton’s Satan wars with angels who are a
THE FALL OF IDEALS p. 145
sort of flying puppets, without spontaneity, pulled into the stage of being and of action by the invisible string of theological predestination; Hugo’s Lucifer fights a fearful battle with his own terrible passions and again becomes an Archangel of Light, after the awfulest agonies ever conceived by mortal mind and recorded by human pen.
All other Satanic ideals pale
before his splendour. The Mephisto of Goethe is a true devil of theology; the
Ahriman of Byron’s “Manfred”—a too supernatural character, and even Manfred has
little akin to the human element, great as was the genius of his creator. All
these images pale before Hugo’s
who loves as strongly as he hates. Manfred and Cain are the incarnate
of downtrodden, wronged and persecuted individuality against the “World” and
“Society”—those giant fiends and savage monsters of collective injustice.
Manfred is the type of an indomitable will, proud, yielding to no influence
earthly or divine, valuing his full absolute freedom of action above any
personal feeling or social consideration, higher than Nature and all in it.
But, with Manfred as with Cain, the Self, the “I” is ever foremost; and there
is not a spark of the all-redeeming love in them, no more than of fear. Manfred
will not submit even to the universal Spirit of Evil; alone, face to face with
the dark opponent of Ahura-Mazda—Universal Light—Ahriman and his countless
hosts of Darkness, he still holds his own. These types arouse in one intense
wonder, awe-struck amazement by their all-defiant daring, but arouse no human
feeling: they are too supernatural ideals. Byron never thought of
vivifying his Archangel with that undying spark of love which forms—nay,
form the essence of the “First-Born” out of the homogeneous essence of eternal
Harmony and Light, and is the element of forgiving reconciliation, even in its
(according to our philosophy) last terrestrial offspring—Humanity. Discord is
the concomitant of differentiation, and Satan being an evolution, must in that
sense, be an adversary, a contrast, being a type of Chaotic matter. The loving
essence cannot be extinguished but only perverted. Without this saving redemptive
power, embodied in Satan, he simply appears the nonsensical failure of omnipotent
and omniscient imbecility which the opponents of theological Christianity
sneeringly and very justly make him: with it he becomes a thinkable Entity, the
Asuras of the Puranic myths, the first
breaths of Brahma, who,
after fighting the gods and defeating them are finally themselves defeated and
p. 146 H. P. BLAVATSKY
on to the earth where they incarnate in Humanity. Thus Satanic Humanity becomes comprehensible. After moving around his cycle of obstacles he may, with accumulated experiences, after all the throes of Humanity, emerge again into the light—as Eastern philosophy teaches.
If Hugo had lived to complete his poem, possibly
with strengthened insight, he would have blended his Satanic concept with that
of the Aryan races which makes all minor powers, good or evil, born at the
beginning and dying at the close of each “Divine Age.” As human nature is ever
the same, and sociological, spiritual and intellectual evolution is a question
of step by step, it is quite possible that instead of catching one half of the
Satanic ideal as Hugo did, the next great poet may get it wholly: thus voicing
for his generation the eternal idea of Cosmic equilibrium so nobly emphasized
in the Aryan mythology. The first half of that ideal approaches sufficiently to
the human ideal to make the moral tortures of Hugo’s Satan entirely
comprehensible to the Eastern Theosophist. What is the chief torment of this
great Cosmic Anarchist? It is the moral agony caused by such a duality of
nature—the tearing asunder of the Spirit of Evil and Opposition from the
undying element of primeval love in the Archangel. That spark of divine love
for Light and Harmony, that no
can wholly smother, causes him a torture far more unbearable than his Fall and
exile for protest and Rebellion. This bright, heavenly spark, shining from
Satan in the black darkness of his kingdom of moral night, makes him visible to
the intuitive reader. It made Victor Hugo see him sobbing in superhuman
despair, each mighty sob shaking the earth from pole to pole; sobs first of
baffled rage that he cannot extirpate love for divine Goodness (God) from his
nature; then changing into a wail of despair at being cut off from that divine
love he so much yearns for. All this is intensely human. This abyss of despair
is Satan’s salvation. In his Fall, a feather drops from his white and
once immaculate wing, is lighted up by a ray of divine radiance and forthwith
transformed into a bright Being, the Angel
Thus, she is Satan’s daughter, the child jointly of God and the Fallen
Archangel, the progeny of Good and Evil, of Light and Darkness, and God
acknowledges this common and “sublime paternity” that unites them. It is
Satan’s daughter who saves him. At the acme of despair at feeling himself hated
by Light, Satan hears the divine
words “No; I hate thee not.” Saith the Voice, “An angel is between
THE FALL OF IDEALS p. 147
us, and her deeds go to thy credit. Man, bound by thee, by her is now delivered.”
O Satan, tu peux dire á present: je vivrai!
Viens; l’Ange Liberté c’est ta fille et la mienne
Cette paternité sublime nous unit! . . .
The whole conception is an efflorescence of metaphysical ideality. This white lotus of thought springs now, as in former ages, from the rottenness of the world of matter, generating Protest and Liberty. It is springing in our very midst and under our very eyes, from the mire of modern civilization, fecund bed of contrasting virtues. In this foul soil sprouted the germs which ultimately developed into All-denying protestators, Atheists, Nihilists, and Anarchists, men of the Terror. Bad, violent, criminal some of them may be, yet no one of them could stand as the copy of Satan; but taking this heart-broken, hopeless, embittered portion of humanity in their collectivity, they are just Satan himself; for he is the ideal synthesis of all discordant forces and each separate human vice or passion is but an atom of his totality. In the very depths of the heart of this Human Satanic totality burns the divine spark, all negations notwithstanding. It is called Love for Humanity, an ardent aspiration for a universal reign of Justice—hence a latent desire for light, harmony and goodness. Where do we find such a divine spark among the proud and the wealthy? In respectable Society and the correct orthodox, so-called religious portion of the public, one finds but a predominating feeling of selfishness and a desire for wealth at the expense of the weak and the destitute, hence as a parallel, indifference to injustice and evil. Before Satan, the incarnate Protest, repents and reunites with his fellow men in one common Brotherhood, all cause for protest must have disappeared from earth. And that can come to pass only when Greed, Bias, and Prejudice shall have disappeared before the elements of Altruism and Justice to all. Freedom, or Liberty, is but a vain word just now all over the civilized globe; freedom is but a cunning synonym for oppression of the people in the name of the people, and it exists for castes, never for units. To bring about the reign of Freedom as contemplated by Hugo’s Satan, the “Angel Liberty” has to be born simultaneously and by common love and consent of the “higher” wealthy caste, and the “lower” classes—the poor; in other words, to become the progeny of “God” and “Satan,” thereby reconciling the two.
p. 148 H. P. BLAVATSKY
But this is a Utopia—for the present. It cannot take place before the castes of the modern Levites and their theology—the Dead-sea fruit of Spirituality—shall have disappeared; and the priests of the Future have declared before the whole World in the words of their “God”—
Et j’éfface la nuit sinistre, et rien n’en reste,
Satan est mort, renais O Lucifer Celeste!
Lucifer, December, 1889
THE DEATH OF ART
IN an interview with the celebrated Hungarian violinist, M. Remenyi, the Pall Mall Gazette reporter makes the artist narrate some very interesting experiences in the Far East. “I was the first European artist who ever played before the Mikado of Japan,” he said; and reverting to that which has ever been a matter of deep regret for every lover of the artistic and the picturesque, the violinist added:
On August 8th, 1886, I appeared before His Majesty—a day memorable, unfortunately, for the change of costume commanded by the Empress. She herself, abandoning the exquisite beauty of the feminine Japanese costume, appeared on that day for the first time and at my concert in European costume, and it made my heart ache to see her. I could have greeted her had I dared with a long wail of despair upon my travelled violin. Six ladies accompanied her, they themselves being clad in their native costume, and walking with infinite grace and charm.
Alas, alas, but this is not all! The Mikado—this hitherto sacred, mysterious, invisible and unreachable personage:
The Mikado himself was in
the uniform of a European general! At that time the Court etiquette was so
strict, my accompanist was not permitted into His Majesty’s drawing room, and
this was told me beforehand. I had a good remplacement, as my
ambassador, Count Zaluski, who had been a pupil of Liszt, was able himself to
accompany me. You will be astonished when I tell you that, having chosen for
the first piece in the programme my transcription for the violin, of a C sharp
minor polonaise by Chopin, a musical piece of the most intrinsic value and
poetic depths, the Emperor, when I had finished, intimated to Count Ito, his first
minister, that I should play it again. The Japanese taste is good. I was laden
with presents of untold value, one item only being a gold-lacquer box of the
seventeenth century. I played in Hong Kong and outside Canton, no
European being allowed to live inside. There I made an interesting excursion to
the Portuguese possession of Macao, visiting the cave where Camoëns wrote his Lusiad. It was
very interesting to see outside the Chinese town of Macao a European Portuguese
town which to this very day has remained unchanged since the sixteenth century.
In the midst of the exquisite tropical vegetation of Java, and despite the
terrific heat, I gave sixty-two concerts
p. 150 H. P. BLAVATSKY
in sixty-seven days, travelling all over the island, inspecting its antiquities, the chief of which is a most wonderful Buddhist temple, the Boro Budhur, or Many Buddhas. This building contains six miles of figures, and is a solid pile of stone, larger than the pyramids. They have, these Javans, an extraordinarily sweet orchestra in the national Samelang, which consists of percussion instruments played by eighteen people; but to hear this orchestra, with its most weird Oriental chorus and ecstatic dances, one must have had the privilege of being invited by the Sultan of Solo, “Sole Emperor of the World.” I have seen and heard nothing more dreamy and poetic than the Serimpis danced by nine Royal Princesses.
Where are the Æsthetes of a few years ago? Or was this little confederation of the lovers of art but one of the soap-bubbles of our fin de siècle, rich in promise and suggestion of many a possibility, but dead in works and act? Or, if there are any true lovers of art yet left among them, why do they not organize and send out missionaries the world over, to tell picturesque Japan and other countries ready to fall victims that, to imitate the will-o’-the-wisp of European culture and fascination, means for a non-Christian land, the committing of suicide; that it means sacrificing one’s individuality for an empty show and shadow; at best it is to exchange the original and the picturesque for the vulgar and the hideous. Truly and indeed it is high time that at last something should be done in this direction, and before the deceitful civilization of the conceited nations of but yesterday has irretrievably hypnotized the older races, and made them succumb to its upas-tree wiles and supposed superiority. Otherwise, old arts and artistic creations, everything original and unique will very soon disappear. Already national dresses and time-honoured customs, and everything beautiful, artistic, and worth preservation is fast disappearing from view. At no distant day, alas, the best relics of the past will perhaps be found only in museums in sorry, solitary, and be-ticketed samples preserved under glass!
Such is the work and the unavoidable result of our modem civilization. Skin-deep in reality in its visible effects, in the “blessings” it is alleged to have given to the world, its roots are rotten to the core. It is to its progress that selfishness and materialism, the greatest curses of the nations, are due; and the latter will most surely lead to the annihilation of art and of the appreciation of the truly harmonious and beautiful. Hitherto, materialism has only led
THE DEATH OF ART AND BEAUTY p. 151
to a universal tendency to unification on the material plane and a corresponding diversity on that of thought and spirit. It is this universal tendency, which by propelling humanity, through its ambition and selfish greed, to an incessant chase after wealth and the obtaining at any price of the supposed blessings of this life, causes it to aspire or rather gravitate to one level, the lowest of all—the plane of empty appearance. Materialism and indifference to all save the selfish realization of wealth and power, and the over-feeding of national and personal vanity, have gradually led nations and men to the almost entire oblivion of spiritual ideals, of the love of nature, to the correct appreciation of things. Like a hideous leprosy our Western civilization has eaten its way through all the quarters of the globe and hardened the human heart. “Soul-saving” is its deceitful, lying pretext; greed for additional revenue through opium, rum, and the inoculation of European vices—the real aim. In the far East it has infected with the spirit of imitation the higher classes of the “pagans”—save China, whose national conservatism deserves our respect; and in Europe it has engrafted fashion—save the mark —even on the dirty, starving proletariat itself! For the last thirty years, as if some deceitful semblance of a reversion to the ancestral type—awarded to men by the Darwinian theory in its moral added to its physical characteristics—were contemplated by an evil spirit tempting mankind, almost every race and nation under the Sun in Asia has gone mad in its passion for aping Europe. This, added to the frantic endeavor to destroy Nature in every direction, and also every vestige of older civilizations—far superior to our own in arts, godliness, and the appreciation of the grandiose and harmonious—must result in such national calamities. Therefore, do we find hitherto artistic and picturesque Japan succumbing wholly to the temptation of justifying the “ape theory” by simianizing its populations in order to bring the country on a level with canting, greedy and artificial Europe!
For certainly Europe is all this. It is canting and deceitful from
its diplomats down to its custodians of religion, from its political down to
its social laws, selfish, greedy and brutal beyond expression in its grabbing
characteristics. And yet there are those who wonder at the gradual decadence of
true art, as if art could exist without imagination, fancy, and a just appreciation
of the beautiful in Nature, or without poetry and high religious, hence,
metaphysical aspirations! The galleries of paintings and sculpture, we hear, be-
p. 152 H. P. BLAVATSKY
come every year poorer in quality, if richer in quantity. It is lamented that while there is a plethora of ordinary productions, the greatest scarcity of remarkable pictures and statuary prevails. Is this not most evidently due to the facts that (a) the artists will very soon remain with no better models than nature morte (or “still life”) to inspire themselves with; and (b) that the chief concern is not the creation of artistic objects, but their speedy sale and profits? Under such conditions, the fall of true art is only a natural consequence.
Owing to the triumphant march and the invasion of civilization, Nature, as well as man and ethics, is sacrificed, and is fast becoming artificial. Climates are changing, and the face of the whole world will soon be altered. Under the murderous hand of the pioneers of civilization, the destruction of whole primeval forests is leading to the drying up of rivers, and the opening of the Canal of Suez has changed the climate of Egypt as that of Panama will divert the course of the Gulf Stream. Almost tropical countries are now becoming cold and rainy, and fertile lands threaten to be soon transformed into sandy deserts. A few years more and there will not remain within a radius of fifty miles around our large cities one single rural spot inviolate from vulgar speculation. In scenery, the picturesque and the natural is daily replaced by the grotesque and the artificial. Scarce a landscape in England but the fair body of nature is desecrated by the advertisements of “Pears’ Soap” and “Beecham’s Pills.” The pure air of the country is polluted with smoke, the smells of greasy railway-engines, and the sickening odours of gin, whiskey, and beer. And once that every natural spot in the surrounding scenery is gone, and the eye of the painter finds but the artificial and hideous products of modern speculation to rest upon, artistic taste will have to follow suit and disappear along with them.
“No man ever did or ever will work well, but either from actual sight or sight of faith,” says Ruskin, speaking of art. Thus, the first quarter of the coming century may witness painters of landscapes, who have never seen an acre of land free from human improvement; and painters of figures whose ideas of female beauty of form will be based on the wasp-like pinched-in waists of corseted, hollow-chested and consumptive society belles. It is not from such models that a picture deserving of the definition of Horace—“a poem without words”—is produced. Artificially draped Parisiennes and London Cockneys sitting for Italian contadini or Arab Bed-
THE DEATH OF ART AND BEAUTY p. 153
ouins can never replace the genuine article; and both free Bedouins and genuine Italian peasant girls are, thanks to “civilization,” fast becoming things of the past. Where shall artists find genuine models in the coming century, when the hosts of the free Nomads of the Desert, and perchance all the Negro tribes of Africa—or what will remain of them after their decimation by Christian cannons, and the rum and opium of the Christian civilizer—will have donned European coats and top hats? And that this is precisely what awaits art under the beneficial progress of modern civilization, is self-evident to all.
Aye! let us boast of the blessings of
civilization, by all means. Let us brag of our sciences and the grand
discoveries of the age, its achievements in mechanical arts, its railroads,
telephones and electric batteries; but let us not forget, meanwhile, to
purchase at fabulous prices (almost as great as those given in our day for a
prize dog, or an old prima donna’s
song) the paintings and statuary of uncivilized, barbarous antiquity and of the
middle ages: for such objects of art will be reproduced no more. Civilization
has tolled their eleventh hour. It has rung the death-knell of the old arts,
and the last decade of our century is summoning the world to the funeral of all
that was grand, genuine, and original in the old civilizations. Would Raphael,
O ye lovers of art, have created one single of his many Madonnas, had he had,
instead of Fornarina and the once Juno-like women of the Trastevero of Rome to
inspire his genius, only the present-day models, or the niched Virgins of the
nooks and corners of modern Italy, in crinolines and high-heeled boots? Or
would Andrea del Sarto have produced his famous “Venus and Cupid” from a modern
East End working girl—one of the latest victims to fashion—holding under the shadow
of a gigantic hat à la
mousquetaire, feathered like the scalp of an Indian
chief, a dirty, scrofulous brat from the slums? How could Titian have ever
immortalized his golden-haired patrician ladies of Venice, had he been
compelled to move all his life in the society of our actual “professional
beauties,” with their straw-colored, dyed capillaries that transform human hair
into the fur of a yellow Angora cat? May not one venture to state with the
utmost confidence that the world would never have had the Athena Limnia of
Phidias—that ideal of beauty in face and form—had Aspasia, the Milesian, or the fair daughters
of Hellas, whether in the days of Pericles or in any other, disfigured that
“form” with stays and bustle, and coated that “face”
p. 154 H. P. BLAVATSKY
with white enamel, after the fashion of the varnished features of the mummies of the dead Egyptians.
We see the same in architecture. Not even the genius of Michael Angelo himself could have failed to receive its death-blow at the first sight of the Eiffel Tower, or the Albert Hall, or more horrible still, the Albert Memorial. Nor, for the matter of that, could it have received any suggestive idea from the Colosseum and the palace of the Cæsars, in their present whitewashed and repaired state! Whither, then, shall we, in our days of civilization, go to find the natural, or even simply the picturesque? Is it still to Italy, to Switzerland or Spain? But the Bay of Naples—even if its waters be as blue and transparent as on the day when the people of Cumæ selected its shores for a colony, and its surrounding scenery as gloriously beautiful as ever—thanks to that spirit of mimicry which has infected sea and land, has now lost its most artistic and most original features. It is bereft of its lazy, dirty, but intensely picturesque figures of old; of its lazzaroni and barcarolos, its fishermen and country girls. Instead of the former’s red or blue Phrygian cap, and the latter’s statuesque, half-nude figure and poetical rags, we see nowadays but the caricatured specimens of modern civilization and fashion. The gay tarantella resounds no longer on the cool sands of the moonlit shore; it is replaced by that libel on Terpsychore, the modem quadrille, in the gas-lit, gin-smelling sailor’s trattorias. Filth still pervades the land, as of yore; but it is made the more apparent on the threadbare city coat, the mangled chimney-pot hat and the once fashionable, now cast-away European bonnet. Picked up in the hotel gutters, they now grace the unkempt heads of the once picturesque Neapolitans. The type of the latter has died out, and there is nothing to distinguish the lazzaroni from the Venetian gondoliere, the Calabrian brigand, or the London street-sweeper and beggar. The still, sunlit waters of Canal Grande bear no longer their gondolas, filled on festival days with gaily dressed Venetians, with picturesque boatmen and girls. The black gondola that glides silently under the heavy carved balconies of the old patrician palazze, reminds one now more of a black floating coffin, with a solemn-looking, dark-clothed undertaker paddling it on towards the Styx, than of the gondola of thirty years ago. Venice looks more gloomy now than during the days of Austrian slavery from which it was rescued by Napoleon III. Once on shore, its gondoliere is scarcely distinguishable from his “fare,” the British M.P. on his
THE DEATH OF ART AND BEAUTY p. 155
holiday-tour in the old city of the Doges. Such is the levelling hand of all-destroying civilization.
It is the same all over Europe. Look at Switzerland. Hardly a decade ago, every Canton had its distinguishing national costume, as clean and fresh as it was peculiar. Now the people are ashamed to wear it. They want to be mistaken for foreign guests, to be regarded as a civilized nation which follows suit even in fashion. Cross over to Spain. Of all the relics of old, the smell of rancid oil and garlic is alone left to remind one of the poetry of the old days in the country of the Cid. The graceful mantilla has almost disappeared; the proud hidalgo-beggar has taken himself off from the street-corner; the nightly serenades of love-sick Romeos are gone out of fashion; and the duenna contemplates going in for woman’s rights. The members of the “Social Purity” Associations may say “thank God” to this and lay the change at the door of Christian and moral reforms of civilization. But has morality gained anything in Spain with the disappearance of the nocturnal lovers and duennas? We have every right to say, no. A Don Juan outside a house is less dangerous than one inside. Social immorality is as rife as ever—if not more so, in Spain, and it must be so, indeed, when even “Harper’s Guide Book” quotes in its last edition as follows: “Morals in all classes, especially in the higher, are in the most degraded state. Veils, indeed, are thrown aside, and serenades are rare, but gallantry and intrigue are as active as ever. The men think little of their married obligations; the women . . . are willing victims of unprincipled gallantry.” (Spain, “Madrid,” page 678.) In this, Spain is but on a par with all other countries civilized or now civilizing, and is assuredly not worse than many another country that could be named; but that which may be said of it with truth is, that what it has lost in poetry through civilization, it has gained in hypocrisy and loose morals. The Cortejo has turned into the petit crevé; the castanets have become silent, because, perhaps, the noise of the uncorked champagne bottles affords more excitement to the rapidly civilizing nation; and the Andalouse au teint bruni having taken to cosmetics and face-enamel, “la Marquesa d’ Almedi” may be said to have been buried with Alfred de Musset.
The gods have indeed been propitious to the Alhambra. They have permitted it to be burnt before its chaste Moresque beauty had been finally desecrated, as are the rock-cut temples of India, the Pyramids and other relics, by drunken orgies. This superb relic
p. 156 H. P. BLAVATSKY
of the Moors had already suffered, once before, by Christian improvement. It is a tradition still told in Granada, and history too, that the monks of Ferdinand and Isabella had made of Alhambra—that “palace of petrified flowers dyed with the hues of the wings of angels”—a filthy prison for thieves and murderers. Modern speculators might have done worse; they might have polluted its walls and pearl-inlaid ceilings, the lovely gilding and stucco, the fairy-like arabesques, and the marble and gossamer-like carvings, with commercial advertisements, after the Inquisitors had already once before covered the building with whitewash and permitted the prison-keepers to use Alhambra Halls for their donkeys and cattle. Doubting but little that the fury of the Madrilenos for imitating the French and English must have already, at this stage of modern civilization, infected every province of Spain, we may regard that lovely country as dead. A friend speaks, as an eye-witness, of “cocktails” spilled near the marble fountain of the Alhambra, over the blood-marks left by the hapless Abancerages slain by Boabdil, and of a Parisian cancan pur sang performed by working girls and soldiers of Granada, in the Court of Lions!
But these are only trifling signs of the time and the spread of culture among the middle and the lower classes. Wherever the spirit of aping possesses the heart of the nation—the poor working classes —there the elements of nationality disappear and the country is on the eve of losing its individuality and all things change for the worse. What is the use of talking so loudly of “the benefits of Christian civilization,” of its having softened public morals, refined national customs and manners, etc., etc., when our modern civilization has achieved quite the reverse! Civilization has depended, for ages, says Burke, “upon two principles . . . the spirit of a gentleman and the spirit of religion.” And how many true gentlemen have we left, when compared even with the days of half-barbarous knighthood? Religion has become canting hypocrisy and the genuine religious spirit is regarded now-a-days as insanity. Civilization, it is averred, “has destroyed brigandage, established public security, elevated morality and built railways which now honeycomb the face of the globe.” Indeed? Let us analyze seriously and impartially all these “benefits” and we shall soon find that civilization has done nothing of the kind. At best it has put a false nose on every evil of the Past, adding hypocrisy and false pretence to the natural ugliness of each. If it is true to say that it has put down in some civilized cen-
THE DEATH OF ART AND BEAUTY p. 157
ters of Europe—near Rome, in the Bois de Boulogne or on Hampstead Heath—banditti and highway-men, it is also as true that it has, thereby, destroyed robbery only as a specialty, the latter having now become a common occupation in every city great or small. The robber and cut-throat has only exchanged his dress and appearance by donning the livery of civilization—the ugly modern attire. Instead of being robbed under the vault of thick woods and the protection of darkness, people are robbed now-a-days under the electric light of saloons and the protection of trade-laws and police-regulations. As to open day-light brigandage, the Mafia of New Orleans and the Mala Vita of Sicily, with high officialdom, population, police, and jury forced to play into the hands of regularly organized bands of murderers, thieves, and tyrants1 in the full glare of European “culture,” show how far our civilization has succeeded in establishing public security, or Christian religion in softening the hearts of men and the ways and customs of a barbarous past. Modern Cyclopædias are very fond of expatiating upon the decadence of Rome and its pagan horrors. But if the latest editions of the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography were honest enough to make a parallel between those “monsters of depravity” of ancient civilization, Messalina and Faustina, Nero and Commodus, and modem European aristocracy, it might be found that the latter could give odds to the former—in social hypocrisy, at any rate. Between “the shameless and beastly debauchery” of an Emperor Commodus, and as beastly a depravity of more than one “Honourable,” high official representative of the people, the only difference to be found is that while Commodus was a member of all the sacerdotal colleges of Paganism, the modern debauchee may be a high member of the Evangelical Christian Churches, a distinguished and pious pupil of Moody and Sankey and what not. It is not the Calchas of Homer, who was the type of the Calchas in the Operette “La Belle Helène,” but the modern sacerdotal Pecksniff and his followers.
As to the blessings of railways and “the annihilation of space and time,” it is still an undecided question—without speaking of the misery and starvation the introduction of steam engines and machinery in general has brought for years on those who depend on their manual labour—whether railways do not kill more people in one month than the brigands of all Europe used to murder in
Read the “Cut Throat’s Paradise” in the
Edinburgh Review for April, 1877, and the digest of it in the Pall
Mall Gazette of April 15th, 1891, “Murder as a Profession.”
p. 158 H. P. BLAVATSKY
a whole year. The victims of railroads, moreover, are killed under circumstances which surpass in horror anything the cut-throats may have devised. One reads almost daily of railway disasters in which people are “burned to death in the blazing wreckage,” “mangled and crushed out of recognition” and killed by dozens and scores.2 This is a trifle worse than the highwaymen of old Newgate.
Nor has crime been abated at all by the spread of civilization; though owing to the progress of science in chemistry and physics, it has become more secure from detection and more ghastly in its realization than it ever has been. Speak of Christian civilization having improved public morals; of Christianity being the only religion which has established and recognized Universal Brotherhood! Look at the brotherly feeling shown by American Christians to the Red Indian and the Negro, whose citizenship is the farce of the age. Witness the love of the Anglo-Indians for the “mild Hindu,” the Mussulman, and the Buddhist. See “how these Christians love each other” in their incessant law litigations, their libels against each other, the mutual hatred of the Churches and of the sects. Modern civilization and Christianity are oil and water—they will never mix. Nations among which the most horrible crimes are daily perpetrated; nations which rejoice in Tropmanns and Jack the Rippers, in fiends like Mrs. Reeves the trader in baby slaughter—to the number of 300 victims as is believed—for the sake of filthy lucre; nations which not only permit but encourage a Monaco with its hosts of suicides, that patronize prize-fights, bull-fights, useless and cruel sport and even indiscriminate vivisection—such nations have no right to boast of their civilization. Nations furthermore which from political considerations, dare not put down slave-trade once for all, and out of revenue-greed, hesitate to abolish opium and whiskey trades, fattening on the untold misery and degradation of millions of human beings, have no right to call themselves either Christian or civilized. A civilization finally that leads only to the destruction of every noble, artistic feeling in man, can only deserve the epithet
2 To take one instance. A Reuter's telegram from America, where such accidents are almost of daily occurrence, gives the following details of a wrecked train: “One of the cars which was attached to a gravel train and which contained five Italian workmen, was thrown forward into the center of the wreck, and the whole mass caught fire. Two of the men were killed outright and the remaining three were injured, pinioned in the wreckage. As the flames reached them their cries and groans were heartrending. Owing to the position of the car and the intense heat the rescuers were unable to reach them, and were compelled to watch them slowly burn to death. It is understood that all the victims leave families.”
of barbarous. We, the modern-day Europeans, are Vandals as great, if not greater than Atilla with his savage hordes.
Consummatum est. Such is the work of our modem Christian civilization and its direct
effects. The destroyer of art, the Shylock, who, for every mite of gold it
gives, demands and receives in return a pound of human flesh, in the
heart-blood, in the physical and mental suffering of the masses, in the loss of
everything true and lovable—can hardly pretend to deserve grateful or
respectful recognition. The unconsciously prophetic
short, is the long ago foreseen fin de cycle; when according to
Manjunâtha Sutra, “Justice will have died, leaving as its successor blind Law, and as
its Guru and guide—Selfishness; when wicked things and deeds will have
to be regarded as meritorious, and holy actions as madness.” Beliefs are dying
out, divine life is mocked at; art and genius, truth and justice are daily
sacrificed to the insatiable mammon of the age —money grubbing. The artificial
replaces everywhere the real, the false substitutes the true. Not a sunny
valley, not a shadowy grove left immaculate on the bosom of mother nature. And
yet what marble fountain in fashionable square or city park, what bronze lions
or tumble-down dolphins with upturned tails can compare with an old worm-eaten,
moss-covered, weather-stained country well, or a rural windmill in a green
meadow! What Arc de Triomphe can ever compare with the low arch of Grotto
Azzurra, at Capri, and what city park or Champs Elysées,
rival Sorrento, “the wild garden of the world,” the
birth-place of Tasso? Ancient civilizations have never sacrificed
Nature to speculation, but holding it as divine, have
honoured her natural beauties by the erection of works of art, such as our
modern electric civilization could never produce even in dream. The sublime
grandeur, the mournful gloom and majesty of the ruined temples of Pæstum, that stand for ages like so many
sentries over the sepulchre of the Past and the forlorn hope of the Future amid
the mountain wilderness of Sorrento, have inspired more men of genius than the
new civilization will ever produce. Give us the
banditti who once
infested these ruins, rather than the railroads that cut through the old
Etruscan tombs; the first may take the purse and life of the few; the second
are undermining the lives of the millions by poisoning with foul gases the
sweet breath of the pure air. In ten years, by century xxth, Southern France
with its Nice and Cannes, and even Engadine, may hope to rival the London
atmosphere with its fogs, thanks to the increase of population and changes of
climate. We hear that Speculation is preparing a new iniquity against Nature: smoky, greasy, stench-breathing funiculaires (baby-railways) are being contemplated for some world-renowned mountains. They are preparing to creep like so many loathsome, fire-vomiting reptiles over the immaculate body of the Jungfrau, and a railway-tunnel is to pierce the heart of the snow-capped Virgin mountain, the glory of Europe. And why not? Has not national speculation pulled down the priceless remains of the grand Temple of Neptune at Rome, to build over its colossal corpse and sculptured pillars the present Custom House?
Are we so wrong then, in maintaining that modern civilization with its Spirit of Speculation is the very Genius of Destruction; and as such, what better words can be addressed to it than this definition of Burke:
“A Spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”
Lucifer, May, 1891
The more honesty a man has, the less he
affects the air of a saint. The affectation of
sanctity is a blotch on the face of devotion.
The most difficult thing in life is to know
SHALL WE WINNOW THE CORN, BUT FEED UPON THE CHAFF?
THE presiding genius in the Daily News Office runs amuck at Lucifer in his issue of February 16th. He makes merry over the presumed distress of some theosophists who see in our serial novel, “The Talking Image of Urur”—by our colleague, Dr. F. Hartmann—an attempt to poke fun at the Theosophical Society. Thereupon, the witty editor quizzes “Madame Blavatsky” for observing that she “does not agree with the view” taken by some pessimists; and ends by expressing fear that “the misgivings that have been awakened will not easily be laid to rest.”
Ride, si sapis. It is precisely because it is our desire that the “misgivings” awakened should reach those in whom the sense of personality and conceit has not yet entirely stifled their better feelings, and force them to recognize themselves in the mirror offered to them in the “Talking Image,” that we publish the “satirical” novel.
This proceeding of ours—rather unusual, to be sure, for editors —to publish a satire, which seems to the short-sighted to be aimed at their gods and parties only because they are unable to sense the underlying philosophy and moral in them, has created quite a stir in the dailies.
The various Metropolitan Press Cutting Agencies are pouring every morning on our breakfast-table their load of criticism, advice, and comment upon the rather novel policy. So, for instance, a kindly-disposed correspondent of the Lancashire Evening Post (February 18) writes as follows:
The editor of Lucifer has done a bold thing. She is publishing a story called “The Talking Image of Urur,” which is designed to satirise the false prophets of Theosophy in order that
p. 162 H. P. BLAVATSKY
the true prophets may be justified. I appreciate the motive entirely, but, unfortunately, there are weak-minded theosophists who can see nothing in Dr. Hartmann’s spirited talk but a caricature of their whole belief. So they have remonstrated with Madame Blavatsky, and she replies in Lucifer that “the story casts more just ridicule upon the enemies and detractors of the Theosophic Society than upon the few theosophists whose enthusiasm may have carried them into extremes.” Unfortunately, this is not strictly accurate. The hero of the tale, a certain Pancho, is one of these enthusiasts, and it is upon him and upon the mock “adepts” who deceive him that the ridicule is thrown. But it never seems to have occurred to Madame Blavatsky and Dr. Hartmann that the moment you begin to ridicule one element, even though it be a false element, in the faith, you are apt to shake the confidence of many if not most believers, for the simple reason that they have no sense of humour. The high priestess of the cult may have this sense for obvious reasons,1 but her disciples are likely to be lost if they begin to laugh, and if they can’t laugh they will be bewildered and indignant. I offer this explanation with all humility to Madame Blavatsky, who has had some experience of the effects of satire.
The more so as, according to those members of the T.S. who have read the whole story, it is precisely “Madame Blavatsky” against whom its satire is the most directed. And if “Mme. Blavatsky”—presumably “the Talking Image”—does not object to finding herself represented as a kind of mediumistic poll parrot, why should other “theosophists” object? A theosophist above all men ought ever to bear in mind the advice of Epictetus: “If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.” We welcome a witty satire always, and defy ridicule or any efforts in this direction to kill the Theosophical Society, so long as it, as a body, remains true to its original principles.
As to the other dangers so kindly urged by the Post, the “high priestess” acknowledges the benevolent objections by answering and giving her reasons, which are these: The chosen motto of the Theosophical Society has been for years—“There is no religion higher than truth”; the object of Lucifer is in the epigraph on its cover, which is “to bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” If the editor of Lucifer and the Theosophists would not believe
1 The “obvious reasons” so delicately worded are these: “the high priestess of the cult” is almost universally supposed, outside of the T.S., to have exercised her own satirical powers and “sense of humour” on her alleged and numerous victims by bamboozling them into a belief of her own invention. So be it. The tree is known by its fruits, and it is posterity which will have to decide on the nature of the fruit.—[Ed.]
these two propositions and be true to their colours, they have to deal with perfect impartiality, sparing no more themselves than outsiders, or even their enemies. As to the “weak-minded theosophists”—if any—they can take care of themselves in the way they please. If the “false prophets of Theosophy” are to be left untouched, the true prophets will be very soon—as they have already been—confused with the false. It is nigh time to winnow our corn and cast away the chaff. The T.S. is becoming enormous in its numbers, and if the false prophets, the pretenders (e.g., the “H.B. of L.,” exposed in Yorkshire by Theosophists two years ago, and the “G.N.K.R.” just exposed in America), or even the weak-minded dupes, are left alone, then the Society threatens to become very soon a fanatical body split into three hundred sects—like Protestantism—each hating the other, and all bent on destroying the truth by monstrous exaggerations and idiotic schemes and shams. We do not believe in allowing the presence of sham elements in Theosophy, because of the fear, forsooth, that if even “a false element in the faith” is ridiculed, the latter “is apt to shake the confidence” in the whole. At this rate Christianity would be the first to die out centuries ago under the sledge-hammer blows dealt to its various churches by its many reformers. No philosopher, no mystic or student of symbolism, can ever laugh at or disbelieve in the sublime allegory and conception of the “Second Advent”—whether in the person of Christ, Krishna, Sosiosh, or Buddha. The Kalki Avatar, or last (not “second”) Advent, to wit, the appearance of the “Saviour of Humanity” or the “Faithful” light of Truth, on the White Horse of Death—death to falsehood, illusion, and idol, or self-worship—is a universal belief. Shall we for all that abstain from denouncing the behaviour of certain “Second Adventists” (as in America)? What true Christians shall see their co-religionists making fools of themselves, or disgracing their faith, and still abstain from rebuking them publicly as privately, for fear lest this false element should throw out of Christianity the rest of the believers? Can any of them praise his co-religionists for climbing periodically, in a state of paradisiacal decolleté, on the top of their houses, trees, and high places, there to await the “advent”? No doubt those who hope by stealing a march on their slower Brethren to find themselves hooked up the first, and carried bodily into Heaven, are as good Christians as any. Should they not be rebuked for their folly all the same? Strange logic!
p. 164 H. P. BLAVATSKY
THE WISE MAN COURTS TRUTH; THE FOOL, FLATTERY
However it may be, let rather our ranks be made thinner, than the Theosophical Society go on being made a spectacle to the world through the exaggerations of some fanatics, and the attempts of various charlatans to profit by a ready-made programme. These, by disfiguring and adapting Occultism to their own filthy and immoral ends, bring disgrace upon the whole movement. Some writer remarked that if one would know the enemy against whom he has to guard himself the most, the looking-glass will give him the best likeness of his face. This is quite true. If the first object of our Society be not to study one’s own self, but to find fault with all except that self, then, indeed, the T.S. is doomed to become—and it already has in certain centres—a Society for mutual admiration; a fit subject for the satire of so acute an observer as we know the author of “The Talking Image of Urur” to be. This is our view and our policy. “And be it, indeed, that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.”
That such, however, is the policy of no other paper we know of—whether a daily, a weekly, a monthly, or a quarterly—we are quite aware. But, then, they are the public organs of the masses. Each has to pander to this or that other faction of politics or Society, and is doomed “to howl with the wolves,” whether it likes or not. But our organs—Lucifer pre-eminently—are, or ought to be, the phonographs, so to speak, of the Theosophical Society, a body which is placed outside and beyond all centres of forced policy. We are painfully conscious that “he who tells the truth is turned out of nine cities”; that truth is unpalatable to most men; and that—since men must learn to love the truth before they thoroughly believe it—the truths we utter in our magazine are often as bitter as gall to many. This cannot be helped. Were we to adopt any other kind of policy, not only Lucifer—a very humble organ of Theosophy—but the Theosophical Society itself, would soon lose all its raison d’etre and become an anomaly.
But “who shall sit in the seat of the scorner?” Is it the timid in heart, who tremble at every opinion too boldly expressed in Lucifer lest it should displease this faction of readers or give offense to that other class of subscribers? Is it the “self-admirers,” who resent every remark, however kindly expressed, if it happens to clash with their notions, or fails to show respect to their hobbies?
ON PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY p. 165
. . . I am Sir Oracle And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!
Surely we learn better and profit more by criticism than by flattery, and we amend our ways more through the abuse of our enemies than the blind pandering of friends. Such satires as the “Fallen Idol,” and such chelas as Nebelsen, have done more good to our Society, and certain of its members, than any “theosophical” novel; for they have shown up and touched au vif the foolish exaggerations of more than one enthusiast.
Self abnegation is possible only to those who have learnt to know themselves; to such as will never mistake the echo of their own inner voice—that of selfish desire or passion—for the voice of divine inspiration, or an appeal from their Master. Nor is chelaship consonant with mediumistic sensitiveness and its hallucinations; and therefore all the sensitives who have hitherto forced themselves into discipleship have generally made fools of themselves, and, sooner or later, thrown ridicule upon the T.S. But after the publication of the “Fallen Idol” more than one such exhibition was stopped. “The Talking Image of Urur” may then render the same, if not better, service. If some traits in its various dramatis personæ fit in some particulars certain members who still belong to the Society, other characters—and the most successful of them—resemble rather certain EX-members; fanatics, in the past, bitter enemies now—conceited fools at all times. Furthermore “Puffer” is a compound and very vivid photograph. It may be that of several members of the T.S., but it looks also like a deluded victim of other bogus Esoteric and Occult Societies. One of such just sprung up at Boston U.S.A., is now being nipped in the bud and exposed by our own Theosophists.
These are the “Solar adepts” spoken of in our January editorial, the âmes damnées of shameful commercial enterprises. No event could vindicate the policy of our journal better than the timely exposure of these pseudo-adepts, those “Sages of the Ages” who bethought themselves of trading upon the public hunger for the marvellous ad absurdum. We did well to speak of them in the editorial as we have. It was timely and lucky for us to have pointed to the ringleaders of that shameful speculation—the sale of bogus occult knowledge. For we have averted thereby a great and new danger to the Society—namely that of unscrupulous charlatans being taken for Theosophists. Misled by their lies and their publi-
p. 166 H. P. BLAVATSKY
cations filled with terms from Eastern philosophy and with ideas they had bodily stolen from us only to disfigure and misapply them—the American press has already referred to them as Theosophists. Whether out of sheer flippancy, or actual malice, some dailies have headed their sensational articles with “Theosophic Knaves,” and “Pantognomostic Theosophs,” etc., etc. This is pure fiction. The editor of the “Esoteric” had never been at any time a member of our society, or of any of its numerous Branches. “Adhy-apaka, alias the Hellenic Ethnomedon and Enphoron, alias the Greco-Tibetan, Ens-movens Om mane padmi Aum” (sic) was our enemy from the beginning of his career. As impudently stated by him to a reporter, we theosophists hated him for his “many virtues”! Nor has the Sage “bent under the weight of centuries,” the Vidya Nyaika, said to be represented by a person called Eli Ohmart, had anything to do with the T.S. The two worthies had, like two venomous wily spiders, spread their webs far and wide, and numerous are the Yankee flies caught in them. But thanks to the energy of some of our Boston Members, the two hideous desecrators of Eastern philosophy are exposed. In the words of the “Boston Globe,” this is the—
WEIRD TALE WHICH MAY HAVE A SEQUEL IN COURT
“If there are no arrests made, I shall go right on with the work; but if they make trouble, I shall stay and face the music.”
Hiram Erastus Butler, the esoteric philosopher of 478 Shawmut avenue, uttered the foregoing sentiment to a Globe reporter last evening as calmly as one would make a casual remark about the weather.
Thereby hangs a tale, a long, complicated, involuted, weird, mystical, scientific, hysterical tale—a tale of love and intrigue, of adventure, of alleged and to some extent of admitted swindling, of charges of a horrible and unspeakable immorality, of communion with embodied and disembodied spirits, and especially of money. In short, a tale that would make your head weary and your heart faint if you attempted to follow out all its labyrinthine details and count the cogs on its wheels within wheels. A tale that quite possibly may find its sequel in the courts, where judge, jury, and counsel will have a chance to cudgel their brains over almost every mystery in the known universe.
These are the
heroes whom certain timid
Theosophists—those who raised their voices against the publication of the
ON PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY p. 167
Image of Urur—” advised us to leave alone. Had it not been for that unwillingness to expose even impersonal things and deeds, our editorial would have been more explicit. Far from us be the desire to “attack” or “expose” even our enemies, so long as they harm only ourselves, personally and individually. But here the whole of the Theosophical body—already so maligned, opposed, and persecuted—was endangered, and its destinies were hanging in the balance, because of that impudent pseudo esoteric speculation. He, therefore, who maintains in the face of the Boston scandal, that we did not act rightly in tearing off the sanctimonious mask of Pecksniffian piety and the “Wisdom of the Ages” which covered the grimacing face of a most bestial immorality, of insatiable greediness for lucre and impudence, fire, water, and police proof—is no true Theosophist. How minds, even of an average intelligence, could be caught by such transparent snares as these publicly exhibited by the two worthies, to wit: Adhy-Apaka and Vidya Nyaika—traced by the American press to one Hiram E. Butler and Eli Ohmart—passes all comprehension! Suffice to read the pamphlet issued by the two confederates, to see at the first glance that it was a mere repetition—more enlarged and barefaced, and with a wider, bolder programme, still a repetition —of the now defunct “H.B. of L.” with its mysterious appeals of four years ago to the “Dissatisfied” with “the Theosophical Mahatmas.” The two hundred pages of the wildest balderdash constitute their “Appeal from the Unseen and the Unknown” and the “Interior of the Inmost” (?) to “the Awakened.” Pantognomos and Ekphoron offer to teach the unwary “the laws of Ens, Movens, and Om," and appeal for money. Vidya Nyaika and Ethnomedon propose to initiate the ignorant into the “á priori Sambudhistic (?) philosophy of Kapila” and—beg for hard cash. The story is so sickening that we dislike to stain our pages with its details. But now to the moral of the fable.
YE SPURNED THE SUBSTANCE AND HAVE
CLUTCHED THE SHADOW
For fourteen years our Theosophical Society has been before the public. Born with the three-fold object of infusing a little more mutual brotherly feeling in mankind; of investigating the mysteries of nature from the Spiritual and Psychic aspect; and, of doing a tardy justice to the civilizations and Wisdom of Eastern pre-
p. 168 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Christian nations and literature, if it did not do all the good that
a richer Society might, it certainly did no harm. It appealed only to those who
found no help for their perplexities anywhere else. To those lost in the
psychic riddles of Spiritualism, or such, again, as, unable to stand the morbid
atmosphere of modern unbelief, and seeking light in vain from the unfathomable
mysteries taught by the theology of the thousand and one Christian sects, had
given up all hope of solving any of the problems of life. There was no entrance
fee during the first two years of the Society’s existence; afterwards, when the
correspondence and postage alone demanded hundreds of pounds a year, new
members had to pay £1 for their
diploma. Unless one wanted to support the movement, one could remain a Fellow
all his life without being asked for a penny, and two-thirds of our members
have never put their hand in their pocket, nor were they asked to do so. Those
who supported the cause were from the first a few devoted Theosophists who
laboured without conditions or any hope for reward. Yet no association was more
insulted and laughed at than was the Theosophical Society. No members of any
body were spoken of in more contemptuous terms than the Fellows of the T.S. from
the first. The Society was born in America, and therefore it was regarded in
England with disfavour and suspicion. We were considered as fools and knaves,
victims and frauds before the benevolent interference of the Psychic Research
Society, which tried to build its reputation on the downfall of Theosophy and
Spiritualism, but really harmed neither. Nevertheless, when our enemies got the
upper hand, and by dint of slander and inventions had most maliciously
succeeded in placing before the credulous public, ever hungry for scandals and
sensations, mere conjectures as undeniable and proven facts, it was the
American press which became the most bitter in its denunciations of Theosophy,
and the American public the most willing to drink in and giggle over the undeserved
calumnies upon the Founders of the T.S. Yet it is they who were the first told,
through our Society, of the actual existence of Eastern Adepts in Occult
Sciences. But both the English and the Americans spurned and scoffed at the
very idea, while even the Spiritualists and Mystics, who ought to have known
better, would, with a few exceptions, have nothing to do with
of Wisdom. The latter were, they maintained, “invented
Theosophists”: it was all “moonshine.” For these “Masters,” whom no member was
ever asked to accept, unless he liked
ON PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY p. 169
to do so himself, on whose behalf no supernatural claim was ever made, unless, perhaps, in the too ardent imagination of enthusiasts; these Masters who gave to, and often helped with money, poor Theosophists, but never asked anything of the rich—these masters were too much like real men. They neither claimed to be gods nor spirits, nor did they pander to people’s gush and sentimental creeds. And now those Americans have got at last what their hearts yearned for: a bonâ fide ideal of an adept and magician. A creature several thousand years old. A true-blue “Buddhist-Brahmin” who appeals to Jehovah, or Jahveh, speaks of Christ and the Messianic cycle, and blesses them with an amen and an “om mane padmi hum” in the same breath, relieving them at the same time of 40,000 dollars before they are a month old in their worship of him . . . Wullahy! Allah is great and—“Vidya Nyaika” is his only prophet. Indeed we feel little pity for the victims. What is the psychology that some Theosophists are accused of exercising over their victims in comparison with this? And this necessitates a few words of explanation.
IGNORANCE NOT ALTOGETHER BLISS
All know that there is a tacit, often openly-expressed, belief among a few of the Fellows of the T.S. that a certain prominent Theosophist among the leaders of the Society psychologizes all those who happen to come within the area of that individual’s influence. Dozens, nay, hundreds, were, and still are, “psychologized.” The hypnotic effect seems so strong as to virtually transform all such “unfortunates” into irresponsible nincompoops, mere cyphers and tools of that theosophical Circe. This idiotic belief was originally started by some “wise men” of the West. Unwilling to admit that the said person had either any knowledge or powers, bent on discrediting their victim, and yet unable to explain certain abnormal occurrences, they hit upon this happy and logical loop-hole to get out of their difficulties. The theory found a grateful and fruitful soil. Henceforth, whenever any Fellows connected theosophically with the said “psychologizer” happen to disagree in their views upon questions, metaphysical or even purely administrative, with some other member—“on despotism bent,” forthwith the latter comes out with the favourite solution: “Oh, they are psychologized!” The magic word springs out on the arena of discussion like a Jack-in-a-box, and forthwith
p. 170 H. P. BLAVATSKY
the attitude of the “rebels” is explained and plausibly accounted for.
Of course the alleged “psychology” has really no existence outside the imagination of those who are too vain to allow any opposition to their all-wise and autocratic decrees on any other ground than phenomenal—nay, magical—interference with their will. A short analysis of the Karmic effects that would be produced by the exercise of such powers may prove interesting to theosophists.
Even on the terrestrial, purely physical plane, moral irresponsibility ensures impunity. Parents are answerable for their children, tutors and guardians for their pupils and wards, and even the Supreme Courts have admitted extenuating circumstances for criminals who are proved to have been led to crime by a will or influences stronger than their own. How much more forcibly this law of simple retributive justice must act on the psychic plane; and what, therefore, may be the responsibility incurred by using such psychological powers, in the face of Karma and its punitive laws, may be easily inferred. Is it not evident that, if even human justice recognizes the impossibility of punishing an irrational idiot, a child, a minor, etc., taking into account even hereditary causes and bad family influences—that the divine Law of Retribution, which we call Karma, must visit with hundredfold severity one who deprives reasonable, thinking men of their free will and powers of ratiocination? From the occult standpoint, the charge is simply one of black magic, of envoûtement. Alone a Dugpa, with “Avitchi” yawning at the further end of his life cycle, could risk such a thing. Have those so prompt to hurl the charge at the head of persons in their way, ever understood the whole terrible meaning implied in the accusation? We doubt it. No occultist, no intelligent student of the mysterious laws of the “night side of Nature,” no one who knows anything of Karma, would ever suggest such an explanation. What adept or even a moderately-informed chela would ever risk an endless future by interfering with, and therefore taking upon himself, the Karmic debit of all those whom he would so psychologize as to make of them merely the tools of his own sweet will!
This fact seems so evident and palpably flagrant, that it is absurd to have to recall it to those who boast of knowing all about Karma.
Is it not enough to bear the burden of the knowledge that from
ON PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY p. 171
birth to death, the least, the most unimportant, unit of the human family exercises an influence over, and receives in his turn, as unconsciously as he breathes, that of every other unit whom he approaches, or who comes in contact with him? Each of us either adds to or diminishes the sum total of human happiness and human misery, “not only of the present, but of every subsequent age of humanity,” as shown so ably by Elihu Burritt, who says:
There is no sequestered spot in the Universe, no dark niche along the disc of non-existence, from which he (man) can retreat from his relations to others, where he can withdraw the influence of his existence upon the moral destiny of the world; everywhere his presence or absence will be felt—everywhere he will have companions who will be better or worse for his influence. It is an old saying, and one of fearful and fathoming import, that we are forming characters for eternity. Forming characters! Whose? Our own or others’? Both—and in that momentous fact lies the peril and responsibility of our existence. Who is sufficient for the thought? Thousands of my fellow-beings will yearly enter eternity2 with characters differing from those they would have carried thither had I never lived. The sunlight of that world will reveal my finger-marks in their primary formations, and in their successive strata of thought and life.
These are the words of a profound thinker. And if the simple fact of our living changes the sum of human weal and woe—in a way for which we are, owing to our ignorance, entirely irresponsible—what must be the Karmic decree in the matter of influencing hundreds of people by an act perpetrated and carried on for years in premeditation and the full consciousness of what we are doing!
Verily the man or woman in the unconscious possession of such dangerous powers had much better never be born. The Occultist who exercises them consciously will be caught up by the whirlwind of successive rebirths, without even an hour of rest. Woe to him, then, in that ceaseless, dreary series of terrestrial Avitchis; in that interminable æon of torture, suffering, and despair, during which, like the squirrel doomed to turn the wheel at every motion, he will launch from one life of misery into another, only to awake each time with a fresh burden of other people’s Karma, which he will have drawn upon himself! Is it not enough, indeed, to be regarded as “frauds, cranks, and infidels,” by the outsiders, without being identified with wizards and witches by our own members!
2 Devachan, rather; the entr’acte between two incarnations.
p. 172 H. P. BLAVATSKY
THE GENUS “INFIDEL” AND ITS VARIETIES
It is true to say that the varieties of infidels are many, and that one “infidel” differs from another infidel as a Danish boar-hound differs from the street mongrel. A man may be the most heterodox infidel with regard to orthodox dogmas. Yet, provided he proclaims himself loudly a Christian, that heterodoxy—when even going to the length of saying that “revealed religion is an imposture”—will be regarded by some as simply “of that exalted kind which rises above all human forms.”3
A “Christian” of such a kind may—as the late Laurence Oliphant has—give vent to a still more startling theory. He may affirm that he considers that “from time to time the Divine Influence emanates itself, so to speak, in phenomenal persons. Sakya-mouni was such; Christ was such; and such I consider Mr. (Lake) Harris to be—in fact, he is a new avatar,”4 and still remain a Christian of an “exalted kind” in the sight of the “Upper Ten.” But let an “infidel” of the Theosophical Society say just the same (minus the absurdity of including the American Lake Harris in the list of the Avatars), and no contumely heaped upon him by clergy and servile newspapers will ever be found too strong!
But this belongs properly to the paradoxes of the Age; though the Avataric idea has much to do with Karma and rebirth, and that belief in reincarnation has nothing in it that can militate against the teachings of Christ. We affirm, furthermore, that the great Nazarene Adept distinctly taught it. So did Paul and the Synoptics, and nearly all the earliest Church Fathers, with scarcely an exception, accepted it, while some actually taught the doctrine.
DO NOT START TWO HARES AT ONCE
From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step, and Karma acts along every line, on nations as on men. The Japanese Mikado is tottering towards his end for having played too long at hide and seek with his worshippers. Hundreds of shrewd Americans have been taken in through disbelieving in truths and lending a too credulous ear to bold lies. A French abbé has fallen under Karmic penalty for coquetting too openly with Theosophy, and
3 Vide Lady Grant Duff’s article “Laurence Oliphant” in the Contemporary Review for February: pages 185 and 188.
4 Ibid. Quoted from Sir Thomas Wade’s
notes, by Lady Grant Duff—page 186.
ON PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY p. 173
attempted to mirror himself, like a modern clerical Narcissus, in the too deep waters of Eastern Occultism. The Abbé Roca, an honourary chanoine (canon) in the diocese of Perpignan, our old friend and irrepressible adversary in the French Lotus a year ago —has come to grief. Yet his ambition was quite an innocent one, if rather difficult of realization. It was founded on a dream of his; a reconciliation between Pantheistic Theosophy and a Socialistic Latin Church, with a fancy Pope at the head of it. He longed to see the Masters of Wisdom of old India and Eastern Occultism under the sway of Rome regenerated, and amused himself with predicting the same. Hence a frantic race between his meridional phantasy and the clerical bent of his thought. Poor, eloquent abbé! Did he not already perceive the Kingdom of Heaven in the new Rome-Jerusalem? A new Pontiff seated on a throne made out of the cranium of Macroprosopus, with the Zohar in his right pocket, Chochmah, the male Sephiroth (transformed by the good abbé into the Mother of God), in his left, and a “Lamb” stuffed with dynamite, in the paternal Popish embrace. The “Wise Men” of the East were even now, he said, crossing the Himalayas, and, “led by the Star” of Theosophy, would soon be worshipping at the shrine of the reformed Pope and Lamb. It was a glorious dream—alas, still but a dream. But he persisted in calling us the “greatest of Christian-Buddhists.” (Lotus, February, 1888.) Unfortunately for himself he also called the Pope of the “Cæsaro-papal Rome” “the Satan of the seven hills,” in the same number. Result: Pope Leo XIII asserts once more the proverbial ingratitude of theological Rome. He has just deprived our poetical and eloquent friend and adversary, the Abbé Roca, of the—
exercise of all his functions in Holy Orders, as also of his living, for refusing to submit to a decree by which his works were placed on the Index Expurgatorius. These works bore the titles of “Christ, the Pope, and the Democracy”; “The Fatal Crisis and the Salvation of Europe”; and “The End of the World.” Even in the face of the present papal decision, he is advertising the appearance of a fourth work, entitled “Glorieux Centenaire,’ 1889. “Monde Nouveau.” “Nouveaux Cieux, nou-velle Terre.”
According to Galignani—(and his own articles and letters in theosophical organs, we may add) the fearless—Abbé has for some time, (says Galignani), been denouncing the Papacy as a creature of Cæsar, and as wholly preoccupied with the question of its temporalities in face of the crying
needs of humanity. According to his view, the Divine aid was promised the Church until the end of the world, or of the age; and the Cæsarean age having passed away, all things are to be made new. He looks forward to a spiritual coming of Christ by the spread of the modern sentiment of “liberty, equality, fraternity, toleration, solidarity, and mutuality,” in the atmosphere of the Gospel. Although his views do not appear to be very clear, he argues that the Gospel is passing from “the mystico-sentimental phase to the organico-social phase,” thanks to the progress of science, which will illumine everything. (The Globe.)
This is only what had to be expected. The Abbé would not accept our joint warnings and took no heed of them. The sad epilogue of our polemics is given (not altogether correctly as regards the present writer) in the same Globe, wherein the news is wound up in the following words:
He has been contending, in the Lotus, in favour of a union of the East and the West by means of a fusion between Buddhism and the Christian Gospel; but Mdme. Blavatsky, the foremost European convert to the Indian religion, has emphatically repudiated all attempts at such union, because she cannot or will not accept the authority of Christ. The Abbé Roca is therefore left out in the cold.
This is not so. What “Mdme. Blavatsky” replied in the Lotus (December 1887) to the Abbé’s assertions that the said fusion between his Church and Theosophy would surely come, was this:
. . . “We are not as optimistic as he (the Abbé Roca) is. His church sees in vain her greatest ‘mysteries’ unmasked and the fact proclaimed in every country by scholars versed in Orientalism and Symbology as by Theosophists; and we refuse to believe that she will ever accept our truths or confess her errors. And as, on the other hand, no true theosophist will accept any more a carnalised Christ according to the Latin dogma than an anthropomorphic God, and still less a ‘Pastor’ in the person of a Pope, it is not the adepts who will ever go toward ‘the Mount of Salvation,’ (as invited by the Abbé). They will rather wait that the Mahomet of Rome should go to the trouble of taking the path which leads to Mount Meru.” . . .
This is not rejecting “the authority of Christ” if the latter be
regarded as we and Laurence Oliphant regarded Him,
i.e. as an
like Gautama Buddha and other great adepts who became the vehicles or
of the “one” Divine influence. What most of us will never accept is the
docteur” of Renan, or the Christ of Torquemada and Calvin rolled into one. Jesus, the Adept we believe in, taught our Eastern doctrines, karma and reincarnation foremost of all. When the socalled Christians will have learnt to read the New Testament between the lines, their eyes will be opened and—they will see.
We propose to deal with the subject of Karma and Reincarnation in our next issue. Meanwhile, we are happy to see that a fair wind is blowing over Christendom and propels European thought more and more Eastward.
Lucifer, March, 1889
THE MOTE AND THE BEAM
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. . . .
Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye,
But considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
OH the virtuous indignation, the roaring tempest raised in the tender souls of American and British philanthropists at the rumor that Russian authorities in Siberia are not as tender as they should be towards their political prisoners! What a hullabaloo of loud protests of “indignation meetings,” of gigantic gatherings to denounce their neighbors, while they keep prudently silent about the same misdeeds at home.
A monster meeting of some 250,000 men protested the other day at Hyde Park “in the name of civilization and humanity” against the brutal behavior of some unknown Russian officials and jailors. Now, one can readily understand and entirely appreciate the feelings of the masses, of the oppressed, the suffering poor and the hoi polloi in general. These being “sat upon” from birth to death by the high and the wealthy of their own land, and having all, to a man, many a sore place in their hearts, must feel them vibrating with pain and sympathy with their brothers in sorrow of other countries. True, the energy expended at the said meeting might have been more usefully directed, perhaps, against local and colonial “Siberias” and “Dead Houses”; but such as it was, the impulse being genuine, every Theosophist regarded it with respect. But that to which every member of the Theosophical Society ought to refuse that feeling of sympathy is the hypocritical cant in this matter of sundry editors who remain dumb in face of misdeeds at home, pouring all their wrath on the abuse of power and the brutality of Russian officers. This is enough to make an owl laugh in full daylight. That charges of cruelty should be brought forward, and leprous spots singled out on the body of Russia by England and America is a sufficiently curious piece of moral audacity; but that this attitude should be supported, and even en-
THE MOTE AND THE BEAM p. 177
forced, by certain editors, instead of being passed over in prudent silence, makes one think of the wise adage “whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad.” To the student of human nature a world of instruction is contained therein, and he feels thankful for this additional experience.
Bearing in mind that Lucifer has nought to do with the political situation in all this affair, let the reader remember, that it has, on the other hand everything to do with its moral aspect. Having its mission at heart, to wit: to bring “to light the hidden things of darkness,” it has naturally a good deal to say about drunken John and drunken Jonathan nodding so frowningly at drunken Peter, and so gravely moralising at him as though they were themselves sinless. Here the writer speaks first of all as a Theosophist, and only secondly as a Russian; neither excusing Russia, nor accusing England and America, but simply throwing the full glare of the torch of truth on facts which no one can deny. And once this position established, the writer says: “How consoling and hopeful might have been for our growing society—that of the ‘Universal Brotherhood of Man’—such exhibition of the noblest and most human feelings, had it not been marred by a few antecedent facts,” of which presently. Even as the “protest” against Russian cruelty stands now, all such show of pious regard for Christ’s command “love your enemies,” is spoiled by a disregard of that other injunction “thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are.” Indeed, Europe might be asking now as of George Dandin in the comedy of Molière, “Qui de nous deux trompe-t-on ici?” Could even a child be really deceived by such protests on the Continent? If all this display of indignation is likely to impress anyone eventually, it will be only those “inferior races” under the paternal sway and benevolent rule of their respective white rulers. Hindus and Mussulmen, Burmese and Singhalese, upon listening to the reverberating echoes of pious horror from the West, are as likely as not to contrast the ferociousness of Russian jailors and prison-houses with that of their own rulers, with the Calcutta “Black Hole” of famous memory, and the Andaman Islands; while the hapless and ever-kicked Negroes of the United States, the Red Indians dying of exposure and starvation in their frozen wilderness, and even some Chinamen who seek hospitality on the Pacific coast, may yet come to envy the lot of the “political prisoners of Siberia.” . . .
But what imposing pictures! On the other side of the “pond”
p. 178 H. P. BLAVATSKY
the pathetic eloquence of Mr. George Kennan the Siberian traveller, “who has just seen all this for himself, you see!”·—drawing tears from the street-flags and forcing lamp-posts to use their pocket-handkerchiefs—without speaking of the colored citizens, Red Indians and Chinamen. On this side of the Atlantic, Mr. Quilter, the editor of the Universal Review, showing like fervor on behalf of the “oppressed.” Mr. Adolphe Smith’s “Exile by administrative order,” adorned by what Mr. Stead calls “a fancy sketch of the flogging of Madame Sihida’(?)1 gracing one of the last numbers of the Universal Review produces likewise its effect. Moved by a spirit of lofty chivalry, its editor issued, as all know, a circular to M.P.’s, peers, judges, heads of Colleges and so on, to ask them “whether (a) the present system of Siberian exile by administrative order” was not “a disgrace to a civilized nation”; and (b), whether the above mentioned authorities do not “consider that steps should be taken to call the attention of her Majesty’s Government to those outrages, in order that a diplomatic remonstrance should be addressed to the Czar”!
As this pertains to the domain of politics, and we do not care to trespass upon forbidden ground, those anxious to learn something of the replies are recommended to read the excellent summary of this curious incident on page 489 of the June Review of Reviews; but we must quote a few lines from it, in which the reader will learn (I) that some of the authorities appealed to are of opinion that “exile in Siberia is ... a just and beneficent punishment . . . much better for criminals than our own (British) convict system”; (2) that the outrage on Madame Sihida “does not rest upon unimpeachable evidence,” the sketch recalling to the writer’s memory “an equally dramatic picture of a Polish prince chained in a convict gang to a murderer, a story which this prince’s brother subsequently declared was false.”
But that which cannot be disproved by any means is that other and far more legitimate agitation going on in England for long years, and now at its acme in this country, that for the enfranchisement of women, and the causes which made it arise. Most
1 Were this “flogging” even proven—which it is not—still brutal and sickening as the fact would undeniably be, is it really any worse than the kicking by the police of women already knocked down by them; than the clubbing until mangled to death of men and crippled boys? And if one is reminded that the alleged “flogging” took place (if it ever did) in the wilds of Siberia, probably hundreds of miles away from any civilized centre, to speak of, and the well-proven “kicking and clubbing” right in the midst of the most civilized city in the world, namely, in Trafalgar Square, it does seem as if it were a case of merely “six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.”
THE MOTE AND THE BEAM p. 179
Theosophists have read Mrs. F. Fenwick Miller’s admirable address on the programme of the Women’s Franchise League2; and many of our Theosophists belong to this League. And there are such as have declared that many women in England—even now, when many of the women’s “disabilities” so-called, have been happily removed after centuries of penal servitude to their husbands—would gladly have consented to exchange places with “Madame Sihida,” whoever she is—not as a political prisoner perhaps, but as a flogged woman. What is the horror of being flogged (where brutal force is used, there is no dishonor but martyrdom), when compared with a long life of moral and physical slavery? Which of the female “serfs of sex”3 in free England would not gladly exchange her position as a wife and mother, for that of a wife and mother in despotic Russia? Why, ladies and gentlemen, who have fought in the “Married Women’s Property” agitation, for the “Custody of Infants’ Bill,” and the right of woman as an independent individual and a citizen, instead of the thing and her husband’s chattel that she was and still is—are you aware that in despotic “half civilised” Russia, the rights of women before the law are on a par with those of men, and in some cases their privileges far greater? That a rich woman marrying a man is, and has been, since the days of Catharine II, sole mistress of her property, the husband having no right to one penny without the wife’s legal signature. That a poor girl, marrying a rich man, having on the other hand a legal right to his property during his life and to a certain portion after his death whether he wills it or not, and also a right to the maintenance of herself and children whatever she does?4 Have you not heard that a woman holding property and paying taxes is obliged to give her vote, whether personally or by proxy? And that so greatly is she protected by law that even a child born between nine and ten months after the husband’s death is considered legitimate by law: simply because abnormally prolonged gestation does casually happen, and that the law states that it is more consonant with the law of Christ to forgive nine guilty women, rather than wrong the tenth who may be innocent? Compare this with the laws of free England with regard to woman, who until about eight or nine years ago was
2 The National Liberal Club, February 25th, 1890.
3 “Woman’s Rights as preached by Women,” by a “Looker on.”
4 If separated (not divorced), and the husband is a public official, a certain portion is deducted from his salary and paid over to the wife.
p. 180 H. P. BLAVATSKY
simply a slave, with less rights than a plantation negro. Read again Mrs. Fenwick Miller’s paper (Loc. cit. supra) and judge. Everything went against her receiving a higher education, inasmuch as she was to remain all her life “under the tutelage of some man.” She had no right to her husband’s property, and lost every right to hers, even to every penny she earned by her own labor, having, in short, no right to hold any property, whether inherited or acquired. A man deserting his wife for another woman, and leaving her and his children to starve, was not forced to support them, but had a legal right to every penny earned by his abandoned wife, as “the skill of her brain was not hers, it was her husband’s.” No matter what he did, or whatever crime he committed against her, she had no redress against him, could neither sue him, nor had even the right of lodging a complaint against him. More: she had no rights as a mother, English law recognizing only the father and the child. Her children could be taken away from her, separated from their mother for ever, and there was no redress for her. Says Mrs. Fenwick Miller:
The wife had in the eyes of the law simply no existence. . . .
Even “within the last two years, seven judges in conclave have declared the law to be to-day that a married woman is in this respect still absolutely a slave, with no rights of free will in herself. . . . Was this not slavery? . . . The woes and flight of the mulatto mother invented by Mrs. Stowe’s genius set all England weeping; but English and Scotch mothers too—refined women, adoring mothers. . . . —have seen their children torn from their embrace or have fled secretly and lived in desolate concealment with their little ones, as the only way to keep . . . near their breaking hearts the darlings of their souls. . . .”
Herbert Spencer seems to have said the same long ago, in these words:
Wives in England were bought from the fifth to the eleventh century, and as late as the seventeenth century husbands of decent station were not ashamed to beat their wives. Gentlemen(!) arranged parties of pleasure for the purpose of seeing wretched women whipped at Bridewell. It was not till 1817 that the public whipping of women was abolished in England.
Between 1817 and 1890 there are but a few years. But how many centuries old is English civilization as compared to that of Russia, whose era of barbarism closed only with Peter the Great?
Who, then, except men capable of taking such undue if legal advantage of their mothers, wives, and children, would not confess that there is far less cruelty even in the casual flogging of a woman,
THE MOTE AND THE BEAM p. 181
than in such a systematic oppression, the life-long torture of millions of innocent women and mothers throughout past centuries and to the present day? And for what reasons? Simply to protect the animal passions and lust, the depravity of men—the masters and the legislators. And it is the men of England who have refused, till forced in their last retrenchments, to abrogate such fiendish laws, and who still refuse to make away with many more as iniquitous, who call this solitary case of flogging “a disgrace to civilization”! And so it would be, if once proved, as are the heartless laws of England against her women. No doubt that of drunken, and therefore cruel, brutes among Russian jailors and prison officials there are plenty. But we trow no more than there are in other countries and probably less. And we would advise the editors who would agitate in favor of sending “remonstrances” to Russia, to first extract the beam from the eye of their own country and then only to turn their attention to the mote in the eye of their neighbor. For that “neighbor” is a country which protects at any rate her mothers and wives, while England lets her laws treat them simply as the goods and chattels of her men, and treats them as the dumb brutes of creation. If there ever was a real “disgrace to a civilized nation” it was the formation of numberless Societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, before any one even thought of establishing a like Society for the protection of women and children, and the punishment of “wife-kickers” and wife-robbing rascally bipeds, such as are found in every class of Society. And why not rather turn the public attention to more than one “disgrace to a civilized nation,” taking place on British soil and in American lands, e.g., to the revolting treatment by the Anglo-Indians of the millions of natives, from the highest Brahman to the lowest pariah, and the no less revolting attitude of the white Americans towards their black co-citizens, or the hapless Red-Indians? Cannibals inflict less torture on their prisoners of war than do the two cultured Christian nations in question on their colored Brethren of the “inferior” races. The former kill and devour their victims, after which these are at rest; while the whites of England and America act worse than Cains towards their black subjects and citizens: they torture them mentally, when not physically, from their cradle to their tomb; refusing them every privilege they have a right to, and then turning round and spitting on them as if they were so many toads. Look at the unfortunate Red
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Skin! Deprived of every inch of his ancestral land, crowded off into the sea, robbed of his supply of blankets and provisions, the Indian is left to freeze and starve by hundreds and thousands, which he proceeds to do amidst catacombs of Bibles, a prey unfit even for the prairie-buzzard. . . .
But why go so far as to the colonies for our instances and proofs, when cases of repeated flogging of women, aye of young girls not out of their teens, necessitate “Royal Commissions” at home? “Ruby, or How Girls Are Trained for Circus Life,” by Amye Reade, a shocker founded on facts as the author claims, has brought forth the following in the Saturday Review (July 26th, 1890):
“Royal Commission.”—Mr. Gainsford Bruce, Q.C., M.P., has promised that as soon as sufficient evidence can be obtained to justify such a step, he will call attention to the matter in the House of Commons, with a view of inducing the Government to advise Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to enquire into and report upon the treatment of children whilst being trained to the business of circus riders, acrobats, and contortionists.
“Manchester Guardian” says:—“ ‘Ruby,’ by Amye Reade. This book is notable on account of the charges brought by the authoress against a manager or managers in general of circuses. It is an indictment so tremendous that, if it can be proved, the authoress should not be content with representing a picture to harrow novel-readers. She should collect her proofs and lay them before the Public Prosecutor. Miss Reade asserts that in cases of contumacy girls of seventeen are stripped naked by the circus-master and flogged by him till they are sick and faint and bleeding.”
Among the members of Parliament who have “allowed their names to be used as indication of their desire to assist the author in her . . . efforts to bring before the public the horrible cruelties,” are Messrs. Gainsford Bruce, Jacob Bright, Sir Richard Temple, etc., etc. Now, “Madame Sihida,” whatever she was else, was a murderess (political or not does not matter); but these unfortunate girls of seventeen are perfectly innocent victims.
Ah, gentlemen editors, of the two cultured champion nations of
Christendom, you may play as much as you like at Sir Charles Grandison—that
union of the perfect gentleman and good Christian—but who will believe you?
Your protests are only suggestive of the Christian ethics of today, and are an
insult to the ethics of Christ. They are no better than a glaring instance of
THE MOTE AND THE BEAM p. 183
and a gigantic apotheosis of hypocrisy. In the words of Lermontoff, the Russian poet, all this comedy—
. . . . . would be too grotesque, in truth,
If it were not so heartrending!
Read rather Bertillon’s Les Races Sauvages and Charles Lümholtz’s Au Pays des Cannibales—a French translation from the Swedish—if you would know what your friends accuse you of, while Russia is charged with her misdeeds only by her enemies, and those jealous of her growing power. Having just come across some reviews of these works, it is but right that our friends should have an idea of the charges published against England, or rather her colonies, and thus be given the means of comparing the Russian “mote” with the British “beam.” We were just preparing to blush for the alleged misdeeds of the former, which misdeeds, if true, would not be excused by any Theosophist on the ground that the Anglo-Indians and the Americans do far worse at home as well as in their colonies—when we saw a Russian review of these works which made us long to read the works themselves. We had known for years—that which the whole world knows—in what a civilized and Christian way the English and the Americans treated —not their prisoners, political or others, but simply their most loyal subjects and citizens, harmless Hindus and other “black heathens,” hard-working, honest negroes, and the much-wronged Red Indians. But we were not prepared to believe that which is published in the Races Sauvages of Bertillon and Au Pays des Cannibales by the well-known Swedish traveller in Australia, Charles Lümholtz.
Let us glance at the older work. Bertillon speaks of Tasmania, and shows that in 1803 there were still about 6,000 natives left, while just sixty-nine years later there remained of them but a legend, and a ghastly tale. In 1872 died the last of the Tasmanians. The country was swept out of its last nigger. How did it come to pass? This is Bertillon’s tale:
To achieve such a brilliant result, the English did not stop before any kind of cruelty. They premised by offering £5 for the head of every adult, and £2 for that of every baby Tasmanian. To succeed in this chase after the miserable native the better, the English brought with them aborigines of Australia, the great enemies of the Tasmanians, and used them as blood hounds. But this method was found to work too slowly. Then a cordon was organised, or rather a band, selected from Colonists, and among the scum of the garrison . . . and Arthur, the
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then governor of the island, was appointed as its chief. After this commenced a regular chase after the Tasmanian, as one finds in hunts after wild boars. . . . The natives were driven into deep water, shot, as if by accident, and those who escaped were poisoned with arsenic . . . some Colonists going so far as to make a fine collection of their victims’ skulls, and boasting of it. . . .
Now this may, or may not, be true; it may, or may not, be exaggerated, just as in the case of “Siberian flogging” and cruelty to political prisoners. As the latter charge comes to us from Russia’s enemies and sensation-loving travellers, so the tale of Tasmania is told by the same kind of traveller, and, moreover, one of a nation not generally friendly to England. But here comes something more modern and trustworthy, a charge from a decided friend of England and the Australians, and one who says what he has seen with his own eyes, heard with his own ears—namely, Charles Lümholtz, in his work called in the French translation, Au Pays des Cannibales. We quote from an ample Russian review of the work, in the Novoyé Vremya, May 2 (14), 1890, No. 5,080. According to the latter, the “enlightenment” of the inferior races and the savage-islanders by the civilization-spreading Englishmen did not stop at the Tasmanians. This is from Lümholtz’s revelation, and it is ghastly!
There is a chapter in this work treating specially of the relations of the
English colonists with the natives, and what deadly terrible relations! The
life of a black man is worth nothing, it seems, and his rights to existence are
on a par with those of a wild beast. “To kill a native of Australia is the same
as killing a dog in the eyes of a British colonist,” says Lümholtz. More than this: no dog will
be so cruelly treated in Europe. Its life, unless dangerous to men, will not be
taken away without any cause. Not so for the native of Australia, according to
the evidence of the Swedish author, who shows that there are young men who make
a point of hunting the blacks every Sunday in the neighborhood of their cities,
systematically passing the whole day in that sport, simply for
pleasure’s sake. . . . A party of four or five horsemen prepares traps, or,
driving the savages into a narrow pass, forces them to seek refuge on
precipitous cliffs, and while the unfortunate wretches are climbing at their
life’s peril on almost perpendicular bare rocks, one ball after another is
fired at them, making even those slightly wounded to lose their hold, and
falling down, break and tear themselves into shreds on the sharp rocky
projections below. . . . A squatter in Long Lagoon has become famous for the
immense number of blacks he has poisoned with strychnine.
And this is no single instance. A farmer from Lower Herbert confessed to the Swedish traveller that he was in the habit of burning the dead bodies of the natives—to get rid of them, in order to destroy a too palpable piece of evidence. But this was only an extra precaution. For, although local law (on paper) punishes murder, it is in reality only the killing of white men which is called murder. English colonists have repeatedly offered to Lümholtz to shoot a few blacks, to get for him the native skulls he was in need of. . . . Before law a black savage is entirely helpless. “Were I a native, I would kill every English colonist I met,” said an exasperated Englishman, an eye-witness like himself, to our author. Another traveller, in his letter to Lümholtz, speaks of these British colonists as of “the most disgusting caricatures of Christians,” and adds: “The English constantly throw stones at other nations for their behavior to conquered races, while no words can express the horror and the indignity of their own acts towards the natives of Australia.”
Thus, having swept off the face of the earth the unfortunate Tasmanians, the British colonists—
. . . “with a cruelty a tiger might envy, destroy to this day the Australian savages. When the first colony of the province of Victoria was founded, there were about 10,000 natives in that district. In 1871, their number fell to 3,000; and in 1880 there were only about 800 left, in all. How many remain alive now we do not know; at any rate, the above cited figures show very eloquently that the civilizing influence of the enlightened mariners has born fruit and their handiwork is nearing its end.” “A few more years,” says Lümholtz, “and the Australian aboriginal race will have disappeared from the face of the earth. The English province of Victoria, raised on the black man’s lands, soaked through and through with his savage blood and fertilized with his bones, will blossom the more luxuriously for that. . . .”
The Russian Reviewer ends with a paragraph which may be taken as a tit-for-tat to the English editor of the Universal Review and his colleagues. We give a verbatim translation of it:
Such is the soil on seem so proud of finds its vent. And it is this soil, furrowed in length and which that colonizing activity the English breadth by the brutal cruelty of the soulless English colonist, which proclaims loudly to the whole world that, to have right of throwing stones at other nations, it is not sufficient yet to be covered with an English skin. It is also necessary that the British soul should not be as black as are the bodies of, and the soil wrenched from, the poor natives; and that the hapless savages should not be viewed by their con-
querors as no better than the Egyptian mummies of cats; to wit: good only to serve as land-fertilizers for their masters’ flourishing colonies.
And now we have done, leaving the detractors and self-constituted judges of Russia to their own reflections. We have lived in India and throughout Asiatic countries; and, as a Theosophist, we feel bound to say that nowhere have we found such a potentiality of cruelty and cant under the brown and black skins as under the white epiderm of the refined European, save perhaps, in the class of the gariwalas, the bullock cart drivers. If the reader would learn the characteristics of this class he will be told for his edification what is that personage. The gariwala belongs to that specimen of humanity to which speech was given to conceal its thought, and which professes its religion only because it serves its ends. While offering divine honors and worship to the cow and the bull, and never letting any opportunity of denouncing his brother gariwala to the village Brahman for disrespect to the (sacred) animals, he himself twists the tails of his team of oxen until these appendages of his Gods hang only by a few hairs and clotted blood. The gariwala, it is, then, who ought to feel a legitimate pride in finding himself acting on the same lines of whining cant as his masters—the barasaabs. And coming so near, in his own humble way, to the policy of the two most civilized and cultured nations of Christendom, the gariwala ought perhaps to be promoted from the ranks of the inferior to those of the superior race.
We have but one word more to say. When Russia has as much said of her by her friends, as Lümholtz says of Australia, and others of India and America, then will every honest man and woman of Europe join in the indignation meetings and righteous protests against Russian atrocities. Until then the best advice one can give to the English and the Americans is very, very old: “Judge not that ye be not judged. For how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye, and behold, a beam is in thine own?”
Lucifer, August, 1890
Open your ears . . . when loud rumour speaks!
I, from the Orient to the drooping West,
Making the wind my post horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth:
Upon my tongue continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce;
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace, while covert enmity,
Under the smile of safety, wounds the world:
And who but Rumour, who but only I . . .
Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile;
And cry content, to that which grieves my heart;
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions . . .
WE live in an age of prejudice, dissimulation and paradox, wherein, like dry leaves caught in a whirlpool some of us are tossed helpless, hither and thither, ever struggling between our honest convictions and fear of that cruellest of tyrants—PUBLIC OPINION. Yea, we move on in life as in a Maelstrom formed of two conflicting currents, one rushing onward, the other repelling us downward; one making us cling desperately to what we believe to be right and true, and that we would fain carry out on the surface; the other knocking us off our feet, overpowering, and finally drowning us under the fierce, despotic wave of social propriety and that idiotic, arbitrary and ever woolgathering public opinion, based on slander and idle rumour. No person need in our modem day be honest, sincere, and righteous in order to curry favour or receive recognition as a man of worth. He need only be a successful hypocrite, or have become for no mortal reason he himself knows of—popular. In our age, in the words of Mrs. Montague, “while every vice is hid by hypocrisy, every virtue is suspected to be hypocrisy . . . and the suspicion is looked upon as wisdom.” Thus, no one seeming to know what to
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believe, and what to reject, the best means of becoming a paragon of every virtue on blind faith, is—to acquire, popularity.
But how is popularity to be acquired? Very easily indeed. Howl with the wolves. Pay homage to the favourite vices of the day, and reverence to mediocrities in public favour. Shut your eyes tight before any truth, if unpalatable to the chief leaders of the social herd, and sit with them upon the dissenting minority. Bow low before vulgarity in power; and bray loud applause to the rising donkey who kicks a dying lion, now a fallen idol. Respect public prejudice and pander to its cant and hobbies, and soon you will yourself become popular. Behold, now is your time. No matter if you be a plunderer and murderer combined: you will be glorified all the same, furnished with an aureole of virtues, and allowed even a broader margin for impunity than contained in the truism of that Turkish proverb, which states that “a thief not found out is honester than a Bey.” But now let a Socrates and Epictetus rolled into one suddenly become unpopular. That which will alone remain of him in the hazy mind of Dame Rumour is a pug nose and the body of a slave lacerated by the plying whip of his Master. The twin sisters, Public Opinion and Mrs. Grundy, will soon forget their classics. Their female aspect, siding with Xantippe, will charitably endeavour to unearth various good reasons for her outbreaks of passion in the shape of slops poured over the poor bald head; and will search as diligently for some hitherto unknown secret vices in the Greek Sage. Their male aspect will see but a lashed body before its mental eye, and will soon end by joining the harmonious concert of Society slander directed against the ghosts of the two philosophers. Result: Socrates-Epictetus will emerge out of the ordeal as black as pitch, a dangerous object for any finger to approach. Henceforth, and for æons to come, the said object will have become unpopular.
The same, in art, in politics, and even literature. “A damnèd saint, an honourable villain,” are
in the present social order of things. Truth and fact have become unpalatable,
and are ostracised; he who ventures to defend an unpopular character or an
unpopular subject, risks to become himself anathema maranatha.
of Society have contaminated all those who approach the threshold of civilized
communities; and if we take the word and severe verdict of Lavater for it,
there is no room in the world
A PARADOXICAL WORLD p. 189
for one who is not prepared to become a full-blown hypocrite. For, “He who by kindness and smooth attention can insinuate a hearty welcome to an unwelcome guest, is a hypocrite superior to a thousand plain-dealers,” writes the eminent physiognomist. This would seem to settle the line of demarcation and to preclude Society, for ever, from becoming a “Palace of Truth.”
Owing to this, the world is perishing from spiritual starvation.
Thousands and millions have turned their faces away from anthropomorphic
ritualism. They believe no longer in a personal governor and Ruler; yet
this prevents them in no wise from attending every Sunday “divine service,” and
professing during the week adherence to their respective Churches. Other
millions have plunged headlong into Spiritualism, Christian and mental science
or kindred mystic occupations; yet how few will confess their true opinions
before a gathering of unbelievers! Most of the cultured men and women—save
rabid materialists—are dying with the desire to fathom the mysteries of nature
and even—whether they be true or imaginary—the mysteries of the magicians of
old. Even our Weeklies and Dailies confess to the past existence of a knowledge
which has now become a closed book save for the very few. Which of them,
however, is brave enough to speak civilly of the unpopular phenomena called
“spiritualistic,” or dispassionately about Theosophy, or even to abstain from
mocking remarks and insulting epithets? They will talk with every outward
reverence of Elijah’s chariot of fire, of the board and bed found by Jonah
within the whale; and open their columns for large subscriptions to fit out
scientifico-religious expeditions, for the purpose of fishing out from the Red
Sea the drowned Pharaoh’s golden tooth-pick, or in the Desert, a fragment of
the broken tables of stone. But they would not touch with a pair of tongs any
fact—no matter how well proven—if vouchsafed to them by the most reliable man
living who is connected with Theosophy or Spiritualism. Why? Because Elijah
flying away to heaven in his chariot is a Biblical orthodox
hence popular and a relevant subject; while a medium levitated to the
ceiling is an unpopular fact; not even a miracle, but simply a
phenomenon due to intermagnetic and psycho-physiological and even physical
causes. On one hand gigantic pretensions to civilization and science,
professions of holding but to what is demonstrated on strictly inductive
methods of observation and experiment; a blind trust in physical science—that
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science which pooh-poohs and throws slur on metaphysics, and is yet honeycombed with “working hypotheses” all based upon speculations far beyond the region of sense, and often even of speculative thought itself: on the other hand, just as servile and apparently as blind an acceptation of that which orthodox science rejects with great scorn, namely, Pharaoh’s tooth-pick, Elijah’s chariot and the ichthyographic explorations of Jonah. No thought of the unfitness of things, of the absurdity, ever strikes any editor of a daily paper. He will place unhesitatingly, and side by side, the newest ape-theory of a materialistic F.R.S., and the latest discourse upon the quality of the apple which caused the fall of Adam. And he will add flattering editorial comments upon both lectures, as having an equal right to his respectful attention. Because, both are popular in their respective spheres.
Yet, are all editors natural-born sceptics and do not many of them show a decided leaning towards the Mysteries of the archaic Past, that which is the chief study of the Theosophical Society? The “Secrets of the Pyramids,” the “rites of Isis” and “the dread traditions of the temple of Vulcan with their theories for transcendental speculation” seem to have a decided attraction for the Evening Standard. Speaking some time since on the “Egyptian Mysteries” it said:
We know little even now of the beginnings of the ancient religions of Thebes and Memphis. . . . All these idolatrous mysteries, it should also be remembered, were always kept profoundly secret; for the hieroglyphic writings were understood only by the initiated through all these ages. Plato, it is true, came to study from the Egyptian priests; Herodotus visited the Pyramids; Pausanias and Strabo admired the characters which were sculptured so large upon their outer casing that he who ran could read them; but not one of these took the trouble to learn their meaning. They were one and all content to give currency, if not credence, to the marvellous tales which the Egyptian priests and people recounted and invented for the benefit of strangers.
Herodotus and Plato, who were both Initiates into the Egyptian
mysteries, accused of believing in and giving currency to marvellous tales
invented by the Egyptian priests, is a novel accusation. Herodotus and Plato
refusing “to take the trouble” of learning the meaning of the hieroglyphs, is
another. Of course if both “gave currency” to tales, which neither an orthodox
Christian, nor an
A PARADOXICAL WORLD p. 191
orthodox Materialist and Scientist will endorse, how can an editor of a Daily accept them as true? Nevertheless the information given and the remarks indulged in, are wonderfully broad and in the main free from the usual prejudice. We transcribe a few paragraphs, to let the reader judge.
It is an immemorial tradition that the pyramid of Cheops communicated by subterranean passages with the great Temple of Isis. The hints of the ancient writers as to the subterranean world which was actually excavated for the mysteries of Egyptian superstition, curiously agree. . . . Like the source of the Nile itself, there is hardly any line of inquiry in Egyptian lore which does not end in mystery. The whole country seems to share with the Sphinx an air of inscrutable silence. Some of its secrets, the researches of Wilkinson, Rawlinson, Brugsch, and Petrie have more or less fully revealed to us; but we shall never know much which lies concealed behind the veil of time.1 We can hardly hope even to realize the glories of Thebes in its prime, when it spread over a circuit of thirty miles, with the noble river flowing through it, and each quarter filled with palaces and temples. And the tyranny of the Ethiopian priests, at whose command kings laid down and died, will always remain one of the strangest enigmas in the whole problem of primitive priestcraft.2
It was a tradition of the ancient world that the secret of immortality was to be found in Egypt, and that there, amongst the dark secrets of the antediluvian world which remained undeciphered, was the “Elixir of Life.” Deep, it was said, under the Pyramids had for ages lain concealed the Table of Emerald, on which, as the legend ran, Hermes had engraved before the Flood, the secret of alchemy; and their weird associations justified the belief that still mightier wonders here remained hid. In the City of the Dead to the north of Memphis, for instance, pyramid after pyramid rose for centuries towering above each other; and in the interior passages and chambers of the rock-cut tombs were pictured the mystic wisdom of the Egyptians in quaint symbols. . . . A vast subterranean world, according to tradition, extended from the Catacombs of Alexandria to Thebes’ Valley of Kings, and this is surrounded with a whole wealth of marvellous story. These, perhaps, culminate in the ceremony of initiation into the religious mysteries of the Pyramids. The identity of the legend has been curiously preserved through all ages, for it is only in minor details that the versions differ. The ceremonies were undoubtedly very terrible.
1 The more so since the literature of theosophy, which is alone able to throw light on those mysteries, is boycotted, and being “unpopular” can never hope to be appreciated.
2 Because these priests were real Initiates having occult powers, while the “Kings” mentioned died but for the world. They were the “dead in life.” The writer seems ignorant of the metaphorical ways of expression.
p. 192 H. P. BLAVATSKY
The candidates were subjected to ordeals so frightful that many of them succumbed, and those who survived, not only shared the honours of the priesthood, but were looked upon as having risen from the dead. It was commonly believed, we are told, that they had descended into Hell itself. . . . They were, moreover, given draughts of the cups of Isis and Osiris, the waters of life and death, and clothed in the sacred robes of pure white linen, and on their heads the mystic symbol of initiation—the golden grasshopper. Instructed in the esoteric doctrines of the sacred college of Memphis, it was only the candidates and priests who knew those galleries and shrines that extended under the site upon which the city stood and formed a subterranean counterpart to its mighty temples, and those lower crypts in which were preserved the “seven tables of stone,” on which was written all the “knowledge of the antediluvian race, decrees of the stars from the beginning of time, the annals of a still earlier world, and all the marvellous secrets both of heaven and earth.”3 And here, too, according to mythological tradition, were the Isiac serpents which possessed mystic meanings at which we can now only vainly guess. When the monuments are silent, certainty is impossible in Egyptology; and in thirty centuries vestiges have been ruthlessly swept away which can never be replaced.
Does not this read like a page from “Isis Unveiled,” or one of our theosophical writings—minus their explanations? But why speak of thirty centuries, when the Egyptian Zodiac on the ceiling of the Dendera temple shows three tropical years, or 75,000 solar years? But listen further:
We can, in a sense, understand the awful grandeur of the Theban necropolis, and of the sepulchral chambers of Beni Hassan. . . . The cost and toil devoted to the “everlasting palaces” of departed monarchs; the wonders of the Pyramids themselves, as of the other royal tombs; the decoration of their walls; the embalmed bodies all point to the conclusion that this huge subterranean world was made a complete ante-type of the real world above. But whether or no it was a verity in this primitive cult that there was an actual renovation of life at the end of some vast cycle is lost in learned conjecture.
“Learned conjecture” does not go far nowadays, being of a pre-eminently materialistic character, and limited somehow to the sun. But if the unpopularity of the Theosophical Society prevents
Much of which knowledge and the mysteries of the same
“earlier races” have been explained in the “Secret Doctrine,” a work, however,
untouched by the English dailies as unorthodox and unscientific—a jumble,
A PARADOXICAL WORLD p. 193
the statements of its members from being heard; if we ignore “Isis Unveiled” and the “Secret Doctrine,” the Theosophist, etc., full of facts, most of which are as well authenticated by references to classical writers and the contemporaries of the Mysteries in Egypt and Greece, as any statement made by modern Egyptologists—why should not the writer on the “Egyptian Mysteries” turn to Origen and even to the Æneid for a positive answer to this particular question? This dogma of the return of the Soul or the Ego after a period of 1,000 or 1,500 years into a new body (a theosophical teaching now) was professed as a religious truth from the highest antiquity. Voltaire wrote on the subject of these thousand years of post mortem duration as follows:
This opinion about resurrection (rather “reincarnation”) after ten centuries, passed to the Greeks, the disciples of the Egyptians, and to the Romans (their Initiates only), disciples of the Greeks. One finds it in the VIth Book of the Æneid, which is but a description of the mysteries of Isis and of Ceres Eleusina;
Has omnis ubi mille rotam volvere per annos,
Lethæum ad fluvium deus evocat agmine magno;
Scilicet immemores, supera ut convexa revisant.
This “opinion” passed from the Pagan Greeks and Romans to Christians, even in our century, though disfigured by sectarianism; for it is the origin of the millennium. No pagan, even of the lower classes, believed that the Soul would return into its old body: cultured Christians do, since the day of the Resurrection of all flesh is a universal dogma, and since the Millenarians wait for the second advent of Christ on earth when he will reign for a thousand years.
All such articles as the above quoted are the paradoxes of the age, and show ingrained prejudices and preconceptions. Neither the very conservative and orthodox editor of the Standard, nor yet the very radical and infidel editors of many a London paper, will give fair or even dispassionate hearing to any Theosophical writer. “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” the Pharisees and Sadducees of old are credited with asking. “Can anything but twaddle come from Theosophical quarters?” repeat the modem followers of cant and materialism.
Of course not. We are so very
Besides which, theos-
p. 194 H. P. BLAVATSKY
ophists who have written the most upon those subjects at which, in the words of the Evening Standard, “we can now only vainly guess” are regarded by Mrs. Grundy’s herds as the black sheep of Christian cultured centres. Having had access to Eastern secret works, hitherto concealed from the world of the profane, the said theosophists had means of studying and of ascertaining the value and real meaning of the “marvellous secrets both of heaven and earth,” and thus of disinterring many of the vestiges now seemingly lost to the world of students. But what matters that? How can one so little in odour of sanctity with the majorities, a living embodiment of every vice and sin, according to most charitable souls, be credited with knowing anything? Nor does the possibility of such charges being merely the fruit of malice and slander, and therefore entitled to lie sub judice, nor simple logic, ever trouble their dreams or have any voice in the question. Oh no! But has the idea ever crossed their minds that on that principle the works of him who was proclaimed:
“The greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind”
ought also to become unpopular, and Baconian philosophy be at once shunned and boycotted? In our paradoxical age, as we now learn, the worth of a literary production has to be judged, not on its own intrinsic merits, but according to the private character, the shape of the nose, and the popularity or unpopularity of the writer thereof. Let us give an example, by quoting a favourite remark made by some bitter opponent of “The Secret Doctrine.” It is the reply given the other day to a theosophist who urged a would-be Scientist and supposed Assyriologist to read the said work. “Well,” he said, “I grant you there may be in it a few facts valuable to students of antiquity and to scientific speculation. But who can have the patience to read 1,500 pages of dreary metaphysical twaddle for the sake of discovering in it a few facts, however valuable?”
O imitatores servum pecus! And yet how joyfully you would set to work, sparing neither time, labour nor money, to extract two or three ounces of gold from tons of quartz and useless alluvial soil. . . .
Thus, we find the civilized world and its humanities ever unfair, ever enforcing one law for the wealthy and the mighty, and another law for the poor and the uninfluential. Society, politics, com-
A PARADOXICAL WORLD p. 195
merce, literature, art and sciences, religion and ethics, all are full of paradoxes, contradictions, injustice, selfishness and unreliability. Might has become right, elsewhere than in colonies and for the detriment of “black men.” Wealth leads to impunity, poverty to condemnation even by the law, for the impecunious having no means of paying lawyers are debarred from their natural right to appeal to the courts for redress. Hint, even privately, that a person, notorious for having acquired his wealth by plunder and oppression, or unfair play on the Stock Exchange, is a thief, and the law to which he will appeal will ruin you with damages and court expenses and imprison you into the bargain for libel, for “the greater the truth, the greater the libel.” But let that wealthy thief slander your character publicly, accuse you falsely of breaking all the ten commandments, and if you are in the slightest degree unpopular, an infidel, or too radical in your views, no matter how honourable and honest you may be, yet you will have to swallow the defamation, and let it get root in the minds of people; or, go to law and risk many hundreds or even thousands out of your pocket and get—one farthing damages! What chance has an “infidel” in the sight of a bigoted, ignorant jury? Behold those rich speculators who arrange bogus quotations on the Stock Exchange for shares which they wish to foist upon an innocent public that makes for everything whose price is rising. And look at that poor clerk, whose passion for gambling—which the example of those same wealthy capitalists has fired—if caught in some small embezzlement, the righteous indignation of the rich capitalists knows no bounds. They ostracise even one of their own confreres because he has been so indiscreet as to be found out in dealings with the unhappy wretch! Again, what country boasts more of Christian charity, and its code of honour, than old England? Yea, you have soldiers and champions of freedom, and they take out the deadly machine-guns of your latest purveyor of death and blow to fragments a stockade in Solymah, with its defending mob of half-armed savages, of poor “niggers,” because you hear that they perchance may molest your camps. Yet it is to that self-same continent you send your almighty fleets, into which you pour your soldiers, putting on the hypocritical mask of saving from slavery these very black men whom you have just blown into the air! What country, the world over, has so many philanthropic societies, charitable institutions, and generous donors as England has? And
p. 196 H. P. BLAVATSKY
where, on the face of the earth, is the city which contains more misery, vice and starvation, than London—the queen of wealthy metropoles. Hideous poverty, filth and rags glare from behind every corner, and Carlyle was right in saying that the Poor Law was an anodyne—not a remedy. “Blessed are the poor,” said your Man-God. “Avaunt the ragged, starving beggar from our West End streets!” you shout, helped by your Police Force; and yet you call yourselves His “humble” followers. It is the indifference and contempt of the higher for the lower classes which has generated and bred in the latter that virus which has now grown in them into self-contempt, brutal indifference and cynicism, thus transforming a human species into the wild and soulless animals which fill the Whitechapel dens. Mighty are thy powers, most evidently, O, Christian civilization!
But has not our Theosophical “Fraternity” escaped the infection of
this paradoxical age? Alas, no. How often the cry against the “entrance fee”
was heard among the wealthiest Theosophists. Many of these were Freemasons, who
belonged to both institutions—their Lodges and Theosophy. They had paid fees
upon entering the former, surpassing ten times the modest £1, paid for their diploma on becoming Theosophists. They had to pay as
“Widow’s Sons,” a large price for every paltry jewel conferred upon them as a
distinction, and had always to keep their hands in their pockets ready to spend
large sums for paraphernalia, gorgeous banquets with rich viands and costly wines.
This diminished in no way their reverence for Freemasonry. But that which is
good for the masonic goose is not fit sauce for the theosophical gander. How
often was the hapless President Founder of our Society, Col. H. S. Olcott
taunted with selling theosophy for £1
per head! He, who
worked and toiled from January Ist to December 31st for ten years under the
broiling sun of India, and managed out of that wretched pound of the entrance
fee and a few donations to keep up the Headquarters, to establish free schools
and finally to build and open a library at Adyar of rare Sanskrit works—how
often was he condemned, criticised, misjudged, and his best motives
misinterpreted. Well, our critics must now be satisfied. Not only the payment
of the entrance fee but even that of two shillings yearly, expected from our
Fellows to help in paying the expenses of the anniversary meetings, at the
Headquarters at Madras (this large
sum of two shillings, by-the-bye, having never been sent in but by a very limited number of theosophists), all this is now abolished. On December 27th last “the Rules were completely recast, the entrance fee and annual dues were abolished,” writes a theosophist-stoic from Adyar. “We are on a purely voluntary contribution footing. Now if our members don’t give, we starve and shut up—that’s all.”
A brave and praiseworthy reform but rather a dangerous experiment. The “B. Lodge of the T.S.” in London never had an entrance fee from its beginning, eighteen months ago; and the results are that the whole burden of its expenses has fallen upon half a dozen of devoted and determined Theosophists. This last Anniversary Financial Report, at Adyar, has moreover brought to light some curious facts and paradoxical incongruities in the bosom of the Theosophical Society at large. For years our Christian and kind friends, the Anglo-Indian missionaries, had set on foot and kept rolling the fantastic legend about the personal greediness and venality of the “Founders.” The disproportionately large number of members, who, on account of their poverty had been exonerated from any entrance fees, was ignored, and never taken into account. Our devotion to the cause, it was urged, was a sham; we were wolves in sheep’s clothing; bent on making money by psychologizing and deceiving those “poor benighted heathen” and the “credulous infidels” of Europe and America; figures are there, it was added; and the 100,000 theosophists (with which we were credited) represented £100,000, etc., etc.
Well, the day of reckoning has come, and as it is printed in the General Report of the Theosophist we may just mention it as a paradox in the region of theosophy. The Financial Report includes a summary of all our receipts from donations and Initiation fees, since the beginning of our arrival in India, i.e. February 1879, or just ten years. The total is 89,140 rupees, or about £6,600. Of the Rs 54,000 of donations, what are the large sums received by the Theosophical (Parent) Society in the respective countries? Here they are:
In India . . . . . Rupees 40,000
In Europe . . . . ” 7,000
In America . . . . ” 700!!
Total 47,700 rupees or £3,600
p. 198 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Vide infra “Theosophical Activities”: “The President Founder’s Address.”
The two “greedy Founders” having given out of their own pockets during these years almost as much, in the result there remain two impecunious beggars, practically two pauper-Theosophists. But we are all proud of our poverty and do not regret either our labour or any sacrifices made to further the noble cause we have pledged ourselves to serve. The figures are simply published as one more proof in our defence and a superb evidence of the paradoxes to be entered to the credit of our traducers and slanderers.
Lucifer, February, 1889
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY?
Condemn no man in his absence; and when forced to reprove, do so to his face, but gently, and in words full of charity and compassion. For the human heart is like the Kusûli plant: it opens its cup to the sweet morning dew, and closes it before a heavy shower of rain.
Judge not that ye be not judged.
NOT a few of our most earnest Theosophists feel themselves, we are sorry to hear, between the horns of a dilemma. Small causes will at times produce great results. There are those who would jest under the cruellest operation, and remain cool while having a leg amputated, who would yet raise a storm and renounce their rightful place in the kingdom of Heaven if, to preserve it, they had to keep silent when somebody treads on their corns.
In the 13th number of Lucifer (September, page 63), a paper on “The Meaning of a Pledge” was published. Out of the seven articles (six only were given out) which constitute the entire Pledge, the Ist, 4th, 5th, and especially the 6th, require great moral strength of character, an iron will added to much unselfishness, quick readiness for renunciation and even self-sacrifice, to carry out such a covenant. Yet scores of Theosophists have cheerfully signed this solemn “Promise” to work for the good of Humanity forgetful of Self, without one word of protest—save on one point. Strange to say, it is rule the third which in almost every case makes the applicant hesitate and show the white feather. Ante tubam trepidat: the best and kindest of them feels alarmed; and he is as overawed before the blast of the trumpet of that third clause, as though he dreaded for himself the fate of the walls of Jericho!
What is then this terrible pledge, to carry out which seems to be above the strength of the average mortal? Simply this
I PLEDGE MYSELF NEVER TO LISTEN WITHOUT PROTEST TO any Evil thing spoken of a Brother Theosophist, and to ABSTAIN FROM CONDEMNING OTHERS.
To practise this golden rule seems quite easy. To listen without protest to evil said of any one is an action which has been despised ever since the remotest days of Paganism.
To hear an open slander is a curse,
But not to find an answer is a worse, . . .
says Ovid. For one thing, perhaps, as pointedly remarked by Juvenal, because:
Slander, that worst of poisons, ever finds
An easy entrance to ignoble minds . . .
—and because in antiquity, few liked to pass for such—minds. But now! . . .
In fact, the duty of defending a fellow-man stung by a poisonous tongue during his absence, and to abstain, in general, “from condemning others” is the very life and soul of practical theosophy, for such action is the handmaiden who conducts one into the narrow Path of the “higher life,” that life which leads to the goal we all crave to attain. Mercy, Charity and Hope are the three goddesses who preside over that “life.” To “abstain” from condemning our fellow beings is the tacit assertion of the presence in us of the three divine Sisters; to condemn on “hearsay” shows their absence. “Listen not to a tale bearer or slanderer,” says Socrates. “For, as he discovereth of the secrets of others, so he will thine in turn.” Nor is it difficult to avoid slandermongers. Where there is no demand, supply will very soon cease. “When people refrain from evil-hearing, then evil speakers will refrain from evil-talking,” says a proverb. To condemn is to glorify oneself over the man one condemns. Pharisees of every nation have been constantly doing it since the evolution of intolerant religions. Shall we do as they?
We may be told, perhaps, that we ourselves are the first to break the ethical law we are upholding. That our theosophical periodicals are full of “denunciations,” and Lucifer lowers his torch to throw light on every evil, to the best of his ability. We reply—this is quite another thing. We denounce indignantly systems and organisations, evils, social and religious—cant above all: we abstain from denouncing persons. The latter are the children of their century, the victims of their environment and of the Spirit of the Age. To condemn
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY? p. 201
and dishonour a man instead of pitying and trying to help him, because, being born in a community of lepers he is a leper himself, is like cursing a room because it is dark, instead of quietly lighting a candle to disperse the gloom. “Ill deeds are doubled with an evil word”; nor can a general evil be avoided or removed by doing evil oneself and choosing a scape-goat for the atonement of the sins of a whole community. Hence, we denounce these communities not their units; we point out the rottenness of our boasted civilisation, indicate the pernicious systems of education which lead to it, and show the fatal effects of these on the masses. Nor are we more partial to ourselves. Ready to lay down our life any day for Theosophy—that great cause of the Universal Brotherhood for which we live and breathe—and willing to shield, if need be, every theosophist with our own body, we yet denounce as openly and as virulently the distortion of the original lines upon which the Theosophical Society was primarily built, and the gradual loosening and undermining of the original system by the sophistry of many of its highest officers. We bear our Karma for our lack of humility during the early days of the Theosophical Society; for our favourite aphorism: “See, how these Christians love each other” has now to be paraphrased daily, and almost hourly, into: “Behold, how our Theosophists love each other.” And we tremble at the thought that, unless many of our ways and customs, in the Theosophical Society at large, are amended or done away with, Lucifer will one day have to expose many a blot on our own scutcheon—e.g., worship of Self, uncharitableness, and sacrificing to one’s personal vanity the welfare of other Theosophists—more “fiercely” than it has ever denounced the various shams and abuses of power in state Churches and Modern Society.
Nevertheless, there are theosophists, who forgetting the beam in their own eye, seriously believe it their duty to denounce every mote they perceive in the eye of their neighbour. Thus, one of our most estimable, hard-working, and noble-minded members writes, with regard to the said 3rd clause:
The “Pledge” binds the taker never to speak evil of anyone. But I believe that there are occasions when severe denunciation is a duty to truth. There are cases of treachery, falsehood, rascality in private life which should be denounced by those who are certain of them: and there are cases in public life of venality and debasement which good citizens are bound to
p. 202 H. P. BLAVATSKY
lash unsparingly. Theosophic culture would not be a boon to the world if it enforced unmanliness, weakness, flabbiness of moral texture. . . .
We are sincerely sorry to find a most worthy brother holding such mistaken views. First of all, poor is that theosophic culture which fails to transform simply a “good citizen” of his own native country into a “good citizen” of the world. A true theosophist must be a cosmopolitan in his heart. He must embrace mankind, the whole of humanity in his philanthropic feelings. It is higher and far nobler to be one of those who love their fellow men, without distinction of race, creed, caste or colour, than to be merely a good patriot, or still less, a partizan. To mete one measure for all, is holier and more divine than to help one’s country in its private ambition of aggrandizement, strife or bloody wars in the name of greediness and selfishness. “Severe denunciation is a duty to truth.” It is; on condition, however, that one should denounce and fight against the root of evil and not expend one’s fury by knocking down the irresponsible blossoms of its plant. The wise horticulturist uproots the parasitic herbs, and will hardly lose time in using his garden shears to cut off the heads of the poisonous weeds. If a theosophist happens to be a public officer, a judge or magistrate, a barrister or even a preacher, it is then, of course his duty to his country, his conscience and those who put their trust in him, to “denounce severely” every case of “treachery, falsehood and rascality” even in private life; but—nota bene—only if he is appealed to and called to exercise his legal authority, not otherwise. This is neither “speaking evil” nor “condemning,” but truly working for humanity; seeking to preserve society, which is a portion of it, from being imposed upon, and protecting the property of the citizens entrusted to their care as public officers, from being recklessly taken away. But even then the theosophist may assert himself in the magistrate, and show his mercy by repeating after Shakespeare’s severe judge: “I show it most of all when I show justice.”
But what has a “working” member of the Theosophical Society independent of any public function or office, and who is neither judge, public prosecutor nor preacher, to do with the misdeeds of his neighbours? If a member of the T.S. is found guilty of one of the above enumerated or some still worse crime, and if another member becomes possessed of irrefutable evidence to that effect, it may become his painful duty to bring the same under the notice
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY? p. 203
of the Council of his Branch. Our Society has to be protected, as also its numerous members. This, again, would only be simple justice. A natural and truthful statement of facts cannot be regarded as “evil speaking” or as a condemnation of one’s brother. Between this, however, and deliberate backbiting there is a wide chasm. Clause 3 concerns only those who being in no way responsible for their neighbour’s actions or walk in life, will yet judge and condemn them on every opportunity. And in such case it becomes—“slander” and “evil speaking.”
This is how we understand the clause in question; nor do we believe that by enforcing it “theosophic culture” enforces “unmanliness, weakness or flabbiness of moral texture,” but the reverse. True courage has naught to do, we trust, with denunciation; and there is little manliness in criticizing and condemning one’s fellow men behind their backs, whether for wrongs done to others or injury to ourselves. Shall we regard the unparalleled virtues inculcated by Gautama the Buddha, or the Jesus of the Gospels as “unmanliness”? Then the ethics preached by the former, that moral code which Professor Max Müller, Burnouf and even Barthelémy St. Hilaire have unanimously pronounced the most perfect which the world has ever known, must be no better than meaningless words, and the Sermon on the Mount had better never have been written at all. Does our correspondent regard the teaching of non-resistance to evil, kindness to all creatures, and the sacrifice of one’s own self for the good of others as weakness or unmanliness? Are the commands, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” and, “Put back thy sword, for they who take the sword shall perish with the sword,” to be viewed as “flabbiness of moral texture” or as the voice of Karma?
But our correspondent is not alone in his way of thinking. Many are the men and women, good, charitable, self-sacrificing and trustworthy in every other respect, and who accept unhesitatingly every other clause of the “Pledge,” who feel uneasy and almost tremble before this special article. But why? The answer is easy: simply because they fear an unconscious (to them), almost unavoidable perjury.
The moral of the fable and its conclusion are suggestive. It is a direct blow in the face of Christian education and our civilized modern society in all its circles and in every Christian land. So deep has this moral cancer—the habit of speaking uncharitably of
p. 204 H. P. BLAVATSKY
our neighbour and brother at every opportunity—eaten into the heart of all the classes of Society, from the lowest to the very highest, that it has led the best of its members to feel diffident of their tongues! They dare not trust themselves to abstain from condemning others—from mere force of habit. This is quite an ominous “sign of the times.”
Indeed, most of us, of whatever nationality, are born and brought up in a thick atmosphere of gossip, uncharitable criticism and wholesale condemnation. Our education in this direction begins in the nursery, where the head nurse hates the governess, the latter hates the mistress, and the servants, regardless of the presence of “baby” and the children, grumble incessantly against the masters, find fault with each other, and pass impudent remarks on every visitor. The same training follows us in the class room, whether at home or at a public school. It reaches its apex of ethical development during the years of our education and practical religious instruction. We are soaked through and through with the conviction that, though ourselves “born in sin and total depravity,” our religion is the only one to save us from eternal damnation, while the rest of mankind is predestined from the depths of eternity to inextinguishable hell-fires. We are taught that slander of every other people’s Gods and religion is a sign of reverence for our own idols, and is a meritorious action. The “Lord God,” himself, the “personal Absolute,” is impressed upon our young plastic minds as ever backbiting and condemning those he created, as cursing the stiff-necked Jew and tempting the Gentile.
For years the minds of young Protestants are periodically enriched with the choicest curses from the Commination service in their prayer-books, or the “denouncing of God’s anger and judgments against sinners,” besides eternal condemnation for most creatures; and from his birth the young Roman Catholic constantly hears threats of curse and excommunication by his Church. It is in the Bible and Church of England prayer-books that boys and girls of all classes learn of the existence of vices, the mention of which, in the works of Zola, falls under the ban of law as immoral and depraving, but to the enumeration and the cursing of which in the Churches, young and old are made to say “Amen,” after the minister of the meek and humble Jesus. The latter says, Swear not, curse not, condemn not, but “love your enemies, bless them that
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY? p. 205
curse you, do good to them that hate and persecute you.” But the canon of the church and the clergymen tell them: Not at all. There are crimes and vices “for which ye affirm with your own mouths the curse of God to be due.” (Vide “Commination Service.”) What wonder that later in life, Christians piously try to emulate “God” and the priest, since their ears are still ringing with, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark,” and, “Cursed be he” who does this, that or the other, even “he that putteth his trust in man” (!), and with “God’s” judgment and condemnations. They judge and condemn right and left, indulging in wholesale slander and “comminating” on their own account. Do they forget that in the last curse—the anathema against adulterers and drunkards, idolaters and extortionists—“the unmerciful and slanderers” are included? And that by having joined in the solemn “amen” after this last Christian thunderbolt, they have affirmed “with their own mouths the curse of God to be due” on their own sinful heads?
But this seems to trouble our society slanderers very little. For no sooner are the religiously brought up children of church-going people off their school benches, than they are taken in hand by those who preceded them. Coached for their final examination in that school for scandal, called the world, by older and more experienced tongues, to pass Master of Arts in the science of cant and commination, a respectable member of society has but to join a religious congregation: to become a churchwarden or lady patroness.
Who shall dare deny that in our age, modern society in its general aspect has become a vast arena for such moral murders, performed between two cups of five o’clock tea and amid merry jests and laughter? Society is now more than ever a kind of international shambles wherein, under the waving banners of drawing-room and church Christianity and the cultured tittle-tattle of the world, each becomes in turn as soon as his back is turned, the sacrificial victim, the sin-offering for atonement, whose singed flesh smells savoury in the nostrils of Mrs. Grundy. Let us pray, brethren, and render thanks to the God of Abraham and of Isaac that we no longer live in the days of cruel Nero. And, oh! let us feel grateful that we no longer live in danger of being ushered into the arena of the Colosseum, to die there a comparatively quick death under the claws of the hungry wild beasts! It is the boast of
p. 206 H. P. BLAVATSKY
Christianity that our ways and customs have been wonderfully softened under the beneficent shadow of the Cross. Yet we have but to step into a modern drawing-room to find a symbolical representation, true to life, of the same wild beasts feasting on, and gloating over, the mangled carcasses of their best friends. Look at those graceful and as ferocious great cats, who with sweet smiles and an innocent eye sharpen their rose-coloured claws preparatory to playing at mouse and cat. Woe to the poor mouse fastened upon by those proud Society felidæ! The mouse will be made to bleed for years before being permitted to bleed to death. The victims will have to undergo unheard-of moral martyrdom, to learn through papers and friends that they have been guilty at one or another time of life of each and all the vices and crimes enumerated in the Commination Service, until, to avoid further persecution, the said mice themselves turn into ferocious society cats, and make other mice tremble in their turn. Which of the two arenas is preferable, my brethren—that of the old pagan or that of Christian lands?
Addison had not words of contempt sufficiently strong to rebuke this Society gossip of the worldly Cains of both sexes.
“How frequently,” he exclaims, “is the honesty and integrity of a man disposed of by a smile or a shrug? How many good and generous actions have been sunk into oblivion by a distrustful look, or stamped with the imputation of proceeding from bad motives, by a mysterious and seasonable whisper. Look . . . how large a portion of chastity is sent out of the world by distant hints—nodded away, and cruelly winked into suspicion by the envy of those who are past all temptation of it themselves. How often does the reputation of a helpless creature bleed by a report—which the party who is at the pains to propagate it beholds with much pity and fellow-feeling—that she is heartily sorry for it—hopes in God it is not true!”
From Addison we pass to Sterne’s treatment of the same subject. He seems to continue this picture by saying:
So fruitful is slander in variety of expedients to satiate as well as to disguise itself, that if those smoother weapons cut so sore, what shall we say of open and unblushing scandal, subjected to no caution, tied down to no restraints? If the one like an arrow shot in the dark, does, nevertheless, so much secret mischief, this, like pestilence, which rages at noonday, sweeps all before it, levelling without distinction the good and the bad; a thousand fall beside it, and ten thousand on its right hand; they fall, so rent and torn in this tender part of them, so
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY? p. 207
unmercifully butchered, as sometimes never to recover [from] either the wounds or the anguish of heart which they have occasioned.
Such are the results of slander, and from the standpoint of Karma, many such cases amount to more than murder in hot blood. Therefore, those who want to lead the “higher life” among the “working Fellows,” of the Theosophical Society, must bind themselves by this solemn pledge, or, remain droning members. It is not to the latter that these pages are addressed, nor would they feel interested in that question, nor is it an advice offered to the F.’s T.S. at large. For the “Pledge” under discussion is taken only by those Fellows who begin to be referred in our circles of “Lodges” as the “working” members of the T.S. All others, that is to say those Fellows who prefer to remain ornamental, and belong to the “mutual admiration” groups; or those who, having joined out of mere curiosity, have, without severing their connexion with the Society, quietly dropped off; or those, again, who have preserved only a skin deep interest (if any), a luke-warm sympathy for the movement—and such constitute the majority in England—need burden themselves with no such pledge. Having been for years the “Greek Chorus” in the busy drama enacted, now known as the Theosophical Society, they prefer remaining as they are. The “chorus,” considering its numbers, has only, as in the past, to look on at what takes place in the action of the dramatis personæ and it is only required to express occasionally its sentiments by repeating the closing gems from the monologues of the actors, or remain silent—at their option. “Philosophers of a day,” as Carlyle calls them, they neither desire, nor are they desired “to apply.” Therefore, even were these lines to meet their eye, they are respectfully begged to remember that what is said does not refer to either of the above enumerated classes of Fellows. Most of them have joined the Society as they would have bought a guinea book. Attracted by the novelty of the binding, they opened it; and, after glancing over contents and title, motto and dedication, they have put it away on a back shelf, and thought of it no more. They have a right to the volume, by virtue of their purchase, but would refer to it no more than they would to an antiquated piece of furniture relegated to the lumber-room, because the seat of it is not comfortable enough, or is out of proportion with their moral and intellectual size. A hundred to one these members will not even see Lucifer, for it has now become a matter of theosophical
p. 208 H. P. BLAVATSKY
statistics, that more than two thirds of its subscribers are non-theosophists. Nor are the elder brothers of Lucifer—the Madras “Theosophist,” The New York “Path,” the French “Lotus,” nor even the marvellously cheap and international “T.P.S.” (of 7, Duke Street, Adelphi), any luckier than we are. Like all prophets, they are not without honour, save in their own countries, and their voices in the fields of Theosophy are truly “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” This is no exaggeration. Among the respective subscribers of those various Theosophical periodicals, the members of the T.S., whose organs they are, and for whose sole benefit they were started (their editors, managers, and the whole staff of constant contributors working gratis, and paying furthermore out of their own generally meagre pockets, printers, publishers and occasional contributors), are on the average 15 per cent. This is also a sign of the times, and shows the difference between the “working” and the “resting” theosophists.
We must not close without once more addressing the former. Who of these will undertake to maintain that clause 3 is not a fundamental principle of the code of ethics which ought to guide every theosophist aspiring to become one in reality? For such a large body of men and women, composed of the most heterogeneous nationalities, characters, creeds and ways of thinking, furnishing for this very reason such easy pretexts for disputes and strife, ought not this clause to become part and parcel of the obligation of each member—working or ornamental—who joins the Theosophical movement? We think so, and leave it to the future consideration of the representatives of the General Council, who meet at the next anniversary at Adyar. In a Society with pretensions to an exalted system of ethics—the essence of all previous ethical codes—which confesses openly its aspirations to emulate and put to shame by its practical example and ways of living the followers of every religion, such a pledge constitutes the sine quâ non of the success of that Society. In a gathering where “near the noisome nettle blooms the rose,” and where fierce thorns are more plentiful than sweet blossoms, a pledge of such a nature is the sole salvation. No Ethics as a science of mutual duties —whether social, religious or philosophical—from man to man, can be called complete or consistent unless such a rule is enforced. Not only this, but if we would not have our Society become de facto and de jure a gigantic sham parading under its banner of
IS DENUNCIATION A DUTY? p. 209
“Universal Brotherhood”—we ought to follow every time the breaking of this law of laws, by the expulsion of the slanderer. No honest man, still less a theosophist, can disregard these lines of Horace:
He that shall rail against his absent friends,
Or hears them scandalised, and not defends;
Tells tales, and brings his friends in disesteem;
That man’s a knave—be sure beware of him.
Lucifer, December, 1888
A YEAR OF THEOSOPHY
THE dial of Time marks off another of the world’s Hours. . . . And, as the Old Year passes into Eternity, like a rain-drop falling into the ocean, its vacant place on the calendar is occupied by a successor which—if one may credit the ancient prophetic warnings of Mother Shipton and other seers—is to bring woe and disaster to some portions of the world. Let it go, with its joys and triumphs, its badness and bitterness, if it but leave behind for our instruction the memory of our experience and the lesson of our mistakes. Wise is he who lets “the dead Past bury its dead.” and turns with courage to meet the fresher duties of the New Year; only the weak and foolish bemoan the irrevocable. It will be well to take a brief retrospect of those incidents of the year 1880 (a.d.) which possess an interest for members of the Theosophical Society. The more so since, in consequence of the absence from Bombay of the President and Corresponding Secretary, the anniversary day of the Society was not publicly celebrated.
It will not be necessary to enter minutely into those details of administration which, however important in themselves as links, weak or strong, in the general chain of progress, and however they may have taxed the patience, nerve, or other resources of the chief officers, do not at all interest the public. It is not so much explanation as results that are demanded, and these, in our case, abound. Even our worst enemy would be forced to admit, were he to look closely into our transactions, that the Society is immeasurably stronger morally, numerically, and as regards a capacity for future usefulness, than it was a year ago. Its name has become most widely known; its fellowship has been enriched by the accession of some very distinguished men; it has planted new branch societies in India, Ceylon and elsewhere; applications are now pending for the organization of still other branches, in New South Wales, Sydney, California, India, Australia; its magazine has successfully entered the second volume; its local issues with the government of India have been finally and creditably settled; a mischievous attempt by a handful of malcontents at Bombay to
A YEAR OF THEOSOPHY p. 211
disrupt it has miserably failed.1 It has made official alliances with the Sanskrit Samaj of Benares, that is to say, with the most distinguished body of orthodox Sanskrit pandits in the world, with the other Sabha of which Pandit Rama Misra Shastri is Manager, and with the Hindu Sabha, of Cochin State; while, at the same time, strengthening its fraternal relations with the Arya Samajas of the Punjab and North-Western Provinces. Besides all this, we can point with joy and pride to the results of the late mission to Ceylon, where, within the space of fifty-seven days, seven branch societies of Buddhist laymen, one Ecclesiastical Council of Buddhist priests, and one scientific society were organized, and some hundreds of new fellows were added to our list.
All this work could not be accomplished without great labour, mental anxiety and physical discomfort. If to this be added the burden of a correspondence with many different countries, and the time required for making two journeys to Northern India and one to Ceylon, our friends at a distance will see that whatever other blame may properly attach to the Founders, who have never claimed infallibility of any sort, that of laziness is assuredly not to be cast in their teeth. Nor, when they learn that the work done since leaving America, the travelling expenses and the fitting and maintenance of the Headquarters establishment has cost some twenty thousand rupees, while the cash receipts of the Treasurer (exclusive of those from Ceylon, Rs. 2,440, which sum is set aside as a special fund to be used in the interest of Buddhism) have been only one thousand two hundred and forty rupees, all told, including one donation of two hundred rupees from the universally respected Maharanee Surnomoyee, and another of twenty rupees from a well-wisher in Bengal, will those who direct the Society’s affairs be regarded by them as making money out of their offices. And these figures, which may most readily be verified, are our only answer to the calumnies which have been maliciously circulated by some who did not, and others who did, know the truth.
The trip to Ceylon occupied seventy-seven days in all, the second one to Northern India one hundred and twenty-five days. Thus the Founders have been absent from Bombay on duty twenty-nine
1 Secret letters by former members denouncing its Founders, sent to Paris and other Theosophists and pretending that the Bombay Society was virtually extinct (its best members having resigned), were sent back to us with new protestations of friendship and loyalty and expressions of scorn for the conspirators.—(Ed. Theos.)
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weeks out of the fifty-two; their travels extending through twenty-five degrees of latitude, from Lahore at the extreme north of India, to Matara, the southernmost point of ancient Lanka. Each of the Indian Presidencies has contributed a quota of new members; and at the former capital of the late lion-hearted Runjeet Singh, a branch was recently organized by Sikhs and Punjabis, under the title of the “Punjab Theosophical Society.” During the twelvemonth, President Olcott delivered seventy-nine lectures and addresses, a majority of which were interpreted in the Hindi, Urdu, Guzerati and Sinhalese languages.
Many misconceptions prevail as to the nature and objects of the Theosophical Society. Some—Sir Richard Temple in the number—fancy it is a religious sect; many believe it is composed of atheists; a third party are convinced that its sole object is the study of occult science and the initiation of green hands into the Sacred Mysteries. If we have had one we certainly have had a hundred intimations from strangers that they were ready to join at once if they could be sure that they would shortly be endowed with siddhis, or the power to work occult phenomena. The beginning of a new year is a suitable time to make one more attempt—we wish it could be the last—to set these errors right. So then, let us say again: (1) The Theosophical Society teaches no new religion, aims to destroy no old one, promulgates no creed of its own, follows no religious leader, and, distinctly and emphatically, is not a sect, nor ever was one. It admits worthy people of any religion to membership, on the condition of mutual tolerance and mutual help to discover truth. The Founders have never consented to be taken as religious leaders, they repudiate any such idea, and they have not taken and will not take disciples. (2) The Society is not composed of atheists, nor is it any more conducted in the interest of atheism than in that of deism or polytheism. It has members of almost every religion, and is on equally fraternal terms with each and all. (3) Not a majority, nor even a respectable minority, numerically speaking, of its fellows are students of occult science or ever expect to become adepts. All who cared for the information have been told what sacrifices are necessary in order to gain the higher knowledge, and few are in a position to make one tenth of them. He who joins our Society gains no siddhis by that act, nor is there any certainty that he will even see the phenomena, let alone meet with an adept. Some have enjoyed both these opportunities, and so the possibility of the phenomena and
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the existence of “Siddhas” do not rest upon our unverified assertions. Those who have seen things have perhaps been allowed to do so on account of some personal merit detected by those who showed them the siddhis, or for other reasons known to themselves and over which we have no control.
For thousands of years these things have, whether rightly or wrongly, been guarded as sacred mysteries, and Asiatics at least need not be reminded that often even after months or years of the most faithful and assiduous personal service, the disciples of a Yogi have not been shown “miracles” or endowed with powers. What folly, therefore, to imagine that by entering any society one might make a short cut to adeptship! The weary traveller along a strange road is grateful even to find a guide-post that shows him his way to his place of destination. Our Society, if it does naught else, performs this kindly office for the searcher after truth. And it is much.
Before closing, one word must
be said in correction of an unfortunate impression that has got abroad. Because
our pamphlet of Rules mentions a relationship between our Society and certain
proficients in Occult Science, or “Mahatmas,” many persons fancy that these
great men are personally engaged in the practical direction of its affairs; and
that, in such a case, being primarily responsible for the several mistakes that
have occurred in the admission of unworthy members and in other matters, they
can neither be so wise, so prudent, or so far-seeing as is claimed for them. It
is also imagined that the President and Corresponding Secretary (especially the
latter) are, if not actually Yogis and Mahatmas themselves, at least persons of
ascetic habits, who assume superior moral excellence. Neither of these
suppositions is correct, and both are positively absurd. The administration of
the Society is, unless in exceptionally important crises, left to the
recognized officials, and they are wholly responsible for all the errors that
are made. Many may doubtless have been made, and our management may be very
faulty, but the wonder is that no more have occurred, if the multiplicity of
duties necessarily imposed upon the two chief officers and the world-wide range
of activity be taken into account. Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky do not
pretend to ascetism, nor would it be possible for them to practise it while in
the thick of the struggle to win a permanent foothold for the Society in the
face of every possible obstacle that a selfish, sensuality-loving world puts in
the way. What either of them has heretofore been,
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or either or both may in the future become, is quite a different affair. At present they only claim to be trying honestly and earnestly, so far as their natural infirmities of character permit, to enforce by example and precept the ideas which are embodied in the platform and Rules of the Theosophical Society. Once or twice ill-wishers have publicly taunted us with not having given practical proofs of our alleged affection for India. Our final vindication must be left to posterity, which always renders that justice that the present too often denies. But even now—if we may judge by the tone of our correspondence, as well as by the enthusiasm which has everywhere greeted us in the course of our journeyings—a palpably good effect has been produced by our appeals to the educated Indian public. The moral regeneration of India and the revival of her ancient spiritual glories must exclusively be the work of her own sons. All we can do is to apply the match to the train, to fan the smouldering embers into a genial warmth. And this we are trying to do. One step in the right direction, it will doubtless be conceded, is the alliance effected with the Benares pandits and attested in the subjoined document:
[Here are printed the Articles of the Union formed by the T. S. and the Sanskrit Sabha of Benares, agreeing to cooperation and brotherly union between the two societies, in the interests of the promotion of Sanskrit Literature and Vedic Philosophy and Science; the agreement being signed by the officers and members of the Benares Samaj, and by Col. Olcott as President of the Theosophical Society. H.P.B.’s concluding comment follows:]
These custodians of Sanskrit learning have promised to put in writing the precious treasures of Aryan philosophy, and to cooperate with us to give the facts a worldwide circulation.
The London Spiritualist remarked, the other day, that we were doing much for Spiritualism in India. It might rather be said we are doing much to make known the importance of mesmeric science, for wherever we have been we have spared no pains to show the close and intimate relationship that exists between our modern discoveries in mesmerism, psychometry, and odic force, and the ancient Indian science of Yoga Vidya. We look forward with confidence to a day when the thorough demonstration of this connection will give to both Asia and Europe the basis for a perfect, because experimentally demonstrable, science of Psychology.
Theosophist, January, 1881
PEOPLE usually wish that their friends shall have a happy new year, and sometimes “prosperous” is added to “happy.” It is not likely that much happiness or prosperity can come to those who are living for the truth under such a dark number as 1888; but still the year is heralded by the glorious star Venus-Lucifer, shining so resplendently that it has been mistaken for that still rarer visitor, the star of Bethlehem. This too, is at hand; and surely something of the Christos spirit must be born upon earth under such conditions. Even if happiness and prosperity are absent, it is possible to find something greater than either in this coming year. Venus-Lucifer is the sponsor of our magazine, and as we chose to come to light under its auspices so do we desire to touch on its nobility. This is possible for us all personally, and instead of wishing our readers a happy or prosperous New Year, we feel more in the vein to pray them to make it one worthy of its brilliant herald. This can be effected by those who are courageous and resolute. Thoreau pointed out that there are artists in life, persons who can change the colour of a day and make it beautiful to those with whom they come in contact. We claim that there are adepts, masters in life who make it divine, as in all other arts. Is it not the greatest art of all, this which affects the very atmosphere in which we live? That it is the most important is seen at once, when we remember that every person who draws the breath of life affects the mental and moral atmosphere of the world, and helps to colour the day for those about him. Those who do not help to elevate the thoughts and lives of others must of necessity either paralyse them by indifference, or actively drag them down. When this point is reached, then the art of life is converted into the science of death; we see the black magician at work. And no one can be quite inactive. Although many bad books and pictures are produced, still not everyone who is incapable of writing or painting well insists on doing so badly. Imagine the result if they were to! Yet so it is in life. Everyone lives, and thinks, and speaks. If all our readers who have any sympathy with Lucifer endeavoured to learn the art of making life not only beautiful but divine, and vowed no longer to be hampered by disbelief in the possibility of this miracle, but to commence the Herculean task at once, then
1888, however unlucky a year, would have been fitly ushered in by the gleaming star. Neither happiness nor prosperity are always the best of bedfellows for such undeveloped mortals as most of us are; they seldom bring with them peace, which is the only permanent joy. The idea of peace is usually connected with the close of life and a religious state of mind. That kind of peace will however generally be found to contain the element of expectation. The pleasures of this world have been surrendered, and the soul waits contentedly in expectation of the pleasures of the next. The peace of the philosophic mind is very different from this and can be attained to early in life when pleasure has scarcely been tasted, as well as when it has been fully drunk of. The American Transcendentalists discovered that life could be made a sublime thing without any assistance from circumstances or outside sources of pleasure and prosperity. Of course this had been discovered many times before, and Emerson only took up again the cry raised by Epictetus. But every man has to discover this fact freshly for himself, and when once he realised it he knows that he would be a wretch if he did not endeavour to make the possibility a reality in his own life. The stoic became sublime because he recognised his own absolute responsibility and did not try to evade it; the Transcendentalist was even more, because he had faith in the unknown and untried possibilities which lay within himself. The occultist fully recognises the responsibility and claims his title by having both tried and acquired knowledge of his own possibilities.
The Theosophist who is at all in earnest, sees his responsibility and endeavours to find knowledge, living, in the meantime, up to the highest standard of which he is aware. To all such, Lucifer gives greeting! Man’s life is in his own hands, his fate is ordered by himself. Why then should not 1888 be a year of greater spiritual development than any we have lived through? It depends on ourselves to make it so. This is an actual fact, not a religious sentiment. In a garden of sunflowers every flower turns towards the light. Why not so with us?
And let no one imagine that it is a mere fancy, the attaching of importance to the birth of the year. The earth passes through its definite phases and man with it; and as a day can be coloured so can a year. The astral life of the earth is young and strong between Christmas and Easter. Those who form their wishes now will have added strength to fulfill them consistently.
—H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, January, 1888
A PUZZLE FROM ADYAR
WHEN the cat is abroad the mice dance in the house it seems. Since Colonel Olcott sailed for Japan, the Theosophist has never ceased to surprise its European readers, and especially the Fellows of our Society, with most unexpected capers. It is as if the Sphinx had emigrated from the Nile and was determined to continue offering her puzzles broadcast to the Œdipuses of the Society.
Now what may be the meaning of this extraordinary, and most tactless “sortie” of the esteemed acting editor of our Theosophist? Is he, owing to the relaxing climate of Southern India, ill, or like our (and his) editor-enemies across the Atlantic, also dreaming uncanny dreams and seeing lying visions—or what? And let me remind him at once that he must not feel offended by these remarks, as he has imperatively called them forth himself. Lucifer, the Path and the Theosophist are the only organs of communication with the Fellows of our Society, each in its respective country. Since the acting editor of the Theosophist has chosen to give a wide publicity in his organ to abnormal fancies, he has no right to expect a reply through any other channel than Lucifer. Moreover, if he fails to understand all the seriousness of his implied charges against me and several honourable men, he may realise them better, when he reads the present. Already his enigmatical letter to Light has done mischief enough. While its purport was evidently to fight some windmills of his own creation, an inimical spiritualist who signs “Colenso” has jumped at the good opportunity afforded him to misrepresent that letter. In his malicious philippic called “Koot-hoomi Dethroned” he seeks to show that Mr. Harte’s letter announces that the “Masters” are thrown overboard by the T. S. and “Mme. Blavatsky dethroned.” Is it this that “Richard Harte, acting editor of the Theosophist,” sought to convey to the Spiritualists in his letter in Light of July 6th?
Without further enquiry as to the real meaning of the Light letter, what does he try to insinuate by the following in the July number of the Theosophist?
p. 218 H. P. BLAVATSKY
The Editor of the Theosophist has much pleasure in publishing the following extracts from a letter from Mr. Bertram Keightley, Secretary of the “Esoteric Section” of the Theosophical Society, to one of the Commissioners, which have been handed to him for publication. It should be explained that the denial therein contained refers to certain surmises and reports afloat in the Society, and which were seemingly corroborated by apparently arbitrary and underhand proceedings by certain Fellows known to be members of the Esoteric Section.
To this I, the “Head of the Esoteric Section,” answer:
1. Mr. Bertram Keightley’s letter, though containing the truth, and nothing but the truth, was never intended for publication, as a sentence in it proves. Therefore the acting Editor had no right to publish it.
2. Fellows of the E. S. having to be first of all Fellows of the Theosophical Society, what does the sentence “Fellows known to be members of the E. S.”—who stand accused by Mr. Harte (or even by some idiotic reports afloat in the Society) of “arbitrary and underhand proceedings”—mean? Is not such a sentence a gross insult thrown into the face of honourable men—far better Theosophists than any of their accusers—and of myself?
3. What were the silly reports? That the “British or the American Section,” and even the “Blavatsky Lodge” of the Theosophical Society wanted to “boss Adyar.” For this is what is said in the Theosophist in the alleged “disclaimer”:
Mr. Keightley tells this Commissioner that he must not believe “that the Esoteric Section has any, even the slightest, pretension to ‘boss’ the Theosophical Society or anything of the kind.” Again he says: “We are all, H.P.B, first and foremost, just as loyal to the Theosophical Society and to Adyar as the Colonel can possibly be.” And yet again he says: “I have nothing more to say, except to repeat in the most formal and positive manner my assurance that there is not a word of truth in the statement that the Esoteric Section has any desire or pretension to ‘boss’ any other part or Section of the T. S.”
Amen! But before I reproduce the acting editor’s further marvellous comments thereon, I claim the right to say a few words on the subject. Since, as said, the letter was never meant to be paraded in print—chiefly, perhaps, because qui s’ excuse s’accuse—it is no criticism to show that it contains that which I would describe as a meaningless flap-doodle, or, rather, a pair of them, something