Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya; 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831 – 8 May 1891) was an occultist, spirit medium, explorer, and author. She gained an international following as the leading theoretician of Theosophy, the esoteric movement that the Society promoted. Blavatsky was a controversial figure during her lifetime, championed by supporters as an enlightened guru and derided as a fraudulent charlatan by critics. Her Theosophical doctrines were instrumental in bringing the spiritual wisdom of the East and that of the ancient Western mysteries to the modern West, where they were virtually unknown, as well as inspiring the development of Western esoteric currents like Ariosophy, Anthroposophy, and the New Age Movement.
As controversial as she was, no comprehensive review of Western mysticism would be complete without discussing the substantial impact of Helena Blavatsky. H. P. Blavatsky, also known as Madame Blavatsky or HPB, is best known as the co-founder of Theosophy and as the author of such esoteric classics as Isis Unveiled (1877), The Secret Doctrine (1888), Key to Theosophy (1889), as well as her highly praised work on Buddhism, The Voice of Silence (1889). In pulling together and systemizing a wealth of information on spiritualism and the occult, Blavatsky claimed to be guided by “The Brothers”, advanced spiritual teachers from a higher plane of being. Critics argued that she merely ripped off already existing works, ancient and modern, without giving any credit to the original authors. Blavatsky also claimed, at times, to also have highly developed psychic powers, but she was accused of fraud several times due to her tendency to bolster with trickery whatever gifts she did, or did not, possess. Nonetheless her teachings profoundly affected the thinking of such notables as Mahatma Gandhi, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats. Furthermore the activities of her Theosophical Society did much to bring positive awareness of Eastern religions to Europe and other parts of the Western world. Blavatsky and other theosophists are also given special praise in India and Sri Lanka for their efforts to re-popularize both Hinduism and Buddhism within those nations.
Theosophy, or divine wisdom, refers either to the mysticism of philosophers who believe that they can understand the nature of some god by direct apprehension, without revelation, or it refers to the esotericism of eclectic collectors of mystical and occult philosophies who claim to be handing down the great secrets of some ancient wisdom. Theosophical mysticism is indebted to Plato (c. 427-347 BCE), Plotinus (204/5-270) and other neo-Platonists, and Jakob Boehme (1575-1624), among others. It experienced its last great Western philosophical burst in 19th century German Idealism. The mystical tradition continues to be a strong element in many non-Western philosophies, such as Indian philosophy.
The esoteric theosophical tradition of Blavatsky is indebted to several philosophical and religious traditions: Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, the cabala, among others. Her harshest critics consider Madame Blavatsky to be “one of most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostors in history.”* Her devoted followers consider her to be a saint and a genius. [They claim she discovered the true nature of light either by clairvoyance or intuition alone, without any need for scientific training or communication with other scientists.] Since these characteristics are not contradictory, it is possible she was both a fraud and a saintly genius.
Much of what is believed about Blavatsky originates with Madame herself, her devoted followers or her enemies. Nevertheless, a few things seem less dubious than others. She seems clearly to have been widely traveled and widely read. Blavatsky claims she spent several years in Tibet and India being initiated into occult mysteries by various “masters” (mahatmas or adepts) especially the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi, who had “astral” bodies. These Adepts were said to dwell in the Himalayas, Egypt, Tibet and other exotic places. They are known for their extraordinary psychic powers and are the sacred keepers of some mysterious “Ancient Wisdom”. They are not divine, she said, but more highly evolved than the rest of us mere mortals. (Evolution, according to Blavatsky, is a spiritual process.) Their goal is to unite all humanity in a Great White Brotherhood, despite the fact that they dwell in the remotest regions of the world and apparently have as little contact with the rest of us as possible.
H. P. Blavatsky was born Helena Petrovna Hahn on 12 August 1831 in Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine. Her father, Peter Alexeivich von Hahn, was a colonel in the Russian army, while her mother, Helena Andreyvna Fadeyev, was an accomplished novelist. Both parents were often preoccupied with their various career duties, so much of young Helena’s upbringing was left to servants. She became neurotic, demanding, and prone to fits of temper. From the servants she imbibed all manner of peasant superstitions, often claiming to see and command strange beings. When given offense she often threatened to bring the wrath of supernatural beings down upon whoever opposed her. Her threats and fury once so terrified a fourteen-year-old peasant boy that he fell into a river and drowned. Favorite pastimes included lulling pigeons into a hypnotic stupor by stroking them; such was the charismatic quality of her tremendous imagination that other children often became entirely caught up in her stories, claiming to see before them the very things that she described. In addition she had a tendency to wander and talk in her sleep. Not surprisingly, the servants became convinced that possessed supernatural powers, and before long young Helena agreed with them.
When she was eleven years old her mother died, though Helena would later claim her mother had died many years earlier than that. With her mother gone and her father caught up with military campaigns, Helena and her brother were sent off to live with their maternal grandmother. At age seventeen, willful, temperamental, and undaunted by adventure, Helena rebelled against familial expectations and criticisms by marrying a middle-aged General, Nikifor Vassilievitch Blavatsky. Three months later, with the marriage still supposedly unconsummated, she gave the general’s bodyguards the slip and ran off. To escape the wrath of her family she fled to Constantinople.
Thus she began a series of incredible adventures that involved perilous travels to India and Tibet, where she was supposedly able to disguise herself and sneak into secret lamaistic rites and to study with an “ascended master” or two. According to her own tales, she was also a circus performer, a concert pianist, an opera singer’s mistress, and a soldier in Garibaldi’s army, during which adventure she was wounded and left for dead at the battle at Mentana. According to Blavatsky, she was “picked out of a ditch for dead with the left arm broken in two places, musket balls embedded in right shoulder and leg, and a stiletto wound in the heart”. She also had a string of failed businesses, sailed to Egypt and was one of the few to escape drowning when the ship went down, and became involved with a mysterious Egyptian brotherhood. At one point she worked as a fortuneteller in Cairo with another woman as a medium, but was put out of business amidst charges of fraud.
She returned to Russia for a period around 1858, impressing some with her table turning, as well as other, reportedly more authentic, feats of psychic prowess. She became embroiled in various love triangles and affairs, and somewhere along the way she may have birthed a son, but her conflicting stories make it unclear whether the boy was her own by an affair, or merely adopted from another couple. In any event the boy, named Yuri, born around 1861, was deformed, possibly with a hunchback, and died at around age five. Helena claimed to have loved him more than anyone in the world and to have been sufficiently devastated by his death as to lose all belief in God.
She arrived in New York in July of 1873. She moved into a crowded tenement house where she eked by on money sent from relatives and gleaned from various schemes, including seamstressing. She later moved in with some journalist friends, who found that photos that they left out at night were found the next morning miraculously tinted by “the spirits” with watercolors. The wonder and awe disappeared when Helena was observed sneaking about in the night with paintbrushes and paint. She next tried her hand at a farming venture with a couple she knew from Russia, but this failed and she was subsequently cheated out of her share when the farm sold at auction.
In October of 1874 she read an article by New York journalist and lawyer Henry Steele Olcott concerning his investigations into the paranormal, specifically some séances and other mediumist phenomena at the Eddy Brothers’ farm in Chittenden, Vermont. Helena made a pilgrimage to the farm where she finessed her way into an audience with Olcott by claiming association with the brothers. Though Olcott saw through her story, he agreed to observe Helena in action and eventually became quite impressed by her apparent abilities.
Eventually the two teamed up and decided to found a society for the further study of spiritualism — mediumship, arcane spiritual knowledge, and the like. Their first attempt, The Miracle Club, foundered when some of the spiritual performers involved began demanding payment. Their next attempt was more successful, drawing a broader range of spiritual mysteries, including occultism from ancient Egypt. A consultation with the dictionary, in the late fall of 1875, helped the group settle on a name: the Theosophical Society. Olcott, Blavatsky, and some of the other Theosophists had meanwhile moved in together in a large flat, calling it a Lamasery or Lamastery. Helena turned her attention from journalism toward a longer, more substantial project, and in 1877 published her first book of ruminations on the occult, Isis Unveiled. According to Blavatsky, the work was channeled from the (otherworld) spiritual masters who were her guides. She would later claim that these same guides had orchestrated all of the significant actions that led to and developed her work with the Theosophical Society.
Yet criticisms of fraud and plagiarism continued to hound Blavatsky. For example, William Emmette Coleman, writing in the early 1890s, claimed to have uncovered some 100 works from which Blavatsky had clearly stolen material while crediting it to her spiritual teachers on the “other side”. Furthermore Coleman asserted he could prove that while Blavatsky had claimed to have read many old and rare great books in the original, she had clearly lifted quotes from secondary materials about those same books. Later Theosophists, in defending Blavatsky, dismissed Coleman as a Victorian crank.
In April 1875 Blavatsky married a second time, to Michael C. Betanelly. This was apparently another unconsummated marriage of convenience, with Betanelly insisting on providing for Blavatsky. This arrangement lasted but a few months, and their divorce was finalized 25 May 1878. A few months later Blavatsky was granted U.S. citizenship, at which point she, along with Olcott and two other Theosophists, set out for India to immerse themselves in Buddhism. So successful was their foray that in 1882 the Theosophical Society relocated its headquarters to Adyar, near Madras, India. In addition to deepening their knowledge of Buddhism, and fostering its re-emerging popularity among local peoples, the Theosophists became involved in various schools and assorted promotions of Theosophy, including faith healing and mediumistic displays — some of which entailed letters of wisdom and advice penned by “the brothers” (Blavatsky’s spiritual guides), letters which materialized apparently out of thin air.
As expected, scandal soon attached itself to Blavatsky’s paranormal activities. In 1884, one Dr. Hodgson was sent by the Society for Psychical Research to investigate allegations that Blavatsky’s psychic and spiritualistic feats were fraud. Hodgson not only procured confessions by individuals who claimed to have helped Blavatsky contrive her “supernatural” theatrics, but he also claimed to have found an assortment of physical evidence as well — sliding panels, a dummy head and shoulders, and slim spring-loaded openings in the ceiling. (Theosophist recent reviews of Hodgson’s report claim extreme bias and incorrect handwriting analysis of the letters in question.) Olcott, whose reputation was unscathed by the report, ordered Blavatsky to withdraw from Adyar. Other Society members, most notably Annie Besant and A. P. Sinnet, attempted damage control, but the scandal was slow to fade.
Blavatsky retreated to Germany to work on her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. More extensive than her earlier work, it was finally published in 1888. She then moved to London where she founded the magazine Lucifer (Light Bringer), which would have a marked influence in some artistic and intellectual circles. In 1889 she issued The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of Silence. Yet her health was in decline; she struggled with Bright’s Disease, heart disease, and rheumatism. On 8 May 1891, she succumbed to influenza.
Despite her passing, the Theosophical Society persevered. After Olcott’s death in 1907, it turned its focus from Buddhism to Hinduism, under the leadership of Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbetter. 100 years later, the Society is still going strong, although it now distances itself from psychic phenomena. Blavatsky’s writings have continued to be immensely popular, and whether their contents represent channeled wisdom and original thought, or a cleverly systemized amalgam of other people’s contributions, they have had a profound influence on religion, literature, and even politics.
As already mentioned, Blavatsky’s work, and that of the Theosophical Society in general, was responsible for introducing the West to the spiritual teachings of the East, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. It further introduced the idea of the Brotherhood of Man, and the notion of a great Wisdom Tradition existing beyond any particular religion. According to Blavatsky and the Theosophists, this Wisdom Tradition was simply the great Truth, existent on some higher plane, manifest to varying degrees in the world’s many religions, however distorted by human bias. Thus although no religion was a perfect embodiment of this Truth, all religions were an attempt to reach toward it. It was bringing it forth in a new and more pristine form that Blavatsky saw as the central task of the Theosophical Society.
Whether Theosophy represented some higher wisdom or not, the fact remains that many of the ideas popularized in Blavatsky’s work, and those of fellow Theosophists, have become standard fare within the modern “New Age” spiritual movement, and many concepts, such as reincarnation, ascended masters, higher planes, communication with spirits, and the lost continent of Atlantis have filtered into mainstream and pop culture — much to the chagrin of fundamentalist Christians.
In the literary world meanwhile, both William Butler Yeats and James Joyce acknowledged the profound influence which Blavatsky’s spiritual teachings had upon them. Joyce even stated “it is impossible to grasp the meaning of Ulysses, its symbolism and the significance of its leitmotifs, without an understanding of the esoteric theories which underlie the work”. Many other artists and writers trace an influence from Theosophy and specifically Blavatsky. Untold numbers have read the works of such artists, listened to their music or viewed their painting or sculpture, without any realization of the underlying philosophical lineage, and many of these have gone on to create their own works, ignorantly perpetuating Theosophist themes and values.
Similarly, many of admired the work of Mahatma Gandhi without realizing that he had been introduced to Blavatsky in 1890, while he was studying law at University College London. Gandhi himself states that it was the works of Madame Blavatsky, especially Key to Theosophy, that convinced him there was something of value within the spiritual teachings of his homeland — teachings which later gave shape, form, and moral authority to his challenge to British rule in India. This, coupled with the boost given by Theosophists to their indigenous religious beliefs, has endeared Blavatsky to many in India, who praise her for exhibiting such broadmindedness and generosity of spirit in the face of bigoted colonialism and encroaching Christianity.
All in all, if Helene Blavatsky truly could have glimpsed the future (or looked down on us from the beyond), she would likely be chagrined at the beating her name has taken over the decades, and perhaps amused equally at those who dismiss her and those would would attribute her with undue spiritual authority (as some sort of savant, without human foibles and shortcomings). But she would surely be deeply gratified to observe the influence of her work and her writings, and the webs of affect that have spread out from her early endeavors.
Blavatsky’s Theosophical ideas were a form of occultism, a current of thought within Western esotericism which emphasized the idea of an ancient and superior wisdom that had been found in pre-Christian societies but which was absent from the doctrines of established Christianity. Blavatsky stated that the Theosophical teachings were passed on to her by adepts, who lived in various parts of the world.
Fundamentally, the underlying concept behind Blavatsky’s Theosophy was that there was an “ancient wisdom religion” which had once been found across the world, and which was known to various ancient figures, such as the Greek philosopher Plato and the ancient Hindu sages. Blavatsky connected this ancient wisdom religion to Hermetic philosophy, a worldview in which everything in the universe is identified as an emanation from a Godhead. Blavatsky believed that all of the world’s religions developed from this original global faith. Blavatsky understood her Theosophy to be the heir to the Neoplatonist philosophers of Late Antiquity, who had also embraced Hermetic philosophy. She believed that the Theosophical movement’s revival of the “ancient wisdom religion” would lead to it spreading across the world, eclipsing the established world religions. Thus, in bringing these Theosophical ideas to humanity, Blavatsky viewed herself as a messianic figure.
According to Goodrick-Clarke, the Theosophical Society “disseminated an elaborate philosophical edifice involving a cosmogony, the macrocosm of the universe, spiritual hierarchies, and intermediary beings, the latter having correspondences with a hierarchical conception of the microcosm of man.” According to Blavatsky herself, “We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our “spiritual Self” is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. This is our explanation of those truly wonderful phenomena of a higher order, in which undeniable intelligence and knowledge are exhibited.”
Officially, the Society based itself upon the following three objectives:
To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
Washington believed that the purpose of these three precepts was to lead to the “discovery of the powers latent in man through the occult study of science, philosophy and religion [which] shall be the preferred route to the social harmony and equality which will prefigure – and perhaps become – the divine harmony.”
In The Key to Theosophy, she rejected the idea of Theosophy as a religion, instead referring to it as “Divine Knowledge or Science”. She also proclaimed religious tolerance and inclusiveness stating, “Theosophists, collectively, respect the Bible as much as they do the sacred scriptures of other people, finding in it the same eternal truths as in the Vedas, the Zend-Avesta, the Tripitakas, etc.” While in Ceylon, Blavatsky officially converted to Theravada Buddhism in the presence of Buddhist clergy, however Lachman stated that her Buddhism was “highly eccentric and had little to do with the Buddhism of scholars like [Max] Müller or that of your average Buddhist.” Blavatsky argued that The Buddha had sought to return to the teachings of the Vedas, and that Buddhism therefore represented a more accurate survival of ancient Brahmanism than modern Hinduism. Although critical of Catholicism and Protestantism, and opposing their growth in Asia, throughout her life she remained highly sympathetic to the Russian Orthodox Church, commenting that “with the faith of the Russian Church I will not even compare Buddhism”. G. R. S. Mead proclaimed, “Two things in all the chaos of her [Blavatsky’s] cosmos stood firm in every mood – that her Teachers existed[a] and that she had not cheated.”
According to Blavatsky herself, “The chief aim of the Theosophical Society [was] to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.” She did not reject religions such as Christianity and Hinduism, but claimed that all religions have an exoteric and an esoteric tradition. The exoteric traditions are unique and distinct for each religion. The esoteric doctrine is the same for all. She claimed to be passing on the wisdom of the shared esoteric doctrines. And even though she had an early association with spiritualism, she eventually claimed that “the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth — save in rare and exceptional cases….”
One might wonder why, if Theosophy is so ancient and universal, it was so unknown until 1875. Madame had an answer. This was due to “willing ignorance”. We humans have lost “real spiritual insight” because we are too devoted to “things of sense” and have for too long been slaves “to the dead letter of dogma and ritualism.” “But the strongest reason for it,” she said, “lies in the fact that real Theosophy has ever been kept secret.” There were several reasons why it was kept secret. “…Firstly, the perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always tending to the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of neighbours and next of kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine secrets. Secondly, their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from desecration. It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime truths and symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual into anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery — in other words, to the dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.”
Blavatsky’s Theosophy has been described as representing “a major factor in the modern revival” of Western esotericism. Lachman claimed that “practically all modern occultism and esotericism” can trace its origins back to her influence. Hutton suggested that Blavatsky had a greater impact in Asia than in the Western world. Blavatsy has been cited as having inspired Hindus to respect their own religious roots. The Theosophical Society influenced the growth of Indian national consciousness, with prominent figures in the Indian independence movement, among them Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, being inspired by Theosophy to study their own national heritage.The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism and Hindu reform movements, while Blavatsky and Olcott took part in Anagarika Dharmapala’s revival of Theravada Buddhism in Ceylon.
Meade stated that “more than any other single individual”, Blavatsky was responsible for bringing a knowledge of Eastern religion and philosophy to the West. Blavatsky believed that Indian religion offered answers to problems then facing Westerners; in particular, she believed that Indian religion contained an evolutionary cosmology which complemented Darwinian evolutionary theory, and that the Indian doctrine of reincarnation met many of the moral qualms surrounding vicarious atonement and eternal damnation that preoccupied 19th century Westerners. In doing so, Meade believed that Blavatsky paved the way for the emergence of later movements such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Transcendental Meditation movement, Zen Buddhism, and yoga in the West. Hutton believed that the two greatest achievements of Blavatsky’s movement were in popularizing belief in reincarnation and in a singular divine world soul within the West.
Blavatsky “both incorporated a number of the doctrines of eastern religions into her occultism, and interpreted eastern religions in the light of her occultism”, in doing so extending a view of the “mystical East” that had already been popularized through Romanticist poetry. Max Müller scathingly criticized Blavatsky’s Esoteric Buddhism. Whilst he was willing to give her credit for good motives, at least at the beginning of her career, in his view she ceased to be truthful both to herself and to others with her later “hysterical writings and performances”. There is a nothing esoteric or secretive in Buddhism, he wrote, in fact the very opposite. “Whatever was esoteric was ipso facto not Buddha’s teaching; whatever was Buddha’s teaching was ipso facto not esoteric”. Blavatsky, it seemed to Müller, “was either deceived by others or carried away by her own imaginations.” Blavatsky responded to those academic specialists in Indian religion who accused her of misrepresenting it by claiming that they only understood the exoteric nature of Hinduism and Buddhism and not the inner esoteric secrets of these faiths, which she traced back to the ancient Vedas. In her support, no less a Buddhist scholar as D.T. Suzuki acknowledged that Blavatsky possessed “an advanced understanding of Mahayana Buddhism.”
Besides literary giants such as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, other artists and authors who investigated Theosophy include Talbot Mundy, Charles Howard Hinton, Geoffrey Hodson, Franz Kafka, Gustav Meyerlink, Rudolph Steiner, James Jones, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Sun Ra, Lawren Harris and L. Frank Baum. Composer Alexander Scriabin was a Theosophist whose beliefs influenced his music, especially by providing a justification or rationale for his chromatic language. Scriabin devised a quartal synthetic chord, often called his mystic chord, and before his death Scriabin planned a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about the armageddon; “a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world.” This piece, Mysterium, was unfinished when he died in 1915.
Blavatsky presented her book The Voice of the Silence, The Seven Gates, Two Paths to Leo Tolstoy. In his works, Tolstoy used the dicta from the theosophical journal Theosophischer Wegweiser. In his diary, he wrote on 12 February 1903, “I am reading a beautiful theosophical journal and find many common with my understanding.” Leonid Sabaneyev, in his book Reminiscences about Scriabin (1925), wrote that The Secret Doctrine and journals “Bulletin of theosophy” constantly were on Scriabin’s work table. Scriabin reread The Secret Doctrine very carefully and marked the most important places by a pencil.
Madame Blavatsky continues to fascinate modern writers, and is frequently mentioned in plays, popular fiction, Web-based fan fiction, and blog postings. A brief summary of her continued influence in many countries can be found at “H.P.Blavatsky’s heritage in the modern world”: http://www.theosophy.wiki/mywiki/index.php?title=H.P.Blavatsky%27s_heritage_in_the_modern_world
Blavatsky’s complete writings can be found online at:
Quotes from Madame Blavatsky:
“Do not be afraid of your difficulties. Do not wish you could be in other circumstances than you are. For when you have made the best of an adversity, it becomes the stepping stone to a splendid opportunity.”
“Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality”; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya [illusion]. ”
“It is an occult law moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such thing as ‘separateness’ and the nearest approach to that selfish state which the laws of life permit is in the intent or motive.”
“Never allow any unnecessary or vain thought to occupy your mind. This is more easily said than done. You cannot make your mind a blank all at once. So in the beginning try to prevent evil or idle thoughts by occupying your mind with the analysis of your own faults, or the contemplation of the Perfect Ones.”
“The right motive for seeking self-knowledge is that which pertains to knowledge and not to self. Self-knowledge is worth seeking by virtue of its being knowledge, and not by virtue of its pertaining to self. The main requisite for acquiring self-knowledge is pure love. Seek knowledge for pure love, and self-knowledge eventually crowns the effort. The fact of a student growing impatient is proof positive that he works for reward, and not for love, and that, in its turn proves that he does not deserve the great victory in store for those who really work for pure love.”
“If we admit that we are in the stream of evolution, then each circumstance must be to us quite right. And in our failure to perform set acts should be our greatest help, for we can in no other way learn that calmness which Krishna insists upon. If all our plans succeeded, then no contrasts would appear to us. Also those plans we make may all be made ignorantly, and thus wrongly, and kind Nature will not permit us to carry them out. We get no blame for the plan, but we may acquire karmic demerit by not accepting the impossibility of achieving. If you are at all cast down, then by just that much are your thoughts lessened in power. One could be confined in a prison and yet be a worker for the cause. So I pray you to remove from your mind any distaste for present circumstances. If you can succeed in looking at it all as just what you in fact desired, [“You” meaning the Higher Self. We are as we make ourselves ] then it will act not only as strengthener of your thoughts, but will act reflexively on your body and make it stronger.”
“’Resist not evil,’ that is, do not complain of or feel anger against the inevitable disagreeables of life. Forget yourself (in working for others). If men revile, persecute, or wrong one, why resist? In the resistance we create greater evils.”
“I suspect, however, that it is precisely the intelligent and rich classes which would abuse occult powers for their own benefit and profit, much more than the ignorant and poor ones. The first law of the Sacred Science is never to use one’s knowledge for one’s own interest, but to work with and for others. But how many people could one find in Europe-America ready to sacrifice themselves for their fellowmen? An Adept who is sick has no right to use his magnetic force to lessen his personal suffering as long as there is, to his knowledge, a single creature that suffers and whose physical or mental pain he can lessen, if not heal. It is so to speak the exaltation of the suffering of one’s self, for the benefit of the health and happiness of others.”
“A solitary ascetic is a symbol of the most cowardly egotism; a hermit who flees from his brothers instead of helping them to carry the burden of life, to work for others, and to put their shoulders to the wheel of social life, is a coward who hides himself when the battle is on, and goes to sleep drunk on an opiate.”
“Prepare, and be forewarned in time. If thou hast tried and failed, O dauntless fighter, yet lose not courage: fight on, and to the charge return again and yet again…Remember, thou that fightest for man’s liberation, each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its rewards in time.”
“Hast thou attuned thyself to the suffering of humanity, O candidate for light?”
“The more thou dost advance, the more thy feet pitfalls will meet. The Path that leadeth on is lighted by one fire – the light of daring burning in the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain. The more he fears, the more that light shall pale.”
“Knowledge increases in proportion to its use; that is, the more we teach the more we learn.”
“To act and act wisely when the time for action comes, to wait and wait patiently when it is time for repose, put man in accord with the rising and falling tides (of affairs), so that with nature and law at his back, and truth and beneficence as his beacon light, he may accomplish wonders. Ignorance of this law results in periods of unreasoning enthusiasm on the one hand, and depression on the other. Man thus becomes the victim of the tides when he should be their Master.”
“Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception.”
“The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards.”
“The chief difficulty which prevents men of science from believing in divine as well as in nature Spirits is their materialism.”
“It is on the acceptance or rejection of the theory of the Unity of all in Nature, in its ultimate Essence, that mainly rests the belief or unbelief in the existence around us of other conscious beings besides the Spirits of the Dead.”
“The discoveries of modern science do not disagree with the oldest traditions which claim an incredible antiquity for our race.”
“If coming events are said to cast their shadows before, past events cannot fall to leave their impress behind them.”
“The Universe is the periodical manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence.”
“The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life.”
“Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself.”
“Nothing of that which is conducive to help man, collectively or individually, to live — not “happily” — but less unhappily in this world, ought to be indifferent to the Theosophist-Occultist. It is no concern of his whether his help benefits a man in his worldly or spiritual progress; his first duty is to be ever ready to help if he can, without stopping to philosophize.”
“Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality”; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya [illusion].”
“Theosophy is who Theosophy does, not thinks, not studies, not feels but does.”
“As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man’s external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe.”
“Becoming is the mode of activity of the uncreate deity.”
“Even in our day, science suspects beyond the Polar seas, at the very circle of the Arctic Pole, the existence of a sea which never freezes and a continent which is ever green. But the first differentiation of its reflection in the manifested World is purely Spiritual, and the Beings generated in it are not endowed with a consciousness that has any relation to the one we conceive of. “
“Everything that is, was, and will be, eternally IS, even the countless forms, which are finite and perishable only in their objective, not in their ideal Form.”
“The Occultists, however, know that the traditions of Esoteric Philosophy must be the right ones, simply because they are the most logical, and reconcile every difficulty.”
“The Secret Doctrine is the common property of the countless millions of men born under various climates, in times with which History refuses to deal, and to which esoteric teachings assign dates incompatible with the theories of Geology and Anthropology.”
“We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind.
“Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colours. Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special coloured ray claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man’s perception, and each coloured ray gradually fades out until it is finally re-absorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure colourless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.”
“Really, it is quite useless to go to Tibet or India to recover some knowledge or power that are hidden in any human soul; but acquisition of higher knowledge and power requires not only many years of intensive studying under the guidance of higher mind together with a resolution that cannot be shaken by any danger, and as much as years of relative solitude, in communication with disciples only which pursue the same aim, and in such a place where both the nature and the neophyte preserve a perfect and unbroken rest if not the silence! There the air is not poisoned by miasmas around a hundreds miles, and there the atmosphere and human magnetism are quite clear and there the animal’s blood is never shed.”
“I speak “with absolute certainty” only so far as my own personal belief is concerned. Those who have not the same warrant for their belief as I have, would be very credulous and foolish to accept it on blind faith. Nor does the writer believe any more than her correspondent and his friends in any authority let alone divine revelation!”
“It is, then, by those shadows of the hoary Past and their fantastic silhouettes on the external screen of every religion and philosophy, that we can, by checking them as we go along, and comparing them, trace out finally the body that produced them.”