Re-Classification Of Principles
IN the May Theosophist (1887), I find the first
part of a long explanatory article, by Mr. Subba
Row, in which the able author has gone to the trouble of
dissecting almost every thing I have written for the last ten
years, upon the subject under review.
My first thought was, to leave his "answer" without
reply. Upon reading it carefully over, however,
I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it would not be safe
to do so. The article in question is a manifesto.
I am not allowed to labour any longer under the impression that
it was only an apparent disagreement. Those members and
ex-members of our Society who had rejoiced at Mr.
Subba Row's remarks were consequently right in their conclusions,
and I--wrong. As I do not admit--in our case, at
any rate--that "a house divided against itself" must
fall, for the Theosophical Society can never fall so long
as its foundation is very strong, I regard the disagreement,
even if real, as of no great or vital importance.
Yet, were I to fail to answer the strictures in question,
it would be immediately inferred that I was silenced by the arguments;
or, worse, that I had expounded a tenet which had
Before I say anything further upon the main subject, however,
I must express my surprise at finding the learned author referring
to me continually as his "critic." I have never
criticized him, nor his teachings, whether orally,
or in print. I had simply expressed regret at finding in
the Theosophist words calculated, as I then thought,
to create false impressions. The position assumed by the
lecturer on the Gita was as unexpected as it was new to me,
and my remarks were meant to be as friendly as I could make them.
For am I actuated even now by any other feelings. I can
only regret, and nothing more, that such new developments
of ideas should occur just now, after nearly seven years
of tacit, if not actual, agreement.
Nor do I find on page 450 of the April Theosophist in
my footnote* anything that should imply, even
least of all "probably," that I endorse the views
that "a slur was thrown on the original teaching."
I had said that "some (Theosophists) argued that it looked
like a slur." As for myself, I have too much
reverence for the "original" TEACHERS
to ever admit that anything said or done, could ever be
"a slur" upon their teachings. But if I,
personally, am made out "the original expounder,"
there can be no slur whatever. It is, at the worst,
a disagreement in personal views. Every one is free in
the Theosophical Society to give full expression to his own ideas,--I
among the rest; especially when I know that those views
are those of trans-Himalayan esotericism, if not
of cis-Himalayan esoteric Brahmanism, as I am now
told squarely--for the first time. The words written by
me in the foot-note, therefore--"Of course those who
do not hold to the old school of Aryan and Arhat adepts are in
no way bound to adopt the septenary classification"--were
never meant for Mr. Subba Row. They applied most
innocently, and as I thought liberally, to every
and each member of our Association. Why my friend,
Mr. T. Subba Row, should have applied them
to himself is one of those mysterious combinations--evolved by
my own karma. no doubt--which pass my comprehension.
To expect a Brahmin, a Vedantin (whether an occultist or
otherwise) to accept in their dead-letter the tenets of
Buddhist (even if Aryan) adepts, is like expecting a western
Kabbalist, an Israelite by birth and views, to adhere
to our Lord Buddha instead of to Moses. To charge me on
such grounds with dogmatism and a desire to evolve "an orthodox
creed" out of tenets I have tried to explain to those who
are interested in Buddhistic occultism, is rather hard.
All this compels me to explain my past as well as my present position.
As the second portion of Mr. Subba Row's reply can
hardly contain stronger charges than I find in the first,
I ask permission to state that:--
(I) Neither the original "Fragments of Occult Truths"
nor yet Esoteric Buddhism, were ever meant to expound
Brahminical philosophy, but that of the trans-Himalayan
Arhats, as very correctly stated by Mr. Subba Row
in his "Brahminism on the Seven-fold Principle in Man"--"it
is extremely difficult to show (to the profane H.P.B.!)
whether the Tibetans derived their doctrine from the ancient Rishis
of India, or the ancient Brahmins learned their occult
science from the adepts of Tibet: or again, whether
the adepts of both countries professed originally the same doctrine
and derived it from a common source. . . . However that
may be, the knowledge of the occult powers of nature
possessed by the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis,
was learnt by the ancient adepts of India, and was appended
by them to their esoteric doctrine taught by the residents of
the sacred island (Sham-bha-la). The Tibetan adepts,
however, have not accepted this addition to their esoteric
doctrine." . . . Thus,
the readers of the Theosophist were told from the first
(in 1882) that they "should expect to find a difference between
the two doctrines." One of the said "differences"
is found in the exoteric exposition, or form of
presentation, of the seven-fold principle in man.
(II) Though the fundamental doctrines of Occultism and
Esoteric philosophy are one and the same the world over,
and that is the secret meaning under the outward shell of every
old religion--however much they may conflict in appearance--[since
each] is the outcome of, and proceeds from, the
modes of thought and of its expression must necessarily differ.
There are Sanskrit words used--"Jiva," for one--by
trans-Himalayan adepts, whose meaning differs greatly
in verbal applications, from the meaning it has among the
Brahmins in India.
(III) I have never boasted of any knowledge of Sanskrit,
and, when I came to India last, in 1879,
knew very superficially the philosophies of the six schools of
Brahminism. I never pretended to teach Sanskrit or explain
Occultism in that language. I claimed to know the esoteric
philosophy of the trans-Himalayan Occultists and no more.
What I knew again, was that the philosophy of the ancient
Dwijas and Initiates did not, nor could it,
differ essentially from the esotericism of the "Wisdom-religion,"
any more than ancient Zoroastrianism, Hermetic philosophy,
or Chaldean Kabbala could do so. I have tried to prove
it by rendering the technical terms used by the Tibetan Arhats
of things and principles, as adopted in trans-Himalayan
teaching (and which when given to Mr. Sinnett and others
without their Sanskrit or European equivalents, remained
to them unintelligible, as they would to all in India)--in
terms used in Brahmanical philosophy. I may have failed
to do so correctly, very likely I have, and made
mistakes,--I never claimed infallibility--but this is no
reason why the seven-fold division should be regarded as "unscientific."
That it was puzzling I had already admitted, yet,
once properly explained, it is the right one, though,
in transcendental metaphysics, the quaternary may do as
well. In my writings in the Theosophist I have
always consulted learned and (even not very learned) Sanskrit-speaking
Brahmins, giving credit to every one of them for knowing
the value of Sanskrit terms better than I did. The question
then is not, whether I may or may not have made use of
wrong Sanskrit terms, but whether the occult tenets expounded
through me are the right ones--at any rate those of the "Aryan-Chaldeo-Tibetan
doctrine" as we call the "universal Wisdom-religion."
(See Five Years of Theosophy, 1st note to
Mr. Subba Row's "Brahminism on the Seven-fold Principle
in Man," pp. 177-9.)
(IV) When saying that the seven-fold classification of principles
is absolutely necessary to explain post-mortem phenomena,
I repeat only that which I had always said and that which every
mystic will understand. "Once we pass from the plane
of pure subjective (or metaphysical, hence purely theoretical)
reasoning on esoteric matters to that of practical demonstration
in occultism, wherein each (lower) principle and attribute
has to be analyzed and defined in its application . .
. to post-mortem life (that of spooks and pisachas),
the sevenfold classification is the right one."
These are my words, which every spiritualist will understand.
Vedantin metaphysicians, denying as they do objective reality
or importance even to our physical body, are not likely
to lose their time in dividing the lower principles in man,
the compound aspects and nature of the phantom of
that body. Practical occultism does; and
it is one of the duties of those Theosophists who study occultism
to warn their brethren of the dangers incurred by those who know
nothing of the real nature of those apparitions: to warn
them that a shell is not "spirit."
This statement of mine I find qualified as "simply absurd."
Having never regarded as absurd anything said or written
by Mr. Subba Row, I could not retaliate even if
I would, I can only pronounce the epithet, let us
say--unkind, and demur to the qualification.
Had the author to face "practical demonstration" in
spiritual phenomena and "materializations of spirits,"
so called, he would soon find that his four principles
never could cover the ground of this kind of phenomena.
Even the lower aspect of the principle of manas (physical
brain, or its post-mortem auric survival) and of
kama rupa are hardly sufficient to explain the seemingly
intelligent and spiritual principles (bhut or elements)
that manifest through mediums.
(V) It is not consistent with fact and truth to charge me,
"the original (?) exponent herself," with changing
my conceptions about the nature of principles. "I
have never changed them, nor could I do so."
In this I claim my right too, as Mr. Subba Row does,
to my evidence being "the best and the most direct evidence
available as regards my own states of consciousness."
I may have used wrong Sanskrit expressions (and even wrong
and clumsily put English sentences, for the matter of that)--while
trying to blend the Arhat with the Brahmanical occult tenets.
As to those conceptions, my "four principles"
have to disintegrate and vanish in the air, before any
amount of criticism can make me regard my ten fingers as only
four; although metaphysically, I am fully
prepared to admit that they exist only in my own mayavic perceptions
and states of consciousness.
(VI) Mr. Subba Row, taking hold of Esoteric Buddhism,
the "Elixir of Life," and Man,
is pleased to father all their sins of omission and commission
on the "Original Expounder." This is hardly fair.
The first work was written absolutely without my knowledge,
and as the author understood those teachings from letters he had
received, what have I to do with them? The "Elixir
of Life" was written by its author under direct dictation,
or inspection, in his own house, in
a faraway country, in which I had never been till two years
later. Finally, Man was entirely rewritten
by one of the two "chelas" and from the same materials
as those used by Mr. Sinnett for Esoteric Buddhism;
the two having understood the teachings, each in his
own way. What had I to do with the "states of consciousness"
of the three authors, two of whom wrote in England while
I was in India? He may attribute to the lack of scientific
precision in the "original teachings," there
being "a jumble." No one would accuse Mr.
Subba Row's Bhagavad Gita lectures of any such defects.
Yet, I have already heard three or four intelligent persons
among our members expounding the said three lectures (those which
have already appeared)--in three different and diametrically
This will do, I believe. The Secret Doctrine
will contain, no doubt, still more heterodox
statements from the Brahminical view. No one is forced
to accept my opinions or teaching in the Theosophical Society,
one of the rules of which enforces only mutual tolerance for religious
views. Our body is entirely unsectarian and "only
exacts from each member that toleration of the beliefs of others
which he desires . . . in regard to his own
Most of us have been playing truants to this
golden rule as to all others: more's the pity.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
Theosophist, August, 1887
*See "Classification of Principles,"
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