THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 10, August, 1968
(Pages 289-292; Size: 11K)


AUGUST is the month of the birth of H. P. Blavatsky, in the year 1831. We know how her life-span of sixty years was occupied, and something of the incredible accomplishments which were its fruit. She lifted by several crucial notches the self-awareness of mankind. She did this by bringing into new focus the testimony of all religion, science, learning, and subjective experience, on the basic question of self-knowledge. This meant, as she explained in The Secret Doctrine, a direct encounter with "old and time-honoured errors," since it is quite impossible to pursue authentic truth without contesting and exposing mistaken beliefs. Of the errors with which she had to contend, she wrote (S.D. I, 299):

Marshalled by blind conservatism, conceit and prejudice, they are constantly on the watch, ready to strangle every truth, which, awakening from its age-long sleep, happens to knock for admission. Such has been the case ever since man became an animal. That this proves in every case moral death to the revealers, who bring to light any of these old, old truths, is as certain as that it gives LIFE and REGENERATION to those who are fit to profit even by the little that is now revealed to them.
For evidence of what H.P.B. meant by "moral death," one has but to turn to the compilation from her letters and other materials published after her death under the title "She Being Dead Yet Speaketh." Here it becomes plain that H.P.B. knew exactly what she was getting into, in accepting the task of a "revealer."

The open attacks on H.P.B. during her life reached their climax in an article in the New York Sun for June 1, 1890. It had the form of an interview with Prof. Elliott Coues, a man of some scientific pretensions. In this interview Coues repeated every slander and gossipy charge that had ever been made against Madame Blavatsky, filling seven closely printed columns of small type. Because of the personal nature of the accusations, and, as she put it, in behalf of "the security in the future of Theosophists," she brought suit against the Sun for libel. As she explained:

For some fifteen years I have calmly stood by and seen my good name assailed by newspaper gossips who delight to dwell on the personal peculiarities of those who are well known, and have worked on for the spread of our Theosophical ideas, feeling confident that, though I might be assailed by small minds who try their best to bring me into reproach, the Society which I helped to found would withstand the attacks, and, indeed, grow under them. This latter has been the case. It may be asked by some members why I have never replied to those attacks which were directed against Occultism and phenomena. For two reasons: Occultism will remain forever, no matter how assailed, and Occult phenomena can never be proved in a Court of Law during this century. Besides, I have never given public currency to any of the latter, but have always objected to the giving out of things the profane cannot understand.

But now a great metropolitan daily in New York, with no knowledge of the facts of the case, throws broadcast before the public many charges against me, the most of which meet their refutation in my life for over a decade. But as one of them reflects strongly on my moral character and brings into disrepute the honorable name of a dead man, an old family friend, it is impossible for me to remain silent, and so I have directed my lawyers in New York to bring action against the New York Sun for libel.

Well, we know what happened. The Sun's lawyers were obliged to confess in open court their inability to prove the charges on which the case depended. Before the final decision, however, Madame Blavatsky died, automatically terminating the action. The Sun nonetheless published a retraction and invited Mr. Judge to contribute an article about H.P.B., to make amends. As a passage in The Theosophical Movement puts it:
... this article and its editorial endorsement amounted to a complete reversal of the position of the Sun. This can be accounted for on only two grounds: (1) that the Sun after vigorous and prolonged efforts to find evidence to support even one of the charges found that they were mere calumnies, and (2) that its publishers were men honorable enough voluntarily to make amends for the wrong done by publishing a retraction, even after the death of H.P.B. had freed them from all risk of damages.
Today, attacks on Madame Blavatsky have been resumed, with charges even more ridiculous, and still less founded on fact -- if that is possible -- than those assembled by Prof. Coues. Without any evidence at all, it has been claimed that Madame Blavatsky interested herself in a theory of political assassinations and compiled a "revolutionary handbook" descriptive of methods of gaining political control of a country through terrorizing acts.

H.P.B. had no concern with politics and wrote no such handbook. She was a follower of the teachings of Gautama Buddha and sought the improvement of the human race through moral regeneration, not by revolutionary bloodshed. The ethics found in her teachings are the highest known to man. The claim of "devil-worship," wildly inferred from a glance at analyses of theological symbolism found in The Secret Doctrine (1888) is totally without meaning. This is clear from the fact that H.P.B. wrote extensively to reject the existence of a personal Devil. That she saw, as have others, in the symbolism of Lucifer the same meaning that the Prometheus myth discloses is hardly ground for such a charge. The level of discussion of this subject in her works may be seen from the following (S.D. I, 70):

The devil is now called Darkness by the Church, whereas, in the Bible he is called "Son of God" (see Job), the bright star of the early morning, Lucifer (see Isaiah). There is a whole philosophy of dogmatic craft in the reason why the first Archangel, who sprang from the depths of Chaos, was called Lux (Lucifer), the "Luminous Son of the Morning," or manvantaric Dawn. He was transformed by the Church into Lucifer or Satan, because he is higher and older than Jehovah, and had to be sacrificed to the new dogma.
It is perhaps too much to expect a modern newspaper reporter or television commentator to inform himself of the recondite meanings behind such considerations of ancient symbolism. But to infer "devil-worship" from scholarly investigations of the philosophy of religion is insane nonsense as well as vicious innuendo. A just comment on the part of a journalist would be to point to H. P. Blavatsky's Preface to the second volume of Isis Unveiled (1887), where she wrote:
Were it possible, we would keep this work out of the hands of many Christians whom its perusal would not benefit, and for whom it was not written. We allude to those whose faith in their respective churches is pure and sincere, and those whose sinless lives reflect the glorious example of that Prophet of Nazareth, by whose mouth the spirit of truth spake loudly to humanity. ... [Such Christians] are to be found at this day, in pulpit and pew, in palace and cottage; but the increasing materialism, worldliness and hypocrisy are fast diminishing their proportionate number. Their charity, and simple, child-like faith in the infallibility of their Bible, their dogmas, and their clergy, bring into full activity all the virtues that are implanted in our common nature. We have personally known such God-fearing priests and clergymen, and we have always avoided debate with them, lest we might be guilty of the cruelty of hurting their feelings; nor would we rob a single layman of his blind confidence, if it alone made possible for him holy living and serene dying.

An analysis of religious beliefs in general, this volume is particularly directed against theological Christianity, the chief opponent of free thought. It contains not one word against the pure teachings of Jesus, but unsparingly denounces their debasement into pernicious ecclesiastical systems that are ruinous to man's faith in his immortality and his God, and subversive of all moral restraint.

When has searching religious questioning had a more compassionate advocate and practitioner?

The fresh libels of H. P. Blavatsky seem to come "out of the blue," with no more provocation than the incident of Sirhan Sirhan's request for The Secret Doctrine for reading in his cell. Perhaps we can take all these curiously lurid developments as evidence of the sustained capacity for awakening men's minds, in the present-day Theosophical Movement. And, as something less than a century ago it was said, attacks cannot hurt, so long as Theosophists remain steadfast in their work and firm in their resolve, so we may say again, today.

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(1) [Note: This footnote was not in the article, but the article was listed in the Index in the following way: "Blavatsky, H.P. (Quotings from her writings and in honor of her 60 years in the service of lifting the awareness of mankind)." --Compiler.]
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