The Theosophical Forum – May 1941

DEFENCE OF H. P. B. — J. Emory Clapp

Theosophists may take comfort in the fact that no great advance has ever been made in religion, science or philosophy without arousing the enmity of the forces of darkness. Working through the entrenched powers of those whose self-interest seems to be threatened, these dark forces, aided and abetted by the ignorance of their dupes, seek to hide the truth behind a smoke screen of unjustified attacks upon the personalities of those who are leading the advance of movements, which would be of benefit to mankind and help to arouse its spiritual intuitions.

The greatest leader of advanced thought in the nineteenth century was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the chief founder of the Theosophical Society. Upon her devoted head the powers of darkness cast their arrows of suspicion, vituperation and hatred. Using every ignoble means at their command, they sought to discredit her by violent and unjust accusations, so that the noble philosophy which she resuscitated for the benefit of the human race would not be investigated or its truths become the common property of that humanity which needs it so greatly.

Lest anyone should think that it is no longer necessary to defend the memory of this Great Soul, I would call attention to the fact that scarcely a year goes by without some new attack being launched even more violent than those which had preceded it. As Theosophists, we should realize that one of our tasks is to combat these unjust attacks and rise to her defence at every opportunity. To show the need of such action let me quote the words of H. P. B.'s great teacher, the noble Mahatman Morya. On page 251 of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett we find the following statement made by him:

. . . it is the vilification and abuse of the founders, the general misconception of the aims and objects of the Society that paralyses its progress — nothing else.

It will be observed that the Master mentions not only the attacks made on the founders, of which H. P. B. was the chief, but links these up with "the general misconception of the aims and objects of the Society" as being responsible for the lack of progress. I hope to show that these two matters are quite definitely related before closing my remarks but will consider the question of "defence" first. Although this statement was made nearly sixty years ago it seems as true now as the day it was made. The question naturally arises as to how best this defence can be made effective. It seems to me that there are many angles from which it can be approached, each one of which should be utilized to its fullest capacity, but the foundation of the defence must lie in the fact that the accusations made against her were wholly incompatible with her noble character, her self-sacrificing altruism, and a total lack of motive for wrong doing. She sought no selfish ends either in financial emoluments or personal aggrandizement. She would accept no money for the beautiful and glorious truths which she recalled to the attention of the world in the nineteenth century, and she resolutely disclaimed any originality. In the "Introductory" to her greatest work, The Secret Doctrine she modestly quoted the words of Montaigne: "I HAVE HERE MADE ONLY A NOSEGAY OF CULLED FLOWERS, AND HAVE BROUGHT NOTHING OF MY OWN BUT THE STRING THAT TIES THEM." Furthermore, she would not even accept an executive position in the Theosophical Society which she founded to promulgate the truths of Theosophy and would accept no other office than the unassuming position of Corresponding Secretary.

In order to demonstrate how unfounded were the charges that she was an adventuress and motivated by self interest, one has but to examine the unassailable facts that are known about her. These might be summed up under the following headings which have to do with her character, her outstanding intellectual ability, her comprehensive knowledge of both ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences, and her deep insight into the realities of being. Categorically they may be enumerated as follows:

I. Her altruism. II. The purity of her personal life.
II. The sublimity of the ethics which she taught (and lived).
III. Her ability as a seer which was shown by
     (a) Her fore-knowledge of coming events
     (b) Her prevision of the notable advances to be made during the succeeding century by great scientific thinkers.
V. Her demonstration of the unity of knowledge as shown by a comparison of the underlying truths to be found in the great religions, philosophies and sciences; and the revelation that all of these are contained in Theosophy, the Wisdom-Religion which, when understood in its fulness, is shown to be a marvelous cosmic philosophy which agrees with all known facts and gives a satisfying and comprehensive explanation of all the problems of life.
VI. Her insistence upon the fact that science would have to go beyond the physical plane to the metaphysical or astral plane in order to arrive at the greater truths of nature and being.
VII. Her clear and cogent logic which demonstrated that the understanding of the simple teachings of Theosophy would form the foundation for "a new order of the ages"; and that by putting these teachings into practice, war, crime and disease would be gradually banished from the earth in proportion to the extent to which Theosophy was practised.

Let us take up these points one at a time, and offer evidence which should be convincing to those with an open mind:

I. There can be no question of H. P. B.'s altruism and the sacrifices which she made for the good of humanity. Her life was filled with instances that showed her unwillingness to accept any reward for the sublime spiritual teachings which she gave out. Her benevolence was so great that it seemed Quixotic to her friends. As an instance of this it was related that when she was about to take a trip from Europe to America she noted a poor woman with two children weeping in great distress. Upon being questioned by Madame Blavatsky the woman stated that her husband had sent her a ticket to take her to America with her children, where he had prepared a home for them, but that she had lost the ticket. H. P. B. told the woman to come with her on board the vessel in which she was to sail, and insisted that the purser change her first-class cabin ticket into steerage tickets which would take herself and the woman and her children to America. It is also known that she earned her own living by menial tasks, at times, while she was engaged in writing her great books and that she gave freely out of her own restricted means to help the Theosophical Society.

II. Her personal life as seen by those who worked with her was beyond the shadow of suspicion, and her enemies had to concoct stories based on her travels in far places, which could not be either proved or disproved by reliable witnesses. Such vile stories, however, were disproved in an examination by a reputable physician.

III. To her disciples Madame Blavatsky gave the priceless little book known as The Voice of the Silence. This was based upon a translation which she made of The Book of the Golden Precepts, a work, written in an ancient tongue, given to her by her great Teachers. These precepts she had learned by heart. The following illustrate some of them:

To live to benefit mankind is the first step [on the path].
Step out from sunshine into shade to make more room for others.
Let thy soul lend its ear to every cry of pain, like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun.
Let not the fierce sun dry one tear of pain until thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye,
But let each burning tear drop on thy heart, and there remain until the pain that caused it is removed.

IV. H. P. B.'s fore-knowledge of coming events was shown in many ways. One of the most remarkable of her predictions was to the effect that before the end of the first five thousand years
of the Kali-yuga (within ten years) the veil of matter would be rent and marvelous scientific discoveries would change the whole basis of modern science. This statement was made in 1888, and during the next ten years three events of great importance took place. First, Roentgen, while experimenting with vacuum tubes along the lines laid down by Sir William Crookes, discovered the X-ray. Second, Madame Curie discovered radium. Third, Sir James J. Thompson enunciated the electron theory, which has since been generally accepted. Thus was demonstrated the permeability of matter and the composite nature of the atom, and these in their turn led to a new foundation for the science of physics.

Many of the scientific concepts which were built up on this new foundation were predicted by Madame Blavatsky, including the material nature of electricity, the unity of force and matter, (these two being but the opposite poles of one substance-principle), and the corpuscular nature of light, thus reverting to Sir Isaac Newton's concept which modern science had thrown aside.

A score of other changes in the current scientific conceptions of that day were also mentioned in H. P. B.'s Secret Doctrine. H. P. Blavatsky did not claim to gain these facts by any other than the commonplace method of acceptance of the teachings given out by "Those who know."

Referring again to the statement made by Madame Blavatsky in her quotation from Montaigne, she remarked "pull the "string" to pieces and cut it up in shreds, if you will. As for the nosegay of FACTS — you will never be able to make away with them. You can only ignore them, and no more." It is marvelous to note that while many of the scientific statements in The Secret Doctrine have been independently proved to be true by the work of our modern scientists, not a single statement has been disproved, so far as I know.

In a recent bibliography of The Secret Doctrine which has been compiled by an old student of The Secret Doctrine, Dr. Thaddeus P. Hyatt of Stamford, Conn., some amazing facts have been brought to light. In this compilation, which Dr. Hyatt refers to as "A Check List of some of the books and authors quoted or referred to in the two volumes of The Secret Doctrine," it is shown that Madame Blavatsky referred to or quoted from more than 700 authors on over ninety subjects with an astounding range of topics. Included in this list are books and articles on many branches of science, an amazing list of philosophers, besides all of the great religions known to the world today; in fact, there is scarcely an activity of human consciousness which is not touched upon in some way, and the Director of the Public Library in one of the largest cities in the United States has stated that this work of H. P. Blavatsky is one of the most amazing feats of which he has ever heard. A still more remarkable accomplishment is found in the fact that Madame Blavatsky displayed greater knowledge of the subjects referred to, in many cases, than was possessed by prominent authors who had devoted their life's work to the study of only one of this vast array of them.

As an instance, Dr. Carter Blake, anthropologist and zoologist has stated that Madame Blavatsky knew more than he did on his own particular line of anthropology, etc., and that her information was superior to his own on several of the topics which belonged to his line of work, some of which he listed in detail.

V. The factor which has caused more trouble in the world than any other one thing has been the lack of understanding that there is a unity of knowledge as shown by the great religions, sciences, and philosophies of the past. In The Secret Doctrine, Madame Blavatsky devotes much space to showing the underlying unity of these essential products of human consciousness, in religion particularly, with the key of symbology which she interpreted. A marvelous knowledge of ancient religions and philosophies, world-wide in extent, is manifested in this great work, which frequently refers to rare volumes unattainable by ordinary means, the only copies available being in such places as the British Museum, the Vatican Library and other important collections of ancient lore.

This proof of the essential unity of human knowledge immediately convinces the inquirer that there is no basis for the claim that any single religion or philosophy can claim to have all knowledge; in fact it was demonstrated that much of the knowledge was common to all, while certain aspects of truth were found to be more fully explained, perhaps, in some one of them. From a consideration of these facts it is obvious that dogmatism and creeds are out of place and that all mankind should, as individuals, look with tolerance on the beliefs of others, showing them the same respect that one would desire for his own.

VI. Anyone who is at all familiar with the ideas of our great scientific thinkers as expressed in their articles and statements for consumption by the general public, can readily see that these advanced thinkers are arriving at the point where they agree with H. P. Blavatsky that the greater truths of nature and being can only be arrived at by extending the field of science to take in the metaphysical as well as the physical planes of being. Sir Arthur Eddington's phrase "mind-stuff," Sir James Jeans's conclusion that "consciousness is the only reality," and many other similar expressions by equally well-known scientists are a proof of this tendency.

VII. Every student of Theosophy is convinced that the understanding and practice of the simple teachings of Theosophy would banish three-quarters of the suffering to which mankind as a whole is subject at the present time. It has been an astonishing and inspiring experience to the writer to see how "Mr. Average Citizen" responds to Theosophical ideas simply presented, and in particular the unanimity of the idea that it is human selfishness that is responsible for practically all of those things which we dislike. Is not this conclusive evidence that what the world needs today more than anything else is an understanding of Theosophy, at least in its essential teachings such as "the four links of the golden chain" mentioned in The Key to Theosophy? If these are presented in a simple manner so that the teachings will be readily understood by average newspaper readers, I think we will agree that it will result eventually in great good to mankind.

In a quotation which I gave from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in the early part of this address, there was a statement of the Master to which I called especial attention. I observed that I hoped to show that this statement was quite pertinent to "the defence of H. P. B." It referred to "the general misconception of the aims and objects of the Society" as being responsible for the lack of progress. I think this misconception was the fact that the public did not then and does not now understand that the chief object of the Theosophical Society is to show men and women that Brotherhood is an inescapable fact; because the universe is a unity and therefore every individual part of it, which means all that is, must work in harmony with the laws of the universe and for the ultimate good of everything without exception. Here we have a foundation for the scientific demonstration that it is only through the practice of brotherhood that men and women can find happiness, peace, and true knowledge, and reach the ultimate goal toward which mankind is traveling on the evolutionary pathway.

Since the charges made from time to time against the honor and character of H. P. Blavatsky tend to distract the attention of men's minds from an investigation of Theosophy, it is quite essential that Theosophists should ever be ready to defend her memory from these unjust charges, and the best way to do that, is to show that these false charges are incompatible with her character and the nature of the philosophy that she taught, the latter being based upon utter unselfishness, backed by sublime ethics. Once you can get a reasonable person to understand that the attacks against her were intended to prevent the dissemination of a wonderful religion-philosophy-science which would not only solve all human problems but completely change the hearts and minds of men, such a person will be willing to spend a little time in examining the nature of Theosophy.

The attempt has been made to defend H. P. B. by making a critical analysis of the charges against her in an effort to show that these charges were either false or unproved. While this is helpful and particularly worth while for Theosophists, it is not a method that will work very well with most people. They do not feel that they have the time to read voluminous articles trying to prove that certain charges about which they are either poorly informed or not at all informed are false, and there is the further weakness that such a method of defence simply brings up new charges and reiteration of old ones, in that way perhaps doing more harm than good. Publicity is just what sensational writers desire and the one thing which discourages them more than anything else is for the charges to be ignored.

Before closing, I would like to call your attention to the fact that May 8th, 1941, will be the fiftieth anniversary of the passing or "going home" of the Great Soul known as H. P. Blavatsky, to whom we owe so much. This anniversary, known as White Lotus Day, has for some years now been utilized for Fraternization efforts among Theosophists, irrespective of organizations. I would like to suggest that the Resolutions Committee of this Convention be instructed to formulate a suitable resolution calling attention to this fact and suggesting that this would be a good opportunity for Theosophists everywhere to unite in the celebration of this event, as a mark of the love and respect which they all hold for this great benefactor of the human race.

The Theosophical Forum