Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press (print version also available). Electronic version ISBN 1-55700-072-7. All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded for off-line viewing without charge. No part of this publication may be reproduced for commercial or other use in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease of searching, no diacritical marks appear in this electronic version of the text.
Letter I — Chicago, 1888 (17K)
Letter II — Chicago, 1889 (20K)
Letter III — Chicago, 1890 (13K)
Letter IV — Boston, 1891 (11K)
Letter V — Boston, 1891 (2K)
Historical Perspective by Kirby Van Mater (59K)
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"Do as the gods when incarnated do. Feel yourselves the vehicles of the whole humanity, mankind as part of yourselves, and act accordingly" — stirring words which are the keystone of a series of letters addressed by H. P. Blavatsky to the American theosophists during the last four years of her life. Scarcely known outside the theosophical world, these letters are classics in their own right; first, because of their historic value, in that they were sent during a period of intense activity when the Theosophical Society, from a mere handful in 1875, had spread from America to Europe and Asia; and secondly, though not less significant, because of their extraordinary relevance to the present cycle: as we read her words, we feel as though they had been written with this century in mind, so cogently do they respond to the need for sound guidance in the wake of today's spiritual and psychic upheaval.
H. P. Blavatsky has been called the Sphinx of the 19th century, and today is still an enigma. That she was a great deal more than she appeared to be, even to her close associates, is self-evident. This is reason enough to study her writings with the eye of intuition. The progress of her life and work had by no means been smooth; while remarkable advances were being made, grave crises both for H.P.B. and for the Society had to be met, from without as well as from within. But theosophy had sent down roots deep into the soil of human consciousness, and no slander or betrayal had power to destroy that which was destined to live.
This was a movement of the spirit, impulsed in the closing decades of the 19th century by H. P. Blavatsky's teachers, Friends of humanity, whose principal concern had been to establish a viable outlet in the modern world that would have the stamina to carry over into the succeeding centuries. For this they needed an instrument, an amanuensis willing and able to transmit the wisdom-teachings of the ages in a fuller and more comprehensive form than had been possible for thousands of years. Moreover, they had to find and train someone whose love for the disinherited of soul as well as of body and mind was all-consuming.
These letters show H. P. Blavatsky in her true light — as the voice of her teachers, the bearer of a message of supreme spiritual worth: that divinity is intrinsic to every life-spark throughout the cosmos and not an isolated phenomenon possible only to a Christ; that man and the whole of nature are one, in essence, origin, and goal; that in consequence all entities have the same potential for growth and unfoldment, through cyclic change and renewal of form; and, of chief import, that brotherhood is universal, and its living practice by all nations and races a necessity if present civilization is to fulfill its promise.
At the writing of the first letter, little more than a dozen years had gone by since 1875, yet already theosophic ideas were being picked up by writers and thinkers and effecting a marked change in the spirit of the times. Nonetheless, theosophy in its simple purity had still an "uphill battle," and the American members were reminded that the Theosophical Society, whose first principle is universal brotherhood, was founded to stimulate the spiritual awakening of mankind, and not "as a nursery for forcing a supply of Occultists." H. P. Blavatsky and her teachers had foreseen the growing force of transcendentalism, following upon the wave of mere phenomenalism, that would sweep over the coming decades and quicken a spiritual and intellectual revival. They had also recognized the hazards attendant upon its advance if the psychism now fast developing in America was allowed to run rampant and not held under the control of man's nobler faculties. It is ethics, she declared, the grand moral truths of theosophy, that are "even more necessary to mankind than the scientific aspects of the psychic facts of nature and man," since their practice penetrates to the inner reaches of the soul, to endure in the eternal essence, whereas the cultivation of the psychic alone is of transient worth.
How prophetic her words are in light of the proliferation of astral and psychic gadgetry sought today by an eager public, all of which tends to cast a shadow of mistrust on "the real students of the psychic sciences," among whom today may be found a number of well-motivated and creative researchers into the inner levels of man's consciousness. Again and again H. P. Blavatsky exhorts her American colleagues to seize the opportunities that are theirs, and to work together to help guide the rising tide of psychic sensitivity, expected at this period of our racial growth, so that "it may finally work for good and not for evil."
To read these letters, one after the other — the last two written just three and a half weeks before she died — is to sense something of the urgency felt by the Mahatmas in the 1870s to get these ennobling truths into circulation once again among every class of minds. They knew that time was needed for the ideals of compassion and of the oneness of all living beings to permeate the consciousness of the 20th century before the tidal wave of psychic interest and development would overwhelm humanity. We intuit also why it was that after searching for nearly a century they selected H. P. Blavatsky to be their agent for the founding of a movement whose sacred obligation would be "to change the basis of men's lives from selfishness to altruism."
In their initial choice they included as first president Henry S. Olcott. Without his executive talent and profound humanitarian spirit to create a vehicle for the dynamic genius of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the theosophical effort might not have had the success it did — to become within her lifetime a thriving organization able to extend its influence to every quarter of the globe. He remained to the end of his life steadfast in devotion to the "common cause — that of helping mankind."
When it came, however, to establishing the Esoteric Section in 1888, in response to a call from the membership and as a means of strengthening the inner core of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky turned to her American brother and co-founder, William Q. Judge. To relate intelligently this move and others to the flow of events of the closing years of her life, and also to give background to the letters themselves, Kirby Van Mater, archivist for the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), has provided a Historical Perspective. In presenting certain of the salient elements in the Society's experience in its formative stages, he has exercised great care in the assemblage of documents so as to allow the facts themselves to reveal the powerful current of inspiration that impulsed the theosophic effort through H.P.B.
It was no small accomplishment to have launched into a dogma-ridden world the very truths for which others had died in past eras. Yet this is what H. P. Blavatsky achieved. Since her day, generations of theosophists have drawn courage from the heroism and sacrifice of Helena Blavatsky, and have voluntarily taken upon themselves to share in the responsibility of the ages: to change for the better the mental and spiritual climate of world consciousness. Through their fidelity and perceptiveness the effort initiated by the Adepts in 1875 lives on, and the life-giving truths they gave forth anew are today being sought by a growing number of seekers in quest of a philosophy that both inspires and consistently challenges.
GRACE F. KNOCHEJune 15, 1979 Pasadena, California
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