H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement by Charles J. Ryan

Copyright © 1975 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.


Chapter 16

H. P. BLAVATSKY IN EUROPE

It is now necessary to follow H. P. Blavatsky's fortunes in Europe where, by her indomitable will and devotion to duty, and after enduring many more trials, she succeeded in reviving the interest in theosophy. She attracted the attention of a class of intelligent and enthusiastic students who had a far better understanding of the real importance of theosophy to the world than many of the earlier members whose loyalty depended too much upon the gratification of personal, selfish desires for the occult information which they knew H.P.B. alone could give. It was not long before it was possible to give higher teachings, not only intellectual but spiritual and moral, to an audience better qualified to profit by them.

She reached Europe in April 1885, and settled for a while at Torre del Greco, near Naples, where she remained for some months under very depressing conditions, suffering in health and enduring many hardships from lack of money which, during the crisis caused by the Coulomb-Missionary conspiracy, was very scarce. This was one of the most trying periods of her life. Exiled from India, the brilliant theosophical successes of her last visit to Europe little more than a vanished dream, in poverty and isolation, what could the future hold for her? Yet this poor broken-down invalid with the heart of a lion, never lost courage, and never doubted for an instant the wisdom and protection of her Masters, and in no long time she had regained far more than she had lost, except in health and strength. But she still had many trials to undergo, and the young Hindu, Babaji, who accompanied her and Miss Flynn to Italy and did not remain with her long, provided some of the hardest. He was a would-be chela under probation, and in many ways seemed very devoted, but he was an extremist and lacked judgment. The strange story of his conduct in the unfamiliar European conditions can be traced in the Blavatsky Letters and in other published correspondence, and it is another outstanding illustration of the extraordinary anxieties from which she was never free.

After the dreary months in Italy she moved to Wurzburg in Germany, to be nearer her friends, and for other reasons. She says:

. . . I must have a warm and dry room, however cold outside, since I never leave my rooms, and here [Italy] healthy people catch cold and rheumatics unless they have palaces. I like Wurzburg. It is near Heidleberg and Nurenberg, and all the centres one of the Masters [K.H.] lived in, and it is He who advised my Master to send me there. — Blavatsky Letters, 105

When she reached Wurzburg and found accommodation at Ludwig Strasse, No. 6, she was still very poor, and as she was not free to write popular paying articles for the Russian journals she had to endure much privation at first. She writes to Sinnett on August 19, 1885:

For myself — I am resolved to remain sub rosa. I can do far more by remaining in the shadow than by becoming prominent once more in the movement. Let me hide in unknown places and write, write, write, and teach whoever wants to learn. Since Master forced me to live, let me live and die now in relative peace. It is evident He wants me still to work for the T.S. since He does not allow me to make a contract with Katkoff — one that would put yearly 40,000 francs at least in my pocket — to write exclusively for his journal and paper. . . . for — He says — my time "shall have to be occupied otherwise." — Ibid., 112

A few words in regard to H. P. Blavatsky's literary distinction is in place here. Her brilliant essays and stories were so greatly in demand in Russia that publishers had been paying her at the same rates as those asked by the famous novelist Turgenev. When The Secret Doctrine no longer demanded her entire attention, she was again able to send occasional articles to Russia, and she was then placed on the list of regular contributors to The Russian Review (Russkoye Obozreniye), "a Literary-Political and Scientific Journal." A copy of this magazine for August 1890 was sent by her to America in support of the legal defense made by Judge in rebuttal of the attack made upon her by Dr. Elliott Coues and The Sun (New York), which is mentioned in a later chapter. A note written by her and attached to the cover of the magazine contains these words in English:

My well known pseudonym "Radda Bai" (H. P. Blavatsky) published monthly since Feb. 1890 among the names of the best known writers in Russia, and the names of the eminent foreign contributors, prove plainly enough that I am not quite the person having no name in literature, as the Sun and Dr. Elliott Coues would represent me in their joint libel. — H. P. BLAVATSKY ("Radda Bai")

The foreign names include among many other notabilities such famous ones as William James, Bret Harte, Eduard von Hartmann, Jules Simon, and Paul Bourget. The same copy of the magazine contains a long and appreciative review article of H. P. Blavatsky's The Key to Theosophy by the great Russian philosopher, Professor Vladimir Solovyoff, who was a kind of Russian Herbert Spencer in reputation, though more spiritual in outlook. (He must not be confused with H.P.B.'s false friend, Vsevolod Solovyoff who slandered her after her death when she could no longer expose his vindictive misunderstandings and misrepresentations.) The eminent reviewer shows great acumen and a profound knowledge of Eastern philosophies, and he immediately recognized the serious importance of his author's presentation of theosophy. He was deeply interested in the revival of the wisdom-teaching of Bodhi or Budhi which H.P.B. makes clear and which he distinguishes from exoteric Buddhism, observing that theosophy, or what he calls "Neo-Budhism," is not "an embroidery upon the doctrine of Gautama." He strongly approves of H.P.B.'s emphasis upon the concept that the individuality in man is a pure ray from the universal Principle, refracted through the personal human consciousness. In regard to her revelation of the inner meaning, he points out that it is not found in the best-known systems of Hindu philosophy, although they offer no small number of diverse opinions not suggested by H. P. Blavatsky, who gave the pure wisdom-teaching, Bodhi. An interesting passage, translated from Professor Solovyoff's article on The Key to Theosophy, reads:

It has been said that Theosophy is a paying proposition and that a good deal of money can be made through it. The same opponent also claims that the Tibetan Guides of the Society, Mahatmans and Chelas, have never existed but were invented by H. P. Blavatsky. To the first accusation the author answers by convincing data and figures; as to the second, we ourselves, a disinterested party in the matter, can vouch that it is false. How could H. P. Blavatsky have invented the Tibetan Brotherhood or the Order of the Chelas, when it is easy to find definite and authentic data regarding the existence and character of this Brotherhood (1) in the book of the French missionary Huc [Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China], who visited Tibet in the early forties, i.e., some thirty years before the founding of the Theosophical Society.

However it may be, and having taken due account of all the theoretical and ethical shortcomings of the Theosophical Society, it is evident that this society, whether in its present form or otherwise, and the Neo-Budhist movement reawakened by its efforts, have an important historical role to play in the near future . . . This latest work of H. P. Blavatsky is particularly interesting to us because it presents Buddhism from a new angle, unsuspected heretofore, i.e., as a religious movement without dogmas or creeds and yet with a very definite and unique trend (toward the raising of man to Divine Self-Evolution, and against the belief in any superhuman principle) . . . .

The careful use of the words Budhism and Buddhism in Solovyoff's article show his clear understanding of the distinction H. P. Blavatsky made between the ancient wisdom (Budhism) and the exoteric religion called after the Buddha, the enlightened Teacher.

In her darkest hours H.P.B. knew that she had only to return to Russia and devote herself to literature to be assured of ending her days in ease and comfort, as well as honor. Her sister, Mme. Jelihovsky, earnestly implored her to come home to the family. But that would have meant the desertion of her duty to humanity and the Masters' work, and that was an impossible line of action for H. P. Blavatsky, the chela. Her strength was failing, and she realized that the time was soon coming when she could no longer hold a pen, and The Secret Doctrine, the most important work of her life, was hardly begun. So she declined every outside offer and gave her entire time and energy to its completion.

Fortunately, a devoted member came to her rescue in the autumn of 1885 when she was quite alone in Wurzburg. This was Countess Constance Wachtmeister, an English-woman, widow of a former Swedish ambassador to London. As H.P.B. and the countess lived in close association for a long time, the latter is an excellent and independent witness to the character and daily life of her friend, and to the genuineness of her phenomena, as is shown in a letter to The Occult Word (July 1886, Rochester, N. Y.), where the countess says:

. . . I offered to spend some time with her and do what I could to render her position more comfortable, and to cheer her in her solitude. . . . I had been told a great deal against her, and I can honestly say that I was prejudiced in her disfavor. . . . Having heard the absurd rumors circulating against her, and by which she was accused of practising Black Magic, fraud and deception, I was on my guard, and went to her in a calm and tranquil frame of mind, determined to accept nothing of an occult character and coming from her without sufficient proof; to make myself positive, to keep my eyes open, and to be just and true in my conclusions . . . therefore my frame of mind was bent on investigation, and I was anxious to find out the truth.

In her Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky, the countess gives an intimate picture of the severe routine of her friend's life at this time. She had already begun to write The Secret Doctrine, and this work was continued with hardly an interruption from morning till night. It required all the willpower she possessed to do this in her weak state of health.

Countess Wachtmeister gives an example of her unconquerable determination. She once found the floor strewn with sheets of paper, and was told:

"Yes, I have tried twelve times to write this one page correctly, and each time Master says it is wrong. . . . but leave me alone; I will not pause until I have conquered it, even if I have to go on all night." — Reminiscences, 32

The thousand adverse thoughts directed against her from the outside world were a serious handicap and, thoroughly exhausted by the day's labor, she would rest her mind in the evening by arranging the cards in a game of patience or solitaire, and by reading the news from her homeland in the Russian journals.

But it was not long before this comparatively peaceful existence was violently interrupted by the publication of the Hodgson Report. This cruel blow, and the resulting confusion among some of the weaker members of the Society, wounded her sensitive nature very deeply, and she was unable to resume her writing for several weeks. It was with difficulty that she was persuaded not to rush off to London and take some rash action which would not have improved matters. The countess finally convinced her that the right course for her was to treat the slander with contempt and to let the theosophists make a dignified and united protest. Countess Wachtmeister wrote to Sinnett, "If we all keep true and firm nothing can really hurt us." H.P.B.'s indignation and agony were not for herself but, as she passionately exclaimed:

". . . who will listen to me or read The Secret Doctrine? How can I carry on Master's work? O cursed phenomena, which I only produced to please private friends and instruct those around me. What an awful Karma to bear! How shall I live through it? If I die Master's work will be wasted, and the Society will be ruined!" — Ibid., 26

Indeed, she had a right to be distressed at such a prospect for, as the world knows now, the last few years of her life were by far the most valuable. They were to see the production of her most important work, not only The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, and The Key to Theosophy, but the private instructions she prepared for her more qualified pupils.

The clouds gradually lifted, and she returned to her writing with renewed courage and zeal. While the shadow of the Hodgson Report was still lying heavily upon her, Sinnett felt that by far the best method of refuting the slanders would be to publish a complete memoir of her life, giving facts which were quite unknown to the world at large. It would thus be seen that she was no charlatan striving for notoriety, but a philanthropist who had given up everything to redeem the world from its own ignorance. After much hesitation, chiefly caused by reluctance to drag her Russian relatives and friends into the glare of publicity, she gave Sinnett permission to publish some information about her early life and adventures, including the extraordinary story of her psychic experiences in childhood, which could be supported by the evidence of thoroughly reliable witnesses Sinnett brought out his Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky in 1886. This book contains not only the general sketch of the highlights of her life, but a careful analysis of the Coulomb conspiracy, giving the documentary evidence then available in her defense. The book proved an immediate success; the obvious sincerity and common sense displayed by the author in the treatment of much that was startling and unfamiliar at that time attracted a large number of independent and intelligent thinkers to H. P. Blavatsky and her work. The movement spread more widely than ever before in Europe and America, as the end of the second septenary cycle mentioned by the Master approached.

During the months Countess Wachtmeister spent with her teacher in Wurzburg she had numerous opportunities to study the strange occult happenings that took place, and she was always on guard against mistaken observation. She writes:

I have shared her room and been with her morning, noon and night. I have had access to all her boxes and drawers, have read the letters which she received and those which she wrote, . . . — Ibid., 29

She describes many of the phenomena with care, including some which took place when H.P.B. was asleep. She noticed, just as Olcott and Judge observed in New York when Isis Unveiled was being written, that with H.P.B. such phenomena were part of the day's work, so to speak — intended to serve practical purposes and not for display. The countess possessed at times a certain clairvoyant power of her own, and was able to see the Masters or their chelas, more or less clearly, when they telepathically talked with H.P.B. in the mayavi-rupa.

Probably the most striking phenomena in connection with this period were the precipitated messages from the Masters, containing instructions for The Secret Doctrine, which were found on her desk morning after morning as she needed them as material for her writing. These communications, as well as the interior instruction she constantly received from her teachers, were as matter-of-fact transactions to her as the interchange of notes and questions between an ordinary author and his amanuensis. Others, besides Countess Wachtmeister, testify to the constant receipt of written instructions in a phenomenal way from the Masters by H.P.B., while she was writing her books.

The countess sums up her impressions in a few pages of her Reminiscences, from which the following passages are specially informative:

All who have known and loved H.P.B. have felt what a charm there was about her, how truly kind and loveable she was; at times such a bright childish nature seemed to beam around her, and a spirit of joyous fun would sparkle in her whole countenance, and cause the most winning expression that I have ever seen on a human face. . . . The weak traits in everyone's character were known to her at once, and the extraordinary way in which she would probe them was surprising. . . . But to many of her pupils the process was unpalatable, for it is never pleasant to be brought face to face with one's own weaknesses; and so many turned from her, but those who could stand the test, and remain true to her, would recognise within themselves the inner development which alone leads to Occultism. A truer and more faithful friend one could never have than H.P.B., and I think it the greatest blessing of my life to have lived with her in such close intimacy, . . . — Ibid., 54-5

In the spring of 1886 H.P.B. left Wurzburg for Belgium, in order to spend the summer with her sister and niece at Ostend. She broke the journey at Elberfeld in Germany to see the Gebhard family but, owing to a fall, she had to remain there till August 1886, when she proceeded to Ostend where she stayed till May 1887.

The year 1886 had been one of severe anxieties and strange difficulties. Complications arose in regard to affairs in India, America, France and Germany. The young Hindu who had come from India had caused serious trouble by his erratic conduct, and finally he had to be shipped back to his native land. Fortunately, Countess Wachtmeister, who had gone to her home in Sweden for a while, again became free to resume her devoted care of the increasingly suffering patient — for that is what H.P.B. was until the end of her life, with occasional intervals of partial relief.

But, as the countess said, ill health could not break her spirit, and she fought on to complete her work, — no matter how severe were her pains, so long as it was possible. However, it seemed as if even her indomitable will would have to yield at last, for her complication of diseases finally reached another dangerous crisis. In the spring of 1887, while at Ostend, the doctors gave her up, and she sank into unconsciousness. But her work was not completed, and again the Master intervened and she was enabled to use that worn-out body for another four years. Awaking out of what seemed her last sleep, she said:

"Countess, come here. . . . Master has been here; He gave me my choice, that I might die and be free if I would, or I might live and finish The Secret Doctrine. He told me how great would be my sufferings and what a terrible time I would have before me in England (for I am to go there); but when I thought of those students to whom I shall be permitted to teach a few things and of the Theosophical Society in general, to which I have already given my heart's blood, I accepted the sacrifice, and now to make it complete, fetch me some coffee and something to eat, and give me my tobacco box. — Ibid., 75

When viewed in retrospect, it is hardly too much to say that the situation at the time H.P.B. decided to make the sacrifice of going on to complete her work was a critical turning point for the welfare of humanity. The Adepts had chosen the one available messenger whose special endowments, such as her sympathetic and penetrating knowledge of her fellowmen, her indomitable determination and her occult training, enabled them to write a saving clause of brotherhood in world affairs. This was done in no sentimental way, but by the scientific demonstration that harmony, love and cooperation are fundamental in the structure of the universe, and that departure from such principles is opposed to the course of evolution. The general selfish grasping for material power and possessions if not counteracted would drag every mental, material, and psychic resource into a conflict that would shake modern Western civilization to its foundations — a threat that still looms large on the horizon. The Hindus had failed to make their land a vitalizing center for world enlightenment. Their learned men were traditionally out of touch with even the lower castes of their own people; and there was a complete lack of understanding, even distrust, between them and the Anglo-Indians and Westerners generally. Even the Brahman theosophists, who recognized H. P. Blavatsky as the accredited messenger of their Rishis, in some cases found the situation difficult.

But the Teachers themselves, unknown to the world at large, yet perfectly aware of its existing and its oncoming conditions, knew that the time had come to make a great effort to arouse the inquisitive and self-confident West to think on new lines now that it was beginning to throw off its leading-strings. Three important world cycles coincided at this time, and the most favorable opportunity known for centuries depended upon this impoverished, sick, and suffering European woman, sorely wounded in mind and heart by traitors and secret as well as open enemies. It indeed seemed a forlorn hope, yet, as Victor B. Neuberg says: "the Intelligences that despatched H.P.B. as Messenger to her Age did not err. Her mission has been accomplished. She changed the current of European thought, directing it toward the sun."

As soon as possible she prepared to leave Ostend, and when some of the staunch English members invited her to take up her residence with them in London she gratefully accepted the offer as it was in line with the Master's plan. Qualified helpers, well equipped in every way, were ready to give the assistance she needed to bring out The Secret Doctrine and other new literature. The strong revival of interest in theosophy in England provided the opportunity for a great expansion of her work in the West.

Her arrival in England was warmly welcomed by the loyal majority of the English members who recognized her true position as messenger of the Masters, and who did noble service in relieving her from the practical difficulties which heretofore had handicapped her. All that was possible was done to ameliorate her physical sufferings. After a few months' stay at Maycot, Upper Norwood, London, (link to illustration: H.P.B. at "Maycot," Upper Norwood, London, 1887) a pleasant though small house was taken at 17 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, and a large group of earnest men and women of literary ability and recognized public standing, such as Dr. Archibald Keightley, Bertram Keightley, E. D. Fawcett, G. R. S. Mead, and others, who had not been affected by the Coulomb slanders, gathered around her. Rather later she was able to write (April 1890):

. . . it is not solely on account of bad health that I do not return to India. Those who have saved me from death at Adyar, and twice since then, could easily keep me alive there as They do me here. There is a far more serious reason. A line of conduct has been traced for me here, and I have found among the English and Americans what I have so far vainly sought for in India.

In Europe and America, during the last three years, I have met with hundreds of men and women who have the courage to avow their conviction of the real existence of the Masters, and who are working for Theosophy on Their lines and under Their guidance, given through my humble self.

In India, on the other hand, ever since my departure, the true spirit of devotion to the Masters and the courage to avow it has steadily dwindled away. At Adyar itself, increasing strife and conflict has raged between personalities; . . .

. . . in 1884, Colonel Olcott and myself left for a visit to Europe, . . . It was during that time and Col. Olcott's absence in Burma, that the seeds of all future strifes, and — let me say at once — disintegration of the Theosophical Society were planted by our enemies. What with the Patterson-Coulomb-Hodgson conspiracy, and the faintheartedness of the chief Theosophists, that the Society did not then and there collapse should be a sufficient proof of how it was protected.

. . . While in the West, no sooner had I accepted the invitation to come to London, than I found people — the S.P.R. Report and wild suspicions and hypotheses rampant in every direction notwithstanding — to believe in the truth of the great Cause I have struggled for, and in my own bona fides.Theos., XLIII, Jan. 1922

[[Photograph — H.P.B. at "Maycot," Upper Norwood, London, 1887]]

Unfortunately, Sinnett did not share the general enthusiasm, and H.P.B. soon was obliged to take positive steps in order to carry out the Master's plan and to prepare for the new cycle. His equivocal attitude toward her emphasis on the spiritual, and therefore the vital side of theosophy, became conspicuous soon after her arrival. With all his good intentions, he never recognized his error in mistaking a subtle intellectualized form of psychic research for spiritual development, and as he had been such a prominent and influential figure in the work, H.P.B. had to take a very firm position to protect it from his disintegrating influence. More than thirty years after her death, an utterly unreliable book, written in his old age, was published which reveals how little he had understood her real mission. At the outset of his connection with the movement, the Masters had told him in the plainest language — very bluntly at times — "Rather perish the T.S. with both its hapless founders, than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic and a hall of occultism" (L.M. W., I, 10. And "If you cannot be happy without phenomena you will never learn our philosophy" (Mahatma Letters, 262). It is to be feared that he never took this counsel to heart.

Sinnett also attempted to inaugurate a policy which was entirely opposed to the strongly expressed wish of the Masters. The Master M. had warned him in plain language that social standing had nothing to do with spiritual development or the real progress of the movement, yet Sinnett quite ignored this advice. In a letter to him written in 1882, long before he returned to England and tried to make the London Lodge an exclusive body which would attract only cultivated persons of "the upper levels of society," as he said, who could attend the meetings in formal dress, etc., the Master spoke very seriously about Sinnett's wrongheaded views on this subject. Illustrating his point, he referred to an excellent man named Bennett, a freethinker who had suffered terribly from religious persecution in America. Bennett came into touch with the movement in India, and was warmly welcomed by Olcott and H.P.B. He was, however, rather a diamond in the rough; his ways were not those of the best society, and Sinnett shrank from contact with him. The Master pointed out that few had a more kind and unselfish heart than Bennett, and that he was spiritually far superior to many of the fine gentlemen of Sinnett's acquaintance. M. said further that if superficial manners were Sinnett's criterion of moral excellence —

how many adepts or wonder producing lamas would pass your muster? This is part of your blindness.

. . . B---- is an honest man and of a sincere heart, besides being one of tremendous moral courage and a martyr to boot. Such our K.H. loves — whereas he would have only scorn for a Chesterfield and a Grandison. . . . See how well K.H. read your character when he would not send the Lahore youth [a rather unkempt Hindu ascetic] to talk with you without a change of dress. — Mahatma Letters, 261

After Sinnett left India he lost touch with the Masters (after many warnings) and weakened in the support of H. P. Blavatsky to such a degree that he was intensely disturbed by her coming to London to upset his plans and policies, as he complained. He declined to participate in her activities, and endeavored to communicate with the Masters through other "intermediaries," mediums as some called them, though the Masters had expressly stated that she was their "direct agent." The situation was somewhat disquieting, and H.P.B. felt that the members as a whole must have the serious responsibilities of their position made clear to them. In the first number of the English Vahan she wrote (Dec. 1, 1890):

We are in the very midst of the Egyptian darkness of Kali-yuga, the "Black Age," the first 5,000 years of which, its dreary first cycle, is preparing to close on the world between 1897 and 1898. Unless we succeed in placing the T S. before this date on the safe side of the spiritual current, it will be swept away irretrievably into the Deep called "Failures," and the cold waves of oblivion will close over its doomed head.

But the Theosophical Society was not destined to perish; it had an inner vitality and support that has kept it alive, similar to that which H.P.B. herself had been able to call upon when the waters of death seemed to be closing over her head. The warning just quoted was not without a saving clause and was apparently one of those rhetorical expressions which she sometimes used to emphasize her meaning, but which must be weighed against equally strong statements to the contrary, in order to discover the truth in the paradox. For example, in contrast to this rather pessimistic outlook, she even more positively declares that the Society has come to stay. For instance, she wrote in 1886:

the T.S. cannot be destroyed as a body. It is not in the power of either Founders or their critics; and neither friend nor enemy can ruin that which is doomed to exist, all the blunders of its leaders notwithstanding. That which was generated through and founded by the "High Masters" and under their authority if not their instruction — MUST AND WILL LIVE. Each of us and all will receive his or her Karma in it, but the vehicle of Theosophy will stand indestructible and undestroyed by the hand of whether man or fiend. — "The Original Programme," Theos., LII, 581, Aug. 1931

Again, although H. P. Blavatsky said in her letter to the American Convention in 1891, just before her passing, that "The period which we have now reached in the cycle that will close between 1897-8 is, and will continue to be, one of great conflict and continued strain," etc., yet in the same letter she visioned a great future for the T.S. in the coming century after the crisis was over. After warmly congratulating the American theosophists for their well-considered plans and unremitting labors which were producing such excellent results, she said:

The English character, difficult to reach, but solid and tenacious when once aroused, adds to our Society a valuable factor, and there are being laid in England strong and firm foundations for the T.S. of the twentieth century.

The following statement by Master M. is even more encouraging:

You have still to learn that so long as there are three men worthy of our Lord's blessing in the Theosophical Society, it can never be destroyed. — L.M.W, I, 111

W. Q. Judge repudiated the idea that the help of the Masters would be absolutely withdrawn after the end of the first five thousand years of the kali-yuga cycle. He wrote:

At the end of the twenty-five years the Masters will not send out in such a wide and sweeping volume the force they send during the twenty-five years. But that does not mean they will withdraw. They will leave the ideas to germinate in the minds of the people at large, but never will they take away from those who deserve it the help that is due and given to all. However, many will have gone on further by that time than others, and to those who have thus gone on from altruism and unselfish devotion to the good of the race continual help and guiding will be given. — The Path, IX, 238, Nov. 1894

When reading the warning sounded by H.P.B. in The Vahan, there comes strongly to mind, in addition to the unremitting opposition of the dark forces to all such work as hers, a most serious crisis which the Society (especially the European and American sections) had to pass through a few years after her death. Not long before that event she wrote an earnest appeal to the members to stand by W. Q. Judge "when the time comes."

But in spite of Sinnett's prestige, his influence rapidly waned after her arrival in London, and was little felt outside of the small body remaining in his London Lodge. The majority of the London members established a new lodge in which H.P.B. could work without hindrance and called it by her name, the Blavatsky Lodge.

Under the new conditions, and supported by an enthusiastic body of workers, she was able to start many new activities, the Blavatsky Lodge being the vital center of inspiration. Some philanthropic work among the London poor was begun, and an anonymous contributor gave H.P.B. one thousand pounds for the establishment of the East London Club for Working Women, a refuge for homeless and friendless factory girls. Her compassionate heart always took pleasure in the relief of suffering, mental or physical. For instance, she writes this touching letter to Mrs. Besant, who was doing some work in the London slums:

I have just read your letter to ----, and my heart is sick for the poor little ones! Look here, I have but 30 s. of my own money, of which I can dispose (for, as you know, I am a pauper, and proud of it), but I want you to take them and not say a word. This may buy thirty dinners for thirty poor little starving wretches, and I may feel happier for thirty minutes at the thought. Now don't say a word and do it; take them to those unfortunate babes who loved your flowers and felt happy. Forgive your old uncouth friend, useless in this world!

Ever yours, . . . H.P.B. — Lucifer, X, 446, Aug. 1892

But H. P. Blavatsky knew well enough that all such 'practical' expressions of brotherhood were only palliatives, and that the truly practical work of theosophy is to set new currents of thought throughout the world from which reforms will inevitably arise, to give men ideas which will change their minds and hearts. H.P.B. put the case in a few words in her letter to the American Convention, 1888:

We are the friends of all those who fight against drunkenness, against cruelty to animals, against injustice to women, against corruption in society or in government, although we do not meddle in politics. We are the friends of those who exercise practical charity, who seek to lift a little of the tremendous weight of misery that is crushing down the poor. But, in our quality of Theosophists, we cannot engage in any one of these great works in particular. As individuals we may do so, but as Theosophists we have a larger, more important, and much more difficult work to do. People say that Theosophists should show what is in them, that "the tree is known by its fruit." Let them build dwellings for the poor, it is said, let them open "soup-kitchens" etc. etc., and the world will believe that there is something in Theosophy. . . . The function of Theosophists is to open men's hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. Theosophy teaches the animal-man to be a human-man; and when people have learnt to think and feel as truly human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.


Chapter 17

Contents


FOOTNOTE:

1. H.P.B. writes to Sinnett in January 1887, when the Russian papers were warmly discussing her "powers" etc.:

"A Tibetan who came back with the Prjivolsky expedition (or after it) — 'a plant doctor' they call him as he produces mysterious cures with simples, told Solovioff [not the philosopher quoted in the text, but the would-be chela who turned traitor] and others it appears, that they were all fools and the S.P.R. asses and imbeciles, since all educated Tibet and China know of the existence of the 'Brotherhood in the Snowy Range,' I am accused of having invented; and that he, himself, knows several 'Masters' personally." — Blavatsky Letters 228 (return to text)