Misconceptions about The Theosophical Society

by H. P. Blavatsky, The Theosophist, January 1881

Many misconceptions prevail as to the nature and objects of the Theosophical Society. Some . . . fancy it is a religious sect; many believe it is composed of atheists; a third party are convinced that its sole object is the study of occult science and the initiation of green hands into the Sacred Mysteries. If we have had one we certainly have had an hundred intimations from strangers that they were ready to join at once if they could be sure that they would shortly be endowed with siddhis, or the power to work occult phenomena. The beginning of a new year is a suitable time to make one more attempt — we wish it could be the last — to set these errors right. So then, let us again say: — (1) The Theosophical Society teaches no new religion, aims to destroy no old one, promulgates no creed of its own, follows no religious leader, and, distinctly and emphatically, is not a sect, nor ever was one. It admits worthy people of any religion to membership, on the condition of mutual tolerance and mutual help to discover truth. The Founders have never consented to be taken as religious leaders, they repudiate any such idea, and they have not taken and will not take disciples. (2) The Society is not composed of atheists, nor is it any more conducted in the interests of atheism than in that of deism or polytheism. It has members of almost every religion, and is on equally fraternal terms with each and all. (3) Not a majority, nor even a respectable minority, numerically speaking, of its fellows are students of occult science or ever expect to become adepts. All who cared for the information have been told what sacrifices are necessary in order to gain the higher knowledge, and few are in a position to make one tenth of them. He who joins our Society gains no siddhis by that act, nor is there any certainty that he will even see the phenomena, let alone meet with an adept. Some have enjoyed both those opportunities and so the possibility of the phenomena and the existence of “Siddhas” do not rest upon our unverified assertions. Those who have seen things have perhaps been allowed to do so on account of some personal merit detected by those who showed them the siddhis, or for other reasons known to themselves and over which we have no control.

For thousands of years these things have, whether rightly or wrongly, been guarded as sacred mysteries, and Asiatics at least need not be reminded that often even after months or years of the most faithful and assiduous personal service, the disciples of a Yogi have not been shown “miracles” or endowed with powers. What folly, therefore, to imagine that by entering any society one might make a short cut to adeptship! The weary traveller along a strange road is grateful even to find a guidepost that shows him his way to his place of destination. Our Society, if it does naught else, performs this kindly office for the searcher after Truth. And it is much.