In considering H. P. Blavatsky's work in the world we must first ask what was the condition of that world in her time. It is customary to depict it as in an altogether deplorable condition, but I propose to paint a somewhat different picture. We must bear in mind that the Victorian era in England was one in which shone brilliant minds in many departments of thought and endeavor; an era of unexampled progress; an era of emancipation of thought from old grooves and of venturing forth into new and brighter prospects. Art, literature, philosophy, science, flourished and I need not pause to enumerate the great pioneers of these several departments. But more than all the era was one of moral and spiritual advancement, distinguished by noble philanthropy, social and political reform. Yet the same cyclic wave of energy which had fostered so much fine growth had also brought forth many harmful weeds. Moreover its force was becoming spent and hardening and restrictive influences were supervening. In particular the true progress of mankind was threatened by the growth of scientific materialism or mechanicalism; matter was threatening to drive out mind; automatism, to oust purpose from life. It was therefore to steer humanity round a dangerous corner, to check the downward and backward ebb by a forceful tide in a new direction, that H. P. B.'s work was directed. She came to wage war against materialism, and that not only in science but in religion, in politics, in social theories as well.
Her work was many-sided, not confined to any one particular point; so many-sided was it that it is difficult to comprehend it under one word or phrase. She had to lay new foundations, to strike a new fundamental tone. Thus she found herself at loggerheads with everybody who had any vested interest in the preservation of things as they were. The familiar strife between religion and science was lost sight of in the common war against materialism and dogmatism in both. She brought down upon her head priestcraft both Oriental and Occidental, scientific dogmatism, sundry occult and psychic movements whose foundations she threatened to undermine. There existed a comfortably settled intellectual culture, represented by scholars in various fields; and the foundations of this were menaced. In a word, people were scared. It was not because they believed her false, but because they knew she was true. And, finding themselves unable to refute her they had resort to the invariable substitute — defamation. But such is the fate which every reformer must necessarily encounter; has he a right to expect anything else? Yet where there is no resistance there can be no victory; the greater the resistance the greater the victory when it is overcome.
And so it required one of titanic energy and perfect self-dedication to accomplish the work. At first the world had to be startled. Hence the phenomena; permitted for the special purpose in exception to the general rule; bringing upon their performer results foreseen but bravely accepted. Attention being thus attracted, the teaching began.
First in America, where the work was organized and incorporated and a seed sown which yielded the future growth. Here she works among the Spiritualists, descrying there an influence away from materialism, but trying to lead them on above their low level to what was better. Later in India she strives to arouse the people to a new sense of the essentials of their own religions and philosophies. But for the great literary work in view, England was seen to be at the time the best harbor. Accordingly it was in London that she wrote that marvelous work The Secret Doctrine, which bears its own internal testimony to the greatness of its author. Not even the most jealous and vindictive critics have been able to dispose of it, and have been obliged to let it alone or dismiss it with a simple falsehood. The question as to who was the author is one which, as it seems to me, cannot be answered on ordinary lines. It is easy to understand that Madame Blavatsky herself, speaking of her mere personality (despised by herself, as we know), might indulge in a modest and candid disclaimer; and point our eyes to those Teachers whom she so much reverenced. Yet let us not forget the distinction she herself made between H. P. Blavatsky and H. P. B. In a word, when the illusion of personality has been overcome, such questions of authorship take on quite a different aspect; there is no longer such a thing as your mind and my mind, but a great ocean of mind to which all may have access.
It has often occurred to me that, since the Wisdom Religion is universal and of all lands and peoples, it must always require translation, so to speak, into the mental language of particular peoples-and the S. D. is a truly marvelous instance of how it has been translated into terms of Occidental thought. The author or authors show an intimate acquaintance with the whole field of scholarly, scientific religious, archaeologic, etc., thought; evincing a mind at once comprehensive and detailed. The S. D. is in its single self a phenomenon worth a million buried teacups or precipitated letters. Her assistants, secretaries, were kept busy going to the British Museum Library to verify the numerous quotations which she made. The declared object of this work was (1) to state the outlines of the Secret Doctrine (2) to show its existence in the records of all ancient faiths (3) to contrast its teachings with those of modern science, religion, and thought in general. Also, there were at that time many imperfect forms of occultism, on the wrong tack, which needed correcting by the exposition of the true teachings thereon.
The Voice of the Silence performed a like function with regard to the more ethical and mystical teachings; for it enunciates the doctrine of the purest Buddhism, the right-hand path, the path of renunciation; thereby laying the true foundations and correcting all the harmful and erroneous cults. Thus her work in the world was to strike keynotes everywhere, to lay foundations; and this was done with Titanic energy, such as she alone was capable of wielding.
Isis Unveiled, as her first work, exercised enormous influence and is still in great demand with the public. Its defects in composition can serve only to give a handle to those interested in depreciating her, and are no obstacle for earnest truthseekers who are in search of the gold wherever they can find it. If we are able in this day to handle the churches and sciences in a gentler way, it is only because H. P. B. knew how they needed to be handled in her day. Before reconstruction could begin there was dynamiting to be done.
And today we see wherever we cast our eyes the harvest of all that seed-sowing, the result of that ground-clearing and reconstruction. As said before, amid the crops grew up many tares; and to deal with these was the arduous work of later Leaders and their faithful followers. We see the same mixture around us today; and our duty is to keep the flame of the pure doctrine bright and clear, so that a greater power and permanence shall eventually win through and outshine and outlive all imperfections and shams. May we not already say that this is being accomplished? Do we not see on every side hands stretched out for aid, in the churches, in science, philosophy, social planning, everything? Hands stretched out for the help which true Theosophy alone can give. But if we have cause for rejoicing, let us beware of resting on our oars. Let success be not a sedative but a stimulant to ever-continued endeavor.