In 1891 the most significant figure of the Nineteenth Century was relieved of the intolerable burden of life, and passed into the Golden Silence of the God-world from which she came. The day was May 8th, which was that on which Joan of Arc relieved Orleans; and the day the Romans held sacred to Flora, Goddess of Flowers. Now Flora symbolized ever recurring life, the blossom that puts forth again and again, Resurrection; and from the ashes of Joan, France arose like the Phoenix, a Resurrection. H. P. Blavatsky's last words were, "Keep the link unbroken; do not let my last incarnation have been in vain"; which was in a sense a command to us, that she should be resurrected in our lives, and her message never die from the world.
What is meant by keeping the link unbroken? Look back into history: to the age of the Great Teachers, the sixth century b.c. when the Buddha, Confucius, Laotse, the Founder of Jainism, Zoroaster, and Pythagoras were teaching in the world. They all turned their backs on the official Mysteries of the day, which had ceased to be efficient links or channels between men and the Masters. Each one of them founded a new organization to be such a link or channel. Confucius, Laotse, the Buddha — especially the Buddha: how grandly those three succeeded! Out of Confucius came the stable basis of life in China and the surrounding countries. Out of Laotse came the wizard imagination of the Chinese. Out of the Buddha came the glory that flowed down from that Serene Figure through age after beautiful age of Asiatic life!
In Buddhism the link was kept unbroken for ages. Before he died, the Blessed One gave his begging-bowl to Mahakasyapa, appointed him to be Head of the Church or Order after him; and Kasyapa passed on the bowl and the headship to Ananda; and Ananda to Nagarjuna; and he to another; and he to a long line of Adept-leaders, the Buddhist Patriarchs, until the twenty-seventh of them, Bodhidharma, in 520 a. d., went to China, and lit China to amazing spiritual splendor; and was followed in turn by a line of Chinese Patriarchs. Each Adept-leader appointed by his predecessor: no election, no conclave of cardinals, nothing of that sort; but the appointment of an Adept by an Adept, to keep the link unbroken through the ages. Bodhidharma preached in China what he called Esoteric Buddhism — the Doctrine of the Heart, of the Buddha, as distinguished from the Doctrine of the Eye: he established there the Dzyan School, which is that to which our Masters belong. His seventh or eighth successor was that Hsin Shien quoted in The Voice of the Silence to whom his predecessor gave a mirror, and bade him write an essay on it; and he wrote: "The mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects. It needs the gentle breezes of Soul-wisdom to brush away the dust of our illusions." Hsin Shien lived in 700 a.d. during the reign of the Empress Wu, and was often at her court.
If we contrast the glory, deeply dyed with spiritual tints, of Oriental civilization during its great ages, with the squalor and brutality of European civilization, realizing how that Eastern splendor derived itself chiefly from the Buddha, and was made possible because the link with the Buddha was kept unbroken through that long line of Adept-Teachers for at least twelve centuries, we may learn something of the meaning of what H. P. Blavatsky asked of us when she pleaded that we would "keep the link unbroken."
And now see what happens in Europe. Pythagoras also founded an order, and established his headquarters at Crotona in Italy. But the people rose and wiped out his school; and the link was broken. Instead of a living, organized body coming down through time like the Mahayana of Buddhism, there was but a sporadic train of devoted torch-bearers: Aeschylus, Plato, and then a gap of centuries; Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Maximus of Tyre and his disciple Julian the Blessed Apostate; then a gap of centuries; then the Persian Al-Kindi, the Turk al-Farabi, the Persian Avicenna, the Spanish Arab Averroes; and through and from them a tiny trickle of light down through the centuries, to be the inspiration of any stirring toward the light. No organization, no definite propaganda; no body of men to which one might go saying, I desire to learn, teach me! For the failure of the Pythagorean Movement was followed by, and probably had its sequence in, the ability of the Enemies of Mankind to send Caesar into Gaul to smash the one body, the one vehicle of the Mysteries in the Old World which had not declined, Druidism. And though a thin trickle of the waters of life did flow down the European ages also from that which Caesar smashed, it was mostly here in our own Wales; it sweetened feudalism a little with chivalry, but was not effective for much. As for Christianity, the light of Theosophy had died out of it long before the rise of European civilization in the thirteenth century.
Now while that thin ray of light had shone down from Pythagoras, via Plato, the Neoplatonists and the Moslem philosophers, and had quickened such men in Europe as Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, and through him Spenser and Shakespeare, the Cambridge Platonists, Welsh mystics such as Vaughan, Traherne and the Herberts, and Shelley, another stream of inspiration or another impulse had come down, strangely enough mainly through the same channel, from Aristotle; and its tendency was toward materialistic intellectualism. This ray fell on Bacon of Verulam, and set him alight; as someone said, he out-aristotled Aristotle, and quite staggered the Stagirite. He sent things matterward with a vengeance; his spiritual, or unspiritual children, were the great lights of Nineteenth Century Science: if lights they could be called, which light had none, but rather darkness visible. And so you got, for China's wonderful luminaries like Bodhidharma and Hsin Shien, England's Darwins and Tyndalls; who had set up a new and deadlier orthodoxy of science to replace the dying orthodoxy of religion: prophets of a gross and now happily exploded superstition called materialism. And these two orthodoxies, both materialistic, both lightless — the one a mere matter of intellect gone wrong, the other a mere matter of emotionalism gone wrong — shared the western world's allegiance. Into their realm the Lodge sent its Messenger, H. P. Blavatsky, to make a new link between the Gods and men.
She came prepared to meet these grand Sciencasters, carrying weapons usable in the war she had to wage with them. They lived on the plane of unilluminated intellect. She had to invade the plane of intellect and carry on her warfare there, building a new heaven in hell; showing that mere intellectualism can never even be really intellectual, that a universe you build of matter alone, has something very terrible the matter with it. But more, she lit on the plane of intellect a fire of aspiration, of mysticism, of devotion, of spiritual light.
All the world was against her; she was Y Gwir yn erbin y byd — "the Truth against the world," H. P. Blavatsky contra mundum — and pity the poor old world in that fight, for it hadn't a ghost of a chance against her! She crashed in: a lonely, sick old woman — but with all the spiritual worlds behind her; with the Gods behind her, and the stars in their courses fighting for her. For fifteen terrible years she took into her heart all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; and gave out in exchange her grand ideas, her spiritual concepts and teachings, her marvellous light. She gave materialism its deathblow. She lit up the universe, so that we may see it built up of divinity, peopled with gods. She lit up the worlds within us, so that we may see gods at the heart of our being, and strive with new high hope and inspiration towards the greatest of attainment. She made every bud on the trees, every note of birdsong, every gleam on the waters of the world, wonderful, and a message to us from Eternal Beauty. Then, on May 8th, 1891, she was permitted to return into the God-world: leaving that last word to us, the last mantramic phrase, "Keep the link unbroken. Do not let my last incarnation have been in vain!"
That link she had forged between the Gods and men: between this world and the Masters; between the crowd and stir of the marketplace and the calmness of the silent Himalayas. How shall we keep it unbroken?
The answer is, by truth to her teachings. She showed us a spiritual universe; and godhood as the reality behind men. Men as things you can't judge, you can't criticize, you can't condemn: things your sole duty is to help; to regard them as what they are — gods in the inmost of their being; doing your utmost at all times to bring them to a realization of that inmost; appealing always to, dwelling always upon, that inner divinity in them. Seek ye first that kingdom of the inner god, and all else shall be added unto you. To live to benefit mankind is the first step; and the way to do it is to spread Theosophy; which means, to arouse in men the feeling that that inmost god is the ultimate reality about them; to change the temperature of the world, making men see that it is a spiritual universe they live in, and that they are responsible for their thoughts and actions, and cannot shuffle off that responsibility on to any god or man beside. Thus can we keep the link unbroken; thus not let the Lion-heart's last incarnation have been in vain.
1. Address given in May, 1931 at Cardiff, Wales. (return to text)