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

Chapter 17


With the rapid increase of the Society in the West, and the new energy pulsing through its channels, it was impossible in the prevailing conditions to avoid difficulties and frictions arising from the clash of undisciplined personalities. Petty ambitions, lack of discrimination between the permanent and the impermanent, and a want of impersonal, kindly consideration for others — the enemies within the household — inevitably brought trouble. When the aspirant strives consciously for self-conquest, the duality of his nature quickly shows itself, because the personal and selfish component, the intellectual-animal, feels that its sway is threatened, and it instantly challenges the spiritual side to mortal combat. The lower nature is so subtle that in order to dominate it will even steal the weapons of the higher and masquerade as an angel of light. Much that seems strange in theosophical history becomes clearer when the interplay of the dual forces in every man is understood.

Only the briefest mention can be made of the local troubles that sprang up in America and Europe to embarrass H.P.B. just as she was starting the most important enterprises in her career — The Secret Doctrine, and her esoteric school for more advanced students. In America they were chiefly confined to the disruptive activities of a few who were dissatisfied because they were not immediately brought into communication with the Masters. One of H.P.B.'s most trenchant and instructive articles was called forth by this affair. She explains to these disturbers that they had no grounds for complaint:

Yet, to those Theosophists, who are displeased with the Society in general, no one has ever made to you any rash promises; least of all, has either the Society or its founders ever offered their "Masters" as a chromo-premium to the best behaved. For years every new member has been told that he was promised nothing, but had everything to expect only from his own personal merit. The theosophist is left free and untrammeled in his actions. . . . no harm in trying elsewhere; unless, indeed one has offered himself and is decided to win the Masters' favors. To such especially, I now address myself and ask: Have you fulfilled your obligations and pledges? Have you, . . . led the life requisite, and the conditions required from one who becomes a candidate? Let him who feels in his heart and conscience that he has, — . . . let him, I say, rise and protest. . . . I am afraid my invitation will remain unanswered. — The Path, I, 260-1, Dec. 1886

Further trouble was caused by a prominent member, a well-known scientist, Dr. Elliott Coues, who was dabbling in psychism and claimed to be an occultist. By devious ways he tried to oust W. Q. Judge from the leadership of the American work, in order to take his place. Eventually H.P.B. was forced to take a firm stand against his claims and he then began a campaign of slander against her, which was so outrageous that it became necessary to expel him from the Society. When relieved of these handicaps, the work in America advanced rapidly under Judge's guidance.

In Europe the difficulties were mainly centered in France, and the president left India in August 1888, for a European tour with, he feared, the prospect of considerable trouble awaiting him. Much of the trouble, however, was of his own making. He was particularly agitated by what he called H. P. Blavatsky's "obstinacy," and her defiance of the presidential authority in regard to her action in the adjustment of a crisis in Paris. In order to prevent disruption and grave injury to the work she had, without consulting Olcott, dissolved the staff of the "Isis" Branch and its bylaws, and authorized new bylaws to be prepared. The matter was urgent, and she had very good reasons to act rapidly.

This French affair, however, seemed to Olcott only a symptom of the possibility of further "autocratic" action by H.P.B. which he was likely to disapprove, and he left India in no pleasant state of mind. He says he was ready for "a pitched battle" with her for her "unconstitutional" tendencies which seemed to him to threaten the sacrosanct rules and regulations to which he attached so much importance.

He understood that H.P.B. was about to start a private group of the more earnest students who were ready for deeper teachings, in fact that she was pressing the esoteric aspect of the work which the Master had said might be revived at the opening of another septenary cycle.

During Olcott's voyage to Europe on the S.S. Shannon, he was gloomily brooding over H.P.B.'s intentions; and really serious consequences might have followed if Master K.H. had not immediately interfered. Such a course was rarely adopted except in emergencies.

When the ship was crossing the Mediterranean, about a day's run from Brindisi, K.H., who had noticed Olcott's disturbed state of mind, precipitated a long letter of kindly reproof and advice in his cabin as an immediate corrective. This letter is very important for several reasons. It showed that, according to the Masters, the final authority in matters affecting the welfare of the movement lay in the hands of their "direct agent," H. P. Blavatsky. Olcott was quite alone on this voyage, and had no one to consult in his difficulties. The letter reads, in part (1):

Misunderstandings have grown up between fellows both in London and Paris which imperil the interests of the movement. You will be told that the chief originator of most, if not all, of these disturbances is H.P.B. This is not so; though her presence in England has, of course, a share in them. But the largest share rests with others, whose serene unconsciousness of their own defects is very marked and much to be blamed. One of the most valuable effects of Upasika's [H. P. Blavatsky's] mission is that it drives men to self-study and destroys in them blind servility for persons. Observe your own case, for example. But your revolt, good friend, against her "infallibility" — as you once thought it — has gone too far, and you have been unjust to her, for which, I am sorry to say, you will have to suffer hereafter, along with others. Just now, on deck, your thoughts about her were dark and sinful, and so I find the moment a fitting one to put you on your guard.

. . . Her fidelity to our work being constant, and her sufferings having come upon her thro' it, neither I nor either of my Brother Associates will desert or supplant her. As I once before remarked, ingratitude is not among our vices. With yourself our relations are direct, . . . That they are so rare is your own fault as I told you in my last. To help you in your present perplexity: H.P.B. has next to no concern with administrative details, and should be kept clear of them, so far as her strong nature can be controlled. But this you must tell to all: — with occult matters she has everything to do. We have not abandoned her. She is not given over to chelas. She is our direct agent. I warn you against permitting your suspicions and resentment against "her many follies" to bias your intuitive loyalty to her. In the adjustment of this European business, you will have two things to consider — the external and administrative, and the internal and psychical. Keep the former under your control and that of your most prudent associates, jointly; leave the latter to her. You are left to devise the practical details with your usual ingenuity. Only be careful, I say, to discriminate when some emergent interference of hers in practical affairs is referred to you on appeal, between that which is merely exoteric in origin and effects, and that which beginning on the practical tends to beget consequences on the spiritual plane. As to the former you are the best judge, as to the latter, she. — L.M.W., I, 52-3

It is a pity that Richard Hodgson and the members of the S.P.R. whom he so sadly led astray had given that ill-advised Report to the world before this letter to Olcott came to light. The conditions under which it was received — when Olcott was alone on the high seas and far away from H. P. Blavatsky or any other chela or theosophist, and its immediate relation to Olcott's "dark and sinful thoughts," as well as the subject matter, unwelcome to him — would have given the deniers of the Mahatmas a problem they could not solve on the theory of trickery by H.P.B. or the Hindu chelas! Owing to the conditions of this phenomenon, which was accepted naturally by Olcott as nothing unusual, it is one of the most conclusive testimonies to the existence of the Masters and their close connection with the Society.

When Colonel Olcott reached London he found H.P.B. working hard at one of her "emergent interferences" spoken of by the Master K.H. In this case it was the organization of the esoteric work so distasteful to him. In regard to the French "interference," he fortunately found that she had kept within her rights as cofounder of the T.S. The formation of the new lodge in Paris had only been provisional, and he recognized that it was necessitated by the crisis then prevailing. He accepted the situation, and all was well for the time being (Cf. Lucifer, III, 145, Oct. 1888).

Link to Illustration: H. P. Blavatsky and H. S. Olcott, London, 1888

Her esoteric activity was, however, another matter, and but for the warning he had received on the Shannon a serious rift might have occurred. Even so, when Olcott found that W. Q. Judge was wholeheartedly supporting her plans, his friendly relations with the third cofounder were impaired, with unfortunate results after the death of H. P. Blavatsky. He loyally tried to suppress his irritation and he says that he even helped a little in her preparations, but his disapprobation was revealed in a letter he wrote to Judge in 1893, when trouble was brewing:

The E.S. and especially the I.G., Svastika and other rings within rings I consider a danger and a possible source of great wrong and evil. . . . So long as the E.S. does not work against the Constn. of the T S. I shall not oppose it, but when it does then I fight.

. . . I should be sorry to have either of you [Mrs. Besant or W. Q. Judge] P.T.S. [President of the T S.] if that devilish Cabinet Noir of yours is to be kept up . . . — Theos., LIII, 608, Aug. 1932

It has been said that Colonel Olcott never became a member of the Esoteric School, though as president he was called upon to charter it as a section. Sinnett did not apply for membership, apparently being more interested in the psycho-intellectual researches he mistook for occultism. (2)

After the French troubles were disposed of, at least temporarily, Colonel Olcott made a successful lecturing tour in Europe and then returned to India where he found new difficulties. These were chiefly brought about by the policy of Richard Harte, the temporary editor of The Theosophist, who was pushing notions entirely opposed to H.P.B.'s intentions. He was minimizing her authority and bitterly criticizing her proposals for the esoteric work. He held the mistaken belief that the T.S. should make its principal appeal to ordinary mundane intelligence, and he showed animus toward W. Q. Judge, who was strongly supporting H.P.B.'s line of action. He talked loudly about "loyalty to Adyar," meaning subservience to whatever was given out from the head office, regardless of H.P.B.'s wishes. He even asserted that she was conspiring, with the support of the Americans and most of the Europeans, against the authority of "Adyar"!

It was necessary for the true leader of the movement to deal firmly with this extraordinary situation, and one of her letters to Harte paints in vivid colors this example of the internal troubles which were everlastingly harassing her. No wonder she said that her worst enemies were those of her own household. In this letter of sharp reproof, dated London, September 12, 1889, a notable passage occurs which should be borne in mind in view of subsequent events, the more so as H.P.B. tells Harte that Olcott is beside her as she writes and will read the letter before it is sent:

The Theosophist my dear sir, belongs to myself and Olcott only. . . . I will not permit Judge to be lowered or humiliated in it. Judge is one of the Founders and a man who has ever been true to the Masters. . . . And Judge will be the president of the T. S. after our death or the T.S. will die with us. — Forum, V, 133, Jan. 1934

In addition to the general attitude prevailing at Adyar against herself, there were indications that even Olcott was weakening under pressure and abandoning the "original programme" in favor of turning the T.S. into nothing more than a philosophic and philanthropic movement. To her clearer vision, and by her knowledge of the Masters' wishes, all this spelled a possible worldly success but a complete occult failure and abandonment of the unique work for which the Society had been established. The transgression went so far in India that she had to threaten the controlling party there with strong action, finally publishing an uncompromising manifesto under the title "A Puzzle from Adyar" which contained the following:

It is pure nonsense to say that "H.P.B. . . . is loyal to the Theosophical Society and to Adyar" (!?). H.P.B. is loyal to death to the Theosophical CAUSE, and those great Teachers whose philosophy can alone bind the whole of Humanity into one Brotherhood. . . . Let it break away from the original lines and show disloyalty in its policy to the CAUSE and the original programme of the Society, and H.P.B. calling the T. S. disloyal, will shake it off like dust from her feet.

. . . Let the new Exoteric Theosophical Society headed by Mr. Harte, play at red tape if the President lets them and let the General Council expel me for "disloyalty," if again, Colonel Olcott should be so blind as to fail to see where the "true friend" and his duty lie. Only unless they hasten to do so, at the first sign of their disloyalty to the CAUSE — it is I who will have resigned my office of Corresponding Secretary [which she had resumed by invitation] for life and left the Society. This will not prevent me from remaining at the head of those — who will follow me. — Lucifer, IV, 507-9, Aug. 1889

She had no fear that such action would destroy theosophy. But Olcott, far away in India, was becoming more and more out of touch with the fast-moving current of events in London as well as on the Continent. He did not understand why H.P.B. took certain measures. Finally, the active lodges in Britain and Europe appealed to H. P. Blavatsky to form a new section with herself as president (Lucifer, VI, 428, July 1890). At about this time she wrote to Olcott:

"If, recognizing the utmost necessity of the step, you submit to the inexorable evolution of things, nothing will be changed. Adyar and Europe will remain allies, and, to all appearance, the latter will seem to be subject to the former. If you do not ratify it — well, then there will be two Theosophical Societies, the old Indian and the new European, entirely independent of each other." — O. D. L., IV, 55

He came to an understanding with her at last, for his heart was true, though it was not easy for him to yield. Master M. had told him in the early days in New York that "a mysterious tie . . . which could not be broken, however strained it might be at times," had drawn him and his colleague together (Ibid., I, 380). As he himself says, he knew that:

She was the Teacher, I the pupil; she the misunderstood and insulted messenger of the Great Ones, I the practical brain to plan, the right hand to work out the practical details. — ibid., IV, 21

A society entirely under his control would not, however, have been at all what the Masters wanted, for his judgment was not always sound — unselfishly active and well-meaning though he was. The Society was intended as a channel through which the Light from the Lodge might reach mankind in spiritual currents which must be generated by the earnest efforts of each member to live the ideals of theosophy. Success in the eyes of the world, such as rapid increase in membership, new buildings, great libraries, a big literary output, are very well in their place, but the real success is not so sensational. H. P. Blavatsky's Voice of the Silence, which was written "for the Few," shows how the individual can prepare himself to spread the noble theosophical ideals of life and duty in the world by the living power of example. Members of an association united in such endeavor are not like a congregation listening to comfortable platitudes or praying for self-benefits. Shocks which might destroy the latter are not permanently harmful to a theosophical organization whose members know they must work out their own salvation. Such shocks also act as the "Great Sifter" when drastic action may be necessary. Several severe crises have occurred in theosophical history and, as we have seen in the Coulomb conspiracy, such prunings may not be looked upon with entire disfavor.

Around 1888, K.H. told H.P.B. with regret that —

the Society has liberated itself from our grasp and influence and we have let it go — we make no unwilling slaves. He [Olcott] says he has saved it? He saved its body, but he allowed through fear its soul to escape; it is now a soulless corpse, a machine run so far well enough, but which will fall to pieces when he is gone. Out of the three objects the second alone is attended to (3), but it is no longer either a brotherhood, nor a body over the face of which broods the spirit from beyond the Great Range. His kindness and love of peace are great and truly Gautamic in their spirit; but he has misapplied that kindness. — L.M.W., II, 68-9

Exaggerated claims have been made that Colonel Olcott was indispensable to the existence of the Society. This is unquestionably true in regard to the early years when the work was struggling for recognition, and it is a fact that the Masters chose him, although, as they say, "He was far from being the best, but (as Mr. Hume speaks in H.P.B.'s case) — he was the best one available" (Mahatma Letters, 263). Olcott himself did not feel he was indispensable, for in 1885 he offered to resign, saying with true impersonality: ". . . I have ever from the first been convinced that an abler and better man than myself ought to fill the post of chief executive in so vast an organization as ours," and that someone else should have the "chance to display his abilities" (O. D. L., 329, 328).

In 1890 he repeated his offer, and in January 1892, he actually did resign in favor of W. Q. Judge, the vice-president, and his withdrawal would have been accepted by the majority of the Society but for the action of Judge himself, who learned that the Masters wished Colonel Olcott to retain his office.

It took all H.P.B.'s strength to restore the movement to its rightful path, and it was in that work that she had the unwavering help of W. Q. Judge who, as she said, had been a part of herself for aeons.

The Master's hint that the intellectual aspect of theosophy was being overstressed at the expense of the spiritual, as previously quoted, showed that something more had to be done to prepare the members for the esoteric work that was in prospect or the main purpose of the movement would fail. The output of literature dealing with spiritual development and the training for chelaship must be increased. Some inspiring articles had already appeared, such as H. P. Blavatsky's magnificent appeal, "Chelas and Lay Chelas" (Theos., July 1883, Suppl., 10-11), her first great call to intuitive aspirants. But more were needed. This had been followed by a remarkable letter from 109 Hindu students, many of them theosophists, defining the sublime exploit of chelaship as understood in India, the tests and the experiences that face him who would "become victor and trample under foot every temptation, to show himself worthy of taking his rank among the gods of true science" (Ibid., Aug. 1883, Suppl., 2).

Within a few years, W. Q. Judge in America was able to establish his magazine The Path, whose title indicated its esoteric basis. H.P.B. soon was enabled to pay a high tribute to its spiritual authority. In 1887, she started Lucifer, "the combative Manas" (intellect) as she characterized it, in which she could speak directly to her students without hindrance from Adyar. Its early numbers contained her extremely valuable and timely studies on "Practical Occultism," and "Occultism versus the Occult Arts" (April and May 1888). Her letter to the American Convention in 1888 was another stirring appeal to learn and spread abroad the teachings of theosophy so much needed in this sorrowful world; for, as she said: "the essence of Theosophy is the perfect harmonizing of the divine with the human in man, the adjustment of his god-like qualities and aspirations, and their sway over the terrestrial or animal passions in him."

The first volume of The Path (1886-7) contained "A Hindu Chela's Diary," a record of great value and unusual interest to aspirants, as it shows how naturally and unassumingly the chela life can be lived while fulfilling all the normal duties of everyday life. The Chela's Diary is in part a paraphrase of the two letters by Damodar mentioned on p. 100. The real names of the persons mentioned under pseudonyms in the Diary are given in the letters. Other instructive articles on the meaning of chelaship as a spiritual discipline for workers for humanity by H. P. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge followed in subsequent volumes of The Path as well as in Lucifer.

There remains, however, a widespread misunderstanding in the West in regard to the meaning of chelaship — the system of self-discipline and unselfish work for others which ultimately attracts the attention of a Master and leads in time to his direct guidance. Glittering promises of psychic and other rewards, which mislead the unwary, are worlds apart from the noble ideals of chelaship. Serious students will find in H.P.B.'s Voice of the Silence, in Judge's Letters That Have Helped Me, and elsewhere, clear and unalloyed directions regarding the first steps on the Path.

When the first seven years of the T.S. were closing in 1882, the Masters told Sinnett that unless matters improved they would not be able to continue their open activities on behalf of the T.S. but would subside "out of public view like a vapour into the ocean" until the opening of another septenary cycle when, "if circumstances should be more auspicious, another attempt might be made, under the same or another direction" (Mahatma Letters, 264). The cause seems in part, if not entirely, to have consisted in the failure to arouse the true chela spirit which, in an esoteric section, could make possible the revival of the old Mystery schools that had been closed in the West for some sixteen centuries.

In the New York days an effort had been made to conduct the Society in a semi-esoteric way, with signs and passwords, and in 1878 grades or degrees to mark the stages of proficiency attained in self-control and enlightenment were instituted. This, however, did not last long. As mentioned, another attempt to place the Society on an esoteric basis was made at Benares, on December 17, 1879, under the plenary powers granted to the president by the Council in New York on August 27, 1878 (as quoted in Chapter 8).

The Council at Benares officially decided to divide the Society into three sections — the Masters; the more advanced Fellows; and the Probationers. Although the new regulations were adopted by a Convention of the Society in February 1880 at Bombay, little or nothing more was heard of the three degrees.

In India, at a somewhat later date, efforts were made to establish a special private body of students who might receive instructions from the Masters through Subba Row and Damodar, but the utter lack of harmony and understanding of the true purpose of the theosophical movement prevented anything satisfactory being done at that time. When Sinnett returned to London further efforts were made by the London Lodge to receive private teachings but the conditions were not encouraging. Rather later, Miss Francesca Arundale, a devoted member of the London Lodge who evidently understood the only basis upon which such a group can succeed, appealed to H.P.B. to organize one for a few of the more earnest members in England. She wrote, in part:

we the undersigned members of the London Lodge, being convinced that no spiritual education is possible without absolute and sympathetic union between fellow students, desire to form an inner group.

. . . to establish a bond of true brotherly union of such a nature as to realise those conditions, which we are convinced are unattainable in the London Lodge as it is constituted. — L.M.W., I, 25-6

This Inner Group in its special work was to be entirely independent of the London Lodge. H.P.B. approved the application, and Masters M. and K.H. countersigned and annotated it with some warnings. (4) Judging by some casual references in H.P.B.'s letters, little or nothing came of the effort, but it probably encouraged her to proceed quickly with the establishment of esoteric work on a permanent basis. She regarded the T.S. not so much as just a "philanthropic organization" per se, however effectual, but as a recruiting camp for training individuals who would carry on the work for humanity into the future.

In 1887, W. Q. Judge voiced a strong demand on the part of a number of aspiring members in America for more advanced teaching and guidance, and H.P.B. responded quickly. The psychological moment came in April 1888, a little before the opening of the third septenary period of the Theosophical Society, when she took the first step to prepare the Society for the coming change by publicly and officially declaring the high estimate in which W. Q. Judge was held by the Masters and herself. Although she could not then announce it openly, he was destined to be her direct representative in the esoteric work in America and the only channel of communication between the American and Himalayan thought.

In a special message to W. Q. Judge read to the American Convention in 1888, she used the following strong expressions of confidence:

It is to you chiefly, if not entirely, that the Theosophical Society owes its existence in 1888. Let me then thank you for it, . . . from the bottom of my heart, which beats only for the cause you represent so well and serve so faithfully. I ask you also to remember that, on this important occasion, my voice is but the feeble echo of other more sacred voices, and the transmitter of the approval of Those whose presence is alive in more than one true Theosophical heart, and lives, as I know, pre-eminently in yours.

It is not surprising, then, that she called him to London to help in drawing up the Rules, etc., of what was first called "The Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society," and that she placed him, the "chela of thirteen years standing," the one who, "of all Chelas, suffers most and demands, or even expects, the least," as her fully trusted representative and head of the Esoteric Section in America.

Owing to the many misconceptions that have been circulated about W. Q. Judge, and to the fact that his importance in the theosophical movement is so great and his writings so valuable, it is necessary that H. P. Blavatsky's high opinion of him and her absolute trust in his honor, ability, and impersonal devotion to the "Great Cause of Human Perfection," as he called the theosophical movement, should be given in her own words. This appreciation increased, if possible, until the last day of her life. She writes:

London Oct. 23, 1889

He or she, who believes that under any circumstances whatever, provocations, gossips, slander or anything devised by the enemy H.P.B. will ever dream even of going against W. Q. J. — does not know H P B — even if he or she does know H. P. Blavatsky, or thinks he knows her.

The idea is absurd and preposterous. . . . H.P.B. would give . . . the whole esoteric brood in the U.S.A. for one W.Q.J. who is part of herself since several aeons. . . .

The Esoteric Section and its life in the U.S.A. depends on W.Q.J. remaining its agent & what he is now. The day W.Q.J. resigns, H.P.B. will be virtually dead for the Americans.

W.Q.J. is the Antaskarana [connecting link] between the two Manas(es) the American thought & the Indian — or rather the trans-Himalayan Esoteric Knowledge.

DIXI H.P.B. ...

PS. W.Q.J. had better show, & impress this on the mind of all those whom it may concern. H.P.B. — Forum, III, 192-3, June 1932

In the above she makes a distinction between "H.P.B." the high occultist and "H. P. Blavatsky" the Russian woman, the outer personality with its marked idiosyncrasies, of which the Masters speak very plainly in their letters to Sinnett. She half-humorously indicated this distinction, of which no one was more aware than herself, in the words she wrote in her own copy of The Voice of the Silence: "H.P.B. to H. P. Blavatsky with no kind regards."

To quote further from her tributes to Judge:

If, knowing that William Q. Judge is the only man in the Eastern and Esoteric School in whom I have confidence enough not to have extracted from him a pledge . . . He has to be defended whether he will or not. He has much to endure.

. . . Take my place in America now [in the Esoteric School], and, after I am gone, at Adyar. If you have no more personal ambition than I have . . . and I know you have not — only combativeness — then this will be no more sacrifice for you than it was for me to have Colonel Olcott for my president. — Forum, I, 3-4, May 1930

Other evidences of her high estimation of W. Q. Judge are available, and of her desire that he should ultimately become president of the T.S. as well as head of the Esoteric School.

Link to Illustration: William Q. Judge

The Esoteric School was a strictly private group, although certain Preliminary Memoranda written by H.P.B. have been published. These give an outline of the lofty ideals and aims of the E.S., as well as her reasons for starting it. A few passages may be quoted:

The Theosophical Society has just entered upon the fourteenth year of its existence [in 1888]; and if it has accomplished great, one may almost say stupendous, results on the exoteric and utilitarian plane, it has proved a dead failure on all those points which rank foremost among the objects of its original establishment. Thus, as a "Universal Brotherhood," or even as a fraternity, one among many, it has descended to the level of all those Societies whose pretensions are great, but whose names are simply masks, — nay, even SHAMS. . . .

The object of this Section, then, is to help the future growth of the Theosophical Society as a whole in the true direction, by promoting brotherly union at least among the few. . . . and now it must be saved from future dangers by the united aim, brotherly feeling, and constant exertions of the members of this Esoteric Section. . . .

The Esoteric Section is thus "set apart" for the salvation of the whole Society, and its course from its first steps will be an arduous and uphill work for its members, though a great reward lies behind the many obstacles once they are overcome. . . . in this degree, the student — save in exceptional cases — will not be taught how to produce physical phenomena, nor will any magical powers be allowed to develop in him; . . .

Each person will receive in the way of enlightenment and assistance, just as much as he or she deserves and no more; . . . The apparent favour shown to some, and their consequent apparent advancement, will be due to the work they do, to the best of their power, in the cause of Universal Brotherhood and the elevation of the Race. — First Preliminary Memorandum, 1888

The Esoteric Section was not concerned with the outer forms of the Theosophical Society, nor was it compelled to observe neutrality in matters of belief which, in the Theosophical Society, is a constitutional provision and an essential to its method of work in the world. The Esoteric Section was devoted to the study of and individual training in theosophy in the full sense of the word — divine wisdom. As such, the E.S. was not an official part of the T.S., though it drew its membership from the Society. Shortly before she died, H.P.B. changed its name to "The Eastern School of Theosophy."

A few passages from a letter by H. P. Blavatsky dated December 1, 1888, about the time she started the Esoteric School, throw a strong light upon its true significance:

The Esoteric Section is to be a School for earnest Theosophists who would learn more (than they can from published works) of the true Esoteric tenets. . . . There is no room for despotism or ruling in it; no money to pay or make; no glory for me, but a series of misconceptions, slanders, suspicions, and ingratitude in almost an immediate future: but if out of the . . . Theosophists who have already pledged themselves I can place on the right and true path half a dozen or so, I will die happy. Many are called, few are chosen. Unless they comply with the lines you speak of, traced originally by the Masters, they cannot succeed. I can only show the way to those whose eyes are open to the truth, whose souls are full of altruism, charity, and love for the whole creation, and who think of themselves last.The Path, VII, 121, July 1892

In regard to the revival of the ancient wisdom in the West, in which H. P. Blavatsky took the first effective steps, she writes:

But if the voice of the MYSTERIES has become silent for many ages in the West, if Eleusis, Memphis, Antium, Delphi, and Cresa have long ago been made the tombs of a Science once as colossal in the West as it is yet in the East, there are successors now being prepared for them. We are in 1887 and the nineteenth century is close to its death. The twentieth century has strange developments in store for humanity, and may even be the last of its name. — "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels," Lucifer, I, 310, Dec. 1887


1. Colonel Olcott gives a brief extract from this letter in his Old Diary Leaves, III, 91, and by a singular oversight refers it to the year 1884, during the Sinnett-Kingsford disturbances in London, instead of to the proper date, August 1888, when he was on his way, aboard the Shannon, to attend to the French difficulty. (See Theos., Suppl., Oct. 1888, xvii.) Discriminating readers of O. D. L., IV, ch. iv, which deals with H. P. Blavatsky's handling of the French affair, who have regretted his ungoverned remarks about her, such as "language violent, passion raging," "to rule or ruin," a "mad person," etc., will observe that if he had published the full text of the Master's severe though kindly admonition, it would have destroyed the force of Olcott's emotional outburst against H.P.B. on which he wasted so much space.

Old Diary Leaves is far from reliable where the author's prejudices — and, perhaps, his self-importance as president, of which he was not entirely free — were aroused. This is still more evident when he discusses, from a purely ex parte standpoint, charges which were brought against W. Q. Judge at a later date. If he had known certain facts that have come to light since he wrote his book, he might have taken a different stand, and certainly would never have made many of his accusations against Judge, which can only be accounted for by ignorance of the truth.

Writing in 1896, in his Historical Retrospect pamphlet (page 15), he makes a casual reference to the "letter phenomenally given me on board my steamer," but this time he gives the correct date, 1888. (return to text)

2. [It should be added here that neither Olcott nor Judge ever signed the pledge of the E.S., they having already pledged themselves to Masters' work in the early New York period ("By Master's Direction," W. Q. J., Nov. 3, 1894). Although as "President in Council" Olcott had issued an order announcing the formation of the Esoteric Section (Lucifer, III, 176, Oct. 1888), and a year later, on December 25, H.P.B. had appointed him her "confidential agent and sole official representative of the Esoteric Section for Asiatic countries" (Ibid., V, 437, Jan. 1890), Olcott withdrew more and more from association with its activities, whereas Judge identified completely with the Esoteric effort. — ED.] (return to text)

3. In 1888 the second object was: "To promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literatures, religions, and sciences." (return to text)

4. [Cf. H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings, VI, 252-4, for facsimile of above document, written in the summer of 1884. — ED.] (return to text)

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