During the last quarter of the 19th century, when Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine appeared and The Theosophical Society was founded, H. P. Blavatsky was reviled directly and by innuendo as an advocate of morally subversive material. Christians especially refused to credit her view of God, labeled her Antichrist, and scorned her explanations of man and cosmos. Some Hindus, too, resented her publishing concepts long held secret in their religious tradition. These excessive reactions are puzzling on the surface; her detractors sensed, perhaps, a threat to their long-since-settled theologies, accepted for centuries by millions of people. Still, there were those who read, studied, and thought about these concepts, and nothing could abate their search, although it meant an analysis of other traditions. It was not an easy choice: most Americans and Europeans at that time thought unorthodoxy wrong if not downright blasphemous.
HPB's fundamental mission was to reintroduce the timeless ancient wisdom, largely hidden or diminished over the ages, which she named theosophy. Differences in beliefs are numerous, yet the same teachings appear, sometimes unexpectedly, in all of them. This is not to say that theosophy consists of bits and pieces taken from other religions and philosophies — quite the other way around, because the ancient wisdom is inherent in all serious systems attempting to find truth. Science, too, is included in these old teachings for the "trident of truth" is science, religion, and philosophy.
Through her writings, HPB's influence has been considerable. Before she arrived on the scene, for example, few in the West knew much about reincarnation and people who believed in it usually did not publicize it. Today the word is bandied about on television, in magazines and novels, as well as in contemporary conversation. The interpretation is not always accurate, being often confused with erroneous applications of the transmigration of the soul after death; nevertheless, reincarnation is a familiar word now, as are other words she popularized, such as karma.
The Theosophical Society has never had dogmas, but HPB prescribed that members study comparative religions such as the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jain. The benefits are obvious: broader understanding of others' cultures and spiritual convictions gained while enhancing and refining one's own thought processes. The intensity of current events verifies the need for expanded participation in this branch of knowledge — prejudice and bigotry thrive on ignorance.
Universal brotherhood as a fact in nature is The Theosophical Society's basic tenet, something many wish were more apparent in human life. Wherever we are, it seems that humanity is chaos-inflicted. Almost every religion teaches that Spirit (by whatever name) is the core of moral and religious nature but without emphasizing that mankind and all living things share and originate in the same Spirit. If one independently discovers uniformity of spiritual thought in many sources, there comes a realization that despite human limitations the reality of absolute indivisibility is undeniable.
The backdrop of history is periodically grim, but the present is not devoid of encouraging omens. In every land rising voices are calling for peace, for greater ethnic tolerance, for caring mortals to protect the entirety of this planet we call home. Living, even from day to day and year to year, is a challenge certainly, but human beings are learning. There is no status quo, no lack of choices and changes. A salute is due HPB for underscoring the importance and enduring effects of human thought and action on oneself and others, thereby pointing out a clear path to follow; also for revealing anew so many secrets about this spinning old earth and its celestial companions. Man and cosmos: the one helps explain the other.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1991, copyright © 1991 Theosophical University Press)