Being extracts from
the notes of personal teachings given by H. P. Blavatsky to private pupils during
the years 1888 to 1891, included in a large manuscript volume left to me by
my father, who was one of the pupils.
- P.G. Bowen
H. P. B. was specially interesting
upon the matter of "The Secret Doctrine" during the past week. I had better
try to sort it all out and get it safely down on paper while it is fresh in
my mind. As she said herself, it may be useful to someone thirty or forty years
hence. The Secret Doctrine is only quite a small fragment of Esoteric
Doctrine known to the higher members of the Occult Brotherhoods. It contains,
she says, just as much as can be received by the world during this coming century.
"The World" (she explained) means Man living in the Personal Nature. This "world"
will find in the two volumes of the S.D. (Secret Doctrine) all its utmost comprehension
can grasp, but no more. But this is not to say that the Disciple who is not
living in "the world" cannot find any more in the book than the "world" finds.
Every form, no matter how crude, contains the image of its "creator" concealed
within it. So likewise does an author's work, no matter how obscure, contain
the concealed image of the author's knowledge. . . From this saying, I take
it that the S.D. must contain all the H.P.B. knows herself, and a great deal
more than that, seeing that much of it comes from men whose knowledge is immensely
wider than hers. Furthermore, she implies unmistakably that another may well
find knowledge in it which she does not possess herself. It is a stimulating
thought to consider that it is possible that I myself may find in H.P.B.'s words
knowledge of which she herself is unconscious. She dwelt on this idea a good
deal. X said afterwards: "H.P.B. must be losing her grip," meaning, I suppose,
confidence, in her own knowledge. But...and..., myself, also, see her meaning
better, I think. She is telling us without a doubt not to anchor ourselves to
her as the final authority, nor to anyone else, but to depend altogether upon
our own widening perceptions.
(Later note on above: I was right.
I put it to her direct and she nodded and smiled. It was worth something to
get her approving smile!)
At last we have managed to get H.P.B.
to put us right on the matter of the study of the S.D. Let me get it down while
it is all fresh in mind. Reading the S.D. page by page as one reads any other
book (she says) will only end us in confusion. The first thing to do, even if
it takes years, is to get some grasp of the "Three Fundamental Principles" given
in the Proem. Follow that up by study of the Recapitulation - the numbered items
in the Summing Up to Volume I, Part I. Then take the Preliminary Notes (Vol.
II) and the Conclusion (Vol. II)...
H.P.B. seems pretty definite about
the importance of the teaching (in the Conclusion) relating to the times of
coming of the Races and Sub-Races. She put it more plainly than usual that there
is really no such thing as a future "coming" of races. "There is neither COMING
nor PASSING, but eternal BECOMING,"
she says. The Fourth Root-race is still alive. So are the Third and Second and
First - that is, their manifestations on our present plane of substance are
present. I know that she means, I think, but it is beyond me to get it down
in words. So likewise the Sixth Sub-Race is here, and the Sixth Root-Race, and
the Seventh, and even people of the coming Rounds. After all, that's understandable.
Disciples and Brothers and Adepts can't be people of the everyday Fifth Sub-Race,
for the race is a state of evolution.
But she leaves no question but that,
as far as humanity at large goes, we are hundreds of years (in time and space)
from even the Sixth Sub-Race. I thought H.P.B. showed a peculiar anxiety in
her insistence on this point. She hinted at "dangers and delusions" coming through
ideas that the New Race had dawned definitely on the World. According to her
the duration of a Sub-Race for humanity at large coincides with that of the
Sidereal Year (the circle of the earth's axis - about 25,000 years). That puts
the new race a long way off.
We have had a remarkable session
on the study of the S.D. during the past three weeks. I must sort out my notes
and get the result safely down before I lose them.
She talked a good deal about the
"Fundamental Principles." She says: "If one imagines that one is going to get
a satisfactory picture of the constitution of the Universe from the S.D. one
will get only confusion from its study. It is not meant to give any such final
verdict on existence, but to lead towards the truth." She repeated this
latter expression many times. It is worse than useless going to those whom we
imagine to be advanced students (she said) and asking them to give us an "interpretation"
of the S.D. They cannot do it. If they try, all they give are cut and dried
exoteric renderings which do not remotely resemble the Truth. To accept such
interpretation means anchoring ourselves to fixed ideas, whereas Truth lies
beyond any ideas we can formulate or express. Exoteric interpretations are all
very well, and she does not condemn them so long as they are taken as pointers
for beginners, and are not accepted by them as anything more. Many persons who
are in, or will in the future be in, the T.S. are of course potentially incapable
of any advance beyond the range of a common exoteric conception. But there are,
and will be others, and for them she sets out the following and true way of
approach to the S.D.
Come to the S.D. (she says) without
any hope of getting the final Truth of existence from it, or with any idea other
than seeing how far it may lead towards the Truth. See in study a means
of exercising and developing the mind never touched by other studies. Observe
the following rules.
No matter what one may study in
the S.D. let the mind hold fast, as the basis of its ideation, to the following
a) The fundamental unity
of all existence. This unity is a thing altogether different from the common
notion of unity - as when we say that a nation or an army is united; or that
this planet is united to that by lines of magnetic force or the like. The teaching
is not that. It is that existence is one thing, not any collection of
things linked together. Fundamentally, there is ONE BEING.
This Being has two aspects, positive and negative. The positive is Spirit, or
consciousness. The negative is substance, the subject of consciousness.
This Being is the Absolute in its primary manifestation. Being absolute there
is nothing outside it. It is ALL BEING. It is indivisible,
else it would not be absolute. If a portion could be separated, that remaining
could not be absolute, because there would at once arise the question of comparison
between it and the separated part. Comparison is incompatible with any idea
of absoluteness. Therefore it is clear that this fundamental One Existence,
or Absolute Being, must be the Reality in every form there is...(I said that
though this was clear to me I did not think that many in the Lodges would grasp
it. "Theosophy," she said, "is for those who can think, or for those who can
drive themselves to think, not mental sluggards." H.P.B. has grown very mild
of late. "Dumbskulls" used to be her name for the average student.)
The Atom, the Man, the God (she
says) are each separately, as well as all collectively, Absolute Being in their
last analysis, that is their real individuality. It is this idea which
must be held always in the background of the mind to form the basis for every
conception that arises from study of the S.D. The moment one lets it go (and
it is most easy to do so when engaged in any of the many intricate aspects of
the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of separation supervenes, and the study loses
b) The second idea to hold
fast to is that there is no dead matter. Every last atom is alive. It
cannot be otherwise, since every atom is itself fundamentally Absolute Being.
Therefore there is no such thing as "spaces of ether," or Akasha, or call it
what you like, in which angels and elementals disport themselves like trout
in water. That's the common idea. The true idea shows every atom of substance,
no matter of what plane, to be in itself a life.
c) The third basic idea to
be held is that Man is the microcosm. As he is so, then all the Hierarchies
of the Heavens exist within him. But in truth there is neither Macrocosm nor
Microcosm but ONE EXISTENCE. Great and small are such only
as viewed by a limited consciousness.
d) Fourth and last basic
idea to be held is that expressed in the Great Hermetic Axiom. It really sums
up and synthesizes all the others: "As is the inner, so is the outer; as is
the great, so is the small; as it is above, so it is below; there is but One
Life and Law: and he that worketh it is ONE. Nothing is
inner, nothing is outer; nothing is great, nothing is small; nothing is high,
nothing is low, in the Divine Economy."
No matter what one takes as study
in the S.D. one must correlate it with those basic ideas.
I suggested that this is a kind
of mental exercise which must be excessively fatiguing. H.P.B. smiled and nodded.
One must not be a fool (she said) and drive oneself into the madhouse by attempting
too much at first. The brain is the instrument of waking consciousness, and
every conscious mental picture formed means change and destruction of the atoms
of the brain. Ordinary intellectual activity moves on well-beaten paths in the
brain, and does not compel sudden adjustments and destructions in its substance.
But this new kind of mental effort calls for something very different - the
carving out of new "brain paths," the ranking in different order of the little
brain lives. If forced injudiciously it may do serious physical harm to the
This mode of thinking (she says)
is what the Indians call Jnana Yoga. As one progresses in Jnana Yoga
one finds conceptions arising which, though one is conscious of them, one cannot
express nor yet formulate into any sort of mental picture. As time goes on these
conceptions will form into mental pictures. This is a time to be on guard and
refuse to be deluded with the idea that the new-found and wonderful picture
must represent reality. It does not. As one works on, one finds the once admired
picture growing dull and unsatisfying and finally fading out or being thrown
away. This is another danger point, because for the moment one is left in a
void without any conception to support one, and one may be tempted to revive
the cast-off picture for want of a better to cling to. The true student will,
however, work on unconcerned, and presently further formless gleams come, which
again in time give rise to a larger and more beautiful picture than the last.
But the learner will now know that no picture will ever represent the truth.
This last splendid picture will grow dull and fade like the others. And so the
process goes on, until at last the mind and its pictures are transcended and
the learner enters and dwells in the world of no-form, but of which all forms
are narrowed reflections.
The true student of The Secret
Doctrine is a Jnana Yogi, and this Path of Yoga is the True Path
for the Western student. It is to provide him with signposts on that Path that
The Secret Doctrine has been written.
Later note: I have read over this
rendering of her teaching to H.P.B., asking if I have got her aright. She called
me a silly dumbskull to imagine anything can ever be put in words aright. But
she smiled and nodded as well, and said I had really got it better than anyone
else ever did, and better than she could do it herself.
I wonder why I am getting all this.
It should be passed to the world, but I am too old ever to do it. I feel such
a child to H.P.B. yet I am twenty years older than her in actual years.
She has changed much since I met
her two years ago. It is marvellous how she holds up in the face of dire illness.
If one knew nothing and believed nothing, H.P.B. would convince one that she
is something away and beyond body and brain. I feel, especially during these
last meetings since she has become so helpless bodily, that we are getting teachings
from another and higher sphere. We seem to feel and know what she says rather
than hear it with our bodily ears. X said much the same thing last night.