All Rights reserved by Dr N C Ramanujachary
Published by Prapti Books: Post Office Box. No. 5018 Besantnagar: CHENNAI 600 090
Magic is spiritual wisdom; nature, the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician.
One common vital principle pervades all things, and that is controlled by the perfected human will.
The adepts of eastern Magic are uniformly in perfect mental and bodily health, and in fact the voluntary and independent production of phenomena is impossible to any others. Combined, their (multitudinous religious faiths) aggregate represents One eternal Truth; separate, they are but shades of human error and the signs of imperfection. … It but needs the right perception of things objective to finally discover that the only world of reality is the subjective.
True faith is the embodiment of divine charity; those who minister at its altars are but human. …True souls may lift aside the curtain, and. In the brightness of that Night made Day, look with undazzled gaze upon the UNIVERSAL TRUTH
What is Magic?
Metaphorical and Ultimate Realities
Why is the Book written?
Eternal questions on Nature and Man
Impact of the Book on East and West
Main Content of the Book
Part 1 - Science
Part 2 - Religion
Philosophy that is perennial
How are Science and Religion reconciled?
About the Theosophical Society
About Madame Blavatsky
Appendix (article by Mr Alexander Wilder)
ISIS UNVEILED is the first ever book published under the classification of theosophical literature. Though the Theosophical Society was formed in 1875, there was no literature available till this publication came out in 1877. Members and public had to be content with the communications sent by the founders occasionally, pamphlets and circulars issued. The monthly journal The Theosophist was started only in 1879, when the founders landed in India. Madame H P Blavatsky [ 1831-’91 ] wrote – rather compiled – this big and voluminous book and got it published by J W Bottom, 706, Broadway, London, Bernard Quaritch.
She sub-titled the book: A Master-key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology; and dedicated the work “To the Theosophical Society, which was founded at New York A.D 1875 To Study the Subjects on which They (the volumes) Treat.”
The book is divided into 2 parts, namely Science and Religion, each running to 600 and odd pages in fine print. Each section is prefaced independently, plus a helpful index added at the end. Under a caption ‘Before the Veil’ an introduction to the work is rendered in the beginning running to around 40 pages, a purposeful glossary of terms used being a part of it.
Madame Blavatsky wrote and published “The Secret Doctrine” in 1888; eleven years after the first book came out. Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine go together as parts of an integrated exposition of the ‘accumulated Wisdom of the Ages.’ Readers would find it useful to keep this view-point in mind while studying either of the texts.
“Of all the books I have put my name to, this particular one is, in literary arrangement, the worst and the most confused,” says Madame Blavatsky in her article ‘My Books’ published in May 1891 issue of Lucifer. She further analyses: Isis is full of misprints and misquotations; contains useless repetitions; and most irritating digressions. The book has ‘no system in it, – as if a mass of independent paragraphs having no connection with each other, had been well shaken up in a waste-basket, and then taken out at random and published.’
This was her first book. She inserted many ideas that were supplied to her by the Spiritual Teachers and was anxious to share her new-acquired knowledge with the readers spread all over the world.
By her own admission, ‘Isis contains a mass of original and never hitherto divulged information on occult subjects.’ She includes the following reviews on the book:
This monumental work – about everything connected with magic, mystery, witchcraft, religion, spiritualism, which would be valuable in an encyclopaedia. – North American Review
It must be acknowledged that she is a remarkable woman, who has read more, seen more, and thought more than most wise men. Her work abounds in quotations from a dozen different languages, not for the purpose of a vain display of erudition, but to substantiate her peculiar views – her pages are garnished with foot-notes establishing as her authorities, some of the profoundest writers of the past. To a large class of readers, this remarkable work will prove of absorbing interest – demands the earnest attention of thinkers, and merits an analytic reading. – Boson Evening Transcript
The appearance of erudition is stupendous. Reference to and quotations from the most unknown and obscure writers in all languages abound, interspersed with allusions to writers of the highest repute which have evidently been more than skimmed through. – N.Y.Independent
An extremely readable and exhaustive essay upon the paramount importance of reestablishing the Hermetic Philosophy in a world which blindly believes that it has outgrown it. – N.Y.World
Most remarkable book of the season. – Com. Advertiser
[To] Readers who have never made themselves acquainted with the literature of mysticism and alchemy, the volume will furnish the materials for an interesting study – a mine of curious information. –Evening Post
They give evidence of much and multifarious research on the part of the author, and contain vast number of interesting stories. Persons fond of the marvelous will find in them an abundance of entertainment. – New York Sun
A marvelous book both in matter and manner of treatment. Some idea may be formed of the rarity and extent of its content when the index alone comprises fifty pages and we venture nothing in saying that such an index of subjects was never before compiled by any human being … But the book is a curious one and will no doubt find its way into libraries because of the unique subject matter it contains – will certainly prove attractive to all who are interested in the history, theology, and the mysteries of the ancient world. – Daily Graphic
The present book is the result of her remarkable course of education, and amply confirms her claims to the character of an adept in secret science, and even to the rank of a hierophant in the exposition of its mystic lore. – New York Tribune
One who reads the book carefully through, ought to know everything of the marvelous and mystical, except perhaps, the passwords. Isis will supplement the Anacalypsis. Whoever loves to read Godfrey Higgins will be delighted with Mme. Blavatsky. There is a great resemblance between their works. Both have tried hard to tell everything apocryphal and acopalyptic. It is easy to forecast the reception of this book. With its striking peculiarities, its audacity, its versatility, and the prodigious variety of subjects which it notices and handles, it is one of the remarkable productions of the century. –New York Herald
Commenting further on the content of the volumes, she says:
Every word of information found in this work or in my later writings, comes from the teachings of our Eastern Masters; and many a passage in these works has been written by me under their direction.
She further explains:
When I started to write that which later developed as Isis Unveiled, I had no more idea than the man in the moon what would come of it. I had no plan; did not know whether it would be an essay, a pamphlet, a book, or an article. I knew that I had to write it, that was all. I began the work before I knew Colonel well, and some months before the formation of the Theosophical Society.
Writing in ‘The Theosophist’ in April 1886, she mentions the following, seeming to be the aim of the work:
About ten years ago, when Isis Unveiled was being written, the most important point the work aimed at was the demonstration of the following: (a) the reality of the occult in nature, (b) the thorough knowledge of, and familiarity with, all such occult domains amongst “certain men,” and their mastery therein; (c) hardly an art or science known in our age, that the Vedas have not mentioned; and (d) that hundreds of things, especially mysteries of nature in abscondito as the alchemists called it – were known to the Aryas of the pre-Mahabharatan period, which are known to us, the modern sages of the XIXth century.
She was assisted by Col. H S Olcott in editing the book. She asserts the following: The language in Isis is not mine; but (with the exception of that portion of the work which, as I claim, was dictated), may be called only a sort of translation of my facts and ideas into English; It was not written for the public, – the latter having always been only a secondary consideration with me – but for the use of Theosophists and members of the Theosophical Society to which Isis is dedicated; Though I have since learned sufficient English to have been enabled to edit two magazines – The Theosophist and Lucifer – yet, to the present hour I never write an article, an editorial or even a simple paragraph, without submitting its English to close scrutiny and correction.
Her article “My Books” was written on 27 April 1891, a few days before her casting away the physical body ( 8 May 1891).
The book made wonderful impact on the Indian scholars too. It is worth noting here that Damodar Mavlankar and T Subba Row, who were attracted to the theosophical movement from the time the founders arrived in India, were greatly influenced by the rich content of the book. In his letter dated 3 February 1882, T Subba Row writes: ‘Though no Branch Theosophical Association has yet been established here, there are a good many gentlemen here who sincerely sympathize with your aims and objects and who would be glad to see you. … Your Isis Unveiled has made a very strong impression on their minds—’
As was said elsewhere in this book, Madame Blavatsky made ‘Nature’ stand up in the deposition box and reveal her laws, principles and working systems. Madame Blavatsky remained a mere recorder to the benefit of generations of thinkers.
In her preface, Madame Blavatsky says, ‘We believe in no magic which transcends the scope and capacity of the human mind, nor in “miracle”, whether divine or diabolical, if such imply a transgression of the laws of nature instituted from all eternity.’
She provides a summary of the ‘Principles of Magic’, at the end of the second volume of the text, which is also termed ‘the fundamental propositions of Oriental philosophy’. While recapitulating she makes ‘ten numbered points’ that can be restated as below:
1. There is an eternal, immutable, ever active Law; and whatever happens is the result of that Law, but no ‘miracle’. This Law, which is again a set of laws of Nature, was once ‘known’, now unknown to Science.
2. Nature is three-fold:
(i) a visible, objective nature;
(ii) an invisible, indwelling, energizing nature, the exact model of the other, and its vital principle; and
(iii) Spirit, the source of all forces, which is eternal and indestructible.
While visible and invisible nature constantly changes, the spirit does not change.
3. As the Nature is, the Man is also three-fold in structure:
(1) the physical body,
(2) the astral body (Soul) and
(3) the immortal Spirit.
When the soul merges with the Spirit, man becomes ‘an immortal entity.’
4. The knowledge of these principles, the method or process of man’s acquiring control over nature’s forces and the higher qualities of Spirit become a ‘science of Magic’. When this knowledge is applied in practice it becomes an ‘art of Magic’.
5. Knowledge can be used beneficently and then it is termed ‘True Knowledge’ or ‘Wisdom’. When it is misapplied it is termed ‘Sorcery’.
6. Mediumship and Adeptship are opposite to each other. The medium is a passive instrument of foreign influence. An Adept controls himself and all inferior potencies.
7. All things – past, present and future – are recorded on the Astral Light. It is a tablet of the unseen universe. An initiated adept by his spiritual vision can know everything.
8. Men of different races have different gifts such as color, stature and external qualities. For some ‘seership’ is natural. For others mediumship is the Law. Some are addicted to sorcery. They have on the secret rules of practice over generations. Psychical phenomena of differing degrees are common among them.
9. Voluntary and conscious withdrawal of the inner man (astral form) from the outer ma (physical body) is One phase of the magical skill. In case of the mediums, though the withdrawal occurs, it is unconscious and involuntary. In case of an adept, the physical senses are alert.
10. An innate practical knowledge of magnetism and electricity, their qualities, correlations, and potencies is necessary besides that of the effect in and upon the animal kingdom and man. This knowledge becomes the ‘corner-stone of magic’. There are occult properties in many ‘minerals’ and exact science is ignorant of them. Plants also have many mystical properties.
Madame Blavatsky sums up the recapitulation and the numbered articles with a crisp statement: ‘Magic is spiritual wisdom; nature the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle pervades all things, and that is controllable by the perfected human will.
She says there are two kinds of seership – that of the Soul and that of the Spirit.
The Hindu terms Pranayama, Pratyahara and Dharana relate to different psychological states. While the body is in the state of Dharana, ‘the soul of the clairvoyant may liberate itself and perceive things subjectively’. Yet, this vision ‘will be tinctured with the perception of the objective world, the physical memory and fancy will be in the way of clear vision.’ When the Seer-adept knows to suspend the mechanical action of the brain, ‘his vision will be as clear as truth itself.’
She examines the multitudinous religious faiths of mankind, past and present, and asserts that ‘they have all been derived from one primitive source’. ‘They are all but different modes of expressing the yearning of the imprisoned human soul for intercourse with supernal spheres.’
‘Religions, combined, their aggregate represents one eternal truth; separate they are but shades of human error and the signs of imperfection.’ She asserts that ‘the right perception of things objective is needed to finally discover that the only world of reality is the subjective.
‘Magic is as old as man, it is as impossible to name the time when it sprang into existence, as to indicate on what day the first man himself was born.’
In her article THE LEAVEN OF THEOSOPHY published in The Theosophist, [Vol. II, No. 6, March, 1881, pp. 117-118] she makes out certain facts which clearly help one understand how theosophy is a further and fuller step to the spiritualism and spiritualist movements that were existing then. The article is reproduced hereunder:
"Those of us whose duty it is to watch the Theosophical movement and aid its progress, can afford to be amused the ignorant conceit displayed by certain journals in their criticisms upon our Society and its officers. Some seem to think that when they have flung their handful of dirt we must certainly be overwhelmed. One or two have even gone so far as with mock sympathy to pronounce us already hopelessly disrupted. It is a pity we cannot oblige them, but so it is, and they must make the best of the situation. Our Society as a body might certainly be wrecked by mismanagement or the death of its founders, but the IDEA which it represents and which has gained so wide a currency, will run on like a crested wave of thought until it dashes upon the hard beach where materialism is picking and sorting its pebbles. Of the thirteen persons who composed our first board of officers, in 1875, nine were spiritualists of greater or less experience. It goes without saying, then, that the aim of the Society was not to destroy but to better and purify spiritualism. The phenomena we knew to be real, and we believed them to be the most important of all current subjects for investigation. For, whether they should finally prove to be traceable to the agency of the departed, or but manifestations of occult natural forces acting in concert with latent psycho-physiological human powers, they opened up a great field of research, the outcome of which must be enlightenment upon the master problem of life, Man and his Relations. We had seen phenomenalism running riot and twenty millions of believers clutching at one drifting theory after another in the hope to gain the truth. We had reason to know that the whole truth could only be found in one quarter, the Asiatic schools of philosophy, and we felt convinced that the truth could never be discovered until men of all races and creeds should join like brothers in the search. So, taking our stand upon that ground, we began to point the way eastward.
Our first step was to lay down the proposition that even admitting the phenomena to be real, they need not of necessity be ascribed to departed souls. We showed that there was ample historical evidence that such phenomena had, from the remotest times, been exhibited by men who were not mediums, who repudiated the passivity exacted of mediums, and who simply claimed to produce them by cultivating inherent powers in their living selves. Hence the burden of proving that these wonders were and could only be done by the dead with the agency of passive medial agents, lay with spiritualists.
To deny our proposition involved either the repudiation of the testimony of the most trustworthy authorities in many countries and in different epochs, or the wholesale ascription of mediumship to every wonder-worker mentioned in history. The latter horn of the dilemma had been taken. Reference to the works of the most noted spiritualistic writers, as well as to the newspaper organs of the movement, will show that the thaums, or “miracles” of every “magician,” saint, religious leader, and ascetic, from the Chaldaean Magusti, the ancient Hindu saint, the Egyptian Jannes and Jambres, the Hebrew Moses and Jesus, and the Mussulman Prophet, down to the Benares Sannyasi of Mr. Jacolliot, and the common fakir of today, who has made Anglo-Indian mouths gape with wonder, have each and all been spoken of as true mediumistic marvels. This was the best that could be done with a difficult subject, but it could not prevent spiritualists from thinking. The more they have thought, read, and compared notes, during the past five years, with those who have travelled in Asia and studied psychological science as a science, the more has the first acrid feeling against our Society abated. We noticed this change in the first issue of this magazine. After only five years of agitation, without abuse from us or any aggressive propagandism on our part, the leaven of this great truth has begun to work. It can be seen on every side. We are now kindly asked to show Europe and America experimental proofs of the correctness of our assertions. Little by little, a body of persons, including some of the best minds in the movement, has come over to our side, and many now cordially endorse our position that there can be no spiritual intercourse, either with the souls of the living or the dead, unless it is preceded by self-spiritualization, the conquest of the meaner self, the education of the nobler powers within us. The serious dangers as well as the more evident gratifications of mediumship, are becoming gradually appreciated Phenomenalism, thanks to the splendid works of Professor Zollner, Mr. Crookes, Mr. Varley, and other able experimentalists is tending towards its proper limits of a problem of science. There is a thoughtful and more and more earnest study of spiritual philosophy. We see this not alone among the Spiritualists of Great Britain, Australasia, and the United States, but also among the intellectual and numerous classes of the Continental spiritists and the magnetists. Should nothing occur to break the present harmony and impede the progress of ideas, we may well expect within another five years to see the entire body of investigators of the phenomena of mesmerism and mediumism more or less imbued with a conviction that the greatest psychological truth, in its most unadulterated form, can be found in the Indian philosophies. And, let it be remembered, we ascribe this great result not to anything we few may personally have done or said, but to the gradual growth of a conviction that the experience of mankind and the lessons of the past can no longer be ignored. It would be easy to fill many pages with extracts from the journalism of today that sustain the above views, but we forbear. Wherever these lines are read—and that will be by subscribers in almost every quarter of the globe—their truth will not be denied by impartial observers. Merely to show the tendency of things, let us take the following excerpts from the Spiritual Notes and La Revue Spirite, organs respectively of the spiritualist and the spiritist parties. The first says:—
From certain delicate yet well-defined signs of the times we are led to believe that a great change is gradually passing over the spirit of that system which, for the last thirty years, has been called by the not altogether happy title of Modern Spiritualism. This change is observable, not perhaps, so much in the popular aspect of the subject, which will, doubtless, always remain, more or less, one of sign and wonder. It is probably necessary that such should be the case. It is very likely a sine qua non that there should always be a fringe of the purely marvellous to attract the criers of “Lo here!” “Lo there!” from whose numbers the higher and inner circle of initiates may be from time to time recruited. It is here we discern the great value, with all their possible abuses, of physical manifestations, materializations, and the like. These form the alphabet of the neophyte. But the change which strikes us at the present moment is what we may call the rapid growth of the initiate class as opposed to the neophytes: the class of those who have quite grown out of the need of these sensible wonders (a need through which, however, they have duly passed) and who are prepared to pass to the sublimest heights of the Spiritual philosophy. We cannot but regard this as an eminently happy sign, because it is the evidence of normal growth. We have had first the blade, then the ear, but now we have the full corn in the ear. Among the many evidences of this change we note two especially, each of which has been mentioned already in these columns in its single aspect. One is the publication of Dr. Wyld’s book on Christian Theosophy, the other the formation and development of the secret society, called the Guild of the Holy Spirit. We are not prepared to commit ourselves to all the doctrines of Dr. Wyld’s book. The Guild would be very probably too ecclesiastical in its structure for many of our readers—it is founded, we may mention, by a clergyman of the Church of England—but in each case we notice what is called a “levelling up.” We perceive that the paramount idea is not to call spirits from the vasty deep—not to force the hand of the Spirit world, so to say, and to compel its denizens to come “down” (or “up”) to us, but so to regulate life as to open up the dormant sense on our side, and enable us to see those who are not in a land that is very far off, from which they have to come up or down to us. This, we happen to know, is preeminently the case with the Guild, which, beginning by being regulative of life and worship, includes a margin for any amount of the thaumaturgical element. We may not say more, but we may also point to every page of Dr. Wyld’s book as an indication of a similar method; and we notice the supervention of that method with much satisfaction. It will never be the popular method, but its presence, however secret, in our midst, will work like leaven, and affect the whole mass of Modern Spiritualism."
It must be interesting for the reader to note Madame Blavatsky, earlier, thought of initiating a ‘Miracle Club’ while at Egypt, but the move had its abortion. From miracle, she moved on to the mysterious organization, that is, The Theosophical Society. A difference is always made, at least in the theosophical literature, between Spiritualism and Spirituality. Before arriving at Ultimate Reality, the human has to pass and surpass many metaphorical realities, and Madame Blavatsky skillfully explains in her work how this process was successfully accomplished by certain adepts of very many nations, Space and Time not hindering them; and how the whole of humanity is also capable of achieving this objective, if only the necessary steps are heeded and adopted with a right sense of understanding.
The Theosophical Society was established in 1875 with the sole object: To collect and diffuse knowledge of the Laws which govern the Universe.
The Founders of the organization, viz. Col. H S Olcott and Madame H P Blavatsky came together in a forum of spiritualistic seance. They worked in unison with the spiritualists for some time. The intellectual world all over was fast dividing itself into two classes, materialistic dogmatism and religious orthodoxy. It was Madame Blavatsky’s intention to show to the world that there is continuity of Life beyond the grave, that unless the spiritual science was added on fused to the material and psychic sciences that were currently improving and getting established, the humanity could not progress on the right lines.
Her travels the world over were in search of answers to the perplexing questions or problems:
Who, when, what is God?
Who ever saw the Immortal spirit of man, so as to be able to assume himself of man’s immortality?
She says she ‘came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the orient . – They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man’s spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid.’ The oriental philosophy has one faith; which can be elaborated thus:
‘Man’s own immortal Self is omnipotent.
‘Kinship of man’s Spirit with the Universal Soul- God- brings this omnipotence. ‘God-Spirit cannot be proved except through the man-spirit.
‘When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if man’s spiritual ego can do this much, the capabilities of the Father-Spirit must be relatively much vaster.’
Hermetic philosophy is the ‘anciently Universal Wisdom Religion’ which can alone provide the key to the ‘Absolute in science and theology.’ Madame Blavatsky’s plea is for recognition of this factor. She devotes the first volume of her text to elucidate the ‘infallibility of Modern Science while the second volume is devoted to explain the ‘infallibility’ of Religion.
She assails the dogmatic assertions of both and suggests that Platonic philosophy affords the only middle ground.
Plato, ‘the greatest philosopher of the pre-Christian era mirrored faithfully in his works the Spiritualism of the Vedic philosophers who lived thousands of years before himself, and its metaphysical expression.’– ‘Plato and the ancient Hindu sages alike revealed the same wisdom. So surviving the shock of time, she questions, ‘What can this Wisdom be but divine and eternal?’
She dedicated the volumes to the Theosophical Society, ‘as a mark of affectionate regard’ and explains further as under:
‘The object of its founders was to experiment practically in the occult powers of Nature, and to collect and disseminate among Christians information about the Oriental religious philosophies. Later, it has determined to spread among the “poor benighted heathen” such evidences as to the practical results of Christianity as will at least give both sides of the story to the communities among which missionaries are at work. With this view it has established relations with associations and individuals through- out the East, to whom it furnishes authenticated reports of the ecclesiastical crimes and misdemeanors, schisms and heresies, controversies and litigations, doctrinal differences and biblical criticisms and revisions, with which the press of Christian Europe and America constantly teems. Christendom has been long and minutely informed of the degradation and brutishness into which Buddhism, Brahmanism and Confucianism have plunged their deluded votaries, and many millions have been lavished upon foreign missions under such false representations. The Theosophical Society, seeing daily exemplifications of this very state of things as the sequence of Christian teaching and example – the latter especially – thought it simple justice to make the facts known in Palestine, India, Ceylon, Cashmere, Tartary, Thibet, China, and Japan, in all which countries it has influential correspondents. It may also in time have much to say about the conduct of the missionaries to those who contribute to their support.’ This broadly presents her historical perspective too to the evolution of philosophic ideas.
She further explains that the object of the book is ‘not to force upon the public the personal views of its author; nor has it the pretensions of a scientific work, which aims at creating a revolution in some department of thought.’ ‘It is rather a brief summary of the religions, philosophies, and universal traditions of human kind , and the exigencies of the same , in the spirit of those secret doctrines, of which none – thanks to prejudice and bigotry – have reached Christendom in so unmutilated a form, as to secure it a fair judgment. Since the days of the unlucky mediaeval philosophers, the last to write upon these secret doctrines of which they were the depositories, few men have dared to brave persecution and prejudice by placing their knowledge upon record. And these few have never, as a rule, written for the public, but only for those of their own and succeeding times who possessed the key to their jargon. The multitude, not understanding them and their doctrines, have been accustomed to regard them en masse as either charlatans or dreamers. Hence the unmerited contempt into which the study of the noblest of sciences – that of the spiritual man – has gradually fallen.’
She recognizes a Titanic struggle between materialism and the spiritual aspirations of mankind. She intends to arrest the growth of materialism, and to prevent its crushing of the spiritual aspirations of humanity.
“Our voice is raised fro Spiritual freedom, and our plea made for enfranchisement from all tyranny, whether of Science or of Theology.”
In the present work, she makes a thorough inquiry into ‘the assumed infallibility of Modern science and Theology.’ ‘At the risk of being thought discursive,’ she makes ‘constant comparison of ideas, achievements, and pretensions of their representatives, with those of ancient philosophers and religious teachers.’
She discusses ‘the merits of scientific contemporaries, their own confessions of failure in experimental research, of baffling mysteries, of missing links in their chains of theory, of inability to comprehend natural phenomena, of ignorance of the laws of the causal world.’
She specifically points out that the knowledge is readily available in the East, and ‘the pretended authorities of the West’ should go to the Brahmanas and Lamaists of the far Orient and respectfully ask them to impart the alphabet of true science.’
Her presentation was meant for the Western public in particular, for them to get into the studies of the Orient. Since, for historical reasons, the scholars in the East have forgotten or were eclipsed of their own knowledge, they needed to be awakened to these Truths. She draws attention of the world to the unfurled pages of the age old philosophy.
Not playing Science and Religion (theology) one against the other, she mentions the need to look at them as complementary and supplementary studies to get at the ultimate of Truth concerning the Laws governing the universe, the manner and method of emanation and evolution, the needed collective endeavor of humanity however divided it is both in time and space.
It is also pertinent to note here that her subsequent work “The Secret Doctrine” (1888) was an advanced study synthesizing Science, Religion and Philosophy, fulfilling the total purpose of elucidating the Laws of Nature. Thus the two voluminous books of Madame Blavatsky, viz. Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine become an indispensable continuation of the same torrent of thought. It is the bulkiness of these volumes that threatens or scares an average reader and makes them ‘untouchable’ and kept at ‘an uncomfortable distance’. Since she was attempting to open an entirely new continent of thought, she had to bring in parallels from ancient records of mythology, history, archeology etc. and provide evidences there from for her ‘age old’ proposition (known once but forgotten now) to make them really comprehensible; the same time convince the reader of their relevance all time. At every stage, she sums up her statements and recapitulates the essential points for the readers’ pondering over. She drills the ideas into the minds without appearing to be an authoritarian and a dogmatist. She avails every opportunity to assert that she derived all her knowledge from her Spiritual Teachers, and whatever she presents to the world is that Knowledge unsullied and uncontaminated.
Her works thus become authoritative references for all time to come. The beauty is that the theories and doctrines were presented as ‘postulates’ or ‘hypotheses’ for readers’ examination and their conclusive affirmation.
“We are laboring for brighter tomorrow.”
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has the following to say on this book:
"Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, is a book of esoteric philosophy, and was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's first major work. The book discusses or quotes, among others, Plato, Plotinus, the Chaldean Oracles, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Bible, Pythagoras, Ammonius Saccas, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Apollonius of Tyana, the Popol Vuh, Paracelsus, Louis Jacolliot, Eliphas Levi , Marco Polo, Jesus the Nazarene, Siddhartha Gautama, Zoroaster and Max Muller, as well as Buddhist, Brahmanical, Chinese, Persian, Babylonian, Chaldean, Syrian, Gnostic, Egyptian literature and much more.
It is composed of two volumes, the first concentrating on science, and the second on religion. The two volumes support the idea of spiritualism, and much of the content theosophizes in accordance with it. Nevertheless, Blavatsky herself distinguishes between spiritualist phenomena and Spiritualism, the religious system. She supports the verity of spiritualist phenomena as it was termed at the time, not the views of the Spiritualists as such, which she wrote about extensively in such works as The Key to Theosophy. The volume on science attempts to show how science can be just as dogmatic as religion, and betrays its own scientific method by denying spiritualism with no scientific proof against it. The volume on religion attempts to expose the hypocrisy of religion by focusing on how and where it has strayed from its origins, while simultaneously tracing the doctrines of the most revered mystics and philosophers to a common spiritual root.
• p. 191 modern library edition of Joyce's Ulysses references Isis Unveiled.
• This book makes an appearance in the Sherlock Holmes Game "Mystery of the Mummy". While examining a bookcase, Sherlock mentions that there is a book inside it called "Isis Unveiled" By M. Blavatt.
• In the novel "Foucault's Pendulum " a character, Mr. Garamond, soon has the idea to begin two lines of occult books: one intended for serious publication by Garamond; the other, Isis Unveiled (a reference to the theosophical text by Blavatsky), to be published by Manutius in order to attract more vanity authors.
• "Isis Unveiled" is a song from ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's 2009 album The Century of Self.
• There is an interesting article by Mr Alexander Wilder M.D, published in The Word, May 1908 issue under the title: ‘How “ Isis Unveiled “ was written.’ It is of more historical significance to the matter of publication of the book. For readers’ benefit, this article is appended to this book.
Madame Blavatsky begins the first volume of her text with an amazing statement:
“There exists somewhere in this wide world an old “Book”.
The description of this book that follows gives a feeling that she was initiating a ‘fiction’. But the reader finds it to be a manifest ‘fact’ as that description proceeds. That is the only copy available. Antiquarians cannot decipher the age of the book or the texture of the pages. The most ancient documents on occult learning were compiled from this book only. It provides a chronological narration on the emanation and appearance age after age of the Divine Essence.
Every tradition in the world speaks of the existence of ‘a far-more spiritual race than the one to which we now belong.’ ‘The discoveries of modern science do not disagree with the oldest traditions which claim an incredible antiquity for our race.’
Human existence on this planet is divided into cycles. In each cycle, ‘the mankind reached the culminating point of highest civilization and gradually relapsed into abject barbarianism’. All sciences were taught in the sanctuaries but an ‘impenetrable veil of arcane secrecy was thrown over them’.
Modern Science acknowledges a Supreme Power, an Invisible Principle, but denies a Supreme Being, or Personal God. While there is no difference between the Power and the Being, logically, masses cannot understand these attributes without ‘a gigantic proportion of their own personality’.
Magic was considered a divine science which led to a participation in the attributes of Divinity itself,’ and ‘the ancients knew more concerning certain sciences than our modern savants have yet discovered.’ Asserts Madame Blavatsky, and provides much data in substantiation of that claim.
Man has to become ‘a genuine spiritual entity’ and must ‘first create himself anew’ by eliminating from his mind and spirit’ impurities such as selfishness, superstition and prejudice. The inadequacy of ‘phenomena’ to be identified as ‘spirituality’ must be understood and appreciated.
‘Science is daily and rapidly moving toward the great discoveries in chemistry and physics, organology, and anthropology. Learned men ought to be free from preoccupations and prejudices of every kind, yet although thought and opinion are now free, scientists are still the same men as of old. A Utopian dreamer is he who thinks that man ever changes with evolution and development of new ideas. The soil may be well fertilized and made to yield with every year a greater and better variety of fruit; but, dig a little deeper than the stratum required for the crop, and the same earth will be found in the subsoil as was there before the first furrow was turned,’ says Madame Blavatsky. Science has undergone many phases of change; the public view towards science has also considerably changed. Many of the arguments and evidences that Madame Blavatsky brought in her numerous writings may not be needed today to convince upon a point. Science is getting nearer to mysticism and many a books are available today in the public domain to establish that point of view.
She throws new lights over some misunderstood doctrines. To illustrate, she says that reincarnation is not a rule in nature but an exception. ‘Reincarnation is the appearance of the same individual, or rather of his astral monad, twice on the same planet.’ ‘It is preceded by a violation of the laws of nature, and happens only when the latter, seeking to restore its disturbed equilibrium, violently throws back into earth-life the astral monad which has been tossed out of the circle of necessity by crime or accident. – The immortal spirit and astral monad of the individual must try a second time to carry out the purpose of the creative intelligence.’
What was termed as Astral Light in the Kabala system is but the psychic and ectenic forces, electro-biological powers, latent thought, unconscious cerebration etc. The phenomena is a ‘partial manifestation of the soul, whether disembodied or imprisoned for a while in its body – of a portion of that intelligent, omnipotent, and individual WILL, pervading all nature, and known, through the insufficiency of human language to correctly express psychological image, as – God.’
She refers to the seer-ship and says that there are two kinds: the seer-ship of the soul and that of the Spirit. She explains the Hindu terms Pranayama, Pratyahara, and Dharana, in terms of different psychological states. She cites Plato and says, in the real spiritual seer-ship “the soul is raised above all inferior good, when we reach that which is supreme, which is simple, pure and unchangeable, without form, color, or human qualities, the God – our Nous.”
The volume is subtitled as the “Infallibility of Modern Science” and gets divided into 15 chapters. The chapter headings given provide a preliminary idea as to the contents:
1: Old things with New names.
2: Phenomena and Forces.
3: Blind Leaders of the Blind.
4: Theories reflecting Psychic phenomena.
5: The Ether, Or “Astral Light”.
6: Psycho-Physical Phenomena.
7: The elements, Elementals, and Elementaries.
8: Some Mysteries of Matter.
9: Cyclic phenomena.
10. The Inner and Outer Man.
11. Psychological and Physical Marvels.
12. The “Impassable” Chasm.
13. Realities and Illusions.
14. Egyptian Wisdom.
15. India The Cradle of the Race.
In the concluding chapter, Madame Blavatsky affirms that the iconoclastic tendencies of the skeptics of our times may not agree with the various points of the ‘Secret Doctrine’, but the latter are ‘the “Truth” and that is enough.’
‘Fanaticism in religion, fanaticism in science, or fanaticism in any other question becomes a hobby, and cannot but blind our senses. It will ever be useless to argue with a fanatic. – In fact the desire for the actual truth exists in very few minds, and the capacity to discuss it fewer still. When men say they are seeking the truth, they mean that they are looking for evidence to support some prejudice or presupposition. Their beliefs are moulded to their wishes. They see all, and more than all, that seems to tell for that which they desire; they are blind as bats to whatever fells against them. The scientists are no more exempt from their common failing than are others,’ she states.
Elaborating how modern science has ‘little or no reason to boast of originality’, she quotes from ‘an author who has passed long years in India’, the various achievements recorded in the fields of Astronomical science, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Pharmacology, Surgery, Grammar, Poetry, Architecture. This is in addition to the evidence of achievements already discussed from the Arts, Sciences, Philosophy of Egyptians, Greeks, Chaldeans and Assyrians. Louis Jacolliot, the author of Occult Science in India, who studied much of the wisdom of the Ancients, says ‘that antiquity has derived all the scientific knowledge of life it possessed from India, and the initiates of the Hindu temples were very much like Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Essenes, and the Christian apostles. –modern spiritualism can add nothing to the metaphysical conceptions of the ancient Brahmins: that is a truth expressed by the illustrious Cousin in the following words: The history of philosophy in India is an abridgement of the philosophical history of the world.’
Science of that day and century has undergone very many changes in its opinions and open-ended conclusions. Modern researches do come nearer the facts of Occultism, though their terminology might be altogether different.
At the end of the first volume she quotes the ancient Hindu philosopher, Narada:
Never utter these words: I do not know this – therefore it is false.
One must study to know, know to understand, understand to judge.
We should not limit the possibilities of Nature by the imperfections of our own powers – she asserts.
The second volume of the Text is devoted to the study of ‘theology’, and the “Infallibility of Religion” is the sub-title given.
Madame Blavatsky provides a preface to this, which explains the content and import of the text:
An analysis of religious beliefs in general, the volume is in particular directed against theological Christianity, the chief opponent of free thought. It contains not one word against the pure teachings of Jesus, but unsparingly denounces their debasement into pernicious ecclesiastical systems that are ruinous to main faith in his immortality and his God, and subversive of all moral restraint.
She avers that the dogmatic theologians had enslaved both history and science. The text will not be acceptable to the clergy, but it is only ‘the logician, the investigator, the dauntless explorer’ who has ‘the courage of opinion’ that would appreciate.
The text is divided into 12 chapters, the first three of which speak about ‘What the Church is; Christian crimes and heathen virtues; and Divisions among the early Christians.’ In the 4th chapter she explains ‘the Oriental cosmogonies and Bible records.’ Chapter 5 is devoted to the “Mysteries of The Kabala’. In the 6th chapter she enunciates how the Esoteric doctrines of Buddhism were parodied in Christianity. The early Christian heresies were juxtaposed with the secret doctrines in the next , 7th , chapter. Jesuitry and Masonry were compared in the 8th chapter. The Vedas and the Bible were discussed in the 9th chapter, while the ‘Devil Myth’ gets examined in the next, 10th chapter. ‘Comparative results of Buddhism and Christianity’ were elaborated in the 11th chapter. Conclusions and Illustrations’ were drawn in the final, 12th chapter.
We see the past history of the times and their civilizations narrated in great detail and in full substantiation of the basic principles she draws our attention to. It is in the Chapter IV that she commences comparing the Oriental cosmogonies – of the Indian, Chaldean and Ophite systems. She comes up with an arresting statement that ‘Buddhism is but the primitive source of Brahmanism.’ Gauthama Buddha protested ‘not against the primitive source of Brahmanism, but against the sacerdotal and official state religion of the country.’ ‘Gauthama Buddha’s philosophy was that taught from the beginning of time in the impenetrable secrecy of the inner sanctuaries of the pagodas.’
She juxtaposes the terms of Hindu, Egyptian and Roman Catholic terminologies and draws a conclusion thus: “While the doctrines, ethical code, and observances were all appropriated from Brahmanism and Buddhism, its ceremonies, vestments, and pageantry were taken bodily from Lamaism –. This makeshift has served its purpose and had its day. The time has at last come when this page of history must be rewritten.”
She again shows in Chapter V how all world religions fundamentally are identical, and further elaborates this in the next chapter VI. She touches upon the evolution of our universe and how it is one of the many. She explains the esoteric doctrine according to Vedic views. The gradation from Aditi, to the Word, Brahma, Viradj, the divine male – subjective but Real world and the phenomenal or objective world with Maya – Illusion and Darkness is explained diagrammatically. She compares the Hindu doctrines with those of Chaldean school. She narrates how Christianity has become a religion of ‘pure emotionalism’, how Buddhism has its nucleus in ‘a general love of all beings, human and animal’.
Chapter VII touches upon the secret sects of the religions. She draws comparison among the statements of Buddha, Jesus and Apollonius. The unfortunate situation in which a Priest or Purohit is placed is narrated.
Chapter VIII is totally dedicated to the history of the Masonry and the evolution of that thought and its Temples over the centuries. How the secrets were “LONG LOST BUT NOW FOUND”, she explains the Mystic Word or the Mantra: ‘The potency contained in the Mantras and the Vach of the Brahmana is as much believed in at this day as it was in the early Vedic period. The “Ineffable Name” of every country and religion relates to that which the Masons affirm to be the mysterious characters emblematic of the nine names or attributes by which the Deity was known to the initiates.’ She provides the secret codes and their decoding too. The paths leading to the Secret Brotherhoods are discussed and she sums up : “These societies will go on and hear themselves denied without uttering a word until the day shall come for them to throw of their reserve and show how completely they are masters of the situation.”
Her knowledge about the secret societies was really profound and astonishing to those persons belonging to them. She was even offered the highest honor of being awarded the final degree of the Society. Her intimate knowledge and association with the Masonic fraternity could itself be a subject for special study.
She dealt with, in Chapter IX, how ‘the identical cosmic myths, symbols and allegories’ were ‘misinterpreted by the widely different, yet intimately related systems, in fitting them to their individual needs.’ Here compares the myths of the Bible ‘with those of the sacred books of other nations’, to see which is original, which copies. She explains the mystery of number seven in the Hindu system, the great value of the “Atharva Veda”, antiquity of the “Mahabharata”, accounts of the deluge (Pralaya), the Surya and Chandra Indian dynasties, the evolution of the zodiac and many other topics.
Chapter X further probes into the biblical episodes and establishes ‘that the object of Jesus, the Initiate of the inner sanctuary, was to open the eyes of the fanatical multitude to the difference between the highest Divinity – and the Hebrew Jehovah.’ She concludes that a comparative inquiry into the history of Buddha, Jesus and their predecessor ‘Krishna’ is necessitated.
Chapter XI does this study conclusively. The three legends are tabulated for easy comprehension and the similarities explicitly stated.
“Despite the notable similarity of the direct teachings of Gautama and Jesus, we yet find their respective followers starting from two diametrically opposite points. The Buddhist divine, following literally the ethical doctrine of his master, remains thus true to the legacy of Gautama; while the Christian minister, distorting the precepts recorded by the four Gospels beyond recognition, teaches, not that which Jesus taught, but the absurd, too often pernicious, interpretations of fallible men Popes, Luthers, and Calvins included.’
After due examination of various factors of phenomena-workings, at the end, she quotes M Jacolliot: “ – let it suffice to say, that in regard to magnetism and spiritism, Europe has yet to stammer over the first letters of the alphabet, and that the Brahmans have reached, in these two departments of learning, results in the way of phenomena that are truly stupefying. When one sees these strange manifestations, whose power one cannot deny, without grasping the laws that the Brahmans keep so carefully concealed, the mind is overwhelmed with wonder, and one feels that he must run away and break the charm that holds him.”
Chapter XII recapitulates and formulates the fundamental propositions of Oriental philosophy, which we have enumerated in the earlier chapter, “What is Magic?” She annotates upon them bringing in many evidences and illustrations.
She reiterates: ‘Pre-vedic Brahminism and Buddhism are the double source from which all religions spring; Nirvana is the ocean to which all tend.– True faith is the embodiment of divine charity; those who minister at its altars, are but human.’
"It is maintained that INDIA (not in its present limits, but including its ancient boundaries) is the only country in the world which still has among her sons adepts, who have the knowledge of all the seven sub-systems and the key to the entire system. Since the fall of Memphis, Egypt began to lose those keys one by one, and Chaldea had preserved only three in the days of Berosus. As for the Hebrews, in all their writings they show no more than a thorough knowledge of the astronomical, geometrical and numerical systems of symbolizing all the human, and especially the physiological functions. They never had the higher keys," she says in her The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 311).
It is affirmed by her, once again, at the end, that ‘true souls may lift aside the curtain’, unveil the folders of Isis, ‘look with undazzled gaze upon the UNVEILED TRUTH’ in the brightness of that Night made Day.
Night and Day are symbolic of the human Ignorance and Intelligence, one way, and it is the fond hope that the human, on his/her own, will be ready for the task of tearing the blinds that the Science and religion have hitherto masked his/her vision.
A New Dawn awaits our arrival at its threshold.
Madame Blavatsky, as the sub-title of this book suggests, provides a master-key to the mysteries of “Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (Religion).” She does not bring in the term ‘Philosophy’ here; yet, the book is full of that, for the simple reason, stated or unstated, philosophy is the beginning as well as the culmination of study in any subject or discipline. In fact, her writings provide the ‘mainstream of philosophy’ belonging to the universe put together or to that of ‘Absolute’ in which bosom all are invariably posited.
She mentions in her preface the concern for the Hermetic Philosophy.
"Our work, then, is a plea for the recognition of the Hermetic philosophy, the anciently universal World Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology."
At the end chapter of the second volume, she again states:
"To comprehend the principles of natural law involved in the several phenomena herein after described, the reader must keep in mind the fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy –."
These propositions were detailed in the earlier chapter ‘What is Magic?’
Hermetic philosophy has been acclaimed as universal and all-time. A Master of the Wisdom in one of the communications says,
Hermetic philosophy is universal and unsectarian, it suits every creed and philosophy and clashes with none. It is boundless ocean of Truth, the central point whither flows and wherein meet every river, as every stream – whether its source be with the East, West, North or South. (Mahatma Letter no. LXXXV)
"Philosophy springs from wonder, and wonder is aroused by the awareness of difficulties, by the need to understand. The difficulties which not infrequently lead men and women into the province of philosophy are the problems they meet in the attempt to live their own lives intelligently and with discrimination. What makes life worth living? What goals shall I choose? What is the meaning of failure and evil and suffering? What is my place in the scheme of things, if indeed there be a scheme of things? What is the nature of knowledge, and how can I identify truth and distinguish it from what is false? These and many other questions face all of us who take our own existence seriously and are not content to live by other people's rules and to carry out other people's wishes; who believe that life is not merely to be accepted and lived blindly, but is to be examined and its possibilities compared and tested," said Thompson, Samuel M; in his THE NATURE OF PHILOSOPHY; [Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1961; p.4]
The term ‘perennial philosophy’ was coined and introduced by Stuchen in 1540 A.D. ‘to refer to the features common to medieval scholasticism and the schools of Padua.’ The term has since been used in a variety of senses. We have a full text by that name by Aldous Huxley.
The term philosophy was first used by Pythagoras who noted that men could be divided into three classes: those who loved Pleasure, Activity and Wisdom. The end of Wisdom however makes one arrive at the state of liberation (Mukti) in terms of religion. The classification suggested by him corresponds to the ‘qualities of nature’ -Tamas, Rajas and Sattwa (Prakriti Swabhava). The Wisdom that is relevant to All-Space, States of consciousness and Time (Sarva Desa-Dasa-Kala) can be safely referred to as perennial.
The following extracts from the text Isis Unveiled help us to clearly understand the abstract philosophy that HPB intends annotating:
Isis Unveiled 1, p. 271:
"This universe," says Manu [ch i, §§5, 6], "existed only in the first divine idea, yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, indefinable, undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep; then the sole self-existing Power himself undiscerned ... appeared with undiminished glory, expanding his idea, or dispelling the gloom." Thus speak the first code of Buddhism. Plato's idea is the Will, or Logos, the deity which manifests itself. It is the Eternal Light from which proceeds, as an emanation, the visible and material light.
Isis 1, p. 284
The universal aether was not, in their [the ancient Greeks] eyes, simply a something stretching, tenantless, throughout the expanse of heaven; it was a boundless ocean peopled like our familiar seas with monstrous and minor creatures, and having in its every molecule the germs of life. Like the finny tribes which swarm in our oceans and smaller bodies of water, each kind having its habitat in some spot to which it is curiously adapted, some friendly and some inimical to man, some pleasant and some frightful to behold, some seeking the refuge of quiet nooks and landlocked harbors, and some traversing great area's of water, the various races of the elemental spirits were believed by them to inhabit the different portions of the great ethereal ocean, and to be exactly adapted to their respective conditions. If we will only bear in mind the fact that the rushing of planets through space must create as absolute a disturbance in this plastic and attenuated medium, as the passage of a cannon shot does in the air or that of a steamer in the water, and on a cosmic scale, we can understand that certain planetary aspects, admitting our premises to be true, may produce much more violent agitation and cause much stronger currents to flow in a given direction, than others. With the same premises conceded, we may also see why, by such various aspects of the stars, shoals of friendly or hostile "elementals" might be poured in upon our atmosphere, or some particular portion of it, and make the fact appreciable by the effects which ensue.
Isis 1, p. 428
...it is not spirit that dwells in matter, but matter which clings temporarily to spirit; and that the latter alone is an eternal, imperishable abode for all things visible and invisible. Esoteric philosophers held that everything in nature is but a materialization of spirit. The Eternal First Cause is latent spirit, they said, and matter from the beginning. ... With the first idea, which emanated from the double-sexed and hitherto-inactive Deity, the first motion was communicated to the whole universe, and the electric thrill was instantaneously felt throughout the boundless space. Spirit begat force, and force matter; and thus the latent deity manifested itself as a creative energy.
H.P. Blavatsky, C.W. IV, p. 297
1. Spirit got itself entangled with gross matter for the same reason that life gets entangled with the foetus matter. It followed a law, and therefore could not help the entanglement occurring.
2. We know of no eastern philosophy that teaches that "matter originated out of spirit." Matter is as eternal and indestructable as Spirit and one cannot be made cognizant to our senses without the other - even to our, the highest, spiritual sense. Spirit per se is a nonentity and non-existence. It is the negation of every affirmation and of all that is.
3. No one ever held - as far as we know - that Spirit could get annihilated under whatever circumstances. Spirit can get divorced of its manifested matter, its personality, in which case, it is the latter that is annihilated. Nor do we believe that "Spirit breathed out Matter"; but that, on the contrary, it is Matter which manifests Spirit. Otherwise, it would be a puzzle indeed.
H.P. Blavatsky, C.W. IV, p. 225:
[The reason why] while science is searching still and may go on searching forever to solve the problem "What is life?" the Occultist can afford to refuse taking the trouble, since he claims, with as much good reason as any given to the contrary, that Life, whether in its latent or dynamical form, is everywhere. That it is as infinite and as indestructible as matter itself, since neither can exist without the other, and that electricity is the very essence and origin of - Life itself. "Purush" is non existent without "Prakriti"; nor, can Prakriti, or plastic matter have being or exist without Purush, or spirit, vital energy, Life. Purush and Prakriti are in short the two poles of the one eternal element, and are synonymous and convertible terms. The main purpose of Madame Blavatsky’s exposition is to make the men and women of the world realize that they are a part, insignificant and significant the same time, of a vast universe; they have to critically understand their role and place in the scheme of the universe and ultimately, willingly play that role. This brings in the fulfillment to humanity.
The divide between science and religion is very thin in the ancient period. Then the sciences were taught in the sanctuaries and an impenetrable veil of arcane secrecy was thrown over the teaching. In the modern days, there is rapid movement towards discoveries in all branches of science. The scientists are to be away from preconceptions and prejudices, because of the free thought and opinion prevailing. ‘Step by step, mankind move around their circumscribed circle of knowledge, science constantly correcting its mistakes, and readjusting on the following day the erroneous theories of the preceding one.’
She quotes a dialogue in Bulwar-Lytton’s Strange Story: ‘True science has no belief, true science knows but three states of mind: denial, conviction, and the vast interval between the two, which is not belief, but the suspension of judgment.’ She continues to say, ‘the true science of our modern times proceeds otherwise; it either denies point-blank, without any preliminary investigation, or sits in the interim, between denial and conviction, and dictionary in hand, invents new Greece-Latin appellations for non-existing kinds of hysteria!’
The science of the soul ‘penetrates the arcane of nature far deeper than our modern philosophy ever dreamed possible, teaches how to force the invisible to become visible; the existence of elementary spirits; the nature and magical properties of the astral light; the power of living men to bring themselves into communication with the former through the latter.’ Science will not even distinguish the difference between human and animal ovules.
She quotes from Hippocrates of centuries ago: ‘All knowledge, all arts are to be found in nature; if we question her properly she will reveal to us the truths that pertain to each of them and to ourselves. What is the nature in operation but the very divinity itself! – We must proceed with faith, with the firm assurance of discovering at last the whole of truth, and nature will let us know her answer, through our Inner sense, which with the help of our knowledge of a certain art or science, reveals to us the truth so clearly that further doubt becomes impossible.’
Esoteric philosophers held that every thing in nature is but a materialization of Spirit.
Madame Blavatsky is confident that ‘the religion of the ancients is the religion of the future.’ ‘A few centuries more, and there will linger no sectarian beliefs in either of the great religions of humanity. Brahmanism and Buddhism will all disappear before the mighty rush of facts.’
The secrets of religious mysteries were guarded so jealously from profanation throughout untold ages. There were lesser and higher mysteries and persons with sufficient integrity
True philosophy and Divine truth are convertible terms. A religion which dreads the light cannot be a religion based on either truth or philosophy – hence, it must be false. The ancient mysteries were mysteries to the profane only; when the hierophant never sought nor would accept as proselytes; to the initiates the mysteries became explained as soon as the final veil was withdrawn.
Identical parentage of God-idea in the three religious systems, viz. the Hindu, the Egyptian and the Judaico-Christian was illustrated by her with all evidence; she affirms, therefore, ‘there never was, nor can there be more than one Universal religion; for there can be but One Truth concerning God.’
True religion advocates ‘the adoration of one Supreme, Invisible, and unknown Deity, by works and acts, not by the profession of vain human dogmas. But our intention is to go further. We desire to demonstrate that if we exclude ceremonial and fetish worship from being regarded as essential parts of religion, then the true Christ-like principles have been exemplified, and true Christianity practiced since the days of the apostles, exclusively among Buddhists and “heathen”.’ She establishes the existence of a universal Ancient Wisdom-Religion.
The themes, concepts, topics and issues dealt with in Isis Unveiled are very many. Though the text is divided into sections, chapters, the contents cannot be considered in isolation; the items are not discussed at one and the same space. Discussion is scattered through out the text. That is one of the reasons why the reader gets into confusion; as one goes on it appears to be leading to a thick forest (Kikaranya). As one reads the text meticulously and absorbs what he/she can will surely benefit him/herself. Reading and re-reading is the only way and the recipe to let the ideas sink into one.
In this chapter, attempt is made to make out certain key statements upon the terms used in the text. Unless the key-words are taken in the spirit they are used, the understanding will not be helpful. Theosophical Glossary, a book compiled from her writings and published posthumously will be of much utility and advantageous for the student.
Physically, it is the ether of modern science. Metaphysically, and in its spiritual or occult sense, ether is a great deal more than is often imagined. It is the anima-mundi, the workshop of Nature and of all the cosmos, spiritually, as well as physically. It is all pervading force. It is the memory of God.
We see a flower slowly developing from a bud, and the bud from its seed. But wherefrom has this seed, with all its predetermined program of physical transformation arrived? What about its invisible forces which gradually develop its form. Color and odor? The germ of the present human race must have preexisted in the parent of this race, as the seed, in which lies hidden the flower of next summer, was developed in the capsule of its present-flower; the parent may be but slightly different, but it still differs from its future progeny.
India of the archaic period is much vast and larger compared to that of India of our modern days. There was an Upper, a Lower, and a Western India, the latter of which is now Persia-Iran. The countries now named Thibet, Mangolia, and Great Tartary were also considered by the ancient writers as India. India is the cradle of humanity. India was the Alma-mater, not only of the civilization, arts and sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity.
This is instituted from all eternity. The Laws of Nature are the established relations of the ‘idea’ of the ‘to be created world’ to the forms of its manifestation. Harmony is the great Law of Nature. Every thing that happens is the result of Law. – eternal, immutable and everactive.
Every atom of Matter is impregnated with divine influx of World-soul.
Matter is finite, is indestructible.
Matter and Spirit are the two first principles of all things.
Forces of Matter have one common origin and are convertible.
Matter is produced by Will.
Matter is pre-existent and has passed through millions of forms.
Continuous evolution of matter on all planes (four so far developed).
Man evolved from primordial Spirit-Matter.
Matter is co-eternal with Spirit which is one remove higher.
Matter is the most remote manifestation of Deity.
It is self-evolving triad, from Zeus’ (metaphysical trinity of Pythagoras) invisible self; the active Cause, Effect and Intelligent Will.
It has Pre-human and Human stages in great cycle of transmigration; loses recollection and becomes senseless at human birth.
Soul of Man proves God.
Soul dwells in a body as in a grave.
Soul permeates the whole universe.
Soul emanates from and is reabsorbed into Divinity.
Human Soul is a compound of Monad and Duad.
Man’s soul has to conquer its immortality.
Soul, according to Samkkya, has divine powers, eight in number:
Anima (shrinking into a minute bulk to which everything is pervious); Mahima (enlarging to a gigantic body); Laghima (assuming levity); Garima (possessing an unlimited reach of organs) Prapti (predicting future events, understanding unknown languages, curing diseases,divining unexpressed thoughts, understanding the language of the heart; Prakamya (power of converting old age into youth) Vasitwa (power of measuring human beings and beasts and making them obedient, power of restraining passions and emotions)) Isitwa (spiritual state and presupposes the absence of the above seven powers, as in this state the yogi is full of God.)
Man-spirit proves God-spirit.
Distinction between Soul and Spirit is the ‘Intelligence’ beyond all finite existences.
Spirit and Matter are the two first principles of all things. (Brahma-Padartha)
Immortal human spirit sees past and future as the present.
Three Spirits in Man (according to Peracelsus):
i. spirit of the elements ii. Spirit of the stars and iii. The divine spirit.
Every thing has its first being in Spirit.
Spirit alone is eternal, indestructible; it is the source of all forces.
It is the intense desire that produces Will, it is will which forms force, and the latter generates Matter or an object having form. Will is intelligent, intangible and powerful and it reigns Supreme over all inert matter. The great universal Idea willed, and the Cosmos sprang into existence. Prayer opens the spiritual sight of man, for prayer is desire and desire develops Will.
Wonderful cures were performed by certain words. This word is to be found in the Mantras of the Sanskrit Vedas, say some Adepts. Philologists have to verify and decide. So far as human evidence goes, it would seem that such magic words do exist.
There was a vast inland area, which extended over Middle Asia, north of proud Himalayan range, and its Western prolongation. An island, which for its unparalleled beauty had no rival in the world, was inhabited by the last remnant of the race which preceded ours. These were “Sons of God”. And it was they who imparted Nature’s most weird secrets to men, and revealed to them the ineffable, and now lost “Word”. This word, which was no word, has travelled once around the globe, and still lingers as a far-off dying echo in the hearts of some privileged men.
World itself sprang into creation as a consequence of a ‘sacrificial word’ pronounced by the First Cause. This word is the “Ineffable Name” of the Kabalists.
There are words which have a destructive quality in their very syllables, as though objective things; for every sound awakenes a corresponding one in the invisible world of spirit, and the repercussion produces either a good or bad effect.
The Society was founded to teach no new and easy paths to the acquisition of “powers”; and that its only mission is to rekindle the torch of truth, so long extinguished for all but the very few, and to keep that truth alive by the formation of a fraternal union of mankind, the only soil in which the good seed can grow. The Theosophical Society does indeed desire to promote the spiritual growth of every individual who comes within its influence, but its methods are those of the ancient Rishis, its tenets are those of the oldest Esotericism.
In this connection we would warn all our members, and others who are seeking spiritual knowledge, to beware of persons offering to teach them easy methods of acquiring psychic gifts; such gifts (loukika) are indeed comparatively easy of acquirement by artificial means, but fade out as soon as the nerve-stimulus exhausts itself. The real seership and adeptship which is accompanied by true psychic development (lokotthara), once reached, is never lost.
It must be remembered that the Society was not founded as a nursery for a supply of Occultists—as a factory for the manufactory of Adepts. It was intended to stem the current of materialism, and also that of spiritualistic phenomena that has now begun, and not to pander to psychic cravings which are but another form of materialism.
Its [Theosophical] aims are several; but the most important of all are those which are likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form, moral as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more important than the latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to purify the soul, if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save cases of accidents, are all hereditary. It is not by studying Occultism for selfish ends, for the gratification of one’s personal ambition, pride, or vanity, that one can reach the goal; that of helping mankind. Nor is it by studying one single branch of the esoteric philosophy that a man become an Occultist, but by studying, if not mastering, them all. The function of Theosophy is to open men’s hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. Theosophy teaches the animal-man
to be human; and when people have learned to think and feel as human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.
– Madame Blavatsky
"There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe: I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards, there is reward past all telling –the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come."
– H.P. BLAVATSKY, 1891, CW 13:219
There are many biographic sketches, articles – large and short – and treatises on Madame Blavatsky (1831–1891) and we would recommend to the reader that he could profitably go through them. Some are listed out at the end. But we would like to give out an anecdote, in the words of
Bertram Keightly, on her miraculous power to ‘quote’ from authors/ books not very common and popular. Bertram Keightly, H.P. Blavatsky's proof reader for her magazine "Lucifer" wrote of an uncanny example of what appears to have been Blavatsky's ability to accurately read the astral light. The poem below was used to lead off her occult story "Karmic Visions." The following account is taken from the Blavatsky Collected Writings, volume IX (pp. 31922):
Oh sad No More! Oh sweet No More!
......Oh strange No More!
By a mossed brookbank on a stone
I smelt a wild weed-flower alone;
There was a ringing in my ears,
And both my eyes gushed out with tears,
Surely all pleasant things had gone before,
Low buried fathom deep beneath with thee, No More!
– Tennyson (The Gem, 1831)
There is an interesting story connected with this particular poem. According to Bertram Keightly ... H.P.B. always wrote her Lucifer editorials herself, "and she had a fancy for very often heading (them) with some quotation, and it used to be one of my troubles that she very seldom gave a reference for these, so that I had much work, and even visits to the British Museum Reading Room, in order to verify and check them, even when I did manage, with much entreaty, and after being most heartily 'cussed,' to extract some reference from her.
"One day she handed me as usual the copy of her contribution, a story for the next issue headed with a couple of four line stanzas. I went and plagued her for a reference and would not be satisfied without one.
She took the manuscript and when I came back for it, I found she had just written 'Alfred Tennyson' under the verses. Seeing this I was at a loss for I knew my Tennyson pretty well and was certain that I had never read these lines in any poem of his, nor were they at all in his style. I hunted up my Tennyson, could not find them; consulted everyone I could get at -also in vain. Then back I went to H.P.B. and told her all this and said that I was sure these lines could not be Tennyson's, and I dared not print them with his name attached, unless I could give an exact reference. H.P.B. just damned me and told me to get out and go to Hell. It happened that the Lucifer copy must go to the printers that same day. So I just told her that I should strike out Tennyson's name when I went, unless she gave me a reference before I started. Just on starting I went to her again and she handed me a scrap of paper on which were written the words: "The Gem – 1831." 'Well, H.P.B.,' I said, 'this is worse than ever; for I am dead certain that Tennyson has never written any poem called "The Gem." All H.P.B. said was just: 'Go out and be off.'
"So I went to the British Museum Reading Room and consulted the folk there, but they could give me no help and they one and all agreed that the verses could not be, and were not Tennyson's. As a last resort, I asked to see Mr. Richard Garnett, the famous Head of the Reading Room in those days, and was taken to him. I explained to him the situation and he also agreed in feeling sure the verses were not Tennyson's. But after thinking quite a while, he asked me if I had consulted the Catalogue of Periodical Publications’. I said no, and asked where that came in. 'Well," said Mr. Garnett, 'I have a dim recollection that, there was once a brief-lived magazine called the "Gem." It might be worth your looking it up.' I did so, and in the volume for the year given in H.P.B's note, I found a poem of a few stanzas signed 'Alfred Tennyson' and containing the two stanzas quoted by H.P.B. verbatim as she had written them down. And anyone can now read them in the second volume of "Lucifer"; but I have never found them even in the supposedly most complete and perfect edition of Tennyson’s Works."
There is always a conflict between materialism and spiritual aspirations of mankind. It is more visible than perhaps in the times of Madame Blavatsky. It is possible the conflict will thicken in future times. The effort of intellectuals and aspirants to holistic living should be to combat this situation and to lessen it to the extent possible. Ordinary thinkers are not familiar with ideas that spring from occultism, even as they are subject to its inflow all the time. The effort made here is to popularize the basic concepts of Deity, Law and Man; and their connectivity with human life on the globe. The perennial Wisdom of Theosophy, its philosophy and applications made available for the examination of the commoner. The points that time and again stressed by Madame Blavatsky are:
1. Man is inherently divine and is basically one with the Nature.
2. All religions and philosophies of the world reveal the natural existence of a Universal fraternity.
3. Modern thought is prone to many false notions, claims and pretensions, and one must be prepared to examine everything fearlessly and dispassionately to arrive at the truth of things.
4. The secular and spiritual aspirations of mankind are to be kept alive, without any distortion and deviation.
5. There is an unreserved direction and inspiration available from the Masters of the Wisdom and that can be drawn by all, subject to their own disciplining themselves.
She made the following statement in one of her articles written about 10 days prior to her casting away her physical vesture:
"I maintain that Isis Unveiled contains a mass of original and never hitherto divulged information on occult subjects. That this is so, is proved by the fact that the work has been fully appreciated by all those who have been intelligent enough to discern the kernel, and pay little attention to the shell, to give the preference to the idea and not to the form, regardless of its minor shortcomings. Prepared to take upon myself –vicariously as I show – the sins of all the external, purely literary defects of the work, I defend the ideas and teachings in it, with no fear of being charged with conceit, since neither ideas nor teaching is mine, as I have always declared; and I maintain that both are of the greatest value to mystics and students of Theosophy."
Col. H S Olcott, her associate in the work, qualifies her remarkable power in the following triplet:
1. Her amazing occult knowledge and phenomena-working powers, together with her relation to the hidden Masters.
2. Her sparkling talents, especially as a conversationalist with her social accomplishments, wide travels, and extraordinary adventures.
3. Her insight into problems of philology, racial origin, fundamental bases of religions, and keys to old mysteries and symbols.
Isis unveiled as a serious text has a ‘revolution’ in it, and it continues to reverberate all time. Her further writings viz. The Secret Doctrine and the numerous articles ( compiled as her Collected Writings) throw much light and spring. Her presentation of the doctrines, theories and principles of Occult philosophy continues to receive the right attention of intellectuals who are keen to open up to the doors of their intuitions.
It is certain that her presentations will form the mainstream of philosophy for humanity, however numerous and divergent be the branches and twigs that have emanated in Space and Time, i.e. geographically and historically.
She asserts that magic, the spiritual wisdom, is a ‘true science’ as also ‘a profound religion. The phenomena existed even before “this modern era.”’ The scientists, theologians and spiritualists must realize this fact, rather than become themselves ‘practical magicians.’ The masses are to be educated on this fact too. ‘The safest guide to human happiness and enlightenment’ are provided by the writings that ‘have descended to us from the remotest antiquity.’ The people ‘who take their precepts as the rule of their lives’ still exist in certain countries and they carry with them ‘nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality.’
The magical powers, which are no other than the spiritual powers, exist in every human.’ ‘Discipline and Self-conquest’ are the keys for those who desire to practice those, as well as desire to teach others.
Spiritual Wisdom, the philosophy of ‘magic’, is the ‘most difficult of all sciences to learn experimentally.’ To become a practical magician, a Wise-Man, one has ‘to be physically, morally or psychologically fitted’. To be a student of this science, ‘one must be ready to devote heart and soul to the study.’ A theoretical knowledge of the formulae is not adequate, ‘the mental capacities and soul powers’ are needed. ‘The Spirit must hold in complete subjection the combativeness of what is loosely termed educated reason, until facts have vanquished cold human sophistry.’
From The Word, May 1908 (7:2)
[The authorship of "Isis Unveiled" has sometimes been questioned. Some persons have claimed it for themselves. The one individual best able to bear witness, from among all who had personal knowledge of the authorship, is Alexander Wilder, physician and scholar, the most able of the Platonists. To-day, at 85 years, he has the buoyancy of youth, the mental virility of manhood, and all with his Platonic "enthusiasm." – H. W. P.]
One morning in the autumn of 1876, I saw in the New York "Tribune" the mention of a work in process of publication styled "Art-Magic," which would treat of recondite subjects. Having from earlier years been interested in such matters, I wrote to the address there given and received a reply from Mrs. Hardinge-Britton. Besides answering my inquiry, she told me of the forming of a Theosophical Society, then taking place. But I did not pursue this clue. I had become disgusted with individual pretensions to superior powers, and unusual names have for me no attraction. Some weeks later, however, learning that the book had been printed, I called upon Mrs. Britton and received a copy. She stated that the author did not give his name, and that he would not require the payment which I was to make, paying a compliment to my intellectual qualifications as something unusual in this field. The book was very interesting to me, and contained many valuable nuggets in relation to arcane matters. Unfortunately, there was no index, and the omission of an index takes away half the usefulness of a book to a student. There was no allusion in the book to the Theosophical Society, and I had no curiosity to know about the organization.
At that time I had been editing several publications for Mr. J. W. Bouton, a bookseller in New York, and was lecturing and contributing papers for one or two periodicals. Other engagements and associations had been laid aside. I had barely heard of Madame Blavatsky, but in no connection with anything relating to Theosophy, or other subject that I knew anything about. She had been described as having introduced herself to an acquaintance as a "rushing Russian," and her manner had attracted attention. Nothing more was elicited at that time.
On a pleasant afternoon, in early autumn, some months later, I was alone in the house. The bell was rung, and I answered at the door. Colonel Henry S. Olcott was there with an errand to myself. I did not recognize him, as I had never had any occasion to make his acquaintance, but he having had some governmental business with one of my employers several years before, had known me ever since. He had never suspected, however, that I took any interest whatever in unusual subjects; so completely successful had I been in keeping myself unknown even to those who from daily association imagined that they knew me very thoroughly. A long service in journalism, familiar relations with public men, and active participation in political matters, seemed to have shut out from notice an ardent passion for mystic speculation, and the transcendental philosophy. I think that Colonel Olcott had himself been taken somewhat by surprise.
He had been referred to me by Mr. Bouton. Madam Blavatsky had compiled a work upon occult and philosophic subjects, and Mr. Bouton had been asked in relation to undertaking its publication. Why it had been referred to me I could never well understand. Mr. Bouton had taken passage for England a few days before, and I had visited him several times, even going over from Newark to bid him farewell the morning that he left. Yet he had not said a word to me about the manuscript. Did he really expect me to read it, or was he merely endeavoring to shirk having anything to do with it without actually refusing outright? I am now inclined to the opinion that he referred Colonel Olcott to me to evade saying "No." At the time, however, I supposed that, although the mode of proceeding was not that of a man of business, Mr. Bouton really meant that I should examine the work, and I agreed to undertake the task.
It was truly a ponderous document and displayed research in a very extended field, requiring diligence, familiarity with the various topics, as well as a purpose to be fair to the writer. Regarding myself as morally obligated to act for the advantage of Mr. Bouton, I showed no favor beyond what I believed justice to demand. I regarded it a duty to be severe. In my report to him, I stated that the manuscript was the product of great research, and that so far as related to current thinking, there was a revolution in it, but I added that I deemed it too long for remunerative publishing.
Mr. Bouton, however, presently agreed to publish the work. I never learned the terms, but subsequent occurrences led me to presume that they were not carefully considered. He procured the copyright in his own name, which enabled him to control the price, and he refused every proposition afterward to transfer the ownership to the author, or to cheapen the cost. He placed the manuscript again in my hands, with instructions to shorten it as much as it would bear. This was a discretionary power that was far from agreeable. It can hardly be fair that a person acting solely in behalf of the publisher should have such authority over the work of an author. Nevertheless, I undertook the task. While abridging the work, I endeavored in every instance to preserve the thought of the author in plain language, removing only such terms and matter as might be regarded as superfluous, and not necessary to the main purpose. In this way, enough was taken out to fill a volume of respectable dimensions. In doing all this, I consulted only what I supposed to be Mr. Bouton's advantage, and believed that he so regarded it, as I had only his instructions. But it proved to be only a "labor of love."
Colonel Olcott was very desirous that I should become acquainted with Madam Blavatsky. He appeared to hold her in high regard closely approaching to veneration, and to consider the opportunity to know her a rare favor for any one. I was hardly able to share his enthusiasm. Having a natural diffidence about making new acquaintances, and acting as a critic upon her manuscript, I hesitated for a long time. Finally, however, these considerations were passed over and I accompanied him to their establishment in Forty-seventh Street.
It was a "flat," that unhomelike fashion of abode that now extends over populous cities, superseding the household and family relationship wherever it prevails. The building where they lived had been "transmogrified" for such purposes, and they occupied a suite of apartments on an upper floor. The household in this case comprised several individuals, with separate employments. They generally met at meal-time, together with such guests from elsewhere as might happen to be making a visit.
The dining room was furnished in simple style with no affectation of anything unusual or extraordinary. Perhaps, I ought to add that later in the year following, this condition was quite considerably modified. The autumn of 1879 was characterized, as I have never since observed it, by the richness of color in the foliage. Numerous parties visited the woods around to gather the tinted leaves for ornamental purposes. One of the inmates of the flat, a foreigner who was in rapport with the Theosophical fraternity, had in this way, procured a large quantity and set herself to use them to decorate the dining room. She made several emblematic figures, the double triangle being the principal one of these. Then she followed with an Oriental landscape extending the length of the apartment. There were to be seen the figures of an elephant, a monkey, and other creatures, and a man standing as if contemplating the scene. This decoration remained through the winter till the household had broken up. I then brought it away to Newark and set it up in a hall. Here it remained several years. It was there when Mr. G. R. S. Mead visited me. I sent it afterward to Miss Caroline Hancock at Sacramento, and she in turn presented it to the Theosophical Society at San Francisco. Doubtless it has long since met the fate of wornout furniture. But it had notoriety in its earlier days, from the admiration of visitors for its ingenuity and oddness of conception, and descriptions of it were published in several newspapers.
The study in which Madam Blavatsky lived and worked was arranged after a quaint and very primitive manner. It was a large front room, and being on the side next the street, was well lighted. In the midst of this was her "den," a spot fenced off on three sides by temporary partitions, writing desk and shelves for books. She had it as convenient as it was unique. She had but to reach out an arm to get a book, paper or other article that she might desire, that was within the enclosure. The place could not accord with a vivid sense of beauty, except after the ancient Greek conception that beauty is fitness for its purpose, everything certainly being convenient and handy. In this place Madam Blavatsky reigned supreme, gave her orders, issued her judgments, conducted her correspondence, received her visitors and produced the manuscript of her book.
She did not resemble in manner or figure what I had been led to expect. She was tall, but not strapping; her countenance bore the marks and exhibited the characteristics of one who had seen much, thought much, traveled much, and experienced much. Her figure reminded me of the description which Hippokrates has given to the Scyths, the race from which she probably descended. Her dress I do not feel competent to describe, and in fact never noticed so as to be able to remember. I am a man and seldom observant of a woman's attire. My attention is given to the individual, and unless the clothing should be strikingly different from the current style, I would be unable to speak of it intelligently or intelligibly. All that I have to say is that she was completely dressed. Her appearance was certainly impressive, but in no respect was she coarse, awkward, or ill-bred. On the other hand she exhibited culture, familiarity with the manners of the most courtly society and genuine courtesy itself. She expressed her opinions with boldness and decision, but not obtrusively. It was easy to perceive that she had not been kept within the circumscribed limitations of a common female education; she knew a vast variety of topics and could discourse freely upon them.
In several particulars, I presume that I never fairly or fully understood her. Perhaps this may have extended further than I am willing to admit. I have heard tell of her profession of superhuman powers and of extraordinary occurrences that would be termed miraculous. I, too, believe, like Hamlet, that there are more things in heaven and earth than our wise men of this age are willing to believe. But Madam Blavatsky never made any such claim to me. We always discoursed of topics which were familiar to both, as individuals on a common plane. Colonel Olcott often spoke to me as one who enjoyed a grand opportunity, but she herself made no affectation of superiority. Nor did I ever see or know of any such thing occurring with anyone else.
She professed, however, to have communicated with personages whom she called "the Brothers," and intimated that this, at times, was by the agency, or some means analogous to what is termed "telepathy." It is not necessary to show or insist that this mode of communication has been known and even carried on from antiquity. The Khabar is well known in the Orient. I have supposed that an important condition for ability to hold such intercourse was abstinence from artificial stimulation such as comes from the use of flesh as food, alcoholic drink and other narcotic substances. I do not attach any specific immorality to these things, but I have conjectured that such abstemiousness was essential in order to give the mental powers full play, and to the noetic faculty free course without impediment or contamination from lower influence. But Madam Blavatsky displayed no such asceticism. Her table was well furnished, but without profusion, and after a manner not differing from that of other housekeepers. Besides, she indulged freely in the smoking of cigarettes, which she made as she had occasion. I never saw any evidence that these things disturbed, or in any way interfered with her mental acuteness or activity.
At my first visit, her reception was courteous and even friendly. She seemed to become acquainted at once. She spoke of the abridgements which I had made of her manuscript, extolling what I had done far beyond what it deserved. "What had been taken out was 'flapdoodle,' " she declared. My judgment, certainly, had not been so severe as that. I had not looked for defects, or found them, but only to ascertain how the manuscript might be "boiled down," without affecting the general purpose. In other cases, it has been my rule to scrutinize unprinted manuscript in quest of faults, but to look when it has been printed, to find out its meaning and merits. In this instance, however, I had aimed only to shorten without marring the work. It should be stated, however, as a fact in the publication of this work, that Madam Blavatsky continued to add matter, after Mr. Bouton began the undertaking, and I think that much of the second volume was then written. I have no recollection of much of it except in proof sheets at a later period.
It was no easy matter to give the publication a fitting title. I do not remember that my services were asked in this matter, and certainly they would not have been worth the asking. It is a department in which I am particularly weak. Nor do I think the name unexceptionable which was adopted.
Mr. Bouton is entitled to that distinction. He was a skilful caterer in the bookselling world to which he belonged, but he had business ability rather than a sense of fitness. He once published the treatise of R. Payne Knight on Ancient Art and added pictures relating solely to Hindu mythology, entirely foreign to the subject. This work of Madam Blavatsky is largely based upon the hypothesis of a prehistoric period of the Aryan people in India, and in such a period the veil or the unveiling of Isis can hardly be said to constitute any part. On the contrary, it is a dramatic representation peculiar to the religion and wisdom of Egypt and perhaps is allied to the Syrian Hyksos enormities. Certainly the problems of Egyptian lore are to be considered with other pens than those with which " Isis Unveiled " was written.
After the work had been printed and placed on sale, there was discussion in regard to the actual authorship. Many were unwilling to acknowledge that Madam Blavatsky could be sufficiently well informed or intellectually capable of such a production. True that women like Frances Burney had composed romances of high merit. Miss Farley had conducted successfully the " Lowell Offering." Mary Somerville had written on Physical Science, and Harriet Martineau on Political Economy.
A clergyman in New York, a member of the Russian Greek Church, I have been told, affirmed that I was the actual author. That report, however, can hardly have gone far. It would be refuted after the manner that the late Henry Ward Beecher put a stop to a similar one. He tells us that when Uncle Tom's Cabin was published there were many who insisted that he, and not Mrs. Stowe was the author. "Then," says Mr. Beecher, "I wrote Norwood," which entirely disposed of the matter. So, too, nobody familiar with my style of writing would ever impute to me the authorship of Isis Unveiled.
I would hesitate, likewise, to be considered in any noteworthy sense as an editor of the work. It is true that after Mr. Bouton had agreed to become the publisher, I was asked to read the proof sheets and make sure that the Hebrew words and terms belonging to other languages were correctly given by the printer, but I added nothing, and do not remember that I ventured to control anything that was contributed to the work. Without her knowledge and approval, such action would have been reprehensible.
While she was engaged in the work, she had many books relating to the various topics, evidently for consultation. There were Jacolliot's work on India, Bunsen's Egypt, Ennemoser's History of Magic and others. I had myself written papers upon a variety of subjects for the Phrenological Journal and other periodicals, and she had procured many of them. We often discussed the topics, and their various characteristics, for she was a superior conversationalist and at home on every matter about which we discoursed. She spoke the English language with the fluency of one perfectly familiar with it, and who thought in it. It was the same to me as though talking with any man of my acquaintance. She was ready to take the idea as it was expressed, and uttered her own thoughts clearly, concisely and often forcibly. Some of the words which she employed had characteristics which indicated their source. Any thing which she did not approve or hold in respect she promptly disposed of as "flapdoodle." I have never heard or encountered the term elsewhere. Not even the acts or projects of Colonel Olcott escaped such scathing, and in fact he not unfrequently came under her scorching criticism. He writhed under it, but, except for making some brief expression at the time, he did not appear to cherish resentment.
In regard to the genuineness of her authorship, a story was once told me, which has been imagined by some to have a direct relation to the matter. I suppose this to be the occasion of several letters addressed to me upon the subject. My informant was the late Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson of Boston. Mrs. Thompson was a woman of wealth, abounding with benevolent purposes, but eager for novelties that were more or less visionary, shifting from one pursuit to another, and accessible to flattery. For example, she gave the money which enabled a medical college to hold several lecture terms, and then let the enterprise die out; she paid for building a chapel for the sessions of the Summer School of Philosophy at Concord, and then tired of the enterprise; she aided Dr. Newbrough with money to print his new bible Oahspe, and employed the artist, Mr. Frank Carpenter, to paint the picture of President Lincoln and his cabinet, which she presented to Congress. The wealth which her husband had bequeathed to her became a bait for all manner of parasites to seek her, and flattery artfully bestowed was often like the magical words: "Open, sesame," sure to find the way to her purse. But she quickly dropped one for another.
For a little time she was attracted to Madam Blavatsky. This was somewhat to be wondered at, for it is hard to conceive that Madam Blavatsky flattered anybody. She did not hesitate to tell Henry Ward Beecher when he was at the height of his popularity, that he was not an honest public teacher.
It might be questioned whether Mrs. Thompson herself was quite sincere. I remember meeting her one day at dinner at the flat. A statement which I made was imputed by Colonel Olcott to the "Astral light."
Some days later, I saw Mrs. Thompson at her own premises, and she asked me my opinion in a manner that impressed me that she was hardly straightforward in her relations with the Theosophical household.
A year or so afterward, they had left New York for India. Mrs. Thompson had become an inmate of the family of Dr. Newbrough on West 34th Street. He was endeavoring to push the "new Bible" into circulation. I called there one day by invitation, and learning that she had rooms in the house, paid her my respects. In our conversation, Madam Blavatsky was mentioned, and Mrs. Thompson spoke of her in these terms:
"If Madam Blavatsky should come in at that door I should kiss her affectionately. At the same time I believe her to be a perfect humbug."'
She then related the following story: Baron de Palm, a German gentleman, who spent some time in this country, had died in Roosevelt Hospital. He had devoted much attention to arcane subjects, and had written upon them. He was intimate with the party on 47th Street, and made them recipients of his property, but with the assurance that his body should be cremated. There was a woman in the household who seems to have become unfriendly and ready to talk at random. She told Mrs. Thompson that after the death of the Baron she was with Madam Blavatsky while examining the contents of his trunks. One of these, the woman said, was full of manuscripts. Madam Blavatsky looked at a few of the pages, and then hastily closed the trunk, making an effort to divert attention in another direction.
Mrs. Thompson apparently believed that this manuscript was the material of the work Isis Unveiled. Certainly she endeavored to give me that impression. But I am not apt at taking hints, and do not like others to suppose that I imply what I do not explicitly say. The giving of hints is hardly an honorable practice; it is an evasion, and often simply the affectation of knowing something beyond which is directly communicated. I never made use of this story, and repeated it only to Dr. R. B. Westbrook, of Philadelphia, and to Colonel Olcott when I next met him in New York.
Several individuals have written letters, as though I knew something that would discredit the sincerity of Madam Blavatsky and the genuineness of the originality of Isis Unveiled. My reply was that she had always dealt justly with me, and I had no disposition to speak unkindly of her. I mean always to avoid being sycophantic or credulous, but I will not recompense fair treatment by evil or unfriendly speaking.
It will readily be perceived that there was really no evidence sufficient to warrant the imputing of the authorship of Isis Unveiled to Baron de Palm. I do not know whether, being of foreign birth, he could write fluently in the English language. It is not known that the manuscript in the trunk was written for publication, or was in any proper book form. Indeed, I have never been informed whether he contemplated such a work, or even that he had sufficient capacity. All this would require to be taken for granted, before it would be permissible to presume any imposture in the authorship.
The manuscript which I handled I am very sure was in the handwriting of Madam Blavatsky herself. Anybody who was familiar with her, would, upon reading the first volume of Isis Unveiled, not have any difficulty in recognizing her as the author. Nor was the manuscript, voluminous as it was, sufficiently extensive to include a large trunk full of written paper. Besides, a full third, or even more, of what was published, was written by Madam Blavatsky after Mr. Bouton had set about putting the work in type. She was by no means expert in preparing her material. She patched and changed, making a very large bill for "alterations." Indeed, she never actually finished the work, the publisher declared to me, till he told her that she must stop.
It had been desired of me that I should read the proofsheets. It was not my province to dictate or even suggest what should be included in the work, and I do not remember taking exception but once. She had described certain medical treatment, with apparent approval, in which mercury was a factor. To this drug I entertain a lifelong antipathy. I have seen individuals "railroaded" out of life by its use as medicine, and others crippled hopelessly. My protestations may have induced her to qualify her eulogy.
She always treated me with courtesy. When her work was most urgent, or she had been wearied with visitors, she commanded the woman at the door to turn off all callers. That prohibition was repeatedly spoken to me, but as she heard my voice, she would call out to admit me. This occurred when the call was not a matter of business. She was ready in conversation, and was at home on any topic, however abstruse. Few persons in any walk of life are as well supplied with material for discourse. Even Colonel Olcott, who was by no means inferior or commonplace, was not her equal except in his own profession.
Believing that the main body of the work would not be sufficiently attractive to purchasers, I urged her to include in it accounts of the marvellous things which she had observed in India. But this she invariably declined to do, saying that it was not permitted by "the Brothers." That was a tribunal that I could not question; my wisdom in the matter was that of the market-place. But she was always ready to hear what I had to say, whether in relation to her work, or to philosophic questions, or to subjects of everyday life. When the printer had placed everything in type, I was employed to prepare the index. Others must judge whether this was done with fidelity. As the author paid for this, and the publisher refrained from advancing a cent for all that I had done in the matter, though careful to make sure of all the proceeds from the sales, it is but just to render the acknowledgement where it is due.
The work was finally completed, and Isis Unveiled was duly issued. The household began at once to make arrangements for leaving New York. Madam Blavatsky visited the Bureau of Naturalization and there became a citizen of the United States. This astonished me, partly because I knew her to be contemplating to leave the country permanently, and partly because she had freely criticized our ways of doing and our politics. She explained that the American nation had the best government. There were probably matters of law involved that I did not know about. Colonel Olcott was a skillful lawyer, and had been employed by the administration at Washington to ferret out alleged violations of law, he knew what would be necessary abroad for a safeguard. As the party after their arrival in India became objects of suspicion as possible spies of the Russian Government, it is not unlikely that the precaution was wise.
Madam Blavatsky wrote to me several times after their arrival at Bombay. She told of many matters of interest to a student in comparative religions, such as I am, and her letters were entertaining as well as instructive. But as time passed, new duties took the place of old recollections. Such events occurred as the break with Dayananda, the leader of the Arya Samaj, an alliance unnatural for Americans of Protestant antecedents, who do not like any one to exercise dominion over their religious beliefs. The Theosophist, however, came regularly to me and was preserved from its first number. This enabled me to keep track of the party, and their doings – till the closing of their present earthly career.
Isis unveiled by Madame H P Blavatsky
The Secret Doctrine by Madame H P Blavatsky
The Theosophical Glossary by Madame H P Blavatsky
Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky
The Word, a monthly magazine edited by H W P
The Lucifer , a monthly magazine edited by Madame Blavatsky
The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley
HPB: an Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Ms. Sylvia Cranston
To the title page with the books by N.C. Ramanujachary.