A PUZZLE IN "ESOTERIC BUDDHISM"
To the Editors of LUCIFER
SINCE the two Editors repeatedly assert their willingness
in their great impartiality to publish even "personal remarks"
upon themselves (Vide Luc. No. 6, p. 432), I avail myself of the
opportunity. Having read "Esoteric Buddhism" with much interest
and general approval of the main drift of its teachings, I am anxious, with
your kind permission, to formulate an objection to some points in Mr. Sinnett's
view of Evolution which have completely staggered my friends and myself.
They appear to upset once and for all the explanation of the origin of man
propounded by that popular author. Mr. Sinnett has, however, so uniformly
expressed his willingness to answer honest criticism that I may, perhaps,
hope for his assistance in solving this difficulty. Meanwhile, despite my
favourable bias towards Theosophy, I must, perforce, express my conviction
that one aspect of the Esoteric Doctrine--supposing of course that Mr.
Sinnett is to be regarded as absolutely authoritative on the point--is
opposed to Science. The point is one of fundamental importance as will
be readily recognised by all--except, perhaps, by some too . . . well, too
In "Esoteric Buddhism" we are confronted with a general acceptance
of Darwinism. Physical Man, in particular, is said to have been evolved
from ape ancestors.
Man, says the Darwinian, was once an ape. Quite true. But the
ape known (??) to the Darwinian will not change from generation to generation
till the tail disappears and the hands turn into feet and so on . . . if
we go back far enough we come to a period at which there were no human
forms ready developed on earth. When spiritual monads, travelling on
the earliest or lowest human level, were thus beginning to come round (the
Planetary chain to this globe) their onward pressure in a world
containing none but animal forms provoked the improvement of the highest
of these into the required form-- the much talked of missing link.--("Esoteric
Buddhism," 5th ed. pp. 42-3.)
The mineral kingdom will no more develop the vegetable kingdom . . .
until it receives an impulse from without than the Earth was able to
develop man from the ape till it received an impulse from without.
Ibid. p. 48.
The theory here broached is to the effect that the development of the
ape into man was brought about by the incarnation of Human Egos from the
last planet in the septenary chain of globes. I may here remark that in
referring to our supposed animal progenitors as the apes "known"
to the Darwinian, Mr. Sinnett exceeds in audacity the boldest Evolutionist.
For this hypothetical creature is not known at all, being conspicuous by
its absence from any deposits yet explored. This, however, is a minor point.
The real indictment to which I have been leading up is to follow.
We are told that occultists divide the term of Human existence on this
planet into seven great Race Periods. At the present time the 5th of these
races, the Aryan, is in the ascendant, while the 84th is still represented
by teeming populaces. The 3rd is almost extinct. Now on page 64 of "Esoteric
Buddhism" we are told regarding the 4th Race men that:
In the Eocene Age even in its very first part, the great cycle of
the 4th Race Men, the Atlanteans had already reached its highest point.
Here, then, is a distinct landmark in the Esoteric Chronology pointed
out to us. Summarizing these data we find ourselves confronted with the
(1.) Humanity was developed physically from apes.
(2.) The 4th Race reached its prime at the commencement of the
Eocene Age of Geology.
(3.) The three first Races (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) must therefore
have antedated the Eocene Age by an enormous extent of time, even if we
allow a much shorter period for their development than for the 4th and 5th.
The 1st race, in fact, must have preceded the Tertiary Period by several
millions of years.
(4.) This pre-Tertiary 1st Race was therefore derived from a still
earlier ape stock.
At this point the fabric of theory collapses. Is it necessary to say
that Science has been unable to find a trace of an anthropoid ape previous
even to the relatively late Miocene Age? Now the Eocene precede
the Miocene rocks, and the 1st Race, as already shown, must have antedated
even the era of the Eocene; it must have stretched far back into that dim
and distant past when the chalk cliffs of the Secondary period were deposited!
How then can Mr. Sinnett claim his view of Human Evolution as merely "complementary"
to Darwin's, when he binds himself to a chronology compared with the duration
of which the Evolutionist one sinks into insignificance? Palaeontologists
unanimously refuse to admit the existence of the higher apes previous to
the Tertiary Period, and Darwin would have smiled at the notion. As a matter
of fact, only the very lowest mammalians had made their appearance
before the Eocene strata were formed. This is the view of the Science to
which Mr. Sinnett invites us to bow with due reverence. Apparently he has
been unconsciously nursing a viper in his bosom, for the same Science now
"turns and strikes him." I ask, How THEN WAS THE
1ST RACE EVOLVED FROM APES AEONS OF YEARS BEFORE SUCH APES EXISTED?
If Mr. Sinnett will kindly return a satisfactory answer to this query, he
will have largely contributed to relieve the intellectual difficulties in
the way of--
AN AGNOSTIC STUDENT OF
April 20th, Aberdeen
EDITORS' NOTE.--The above letter
is an arraignment either of the Esoteric Doctrine or of its expounders.
Now the doctrine itself is unassailable, though its expounders may often
make mistakes in their presentation of it; particularly when, as in the
case of the author of "Esoteric Buddhism," the writer was only
very partially informed upon the subjects he treats of.
Leaving the author of "Esoteric Buddhism" to answer the criticism
for himself, one of the editors of LUCIFER, as a person
indirectly concerned with the production of the said work, begs the privilege
of saying a few words upon the subject. It was as a special favour to herself
that the teachings contained in Mr. Sinnett's volume were first begun; she
was the only one of the party concerned with these studies who had received
for a series of years instruction in them. Therefore no one can know better
than herself what was, or was not, meant in such or another tenet of this
Our correspondent should bear in mind therefore,
(a.) At the time of the publication of "Esoteric Buddhism"
(Budhism1 would be more correct) the
available Occult data were comparatively scanty in its author's hands. Otherwise,
he would not have seemed to derive man from the ape--a theory absurd and
impossible in the sight of the MASTERS.
(b.) Only a tentative effort was being cautiously made to test
the readiness of the public to assimilate the elements of Esoteric philosophy.
For Mr. Sinnett was left largely to his own resources and speculations
and very naturally followed the bent of his own mind, which, though greatly
favouring esoteric philosophy, was, nevertheless, decidedly biassed by modern
science. Consequently, the revelations then broached were purposely designed
to rather afford a bird's-eye view of the doctrine than to render a detailed
treatment of any special problem possible. The teachings were not given
at first with the object of publication. No regular systematic teaching
was ever contemplated, nor could it be so given to a layman; therefore that
teaching consisted of detached bits of information in the shape of answers
in private letters to questions offered upon most varied subjects, on Cosmogony
and Psychology, Theogony and Anthropology, and so on. Moreover, more queries
were left without any reply and full explanation refused--as the latter
belong to the mysteries of Eastern Initiation--than there were problems
solved. This has, subsequently, proved a very wise policy. It is not at
this stage of absolute materialism on the one hand, of cautious agnosticism
on the other, and of fluctuating uncertainty as regards almost every individual
speculation among the most eminent men of Science, that the full revelation
of the archaic scheme of anthropology would be advisable. In the days of
Pythagoras the heliocentric system was a mystery taught only in the silence
and secrecy of the inner Temples; and Socrates was put to death for divulging
it, under the inspiration of his DAIMON. Now-a-day,
the revealers of systems which clash with religion or science are not put
to physical death, but they are slowly tortured to their dying hour with
open calumny and secret persecutions, when ridicule proves to be of no avail.
Thus, a full statement of even an abridged and hardly defined "Esoteric
Budhism" would do more harm than good. Only certain portions of
it can be given, and they will be given very soon.
Nevertheless, as our critic readily admits, all these difficulties not
withstanding, Mr. Sinnett has produced a most interesting and valuable work.
That, in his too exaggerated respect and admiration for modern science,
he seems to have somewhat materialized the teachings is what every metaphysician
will admit. But it is also true, that the writer of "Esoteric Buddhism"
would be the last man to claim any more "authoritative character"
for his book, than what is given to it by the few verbatim quotations from
the teachings of a Master, more particularly when treating of such moot
questions as that of Evolution. The point on which his critic lays such
stress--the incompatibility of the statements made in his work as to the
origin of Man on this planet--certainly invalidates Mr. Sinnett's attempted
reconciliation (if it is such) of the Darwinian and Esoteric Schemes of
human evolution. But at this every true Theosophist, who expects no recognition
of the truths he believes in at present, but feels sure of their subsequent
triumph at a future day, can only rejoice. Scientific theories or rather
conjectures are really too materialistic to be reconciled with "Esoteric
As the whole problem, however, is one of great complexity it would be
out of the question to do any justice to it in the space of a brief note.
The "Budhism" of the archaic, prehistoric ages is not a
subject that can be disposed of in a single little volume. Suffice it to
say that the larger portion of the coming "Secret Doctrine" is
devoted to the elucidation of the true esoteric views as to Man's origin
and social development--hardly mentioned in Esoteric Buddhism. And
to this source we must be permitted to refer the inquirer.
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer. May, 1888
1 Budhism would mean
"Wisdom," from Budha "a sage," "a
wise man," and the imperative verb "Budhyadhwan" "Know,"
and Buddhism is the religious philosophy of Gautama, the Buddha.
As Dr. H. H. Wilson very truly remarks in his translation of Vishnu Purana,
"Much erroneous speculation has originated in confounding Budha, the
son of Soma (the Moon) and the regent of the planet Mercury--'he who knows'
'the intelligent,'--with Buddha, any deified (?) mortal, or 'he by whom
truth is known,' or as individually applicable, Gautama or Sakya, Son of
the Raja Suddho-dana. The two characters have nothing in common- and the
names are identical, only when one or other is misspelt." "Budhism"
has preceded Buddhism by long ages and is pre-Vedic.
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