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Blavatsky Net - Theosophy

This site focuses on Madame Blavatsky and her teaching - Theosophy. It features an introduction to Theosophy, study aids, research tools, original text, supporting evidence, membership, and visitor interaction.

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Blavatsky was the first person
to use the phrase "Intelligent Design" in a book

The phrase "intelligent design" can be found in an 1847 issue of Scientific American but it is unrelated to the current meaning of the term.

The phrase was used in an address to the 1873 annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science by botanist George James Allman (a followerer of William Paley):

No physical hypothesis founded on any indisputable fact has yet explained the origin of the primordial protoplasm, and, above all, of its marvellous properties, which render evolution possible - in heredity and in adaptability, for these properties are the cause and not the effect of evolution. For the cause of this cause we have sought in vain among the physical forces which surround us, until we are at last compelled to rest upon an independent volition, a far-seeing intelligent design. ('The British Association', The Times, Saturday, 20 September, 1873; pg. 10; col A.) 1
Subsequent to Blavatsky's use of the phrase it was used by Schiller:
It will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design. 2

However Helena Blavatsky was the first person to use the phrase in a published book. She uses it in her master work "The Secret Doctrine" published nine years earlier in 1888. Moreover she was not hypothesizing in an essay on what "could not be ruled out" as Schiller was in this quote. Instead she was actively asserting intelligent design as a property of life in her comprehensive 1500 page book.

According to Blavatsky, Dr. Bourges, a member of the Paris Anthropological Society had read a paper of his before that French group (presumably in French) entitled "Evolutionary Psychology; the Evolution of Spirit, etc." Blavatsky referenced his paper because he mentioned a Theosophical idea of combining evolution of both spirit and mater. She was attempting to draw upon whatever scientific evidence she could to buttress her Theosophical claims. So she wrote:

He explains the origin of the variety of organic forms, made to fit their environments with such evident intelligent design, by the existence and the mutual help and interaction of two principles in (manifest) nature, the inner Conscious Principle adapting itself to physical nature and the innate potentialities in the latter. (The Secret Doctrine volume 2, page 654)
In another case she specifically refers to "design" and to "designers" (plural). After disclaiming a kind of theistic "special creation," she proceeds to describe the "designers" of Theosophy:
This is, again, no "special creation," nor is there any "Design," except in the general "ground-plan" worked out by the universal law. But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown (on our plane) Master Mason - the ONE LIFE and Law. Belonging to this sphere, they have no hand in, or possibility of working on any other, during the present Manvantara, at any rate. That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for. In the creation of new species, departing sometimes very widely from the Parent stock, as in the great variety of the genus Felis-like the lynx, the tiger, the cat, etc.-it is the "designers" who direct the new evolution by adding to, or depriving the species of certain appendages, either needed or becoming useless in the new environments. Thus, when we say that Nature provides for every animal and plant, whether large or small, we speak correctly. For, it is those terrestrial spirits of Nature, who form the aggregated Nature; which, if it fails occasionally in its design, is neither to be considered blind, nor to be taxed with the failure; since, belonging to a differentiated sum of qualities and attributes, it is in virtue of that alone conditioned and imperfect. (Secret Doctrine vol II p 732)
Both of these quotes were from her magnum opus that was prefaced with words that aimed directly at Darwinism:
The aim of this work may be thus stated: to show that Nature is not "a fortuitous concurrence of atoms," and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring; finally, to show that the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilization.(preface Secret Doctrine)
Here she explains that the second of her two volume Secret Doctrine is "the best possible answer to such a worthless contention" [of man descending from ape]:
The pendulum of thought oscillates between extremes. Having now finally emancipated herself from the shackles of theology, Science has embraced the opposite fallacy; and in the attempt to interpret Nature on purely materialistic lines, she has built up that most extravagant theory of the ages - the derivation of man from a ferocious and brutal ape. So rooted has this doctrine, in one form or another, now become, that the most Herculean efforts will be needed to bring about its final rejection. The Darwinian anthropology is the incubus of the ethnologist, a sturdy child of modern Materialism, which has grown up and acquired increasing vigour, as the ineptitude of the theological legend of Man's "creation" became more and more apparent. It has thriven on account of the strange delusion that - as a scientist of repute puts it - "All hypotheses and theories with respect to the rise of man can be reduced to two (the Evolutionist and the Biblical exoteric account)... There is no other hypothesis conceivable..."!! The anthropology of the secret volume is, however, the best possible answer to such a worthless contention. (Secret Doctrine vol II p 689.)
In one other case Blavatsky uses the exact phrase "intelligent design" in a posthumously published article hand-written three years earlier in 1885.

The "Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky" says:


[The following is the draft of an essay in the handwriting of H. P. B. which is in the Archives of The Theosophical Society, Adyar, India. It is probable that it was left there by H. P. B. when she went to Europe in 1885, not to return to India. It has no title, and the one above has been provisionally supplied by C. Jinarājadāsa when he published this essay in The Theosophist. December, 1925. The manuscript consists of four foolscap pages, and its continuation is missing. The original punctuation has been left unaltered, even though some of the sentences are exceedingly long and somewhat involved.-Compiler.] --

On the other hand the design displayed in the mechanism, the order shown in the preservation=destruction and renewal of things forbid us to regard the world as the offspring of chance, and force us to recognize an intelligent design. Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky vol vI p 316

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design
2. Jonathan Witt Ph.D Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute "The Origin of Intelligent Design: A brief history of the scientific theory of Intelligent Design" The Origins of Intelligent Design.pdf. Schiller's essay first appeared in "Contemporary Review" in June 1897.

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