I have concentrated on the handwriting aspect of the Hodgson Report, partly because it forms a major part of his thesis and I am here playing on my home ground, but more importantly because every thing I have stated can be checked independently. We do not have to rely on the testimony of long-dead witnesses. The witness here - and an eloquent one - is the Hodgson Report itself.
As detailed examination of this Report proceeds, one becomes more and more aware that, whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate HPB, he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favour. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity. As an investigator, Hodgson is weighed in the balances and found wanting. His case against Madame H. P. Blavatsky is not proven.
I cannot exonerate the SPR committee from blame for publishing this thoroughly bad report. They seem to have done little more than rubber-stamp Hodgson's opinions; and no serious attempt was made to check his findings or even to read his report critically. If they had done so, its errors of procedure, its inconsistencies, its faulty reasoning and bias, its hostility towards the subject and its contempt for the 'native' and other witnesses, would have become apparent; and the case would have been referred back for further study. Madame H. P. Blavatsky was the most important occultist ever to appear before the SPR for investigation; and never was opportunity so wasted. Nor can I exonerate the quondam Council of the Theosophical Society for their failure to allow their founder fair defence. They seemed concerned only with saving their own reputations. Whether she was impostor or not, HPB was entitled to a fair hearing. She never had it. Had she been allowed the legal and expert help she begged for, both Hodgson and the Society for Psychical Research would have been in dire trouble. It is a thing most wonderful that Hodgson was able so completely to bamboozle, not only Netherelift and Mr. Sims of the British Museum, but also men and women of the calibre of Myers, Gurney and Mrs. Sidgwick-not to mention several generations of psychical researchers since the 1885 Report was published. On l4 January 1886, Madame Blavatsky wrote:
'That Mr. Hodgson's elaborate but misdirected inquiries, his affected precision, which spends infinite patience over trifles and is blind to facts of importance, his contradictory reasoning and his manifold incapacity to deal with such problems as those he endeavoured to solve, will be exposed by other writers in due course - I make no doubt.'
I apologize to her that it has taken us one hundred years to demonstrate that she wrote truly.
Editorial Note to Vernon Harrison's article 'J'Accuse'
In December, 1885, The Society for Psychical Research published in its Proceedings (Part IX, pp. 201-400) the 'Report of the Committee appointed to investigate Phenomena Connected with the Theosophical Society'. The Committee consisted of F. Gurney, F. W. H. Myers,.F. Podmore, H. Sidgwick, J. H. Stack, R. Hodgson and Mrs H. Sidgwick. The main bulk of this publication was the account written by Richard Hodgson who, at the behest of the Society had gone to India to investigate further the activities of Mme. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder with Col. H. S. Olcott, in 1875, of the Theosophical Society. Mme. Blavatsky was credited with a variety of paranormal phenomena but the Committee, in their Conclusions accuse her of gross fraud and of being an impostor. Although, as it has been repeatedly pointed out, The S.P.R. holds no corporate opinions, it has widely been regarded as responsible for endorsing the 'Hodgson Report' (as we shall hereafter refer to the report as a whole) and hence as being on record as condemning Mme. Blavatsky. Members of the Theosophical Society have, naturally, resented this slur on the good name of their founder and have repeatedly challenged the Report's conclusions. For many years, Walter A. Carrithers, not a member of the Theosophical Society but a long-standing member of the S.P.R., who has written extensively on the case some of which is published under the pen-name 'Adlai Waterman', has campaigned to get the S.P.R. Council to disown, publicly, the Report. in April 1983, Mr. Leslie Price, a member of the S.P.R. Library Committee and, since January 1985, editor of the new quarterly Theosophical History, gave one of the S.P.R. Lectures with the title 'Madame Blavatsky Unveiled?' (which is to be published early in 1986 by the Theosophical History Centre) in which he, too, criticizes Hodgson's methods and arguments. In this issue of our Journal, coming as it does almost exactly one hundred years after the publication of the Hodgson Report, we are happy, in the interests of truth and fair play, and to make amends for whatever offence we may have given, to publish here one such critical analysis by a hand-writing expert. His expertise is of special relevance in this instance since much of the Hodgson Report concerns the authorship of certain letters which Hodgson claims were forged by Mme. Blavatsky herself Dr. Vernon Harrison, a past president of the Royal Photographic Society, was, for ten years, Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, printers of banknotes, passports and stamps etc., so there is probably not much that he does not know about forgery. He is not a member of the Theosophical Society but he is a long-standing member of the S.P.R. Whether readers agree or disagree with his conclusions, we are pleased to offer him the hospitality of our columns and we hope that, hereafter, Theosophists, and, indeed, all who care for the reputation of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, will look upon us in a more kindly light.
The Blavatsky/Tibet connection that should be sought is the Indo-Persian alchemical Tantric tradition (bhutas-suddha) that is shared as the tantric core of Bon (a Central Asian religion from Persian sources that enters Tibet as a heterodox form of Buddhism, called "Bodhism" throughout the region and from which the Nyingmapas break off in favor of the Buddhism presented in the new translations - see Snellgrove's two volume history as well as John Myrdhin Reynolds work and Donatella Rossi's new book on Bon). The Central Asian Dzog chen is common to and found within Bon, Nyingmapa lineage, as well as in some northern Indian elements of the Sikhs, Nathas.
Regarding Blavatsky's oriental sources people seem ignorantly fixated on looking either at Tibet or India without getting current on the history of Central Asian religion. That is the direction and region that one academic reviewer of Paul Johnson's book, who generally praised it, Professor James Robinson (expert on both gnosticism and Tibetan Buddhism - fellow student with Jeff Hopkins, Anne Klein, Wallace, Reynolds and studied under Geshe Sopa) thinks is the place to look for HPB's sources. Paul Johnson's book provide the best historical clues, in light of our growing knowledge of the region, of re-connecting up with any "order" that the mahatmas may have been a part of - if such existed or exists now. The evidence from Tun huang is conclusive. The pudgalavadins, condemned as heretical in India despite being over 80,000 strong even after persecution from the other Buddhist sects, become a form of pudgalavadin yogacarya Buddhism in Central Asia where they survive. This Buddhism becomes the Central Asian Dzog chen attested by the original texts found at Tun huang (now acknowledged to profoundly modify Nyingmapas sense of their own history by Dzog chen master Namkhai Norbu and others) which affirms that anatman only denies a self (purusa) autonomous (atman, related to atom, auto, autonomous) from conditioned co-production and not a continuous person (pudgala bhavana) or personal continuum. It is this source, BTW, that Guenon affirmed was the source of HPB's theosophy mixed and corrupted by 19th century occultism and freemasonry.
Both Bon and Nyingmapa sources affirm, that Dzog chen comes to Tibet from the northwest - from a persiansource (repeated in earlier Nyingmapa sources but affirmed by the great 19 century Nyingmapa scholar and practitioner, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye) and from Oddiyana in Shambhalla (the Tun huang and Central Asian Buddhist texts recovered by Emmerich and discussed by snellgrove and taught as part of recovered Buddhist history in Dharmasala identify this region as "Shamis en Balkh" - modern day Balkh in Afghanistan where ruins of many Buddhist stupas and monasteries still exist). Tun huang sources also show that a possible Bon is the pudgalavadin version of Buddhism coming into Tibet BEFORE orthodox versions make it in. The Nyingmapas, as also affirmed by Kongtrul and Longchenpo, split off from the Bon when the new translations begin in Tibet. Western scholarship tended to disbelieve this until documentation from original sources and contemporary with the time were found to substantiate it. As the other Tibetan Buddhist lineages have always suspected, Dzog chen is not quite orthodox Buddhism but a heterodox form of it. But whether or not Dzog chen was originally non-Buddhist altogether, heterodox Buddhist Bon or pudgalavadin or whatever). Since nothing in Tibet matches HPB yet nothing in India matches her views either, again, what is the objection to looking in Central Asia except those interested lack the academic or secondhand competence to intelligently look there? Tibetan is an equivocal term. It could mean linguistic, racial, religious, political, or geographical. Tibet had colonies. Some are still under the Dalai lama: Bhutan, Mustang. Neither Buddhism nr Bon exhaust the religious landscape there. HPB says it is northern source and esoteric.
As far as "brotherhoods," Central Asia is replete with them and with legends about other brotherhoods that possess ancient knowledge or wisdom. The examples that come to mind are the Naqshibandi Sufis (whose Golden Chain lineage is in the Caucasus), the Khwajagan, the Ashokhs (bards), and before these, Manichaean illuminati and Zoroastrian Magi. Some legends tell of brotherhoods (usually Buddhist and connected with Shambhalla or Manjusri traditions) partly in other dimensions intersecting this world, so to speak. The idea of brotherhoods possessing ancient wisdom is a central and recurring motif in the folklore of the region. Since Central Asia is geographically and culturally divided, there have been several attempts to unite all traditions as exoteric descendents of a great and hidden primordial Wisdom Tradition. Perhaps the earliest strata of such a view is the legacy of the Indo-European tribal traditions of a shared wisdom they all descended from overlaid and reinforced by Indian (Vedic) and Iranian (Avestan) traditions claiming the same thing (as legacies from a proto-Indo-European culture). This common and shared cultural legacy might form part of the basis for HPB's belief in a Wisdom Religion (that supposedly was the true "Vedic Gupta Vidya" Brahminism or true "Buddhist" restoration of it - if we accept her mindset for awhile).
Next, there is the strata of Buddhism. Buddhism spread throughout Central Asia and long thrived there as the "Wisdom" tradition long before it reached Tibet. Scholars have recently claimed that Bon is indeed, not the indigenous religion of Tibet (which it never claimed to be), but from Central Asia/Persia (as it claims). It certainly incorporates both Buddhist and Zoroastrian materials. And the form of Buddhism of a number of Central Asian tribal groups is really Bon. This second strata, both as cultural legend about the region's past and as living tradition amongst some tribal groups, probably influenced HPB also. Consider:
1. Central Asian Bon/Buddhist groups claim that the large group of Buddhists that were declared heterodox in India and suppressed there migrated to Central Asia. These were the Pudgalavadins (personalists) who qualified the strict anatman view of other Buddhists. There is not a static and self-sufficient self but there is a dynamic person. HPB claims a northern esoteric Buddhism as a source but several have correctly charged that her "Buddhism" seems to compromise the anatman doctrine. Some have suggested that she incorporated Hindu elements into her theosophy. While this might partly be true, it might also be the case that her northern Buddhist source is heterodox. In fact, if this is the case, such a source might have convinced her that the incorporation of Hindu elements was warranted as a reconstruction of an original "Wisdom Religion." This pudgalavadin dispersion seems to be one factor in what was to become Bon.
2. The Bon cosmology with its higher bodies is identical to that of Buddhism and Hinduism except that some shamanic and Central Asian traditions inspired by Zoroastrian, Sufi, and perhaps, Taoist sources add another body (kesdjan or hurqalyi) that is not found in Hinduism or Buddhism but is found in Sikhism, Central Asian Bon, and HPB's theosophy (where it is the astral body).
3. Unlike Buddhism's patriarchal bias, the feminine has a bigger place in Bon. In Zoroastrianism, there is the celestial and feminine Daena (Arm. den, Persian, den) that is the heavenly archetype of the soul. Its twin. Now, both Bon and more orthodox forms of Tantric Buddhism have Dzog chen.
But Bon Dzog chen has a feminine divine source within a strongly and recognizably Zoroastrian mythic framework. When Central Asian Bon "lamas" recite a sutra about origins, it sounds like something HPB's Stanzas of Dyzan are drawn from. And both Bon and HPB's Stanzas posit a feminine source unlike more orthodox forms of Buddhism.
Returning to strata in Central Asian legends and traditions about a "Wisdom Religion"," thirdly came Manichaeanism which became the official state religion of the Uighurian Turks in the region. Manichaeanism was the first explicitly syncretistic and ecumenical religion in history claiming to restore the lost primordial wisdom or gnosis or jnana. Manichaeanism continues to exert the legacy of its influence throughout the region's legends and folklore. I'm told there are still Manichaeans in Central Asia but I haven't met one. But this would certainly reinforce rumors of a "Wisdom Religion."
Fourth, came Islam. Islam's apologetics seems to borrowed heavily from Mani in claiming it was the pure and restored revelation primoridally given to Adam, then to Abraham, and finally to Muhammed. Sufi groups developed this line even more in a way that resembles borrowing from Mani (not doctrine but PR techniques - apologetics). And in Central Asian, brotherhoods arise, such as the Khwajagan and other Sufi orders, that encouraged the idea of brotherhoods guarding secret wisdom.
Fifth, there is an interesting failed experiment that was an attempt to syncretistically recreate the alleged "Wisdom Religion" out of Zoroastrianism, Chaldean Neo-platonic and Hermetic traditions, Hinduism, and Islam under the Mongols that did influence HPB. It failed but one literary product survived. Zoroastrians believed, for a while, that this literary remain was a Zoroastrian scripture. Mesopotamian Jews called it the Chaldean Cabala while Aisors referred to it as the true Chaldean Oracles. As several theosophical and non-theosophical sources note, this book was a big influence in early theosophy. It may be the book HPB says was shown to her. It is the Dasatir. It's cosmology is somewhat disappointing but it sure lends support for a belief in a primordial wisdom tradition perserved by a lineage of masters. But, that is what the Mongol ruler wanted it to do in order to have peace in his kingdom.
Sixth, Kabir and the Sikhs arise and encourage and reinforce this same mindset that all faiths descend from one Wisdom Tradition. Sikh groups certainly stilled believed this in HPB's time and were politically engaged in a way that HPB might have sympathesized with and maybe misread. But some Sikhs combined the Buddhist/Hindu cosmology of higher bodies with the idea of an emotional body of the imagination drawn from Sufi and Central Asian sources (the hurqalyi through them, I hypothesize, becomes HPB's astral body).
The idea of a "great white brotherhood" does not seem to exist outside TS circles nor before HPB.
The other thing I would add is that HPB's own way of conceptualizing things seems to have a heavy dose of freemasonry combined with the perspectives and expectations of a Russian aristocrat. So even her own real views about Central Asian brotherhoods may mislead the historical investigator interested in researching them. Godwin's book brings out an aspect of Theosophy that reveals the Euro-centric biases of its founders. Unfortunately, he restricts his attention to Britain. There were (are) two major politico-religious tensions in the region that HPB might have ironically been both sensitive too and misperceived because of her own background. First, within Imperial Russia, there was a major tension between the Muscovy project of rapid modernization and westernization of the Russia Empire, and the more oriental politico-religious and ethnic factors that resisted this 300 year project of the Romanovs. Within the Romanov project, there were contending elements between the Russian Orthodox Church, atheistic secularists and positivists, and the religious "enlightenment" groups associated with Freemasonry. Eventually, it will be due to the mass discontent and social upheaval caused by this project that will lead to the rise of the Bolshies, also lead to their downfall, and now faces Russia today. Anyway, the religious "enlightenment" more or less tied to Freemasonry was a formative influence on HPB that might ave given her a somewhat misguided perspective on things political, religious, and oriental. The second major tension was between the Russian Empire and those ethnic groups who did not want to be part of it whether they were inorporated in it or not. Today, we still see breakaway republics. Just look at the internal campaigns that engaged the Russian military at the time. The Caucasus was the location of a protracted war between Imperial Russian forces and the Muslim Cossacks of Shamil (a Naqshibandhi Sheikyh, btw). Central Asian is not a political unity. Never was. Groups that cooperated with Russia were usually trying to keep Turks or Brits at bay and vice versa. Brotherhoods that were politically active were seeking independence and not a part in a pan-Euro-centric religious "enlightenment." Most brotherhoods were not politically active but rather were sanctums against the on-going violence and vicious round (i.e., samsara) of history as wars, rumors of wars, and peace as temporary subjection to an alien power.
So, HPB, despite her sympathies with Asian religions, peoples, and brotherhoods, might have partly misunderstood the political dynamics and objectives of even her sources and supporters. I mention this for two reasons. I think both the invention, and eventual disappearance of "support" from a "higher source" of the TS reflects HPB's reading and misreading of the nature of Asian brotherhoods. Second, her freemason spectacles may not only reinforce the picture of the masters and great white brotherhood of the "true believer" in the TS, but also, may mislead the historical investigator. If it is assumed that the sources of HPB is being sought fits the freemason template, the thing to be found might be overlooked. If such a mindset was how HPB saw things herself, it might be one of the factors in what seem to be her political misreading of the prospects of the TS. The freemasons might have been a very effective "political" network in Europe and Imperial Russia but Asian brotherhoods were not and likely disinclined to such a project. The Sikh connection that has been made is good. The Sikh's were engaged realizing objectives that coincided with those of HPB, at least, for a while. And some lineages within Sikhism combine both Hindu/ Buddhist and Sufi cosmological elements in a way that closely resembles the cosmology of HPB (see my comments on higher bodies for one bit of evidence). But from a non-Euro-centric perspective, the TS looks too much like western Enlightenment a la Freemasonry style. HPB's astral realm, as noted by scholars and Buddhist as well as Hindu scholar-practitioners, is not found in Buddhist nor Hindu theory of planes (bhumi) nor bodies (sarira) nor sheaths (kosa). She added that. The astral plane of Theosophy comes from Muslim sources, in fact, Sufi Sheikhi illuminationist sources where it is called Hurqalya (Latin, medio mundi of Hermeticists) and the astral body (Latin, caro astralis of Hermeticists, okhema symphyes of the theurgic Neo-platonists) is hurqalyi jism. This addition is rejected by Buddhists and Hindus. There is the physical body (stula sarira) with its two sheaths (the chemical crust or food sheath - annamayakosa and vital sheath - pranamayakosa). Next, where HPB's astral body should be (which both Buddhism and Hinduism reject) there is nothing. Instead, the next higher body is the subtle body (suksma sarira) with its two sheaths (the lower mental or manomayakosa and higher mental-intellectual or buddhimayakosa or vijnanamayakosa). Finally, there is the causal body (sarira karana), which in the unenlightened state, has the blissful ignorance sheath (ajnanamayakosa or anandamayakosa that is also the alaya vijnana as the depth dynamics of ignorance) but is to be replaced, in enlightenment, with the trikaya. The only traditions that use this scheme of planes (bhumis) and corresponding bodies (sariras) AND WHICH HAVE an added astral plane and astral body between the physical body and its two sheaths and the subtle body with its lower and higher mental sheaths BESIDES THEOSOPHY is Central Asian Bon Dzog chen (the Kalmucks and Mongols, with whom HPB had early contact, add astral component based on their residual shamanic traditions and practices that are incorporated within their brand of not quite orthodox Buddhism) and some aspects of the Sikh religion (that incorporated Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi material). So, if one wishes to not say HPB made it all up, or that she did a botched job of interpreting Hinduism or Buddhism teaching on planes and bodies, but instead, wishes to search for historically verifiable sources (and one isn't a true believer in white brotherhood, but agrees with K.P. Johnson's evidence from HPB herself that she masked her teachers identities by making them bigger than life) then the fact that it is only the Central Asian and Sikh traditions that combine the Hindu-Buddhist scheme with a shamanic-Sufi astral plane and body should indicate to any rational investigator that her sources might come from these traditions.
Another source of HPB is her self-education that both gave her valuable clues and, I suspect, somewhat jaundiced views because she got them out of a private Russian library early. From peasant stock, Gurdjieff, by contrast, may seem much more egnimatic but his language and mention of groups is readily identifiable by those from the region. So, the sevenfold source of both HPB and his cosmology is clearer in his case. So are some of his historical identifications. The Asholkhs are well know bards of the region. And so is his terminology. For example, parkt i dolg is Zoroastrian in origin but became sort of a linqua franca in the regions religions.
The root, which appears in other G words, is ar- related to artha (asha), rta (Vedic), and others. Parkt means glorious vocation or obligatory destiny for a being of a certain ontological dignity. "i dolg" is genetic case for slang for karmic making (i.e. dokan in Armenian) or making ones destiny by meeting one's obligations to the max. G's kesdjian body is the kes i jan crystalline vajra body created by parkt in Armenian and Central Asian Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. So of both HPB and G sources are the folk traditions of the region. And G shares a more realistic view of brotherhoods as confederations of cooperating orders, some very old and prestigious, but not the luridly Peter Pan-like fantasy of ascended masters as a new polytheism.
Theosophists want bedtime stories. And ascended, they all masterfully were above it all blissfully ever after.
The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research
Registered Office Telephone: 01-937 8984 1
Adam & Eve Mews,
Kensington, London, W8 6UG
News Release ----- Not for publication before 8 May 1986
MADAME BLAVATSKY, CO-FOUNDER OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, WAS UNJUSTLY CONDEMNED, NEW STUDY CONCLUDES
The 'exposure' of the Russian-born occultist, Madame H. P. Blavatsky by the S.P.R. in 1885, is in serious doubt, with the publication in the S.P.R. Journal (Vol.53 April 1986) of a forceful critique of the 1885 report.
The case has been re-examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, who is an expert on forgery. The 1885 report was written mostly by Richard Hodgson, an Australian pioneer of both the British and American S.P.R.'s, who became widely known through the case.
Central to the case were two sets of disputed letters. One set, provided by two dismissed employees of The Theosophical Society at its headquarters in India, were apparently in the handwriting of Madame Blavatsky and implicated her in fraudulent psychic phenomena. The other set, were ostensibly written in support of The Theosophical Society by members of an oriental fraternity, popularly called Mahatmas. Dr. Hodgson accepted the genuineness of the first set. He argued that the Mahatma Letters were spurious productions by Madame Blavatsky and occasional confederates.
Dr. Harrison on the contrary, suggests that it is the incriminating letters that are forgeries, concocted by the ex-employees for revenge; while the bulk of the Mahatma Letters, now preserved in the British Library, are not in Madame Blavatsky's handwriting. disguised or otherwise.
Dr. Harrison concludes;
"As detailed examination of this Report proceeds, one becomes more and more aware that, whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate H.P.B., he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favour. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity.
"As an investigator, Hodgson is weighed in the balances and found wanting. His case against Madame H. P. Blavatsky is not proven."
Much of Dr. Harrison's paper is an examination of the handwriting evidence presented in the 1885 report. He believes this was so weak, partisan and confused that it might just as easily show that Madame Blavatsky wrote "Huckleberry Finn" - or that President Eisenhower wrote the Mahatma Letters.
In an introductory note to the paper, the Editor of the S.P. R., Dr. John Beloff, recalls that other researchers have criticised the 1885 report, and that it had wrongly been taken as expressing an official view of the S.P.R., when in fact the S.P.R. had no opinions. Noting that Dr. Harrison is not a member of The Theosophical Society, but a long-standing member of the S.P.R., Dr. Beloff says;
"Whether readers agree or disagree with his conclusions, we are pleased to offer him the hospitality of our columns and we hope that, hereafter, Theosophists, and, indeed, all who care for the reputation of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, will look upon us in a more kindly light."
Responding to the publication of Dr. Harrison 5 paper, Dr. Hugh Gray, General Secretary of The Theosophical Society in England, said;
"We welcome the publication of Dr. Harrison's findings, which in dependently confirm what many Theosophists have pointed out in the past century. We hope that the Theosophical message in general, and Madame Blavatsky's work in particular, can now be studied without the distraction of the Hodgson allegations."
Dr. Vernon Harrison, who lives in Surrey, may be available for interviews from 6 May onwards. Please contact the S.P.R. in the first instance.
The Society for Psychical Research, as noted above, has no collective views. Thus it was not the S.P.R. which condemned Madame Blavatsky in 1885, but only an S.P.R. Committee, whose report was mostly written by Dr. Hodgson. Similarly, Dr. Harrison's paper represents only his personal views.
Cordial relations have existed between psychical researchers and Theosophists in England for sometime. In 1982, the S.P.R. chose as its centenary president, Professor Arthur Ellison of The City University, a distinguished engineer, psychical researcher and Theosophist.
Madame Blavatsky founded The Theosophical Society with others in New York in 1875, and it is an international body active in more than 60 countries with its headquarters in Adyar, Madras, India. The Society exists to promote a knowledge of Theosophy, a word of Greek origin meaning Divine Wisdom. Madame Blavatsky's main work was "The Secret Doctrine" (1888). She died in London in 1891 at the age of 59.
For further information contact;
The Society for Psychical Research
Tel. 0l 937 8984
The Theosophical Society in England
50 Gloucester Place, London W1H 3HJ
Tel. 01 935 9261
Member of the American Academy of Religions
Since the years 1990's, when Paul Johnson demonstrated conclusively (in his opinion, at least) that Mme Blavatsky's mahatmas were not the mythical "Masters of Wisdom" she had depicted, belonging to a no less mythical secret brotherhood of Tibet, but living human personages of her time, whose true identity could be ascertained, there remained to complete the picture by tracing the sources from which Mme Blavatsky had drawn her ideas, and even her doctrine.
This, the author (Grigor V. Ananikian) attempts to do in his note: "The Blavatsky/Tibet and Stanzas of Dzyan Connection". There being, in his view, no occult School, no high Master to give her the teachings she later communicated to our world, he takes it for granted that H.P.B. did fabricate all, with elements found here and there, from her young days to the time of her public appearance.
Unfortunately, Ananikian's thesis rests on no documented examples, no convincing demonstration, no literary reference. Like a detective, he "hypothesizes", "assumes", "suspects", yet frequently tempers his affirmations with verbs like "may" (13 occurrences) or "seem" (4), along with "maybe" and "probably". Nevertheless, he feels sure of his findings. More than once, H.P.B. is supposed to have "misread", "misperceived", or "misunderstood", what she gathered here and there, or was "influenced" to accept. Thus H.P.B.'s case is finally easily judged.
Still, to any one moderately expert in Theosophy, who is willing to examine with an open mind the author's demonstrations, while keeping in view all that he has learnt of H.P.B.'s life, and her writings, it appears in full light that Ananikian, with his preconceived ideas on the matter, is sadly ignorant of elementary aspects of the subject.
Both Johnson and Ananikian would like their readers to believe that:
In other terms, she had constantly deceived her public, attempting, with a singular perseverance and tenacity, to make believe things that were wrong, or entirely different from what she affirmed. To one truly conversant with Mme Blavatsky's writings, the conclusion cannot be escaped, on the contrary, that the whole stands as solid piece of truth, that pleads for itself, even if one accepts that she was not infallible (as she herself declared).
Concerning her Masters (although she was ordered not to reveal certain of their secrets), why should we doubt her word when she wrote: "Our Mahatmas [...] belong to no sect" (Collected Writings, VI, 38), their doctrine is surely not Lamaist-Buddhism (Coll. Writ. XII, 337). Being no Lamaists, they could not teach Lamaism. Hence why should "reasonable investigators" (including Grigor V. Ananikian) be surprised that "nothing in Tibet matches H.P.B. Yet nothing in India matches her views either" (an exaggeration, by the way, that could be considerably reduced). Alexandra David-Neel met in Tibet many kinds of ascetics and yogis who were not Lamaists. As to India, the Masters repeated in their letters to Sinnett: "we are not Advaitis" (p.58), "were never Advaitis" (p.288).
Although circulating freely through Tibet, India (even Europe), those Masters paid no allegiance to any "official" system, any known School. They often speak of themselves as disciples of esoteric Buddhism (Mah. Let. p.462), "which is nearly identical with the doctrine of esoteric Advaitis" (Coll. Writ. IV, 567). As to H.P.B., she claimed to have learnt from them, and expounded, some of the tenets of "the Aryan-Chaldeo-Tibetan doctrine", as they call the "universal Wisdom-religion" (Coll. Writ. VII, 347). This accounts for the "northern origin" of her Theosophy. Obviously, Central Asia is the region that was the cradle of that esoteric Wisdom. (See also, Five Years of Theosophy, pp. 177-182, for H.P.B.'s Appendix to the article "[Brahminism On] The Sevenfold Principle in Man").
Now, the difference with Ananikian's views lies here:
For H.P.B., Central Asia was the place where the original doctrine was treasured by the Sages of the Fifth Race (many thousands of years ago, after the submersion of Atlantis). Hence, in the course of time, the various forms of religion were disseminated from the original focus, to become what an historical investigator attempts to discover, and study, in their exoteric (often distorted) manifestations (in which Ananikian fancies he is now finding the sources of H.P.B.'s inspiration).
An example of such subsequent evolution (and degeneration) is precisely the Bön religion, whose adepts are "the greatly degenerated descendants of mighty and wise forefathers", while their rites are found to have "an undeniable connection" with the popular rites of the Babylonians (Five Years, pp. 177-8) (See also Coll. Writ. IV, 15fn : "the Bön" religion [...] a degenerated remnant of the Chaldean mysteries").
What H.P.B.'s Theosophy could have in common with that Bön tradition? What with Dzogchen (as now known)? And with the Nyingmapas (the "reddest" among the Red Caps) who, together with the Böns, opposed reforms of Tsong-kha-pa, the founder of the Gelug-pas (a real "incarnation" of the Buddha, held in great respect by the "Masters")?
Now, "esotericism" does not necessarily means "heterodoxy". There is not one Buddhism, but quite a number of Buddhisms (or, if one prefers, numerous forms, or Schools, of Buddhism, which could appear "heterodox" to each other). This diversity is due (among other causes) to the "silences" of the Buddha himself, on metaphysical tenets (as so many lacunae that his erudite successors attempted to fill up). Perhaps, if the Buddha were to come back, to complete his doctrine, he would appear "heterodox" to some. H.P.B.'s Masters did what could be done, precisely, to add, through Theosophy, what was lacking in many instances, thus revealing, under apparently heterodox forms, that which had been kept hidden in the Buddha's public discourses.
As to "brotherhoods", Central Asia is not the only region to be "replete with them" (in Ananikian's words), as H.P.B. herself bore witness in Isis Unveiled, and many an article of her pen. In all her travels through the world, she had met and visited quite a lot of them, and sometimes she happened to be introduced into their secrecy (this, since her young days).
Her article "Lamas and Druses" (Coll. Writ. III, 176, seq.) is eloquent. There she points to a mysterious connection between the Druses as"nd the Lamaists. She even alludes to the Sikhs (p.179), and to similar aspects between the religion of Guru Nanak and Buddhism. In all this (especially in what concerns the Druses), she seems to have a first-hand knowledge of what she speaks about. Could it be that after so many real encounters with fraternities scattered through the world, she invented the brotherhood of her Masters? Childish supposition.
Now, as concerns the "astral" (world and body), there is no necessity to invoke Central Asian sources, or even neoplatonic currents. The terms were taken direct from the French Eliphas Lévi's abundant writings. But to imagine that H.P.B. learnt the existence of the "astral" from books, or religious traditions, is again childish. Before appearing on the public scene, she had learnt all the mysteries of the astral by experience and during her training with her Master, as she confessed in her private correspondence, even before her first published article or volume.
Is Ananikian so sure that Buddhists and Hindus ignore the existence of what Theosophy depicts as an astral body, during life and after death? A born Hindu, like T. Subba Row, had nothing to object to it. See his article: "Septenary Division in Different Indian Systems" (Five Years of Theos. p.185). For the post mortem Kâmarûpa, Hindus have words like preta sharîra, bhûta rûpa, etc. and the Tibetans speak of gyu-lu (written sgyu-lus) for "the immaterial body of the soul" after death (S. Chandra Das' definition in his Dictionary).
As to the "feminine" presence in cosmologies, there is no need to turn to the Böns, or Central Asia. Mother Space, Aditi, is definitely Hindu; so is Mûlaprakriti, the eternal Root-Substance; and the Bhagavad Gîtâ has the famous verse (XIV, 3):
"The great Brahmâ is my womb (yoni = a very feminine term), in that I cast the seed".
Finally, in spite of all his efforts, Grigor V. Ananikian does not prove his case. Whether or not Mme Blavatsky fabricated her Masters and their doctrine can hardly appear in light from his unconvincing demonstration, that falls to the ground, under scrutiny, like a castle in the air. As to the Note's attractive title, promising some information on the Stanzas of Dzyan, the little (unpersuasive) Ananikian finds to say on them reduces the whole to a lure, void of all substance. And his insolent conclusion, deriding "the luridly Peter Pan-like fantasy of ascended masters" and their "believers" (the Theosophists who "want bedtime stories") returns to the author, who fabricated his own bedtime story, for his personal gratification.