Blavatsky on Vicarious Atonement

The first book written by H.P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Movement, was “Isis Unveiled” which bore the subtitle of “A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology.”

The second volume of this two volume work is titled “Theology” and deals largely with revealing, over the course of its 640 information filled pages, the facts about the true origins and nature of Christianity, the Christian Church, and Christian theology. Those facts – backed up in the book by over 1,000 supporting references – are less than favourable towards Christianity, which Blavatsky describes as “a religious farce” and “a parasitic growth.”

Those who are seriously interested in learning the truth about the origins and development of the Christian religion can do no better than to read and study “Isis Unveiled.” But they should be warned…those who value Christianity more than Truth would be best off avoiding the book entirely, since no Christian reading it all the way through would thereafter be able to remain a Christian, unless indeed they had no qualms about entirely searing their own conscience.

The doctrine of vicarious atonement – salvation through the blood of Jesus – is today the mainstay of all evangelical Christianity around the world. However, “Peter [i.e. the Apostle Peter] knew nothing of the atonement; and his reverence for the mythical father Adam would never have allowed him to admit that this patriarch had sinned and was accursed. Neither do the Alexandrian theological schools appear to have been cognizant of this doctrine, nor Tertullian; nor was it discussed by any of the earlier Fathers. Philo represents the story of the Fall as symbolical, and Origen regarded it the same way as Paul, as an allegory.” (Isis Unveiled, Vol. 2 p. 546)

It must be remembered that the Gospels are proven beyond all doubt to have never been written by the actual Apostles and disciples of Jesus themselves but are instead the work of monks and theologians of later centuries. But even those original Gospels bore no trace of the vicarious atonement doctrine, which was not added until one of their much later editings – of which there have been many – for it is widely considered to have been Saint Anselm (1033-1109) who formulated this doctrine in its present form.

The truth about Christianity is entirely different from what the vast majority of Christians believe or are even willing to believe. But the motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” “Isis Unveiled,” Madame Blavatsky, and Theosophy itself have nothing at all against the real Jesus and “reverence him as a man,” yet they maintain, on indisputable grounds, that “Jesus, the Christ-God, is a myth concocted two centuries after the real Hebrew Jesus died.”

The following excerpts are from pages 541 to 545 of the second volume of “Isis Unveiled,” in the chapter titled “Comparative Results of Buddhism and Christianity.”

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“With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again” [Matthew vii. 2] neither by expression nor implication points to any hope of future mercy or salvation by proxy.” …

We have often wondered at the extraordinary ideas of God and His justice that seem to be honestly held by those Christians who blindly rely upon the clergy for their religion, and never upon their own reason. How strangely illogical is this doctrine of the Atonement. We propose to discuss it with the Christians from the Buddhistic stand-point, and show at once by what a series of sophistries, directed toward the one object of tightening the ecclesiastical yoke upon the popular neck, its acceptance as a divine command has been finally effected; also, that it has proved one of the most pernicious and demoralizing of doctrines.

The clergy say: no matter how enormous our crimes against the laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, and His blood will wash out every stain. God’s mercy is boundless and unfathomable. It is impossible to conceive of a human sin so damnable that the price paid in advance for the redemption of the sinner would not wipe it out if a thousandfold worse. And, furthermore, it is never too late to repent. Though the offender wait until the last minute of the last hour of the last day of his mortal life, before his blanched lips utter the confession of faith, he may go to Paradise; the dying thief did it, and so may all others as vile. These are the assumptions of the Church.

But if we step outside the little circle of creed and consider the universe as a whole balanced by the exquisite adjustment of parts, how all sound logic, how the faintest glimmering sense of Justice revolts against this Vicarious Atonement! If the criminal sinned only against himself, and wronged no one but himself; if by sincere repentance he could cause the obliteration of past events, not only from the memory of man, but also from that imperishable record, which no deity – not even the Supremest of the Supreme – can cause to disappear, then this dogma might not be incomprehensible.

But to maintain that one may wrong his fellow-man, kill, disturb the equilibrium of society, and the natural order of things, and then – through cowardice, hope, or compulsion, matters not – be forgiven by believing that the spilling of one blood washes out the other blood spilt – this is preposterous! Can the results of a crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim. Every good as well as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into a calm water. The simile is trite, but it is the best ever conceived, so let us use it. The eddying circles are greater and swifter, as the disturbing object is greater or smaller, but the smallest pebble, nay, the tiniest speck, makes its ripples. And this disturbance is not alone visible and on the surface. Below, unseen, in every direction – outward and downward – drop pushes drop until the sides and bottom are touched by the force. More, the air, above the water is agitated, and this disturbance passes, as the physicists tell us, from stratum to stratum out into space forever and ever; an impulse has been given to matter, and that is never lost, can never be recalled! . . .

So with crime, and so with its opposite. The action may be instantaneous, the effects are eternal. When, after the stone is once flung into the pond, we can recall it to the hand, roll back the ripples, obliterate the force expended, restore the etheric waves to their previous state of non-being, and wipe out every trace of the act of throwing the missile, so that Time’s record shall not show that it ever happened, then, then we may patiently hear Christians argue for the efficacy of this Atonement.

The Chicago Times recently printed the hangman’s record of the first half of the present year (1877) – a long and ghastly record of murders and hangings. Nearly every one of these murderers received religious consolation, and many announced that they had received God’s forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, and were going that day to Heaven! Their conversion was effected in prison. See how this ledger-balance of Christian justice (!) stands: These red-handed murderers, urged on by the demons of lust, revenge, cupidity, fanaticism, or mere brutal thirst for blood, slew their victims, in most cases, without giving them time to repent, or call on Jesus to wash them clean with his blood. They, perhaps, died sinful, and, of course, – consistently with theological logic – met the reward of their greater or lesser offenses. But the murderer, overtaken by human justice, is imprisoned, wept over by sentimentalists, prayed with and at, pronounces the charmed words of conversion, and goes to the scaffold a redeemed child of Jesus!

Except for the murder, he would not have been prayed with, redeemed, pardoned. Clearly this man did well to murder, for thus he gained eternal happiness? And how about the victim, and his or her family, relatives, dependants, social relations – has Justice no recompense for them? Must they suffer in this world and the next, while he who wronged them sits beside the “holy thief” of Calvary and is forever blessed? On this question the clergy keep a prudent silence. …

Away from us such an insulting conception of divine justice as that preached by priests on their own authority. It is fit only for cowards and criminals! If they are backed by a whole array of Fathers and Churchmen, we are supported by the greatest of all authorities, an instinctive and reverential sense of the everlasting and everpresent law of harmony and justice.

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Another name for this “everlasting and everpresent law of harmony and justice” is the Law of Karma. In Christian phraseology it is the principle expressed in the words of Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Theosophy teaches that it is indeed “mockery” and vain futility for anyone to think that they can ever escape the just consequences and corresponding results of their own actions, be those bad or good. This would be a flagrant denial of the law of cause and effect, action and reaction, which no intelligent or educated person can deny.

Karma, along with its inextricably linked twin of reincarnation, is one of the central and most important teachings of Theosophy. There are a number of articles here on this site which explain it in more depth, such as A Right Understanding of Karma, There is No Injustice, Questions about Karma, Is Karma Merciful and Compassionate?, Blavatsky on Karma, and Prayer, Karma, and Compassion. More can be seen listed on the Articles page.

Some other articles, relating specifically to Christianity, are The True Nature of Jehovah, Dismantling the Christian Edifice, Blavatsky on – Hell and Christianity, Reincarnation and Christianity, Salvation from Christianity, and Greetings from “Lucifer” to the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Gautama Buddha famously taught in the Dhammapada that “Not in the sky, nor in the depths of the sea, nor in mountain clefts is there a place on earth where man can be to escape the consequences of his evil deed.” According to the teachings of Theosophy, this Law of Karma (known as “the doctrine of responsibility”) is the “Great Adjuster” and is the way, the means, and the method whereby the universe maintains its harmony, balance, and equilibrium.

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