Blindly Following HPB?

"The Secret Doctrine" by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Blindly following HPB…this is what some Theosophists get accused of (by other Theosophists) if they accept and adhere to H.P. Blavatsky’s teachings in their entirety.

Some who don’t like what HPB said about abortion or foeticide, for example, have stated in comments here on our website that “HPB never wanted us to follow blindly what she said” while just recently, when a member of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” was shown that the teachings of C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant about the after-death states are very different and contrary to those of HPB, the response by means of kindhearted criticism was that “HPB wouldn’t want us to be blind followers of her teachings.”

Some of our readers have no doubt encountered this attitude and mindset for themselves.

It seems in most of such cases that what the person is really saying inside is:

“I personally don’t like what HPB said about that so if someone presents, promotes, or defends, that part of her teachings, I’ll try to belittle and minimise its importance by accusing the person of being a “blind follower”…all because it doesn’t agree with MY views and preferences.”

To refer back to the issue of abortion, by means of example, a commenter on the article Abortion – A Spiritual Perspective wrote:

“But ultimately, HPB would not want one to follow blindly whatever she said … To me it seems that taking an anti-abortion position is falling into the hands of an ultra right wing mentality that HPB would totally and completely repudiate!”

To this we replied:

“Phrases such as “HPB would not want one to follow blindly whatever she said” have often been used over the past 100+ years by those who dislike the fact that there are students of Theosophy who present Theosophy in the same way that HPB did and not in the way that THEY would like it to be, i.e. corresponding exactly with their own personal ideas, opinions, and preferences.

“You’re right of course that she never sought or tolerated blind faith or unquestioning acceptance. But what makes you conclude that we are merely “following blindly” her words about abortion? Is there any evidence of this? Some accuse Theosophists of “blindly following” HPB in instances when both HPB and those Theosophists have presented and upheld something with which the accuser strongly disagrees. To some it would appear as little more than a “get out clause,” especially when one considers the extremely strong wording of HPB’s own article “Is Foeticide a Crime?”

“Forgive me for saying so but your last sentence is both offensive and wrong. One can be anti-abortion without being “ultra right wing” or even right wing at all. You are obviously an intelligent and insightful person so surely you can plainly see and read from the relevant passages that HPB herself held to an anti-abortion position and in no uncertain terms. You thus might as well have directed your last sentence at her, as this article is only based on her words and teachings.

“As she wrote, “It is neither from the standpoint of law, nor from any argument drawn from one or another orthodox ism that the warning voice is sent forth against the immoral and dangerous practice, but rather because in occult philosophy both physiology and psychology show its disastrous consequence.”

“The disagreement all comes down to the matter and the question of whether or not one believes HPB to have truly and correctly known and understood the Occult Philosophy. After years of perpetual in depth study and continual re-reading and re-thinking of everything she ever wrote and taught – and everything the Masters said and wrote about her – as well as closely familiarising ourselves with her biography and life’s work, we are persuaded that she did.”

No-one who has truly grasped the spirit of HPB’s teachings would follow, accept, or give credence to anything blindly, unintelligently, or unquestioningly. Blind belief and unreasoned faith is not compatible with Theosophy, for “all Theosophical books must be accepted on their merits, and not according to any claim to authority which they may put forward.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 300)

Why should someone who accepts and adheres to the teachings of HPB be considered or called a “blind follower” if in fact they are nothing of the sort but just the opposite?

Perhaps what the critics really mean is that HPB got some things right and some things wrong and that therefore someone who accepts everything she said must be ignorant and foolish.

“We have to remember that HPB wasn’t an Adept,” these people sometimes like to tell us.

Who says she wasn’t? The Masters as well as her closest colleagues – those who truly understood something of her real inner nature and being – said that she was.

In a letter to Laura Holloway, the Master K.H. directly insinuates that HPB is an Adept and uses that specific term for her. She was a “high and initiated chela,” as the same Master wrote to another, with italicised emphasis.

With occult matters she has everything to do,” the Master famously wrote to Col. Olcott. “We have not abandoned her; she is not ‘given over to chelas.’ She is our direct agent. I warn you against permitting your suspicions and resentment against ‘her many follies’ to bias your intuitive loyalty to her.”

The same Col. Olcott, who could never accept HPB as being an Adept, was therefore understandably confused – due to that selfsame reluctance – by a letter he received from one of the Masters in which HPB herself was spoken of as if one of the Masters and in the masculine. He says as much in his “Old Diary Leaves” where he reproduces the Master’s words to him:

“Owing to certain expressions therein, the letter was stopped on its way by order of our Brother H.P.B. As you are not under my direct guidance but his, we have naught to say, either of us. … Our Brother H.P.B. rightly remarked at Jeypore…”

What could be meant by this?

“About a month after I joined the Society I felt as it were a voice within myself whispering to me that Madam Blavatsky is not what she represents herself to be. It then assumed the form of a belief in me which grew so strong within a short time that four or five times I thought of throwing myself at her feet and beg her to reveal herself to me. But then I could not do so because I thought it would be useless, as I knew that I was quite impure and had led too bad a life to be trusted with that secret. I therefore remained silent with the consolation that she herself would confide the secret to me when she would find me worthy of it. I thought it must be some great Indian Adept that had assumed that illusionary form. But there a difficulty occurred to me. I knew that she received letters from her aunts and that she communicated with persons almost in every part of the globe. I could not therefore reconcile my belief, as I thought she would then have to practise the illusion all over the world. Various explanations suggested themselves to me except the right one. I was, however, right (as I have subsequently ascertained) in my original conception that she is some great Indian Adept.”

These are words written by Damodar K. Mavalankar (a young Indian colleague of HPB and chela of the Master K.H. who was eventually called to go and live with the Masters Themselves) in a letter to William Q. Judge. As HPB herself was to write later on to N.D. Khandalavala:

“[Damodar] was the only true, devoted friend I had in all India, the only one who having the Masters’ and my secret, knew the whole truth and therefore knew that whatever people thought being blinded by appearance I had never deceived anyone – though I was bound on my oath and pledge to conceal much from everyone, even Olcott.”

William Judge, who was co-founder with HPB and Col. Olcott of the original Theosophical Society, wrote privately to some of his fellow Theosophists:

“Your vision that when you looked at HPB and saw no old woman but a God is correct. You were privileged to see the Truth – For the Being in that old body called H.P. Blavatsky is a mighty Adept working on his own plan in the world. And thus we do not need to go to Tibet or S. America to find the sort of Being so many wish to see. Yet having seen the reality better keep silent and work with that in view. For even did you go and tell Him you knew He was there he would smile while he waited for you to do something such as you could in your limited sphere. For flattery counts not and professions are worse than useless. But it is a great thing to see as much as you have, and a greater thing it will be if you do not doubt – for you may never see it again.”

“As to HPB you cannot judge her by any rule. There is a great Adept there and he uses that body for His own purposes, both for use and trial of others.”

Maji, the Yogini of Benares and initiated disciple of the Master M., told Damodar “that Madam was not what she seems to be. Her interior man had already been twice in a Hindu body … She [i.e. Maji] also said that until that time she had never seen a European but, having got the information from her Guru, about Madam, she had come to see her. I then asked her if the real H.P.B. was still in the body [i.e. whether the original Helena Blavatsky had vacated her body at some point previously, with it then becoming solely occupied by an Indian yogi or initiate], but she refused to answer that question, and only added that she herself – “Maji” – was inferior to Madam.”

There is much more that could be said and quoted but those who are sufficiently interested can find this in the article Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?

We have shared the above not with the intent of pressuring anyone to accept anything but merely to show that those who maintain that the inner and real HPB was an Adept have far more support and basis for such a view than those who insist that she wasn’t and who are thus implying that HPB’s closest and most trusted colleagues (who were themselves disciples of the Masters) as well as the Masters Themselves, were mistaken and in error.

No-one is under any compulsion to accept or believe anything. However, one cannot have it both ways.

“The fact is this: In my position, half-measures are worse than none. People have either to believe entirely in me, or to honestly disbelieve. No one, no Theosophist, is compelled to believe, but it is worse than useless for people to ask me to help them, if they do not believe in me. . . . Half-measures, I repeat, are no longer possible. Either I have stated the truth as I know it about the Masters, and teach what I have been taught by them, or I have invented both Them and the Esoteric Philosophy. There are those among the Esotericists of the inner group who say that if I have done the latter, then I must myself be a “Master.” However it may be, there is no alternative to this dilemma. . . . Thenceforth let it be clearly understood that the rest of my life is devoted only to those who believe in the Masters, and are willing to work for Theosophy as They understand it, and for the T.S. on the lines upon which They originally established it.” (HPB, “Why I Do Not Return to India”)

It ought to be noted that in her last article – titled “My Books” – written just a few days before she passed away and by which time she must have been aware that her incarnation was swiftly drawing to a close she stated:

“. . . every word of information found in this work [i.e. “Isis Unveiled”] 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 dictation. In saying this no supernatural claim is urged, for no miracle is performed by such a dictation.”

Now, if any Theosophist does not accept this or the previous remarks from “Why I Do Not Return to India,” they are perfectly within their rights and will not be judged or condemned for it. But it would be much better for all if they would clearly and honestly say so, without any ambiguity, so that we all may know exactly where one another stands. Then there would be no need for them to castigate those who do trust HPB as being supposedly “blind followers.” All would know that there are some Theosophists who do wholeheartedly trust HPB and others who do not and that it is ultimately as simple as that.

The real problem that the latter individuals have is not with any particular writer or student, nor with the United Lodge of Theosophists, but with HPB herself and thus also with the Masters. But most are too weak or cowardly to admit to it. It is said that “a man convinced against his will is a man unconvinced still.” Our aim in writing this article has not been to try to convince or persuade anyone to adopt any particular stance but to show that the stance and position of loyal and devoted HPB students is far from being one of blind belief.

But at the end of the day anyone can make claims about themselves or assertions of relationships with Masters of Wisdom. There are thus four further things to consider:

(1) Of all the many people who have declared themselves to be Agents or Messengers of the Masters, HPB was the first and also the only one who went so far as to say that she spent years living with the Masters and receiving direct teaching and training from Them in person, face to face, prior to embarking on her public mission.

(2) Of all such claimants, she was the only one through whom and with whom came the objective presence of the Mahatmas, both in terms of Their public and private appearances to others in visible and tangible form and Their sending and precipitation of letters, both directly and indirectly, to numerous people around the world. This cannot be said for any of the other claimants, whether Alice Bailey, C.W. Leadbeater, Helena Roerich, Benjamin Creme, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, or anyone else, even if they claimed to be far closer to the Masters than HPB could have ever hoped to be, which is what some of them have said.

(3) The Esoteric Philosophy presented to the world by HPB and given by her the name of Theosophy is a vast, self-consistent, harmonious, logical, reasonable, philosophical and scientific (in the proper sense of the word) System of Teaching or Body of Knowledge and it is of an integral nature, in that every part of it relates naturally to every other part, forming a coherent whole which is all-explanatory and furnishes an astoundingly huge mass of information and insight.

(4) The Theosophy of HPB proves itself to be exactly what it claims to be – the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom; the Esoteric Teaching which underlies all the world’s religions and which is the primeval and archaic source and fountainhead of all the truth that can be found in the various religions, philosophies, and sciences of the world; the perfect and naturally occurring synthesis and unity of Religion, Philosophy, and Science. Whereas HPB’s major books contain literally thousands of supporting references and quotations from the realms of religion, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, and science, the writings of her self-proclaimed “Successors” contain nothing of the sort. They are content to simply present their manifold claims and statements on what have been described as “lines of pure assertion with implied authority in the background.” This is not good enough for a true philosopher, metaphysician, or esotericist.

In light of these points and all of the above, it can surely be safely said that following and trusting HPB does not make one blind but instead does just the opposite…it enables us to SEE.

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~


“Belonging, as we do, to the so-called “inferior” Asiatic race, we cannot help having for our Masters that boundless devotion which the European condemns as slavish. The Western races would, however, do well to remember that if some of the poor Asiatics arrived at such a height of knowledge regarding the mysteries of nature, it was only due to the fact that the Chelas have always blindly followed the dictates of their Masters and have never set themselves higher than, or even as high as, their Gurus. The result was that sooner or later they were rewarded for their devotion, according to their respective capacities and merits by those who, owing to years of self-sacrifice and devotion to their Gurus, had in turn become ADEPTS. We think that our blessed MASTERS ought to be the best judges how to impart instruction.”

(From “A Protest” published in “The Theosophist” September 1882, signed by twelve “”Accepted” and “Probationary” Hindu [i.e. Indian] Chelas of the HIMALAYAN BROTHERS, their disciples in India, and Northern Cashmere.”)

“I did not look at it as “utter submission” at the feet of HPB at all. She is not an “instrument” only but is at the same time a great deal more, but what and how much more each one has to find out for himself. He who finds out early is better off, but at the same time he who does not find out is not blamed – he is merely a loser. It is a thing that I cannot explain in a letter. When she is dead then perhaps it will be better known but even then not to a great many. . . . And I have never and do not now agree to the statements so often made by those who do not know, that she has “made mistakes”: I do not think that she has made any and I do not think that there is any member in the Society who has the knowledge to be able to judge in the matter of her actions or so-called mistakes.”

“HPB is mysterious you know for good reasons of her own. You may bet that the rows and talks on the surface never mean much and only are a cover for real work underneath for she always has something to do. . . . Therefore we all stick to her. . . . They know who to use and how: and I do not. So I will plunge ahead and follow HPB even to a total burst up of T.S. For me the T.S. is HPB and ∴ and so if they say “disintegrate” I say the same. . . . [Col. Olcott] like us is O without H.P.B. and he knows it too.”

“If we did follow H.P.B. “as our sun” we should do well. The trouble is that we gauge her by our own small natures and thus think the example is not good.”

(From the letters of William Q. Judge)




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