East and West

Picture of Temples in India

“We had reason to know that the whole truth could only be found in one quarter, the Asiatic schools of philosophy, and we felt convinced that the truth could never be discovered until men of all races and creeds should join like brothers in the search. So taking our stand upon that ground, we began to point the way eastward.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “The Leaven of Theosophy” (from “A Modern Panarion” p. 367)

It was never the aim and intent of H.P. Blavatsky or her Adept Teachers that the Theosophical Movement should synthesise Eastern spirituality with Western spirituality. Anyone with more than a merely superficial knowledge and understanding of the nature, perspective, and approach of Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies will realise and understand how such an endeavour would be neither possible nor beneficial.

The differences between Eastern and Western spiritual thought are so deep, vitally important, and profound, that the two can never properly unite.

The idea of Westernising and Christianising the teachings of Theosophy – a task with which the likes of C.W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, and Alice Bailey busied themselves in vain – is something which would have been totally unthinkable and unacceptable to HPB and her great Teachers of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood.

Please do not merely take our word for it but read “The Secret Doctrine,” “The Key to Theosophy,” and “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” for yourself and see if what we are saying in this article is valid and true.

The Masters behind the Theosophical Movement, along with HPB and the original Theosophists, are very pro-Eastern and pro-Indian and have very little in the way of positive things to say about the West.

Master K.H. and Master M. make it clear throughout their Letters that their teachings are exclusively Eastern in nature and that they give next to no credence to Western religion and spirituality, even Western esotericism, which they regard as a severely diluted and weakened form of Eastern esotericism.

This is echoed by HPB in her own writings. Remember this important statement from “The Secret Doctrine”? –

“Whither can we turn to trace these theosophic ideas to their very root – better than to old Indian wisdom? We say it again: archaic Occultism would remain incomprehensible to all, if it were rendered otherwise than through the channels of Buddhism and Hinduism. For the former is the emanation of the latter; and both are children of one mother – ancient Lemuro-Atlantean Wisdom.” (Vol. 1, p. 668)

The original Theosophical teachings were distinctly Eastern in flavour and provided the first introduction of Eastern spirituality to the West. The second of the three main objectives or purposes of the Theosophical Society was expressed as being “To promote the study of Indian and other Eastern literatures, religions and sciences.”

As we have shown in some detail in the article titled Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy, Mahatma Gandhi stated that it was reading HPB’s “The Key to Theosophy” which convinced him of the greatness and truth of his own Hindu religion and saved him from being converted by the Christian missionaries. He also remarked on numerous occasions that his introduction to the great Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita – which became his most beloved book and source of spiritual strength and inspiration – was through certain English Theosophists and colleagues of HPB who he met while he was living in London, around the same time that he met HPB herself.

Gandhi went on record as saying “Theosophy is Hinduism at its best.”

The Master K.H. said some very interesting things in a letter to a young Indian Theosophist who was working with HPB:

“Do not forget that all the good results that are in store for our India, and even the consideration you are now receiving at the hands of those who hitherto thought they could never show you a too pronounced contempt, are all due to her individual efforts. You can hardly show her enough respect and gratitude, or more than she is entitled to. … You will have to carefully impress them with the sense of the exalted position she ought to – if she does not – hold among those Hindus who have remained true to the Past, care not for the Present, and work but for the Future, which will be great and glorious if she is only supported and helped by them.”

May it be that the Master had in mind the then-future connection between the young Gandhi and HPB when writing those profound words?

The following are just a handful from amongst many similar quotations which illustrate the attitude of genuine Theosophy on this issue of East and West.

In order to clarify some of these excerpts, it should be understood that the word “Aryan” does not mean a “perfect race” of blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned people. Hitler misappropriated and misrepresented the word and gave it this false meaning.

In its actual and historical sense, the word “Aryan” is a synonym for “Indian.” Ancient India was called Aryavarta and the Aryans were the inhabitants of this land. Whenever the term “Aryan” is used in Theosophy, it refers 99% of the time to India and her people. Also, in Victorian times and indeed into the 20th century, the word “Hindu” was sometimes used as a synonym for “Indian” even though it was widely understood that not all Indians belong to the Hindu religion.

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“The Hindu [used here as a synonym for Indian] mind is pre-eminently open to the quick and clear perception of the most transcendental, the most abstruse metaphysical truths. Some of the most unlettered ones will seize at a glance that which would often escape the best Western metaphysician. You [i.e. Westerners] may be, and most assuredly are our superiors in every branch of physical knowledge; in spiritual sciences we were, are and always will be your MASTERS.” – Master K.H.

“Hindus [used here as a synonym for Indians] are spiritually intellectual and we [i.e. Europeans, Westerners] physically spiritual. Spiritually they are immensely higher than we are. The physical point of evolution we have reached only now – they have reached it 100,000 years ago, perhaps. And what they are now spiritually you may not hope to reach in Europe before some millenniums yet. They are almost ready for the evolution of their sixth race units, and Europe has yet to whistle for them and must thank her stars for evoluting even occasionally Hindu like spiritual and beautiful characters.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #CXI, p. 238

“For as at first she [India] was a receptacle from which was taken an enormous treasure in material wealth and goods, so at the last her treasures of literature and philosophy are destined to cover the lands of English-speaking peoples, to infiltrate into the western mind, and finally drive out the puerile, degrading dogmas of Christendom, replacing them with a noble and elevating scheme of philosophy which alone can save the world.” – William Q. Judge, “India a Storehouse For Us” (William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 87 and WQJ Pamphlet #18 “Wisdom From The Past”)

“You can do immense good by helping to give the Western nations a secure basis upon which to reconstruct their crumbling faith. And what they need is the evidence that Asiatic psychology alone supplies. Give this, and you will confer happiness of mind on thousands. The era of blind faith is gone; that of inquiry is here. . . . This is the moment to guide the recurrent impulse which must soon come, and which will push the age towards extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans [i.e. Indians].” – Master K.H. to A.O. Hume, “A Master’s Letter” p. 9-10 (ULT Pamphlet No. 29)

“The fountain is old India, and to that the members of the Theosophical Society who are not only desirous of saving time but also of aiding the sages of the past in the evolution of doctrines which, applied to our great new civilization, can alone save it from failure, will bend themselves to the task of carrying out our second object – the investigation of Aryan [i.e. Indian] literature, religion, and science.” – William Q. Judge, “India a Storehouse For Us” (William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 89 and WQJ Pamphlet #18 “Wisdom From The Past”)

“I told you before now, that the highest people now on earth (spiritually) belong to the first sub-race of the fifth root Race; and those are the Aryan Asiatics.” – Master K.H.

“Through its [i.e. the Theosophical Movement’s] teaching, through the philosophy which it has rendered accessible and intelligible to the modern mind, the West will learn to understand and appreciate the East at its true value.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 305-306

“The Oriental philosophy is the sole panacea for the spiritual sickness that now affects the Western mind. The more they examine it, the more will they find that upon its solid basis of absolute truth alone can they rebuild the structure of religious thought which has been shattered by modern science.” – T. Subba Row, “T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 288

“India was the Alma-Mater, not only of the civilization, arts, and sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity; Judaism, and hence Christianity, included.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 30

“Every such man . . . ought to take an interest not only theoretically but practically in a movement [i.e. the Theosophical Movement] which has for its chief object the moral and spiritual regeneration of India and through India, that of the world. Just as, if the fountain of a river were cleared of all the rubbish in its way, everywhere through which the current may pass will be clean swept of all dirt; so also when India – the fountain head of all moral and spiritual greatness – is thoroughly purified of all the rubbish thrown into it by the ignorant and selfish persons, it will, through its lucid stream, carry purity all over the world.” – Damodar K. Mavalankar, Letter to Pandit Gopi Nath, “Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement” p. 151

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In her Message of 1891 to the convention of American Theosophists, HPB stated that one of the main aims of the Movement is the “Aryanising of Western thought” or, in other words, the Indian-ising of the thought life of the West.

At the close of “The Key to Theosophy,” she wrote that the Theosophical Society would continue to advance and grow and change the world with no end in sight over the course of the coming 20th century, as long as the subsequent leaders after she had passed away didn’t try to westernise the teachings or present them within the frameworks of their own ingrained religious preferences.

Although Theosophy does aim and wish to unite East and West in terms of eradicating racial, national, and cultural barriers and prejudices, so that the brotherhood of humanity can be actualised and realised in an ever increasing way, it was most definitely not the aim of the Masters or HPB or the Theosophical Movement to synthesise and unite Eastern and Western spirituality.

They repeatedly make it clear that the influence of Eastern spirituality alone is what the West needs (see the above quotations) and that they would not be prepared to compromise the sacred Eastern teachings in any sense.

The old saying of “Ex oriente lux” was for many years associated with the Theosophists – “The light comes from the East.”

While Theosophy – as in the original and genuine Theosophy – is certainly not against Western forms of esotericism such as the Kabbalah and the Gnostics, it views these as diluted and weakened forms of the Eastern spiritual philosophy which preceded them and as often representing little more than the rudiments of genuine esotericism.

It maintains that in many cases Kabbalistic and Gnostic teachings have been so distorted, edited, and altered by Christian hands that their true sense has been largely perverted and lost and the books and teachings thus rendered of little real value to anyone.

As William Judge, close friend and colleague of H.P. Blavatsky and co-founder with her of the Theosophical Movement, once wrote:

“It was thought by H.P.B. that true Eastern Occultism was the primeval system and hence better than the Western. For the Western is all overgrown with the weeds sown by Judaism in the beginning and mediaeval Christianity in the end. So it will be found that although at bottom Western Occultism has the same doctrines as the Eastern, a vast mass of rubbish has to be carried off in order to get at the truth. Anyone who will dive into Rosicrucianism will find those difficulties. It must always be borne in mind, too, that H.P.B. in speaking of Eastern Occultism had in view the real thing and not the many systems in India which would juggle the student quite as much as the things in the Western schools.

“Speaking for my own beliefs, I do not think Western Occultism is worthy of the name and is only a hodgepodge that produces confusion when the mere outer crust of virtuous living is mastered. It leads to saintliness but not to that higher knowledge which must be added to the good in order to make them also the wise.” (William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 481-482)

In her important article “The Kabalah and the Kabalists – At The Close of the Nineteenth Century” HPB wrote regarding the co-existence of the Eastern Occult Philosophy of the Theosophical Mahatmas and the Kabbalistic system:

“The long pent-up torrent has now diverged into two streams [i.e. in the West] – Eastern Occultism and the Jewish Kabalah; the traditions of the Wisdom-Religion of the races that preceded the Adam of the “Fall”; and the system of the ancient Levites of Israel, who most ingeniously veiled a portion of that religion of the Pantheists under the mask of monotheism. . . . The two systems threaten the world of the mystic with a speedy conflict, which, instead of increasing the spread of the One Universal Truth, will necessarily only weaken and impede its progress. Yet, the question is not, once more, which is the one truth. For both are founded upon the eternal verities of prehistoric knowledge, as both, in the present age and the state of mental transition through which humanity is now passing, can give out only a certain portion of these verities. It is simply a question: “Which of the two systems contains most unadulterated facts; and, most important of all – which of the two presents its teachings in the most Catholic (i.e., unsectarian) and impartial manner?”” (H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 3, p. 236-237 and HPB Pamphlet #32 “Kabalah and Kabalism”)

When compared with the teachings of the various religious philosophies of the world, the original teachings of Theosophy are found to have most in common with the deeper and esoteric teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. We saw how Gandhi spoke of Theosophy as “Hinduism at its best” and also the famed Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki described HPB’s teachings as “the real Mahayana Buddhism.” But Theosophy is not merely the perfect blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. As we have said in Is Theosophy Hinduism, Buddhism, or Something Else?

“It is certainly true that none of the hundreds or thousands of popular books about Buddhism and Hinduism which flood the market today contain anywhere near the deep perfection and explanation of the living philosophies of those religions as is found in Theosophy. . . . Theosophy distinctly states that Hinduism and Buddhism are the two “truest” religions in the world, yet the motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” Truth transcends all religions and cannot be contained or put in a box. The word “Theosophy” comes from “Theo-sophia,” literally meaning “Divine Wisdom.” It is asserted that there is a primeval, archaic philosophy or doctrine or body of Knowledge – for want of a better word – which is not just a truth but which is the Truth itself. All the different religions have contained and presented some portion of the Truth, some to a greater extent or degree than others. Theosophy maintains that TRUTH exists and it uses aspects of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy to help it present some of this Truth to the world, since in many aspects those teachings express Truth perfectly as well as exquisitely.”

And not only that but Theosophy maintains that the pure and undiluted TRUTH is today held in the sole possession of certain esoteric Brotherhoods in Tibet, India, and the Trans-Himalayan region.

It seems rather imprudent and lacking in discrimination that some Theosophists – even amongst those who are devoted students of the original teachings of HPB, WQJ, and the Masters – are sometimes eager to closely associate themselves with some of the many Hindu Gurus and Yogis that come to the West or to seek teachings and important advice from Buddhist monks, whether Mahayana or Theravada.

All of these people only promote exoteric and orthodox teachings. Their fundamental doctrines and views are in many cases entirely contradictory and incompatible with those of Theosophy.

Theosophists can learn but little from such people and may even risk being dragged back into exotericism, literalism, and even anthropomorphism and idolatry, not to mention the possibility of being manipulated and conned by some of the less savoury amongst their ranks, as has happened to many. William Judge was attempting to warn the West against “the swami craze” as far back as the 1890s but his sage advice has apparently gone unheeded.

The Eastern teachings presented in Theosophy may have some similarities with Eastern exotericism but they belong to pure Eastern esotericism and contain numerous aspects, details, and doctrines which cannot be found in any of the world’s religions, precisely because they had been deliberately kept secret and entirely esoteric until the Masters and Initiates of the Gupta Vidya (Secret Doctrine, Hidden Knowledge, Occult Science) permitted that they at last be given out to the world, through H.P. Blavatsky, who they called their “Direct Agent” and their “Brother.”

When this article was previously shown to an individual who was a student of the Alice Bailey teachings, she remarked, “Everything here is entirely new to me. I’ve never heard any of these things before!”

“This is unfortunately not surprising,” we replied, “since all the evidence indicates that it was the aim of the likes of Bailey, Leadbeater, and Besant to lead Theosophists entirely off track as much as possible, quashing the Movement’s original and intended influence and effectiveness to bring about real and important spiritual change in the world, while relentlessly promoting the non-Theosophical and anti-Theosophical concepts of Christ, God, Church, and Christianity, in order to keep people’s focus away from genuine Eastern esotericism.”

They will have their Karma, for as HPB said when discussing what she termed “Pseudo-Theosophy” – “So surely as there is a Karmic power behind the Society will that power exact the account for its hindrance, and he is a rash and ignorant man who opposes his puny self to it in the execution of its appointed task.”

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

DISCOVER MORE IN THE LIST OF OVER 200 ARTICLES ON ALL ASPECTS OF THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT.

“The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences.”

(H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 611)

H.P. Blavatsky

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