Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), better known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi, was the most influential leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violence (Ahimsa) and peaceful protest in his methods, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired many subsequent movements for non-violence, civil rights, and freedom all over the world.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), better known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi, was the most influential leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violence (Ahimsa) and peaceful protest in his methods, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired many subsequent movements for non-violence, civil rights, and freedom all over the world.

Note: Numbers in brackets correspond to the source references for these passages, which can be found listed at the bottom of the page.

“Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky. It is Hinduism at its best. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man. . . . Jinnah and other Moslem leaders were once members of the Congress. They left it because they felt the pinch of Hinduism patronizing. . . . They did not find the Brotherhood of Man among the Hindus. They say Islam is the Brotherhood of Man. As a matter of fact, it is the Brotherhood of Moslems. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man.” [1]

“It was through theosophy that Gandhi was induced to study his own heritage. This effect was generated in many Indians.” [2]

“Towards the end of my second year in England I came across two Theosophists, brothers, and both unmarried. They talked to me about the Gita [i.e. the Bhagavad Gita]. They were reading Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation – The Song Celestial – and they invited me to read the original with them. I felt ashamed, as I had read the divine poem neither in Sanskrit nor in Gujarati. I was constrained to tell them that I had not read the Gita, but that I would gladly read it with them, and that though my knowledge of Sanskrit was meagre, still I hoped to be able to understand the original to the extent of telling where the translation failed to bring out the meaning. I began reading the Gita with them. The verses in the second chapter . . . made a deep impression in my mind, and they still ring in my ears. The book struck me as one of priceless worth. The impression has ever since been growing on me with the result that I regard it as the book par excellence for the knowledge of truth.” [3]

“I recall having read, at the brothers’ direction Madame Blavatsky’s Key to Theosophy. This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstition.” [4]

“He read Mme. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, and on March 26, 1891, was enrolled as an associate member of the Blavatsky Lodge.” [5]

“It was in November 1889 that Gandhi met HPB [i.e. H. P. Blavatsky]. At that time, he said, he did not join the TS [i.e. Theosophical Society] because “with my meagre knowledge of my own religion, I did not want to belong to any religious body.” However, a year and a half later, on March 26, 1891, he became an associate member of the Blavatsky Lodge. Three months later, on June twelfth, he returned to India.” [6]

It is important to note that the only Theosophy recognised by Gandhi as actually being Theosophy was the original and genuine Theosophy taught and presented by H. P. Blavatsky. He very clearly expressed, when necessary, his distinctly negative view of the pseudo-Theosophy of Annie Besant and in particular C. W. Leadbeater. Since Alice Bailey’s teachings are largely based on those invented by Leadbeater, it is perhaps partly for this reason that Alice Bailey expressed a distinctly unfavourable view of Gandhi. He was a friend of B. P. Wadia and Sophia Wadia, influential figures in the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT), an international association of Theosophical students whose expressed mission statement is “To spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”

“I do not think that Mrs. Besant is a hypocrite; she is credulous and she is duped by Leadbeater. When an Englishman suggested to me to read Leadbeater’s The Life After Death, I flatly refused to do so as I had grown suspicious of him after reading his other writings. As to his humbug [i.e. fraud and deception], I came to know of if later.” [7]

“These essays of Sophia Wadia show at a glance how much similarity there is between the principal faiths of the earth in the fundamentals of life. All our mutual quarrels centre round non-essentials. Sophia Wadia’s labours will be amply rewarded if people belonging to different faiths will study faiths other than their own, with the same reverence that she has exhibited in her essays. An understanding knowledge of and respect for the great faiths of the world is the foundation of true Theosophy.” [8]

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Another influential figure in the United Lodge of Theosophists, Raghavan Iyer, wrote a large book titled “The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi,” published by mainstream publishers and still considered one of the most important works on the development of Gandhi’s thought and philosophy. B. P. Wadia, mentioned above, wrote numerous articles on such themes, which are today published as the book “The Gandhian Way” by the United Lodge of Theosophists in India.

It’s important to clarify that the fact of being bestowed by the Indian people with the ancient honorific title of “Mahatma” (literally “great soul”) does not mean that he was one of the Mahatmas or Masters of Wisdom spoken of in Theosophy. B. P. Wadia wrote with great certainty, however, that Gandhi’s work on the whole reflected the wishes and principles of the Masters.

It’s also useful to be aware that Gandhi has declined in popularity over the past few decades, both in India and internationally. It would be misguided to imagine that he never made any mistakes or errors of judgment. One of the main criticisms now levelled against him is that there are clearly racially prejudiced remarks about Africans in his early writings from his time in South Africa. But interestingly, such African and African American luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. both expressed their admiration and respect for Gandhi and pointed out that his views about black people clearly changed over time and that therefore he cannot justifiably be considered racist.

Mahatma Gandhi unmistakably echoed the words and message of H. P. Blavatsky and her mysterious Eastern Teachers who stood behind her and the modern Theosophical Movement when he said:

“The soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms. The latter will endure to the end of time. Wise men will ignore the outward crust and see the same soul living under a variety of crusts. . . . Truth is the exclusive property of no single scripture. We may call ourselves Christians, Hindus or Mohammedans. Whatever we may be, beneath that diversity there is a oneness which is unmistakable and underneath many religions there is also one religion.”

The famous motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” With Theosophy and his destined 1889 meeting with Madame Blavatsky in his mind, Gandhi famously expressed it thus: “There is no God higher than Truth.”

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[1] “The Life of Mahatma Gandhi” by Louis Fischer, p. 437

[2] “Gandhi in London” by James D. Hunt, p. 31

[3] “Autobiography” by M. K. Gandhi, pp. 90-91, also see “Young India” 12th November 1925.

[4] “Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth” by M. K. Gandhi, pp. 60, 90-91, 321

[5] “Mahatma Gandhi Volume 1: The Early Phase” by Pyarelal Nayyar, p. 259

[6] “HPB – The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” by Sylvia Cranston, p.195, also see “The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 1: 1884-1896” by M. K. Gandhi, p. 355

[7] “The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 11”

[8] “The Brotherhood of Religions” by Sophia Wadia, foreword (p. 3) by M. K. Gandhi

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One thought on “Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy

  1. Warm greetings to all Theosophist. I am from the Philippines and ive been a subscriber of The Theosophisycal Digest since I grabbed one copy of it.

    Since i dont have any of this booklet anymore I try to find your profound teaching on the net. So thanks I seek you and I found you.

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