H. P. Blavatsky and The Birth of the Theosophical Movement

Madame H. P. Blavatsky

This article is an excerpt from the much lengthier article


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The life, work, and personality of H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) are so intimately and inseparably connected with Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement that it is impossible to talk about one without at the same time talking to at least some extent about the other. Just as Buddhism and Christianity are hard to talk about without some mention of or reference to Buddha and Christ, so it is with Theosophy and HPB, although she was always the first of all people to disclaim anything special about herself and to repeatedly insist that Theosophy is not a religion, nor anything new, nor any invention or imagination of her own.

Being the most prominent of the founders of the Movement and the most prolific and well known exponent of its teachings and purpose, it is but natural and to be expected that we will speak much of her over the course of this article.

Anyone wishing to know in detail about her life and work is referred to “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky,” written by Sylvia Cranston and published by Path Publishing House. This remains the most important, as the most extensive and thoroughly referenced, of the numerous biographies of HPB published in the past few decades. For now it will suffice just to provide a brief synopsis of her life leading up to the important events of 1875.

Born Elena Petrovna von Hahn in Ekaterinoslav, Russia (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, due to the subsequent shifting of borders and territories) on 11th-12th August 1831 or 30th-31st July in the old style Russian calendar, her father was a high ranking military officer and her mother a renowned novelist and writer. She had one sister and no brothers. Her maternal grandmother was a Russian princess and the family belonged to the high echelons of the aristocracy, although she was later to renounce and reject any position and privileges which may have been hers by right of family, speaking of herself in a letter to an English Theosophist as “me whose birth is not a bit lower than that of your Queen and perhaps, purer than hers, and who yet despises every claim based on such birth.” [1]

As the family was wealthy and travelled around a lot due to her father’s career, she was educated privately at home by a governess. Her mother, also called Elena, died when her daughter was eleven years of age. In her teenage years, the younger Elena and her sister Vera, born in 1835, spent much time in the region of the Caucasus, particularly Tiflis, which is modern day Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

In 1849, shortly before her 18th birthday, Elena was married to a Mr Blavatsky, many years her senior. As with most things in her life, the betrothal and marriage neither began nor ended in a conventional manner. Her governess having taunted her that no man would ever want to be her husband, in light of her fiery temper and strong-willed independent disposition, not even a man named Nikifor Blavatsky who Elena had found so ugly, she defiantly set out to prove her governess wrong. Within three days she had managed to persuade Blavatsky, old enough to be her father, to propose to her.

“Details about my marriage? Well now they say that I wanted to marry the old whistlebreeches myself. Let it be. My father was 4,000 miles off. My grandmother was too ill. It was as I told you. I had engaged myself to spite the governess never thinking I could no longer disengage myself. Well – Karma followed my sin.” [2]

Her plea to her fiancé to release her from the engagement was unsuccessful and in desperation she ran away from home, returning after a few days. She eventually resigned herself to her fate, or so it appeared. Cranston relates: “It dawned upon her, as she told intimate friends, that as a married woman she would be free from the constant supervision to which single girls and women in aristocratic families were then subject.” [3] According to her Aunt Nadia, however, the family had been unsuccessful in their attempts to impress the young woman with an understanding of the solemnity of marriage and her future “obligations” and “duties” to her husband. At the wedding ceremony, when the presiding priest said to her “Thou shalt honour and obey thy husband,” she was heard to quietly respond in indignation, “Surely I shall not.”

That very night she attempted to run away from her new husband and escape Russia altogether but was prevented and closely guarded from that point on. The relationship was from the start a difficult and unhappy one for both parties, with husband frequently attempting to consummate the marriage and wife persistently refusing. She wrote to A. P. Sinnett, “That I never was Mme. Blavatsky is something, the proofs of which I will carry to my grave – and it’s no one’s business.” [4] After three months she eventually managed to successfully escape, riding alone on horseback to Tiflis where she returned to her grandmother, swearing that she would kill herself if forced to return to her husband. That was the end of the Blavatsky marriage. She soon set off for Constantinople and thus began her travels around the world, funded by her indulgent father.

From early childhood, her life had been filled with mystical experiences and occurrences of an unusual nature. As a young girl she had dreams in which she met a tall and mysterious Indian man dressed in white, with long black hair, beard, and fiery glowing eyes. She avoided accident and escaped death and danger more than once in her formative years, attributing her rescue to the unseen hands and influence of this striking individual, who she had often seen near her in his astral form.

When visiting London in 1851, “she was one day out walking when, to her astonishment, she saw a tall Hindu in the street with some Indian princes. She immediately recognised him as the same person that she had seen in the Astral. Her first impulse was to rush forward to speak to him, but he made her a sign not to move, and she stood as if spellbound while he passed on. The next day she went into Hyde Park for a stroll, that she might be alone and free to think over her extraordinary adventure. Looking up, she saw the same form approaching her, and then her Master told her that he had come to London with the Indian princes on an important mission, and he was desirous of meeting her personally, as he required her co-operation in a work which he was about to undertake. He then told her how the Theosophical Society was to be formed, and that he wished her to be the founder. He gave her a slight sketch of all the troubles she would have to undergo, and also told her that she would have to spend three years in Tibet to prepare her for the important task.” [5]

In a page of her scrapbook from that time, she wrote in French (the main language then in use by the Russian aristocracy), “Nuit mémorable! Certaine nuit, par au clair – de lune qui se couchait a Ramsgate 12 Aout: 1851 lorsque je recontrais M. le Maître – de mes rêves!! Le 12 Aout c’est Juillet 31 style russe jour de ma naissance – Vingt ans!” An English translation provided in the Cranston book reads, “Memorable night! On a certain night by the light of the moon that was setting at Ramsgate on August 12, 1851, when I met M. the Master of my dreams!! August 12 is July 31 in the Russian calendar, the day of my birth – Twenty years!

One might ask why her scrapbook entry of the time designates Ramsgate – a seaside town some 70 miles from London – as the place of the meeting, rather than London. Countess Wachtmeister, a friend of HPB and the one who had discovered the long forgotten scrapbook some 35 years or so after the auspicious occasion, was informed that the insertion of “Ramsgate” had been a deliberate “blind” as an attempted means of ensuring the privacy, protection, and secrecy of the Master, who was later to be referred to as the Master Morya and described by HPB as her Guru, Guardian, and Direct Teacher.

From that time onwards until the early 1870s, much of her life was spent in travelling and studying in preparation for the work and mission of which she had been informed by her Guru. Although she offered brief and vague details of a few of these travels and experiences when pressed to do so in later years by those who wished to write her biography, she always endeavoured to say as little as possible about them, primarily again to ensure the privacy and security of the various Masters, initiates, and esoteric brotherhoods around the world with whom she had had contact and connection. Having pledged herself to inviolable secrecy about many matters, she was determined from the start to maintain it, even if it meant deliberately confusing and obscuring names, dates, and places.

“It is simply impossible that the plain undisguised truth should be said about my life,” she told Sinnett. “From 17 to 40 I took care during my travels to sweep away all traces of myself wherever I went. When I was at Barri in Italy studying with a local witch – I sent my letters to Paris to post them from there to my relatives. The only letter they received from me from India was when I was leaving it, the first time. Then from Madras in 1857; – when I was in South America I wrote to them through, and posted in London. I never allowed people to know where I was and what I was doing. Had I been a common p­______ they would have preferred it to my studying occultism. It is only when I returned home that I told my aunt that the letter received from K.H. by her was no letter from a Spirit as she thought. When she got the proofs that they were living men she regarded them as devils or sold to Satan. . . .

“Went to India in 1856 – just because I was longing for Master. Travelled from place to place, never said I was Russian, people taking me for what I liked. . . . Were I to describe my visit to India only in that year that would make a whole book, but how can I NOW say the truth. Suppose I were to tell you that I was in man’s clothes (for I was very thin then) which is solemn truth, what would people say? So I was in Egypt with the old Countess who liked to see me dressed as a man student, “gentleman student” she said. Now you understand my difficulties? That which would pass with any other as eccentricity, oddity, would serve now only to incriminate me in the eyes of the world. . . .

“I am repeatedly reminded of the fact, that, as a public character, a woman, who, instead of pursuing her womanly duties, sleeping with her husband, breeding children, wiping their noses, minding her kitchen and consoling herself with matrimonial assistants on the sly and behind her husband’s back, I have chosen a path that has led me to notoriety and fame; and that therefore I had to expect all that befell me. Very well, I admit it, and agree. But I say at the same time to the world: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am in your hands and subject and subordinate to the world’s jury, only since I founded the T.S. Between H. P. Blavatsky from 1875 and H.P.B. from 1830 to that date, is a veil drawn and you are in no way concerned with what took place behind it, before I appeared as a public character. It was my PRIVATE LIFE holy and sacred, to all but the slanderous and venomous mad-dogs, who poke their noses under cover of the night into every family’s and every individual’s private lives.” [6]

Ever conscious of how the serious and very real restrictions placed upon by her solemn pledges, oaths, and vows, may make her appear in the sight of others, she privately made such statements as these by way of explanation:

“When I am dead and gone in this body, then will you know the whole truth. Then will you know that I have never, never, been false to any one, nor have I deceived anyone, but had many a time to allow them to deceive themselves, for I had no right to interfere with their Karma.” [7]

“I have told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so far as I am allowed to give it. Many are the things I have no right to explain if I had to be hung for it.” [8]

“Well good bye all; and when I am gone – if I go before seeing you – do not think of me too much as an “impostor” – for I swear I told you the truth, however much I have concealed of it from you.” [9]

Along with the 1851 scrapbook reference to the meeting with the Master Morya, the reference above to the letter received by her Aunt Nadia from the Master Koot Hoomi serves as valuable evidence of the legitimate existence of such Eastern Adepts and of HPB’s connection and involvement with them long before the Theosophical Movement was ever founded.

Her travels from 1851 onwards took her to the USA, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, India, South Asia, England again, back to the USA, Tibet and Little Tibet, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Italy, France, Hungary, Lebanon, and possibly other places besides, interspersed with occasional return visits to her family back in Russia. Her most frequent destinations and lengthiest visits were those to India, Tibet, and Little Tibet, i.e. the Trans-Himalayan Ladakh region of Kashmir, which is where the Masters M. and K.H. are believed to have their main home and base.

In 1870, her family, then living in Odessa, had all but given up hope of ever hearing from her again. In the summer of 1868 she had been summoned to go to Tibet by the Master Morya in order to receive further in-depth tuition and training from the Masters in preparation for her mission as their Messenger to the world. Her relatives had heard nothing from her or about her since her departure and were afraid that she was probably dead.

One day in November, her aunt received a strange visitation which in later years she wrote about to Colonel Olcott as follows:

“. . . when my niece was at the other side of the world . . . not a soul knew where she was – which grieved us greatly. All our researches had ended in nothing. We were ready to believe her dead, when – I think it was about the year 1870, or possibly later – I received a letter from him, whom I believe you call “KH,” which was brought to me in the most incomprehensible and mysterious manner, by a messenger of Asiatic appearance, who then disappeared before my very eyes. This letter, which begged me not to fear anything, and which announced that she was in safety – I have still at Odessa. . . . Pray excuse me, but it is difficult, not to say impossible for me, to comprehend how there can exist people so stupid as to believe that either my niece or yourself have invented the men whom you call the Mahatmas! I am not aware if you have personally known them very long, but my niece spoke of them to me, and at great length, years ago. She wrote me that she had again met and renewed her relations with several of them, even before she wrote her Isis. Why should she have invented these personages? For what end and what good could they have done her if they had no existence? . . . If I, who have ever been, and hope ever to continue to be a fervent Christian, believe in the existence of these men – although I may refuse to credit all the miracles they attribute to them – why should not others believe in them? For the existence of at least one of them, I can verify. Who, then, could have written me this letter to reassure me at the moment when I had the greatest need for such comfort, unless it had been one of those adepts mentioned? It is true that the handwriting is not known to me; but the manner in which it was delivered to me was so phenomenal, that none other than an adept in occult science could have so effected it. It promised me the return of my niece – and the promise was duly fulfilled.” [10]

This letter which was handed to her was written in French, probably for reasons already stated about this having been the main language in use by the Russian aristocracy. Translated into English, it says:

“The noble relatives of Mad. H. Blavatsky have no cause whatsoever for grief. Their daughter and niece has not left this world at all. She is alive and desires to make known to those whom she loves that she is well and feels very happy in the distant and unknown retreat she has chosen for herself. She has been very ill, but is so no longer; for owing to the protection of the Lord Sangyas [i.e. the Tibetan name for Buddha] she has found devoted friends who take care of her physically and spiritually. Let the ladies of her house, therefore, set their minds at rest. Before 18 new moons shall have risen – she will have returned to her family.” [11]

Although the letter was unsigned, it was written in the handwriting of the Master Koot Hoomi, as evidenced by this same handwriting being used ten years later by that particular Master when he began his lengthy correspondence with several Theosophists which has been published as “The Mahatma Letters.” The “messenger of Asiatic appearance” who had handed the letter to Nadia and then disappeared on the spot was later revealed to have been the Master Morya using his astral body. These two Masters and the handwriting of one of them were therefore both known to HPB’s family a full five years before the Theosophical Society was even founded. How then can it be claimed, as it sometimes is, that HPB invented the Masters out of her own imagination in order to draw attention to herself and the Theosophical Society?

In a rebuttal sent to a critic in 1884, she explained, “I have lived at different periods in Little Tibet as in Great Tibet, and that these combined periods form more than seven years. Yet, I have never stated either verbally or over my signature that I have passed seven consecutive years in a convent. What I have said, and repeat now, is, that I have stopped in Lamaistic convents; that I have visited Tzi-gadze [i.e. Shigatse], the Tashi-Lhunpo territory and its neighbourhood, and that I have been further in, and in such places of Tibet as have never been visited by any other European, and that he can ever hope to visit.” [12]

Whilst in Paris in June 1873, HPB received word from her Master that it was now time to move to New York in the United States of America, where preparations for the founding of the Theosophical Society were to take place. She arrived on 7th July and in October learnt that her father had died in that same month of July. With no further financial support forthcoming, she employed herself in designing and creating various craft items for New York shopkeepers and businesses.

Someone who met her during this time was Anna Ballard, veteran journalist of the New York Press Club, who in a letter to Olcott after HPB’s death recalled that “At our first interview she told me she had had no idea of leaving Paris for America until the very evening before she sailed, but why she came or who hurried her off she did not say. I remember perfectly well her saying with an air of exultation, ‘I have been in Tibet.’ Why she should think that a great matter, more remarkable than any other of the travels in Egypt, India, and other countries she told me about, I could not make out, but she said it with special emphasis and animation. I now know, of course, what it meant.” [13]

Difficulty in finding proper accommodation had led HPB to take up residence in a communal or co-operative home for women on the Lower East Side. One of her numerous fellow residents was an Elizabeth Holt, who some sixty years later recalled:

“In order to be ready for school when it opened, I was sent home in August to the Madison Street house, where we had a friend who would take me somewhat under her friendly protection, and there I found Madame Blavatsky. So far as I know, this was her first stopping place in New York. She had a room on the second floor and my friend had a duplicate room next to hers, so that they became very friendly neighbors. Being a cooperative family, we all knew one another familiarly, and kept a room next to the street door as a common sitting room or office. My small apartment was directly opposite, so that I saw a good deal of Madame Blavatsky, who sat in the office a large part of her time, but she seldom sat alone; she was like a magnet, powerful enough to draw round her everyone who could possibly come. I saw her, day by day, sitting there, rolling her cigarettes and smoking incessantly. She was certainly an unusual figure. I think she must have been taller than she looked, she was so broad. Her whole appearance conveyed the idea of power. There was a sort of suppressed excitement in the house because of her presence, an excitement wholly pleasant and yet somewhat tinged a little with awe.

“I never looked upon Madame as an ethical teacher. For one thing she was too excitable; when things seemed wrong to her, she could express her opinion about them with a vigor which was very disturbing. I never saw her angry with any person or thing at close range. Her objections had an impersonality about them. In mental or physical dilemma, you would instinctively appeal to her, for you felt her fearlessness, her unconventionality, her great wisdom and wide experience and hearty goodwill – her sympathy with the underdog.” [14]

At that time, Spiritualism, with its practices of mediumship and seances, was all the rage. It had attracted considerable attention and gained in influence and popularity across the USA, the UK, and much of Europe. Although some of the Spiritualists were simply conscious frauds, many were genuine and an increasing amount of astounding and inexplicable phenomena and “spirit materialisations” occurred in some of the seances.

Much of HPB’s mission during her first few years in America was connected with the Spiritualist movement, although she herself was never a “Spiritualist” in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Her Teachers were unequivocally opposed to Spiritualism and mediumship and, foreseeing a dire and calamitous fate for the West if it was allowed to continue unabated, instructed her to reveal the truth behind the phenomenon. They did not deny what was occurring in the Spiritualistic world but they denied the Spiritualists’ explanation of it, which was generally to attribute it all to “departed souls” and “spirits” which, according to Theosophy, is not the case at all.

HPB wrote in a letter to her sister at this time:

“The more I see of mediums – for the United States is a true nursery, the most prolific hot bed for mediums and sensitives of all kinds, genuine and artificial – the more I see the danger humanity is surrounded with. . . . You remember, Vera, how I made experiments for you at Rugodevo, how often I saw the ghosts of those who had been living in the house, and described them to you, for you could never see them. . . . Well, it was the same daily and nightly in Vermont. I saw and watched these soulless creatures, the shadows of their terrestrial bodies, from which, in most cases, soul and spirit had fled long ago, but which throve and preserved their semimaterial shadows, by feeding on the vital energies of the hundreds of visitors that came and went, as well as of the mediums. . . .

“It was ghastly to watch the process! It made me often sick and giddy, but I had to look at it, and the most I could do was to hold the disgusting creatures at arm’s length. But it was a sight to see the welcome given to these umbrae by the spiritualists! They wept and rejoiced around the medium, clothed in these empty materialized shadows. . . . It made my heart bleed for them. “If they could but see what I see,” I often wished. If they only knew that these simulacra of men and women are made up wholly of the terrestrial passions, vices, and worldly thoughts of the residuum of the personality that was; for these are only such dregs that could not follow the liberated soul and spirit, and are left for a second death in the terrestrial atmosphere that can be seen by the average medium and the public.” [15]

It was through her involvement with the Spiritualist scene that she first met Henry Steel Olcott, a former Civil War colonel, who soon became her friend, colleague, and assistant. She introduced him to the fact of the existence of the Masters and placed him in personal and independent contact and communication with several of them. It was whilst busily involved in both earnestly defending the more sincere and genuine amongst the mediums and boldly challenging and exposing the fakes, at the same time denouncing the Spiritualists’ lack of philosophical prowess and adequate rationale for their experiences, that she caught the attention of Michael Betanelly, a Georgian man from the Caucasus who had read about her in one of Olcott’s newspaper articles and expressed his wish to meet her.

Apparently falling in love with her almost immediately, he began to pursue her and eventually begged her to marry him. She repeatedly refused but when he seriously and desperately threatened to commit suicide unless she would agree, she decided to accept the proposal rather than risk being responsible for such a terrible fate. Her stipulations were that she would not change her name, that she would be as free and independent as before, and that he should never ask or expect anything whatsoever in the way of romantic relations or physical intimacy, because she had no interest in such matters.

He consented to this, declaring that his only real wish was to have the honour of watching over her and to be able to speak of her as his wife and of himself as her husband. The marriage lasted only a few months and when it became apparent that Betanelly was not willing to abide by the stipulations after all, HPB left him and refused to have any more to do with him. He sued successfully for divorce on grounds of desertion and soon after returned to his native Georgia.

“Spiritualism” is itself originally and primarily a philosophical term meaning the belief and conviction that the ultimate reality is not something material, physical, and objective, but rather something purely spiritual and transcendent, and that this is the source, essence, true nature, animating life, and final destiny, of everything and everyone within the Universe. It does not deny the existence of objective matter and physical phenomena but it maintains that these are only impermanent and evanescent appearances, which are the vehicle for the experience and evolution of that which is in essence purely spiritual and divine. It is the opposite of materialism, which is itself likewise originally a philosophical term and concept.

It is in this sense that HPB informs us that “Theosophy, a doctrine which teaches that all which exists is animated or informed by the Universal Soul or Spirit, and that not an atom in our universe can be outside of this omnipresent Principle – is pure Spiritualism. As to the belief that goes under that name, namely, belief in the constant communication of the living with the dead, whether through the mediumistic powers of oneself or a so-called medium – it is no better than the materialisation of spirit, and the degradation of the human and the divine souls. Believers in such communications are simply dishonouring the dead and performing constant sacrilege. It was well called “Necromancy” in days of old. But our modern Spiritualists take offence at being told this simple truth.” [16]

Theosophical teachings explain that mediumship and the necromantic practices commonly miscalled “Spiritualism” have always been strongly frowned upon and viewed with rightful horror in the East, particularly in Hinduism. The Masters had hoped that the Spiritualists would perceive the truth of Theosophy and become its greatest allies and supporters, abandoning their false notions and practices. This was not to be and, with very few exceptions, the Spiritualists ended up as some of its greatest and most vocal opponents.

HPB, in her preface to “The Key to Theosophy,” speaks of “the Spiritualists, like too many others, preferring to believe what is pleasant rather than what is true, and becoming very angry with anyone who destroys an agreeable delusion . . . as though the possessors of a half truth felt more antagonism to the possessors of the whole truth than those who had no share to boast of.”

On 17th November 1875, HPB having by this time largely distanced herself from the Spiritualists, the Theosophical Movement was founded in New York under the name of “The Theosophical Society.” The principal founders were HPB, Col. Olcott, and William Quan Judge, a young Irish-American lawyer who had been introduced to HPB by Olcott.

The Movement was founded with three main aims or objects. First and foremost was to help bring about the actualisation of Universal Brotherhood, which Theosophy insists is not merely a noble and lofty ideal but an eternal fact in Nature, due to the Unity and Divinity of all life. HPB boldly declared that it was a sin against Nature and a sin against Humanity for one to discriminate against race, creed, gender, caste, or skin colour.

Although the truth of this is now generally accepted around the world, it was considered radical, strange, extreme, and even unacceptable at the end of the 19th century. Part of HPB’s mission was to break down the illusory and self-erected barriers that separated man from man, race from race, caste from caste, nation from nation, and religion from religion.

Second, the Movement was to draw the world’s attention Eastward; to promote the study and investigation of the religions, philosophies, and sciences of India and the East, particularly those relating to Hinduism and Buddhism, and to demonstrate both their greatness and their vital importance for humanity at large. The first introduction of Eastern spirituality to the West came via Theosophy. It should be understood though that Theosophy does not encourage anyone to become a Hindu or a Buddhist. It simply maintains that the core philosophies of these two religions have remained more pure and less corrupted and distorted – and thus far closer to the Truth – than those of the other religions of the world.

As a result, the Theosophical teachings use some terminology and aspects of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in order to present some of the Ancient Wisdom more clearly and comprehensibly. In 1888, HPB was to write: “We say it again: archaic Occultism would remain incomprehensible to all, if it were rendered otherwise than through the more familiar 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.” [17]

The third main objective, which was considered to be of lesser importance than the other two, was to study and research into some of the mysterious and unexplained Laws of Nature and the psychic and spiritual faculties latent in every human being.

The words “occult,” “occultist,” and “occultism,” can be found frequently throughout Theosophical writings. Modern misunderstanding of what this term actually means has led to many misguided accusations and ignorant misrepresentations. We must make clear that the word “occult” is merely a synonym for “esoteric” and comes from the Latin word “occultus,” literally meaning “hidden.” In its literal and proper meaning, occultism is the study of hidden knowledge and secret truths.

As already said, one of the main purposes of the Theosophical Movement is to point out and demonstrate that there is a universal esoteric (i.e. occult – hidden and concealed) Teaching which underlies all the world’s religions and which is in fact the archaic and primeval source of all religion, philosophy, and science.

The habit of equating occultism with dark and evil practices is a relatively modern development. During HPB’s lifetime, it was perfectly understood that “occult” simply meant “esoteric” and that a person being referred to as an “occultist” simply meant someone who was either interested in discovering the secret and hidden meanings and truths behind spiritual and philosophical teachings or someone who had indeed been actually initiated into such “concealed knowledge.” It is obvious then that it is perfectly harmless, unless carried out and pursued for selfish or malevolent purposes, but that is not the nature of Theosophy, since the constant underlying heartbeat and emphasis of all Theosophical teaching is complete and utter altruism, selfless service to humanity, and the Bodhisattva ideal.

There are of course certain individuals who dislike it when people start trying to discover hidden truths or studying spiritual teachings which for long ages had remained secret and unknown to the masses. The Christian Church in particular dislike such things and it was largely they – in the 20th century – who caused the word “occult” to develop its current negative and sinister connotations, by deceptively equating occultism with black magic and satanism in an attempt to keep people away from anything which mentions occultism, the occult, and so on.

Because of the tarnishing of these perfectly innocent words of the English language, many Theosophists today prefer to use the word “esoteric” rather than “occult” in order to avoid being misunderstood or misrepresented. Anyone who reads HPB’s works will see that she used both these terms, applying them as synonyms, which is what they are. Christians should remember though that even in their New Testament there are accounts of Jesus telling his disciples that the “Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” can be revealed only to them (the disciples) and not to the general public or the masses, who had to be taught mainly with parables and simple moral precepts instead. Thus, by his own admission, Jesus had an occult teaching, since occultism is simply esotericism.

This article is an excerpt from the much lengthier article


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Footnote References: [1] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett” #XXVII, p. 59, Theosophical University Press. [2] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett” #LXII, p. 157, Theosophical University Press. [3] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 36, Path Publishing House. [4] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett” #LX, p. 147, Theosophical University Press. [5] Countess Constance Wachtmeister, “Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine” p. 44, Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House. [6] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett” #LXI & LX, p. 154, 151, 145, Theosophical University Press. [7] H. P. Blavatsky, “She Being Dead Yet Speaketh” H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 123, Theosophy Company. [8] H. P. Blavatsky, “H. P. Blavatsky on Precipitation and Other Matters” H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 512, Theosophy Company. [9] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett” #XVIII, p. 37-38, Theosophical University Press. [10] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 102-103, Path Publishing House. [11] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 103, Path Publishing House. [12] H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol. VI, p. 269-280. [13] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 114, Path Publishing House. [14] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 115-116, Path Publishing House. [15] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 128-129, Path Publishing House. [16] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary,” Entry for “Spiritualism,” p. 307, Theosophy Company. [17] H. P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 668, Theosophy Company.