The Essence of The Secret Doctrine

"The Secret Doctrine" by H.P. Blavatsky

At the start of the article An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine we said:

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H.P. Blavatsky’s masterpiece “The Secret Doctrine”, published in 1888, has never been out of print and is still in demand from spiritual seekers all around the world. It bears the subtitle of “The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy” along with the following dedication by HPB:

“This Work I dedicate to all True Theosophists, in every Country, and of every Race, for they called it forth, and for them it was recorded.”

On several occasions, the Master K.H. and the Master M. stated under their own signatures – entirely independently of HPB and both before and after her death – that she was their “Direct Agent,” their “Brother,” and that “The Secret Doctrine” was the “triple production” of all three of them working together. In one letter, the Master K.H. describes the book as being the “epitome of occult truths that will make it a source of information and instruction for the earnest student for long years to come.”

The book is in two large volumes, titled “Cosmogenesis” and “Anthropogenesis.” “Cosmogenesis,” the first volume, deals with the origins, birth, and evolution of the Universe, the Cosmos, the Solar System, and our planet, whilst “Anthropogenesis,” the second volume, deals with the origins, birth, and evolution of mankind.

Unfortunately, many people choose not to attempt to read it, having heard it described by others as being very difficult, hard to understand, and extremely heavy going.

It is certainly not a book to be read through casually like any ordinary book. It requires slow, careful, and preferably meditative, reading. To truly grasp its depths requires proper study…an ongoing, lifetime study. Many of those “earnest students” referred to by the Master maintain that no greater book has been written since.

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That article speaks about the “three fundamental propositions” which Madame Blavatsky lists and explains at the very beginning of “The Secret Doctrine” and the understanding of which she describes as being essential to the understanding of everything that follows. If someone can understand those three basic concepts then they should be able to understand the whole book.

Who amongst esoteric students is “earnest” enough to go studiously, sincerely, and humbly to this “source of information and instruction” that comes direct from the reservoir of timeless truth…the Gupta Vidya…the Esoteric Philosophy of the Mystic East?

For more information about the actual writing of “The Secret Doctrine” and the direct involvement with it of the Mahatmas or Masters of the Wisdom, please see the article Who wrote The Secret Doctrine?

Briefly summarising the three fundamental propositions of the Secret Doctrine, they are:

1. The ONE Absolute, Infinite, Omnipresent, Eternal, Divine PRINCIPLE.

2. The cyclic appearance and disappearance of the universe and everything in it.

3. The Law of Karma and Reincarnation and the fact that the ongoing evolutionary journey of each spiritual entity is inevitably governed by this Law.

Then, from p. 272-275 of the first volume, HPB summarises some of the most important aspects and concepts of the Secret Doctrine as follows. These are some of the most vitally important aspects of both the book “The Secret Doctrine” and of the Secret Doctrine itself, that Esoteric Doctrine or Occult Philosophy or Sacred Science or Ancient Wisdom – call it what you will – which is the archaic source of all true religion, all true philosophy, and all true science. It is the living doctrine taught by and in the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School. HPB’s book titled “The Secret Doctrine” represents the particular portion of the Secret Doctrine itself which the Masters and Chiefs of that Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood deemed suitable and permissible to be given out to the general public, with HPB acting as their direct agent and representative.

She writes:

“(1.) The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Puranas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the “soul of things,” and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the “Wise Men” of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions – so obtained as to stand as independent evidence – of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.

“(2.) The fundamental Law in that system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause.

. . . “Some few, whose lamps shone brighter, have been led
From cause to cause to nature’s secret head,
And found that one first Principle must be. . . .”

It is called “Substance-Principle,” for it becomes “substance” on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a “principle” in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself. (See in chapters on Symbolism, “Primordial Substance, and Divine Thought.”)

“(3.) The Universe is the periodical manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence. To call it “essence,” however, is to sin against the very spirit of the philosophy. For though the noun may be derived in this case from the verb esse, “to be,” yet IT cannot be identified with a being of any kind, that can be conceived by human intellect. IT is best described as neither Spirit nor matter, but both. “Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti” are One, in reality, yet two in the Universal conception of the manifested, even in the conception of the One Logos, its first manifestation, to which, as the able lecturer in the “Notes on the Bhagavadgita” shows, IT appears from the objective standpoint of the One Logos as Mulaprakriti and not as Parabrahmam; as its veil and not the one REALITY hidden behind, which is unconditioned and absolute.

“(4.) The Universe is called, with everything in it, MAYA, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the ONE, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o’-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself.

“(5.) Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs – which we can recognise – of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either “dead” or “blind” matter, as there is no “Blind” or “Unconscious” Law. These find no place among the conceptions of Occult philosophy. The latter never stops at surface appearances, and for it the noumenal essences have more reality than their objective counterparts; it resembles therein the mediaeval Nominalists, for whom it was the Universals that were the realities and the particulars which existed only in name and human fancy.

“(6.) The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man – the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm – is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man’s external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who – whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels – are “messengers” in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence; and to call them all pure Spirits without any of the earthly alloy “which time is wont to prey upon” is only to indulge in poetical fancy. For each of these Beings either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or a coming cycle (Manvantara). They are perfected, when not incipient, men; and differ morally from the terrestrial human beings on their higher (less material) spheres, only in that they are devoid of the feeling of personality and of the human emotional nature – two purely earthly characteristics. The former, or the “perfected,” have become free from those feelings, because (a) they have no longer fleshly bodies – an ever-numbing weight on the Soul; and (b) the pure spiritual element being left untrammelled and more free, they are less influenced by maya than man can ever be, unless he is an adept who keeps his two personalities – the spiritual and the physical – entirely separated.”

A few pages later, from p. 279-282, she adds the following…

“Whatever may be the destiny of these actual writings in a remote future, we hope to have proven so far the following facts:

“(1) The Secret Doctrine teaches no Atheism, except in the Hindu sense of the word nastika, or the rejection of idols, including every anthropomorphic god. In this sense every Occultist is a Nastika.

“(2) It admits a Logos or a collective “Creator” of the Universe; a Demi-urgos – in the sense implied when one speaks of an “Architect” as the “Creator” of an edifice, whereas that Architect has never touched one stone of it, but, while furnishing the plan, left all the manual labour to the masons; in our case the plan was furnished by the Ideation of the Universe, and the constructive labour was left to the Hosts of intelligent Powers and Forces. But that Demiurgos is no personal deity, – i.e., an imperfect extra-cosmic god, – but only the aggregate of the Dhyan-Chohans and the other forces.

“As to the latter –
(3) They are dual in their character; being composed of (a) the irrational brute energy, inherent in matter, and (b) the intelligent soul or cosmic consciousness which directs and guides that energy, and which is the Dhyan-Chohanic thought reflecting the Ideation of the Universal mind. This results in a perpetual series of physical manifestations and moral effects on Earth, during manvantaric periods, the whole being subservient to Karma. As that process is not always perfect; and since, however many proofs it may exhibit of a guiding intelligence behind the veil, it still shows gaps and flaws, and even results very often in evident failures – therefore, neither the collective Host (Demiurgos), nor any of the working powers individually, are proper subjects for divine honours or worship. All are entitled to the grateful reverence of Humanity, however, and man ought to be ever striving to help the divine evolution of Ideas, by becoming to the best of his ability a co-worker with nature in the cyclic task. The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart – invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through “the still small voice” of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it, ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls*; making their spirit the sole mediator between them and the Universal Spirit, their good actions the only priests, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the Presence(See Part II., “On the Hidden Deity.”)

* “When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are … but enter into thine inner chamber and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.” Matt. vi. Our Father is within us “in Secret,” our 7th principle, in the “inner chamber” of our Soul perception. “The Kingdom of Heaven” and of God “is within us” says Jesus, not outside. Why are Christians so absolutely blind to the self-evident meaning of the words of wisdom they delight in mechanically repeating?

“(4) Matter is Eternal. It is the Upadhi (the physical basis) for the One infinite Universal Mind to build thereon its ideations. Therefore, the Esotericists maintain that there is no inorganic or dead matter in nature, the distinction between the two made by Science being as unfounded as it is arbitrary and devoid of reason. Whatever Science may think, however – and exact Science is a fickle dame, as we all know by experience – Occultism knows and teaches differently, from time immemorial – from Manu and Hermes down to Paracelsus and his successors.

“Thus, Hermes, the thrice great Trismegistus, says: “Oh, my son, matter becomes; formerly it was; for matter is the vehicle of becoming. Becoming is the mode of activity of the uncreate deity. Having been endowed with the germs of becoming, matter (objective) is brought into birth, for the creative force fashions it according to the ideal forms. Matter not yet engendered had no form; it becomes when it is put into operation.” (The Definitions of Asclepios, p. 134, “Virgin of the World.”)

“Everything is the product of one universal creative effort. . . . There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism.” (Paracelsus, “Philosophia ad Athenienses,” F. Hartmann’s translations, p. 44)

“(5) The Universe was evolved out of its ideal plan, upheld through Eternity in the unconsciousness of that which the Vedantins call Parabrahm. This is practically identical with the conclusions of the highest Western Philosophy – “the innate, eternal, and self-existing Ideas” of Plato, now reflected by Von Hartmann. The “unknowable” of Herbert Spencer bears only a faint resemblance to that transcendental Reality believed in by Occultists, often appearing merely a personification of a “force behind phenomena” – an infinite and eternal Energy from which all things proceed, while the author of the “Philosophy of the Unconscious” has come (in this respect only) as near to a solution of the great Mystery as mortal man can. Few were those, whether in ancient or mediaeval philosophy, who have dared to approach the subject or even hint at it.”

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So what has been quoted here in this article could be considered the essence of the Secret Doctrine. But there is of course much much more to the over 1,000 pages of the work than just the points mentioned above. Theosophists who refuse to read “The Secret Doctrine” are missing out in a big way. It is of course entirely up to them but the assertion that the book is impossible to understand is entirely groundless, especially when there are even children and teenagers who read and study it and who are able to grasp its meaning perfectly clearly, some of these being from countries where English is not even their first language. Perhaps it all ultimately comes down to the matter of how much effort we are prepared to put into our spiritual study. In the end, effort always pays off!

“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.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 668 –

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SOME RELATED ARTICLES: An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, Who wrote The Secret Doctrine?, Golden Keys to The Secret Doctrine, Human Evolution in The Secret Doctrine, The “Third Volume” of The Secret Doctrine, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky, Praise for H.P. Blavatsky and Theosophy, and How to successfully study the Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky.

One thought on “The Essence of The Secret Doctrine

  1. I have been a Rosicrucian since 1969, a Theosophist in the Missouri group for over 5 years, but neither of these two provide the one-place, informative, library that this site does. I am recommending this to all my esoteric friends and relatives.

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