Someone has remarked that the teachings from H. P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge quoted in articles such as Mysteries of the Astral Body seem to be confused and mixed up between the “astral body” and the “etheric body.”
But the fact is that there is no such thing as the etheric body and that the confusion the reader may have experienced is due to their having unfortunately accepted and believed the Pseudo-Theosophy teachings of such people as C. W. Leadbeater and Alice Bailey.
Neither H. P. Blavatsky nor the Masters recognise or mention any body matching the description given to the so-called etheric body by Leadbeater, Besant, Bailey, and other subsequent writers.
Blavatsky and the Masters also never use the term “etheric body.”
No-one had ever heard of the etheric body until C. W. Leadbeater claimed to have discovered it by his clairvoyant powers sometime around the early 1900s. He and Annie Besant then altered the existing description and definition of the astral body in order to fit the “newly discovered” etheric body into the details of man’s inner constitution. At the same time they altered the definition and details of all the other “principles” or components in man, resulting in terrible confusion for many students ever since.
In so doing, they casually defied HPB’s cautionary statement of 1889 in an article titled “A Signal of Danger,” made on the authority of the Masters, which said that “The terminology, introduced fifteen years ago in the T.S., [i.e. Theosophical Society] is the true one, . . . This terminology could not be modified, at this hour, without the risk of introducing in Theosophical teachings a chaos as deplorable as it is dangerous for their clarity.”
The table below compares and contrasts the inner constitution of the human being as taught in both Theosophy and Pseudo-Theosophy. There is no reason why the latter should be referred to as “Theosophy,” seeing as it differs overall in almost every single way from the vast, philosophical, and self-consistent system of teaching presented by H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters and was very largely the invention of C. W. Leadbeater, accepted and endorsed by Annie Besant, and subsequently added to and perpetuated by Alice Bailey.
It can be clearly seen that the differences are not merely matters of terminology and different choices of name but that the actual definitions, concepts, and underlying principles have all been altered and re-written in a way that allows no possible compatibility or legitimate correspondence.
Further in depth explanations of some of the major and most important differences and discrepancies between original Theosophy and its later counterfeit version, the product and property of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” can be found in numerous articles on this site, ranging from Original Theosophy and Later Versions to Understanding the Logos to The Seven Planes to The Three Logoi to Atman – The Higher Self to Maitreya in the Light of Real Theosophy to The Seven Rays to Christos – The Christ Principle to Sanat Kumara and the Pratyeka Buddhas to Theosophy warns against Ceremonial Magic and beyond. There is also a listing of relevant articles under the heading “PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY/NEO-THEOSOPHY” on the Articles page.
Over the years, various individuals such as the highly respected late English Theosophist Geoffrey Farthing have also shown through research and examination that no such thing as the etheric body discovered and described by Leadbeater can possibly exist. In regard to this notion of the “Etheric Double,” Farthing spoke of “the far-reaching effects of a false assumption.”
According to H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters, we only have TWO parts of our being which can accurately be called “bodies” and these are the physical body and its double known as the astral body.
“The “principles,” as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 100)
The article The Sevenfold Nature of Man explains each of our seven principles in more detail.
According to the writings of the Masters, the teaching about the Seven Principles is of absolutely vital importance. They say that it is the fundamental foundation of the entire Esoteric Doctrine and that a right comprehension of Theosophy is dependent upon a right comprehension of the Seven Principles. No-one can hope to clearly understand or learn anything from HPB’s teachings until they first undertake the necessary step of unlearning the teachings of Leadbeater, Besant, and Bailey.
As was said in the article How to successfully study the Teachings of H. P. Blavatsky:
“. . . it is impossible to gain anything like a clear or accurate understanding of HPB’s teachings while at the same time following the teachings of the likes of Bailey, Leadbeater, and Besant. Their teachings are an entirely different system with entirely different focus, aims, objectives, and terminology to that of the original Theosophy.
“This is the initial thing to realise, otherwise you will just mistakenly assume when you read HPB’s references to the astral body or the Monad or the Seven Rays or the Seven Planes or the Logos or the Kumaras, etc. that she is using those terms and concepts in the same way as those later writers, whereas in fact those later writers use these and over 50 other important terms and concepts in an entirely different way and with entirely different meanings from how they were used by HPB and the Masters in their authentic teachings. This is a proven and undeniable fact which has been shown and demonstrated in depth, point by point, in some of our articles. It is also a fact that the human mind cannot hold to two contradictory understandings or perceptions of something at one and the same time. Thus it is essential, if you want to stand any chance of comprehending the teachings of HPB, to unlearn those later teachings.
“The majority of Alice Bailey students and Leadbeater/Besant followers admit to having great difficulty in understanding HPB’s teachings. Meanwhile, those Theosophists who have nothing to do with the Bailey/Leadbeater/Besant teachings have little problem or difficulty with the Blavatsky teachings. The difficulty and confusion comes from trying to read HPB’s teachings through the lens of those other teachings. It just cannot be done.
“The same applies to some extent to the Agni Yoga teachings of Helena Roerich. Although these are much closer to HPB’s teachings, they are still quite different in some respects and use concepts and terminology in contradictory ways which are liable to cause confusion and misunderstanding.
“Do not approach HPB’s works expecting to find something even slightly similar or compatible with those later teachings. The differences are manifold and irreconcilable. You must be willing to unlearn in order to learn. And if you are not, then there is no point even bothering with HPB because it will be little more than a waste of your time.”
Also of serious significance is the unfortunate fact that the numbering of the Principles and Planes was reversed by Leadbeater. For example, in HPB’s teachings the highest Principle and Plane is referred to as the 7th, whereas the lowest is referred to as the 1st. In the Leadbeater/Besant/Bailey teachings and in the so-called “Theosophical” writings of those who put their trust in those individuals, the highest Principle and Plane will be found referred to as the 1st whilst the lowest is called the 7th.
One may argue that the actual numbers used don’t really matter too much, seeing as they are simply for ease of comprehension and explanation and no Principle or Plane actually has a designated number in actuality. Whilst this is true, the fact is that the reversal of the numbering has had the effect of causing generations of spiritual seekers to be unable to understand or make sense of HPB’s writings.
The law of correspondence and analogy is an essential key – some might say the central key – for comprehension of “The Secret Doctrine,” with all the various groups of seven – such as the Seven Planes, Seven Globes, Seven Sacred Planets, Seven Rounds, Seven Root Races, Seven Sub-Races etc. – corresponding with the order and numbering of the Seven Principles of the human constitution. But if the enumeration of the Principles is REVERSED and the various numbers made to correspond to OTHER Principles, then the whole thing is messed up and literally cannot be understood or grasped.
Finally, as unsavoury and unpleasant as it is, it is still necessary for the sake of Truth to inform or remind the reader of proven facts about Leadbeater which are common knowledge despite ongoing unsuccessful attempts by certain members of the Adyar Theosophical Society to suppress or dismiss them. We will not give those in this article, lest it distract from the main point of discussion, but anyone who wishes can take a look at The Case against C. W. Leadbeater, which is primarily excerpted from “Charles Webster Leadbeater: A Biographical Study” by Gregory Tillett.
We are sure no-one can legitimately or justifiably take offence or accuse us of being “closed minded” when we say we would rather study Theosophy as it was given by HPB and the Masters than study and believe the self-proclaimed clairvoyant discoveries and revelations of such a character as Leadbeater.
It was HPB herself who coined the term “Pseudo-Theosophy.” In one of her final articles, titled “On Pseudo-Theosophy,” she wrote: “If the “false prophets of Theosophy” are to be left untouched, the true prophets will be very soon – as they have been already – confused with the false. It is nigh time to winnow our corn and cast away the chaff.”
This article has hopefully been a much needed step in that direction but there are still many more steps to be taken. Thankfully for the great Theosophical Cause, communications received from visitors to the site indicate that there is a growing dissatisfaction and distrust around the world with Neo-Theosophy or Pseudo-Theosophy and a renewed interest beginning in the life, work, and teachings of HPB.
A general misunderstanding and misconception still prevails, however, as to what Theosophy is. It is not a series of theories, opinions, and speculations, to be added to, altered, revised, improved, corrected, or rewritten, by anyone who feels the wish to do so or who claims to be spiritually capable or “inspired by the Masters” to do so. Such an idea is a real depreciation and distortion of true Theosophy.
For those who may wish to understand better why we say this, the article Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom will help to make things clearer.
As our final point, we ought to clarify two things: (1) We are not saying that HPB never ever used the word “etheric.” She did, several times, – it was a term used by some late 19th century scientists – but only in its literal sense of “something belonging to the nature of ether” and never in respect to any of the Principles of the human constitution; she never once wrote about “the etheric body”; and (2) Whilst both HPB and William Judge do very occasionally speak of the “ethereal body” it is the case that “ethereal” is not the same word as “etheric” nor does it have the same meaning. “Ethereal” means “light, fine, subtle, seemingly not of this world.” Whenever they speak of an “ethereal body” it can readily be seen from the context and the descriptions and synonyms given that they are speaking of what they usually call the astral body and not as a separate Principle distinct from this.
In closing, here is some positive feedback received by email from a visitor to this website:
“I am very grateful that you have been brave enough to post this information online as I know how many supporters of later “Theosophy” resent these details being made widely known. I discovered it by “accident” when writing something of my own and trying to understand and explain the etheric body. Wanting to go to the original source, I decided to see how HPB herself had defined it and was stunned to realise through my research that she did not originate the concept and never even spoke of an etheric body but only an astral one. This discovery provides a lot of clarity for me on many things that subconsciously bothered me for quite a while about Alice Bailey and other teachings.”
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
IMPORTANT NEW ARTICLE – JUNE 2015
(Uncovering the real inspiration behind the Alice Bailey Books)