By Archibald Gandah
I am responding to the first part of your article “Beware of esoteric New Age mumbo jumbo”, where inferences are made at the person of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical philosophy in general.
I must say I’ve heard all this before, and l answer that no more utterly baseless and lying calumny has ever been invented and circulated. Silly people can but see silly dreams, says one Russian Proverb. It makes one’s blood boil to hear such vile accusations made without the slightest foundation, and on the strengths of mere inferences.
You obviously no nothing about theosophy, and to make such a ceaseless and malicious representation of theosophical teachings is really disgraceful.
Now, allow me to answer you on the three charges you brought against Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical movement in general, namely the Lucifer charge, the Plagiarist charge and the Society for Psychical Research charge.
- The Lucifer Charge
One of the most slanderous, ignorant, and utterly false accusations that has been repeatedly directed at H.P. Blavatsky and against Theosophists in general over the years is the claim that Theosophy is a form of Satanism, as you said in your article, and that Madame Blavatsky was a devil worshipper.
To a Theosophist, such an assertion is as laughable as it is ridiculous and nonsensical.
It is not surprising that such accusations and condemnations originate primarily from the realm of Christianity and from those of its adherents like you who believe in a personal anthropomorphic God and a personal anthropomorphic devil, the supposed enemy of that God.
Considering the fact that Lucifer and Satan have come to be viewed as synonymous terms and names for the same entity, it is not too hard to see why you have jumped to such a conclusion, seeing as the Theosophical magazine started in England in the late 1880s by HPB was titled “Lucifer” and that in her masterpiece work “The Secret Doctrine” she speaks of Lucifer in positive and glowing terms.
But there are several important points which need to be understood…
#1. Christianity does not have a monopoly on the term “Lucifer” nor on its definition. The Christian concept and definition of the term “Lucifer” is merely the latest in a long line of definitions and interpretations of this pre-Christian term.
#2. The word “Lucifer” occurs only once in the entire Bible. This is in Isaiah 14:12, which says: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”
Those who read this verse in its actual context will clearly see that the sentence is applied specifically to a certain Babylonian king who was an enemy in war of the Israelites. The original Hebrew text uses the word הֵילֵל which literally means “bright star” or “shining one,” a term applied sarcastically or mockingly by the Israelites to this particular enemy of theirs.
The translators of the King James Version of the Bible – one of the chief of whom was the well known Rosicrucian initiate Dr Robert Fludd, a fact which will no doubt shock and horrify many Christians – chose to translate this word with the Latin word “Lucifer.”
#3. “Lucifer” literally means Lightbringer, Light bearer, Bringer of Dawn, Shining One, or Morning Star. The word has no other meaning. Historically and astronomically, the term “Morning Star” has always been applied to the planet Venus.
#4. Since the only occurrence of the word “Lucifer” in the Bible is that one verse in Isaiah, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible which says that Lucifer is Satan or the devil. It was Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) who was the first person to apply that passage of scripture to Satan and thus to equate Lucifer with Satan.
But even then this notion didn’t catch on in a big way until the much more recent popularization of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in which Lucifer is used as another name for Satan, the evil adversary of God.
Also, such luminaries of the Christian world as Martin Luther and John Calvin considered it “a gross error” to apply Isaiah 14:12 to the devil, “for the context plainly shows these statements must be understood in reference to the king of the Babylonians.”
#5. Thus the Christians who claim that Lucifer is the devil actually have no Biblical basis or authority for such a belief. Though they may claim to be “Bible believing Christians” whose faith is built solely on “the Word of God” they are actually followers – in this and many other respects – of Christian religious tradition and not of the Christian Bible. Or have they quietly conferred divine infallibility upon the Pope and Milton without informing the rest of the world?
#6. H.P. Blavatsky was never at any point in her life a Christian, gave no credence to Christian theology and did not believe in any type of personal or anthropomorphic God nor in any type of personal or anthropomorphic devil.
She believed and taught that there is but ONE Infinite Divine Life which is everything and in everything and that It has no adversary or enemy, since there is nothing but That – the boundless, impersonal, omnipresent Principle of Absolute Existence Itself. She was against the notion of worshipping or praying to anyone or anything. She taught that evil is really imperfection, which is the automatic and inevitable byproduct of the existence of matter.
Since it would take too long and also be out of place here to try to explain all of this to someone like you who is unfamiliar with Theosophy, we can sum up by saying that what H.P. Blavatsky has to say about Lucifer is entirely esoteric, symbolical, and philosophical. Fanatical Christians and half-crazed conspiracy theorists like to give the impression that she spent almost all her time ranting and raving about Lucifer, which is simply not true.
As for the reason her magazine was named “Lucifer,” she wrote in its very first article – titled “What’s in a Name?” – that “the first and most important, if not the sole object of the magazine, is expressed in the line from the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, on its title page. It is to bring light to “the hidden things of darkness,” (iv. 5); to show in their true aspect and their original real meaning things and names, men and their doings and customs; it is finally to fight prejudice, hypocrisy and shams in every nation, in every class of Society, as in every department of life.
The task is a laborious one but it is neither impracticable nor useless, if even as an experiment. Thus, for an attempt of such nature, no better title could ever be found than the one chosen. … No fitter symbol exists for the proposed work – that of throwing a ray of truth on everything hidden by the darkness of prejudice, by social or religious misconceptions; especially by that idiotic routine in life, which, once that a certain action, a thing, a name, has been branded by slanderous inventions, however unjust, makes respectable people, so called, turn away shiveringly, refusing to even look at it from any other aspect than the one sanctioned by public opinion.
Such an endeavor then, to force the weak-hearted to look truth straight in the face, is helped most efficaciously by a title belonging to the category of branded names.”
But as she was later to remark, the ignorant and erroneous belief that Lucifer = Satan “has struck its roots too deep in the soil of blind faith” to allow many people to bravely, boldly, and unashamedly reveal the true origins and true nature of what the so-called Lucifer actually is.
Those who attempt to do so are always bound to be immediately labeled as “Satanists” and “devil worshippers” by a certain class of Christian, those whose trademark characteristics invariably tend to be willful ignorance and mental laziness.
It has indeed become a “branded name,” one which still automatically conjures up the image of an anthropomorphic devil even in the minds of the most hardened atheists.
Yet who can deny that even Jesus is portrayed as boldly proclaiming his identity with Venus the Lightbringer in Revelation 22:16, where he says “I, Jesus, am the bright and morning star.” If the translators had chosen to translate this verse using Latin just as they did with Isaiah 14:12, it would read “I, Jesus, am Lucifer.”
- The Plagiarist Charge
As to the plagiarism charges, it should be understood that as applied to HPB, the use of the term plagiarism extends far beyond its dictionary definition: “To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.” This Blavatsky did not do. [When Ralston Skinner gave HPB, as a gift, his manuscript of Part Three of Source of Measures, he said she could use it as her own work. She refused, saying, “How can I quote without quotation marks? … How can I quote and let out your name?” (Feb. 17, 1886, Ralston Collection, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard University
HPB’s so-called plagiarism is a practice followed by practically every author who publishes the fruits of his research. To understand the foregoing, one must be able to distinguish between primary sources and secondary sources. If you were to quote from an Emerson essay, for example, that essay would be your primary source.
If, however, you quote Emerson quoting Shakespeare, that portion of Emerson’s essay would be called your secondary source. In Coleman’s view, you must credit right then and there – in a footnote or endnote – not only Shakespeare, but the secondary plagiarism, for you are misleading your readers into thinking you yourself found the reference in the works of Shakespeare. However, citing only primary sources is a legitimate practice that most authors of scholarship follow all the time. In Isis Unveiled, HPB frequently gave credit to the original author but not to the secondary source.
Writers today acknowledge indebtedness to secondary sources indirectly by including in their bibliographies the names of books they drew upon in their research. To list all would be unwise, for among the numerous volumes researched only a few may be considered worthy of mentioning. If you were to apply to these hundreds of thousands of authors the rules some have demanded HPB to abide by, he would call them all plagiarists.
As was common in books of her day, HPB’s works had no bibliographies. However, her secondary sources were often referred to in the text when quoting primary material; thus the reader became aware of the book as a worthy source of information. To illustrate, a one Mr Coleman accuses HPB of using forty-four passages – he should say quotations – from C.W. King’s book The Gnostics and Their Remains in Isis without acknowledgement. Yet, when using Gnostics as a primary source, she credits it and its author on thirty-two occasions.
Mr Coleman says that The Secret Doctrine “is of a piece with Isis” in that it is “permeated with plagiarisms, and is in all its parts a rehash of other books.” He lists twenty-one books as some of those from which HPB plagiarized [did not name secondary sources]. Of these, only five mention the number of “borrowed passages”:
Wilson’s translation of the Vishnu Purana – 130
Professor Alexander Winchell’s World-Life – 70
Dowson’s Hindu Classical Dictionary – 123
Decharme’s Mythologie de la Grece Antique – 60
Myers’s Qabbala – 34
The Secret Doctrine runs to 1,570 pages; the source books, too, are large. How can one locate parallel passages in this work and the secondary source named, with no pagination given for either? Unless one were to set up an elaborate computer program, it seems an impossible job. Nevertheless, a test case was decided upon. Among the five books just listed, Coleman points to two as very largely forming the basis of The Secret Doctrine: Wilson’s translation of the Vishnu Purana, and World-Life by Alexander Winchell, professor of geology and paleontology at the University of Michigan.
The latter work was chosen because, being on science, it has well-delineated subject matter (such as chapters on the sun and the moon) and might be checked against the text of The Secret Doctrine, using the huge 396-page index to the SD in the Blavatsky Collected Writings edition. A research assistant, who modestly requested to remain anonymous, volunteered to undertake this tedious assignment and spent two to three hours daily on the work for six months.
Halfway through she complained that “it was very discouraging to keep looking for something you can’t find.” However, she did find a few unacknowledged borrowings from secondary sources – not Coleman’s boasted seventy passages, but six. No wonder Coleman never wrote his book! He calculated well; people would believe his claimed research without the promised proofs.
- Society of Psychical Research charge
On this one, it would be best if I quote a passage from the book “Key to Theosophy’ by Madame Blavatsky as she responds to questions on the matter. The conversation goes:
- It is just what they say. But is it not very painful to her to be publicly denounced as “the most accomplished impostor of the age, whose name deserves to pass to posterity,” as is done in the Report of the Society for Psychical Research?
- It might be painful if it were true, or came from people less rabidly materialistic and prejudiced. As it is, personally she treats the whole matter with contempt, while the Mahatmas simply laugh at it. In truth, it is the greatest compliment that could be paid to her. I say so, again.
- But her enemies claim to have proved their case.
- Aye, it is easy enough to make such a claim when you have constituted yourself judge, jury, and prosecuting counsel at once, as they did. But who, except their direct followers and our enemies, believe in it?
- But they sent a representative to India to investigate the matter, didn’t they?
- They did, and their final conclusion rests entirely on the unchecked statements and unverified assertions of this young gentleman. A lawyer who read through his report told a friend of mine that in all his experience he had never seen “such a ridiculous and self-condemnatory document.” It was found to be full of suppositions and “working hypotheses” which mutually destroyed each other. Is this a serious charge?
- Yet it has done the Society great harm. Why, then, did she not vindicate her own character, at least, before a Court of Law?
- As a Theosophist, it is her duty to leave unheeded all personal insults.
- Neither the Society nor Mme. Blavatsky had any money to waste over such a lawsuit.
- It would have been ridiculous for both to be untrue to their principles, because of an attack made on them by a flock of stupid old British wethers, who had been led to butt at them by an over-frolicsome lambkin from Australia.
- This is complimentary. But do you not think that it would have done real good to the cause of Theosophy, if she had authoritatively disproved the whole thing once for all?
- Perhaps. But do you believe that any English jury or judge would have ever admitted the reality of psychic phenomena, even if entirely unprejudiced beforehand? And when you remember that they would have been set against us already by the “Russian Spy” scare, the charge of Atheism and infidelity, and all the other slanders that have been circulated against us, you cannot fail to see that such an attempt to obtain justice in a Court of Law would have been worse than fruitless! All this the psychic researchers knew well, and they took a base and mean advantage of their position to raise themselves above our heads and save themselves at our expense.
- The S.P.R. now denies completely the existence of the Mahatmas. They say that from beginning to end they were a romance which Madame Blavatsky has woven from her own brain?
- Well, she might have done many things less clever than this. At any rate, we have not the slightest objection to this theory. As she always says now, she almost prefers that people should not believe in the Masters. She declares openly that she would rather people should seriously think that the only Mahatmaland is the grey matter of her brain, and that, in short, she has evolved them out of the depths of her own inner consciousness, than that their names and grand ideal should be so infamously desecrated as they are at present. At first she used to protest indignantly against any doubts as to their existence. Now she never goes out of her way to prove or disprove it. Let people think what they like.
As a last point of correction, true and genuine theosophy does not talk of “Ascended Masters” as you state, that is new age mumbo jumbo if l am to quote your own words. Theosophy views the new age movement as little more than a psychic cesspit.
Theosophy talks of “living human Mahatmas” and not any type of “Ascended Masters,” which was a concept dreamed up and first popularized in the 1930s by the American con artist Guy Ballard, whose followers revere him today as the “Ascended Master Godfrey Ray King. The true Masters referred to in theosophical literature are right here on the physical plane, in physical incarnation, because this is where they are needed.
We promote only the original Theosophical teachings and who give no credence to the later versions of “Theosophy” from after the time of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, for we know that there are ‘many other versions of theosophy’ promulgated today by these so called new age movements (probably you used some of these as your sources).
Mr Chikosi, it is always important for you to thoroughly research a matter before making known your opinions, especially on public fora. Whilst l may not entirely agree with Awakened brother’s opinions, for you to infer that he drew his ideas from Madame Blavatsky and the theosophical philosophy is entirely untrue.
Let it be known to you today Mr Chikosi that theosophists are not afraid neither of public opinion or misguided prejudice, nor of the claims and threats of Christianity, which we hold to be the most arrogant, ignorant, and impudent of all the world’s religions. “There is no religion higher than Truth” – and eventually, as always, the Truth will prevail. Please feel free to respond to this on whatever fora you choose.
Signing off, Archibald Gandah.