You invite questions respecting all points of difficulty in subjects connected with Occult Science. I cannot reconcile some things relating to the Apostles of Modern Theosophy.
In the "Preface to the Original Edition" (page xxiii. of the 5th Edition) of "Esoteric Buddhism," by Mr. A. P. Sinnett, there are these words – "Two years ago, neither I, nor any other European living, knew the alphabet of the science here for the first time put into a scientific statement." This is an emphatic expression; it would seem to imply that the thinking world is exclusively indebted to this book and to its author for that knowledge of the truths of Esoteric Science, which is now making its way amongst European and American Theosophists. But this can hardly be Mr. Sinnett's meaning.
For, can the statement and its implication be consistent with the fact that Madame Blavatsky, herself a European,1 had, some years previously, written "Isis Unveiled," which though it does not give the same constructive teaching respecting the mysteries of the Universe as does "Esoteric Buddhism," does yet imply a knowledge on the part of its author of much more than "the alphabet of the science"?
But is it not true, as indicated in "The Occult World," that Mr. Sinnett owed to Madame Blavatsky his own first knowledge of Esoteric Science, and also his introduction to the adept teacher, the Master from whom he derived the bulk of his information? Madame Blavatsky, we have been led to understand, taught these truths of Occult Science years previously to Colonel Olcott, and in so doing converted him from a Spiritualist to a Theosophist. It is further likely that Madame Blavatsky taught others the same truths.2
I would also ask if there are no secret students of Science, in its broadest aspects, who have known these things in advance of its recent publication?
It would be a satisfaction to myself and others if it could be stated how the recent teachings of Occult Science really originated, and what the true position of "Esoteric Buddhism" is as an authoritative exponent of Occult truth.
Now that Theosophical teachings are taking hold of men's minds, it is very desirable that the genesis of the modern movement should be truthfully known. I acknowledge myself greatly indebted to "Esoteric Buddhism," but I am very anxious to understand the facts to which I have alluded, and to have them reconciled.
– CHARLES B. INGHAM
The case in point is a good illustration of the misconceptions which often spring from looseness of expression in a writer. Certainly, Mr. Sinnett could have no wish whatever to convey the idea that he was the first and only channel for the transmission of Esoteric doctrine. In fact, he specially repudiates the claim, as our correspondent will find if he will turn to p. xxi. of the Preface to the very edition he cites. "Let me add," says Mr. Sinnett, "that I do not regard myself as the sole exponent of the outer world, at this crisis of Esoteric truth." If he omitted to mention the writer and her American pupils and colleagues of 1874-8, Colonel Olcott and Mr. Judge, it was undoubtedly because he regarded "Madame Blavatsky," on account of her Russian nationality, as more Asiatic than European – a harmless delusion many a patriotic Englishman labours under – and the former gentlemen, as Americans. It had also escaped him for the moment, no doubt, that among the group of Initiates to which his own mystical correspondent is allied, are two of European race, and that one who is that Teacher's superior is also of that origin, being half a Slavonian in his "present incarnation," as he himself wrote to Colonel Olcott in New York.
"'Esoteric Buddhism" has rendered precious service. by popularizing in exoteric form esoteric truths, meddling with pure metaphysics being disclaimed by its author (Vide p. 46), and in the propagation of theosophical ideas throughout the world; and it has proved its popularity by passing already through six editions, and being just at this moment about to appear in a seventh. Yet it is not free enough of minor errors to entitle it to be regarded as an infallible Scripture, nor its modest author as a Divine Revelator – as some foolish enthusiasts, in search of new idols, figure to themselves. The correspondent's question as to "how the recent teachings of Occult Science really originated," is easily answered. A crisis had arrived in which it was absolutely necessary to bring within reach of our generation the Esoteric Doctrine of the eternal cycles. Religion, both in the West and East, had long been smothering beneath the dust heaps of Sectarianism and enfranchised Science. For lack of any scientific religious concept, Science was giving Religion the coup-de grace with the iron bar of Materialism. To crown the disorder the phantom-world of Hades, or Kama-loca, had burst in a muddy torrent into ten thousand séance-rooms, and created most misleading notions of man's post – mortem state. Nothing but a few fundamental tenets from the Esoteric philosophy, sketched in broad outlines by such a clear and brilliant writer as Mr. Sinnett is known to be, could snatch mankind from drowning in the sea of ignorance. So once again the Gates of the Palace of Truth were opened and Mr. Sinnett and many other willing workers have caught each a ray. But as all the light can only be got by re-uniting all the different rays of the spectrum, so the archaic philosophy in its entirety can only be apprehended by combining all the glimpses of light that have passed through the many intellectual prisms of our own and preceding generations.
Lucifer, October, 1888
1 In view of a number of such letters received, a full answer will be given in the "Secret Doctrine," now nearly ready. – [ED. back to text
2 She did, most undeniably. But as her several pupils (Europeans) were pledged disciples, which Mr. Sinnett never was, they could not give out to the world what they had learned. back to text