[Notes in defense of Esoteric Buddhism]
Pamphlet selections by T. Subba Row | Notes by H.P.B.
[Note: T. Subba Row is here replying to a circular by Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland wherein they criticize A.P. Sinnett’s book Esoteric Buddhism.]
. . . Mr. Sinnett, I may here state, had from the Mahatmas, in addition to their letters bearing on the planetary evolution, the Law of Karma, the nature of Devachanic Existence, the Seven Principles in Man, and other cognate subjects discussed by him as fully and as clearly as he was able, a few letters or communications touching the nature of Purusha and Prakriti, the commencement of cosmic evolution, the septenary constitution of the manifested Cosmos, the nature and evolution of the germs of the primary elements in nature (Mahabhutams), and some isolate subjects connected with physical science. But not one solitary subject among the last named class had he ever received, except in bare outlines. As to the details and their direct bearing upon other and far more important subjects, closely connected with the rest they have never been even remotely approached by the Masters—revelations of this nature belonging strictly to the mysteries of Initiation. Thus, the contents of some of the letters, owing to distinct prohibition, were introduced in a very incomplete form, while other subjects of vital importance, for the correct understanding of the whole, were not even mentioned in the book so severely criticized by Mr. E. Maitland—simply because they could not be given to Mr. Sinnett1 . . .
1. The specification implied in the second word of the title is itself misleading to all those who are not aware that “Buddhism” in this application refers entirely to the universal secret Wisdom—meaning spiritual enlightenment —and not at all to the religion now popularly known as the philosophy of Gautama Buddha. Therefore, to set off Esoteric Christianity against Esoteric Buddhism (in the latter sense) is simply to offer one part of the whole against another such part—not one specified religion or philosophy the world over, having now the right to claim that it has the whole of the Esoteric truth. Brahmavidya (which is not Brahmanism or any of its numerous sects) and Guptavidya—the ancient and secret Wisdom-Religion, the inheritance of the Initiates of the inner Temple—have alone such a right. No doubt, Mrs. Kingsford, the gifted author of The Perfect Way, is the most competent person in all Europe—I say it advisedly and unhesitatingly—to reveal the hidden mysteries of real Christianity. But, no more than Mr. Sinnett is she an initiate, and cannot, therefore, know anything about a doctrine, the real and correct meaning of which no amount of natural seership can reveal, as it lies altogether beyond the regions accessible to untrained seers. If revealed, its secrets would, for long years, remain utterly incomprehensible even to the highest physical sciences. I hope, this may not be construed into a desire of claiming any great knowledge for myself; for I certainly do not possess it. All that I seek to establish is, that such secrets do exist, and that, outside of the initiates, no one is competent to prove, much less to disprove, the doctrines now given out through Mr. Sinnett.—H. P. Blavatsky.
Before proceeding to answer the objections arising out of what Mr. Sinnett is represented to have said above, it is necessary to tally it with what Mr. Sinnett actually says. On page 176 of “Esoteric Buddhism” we read:
“The one eternal, imperishable thing in the universe, which universal pralayas themselves pass over without destroying, is that which may be regarded indifferently as space, duration, matter or motion; not as something having these four attributes, but as something which is these four things at once and always. And evolution takes its rise in the atomic polarity which motion engenders. In cosmogony the positive and the negative, or the active and the passive, forces correspond to the male and female principles. The spiritual efflux enters into the veil of cosmic matter; the active is attracted by the passive principle, and if we may here assist imagination by having recourse to old occult symbology—the great Nag—the serpent emblem of eternity, attracts its tail to its mouth, forming thereby the circle of eternity, or rather cycles in eternity. The one and chief attribute of the universal spiritual principle, the unconscious but ever active life-giver, is to expand and shed; that of the universal material principle is to gather in and fecundate. Unconscious and non-existing when separate, they become consciousness and life when brought together.”
If this is not sound, orthodox Kabalistic and “Hermetic Philosophy” to which Mrs. Kingsford confesses she feels herself “especially attracted,” then Éliphas Lévi has written his theistic “Dogmas and Ritual of High Magic” [Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie] in vain? Let the Fellows of the “London Lodge” open his Vol. I; and see what this great master of Christian Esoteric Doctrine says on the subject, on pages 123-26 et seq., and then draw their conclusions. Mr. Sinnett’s language is that of every occultist, who refuses to substitute his own personal fancy for the accepted theories of the ancient Hermetic Philosophy.2
2. I would draw the attention of Mrs. Kingsford, Mr. Maitland, and the other Members of the London Lodge to that whole chapter in the work cited, and ask them to compare its grossly materialistic language with the explanation offered on the same subject by Mr. Sinnett. If Éliphas Lévi’s “number of gnosis” . . . this “Adam, the human tetragrammaton resumed in the mysterious jod, the image of the Kabalistic phallus . . . the insertion of the vertical phallus in the horizontal cteis forming the stauros of the gnostics, or the philosophical cross of the Masons, in the mysterious language of the Talmudic Kabalists”—as he calls it can be preferred to the chaste images offered by the Eastern Esotericism, it is only by those who are unable to divorce their thoughts from an anthropomorphic God and his material progeny, the Adam of the Old Testament. Withal, the idea and substance, if not the language, are identical; for Éliphas Lévi expounding the true Hermetic Philosophy, in the coarse language of the Jewish Seers and for the benefits of a Christian-born public says neither more nor less than what was given to, and written by, Mr. Sinnett in the far more philosophical phraseology of “Esoteric Buddhism.”—H. P. Blavatsky.
. . . As the offspring of Aditi or the “Measureless,” the Infinite (Prakriit) the Dhyan Chohans are known as the Adityas, who are said to be twelve in number, with reference to the different grades among them. These Dhyan Chohans, as the guardian spirits of this world, are known also as Dikpalas (the keepers of the different points of the compass), a name under which, it will be found, they are constantly referred to in earlier Buddhist writings. As agents of destruction of our system, when it comes to its proper termination, they are the twelve Rudras (“burning with anger,”3 erroneously translated as “Howlers” by Max Müller), who reduce everything back to its undifferentiated state. . . .
3. This has reference to the fiery consummation which our system must undergo at the time of the Solar Mahâpralaya. Twelve Sûryas (suns) will arise, it is exoterically taught, to burn up the Solar universe—and bring on the Pralaya. This is a travesty of the esoteric teaching that our end will come from the exposure of the real sun “by the withdrawal of the veil”—the chromo- and photosphere, perhaps, of which the Royal Society thinks it has learnt so much—H. P. Blavatsky.
To crown the list of voluntary and involuntary mistakes and misconceptions, we must mention his [Maitland’s] ascription to Madame Blavatsky of certain statements that considering her relation to the holy personage to whom they refer, could never have been, nor were they made by her. The internal evidence, in the absence of any signature to the article (Replies to an English F. T. S.), in which the sentence occurs (see Theosophist, October, 1883, p. 3), is strong enough to warn off all careful readers from the unwarranted assumption which Mr. Maitland has made. But it is certainly curious that the gentleman should have never missed a single chance of falling into blunder! The “Replies”—as every one in our Society is aware of—were written by three “adepts” as Mr. Maitland calls them—none of whom is known to the London Lodge, with the exception of one—to Mr. Sinnett. The sentence quoted and fathered upon Madame Blavatsky is found in the MSS. sent by a Mahâtma who resides in Southern India, and who had alone the right to speak, as he did, of another Mahâtma. But even his words are not correctly stated,4 as shown in the footnote.
4. I here deny most emphatically of having ever caused to be printed—let alone to have myself written it—the sentence as it now stands quoted by Mr. Maitland in his “Remarks.” The Theosophist of October is, I believe, available in England and the two sentences may be easily compared. When the writer of Reply No. 2, referring to “Greeks and Romans,” jocularly remarked that their ancestors might have been mentioned by some other name, and added that “besides the very plausible excuse that the names used were embodied in a private letter, written (as many unimportant letters are) in great haste, and which (this particular letter) was hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted verbatim with all its imperfections”—he certainly never meant his remark to yield any such charge as is implied in Mr. Maitland’s incorrect quotation. Let any one of the London Lodge compare and decide whether the said sentence can lead any person to doubt “the accuracy of the adept Brothers,” or infer “that they are frequently given to write in great haste things which are hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted, etc.” And since the word “frequently” does not occur in the alleged quotation, and alters a good deal the spirit of the remark, I can only express my regret that, under the present serious circumstances, Mr. Maitland should have become himself (inadvertingly, no doubt) guilty of such an inaccuracy.—H. P. Blavatsky.