Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
From Inspiration to Intuition
The writings of H.P.B. convey information and impart knowledge, but that was not the purpose of her mission. Because of her presence in their midst several earnest individuals availed themselves of the opportunity to tread that Path of Holiness leading to theSanctum Sanctorum on the Mount Olympus wherein sages worship the Pure Spirit, omnipresent and impersonal, but her advent and stay in the world of mortality was not aimed at such an accomplishment. Many and wonderful were the phenomena she performed; great and staggering were the powers she possessed; grand and awe-inspiring was her life of unique sacrifices and marvelous wanderings, but even these do not fully reveal the objective of her toil.
What and how she taught, how and for what she toiled — these both examined together aid us to fathom the true purpose of her mission. The world to which she came, the age in which she appeared, the readjustment which her wisdom and activities produced, inaugurating a new era in this fifth Mind-Race, adequately studied and carefully reflected upon lead us to understand and help our humanity in whose spiritual service her labors and her love were devoted.
When the closing pages of Isis Unveiled are read as a preface to the Introductory and Proem of The Secret Doctrine; when the preface of Isis is related to the closing section of The Key to Theosophy; when solemn warnings of the Five Messages to the American Theosophists (perhaps uttered because the pointed hints of the last chapter of Isis had gone unheeded), in reference to the growth of psychism, are taken in conjunction with The Voice of the Silence — then and then only we are able to see, however dimly, the purpose and the plan of her mission.
Isis Unveiled exposed the errors of materialistic science and condemned the sins of corrupt theology. It did something more:
…we have reinforced our argument with descriptions of a few of the innumerable phenomena witnessed by us in different parts of the world…. Having laid a foundation by elucidating the philosophy of occult phenomena, it seems opportune to illustrate the theme with facts that have occurred under our own eye, and that may be verified by any traveller. Primitive peoples have disappeared, but primitive wisdom survives, and is attainable by those who “will,” “dare,” and can “keep silent.” (Isis, Vol. II, p. 586.)
Then follows what in several respects may be regarded as the most vital, important and highly practical closing chapter twelfth. After fulfilling in ample measure her promise, H.P.B. writes:
By those who have followed us thus far, it will naturally be asked, to what practical issue this book tends; much has been said about magic and its potentiality, much of the immense antiquity of its practice. Do we wish to affirm that the occult sciences ought to be studied and practiced throughout the world? Would we replace modern spiritualism with the ancient magic? Neither; the substitution could not be made, nor the study universally prosecuted, without incurring the risk of enormous public dangers…. We would have neither scientists, theologians, nor spiritualists turn practical magicians, but all to realize that there was true science, profound religion, and genuine phenomena before this modern era. We would that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives…. The world needs no sectarian church, whether of Buddha, Jesus, Mahomet, Swedenborg, Calvin, or any other. There being but ONE Truth, man requires but one church — the Temple of God within us, walled in by matter but penetrable by any one who can find the way;the pure in heart see God.
The trinity of nature is the lock of magic, the trinity of man the key that fits it. (Isis, Vol. II, p. 634-635.)
Thus the unequivocal deduction at the end of the two volumes. These are replete with facts, hitherto unknown or little known, a wonderfully reasoned co-ordination of the same. She draws conclusions by a flawless logic and points a sure direction, which would take us out of the labyrinth of a dark civilization. The voice “raised for spiritual freedom and our plea made for enfranchisement from all tyranny, whether of Science or Theology,” in the fore pages of the first volume entitled “Before the Veil,” has not only succeeded in removing the doubts of the honest and intelligent seeker of the Truth and thus removed his bondage; it has also brought the conviction that the track she pointed out led to the Stream, which crossed, brought him to that Other Shore, where breaks that Other World, facing which he is able to affirm — “we pass from what we see to that which is invisible to the eye of sense.” The last sentence of Isis follows the above words: “Our fervent wish has been to show true souls how they may lift aside the curtain, and, in the brightness of that Night made Day, look with undazzled gaze upon the UNVEILED TRUTH.”
The thread is taken up in The Secret Doctrine.
It has been shown in the first series of studies how the modern student of the Ancient Wisdom suffers from the Karmic limitations of our age. H.P.B.’s earlier volumes offer a thousand mortifying rebuffs to an honest intelligence, but succeed in opening his reason and intuition in some measure, preparing him to receive the instruction recorded in The Secret Doctrine which “embrace the esoteric tenets of the whole world since the beginning of our humanity.” (Vol. I, xx.) For a proper appreciation of this instruction something more than ordinary comprehension is needed. It was pointed out how a latent spiritual faculty is unfolded by the right study of the book. Now, the full understanding of all its contents is possible only with a complete unfoldment of that faculty. The understanding of the contents of The Secret Doctrine and the unfoldment of the faculty which is attained thereby react on each other. The more we study, the greater the unfoldment; the more the unfoldment of the faculty, the greater the understanding of the instruction. The deliberate and conscious attempt on our part to accelerate the force of this interplay is essential to transform the intellectual recognition of the teachings into spiritual realization. Thus The Secret Doctrine becomes a living book and a book to live by; do not live by it and the volumes remain cold and dead, a mass of confusing issues, a veritable jungle of details of some interest but of no value.
The book sets out to attempt this unfoldment because its possibility exists. The time is ripe. “An era of disenchantment and rebuilding will soon begin — nay, has already begun. The cycle has almost run its course; a new one is about to begin.” (Isis, Vol. I, p. 38.) The operation of this faculty is subject to the Karma of the cycle under which we are. It is, therefore, accompanied by great disabilities and grave dangers, both of which are pointed out and reiterated by H.P.B. In thus speaking, a clear picture of the modes and ways of higher unfoldment is presented.
H.P.B. endeavors to protect the mind of the individual and the race against the recrudescence of lower psychism by giving “philosophical deduction instead of unverifiable hypothesis, scientific analysis and demonstration instead of undiscriminating faith.” (Isis II, p. 636.) The Secret Doctrine goes further. Its structure and the method of presentation bring about an inner mental change, which makes the appreciation of a higher ethics imperative and an application thereof gives birth to a new and nobler morality. Thus comes before our vision the true purpose of the mission of H.P.B., the true inwardness of her message: to introduce the force of an unknown knowledge in the mind of the Race and thus to purify it from the dross and the dregs and the taint of set notions and blind belief; thence to reconstruct that mind, first by a daring iconoclasm and then by a persuasive creative force. For their fulfillment both these processes depend on the student. Material is provided by H.P.B. and the method of using it has also been shown; but correction must be self-correction; Individual effort for a man, an association, a church, a nation, a community or a race, must be self-induced and self-devised. The principles are put forward and they are all the direction and guidance we really need; the applying of those principles in pursuing a definite course of action is what we should aspire to.
Ethical and moral was the prime purpose of H.P.B.’s mission: to engender a new vision in the heart of man; to bring him to a recognition of his own divinity; to convince him of his own latent spiritual energies; to make him utilize those energies, to transform him into a self-reformer before he became a reformer of his fellows; to learn before teaching; to live by the higher morality of a loftier ethics which in itself would be an introduction of that morality and ethics in the body politic of his family, tribe, community, nation and race. In a very real sense H.P.B.’s work was with individuals, for, to her, individuals are the units who make up humanity. Self-correction and self-reformation is what her writings induce us to undertake; then follows the capacity (1) to see clearly; (2) to discern intelligently; (3) to be inspired by the vitality of the spiritual Will; (4) to create by right speech; (5) right energy; and (6) action which is sacrifice.
Thus her writings perform a two-fold miracle: By a purificatory rite the student gains clear vision, discernment, inspiration, and makes with their help the gift of wisdom and compassion through holy living and by performance of sacred service.
This double duty The Secret Doctrine faithfully discharges. In doing so, however, it encounters two difficulties: One is related to the limitations imposed by cyclic law on the mass of mankind; the other is the self-engendered and self-imposed limitations of the student himself. We have to reconcile ourselves with the first, by an appreciation of the causes thereof. In “Answers to an English F.T.S.” the following appears:
This seeming unwillingness to share with the world some of nature’s secrets that may have come into the possession of the few, arises from causes quite different from the one generally assigned. It is not SELFISHNESS erecting a Chinese wall between occult science and those who would know more of it, without making any distinction between the simply curious profane, and the earnest, ardent seeker after truth. Wrong, and unjust are those who think so; who attribute to indifference for other people’s welfare a policy necessitated, on the contrary, by a far-seeing universal philanthropy; who accuse the custodians of lofty physical and spiritual though long rejected truths, of holding them high above the people’s heads. In truth, the inability to reach them lies entirely with the seekers. Indeed the chief reason among many others for such a reticence, at any rate, with regard to secrets pertaining to physical sciences — is to be sought elsewhere. It rests entirely on the impossibility of imparting that the nature of which is, at the present stage of the world’s development, beyond the comprehension of the would-be learners, however intellectual and however scientifically trained may be the latter. This tremendous difficulty is now explained to the few, who, besides having read Esoteric Buddhism, have studied and understood the several occult axioms approached in it. It is safe to say that it will not be even vaguely realized by the general reader, but will offer the pretext for sheer abuse. Nay, it has already.
It is simply that the gradual development of man’s seven principles and physical senses has to be coincident and on parallel lines with Rounds and Root-races. Our fifth race has so far developed but its five senses. Now, if the Kama or Will-principle of the “Fourth-rounders” has already reached that stage of its evolution when the automatic acts, the unmotivated instincts and impulses of its childhood and youth, instead of following external stimuli, will have become acts of will framed constantly in conjunction with the mind (Manas), thus making of every man on earth of that race a free agent, a fully responsible being — theKama of our hardly adult fifth race is only slowly approaching it. As to the sixth sense of this, our race, it has hardly sprouted above the soil of its materiality. It is highly unreasonable, therefore, to expect for the men of the fifth to sense the nature and essence of that which will be fully sensed and perceived but by the sixth — let alone the seventh race — i.e., to enjoy the legitimate outgrowth of the evolution and endowments of the future races with only the help of our present limited senses. The exceptions to this quasi universal rule have been hitherto found only in some rare cases of constitutional, abnormally precocious individual evolutions; or, in such, where by early training and special methods, reaching the stage of the fifth rounders, some men in addition to the natural gift of the latter have fully developed (by certain occult methods) their sixth, and in still rarer cases their seventh, sense. (The Theosophist, Vol. IV, p. 296.)
The second difficulty inheres in us. In the Preface to The Key to Theosophy and in the Introductory (S.D., Vol. I, p. xlvi) this is clearly pointed out. Therefore, the approach to The Secret Doctrine implies some activity, however rudimentary, of Buddhi — “the faculty of cognizing the channel through which divine knowledge reaches the ‘Ego,’ the discernment of good and evil, ‘divine conscience’ also” (S.D., Vol. I, p. xix). Anyone in whom Buddhi has not begun its operation can but be devoid of the spirit of enquiry about the soul and its science. If the Secret Doctrine makes of man a Superman — “the Initiate, rich with the lore acquired by numberless generations of his predecessors” (S.D., Vol. I, p. 45) — H.P.B.’s Secret Doctrine unfolds in its sincere and persistent study “the faculty of spiritual intuition, through which direct and certain knowledge is obtainable” (p. 46 fn.). Spiritual Intuition “is not clairvoyance as ordinarily understood, i.e., the power of seeing at a distance,” but the power of evaluating objects and subjects near at hand. The supernal beauty of a sunset which inspires a painter to superb creation is passed by unnoticed by an ordinary man. Not in seeing more things, but in understanding those we see; not in amassing more wealth, but in using that which we possess; not in gathering more facts but in the gaining of the faculty to utilize those already gathered — such is the task before us. Therefore The Secret Doctrine speaks of clairvoyance as an aspect of Janasakti (Vol. I, p. 292).
The aim of the Volumes is to enable the student to so cleanse his mind of Kama that the flow of Buddhi or the radiance of Intuition may take place, his reason become pure and compassionate. Under Karma manasic evolution is ripe for a stimulus from without, an aid to nature which unaided fails. The sands of Time have run their course and the war between the dual intelligence in man will come to a close — at least for those who are ready and willing to profit by the wisdom of the Ancients.
“‘Manas is dual — lunar in the lower, solar in its upper portion,’ says a commentary. That is to say, it is attracted in its higher aspect towards Buddhi, and in its lower descends into, and listens to the voice of its animal soul full of selfish and sensual desires.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, 495-496.)
What we cannot accomplish unaided, is possible with the help which the writings of H.P.B. offer; the higher faculty of Buddhi begins to fecundate our intelligence and from within illumines our mind. To enable The Secret Doctrine to perform this miracle we must learn that primarily the study of its metaphysical propositions has to be undertaken. Our perception of universals is intuitional perception: to gain a perception of universals is to gain intuitional perception: the effort to understand and apply the propositions of the universals is to operate the faculty of intuitional perception: therefore “outside of metaphysics no occult philosophy, no esotericism is possible.”