Madame Blavatsky and the Seven Archival Mysteries - part two

Leslie Price – England

[This text, written by Leslie Price in September 2014, has been extensively revised by John Algeo; any remaining or newly introduced errors are therefore his responsibility.]

Theosophy Madame 2  Blavatsky and the Seven Archival Mysteries
Leslie Price

The Fourth Mystery: What Did the Master Serapis Say?

You might think that all the Mahatmic material has long since been published, but that is not so. The recent biography of Mrs Holloway which I cited, included such material. And some of the earliest letters from HPB’s teachers have never appeared in full. This brings us to the next mystery.

C. Jinarajadasa, who was later president of the Theosophical Society, transcribed and compiled, among much other historical material, two volumes of Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom. The second volume includes a series of letters received by Colonel Olcott in New York, in the summer of 1875 just before the founding of the Theosophical Society. Historically, that was obviously a crucial time. The letters are signed “Serapis.” All of them were preserved in the archives at Adyar. Sceptical writers might say that H.P.B. wrote these letters in order to bend Olcott to her will, especially in financial matters. They would be wise, however, to consider first the account given by Olcott in his Old Diary Leaves of how H.P.B. received messages in the differing scripts of the Masters.

C. Jinarajadasa explains why the letters are incomplete (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, second series, p. 22): “These letters to Colonel Olcott from the Master S. mention incidents in H.P.B.’s inner life. As none have a right to peer inquisitely [sic] into the workings of the soul, I have omitted all references to such incidents, extracting out of the letters only such teachings as seem to me to have value to earnest students.” The full text of these letters should be published in order to help our understanding not only of H.P.B. but also of the events leading up to the formation of the Theosophical Society.

The Fifth Mystery: Who Was Imperator?

The fifth archival mystery involves a flat contradiction of something a Mahatma said, made by the medium Stainton Moses, till then a friend of H.P.B. The story can be partly followed in the Mahatma Letters, but in 2012-2013, new material was published in Light from the archives of the College of Psychic Studies.

In India in 1880, A. P. Sinnett, a newspaper editor, had gotten into correspondence with two of the Mahatmas associated with the Theosophical Society, whose leaders Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott had gone to India. Sinnett’s book The Occult World about phenomena he witnessed around Blavatsky, appeared in London in 1881.

In November 1881, Stainton Moses sought the advice of Imperator, the leader of his spirit guides, and wrote in his notebook [abbreviations as in the original]:

Some months since Mr A. P. Sinnett came to London with a letter of introduction to me fr Col. Olcott.

He had seen much of him & Me Blavatsky, and had put together some of his experiences in a book called The Occult World. He had imbibed opinions such as those propounded by MB. and amongst them a great horror of vulgar Spsm. He was not able, however, to recognise in my experiences what he felt able to condemn, and was compelled to admit that they formed a difficulty in the way of his all round theory. I told him a good deal of what I had seen & learned, and he wrote a letter (wh. he read to me) embodying this information to Koot Hoomi, a “Brother” with whom he had come into communication thro the Medium of Me Blavatsky.

I amplified & stated what I had privately told him in a review of his book, which appeared in the Psychological Review. July 1881. KH’s answer to Sinnett’s letter had not appeared when he left England for India; and he sent me certain extracts from it in a letter dated July 15 followed by one dated July 23. These contained a direct claim that Imperator [SM actually represents him with a crown symbol] is a living man – a “Brother [close-quote mark missing] & that his dealings with me have been perfectly known to Me B.

I answered the letters at once, & pointed out that I knew perfectly who I. is, that he had always consistently told the same story; that he disavowed any sort of knowledge of the Brothers, or acquiesced in their ideas, & that somebody had evidently fabricated a preposterous story.

I have since received another letter, dated Oct 9, referring me to The Theosophist for Oct. in which appears an article called “Fragments of Occult Truth” in which it is, at length, categorically affirmed that “no spirits of the departed can communicate with man”. In that letter the clause is reiterated.

On these facts I sollicit [sic] an opinion. I have not asked for any disclaimer fr. [from?] I., the whole sequence of his teaching being utterly opposed to any such idea as his being a Brother, independently of the fact that he has disclaimed any sympathy with their views. But I sh’d be glad to know what it all means.”

Imperator wrote back on November 6:

It is not necessary to say more than that the whole story is false from beginning to end. We know nothing of any brothers, though there may be men who so style themselves. If there be, rest assured that if all of their ideas are as false as those contained in the paper referred to, it is well for you that they have not communicated with you.

The purport of the falsehood doubtless is that they may have some answer to the objection which our teaching offers to their view of Spiritualism. It is a daring falsehood. You at any rate are warned as to what their methods are. Avoid them. We are with you now& we have never left you. Nor has any other spirit ventured to assume our cause [?] [signed by Imperator and Rector(?)]

Moses commented: “No doubt it is an utterly stupid falsehood on its face. The only facts they rely on, are such as I have told Olcott or Me B. What shall I do?”

Imperator replied:

Enter into no controversy. They who would resort to methods such as this are not within reach of argument. State the facts, and warn your friend Sinnett who is evidently being led astray. It will be no use. Keep your own counsel, and do not be led into controversy.

Do not ask further. All will be well. But you see what spirit is abroad, and how far we have warned you truly.” [signed again by Imperator and Rector (?)]

Stainton Moses added: “I cannot help placing on record my opinion that of all the lying spirits in and out of the body, the author of this is the most daring and barefaced.”

Moses, for a year or two, had been a member of the original New York Theosophical Society, but never joined the British Theosophical Society, started in 1878. He was greatly offended by the doubts cast on Imperator. In July 1881, K.H. wrote of Moses:

His is a weird, rare nature. His occult psychical energies are tremendous; but they have lain dormant, folded up within him and unknown to himself, when, some eight years or so, Imperator threw his eye upon him and bid his spirit soar. Since then, a new life has been in him, a dual existence, but his nature could not be changed. Brought up as a theological student, his mind was devoured by doubts. Earlier, he betook himself to Mount Athos, where, immuring himself in a monastery, he studied Greek Eastern religion, and it is there that he was first noticed by his “Spirit guide”!

When Madame Blavatsky published her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine, she sent Moses a set of the two big volumes and wrote warmly in it: “To my dear old friend, a Theosophist m’algre lui [“in spite of himself”] — W. Stanton Moses (M.A. Oxon) from his ever appreciative and faithful friend & admirer.” One may doubt if he reciprocated those feelings. She had criticised mediumship so often, especially in Isis Unveiled (1877) her first book.

The whole debate deserves re-examination, especially now that we have the chronological edition of the Mahatma Letters, the collected writings of HPB, and the private thoughts of Stainton Moses. A fact not previously published, but which I can now reveal, is that Moses was indeed told by at least some communicators initially that HPB was an authority.

On August 17, 1875, at Alford, Stainton Moses wrote: “I have a letter from Madame Blavatsky. I want your opinion.” Rector and Prudens replied: “We told you that we were influencing friends in the body to give you help. You will get much from her. She is an adept, and will help you. The friends say that it well that you should enter into correspondence with her. Her statements contain truth. But do not question me more closely yet. The time is not yet come.”

On October 3, 1875, Rector wrote for Magus: “You have now learned more than we have ever before been able to get into your mind. We are communicating the same knowledge to our friends Olcott and Blavatski [sic], and you will hear from them. But the Baroness knows it all before, and much else. She is deeply instructed. “An adept?” asked Moses. “Yes, of a high degree” was the reply.

It has to be admitted that the Magus communicator, who first appeared in 1875 after he came into contact with the Theosophists, was a dubious entity. It is clear, however, from letters by Stainton Moses quoted by Olcott in his Old Diary Leaves that Moses was for a time very enthusiastic about occultism.

The Sixth Mystery: Whence the Stanzas of Dyzan?

For the sixth mystery, we must return to Tibet. HPB’s magnum opus The Secret Doctrine is a commentary on the mysterious Stanzas of Dyzan. The source of these stanzas is unknown. Perhaps no archival document has been so eagerly sought. In its absence, there have been those who have suggested that she made them up, using what material was available in the 1880s about Oriental esotericism.

For many years, David and Nancy Reigle have sought the source (https://www.theosophical.org/files/local_groups/ozark/David_Nancy_Reigle_Ozark_Camp_Summer_2013.pdf ). In March 2014 David Reigle published a progress report (http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/wp-content/uploads/Book-of-Dzyan-The-Current-State-of-the-Evidence-pre-pub..pdf ). Reigle reported that five parallels have been found to the Stanzas. One, the Rig Veda’s Hymn of Creation, was well-known in HPB’s time. A second, concerning four modes of birth, is found in a work by Vasubandhu not available in any European language until the twentieth century. Three other key terms, found in the Occult Catechism which she quotes, have close parallels in Tibetan sources not known in the West in her day. In some of her other Tibetan references, she did use Western authorities, but Reigle’s work shows conclusively that HPB was drawing on esoteric Tibetan sources for the Stanzas. If you are seriously interested in The Secret Doctrine, you should study his work (http://www.easterntradition.org )

Six mysteries have been presented above. About the seventh mystery, it is more difficult to speak. In 2003, the first volume of the collected Letters of H. P. Blavatsky was published. It was edited by Dr John Algeo, building on the work of Boris De Zirkoff, John Cooper, and others. Algeo was assisted in the archival examination by his wife, Adele. She spent many hours in the Theosophical Society archives at Adyar. She subsequently developed a lung infection from which on March 15, 2010, she passed away. Other people who had worked in those archives had also become ill. Though some improvements have been made in recent years, it is still feared that there is a serious risk of working in the Adyar archives.

Other Theosophical archives are also known to be at risk. On Oct 21, 2007, for example, a large wild fire in San Diego county consumed the significant library and archival inventory where Point Loma Publications had its storage. In May 2014, fire destroyed the library of the Glasgow College of Art, which contained important Theosophical paintings.

Knowledge of that risk was one impetus for the recent formation of the Friends of Theosophical Archives. Money was available from scholars in the US and elsewhere to pay for research in the Adyar archives, if someone could be found to work there. And if it were safe. The Friends of Theosophical Archives*, which is international, publish a free electronic newsletter edited by Erica Georgiades. It is hoped that local groups will be formed, and in England such a group, under the chair Kevin Tingay, has agreed a constitution. FOTA, as we call it, is not limited to any particular Theosophical tradition. If you are interested in preserving, publishing or using Theosophical archives, you should visit the FOTA website and sign up for the free newsletter, which has already made known some rare material. For individuals or organisations, such as Lodges, FOTA England has agreed a membership arrangement which will shortly be available. The first list of the English TS archives is now in outline.

We have seen that there remain some mysteries around Madame Blavatsky, her teachers the Mahatmas, and the Theosophical Society. They can only be solved with the help of archives, yet those archives themselves are in danger from fire and flood, from termites, and even from later generations that do not realise the treasure they contain.

For more information regarding this unique initiative and FOTA click HERE

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