H. P. Blavatsky and her successors
Barend Voorham and Herman C. Vermeulen – the Netherlands
Proof is conviction for the heart, mind and feelings.
You can be convinced by three causes: perception of truth, confidence and belief.
Start studying Theosophy by testing the principles.
Theosophy must be based on its intrinsic merits and not on the authority of the one who proclaims it.
In attempting to spread Theosophy H.P. Blavatsky, commissioned by the Masters, laid the cornerstone. After her death the Masters continued to support the work.
Theosophy is not a religion. And it’s certainly not a belief. All theosophical leaders emphatically and repeatedly stated that you should investigate Theosophy yourself. But how? And how do you know it is true? If you do not have to put blind faith in theosophical leaders, then what function do they perform?
How do you know that something is true? If it has been proven. But what is proof? Proof is information that shows something is definitely true. It is an external factor and gives decisive assurance of the correctness of something. It’s like a quizmaster who assesses the answer to a quiz question, right or wrong. And his judgment cannot be discussed. The reality, however, is different, because proof is always related to the individual consciousness of man. Gottfried de Purucker, fourth leader of the Theosophical Society (T.S.), describes it as “the bringing of conviction that a thing is true to the thoughtful mind.” And he adds, “if by the adduction of evidence the mind is not swayed into the belief that a thing is true, that thing has not been proved, even though it may be true.”(1)
So no one can give you proof. It is only available through self-examination. But when are we convinced that something is true? There are three main aspects on which that conviction may be based: the perception of truth, confidence and belief. These three concepts play an important role to achieve convictions and therefore proof.
The perception of Truth – the heart
When we talk about TRUTH, we mean the loftiest and most universal expression of BEING. BEING is boundless. No entity is able to know it, not even the most exalted god. For every entity is limited and can therefore never experience the ultimate TRUTH. Even a god knows only a part of it. Increasing of consciousness means becoming more aware of this Universal Truth. What we have experienced of it thus far, is our ultimate conviction. We are aware of something and are convinced of its truth. Our perception of Truth is always limited, but it is constantly subject to growth.
In order to realize Universal Truth we must activate our highest aspects of thinking. We may call these aspects the heart of our being. They constitute the divine-spiritual aspects within us, which in Sanskrit are called Âtman and Buddhi. It is the part of us that perceives the unity and interconnectedness of all entities. It is the basis of all ethics. It is supra-personal, so it is never tied to any limited personal opinion.
Confidence – the head
When we are able to check part of a doctrine, proposition or hypothesis by experiencing it in our daily life as true – because that part matches with what we already know, or extends our concepts – we have built confidence in its truth. Could it be stated that in this case there is also conviction? In a certain sense there is, although it does not reach as deep as perception of truth by the heart. We cannot oversee and check the whole doctrine, but only parts or aspects of it. Yet we do understand the logic of those aspects and perceive that the doctrine is consistent. That provides us with the confidence that the rest of that doctrine is also true. Although we cannot see the whole picture, we are able to grasp facets of truth, which help us to be convinced of the aspects of a doctrine, which in its entirety goes above our understanding. We can therefore touch on a certain level of conviction. That conviction has become for us a very reasonable hypothesis.
In this way of thinking the intellect is highly effective, but it is focused on the spiritual and divine; those aspects are therefore also partially active. It is the combination of these three aspects of consciousness – Âtman, Buddhi and Manas – which provides us with confidence of the truth of a doctrine. And if we apply that doctrine consistently and with perseverance in our lives, and it repeatedly turns out to be true, our conviction in the Truth will grow and grow.
Belief – inner feelings
Can conviction be based on belief?
Belief is accepting the truth of anything on the authority of someone else. You assume that someone has so much knowledge, or is so wise, that his sayings are true. This can apply to everything. There is religious authority. There is the authority of the civil service. Parents or teachers can have a certain authority, and so on. Having this belief, some people may be very content, because it deprives them of their responsibility. It is then left to others. It’s true, they say, because so-and-so has said so. He has proven it to be true.
Of course, this is the most passive way to deal with issues. The lower aspects of the mind are now active and are satisfied, which can give a certain degree of conviction.
Newton’s laws: an example
Let’s illustrate these three aspects of evidence by applying them to Newton’s laws. The discovery by Newton of three fundamental laws of nature was the beginning of a new phase in science. These laws are generally accepted as true. They are taught in schools and universities. But the question is: on what basis do we presume that those laws of nature are true? According to these laws all objects exert an attraction to one another. We can clearly see that all objects fall to earth. Everyone experiences gravity. Everyone can therefore understand that objects are attracted to the earth. But the law of gravity also teaches that all objects fall at the same time a similar distance.
‘Fallturm Bremen is a drop tower at the Center of Applied Space
Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) of the University of Bremen,
Germany. It has a 123-metre-high drop tube (actual drop distance is
110 m), in which for 4.74 seconds weightlessness can be produced.
The latter is not confirmed by our observation. When you drop a feather and a piece of lead from the same height, they do not simultaneously reach the earth. Do we, nevertheless, still believe Newton, who claims that all objects fall with the same acceleration?
Closer examination, however, shows that the aerodynamic properties of the atmosphere exert a highly disruptive influence on the speed of objects. This was demonstrated many years after Newton in a so-called vacuum drop tower. Probably few readers of Lucifer have repeated the tests with a drop tower. They did not determine by their own observation that Newton’s laws are indeed correct. Only those who did so actually experienced the truth.
But most people have only observed that objects fall to earth. So if they want to assume Newton’s laws as true, they must have confidence in Newton and other researchers who have collected more information about this topic. They get that confidence by independently pondering on the details of the various investigations. They must be active in order to understand it.
Others may never have thought about gravity. They believe on the authority of scientists or teachers that Newton was right. They assume that he and the physicists after him are such clever people that they most likely will be right. So there are three kinds of conviction, or three types of humans. Those who believe, those who have confidence and those who know. Of course there are combinations of these three.
H. P. Blavatsky’s message
Now let’s look at our real subject, Theosophia. This ‘Divine Wisdom was brought by H. P. Blavatsky at the end of the 19th century. Later on it was further developed and disseminated by others.
Blavatsky has shown in the books and many articles she wrote, what Theosophy entails. She explained the Theosophical teachings by using then-current examples. Some of the scientific theories of her time are obsolete. But she only used those examples to explain the universal principles. Recent discoveries may often illustrate them better. It therefore comes to doctrines and not to the examples.
Another issue is that Theosophy contains a vast field of teachings. It offers a clear vision on every topic. There is no subject to invent, or Theosophia has a vision on it. Sometimes the teachings are very detailed, and it’s difficult to find your way through the maze of information. We can’t see the wood for the trees.
If you want to find truth, however, you should not start with the details, but with the bigger picture. In other words: what are the principles of Theosophy?
Now, these principles are crystal clear. They are not dogmas, but you should take them as hypotheses or axioms.(2)
The main principles are:
progressive evolution and the utter equality of all living beings
In other words, all living beings are in their core boundless. And being in the depths of their hearts unlimited, there is an utter equality. In a cyclical process they appear and disappear. During the period in which they appear on this stage on earth, they have the possibility to develop more of their infinite potential.
From these three basic ideas you can deduce that every phenomenon is a manifestation of consciousness, a manifestation of an underlying, more etheric formative power or substance. A phenomenon is therefore like a shadow: it comes and goes, while the force that projects the shadow remains.
All Theosophical teachings, to the smallest detail, are based on these core ideas. They are emanated logically from those ideas and can never contradict them.
Can these Theosophical core ideas be proven? Can you be convinced of their truth?
At this point we have to be realistic. The highest form of proof is perceiving, recognizing, realizing and experiencing the truth for yourself. Most people are not yet able to experience a lot of Theosophy. The Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE, which is the starting point of the whole Theosophical system, cannot be experienced even by gods. For if any being experiences the Boundless, it gives expression to IT and is no longer a being or an ego, because a being, however great it may be, is always limited. That is why no entity is by definition able to completely understand the Boundless.
Most people are also not able to experience reincarnation consciously. When we fall asleep we lose our self-awareness. Just like falling asleep we undergo the processes of dying and being born unconsciously and cannot gain firsthand knowledge.
But in the field of confidence we can absolutely achieve a certain degree of proof. You can consider the Theosophical principles as hypotheses and test them with the truths you have already experienced. Furthermore, you examine whether they match with what you perceive around you. You critically assess whether the Theosophical ideas are consistent and logical, and answer all kinds of questions. In this way, based on reasoning and logic, you can form an idea of the Boundless.
This idea is of course not perfect. How could that be possible! But at least you will understand that finiteness is illogical in nature and contrary to the human observations, for neither in the micro cosmos, nor in the great universe do we come across limits. Don’t the scientific facts about the atom and the universe point in the direction of infinity? Are you therefore confident that the concept of boundlessness is correct?
With regard to reincarnation, you can also say that it is a logical doctrine. Everywhere in nature there are cycles. You can find cyclicality in both your own life as well as in human civilizations. Moreover, many psychological phenomena are elucidated and explained with the concept of cyclicality.
You can also believe in Theosophy. You don’t reason for yourself but believe others. Maybe you have faith in it because your partner calls himself a Theosophist, or because you find some Theosophists so nice and trustworthy. This belief is obviously the weakest form of conviction, because if your partner let you down or if you lose your Theosophical friends, the basis of your belief vanishes too.
Pistis: spiritual confidence
Actual proof of a doctrine must therefore be found in your own consciousness. It cannot be provided by another, however wise he may be. Nevertheless, you may have a huge confidence in the one who proclaims a doctrine. Perchance it seems as though we have deviously arrived to the point that we should accept a doctrine based on the authority of another. Do we contradict ourselves here? First of all, we have to realize that we all assume certain matters because we trust others. Few readers have ever put a foot on the North Pole. Yet most of them assume that it exists. They have confidence in the reports about this inhospitable region and assume that the pictures of these ice sheets are not manipulated.
However, this confidence is not a blind belief. It is more a recognition, based on logic and on your own experience, of the correctness of a vision of others, which you apply as a useful hypothesis.
Our society cannot exist without this confidence. After all, if we did not trust the electrician, the bus driver, the doctor and the baker we could not live together in harmony. For the same reason you can put faith in spiritual teachers. When this confidence has more to do with spiritual matters, it can be called, just like in ancient Greece, Pistis. That word is translated as “faith” or sometimes as “belief.” However, it is based on reason and intuitively knowing that something is true. It is not blind faith. It is an inner knowledge that is free of personal preferences. It is familiar to you, because it matches with your own experiences and resonates with the core of your being.
Pistis can certainly be of service to us on our quest for truth. As we said, evidence is the conviction of our thinking. Thus, the truth does not come from the outside, but must be developed from the inside. Better yet, it should be recognized or remembered. Pistis is the confidence in ourselves. We are able to find truth, because it is within us. Plato wrote about this. Any knowledge, any truth, says this Greek philosopher, is within us. To prove this, he reasons in Phaedo as follows. By seeing an object – a lyre for example – we can remember something else. And seeing a rose, may evoke the awareness of beauty. So the concept of “beauty” – Plato speaks of the idea of beauty – is already within us, but we did not notice it. The outer rose was the trigger to remember the inner knowledge of the idea of beauty.(3) In fact, this is an awakening; your faith in something is sublimated to the realization of truth. You rise up from the “head” to the “heart.”
This also works with certain teachings. The knowledge is already within us. By a myth, a symbol, an argument or a treatise we become aware of the truth in our Self. We are a part of the infinite whole, and just a bit infinite is also infinite.
Trust in the Teachers
Modern Theosophy was brought back to humanity by the Theosophical Society (T.S.). It was founded in 1875 in New York by H.P. Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, W.Q. Judge and thirteen others.
These pioneers however – or at least three of them – alleged that the actual founders were the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion. There have been in the last 150 years the wildest speculations about who those Masters were. Few have ever met them. According to Blavatsky, they are human beings who are far above the average humans in terms of abilities, wisdom and especially compassion. Since 1875, there has been a deluge of Theosophical teachings, and although most of those teachings can be found in the religious and philosophical writings of antiquity, albeit often in veiled language, they are so new and strange for many modern men, that for most of them it will take great difficulty to comprehend at least something.
Living in 2015, 140 years after the founding of the T.S., it is much easier to understand some of those Theosophical teachings. Karma and reincarnation, for example, are nowadays more or less familiar and therefore much easier to understand. But at the end of the 19th century all was new and odd.
Making a study of the early years of the Theosophical Society can be very inspiring. The difficulties that the pioneers were facing were huge. There were hostile attacks from the outside world: scientists who alleged that the Theosophical teachings were outdated superstition; the Christian church, which could not bear the fact that the T.S. had much esteem for Buddhism and Hinduism; spiritualists, of whom Blavatsky did not deny the phenomena, but she explained them very differently than the spiritualist did. The greatest struggles and problems, however, arose because former collaborators opposed the T.S., and especially the main founder, H.P. Blavatsky. That the T.S. survived all those troubles is for a lot of scholars an evidence that it was indeed preserved by the Masters.
During those first years it was also clear that Blavatsky was the link between the Masters and the T.S. Of course there were other people who contributed significantly to the work. Henry Steel Olcott, president-founder, played a very important role in the organization. But when it came to teaching, H. P. Blavatsky was the authority. Thanks to her, some Theosophical members could correspond with the Masters. She was known as the “occult postman.” When she was no longer in a certain place, the influence of the Masters pined away there too. When, forced by circumstances, she left the headquarters in India, the influence of the Masters disappeared as well.(4)
Although after her death her work was not studied thoroughly by all Theosophists, she was still a benchmark. She was the torchbearer. But are her writings also the final word?
Blavatsky herself states in an article that Theosophy should stand on its own intrinsic merits.(5) She made this statement in the context of performing occult phenomena, with which she had initially tried to arouse interest in the Theosophical teachings. At a certain moment she stopped producing those phenomena, because they did not stimulate a study in Theosophy but aroused only sensationalism.
This statement can be interpreted in a much broader way: all teachings, all writings, those of H. P. Blavatsky as well as those of other theosophical writers, must prove themselves. They are not true because the author can perform occult phenomena or has been inspired by a Master. Proof is conviction of thought. You get it by thinking independently, not by believing others! When you test the teachings with your own, already experienced, truths, and the test confirms the doctrine, then you can have confidence in its truth.
Theosophy is by definition not dogmatic. And how highly we esteem and love H. P. Blavatsky, her writings should be approached just as critical as any other writing. Theosophy only benefits a human, if he understands the truth of it. In other words, a critical attitude towards a teaching, and constantly, with your own inner faculties, testing it, is a responsibility that should not be underestimated, because otherwise on what are we basing our confidence that Blavatsky was the messenger of the Masters?
Of course, H. P. Blavatsky did not give the complete and absolute truth. She pointed the seekers of truth to the principles of Theosophy, and gave a large number of elaborations thereof with respect to humanity and the planet, but she never pretended to give the “Wisdom of the Gods” completely, which, by the way, would be impossible. At the end of The Secret Doctrine she writes that her “explanations are by no means complete” and that she simply wanted “to prepare the soil”(6) Volumes III and IV of The Secret Doctrine had already been planned and it would depend on the reception of volumes I and II, whether they would be published, though they were almost completed. They were never published.(7)
So Blavatsky did not give the last word, but rather the first, at least in the impulse of 1875 from the Lodge of Wisdom and Compassion. The teachings that she brought can be elaborated and further explained. She also said that in the 20th century “some disciple more informed, and far better fitted, may be sent by the Masters of Wisdom to give final and irrefutable proofs that there exists a Science called Gupta-Vidyâ; and that, like the once-mysterious sources of the Nile, the source of all religions and philosophies now known to the world has been for many ages forgotten and lost to men, but is at last found.”(8)
Theosophy after Blavatsky
In no way do we want to belittle the role of H. P. Blavatsky in spreading Theosophy. On the contrary. She was the one who, after many centuries, lifted the veil a bit. Only someone who knows something about teaching Theosophia, understands what a huge task this is. She was the link with the Masters.
When therefore, after her death, so-called spiritual teachings are proclaimed which are contrary to what Blavatsky taught, you simply have to determine the following: either Blavatsky and her Teachers were wrong and there is apparently another doctrine which contains more truth; or they saw it correctly. In that case, what is contrary to Blavatsky is not true.
But this does not mean that after her there were no other representatives of the Masters, who could clarify Blavatsky’s writings and by doing so could lift the veil a little further and show a little more of the truth. We should approach their teachings in the same way as we approach those of Blavatsky. If their writings reflect our ideas which have already been experienced as true, then we can reasonably rely on their teachings.
In fact, every thinker, when he is in a highly intuitive, compassionate state, is able to find a track to a deeper explanation. If you deny the possibility of this, then you are making an icon of Blavatsky. You place her on a pedestal. And this will do her as much injustice as when you belittle or ignore her. In both cases, it leads to degeneration.
The tendency to venerate the founder of a spiritual movement can be found in almost all spiritual movements. It stems from a sincere but often blind devotion. To give an example: although the Buddha emphatically proclaimed that man must achieve his own salvation, there are Buddhists who pray to Gautama and beg him for health and happiness.
There are people who have a picture of Blavatsky in their home and on every important decision they “consult” this portrait. Blavatsky would have certainly not been amused. And this is an understatement! Paradoxical as it sounds, this great teacher and principal founder of the Theosophical Society is in this case more a handicap than an aid for a Theosophical life. For a Theosophist must learn to make decisions independently.
Real proof means applying
We are confident that after Blavatsky, others were helped and supported by the Masters as well. It is known that there are letters from the Masters, written after the death of Blavatsky. Annie Besant of T.S. Adyar received in 1900, nine years after the passing of Blavatsky, a letter from a Master.(11) W.Q. Judge also received letters from the Masters after the death of Blavatsky, which, by the way, gave rise to many troubles, because not everyone believed him. Katherine Tingley and Gottfried de Purucker were, so they said, in contact with the Mahâtmas as well, years after the passing of Blavatsky.
It would be illogical if the Masters would have turned their back on the T.S. Even an “average” man would not, halfway through his mission, throw in the towel. Would these great, compassionate sages act like this? We don’t think so. That is why we are convinced that after Blavatsky, other advanced students explained and elaborated Theosophia with the support of the Masters.
Is there a touchstone on which to judge messengers? For sure! First and foremost, they must be the living example of their teachings. They should practice what they preach. Furthermore, you recognize a tree by its fruit. Did a messenger really give more insight? To what extent has he contributed to shaping the practical brotherhood? And finally, does the doctrine that he gives, conflict with that of the Esoteric Tradition of which Blavatsky was the last, great representative, and we do not mean her words (which are only tools) but the integrated whole of teachings? That does not mean that a new messenger cannot explain and elaborate her teachings. Of course he can: the purpose of his mission is to do that. He should not just repeat Blavatsky’s words. If you compare Blavatsky’s first major work, Isis Unveiled with The Secret Doctrine, you will notice that the last book does not contradict the first one, but it explains and complements it on numerous points. When Gottfried de Purucker presents his famous egg-diagram,(10) he certainly does not contradict the seven-fold division of human consciousness given by Blavatsky.(9)
But he goes a step further. When you grasp the idea of the egg-diagram, you are able to understand better the deeper meaning of Blavatsky. Read for example stanza 7 of The Secret Doctrine I, and Blavatsky’s comment on this stanza, especially verse 1 with the statement from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.(12) Combine this with the egg-diagram and you will comprehend what Blavatsky was trying to communicate.
Even we, editors of the current Lucifer, inspired by a quote from H.P. Blavatsky,(13) have developed this egg-diagram somewhat, by drawing in each ego an octave of a piano; a modest attempt to make the teaching a little more clear. In short, when Theosophy is really proven to you, you apply it. Because by doing so, you show that you really understand it. Then you have digested the teachings and new spiritual food can be ingested.
1. G. de Purucker, “How can you Prove Reincarnation”. Wind of the Spirit, Point Loma Publications, San Diego 1976, p. 245.
2. See: Herman C. Vermeulen, “H. P. Blavatsky’s message to the world”, this issue, p. 2-4.
3. Plato, Phaedo, 72e-77a.
4. See: H. P. Blavatsky, “Why I do not return to India.” Collected Writings, The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton 1990, Vol. 12, p. 157-158.
5. H. P. Blavatsky, “What of Phenomena.” Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton 1990, Vol. 9, p. 50.
6. H. P. Blavatsky was always very clear about this issue. See for instance: The Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, p. viii, where she says that the Secret Doctrine claims consideration, not by reason of any appeal to dogmatic authority, but because it closely adheres to Nature, and follows the laws of uniformity and analogy; and: The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 20, where it states that once that the reader has gained a clear comprehension of them [of the three fundamental propositions] and realized the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes, because their truth will be to him as evident as thesun in heaven.
7. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p. 797-798.
8. See ref. 7, Vol. 1, p. xxxviii.
9. See: H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, chapter 6, section 5.
10. G. de Purucker Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, Point Loma Publications, San Diego 1990, p. 225.
12. See ref. 7, Vol. 1, p. 213-222.
13. H. P. Blavatsky, “Psychic and Noetic Action.” Collected Writings, The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton 1990, Vol. 12. p. 368-369.
Three ways to express the seven aspects of consciousness within the constitution of Man. Top: the classification as given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Key to Theosophy;(9) middle: the “egg-diagram” of G. de Purucker;(10) bottom: the “piano model.” They do not contradict each other: the egg-diagram refines the classification of Blavatsky. The piano model has recently been used to illustrate the Theosophical teaching that each conscious center in our constitution carries all universal faculties in itself, and is thus able to make contact with each one of the higher or lower consciousness centers (by “resonance”).
This article was previously published in Lucifer, follow this link: http://www.blavatskyhouse.org