THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 7, May, 1957
(Pages 289-292; Size: 11K)

ON UNDERSTANDING H.P.B.

IT is often said that the only path to understanding H. P. Blavatsky is through understanding her philosophy. "Biographies," while of subordinate interest, cannot throw much light on the character of H.P.B., and may, on the other hand, cause considerable confusion, because of the human tendency to form judgments on incomplete evidence. And the evidence we have on this mysterious subject is of necessity incomplete. The mystery of H.P.B. is the mystery of human development: to solve one, we must solve the other.

For a clear if not exactly "simple" setting of the problem, there is the following statement by William Q. Judge, made in his article, "The Synthesis of Occult Science":

The scope and bearing of philosophy itself are hardly yet appreciated by modern thought, because of its materialistic tendency. A complete science of metaphysics and a complete philosophy of science are not yet even conceived of as possible; hence the ancient wisdom by its vastness has escaped recognition in modern times. That the authors of ancient wisdom have spoken from at least two whole planes of conscious experience beyond that of our every-day "sense-perception" is to us inconceivable, and yet such is the fact; and why should the modern advocate of evolution be shocked and staggered by such a disclosure?
The point of interest to Theosophical students, here, is not only that it would be a mistake to "interpret" H.P.B. and her life in the terms of "our every-day 'sense-perception'," and so miss entirely the meanings which are accessible only on the two higher planes of conscious experience referred to, but, also, that attempts to give an account of her according to suppositions about the consciousness of those planes may prove equally misleading. The wisdom of occultists is needed to explain the realities of those planes to persons who have no normal experience of them. Only the egotism of ignorance and inexperience permits ordinary persons to try to "explain" H.P.B. A similar objection applies to pretentious "study classes" in The Secret Doctrine and other highly occult treatises.

The historical consequences of misguided attempts at explaining what cannot be explained in familiar terms include all the sectarian religions and the stultifying conventions of so-called "spiritual" teachings. The persisting question which produces this effect is the same as that addressed by Arjuna to Krishna in the second chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita:

What, O Keshava, is the description of that wise and devoted man who is fixed in contemplation and confirmed in spiritual knowledge? What may such a sage declare? Where may he dwell? Does he move and act like other men?
Krishna, who has knowledge, makes answer to this question, but it continues to be asked, with unceasing interest and curiosity. There is nothing wrong in the question, of course. What makes trouble is the acceptance of inadequate answers -- answers from those less informed than Krishna. Inevitably, the mind of the disciple runs before him, wondering about the heights of spiritual achievement. And just as inevitably, if the disciple has not learned the lesson of patience, of being "content with fate," he imagines, in psychic terms, the nature and character of adeptship. The spiritual, in short, is transformed into the psychic, and then, as H.P.B. herself has put it, "dire results ensue."

This is the law which overtook all those who felt themselves competent to "judge" H.P.B. and to determine what she "ought" to have done and where she made "mistakes." These critics had formed preconceived notions of how one who is wise should behave, and held to them without having wisdom themselves.

Romantic dreams and moralizing judgments of others all belong to the psychic nature. It is here, in the unreliable, plastic stuff of the psyche, that sectarian delusions are formed. Both the feelings and the intellect are susceptible to these delusions. Strong feelings of psychic inclination are mistaken for the power of "devotion," while reasoning from premises which are themselves misconceptions produces conclusions of spurious certainty.

To know what to do, or how to act, in any situation, requires a working knowledge of the situation and a deep understanding of Karmic law. When an ordinary man finds himself obliged to decide what is right for another to do, he is usually the subject of two extraordinary delusions: First, that he has the capacity -- the knowledge and insight, that is -- to make such a decision; and second, that one who has this capacity would want to make it for or about another. The adepts, he forgets, are distinguished by their absolute refusal to make decisions of this sort.

Every student does indeed find it necessary to reach out in his imagination to find the answer to such questions for himself -- to know, with as much certainty as he can obtain, what he should do. The inner life of the disciple is a life of endless mould-breaking, for the truly spiritual decision is forever new. No "habit" can guide the wondering disciple, no "rule" discover to him the path he seeks. It is of the nature of spiritual action to be beyond all habits, to be the cause, but not the consequence, of rules. In the life of the disciple, there is a constant attempt to shape the psychic to what is imagined to be spiritual. And since the psychic is of the nature of matter, with the tendency to run to form, each shaping sets a precedent, and each precedent tends to produce a preoccupation. It is these, the preconceptions, which the disciple must continually destroy, until, at last, the psychic has lost all trace of autonomy, all basis for independent action -- until, as H.P.B. said, the personality is paralyzed and incapable of the judgments which delude and lead astray.

It is this psychic mind of which the Voice of the Silence says, "Let the disciple slay the slayer." This same mind is referred to by Mr. Judge, in his commentary on Patanjali:

. . . when the internal organ, the mind, is through the senses affected or modified by the form of some object, the soul also -- viewing the object through its organ, the mind -- is, as it were, altered into that form; as a marble statue of snowy whiteness, if seen under a crimson light will seem to the beholder crimson and so is, to the visual organs, so long as that colored light shines upon it.
The perception of the adept is perception without any coloration -- in which the modifications of the thinking principle have been hindered from exerting an influence. It is this wholly impartial perception which may be spoken of as "spiritual." Who has it, short of the adepts, the perfected men?

One great purpose of the Theosophical Movement -- and therefore, of H.P.B. -- is to rescue the aspirations of mankind from the "multi-coloured dogmas of the churches," which have been erected upon misunderstood psychic impressions of ancient spiritual truths. H.P.B. did not so much "declare" those truths anew, as she gave full account of how they are to be had for every man by himself. The distinctive character of the work launched in the nineteenth century was in this, that every man might now begin to become his own teacher and "revealer." As H.P.B. said in "Is Theosophy a Religion?":

The "Secret Doctrine" -- a work which gives out all that can be given out during this century, is an attempt to lay bare in part the common foundation and inheritance of all -- great and small religious and philosophical schemes. It was found indispensable to tear away all this mass of concreted misconceptions and prejudice which now hides the parent trunk of (a) all the great world-religions; (b) of the smaller sects; and (c) of Theosophy as it stands now -- however veiled the great Truth, by ourselves and our limited knowledge. . . .
H.P.B.'s public work, no doubt, was once again to place the doctrines of the Wisdom Religion before the world. But the esoteric task she undertook -- esoteric because hidden from all those who read with the eye of sense -- was to provide the means for individuals to acquire an immunity to sectarian error, or psychic delusion. To this end, she explained, as well as she could, the laws of inner growth, and laid down certain inviolable principles to be followed by all those who would attempt to live by principle.

It is this double purpose, perhaps, which is sometimes a source of confusion -- a confusion she attempted to deal with in "Philosophers and Philosophicules," and in other articles. The teachings and doctrines, in their nineteenth-century presentation, were intended, we may think, to "leaven the mind of the race," to establish a "coloration" more hospitable to perception of the principles of things. But truth itself, she made quite plain, is a matter of self-discovery, and this was promised only to those who would undertake the regimen which self-discovery involves.

Only those for whom knowledge of the adepts and of the powers of spiritual perception is no longer hear-say, no longer an object of hope and wonder, are in a position to "explain" H.P.B. This they have not attempted.



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