Writings of H P Blavatsky
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831 – 1891)
The Founder of Modern Theosophy
H P Blavatsky
SOME time ago, a Theosophist, Mr. R_____, was travelling by rail with an
American gentleman, who told him how surprised he had been by his visit to our
Now I did not say "trash" so far as I remember; but what I did
say in substance was: "Leave it alone;
Such is also now my sincere opinion. The full consciousness of this sad
truth dawned upon me when, for the first time after its publication in 1877, I
read the work through from the first to the last page, in
This was done to the great disgust of some, who warned me that I was
spoiling its sale; but as my chief object in writing it was neither personal
fame nor gain, but something far higher, I cared little for such warnings. For
more than ten years this unfortunate "master-piece," this
"monumental work," as some reviews have called it, with its hideous
metamorphoses of one word into another, thereby entirely transforming the
meaning,l with its misprints and wrong quotation-marks, has given me more
anxiety and trouble than anything else during a long life-time which has ever
been more full of thorns than of roses. But in spite of these perhaps too great
admissions, I maintain that
The first enemies that my work brought to the front were Spiritualists, whose fundamental theories as to the spirits of the dead communicating in propriâ personâ I upset. For the last fifteen years--ever since this first publication--an incessant shower of ugly accusations has been poured upon me.
Every libellous charge, from immorality and the "Russian spy" theory down to my acting on false pretences, of being a chronic fraud and a living lie, an habitual drunkard, an emissary of the Pope, paid to break down Spiritualism, and Satan incarnate. Every slander that can be thought of has been brought to bear upon my private and public life. The fact that not a single one of these charges has ever been substantiated; that from the first day of January to the last of December, year after year, I have lived surrounded by friends and foes like as in a glass-house,--nothing could stop these wicked, venomous, and thoroughly unscrupulous tongues. It has been said at various times by my ever active opponents that
(2) that it was written by me under the dictation of Evil Powers and the departed spirits of Jesuits (sic); and finally
(3) that my two volumes had been compiled from MSS, (never before heard
of), which Baron de Palm--he of the cremation and double-burial fame--had left
behind him, and which I had found in his trunk!3 On the other hand, friends, as
unwise as they were kind, spread abroad that which was really the truth, a
little too enthusiastically, about the connection of my Eastern Teacher and
other Occultists with the work; and this was seized upon by the enemy and
exaggerated out of all limits of truth. It was said that the whole of
Now, no one has any right to hold me responsible for what any one may say, but only for that which I myself state orally, or in public print over my signature. And what I say and maintain is this: Save the direct quotations and the many afore specified and mentioned misprints, errors and misquotations, and the general make-up of Isis Unveiled, for which I am in no way responsible, (a) every word of information found in this work or in my later writings, comes from the teachings of our Eastern Masters; and (b) that many a passage in these works has been written by me under their dictation. In saying this no supernatural claim is urged, for no miracle is performed by such a dictation. Any moderately intelligent person, convinced by this time of the many possibilities of hypnotism (now accepted by science and under full scientific investigation), and of the phenomena of thought-transference, will easily concede that if even a hypnotized subject, a mere irresponsible medium, hears the unexpressed thought of his hypnotizer, who can thus transfer his thought to him--even to repeating the words read by the hypnotizer mentally from a book--then my claim has nothing impossible in it. Space and distance do not exist for thought; and if two persons are in perfect mutual psycho-magnetic rapport, and of these two, one is a great Adept in Occult Sciences, then thought-transference and dictation of whole pages, become as easy and as comprehensible at the distance of ten thousand miles as the transference of two words across a room.
Hitherto, I have abstained--except on very rare occasions--from
answering any criticism on my works, and have even left direct slanders and
lies unrefuted, because in the case of
What I am determined to do is to give facts, undeniable and not to be gainsaid, simply by stating the peculiar, well known to many but now almost forgotten, circumstances, under which I wrote my first English work. I give them seriatim.
(1) When I came to
(2) I had never been at any college, and what I knew I had taught myself; I have never pretended to any scholarship in the sense of modern research; I had then hardly read any scientific European works, knew little of Western philosophy and sciences. The little which I had studied and learned of these, disgusted me with its materialism, its limitations, narrow cut-and-dried spirit of dogmatism, and its air of superiority over the philosophies and sciences of antiquity.
(3) Until 1874 I had never written one word in English, nor had I published any work in any language. Therefore--
(4) I had not the least idea of literary rules. The art of writing books, of preparing them for print and publication, reading and correcting proofs, were so many close[d] secrets to me.
(5) When I started to write that which developed later into
Thus, the conditions for becoming the author of an English theosophical
and scientific work were hopeful, as everyone will see. Nevertheless, I had
written enough to fill four such volumes as
be erased, and the literary connection of subjects attended to. When the
work was ready, we submitted it to Professor Alexander Wilder, the well-known
scholar and Platonist of
fault is not mine, but because it was Dr. Wilder's express wish that his
name should not appear except in footnotes. I have never made a secret of it,
and every one of my numerous acquaintances in
From that moment the real difficulty began. I had no idea of correcting galley proofs; Colonel Olcott had little leisure to do so; and the result was that I made a mess of it from the beginning. Before we were through with the first three chapters, there was a bill for six hundred dollars for corrections and alterations, and I had to give up the proof-reading. Pressed by the publisher,
Colonel Olcott doing all that he possibly could do, but having no time except in the evenings, and Dr. Wilder far away at Jersey City, the result was that the proofs and pages of Isis passed through a number of willing but not very careful hands, and were finally left to the tender mercies of the publisher's proof-reader. Can one wonder after this if "Vaivaswata" (Manu) became transformed in the published volumes into "Viswamitra," that thirty-six pages of
the Index were irretrievably lost, and quotation-marks placed where none were needed (as in some of my own sentences!), and left out entirely in many a passage cited from various authors?
If asked why these fatal mistakes have not been corrected in a subsequent edition, my answer is simple: the plates were stereotyped; and notwithstanding all my desire to do so, I could not put it into practice, as the plates were the property of the publisher; I had no money to pay for the expenses, and finally the firm was quite satisfied to let things be as they are, since, notwithstanding all its glaring defects, the work--which has now reached its seventh or eighth edition, is still in demand. And now--and perhaps in consequence of all this--comes a new accusation: I am charged with wholesale plagiarism in the Introductory Chapter "Before the Veil"!
Well, had I committed plagiarism, I should not feel the slightest
hesitation in admitting the "borrowing." But all "parallel
passages" to the contrary, as I have not done so, I do not see why I
should confess it; even though "thought transference" as the
Finnish epic, the Kalevala, published it as his own superb poem,
Hiawatha, and forgot to acknowledge the source of his inspiration, the
Continental press has repeatedly brought out other like accusations. The
present year is especially fruitful in such "thought transferences."
Here we have the Lord Mayor of the City of
a book, and forthwith the
Finally, every one who has read La Vie de Jésus, by Renan, will find that he has plagiarised by anticipation, some descriptive passages rendered in flowing verse in the Light of the World. Yet even Sir Edwin Arnold, whose versatile and recognised genius needs no borrowed imagery, has failed to thank the French Academician for his pictures of Mount Tabor and Galilee in prose, which he has so elegantly versified in his last poem. Indeed, at this stage of our civilisation and fin de siècle, one should feel highly honoured to be placed in such good and numerous company, even as a--plagiarist. But I cannot claim such a privilege and, simply for the reason already told that out of the whole Introductory chapter "Before the Veil," I can claim as my own only certain
passages in the Glossary appended to it, the Platonic portion of it, that which is now denounced as "a bare-faced plagiarism" having been written by Professor A. Wilder.
That gentleman is still living in or near
to 22 the text is his, save a few intercalated passages which break the Platonic narrative, to show the identity of ideas in the Hindu Scriptures. Now who of those who know Dr. A. Wilder personally, or by name, who are aware of the great scholarship of that eminent Platonist, the editor of so many learned works,5 would be insane enough to accuse him of "plagiarising" from any author's work! I give in the footnote the names of a few of the Platonic and other works he has edited. The charge would be simply preposterous!
The fact is that Dr. Wilder must have either forgotten to place quotes
before and after the passages copied by him from various authors in his
Summary; or else, owing to his very difficult handwriting, he has failed to
mark them with sufficient clearness. It is impossible, after the lapse of
almost fifteen years, to remember or verify the facts. To this day I had
imagined that this disquisition on Platonists was his, and never gave a further
thought to it. But now enemies have ferretted out unquoted passages and
proclaim louder than ever "the author of
But in view of the facts as given above; and considering that--
(a) The language in
b) It was not written for the public,--the latter having always been
only a secondary consideration with me--but for the use of Theosophists and
members of the Theosophical Society to which
c) Though I have since learned sufficient English to have been enabled to edit two magazines--the Theosophist and LUCIFER--yet, to the present hour I never write an article, an editorial or even a simple paragraph, without submitting its English to close scrutiny and correction.
Considering all this and much more, I ask now every impartial and honest man and woman whether it is just or even fair to criticize my works--Isis, above all others--as one would the writings of a born American or English author! What I claim in them as my own is only the fruit of my learning and studies in a department, hitherto left uninvestigated by Science, and almost unknown to the European world. I am perfectly willing to leave the honour of the English grammar in them, the glory of the quotations from scientific works brought occasionally to me to be used as passages for comparison with, or refutation by, the old Science, and finally the general make-up of the volumes, to every one of those who have helped me. Even for the Secret Doctrine there are about half-a-dozen Theosophists who have been busy in editing it, who have helped me to arrange the matter, correct the imperfect English, and prepare it for print.
But that which none of them will ever claim from first to last, is the fundamental doctrine, the philosophical conclusions and teachings. Nothing of that have I invented, but simply given it out as I have been taught; or as quoted by me in the Secret Doctrine (Vol. I, p. 46 [xlvi]) from Montaigne: "I have here made only a nosegay of culled (Eastern) flowers, and have brought
nothing of my own but the string that ties them." Is any one of my helpers prepared to say that I have not paid the full price for the string?
Lucifer, May, 1891
1 Witness the word "planet" for "cycle" as originally written, corrected by some unknown hand, (Vol. I., p. 347, 2nd par.), a "correction" which shows Buddha teaching that there is no rebirth on this planet (!!) when the contrary is asserted on p. 346, and the Lord Buddha is said to teach how to "avoid" reincarnation; the use of the word "planet," for plane, of "Monas" for Manas;
and the sense of whole ideas sacrificed to the grammatical form, and changed by the substitution of wrong words and erroneous punctuation, etc., etc., etc.
encyclopædia."--North American Review.
"It must be acknowledged that she is a remarkable woman, who has read more, seen more. and thought more than most wise men. Her work abounds in quotations from a dozen different languages, not for the purpose of a vain display of erudition, but to substantiate her peculiar views . . . her pages are garnished with foot-notes establishing, as her authorities, some of the profoundest writers of the past. To a large class of readers, this remarkable work will prove of
absorbing interest . . . demands the earnest attention of thinkers, and
merits an analytic reading."--
"The appearance of erudition is stupendous. Reference to and quotations from the most unknown and obscure writers in all languages abound, interspersed with allusions to writers of the highest repute, which have evidently been more than skimmed through."--N.Y. Independent. "An extremely readable and exhaustive essay upon the paramount importance of reestablishing the Hermetic Philosophy in a world which blindly believes that it
has outgrown it."--N.Y. World.
"Most remarkable book of the season."--Com. Advertiser.
"[To] Readers who have never made themselves acquainted with the literature of mysticism and alchemy, the volume will furnish the materials for an interesting study--a mine of curious information."--Evening Post.
"They give evidence of much and multifarious research on the part
of the author, and contain a vast number of interesting stories. Persons fond
of the marvellous will find in them an abundance of entertainment."--
comprises fifty pages, and we venture nothing in saying that such an index of subjects was
never before compiled by any human being. . . But the book is a curious one and will no doubt find its way into libraries because of the unique subject matter it contains . . . will certainly prove attractive to all who are interested in the history, theology, and the mysteries of the ancient world."--Daily Graphic.
"The present work is the fruit of her remarkable course of
education, and amply confirms her claims to the character of an adept in secret
science, and even to the rank of a hierophant in the exposition of its mystic
"One who reads the book carefully through, ought to know everything
of the marvellous and mystical, except perhaps, the passwords.
versatility, and the prodigious variety of subjects which it notices and
handles, it is one of the remarkable productions of the century."--
3 This Austrian nobleman, who was in complete destitution at
ex-diplomat had annexed without permission.
4 I will not name him. There are names which carry a moral stench about them, unfit for any decent journal or publication. His words and deeds emanate from the cloaca maxima of the Universe of matter and have to return to it, without touching me.
5 A. Wilder, M.D., the editor of Serpent and Siva Worship, by Hyde Clarke and C. Staniland Wake; of Ancient Art and Mythology, by Richard Payne Knight, to which the editor has appended an Introduction, Notes translated into English and a new and complete Index; of Ancient Symbol Worship, by Hodder M. Westropp and C. Staniland Wake, with an Introduction, additional Notes and Appendix by the editor; and finally, of The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries; "A Dissertation, by Thomas Taylor, translator of 'Plato,' 'Plotinus,' 'Porphyry,' 'Jamblichus,' 'Proclus,' 'Aristotle,' etc., etc., etc.," edited with Introduction, Notes,
Emendations, and Glossary, by Alexander Wilder, M.D.; and the author of
various learned works, pamphlets and articles for which we have no space here.
Also the editor of the "
Cardiff Theosophical Society in
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