1877: Indian Metaphysics

Two peas in the same pod are the traditional symbol of mutual resemblance, and the time-honoured simile forced itself upon me when I read the twin letters of our two masked assailants in your paper of Feb. 22nd. In substance they are so identical that one would suppose the same person had written them simultaneously with his two hands, as Paul Morphy will play you two games of chess, or Kossuth dictate two letters at once. The only difference between these two letters – lying beside each other on the same page, like two babes in one crib – is, that “M.A. Cantab’s” is brief and courteous, while “Scrutator’s” is prolix and uncivil. By a strange coincidence both these sharp-shooters fire from behind their secure ramparts a shot at a certain “learned Occultist” over the head of Mr. C. C. Massey, who quoted some of that personage’s views, in […] Read More

H. P. Blavatsky on Precipitation and Other Matters

[The following is the greater part of a letter written by H. P. Blavatsky some years ago at a time when, subsequent to the Psychical Research Society’s Report on Theosophical phenomena, not only the public but fellow members of the Society were doubting her, doubting themselves, doubting the Adepts. Its publication now will throw upon her character a light not otherwise obtainable. Written to an intimate and old friend for his information and benefit, it bears all the indicia of being out of the heart from one old friend to another. Those who have faith in her and in the Masters behind her will gain benefit and knowledge from its perusal.] Now what you advise me to do, I have for the last three or four years attempted most seriously. Dozens of times I have declared that I shall not put the Masters any worldly questions or submit before […] Read More

1882: Esoteric Axioms And Spiritual Speculations

    In a lengthy review of A. Lillie’s book, Buddha and Early Buddhism, by M. A. (Oxon), our esteemed friend, the critic, takes the opportunity for another quiet little fling at his well-wishers, the Theosophists. On the authority (?) of Mr. Lillie, who seems to know all about it, the reviewer contradicts and exposes the assertions made and theories enunciated by the Theosophists. We will now quote from his review “Buddhism and Western Thought,” published in the October number of the Psychological Review:     “It will be evident to any reader, who has followed me so far, that the Buddhist belief is permeated by what I have described as a distinctive, ‘a peculiar note of Modern Spiritualism – the presence and guardianship of departed spirits'(!?)1 I confess that this struck me with some surprise, and, I may say, pleased surprise, for I had come to think that there was […] Read More

Is the Desire to ‘Live’ Selfish?

The passage, “to Live, to Live, TO LIVE must be the unswerving resolve,” occurring in the article on the Elixir of Life, published in the March and April Numbers of Vol. III of the Theosophist, is often quoted, by superficial readers unsympathetic with the Theosophical Society, as an argument that the above teaching, of occultism is the most concentrated form of selfishness. In order to determine whether the critics are right or wrong, the meaning of the word “selfishness” must first be ascertained. According to an established authority, selfishness is that “exclusive regard to one’s own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.” In short, an absolutely selfish individual is one who cares for himself and none else, or, in other words, one who is […] Read More

Parting Words

So far as I can at present foresee, this will be the last time I shall ask you to print anything over my, to many Spiritualists, loathed signature, as I intend to start for India very soon. But I have once more to correct inaccurate statements. If I had had my choice, I would have preferred almost any other person than my very esteemed friend Dr. Bloede, to have last words with. Once an antagonist, a bitter and unjust one to me, as he himself admits, he has since made all the amends I could have asked of a scholar and a gentleman, and now, as all who read your valuable paper see, he does me the honour to call me friend. Honest in intent he always is, I am sure, but still a little prejudiced. Who of us but is so, more or less? Duty, therefore, compels me […] Read More

1997: Notes on Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon

By W. T. S. Thackara [Reprinted from Theosophic History (6:8), October 1997, pp. 309-15, with additional material.] Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: Theosophy and the Emergence of the Western Guru, by Peter Washington, London: Secker & Warburg, 1993; ISBN 0-436-56418-1, notes, bibliography, index, cloth, 480 pages. (1995 American edition subtitled: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America) PETER WASHINGTON is the General Editor of the Everyman Library and the author of several books including Fraud: Literary Theory and the End of English. He is a professor of English and European Literature at Middlesex University and a reviewer and critic for The London Evening Standard and The Independent. Editor’s Comments (Theosophical History, October 1997, pp. 272-3): W. T. S. Thackara’s “Notes on Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon” by Peter Washington is not so much a book review as a remedial essay. When Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon first appeared in […] Read More

1887: Let Every Man Prove His Own Work

    Such is the title of a letter received by the Editors of Lucifer. It is of so serious a nature that it seems well to make it the subject of this month’s editorial. Considering the truths uttered in its few lines, its importance and the bearing it has upon the much obscured subject of Theosophy, and its visible agent or vehicle – the Society of that name – the letter is certainly worthy of the most considerate answer. Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum! Justice will be done to both sides in the dispute; namely, Theosophists and the members of the Theosophical Society1 on the one hand, and the followers of the Divine Word (or Christos), and the so-called Christians, on the other. We reproduce the letter: To the editors of LUCIFER What a grand chance is now open in this country, to the exponents of a noble and […] Read More

My Books

My Books 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 London Headquarters. He said that he had asked Mdme. Blavatsky what were the best Theosophical works for him to read, and had declared his intention of procuring Isis Unveiled, when to his astonishment she replied, “Don’t read it, it is all trash.” Now I did not say “trash” so far as I remember; but what I did say in substance was: “Leave it alone; Isis will not satisfy you. Of all the books I have put my name to, this particular one is, in literary arrangement, the worst and most confused.” And I might have added with as much truth that, carefully analysed from a strictly literary and critical standpoint, Isis was full of misprints and misquotations; that it […] Read More

Lodges of Magic

    When fiction rises pleasing to the eye,     Men will believe, because they love the lie;     But Truth herself, if clouded with a frown,     Must have some solemn proofs to pass her down.         – CHURCHILL.     One of the most esteemed of our friends in occult research, propounds the question of the formation of “working Lodges” of the Theosophical Society, for the development of adeptship. If the practical impossibility of forcing this process has been shown once, in the course of the theosophical movement, it has scores of times. It is hard to check one’s natural impatience to tear aside the veil of the Temple. To gain the divine knowledge, like the prize in a classical tripos, by a system of coaching and cramming, is the ideal of the average beginner in occult study. The refusal of the originators of the Theosophical Society to encourage […] Read More