The Writings of H. P. Blavatsky

Volume 14

By I. M. Oderberg

Volume XIV, last of the numbered series of the H. P Blavatsky Collected Writings [Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton/Madras/London, 1985, bio-bibliography, index, illustrations, 733 pages. This and other volumes of the series may also be ordered from Theosophical University Press, Pasadena.] compiled by Boris de Zirkoff, comprises material unpublished at the time of her death in London on May 8, 1891. Many of these articles, along with H. P. Blavatsky's private instructions to students, had been edited by Annie Besant and published in 1897 as a large part of The Secret Doctrine, "Volume III." De Zirkoff has written a lengthy Introduction allocating probable dates to individual items, and discussing whether they had been intended by H.P.B. for The Secret Doctrine, for her magazine Lucifer, or were rejects from the first two volumes of the S.D. The private teachings were included in Volume XII of the Collected Writings.

The first of three Appendices deals with the so-called Wurzburg manuscript, a draft of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine which H.P.B. wrote in Wurzburg and in 1886 sent to Pandit Subba Row Garu in India for his comments and suggestions. The published two volumes of The Secret Doctrine were thereafter almost entirely rewritten by H.P.B. and incorporate only a small portion of the 1886 version.

It is difficult to select one item as being of more worth than others or in need of special emphasis. However, attention must be drawn to an article with a long but stimulating title: "The 'Doctrine of the Eye' and the 'Doctrine of the Heart,' or the 'Heart's Seal'." The "doctrine of the eye" refers to the exoteric presentation of teachings intended for the public, about mankind, earth, and cosmos, in the garb of allegory or imagery. The "doctrine of the heart" is the key to understanding what is hidden in the public expressions, in parable or story. Traditionally, these sacred instructions were handed down openly in times of spiritual freedom, but during periods of repression they were transmitted secretly from generation to generation to ensure their survival and to preserve their purity from adulteration. The pearl enshrined within the shell of every religion or, to use the author's phrase, the "Heart's Seal," was the responsibility of the Arhats, for to them alone had Gautama the Buddha imparted it.

The essential difference between the "eye" and the "heart," or the outward form and the hidden meaning, cold metaphysics and divine wisdom, is succinctly stated by Chan Master Lin-Chi:

The "true man, without a position," Wu-wei-chen-jen, is wrapped in a prickly shell, like the chestnut. He cannot be approached. This is Buddha -- the Buddha within you. -- The Recorded Sayings, English translation by R. F. Sasaki (Institute for Zen Studies, Kyoto, Japan, 1975)

Since the teachings of the "eye" and the "heart" are universal in scope and application, traces are to be found in diverse eras and places widespread over the globe. Any one of them must be in agreement in essence with the others, whatever the language of transmission or the psychology of the various peoples to whom they were given.

Several articles in Volume XIV relate to the inner meaning of the Qabbalah, shedding light on Genesis and on the correlations of the Sephiroth and Elohim to man as well as cosmos. "What says the Kabalah itself?" asks H.P.Blavatsky. "Its great Rabbis actually threaten him who accepts their sayings verbatim. We read in the Zohar":

Woe to the man who sees in the Thorah, i.e., Law, only simple recitals and ordinary words! . . . But it is not so; each word of the Thorah contains an elevated meaning and a sublime mystery. . . . The recitals of the Thorah are the vestments of the Thorah. Woe to him who takes this garment for the Thorah itself. -- Zohar, III, fol. 152b, quoted from Isaac Myer's Qabbalah, p. 102

Blavatsky's treatment of the Oriental heritage points to the misinterpretation of major concepts originating in India, China, Tibet, and elsewhere. For example, the section titled "The Mystery of Buddha" contains some of the most profound chapters upon the whole question of buddhahood, of Cosmic Buddhas and human buddhas, and the relationship thereto of the Indian prince, Siddhartha, who became Gautama-Sakyamuni. They examine the doctrine of avataras, embodiments of divinity in which buddhas have a role to play, and illumine ,the sevenfold composition of the human being as a reflection of the constitution of the cosmos.

The relationship between Buddha and Sankaracharya explains events and developments of the past 2,000 years with regard to Buddhism and Advaita-Vedanta; it also describes how an avatara comes into being, whether Sankaracharya, Jesus, or any other, and what a bodhisattva intrinsically is. The golden thread running throughout is compassion and service, the very essence of altruism.

An important item in this section, annotated by H. P. Blavatsky, is the "Unpublished Discourse of the Buddha" taken from the Second Book of Commentaries on the Stanzas of Dzyan [Sanskrit dhyana, spiritual-intellectual contemplation; also, in Buddhism, one of the virtues or paramitas.] of The Secret Doctrine. Of special interest is the meaning given to maya -- illusion arising from imperfect perceptions and not the nonexistence many Western scholars apply to it. Other chapters are headed "Nirvana-Moksha"; "The Secret Books of 'Lam-Rim' and Dzyan" (Lam-Rim is the classic text by Tsong-Kha-Pa, the great Tibetan reformer of Buddhism and reputed founder of the Gelugpa sect); "Amita Buddha, Kwan-Shai-Yin, and Kwan-Yin -- What the 'Book of Dzyan' and the Lamaseries of Tsong-Kha-Pa Say," and "Tsong-Kha-Pa -- Lohans in China."

In several chapters, notably "The Trial of the Sun Initiate" and "The Mystery 'Sun of Initiation,' " H. P. Blavatsky treats of the ancient Mysteries of various lands, their origin, objectives, their antiquity and post-Christian successors. While acknowledging that "The Mysteries had their weak points and their defects, as every institution welded with the human element must necessarily have" (p. 250), she cites the redoubtable Voltaire: "In the chaos of popular superstitions there existed an institution which has ever prevented man from falling into absolute brutality: it was that of the Mysteries."

"The Last of the Mysteries in Europe" deals with the closure of the Schools in Celtic Gaul in 47 B.C. in Alesia (or Alisa), and in 21 A.D. in Bibractis; and also the final destruction in 389 A.D. of the Alexandrian Library which had been devastated previously by Julius Caesar.

Footnotes throughout prove as fascinating as the text. For example on page 222, the author writes that both Socrates and the Emperor Julian died "for the same crime": they divulged "a portion of the solar mystery" relating to the sun's constitution. Socrates had never been initiated and was sentenced by "earthly and worldly judges"; Julian, who had been initiated, "died a violent death because the hitherto protecting hand was withdrawn from him, and, no longer shielded by it, he was simply left to his destiny or Karma." She adds that the mystery surrounding the exile of the famous poet Ovid derives from a similar cause: he did not know that he had infringed the secrecy of the Mysteries, but his friend the Emperor Augustus, as an Initiate, did know. Out of friendship for the poet he banished him from Rome rather than have him executed. This surely shows how far the Mystery School administration had deteriorated, for "death" for betrayal (i.e., infringement of the rule of secrecy) originally meant exclusion from the sacred rites and training, which was equivalent to an inner death, not a physical one.

Of particular importance at this time is her warning of the dangers of "practical magic" or the abuse of psychic powers. She stresses the duality of the power inherent therein, for "an utterly selfish thought," or an evil one "can turn it into sorcery."

An immense debt is owed to the late Boris de Zirkoff for carrying out the herculean task of finding and assembling this wealth of material, enough to fill fourteen large volumes of Collected Writings over and above H. P. Blavatsky's major works: Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine, The Key to Theosophy, and The Voice of the Silence -- the last a superlative text for those who wish to dedicate their lives to their fellow human beings.

In the writings of H. P. Blavatsky we have the most solid reply to those critics who have demeaned her without understanding either her or her lifework. Born of suffering as much as from the rare attainments she brought to her task, her writings are living testimony to her sacrifice for the good of all. She claimed to bring only the string that ties together the heritage of many peoples through many eras long gone; we can never know the price she paid for that string.

Commendation should be extended to all who helped de Zirkoff in his task, especially to Data Eklund, assistant compiler, and those who aided her; the bio-bibliography itself is well worth reading, and the index is comprehensive. There still remain a large collection of Blavatsky letters, both published and unpublished, and a master-index to cover all volumes of the Collected Writings.

(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 1986; copyright © 1986 Theosophical University Press)

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