January 1999

1999-01 Quote

By Magazine

Experience, it is said, makes a man wise. That is very silly talk. If there were nothing beyond experience it would simply drive him mad.



Theosophy and Policics

By Eldon B. Tucker

[based upon a May 4, 1995 posting to theos-l@vnet.net.]

Theosophy is a religious philosophy, sometimes called the Wisdom Tradition. It is not simply an intellectual pursuit, important as the mind is. It is not based upon devotion or worship, nor upon well-intentioned social work. Theosophy is rather a study of the highest form of understanding, a study that necessitates the practice of unselfishness, and of spirituality in the student's life.

We are not given specific morals and ethics, but rather taught how to understand ethical thought, and to derive what is right through an understanding of the nature of right and wrong. There is not a rigid adherence to some arbitrary set of rules, like the Judaic ten commandments. Rules are to help the laggards of humanity, those who would fall behind the rest of us, without some external assistance. When we've developed our innate saintliness, we can directly perceive what is right, without having to refer to an external rulebook.

With regard to politics, we are taught to obey the law of the land, to be faithful citizens of the nation which we call our home. We must act according to our conscience, but accept the consequences, like Socrates did, in ancient days.

Theosophical groups promote an open forum for the study of the Ancient Wisdom. There are little requirements of members except for an acceptance of universal brotherhood, and for respectful tolerance of the views of others

(The freedom of belief, and the wide tolerance of differing views, though, does not mean that Theosophy is anything that anyone wants it to be. There is a definite, well-defined philosophy that can be studied. It is possible, with some study, to distinguish theosophical ideas from countless personal speculations of untrained minds. While it is true that behind anyone and anything we see, there is a spark of the divine, it would be incorrect to generalize this to say that behind any word that someone may utter, there's a pearl of divine wisdom.)

Theosophical groups are not officially connected to any political or religious organization. There is no attempt to promote one church over others, nor to promote one political party or agenda over the rest. Religious and political practices are left up to individual conscience, and neither are considered important in the long run. Theosophy looks at the big picture. Even 50,000 years hence, none of the current-day religions or political systems will be around. Theosophy deals with the timeless, with parts of us that transcend the present-day world.

We find that in some religions that there are political organizations. The Catholics have had their Jesuits with a dark history of meddling in politics, and the Moslems have extremist groups promoting terrorism. There have been many horrors promoted in the name of organized religions, like, for instance, the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Theosophy teaches self-responsibility. We are taught to practice unselfishness, to seek the betterment of humanity. Being good citizens, concerned for the welfare of our neighbors, and in a general sense for our fellow inhabitants of planet earth, we can never condone violence or oppression in any form.

The world is not bettered by political manipulation. Passing some law, devising new ways to regulate the lives of others, we do not really change or better them. People are not mindless puppets, made to do whatever external influences tell them. By watching TV, for instance, someone is not "made" to do stupid, awful things! And by passing a law to say that people smile at others, we do not make them friendly.

How do we better things? We better things for others by giving them the same freedoms that we want for ourselves. We do not ban or burn books, but encourage the free exchange of ideas. Although we are left up to our own to decide what religion and politics that we may practice, we are taught that there are higher things than politics and organized religion. We are taught of a path of spiritual evolution, self-devised, lonely, but infinitely rewarding, that leads to an inner wealth beyond compare! Obtaining and sharing that wealth is the highest good!


Point Loma Publications Is Now on the Internet

By Michael E. Bartlett

Continuing the 20th century expression of living Theosophy established by Katherine Tingley at Point Loma California, Point Loma Publications, Inc. gladly announces for the first time, placement of the entire catalog on the Internet.

The "on-line catalog of publications" effectively makes available extremely rare and valued teachings of the Wisdom Traditions to anyone worldwide within reach of the Internet.

The student of the Mysteries will find titles both classic and new on the teachings as given through H.P. Blavatsky, Katherine Tingley, G. de Purucker relating classic knowledge of Universal Wisdom as well as many research tools for the erudite scholar.

The custodians of these teachings have labored generations to keep this body of knowledge intact and undiluted for those seeking the highest path of life.

The Wisdom Traditions bookstore exists to serve the business needs of Point Loma Publications and to provide a continuing forum for the outreach of the Eastern and Western wisdom traditions.

Please navigate to this Internet site by directing your browser to the following address:


There you will find many book listings organized by subject sections with informative descriptions of each title. These sections include topics on Cosmogony, Esoteric Teachings, Ethics, Evolution, History, Mysticism, Language, Reincarnation, and of course, Theosophy.

Additionally, you will find information about the Wisdom Traditions Bookstore, located in San Diego, California, and the many events, classes, and seminars available there to the public which is listed in the "Events Calendar."


1999-01 Blavatsky Net Update

By Reed Carson

BN is delighted to announce that it has exended an offer to Daniel Caldwell (well known and respected for his contributions on the internet and elsewhere) to become "Director of Research" of the Blavatsky Net Foundation.

Daniel has accepted the position and agree to offer his considerable skills and knowledge to help Blavatsky Net Foundation. His very useful page "online reading room" that he has developed is now featured near the top of the BN homepage in the "Theosophy online" section.

Other important material that he has developed will also be placed on this site. We will be particularly appreciative of his help with the choice of material and comments in the bookstore. He has already begun contributing behind the scenes and we offer him here a public "Thank you".

We will be re-launching the online BN-study discussion list probably some time in January. Currently we are examining various email software packages and hoping to find the best combination.

The discussion list is intended to focus on the teachings of Theosophy. Participants will receive seven of the quotes-of-the-day, once each week as we progress through the Secret Doctrine from the beginning to the end. A digest form, sent perhaps once per week, will be available.

To prevent a repeat of what occured at the last launching of BN-study, we have made many changes.

First, we turned the indicator off (meaning no participation) for many individuals in order to be sure that those who are on the list really wanted it. So now many of you, to be included in the list must go back to your membership record and check "yes".

A second major change is that the list will be "moderated" -- for an indefinte time or maybe just for an introductory period. That means all emails go to a moderator's desk before being sent onward to the group. This is for the protection of the group to prevent abuses.

The outburst of spontaneous, positive, enthusiasm at the first lauching of BN-study was, in my experience, unparalled. I thank all those who spoke up positively and hope we will resume in the same spirit.

At the end of November an unexpected death in the family required me to immediately drop everything and fly from New York to the interior of India. This accounts for the lack of the regular email from me to members on December 1. It also explains a delay in development of various items at this site.

While returning home to New York, we stopped in Bombay (now called Mumbai) and had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the publishers of the monthly magazine "The Theosophical Movement." We have always thought highly of that magazine and particularly of its regular feature "In the Light of Theosophy".

(This feature covers current developments in science and the world and relates them to the teachings of Theosophy. I have thought for some time, if I may say so, that it is the best of its genre. It also happens to be an excellent fit with this site.)

We feel strongly that this monthly information has great value and should be readily available to the world on the internet -- and the publishers of the magazine have agreed. So there is now a click for it on the homepage in the Confirmation Section as "In the Light of Theosophy". If you are at all interested we hope you will have a look.

This month we have also introduced an "inspirational quote of the week". We hope this will complement the "study quote of the day" that will be used as part of BN-study. In contrast, this new inspirational quote of the week we hope will offer something that speaks to the heart and perhaps offer meaningful Theosophical help in our daily living.

We expect it usually to be short and drawn from wide ranging sources. We think you will enjoy the quotes that are being lined up. If you have any suggestions or comments concerning this new item please email them to odin@blavatsky.net. We thank Odin Townley for suggesting this idea and he will be responsible for maintaining these quotes.

Regarding software development ... during November and December much progress was made on the software behind this site. Besides being a necessity for handling the growth this site is experiencing, the software has the potential for helping along the Theosophical movement.

The "member profile report" shows information in a quite interesting way that members have chosen to reveal to others about themselves. As time goes on, this has the possibility of helping Theosophists all around the world to meet each, potentially forming study groups and advancing the cause.

In December we added a sophisticated feature to that report whereby email addresses do NOT show but members CAN nevertheless send email messages to other members. (This is accomplished by having the underlying BN software handle the email and preserve the privacy of the recipient.)

As soon as we can, we will arrange for that report to be sorted geographically, by country, by state/province and by city to facilitate finding each other.

The software is operating now, for the most part, as we intend it. Some of you are not receiving the quote of the day though you wanted it. Check out your member record to fix it. Some of you have not marked the information you submitted as "visible". Now you may want to check out the privacy feature described above that keeps your email private and possibly switch your record to "visible". Some of you are not subscribed to BN-study and may want to be.

At this turn of the year there are about 600 members of Blavatsky Net and the total accumulated visitor count to the homepage is about 57,000. It is an interesting display of the progress made by this site that 40,900 of those visits occured during 1998. With this support from people all over the world, we look forward to 1999 with enthusiasm and a comittment to service.

[See http://www.blavatksy.net for more information.]


The Personification of Barriers to the Path

By Annette Rivington

[based upon a August 29, 1998 posting to ti-l@vnet.net.]

Although I know only a little myself about anything on the unseen side of the world and might speculate at length based on hearing of many experiences such as described on the Internet, it seems pertinent to say only that it is evident to me that part of the human experience is to be impacted by (and to impact) extra-physical states via the physical senses.

It also seems that once one is aware of alternate states, paradoxically, some humans can experience more vividly by means of various "sensory deprivation" techniques and some humans can achieve same by "hightening the senses" in deeper contact with the physical, and some just experience alternate states naturally it seems.

This is strong evidence for me that other states exist (in the times of doubt that is). When I experience for myself, I believe (in my reality). My process of test and belief seems to be one of individual freedom from impact by the experiences and beliefs of others. THIS may not be possible!

Thus, if one accepts two basic factors that seem to be in evidence: that "other than base physical" experience exists, and that "other entities" experienced by one cannot not destroy one's physical being directly, the task would seem to be one of understanding the form, intent, and information being imparted by the experience.

I think it quite logical and acceptable that the human physical form would "believe" that these experiences were more than electrobiochemical and would accept these experiences as communication between the non-physical and the physical states, and hence does actively seek them out. Perhaps the motivation in the seeking is the memory of or intuition about or desire to be, more than bounded by the physical.

There seems to be little doubt that when one bounds oneself within the totally physical, that is what one experiences and hence perceives and explains the life experience as a solely physical one, however when one practices rituals and thought processes using the physical as a tool, one experiences beyond.

The problem is that all experience while in the physical is via the physical, so that the beyond is translated into physical terms. Some say that much is lost in the translation, others that much is gained. Some say that it is a memory or gift, others that it must be released or learned. Whatever the method, it would seem that an understanding of the process and the results of (if one chooses to analyze rather than simply accept as is) requires knowledge of all aspects of existence (brain chemistry and OBE's being two examples). No subset explains the whole experience to any satisfaction.

Someone might meditate, do chanting exercises, and end up with frightening hallucinations. Based on personal experience, my observation is that all bounding of experience originates in and is maintained by fear. Experience and knowledge (perhaps not two things?) dispels fear.

An image that evokes fear may then come to someone doing a spiritual practice. In my case, the face of fear comes in the form of a snake. I have "seen" snakes during the day at the office and outside. I have "seen" people's faces snakelike when talking to them. I have been shadowed by and bitten in the heart chakra by a massive hooded cobra in dream and meditation. In the dreams or visions, snakes are not frightening to me.

There is a lesson to be found in the fear image. I have studied what the snake-image represents. I learned that ancient interpretation of snake visions is that change is in process, that knowledge and wisdom is being offered. I also learn that ancients had explanations for all the "forms" that appeared to them.

As I experience and learn, and work through my fears, none of the experiences are terrifying. As I incorporate into and release from myself an interim level of understanding about these forms, I use them to "help" me remain on a path that is often fearful. I now wear a snake "charm" next to my heart when I desire to stay strong in coping with change. This is simply an interim method to keep my physical being in focus with a spiritual goal.

My goal currently is to move beyond the bounded dualistic state of opposites (good or bad, ecstatic or frightening) to experience whatever the all experience is (that I am capable of) without fear, and to understand what it means. Perhaps this is simply getting to know Self.

My path is individual. For me, going to a "holy man", or anyone else, for a method to change or control my experiences will arrest my discovery of myself and lead me into an experience of the other's self. This would be a more or less valuable learning experience on the way, but will not achieve what I perceive as the purpose of this experience here or there. Whether the experience is self-created or extra-self seems to matter little as far as the self-learning experience is concerned, except in times of doubt and fear!


The End of Theosophia

By Anonymous

[THEOSOPHIA MAGAZINE was put out by Boris de Zirkoff from 1944 through 1981. The following is from the last issue of the magazine, Summer 1981, published shortly after Boris' death.]


To Our Subscribers

This worthy magazine concludes with a tribute issue to our editor, Boris de Zirkoff, who has recently passed from this field of action to a well-earned rest. Many of our readers have sent in their thoughts of gratitude for Boris, and have expressed their sympathy with the following idea:

The remaining funds for THEOSOPHIA MAGAZINE will be dedicated towards the future printing of a brief memoir dictated to the undersigned last Fall when Boris realized that his health was failing rapidly. We know this idea finds support amidst our readers.

Before presenting our tributes to him we quote below an excerpt from a letter Boris wrote in 1946 to Professor Nicholas Roerich, then in Punjab, India, which follows.

-- Dara Eklund, Los Angeles


The Great Work Goes On

Two years ago, I started to publish, as an experimental venture, a little magazine over here -- "Theosophia," by name. It has grown; it has acquired subscribers in other states, and now abroad. We make no splurge and do not consider ourselves a great success; but we are growing, and we seem to have become a sounding board more or less ...

In spite of all the outward changes on the stage of Karmic destiny, the Great Work goes on without interruption. Difficulties temper our character, strengthen our fiber ...

Here in America the great watchword is GREED, and selfishness in general. They have not suffered. They have succeeded in killing vastly more people with car-accidents than they ever killed on the battlefield. They had a financial boom right along. War has made them even more materialistic, except for a few. Sometimes I long for another setting, with people in whose heart there still exists a love for the spiritual and the beautiful values of life. But my duty must be here karmically, and so I try to plough up the field which karma has indicated for my present work.

We try to hold the Vision undimmed, through the heavy fogs and the many storms -- the Vision of a Greater Age. We bend our forces towards it ... inspiring ourselves with that far off picture of man's infinite potentialities. And though the climb is hard at times, and though the wind is strong, and the clouds hide from view the distant tops of the Spiritual Himalayas, we try to listen in the silence of our inmost being to that strain of Triumphant Music which comes at times -- when all is still -- borne on the inner ethers from the City of the Sun!"

Cordially yours,
Boris de Zirkoff

June 20, 1946


To Whom It May Concern (February 24, 1953)

This will serve to introduce my friend, Mr. Boris de Zirkoff, of Los Angeles, California, editor of the COLLECTED WRITINGS OF HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY and of THEOSOPHIA.

Mr. Zirkoff comes of a noble Russian family of ancient lineage, being in his own right a Baron and a grand nephew of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. He goes to Europe for research and on a lecture tour, and any assistance given to him there by scholars, librarians, and workers for better understanding between nations, especially between the Orient and the Occident, will be greatly appreciate by his many friends throughout the world.

Sincerely yours in Universal Fraternity,



In Memoriam (Spring 1981)

It is with the deepest personal regret that I have learned of the death of Mr. Boris de Zirkoff. He was a close personal friend, and I have known him as a most dedicated man who took upon himself the momumental labor of making avaliable in print the collected writings of Helena Petrnovna Blavatsky ... In 1950 the Philosophical Research Society collaborated with Mr. de Zirkoff in publishing Blavatsky's COLLECTED WRITINGS FOR 1883. On that occasion a lasting friendship was established and has remained unbroken for over thirty years. His accomplishments will be of inestimable value to future generations of students in their quest for esoteric wisdom. He has departed from this life to join those servants of humanity in whose names and memories he gave his full measure of devotion. May he have a time of rest until his next assignment.

Manly P. Hall, PRS JOURNAL


Few Have the Perseverance

Many dream dreams but few have the perseverance to bring their vision into actuality. Favored by karma and an unwavering trust in theosophy, for fifty-seven years Boris de Zirkoff pursued his goal, appreciative of the hely of volunteers in many parts of the world. As one who participated in the formative stages by typing copy for the first volumnes of the "complete works project" as it was then known, it was to me quite natural that in the closing years of his life B. de Z. should seek to deepen his ties with old friends and colleagues. His periodic visits to our library and headquarters were mutually welcomed.

We salute you, Boris, with gratitude for making H. P. Blavatsky's writings readily accesible for future generations of earnest studests. The words of Disraeli might have been said in your honor: "The key to success is constancy to purpose."

Grace F. Knoche, Theosophical Society International, Pasadena, California


A Striking Example

Boris de Zirkoff stands out in my thoughts as a most striking example of commitment to what his great relative, H.P. Blavatsky called "the Cause." Theosophy was indeed his life, and he bore witness to it in the clarity and one-pointedness of his dedication.

I first became acquainted with Boris through correspondence when I was on the headquarters staff of the U.S. Section of the Theosophical Society in Wheaton, Illinois. He never failed me when I requested a contribution from him for THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHIST, and his comments were invariably both cogently expressed and enlightening. Later, I met him personally and came to have a deep personal affection and regard for him, as well as admiration for the tremendous work he was doing in making sure that posterity would have the benefit of the priceless Blavatsky writings. I found him always compassionate, always friendly, always willing to go out of his way to see that no seeker ever came to him in vain.

It is a privilege to pay tribute to a man of his inner greatness, his never-tiring application to the task he had set for himself, and the openness of heart with which he answered the aspirations of others. He never seems very far away.

Virginia Hanson, Ojai, California


Boris de Zirkoff: The Good Friend

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that one of the qualifications necessary for spiritual progress is that of being a good friend (kalyana mitra). This means that one is available for the discussion of spiritual matters, that one holds to the truth of one's own being in all meetings with others, and that one is ready with counsel or advice for those who may seek knowledge.

Singularly devoted to his self-imposed task of collecting the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, Boris de Zirkoff still had time to be "the good friend." How often in letter or conversation, he would respond to questions of mutual concern in our respective fields of service to the Theosophical Movement! He was ever ready with counsel, willing to share his own discoveries and insights about the "mystery" that was HPB. As the years passed, our own friendship grew richer and deeper, as Boris and I found in the mutual respect for each other's commitment to Theosophy and for each other's manner of serving that commitment in terms of our respective loyalties, a common ground of understanding and aspiration. External differences, therefore, gave way to a higher allegiance, a transcendent aim, beyond the confines of organizational structures. Working with Boris, sharing ideas by means of an extensive correspondence or in the happy times of direct conversation at his office, or at Wheaton, or at Adyar, or any of the other places where we met for conventions and conferences, was always richly rewarding. I invariably came away from such occasions, as I turned from reading his letters, with a new enthusiasm for, a new understanding of, the purpose of the Theosophical Cause which meant so very much to each of us.

One statement stands out from all the letters Boris wrote to me; it is a sentence with which he ended a letter sent me during a period when I myself had been redefining my own work within the Theosophical Society, and it is a sentence I have carried with me ever since. Perhaps the words describe best the nature of his own commitment, coming as they do from Boris -- "the good friend:"

The only thing I live for and work for is the perpetuation and dissemination of genuine Theosophy whether it be through the words of HPB or those who have remained true to her message and the instructions of Those standing behind her.

Joy Mills, Ojai, California


Considering the Tarot

By Gerald Schueler

[based upon a May 30, 1995 posting to theos-l@vnet.net.]

The number of trump cards (and minor arcana cards too) depends on how you want to structure the universe. If you add cards, then you must also add regions somewhere in the universe. While this is easily done, it is not so easily accepted by the layman -- those who read the Tarot cards or those who feel that tradition is important in the significance of symbolism. I feel that it is very legit for the Enochian Tarot, because the Enochian universe has a different structure from the Cabalistic universe. And, I did not make it up, but rather it was given to John Dee by Angels. (And who am I to argue with an Angel?)

According to HPB, monads that express themselves in our universe cannot skip any of the cosmic planes. So, we must express ourselves on each cosmic plane all the way down to the physical.

I interpret this to mean that we have a part of ourselves in each major realm of the invisible universe -- and a subtle body suitable for each cosmic plane. These are all "operative in our lives" to some extent.

We are more than our physical body. So, we can assume that each Tarot card, or at least each major arcana card, represents both an external realm or deity, and an internal state or energy or force as well.

When we look at a Tarot trump, we are looking at the symbols of both an external and an internal state of our being. The Empress is both a goddess and an archetype. The Hanged Man is symbolic of both an external event (the descent of the Silent Watcher or cosmic Christ) and an internal event (the sacrifice of our own spiritual state of bliss in order to take on physical manifestation). The Hierophant is both external Adept and inner divinity. And so on with all of the trump cards.

The Tarot cards were originated long before modern psychology. The designers, whoever they may have been, attempted to preserve key religious, sociological, and psychological processes and relationships, and yet had not the proper words in which to express their ideas.

Their language was limited to expressing the experiences of the common man of those times. For example, the notion of ego and the subtle relationships between ego and the subconscious were totally unknown to the common man, and thus no words had been coined to express them. In short, their task was to preserve as well as to disseminate the esoteric ideas realized by the highest mind's of their day, but they had very limited exoteric means in which to work.

Their answer to the problem was the use of symbols. H.P. Blavatsky expressed this process when she wrote,

The primitive purity of a creed can become soiled; its apostles can degrade and soil it by the inevitable admixture of human element. But its symbolism as the concrete expression of some now lost idea of the founder, will survive forever.


Because the ancients couched their ideas in symbols, they have survived through the centuries. Unfortunately, the meaning of many of the symbols used has either become lost over the long span of years, or has been changed in subtle ways. This has led to the many discrepancies that exist in the numerous Tarot books available today. Modern authorities each read into the symbols their own biases and views, and in some cases, have deliberately "refined" the cards to better reflect their own ideas.

The main symbolism used in the Major Arcana cards are as follows:


The Marseilles shows the fool as a court jester holding a baton and standing near a cliff. This symbolism suggests silliness, but perhaps a deliberate silliness. The Waite deck (this is the popular name of the deck made famous by A.E. Waite) is more complex. It shows a young wanderer holding a rose and a walking stick, to which a bag is tied, walking off a cliff. A dog romps at his side. This suggests a happy and carefree attitude that could be dangerous. The Golden Dawn deck (this is the deck used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and was probably created by one of its founders, McGregor Mathers) shows a naked child holding the reins of a wolf while plucking fruit from a tree. This symbolism, probably the most esoteric of any of the cards, suggests that the fool is innocence, and that pure innocence can check animal passions while surviving quite nicely on what nature provides.


The Marseilles deck shows a parlor magician going through a magic act of some kind with various 'tools of the trade' on a table. This is the popular view of the magician; one who does sleight of hand, and who employs gimmickry. The Waite and G.D. decks are a bit more sophisticated. They both show a true magician in robes, with his four traditional weapons: a sword, a wand, a cup, and a pantacle.


The Marseilles deck shows the goddess Junon (Juno), wife of the god Jupiter and a peacock. The more traditional goddess shown most other decks is Isis. The symbols here are lunar and suggest a lunar or occult vision (for example, the intuition as opposed to common sense).


Most all decks agree that this card is symbolized by a mature woman wearing a crown and seated on a throne. This suggests the feminine side of the psyche, perhaps the anima of Carl Jung, or any strong feminine authority. She is the archetypal mother, the ultimate feminine creator and provider.


Most all decks agree that this card is symbolized by a mature man wearing a crown and seated on a throne. This suggests the masculine side of the psyche, perhaps the animus of Carl Jung, or any strong masculine authority. He is the archetypal father, the ultimate masculine creator and provider.


Like the Emperor, this card is usually shown as a mature man wearing a crown and seated on a throne. The Marseilles deck shows the god Jupiter. Some decks show this as the Pope or some other religious leader which clearly distinguishes the difference between the Hierophant and the Emperor; the former is religious while the latter is civil or social. The symbolism here suggests the conscience.


The Marseilles deck shows Cupid about to shoot one of his famous arrows into a young couple. All decks show a man and woman together, and the general theme is love. This card suggests the union of opposites, especially masculinity and femininity, anima and animus. Cupid is the symbol of romance, but one that is usually governed more by emotions than by rational thought.


Most decks agree that the main symbol of this card is a chariot. Usually a charioteer is also shown. The theme is powerful deliberate motion toward a fixed goal and thus a victory over space. The card symbolism suggests the spiritual impulse which sooner or later will drive man to seek his true nature.


The main symbol for this card is a balance or scale used for measuring weight. The scale is held by a goddess who holds an upright sword. The symbolism represents karma, the law of cause and effect, which seeks a balance or moderation in all things.


Almost all decks agree that the symbolism of the Hermit is an older man in a robe holding a staff in one hand and a lamp in the other. The lamp is a symbol of the inner light of truth. The theme here is the wise old sage, the inner guiding light of conscience illumined by the intuition.


The main symbol of this card is a wheel. The wheel is a symbol for cycles, and the card represents the law of cyclic manifestation. The original symbols of this card were meant to portray the doctrine of reincarnation, as well as other cyclic processes.


Most cards use the symbol of the lion in this card. The lion as the "king of beasts" is a traditional symbol for strength. Some cards also show a man, while others show a woman, who is controlling the lion in some way. The theme here is controlled strength, or inner resolve that is directed toward a goal.


The Hanged Man is just that, a man hanging upside down from a wooden scaffle of some kind, usually in the form of a cross. Most cards show the man with his left leg bent to form a cross with his legs. The cross is the traditional symbol for sacrifice. The theme here is the deliberate undergoing of a selfless sacrifice, usually for the purpose of helping others.


Death is symbolized by a human skeleton. Sometimes the skeleton is shown holding a sickle to suggest that death levels all living beings. The theme is the process of death, which is an ending or completion of something that we have known. Death also implies change of some kind, a transformation.


This card is usually depicted by an angel who is pouring water from one vase into another. The water is the "water of life" and its being poured suggests that a necessary change of some kind is taking place. The card symbols not only imply the skill or ability that is required to 'get through' unwanted experiences, but those needed to turn such experiences to your advantage in some way.


The main symbol here is a devil. The Marseilles deck shows a stereotyped middle-ages Christian concept of Satan complete with horns and a forked tail. The Waite deck is much more refined, showing the stereotyped version of a devilish black magician. Most cards also show a naked man and woman chained to a block. The theme is Black Magick and the card suggest slavery or confinement. The symbolism strongly suggests the wrongness of an overinflated ego.


Almost all decks agree on the basic theme of this card. A stone tower is shown being struck by a bolt of lightening with two people falling from the destruction. The card suggests bad karma of all kinds, but especially destruction and ruination. In at least one sense, the card represents the Fall of Man, because the lightening bolt is a symbol of an "act of God" that forces man to fall from his protective tower, itself a symbol of a spiritual environment, into an unprotected mortality.


The main symbol here is a star. One or more stars is shown over the head of a goddess who is pouring water from two vases into a pool. The goddess is usually shown naked, although the Marseilles deck shows her partially clothed. She is Isis, the goddess of nature, and the waters are the Waters of Life. She is shown returning individual water into a collective pool, thus indicating that nothing in life is ever lost. The theme here is one of hope.


The main symbol here is the moon, and the cards of all decks amplify the lunar theme with various symbols usually associated with the moon. Most cards show two towers with a stream running between them to illustrate the idea of relationships. A scorpion, lobster, crayfish, or scarab, is often included to represent the forces of regeneration. One or two dogs or jackals are often shown to suggest the idea of the subconscious and the underworld. The theme here is the astral world, the realm of illusions and dreams.


The main symbol of this card is the sun which is almost always shown with extending rays, and sometimes with a face to suggest solar intelligence. The Marseilles deck shows a young couple together under a sun. The Waite deck shows a naked child riding a horse under a sun. The Golden Dawn deck shows two naked children holding hands under a sun. The sun, as the generator of light and heat, is the symbol for life and the forces of conscious creativity.


Most decks represent Judgement with an angel blowing a horn above a group of people. The heralding of a trumpet call as an act of divine judgement is suggested here. The Waite deck shows people standing in coffin-like boxes which suggest that an after-death judgement is implied. The Golden Dawn card shows people chest-deep in water implying a renewal or regeneration.


The last card of the Major Arcana includes the symbolism of the four animals of the Apocalypse and of the vision of Ezekiel. These are the bull, the lion, the eagle, and man. A naked woman stands within a circular wreath. In the Marseilles deck, this woman is the fourth animal, but in most decks she stands apart as a central figure. Her symbolism as the mother of the universe is clearly suggested in the Golden Dawn deck where the wreath is a ring of twelve globes which are obviously the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. The symbolism here suggests that this card includes the entire universe: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual planes of existence.


Inner Certainty

By Eldon B. Tucker

[based upon a May 11, 1995 posting to theos-l@vnet.net.]

One criticism of the doctrine of karma -- that we can't really know it, or perhaps can't really communicate a knowledge of it -- is understandable. It represent one viewpoint or approach to Theosophy that is held by some students. There are, however, many different theosophical worldviews, and that uncertainty is not found in all of them.

We are dealing with assumptions about the nature of knowledge, and of how experience relates to what we know. Consider something that is not in our personal experience. Say we're not convinced that it is true, but others hold it to be real according to their experience. Whom has the final say? With metaphysical matters, where the proof is in the experience, and the experience is not universally had by all, how do we proceed?

When we subject what we know, feel, or experience to severe scrunity, it starts to break down. Krishnamurti, for instance, attempted at times to reduce everything to the basic motivation of fear. Does this mean that everything is constructed of fear? No. Freud reduced everything to a sexual drive. Is everything sexual? Again: No.

After a certain level of reductionism, things break apart into their component elements, and they "die", the higher order disappears, and the life has departed. Six basic questions, if asked enough time, will do this: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Consider how quickly we run out of answers for a child that continues a series of Why's, eventually leaving us without an answer.

Pushing an idea, an understanding to its limits, it starts to break down. Does this mean that the idea is flawed? No, it means that the idea has room for growth, that there is more for us to learn about it. With continued study, deep though, contemplation, the idea comes together again, and we can push it farther. Our ideas, including the deepest mystical insights, have their limits, and fall apart when pushed beyond those limits. But when we study the mysteries that open up to us, as our ideas break down, we learn more, and the ideas are unified again.

It is possible to throw everything open to doubt and uncertainty. A healthy dose of skepticism is necessary in order to support frequent reality checks. There are different forms, though, of certainty, and not all are bad. It's wrong to be certain in the rigid, unthinking adherence to external rules, formulae, and words. But certainty grounded in experimentation and personal experience is a healthy thing.

With the study of Theosophy, that personal experience is in using a different way of thinking, sometimes called higher Manas. It is not difficult, and does not require vast training. It represents a form of inner experience that is different from visions, psychic experiences, OOBE's, or dramatic external events in life. With it, it is possible to explore and have experiences in a metaphysical sense, in our theosophical studies. This type of experience leads to a conviction, a certainty that comes from a dynamic process, from an inner living link to a source of learning, sometimes called one's Inner Teacher. One goal of the Theosophical Movement may be to encourage people to discover and appreciate this manner of contemplation, study, and knowing about things.

We have a dynamic process of inner reflection that paradoxically increases our sense of uncertainty as we learn and grow. This uncertainty represents growth pains, where our attention is drawn to ponder those areas of our understanding that are ripe for reflection, reexamination, and exploration. Picture a circle that contains what we know. Outside the circle is the unknown. We're aware of what we don't know by the boundary that the circle marks off. As the circle grows, and we know more, the boundary is also larger, and we are made more aware of how much there is that we have yet to know. How do we transcend this? When we transcend the sense of personal self, make the boundary fuzzy, and embrace the outside. But that is a whole other topic of discussion!

In the ultimate analysis, the most healthy form of certainty is from a sense of being grounded, deeply rooted in the spiritual, where we have a solid connection with our inner source. With that connection, we may still be thrown off source by accidents, mistakes, and mishaps in life. But like a good compass, when bumped, we always return to true north in our orientation. The pull of the "north" is strong to us, and it is a shaping force in our lives.


The Brahmanical Code

By Dallas TenBroeck

[A chapter taken from "On the Dhyani's Birthdays," November 16, 1998, a 20-page unpublished paper.]

HPB writes of the secret code long preserved in sound, words, syllables, rhythms and measures in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, xxi, 270-1. Many years ago a ULT student of brahmin descent who had the ENTREE to certain brahmin societies was allowed to make a "tape recording" which offers an example of the kind of vibrational encoding employed by the ancient Brahmins for the oral transmission of their wisdom and sciences.

This encoding requires special keys to make any sense of it as it is a series of sounds and rhythms. A further code that enables the sounds to be translated into current speech is needed, and this is not revealed on this tape.

One must realize that every one of the sacred texts of ancient India is an enormous repository -- a secret Encyclopedia of information, and it would takes days, weeks, months to fully prepare an oral decoding of any one text.

On this tape one may hear, at first, the usual method of public chanting of a verse from the ATHARVA VEDA in ancient Sanskrit.

This is followed by the chanting of A SINGLE LINE in Sanskrit from that verse -- and one hears an extended version of the words used in terms of several permutations of sound and meter rhythms that are used at this second level. This takes several minutes to expound.

The next section of the tape focuses on the FIRST WORD of the original Sanskrit verse. Again the process of chanting offers the verbal extension used; and it is chanted using a series of particular sound patterns, intonations and rhythms over several minutes.

The fourth decoding takes for analysis or reproduction the FIRST SYLLABLE of that original FIRST WORD -- and again it is astounding to hear the variations of sound, pitch, vibration and rhythm imposed on that single syllable when this is chanted and decoded.

And this is taught over many years to the several children of those Brahmin families in the old way, "mouth to ear," until it is PERFECT -- and they are trained to correct each other so that the ORIGINAL intonations are retained.

It is also said that there are included certain cross-checks which enable the masters of this craft to restore accuracy, as any errors that might have been made by any one of the student transmitters shows up as a variant at a key point. This permits the master to review and find the exact point at which the change occurred and then re-train the pupil to the needed accuracy.

Thus the oral transmission of the Vedic texts and their commentaries continues down the ages from past to present, and presumably will continue into the future.


Editor's Note

Thanks to Dallas, the tape mentioned in this paper, is available on the Internet in RealAudio format. The two sides of the tape are available in two sizes, the first is with lower sound resolution but much smaller file sizes to be downloaded; the second is with higher sound resolution but substantially larger file sizes. [Note that the tape is not in English -- it's in Sanskrit.]

Each link will cause your web browser to download and start playing the respective file. Before hte file finishes playing, you can use RealAudio to save the file to disk, for future reply.


Women in the Theosophical Movement, Part II

By James Santucci

[Originally published in EXPLORATIONS: JOURNAL FOR ADVENTUROUS THOUGHT, vol. 9, no. 1, (Fall, 1990)]


Three women made unique contributions to Theosophy[37 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), Katherine Tingley (1847-1929), and Annie Besant (1847-1933). In a sense, all three serve as models or archetypes for those who followed, and most importantly, all three made it possible for women to continue to play an important role in the societies.

H.P. Blavatsky, one of the founders of the original Theosophical Society in 1875 and its chief theoretician, may be considered the 'other worldly' magus, i.e., a person who lives, with some variation, the hero's life and who is in actuality a shaman in modern guise. Katherine Tingley, the leader of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society (as the Pasadena Theosophical Society was called during her leadership), emphasized the application of Theosophy in 'This World', especially in the areas of education, the arts, and the peace movement. She was the quintessential 'Social Feminist'[38], a term referring to those women whose primary concern was service to society rather than the concern of broadening individual opportunities for women. Annie Besant seems to fall somewhere between Blavatsky and Tingley: like Blavatsky by further uncovering the he same time taking on the role of the Veil of Isis while at the 'Social Feminist' to heights rarely if ever achieved before or since in her role as President of the T.S. (Adyar) and as a leading political and moral leader in India.


Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating women of the nineteenth century, an adventuress who traveled the world, often without escort, in search of the arcana of the cosmos from individual and secret organizations scattered around the globe, a disciple under the tutelage of highly advanced Masters or mahatmas, a psychic of great power capable of producing paranormal phenomena such as levitation, rappings, and materializations, a woman who demonstrated her vast knowledge and control over occult laws, and a writer of great force, persuasion, and erudition who claimed to reveal the true nature of the Divine, humanity, and the cosmos, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky epitomized the woman of mystery who claimed to remove the veil of the cosmic mysteries but was herself covered with a veil that she made sure would never be removed. As suggested in the preceding section, she was a magus, i.e. the shaman living in the modern world. Like magi that preceded her, she supposedly traveled to the far reaches of the world in search of the Divine Truth, and claimed to have received that Truth after being initiated into an Esoteric Brotherhood that possessed and preserved this Truth. We hear stories of her residing in Constantinople, supposedly the city where the greatest concentration of Sufis lived when she arrived there as well as being a center of the Spanish Jews, many of who were known for their knowledge of the Cabala[39]; dressing in men's clothing so that she could study the Osirian mysteries; spending three nights in the Pyramid of Cheops, that paragon of mystery; traveling to Nauvoo, Illinois to investigate the Mormon community; wandering to Mexico and South America; even journeying to California by covered wagon according to some accounts as well as to India and Tibet; and meeting her Teacher and Master, the gatekeeper to the Mysteries, in London in 1851--all this and much more--before finally coming to the U.S. on orders, so she claimed, from her Master to begin her main work of disclosing to the initiated the insights into the nature of the Divine, humanity, and the cosmos.

Like other magi, she displayed abilities, and though the charge is often repeated that she was a charlatan, the investigative organization that first suggested this (the Society for Psychic Research) has since rescinded the accusation. Furthermore, Blavatsky always commanded considerable attention as magi are wont to do, also acting in ways that might be viewed as bohemian. Although serving as a model for certain women leaders in the modern Theosophical Movement[40], the model is not that of the typical feminist who strives for either women's rights nor that of the Spiritualist medium. Blavatsky seems to have exhibited a combination of 'intuition' and self-sacrifice, two traits assigned to the feminine personality m the nineteenth century, with that of the teacher of 'Truth', a task usually assigned to the masculine gender. All this seems to point to Blavatsky having an androgynous personality and psyche, an important point since the androgyne is viewed by many peoples around the world as an exceptionally powerful being.


If Helena Blavatsky sought independence from the ties of society, Katherine Tingley was very much an activist in the society of the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Born on July 6, 1847, Catharine Augusta Westcott displayed from the time she was a young girl those qualities that were characterized by her father as "generous", "unselfish" self-sacrificing", "patient", and "enduring".[41] She thereby epitomized the ideal of womanhood as it was being defined in the nineteenth century.[42] Following in her mother's footsteps she worked at her side feeding the poor near her home. As an adult, she displayed comparable tendencies by organizing the Ladies Society of Mercy in 1887, which carried out visitations to hospitals and prisons; established the Emergency Society (1891-2) to help the destitute; and established the Do-Good Mission to feed and clothe the families of striking cloakmakers in 1892 and 1893.[43]

This work, however, though commendable, was apparently not entirely satisfactory or rewarding to her, for it only relieved suffering, it did not remove its cause. As expressed in her semi-autobiographical book, THE GODS AWAIT [44], it was William Quan Judge, the leader of the American theosophists, who brought her to this realization and who showed her, by word and example, how she could better serve humanity. Mrs. Tingley thus became a Theosophist because of her sincere admiration of Judge and through the one teaching that apparently struck her as the most basic: the Law of Eternal Justice or Karma [45], for it is Karma that both explains the cause of misery and opens the way to its cure. This indeed is the foundation of the theosophical teaching as she understood it. Such a teaching, coupled with the notion that there is a Higher Nature--the spark of the Divine within the individual--which generates love and compassion for one's fellow man in both a theoretical and practical vein by "lifting humanity out of the shadows"[46], reveals the meaning of Brotherhood for Mrs. Tingley: a dynamic, activist interpretation[47] taking precedence over the theoretical and philosophical. From this understanding, it is not difficult to understand why she undertook the large number of the philanthropic projects from the time that she became Leader of the Theosophical Society after Judge's death in 1896. Her main contribution, however, revolved around the establishment of the Point Loma Community in 1897, which was, according to Dwayne Little[48] "a demonstration model showing how, when body, soul, mind, and spirit were in proper alignment with Theosophical ideals, an ideal society worthy of emulation would result. Most of her work was carried out in the context of the Community: the education system established therein and the sponsorship of the arts and music as an integral part of that system, her numerous relief efforts such as the Sisters of Compassion (1898), her efforts in organizing an International Theosophical Peace Congress in 1913, the establishment of the International Brotherhood League which opposed capital punishment and offered prisoner assistance, and her efforts in opposing vivisection. [49] It is no wonder that shortly after Mrs. Tingley became Leader of the T.S. she merged it with the newly formed Universal Brotherhood in early 1898, for this title perfectly reflected her vision of Theosophy.


Annie Besant, the President of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) from 1907 to 1933, synthesized the qualities of Blavatsky and Tingley. Like Blavatsky, she was considered an innovative teacher of the Wisdom Doctrine by introducing new insights into the theosophical corpus, claimed to have been psychically gifted and in contact with Blavatsky's teachers, and even lived for a time in a rather bohemian life-style as a younger woman; like Tingley, she was very much the Social Feminist and activist. Unlike the two, however, she was involved in the political life of India, becoming briefly the most influential leader in the Indian nationalist movement prior to Gandhi's ascension in that role.

Prior to her involvement in the T.S., Annie Wood (her maiden name) underwent several, often painful and radical transformations in her belief system. As a young girl, she was raised a Christian exposed to both Roman Catholicism and Evangelism and predictably married a clergyman, Frank Besant, a man whom she claimed never loved. After undergoing a long period of anguish and doubt regarding her Christian beliefs, an anguish she claimed nearly cost her life, she emerged an atheist.[50] While this doctrinal turmoil was occurring, she came under the influence of the freethinker and atheist Charles Bradlaugh and his National Secular Society. Around that time (1874 and after), she advocated feminist causes, especially birth control (the first woman to do so publicly), becoming also the secretary of the Malthusian League. In December, 1876, she won a seat on the London School Board; some fourteen months later (February, 1878), she helped to organize the International Labor Union.[51]

In 1884, she turned to Socialism and formally joined the Fabian Society in early 1885, apparently nominated by a person who was to have influence, both intellectually and romantically on her life, George Bernard Shaw.[52] In the following year, she co-founded with her friend W.T. Stead, the editor of the PALL MALL GAZETTE, the Law and Liberty League in order to provide assistance to those jailed workers who demonstrated for free speech in the "Bloody Sunday in Trafalgar Square" episode. The League was organized to post bail and to argue the workers' cause.[53]

Another event of note in her role as Socialist was the championing of the cause of the women who worked at the Bryant and May match factory in 1888. The working conditions at the factory were such that Besant and her new colleague, Herbert Burrows of the Social Democratic Federation, instigated a boycott of the factory and a strike by its workers, subsequently establishing the Matchmakers' Union, thus becoming one of the first to institute the "new Unionism." [54] Their actions proved so successful that they organized a number of other worker strikes that year and the next.

For all her activism in Socialist causes, Socialist philosophy, and Socialist societies (she was by now a member of both the Fabian Society and the Social Democratic Federation), there was a sense of inadequacy of the philosophy. She writes:

The Socialist position sufficed on the economic side, but where to the inspiration, the motive, which should lead to the realization of the Brotherhood of Man?[55]

There was much talk at this time (1888) on the idea of Brotherhood, remarked Mrs. Besant in an article in the February issue of OUR CORNER, "in which service to Man should take the place erstwhile given to the service of God ..."[56] But if Socialism was insufficient, then where could it be realized? Her attention was first drawn to the occult with the publication of A.P. Sinnett's OCCULT WORLD and through Spiritualism from 1886 on, but it was her review of Blavatsky's THE SECRET DOCTRINE that transformed her from Socialism to Theosophy.

... how my mind lept forward to presage the conclusions, how natural it was, how coherent, how subtle, and yet how intelligible. I was dazzled, blinded by the light in which disjointed facts were seen as parts of a mighty whole ... I knew that the weary search was over and the very Truth was found.[57]

For a woman of such intelligence, insight, and yearning, no simple reason can be given for her rapture. I have little doubt that the complexity and organization of THE SECRET DOCTRINE answered her own doubts at this time in her life. It seems reasonable to assume that this was the impetus for her conversion and joining of the Theosophical Society on May 10, 1889. Her subsequent explanation to Charles Bradlaugh, listing the Society's three objects (Universal Brotherhood, the study of Aryan literature and philosophy, and the investigation of unexplained laws of nature and the physical powers latent in man) and the denial of a personal God[58], seems to indicate that they only served as a convenient means of explaining both a very complicated series of experiences and an inordinately complicated philosophy embodied in Blavatsky's work.


One of the purposes of this essay was to call attention to the insufficiency of simplistic and reductionist arguments explaining why individuals are attracted to a religious movement, why they remain in it, and why they thrive in it. This is one reason for disagreeing with Dr. Bednarowski's theological, sociological, and economic reasons cited at the beginning of this essay as playing a major role in women's achieving leadership positions in the Movement. What her four reasons indicate is that they, in whole or in part, facilitated somewhat two of the leaders' role and status within the Movement. Mrs. Besant's and Tingley's reasons for joining the Society came about not through any exclusively doctrinal decision but because of the profound influence and force of example that Madame Blavatsky had on Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge on Mrs. Tingley. This influence, accompanied with their acquaintance of the works and teachings of Blavatsky and Judge, solidified their opinion of the two. Once this occurred, a selected encapsulation and systematization of Theosophy, such as the three objects of the Society and the Propositions in THE SECRET DOCTRINE served as the message and essence of this very complex philosophy. But once in the Society, it was Besant's and Tingley's inborn talent that led to their success and to rise above any gender discrimination that may have existed at the time.

The role of Madame Blavatsky in the Theosophical Movement presents an added dimension. In a sense, she and Madames Besant and Tingley were doing women's work, albeit in an expanded theater. If the role of women was perceived to be in the home, the home itself could be expanded metaphorically to include not only the immediate biological family but also the community at large, including the religious sphere (in Church leadership or Church-related activities[59] and more secular social concerns, including those covered by Socialism. Connected to the religious sphere was the opinion that women were more naturally inclined to communicate with the 'other world', thus affording women a role that was every bit the equal of men or even superior to them. Thus Spiritualism and the occult were natural realms of activity for women, allowing Madame Blavatsky a unique position in the nineteenth century since she was involved in both spheres. This role was passed along to Mrs. Besant to a greater degree and to Tingley to a lesser degree, but what they lacked in this area, they more than made up in the social sphere. The success of all three legitimized women's capacities to be leaders. In the Theosophical Movement, this allowed for many women to assume leadership positions in the normal course of events. In the Theosophical Societies, Adyar and Pasadena, although women did assume leadership positions following Besant and Tingley, it was only in the 1970's that they did so. There IS no evidence pro or con that this time gap was due to latent anti-feminist. My guess is that the immediate successors to the two leaders were viewed as natural successors because of their long history of service to the Societies and their closeness to their predecessors: Dr. G. de Purucker as the successor to Mrs. Tingley, Dr. George Arundale as the successor to Mrs. Besant. The role of women following the great leaders, however, does deserve an in-depth study since there are many questions left unanswered.


37. By this I mean the Theosophical Society (Adyar) and the Theosophical Society (Pasadena).

38. A term derived from William O'Neill's EVERYONE WAS BRAVE:

39. Paul Johnson, in an unpublished and untitled manuscript emphasizing Blavatsky's Sufi connection, illustrates this possible relationship.

40. Moore, "The Spiritualist Medium": 201-203.

41. "J.P.L. Westcott's Statement No. 2" This is an unpublished document that was written when Mr. Westcott was seventy-five years old, which places the document around 1898.

42. Degler, AT ODDS: 298f, and Kathryn Sklar, CATHARINE BEECHER: A STUDY IN AMERICAN DOMESTICITY (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1973): 84-85, 96-97.

43. An unpublished chronology of events in the life of Mrs. Tingley is in the Archives of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena). See also Greenwalt, CALIFORNIA UTOPIA: 12f.

44. Point Loma: Woman's International Theosophical League, 1926: 79-80.

45. THE GODS AWAIT: 81f.

46. Ibid., 81-115.

47. And embodied in the person W.Q. Judge, as she makes clear in THE GODS AWAIT: 80.

48. "Katherine Tingley: The Theosophist as Progressive Reformer, 1890-1929" (Faculty Paper and Lecture Series, Point Loma Nazarene College, January 28, 1987): 7.

49. Greenwalt, CALIFORNIA UTOPIA: 47f., 100f., 167f.

50. ANNIE BESANT: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, second edition (London: T. Fisher Unwin, n.d. [1893?]): 88. Her early life is detailed in the first three chapters. See also Catherine Lowman Wessinger, ANNIE BESANT AND THE PROGRESSIVE MESSIANISM (1847-1933) (Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1988) "Studies in Women and Religion, vol. 26]: 41-50; Arthur H. Nethercot, THE FIRST FIVE LIVES OF ANNIE BESANT (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960): 1 -60.


52. AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 303; Nethercot, op. cit.: 213f, and 216.

53. Nethercot, op. cit.: 243-251.

54. Ibid., 263 and 253f.; Besant AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 329f.; Wessinger, op. cit.: 63.

55. Besant, AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 338.

56. Ibid.: 329.

57. Ibid.: 340 and 339.

58. Ibid.: 351-52.

59. Deglar, AT ODDS: 298f.


The Source and Value of the "Mysteries"

By Henry S. Olcott

[From THE THEOSOPHIST, January 1888, pages 240-48]

That MUO, to shut the lips, to keep silence, is the Greek root of the word "Mysteries," everyone readily admits; but to signify what was to be kept silent by those who were admitted "behind the veil" of initiation, is now and has ever been impossible save to initiates.

The lampooners and denunciators of our time have as little succeeded in shaking the faith of believers in the reality and value of mystical initiation, as did their precursors in the olden times that of their believing contemporaries. It has been simply the array of conjecture against experience, of surmise against knowledge. The wise have had but a feeling of contemptuous pity for the army of critics whose conclusions have rested upon wholly mistaken premises, and whose verdict has been colored by exaggerated prejudice and foolish mistrust.

There is not an example recorded of anyone speaking irreverently of the course of initiation after having passed through it. On the other hand, the most divine characters in history who have been so blessed, have unanimously expressed their joy at having entered "The Path" and pursued it bravely to the end. Their testimony is that, until man has had this evolution, he cannot conceive of the nature of truth or the possibilities latent in humanity.

"Happy," says Pindar, who passed through the august mysteries of Eleusis, "is he who has beheld them, and descends beneath the hollow earth. He knows the end, he knows the divine origin of life." As, in Pantanjali's system of Yoga, the pupil goes gradually onward and upward, from the state of animal man, through the stages of self-mastery and psychic development, until he flowers into the true Yogi and unites his consciousness with the infinite, so in all the mystical schools of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and other trans-Himalayan countries, he had to pass through a like education.

Porphyry tells us that his master, Plotinus, was so fortunate as to have six times during his life experienced this blessed union, while he himself had done so but twice. Human knowledge, he avers, has three ascending steps: opinion, science, and ILLUMINATION.

The whole body of scientific critics, who have discussed the subject of the mysteries AB EXTRA, illustrate the first category; they dogmatize upon a mere hypothesis. The second includes all seekers after and realizers of psychic powers, all phenomenalists -- mesmeric, mediumistic, hypnotic, somnambulant, yogic. Of the latter, all who acquire one or more SIDDHIS and have gone no higher. The third group embraces the illuminated seers, sages, and adepts, in their grades above grades, to the top of the mystical hierarchy.

A modern writer (in THE NEW AMERICAN CYCLOPEDIA, XII, 75) says that the mysteries being "founded on the adoration of nature (!), the forces and phenomena of which were conceived by the imagination and transformed into the characters of the mythology, they appealed to the eye rather than to the reason." If any proof were needed of his critical incompetence, we have it here. He does not seem to comprehend that the

... rites of purification and expiation, of sacrifices and processions, of ecstatic or orgiastic songs and dances, of nocturnal festivals fit to impress the imagination, and of spectacles designed to excite the most diverse emotions, terror and trust, sorrow and joy, hope and despair ... were but the incidents of the first threshold, tests to try the persistency, courage, unselfishness, purity, and intuitive capacity of the beginner. The calm, the peace, the inward elevation, the growth of spiritual insight, the majestic expansion of the petty ego or AHANKARA, toward universal consciousness, he does not picture to himself.

Would the blaze, the awe, and glitter of such ceremonials as shock the very core of the neophyte's being, extort from such masterful sages as Pythagoras, Plato, Iamblichos, Proclus, and Porphyry the reverently appreciative testimonies they have left on record? Those spectacular shows of the antechamber were designed, according to Iamblichos, ... to free us from licentious passions, by gratifying the sight, and at the same time vanquishing all evil thought, though the AWFUL SANCTITY with which these rites were accompanied.

The plan was the very reverse of that of the would-be adept, who flees from mankind to the jungle and cave, where he may not see the objects that arouse evil passions.

In the mysteries, the neophyte had to see the most voluptuous female forms, and expose himself to their most seductive blandishments; had to look, fasting, upon the most luscious banquets; had to see that by putting forth his hand he could grasp incalculable treasures; had to witness the seeming triumph of his bitterest foe over those in whom he was most interested; had to see manifold phenomena apparently resulting from the universe of powers, seemingly realizable by himself, without much effort; and yet so keep his soul-mastery as to neither give way to lust, appetite, avarice, hatred, revenge, nor vanity.

In the course of his trials, he would be made to think himself in peril of life from fire, water, lightning, earthquakes, precipices, savage beasts, assassins, and other catastrophes, yet all the while is expected to preserve an equal serenity and dauntless pluck.

This was the price exacted in exchange for the attainment of godhood, the ordeal for the discovery of the candidate's innate trustworthiness; this was INITIATION.

What wonder that the secret of the mysteries has been inviolably kept by initiates through all times and ages! To men of such stuff as that, the feeble chatter, the wretched persecutions, the "toy thunders" of bigotry, the physical anguish of torture-chambers; all that an ignorant brutal society could visit upon them to wrest their ineffable secret from their lips, were absurdly ineffectual. Where can we find a grander embodiment of this idea than in the story of the discomfiture of Mara, dread sovereign of evil, by our Lord Buddha, under the sacred tree at Gaya?

In this splendid epic is depicted the whole sequence of initiations accredited to the mysteries of Eleusis, Samothrace, Lemnos, Isis and Osiris, Mithra, Orpheus, Dionysos, Scandinavia, and the trans-Atlantic Mayas, Quiches and Peruvians. As there is but one secret of life, there could never have been more than one channel for attaining the highest knowledge of it.

If the preliminary ceremonials took on the local coloring of mythologies, there was but one truth hidden "behind the veil." Those who, in our own days, have been blessed with personal relations with the "Wise Men of the East," have found them teaching an identical philosophy, whether they were externally Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Parsi, or Mussulman as to social environment and nominal caste. And what they are now teaching is the same as that which was taught to students in all countries, at all preceding epochs.

It is for the purpose of illustrating this fact that occultists take so much interest in deciphering old temple inscriptions, poring over old manuscripts, studying old symbols carven on crumbling ruins, and trying to piece together the fragments of books which the vanished fraternities of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America, succeeded in saving for us their posterity, when they fell victims to the cruel violence of their persecutors.

This is the reason why it is so well worth our while to read the Egyptian books of Hermes, the hieroglyphs in the ruined temples of Khemi, the fragmentary archives of the Rosicrucians, the poetry of the Sufis, the weird sagas of Northern Europe, the mural inscriptions of Central America, and to analyze and synthesize the folklore, legends, and folk songs of many lands. Those who devote themselves to this research are doing it less for their own profit than to collate for the benefit of the thinking public a mass of proof of the eternal unity of esoteric truth.

As the geographer traces the dripping cloud through a thousand streams to the river and the sea, and from the sea back to the sky, so do these investigators follow back the boundless ocean of occult truth to its divine source, through multitudinous wanderings of its branchlets among men.

It seems but a waste of energy to dispute as to the comparative antiquity of the mysteries. The end of all the speculation and research of the pandits and professors is that they can fix with certainty no date for their beginning. Reaching a certain point, they are forced to admit that beyond that conjecture alone is possible.

The most practical issue is whether the ancient mysteries subserved an immoral or a moral purpose, whether they were designed for the education of students in physical sciences, for supporting local religious beliefs, for enhancing the importance, emoluments and prerogatives of priests, for the overthrow of old and establishment of new theologies, or for the very purpose stated by the sages named, and others who had received full initiation.

Dr. Warburton admits, in his "Divine Legation of Moses," that "the wisest and best men in the Pagan world are unanimous in this; that the mysteries were instituted pure, and proposed the noblest ends by the worthiest means."

The encyclopaedist above quoted also testifies that:

the Eleusinian were the most venerable of the mysteries, and in every period of classical antiquity commanded the homage alike of the most distinguished poets, philosophers, historians, and statesmen.

Can anyone, then, believe that they were but a superior kind of TAMASHA, such as are gotten up to excite the wonder of the ignorant masses? Is it presumable that they could have been kept up through successive generations, always winning the same praise and arousing the same awe-begotten reverence in sober minds, if they had been what our modern critics, our Welckers and Maurys, our Magnussens, Vosses, Lobecks, and Prellers imagine, or, as Tertullian and other Fathers of the Church try to imply, a mixture of Christian and Pagan dogmas and ceremonies?

When one comes to look through the books written by these worthies, one is struck with the actual ignorance accompanied by hardy guessing, which all display. At the best, they seem but to be looking at the subject from afar through the telescope of conjecture, not even to be getting a peep from the threshold into the vestibule of the sacred caverns.

Most exasperating of all is it to read such works as Tom Moore's EPICUREAN, OR A DAY IN ATHENS, and to see him first describing the experiences of a neophyte who has passed through a series of trials, the very recital of which shows how impossible it was to ascribe them to trickery, and then, when the attempt is quite useless, to try and make the reader believe them to have been produced by a lot of stage machinery, such as might catch the fancy of a theatrical audience.

One wishes, after reading such a book, that the author had been either more clever himself or less ready to doubt the reader's common sense. Either his neophyte never passed through such scenes, or the author's attempt at explanation is transparently absurd and childish. It reminds one of the endeavors of some prejudiced Orientalists to cramp and crowd Aryan history and literature into the iron frame of biblical chronology, and to trace the families of mankind to three sons of Noah who never existed.

The ancient mysteries, modern initiation, and all mystical occupation rest upon the doctrine that man can never learn through the bodily senses, the secrets of life and the problem of the universe.

The eye, the ear, and all other organs of the body are but avenues of perception of the gross physical world about us. Mechanically adapted to our exterior environment, they have no higher function than to record its impressions upon that lower part of ourself which is built out of matter, and destined to resolve into its elements, sooner or later. Reason is but the analyst and synthesist of these impressions. Between it and ultimate knowledge hangs numberless veils.

Man is a congeries of various "principles" -- some say three, some four, some seven -- but whatever the correct number, all are included between two extreme points, the one which is in contact with the grossest, the other, with the most sublime, consciousness.

So long as one's perceptions are restricted to sensuous experiences, one's knowledge will be proportionately small; to become truly wise, one must burst the bonds of illusion, tear away the curtain of MAYA, break the chains of passion, learn the self and put it in command of our consciousness and our actions.

The neophyte is never in greater danger of falling a victim to delusion than when he has subjected his grosser passions and begun to develop his psychic sight, hearing, and touch. He is like the newborn babe getting its first lessons of cisuterine life, grasping at the pretty silver moon, clutching at fire and lamp, miscalculating distances, tottering upon its feeble legs.

He has forced himself into the vestibule of the astral world, as yet unprepared to understand his surroundings, ignorant of his latent powers of mastery and insight. If he gets himself out of the body and attempts phantasmal excursions, he is like the nestling trying its baby wings. "The viewless races of the air," the sprites of the elemental world, rush about him in all sorts of fantastic shapes, some alluring, some terrifying; the larvae, or undissolved astral bodies -- D'Assier's "posthumous phantoms" -- of human dead persons, float past and eddy around, like corpses in river-currents.

Then his inner ear opens to the mysterious sounds of this phantom world, and he recoils in affright from the awful tales, the groans and sighs, and other things he hears. Pictures impressed by vivid human thought upon the earth's astral envelope, and fresh ones created by his own untaught imagination, surround him with an unreal world, which yet has to him the actual semblance of reality. He is, as Patanjali describes it, under the influence of the "local gods." Now is his time to acquire psychic "science," to learn the laws of this middle region, and see through all illusions.

If he is under a guru's care -- and supremely foolish is he who neglects this preliminary -- he will be watched over and looked after, as the tender mother cares for her child. As the teacher eagerly helps the willing scholar to master the difficulties of his textbooks, so this greater master is ready to meet halfway the aspiring CHELA who TRIES, as the maxim of initiation inculcates.

But there are deeper mysteries of the penetralia which are never revealed by the initiator to the neophyte; they must be reached by his unaided effort; for they are personal, pertaining to absolute knowledge, and never capable of communication by third parties. As no description, however graphic, can convey the idea of visible nature to the man born blind, so no help can be given to understand the higher secrets save to him who has forced open the eyes of his inner self and uncovered its senses.

When this point is reached, one has arrived at the fifth of the seven stages of the fourth and last division of Yoga; Illusion has faded away like a mist, and the naked loveliness of Truth is exposed. But, while many attempt, few attain this final development.

There are fewer potential adepts in an epoch than the superficial imagine. The fate of those who tread this dizzy precipice of wisdom with weak and faltering steps may be readily inferred. What happens to the dizzy-brained and slippery-footed alpine climber? His brain turns, and he falls headlong into the chasm, with a last shriek and a clutching at the air.

So, too, falls the rash postulant who has ventured to force nature prematurely. Madame Blavatsky, whose eloquent and striking remarks upon the whole subject of the mysteries should be universally read, quotes from the Talmud, the story of four Tanaim, who enter the GARDEN OF DELIGHTS, i.e., present themselves for initiation:

According to the teaching of our holy masters, the names of the four who entered the garden of delights, are: Ben Asai, Ben Zorna, Acher, and Rabbi Akiba ... Ben Asai looked and -- lost his sight. Ben Zorna looked and -- lost his reason. Acher made depredations in the plantation (i.e., mixed up the whole) and failed. But Akiba, who had entered in peace, came out of it in peace, for the saint whose name is blessed had said, "This old man is worthy of serving us with glory."


Observe the word "old." The implication here is that Akiba had not foolishly exposed himself to lust-provoking "rites of purification" until the heat of young blood was gone.

In his most admirable work, Maimonides, the Hebrew adept, says that:

... it was considered inadvisable to teach it to young men; nay, it is impossible for them to comprehend it, on account of the heat of their blood and the flame of youth, which confuses their minds; that heat which causes all the disorder, must first disappear; they must have become moderate and settled, humble in their hearts, and subdued in their temperament; only then will they be able to arrive at the highest perception of God, that is, the study of Metaphysics, which is called Maaseh Mercabhah ... Rabbi Jocharian said to Rabbi Eleazar, "Come, I will teach you Maaseh Mercabhah."

The reply was. "I am not yet old," or in other words I still perceive in myself the hot blood and the rashness of youth. You learn from this that, in addition to the above-named qualities, a certain age is also required. How, then, could any person speak on those metaphysical themes in the presence of ordinary people, of children, and of women?

-- GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED, Trubner and Co., London.

Patanjali tells us that the

... local deities will assail such a Yogi [one who is only in the rudimentary stage], and will endeavor to divert him from the religious abstraction which he has attained, by bringing before him sensual gratifications, or by exciting in his mind thoughts of personal aggrandizement, but he should partake of these gratifications without interest, for if these deities succeed in exciting desire in the mind, he will be thrown back to all the evils of future transmigrations.

The next European philosopher who applies himself to the study of the mysteries, would do well to familiarize himself with the Yoga Philosophy before committing himself to such jejune hypotheses as were put forth by those who have been mentioned above.

But is there no recompense for those who fail in initiation through miscalculation of their power to realize the ideal psychic development? Certainly there is. The attainment of perfection is but postponed to a future birth. Every preliminary step in self-conquest and self-knowledge is so much experience and developed power, stored up psychic energy, for the use of the individuality in its next incarnation. The Divine Krishna answers Arjuna, who had put this very question:

Doth not the fool who is found not standing in the path of Brahm, and is thus, as it were, fallen between good and evil, like a broken cloud, come to nothing?

Krishna says:

A man whose devotions have been broken off by death, having enjoyed for an immensity of years the rewards of his virtues in the regions above [This idea is developed by Mr. Sinnett in ESOTERIC BUDDHISM.] at length is born again in some holy and respectable family, or perhaps in the house of some learned Yogi ... Being thus born again, he is endued with the same degree of application and advancement of his understanding that he held in his former body, and here he begins again to labor for perfection in devotion.

-- THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, Lecture vii.

Thus we see that the ancient mysteries were but a school of spiritual training and perfection in true wisdom; that the preliminary qualification was the purification of the heart from all sensual passions and false preconceptions; that, while the hand of the master might lead the neophyte through the dangers of the stage where, like the infant, he could not walk alone, he was obliged, in the higher paths, to learn to guide and guard himself, as the adult man has to do in ordinary life; that the ultimate goal was the expansion of the self into infinite existence and potentialities; and, lastly, that, however the initial forms and ceremonies may have differed in appearance, an identical aim was in view.

It is impossible to determine the priority of these occult schools until our philologists and antiquarians have proved to us where, if anywhere, was the cradle of the human race. If there was such an evolutionary center, then there must the adept guardians of mankind have first taught the way to the PATH.

Just now we are disputing whether India taught Egypt, and Egypt, Scandinavia and Yucatan, or whether Egypt was the primal center, or some other place. Finnur Magnusson attempts to trace a connection between the mysteries and the legends of his Frozen North, and certainly the sages embody an esoteric doctrine that strikes the attention of every student of occultism, and that our learned colleague, Mr. Bjerregaard, has begun to demonstrate in these pages.

There is also in progress a sharp controversy between Prof. Max Muller and other philologists as to whether the Aryan race came from Scandinavia or Central Asia, and, as above remarked, until this is determined, we need not discuss the priority of Northern, Southern, or Eastern mysteries. If the first is true, then we may well speculate as to why Apollonius and Pythagoras should have come to India to find masters in arcane science, when Norway was so much nearer.

That there are such teachers in each of the four quarters of the earth, is more than suspected, and quite naturally, for it is inconceivable -- when we know what adeptship and occultism are, and what their relations to mankind in the mass -- that any portion of the teeming earth should be left without those whose help "that great orphan, Humanity," so desperately needs.

Consider the book of Augustus Le Plongeon, SACRED MYSTERIES AMONG THE MAYAS AND QUICHES, 11,500 YEARS AGO: THEIR RELATION TO THE SACRED MYSTERIES OF EGYPT, GREECE, CHALDEA AND INDIA (New York, 1886) This book, noticed in our December issue, deserves the most attentive study. It will be a shame to America if the discoveries amid the ruins of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza, the result of fourteen years of brave research, under the most trying difficulties, by his wife and himself, should not be appreciated at their enormous worth, as contributions to history.

One cannot even glance at the photographic and other illustrations in the book without realizing the intimate connection between the mystical schools of the two hemispheres. The hieratic alphabets of Egypt and the ancient Mayax country are placed side by side on the same page, and a look suffices to show their substantial identity. What Champollion did for Egyptological science, M. Le Plongeon seems to have done for Mayatic archaeology.

If it is any compensation for him in his time of sadness -- consequent upon the rebuffs given him where he had every right to count upon honors and reward -- to know that his labor is appreciated at least at Adyar, then let him know the fact.

Whether it should ultimately prove that the mysteries came to the Eastern from the Western Hemisphere, or vice versa, does not matter so much to us, personally, as the graver fact that he has placed within our reach the unmistakable evidence that one universal truth has been taught by an identical method, the world over.

When I first read Stephens' INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN CENTRAL AMERICA, CHIAPAS AND YUCATAN -- now many years ago -- I was struck by the occult significance of the mural stuccos and sculptured monuments in all the ruins he visited, among which may be recognized a picture of the very act of imparting the most divine of all mysteries to the neophyte, in the higher stage of initiation.

I was amused just now, upon referring to the copy of this work in the Adyar Library, to read of the perplexity and consternation felt by the Christian priests upon seeing a delineation -- admittedly far older than Christianity -- upon the altar-wall at Palenque, of the adoration of the cross by ancient Quichean hierophants. Says Stephens:

Our friends the padres, at the sight of it, immediately decided that THE OLD INHABITANTS OF PALENQUE WERE CHRISTIANS, and by conclusions, which are sometimes called jumping, they fixed the age of the buildings in the third century!

-- II, 347

These people have been on the "jump" all over the world, upon being confronted with evidences of the prior existence of emblems, ceremonies, fables and traditions, really the property of the race, but imagined by them to be exclusively Christian.

The works of Stephens, Le Plongeon, Dessaix, and other Central American explorers should be read together, if one would realize the relative importance of the conclusions reached severally by these authors.

Stephens does not explain the meaning of the cross at Palenque, nor that of the scenes represented pictorially and otherwise in the ruins, but says probably the hieroglyphics tell it all.

That they do so, Le Plongeon now proves by discovering the Mayatic and Quichean alphabet and reading the tablets. We learn from him that that most mystical emblem, the cross, was associated there as in Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, India, Chaldea, Phoenicia, Britain, and Scandinavia, with the ceremonies of initiation. It was to those ancient Americans the symbol of rejuvenescence and freedom from physical suffering. In the Bacchic and Eleusinian mysteries it was placed on the breast of the initiate after his "new birth" was accomplished.

Exoterically, it was associated in Mayax with the appearance, at a certain period of the year, of the constellation of the southern cross in the perpendicular position above the line of their southern horizon -- the sure harbinger of the rainy season.

Says Le Plongeon:

The mode of initiation, the use of the same symbols, with an identical signification ascribed to them, by peoples living so far apart, whose customs and manners were so unlike, whose religion, so far at least as external practices were concerned, differed so widely, show that these mysteries originated with one people, and were carried to and promulgated among the others. As we do not find mentioned anywhere that they originated either with the Egyptians, Chaldees, or Hindus, and we have seen that their primitive traditions have been derived from the history of the early rulers of Mayax, is it not natural that we should look for the institution of the mysteries among the Mayas, since we find the same mysterious symbols, used by the initiates in all the other countries, carved on the walls of the temples of their gods, and the palaces of their kings? Their history may afford the clue to the original meaning of said symbols, as their language has given us the true signification of the words used by the celebrating priest to dismiss the initiates in the Eleusinian mysteries, or by the Brahmins at the end of their religious ceremonies, and as it has revealed the so long hidden mystery of the mystical TAU.

(The Tau is the "Nature Cross," or CRUX ANSATA, of Egypt, which occupies the central place in the mystical seal of the Theosophical Society, and signifies the same thing as the six-pointed star, or SRI JANTARA, of the Aryan, Chaldean, and Judaic secret doctrine.)

I am not sure that I am quite prepared to concur with M. Le Plongeon in the conjecture that the symbolical degrees of the world's course of mystical initiation, but preserve certain historical incidents in the life-history of the Royal House of Mayax, though he certainly brings together, with patient erudition, a number of facts going to show that the tragedies in question may have supplied the basis for certain of our Oriental mythologies, if even they were not the very scenes represented in the preparatory rites of the Eleusinian and Osiric mysteries.


The description being "identical with that given by the Egyptians," he adds that "nearly all the nations living on the Western continent have kept the tradition of it." There is a passage in the Volus-pa, in the "Visions of Valla," which may covertly refer to this Atlantic cataclysm, or be, as Mr. Bjerregaard views it (see THE THEOSOPHIST, VIII, February and July 1887), a figurative representation of the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It runs thus:

The sun turns to darkness, EARTH SINKS INTO THE DEEP, the bright stars vanish from out the heavens, fume and flame rage together, the lefty blaze plays against the very heavens.

True, this is written in the future tense, yet it is not absolutely certain that it was not the veiled narrative of a past event. The divinely majestic poem recounts the "first war in the world," when "they speared gold-weig (gold-draught), and burnt her in the High One's Hall; thrice was she burnt, and thrice reborn, though still she lives," but Mr. Bjerregaard tells us that "this myth is entirely lost."

I wish he would compare notes with M. Le Plongeon -- who is living in the same city with him -- and see whether the revelations of the mural records of Mayax throw light upon the mystical epopee of his native land. It is a point of great moment to decide. It may help to unravel the tangled skein of the "Mysteries."


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