Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online. Online Edition copyright 2000.
Madame Blavatsky and Her Theosophy.
by Arthur Lillie
[Reprinted from Light (London), March 9, 1895, pp. 116-117.]
Sir, --- In Light of February 23rd appears a review of my work, Madame Blavatsky and Her Theosophy, dealing with the evidence, paltry and unconvincing according to the critic, that I adduce against her and her creed. It is said that I devote many pages to prove that the Russian lady was at one time a Spiritualistic medium, a fact that she never denied, and that the teachings of Theosophy are quite untouched by my facts.
In 1856 Madame Blavatsky visited, it is alleged, Tibet, and there received a mighty mission as Mr. Sinnett puts it. This mission, as the lady herself explained in a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette (April 26th, 1884), was:
1. To put down Spiritualism.
2. To convert the materialists.
3. To prove the existence of the Brothers.
But this mission, though delivered to her by certain Mahatmas in 1856-57, was not made public until she wrote an article in the Theosophist for October, 1881, that is, some twenty-five years afterwards. Plainly this gap of twenty-five years is the crux of the whole case.
During this time, did she strenuously attempt to put down Spiritualism? On the contrary, she figured as a professional medium, got up Spiritualistic societies, announced that she saw her father and her uncle among the spooks at seances, had John King for a guide for fourteen years; and, forgetting that she had received a mission, in 1856, to put down Spiritualism, she wrote in a public print: Home converted me to Spiritualism in 1858. Plainly, till then she knew nothing about it.
Now, it seems to me that the teachings of Theosophy are very much affected by these facts. Theosophy professes to be a block of absolute ruth, received from certain Mahatmas. Without the Mahatmas, as Mrs. Besant admits, the Theosophical Society is an absurdity (Lucifer, December 15th, 1890). And yet it is plain that during these crucial twenty-five years Madame Blavatsky knew nothing about this Theosophy and these Mahatmas. Mr. Sinnett, driven to the wall, puts forward the plea that the Russian lady was playing a comedy all this time, pretending to be a Spiritualist to conceal mighty truths. But three high authorities may be brought to confront him here --- Colonel Olcott, Madame Blavatsky, and the Mahatmas themselves.
The Russian lady, seeing how fatal Mr. Sinnetts theory was, came out boldly with one of her reckless denials: I never was a Spiritualist, she said, in LIGHT. Again in the Theosophist (October, 1881) we read: In Truth, mediumship is a dangerous, too often a fatal capacity, and if we oppose Spiritualism as we have ever consistently done, &c. My critic in saying that Madame Blavatsky never denied that she had been a Spiritualist, seems to have not quite got up all the facts of the case.
The second authority to be cited is more important still. Colonel Olcott has told us that the Mahatmas themselves, through the Russian lady, positively announced that the first contact between Theosophy and the Western world occurred at the battle of Mentana (November 3rd, 1867). At that fight a disguised Russian lady was killed, and a Mahatma took possession of her dead body by a magical process called Avesa. This at once puts out of court the visit to Tibet and its initiations, the subterranean cave temple and the Book of Dzyan, the inspiration of Isis Unveiled; and makes indeed the greater part of Mr. Sinnetts biography pure fiction. Colonel Olcott shows that it is quite impossible that the teachings grouped together under the title of Esoteric Buddhism, were known to Madame Blavatsky in America, as in the United States she put forth other teachings that contradicted them in toto, and announced that these other teachings came also from the Masters.
But my critic may urge here: Mr. Lillie has demolished Theosophy as a gospel derived from Mahatmas. Our contention was that he had not demolished Theosophy as an abstract truth. Here the critic has me.
Theosophy, through Madame Blavatsky, has announced that there is a God, that there is no God; that Nirvana is annihilation, that Nirvana is not annihilation; that the metempsychosis is a fact, that the metempsychosis is a fiction; that vegetarianism is necessary for psychic development, that vegetarianism is not necessary; that the dead are split in half and that the better halves can never again span the abyss that separates their state from ouRs; that the better halves can span the abyss; and so on through a hundred contradictions, to be seen in my little work.
Of course, this Theosophy, or at any rate half of it, cannot be upset.