H. P. Blavatsky: The Mystery

By Gottfried de Purucker in collaboration with Katherine Tingley

Chapter I -- A Spiritual-Psychological Mystery

H. P. Blavatsky was a great psychological mystery to the world of average men. She was a great psychological mystery even to her followers; ay, even to those who thought that they knew her best, and who met her daily and worked with her and were taught by her. To them, at least to most of them, she was an astounding paradox of what seemed to be conflicting and confusing traits of character. The intuitions of her followers and pupils told them that they were in the presence of a World-Teacher, the Messenger of other World-Teachers even greater than she was, who had sent her forth to strike the keynotes of a new age; and yet despite all this she puzzled these followers of hers most sadly, as much by those other traits of character which astonished and perplexed them because they had not the vision to expect to find such lofty and almost incomprehensible traits in a spiritual Teacher and Leader of men.

The reason and cause of all this confusion of understanding, it may truthfully be said, lay not in H. P. Blavatsky herself, but in the imperfect vision of those who knew her. They had built up for themselves an idea and an ideal of what a World-Teacher should be. Doubtless they expected to see a wonderful miracle of mere physical beauty. Doubtless they thought to themselves that each day should bring forth some new and amazing demonstration of mystic power, startling, unusual, mysterious. Instead of that, they found themselves in the presence of one whose outer characteristics at least were essentially human: wit, the play of fancy, humor, kindness, indignation; they found themselves in the presence of a penetrating mind before which no shams could stand. They saw themselves laid bare to themselves through the power of a mighty intellect and a spiritual intuition which halted at no barriers and stopped at no frontiers of human personality.

Some of H. P. Blavatsky's students and followers, however, were grateful for this self-revelation. But others were irritated because their minds were small and they lacked understanding; for few are the people who like to see themselves held up to their own inner understanding as they actually are. We are all so prone to excuse our own faults, and call them peccadilloes which amount to but little! None of us likes to feel that the very one whom we revere and look up to, is the one who reveals our own smallness of character to ourselves. Nor could they come to understand, at least in any but a very small degree, the strange double character which they both felt and saw when in the presence of H. P. Blavatsky: a most embarrassing and to them inexplicable union of splendid masculine and feminine characteristics. And just here we lay our finger directly on the key to the mysterious spiritual-psychological riddle that H. P. Blavatsky was for the world.

But if this was the case with her own followers, how much more completely was the great Theosophical Messenger misunderstood by the general public, who had not even that modicum of acquaintance with her which her immediate disciples had. To this public she was not so much a mystery or an unsolved problem as a strange and perplexing study in erratic genius which, because they could not definitely place it and label it in the usual fashion, became to the imagination of these outsiders something to be written about indeed, but with pens dipped in spleen and in anger arising out of the quasi-consciousness of their own inability to understand her.

When one surveys the world as it was when H. P. Blavatsky lived, and realizes the power over human minds which the set and crystallized ideas regarding religious and scientific subjects then had, one can find little heart to blame people who sinned through ignorance rather than through will, and who erred in their judgment from inability to understand rather than because of a desire willfully to misinterpret. Those were the days when the scientists on the one hand thought that virtually all that was to be known of Nature, as regards fundamentals, had already been discovered and that nothing new of any important character excepting, perhaps, development of what was already supposed to be known, could be wrested from her. On the other hand, religious circles, having with some acerbity settled down to make the best of their defeat at the hands of scientific thinkers, were but the more ready to misjudge and to condemn anyone who was so daring as to do what they durst not do: face the Sir Oracles of science with unparalleled boldness as H. P. Blavatsky did, challenging openly and publicly in her doctrines and public writings the then acceptedly orthodox ideas regarding physical nature.

There was still another class of people, men and women of a more or less mystical bent, yet without the remotest conception withal of what their hearts were really hungering for. Impelled by the energies of their own inner natures to see and to feel that neither popular science nor popular religion supplied them with the pabulum that could feed their souls, they wandered hither and thither in thought, drawn to this and to that new ism or ology, and finding in none of these anything to feed their minds and souls. These were the mystical cranks of various types and kinds who flocked around H. P. Blavatsky much as moths are drawn to a bright light. Probably it was her indomitable courage which first drew them to her, and it was doubtless her magnificent intellectual power which, once attracted to her, held them more or less bound to her. From H. P. Blavatsky's standpoint, however, how on earth could a World-Teacher find in such material as these the proper instruments for disseminating her Message to the world!

If the people to whom science was their god, squirmed in futile indignation at her bold challenge of accepted scientific views; and if the people belonging to the other class of more or less orthodox or religious bent watched her with a mixture of indignation and alarm, this third class it was which by the very fact of their presence around her, and more or less openly voiced championship of her, told sadly in one sense upon her reputation in the opinion of the general public. This more or less vocal and positive class of people gave to the general public the impression that the Theosophical Leader and many of her followers were, at the very least, a set of mystery-loving cranks; and this phase of public misunderstanding of H. P. Blavatsky's mission and teachings lasted for a certain time, in the European countries more especially.

It so happened as time went on, that little by little the men and women composing this third class were not encouraged and they dropped out of the ranks of those who looked upon H. P. Blavatsky as a Teacher of philosophical religion and of philosophical science; but the effect of her compassionate interest in these mystical cranks remained for years afterwards. The truth of the matter was that the great heart of H. P. Blavatsky refused to no one entrance into the Theosophical Society, provided there seemed to be the least chance that such admission would benefit them.

This matter is referred to because it does not lack a certain importance in attempting to adjust our present vision to the situation as it then existed, and should be clearly understood if we are to have a true viewpoint of some at least of the difficulties that the great Theosophical Messenger had to face and overcome.

But, after all this is said, the fact remains that one of the most interesting and significant factors in the history of the Theosophical Society during the lifetime of H. P. Blavatsky, was the large number of highly reputable, loftily intellectual, and truly spiritually minded people whom she drew into the membership of the Theosophical Society. They numbered literally thousands in all parts of the world. They included philosophers, scientists, clergymen, statesmen, literary men, men of various other professions, artists, men of wide and successful commercial experience; in fact an actual cross-section, cut through the heart of our Occidental social structure. It is these last who formed the body of devoted, energetic, and highly intelligent members, who supported with all the power at their command, the efforts of H. P. Blavatsky to make her Message to the world a vital power in the hearts and minds of men.

And even among these choice persons, there were very few who had any conception of a clearly defined character of the real nature and mission of H. P. Blavatsky; but these few, these choicest of the choice, intuitive, aspiring, longing for truth, hungering for reality, and who formed a fifth class by themselves -- these last were they, we say, who were in the real sense of the phrase her true pupils and who gave to her the most invaluable part of the assistance that she then received in casting her message broadly and deep into men's souls. They were very few indeed, but the Theosophist of today, with the added experience that time has given, can do no otherwise than record his sense of gratitude to them for their utterly true-hearted loyalty to H. P. Blavatsky in the days of her first and perhaps greatest efforts. While even these few did not fully understand their great Teacher, as was only to be expected, yet they understood enough of her to realize that they were in the presence of and working under the inspiration of one of those World-Figures of which history records the appearance among men at cyclic intervals.

We have said that this book is to be a study of a profound spiritual-psychological mystery, and that statement is true. But to lay bare this mystery to the understanding of thoughtful men and women is in itself a task of Herculean proportions. We are going to treat of subjects concerning which the average Occidental has no conception whatsoever; or if, in moments of quiet thought, or under the refining influence of spiritual intuitions, some of the early members of the Theosophical Society may have gained some intimation of the truth, yet in the nature of things, such suggestive intimations must have been but rarely and sporadically recorded. Our task would be quite different, perhaps, were this book written solely for the better class of Orientals who are more or less accustomed to psychological mysteries by training, and whose magnificent religious and philosophical systems have guided them even from childhood to realize that there are in the world subtile and mysterious forces which play through the human psychological mask, in other words, through man's inner constitution, and thus form of one man a sage and saint and of another man a human brute and rogue.

It is precisely on matters dealing with man's inner constitution that we shall treat and thereby solve as far as possible in the compass of a printed volume the amazing riddle of H. P. Blavatsky's character, life, and mission.

H. P. Blavatsky was of course born a woman, but for all that, her character in one direction was at times importantly, intensely, masculine, and the work which she so magnificently performed was essentially a man's work and very largely done after the manner of a man. Can we say that she was but one of those strange and erratic geniuses whose careers have at different times aroused the admiration and astonishment of men? No. That is not our meaning at all. Genius is one thing: it is the efflorescence of the native powers of a normal individual; but the case of H. P. Blavatsky, Soul-Shaker, Breaker of the molds of mind, and Founder of a new and brilliant hope and destiny for mankind, rests on entirely different foundations, foundations which are laid in some of the most mysterious and, to the Occident, utterly unknown secrets of human spiritual-psychological economy.

Yes, H. P. Blavatsky's intermediate or soul-nature at times seemed distinctly that of a man. Yet she was intensely feminine in some respects, as was only natural, and a gentlewoman to her finger-tips, strangely and alertly sensitive, delicately organized, keenly awake in both mind and heart to the noblest human impulses. But behind all this, over-mastering all this, controlling all this, and working through all this, there was the dominating influence of a Master-Intelligence: her own individual, egoic, spiritual part, or center of her inner constitution -- the developed Spiritual Soul of her, her Inner Divinity, the monadic essence or root of her being, evolved forth in its transcendent powers into conscious activity on our human plane, as the consequence of many previous reincarnations on earth and imbodiments in the invisible realms of the Universe.

This inner Self of her was one of the Great Ones of the ages, an actual, real, self-consciously energic Individuality or Power, which worked through her and used her both psychologically and physically as the fittest instrument for the saving of the souls of men that the Occidental world has seen in many ages.

Let us anticipate here an important thought which will find its due place in later chapters, by calling attention to the nature of man's inner constitution as the wonderful Theosophical philosophy sets it forth. This constitution may for easy understanding be divided into three parts -- the spiritual-divine part, which is the monadic essence of man's inner being, sometimes called his Inner Spiritual Self; second, the intermediate or psychological part which is the center of the human consciousness per se and which actually is the child or outflowing of a part of the spiritual energies from the monadic essence before spoken of; and third, the vital-astral-physical part which makes up the lowest or vehicular part of man.

The monadic essence or Spiritual Soul above spoken of must be understood to be an individuality, an actual, real, living entity having its own sphere of action in its own lofty realms or fields of activity. This acts through the intermediate part which may be called the Reincarnating Ego or, more simply, the higher Human Soul, this being what we ordinarily mean when we speak of the soul of man. It is the personal individuality of the human being, and not only is it the child of the monadic essence or Inner Divinity, but it also partakes of the stream of consciousness, flowing from its parent; and in proportion as it can manifest clearly and undimmed the supernal light and intelligence of this stream of consciousness, is it great and does it partake of the sublimity of its parent. This parent monadic essence is the source of all great human inspiration, and in proportion as the human being can ally himself with this Inner Self he thereby raises himself towards the spiritual stature of the great Seers and Sages who have made such a profound impression on the history of the human race.

The above gives an outline of the case of H. P. Blavatsky, for through long training and initiation under her great Teachers, who were of this Association of great Seers, she had become fitted to become their Messenger and Mouthpiece to the world. The secret key regarding the mystery of H. P. Blavatsky lies in the paragraph which precedes. Intuitions and intimations of the existence in the human being of such transcendent faculties and powers and energies have been had by very many of the Great Mystics of the ages, whatever may have been the race among whom they were born or the time in which they lived; and they have naturally also come into the consciousness of more modern writers, even though they are men of less insight.

Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian mystic, in a Preface to a French translation of Emerson's essays, expresses in these words some of the vision which he has had of the deep-lying but wonderfully beautiful faculties in the human being:

The face of our divine soul smiles at times over the shoulder of her sister, the human soul, bent to the noble needs of thought, and this smile which, as it passes, discovers to us all that is beyond thought, is the only thing of consequence in the works of man. They are not many who have shown that man is greater and profounder than himself, and who have been able to fix some of the eternal suggestions to be met with every instant through life, in a movement, a sign, a look, a word, a silence, in the incidents happening round about us.
The science of human greatness is the greatest of sciences. Not one man is ignorant of it, yet hardly one knows he possesses it. The child who meets me cannot tell his mother what he has seen; and yet as soon as his eye has touched my presence, he knows all that I shall be, as well as my brother, and three times better than myself. . . .
In truth, what is strongest in man is his hidden gravity and wisdom. The most frivolous among us never really laughs, and in spite of his efforts never succeeds in losing a moment, for the human soul is attentive and does nothing that is not useful.
Ernst ist das Leben. Life is serious, and in the depths of our being our soul has never yet smiled. On the other side of our involuntary agitations we lead a wonderful existence, passive, very pure, very sure, to which ceaseless allusion is made by hands stretched out, eyes that open, looks that meet. All our organs are mystic accomplices of a superior being, and it is never a man, it is a soul we have known. I did not see that poor man who begged for alms at my doorstep; but I saw something else; in our eyes two selfsame destinies greeted and loved each other, and at the instant he held out his hand, the little door of the house opened for a moment on the sea. . . .
But if it be true that the least of us cannot make the slightest movement without taking account of the soul and the spiritual kingdoms where it reigns, it is also true that the wisest almost never thinks of the infinite displaced by the opening of an eyelid, the bending of a head, or the closing of a hand. We live so far from ourselves that we are ignorant of almost all that takes place on the horizon of our being. We wander aimlessly in the valley, never thinking that all our actions are reproduced and acquire their significance on the summit of the mountain. Someone has to come and say: 'Lift your eyes; see what you are, see what you are doing; it is not here that we live: we are up there! That look exchanged in the dark, those words which have no meaning at the base of the hill, see what they grow into and what they signify beyond the snow of the peaks, and how our hands which we think so little and so feeble, touch God everywhere unknowingly. . . .

What Maeterlinck here speaks of as the "face of our divine soul smiling at times over the shoulder of her sister the human soul," expresses in terms different from our Theosophical phraseology, but yet very truly, what the Theosophist means when he refers to the divine-spiritual nature of man, or his Inner Spiritual Self, or, in other words, the monadic essence standing back of and expressing itself through not its 'sister, the human soul,' but its child, the intermediate portion of man's constitution.

It is when this intermediate portion, popularly called the human soul, becomes so pellucid, through evolution and initiatory training, that it can manifest the wonderful powers and faculties of its parent-monad, that the human soul becomes the self-conscious center of what we may truly call a divinity -- man's own Inner Essential Divinity. The lofty human whose intermediate nature has thus become so pervious in character to the stream of spiritual-divine illumination is spoken of variously in the different races. Among the Buddhists such a human being would be called a Buddha, or Bodhisattva perhaps; among mystical modern Christians reference would be made to the being in man of the immanent Christ or Christos; while the Hindu, the student of the wonderful Theosophy of Brahmanism as imbodied in the Upanishads of India, would speak of such a case of lofty humanity as one in whom the 'inner Brahman lives and shines.'

Here, then, is the key -- the only key thus far -- to the spiritual-psychological mystery of H. P. Blavatsky, the key we are going to place in the lock of circumstance and give it a turn, and then another turn, endeavoring to pass over the threshold of what to the public is an unknown land, to the brilliant and amazing scenes of human quasi-divinity.

Chapter II