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Historical evidence of the "masters" ?

Oct 06, 2001 05:28 AM
by bri_mue

Dear list members, A new comment is placed on line ;

I like Steve's expressions and careful reading of the SD and Isis. 
The question I like to ask this group is what is your personal opinion 
about the idea that Blavatsky basic theorys would have been 
"concocted" by a "secret" group apart from the help and information we 
biographically know HPB received from many contacts (See Paul 
Johnson's books on that) , friends, books, and students without there 
anything unexplained about it ?
I myself was open to the idea and formulated it in my question in the 
interview with Brendan about 4 months ago: " Regarding the structure 
of globes and rounds, laying at the overall foundation of the Secret 
Doctrine, would she have received some specific help or inspiration 
from some unknown esotericist or small lodge that used caballistic 
structures mixed with oriental sources of which there where several in 
colonial India?"

But I must say at this point that since all information in Blavatsky's 
work is accounted for, and the septenary cabalistic teachings where 
already incorporated in Isis I don't think this anymore. (Steve is 
familiar with my opinion)

A perennialism that emphasized common denominators among many 
different cultures and traditions was a popular idea with Blavatsky 
early on, without the need of secret masters it seems to me. To quote 
a co-founder of the Theosophical Society, Charles Sotheran: all 
religions are tracable (sic) to the same original fountain heads, that 
in every religion is a portion of the truth and the symbols are 
identical- that as each religion merges into a mere theology, a new 
savior is impelled forwards, who becomes by a gradual transition 
transformed in the minds of exoteric vulgar from man to adept, from 
adept to prophet, from prophet to demi-god. Ideas in the original 
HIRAF article of HPB on the other hand emphasizes the role of 
Rosicrucianism and Rosicrucians by Blavatsky, as the lost wisdom and 
the apostles of that lost wisdom: "To regain this treasure, long lost 
by humanity, we must study the seers who gathered it, gem by gem, and 
coin by coin. Of that web, from the looms of the Nile, the power is 
Ain-Soph, - the Cabala is the gospel, and the Hermetics or 
Rosicrucians the apostles and the masters." 

This shows actionally supports the position of Brendan who believs 
that HPB's schema is at its core neognostic. The underlying structure 
of her work according to HPB herself are "the Cabala", and the 
"Hermetics or Rosicrucians the apostles and the masters", indeed 
gnostic/hermetic. That she then ads also orient related material is 
also no need proof for Masters.

However authors like Whitney, Muller, Jones, Lassen, Weber, Burnouf, 
Hardy, and Jacolliot all familiar to her, incorporate material on 
India. In 1860 for example a book appeared in Saint Petersburg with 
refferrences to the eight "Sidhi's" and so on, by W.Wassiljew called 
"Der Budhismus, seine Dogmen, Geschichte und Literatur" (Budhism, its 
teachings, history and literature.) In India than she comes into 
contact with pandits who have first-hand knowledge of the subject. One 
sees this in the SD, which introduces an abundance of Sanskrit 
terminology and philosophical concepts. But also there she does not 
ignore Western esotericism however. Her model of the Primordial 
Tradition, Esoteric Teaching, or Secret Doctrine remains much the 
same: the only variation from her earlier teaching being her growth in 
understanding and greater emphasis placed on the Eastern version of 

Concerning HPB's thesis : a "single theme running through all of 
HPB's work. It is that mankind was wiped out when Atlantis sunk except 
for a remnant which escaped to the highest ground (i.e., Tibet.) From 
there colonizers set out when the waters receded and conquered the 
rest of the world, including Europe." This is not an oriental concept 
but purely western It started with Plato, and Steve himself mentions: 
" The idea that the survivors of the Flood lived in Tibet comes from 
Bailly. That tags the theory as 19th century in Origin". Also the idea 
of an 'Aryan race" definetly had its origin in the west. So if 
"masters" (in the sense of "secret", other the the biographical 
correlations that Paul points out in his books) that where responsible 
they would have to be western. Yet where/who would they have been, all 
is accounted for in the sources available to HPB. And due to lack of 
other original documents/evidence, the only place we momentarily can 
search more for evidence is in HPB's writings and comparing them to 
litterature of the time.

Steve mentions accurately that:" The idea that the survivors of the 
Flood lived in Tibet comes from Bailly. That tags the theory as 19th 
century in origin." But that means a "western" influence in that case, 
and so not that of "oriental masters". From that point of view maybe 
Brendan is right by indeed placing the greatest influence in HPB's 
work western sources. And the gnostic/hermetic tradition from the very 
beginning had also incorporated oriental influences (see my 
bibliographic remarks below), and made these groups in early times 
considered "heretic" from a roman catholic point of view.

Re.:"the conservation of sexual energy, was the key to longevity and 
even physical immortality. She said Morya was 300 years old and non 
aging and that was due to his mastery of sexual energy conservation." 
And the notion of "mastery of sexual energy conservation and 
longevity", this is an old one in western esoteric litterrature and 
goes all the way back to gnostic sects, plus to the import of tantric 
information from the Indies and particularly incorporated in 17/18 
century rosicrucian/ masonic societys. 

Already Blavatsky's grandfather as a member of the German rosicrucians 
of that time had likely such literature in his library. And if not 
there, there are numerous other occasions where HPB trough rather 
ordinary sources could have heard or read about this. For example it 
was part of Cagliostro's Egyptian Masonry with wich Blavatsky was also 
not unfamiliar.

. Fact is also that Randolph never traveled to "India", that is an 
invention, but it shows the attraction in regards to esoteric 
knowledge that India already had that time previously to Blavatsky's 
books. And also shows the correlation between India and sexual energy 
conservation to wich Steve refers and in wich Randolph claimed to be 
an initiate. Randolph did however travel to Paris and London.

Point is also that HPB with her reference to "She said Morya was 300 
years old and non aging and that was due to his mastery of sexual 
energy conservation" is very vague and doesn't give any specifics. 
That means she could just have picked up on it as a rumor. Whereas 
there certainly was much more detailed knowledge of it around . As a 
matter of fact we don't have to look any further then a well known 
figure in HPB's time , Swedenborg. (see also the Swedenborg 
"Theosophical Society" in London and the choosing of the name TS by 
Sotheran, who was also involved with Memphis-Misraim, so there might 
already be Blavatsky's source/person.)

Swedenborg learned about Tibetan and Chinese Yoga from Swedish 
soldier-scholars, who had been prisoners of war in the Siberian and 
Tartar areas of Russia and returned to Sweden in the l720's. See 
Emanuel Swedenborg, The Delights of Wisdom Concerning Conjugial Love, 
trans. Alfred Acton 1768; London: Swedenborg Society, l970. In his 
Spiritual Diary, Swedenborg drew on the travel journal of Philip 
Strahlenberg, a Swedish officer and former prisoner, to describe the 
spiritual relation between the Tibetans, Tartars, Chinese, and 
Siberians (Swedenborg, Spiritual Diary, #6077; see Philip John 
Strahlenberg, An Historical-Geographical Description of the North and 
Eastern Part of Europe and Asia (London: W. Innis and R. Manby, l736), 
In London, he received reinforcement for his Kabbalistic-Yogic 
interests from Dr. James Parsons, an Irish- and French-educated 
physician and Fellow of the Royal Society. Like Swedenborg, he studied 
the reports of Strahlenberg and earlier Swedo-Gothic scholars, which 
led him to perceive similarities between Kabbalistic, Tibetan, 
Nordic-Gaelic, and Christian beliefs in a triune godhead.
Swedenborg's practical access to Yogic techniques probably came from 
Moravian missionaries, who went beyond the East Indies and penetrated 
into central Russia, Tartary, and China. Shortly after Swedenborg's 
spirit-account of Zinzendorf and the Indians, he described his vision 
of Chinese Yogis, "sitting there, as the Indians are wont to do, with 
the feet crossed" and "in the tranquility of peace" ,i.e., in the 
lotus position and state of nirvana. (Swedenborg, Spiritual Diary, 
#6067. On the similarities of Swedenborg's meditative breath control 
and Asian Yoga, see the chapter, "Was Swedenborg a Yogi?" in D. Gopaul 
Chetty, New Light upon Indian Philosophy, or Swedenborg and Saiva 
Siddhanta ,London: J.M. Dent, l923, 125-46; also, Stephen Larsen, 
"Swedenborg and the Visionary Tradition," in Swedenborg: The 
Continuing Vision, ed. Robin Larsen ,New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 
l988, 192-206.)

Taking advantage of the great interest in Asian culture generated by 
the Swedish East India Company (which secretly employed Swedenborg), 
he argued that the Yogis of Great Tartary discovered the secrets of 
Kabbalism long before the Jews. Swedenborg and his Masonic colleagues 
in London assimilated their sexual theories into a special order of 
Freemasonry, the "Royal Order of Heredom of Kilwinning" or "Rite of 
Seven Degrees." 
French Masonic historians claim that Swedenborg initiated Pasqually 
into his system of Masonry; see Reghellini de Scio, La Maçonnerie 
considerèe comme le resultat des Religions Egyptiénne, Juive et 
Chrêtien (Paris, l822-29), II, 436; Papus (Gerard Encausse), 
Martinésisme, Willermosisme, Martinisme, et Franc-Maçonnerie (Paris: 
Chamuel, 1899).

Cagliostro arrives in London, as the "Count Sutkowski," a Polish 
Nobleman, and and asserts that he hails from a Swedenborgian Secret 
Society at Avignon which had been formed in Courland in 1779. 
Cagliostro visited the Swedenborgians at their Theosophical Society 
meeting in rooms in the Middle Temple and displayed minute 
acquaintance with their doctrines, whilst claiming a superior 
knowledge." (Notes on the Rainsford Papers, in Ars Quatuor Coronati, 
Vol. XXVI, p. 111.)
Cagliostro incorporated his most secret information in the so called  
Arcana Arcanorum, he took this term from German Rosicrucian lodges of 
the 17th Century, consisted of descriptions of magical practices that 
stressed "internal alchemy" . 

The notion of a Chinese "pre-Kabbala" was especially promulgated by 
the Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay, who had a major influence on 
Écossais and Swedish Freemasonry; see [A.M. Ramsay], The Philosophical 
Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 
l748-49), II, 173-85, 304, 356, 537-38. For a comparison of 
eighteenth-century Tantric and Masonic esoteric practices, see Hugh 
Urban, "Elitism and Esotericism: Strategies of Secrecy and Power in 
South Indian Tantra and French Freemasonry," Numen, 44 (1997), 1-38.

Regarding Blavatsky and her thesis, Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824) 
introduced his readers to theories explaining the origins of the 
world's mythologie, and diminished the perceived distance between 
Christian and non-Christian ("paga") beliefs. Others such as Friedrich 
Schlegel and Madam de Stael, attempted to formulate grand syntheses of 
the various currents. Romantic speculative religion was in some sense 
understood to be essentially the same as christian theosophy, Hinduism 
and Neoplatonism. Besides Payne Knight other early nineteenth century 
proponents of orientalizing esotericism are Charles Nodier, Godfrey 
Higgins, Emma Harding-Britten and hargrave Jennings that all can be 
seen as precursors of Blavatsky.

A large body of litterrature in fact was available since long time 
without "Masters" or a secret brotherhood. I give below some samples 
along with specific source material.
By the early 18th century, manuscripts were being solicited from the 
Jesuits for the French "Académie des Inscriptions" in Paris under the 
direction of Abbé Bignon (royal librarian to Louis XIV). Bignon was 
able to have Etienne Fourmont, then engaged in cataloguing over 5,000 
Chinese texts in the Académie, translate a page of Tibetan (1724) for 
Peter the Great using a Tibetan-Latin dictionary complied by the head 
of Capucian mission to Lhasa in c. 1720 (1)

In 1727, the first book in English to describe Japanese Buddhism (Zen 
and Jodo Shinshu or "Pure Land") was published in London by Engelbert 
Kaempfer (2)

By 1733, the Jesuits published in Lettres édifiantes (for European 
readers, written in India) that they had assembled a "complete" Indian 
Veda and in 1731 a copy of the Rig Veda, one of the oldest Indian 
texts, was placed in the Académie. By 1733, over 168 India items, 
including many Upanishads and other "Vedic literature" were sent to 
France by Jesuit missionaries. By 1740, a basic Sanskrit grammar and 
dictionary was translated, preceded by alphabetic transliterations as 
early as 1663; from this point onward, European scholars would 
increasingly improve and expand their knowledge of Eastern texts and 
"oriental" philosophies (3)

In 1761, M. De Guignes published his translation of a Chinese voyage 
to Fu-Sang (in 458 CE) which he identified as Mexico, peopled by the 
Maya Indians, thereby popularizing an esoteric theory of Asian 
influences in the New World (4)

In 1762, Italian Capuchin Antonio Giorgi published Alphabetum 
Tibetanum Missionum Apostolicarum (a Latin-Tibetan dictionary of 
35,000 words) based on works of Capuchin Father Francesco Orazio della 
Penna (who lived and studied in Tibet from 1716-1732) (5)

The most classic narrative of an influence from India is found in the 
Life of Apollonius of Tyana (recorded by Philostratus, c. 220 CE). 
Apollonius journeyed to India to study at the sacred hill of the 
Indian "wise men marked with a crescent on their foreheads". When 
Apollonius (d. 98 CE) was asked about why he came on such a long 
journey, he replied "Your ways are wiser and much more godly", clearly 
indicating a classic Greek respect for Indian thought at the time of 
Roman Philostratus (6)

Another example, is that of the teachings of the Persian religious 
leader, Mani (c. 245 CE). According to Mani's teachings, the Apostles 
of Light sent by Jesus to redeem humanity included the Buddha and 
Manichaeism is distinctively influenced by Buddhist ideas, such as 
Mani representing himself as the Buddha to come, Maitreya (7)

The Kitab Sirr al-Khaliqa wa San`at al-Tabi`a (Book of the Secret of 
Creation and the Art of Nature), attributed to Jabir, c. 800, who in 
fact attributes this text to Apollonius of Tyana, is the basis for the 
single most popular text in Western Hermeticism, translated into Latin 
(1140) as the Tabula Smaragdina (Emerald Tablet) (8)

>From the Renaissance period of the retranslation of the Corpus 
Hermeticum (found in Byzantium, the "east") into Latin by Marsilio 
Ficino (1471) to the above mentioned Académie des Inscriptions 
(1720s), there is a slow but continual referencing of "oriental" 
cultures and literatures as sources for esoteric thought and practice. 
Pico della Mirandola (d. 1494), as the first Christian Kabbalist, 
certainly introduces "oriental" ideas in his 900 theses, see also the 
illustration; <>

A variety of "oriental" references appear in the writings of Henry 
Cornelius Agrippa, specifically in De Occulta Philosophia (1531), such 
as references to the Chaldeans, Arabians and Mohammadeans ( Islamic 
concepts of soul), the Buddha , the Indian Gymnosophists and Bragmanni 
(Brahmans, having many occult teachings and esoteric lore), India 
(with certain plants and as derived from the union of male and female 
animal as in the Upanishads), reincarnation as explicitly taught by 
the "wise men of India" and of rebirth as "recompense in accordance 
with his former life" (karma) (9).

John Dee (d. 1608), would seek knowledge of "oriental wisdom" in the 
hope of assembling a concordia mundi of world beliefs and "occult 
mysteries of the east" (stimulated by voyages of global 
circumnavigation) (10).

By the 1820s in America, Ralph Waldo Emerson was beginning to make 
journal entries on Hindu religions based on his initial readings of 
English translations of Sanskrit like those of Wilkins and Jones. 
(Steve did mention Jones) In Europe, these same translations were also 
making an impact in France and Germany. The German Romantic 
Naturphilosophie movement, a central influence on Western Esotericism, 
was certainly affected by the new translations of Indic materials. It 
was Friedrich von Schlegel who coined the popular term "Oriental 
Renaissance" (1803) to describe the impact of Asian and Indic 
philosophy on early 19th century European intellectuals and 
esotericists which he described as "a sun in comparison to the weak 
spark of Western Idealism." These authors shared a common esoteric 
interest in India as a source for a "primordial tradition" 
(philosophia perennis) or a "universal revelation" that could be 
reconstructed to counter rising emphasis on rational materialism (11).

In 1784 Antoine Court de Géblin, building on Fabre d'Olivet's "study 
of the three mother tongues of Hebrew, Sanskrit and Chinese," 
published Le Monde Primitif Analysé et Comparé avec le Monde Moderne, 
a seminal work on the of concept of an ancient and universal 
"primordial tradition." In 1792 the famous esotericist Louis-Claude de 
Saint-Martian published Le Nouvel Homme and later Le Ministère de 
L'Homme-Espirit, works strongly influenced by Indic ideas. 
Saint-Martain explicitly draws connections, as did the esotericist 
Pierre-Simon Ballanche, between the ideas of illuminism, theosophy, 
and the literature of India (12). 

In 1837 Burnouf (who founded the Société Asiatique) received 64 
Sanskrit texts from Brian Hodgson gathered from Nepalese monasteries. 
Burnouf began translating the Sanskrit into French, and published 
Introduction à l'histoire du Buddhism Indien (1844), the first great 
French scholarly work on Buddhism which established the Indian origins 
of Buddhism, emphasized a textual approach to Eastern religions, and 
made Buddhism into an object of western scientific knowledge. Burnouf 
died in 1852, the year his translation of the Lotus Sutra (containing 
other sutras as well) was released to the public (13).

Beginning in the 1830s many Indian expatriots began to arrive in 
England, exemplified by Rammohun Roy's visit in 1833; Roy died in 
England and his grave (in Bristol) became a shrine for many 
esotericists interested in Indian philosophy (14) .

In America, in the 1840s, a Swendenborgian wave of interest in the 
occult and spiritual realms combined with interests in Mesmerism as 
well as indigenous and Eastern ideas (like reincarnation) and led to 
the formation and rapid spread of Spiritualism. Various channel 
mediums also formed groups which proclaimed messages using symbols and 
concepts drawn from "Kabbalah, Hinduism, Neo-Gnosticism, and 
Christianity." By 1850 there were over 150 Spiritualist circles in New 
York state alone, drawing heavily on esoteric ideas east and west as 
well as having a highly eclectic interest is shamanic, native guides 
and spirits (15).
In 1871, James Freeman Clarke published Ten Great Religions, plus 
numerous popular articles which, while imposing Christian ideas on a 
romanticized view of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, became a 
popular source for esotericists. Also in the same year, John Weiss 
published American Religion, drawing heavily on world religions and 
wrote against dogmatism, emphasizing the universality in all 
traditions (16) .

Those who believe in a "philosophia perennis" like Blavatsky, still 
have to explain the differences between religious traditions.
In the SD, Blavatsky presents a legend of the origin of other 
religions as well as her own doctrine that try to explain why a 
allegoric reading of Hindu or Budhist scriptures is necessary to bring 
out the inner, hidden meaning of these texts. Which elliminates the  
relativism that one risks when facing the diversity of human faiths.
Blavatsky considered a positioning vis-à-vis science of importance, so 
that Book I and II of the SD are devoted to it. Devas and genii are 
declared to be the same entities that science calls forces. (SD I: 
478.) Chemicals terms like moleculs, atom and particle refer to  
realities named Hosts, Monads and Devas. (SD: I: 548.) The periodic 
table of Mendeleeff is explained as consisting of seven families of 
elements plus an eight, said to correspond to the Hindu allegory of 
Aditi, the mother or infinite space who accepted seven of her sons and 
rejected the eight. ( SD: I: 553.)

One passage in Isis became the subject of controversy. Blavatsky had 
claimed that the transmigration of souls was "an exeption, a 
phenomenon as abnormal as a fetus with two heads". (IU I:351.) In the 
SD a different story is told. One of the Mahatma Letters called "The 
Famous Contradictions", attemts to clarify the change. The channel of 
information between the Master and the disciple may be partially 
blocked. The Master does not always speak in his quality of Master; at 
times he abstains from using his occult powers and is then 
fallible.(ML p. 178.) Being Masters from the Himalayas, they can at 
times misspel the English language, e.g. by using an erroneous 
punctuation that alters the meaning of the sentences. Furthermore, the 
masters "had not yet decided upon teaching the public 

The U shaped time line wich Brendan correctly sees represented in the 
Neoplatonic as an influence on Blavatsky, can just aswell be seen in 
Romaticism. To quote M.H. Abrams classic study on the Romantic 
version: The poet or philosopher, as the avant-garde of general human 
consciousness, possesses the vision of an imminent culmination of 
history which will be equivalent to a recovered paradise or golden 
age. The movement toward this goal is a circuitous journey and quest, 
ending in the attainment of self-knowledge, wisdom and power. (M.H. 
Abrams "Natural supernaturalism" 1971, 255.)

Thank you for your opinions,

1. Schwab 1984: 29-30; Batchelor, 1994: 190-195, 227-228; the Italian 
Capucian scholar Ippolito Desideri arrived in Lhasa in 1716 and spent 
six years "studying Thibetan...from early morning to sundown", 
including a study of the Kangyur (Buddhist canon) and Tengyur 
(commentaries) at Sera monastery.

2. Fields, 1992: 23-24; Versluis 1993: 17.

3. Schwab 1984: 30-32. 

4. Fields, 1992: 25. 

5. Fields 1992: 48; De Jong, 1987: 12.

6. Philostratus, 1970: 77-78, Bk. 3.16.

7. Rudolph, 1983: 326ff., 335, 339.

8. Cobb and Goldwhite, 1995: 64; Holmyard, 1990: 68-86. 

9. See Stoyanov, 1994: 56ff., who also points to the interactions 
between the rise and spread of Mahayana Buddhism and the simultaneous 
popularity of Greco-Roman Mystery religions. 9. Tyson, 1998

10. French 1987: 181. 

11. Schwab 1984: 205, 216-19, passim; Faivre 1994: 82 ff.; Versluis 
1993: 23; Lopez 1995: 32; Batchelor 1995: 252.

12. Schwab 1984:163, 239-40; Faivre 1994:73-74.

13. Schwab 1984: 289-295; De Jong 1987: 16-19, 34; Batchelor 1994: 
88, 240, 239ff.

14. Ellwood 1987: 13-14; Miller 1995: 331ff.

15. Versluis 1993: 152-55, 251

16. Lewis and Melton 1992: 35. 

Batchelor, Stephen. The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of 
Buddhism with Western Culture (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1995).

Cobb, Cathy & Harold Goldwhite. Creations of Fire: Chemistry's Lively 
History from Alchemy to the Atomic Age (NY: Plenum press, 1995).

De Jong, J. W. A Brief History of Buddhist Studies in Europe and 
America (Delhi, India: Sri Satguru Publications, Bibliotheca 
Indo-Buddica #33, 1987).

Ellwood, Robert S. (Ed.) Spirituality in America (NY: Paulist Press, 
1987). Holmyard, E. J. Alchemy (NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1990).

Jorgensen, Danny L. The Esoteric Scene, Cultic Milieu, and Occult 
Tarot. (New York: Garland, 1992).

Lewis, James R. and J. Gordon Melton. (eds.) Perspectives on the New 
Age. (Albany, NY: State University of New York press.

Miller, Tomothy (Ed.) America's Alternative Religions (NY: State 
University of New York Press, 1995).

Schwab, Raymond. The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of 
India and the East, 1680-1880 (NY: Columbia University Press.

Faivre, Antoine and Jacob Needleman (eds.), Modern Esoteric 
Spirituality (New York: Crossroads press, 1992)

Fields, Rick. How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of 
Buddhism in America (Boston: Shambala Press, 1992).

French, Peter. John Dee: The World of an Elizabethan Magus (NY: 
Rutledge and Kegan Paul, 1787).

Lopez, Donald S. Curators of Buddhism: The Study of Buddhism Under 
Colonialism (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Philostratus. Life of Apollonius. Edited by C. P. Jones (NY: Penguin 
Books, 1970). Rudolph, Kurt. Gnosis: The Nature and History of 
Consciousness (San Franscico, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1983). 

Stoyanov, Yuri. The Hidden Tradition in Europe (London: Arkana Books, 
Penguine, 1994).

Versluis, Arthur. American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions 
(London: University of Oxford Press, 1993).

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