RE: ISIS UNVEILED and The Old Lady and ISIS
Jun 09, 2006 07:54 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Friday, June 09, 2006
RE: ISIS UNVEILED and The Old Lady and ISIS
The following may prove to be important.
ISIS UNVEILED by H. P. Blavatsky
is stated on its title-page to be "a master-key to the mysteries of ancient
and modern science and theology." In the body of the work there are said to
be seven of these keys to the mysteries of nature and of man, of which one
only is given. The volumes are dedicated to "The Theosophical Society which
was founded to study the subjects on which they treat."
By comparing the work with the three Objects of the Society a clear light
may be had on the method of treatment employed.
Volume I has for its general subject "Science," and in that respect relates
strictly to the "third object." Volume II is entitled "Theology," and
relates to the "second object." Since both science and theology relate to
the great objects of human inquiry the treatment is interwoven and
And as all inquiry presents two general poles, the ascertainment of facts
and the consideration of their meaning and relations, so "Isis" takes up the
acquisitions of modern scientific research and the theories and hypotheses
built up to account for ascertained physical phenomena. In the same way the
revelations and claims of the various religions, particularly the Christian,
are examined, and their theologies (or theories to account for metaphysical
phenomena) are analyzed.
The work is necessarily addressed to the most open-minded of the race, and
the method pursued is necessarily adapted to the limitations of those minds.
It is not so much the introduction of new evidence that is attempted, as the
partial presentation of an entirely new (to Western minds) hypothesis to
explain the evidence that already exists in the general fund of human
experience, the discoveries of science and the religious history of mankind.
In the course of the work it is demonstrated over and over again that the
dogmas of the sects are not only mutually contradictory and destructive,
but, as well, that sound philosophical principles, correct logic, and the
proved facts of modern science are in direct and overwhelming opposition to
the claims and pretensions of theology.
The same method of examination is also applied to the "working hypotheses"
of modern science, and the various theories are tested out by comparison,
one with another, all with the facts of experience, and it is conclusively
established that, no more than theology, can the philosophy of modern
science stand the light of searching investigation.
The believer in theology or science is furthermore shown by masses of
indisputable testimony that certain facts exist and always have existed,
which are in themselves absolutely destructive alike of the claims of
orthodox religion and materialistic science; that these facts have been
persistently overlooked, ignored or denied, both by the votaries of
"revealed religion" and of modern "exact science;" yet that these
disregarded facts have at all times been uniformly testified to by the
noblest minds of the race no less than by the common belief of mankind. Side
by side, therefore, with the introduction of the affirmative evidence of
these facts is placed the testimony of the ages as to their bearing on the
great subjects of religion, philosophy and science, and the inference is
drawn that there has always existed, from the remotest times, a system whose
teachings in regard to nature and to man are inclusive of all things and
exclusive of nothing.
This system Madame Blavatsky denominates the Hermetic philosophy, or
Wisdom-Religion, and declares that her work and mission are a "plea for the
recognition of the Wisdom-Religion as the only possible key to the Absolute
in science and theology." The work itself is the evidence that she uses the
word "plea" in its strictly legal and forensic sense. "Isis" contains the
testimony, the analysis of the evidence, the arguments, and the citations of
principles, laws and precedents. The work is "submitted to public judgment"
upon its inherent reasonableness as to its conclusions, its verifiable
accuracy as to the facts, and not upon any assumed authority, any claimed
revelation, any arbitrary hypothesis. .
With these considerations in mind something may be grasped of the epochal
importance of Madame Blavatsky's first great work, and of the leading
statements of Occultism embodied in it. Although "Isis Unveiled" has been
before the world for nearly half a century few, even among Theosophists,
have as yet assimilated more than a few crumbs from this "storehouse of
The plan of the work is early stated. The object is not to force upon the
public the personal views or theories of the author, nor does it aim at
creating a revolution in some department of thought:
"It is rather a brief summary of the religions, philosophies, universal
traditions of human kind, and the exegesis of the same, in the spirit of
those secret doctrines, of which none -- thanks to prejudice and bigotry --
have reached Christendom in so unmutilated a form as to secure it a fair
judgment. Hence the unmerited contempt into which the study of the noblest
of sciences -- that of the spiritual man -- has gradually fallen.
"In undertaking to inquire into the assumed infallibility of Modern Science
and Theology, the author has been forced, even at the risk of being thought
discursive, to make constant comparison of the ideas, achievements, and
pretensions of their representatives with those of the ancient philosophies
and religious teachers.
Things the most widely separated as to time have thus been brought into
immediate juxtaposition, for only thus could the priority and parentage of
discoveries and dogmas be determined. In discussing the merits of our
scientific contemporaries, their own confessions of failure in experimental
research, of baffling mysteries, of missing links in their chains of theory,
of inability to comprehend natural phenomena, of ignorance of the laws of
the causal world, have furnished the basis for the present study. Especially
we will review the speculations and policy of noted authorities in
connection with those modern psychological phenomena (Spiritualism) which
began at Rochester and have now overspread the world. We wish to show how
inevitable were their innumerable failures, and how they must continue until
these pretended authorities go to the Brahmins and Lamaists of the far
Orient, and respectfully ask them to impart the alphabet of true science.
"Deeply sensible of the Titanic struggle that is now in progress between
materialism and the spiritual aspirations of mankind, our constant endeavor
has been to gather into our several chapters, like weapons into armories,
every fact and argument that can be used to aid the latter in defeating the
former. Sickly and deformed child as it now is, the materialism of Today is
born of the brutal Yesterday. Unless its growth is arrested it may become
our master. To prevent the crushing of these spiritual aspirations, the
blighting of these hopes, and the deadening of that intuition which teaches
us of a God and a hereafter, we must show our false theologies in their
naked deformity, and distinguish between divine religion and human dogmas.
Our voice is raised for spiritual freedom, and our plea made for
enfranchisement from all tyranny, whether of SCIENCE or THEOLOGY."
The work plunges forthwith into the comparison of the ancient Occult tenets
both with modern theological dogmas and modern scientific theories. Some of
the tenets laid down are as follows:
1. The pre-existence of spiritual man clothed in a body of ethereal matter,
and with the ability to commune freely with the now unseen universes.
2. An almost incredible antiquity is claimed for the human race in its
various "coats of skin," and the great doctrine of Cycles of Destiny (Karma)
is emphasized, as well as that these Cycles do not affect all mankind at one
and the same time, thus explaining the rise and fall of civilizations and
the existence at one and the same time of the most highly developed races
side by side with tribes sunk in savagery.
3. A double evolution, spiritual and intellectual as well as physical, is
postulated whose philosophy alone can reconcile spirit and matter and cause
each to demonstrate the other mathematically.
4. The doctrine of the Metempsychosis of the spiritual and mental Man is
given as the key which will supply every missing link in the theories of the
modern evolutionists, as well as the mysteries of the various religions. The
lower orders of evolution are declared to have emanated from higher
spiritual ones before they develop. It is affirmed that if men of science
and theologians had properly understood the doctrine of Metempsychosis in
its application to the indestructibility of matter and the immortality of
spirit it would have been perceived that this doctrine is a sublime
conception. It is demonstrated that there has not been a philosopher of any
note who did not hold to this doctrine of Metempsychosis as taught by the
Brahmins, Buddhists, and later by the Pythagoreans and the Gnostics, in its
esoteric sense. For lack of comprehension of this great philosophical
principle the methods of modern science, however exact, must end in nullity.
5. The ancients knew far more concerning certain sciences than our modern
savants have yet discovered. Magic is as old as man. The calculations of the
ancients applied equally to the spiritual progress of humanity as to the
physical. Magic was considered a divine science which led to a participation
in the attributes of Divinity itself. "As above, so it is below. That which
has been will return again. As in heaven, so on earth." The revolution of
the physical world is attended by a like revolution in the world of
intellect -- the spiritual evolution proceeding in cycles, like the physical
The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination
of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which
they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts
itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this
law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from
which it had before descended.
6. "Too many of our thinkers do not consider that the numerous changes in
language, the allegorical phrases and evident secretiveness of old Mystic
writers, who were generally under an obligation never to divulge the solemn
secrets of the sanctuary, might have sadly misled translators and
commentators. One day they may learn to know better, and so become aware
that the method of extreme necessarianism was practiced in ancient as well
as in modern philosophy; that from the first ages of man, the fundamental
truths of all that we are permitted to know on earth was in the safe keeping
of the adepts of the sanctuary; that the difference in creeds and religious
practice was only external; and that those guardians of the primitive divine
revelation, who had solved every problem that is within the grasp of human
intellect, were bound together by a universal freemasonry of science and
philosophy, which formed one unbroken chain around the globe."
7. The first chapter of Volume I, from which we have extracted the several
statements which we have here numbered for their better massing and
comprehension, closes with a forecast, drawn from the study of the past:
"The moment is more opportune than ever for the review of old philosophies.
Archaeologists, philologists, astronomers, chemists and physicists are
getting nearer to the point where they will be forced to consider them.
Physical science has already reached its limits of exploration; dogmatic
theology sees the springs of its inspiration dry. Unless we mistake the
signs, the day is approaching when the world will receive the proofs that
only ancient religions were in harmony with nature, and ancient science
embraced all that can be known. Who knows the possibilities of the future?
An era of disenchantment and rebuilding will soon begin -- nay, has already
begun. The cycle has almost run its course; a new one is about to begin, and
the future pages of history may contain full evidence, and convey full proof
'If ancestry can be in aught believed,
Descending spirits have conversed with man,
And told him secrets of the world unknown.'"
If we turn now to the twelfth and last chapter of Volume II of "Isis," we
shall be confronted with an introductory paragraph, also prophetic at the
time of its writing, now all too truly a matter of both theosophical and
profane history. She there says,
"It would argue small discernment on our part were we to suppose that we
have been followed thus far through this work by any but metaphysicians, or
mystics of some sort. Were it otherwise, we should certainly advise such to
spare themselves the trouble of reading this chapter; for, although nothing
is said that is not strictly true, they would not fail to regard the least
wonderful of the narratives as absolutely false, however substantiated."
The chapter follows with a recapitulation of the principles of natural law,
covered by the fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy as
successively elucidated in the course of the work. She states them in
numbered order as follows:
1st. There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law --
eternal, immutable, ever-active. This "immutable law" is frequently referred
to throughout the volumes under such terms as cycles, the "law of
compensation," Karma, "self-made destiny," and so on. Its mode of operation
is incessantly discussed in treating of the rise and fall of civilizations,
successive races of men, earth transformations, the three-fold principle of
evolution, Spiritual, Mental, and Physical; the compound nature of man and
the universe; and in such terminology as pre-existence, metempsychosis,
transmigration, reincarnation, transformation, permutation, emanation,
immortality, and after death states and conditions. Constant effort is made
to keep before the reader the unvarying principle that spiritual and mental
evolution proceeds apace with physical manifestations, and stands to
physical evolution in the relation of cause to effect. This is all
summarized in proposition
2nd. Nature is triune: there is a visible, objective nature; an invisible,
indwelling, energizing nature, the exact model of the other, and its vital
principle; and, above these two, spirit, source of all forces, alone eternal
and indestructible. The lower two constantly change; the higher third does
not. This universal postulate is then applied specifically to human nature
and evolution in proposition
3rd. Man is also triune; he has his objective, physical body, his vitalizing
astral body (or soul), the real man; and these two are brooded over and
illuminated by the third -- the sovereign, the immortal spirit. When the
real man succeeds in merging himself with the latter, he becomes an immortal
entity. The argument throughout the two large volumes of "Isis" is always
that such mergence or union is possible and is the underlying purpose of all
evolution; that such beings as Jesus, Buddha and others had in fact arrived
at this consummation, and that the real mission of the Founders of all
religions is to point mankind to the purpose of mental and spiritual
evolution, and give the directions and conditions precedent to the
"perfectibility of man." Such exalted beings are by H. P. Blavatsky
variously called the sages, the adepts, the Great Souls of all time. Their
knowledge of nature and of nature's laws is called in its entirety the
Wisdom-Religion, and its practical exemplification is summarized in
4th. Magic, as a science, is the knowledge of these principles, and of the
way by which the omniscience and omnipotence of the spirit and its control
over nature's forces may be acquired by the individual while still in the
body. Magic, as an art, is the application of this knowledge in practice.
Granting that great powers exist in nature, and that the conscious control
over these powers by metaphysical means may be attained by the incarnated
being, it follows that such control may be exercised beneficently or
maleficently. Arcane knowledge misapplied is sorcery, or "Black Magic;"
beneficently used, true Magic or WISDOM. In either case it constitutes
Adeptship, whether of the Right or the Left-hand Path. This is the 5th
proposition, and the text of the two volumes contain almost numberless
direct and indirect references to celebrated characters in history,
tradition and myth who exemplified the two characters of Adeptship.
6th. This proposition sets forth that Mediumship is the opposite of
Adeptship. Whereas the Adept actively controls himself and all inferior
potencies, the Medium is the passive instrument of foreign influences. There
is no more important practical theorem in the whole work. Many, many pages
are devoted to discussion of the characteristics, tendencies, practices and
fruits of mediumship. Its phenomena, objective and subjective, are dealt
with at length. Spiritualism, or mediumship, is shown to have been prevalent
in all ages, no matter under what names known, and its recurrence, whether
in individual cases or amongst masses of men, is shown to be subject to
cyclic law, now more generally known to Theosophical students under its
Sanskrit designation of Karma. In Mediumship, as in Adeptship, it is shown
that there are two polar antitheses, dependent on the moral character of the
medium for the quality and range no less than the effects, good or bad, of
The remaining numbered propositions of the last chapter of Volume II will be
considered in another connection later on, but their essential nature and
implications are contained in the following sentences, without the basic
apprehension of which no inquiry into Theosophy and the Theosophical
Movement can be fruitful of understanding, however it may afford
"To sum up all in a few words, MAGIC is spiritual WISDOM; nature, the
material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle
pervades all things, and this is controllable by the perfected human will.
The adept can stimulate the movements of the natural forces in plants and
animals in a preternatural degree. Such experiments are not obstructions of
nature, but quickenings; the conditions of intenser vital action are given.
"The adept can control the sensations and alter the conditions of the
physical and astral bodies of other persons not adepts; he can also govern
and employ, as he chooses, the spirits of the elements. He cannot control
the immortal spirit of any human being, living or dead, for all such spirits
are alike sparks of the Divine Essence, and not subject to any foreign
The restrictions with which the information conveyed in "Isis" is hedged
about, both from the standpoint of the teacher endeavoring to impart and the
inquirer endeavoring to learn, and the dangers, known or unknown to the
latter, are indicated towards the close of the chapter:
"By those who have followed us thus far, it will naturally be asked, to what
practical issue this book tends; much has been said about magic and its
potentiality, much of the immense antiquity of its practice. Do we wish to
affirm that the occult sciences ought to be studied and practiced throughout
the world? Would we replace modern spiritualism with the ancient magic?
Neither; the substitution could not be made, nor the study universally
prosecuted without incurring the risk of enormous public dangers.
"We would have neither scientists, theologians nor spiritualists turn
practical magicians, but all to realize that there was true science,
profound religion, and genuine phenomena before this modern era. We would
that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know
and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment
are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity;
and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail
in the countries where the people have taken their precepts as the rule of
their lives. We would have all to realize that magical, i.e., spiritual
powers exist in every man, and those few to practice them who feel called to
teach, and are ready to pay the price of discipline and self-conquest which
their development exacts.
"Many men have arisen who had glimpses of the truth, and fancied they had it
all. Such have failed to achieve the good they might have done and sought to
do, because vanity has made them thrust their personality into such undue
prominence as to interpose it between their believers and the whole truth
that lay behind. The world needs no sectarian church, whether of Buddha,
Jesus, Mahomet, Swedenborg, Calvin, or any other. There being but ONE Truth,
man requires but one church -- the Temple of God within us, walled in by
matter but penetrable by any one who can find the way; the pure in heart see
"The trinity of nature is the lock of magic, the trinity of man the key that
fits it. Within the solemn precincts of the sanctuary the SUPREME had and
has no name. It is unthinkable and unpronounceable; and yet every man finds
in himself his god.
"Besides, there are many good reasons why the study of magic, except in its
broad philosophy, is nearly impracticable in Europe and America. Magic being
what it is, the most difficult of all sciences to learn experimentally --
its acquisition is, practically, beyond the reach of the majority of
white-skinned people; and that, whether their effort is made at home or in
the East. Probably not more than one man in a million of European blood is
fitted -- either physically, morally, or psychologically -- to become a
practical magician, and not one in ten millions would be found endowed with
all these three qualifications as required for the work. Unlike other
sciences, a theoretical knowledge of formulae without mental capacities or
soul powers, is utterly useless in magic. The spirit must hold in complete
subjection the combativeness of what is loosely termed educated reason,
until facts have vanquished cold human sophistry."
The concluding pages of "Isis" recites that those best prepared to
appreciate occultism are the spiritualists, although, through prejudice,
they have hitherto been the bitterest opponents to its introduction to
public notice. She sums up thus:
"Despite all foolish negations and denunciations, their phenomena are real.
Despite, also, their own assertions they are wholly misunderstood by
themselves. The totally insufficient theory of the constant agency of
disembodied human spirits in their production has been the bane of the
Cause. A thousand mortifying rebuffs have failed to open their reason or
intuition to the truth. Ignoring the teachings of the past, they have
discovered no substitute. We offer them philosophical deduction instead of
unverifiable hypothesis, scientific analysis and demonstration instead of
undiscriminating faith. Occult philosophy gives them the means of meeting
the reasonable requirements of science, and frees them from the humiliating
necessity to accept the oracular teachings of 'intelligences,' which as a
rule have less intelligence than a child at school. So based and so
strengthened, modern phenomena would be in a position to command the
attention and enforce the respect of those who carry with them public
opinion. Without invoking such help, spiritualism must continue to vegetate,
equally repulsed -- not without cause -- both by scientists and theologians.
In its modern aspect it is neither a science, a religion, nor a philosophy."
With this outline of the teaching of Occultism as contained in "Isis
Unveiled;" its overwhelming arraignment out of the mouths of their own
exponents, of the religion, science, and philosophy of the day; its
outspoken treatment of dogmatic Christianity, of materialistic hypotheses,
of the phenomena and theories of spiritualism, the student can begin to
comprehend the enormous difficulties faced by H.P.B. in gaining a foothold
for the Theosophical Society and a hearing for her teachings of Theosophy.
Her task was not that of a teacher in a kindergarten: to meet and lead
plastic and unsullied minds eager with interest, unburdened with
preconceptions, into new and delightful paths of occupation and learning.
Far from it. Rather it was that of the alienist in a mad world, its insane
and unsane inhabitants soaked through and through with their several
illusions and delusions, each profoundly certain of the wholesomeness and
value of his own particular mania, profoundly convinced of the hallucination
of all others; each looking at the phenomena of life through the distorted
lenses of fundamental misconceptions. Regardless of names and forms, she had
to reckon with the fact, from the standpoint of the teachings of Occultism,
that everywhere, without a solitary exception, the men of the Western world
were fast fixed in false beliefs, taking that to be the Eternal which is not
eternal; that to be Soul which is not soul; that to be Pure which is impure;
that to be good which is evil.
With this corrupted and perverted mind of the race she had to deal, to take
it as she found it, to destroy while seeming to create, to create while
seeming to destroy. She had to adopt and employ the nomenclature of false
religion, false philosophy, false science, false psychology, to inject into
it ideas that would infallibly rupture the very foundations upon which
Western civilization is builded, while still so safe-guarding her patients
that the civilization should not be wrecked while re-creating its
foundations. She had to save whole the life while destroying the very
elements upon which it was depending for nutriment.
Great as are the difficulties of the physician of the body, they are as
nothing to the burden of the physician of souls. She came into a world all
mad and intent on the employment as food and medicaments of the very poisons
and intoxicants of the soul that have wrecked every prior great
civilization. She had to use the old labels, the old formulas and
prescriptions, while substituting and compounding ingredients that, if
suspected, would have been rejected forthwith and out of hand by those she
came but to serve.
Looking back from the present basis of tolerated if not accepted ideas, it
is only by the contrast that the supreme miracle of her wisdom can be even
faintly sensed. The identity of man with the Supreme Spirit, the doctrine of
Cycles, the law of Compensation, spiritual and intellectual as well as
physical evolution, inherent immortality, metempsychosis, the Spiritual
Brotherhood of all beings, Adepts as the culmination of the triple
evolutionary scheme in Nature; Spirit and Matter as the eternal dual
presentment of evolving Consciousness, the polar aspects of the One Essence
-- all these great and supreme ideas she and none other restored to a vital
place in human thought.... H. P. Blavatsky raised the dead, reincarnated the
Soul, restored the Spirit to a living issue in a Mind hopelessly enmeshed in
Matter as the only reality.
Much has been written by Theosophists -- those who owe their all to her and
her work -- that the H.P.B. of 1875 was not the H.P.B. of later days; that
she, like themselves, was but a student, stumbling, halting, groping,
finding her way through failures and mistakes; that it was only in later
years that she came to learn of this, of that, of reincarnation among other
matters; that many contradictions will be found in "Isis" when compared with
her final teachings. ...
The inquirer into facts and philosophies has but to read "Isis," to annotate
its teachings, to compare them with all her subsequent multifarious writings
to see and know for himself beyond all doubts and beyond all peradventure,
that the teachings of "Isis" are her unchanging teachings; that not in jot
or in tittle is there a contradiction or a disagreement in all she ever
wrote; that in "Isis" are the foundational and fundamental statements of
Occultism, and all her later writings but extensions, ramifications, the
orderly development and unfolding of what is both explicit and implicit in
"Isis Unveiled." And that wholesome study and comparison will do more: it
will give the student a solid and impregnable standard from which to survey
the real nature and character of the Avatar of the nineteenth century; a
criterion by which, as well, truly to measure the understanding, the nature
and the development of those disciples, students and followers of H.P.B. of
whom she might well have repeated in the words of Blake on "certain
"I found them blind; I taught them how to see;
And now they neither know themselves nor me."
The facts being ascertained, and some faint perception of their significance
being grasped, the student needs no interpreter and guide to tell him that
obstacles, opposition, misunderstanding, contumely, hatred and
misrepresentation of her and her mission were the necessary and unavoidable
concomitants of every step in the progress of the Theosophical Society, its
students, its propagandum, no less than in the path of her whose mission it
was to be their "presiding deity." The chief of these difficulties in the
first decade of the Movement have now to be considered.
Theosophy (Los Angeles, CA, USA), April 1920, pp. 161-170.
Sent: Thursday, June 08, 2006
Subject: "The "Old Lady"
HPB did not fully command the English language at the time Olcott and others
helped a lot with the final text of ISIS. (Her preferred 'foreign' language
by then was still French.)
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