The Theosophical Society and H.P.B.
From ”The Theosophical Movement 1875 – 1950”, Chapter XII:
In December, 1890, while H.P.B. lay between life and death, Mrs. Besant had published, without the knowledge of H.P.B., a ringing article in Lucifer entitled ”The Theosophical Society and H.P.B.” The occasion for this article was the private propaganda that was diligently being promoted in derogation of H.P.B. by adherents of Col. Olcott and Mr. Sinnett for her action in taking over the Headship of the newly formed Theosophical Society in Europe. In this article Mrs. Besant wrote with great force and conviction in support of H.P.B.:
”Now touching the position of H.P.B. to and in the Theosophical Society, the following is a brief exposition of it, as it appears to many of us:
(1) Either she is a messenger from the Masters, or else she is a fraud....
(2) Ineither case the Theosophical Society would have had no existence without her....
(3) If she is a fraud, she is a woman of wonderful ability and learning, giving all the credit of these to some persons who do not exist....
(4) If H.P.B. is a true messenger, opposition to her is opposition to the Masters, she being their only channel to the Western World. . .
(5) If there are no Masters, the Theosophical Society is an absurdity, and there is no use in keeping it up. But if there are Masters, and H.P.B. is their messenger, and the Theosophical Society their foundation, the Theosophical Society and H.P.B. cannot be separated before the world.”
From these propositions, Mrs. Besant concluded:
. . . ”If the members care at all for the future of the Society, if they wish to know that the Twentieth Century will see it standing high above the strife of parties, a beacon-light in the darkness for the guiding of men, if they believe in the Teacher who founded it for human service, let them now arouse themselves from slothful indifference, sternly silence all dissensions over petty follies in their ranks, and march, shoulder to shoulder for the achievement of the heavy task laid upon their strength and courage. If Theosophy is worth anything, it is worth living for and worth dying for. If it is worth nothing, let it go at once and for all. It is not a thing to play with, it is not a thing to trifle with.... let each Theosophist, and above all, let each Occultist, calmly review his position, carefully make his choice, and if that choice be for Theosophy, let him sternly determine that neither open foes nor treacherous friends shall shake his loyalty for all time to come to his great Cause and Leader, which twain are one.” 1)
On August 30, 1891, Mrs. Besant bade farewell to the Secularists with whom, in collaboration with Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, she had labored for so many years. Her address was entitled ”1875 to 1891: A Fragment of Autobiography.” This memorable speech was circulated far and wide. After recounting her fifteen years of battle and achievement, her hard-won steps of progress to her conversion to Theosophy through her reviewing The Secret Doctrine, her meeting with H.P.B., her examination of the famous S.P.R. Report with its charges of fraud against H.P.B., Mrs. Besant astounded the meeting, the world, and the members of the Theosophical Society, with this bold and categorical statement:
”You have known me in this hall for sixteen and a half years. You have never known me tell a lie to you. My worst public enemy has never cast a slur upon my integrity. I tell you that since Madame Blavatsky left I have had letters in the same handwriting [the same as the handwriting of the disputed ”Mahatma” letters alleged in the S.P.R. Report to have been written by H.P.B.] as the letters which she received. Unless you think dead persons can write, surely that is a remarkable fact.You are surprised; I do not ask you to believe me; but I tell you it is so. All the evidence I had of the existence of Madame Blavatsky’s teachers and of the so-called abnormal powers came through her. It is not so now. Unless every sense can at the same time deceive me, unless a person can at the same time be sane and insane, I have exactly the same certainty for the truth of the statements I have made as I know that you are here. I refuse to be false to the knowledge of my intellect and the perception of my reasoning faculties. Every month which has passed since Madame Blavatsky left has given me more and more light. 2)
Lucifer for October, 1891, contained another unequivocal declaration by Mrs. Besant in its leading article, ”Theosophy and Christianity.” She says:
. . . THEOSOPHY is a body of knowledge, clearly and distinctly formulated in part and proclaimed to the world. Members of the Society may or may not be students of this knowledge, but none the less is it the sure foundation on which the MASTERS have built the Society, and on which its central teaching of the Brotherhood of Man is based. Without Theosophy, Universal Brotherhood may be proclaimed as an Ideal, but it cannot be demonstrated as a Fact....
Now by Theosophy I mean the ”Wisdom Religion,” or the ”Secret Doctrine,” and our only knowledge of the Wisdom Religion at the present time comes to us from the Messenger of its Custodians, H. P. BLAVATSKY. Knowing what she taught, we can recognise fragments of the same teachings in other writings, but her message remains for us the test of Theosophy everywhere.... Only, none of us has any right to put forward his own views as ”Theosophy,” in conflict with hers, for all that we know of Theosophy comes from her. When she says “The Secret Doctrine teaches,” none can say her nay; we may disagree with the teaching, but it remains “the Secret Doctrine,” or Theosophy; she always encouraged independent thought and criticism, and never resented difference of opinion, but she never wavered in the distinct proclamation “The Secret Doctrine is” so-and-so....
Theosophists have it in charge not to whittle away the Secret Doctrine. . . Steadily, calmly, without anger but also without fear, they must stand by the Secret Doctrine as she gave it, who carried unflinchingly through the storms of well-nigh seventeen years the torch of the Eastern Wisdom. The condition of success is perfect loyalty. . . 3)
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1) ”The Theosophical Societ and H.P.B.”, Lucifer (December 1890),
(Reprinted in Theosophy [May 1941], II, 232.
2) The Theosophist (October 1891), XIII, Supp., xi-xii.
3) Lucifer (October 1891), IX, 89.
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