Blavatsky Study Center

Esoteric Buddhism.
(A Reply to Professor Max Muller).

by A. P. Sinnett.

[First published in The Nineteenth Century
(London), June 1893, pp. 1015-1027.]

On any subject connected with the sacred literature of the East Professor Max Muller writes - for English readers - with great authority. His article therefore on Esoteric Buddhism will, no doubt, have been accepted but too widely as fatal to the system of thought identified with that expression. He finds nothing in the Buddhist books about any interior teaching behind that plainly conveyed, and confidently declares that nothing of the kind exists. For people altogether ignorant of theosophical doctrine this will be conclusive; others, acquainted in some measure with theosophical literature, will be puzzled at the professor’s attitude. He refrains from coming in any way to close quarters with the body of belief he seeks to discredit, ignoring it so entirely that one cannot make out whether he has taken the trouble to look into it at all. And, summed up in a few words, his argument is that Buddhism cannot contain any teaching hitherto kept secret, because the books hitherto published do not disclose any secrets of the kind. If they had done so, where would have been the secrecy? When we know what the esoteric teaching is we may indeed find evidence in the published books to show that it was known to their authors; but when any one says ‘There is an esoteric side to Buddhism,’ that is equivalent to saying there is a view of this subject which is not found in the books. How is he shown to be wrong by the fact that the books do not contain it?

But the present attack is further embarrassing in this way: it rests chiefly on an unfavourable survey of Madame Blavatsky’s career, associated with criticisms of her book Isis Unveiled. That was written some years before Esoteric Buddhism was formulated, and Madame Blavatsky was not the writer who formulated that system. All students of theosophy are under deep obligations to her. But Professor Max Muller gives us the history of the movement upside down. Before I can vindicate the ideas he seeks to disparage, I must comb out the facts which he has left in such curious confusion.

In 1883, I was enabled to bring into intelligible shape a view of the origin and destinies of man derived from certain teachings with which I was favoured while in India. It challenged the attention of Western readers because it seemed to furnish a more reasonable interpretation of man’s spiritual constitution and of the world’s purpose, than any with which European thought had previously been concerned. It provided something like a scientific abstract of all religious doctrine, by the help of which it was easy to separate the wheat from the chaff in various ecclesiastical creeds. Allowing for symbolical methods of treatment as entering largely into popular religions, the new teaching showed that Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Christianity could be accounted for as growing up at various periods in India and Europe from the same common root of spiritual knowledge. But since Buddhism had apparently separated itself less widely than other religions from the parent stem, I gave my book the title Esoteric Buddhism, partly in loyalty to the exterior faith preferred by those from whom my information had come, partly because even in its exterior form that religion was already attracting a great deal of sympathetic interest in Europe, and seemed the natural bridge along which European thinking might be conducted to an appreciation of the beautifully coherent and logical view of Nature I had been enabled to obtain.

The name of the book clung to the system it described, and no one was more surprised or amused than its author when people, attracted by its means to become theosophists, or students of Divine science, were first spoken of by newspaper writers, dealing hastily with the new departure of thought, as ‘Esoteric Buddhists.’ In that form the term was a misnomer. Theosophists might just as well have been called Esoteric Christians or Esoteric Brahmins. But it is one thing for reviewers, dealing on the spur of the moment with a new school of philosophy, to apprehend it imperfectly; it is another for a learned professor, attacking it ten years later, to eclipse their worst mistakes.

To begin with, Professor Max Muller calls Madame Blavatsky the founder of Esoteric Buddhism, and describes her as a ‘clever, wild, and excitable girl,’ in search of a new religion she could honestly embrace. Her clever girlhood had ripened till she was close on sixty, when the term Esoteric Buddhism was first brought into use; and, whether it was a good or a bad term, she had nothing to do with its selection, and indeed quarrelled with it - as I think, rather unnecessarily - in some of her later writings. What she really founded was the Theosophical Society for the study of Eastern Religions (among other objects), and it was through that Society, and through her aid in the first instance - for which I can never be sufficiently grateful - that I came into relations with the fountain of information from which my teaching has ever since been derived. But when Professor Max Muller proceeds to find fault with Isis Unveiled, and criticizes that interesting and suggestive work by picking out a Greek word that is incorrectly written, fancying in that way to cast discredit on a scheme of philosophy promulgated years after Isis was written, in a book by another author, the misdirection of his fault-finding is on a level with the pettiness of the criticism itself. It is notorious to all who knew Madame Blavatsky that she was not only capable of making any imaginable mistake in writing a Greek word, but scarcely knew so much as the alphabet of that language. To understand how it came to pass that under those circumstances the manuscripts she wrote with her own hand were freely embellished with Greek quotations, would require a comprehension of many curious human capacities outside the scope of that scholarship of which Professor Max Muller is justly proud, but unfortunately too often inclined to mistake for universal knowledge.

In so far as his present article is directed to discredit Esoteric Buddhism, Professor Max Muller’s rapid sketch of Madame Blavatsky’s career is, for the reasons I have pointed out, irrelevant from A. to Z. But the careless plan he has followed in dealing with the subject itself is in keeping with the personal notice. ‘People,’ he says, ‘were taken aback by the assurance with which this new prophetess spoke of her intercourse with unseen spirits; of letters flying through the air from Tibet to Bombay; of showers of flowers falling from the ceiling of a dining-room; of saucers disappearing from a tea-tray and being found in a garden, and of voices and noises proceeding from spirits through a mysterious cabinet. You may ask how educated people could have been deceived by such ordinary jugglery; but with some people the power of believing seems to grow with the absurdity of what is to be believed.’ There is no item in this catalogue of wonders that correctly quotes any single incident recorded in any original narrative of Madame Blavatsky’s doings. My own book, The Occult World, is the principal reservoir of all such records, but, as usual with people who wish to ridicule its testimony, Professor Max Muller prefers to deal not with the book itself, but with some third-hand caricature of its contents. Modern psychic investigation has already harmonized with subtle forces of nature, some of the surprising powers which Madame Blavatsky exhibited. In talking of jugglery, Professor Max Muller is probably unaware that the leading ‘juggler’ or conjuror of America, Mr. Kellar, has recently written an article in the North American Review acknowledging that his experience of wonder-working in India has introduced him to some performances that lie quite outside the domain of the art he professes. That which is really absurd in this connexion is the power a good many people still show of disbelieving facts supported by overwhelming evidence if these fail to fit in with their own narrow experience. Credulity is sometimes stupid, no doubt, but irrational incredulity may occasionally be even more so. On that tempting theme, however, I must not dilate for the moment. Madame Blavatsky’s achievements in connexion with psychic faculties and forces not yet generally understood, have nothing to do with the really important question whether theosophical doctrine constitutes an acceptable solution of the mysteries of life and death.

Still, paying no attention to that question, Professor Max Muller says, ‘No one can study Buddhism unless he learns Sanskrit and Pali.’ No one can comprehend Buddhism, he goes on unconsciously to show us, by virtue merely of scholarship in those tongues. He may do useful work in the preparation of translations for students who deal with living thought rather than with dead language, but Madame Blavatsky with all her literary inaccuracy has done a great deal more than the Sanskrit professor to interpret Eastern thinking, and what are her verbal blunders beside the confusion of the whole attack now made upon her? ‘She certainly showed great shrewdness in Buddhism from all possible control and contradiction. Her Buddhism, she declared, was not the Buddhism which ordinary scholars might study in the canonical books; hers was Esoteric Buddhism.’ She did nothing of the sort. She never used the term Esoteric Buddhism except in her Secret Doctrine to find fault with my use of it, on the somewhat technical ground that, meaning what I did, I ought to have spelled the word with one ‘d.’ In Isis, she wrote, ‘it is not in the dead letter of Buddhistical sacred literature that scholars may hope to find the true solution of the metaphysical subtleties of Buddhism,’ but she was not then engaged in developing the system now called Esoteric Buddhism. She was simply pouring out a flood of miscellaneous information concerning the inner meaning of old-world religions and symbologies, the mysteries of Egypt and Greece, the modern initiations of the East, and the teaching she had acquired there with reference to super-physical planes of nature already beginning to be recognized in the Western world as connecting our phase of existence, however vaguely and cloudily, with other conditions of being. The book was not designed to teach anything in particular, but to stir up interest in an unfamiliar body of occult mysteries. For many people it did this effectually. The Theosophical Society was set on foot; it came to pass that I was entrusted with the task of putting into intelligible shape the views of life and nature entertained by certain Eastern initiates who were interested in the Theosophical Society, and the movement gradually assumed its present character. Nothing is further from my wish than to claim - at Madame Blavatsky’s expense - any peculiar merit for myself in the matter. I took charge of a message and carried it to Western readers. But I was a messenger from those whom Madame Blavatsky also to the best of her ability endeavoured to represent - not from herself. This is the important fact for all to remember who wish to understand the present position of Theosophy. All of us who have been concerned, one way or another, with the movement have acknowledged the immense services Madame Blavatsky rendered in bridging the chasm which separated modern thought from esoteric enlightenment. But with Theosophy itself as a guide through the mazes of existence, Madame Blavatsky’s merits and demerits have nothing at all to do. Individuals rise and sink in the stream of a great movement; they do not constitute it. Those who most love and revere Madame Blavatsky are doing the worst service they can render to the cause she worked for, by pinning her name to Theosophy, and making it look like a sect with one fallible mortal at its head. They might as well call astronomy Tycho-Brahism, and study the stars exclusively on the basis of the Danish observer’s ideas. Not less absurd in another way is the commonplace attack on Theosophy based on the notion that Madame Blavatsky was its fraudulent inventor. The estimation in which she was held to the last by a devoted body of friends - whose contributions to theosophical literature effectually rebuke the theory that they were weak-minded dupes - is a brief but emphatic refutation of unjust accusations on which too much paper and thought have been expended. Either way the time has gone by for treating Theosophy as a question depending on Madame Blavatsky’s personality. Her books remain to be considered on their merits like all other expositions of theosophical doctrine, but neither to be regarded as infallible on the one hand nor as discrediting Theosophy by their mistakes on the other.

At the time of the Oriental Congress last September, theosophical writers were beginning to hope they had drawn Professor Max Muller into some appreciation of the inner significance of that Oriental literature to the translation of which he had devoted so much industry. He spoke then of the Upanishads and of the ancient philosophy of the Vedanta as throwing ‘new light even to-day on some of the problems nearest to our own hearts.’ This was a great advance on earlier utterances, in which he dealt with the Vedas, at all events, as the prattling of humanity’s babyhood - or in words to that effect. But now he has again relapsed, and declares there are not mysteries and nothing esoteric either in Buddhism or Brahmanism, though again, later on, he says, ‘No honest scholar would deny that we know as yet very little [of Buddhism], and that we see but darkly through the immense mass of its literature and the intricacies of its metaphysical speculations.’ This admission is opposed to the force of the bold statement with which he sets out, ‘that there is no longer any secret about Sanskrit literature, and . . . that we in England know as much about it as most native scholars.’ In view of information on the subject I have had from ‘native scholars’ the contention is ludicrous, but the question whether there are or are not hidden records bearing on the secrets of Eastern initiation has nothing to do with the main point. Over and above whatever written records exist, there are traditional beliefs and views of nature amongst certain people in India that had not been published anywhere till the current theosophical movement began. I got at these by living in India and coming into relations with those who entertained them, and were willing at last that they should in some measure be made public. Professor Max Muller, without stopping to think how his own testimony corroborates my position, says there is nothing of all this in the sacred books. Of course not; but, to a greater extent than Professor Max Muller imagines, all this is darkly hinted at in the sacred books. Nobody could pick up these hints unless he had first been instructed in the esoteric doctrine, but to any one who knows something of this the allusions are apparent. From the proper theosophical point of view they are not very important. The theosophical teaching is valuable for its intrinsic worth. It ought not to be recommended to European readers because there is authority behind it. For us the authority from which it emanates need only begin to command respect when we understand the teaching. If it had not been found worthy of respect for its own sake, it would have fallen dead. Instead of that, Esoteric Buddhism is read in a dozen editions and languages all over the world. And in time people who read, acquiring from the teaching itself a comprehension of the sources from which it is now derived, grow interested in questions of authority. Around these a considerable theosophic literature grows up. Professor Max Muller does not even glance at it. He hammers away at the single notion - I do not find your secret teachings in the public Buddhist writings. Why does not he argue - there cannot be any ore in the mine for there is none lying on the surface? But, coming back to the traces on the surface that may show those who can interpret them where there is ore lying below, let me offer an illustration of esoteric canonical records that are mere nonsense taken as the scholar takes them - literally - but full of luminous significance read in the light of esoteric teaching.

Rarely have the scholars blundered more absurdly than in dealing with the records of Buddha’s death, and in reading au pied de la lettre the story of his fatal illness supervening on a meal of ‘dried boar’s flesh’ served to him by a certain Kunda - a coppersmith at Pava. Laborious students of Oriental language - never concerning themselves with Oriental thought - accept this as meaning, in words quoted by Alabaster in the Wheel of the Law, that Buddha died of ‘dysentery caused by eating roast pork.’ Dr. Rhys Davids gives currency to this ludicrous misconception. Common sense ought to have been startled at the notion that the diet of so ultra-confirmed a vegetarian as a Hindoo religious teacher could not but be, could be invaded by so gross an article of food as roast pork. But worshippers of the letter which killeth are apt to lose sight of common sense. In reality boar’s flesh is an Oriental symbol for esoteric knowledge, derived from the boar avatar of Vishnu - an elaborate allegory which represents the incarnate god lifting the earth out of the waters with his tusks - a transaction which Wilson explains in his translation of the Vishnu Purana as representing ‘the extrication of the world from a deluge of iniquity by the rites of religion.’ Dried boar’s flesh clearly stands in the ‘Book of the Great Decease’ for esoteric knowledge prepared for popular use - reduced to a form in which it could be taught to the multitude. It was through too daring an attempt to carry out this policy that Buddha’s enterprise came to an end. That is the true meaning of the allegory so painfully debased when taken at the foot of the letter. The esoteric view of the story is shown obviously to be the right one by many subordinate details. For example, Buddha directs that only he shall make use of the dried boar’s flesh at the allegorical feast. The brethren shall be served with cakes and rice. None but he himself can digest such food, he says, and whatever is left over shall be buried, so that no others may partake of it; a singular order for him to give on the literal interpretation of the story, seeing that he is represented as not able to digest it, and as dying of its effects. Of course the meaning plainly is that no one of lessor authority than himself must take the responsibility of giving out occult secrets.

Even more glaring references to esoteric mysteries are embodied in the Akankheyya Sutta, (1) where Buddha describes the various attainments open to Bhikkhu, or disciple who has joined his order.

‘If a Bhikkhu should desire, brethren, to exercise one by one each of the different Iddhis, being one to become multiform, being multiform to become one; to become visible, or to become invisible; to go without being stopped to the further side of a wall, or a fence, or a mountain, as if through air; to penetrate up and down through solid ground, as if through water; to walk on the water without dividing it, as if on solid ground; to travel cross-legged through the sky, like the birds on the wing; to touch and feel with the hand even the sun and the moon, mighty and powerful though they be; and to reach in the body, even up to the Heaven of Brahma; let him then fulfil all righteousness; let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within; let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation; let him look through things, let him be much alone.’

So on through several pages. Does this read like nonsense in materialistic Europe? The esoteric teaching makes it all intelligible. The whole passage relates to the capacities which are possible for the esoterically-trained and initiated disciple who can live in full consciousness in the astral body, who can render that perceptible (or visible) to ordinary senses if he chooses, to whom the solid matter of the physical plane is no impediment, nor distance an embarrassment. The Sutta in which it occurs points to hidden methods of teaching and training from beginning to end. And the White Lotus of Dharma, edited by Professor Max Muller, refers also to the magical faculties of the Buddhist adept, while Ananda was not allowed to sit in the first convocation till he had performed the ‘miracles’ recognized as qualifying him to be regarded as an Arhat. Certainly the public writings do not say minutely how an aspirant is to acquire the abnormal knowledge and powers necessary for such achievements. The real esoteric knowledge, never written down, but handed from master to pupil in the processes of initiation, is alone competent to give practical guidance in such matters. But, as we see, the authority of the canonical books can be quoted as showing that the achievements are recognized as attainable. Does Professor Max Muller regard them as the logical outcome of mere virtuous practice? If not, the old writers clearly suppressed some branch of their teaching in addressing the world at large. It is not enough for Professor Max Muller to say that in describing Arhat powers they were talking nonsense. For the moment that is not the question. Had they in their minds the belief that certain processes of training might lead to those powers? If they had, they were conscious of an esoteric side to their teaching, and it is obvious beyond dispute that they did entertain such a belief.

Worship of the letter in dealing with sacred writings has been the curse of modern religion, stultifying the spiritual meaning of more books than those under consideration. It is hardly probable that Professor Max Muller would be fettered to that system in discussing Western scriptures, so that it is doubly amazing he should apply that disastrous method of interpretation to the Sacred Books of the East, on which he has bestowed so much of his time and energy.

He tells us that ‘Buddhism was the highest Brahmanism popularized, everything esoteric being abolished.’ This is a misreading even of the exoteric records. Buddhism popularized Brahmanism in the sense of showing that the attainment of high spiritual beatitude was open to all men who trod the right path - not merely, as Brahmanism taught, to the Brahmins. The esoteric initiations were not abolished - merely held out to all who should become worthy. That is the real meaning of the phrase attributed to Buddha, ‘The Tatagatha has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.’

Again, Professor Max Muller says, ‘Whatever we know of Buddha and Buddhism we must try to know at first hand - that is to say, we must be prepared to give chapter and verse in some canonical or authoritative book; we must not appeal to Mahatmas on the other side of the Himalayas.’ But whether I obtained the teaching on which Esoteric Buddhism rests from a Mahatma on the other side of the Himalayas or evolved them out of my own head need only interest people who begin to be seriously interested in the teaching on its own prima facie, intrinsic claims. It is childish to condemn a doctrine as wrong because it emanates from somebody unknown to the reader. It may be rationally ignored by any one bold enough to say, ‘I never trust my own judgement; I only consider ideas when they are hall-marked as fit for acceptance by some acknowledged authority.’ It may be rationally attacked by any one prepared to assail it on its merits, - if it interests the world in spite of its unknown source. But it can only be irrationally attacked by a writer who neglects the thing said, and yet denounces it because he does not know anything about the person who says it. ‘What I know not is not knowledge,’ as one distinguished professor is supposed to have put the idea. Professor Max Muller improves on the epigram: ‘Philosophers I know not have no existence.’ He tells us ‘Mahatma’ is a well-known Sanskrit word applied to men who have retired from the world as great ascetics. ‘That these men are able to perform most startling feats and to suffer most terrible tortures is perfectly true.’ But the term meaning great-souled has become an honorary title. He himself has had letters from Benares addressed to him as Mahatmas. With the recollection of the tone in which I have heard Professor Max Muller’s comments on Indian philosophy discussed by native pundits at Benares and elsewhere, it seems just possible there may have been a touch of irony in such a mode of address; but India is, of course, a land of hyperbolical compliment. The servants of any European will call him ‘Huzoor,’ or ‘your Majesty’; everybody is a lord to the man next below him; and, in a spirit of mockery, so conventional that it has lost all sting, the humblest retainer of every Indian household - the sweeper - is habitually called by his companions ‘Maharajah.’ This is how it comes to pass that Professor Max Muller has been misled about the Indian ideas attached to the term Mahatma. Seriously used, it is a term of sublime respect. Applied to the yogi or faqueer who lives in the forest and performs the ‘startling feats’ which our professor so oddly recognizes - though so scornful of the only such feats abundantly vouched for in recent years - it would merely be a phrase of conventional compliment. I never heard it used even in that way in application of the yogi of the jungle, but negative experience does not count for much. Any one knowing India will feel that it might be used in the way I describe.

Inasmuch as Professor Max Muller says no word concerning the views or system of philosophy set forth in Esoteric Buddhism, one can hardly complain that he has travestied or misrepresented them. He has talked up in the air about something else, and, as the article stands, it reads like an attack on the undulatory theory of light grounded on a contention that Sir Isaac Newton mismanaged the Mint. But parting company from him for a moment, to explain the teaching he disapproves of - without having been at the pains to ascertain what it is - the leading ideas of Esoteric Buddhism may be summed up briefly as follows: -

The human creature as we know him is a manifestation on the physical plane of nature of a complex spiritual being developed by slow degrees, by the aggregation round a spiritual nucleus of the capacities and most durable characteristics engendered by his experience of life through a prolonged serious of existences. The body is a mere instrument on which the interior entity performs - such music as he has learned to make. Between the body and the true spiritual nucleus lie intervening principles which express the lower consciousness, active during physical life. The consciousness, both lower and higher, is quite capable of functioning in vehicles independent of the body, and belonging, as regards the material of which they consist, to the next superior plane or manifestation of nature - called for convenience and following the nomenclature of mediaeval occultists - the astral plane, though it has nothing whatever to do with the stars. In every life much of the consciousness that makes up the complete man relates to transitory or ignoble things. After death, therefore, the persistence of this lower consciousness retains the soul for a time on the astral plane, during which period under some conditions it may sometimes become cognizable to still living people, but by degrees the attachment to phases of life which belong exclusively to the incarnate condition wears off, and the real spiritual soul, or in other words the original man, with only the loftier side of his character or nature in activity, passes on to a state of spiritual beatitude analogous to the heaven of exoteric religious teaching. There the person who has passed away is still himself; his own consciousness is at work, and for a long time he remains in a state of blissful rest, the correct appreciation of which claims a great deal of attention to many collateral considerations. When after a protracted period the specific personal memories of the last life have faded out - though the spiritual soul still retains all its capacities, all the cosmic progress that it has earned, it is drawn back into re-incarnation. The process is accomplished by degrees. The whole entity is not at once conscious within, or expressed by, the body of the young child. But as this grows it becomes more and more qualified to express the original consciousness of the permanent soul, and when it is mature, it is once more the original Ego, minus nothing but the specific memories of its last life.

Why does it not remember? is always the first question of the beginner in theosophic study. Because we who do not remember are as yet but nature’s children. Those who are further advanced along the line of cosmic progress do remember. But the science of the matter meanwhile is this. The higher spiritual soul is the permanent element in the Ego, and if sufficiently grown, can infuse each new personality which it develops with memories which it, in that case, can retain. But the lower side of ordinary human consciousness, taking the race at its present average development, is a good deal more vigorous than the spiritual nature. The higher soul, immersed again in a material manifestation, is choked as to its consciousness for the time being by the weed growth around it. There is plenty of time, however, in the scheme of nature. After many incarnations the higher soul may get strong enough to bear down the accumulated tendencies gathering round it during its earth-lives. Then an opportunity will come for remembering past lives, and for many other achievements.

The laws which determine the physical attributes, condition of life, intellectual capacities, and so forth of the new body, to which the Ego is drawn by affinities even more complicated than those of chemical atoms, are known to esoteric and less accurately to ordinary Buddhism as Karma. As you sow so shall you reap. The acts of each life build up the conditions under which the next is spent. In regard to his happiness, and all that has to do with his well-being on this earth, every man has been, in the fullest sense of the term, his own creator, creating the conditions into which he passes in accordance with the Divine law that determines the nature of good and evil, and the consequences of devotion to the one or the other. As the earth-life is thus the school of humanity, it is not an end in itself. To achieve higher spiritual conditions of being is to escape beyond the necessity for re-incarnation. Thus exoteric Buddhism talks of escaping the perpetuation of life - meaning incarnate life - as something desirable, in a way which leads those who imperfectly grasp the esoteric significance of the idea to suppose that the extinction of consciousness is the object treated as desirable.  The end really contemplated is the permanent elevation of consciousness to spiritual conditions.   In the vast scheme of nature, comprehended by the esoteric teaching as that on which the world is planned, the ultimate realization of such spiritual beatitude is regarded as the destiny in reserve for the majority of mankind, after immensely protracted schooling. But by great efforts at any time after a certain turning-point in evolution has been passed, those who realize the potentialities of their being may enter at a relatively early date on their sublime inheritance. To show mankind at large the path which leads to this goal is the final purpose of esoteric teaching. Incidentally, it pours a flood of light on mysteries of nature that are partially penetrated in some other ways, coordinating the otherwise incoherent phenomena of mesmerism and psychic perception and of various occurrences inaptly called supernatural, which some people know to take place but cannot interpret, and which others, content to despise what they cannot account for, thrust aside with irrational laughter. Already Theosophy has vindicated its own teachings for many students whose interior faculties have been ripe for development. The statements of Esoteric Buddhism concerning realms of nature imperceptible to the physical sight have already become realities for some, who are thus enabled to throw back out of their own experience a verification serviceable for others of the occult science to which they owe their progress.

This is the explanation of the fact that the ideas of Esoteric Buddhism which Professor Max Muller does not stoop to comprehend, much less to discuss, have seemed important to many people, caring more for the thing said than for the previous authority of the sayer. Though Madame Blavatsky would have been comically ill-described even in her younger days as a person in search of a religion in which she could honestly believe, that attitude of mind is very widely spread throughout the Western world. Theosophy has dealt with it by providing interpretations of established dogma that invest with an acceptable spiritual meaning creeds offensive to healthy intelligence in their clumsy ecclesiastical form. It has lifted thought above the narrowness of the churches. The first thing a broad-minded thinker, speculating on the infinite mysteries of nature, feels sure of is that no one body of priests can have a monopoly of the truth. Theosophy shows that scarcely any of them have even a monopoly of falsehood. It gives us religion in the form of abstract spiritual science which can be applied to any faith, so that we may sift its crudities from its truth. It provides us in the system of re-incarnation - cleared of all fantastic absurdities associated with the idea in ages before the esoteric view was fully disclosed - with a method of evolution that accounts for the inequalities of human life. By the doctrine of Karma, attaching to that system, the principle of the conservation of energy is raised into a law operative on the moral as well as on the physical plane, and the Divine element of justice is brought back into a world from which it had been expelled by European theologians. In explaining the psychic constitution of man, Theosophy - as developed by the Theosophical Society, not in the soulless condition to which Professor Max Muller would reduce it, puts on a scientific basis - that is to say, on a footing where law is seen to be uniformly operative - the heterogeneous and bewildering phenomena of super-physical experience. Every advance of knowledge leaves some people aground in the rear, and there are hundreds of otherwise distinguished men amongst us who will probably never in this life realize the importance of new researches on which many other inquirers besides theosophists are now bent. But their immobility will be forgotten in time. Knowledge will advance in spite of them, and views of nature, at first laughed at and discredited, will be taken after a while as matters of course, and, emerging from the shadow of occultism, will pass down the main current of science. Those of us who are early in the field with our experience and information would sometimes like to be more civilly treated by the recognized authorities of the world; but that is a very subordinate matter after all, and we have our rewards, of which they know nothing. We are well content to be in advance even at the cost of some disparaging glances from our less fortunate companions.


(1)  Vol. xi, Sacred Books of the East.