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Blavatsky is most well known for her promulgation of a theosophical system of thought, often referred to under various names, including: The Occult Science, The Esoteric Tradition, The Wisdom of the Ages, etc., or simply as Occultism or Theosophy.
Definition and originTheosophy was considered by Blavatsky to be “the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies” In her book “The Key to Theosophy”, she stated the following about the meaning and origin of the term:
ENQUIRER. Theosophy and its doctrines are often referred to as a new-fangled religion. Is it a religion?According to her, all real lovers of divine wisdom and truth had, and have, a right to the name of Theosophist. Blavatsky discussed the major themes of Theosophy in several major works, including The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy, and The Voice of the Silence. She also wrote over 200 articles in various theosophical magazines and periodicals. Contemporaries of Blavatsky, as well as later theosophists, contributed to the development of this school of theosophical thought, producing works that at times sought to elucidate the ideas she presented (see Gottfried de Purucker), and at times to expand upon them. Since its inception, and through doctrinal assimilation or divergence, Theosophy has also given rise to or influenced the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.
THEOSOPHIST. It is not. Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.
ENQUIRER. What is the real meaning of the term?
THEOSOPHIST. "Divine Wisdom," (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as (theogonia), genealogy of the gods. The word theos means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not "God" in the sense attached in our day to the term. Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God," as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand years old.
ENQUIRER. What is the origin of the name?
THEOSOPHIST. It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil "loving," and aletheia "truth." The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.
ScopeBroadly, Theosophy attempts to reconcile humanity's scientific, philosophical, and religious disciplines and practices into a unified worldview. As it largely employs a synthesizing approach, it makes extensive use of the vocabulary and concepts of many philosophical and religious traditions. However these, along with all other fields of knowledge, are investigated, amended, and explained within an esoteric or occult framework. In often elaborate exposition, Theosophy's all-encompassing worldview proposes explanations for the origin, workings and ultimate fate of the universe and humanity; it has therefore also been called a system of "absolutist metaphysics".[note 1]
MethodologyAccording to Blavatsky, Theosophy is neither revelation nor speculation.[note 2] It is portrayed as an attempt at gradual, faithful reintroduction of a hitherto hidden science, which is called in Theosophical literature The Occult Science. According to Blavatsky, this postulated science provides a description of Reality not only at a physical level, but also on a metaphysical one. The Occult Science is said to have been preserved (and practiced) throughout history by carefully selected and trained individuals.[note 3] Theosophists further assert that Theosophy's precepts and their axiomatic foundation may be verified by following certain prescribed disciplines that develop in the practitioner metaphysical means of knowledge, which transcend the limitations of the senses. It is commonly held by Theosophists that many of the basic Theosophical tenets may in the future be empirically and objectively verified by science, as it develops further.
Law of correspondencesIn The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky spoke of a basic item of cosmogony reflected in the ancient saying: “as above, so below”. This item is used by many theosophists as a method of study and has been called “The Law of Correspondences”. Briefly, the law of correspondences states that the microcosm is the miniature copy of the macrocosm and therefore what is found “below” can be found, often through analogy, “above”. Examples include the basic structures of microcosmic organisms mirroring the structure of macrocosmic organisms (see septenary systems, below). The lifespan of a human being can be seen to follow, by analogy, the same path as the seasons of the Earth, and in theosophy it is postulated that the same general process is equally applied to the lifespan of a planet, a solar system, a galaxy and to the universe itself. Through the Law of Correspondences, a theosophist seeks to discover the first principles underlying various phenomenon by finding the shared essence or idea, and thus to move from particulars to principles.
ApplicationsApplied Theosophy was one of the main reasons for the foundation of the Theosophical Society in 1875; the practice of Theosophy was considered an integral part of its contemporary incarnation.[note 4] Theosophical discipline includes the practice of study, meditation, and service, which are traditionally seen as necessary for a holistic development. Also, the acceptance and practical application of the Society's motto and of its three objectives are part of the Theosophical life. Efforts at applying its tenets started early. Study and meditation are normally promoted in the activities of the Theosophical Society, and in 1908 an international charitable organization to promote service, the Theosophical Order of Service, was founded.
TerminologyDespite extensively using Sanskrit terminology in her works, many Theosophical concepts are expressed differently than in the original scriptures. To provide clarity on her intended meanings, Blavatsky's The Theosophical Glossary was published in 1892, one year after her death. According to the editor, G.R.S. Mead, in his Preface to the Glossary, Blavatsky wished to express her indebtedness to four works: the Sanskrit-Chinese Dictionary, the Hindu Classical Dictionary, Vishnu-Purana, and the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia.
Three fundamental propositionsBlavatsky explained the essential component ideas of her cosmogony in her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. She began with three fundamental propositions, of which she said: “Before the reader proceeds … it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows…”
The first proposition is that there is one underlying, unconditioned, indivisible Truth, variously called "the Absolute", "the Unknown Root", "the One Reality", etc. It is causeless and timeless, and therefore unknowable and non-describable: "It is 'Be-ness' rather than Being". However, transient states of matter and consciousness are manifested in IT, in an unfolding gradation from the subtlest to the densest, the final of which is physical plane. According to this view, manifest existence is a "change of condition" and therefore neither the result of creation nor a random event.
Everything in the universe is informed by the potentialities present in the "Unknown Root," and manifest with different degrees of Life (or energy), Consciousness, and Matter.
The second proposition is "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow". Accordingly, manifest existence is an eternally re-occurring event on a "boundless plane": "'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,'" each one "standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor", doing so over vast but finite periods of time.
Related to the above is the third proposition: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul... and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul—a spark of the former—through the Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term." The individual souls are seen as units of consciousness (Monads) that are intrinsic parts of a universal oversoul, just as different sparks are parts of a fire. These Monads undergo a process of evolution where consciousness unfolds and matter develops. This evolution is not random, but informed by intelligence and with a purpose. Evolution follows distinct paths in accord with certain immutable laws, aspects of which are perceivable on the physical level. One such law is the law of periodicity and cyclicity; another is the law of karma or cause and effect.
Items of cosmogonyIn this recapitulation of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky gave a summary of the central points of her system of cosmogony. These central points are as follows:
- The first item reiterates Blavatsky’s position that The Secret Doctrine represents the “accumulated Wisdom of the Ages”, a system of thought that “is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity.”
- The second item reiterates the first fundamental proposition (see above), calling the one principle “the fundamental law in that system [of cosmogony]”. Here Blavatsky says of this principle that it is “the One homogeneous divine Substance-Principle, the one radical cause. … It is called “Substance-Principle,” for it becomes “substance” on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a “principle” in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible Space. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself.”
- The third item reiterates the second fundamental proposition (see above), impressing once again that “The Universe is the periodical manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence.”, while also touching upon the complex Sanskrit ideas of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti. This item presents the idea that the One unconditioned and absolute principle is covered over by its veil, Mulaprakriti, that the spiritual essence is forever covered by the material essence.
- The fourth item is the common eastern idea of Maya (illusion). Blavatsky states that the entire universe is called illusion because everything in it is temporary, i.e. has a beginning and an end, and is therefore unreal in comparison to the eternal changelessness of the One Principle.
- The fifth item reiterates the third fundamental proposition (see above), stating that everything in the universe is conscious, in its own way and on its own plane of perception. Because of this, the Occult Philosophy states that there are no unconscious or blind laws of Nature, that all is governed by consciousness and consciousnesses.
- The sixth item gives a core idea of theosophical philosophy, that “as above, so below”. This is known as the “law of correspondences”, its basic premise being that everything in the universe is worked and manifested from within outwards, or from the higher to the lower, and that thus the lower, the microcosm, is the copy of the higher, the macrocosm. Just as a human being experiences every action as preceded by an internal impulse of thought, emotion or will, so too the manifested universe is preceded by impulses from divine thought, feeling and will. This item gives rise to the notion of an “almost endless series of hierarchies of sentient beings”, which itself becomes a central idea of many theosophists. The law of correspondences also becomes central to the methodology of many theosophists, as they look for analogous correspondence between various aspects of reality, for instance: the correspondence between the seasons of Earth and the process of a single human life, through birth, growth, adulthood and then decline and death.
|This section requires expansion. (December 2012)|
Esotericism and symbolismIn the first book of The Secret Doctrine Blavatsky drew an "analogy between the Aryan or Brahmanical and the Egyptian esotericism." She said that the "seven rays of the Chaldean Heptakis or Iao, on the Gnostic stones" represent the seven large stars of the Egyptian "Great Bear" constellation, the seven elemental powers, and the Hindu "seven Rishis." Blavatsky saw the seven rays of the Vedic sun deity Vishnu as representing the same concept as the "astral fluid or 'Light' of the Kabalists," and said that the seven emanations of the lower seven sephiroth are the "primeval seven rays," and "will be found and recognized in every religion."
Theosophy holds that the manifested universe is ordered by the number seven, a common claim among Esoteric and mystical doctrines and religions. Thus, the evolutionary "pilgrimage" proceeds cyclically through seven stages, the three first steps involving an apparent involution, the fourth one being one of equilibrium, and the last three involving a progressive development.
There are seven symbols of particular importance to the Society's symbology: 1) the seal of the Society, 2) a serpent biting its tail, 3) the gnostic cross (near the serpent's head), 4) the interlaced triangles, 5) the cruxansata (in the centre), 6) the pin of the Society, composed of cruxansata and serpent entwined, forming together "T.S.", and, 7) Om (or aum), the sacred syllable of the Vedas. The seal of the Society contains all of these symbols, except aum, and thus contains, in symbolic form, the doctrines its members follow.
Septenary systemsIn the Theosophical view all major facets of existence manifest following a seven-fold model: "Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being."
Seven cosmic planesThe Cosmos does not consist only of the physical plane that can be perceived with the five senses, but there is a succession of seven Cosmic planes of existence, composed of increasingly subtler forms of matter-energy, and in which states of consciousness other than the commonly known can manifest. Blavatsky described the planes according to these states of consciousness. In her system, for example, the plane of the material and concrete mind (lower mental plane) is classified as different from the plane of the spiritual and holistic mind (higher mental plane). Later Theosophists like Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant classified the seven planes according to the kind of subtle matter that compose them. Since both the higher and lower mental planes share the same type of subtle matter, they regard them as one single plane with two subdivisions. In this later view the seven cosmic planes include (from spiritual to material):
- – Adi (the supreme, a divine plane not reached by human beings)
- – Anupadaka (the parentless, also a divine plane home of the divine spark in human beings, the Monad)
- – Atmic (the spiritual plane of Man's Higher Self)
- – Buddhic (the spiritual plane of intuition, love, and wisdom)
- – Mental (with a higher and lower subdivisions, this plane bridges the spiritual with the personal)
- – Emotional (a personal plane that ranges from lower desires to high emotions)
- – Physical plane (a personal plane which again has two subdivisions the dense one perceivable by our five senses, and an etheric one that is beyond these senses)
Seven principles and bodiesJust as the Cosmos is not limited to its physical dimension, human beings have also subtler dimensions and bodies. The "Septenary Nature of Man" was described by Blavatsky in, among other works, The Key to Theosophy; in descending order, it ranges from a postulated purely spiritual essence (called a "Ray of the Absolute") to the physical body.
The Theosophical teachings about the constitution of human beings talk about two different, but related, things: principles and bodies. Principles are the seven basic constituents of the universe, usually described by Mme. Blavatsky as follows:
- – Physical
- – Astral (later called etheric)
- – Prana (or vital)
- – Kama (animal soul)
- – Manas (mind, or human soul)
- – Buddhi (spiritual soul)
- – Atma (Spirit or Self)
- Linga Sharira – the Double or Astral body
- Mayavi-rupa – the "Illusion-body."
- Causal Body – the vehicle of the higher Mind.
The mayavi-rupa is dual in its functions, being: "...the vehicle both of thought and of the animal passions and desires, drawing at one and the same time from the lowest terrestrial manas (mind) and Kama, the element of desire."
The higher part of this body, containing the spiritual elements gathered during life, merges after death entirely into the causal body; while the lower part, containing the animal elements, forms the Kama-rupa, the source of "spooks" or apparitions of the dead.
Therefore, besides the dense physical body, the subtle bodies in a human being are:
- Etheric body (vehicle of prana)
- Emotional or astral body (vehicle of desires and emotions)
- Mental body (vehicle of the concrete or lower mind)
- Causal body (vehicle of the abstract or higher mind)
Rounds and racesIt follows from the above that to Theosophy, all Evolution is basically the evolution of Consciousness, physical-biological evolution being only a constituent part.[note 5] All evolutionary paths involve the serial immersion (or reincarnation) of basic units of consciousness called Monads into forms that become gradually denser, and which eventually culminate in gross physical matter. At that point the process reverses towards a respiritualization of consciousness. The experience gained in the previous evolutionary stages is retained; and so consciousness inexorably advances towards greater completeness.
All individuated existence, regardless of stature, apparent animation, or complexity, is thought to be informed by a Monad; in its human phase, the Monad consists of the two highest-ordered (out of seven) constituents or principles of human nature and is connected to the third-highest principle, that of mind and self-consciousness (see Septenary above).
Theosophy describes humanity's evolution on Earth in the doctrine of Root races.[note 6] These are seven stages of development, during which every human Monad evolves alongside others in stages that last millions of years, each stage occurring mostly in a different super-continent—these continents are actually, according to Theosophy co-evolving geological and climatic stages.[note 7] At present, humanity's evolution is at the fifth stage, the so-called Aryan Root race, which is developing on its appointed geologic/climatic period.[note 8] The continuing development of the Aryan stage has been taking place since about the middle of the Calabrian (about 1,000,000 years ago).[note 9] The previous fourth Root race was at the midpoint of the sevenfold evolutionary cycle, the point in which the "human" Monad became fully vested in the increasingly complex and dense forms that developed for it. A component of that investment was the gradual appearance of contemporary human physiology, which finalized to the form known to early 21st century medical science during the fourth Root race.[note 10] The current fifth stage is on the ascending arc, signifying the gradual reemergence of spiritualized consciousness (and of the proper forms, or "vehicles", for it) as humanity's dominant characteristic. The appearance of Root races is not strictly serial; they first develop while the preceding Race is still dominant. Older races complete their evolutionary cycle and die out; the present fifth Root race will in time evolve into the more advanced spiritually sixth.
Humanity's evolution is a subset of planetary evolution, which is described in the doctrine of Rounds, itself a subject of Theosophy's Esoteric cosmology. Rounds may last hundreds of millions of years each. Theosophy states that Earth is currently in the fourth Round of the planet's own sevenfold development.[note 11] Human evolution is tied to the particular Round or planetary stage of evolution—the Monads informing humans in this Round were previously informing the third Round's animal class, and will "migrate" to a different class of entities in the fifth Round.[note 12]
Racial theoriesRegarding the origin of the human races on earth, Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine argued for polygenism—"the simultaneous evolution of seven human groups on seven different portions of our globe".
The Secret Doctrine (II, 610) states:
Mankind did not issue from one solitary couple. Nor was there ever a first man—whether Adam or Yima—but a first mankind. It may, or may not, be "mitigated polygenism." Once that both creation ex nihilo—an absurdity—and a superhuman Creator or creators—a fact—are made away with by science, polygenism presents no more difficulties or inconveniences (rather fewer from a scientific point of view) than monogenism does.Blavatsky used the compounded word Root race to describe each of the seven successive stages of human evolution that take place over large time periods in her cosmology. A Root-race is the archetype from which spring all the races that form humanity in a particular evolutionary cycle. She called the current Root-race, the fifth one, "Aryan,".
The present Root-race was preceded by the fourth one, which developed in Atlantis, while the third Root-race is denominated "Lemurian". She described the Aryan Root-race in the following way:
The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock—the Fifth Root-Race—and spring from one single progenitor, (...) who is said to have lived over 18,000,000 years ago, and also 850,000 years ago—at the time of the sinking of the last remnants of the great continent of Atlantis.Her evolutionary view admits a difference in development between various ethnic groups:
The occult doctrine admits of no such divisions as the Aryan and the Semite, accepting even the Turanian [as part of the same language group] with ample reservations. The Semites, especially the Arabs, are later Aryans—degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality."She also states that:
There are, or rather still were a few years ago, descendants of these half-animal tribes or races, both of remote Lemurian and Lemuro-Atlantean origin ... Of such semi-animal creatures, the sole remnants known to Ethnology were the Tasmanians, a portion of the Australians and a mountain tribe in China, the men and women of which are entirely covered with hair.Blavatsky's teachings talk about three separate levels of evolution: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Blavatsky states that there are differences in the spiritual evolution of the Monads (the "divine spark" in human beings), in the intellectual development of the souls, and in the physical qualities of the bodies. These levels of evolution are independent. A highly evolved Monad may incarnate, for karmic reasons, in a rather crude personality. Also, a very intellectual person may be less evolved at the spiritual level than an illiterate.
She also states that cultures follow a cycle of rising, development, degeneration, and eventually disappear. Also, according to her there is a fixed number of reincarnating souls evolving, all of which are beyond sex, nationality, religion, and other physical or cultural characteristics. In its evolutionary journey, every soul has to take birth in every culture in the world, where it acquires different skills and learns different lessons.
Even though she declares that at this point of their cultural evolutionary cycle the Semites, especially the Arabs, are "degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality," she also stated that there were wise and initiated teachers among the Jews and the Arabs, some of them were Blavatsky's teachers early in her life.
Blavatsky does not claim that the present Aryan Root-race is the last and highest of them all. The Indo-European races will also eventually degenerate and disappear, as new and more developed races and cultures develop on the planet:
Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups—the failures of nature—will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind.The first aim of the Theosophical Society she founded is "To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour", and her writings also include references emphasizing the unity of humanity: "all men have spiritually and physically the same origin" and that "mankind is essentially of one and the same essence".
Such is the course of Nature under the sway of KARMIC LAW: of the ever present and the ever-becoming Nature.
In Sylvia Cranston's biography, Blavatsky is quoted as saying that in reality there is no inferior or low-grade races because all of it are one common humankind. A view which is also evident in the Secret Doctrine.
FollowingDuring the 1920s the Theosophical Society Adyar had around 7,000 members in the USA. There also was a substantial following in Asia. According to a Theosophical source, the Indian section in 2008 was said to have around 13,000 members while in the US the 2008 membership was reported at around 3,900.
Very few scientists have been Theosophists, though some notable exceptions have included the chemists William Crookes and Ernest Lester Smith who were elected members of the British Royal Society and I. K. Taimni a professor of Chemistry at the Allahabad University in India.[note 13]
AnthroposophyRudolf Steiner, head of the German branch of the Theosophical Society in the early part of the 20th-century, disagreed with the Adyar-based international leadership of the Society over several doctrinal matters including the so-called World Teacher Project (see above). Steiner left the Theosophical Society in 1913 to promote his own Theosophy-influenced philosophy, which he called Anthroposophy through a new organization, the Anthroposophical Society; the great majority of German-speaking Theosophists joined him in the new group.
AriosophyAustrian/German ultra-nationalist Guido von List and his followers such as Lanz von Liebenfels, selectively mixed Theosophical doctrine on the evolution of Humanity and on Root races with nationalistic and fascist ideas; this system of thought became known as Ariosophy, a precursor of Nazism. The central importance of "Aryan" racism in Ariosophy, albeit compounded by occult notions deriving from theosophy, may be traced to the racial concerns of Social Darwinism in Germany.
New Age movementThe present-day New Age movement is said to be based to a considerable extent on the Theosophical tenets and ideas presented by Blavatsky and her contemporaries. "No single organization or movement has contributed so many components to the New Age Movement as the Theosophical Society. ... It has been the major force in the dissemination of occult literature in the West in the twentieth century."
Other organizations loosely based on Theosophical texts and doctrines include the Agni Yoga, and a group of religions based on Theosophy called the Ascended Master Teachings: the "I AM" Activity, The Bridge to Freedom and The Summit Lighthouse, which evolved into the Church Universal and Triumphant.
Asian reform movementsThe Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism and Hindu reform movements, and the spread of those modernised versions in the west.
Indian Independence MovementSome early members of the Theosophical Society were closely linked to the Indian independence movement, including Allan Octavian Hume, Annie Besant and others. Hume was particularly involved in the founding of the Indian National Congress.
Buddhist ModernismAlong with H. S. Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala, Blavatsky was instrumental in the Western transmission and revival of Theravada Buddhism.
Art, music and literatureTalbot Mundy, Charles Howard Hinton, Geoffrey Hodson, James Jones, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Sun Ra, Lawren Harris and L. Frank Baum. Composer Alexander Scriabin was a Theosophist whose beliefs influenced his music, especially by providing a justification or rationale for his chromatic language. Scriabin devised a quartal synthetic chord, often called his "mystic" chord, and before his death Scriabin planned a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about the armageddon; "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world." This piece, Mysterium, was never realized, due to his death in 1915.
Blavatsky presented her book The Voice of the Silence. The Seven gates. Two ways to Tolstoy. In his works, Tolstoy used the dicta from the theosophical journal “Teosophisner Wegwiser”. In his diary, on 12 February 1903 he made a following writing:
I am writing a beautiful theosophical journal and find many common with my understanding”.]. Scriabin reread the “Secret Doctrine” very carefully and marked the most important places by a pencil.
CriticismBlavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "The western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times." She wrote prolifically, publishing thousands of pages and debate continues about her work. She taught about very abstract and metaphysical principles, but also sought to denounce and correct superstitions that, in her view, had grown in different esoteric religions. Some of these statements are controversial. For example, she quotes Dr. A. Kingsford’s book "Perfect Way" (section "The Secret of Satan"): "It is Satan who is the god of our planet and the only god" and adds "and this without any allusive metaphor to its wickedness and depravity." In this reference Blavatsky explains that he whom the Christian dogma calls Lucifer was never the representative of the evil in ancient myths but, on the contrary, the light-bringer (which is the literal meaning of the name Lucifer). According to Blavatsky the church turned him into Satan (which means "the opponent") to misrepresent pre-Christian beliefs and fit him into the newly framed Christian dogmas. A similar view is also shared by some Christian Gnostics, ancient and modern.
Throughout much of Blavatsky's public life her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, as for example when she said that the atom was divisible.
Max Müller, the renowned philologist and orientalist, was scathing in his criticism of Blavatsky's Esoteric Buddhism. Whilst he was willing to give her credit for good motives, at least at the beginning of her career, in his view she ceased to be truthful both to herself and to others with her later "hysterical writings and performances". Müller felt he had to speak out when he saw the Buddha being "lowered to the level of religious charlatans, or his teaching misrepresented as esoteric twaddle". There is a nothing esoteric or secretive in Buddhism, he wrote, in fact the very opposite. "Whatever was esoteric was ipso facto not Buddha’s teaching; whatever was Buddha’s teaching was ipso facto not esoteric". Madame Blavatsky, it seemed to Müller, "was either deceived by others or carried away by her own imaginations".
Critics pronounced her claim of the existence of masters of wisdom to be utterly false, and accused her of being a charlatan, a false medium, evil, a spy for the Russians, a smoker of cannabis, a plagiarist, a spy for the English, a racist and a falsifier of letters. Most of the accusations remain undocumented.
In The New York Times Edward Hower wrote, "Theosophical writers have defended her sources vehemently. Skeptics have painted her as a great fraud." The authenticity and originality of her writings were questioned. Blavatsky was accused of having plagiarized a number of sources, copying the texts crudely enough to misspell the more difficult words. See: The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings by William Emmette Coleman from Modern Priestess of Isis by Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff (author), Walter Leaf (translator).
In his 1885 report to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Richard Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky was a fraud. However, in a 1986 press release to the newspapers and leading magazines in Great Britain, Canada and the USA, the same SPR retracted the Hodgson Report, after a re-examination of the case by the Fortean psychic Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, an expert on forgery, as follows: "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes."
René Guénon wrote a detailed critique of Theosophy titled Theosophy: history of a pseudo-religion (1921). In the book Guenon claimed that Blavatsky had acquired all her knowledge naturally from other books, not from any supernatural masters. Guenon points out that Blavatsky spent a long time visiting a library at New York where she had easy access to the works of Jacob Boehme, Eliphas Levi, the Kabbala and other Hermetic treatises. Guenon also wrote that Blavatsky had borrowed passages from extracts of the Kanjur and Tanjur, translated by the eccentric orientalist Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, published in 1836 in the twentieth volume of the Asiatic Researchers of Calcutta .
Robert Todd Carroll in his book The skeptic's dictionary (2003) wrote that Blavatsky used trickery into deceiving others into thinking she had paranormal powers. Carroll wrote that Blavatsky had faked a materialization of a tea cup and saucer as well as written the messages from her masters herself. Mattias Gardell in Gods of the blood: the pagan revival and white separatism (2003) has documented how the Aryan race ideas of Blavatsky and other Theosophists have influenced esoteric racialist groups such as Ariosophy and scientific racism.
James Randi accuses her of fraudulence in his "An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural" 
WorksThe books written by Madame Blavatsky included:
- Blavatsky, H P (1877), Isis unveiled, J.W. Bouton, OCLC 7211493
- Blavatsky, H P (1880), From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan, Floating Press, ISBN 1-77541-603-8
- Blavatsky, H P (1888), The Secret Doctrine, Theosophical Publ. Co, OCLC 61915001
- Blavatsky, H P (1933) , The Voice of the Silence, Theosophy Co. (India) Ltd, OCLC 220858481
- Blavatsky, H P (1889), The key to theosophy, Theosophical Pub. Co, OCLC 612505
- Blavatsky, H P (1892), Nightmare tales, London, Theosophical publishing society, OCLC 454984121
- Blavatsky, H P; Neff, Mary Katherine (1937), Personal memoirs, London, OCLC 84938217
- Blavatsky, H P; Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas (2004), Helena Blavatsky, Western esoteric masters series, North Atlantic Books, ISBN 978-1-55643-457-0