[CONTROVERSY BETWEEN H. P. BLAVATSKY AND THE ABBÉ ROCA]
[This polemical series of articles was started with a remarkably broad-minded contribution from the brilliant pen of a French Canon, the Abbé Roca, in the pages of Le Lotus, the monthly Journal of “Isis,” the French Branch of The Theosophical Society. This magazine was described on the title-page as a “Revue de Hautes Études Théosophiques, tendant à favoriser le rapprochement entre l’Orient et l’Occident” (Review of Higher Theosophical Studies, intended to promote the mutual understanding of the Orient and the Occident). The Journal claimed to be “under the inspiration of H. P. Blavatsky.” It was edited by F. K. Gaboriau, and was started in March, 1887, at Paris.
The opening article of the Abbé Roca appeared in Volume II, No. 9, December, 1887. It was followed in the same issue by H. P. B.’s Reply. The rejoinder of Abbé Roca appeared in February, 1888. H. P. B.’s second Reply was published in April, 1888. The Abbé took up the thread of the controversy once more in the issue of June, 1888, and H. P. B. appended to his article a large number of illuminating footnotes which closed the series.
In the January, 1888, issue of Lucifer (Vol. I), H. P. B. published her own somewhat abbreviated English translation of the Abbé Roca’s opening essay, appending to it a few brief footnotes. We publish below H. P. B.’s own translation, adding to it within square brackets our own translation of the passages omitted by H. P. B.
The Abbé Roca's essay is immediately followed by H. P. B.’s reply, both in its original French and its English rendering.
As far as the Abbé Roca is concerned, very little is known about him. There is no doubt that he was a very open-minded ecclesiastic, who intended to fight various abuses of the Roman Church, and was defrocked in due course of time for doing so. He had studied in his earlier years at the Carmelite School for Higher Studies, and eventually became Canon in the diocese of Perpignan, in the Pyrénées-Orientales province of France. He published three works before incurring the wrath of his superiors: Le Christ, le Pape et la Démocratie (Paris, 1884), La Crise fatale et le salut de l'Europe, and La Fin de l'ancien monde (Paris, 1886). The Congregation of the Index, in a communication dated September 19, 1888, hastened to advise the faithful that by reading these books they ran the risk of eternal damnation, and the Abbé was given a chance to retract his heretical views. He refused to do so. Consequently, the Bishop of Perpignan, acting on the
authority of Pope Leo XIII, imposed on him the “suspense,” depriving him of the exercise of all his functions in Holy Orders, as also of his living, for refusing to submit to the decree by which his works were placed on the Index.*
Undaunted, the Abbé announced the forthcoming appearance of his next work, entitled Glorieux Centenaire—1889.—Monde nouveau. Nouveaux Cieux. Nouvelle Terre, which was published in Paris in 1889. He seems to have been greatly enthused with the teachings and writings of Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, with whom H. P. B. appears to disagree on many points, and wrote at one time or another a work entitled Étude critique sur les Missions de St.-Yves.
No information has come to light concerning the later years of Abbé Roca’s life, in spite of repeated attempts to secure such from various sources.
In the December, 1887, issue of Le Lotus, the Editor published the following Editorial Note, introducing the first instalment of the controversy:
“It is with the greatest of pleasure that the Editor of Le Lotus opens its pages today to an eminent Canon [chanoine] of the Roman Catholic Church. Let us confess that, in spite of the quality and the broad nature of our programme of universal and fraternal intercourse, we hardly expected to recruit our adherents from among the members of a Church which represents on this globe precisely the opposite of civilization. Our pleasure will be shared, no doubt, by our subscribers and our brothers of ‘Isis,’ as we hope that Monsieur Roca will want to march in our ranks with us. With his Brahman, Parsi, Buddhist, Spiritualist and Materialist-brothers, Christian or Pagan, we will publish from time to time his articles which are so well thought out and written, that we do not hesitate to give him an exceptional place among the few distinguished men who are yet to be found among the Roman clergy in France. The notes which follow the “Esotericism of Christian Dogma” will show our readers that our revered Mme. Blavatsky has posed the question with masculine vigor, without ambiguity and with no partisanship. Who loves us should follow us!”
* Cf. Le Voltaire, Paris, Feb. 9, 1889; Le Peuple, Paris, Feb. 6, 1889; l'Indépendant des Pyrénées-Orientales, Feb. 8, 1889, and H. P. B.’s own remarks concerning this event in her article “On Pseudo-Theosophy” (Lucifer, Vol. IV, March, 1889).