Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society

Essential stuff from the Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XII, about the E.S., by H.P. Blavatsky

Editorial policy

Preliminary Memorandum (1)


Preliminary Memorandum (2)

H. P. Blavatsky To the Esotericists

The Meaning of a Pledge

A Word Concerning the Earlier Instructions

Concerning the Secrecy Required

Is the Practice of Concentration Beneficent?

C.W. XII, p. 488-498 & 501-511 & 581-606


As many Esotericists have written and almost complained to me that they could find no practical, clear application of certain diagrams appended to the first two Nos. of Instructions, and others have spoken of their abstruseness, a short explanation is necessary.

The reason of this difficulty, in most cases, has been that the point of view taken was erroneous; the purely abstract and metaphysical was mistaken for, and confused with, the concrete and the physical. Let us take for example the diagrams on page 564 of Instructions II, and say that these are entirely macrocosmic and ideal. It must be remembered that the study of Occultism proceeds from Universals to Particulars, and not the reverse, as accepted by Science. As Plato was an Initiate, he very naturally used the former method, while Aristotle, never having been initiated, scoffed at his master, and, elaborating a system of his own, left it as an heirloom to be adopted and improved by Bacon. Of a truth the aphorism of the Hermetic Wisdom, "as above, so below," applies to all esoteric instruction; but we must begin with the above; we must learn the formula before we can sum up the series.

The two figures, therefore, are not meant to represent any two particular planes, but are the abstraction of a pair of planes, explanatory of the law of reflection, just as the Lower Manas is a reflection of the Higher in Plate I. They must therefore be taken in the highest metaphysical sense. This warning applies equally to Diagram I, where the Microcosm must be taken as the Microcosm of the Macrocosm, and not as the paradigm of man.

The Diagrams and Plates are intended to familiarize students with the leading ideas of occult correspondences only, the very genius of metaphysical, or macrocosmic and spiritual Occultism forbidding the use of figures or even symbols further than as temporary aids. Once define an idea in words, and it loses its reality; once figure a metaphysical idea, and you materialize its spirit. Figures must be used only as ladders to scale the battlements, ladders to be disregarded once the foot is set upon the rampart. Let the Esotericists, therefore, be very careful to spiritualize the Instructions and avoid materializing them; let them always try to find the highest meaning possible, confident that in proportion as they approach the material and visible in their speculations on the Instructions, so far are they from the right understanding of them. This is especially the case with these first Instructions and Diagrams, for, as in all true arts, so in Occultism, we must learn in theory before we are taught the practice.

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[Boris de Zirkoff adds notes here with explanations from De Purucker. These have not been included in this internet-edition]

Students ask: Why such secrecy about details of a doctrine the body of which has been publicly revealed, as in Esoteric Buddhism and The Secret Doctrine?

To this Occultism would reply: For two reasons:

(a) The whole truth is too sacred to be given out promiscuously.

(b) The knowledge of all the details and missing links in the exoteric teachings, is too dangerous in profane hands.

The truths revealed to man by the "Planetary Spirits" (the highest Kumaras, those who incarnate no longer in the universe during this Mahamanvantara), who appear on earth as Avataras only at the beginning of every new human race, and at the junction or close of the two ends of the small and great cycle, were made in time to fade away from the memory of man as he became more animalized. Yet, though these Teachers remain with man no longer than the time required to impress upon the plastic minds of child-humanity the eternal verities they teach, the spirit of the teachings remains vivid though latent in mankind. The full knowledge of the primitive revelation having, however, remained always with a few Elect, has been transmitted, from that time up to now, from one generation of Adepts to another. As the Teachers say in the Occult Primer: "This is done so as to ensure them (the eternal truths) from being utterly lost or forgotten in ages hereafter by the forthcoming generations . . ." The mission of the Planetary Spirit is but to strike the keynote of Truth. Once he has directed the vibration of the latter to run its course uninterruptedly along the concatenation of the race to the end of the cycle - he disappears from our earth until the following Planetary Manvantara. The mission of any teacher of esoteric truths, whether he stands at the top or at the foot of the ladder of knowledge, is precisely the same: as above, so below. I have only orders to strike the keynote of the various esoteric truths among the learners as a body. Those units among you who will have raised themselves on the "Path" over their fellow-students in their esoteric sphere, will, as the "Elect" spoken of did and do in the Parent Brotherhoods, receive the last explanatory details and the ultimate key to what they learn. No one, however, can hope to gain this privilege before the Masters (not my humble self) find him or her worthy.

If you wish to know the real raison d'Ítre for this policy, I now give it to you. No use showing and explaining that which all of you know as well as I do; at the very beginning, events have shown that no caution can be dispensed with. Of our body of several hundred men and women, many did not seem to realize either the awful sacredness of the pledge taken (which some took at the end of their pen), or the fact that their personality has to be entirely disregarded, when brought face to face with their Higher Self; or that all their words and professions went for naught unless corroborated by actions. This was human nature, and no more; therefore it was passed leniently by, and a new lease accorded by the Master. But apart from this there is a danger lurking in the nature of the present cycle itself. Civilized Humanity, however carefully guarded by its invisible Watchers, the Nirmanakayas - who watch over our respective races and nations - owing to its collective Karma, is terribly under the sway of the traditional opposers of the Nirmanakayas, the "Brothers of the Shadow," embodied and disembodied; and this, as already told you, will last to the end of the first Kali-Yuga cycle (1897), and a few years beyond, as the smaller dark cycle happens to overlap the great one. Thus, all efforts notwithstanding, terrible secrets are often revealed to entirely unworthy persons, by the efforts of the "Dark Brothers" and their working on human brains, owing to the simple fact that in certain privileged organisms what Western philosophy would call innate ideas, and Occultism "flashes of genius,"* are the vibrations of the primitive truths set in motion by the Planetary Beings. Some such idea based on eternal truth is awakened, and all that the watchful Powers can do is to prevent its entire revelation. You see such an instance in America in the person of John W. Keely, of Philadelphia; of Dr. Babbitt, and the worthy associate of Hiram Butler who went under the alias of Vidya Nyaiaka. All three tend in various degrees toward Black Magic, either unconsciously and with good intentions, or deliberately and with the most abominable objects in view.

Everything in this Universe of differentiated matter has its two aspects - the light and the dark side - which two attributes applied practically, lead, the one to use, the other to abuse. Every man may become a botanist without apparent danger to his fellow-creatures; and many a chemist who has mastered the science of essences knows that each can both heal and kill. Not an ingredient, not a poison, but can be used to do both - eye, from harmless wax to deadly prussic acid, from the saliva of the infant to that of the cobra de capella. This every tyro in medicine knows - theoretically, at any rate. But where is that learned chemist in our day who has been permitted to discover the "night side" of an attribute of any substance that enters into the three kingdoms of Science, let alone the seven of the Occultists, i.e., who of them has penetrated into its Arcana, into the innermost Essence of things and its primary correlations? Yet it is this knowledge alone which makes of an Occultist a genuine practical Initiate, whether he turns out a Brother of Light or a Brother of Darkness. The essence of that subtle, traceless poison, the most potent in nature, which entered into the composition of the so-called Medici and Borgia poisons, if used with discrimination by one well versed in the septenary degrees of its potentiality on each of the planes accessible to man on earth, could heal or kill every man in the world; the result depending, of course, on whether the operator was a Brother of the Light or a Brother of the Shadow. The former is prevented from doing the good he might, by racial, national, and individual Karma; the second is impeded in his fiendish work by the joint efforts of the human "Stones" of the "Guardian Wall."**

It is incorrect to think that there exists any special "powder of projection," or "philosopher's stone," or "elixir of life," The latter lurks in every flower, in every stone and mineral throughout the globe. It is the ultimate essence of everything on its way to higher and higher evolution. As there is no good or evil per se, so there is neither "elixir of life" nor "elixir of death," nor poison, per se, but all this is contained in one and the same Universal Essence, this or the other effect, or result, depending on the degree of its differentiations and various correlations. The light side of it produces life, health, bliss, divine peace, etc.; the dark side brings death, disease, sorrow and strife. This is proven by the knowledge of the nature of the most violent poisons; of some of them even a large quantity will produce no evil effect on the organism, whereas a grain of the same poison kills with the rapidity of lightning; while the same grain, again, altered by a certain combination, though its quantity remains almost identical - will heal. The number of the degrees of its differentiation is septenary, as are the planes of its action, each degree being beneficent or maleficent in its effects, according to the system into which it is introduced. He who is skilled in these degrees is on the highroad to practical Adeptship; he who acts at hap-hazard - as the enormous majority of the "Mind Curers," whether "Mental" or "Christian Scientist" - is likely to rue the effects on himself as well as on others. Put on the track by the example of the Indian Yogis, and of their broadly but incorrectly outlined practices, which they have only read about, but have had no opportunity to study - these new sects have rushed guideless and headlong into the practice of denying and affirming. Thus they have done more harm than good. Those who are successful owe it to their innate magnetic and healing powers, which very often counteract that which would otherwise be conductive to much evil. Beware, I say; Satan and the Archangel are more than twins; they are one body and one mind - Deus est daemon inversus.

* See article "Genius" [by H.P.B.], in Lucifer, Vol. V, November, 1889, pp. 227-33.[published in volume XII C.W.]

**See The Voice of the Silence, part III , page 68 and 94 (note 28 to Part III; in this edition note 15)

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Such is another question asked by members of the E.S.T. I answer: Genuine concentration and meditation, conscious and cautious, upon one's lower self in the light of the inner divine man and the Paramitas, is an excellent thing. But to "sit for Yoga," with only a superficial and often distorted knowledge of the real practice, is almost invariably fatal; for ten to one the student will either develop mediumistic powers in himself or lose time and get disgusted both with practice and theory. Before one rushes into such a dangerous experiment and seeks to go beyond a minute examination of one's lower self and its walk in life, or that which is called in our phraseology, "The Chela's Daily Life Ledger," he would do well to learn at least the difference between the two aspects of "Magic," the White or Divine, and the Black or Devilish, and assure himself that by "sitting for Yoga," with no experience, as well as with no guide to show him the dangers, he does not cross daily and hourly the boundaries of the Divine to fall into the Satanic. Nevertheless, the way to learn the difference is very easy; one has only to remember that no esoteric truths entirely unveiled will ever be given in public print, in book or magazine.

In the Book of Rules I advice students to get certain works, as I shall have to refer to and quote from them repeatedly. I reiterate the advice and ask them to turn to The Theosophist [Vol. IX] of November, 1887. On page 98 they will find the beginning of an excellent article by Mr. Rama Prasad on "Nature's Finer Forces."* The value of this work is not so much in its literary merit, though it gained its author the gold medal of The Theosophist - as in its exposition of tenets hitherto concealed in a rare and ancient Sanskrit work on Occultism. But Mr. Rama Prasad is not an Occultist, only an excellent Sanskrit scholar, a university graduate and a man of remarkable intelligence. His Essays are almost entirely based on Tantra works, which, if read indiscriminately by a tyro in Occultism, will lead to the practice of most unmitigated Black Magic. Now, since the difference of primary importance between Black and White Magic is simply the object with which it is practiced, and that of secondary importance, the nature of the agents and ingredients used for the production of phenomenal results, the line of demarcation between the two is very, very thin. The danger is lessened only by the fact that every occult book, so called, is occult only in a certain sense; that is, the text is occult merely by reason of its blinds. The symbolism has to be thoroughly understood before the reader can get at the correct sense of the teaching. Moreover, it is never complete, its several portions each being under a different title and each containing a portion of some other work; so that without a key to these no such work divulges the whole truth. Even the famous Saivagama, on which "Nature's Finer Forces" is based, "is nowhere to be found in complete form," as the author tells us. Thus, like all others, it treats of only five Tattvas instead of the seven in esoteric teachings.

Now, the Tattvas being simply the substratum of the seven forces of nature, how can this be? There are seven forms of Prakriti, as Kapila's Sankhya, [the] Vishnu Purana and other works teach. Prakriti is nature, matter (primordial and elemental); therefore logic demands that the Tattvas should also be seven. For, whether Tattvas mean, as Occultism teaches, "forces of nature" or, as the learned Rama Prasad explains, "the substance out of which the universe is formed" and "the power by which it is sustained," it is all the same; they are force and matter, Prakriti. And if the forms, or rather planes, of the latter are seven, then its forces must be seven also; that is, the degrees of the solidity of matter and the degrees of the power that ensouls it must go hand in hand. "The Universe is made out of the Tattva, it is sustained by the Tattva, and it disappears into the Tattva," says Siva, as quoted from the Saivagama in "Nature's Finer Forces." This settles the question; if Prakriti is septenary, then the Tattvas must be seven, for, as said, they are both substance and force, or atomic matter and the spirit that ensouls it.

This is explained here to enable the student to read between the lines of the so-called occult Sanskrit philosophy, by which they must not be misled. Every Esotericist who reads The Theosophist must remember how bitterly Subba Row, a learned Vedantin Brahman, arose against the septenary principles in man. He knew well I had no right to and dared not explain in The Theosophist, a public magazine, the real numeration, and simply took advantage of my enforced silence. The doctrine of the seven Tattvas (the principles on the universe as in man) was held in great sacredness, and therefore secrecy, by the Brahmans in days of old, by whom now the teachings is almost forgotten. Yet it is taught to this day in the schools beyond the Himalayan Range, but it is now hardly remembered or heard of in India except through rare Initiates. The policy has been changed gradually; Chelas began to be taught the broad outlines of it, and at the advent of the T.S. in India, in 1879, I was ordered to teach it in its exoteric form to one or two, and obeyed. To you who are pledged, I give it out esoterically. [now found in Secret Doctrine III and Col. Wr. volume XII, not on this site]

Knowing that some of the members of the E.S.T. try to follow a system of Yoga in their own fashion, guided in this only by the rare hints they find in Theosophical books and magazines, which must naturally be incomplete, I chose one of the best expositions ever written upon ancient occult works, "Nature's Finer Forces," in order to point out how easily one can be misled by their blinds.

The author seems to have been himself deceived. The Tantras read esoterically are as full of wisdom as the noblest occult works. Studied without a guide and applied to practice, they may lead to the production of various phenomenal results, on the moral and physiological planes. But let anyone accept their dead-letter rules and practices, let him try with some selfish motive in view to carry out the rites prescribed therein, and - he is lost. Followed with pure heart and unselfish devotion merely for the sake of the latter, either no result will follow, or such as can only throw back the performer. Woe, then, to the selfish man who seeks to develop occult powers only to attain earthly benefits or revenge, or to satisfy his ambition; the separation of the Higher from the Lower Principles and the severing of Buddhi-Manas from the Tantrist's Personality will speedily follow, the terrible Karmic results of the dabbler in Magic.

In the East, in India and China, soulless men and women are as frequently met with as in the West, though vice is, in truth, far less developed than it is here.

It is Black Magic and oblivion of their ancestral wisdom that leads them thereunto. But of this I will speak later, now merely adding - you have to be warned and know the danger.

Meanwhile, in view of what follows, the real occult division of the Principles in their correspondences with the Tattvas and other minor forces has to be well studied.

*The reference to "Nature's Finer Forces" which follow have respect to the eight articles which appeared in the pages of The Theosophist [Vol. IX, November, 1887; February, May, June, August, 1888; Vol. X, October, November 1888; March 1889], and not to the fifteen essays and the translation of a chapter of the Saivagama, which are contained in the book called Nature's Finer Forces. The Saivagama in its details is purely Tantric, and nothing but harm can result from any practical following of its precepts. I would most strongly dissuade a member of the E.S. from attempting any of these Hatha-Yoga practices, for he will either ruin himself entirely, or throw himself so far back that it will be almost impossible to regain the lost ground in this incarnation. The translation referred to has been considerably expurgated, and even now is hardly fit for publication. It recommends Black Magic of the worst kind, and is the very antipodes of spiritual Raja-Yoga. Beware, I say.

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