AND THE SECRET
By MAX HEINDEL
Some time after Madame Blavatsky arrived at Wurzburg she was joined by the Countess Wachmeister, who loyally and lovingly helped in the great work. The number of visitors caused H.P.B. in a letter to a friend to write that the city was becoming a philosophical Medina. Continuing, she wrote:
"I am only in the middle of Part One, but shall in a month send you the first six sections. I take from ISIS only facts, leaving out everything in the shape of dissertations, attacks on Christianity and Science--in short, all the useless stuff, and all that has lost its interest. Only myths, symbols and dogmas, explained from the esoteric point of view. It is actually and de facto a new work entirely. Cycles are explained from the occult side."
Her insight into problems of philosophy, racial origins, fundamental bases of religions, and keys to old symbols was phemonenal; yet it was not the result of study, for never was a student more eccentric and restless. Of trained literary faculty she had none. She wrote under inspiration; thoughts flashed through her brain like meteors. Scenes often painted themselves before her mental vision and died out when only half caught. Because of her excessive use of parentheses, many sentences were inordinately long. Like Shakespeare and other geniuses, she would take material where she found it, and work it into the mosaic upon which she put the stamp of her own individuality, and around which she wove the golden web of her own high powers.
In one of her letters she announced that the enormous volume of introductory stanzas, the first chapter on the Archaic Period and Cosmogony, was ready. "But now," she goes on, "how send them to Adyar? Suppose they are lost! I do not remember one word of them and so we would be cooked! Well---has read them through twice and started the third time. He has not found one part to be corrected in the English, and he says he is amazed at the gigantic erudition and the soundness of it, showing the esotericism of the Bible and its incessant parallels with the Vedas and Brahmanas. This is a little more wonderful yet than ISIS, that you corrected and Wilder suggested. Now I am absolutely alone with my armchair and inkstand and no books to speak of. In about four hours I wrote a whole section and the introduction of a whole Stanza (about forty pages) without any books around me. SIMPLY LISTENING-- simply listening."
Can we realize what that means? She was merely writing what was transmitted to her clairaudiently, as Colonel Olcott and others had seen her do day to day. Herein lies the answer to the traducers who have accused her of plagiarism. I am satisfied that never in one instance was she guilty of having consciosuly appropriated another's writings. She may, however, have drawn them direct spiritually, or having received them second-hand from that great store- house of human thought and mental products, the Akash, where, as drops are merged in the ocean, personal begetters of thought are lost in the infinite Mind, save to those most advanced intelligences who can count the sand grains or the drops in the ocean and pick out the atoms in their vortices.
About December, 1886, Colonel Olcott received the first volume of "The Secret Doctrine" for revision by T. Subba Row and himself, but Mr. Row refused to do more than read it, saying that if he touched it he would have to rewrite it, as it was full of mistakes. This was mere pique, but it had its effect, for when his remark was reported to H.P.B., she was greatly distressed. She set to work revising the manuscript carefully, correcting many errors due to slipshod literary methods, and with the help of friends, especially Bertram and Archibald Keightley, put the book into the shape in which it was first published.
She was always eager to have her mistakes pointed out, and was also ready to correct them. The errors occurred especially in such of her writings as were not dictated to her psychically by the Master. Frequently she would ruthlessly destroy faulty pages. Often at a word from the Master she would consign to the flames reams of laboriously prepared and copied manuscript, to the intense grief of her friends. Countess Wachmeister related that one day when she went into Madame Blavatsky's writing room she found the floor strewn with discarded manuscript. To her question about it, H.P.B. replied, "Yes, I have tried twelve times to write this one page correctly and each time Master says it is wrong! I think I shall go mad writing it so often, but leave me alone; I will not pause until I have conquered it even if I have to go on all night." The Countess brought her a cup of coffee to refresh her and then left her to pursue her weary task.
An hour later Madame Blavatsky called her and said the task had been accomplished. The labor had been prodigious and the result small, as was often the case when she had been annoyed. This is apparent from her answer to the Countess' question as to how she could make mistakes in setting down what was given her. She replied, "Well, you see, it is like this. I make what I can only describe as a sort of vacuum in the air before me and fix my sight and my will intently upon it, and soon scene after scene passes before me like the successive pictures of a diorama; or, if I need a reference, as information from some book, I fix my mind intently, and the astral counterpart of the book appears and from it I take what I need. The more perfectly my mind is freed from distraction, the more easily I can do this, but after the annoying letter I had this morning I could not concentrate properly, and each time I tried I got the quotation all wrong. It is all right now, however, so Master says."
H.P.B. often asked her friends in various parts of the world to verify quotations from books which could be found in libraries where such friends resided. Thus, she would need verification of a passage from a book of which only one copy was extant and that in the Library of the Vatican. Again, a friend in London would be asked to verify a quotation from some document possessed only by the Britich Museum. It should be noted, however, that she needed only VERIFICATION. The subject matter she already had.
Madame Blavatsky stated that she was only the mouthpiece of the Masters-- writing, speaking, and acting, as directed by them. This has been ridiculed and she herself caracterized as a rogue and an impostor. There are, however, certain incontrovertible facts to be taken into consideration by those who wish to form a fair and unbiased opinion. When she wrote "The Secret Doctrine" she had around her only a handful of ordinary books. From such sources she could have obtained but little to help her. We cannot in this way account for the extraordinary and prodigious knowledge manifest in "The Secret Doctrine". Most of the time during which the work was written, she was hundreds of miles from any library of consequence. Had she been able financially to travel from library to library she would have been physically unable to seek out the passages she is accused of having plagiarised. She never said that she discovered the knowledge she gave the world. Her contention was that it came from the remote past; that it is in every scripture and in every philosophy.
The purpose of "The Secret Doctrine" is to quote from every scripture of every religion, from the writings of every people, in order to show the identity of the teachings and prove the antiquity of the subject-matter. What is new in the book lies not in the NATURE of its facts or ideas, for these can be found scattered among the works of various Orientalists and in the numerous sacred books which have long existed. What is new is the selection by H.P.B. from all sources of facts which together form a single mighty concept of the evolution of the universe and of man--the coherent synthesis of the whole cosmogony. She qualifies as the greatest Teacher of the time because she had real knowledge and not mere book learning. She had that which enabled her to gather from many books in many places the truths which, fitted together, made one great whole. She held the clue which she was able to follow with unerring accuracy through the maze, and show that each individual material held within itself the possibility of becoming the single edifice.
Her work is the more extraordinary because she did it without being a scholar; without having had the education whcih would have fitted her to some extent for piecing together this knowledge; because she did what none of the Orientalists have done with all their learning, what not all of them together have done with all their knowledge of Eastern tongues and their study of Eastern literature. Not one of them out of such a motley of material was able to synthesize such a momentous work. Not on of them out of that chaos was able to build up a cosmos--but this Russian woman with little education did it. She who was no scholar and did not pretend to be one, somewhere gained a knowledge that enabled her to do what no one else--scholar or sciolist--has done. Somewhere she received that which made it possible for her to transform chaos to order and to produce a work which conveys to us an understanding of the universe and man. She said it was not hers. She frequently spoke of her own lack of knowledge, and referred to THOSE who taught her. This brings us to the other part of the attacks made on Madame Blavatsky, or rather on the Masters, the existence of whom is regarded as a myth.
The learning and ability which she herself disclaims is not challenged by her enemies. They sometimes say that her knowledge is poorly digested, that she arranges her material badly, that her writings are misty, involved, self- contradictory. But that she possessed an extraordinary fund of varied knowledge bearing on out-of-the-way topics and obscure philosophies is freely admitted. If she was a fraud, why was she such a fool to invent imaginary Teachers? Why should she make them the fathers of her knowledge, and so become a target for abuse and slander, while she might have gained esteem, to say nothing of money, by the simple and easier course of taking the entire credit herself? Can anything more preposterous be imagined than for a Russian woman of noble family, married to a high official, go out into the world on a wild goose-chase after imaginary Teachers, and having acquired an immense mass of recondite knowledge at great cost and suffering, to throw away the credit of acquiring it, to ascribe it to nonexistent persons, to face slander, abuse and calumny instead of utilizing it in the common way, to be poor and despised when she might have been wealthy and honored? Looked at from any standpoint consistent with reason, the only tenable conclusion is that H.P.B. told the truth when she affirmed that her knowledge was received through the Masters of Wisdom.
A curious fact in connection with images of books as seen in the astral light is that the text sometimes appears reversed as if held before a mirror. With a little practice it becomes easy to read words, as the context and general sense prevent mistakes, but reading figures correctly is more difficult. Sometimes Madame Blavatsky forgot to reverse them, causing much trouble and annoyance to herself and others. For example, if she wrote to a friend asking him to verify a passage on page 341 of a certain book, the answer might come back that the passage could not be found there, or that there were not that many pages in the book. Looking the matter up it was invariably found in such cases that H.P.B. had forgotten to reverse the number. So (to take the same instance) it should have been 143 instead of 341. After a time, her correspondents discovered this, and then easily corrected such mistakes themselves.
Another noteworthy circumstance in connection with the writing of "The Secret Doctrine" was that if Madame Blavatsky ever wanted definite information on any subject, it was sure to reach her in some way, either in a letter from a friend, in a newspaper or a magazine, or in the course of casual reading of books. This happened with such frequency and appositeness that it could not be explained on the basis of coincidence. Whenever possible, she used normal means, so as not to exhaust her powers. In the early days of the Society, she had not been prudent in this, and afterward she felt the effects.
One day there came a temptation in the offer of a large yearly salary if she would write for the Russian newspapers. She might write on any subject she chose, occultism included. Here was a primise of comfort and ease for the remainder of her days. Two hours a day would be ample to satisfy all demands on her time. But she said, "To write such a work as`The Secret Doctrine', I must have all my thoughts in that direction, to keep in touch with the current. It is difficult enought as it is, hampered as I am with this sick and worn out old body, and it would be impossible to change the current back and forth from "The Secret Doctrine" to newspaper writing. I have no longer the energy left in me. Too much of it was exhausted in performing phenomena." When asked why she did these things when she must have known that she was wasting her strength and it would have been much better if no phenomena had been connected with her work, she answered, "Because people were continually bothering me. It was always,`Oh, do materialize this,' or ' Do `let me hear those astral bells' and so on, and then I did not like to disappoint people, so I acceded to their requests. Now I have to suffer for it, and moreover, at the time the Society was started it was necessary to draw people's attention, and phenomena did this more effectually than anything else could have done."
Granted, then, that phenomena were necessary at that time, the mischief lay in the fact that, once introduced, they were difficult to get rid of when they had served their purpose. All came eager to have their curiosity gratified, and if disappointed, went away in great wrath and indignation, ready to denounce the thing as a fraud. So in her anxiety for the welfare of the Society, poor H.P.B. continued the work, knowing that she was squandering her vitality. Thus she almost literally gave her life blood for the good of the organization.
After the Society was fairly well established came the opportunity to have ease and comfort for the rest of her days. Can we realize what that meant? Picture Madame Blavatsky in her dingy little apartment with but one bedroom, which she shared with the Countess Wachmeister. In that obscure old German town she was virtually an exile among a foreign and unfamiliar people. Here she toiled at her desk twelve to fourteen hours a day, and was often in the most straitened circumstances. Then came the offer from the newspaper. She could write about anything she pleased, and receive a salary that would place her far beyond the pale of want--all for about two hours a day of her time. Seemingly it would involve only a small sacrifice of time; but H.P.B. knew better. She knew that she could not write for newspapers and write "The Secret Doctrine" also. Unflinchingly she wrote the letter declining the offer, and thus added another to the long list sacrifices she had already laid on the altar of the Society and of humanity.
From Wurzburg, Madame Blavatsky went to Elberfield, where she stayed with Madame Gebhard. Here it seems that little if any work was done on "The Secret Doctrine", owing to the fact that she fell and sprained her ankle. Her kind friends nursed her tenderly, but recovery seemed to be slow. Her sister and niece were sent for, and with them she went to Ostend, from which place she wrote to the Countess Wachmeister:
"Yes, I will try to settle once more at my `Secret Doctrine' but it is hard. I am very weak. I feel I am ungrateful. But then gratitude has ever been shown in ancient symbology to reside in people's heels, and having lost my legs how can I be expected to have any?" Later she wrote: "My poor legs have parted company with my body. I am now as legless as any elemental can be, and I do not know a soul in Ostend; not a solitary Russian here but myself, who would rather be a Turk and go back to India, but I can't, for I have neither legs nor reputation, according to the infamous charges of the S.P.R."* [* The Society for Psychical Research]
Soon afterwards, the Countess Wachmeister again joined H.P.B. They had a number of visitors from England, Germany, and France, Ostend being easy of access from these countries. Madame Blavatsky wrote steadily, though her health was very poor and she frequently fretted, as evidenced by the following extract from one of her letters in which she says, "Because lies, hypocrisy and jesuitism reign supreme in this world, and I am not and cannot be either, therefore I seem doomed. Because I am tired of life and the struggle with that Stone of Sisyphus and the eternal work of the Danaides, and I am not permitted to get out of this misery and rest because I am one too many on this earth, I am doomed."
This state of mind was probably occasioned chiefly by the extremely poor health which soon after came to a crisis, when she was stricken with kidney trouble. The Belgian physician said that she could not live long, and in her despair the Countess telegraphed to Dr. Ashton Ellis, one of the London members of the Theosophical Society, who immediately came to Ostend. He held out no more hope than the Belgian doctor. Both were agreed that they had never known a person with kidneys so severely affected to live so long.
It seemed as if "The Secret Doctrine" would not be finished--at least not by H.P.B. Anxious and sorrowful were the hearts of those who surrounded her. The grief of the Countess Wachmeister became so great that she went into a swoon. She recovered, and continued to be almost constantly at the bedside of the sick woman. Awakening one morning after a short sleep, she was surprised to see Madame Blavatsky sitting up in bed, looking calmly at her.
"Countess, come here!"
The Countess obeyed, asking: "What is the matter, H.P.B.? You look so different."
She replied, "Yes. Master has been here. He gave me my choice--that I might die and be free if I would, or live and finish "The Secret Doctrine". He told me how great would be my sufferings, and what a terrible time I would have before me in England (for I am to go there) but when I thought of those to whom I shall be permitted to teach a few things and of the T.S., to which I have given my heart's blood already, I accepted the sacrifice."
She then called for some breakfast and to the surprise and joy of her friends, got up and went into the dining-room, where later she received a lawyer and the American Consul, who had come to superintend the making of her will. One may imagine the change of expression which came over their faces when, instead of coming into the presence of a dying woman, they found Madame Blavatsky sitting in her armchair seemingly in the best of health. Thus once more the specter of death was thrust away and H.P.B. had taken another lease on life.
The next visitors were Dr. Keightley and Mr. Bertram Keightley of London, who bore urgent invitations to Madame Blavatsky to come to London. To this she finally consented. The Countess left Ostend for Sweden, and shortly H.P.B. journeyed to London, where with the Keightleys she occupied a small cottage called Maycot. Here the manuscript of "The Secret Doctrine" was finished. It made a pile three feet high when it was given to the Keightleys for correction of syntax, punctuation, and spelling. The Keightleys found that it was not written in a consecutive manner, and outlined a plan of rearrangement which was approved by Madame Blavatsky. The entire manuscript was then typewritten.
Just before this work was finished, H.P.B. and her friends moved to 17 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, London, where they were joined by the Countess Wachmeister and others, and there was established the first Headquarters.
It was first arranged to have "The Secret Doctrine" published by Mr. George Redway, who was publishing "Lucifer", the magazine which had been founded a short time before by H.P.B., and which has since been called the "Theosophical Review", but as his proposal was not financially satisfactory, and a friend of Madame Blavatsky's offered to furnish the money, an office was taken in Duke Street, London, the primary object being to enable the Theosophical Society to derive the utmost benefit from her writings.
Of the further history of the writing of "The Secret Doctrine" there is little to be said, though several months more of hard work were necessary before it was finally ready for the press. H.P.B. read and corrected two sets of galley proof, then a set of page proof and finally a revise in sheet correcting, altering and adding until the last, with the result that the printers' bill for corrections alone amounted to $1,500.
Such is the story of "The Secret Doctrine"--a story which, like the book itself, is derided by the majority of people, notwithstanding its authentication by many persons of sound reason and blameless life. As in the case of Copernicus and others, some day the world will wake up and find that this much abused woman was right. Will a monument be raised to her? Who knows? Whether it will be or not, the fact remains that in "The Secret Doctrine" itself and in the affection with which its author is regarded by every student who has been helped by her is a monument more lasting than marble or bronze. For, though the Masters were the actual authors of the work, let us not forget that it was the zeal and devotion of H.P.B. which so excellently qualified her as an instrument for their use; and but for that zeal and devotion we might not today possess the greatest of modern works on occultism--"The Secret Doctrine".
[COVER] [CONTENTS] [TOP] [BIOGRAPHY OF MAX HEINDEL] [CHAPTER I] [CHAPTER II] [CHAPTER III] [CHAPTER IV] [CHAPTER V] [APHORISMS BY MAX HEINDEL] [LINKS]
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