Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Blavatsky's Influence 2

D.T. Suzuki
Regarding the early theosophical movement, esoteric historian Joscelyn Godwin states that it “ is a complex story, involving many nations and characters, but they all revolve around Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), the prime mover of the Society and one of the most influential women of all time”. (“Blavatsky and the First Generation of Theosophy”, Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden, Brill, 2013, p.15)
 
She is considered an important figure in the history of alternative spirituality: "... Madame Blavatsky ... stands out as the fountainhead of modern occult thought, and was either the originator and/or popularizer of many of the ideas and terms which have a century later been assembled within the New Age Movement. The Theosophical Society, which she cofounded, has been the major advocate of occult philosophy in the West and the single most important avenue of Eastern teaching to the West." (J. Gordon Melton, Jerome Clark and Aidan A. Kelly, editors, New Age Almanac, Detroit, Michigan, Gale Research Inc., 1991, p. 16)

Her use of astrology in her cosmology was innovative (beginning with her interpretation of “Ezekiel’s Wheel” in Isis Unveiled) and influential astrologer Sepharial (Walter Old) was a student of hers. Major astrology figure Alan Leo was a theosophist and met Blavatsky as well. According to Michael R. Meyer, the “re-establishment of astrology that took place during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first part of the twentieth century was promoted largely by theosophists including Sepharial, Alan Leo, Max Heindl, Charles Carter, Marc Edmund Jones, and Dane Rudhyar. (The Astrology of Relationships,London Continuum, p. 2009)
 
Influential and innovative astrologer and composer Dane Rudhyar, who was associated with diverse theosophical currents, observes: ”It may be impossible scientifically to prove the validity of that claim; it is as impossible to prove it was a hoax, considering the quite outstanding individuals who had firsthand experiential knowledge of the validity of her assertions. Even more convincing is the astounding character of the contents of her large books, especially The Secret Doctrine, which no ordinary mind could have produced without passing dozens of years studying and collating an immense mass of verifiable documents in many great libraries. At the same time, it is evident that H. P. Blavatsky, the woman, spent her life away from universities and national libraries.” (Occult Preparation for the New Age, Wheaton, Quest, 1975) http://www.khaldea.com/rudhyar/op/op_c3_p1.php
 
Esoteric Historian James Santucci explains the value of the Blavatskian theosophical approach to perennialist comparative religion: “Although non-theosophists may not agree to the proposition of an underlying Wisdom-Religion, the comparative study of religion in a sympathetic and open manner is an idea whose time has already come, and this in part through the efforts and accomplishments of the Theosophical Society…following the inspiration of Madame Blavatsky and later leaders, that humans of whatever race, creed, sex, caste, or color are equal, that all ·the world religions contain the same essential message reflecting the Wisdom of the Ages, and that this Wisdom resides in all the nations of the world, reveal a cosmopolitan and universalism in the purist sense of the terms. (Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, London, Theosophical History Centre, 1985) http://www.theohistory.org/THC/Theosophy%20and%20the%20Theosophical...

Moreover, William Quinn, in his The Only Tradition, gives a solid overview of Blavatsky’s important contributions to perennialist comparative religion, noting that “Blavatsky was the prime mover in the creation of the Theosophical Society and consequently modern Theosophy as a restatement of theosophia via her published doctrinal corpus and commitment to the movement.” (Albany, SUNY Press, 1997, p. 104).

Marcus Braybrooke, a historian of the interfaith movement, appreciates the theosophical contribution to inter-faith dialogue: “Theosophists can claim to have been amongst the first to suggest a unity of religions.The society insists that it is not offering a new system of thought, but merely underscoring certain universal concepts of God, nature and man that have been known to wise men in all ages and that may be found in the teachings of all the great religions. Emphasis is placed on mystical experience. A distinction is made between inner, or esoteric, and outer, or exoteric, teaching. It is said that all the historic world religions contain inner teaching which is essentially the same, despite external differences. This teaching is monistic in character, suggesting an underlying all-encompassing unity. (Pilgrimage of Hope: One Hundred Years of Global Interfaith Dialogue, Crossroad, 1992, p. 266)

Blavatsky has received a number of endorsements from several noted Asian Buddhists and scholars. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) was a prominent Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer who collaborated extensively with the theosophical movement and was highly appreciative of his contact with Blavatsky:”The path of perfection was shown to me by Mme Blavatsky in my 21st year”. (Diary, December 20, 1930); “Blavatsky gave me the key to opening the door to my spiritual nature”. (Diary, March 10, 1897) (quoted in Steven Kemper, Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, pp.53, 59) According to Walter Evans-Wentz: “The late Kazi Dawa Samdup was of the opinion that there is adequate internal evidence in them of their author’s intimate acquaintance with the higher lamaistic teachings into which she claimed to have been initiated.” (The Tibetan Book of the Dead, p. 7 footnote. Oxford The Tibetan book of the dead; London, Oxford University Press, 1927)
 
In 1927 the staff of the 9th Panchen Lama Tub-ten Cho-gyi Nyima helped Theosophists put out the "Peking Edition" of The Voice of the Silence and he wrote a short dedication. (Blavatsky H.P. The Voice of the Silence, ed. Alice Cleather and Basil Crump. Peking: Chinese Buddhist Research Society, 1927. – P. 113) Zen Buddhism scholar D. T. Suzuki wrote: “The Voice of the Silence is true Mahayanistic doctrine. Undoubtedly, Madame Blavatsky had in some way been initiated into the deeper side of Mahayana teachings and then gave out what she deemed wise to the Western world as theosophy." (“The Eastern Buddhist” vol. V no.4 July 1931)

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso wrote:"I believe that this book has strongly influenced many sincere seekers and aspirants to the wisdom and compassion of the Bodhisattva Path." (Blavatsky Helena The Voice of the Silence. Centenary edition. Santa Barbara: Concord Grove Press, 1989. // Foreword by the 14th Dalai Lama). Sri Lankan academic, scholar and diplomat, Dr G.P. Malalasekera wrote that her “familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism as well as with esoteric Buddhist practices seems to be beyond doubt.” (Encyclopedia of Buddhism I, Taylor & Francis, 1973, p. 539).