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The Theosophist Volume 15 No. 3 December 1893


Mr. A. P. Sinnett has lately contributed a remarkable article on “Esoteric Teaching”* in which he tries to give a tardy reply to one of the alleged mistakes in “Esoteric Buddhism”, commented on, and explained by Madame Blavatsky in the “ Secret Doctrine.” Speaking of the correspondence that he had with his Occult Teachers, he states that he gave copies of the greater part of these writings to several London Theosophists under a “solemn pledge” not to make use of them in any way without his permission, and he adds—“ Several years later when Madame Blavatsky was living in this country she naturally acquired overwhelming influence over a great many members of the Society. She desired one of these to give up to her the copies that had been received from me. The member in question conceived her orders to over-ride the original pledge and gave them up. They were largely used in the preparation of the ‘Secret Doctrine’ and have since been scattered about the world.” This statement does not appear to me to be quite correct. Madame Blavatsky came to live in London in April 1887. It must have taken some time after that for her to acquire ‘overwhelming influence’ so as to get from one of the members copies of the Master’s letters, which, 'according to the statement of Mr Sinnett, were then used in the preparation of the “Secret Doctrine.” The fact however is that a goodly portion of the “Secret Doctrine” had been written out before she came to England.

It was in December 1884, when I went to Adyar for the Convention, that I saw the manuscript of the letters written to Mr. Sinnett. They were in the possession of a member of the Society and were lent to me without any condition whatsoever; neither was I aware that the copies thereof had been given to a few members only under a solemn pledge. A few other members also saw the manuscript which was quite accessible to Madame Blavatsky, and which, or a copy thereof, was sent to her in Europe a few months after she left Adyar in 1885. It is scarcely fair therefore to make the insinuation above alluded to. After her arrival in England it is just possible that some other member showed her his copy of the letters, but it is a fact that from December 1884 forwards she had at her free disposal a copy of the letters, and the possessor of this copy never made any objection to let his friends have the use of it. It was scarcely necessary therefore for Madame Blavatsky to use


* Published in the Theosophist for September iast as also in the August number of Lucifer and September number of the Path.


her “overwhelming influence,” in 1887 or 1888 (Mr. Sinnett does not give us the exact time) to make a member believe that her orders must “override the original pledge.” Mr. Sinnett in his “Esoteric Buddhism” speaking of the seven globes which form the Earth-chain, over which Humanity is said to evolute in seven rounds, thus writes, “Besides the Earth, which is at the lowest material point, there are only two other worlds of our chain which are visible to physical eyes—the one behind, and the one in advance of it. These two worlds as a matter of fact are Mars and Mercury, Mars being behind and Mercury in advance of us.” In the “Secret Doctrine” however it has been taught that “neither Mars nor Mercury belong to our chain. They are along with other planets septenary Units in the great host of ‘chains’ of our system and all are as visible as their upper globes are invisible.” According to this teaching the six sister globes of the Earth are different states of the Earth itself, and all these six are invisible as they require states of consciousness different from our physical consciousness to sense them. Mr. Sinnett takes exception to the explanation of H. P. B. on this point. He writes:—“How the original question relating to Mars was as follows: ‘ What planets of those known to ordinary science, besides Mercury, belong to our system of world? ’* The question took that form because information concerning the association of Mercury with our chain of worlds, as the next planet on which this body of humanity was destined to evolve, had been given to me previously. The answer was, ‘Mars and four other planets of which astronomy knows nothing. Neither A. B. nor Y. Z, are known nor can they be seen through physical means however perfected.’ ’’ A most important quotation however is wanting in Mr. Sinnett’s article. Although he has quoted the question and answer regarding Mars, he has not given us the exact words of the question and answer wherein it was stated that Mercury was one of the planets of the Earth chain. On the signification of the exact words of the Teacher on this point, a good deal would depend, and probably those words would throw some additional light on the laconic and somewhat confusing answer as to Mars.

In the manuscript of Mr. Sinnett’s correspondence with the Teachers the question as to Mars quoted above is numbered 21. The next question and its reply, No. 22—are as follows: “Is the Sun the vertex of our manvantaric chain and of the other chains in the Solar system also?” Ans.— “ Not unless we call it the vertex of an angle. Bat it is the vertex of all the chains, collectively. All of us dwellers of the chains, we will have to evolute, live, and run up and down the scale in that highest and last of septenary chains* (on the scale of perfections) before the Solar Pralaya snuffs out our little system.”

Reading these two questions and the replies thereto one cannot help remarking the difference in the phraseology. In the first question the words are: “Our system of Worlds.”


#The italics are mine.—N. D. K.


Surely these words suggest a somewhat different idea than the words “Manvantaric-chain" and “Septenary-chain”. The expression “our system of worlds” may have been meant by Mr. Sinnett as an equivalent of the “Earth-chain,” but to others it would suggest a different ideal. Mars and Mercury may belong to “our system of worlds,” meaning thereby an assemblage of globes which function under strikingly similar laws, which were closely interrelated; and yet these two planets would not thereby be the two immediately superior globes of our Earth-chain. Not only is each objective globe with its six higher states a septenary ring or chain in itself but probably seven such chains form a little “system of Worlds and the seven objective and most material globes of such a system may have a most intimate relation one with the other. The answer in the question as to Mars may very fairly be taken to mean that Mars, the Earth and Mercury, with four other material yet invisible planets, form a peculiar system of worlds, closely interlinked. The hint that has been given us as to a material yet invisible intra Mercurial planet can very well suggest to us the existence of material, but invisible globes, A. B. and Y. Z., forming the topmost globes in our circle or system of worlds. It may probably be that some mysterious process of evolution takes place on the other globes of a “system” after the evolution on a single ring of united globes has ended. As to this we have something like a vague and dim suggestion in the reply to the 22nd question quoted above, where it is said of still higher evolution, that “all of us dwellers of the chains will have to evolute in that highest and last of the Septenary-chains before the Solar Pralaya snuffs out our little system.”

In the “Secret Doctrine” H. P. B. states that “when the present work was commenced, the writer feeling sure that the speculation about Mars and Mercury was a mistake applied to the Teachers by letter for explanation and an authoritative version. Both came in due time and verbatim extracts from these are now given.” In these extracts we find the following: “Again both (Mars and Mercury) are Septenary chains, as independent of the Earth’s sidereal lords and superiors as you are independent of ‘the principles of Daumling’ (Tom Thumb)—which were perhaps his six brothers with or without night-caps.”

Again in answer to ‘certain scientific objections on this same point, raised by a young Theosophist,’ H. P. B. received a second letter from the same Teachers, which has also been quoted in the “Secret Doctrine.” In it we read:—“ Our globe as taught from the first, is at the bottom of the arc of descent where the matter of our perceptions exhibits itself in its grossest form * * * “ Hence it only stands to reason that the globes which overshadow our Earth must be on different and superior planes. In short as Globes they are in CO-ADUNITION but not in CONSUBSTANTIALITY WITH OUR EARTH, and thus pertain to quite another state of consciousness. Our planet (like all those we see) is adapted to the peculiar state of its human stock, that state which enables us to see with our naked eye the sidereal bodies which are co-essential with our terrene plane and substance, just as their respective inhabitants, the Jovians, Martians and others, can perceive our little world: because our planes of consciousness, differing as they do in degree but being the same in kind, are on the same layer of differentiated matter.”

These two letters fully and clearly support the teaching put forward by H. P. B. as to the Earth-chain not being formed of planets like Mars and Mercury. Regarding the first of these letters Mr. Sinnett remarks—“Here again minute comment upon the entangled situation -is very difficult. I can only say that the omitted passages would materially alter the interpretation, the letter seems to bear, and that some words obviously put in by Madame Blavatsky in parenthesis must not be understood to have existed in the original.” Any one reading the first letter could see that the omitted passages must refer to side issues which are not exactly pertinent to the point, and it is scarcely likely that these passages would “materially alter the interpretation.” The words “Mars and Mercury” put into parenthesis after the words “again both” exactly express and apply to the meaning of the context, and even if H. P. B. put these words in parenthesis she was not at all wrong in doing so. Mr. Sinnett wants summarily to dispose of the important statements in this letter and suggests that the letter would yield a different meaning with the omitted passages restored; but there appears no ground for forming such a conclusion. Mr. Sinnett has not noticed the second letter at all in which the same point has been explained in a different way, quite against him, and in favour of the view put forth by H. P. B.

Mr. Sinnett states that after the publication of his “Esoteric Buddhism” he got a letter from the great adept Teacher, saying—“Be certain that with the few undetectable mistakes and omissions notwithstanding, your Esoteric Buddhism is the only right exposition, however incomplete, of our occult doctrines. You have made no cardinal fundamental mistakes, and whatever may be given to you hereafter will not clash with a single sentence in your book, but on the contrary will explain away any seeming contradiction.”* In these generally commendatory words there is a good deal of reservation, “ Esoteric Buddhism” was the first book written on occult teachings. It is the merest fragment of a fragment. The much larger and comparatively more exhaustive and suggestive work of H. P. B., viz., the “ Secret Doctrine,” was not then written, the courage and ability that the writer of this book had shown, and the pains that he had taken to put forward a lucid and coherent exposition of the few teachings that he had got, needed a word of praise, and it was duly given by the Master.

Mr. Sinnett to strengthen his position, quotes from a recent letter of the Master received by him “within the last few months since this subject has been under discussion.”


* The italics are mine.—N. D. K.


Herein we read:—“ If I had been capable of paltering with the truth and playing with words in the way which has been attributed to me, not one line of all the manuscript of mine in your possession would have been worth the paper it is written on.”

These words simply refer to the several attempts of H. P. B. and others to explain how the mistake as to Mars and Mercury arose out of the Teachers’ short reply. These explanations as to the public occurrence of the mistake by misinterpretation may not be correct. Nobody said that the Teacher was “paltering with the truth.” He alone knows the truth and yet does not choose to give it out fully, and it is preposterous to suppose that the whole of the truth in regard to the constitution of the Earth-chain is to be found enclosed in the few words of the reply to a chance question of Mr. Sinnett. The above words from the recent letter to him are a somewhat vague personal explanation, and they do not at all elucidate the point in dispute. After the two letters quoted in the “Secret Doctrine” from the same Masters, and the very clear and convincing explanation about the Earth-chains given by H. P. B., Mr. Sinnett’s correspondent has thought fit to shirk the disputed question and to satisfy himself by showing a little displeasure at some attempted amplification of his former words. This shows that he is evidently disinclined to speak more on the point, as it would perhaps be treading upon forbidden ground. How complicated and recondite the subject must be, may to some extent be gathered from the following quotation from one of the Master's letters to Mr. Sinnett, wherein some explanation is given as to the passage of the monad in rounds, rings and sub-rings in the various kingdoms—“but besides all this being incomprehensible to you, volumes upon volumes out of the books of Kiu-te, and others would have to be written. Their commentaries are worse still. They are filled with the most abstruse mathematical calculations the key to most of which is in the hands of our highest adepts only. Since, showing as they do the infinitude of the phenomenal manifestations in side projections of the One force, they are again secret. Therefore I doubt whether I will be allowed to give you for the present anything beyond the mere Unitary or Root-idea.”

It is easy to talk of the human tide-wave going from planet to planet, but we have first to know what this “tide-wave” is made up of, and how it is closely bound up with the life of the planet on which the wave evolutes. There is no satisfactory teaching given on this all important point. It is more reasonable to suppose that the human tide- wave bound up as it is with the very life of our Earth would go completely through all the seven different states of our planet before it was able to give up the attraction of our Earth, than that it would be able to break through the attraction and leave our planet in only a partially developed condition, to go to a different planet altogether. It is not as Mr. Sinnett thinks that “some Theosophical students have felt bound by their loyalty to Madame Blavatsky to put aside the earlier teaching of the Masters conveyed through myself and to argue that I misunderstood my instructions.” In “Esoteric Buddhism” the statement as to Mars and Mercury stands bare and isolated, and it is somewhat in conflict with the author’s statement in another place that “in reality the worlds with which we are connected are very unlike each other not merely in outward conditions but in that supreme characteristic, the proportion in which spirit and matter are mingled in their institution.” Spirit and matter are said to be equilibrated on our Earth, whereas in the two immediately superior planets, roughly speaking, there would be two-thirds of spirit to one-third of matter, and Mercury and Mars, so far as we know, stand on a level with our Earth as to the proportion of materiality to spirituality.

Not out of mere regard for Madame Blavatsky but from the whole of the logical teachings given in the ‘‘Secret Doctrine” the majority of the students of Occultism have preferred her teaching to the statement in “Esoteric Buddhism.” In the “Secret Doctrine” the statements as to the peculiar constitution of the Earth-chain are not a bare assertion, but they go to the very root of the teachings and harmonize the whole. The teaching on this point has a far wider significance than would at first sight be supposed, and were that teaching not correct, several chapters of the “Secret Doctrine” would have to be rewritten. It was not a mere matter of explaining away a few sentences in “Esoteric Buddhism,” but it was a point on the verification of which a most important doctrine of evolution depended, and we may feel sure that Madame Blavatsky must have had very strong grounds for putting forward her view of the teachings, and that she did not take up the task without fully informing herself on the point. Mr. Sinnett thinks that by means of his article all unbiassed minds will be brought to the conclusion ‘‘that Madame Blavatsky was capable of making mistakes when endeavouring to amplify and expand the occult teachings of the Masters.” The capability of making mistakes in expanding occult teachings is an attribute that may apply to all writers on Occultism, but it may justly be said of H. P. B. that owing to her special training and natural intuition she was far less capable of making such mistakes than other writers.

Mr. Sinnett’s article does not prove that she was wrong in this particular question about the Earth-chain and that he is right. There is a great deal of secret explanation behind the statement that Mars find Mercury belong to “our system of Worlds,” and when some part of this explanation is forthcoming it will be found that the statement in "Esoteric Buddhism” and the different teaching on the same point in the “Secret Doctrine” are not parts of two opposing systems, but form allied portions of a harmonious chain of Esoteric knowledge not yet fully made known.

Col. Olcott in his note to the article rightly observes that Mr. Sinnett has rendered inestimable services to our movement in the past and in his present article— however we may differ from him in some of the points noted above— it must be said that he has done signal service, in publicly stating, that apart from the letters that he got in the first instance through Madame Blavatsky, he had, during her lifetime, communications from the same Master through channels private and personal of which she knew nothing, and that since her death also he has very recently received fresh communications from the same source. This will go a great way to silence those unconscionable calumniators who by distorting facts and adding positive lies of their own try to keep up their public attacks upon the Society.

It is to be regretted that Mr. Sinnett should have for several years after the publication of the “Secret Doctrine,” kept quiet and not tried to open the question during the life-time of H. P. B. Had he done so, some further explanation would certainly have been forthcoming. We may hope with him, however, that as it had been his duty in the past to put the teaching of the Mahatmas before the world, so it may soon be his lot to give out such further teachings which may, among other things, reconcile the seeming discrepancy to which he has now thought fit to allude.

N. D. K.