Did Helena Blavatsky Study with the Druzes of Lebanon?

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Culture, Modern Occultism, Theosophy

Did Helena P. Blavatsky study with the Druzes of Lebanon, or is this letter 110, one of the accused number of libelous and “forged letters” of Vsevolod Solovyof and Eleanor Sidgwick in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky? H.P.B asserted, that the Druze and Yazdani (particularly the Yezidi) are among the last surviving remnants, especially concerning their doctrines, of the WISDOM-RELIGION. H.P.B.’s letter 110 (edited by John Algeo in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky, Volume 1, 1861-1879) was prior to her later formal conversion into Buddhism in Sri Lanka in 1880.

In it she says:

“People (foolish Spiritualists) call and believe me an “adept.” They verily [believe] that I was initiated in the pagodas! I, a woman, and a European!! The absurdity of the notion is really…calculated to make one stare in amazement! I, at least never pretended such a flagrant lie. I know too much of India and its customs…that no European man, let alone a woman, could ever penetrate into the inner recesses of the pagodas. But I have had many friends among Buddhists and knew well two Brahmins at Travancore and learned a good deal from them. I belong to the secret sect of the Druzes of the Mount Lebanon and passed a long life among dervishes, Persian mullahs, and mystics of all sort.” (The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky, Vol 1, Letter no. 110, 1861-79)

Charles Johnston remarked once:

“Then she told me something about other Masters and adepts she had known — for she made a difference, as though the adepts were the captains of the occult world, and the Masters were the generals. She had known adepts of many races, from Northern and Southern India, Tibet, Persia, China, Egypt; of various European nations, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, English; of certain races in South America, where she said there was a Lodge of adepts.” (Johnston, Charles. Hidden Wisdom V.4: Collected Writings of Charles Johnston, pg. 12)

Regarding the Druze, or Muwahiddun (Unitarians) who broke from Islam in the 11th c. — suggesting certain activity of some brothers — K.H. speaks of Druze brethren involved in their struggle in the nineteenth-century:

“The Egyptian operations of your blessed countrymen involve such local consequences to the body of Occultists still remaining there and to what they are guarding, that two of our adepts are already there, having joined some Druze brethren and three more on their way. I was offered the agreeable privilege of becoming an eye-witness to the human butchery, but — declined with thanks. For such great emergency is our Force stored up, and hence — we dare not waste it on fashionable tamasha.” (K.H., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 16.)

Helena P. Blavatsky was no impostor, from our observation of the ideas she presents. Persons of real knowledge and considerable worth were indeed associated with the theosophical cause. The purpose here is to help us understand that cause, to continue to pursue it, if we would call ourselves “Theosophists” at any rate. The hierarchy of cosmic planes, subtle soul (among some Sufis) and angelology is a feature among Muslim theosophers, e.g., Illuminationism, which embodies Islam, Zoroastrian philosophy, Hermeticism, and New Platonism into a great school of thought. The Harvard Theosophical Society writes on this subject in great lengths.

Briefly, on the Knights Templars, Rosicrucians and Freemasons, the myth goes, that a Christian Rosenkreuz traveled to Damascus, whereby upon return to Europe, he claimed to have supposedly learned of esoteric doctrines from Arab mystics, who possessed a wealth of knowledge and books with obscure doctrines translated to him. Just as H.P.B. mentioned about some book she titled and claimed were held in secret, called the Chaldean Book of Numbers among some Sufis (K. Paul Johnson believes she learned of it from Jamal al-Din).

H.P.B.’s long-time friend, Prof. A.L. Rawson made no secret of his initiation into the “Brotherhood of Lebanon,” i.e., the Druzes.

Edward Burman stated the following concerning the Druzes in The Assassins: “Their [the Druzes] faith makes them many ways the closest of the breakaway sects of Isma’ilism to the Assassins.” In his Journey to the Orient, De Nerval comments to the Druze sheik:

“The Druze have been compared to the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, and the Gnostics, while some scholars claim that the Knights Templar exploited many of your ideas, and that the Rosicrucians and Freemasons have done the same today.”

However, H.P. Blavatsky is aware of this. In Lamas and Druzes, she draws a connection between the Lamas and Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood with the ancient Babylonians. The religion of the Druzes, she says, “is far more impenetrable than that connected with the Amritsar and Lahore “Disciples,” whose grantha is well known, and has been translated into European languages more than once. Of the alleged forty-five sacred books of the Lebanon mystics, none were ever seen, let alone examined, by any European scholar. Many manuscripts have never left the underground Holoweys (place of religious meeting) invariably built under the meeting-room on the ground-floor, and the public Thursday assemblies of the Druses are simply blinds intended for over-curious travellers and neighbours.

Fn. 1. The work presented by Nasr-Allah to the French King as a portion of the Druse Scriptures, and translated by Petis de la Croix in 1701—is pronounced a forgery. Not one of the copies now in the possession of the Bodleian, Vienna, or Vatican Libraries is genuine, and besides each of them is a copy from the other. Great was always the curiosity of the travellers and greater yet the efforts of the indomitable and ever-prying missionary, to penetrate behind the veil of Druse worship, but all have resulted in failure. The strictest secrecy as to the nature of their beliefs, the peculiar rites practised in their subterranean Holoweys, and the contents of their canonical books was enjoined upon their followers by H’amsa and Boha-eddin, the chief and first disciple of the former.”

Helena P. Blavatsky is not in agreement with scholars’ accounts of the origin of the Druze religion, claiming that the “sole advantage which the writer has over her predecessors, is that she need not resort to personal speculations and theories. For this work is a partial statement of what she herself has been taught by more advanced students, (…) The writer (…) believes in the ancients, and the modern heirs to their Wisdom” (Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. vii, xxxvii). The Theosophical Encyclopedia elaborates on her position regarding the Druze:

“In an article, Lamas and Druses (CW III:175-89) she maintains that al-Hakim was not the founder of the Druze religion, but that they are the descendants of, and a mixture of, Kurds, Mardi-Arabs, and other tribes. She writes that they are a mixture of mystics of all nations and reaffirms the close and impenetrable wall of secrecy which has always protected the rites and scriptures of these people. Blavatsky considers that the Druzes are the last survivors of the archaic Wisdom-Religion which is practical mysticism of which branches have come into existence, such as Kabalism, Theosophy and Occultism.

In the article quoted, Blavatsky writes that in the mystical system of the Druzes there are five “messengers” or interpreters of the “Word of the Supreme Wisdom” who are equivalent to the five chief BODHISATTVAS each of whom is the bodily temple of the spirit of one of the five Buddhas.

Above these messengers are ten Incarnates of the supreme wisdom, the last of whom is to return at the end of the cycle.

According to Blavatsky, there is no room in the Druze system for a personal deity, unless a portion of the divine impersonal and abstract wisdom incarnates itself in a mortal individual.

Blavatsky does not quote her sources for the fairly detailed information she includes in the above mentioned article, to which the reader is referred. It is worth mentioning that sufficient knowledge is known about Blavatsky’s background to suggest that during her extensive travels she might well have had close contact with members of the Druze community.”

Philip Sydney Harris.

Given this information, why did the Druze come to the Middle East? DNA technology and modern day genetics may offer insight into origins of the esoteric Druze people — a mystery yet unsolved. An article on The Wire, Solving the 2,000 Year Old Mystery of the Druze written by Eran Elhaik provides us with some new answers about this esoteric tradition and people.

“The religion of the Druses is said to be a compound of Judaism, Mahomedanism and Christianity, strongly tinged with Gnosticism and the Magian system of Persia. Were people to call things by their right names, sacrificing all self-conceit to truth, they might confess things otherwise. They could say, for instance, that Mahomedanism being a compound of Chaldeism, Christianity and Judaism; Christianity, a mixture of Judaism, Gnosticism and Paganism; and Judaism, a wholesale Egypto-Chaldean Kabalism, masquerading under invented names and fables, made to fit the bits and scraps of the real history of the Israelite tribes—the religious system of the Druses would then be found one of the last survivals of the archaic Wisdom-Religion. It is entirely based on that element of practical mysticism of which branches have from time to time sprung into existence. They pass under the unpopular names of Kabalism, Theosophy and Occultism.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Lamas and Druses, Theosophist, June, 1881)

This post was updated May, 3, 2018.

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