Theosophists on the Occult Nature of Women, Adepts on their Societal Role and Female Sovereigns
The station of every woman is not, nor ever could be solely confined to the kitchen, childbearing, and notions about her inferiority. Being mortal first and foremost, they dream and aspire, just as we men do. It is not my view or intention here, to say that childbearing and cooking, etc., are bad, as some in our critique of either women’s movements or feminist ideology may misread. Society is one thing. Theology, and spiritual practice, another to navigate in relation to it; and we know there is much more to human existence. Certainly, whether we speak of Ancient Theology or Occult Philosophy in Theosophical Tradition, if there be a woman who aspires sincerely and devotedly, as many men have too, then in no way, should she be hindered along this path to Gnosis and Power.
In speaking of women, whom I admire, specifically in this case, for H.P. Blavatsky, the life of marriage and childbearing was not a life she preferred. So she ran off, to travel, and associate with many men and women like her; and who were important to that period. There is no one, that could rightly criticize her for following what she felt was her destiny. There would be no true value to the occult teaching in nature and among humankind, if it solely applied to the needs of men in their aim towards transcendence. She was devoted to the mission set before her, knowing the scorn to blacken her name, and was loyal to her teachers. We know of her tales of dressing as a man at times on these adventures. As quoted before, H.P.B. stated of her status as woman among the secret sects of the time in a letter that:
“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)
This was before she later officially converted to Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
In an article titled THE FUTURE OCCULTIST, a Hindu correspondent of the Daily Mirror quotes a letter of K.H. signed E.O. (Eminent Occultist) to A.O. Hume, and he speaks of women from their perspective:
“We have undoubtedly to elevate the woman, but we have to elevate ourselves too.”
Continuing and quoting K.H., a Hindu theosophist in The Theosophist (August, 1884) stresses the elevation of the woman to her rightful stature and nobility in nature alongside man, and addresses an occult factor to birth-giving, that is only taught to the highest initiates:
“. . . Woman must not be looked upon as only an appanage of man, since she was not made for his mere benefit or pleasure any more than he for hers; but the two must be realized as equal powers though unlike individualities.
“. . . Woman’s mission is to become the mother of future occultists—of those who will be born without sin. On the elevation of woman the world’s redemption and salvation hinge. And not till woman bursts the bonds of her sexual slavery, to which she has ever been subjected, will the world obtain an inkling of what she really is and of her proper place in the economy of nature . . . *
“. . . Then the world will have a race of Buddhas and Christs, for the world will have discovered that individuals have it in their own powers to procreate Buddha-like children or—demons. When that knowledge comes, all dogmatic religions and with these the demons, will die out.” (Page 115.)
In short, one may say that what mankind has first to get rid of, are the base passions and desires which appeal to their sensual appetites. The woman has to cease to be a slave; so has the man to become free; both have to break loose from the bondage of animal tendencies (Sex and Practical Occultism: Suffering, Desire, Sex and its Complications). Then will their natures be elevated; then will the woman be able to put herself en rapport with Prakriti, and man with Purush; the union of these two will produce a race of Buddhas, the children of the Virgin “without sin.” These are our ideal men and women, but philosophy recognises that “the imagination realizes what it invents,” a paradoxical truth beautifully put forth by Éliphas Lévi. And if those Hindus, who blindly worship their sacred books as also those who sneer at these latter without realising the meaning of what they contain, were but to turn to them with an enlightened eye, and comprehend their teachings by reading them between the lines, they will take the right step in the cause of progress, which should be the real scope of education. (26th March, 1884. A HINDU.)
Speaking of the metaphysical meaning of the Immaculate Conception, H.P.B. elaborates on the religious notions of Father-god and the Mother:
“. . . . the very archaic Idea of Immaculate Conception, now finally crystallized into a dogma of the Christian Church, which carnalized this metaphysical idea beyond any common sense. For . . . it is purely astronomical, mathematical, and pre-eminently metaphysical: the Male element in Nature (personified by the male deities and Logoi—Viraj, or Brahma; Horus, or Osiris, etc., etc.) is born through, not from, an immaculate source, personified by the “Mother”; because that Male having a Mother cannot have a “Father”—the abstract Deity being sexless, and not even a Being but Be-ness, or Life itself.”
Blavatsky on the ability of women to become Adepts (it is not a mere title, but is considered an evolutionary stage, or condition of the inner daimon in activity through the man), discusses the physical interpretation of the Immaculate Conception, from the occult view further, in relation to women, that:
“Śakti being a female principle, it is fully manifested through a woman, although, properly speaking, the inner man is neither male, nor female. It is only the preponderance of either of the two principles (positive and negative) which determines the sex. Now, this preponderance is determined by the Law of Affinity; and hence in a woman is manifested abnormally the occult power represented by Śakti. She is moreover gifted with a wonderfully vivid imagination—stronger than man’s. And as the phenomenal is the realization or rather the manifestation of the IDEAL, which can be properly and strongly conceived only by a powerful IMAGINATION—a WOMAN-ADEPT can produce high occultists—a race of “Buddhas and Christs,” born “without sin.” The more and the sooner the animal sexual affinities are given up, the stronger and the sooner will be the manifestation of the higher occult powers which alone can produce the “immaculate conception.” And this art is practically taught to the occultists at a very high stage of initiation. The “Adept,” whether the Sthula Sarira be male or female, is then able to bring a new being into existence by the manipulation of cosmic forces. Anasûyâ, a female adept of the ancient times, is thus said to have conceived immaculately Durvasas, Dattatreya and Chandra—the three distinct types of Adeptship. . . .The very fact, that this stage pertains to one of the very highest initiations, shows that the time—when ordinary humanity, during the course of cosmic evolution, will, in this manner, be able to produce a race of “Buddhas,” etc., born “without sin”—is yet very, very far off—perhaps attainable in the sixth or the seventh “round.” But when once this possibility and the actuality of this fact is recognized, the course of living and education may be so moulded as to hasten the approach of that eventful day when on this earth will descend “the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Helena P. Blavatsky in Alchemy in the Nineteenth-Century, La Revue Théosophique, Paris, Vol. II stated:
“We have permitted ourselves to say that many French kabbalists have often expressed the opinion that the Oriental School will never be worth much, no matter how it may pride itself on possessing secrets unknown to European occultists because it admits women into its ranks.”
Scottish homeopathic physician, Spiritualist and Theosophist, Dr. George Wyld argued that no woman has ever become an Adept, to which Col. Henry S. Olcott rebutted in The Theosophist (Becoming A Theosophist, May, 1880):
“It is equally incorrect to say that no woman has become an adept. Not to mention one example which will immediately recall itself to every Theosophist, I may say that I personally have encountered in India two other initiated women, and know of a number of others in the East.”
In The Theosophist, October, 1883, “An Inquirer” asked, “Will you kindly let me know whether females can attain to adeptship, and whether female adepts exist at all?,” and Damodar K. Mavalankar, a disciple of K.H. wrote:
“It is difficult to see any good reason why females should not become Adepts. None of us, Chelas, are aware of any physical or other defect which might entirely incapacitate them from undertaking the dreary ordeal. It may be more difficult, more dangerous for them than it is for men, still not impossible. The Hindu sacred books and traditions mention such cases, and since the laws of Nature are immutable, what was possible some thousand years ago must be possible now. . . . In Nepaul, we all know, there is a high female Adept. And in Southern India, flourished at a recent date, another great female Initiate named Ouvaiyar [Avvaiyar]. Her mysterious work in Tamil on Occultism is still extant. It is styled Kural, and is said to be very enigmatically written, and consequently inexplicable. In Benares too lives a certain lady, unsuspected and unknown but to the very few. . .”
H.P. Blavatsky said (Collected Writings, Vol. 11, pg. 301), that the “Woman has as good a chance as any man has to reach high Adeptship. Why she does not succeed in this direction in Europe is simply due to her early education and the social prejudice which causes her to be regarded as inferior to man.”