Regarding Blavatsky on Indigenous People in The Secret Doctrine
There are a couple passages in The Secret Doctrine that come to mind when dealing with accusations against H.P. Blavatsky. When she mentions for example, “sterility between two human races” as observed by Darwin, H.P.B. references Sir William Henry Flower, a leading authority on mammals and especially on the primate brain of his time, in speaking of “semi-animal creatures”:
“the Tasmanians, a portion of the Australians and a mountain tribe in China, the men and women of which are entirely covered with hair. They were the last descendants in a direct line of the semi-animal latter-day Lemurians (…) There are, however, considerable numbers of the mixed Lemuro-Atlantean peoples produced by various crossings with such semi-human stocks — e.g., the wild men of Borneo, the Veddhas of Ceylon, classed by Prof. Flower among Aryans (!), most of the remaining Australians, Bushmen, Negritos, Andaman Islanders, etc” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pp 195-6).
These are the San people, the Dayak of Indonesia, the Negritos of Maritime Southeast Asia, the Veddhas, Tasmanians, and some native African and Australian tribes. As we find in the above paragraph, this is part of her theory of the existences of Lemuria (a placeholder name) and Atlantis in relation to the Stanzas she makes commentary on. It is the only time Blavatsky gives such a view in relation to the sources she was referencing.
However, in the same book upon which she is judged, she explicitly rejects racism, and that there even exists a categorization of humanity into superior and inferior races. The idea of superior and inferior races to be found in Ariosophy sprung out of Arthur de Gobineau racialization of the concept of Aryan, and hence the idea of the Germanic “master race.” The popularization and roots of this idea of German Aryanism lie with Gobineau, Liebenfels, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
Blavatsky reiterates, that “In reality there are no ‘inferior races,’ for all are one in our common humanity.” (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, 8:406).
In a footnote, she regards “the theory which would judge of the intellectual capacity of a man according to his cranial capacity,” as “absurdly illogical to one who has studied the subject” (Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol 2., 168).
Yet, we never read such lines being brought up in books using the same text to smear Blavatsky intentions of her work.
“The original work of H.P. Blavatsky stands more or less unique, even within the field of related literature; and as a result of the years, which have passed, since 1888, when the Volumes were first published, we are aware, that her own peculiar and particular insight, still makes these works unique, remarkable and valuable. Madame Blavatsky was the first to admit, that the books she wrote would prove highly controversial. She frankly acknowledge that the type of proof, which the scientific world requires, simply was not available. Also, that there was little to be gained, by attempting to imply an authority. That it was wiser, that the books should be accepted as the work of an individual. That they represented a very careful study of a vast area of ancient tradition — the landmarks not available to the average student, those that are acceptable difficult to find, that the only possible way the material could be verified, would be for another person to go through the exact same procedure, the way she went through. Needless to say, no such person has arisen, since her time. Therefore, from the scientific standpoint, The Secret Doctrine still remains an enigma…” (Manly P. Hall, Landmarks of Esoteric Literature on H.P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine)
The other line in The Secret Doctrine used in reference to her racial prejudices is, “The MONADS of the lowest specimens of humanity (the “narrow-brained” savage South-Sea Islander, the African, the Australian) had no Karma to work out when first born as men, as their more favoured brethren in intelligence had” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 168).
As has been said, while defending her, we may each judge accordingly, and be honest about any prejudice, and even her beliefs regarding evolution, without defining her entire work and ideas by those lines. I will explain.
For example, Blavatsky argued, that certain of the earliest races are late in their evolutionary and intellectual development, and have not been properly put under the conditions (karma) to develop, but because of this however, they are more fortunate than the civilized countries. They “had no Karma to work out when first born as men, as their more favored brethren in intelligence had. The former are spinning out Karma only now; the latter are burdened with past, present, and future Karma. In this respect the poor savage is more fortunate than the greatest genius of civilised countries.”
On Blavatsky’s teachers in one letter (23b, 1882), they defend the civilization of the indigenous people of the Americas before the Spaniards arrived, and speak of the civilization of the colonists or conquerors as one that will decline as fast as it ascended.
This ties into statements she made in (1) a newspaper about the Saxons in ‘The snub-nosed Saxons’ (Borderland Magazine, 1894) on arrogance and savagery, and (2) Occult Interest and Theosophy in Germany (1880s-1930s): Blavatsky vs. Hitler, List and Liebenfels on Race, in which she asserts, that the “conquering race” is on the descending arc of civilizational decline. Not once does she tie Blacks, Immigration, or Jews to anything she is writing about, as is characteristic of the Anti-Jew.
However, she says about everything objectionably maddening to any conceited White Nationalist, or “Nazi,” and lived her words. She often puts in italics “civilized countries,” mocking the idea. H.P.B. mocks the racial superiority-complex of her time, and the British views regarding “dark-skinned peoples,” Indians, and all the people considered “inferior.” Her teachers though go to such lengths as to say, no one is a true theosophist that holds to such views.
I have mentioned before, that the teachers themselves were considered “dark-skinned” and “niggers” by the British (The Swastika and the Star of David: A Combined Theosophical Emblem). The English theosophists they were in correspondence with sometimes speak to them as if they were superior in knowledge to them, and each time in the letters, they call these habits in their thinking out.
In Racism in the Name of Theosophy, theosophist Carlos Cardosa Aveline, refers to the Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, reminding us that:
“H.P. Blavatsky wrote long articles on the wisdom traditions of the Andean nations in South America, which she personally visited in the 1850s. H.P.B. also wrote that the Masters and Disciples living in the Himalayas work in close cooperation with the Masters and Disciples of indigenous nations in the three Americas, and are often their intimate personal friends in spite of geographical distances. Such Initiates have subtle and telepathic means of communication.”
“During the historical periods of slavery and colonial domination, racist theories were used as propaganda tools to justify the domination and massacre of Native Peoples around the world. Such genocides were promoted by the “superior nations” often in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Ideas of racial superiority attack the very basis of Theosophy and its movement; and have been fought against by Theosophists and H.P.B. to her death and after.
“Under the dominion and sway of exoteric creeds, the grotesque and tortured shadows of Theosophical realities, there must ever be the same oppression of the weak and the poor and the same typhonic struggle of the wealthy and the mighty among themselves . . . It is esoteric philosophy alone, the spiritual and psychic blending of man with Nature, that, by revealing fundamental truths, can bring that much desired mediate state between the two extremes of human Egotism and divine Altruism, and finally lead to the alleviation of human suffering.”
“The shamefully popelike power of individuals who were supposedly “infallible” anticipated in the theosophical movement the external dominance of political doctrines like Fascism, created by Benito Mussolini, and “National Socialism”, formulated by Adolf Hitler. Such political movements were based in fake doctrines defending the existence of “superior” and “inferior” human beings. They flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, with the discreet blessings and protection of the Vatican -, the main source of anti-Semitism and of attacks against Theosophy.” (Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
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