Another Look at Blavatsky and Theosophy on Race and What she said about Indigenous People
What makes the persistent attempt of writers to portray H.P. Blavatsky’s legacy
as one of Racism and an influence to the foundation of “Nazi Racial Theory” wrongful and ignorant.
H.P. Blavatsky states, that The Secret Doctrine is the product of herself and her two teachers, K.H. and Morya. The theory of the Root Race laid out in The Mahatma Letters is what I often initially refer to, given the authority of those in correspondence with Theosophists, A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume. H.P.B. wanted to take all the criticisms that would result from the publishing of The Secret Doctrine, so lets be honest. We have dealt with the repeated charge among writers, journalists, and scholars against H.P. Blavatsky in the present-day as being merely of the colonial mentality, and the highest false charge, that H.P.B. created what would become the foundation of “Nazi Racial Theory” (see links below). It is in The Secret Doctrine, she reveals to harbor racial theories and views, based on an occult theory of human evolution, race, and the history of human migration, i.e., Anthropogenesis.
In regards to the “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. This is the only time in all her collected writings, that Blavatsky gives such a view in relation to the sources she was referencing. Everything else she ever says in regards to race, as well as her teachers before and after The Secret Doctrine in 1888 reject racism, and the concept of superior and inferior races.
In the same volume 600 pages before this, H.P.B. states, e.g., 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.” (ibid, 168). In the book, what she is doing is addressing every possible rebuttal to the theories in Anthropogenesis by directly contrasting Science and The Secret Doctrine, and surprisingly to the initial thought of any common reader, that her theories are “weird.” H.P.B. does this by giving examples in nature on evolution, such as the process of birth in animals and humans.
The Wiki page on H.P.B. regarding controversies on her racial views has never really changed, and a common person coming across the information might at first glance, regard her views on evolution as kooky anyway. The same three quotes from the book I addressed are always used and quoted by others, and never those in relation tot hem quoted in my article on Blavatsky and Liebenfels. I was really young when I discovered The Secret Doctrine, and the first reaction I had upon looking at the Table of Contents, was that the book was absurd, anti-scientific, and perplexing, regarding Hermaphroditic humans, shadows oozing out, and Cyclops in Antiquity! “Wait, what, how?” My opinion as to her work clearly evolved, and I learned to appreciate her work more, because of my independent research into the history of Esoteric Philosophy. H.P. Blavatsky is aware of our perceptions throughout the work, mentioning constantly, that the occult theories are strange, and would not be taken seriously. This is what Manly P. Hall meant in his lecture, when he said:
“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)
In this, I have long ago given her some benefit of the doubt.
For example, 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).
It is, as we find, taken out of context. Speaking of context can always be a kind of tactic, but not in this case. What is she referring to, and what are Monads? ‘“The lowest specimens of humanity (the “narrow-brained” savage)” This is racist,’ you might say. She is quoting from the Stanzas of Dzyan, of which the entire SD is merely a commentary about, in relation to Modern Science, Religion and Occultism. In this same section, she negates the idea, that the savages, low in “reasoning powers,” i.e., intellectuality — despite any wish for political correctness — are not, she argues, the disinherited or unfavored races of nature. Fully grasping it is perplexing, given the three difficult concepts (Monad, Globes, and Root-Races) she is explaining within this context. However, she basically states, that certain of the earliest races are late in their evolutionary and intellectual development, and have not been properly put under the conditions (i.e., karma) to develop, but in this, are more fortunate than the civilized countries. Her teachers, in one letter (23b, 1882) defending the civilization of the indigenous people of the Americas before the Spaniards arrived, speak of our civilization as one that will decline, as fast as it ascended.
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.”
This ties into statements she made in a newspaper about the Saxons in ‘The snub-nosed Saxons’ (Borderland Magazine, 1894) and The Issue of Theosophy, Occultism, and National Socialism in Germany (1880s-1930s): Blavatsky and Theosophical Notions of Race against Hitler, List, & Liebenfels, in which she asserts, that the “conquering race” is on the descending arc of civilizational decline; but not once, does she tie Blacks, Immigration, or Jews to anything she is writing about. However, she says about everything objectionably maddening to any conceited White Nationalist, or “Nazi” (H.P.B. lived her words). She puts in italics “civilized countries,” mocking the idea, as she often does. 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 go to such lengths as to say, the aspirant is no theosophist, who holds such views. This has been mentioned before. The teachers themselves were considered “dark-skinned” and “niggers” by the British. The British 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.
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.
Yet, it seems to no avail.
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.”
One of the Mahatma Letters states in relation to this:
“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.”
People are not often aware, their sentiments are planted in them, before they ever express it, and by engaging in false slander, that they inadvertently involve themselves in a silent, long religious war and struggle they are so sure who the innocent and just are. In relation to the article and audio ‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church on David Kertzer’s book, The Pope and Mussolini, Carlos Cardoso Aveline points out in Racism in the Name of Theosophy:
“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
The history and objects of this society at its time, and H.P.B.’s resilience against it, remains remarkable to me, despite any opinions about the “weirdness” of Theosophical ideas, or Occultism in general. We believe, H.P. Blavatsky’s legacy is worth defending.
AN ADDITIONAL EXCERPT FROM THE ORIGINAL PROGRAMME OF THE T.S. ON THE POLICY OF THE DIVERSITY OF ITS MEMBERS
“Belief in the Masters was never made an article of faith in the T.S. But for its Founders, the commands received from Them when it was established have ever been sacred.”H.P. BLAVATSKY, THE ORIGINAL PROGRAMME OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
“But if the two Founders were not told what they had to do, they were distinctly instructed about what they should never do, what they had to avoid, and what the Society should never become. Church organizations, Christian and Spiritual sects were shown as the future contrasts to our Society. (…)
To make it clearer: —
(1) The Founders had to exercise all their influence to oppose selfishness of any kind, by insisting upon sincere, fraternal feelings among the Members — at least outwardly; working for it to bring about a spirit of unity and harmony, the great diversity of creeds notwithstanding; expecting and demanding from the Fellows, a great mutual toleration and charity for each other’s shortcomings; mutual help in the research of truths in every domain — moral or physical — and even, in daily life.
(2) They had to oppose in the strongest manner possible anything approaching dogmatic faith and fanaticism — belief in the infallibility of the Masters, or even in the very existence of our invisible Teachers, having to be checked from the first. On the other hand, as a great respect for the private views and creeds of every member was demanded, any Fellow criticising the faith or belief of another Fellow, hurting his feelings, or showing a reprehensible self-assertion, unasked (mutual friendly advices were a duty unless declined) — such a member incurred expulsion. The greatest spirit of free research untrammelled by anyone or anything, had to be encouraged.
Thus, for the first year the Members of the T.S. Body who representing every class in Society as every creed and belief — Christian clergymen, Spiritualists, Freethinkers, Mystics, Masons and Materialists — lived and met under these rules in peace and friendship. There were two or three expulsions for slander and backbiting. The rules, however imperfect in their tentative character, were strictly enforced and respected by the members.”