Skip to content

How Helena Blavatsky Uses the term “Illuminati”

In A Few Questions to Hiraf (1875), H.P. Blavatsky wrote in the Spiritualist Scientist to the author of the article “Rosicrucianism,” and uses the term ILLUMINATI numerous times. In what manner? It was explained in my article, on The Iluminados, Perfectibilists and the Bee Order. H.P.B. uses the term: (I) when comparing Jesus and Shakyamuni (she calls them “spiritual Illuminati”) to Confucius (551-479 BCE); and (II) in reference to the Wise Men of Chaldea, India, Greece, Persia, Egypt and so forth. The term is considered of Avestan Zoroastrian origin, or a reference to the Magi. H.P. Blavatsky is certain, that a great body or federation of such “spiritual Illuminati” do exist in her time; but their locations will never be known. Firstly, until the masses had greatly sought to get rid of its ignorance and aspired to learn of the body of knowledge associated with those institutions and schools, such individuals would not feel it wise to engage. Blavatsky suggests, a cyclical effort though is given to this very cause. The reasons for this secrecy greatly frustrated someone like Egyptologist Gerald Massey, and though H.P. Blavatsky had explained the various reasons, like the dangers in this period in history, Armenian Christian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff provided the best answers to this reason. G.I. Gurdjieff offered a somber reality about the human condition and the masses as controlled machines. People take offence to this, but then the man we take offence to, Gurdjieff advises us to heed the famous words inscribed on the Temple of Apollo GNOTHI SEAUTON, study and strengthen your minds, and cultivate for our defenses and betterment.

People do not want to know, and if they knew, then what? Consider the speed at which we receive information in our day. All that is reported and happens in our society is very vanilla, and this standard is — orderly, scientific and rational. Americans cannot even create a great excitement around the disclosure of secret government files on Unidentified Anomalies Phenomena! Nobody really cares! We are desensitized by entertainment and are yet influenced by entertainment on how to think about these mysterious things. We have no real clue about the implications of these things that are explained in regards to Occult Philosophy. We hear Occultism and we think, James Wan movie — demons, Bible, Cross, Christ, and possession. We are talking about something far more than fantastical bed-time horrors and Biblical lore. The initiates were taught to conquer their fears, when most people are paranoid about these subjects. How then are we to ever learn anything in such a state of mind? It is hard to fathom, precisely because of the generic manner in which information is relayed to us; and how quickly in a matter of seconds of acquiring information, it is competing with a great deal of more information. So, yes, Blavatsky believed such a body of men and women Adepts indeed exist, and have always existed. Is it for us to know them? Incredibly depends.

As she states in her Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, a universal secret body of knowledge existed and was known to ancient initiates and philosophers, indefinitely. She endeavored to give Biographical Accounts of the World’s Adepts in a Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine, but she had died from health complications. They were directly taught gradually through a controlled system of schooling, training, initiation and held in the possession of those elect when the institutions and traditions existed in every country. This knowledge has surely survived. She often basically says, “I am not making this up.” Take for example, when she assures us, that what she mentions in her work as the Secret Book of “Maitreya Buddha” is not a fiction, nor are the adepts. This particular book has been identified as the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga, also known as the Uttara-tantra meaning “The Later/Higher Teaching” of the Mahāyāna implying an advanced doctrinal continuation of Buddhist teachings, with its original manuscript in Sanskrit having been discovered in 1934 and published in 1950.

Again, we can find her defending her work, that these, if you will, ‘captains of the world’ or chiefs exist and have existed, and are in the possession of not just things of archaeological significance, but a “Science of the Soul.”

“It would be worse than useless to publish in these pages even those portions of the esoteric teachings that have now escaped from confinement, unless the genuineness and authenticity – at any rate, the probability – of the existence of such teachings was first established. Such statements as will now be made, have to be shown warranted by various authorities: those of ancient philosophers, classics and even certain learned Church Fathers. (…) The writer will have to give historical and trustworthy names, and to cite well-known authors, ancient and modern, of recognized ability, good judgment, and truthfulness, as also to name some of the famous proficients in the secret arts and science…”

“This accounts for the necessity under which the writer has laboured to be ever explaining the facts given from the hoariest Past by evidence gathered from the historical period. No other means was at hand, at the risk even of being once more charged with a lack of method and system. The public must be made acquainted with the efforts of many World-adepts, of initiated poets, writers, and classics of every age, to preserve in the records of Humanity the Knowledge of the existence, at least, of such a philosophy, if not actually of its tenets. The Initiates of 1888 would indeed remain incomprehensible and ever a seemingly impossible myth, were not like Initiates shown to have lived in every other age of history. This could be done only by naming Chapter and Verse where may be found mention of these great characters…” (H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. xxxviii-xxxix, xlv)

In early of March 3, 1886, in a letter to A.P. Sinnett, the contents of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine are being described, and H.P.B. explains things that may be preposterous to others, even threatening to Christian powers then. While Blavatsky’s theories rendered obsolete by modern plate tectonics show ideas about Atlantis to be a fiction of Solon, or even a “joke” played on Greek travelers as some scholars believe, this factor of the networks of the Mystery schools and its connection to the construction of Christianity is no fairy-tale, but demonstrable:

“I have finished an enormous Introductory Chapter, or Preamble, Prologue, call it what you will; just to show the reader that the text as it goes, every Section beginning with a page of translation from the Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book of “Maitreya Buddha” Champai chhos Nga (in prose, not the five books in verse known, which are a blind) are not fiction.

I was ordered to do so, to make a rapid sketch of what was known historically and in literature, in classics and in profane and sacred histories–during the 500 years that preceded the Christian period and the 500 y. that followed it: of magic, the existence of a Universal Secret Doctrine known to the philosophers and Initiates of every country and even to several of the Church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others, who had been initiated themselves.

Also to describe the Mysteries and some notes; and I can assure you that most extraordinary things are given out now, the whole story of the Crucifixion, etc. being shown to be based on a rite as old as the world–the Crucifixion on the Lathe of the Candidate–trials, going down to Hell etc., all Aryan.

The whole story hitherto unnoticed by Orientalists is found even exoterically, in the Puranas and Brahmanas, and then explained and supplemented with what the Esoteric explanations give.” (Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, ed. A. T. Barker, 195; also cited by de Zirkoff in SD Intro., 26)

When pressed further, as to ‘Who is in the possession of the true hidden knowledge?’ She quotes the Avataṃsaka Sūtra: ‘The great teachers of the Snowy Mountain’ (…)” (“Snowlanders, are you teaching them the Wisdom?”: Samlo Ae Tang Gangchenpa Song by Gepe). Do they? I do not know, but certainly such individuals and knowledge not factored into our History of Religion and not fully recognized exists, and that is a boundary worth exploring.

H.P. Blavatsky expresses high hopes, that in general, the truth about these things will in time show.

As it is, the real, the complete Cabala [meaning received esoteric teachings] of the first ages of humanity is in possession, as I said before, of but a few Oriental philosophers; where they are, who they are, is more than is given me to reveal. Perhaps I do not know it myself, and have only dreamed it. Thousands will say it is all imagination; so be it. Time will show. The only thing I can say is that such a body exists, and that the location of their Brotherhoods will never be revealed to other countries, until the day when Humanity shall awake in a mass from its spiritual lethargy, and open its blind eyes to the dazzling light of Truth. A too premature discovery might blind them, perhaps forever.”


H.P. Blavatsky refers to the Paracelsists as an “Illuminati,” e.g., that “if the primitive Rosicrucians learned their first lessons of wisdom from Oriental masters, not so with their direct descendants, the fire-philosophers or Paracelsists; for in many things the Cabala of the latter Illuminati proves to be degenerated into a twin sister of the Jewish.” It is said, that the first Rosicrucians learned their ideas and imagery from Moors and mystics of Islamic esoteric origin and owe them a great debt.

This term, illuminati definitely therefore only applies to Philosophical Academies, Orders and Societies of Adepts and their circles of disciples (or students), and never to political representatives, or plutocrats and financiers. The liberality to which this term is used is a great abuse and offence, and must be stopped and spoken against. Since, I have called this order to action, will others put it into motion?

The Theosophical Society and the earlier Rosicrucians are not linked to the Illuminati of Bavaria and Johann Adam Weishaupt, but there is a similar understanding of things. The German Rosicrucians and Bavarian Illuminati were not on friendly terms. The Theosophical Society came after, and yet its idea as a Brotherhood if it existed as it began then, might have been able to unite such bodies and build a better relationship. Theosophists were cautious, understanding the real situation of infiltrated orders under enemies and espionage. Underneath all of this is a forgotten aim. Theosophists explain, that the ancient academies from Egypt and all over Asia and Europe once bloomed with great minds; that initiates were surely to come into “the company of the gods”; and most importantly, that the Europeans had lost their Mysteries. Some buried its remnants in the new religion, Christianity as a means of adaptation and survival from persecution and death. As one Adept reminded a Theosophist, that one spreading these ideas in our times may be only hurt, because losing money in their philosophical pursuit and humanitarian effort, but those that came before us have paid dearly with their lives.

“Those who have watched mankind through the centuries of this cycle, have constantly seen the details of this death-struggle between Truth and Error repeating themselves. Some of you Theosophists are now only wounded in your ‘honour’ or your purses, but those who held the lamp in preceding generations paid the penalty of their lives for their knowledge.”


As with many school institutions, I too adopted the Pallas Athena, or Minerva as a symbolic “patron of knowledge and the arts.” It reminds me of what we all stand for, and holds me accountable. In “The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati”, it is explained to us that when first considering the design of a signet for the Minerval degree of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt thought of a flawny tawny owl before a starry sky, “together with the motto ‘Quantum est, quod nescimus’ (How much it is that we do not know)” (Markner and Wäges 18). The idea of a little owl was inspired by a page in a famous baroque collection of emblems, Nucleus emlematum selectissimorum (1611), and as a pun on the etymology of vigilance, regarding the significance of nocturnal contemplation in the regular assemblies of the Minervals in the order. It reads, “Etched by the Dutch artist and publisher Chrispijin de Passe, the pictura was accompanied by a distich by the German author Gabriel Rollenhagen that might be translated as ‘He who carefully studies the words of the wise is deservedly considered a learned man’ (Markner and Wäges 19).

In What Is Theosophy, Blavatsky defended her cause:

“The Theosophical Society has been variously charged with a belief in “miracles,” and “miracle-working;” with a secret political object — like the Carbonari; with being spies of an autocratic Czar; with preaching socialistic and nihilistic doctrines; and, mirabile dictu, with having a covert understanding with the French Jesuits, to disrupt modern Spiritualism for a pecuniary consideration! With equal violence they have been denounced as dreamers, by the American Positivists; as fetish-worshippers, by some of the New York press; as revivalists of “mouldy superstitions,” by the Spiritualists; as infidel emissaries of Satan, by the Christian Church; as the very types of “gobe-mouche,” by Professor W. B. Carpenter, F. R. S.; and, finally, and most absurdly, some Hindu opponents, with a view to lessening their influence, have flatly charged them with the employment of demons to perform certain phenomena. Out of all this pother of opinions, one fact stands conspicuous — the Society, its members, and their views, are deemed of enough importance to be discussed and denounced: Men slander only those whom they hate — or fear. But, if the Society has had its enemies and traducers, it has also had its friends and advocates.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: