For the past hundred years the St. Mark’s group in New York City has been meeting to study Rudolf Steiner’s writings. Earlier this month the NY Branch of the Antroposophical Society hosted a weeklong series of lectures to commemorate this centenary. Speakers included Robert McDermott, president emeritus of California Institute of Integral Studies, Christopher Bamford, editor of Steiner Books, Ralph White, creative director of the New York Open Center, and Michael Gomes, who wrote the entry on Theosophy in The Encyclopedia of New York State.
Gomes’ talk on “The NYC Spiritual Landscape in 1910” mentioned something of Steiner’s ambivalence about HPB. A whole book was published in 2002 on the subject, Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky, and Theosophy: An Eyewitness View of Occult History, extracted from Dr. Steiner’s lectures. The following quote illustrates the complex character of HPB that those who studied with her had to interact with and the powerful bond that this created. Steiner says:
The Secret Doctrine is a weird mixture of themes, some of which should be eliminated, while others contain the highest wisdom. All this becomes comprehensible when we consider what was said by one of H. P. Blavatsky’s friends who had deep insight into her character. He said that Madame Blavatsky was really a threefold phenomenon. Firstly she was a dumpy, plain woman with a magical mind and a passionate nature, always losing her temper. To be sure, she was good-natured, affectionate, and compassionate, but she was certainly not what one calls a gifted woman. Secondly, when the great truths became articulated through her, she was the pupil of the great Masters. Then her facial expression and her gestures changed; she became a different person and the spiritual worlds spoke through her. Finally, there was a third, awe-inspiring, supreme, regal figure. This occurred in the rare moments when the Masters themselves spoke through her.
White Lotus Day Talk, May 8, 1912.