Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blavatskiana: The Esoteric Papers of Mme. Blavatsky

Aside from the published writings that H.P. Blavatsky is known for, there is another corpus of material that has intrigued students for years: the papers of her esoteric school. Started as an Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society in October 1888 it became a non-affiliated body before her death (though only members of the T.S. were eligible to join). Mme. Blavatsky’s reason for initiating the group was based on her belief that by 1888 the Theosophical Society was “a dead failure,” i.e., that it had failed in its mission to become a nucleus for universal brotherhood and functioned only as an organization where comparative religion was studied not practiced. “It is through an Esoteric Section alone,” she notified members, “that the great Exoteric Society may be redeemed.”

Members of the Esoteric (later Eastern) School of Theosophy took a pledge of secrecy about the papers they received. Three instructional booklets, sent to members in 1889 and 1890, dealt with esoteric correspondences of color, number, and sound. After Blavatsky’s death in 1891 the school was carried on, at the suggestion of William Q. Judge, under the dual headship of Judge and Annie Besant. But in 1894 Judge ousted Besant from her position as co-Outer Head and removed the ban of secrecy on Blavatsky’s E.S. instructions. Besant published an edited version of this material, along with instructions given to Blavatsky’s Inner Group of students, as part of the so-called Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine in 1897.

It remained the main source for this material until Health Research, an offset reprint company in California, issued a typescript version of Blavatsky’s first three instructions in 1969. In 1980 the full text of the E.S. instructions were included in volume 12 of the Blavatsky Collected Writings series, published by the Theosophical Publishing House in Wheaton, Illinois. In 2004 Daniel Caldwell put together what he has described as the “most comprehensive collection of H.P.B.’s esoteric papers now available,” the contents of which can be seen here.

Caldwell’s The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky, available through the photocopy reprint company Kessinger of Whitefish, Montana, covers 673 pages in an 8 by 11 inch format and weighs over three pounds. Most of the documents reproduced are facsimiles of the originals, encapsulated in black borders reminiscent of Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney’s 1995 The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. It is an admirable, if bulky, attempt at presenting this material to the world. Though he gives little commentary of his own, it is interesting to note that Caldwell begins the genesis of the E.S. with Blavatsky’s statement in an 1887 letter to Countess Wachtmeister of her intention to start “a school of my own.”

For his efforts Caldwell was condemned by certain people associated with the United Lodge of Theosophists. Who was he to dare make public these documents (even though published versions had been circulating for years)? Caldwell, never one to waste an attack, responded by revealing that the ULT carried on its own esoteric group under the name of the Dzyan Esoteric School, using HPB’s E.S. instructions. By whose authority, was his rejoinder? His posts on the matter can be read here, and form a novel historical addenda to his Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky.

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