In The H.D. Book, published earlier this month by University of California Press, Robert Duncan gives his take on a statement in Blavatsky’s last written piece, “My Books,” dated April 27, 1891, two weeks before her death, and published in the May 1891 issue of her magazine, Lucifer. Duncan’s comments are a fine example of the poet’s style and his use of language to get beyond things that language can describe.
In 1891, a month before her death, she closed her last essay with a quotation from Montaigne: “I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them.” The string she had brought of her own was the thread of her argument, a wish that she, and mankind with her, might be released from the contradictions of dream and fact, creative idea and actuality, volition and authority that tortured her spirit. But the string was also the quest for the end of dream, creative idea, volition—if only they could be proved to be their opposites, so that what we thought was moving would prove to be schematic and settled. The string was the obsessional winding of the thread—the double-faced words “mind” and “real,” the inversion of evolutionary theory, the perversions of geological theory, the inversion that must not be conversions, the transference of fact into fiction and fiction into the mode of fact, the subversion of accepted scientific thought, the plagiarism, the fraud—worst of all, the reasoning of a woman who knows she must be right and will take any means to prove it.
With pathos, she added: “Is anyone of my helpers prepared to say that I have not paid the full price of my string?” She had been attacked and exposed, vilified and ridiculed. Her followers had come to doubt that her Masters “really” existed. But the pathos was Mercurial, for she had meant for her followers in all the stupidity of their conscious minds, bound by chains of Theosophic belief, like her defamers, bound by the chains of scientific or religious disbelief, to pay the full price of her string.
For the price of the string, the price of the wish, the quest, the obsession, lay in an oppressive state. She had gathered a pitchblende of suggestion, once her doctrine was mixed, in which some radium lay hid. In the mess of astrology, alchemy, numerology, magic orders and disorders, neo-Platonic, Vedic, and Kabbalistic systems combined, confused, and explained, queered evolution and wishful geology, transposed heads—the fact of her charged fascination with it all remains genuine. It has the charge of a need, and her sense binds: that until man lives once more in these awes and consecrations, these obediences to what he does not know but feels, until he takes new thought in what he has discarded from thought, he will not understand what he is.