Studies in Occultism; A Series of Reprints from the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky No. 1: Practical Occultism-Occultism versus the Occult Arts-The Blessings of Publicity

by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

What’s going on here? Where am I?

Kind of fun to read this after The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria and especially Foucault’s Pendulum because it highlights beautifully the incestuous nature of occult/conspiracy books. Leadbeadter and Scott-Elliot (of Lemuria) confidently referred to Blavatsky (among others) as authoritative sources. Saint-German, whose avatar is prominent in Eco’s book, makes an appearance here.

Blavatsky here seems to be reporting on (real or imagined) a tradition of guru and student where she admonishes against what today’s Harry Potter crowd might call the Dark Arts and creates a built-in “No True Scotsman” argument by saying that the only way to acquire true powers is to purge the self (i.e. live and use the powers only for altruism), which gives one a nice double-sided security blanket:

“Why don’t I have powers?”
“You’re still caught up in worldly desires!”
“Hey, that guy’s using evil powers!”
“He’ll never have the true powers because he’s caught up in worldly desires!”

So it provides a nice protection against accusations of fraud or malevolence. I mean, I suppose. I haven’t researched Blavatsky that much.

It’s a little light on the deets, if you know what I mean. It’s almost as if she were trying to entice people into believing you had a lot of power without having to demonstrate it in any fashion or provide any sort of evidence. Again, I have no idea. Maybe she was a great—well, I can’t call her a sorceress because she has nothing good to say about them, but maybe she was on to something. There’s just no way to tell from this.

Then again, maybe she was just in the right place at the right time—i.e., Western civilization at a time when traditional Christian dogma was being challenged by less and less educated people. That’s not really meant as a dig: The industrial revolution and the rise of leisure time meant more people with less grounding in philosophy were able to grasp at popular “edgy” things without understanding the great debates of the first thousand years of the Christian Church. Else they might have recognized the neo-Gnosticism in Blavatsky.

Of course, recognizing they might’ve still embraced it. I certainly don’t know. I hope to learn more as I read more from the time period.

Which is why I read this in the first place.

So any recommendation I might make would be based on that: Curiosity about this strain of thought at this time in history.

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