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The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, a book originally published as two volumes in 1888 written by Helena Blavatsky. The first volume is named Cosmogenesis, the second Anthropogenesis. It was an influential example of the revival of interest in esoteric and occult ideas in the modern age, in particular because of its claim to reconcile ancient eastern wisdom with modern science. Blavatsky claimed that its contents had been revealed to her by 'mahatmas' who had retained knowledge of humanity's spiritual history, knowledge that it was now possible, in part, to reveal.[not verified in body]
1 Volume one (Cosmogenesis)
1.1 Cosmic evolution: Items of cosmogony
2 Volume two (Anthropogenesis) 3 Volumes three and four 4 Three fundamental propositions 5 Theories on human evolution and race 6 Study of the Secret Doctrine 7 Writings about "The Secret Doctrine" 8 Critical reception 9 See also 10 Notes 11 References 12 Bibliography 13 External links
Volume one (Cosmogenesis) The first part of the book explains the origin and evolution of the universe itself, in terms derived from the Hindu concept of cyclical development. The world and everything in it is said to alternate between periods of activity (manvantaras) and periods of passivity (pralayas). Each manvantara lasts many millions of years and consists of a number of Yugas, in accordance with Hindu cosmology. Blavatsky attempted to demonstrate that the discoveries of "materialist" science had been anticipated in the writings of ancient sages and that materialism would be proven wrong. Cosmic evolution: Items of cosmogony In this recapitulation of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky gave a summary of the central points of her system of cosmogony. These central points are as follows:
The first item reiterates Blavatsky's position that The Secret
Doctrine represents the "accumulated Wisdom of the Ages", a system of
thought that "is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of
generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test
and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to
another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched
over the childhood of Humanity."
The second item reiterates the first fundamental proposition (see
above), calling the one principle "the fundamental law in that system
[of cosmogony]". Here Blavatsky says of this principle that it is "the
One homogeneous divine Substance-Principle, the one radical cause. …
It is called "Substance-Principle," for it becomes "substance" on the
plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a
"principle" in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and
invisible Space. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it
contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental
conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe,
and is the Universe itself."
The third item reiterates the second fundamental proposition (see
above), impressing once again that "The Universe is the periodical
manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence.", while also touching
upon the complex Sanskrit ideas of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti. This
item presents the idea that the One unconditioned and absolute
principle is covered over by its veil, Mulaprakriti, that the
spiritual essence is forever covered by the material essence.
The fourth item is the common eastern idea of Maya. Blavatsky states
that the entire universe is called illusion because everything in it
is temporary, i.e. has a beginning and an end, and is therefore unreal
in comparison to the eternal changelessness of the One Principle.
The fifth item reiterates the third fundamental proposition (see
above), stating that everything in the universe is conscious, in its
own way and on its own plane of perception. Because of this, the
Volume two (Anthropogenesis)
The second half of the book describes the origins of humanity through
an account of "Root Races" said to date back millions of years. The
first root race was, according to her, "ethereal"; the second root had
more physical bodies and lived in Hyperborea. The third root race, the
first to be truly human, is said to have existed on the lost continent
of Lemuria and the fourth root race is said to have developed in
According to Blavatsky, the fifth root race is approximately one
million years old, overlapping the fourth root race and the very first
beginnings of the fifth root race were approximately in the middle of
the fourth root race.
"The real line of evolution differs from the Darwinian, and the two
systems are irreconcilable," according to Blavatsky, "except when the
latter is divorced from the dogma of 'Natural Selection'." She
explained that, "by 'Man' the divine Monad is meant, and not the
thinking Entity, much less his physical body." "
Before the reader proceeds … it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows…
The first proposition is that there is one underlying, unconditioned, indivisible Truth, variously called "the Absolute", "the Unknown Root", "the One Reality", etc. It is causeless and timeless, and therefore unknowable and non-describable: "It is 'Be-ness' rather than Being".[a] However, transient states of matter and consciousness are manifested in IT, in an unfolding gradation from the subtlest to the densest, the final of which is physical plane. According to this view, manifest existence is a "change of condition"[b] and therefore neither the result of creation nor a random event. Everything in the universe is informed by the potentialities present in the "Unknown Root," and manifest with different degrees of Life (or energy), Consciousness, and Matter.[c] The second proposition is "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow". Accordingly, manifest existence is an eternally re-occurring event on a "boundless plane": "'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,'" each one "standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor", doing so over vast but finite periods of time.[d] Related to the above is the third proposition: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul... and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul—a spark of the former—through the Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term." The individual souls are seen as units of consciousness (Monads) that are intrinsic parts of a universal oversoul, just as different sparks are parts of a fire. These Monads undergo a process of evolution where consciousness unfolds and matter develops. This evolution is not random, but informed by intelligence and with a purpose. Evolution follows distinct paths in accord with certain immutable laws, aspects of which are perceivable on the physical level. One such law is the law of periodicity and cyclicity; another is the law of karma or cause and effect. Theories on human evolution and race In the second volume of The Secret Doctrine, dedicated to anthropogenesis, Blavatsky presents a theory of the gradual evolution of physical humanity over a timespan of millions of years. The steps in this evolution are called rootraces, seven in all. Earlier rootraces exhibited completely different characteristics: physical bodies first appearing in the second rootrace and sexual characteristics in the third. Some detractors have emphasized passages and footnotes that claim some peoples to be less fully human or spiritual than the "Aryans". For example,
"Mankind is obviously divided into god-informed men and lower human
creatures. The intellectual difference between the
When discussing "sterility between two human races" as observed by Darwin, Blavatsky notes:
"Of such semi-animal creatures, the sole remnants known to Ethnology
were the Tasmanians, a portion of the
Blavatsky also asserts that "the occult doctrine admits of no such
divisions as the
According to Blavatsky, "The MONADS of the lowest specimens of
humanity (the "narrow-brained" savage South-Sea Islander, the African,
the Australian) had no
"Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups – the failures of nature – will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 446).
In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky states: "Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence." Yet, she also said: "True, again, that if the characteristics are accepted literally". (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 255). Study of the Secret Doctrine According to PGB Bowen, Blavatsky gave the following instructions regarding the study of the Secret Doctrine:
Reading the SD page by page as one reads any other book (she says) will only end us in confusion. The first thing to do, even if it takes years, is to get some grasp of the 'Three Fundamental Principles' given in the Proem. Follow that up by study of the Recapitulation – the numbered items in the Summing Up to Vol. I (Part 1.) Then take the Preliminary Notes (Vol. II) and the Conclusion (Vol. II)
Writings about "The Secret Doctrine"
Alice Bailey: "But those of us who really studied it and arrived at some understanding of its inner significance have a basic appreciation of the truth that no other book seems to supply. HPB said that the next interpretation of the Ageless Wisdom would be a psychological approach, and A Treatise on Cosmic Fire , which I published in 1925, is the psychological key to The Secret Doctrine. None of my books would have been possible had I not at one time made a very close study of The Secret Doctrine."
Blavatsky and The
Critical reception Historian Ronald H. Fritze has written that The Secret Doctrine presents a "series of far-fetched ideas unsupported by any reliable historical or scientific research." According to Fritze:
Unfortunately the factual basis for Blavatsky's book is nonexistent.
She claimed to have received her information during trances in which
the Masters of Mahatmas of Tibet communicated with her and allowed her
to read from the ancient Book of Dzyan. The
Book of Dzyan
Scholars and skeptics have criticized The
Book of Dzyan
Christianity and Theosophy
^ "An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude." ^ "The expansion 'from within without'..., does not allude to an expansion from a small centre or focus, but, without reference to size or limitation or area, means the development of limitless subjectivity into as limitless objectivity. ...It implies that this expansion, not being an increase in size—for infinite extension admits of no enlargement—was a change of condition." Manifest existence is often called "Illusion" in Theosophy, owing to its conceptual and actual differentiation from the only Reality. ^ "Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs—which we can recognise—of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either 'dead' or 'blind' matter, as there is no 'Blind' or 'Unconscious' Law". ^ Blavatsky states that each complete cycle lasts 311,040,000,000,000 years.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 272–274.
^ Blavatsky 1888b, pp. 185–187.
^ a b Blavatsky 1888a, p. 14.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 35–85.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 62–63.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 274.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 17.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 43.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 206.
^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 274–275.
^ Bowen 1988.
^ Bailey, Alice A., "Chapter VI", The Unfinished Autobiography, Lucis
^ a b Fritze, Ronald H. (2009). Invented Knowledge: False History,
Fake Science and Pseudo-Religions. Reaktion Books. pp. 43–44.
^ Floyd, E. Randall. (2005). The Good, the Bad and the Mad: Some Weird
People in American History. Fall River Press. p. 23.
ISBN 978-0760766002 "Scholars and critics were quick to claim
that much of the work was stolen from books by other occultists and
crank scholars like Ignatius Loyola Donnelly's book on Atlantis."
^ Cohen, Daniel. (1989). Encyclopedia of the Strange. Marboro Books.
p. 108. ISBN 978-0380702688 "When the book was finally published,
critics snickered, Oriental scholars were outraged, and other scholars
pointed out that the work was largely stolen from books by other
occultists and crank scholars like Ignatius Donnelly's book on
^ Sedgwick, Mark. (2004). Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and
the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford
University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-19-515297-2 "The Secret Doctrine
drew heavily on John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology
and Religion, Horace Wilson's annotated translation of the Vishnu
Purana, and other such works."
^ L. Sprague de Camp. (1970). Lost Continents. Dover Publications. p.
57. ISBN 0-486-22668-9 "The Secret Doctrine, alas, is neither so
ancient, so erudite, nor so authentic as it pretends to be. When it
appeared, an elderly Californian scholar named William Emmette
Coleman, outraged by Mme. Blavatsky's false pretensions to oriental
learning, made an exegesis of her works. He showed that her main
sources were H. H. Wilson's translation of the ancient Indian Vishnu
Purana; Alexander Winchell's World Life; or, Comparative Geology;
Donnelly's Atlantis; and other contemporary scientific,
pseudo-scientific, and occult works, plagiarized without credit and
used in a blundering manner that showed but skin-deep acquaintance
with the subjects under discussion."
^ L. Sprague de Camp. The Fringe of the Unknown. Prometheus Books. p.
193. ISBN 0-87975-217-3 "Three years later, she published her
chef d'oeuvre, The Secret Doctrine, in which her credo took permanent,
if wildly confused, shape. This work, in six volumes, is a mass of
plagiarism and fakery, based upon contemporary scientific,
pseudoscientific, mythological, and occult works, cribbed without
credit and used in a blundering way that showed only skin-deep
acquaintance with the subjects discussed."
^ Newman, Hannah. Blavatsky, Helena P. (1831-1891) . In Richard S.
Levy. (2005). Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and
Persecution. ABC-CLIO. p. 73. ISBN 1-85109-439-3
^ Marrus, Michael. (1989). The Origins of the Holocaust. Meckler. pp.
85–87. ISBN 0-88736-253-2 "In her esoteric work, especially The
Secret Doctrine, originally published in 1888, Blavatsky emphasized
the concept of races as paramount in the development of human
history... Blavatsky herself did not identify the
Blavatsky, HP (1888a), The Secret Doctrine .
Blavatsky, HP (1888b), The First Message to WQ Judge, General
Secretary of the American Section of the Theosophical Society .
Blavatsky, HP, The Key to Theosophy .
Bowen, PGB (15 November 2010), The
Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Secret Doctrine
The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1 and Vol.2 online version
The third volume of The Secret Doctrine
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