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The Notion of Race in Theosophy

Author(s): James A Santucci


Source: Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 11, No. 3
(February 2008), pp. 37-63
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/nr.2008.11.3.37
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The Notion of Race in Theosophy

James A. Santucci

ABSTRACT: Discussions of race in the Theosophy of Helena P.


Blavatsky and her followers sometimes evinces suggestions of racism.
Any consideration of the topic, however, must be prefaced by defining
whose Theosophy is being examined. Theosophy, as it is generally
discussed by Theosophists, actually was introduced to the public by A. P.
Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism (1883), which in turn was based upon the
letters of the Mahatmas or Masters Koot Hoomi and Morya to Sinnett.
The doctrine of the root races and their various subdivisions is part of
Theosophical teachings, but the primary source is Blavatskys The Secret
Doctrine (1888). This article argues that race in Theosophy is understood
as not being limited to physical characteristics; rather, the Theosophical
discussion of race encompasses both physical and spiritual evolution.
Race as interpreted in The Secret Doctrine is not racist in intent, and the
races are seen as having one thing in common, the divine spark that
ultimately makes all races the same in essence.

ny discussion of the role of race in Theosophical literature, especially the writings of its main expositor, Helena P. Blavatsky
(18311891), must be accompanied by an understanding of the
context in which she expressed her views on humanity and the cosmos.
Her writings make it clear that she did not share many of her contemporaries perspectives on race. In their view, races referred not only to
groups sharing physical peculiarities,1 but also suggested inequalities
among humans vis--vis culture, character, and national identity. In
other words, these are views we would identify today as racism. This was
especially true when discussions turned to the so-called Aryan race and
its supposed superiority to other races. Because Blavatsky wrote on this
topic, the charge has been made that she was partially responsible for
many of the ideas behind Nazism. Yet, a close examination of Blavatskys
Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 11, Issue 3, pages
3763, ISSN 1092-6690 (print), 1541-8480 (electronic). 2008 by The Regents of the
University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission
to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Presss
Rights and Permissions website, at http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintinfo.asp.
DOI: 10.1525/nr.2008.11.3.37

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writings and Esoteric Buddhism (1883) by A. P. Sinnett2 indicates that
their Theosophical views on race cannot be interpreted in the same
manner as those who held clearly racist views. This article will demonstrate that in the Theosophical works of Sinnett and Blavatsky race is
merely a term of convenience used to refer not only to physical traits but
to various stages experienced by the reincarnating soul or monad
along an incredibly lengthy series of cyclic progressionsdemarcated by
root races and sub-races as the major divisionsbefore reaching the
state of a perfect septenary being,3 in which consciousness is fully integrated in its operation of the vehicles or bodies corresponding to the
seven planes of existence.
The first public Theosophical discussion of the human races
appeared in Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism. The focus was on physical and
spiritual evolution of demarcated human groupings within larger cosmic cycles. This discussion was greatly expanded in Blavatskys The Secret
Doctrine (1888), which remains the main source of information on the
Theosophical conception of race. Although it is asserted in The Secret
Doctrine that there are spiritual, psychic, intellectual, and physical differences among the seven root races, or major temporal divisions of
humanity in a global round,4 it is clear that the physical aspect of race
is but a minor characteristic in relation to the larger issue of the place
of the monad within a vast system of spiritual and physical cycles, in
which monads are progressing toward ever higher forms of existence.
According to Blavatsky, the manifestation of the universe was produced by
the involution of consciousness or spirit into increasingly dense material
forms, while evolution
viewed from its several standpointsi.e., as the universal and the
individualized Monad; and the chief aspects of the Evolving Energy,
after differentiationthe purely Spiritual, the Intellectual, the Psychic
and the Physicalmay be thus formulated as an invariable law; a descent
of Spirit into Matter, equivalent to an ascent in physical evolution; a reascent from the depths of materiality towards its status quo ante, with a
corresponding dissipation of concrete form and substance up to the
LAYA [dissolution; undifferentiated] state, or what Science calls the
zero-point, and beyond.5

No matter what differences exist within the various races, humanity is


seen as ultimately one, for Blavatsky interprets a statement in the Visnu
Purana,6 as meaning that
the Humanity of the First Manvantara [a period of manifestation of the
Cosmos] is that of the seventh and of all the intermediate ones. The
mankind of the First Root-Race is the mankind of the second, third, fourth,
fifth, etc. To the last it forms a cyclic and constant reincarnation of the
Monads belonging to the Dhyan Chohans [more highly evolved spiritual
beings] of our Planetary chain.7

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Santucci: The Notion of Race in Theosophy


It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that the Theosophical
perception of race expressed primarily in Helena P. Blavatskys The Secret
Doctrine and also in passing references in A. P. Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism
(which is based upon the letters he received from the Mahatmas Koot
Hoomi and Morya8) is not in agreement with the often racist views of
their contemporaries. One of the problems that has arisen is the
assumption that discussion of the notion of race implies racism, and
since Blavatsky specifically uses the term race, the implication is that
racist ideas exist in her writings. Blavatskys use of the term Aryan as
the name of one of the root races has raised particular suspicion. Yet,
there is no evidence that this latter term was used in the manner that
Comte de Gobineau employed it in his Essai sur linegalit des races
humaines (185355).9 The Theosophical explanation of race provided
by Blavatsky and Sinnett should be considered to be entirely separate
and apart from the discussions of race common in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. Any discussion of race in Theosophy must be considered from a different perspective, one that is cosmic and ultimately
divine in scope.
EVOLVING WESTERN CONCEPTS OF RACE
Race, in the modern, popular sense of the word, refers to a group
sharing physical peculiarities. In todays social context the primary peculiarity is skin color, with other characteristicsincluding hair texture,
eye pigmentation, the shape of the lips, nose, and eyelidsalso considered distinctive. Distinctiveness in human groupings has long been recognized both in ancient and modern times, often with a sense of
superiority of one group over othersan example being the Persians
regarding themselves as superior to all other peoples.10 This sense of
superiority often arises in conjunction with non-physical traits: culture
and character. Such attitudes lead to a shift from noting the differences
among the races to racism.11
In the Western world, perceptions of others have developed over
hundreds of years of contact with different peoples, especially in the
ages of discovery and colonization. Certainly one of the main philosophical sources of this attitude of superiority and inferiority of peoples and races is the Aristotelian notion that certain people are
naturally free from the time of birth, while others are prone to slavery.12 It was an opinion that carried considerable weight for many centuries, for we see the argument repeated in Juan Gins de Seplvedas
debate with Friar Bartolom de las Casas over the Christianization
and encomienda13 of the American aboriginals. In this debate,
Seplveda, a Greek scholar, asserted the natural inferiority of the aboriginals, thus reasserting Aristotles argument14 stating that they were
irrational beings, that Indians are as different from Spaniards as
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Nova Religio
cruelty is from kindness and as monkeys are from men.15 Among the
prejudices arising was the idea that one skin color was considered the
norm. Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, the Comte de Buffon (1706 or
17071788), considered the white race as the norm or the real and
natural color of man.16
Despite race differences, however, it was Charles Darwin (18091882)
who asserted in The Origin of Species (1859) that all races descend from
a single species, thus establishing monogenesis as the viable theory as
opposed to polygenesis.17 Although he rejected certain notions of
racism, Darwins work led to other views that were decidedly racist; for
one, the relation of brain size to intelligence. Of greater importance was
the application of evolution to racial differences. However, Darwin did
not rank each race on an evolutionary scale, nor did he state that the
white race was the highest of all the races.18 This was more the opinion
of Robert Chambers (18021871), a publisher who wrote Vestiges of the
Natural History of Creation (1844), a precursor to The Origin of Species by
fifteen years,19 who unlike Darwin described a sequential progression
for the human races on an evolutionary scale from black, Malay, Indian,
Mongolian, and finally Caucasian.20 The placing of the Caucasian (a
term introduced by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach [17521840]) race
at the apogee of development of an original black humanity was introduced by James Cowles Prichard, an English physician in his Researches
into the Physical History of Man (1836).21
As a side bar to the general race discussion was the introduction of
the notion of the so-called Aryan race. The association of race with
the term Aryan arose out of a failure to distinguish race from nationality and language. Subsequent to the discovery of the linguistic relation of Sanskrit to Latin, Greek, Celtic, Gothic, and Persian popularized
by Sir William Jones (17461794) in his Third Anniversary Discourse
on the Hindus (1786),22 by the mid-1850s the ancient people who
spoke these languages, the Aryans, were considered not only a race,
but a superior race.23
Recently, the point has been made by Josep R. Llobera that historians have suppressed or minimized the fact that most scholars in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries accepted the inequality of races.24
The most notorious of these scholars and thinkers was the so-called
father of Aryan racism, Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau (18161882),25
the author of Essai sur linegalit des races humaines. Gobineau maintained that civilization declined when the superior race mixed with
other races. Miscegenation was, therefore, the culprit in the decline of
the superior race. It was assumed that race referred not only to blood
and biology but also to national character and national culture.26 It
is this assumption that tends to raise suspicions that any discussion of
races, including the Theosophical discussion, may be nothing more
than racist.
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Santucci: The Notion of Race in Theosophy


THE RACES IN THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
If Llobera is correct in his assessment that the inequality of races was
the prevailing opinion of the nineteenth century, can we assume a similar attitude in Theosophical circles? The evidence suggests not, but
that does not preclude the charge that many ideas behind Nazism may
be based upon certain teachings found in Blavatskys writings, as argued
by Peter Levenda.27 Questions persist about whether there was an intentional racism in the writings of Blavatsky and other Theosophists, or
whether Theosophical ideas were used by others with racist intent. The
purpose of this article is to explain what is written in the Theosophical
literature, not to speculate on the motivation of the Theosophists in
formulating their doctrines. Race cannot be considered a separate
teaching in Theosophy. Rather, race is conceived as part of a vast network or matrix of interlocking and concentric spiralings of all components in the cosmos, including the human wave.
Cosmological Context of Races
The first clear mention of the races within the Theosophical movement appears in Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism, which contains a discussion
of the races within the context of the planetary chain, the septenary
nature of humans, reincarnation as part of the pulsing motion of the
cosmos, and the progress of humanity. These topics were extracted
from a series of written communications Sinnett received from illuminati known as Mahatmas, adepts of occult knowledge who transcend
the limits of physical existence.28
In 1888 this introduction of an ordered and coherent Esoteric and
Theosophical teaching of the cosmos was repeated and expanded in
Blavatskys Secret Doctrine, with some variation. One may question
whether the contents of the Mahatma Letters and Sinnetts organization
of the teachings were fundamentally different from Blavatskys earlier
teachings as they appeared in Isis Unveiled (1877).29 Although there are
differences between the accounts of Sinnett and Blavatsky, they are not
significantly different. There are elements of the teachings appearing in
Esoteric Buddhism that are similar to Blavatskys earlier classic, most
notably in chapter nine of Book I, entitled Cyclic Phenomena.
Therein we find mention of cyclic progression; the motions of the planetary system; the cycles or yogas [sic: yugas?] marking the progression
or regression of humanity; the Hermetic theory of the physical evolution of man from higher and more spiritual natures30; the progression
of the race; the kingdoms of nature including the animal, vegetable,
and mineral kingdoms, and the elements31; and the system of correspondences. What appears to be the case, however, is that Sinnett (based
on information received from the Mahatmas) and Blavatsky disagreed
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Nova Religio
in some aspects of the teaching, with later Theosophical writers
Charles W. Leadbeater (18541934) and Annie Besant (18471933)
tending to follow, in part, Sinnett in this area of the doctrine. Besides
making the ideas more accessible and more cohesive, Sinnett helped to
define the principal ingredients of Theosophical teaching on race.
In order to understand the Theosophical view of the human race
and the races that make up humanity, it is necessary to explain the relation between the Supreme, Transcendent Principle, and the human
being. The most quoted statement regarding the Supreme is found in
the Proem of The Secret Doctrine:
An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on
which all speculation is impossible . . . beyond the range and reach of
thoughtin the words of Mandukya, man unthinkable and
unspeakable.32

This first fundamental proposition reflects the ancient teaching of


the Mandukya Upanisad,33 which expresses the most concise statement
on the nature of the Supreme and the cosmos as presented in
Theosophy. Although the Supreme Principle is unthinkable and not
capable of being characterized or grasped intellectually, rationally, contemplatively, or linguistically, it mysteriously takes on these qualities
since it permeates and indeed is this cosmos. In the context of Vedanta
philosophy, the Brahman without characteristics (nirguna) is no different from the Brahman with characteristics (saguna)the Brahman who
creates and maintains the cosmos by his creative power (maya)34the
latter also known as the Lord of the World (isvara). In the words of
Sarvajnatman (ninth century C.E.) in his Sam
. ksepasariraka: The saguna
Brahman is of a combined nature as consisting of the real and the nonreal; similar is the knowledge thereof. . . . 35 Not only is the Brahman
out there, it is within. The usual term for this inner Brahman is atman,
the Self, which is expressed in Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 2.5.19: This
Brahman is without a before and an after, without an inner and outer.
Brahman is this Self (atman) here which perceives everything.36 In the
words of the Aitareya Upanisad 1.1, the Self (atman), this37 alone at the
beginning, desired to emit the worlds.38
The Theosophy of the Masters and Blavatsky reflects these teachings
in the sense that the cosmos, though real, is misperceived because it is
perceived by imperfect beings.39 What is perceived is not only the elements that make up the cosmos but also a grand choreographed dance
in which they participate. This doctrine, as reflected in Vedanta and the
reflected philosophy of Theosophy, is by its nature rationally inconsistent because of the interplay of the Transcendent and imperfect. Yet,
if we follow the line of reasoning of both, we can state that the undifferentiated, non-characterized Real is the sole source of the dualistic,
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Santucci: The Notion of Race in Theosophy


differentiated, characterized misrepresentation of the Real, the latter
intentionally and mysteriously distorting its own nature for no obvious
purpose. Such a grand paradox casts confusion on the purpose of all
that is manifested, including humankind.
The notion of the Divine (in this case, the Parabrahm mentioned in
The Secret Doctrine) as inclusive of the unmanifested cosmos and emitter of this cosmos made manifest brings us to Theosophy as understood
by Blavatsky and most Theosophists. Theosophy may be looked upon as
knowledge and practice derived from a divine source.40 A more complete explanation is proposed by Antoine Faivre:
Theosophy is a gnosis that has a bearing not only on the salvific relations
the individual maintains with the divine world, but also on the nature of
God Himself, or of divine persons, and on the natural universe, the
origin of that universe, the hidden structures that constitute it in its
actual state, its relationship to mankind, and its final ends. It is in this
sense that we speak of theosophy traditionally. Theosophy, in the sense
that we are using it, confers on esotericism this cosmic, or rather
cosmosophic dimension, thereby introducing the idea of an intentionality
in the world, that keeps esotericism from succumbing to solipsism.
Theosophy opens esotericism to the entire universe and by the same
token renders possible a philosophy of nature.41

Nirguna and saguna Brahmanthe Transcendent and Creative


Brahman, Unmanifest and Manifest Cosmosare ultimately the same;
there is a fundamental unity of all existence. Therefore, the motion of
the universe is ultimately the motion of the Divine. In the second fundamental proposition of The Secret Doctrine, the eternal, manifested universe and everything within it is subject to the law of periodicity, of flux
and reflux, ebb and flow.42 It is within this cyclic flow that humanity
migrates through a series of cycles known as rounds and develops
through these rounds.
Cycles in Theosophy follow the explanations in the Hindu Puranas and
the Manavadharmasastra (Law Book of Manu). The periods of time calculated are beyond imagination, with the largest cycle, the age of the cosmos, known as a mahakalpa (great aeon or cosmic period) or the Age of
Brahma,43 consisting of 36,000 kalpas, equivalent to 311,040,000,000,000
earthly years.44 This active and manifested period of the cosmos (manvantara) is followed by an equal period of rest or absorption (pralaya),
after which the cosmos again makes its appearance. Smaller cycles occur
within the mahakalpa, such as the year of Brahma or kalpa, consisting of
360 days and nights of Brahma or 3,110,400,000,000 earthly years.
A day of Brahma consists of 1,000 maha-yugas (great epochs), known
as the planetary manvantara (period of manifestation), equal to
4,320,000,000 earthly years.45 This period of time contains fourteen Manus.
A Manu consists simultaneously of the progenitors of an expression of
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humanity and the collective of that humanity. Blavatsky wrote that the
progenitors of humanity evolving on Earth came from the evolution that
occurred previously on the chain of subtle globes plus the physical moon,
i.e. the lunar chain.46 In accordance with the Manavadharmasastra 1.
6163 and 80, Blavatsky maintains that there are fourteen Manus:
seven Root Manus and seven Seed Manus. A Root Manu initiates a
round or cycle of evolution beginning with Planet A (the first globe in
a planetary chain) and a Seed Manu appears on Planet G (the seventh
and last globe in a planetary chain) (see below) to close the round.
The Root-Manu is the progenitor of the race and the Seed-Manu is the
seed for the forthcoming race.47 The period between one Root Manu
and one Seed Manu is the equivalent to a minor Manvantara.48 Seven
rounds or circuits of evolutionary life around the planetary chain
equal the duration of fourteen Manus. The period of time encompassing seven Root Manus and seven Seed Manus is equal to a day of
Brahma or a planetary manvantara. According to the calculations
appearing in the Puranas,49 we are presently in the period of Manu
Vaivasvata, the seventh Manu.50 Having already completed three of
seven circuits or rounds around Planets A to G, humanity is currently
in the fourth round. An additional seven Manus, beginning with the
Seed Manu of round four (known as Savarna) to the Seed Manu of
round seven (Bhoutya), will complete the remaining three and onehalf circuits around Planets A to G, completing a planetary cycle or
planetary manvantara. Each of these seven rounds that comprise the
planetary cycle is responsible for the evolutionary development and
manifestation of a principle or constituent part of the human being. In
the present fourth round, humanity is developing the fourth principle
or kama (desire).
It is within the context of the planetary chains and rounds that
humanity evolves. On the individual level, cycles include the life and
death cycle, including reincarnation, down to the days and nights, waking and sleeping of the individual. The question next arises: How are the
races involved with the cycles?
The Root Races and Sub-Races
Race is a term applied to evolving human entities within this cyclic
context. There are seven root races and seven sub-races for each root
race. The relation between the races and the cycles, all based upon the
septenary51 make up of the universe are as follows:
7 subraces make a root race;
7 root races make a globe round;
7 globe rounds make a planetary round;
7 planetary rounds make a planetary manvantara.52

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This relationship is expanded upon in later Theosophical thinking
(known sometimes as Second Generation Theosophy or in a more pejorative sense, Neo-Theosophy), especially in the Theosophy of Charles
Webster Leadbeater, who gives the following relationships:
7 Branch-Races
make
7 Sub-Races
make
7 Root-Races
make
7 World-Periods
make
7 Rounds
make
10 Schemes of Evolution make

1 Sub-Race;
1 Root-Race;
1 World-period;
1 Round;
1 Chain-Period;
Our Solar System.53

The races in Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism are not named but they are
seven in number, with root races sometimes identified as great
races,54 comprised of seven sudivisional races, with the latter made
up of seven branch races. Leadbeater, who was influenced by Sinnett,
retains the threefold division. Gottfried de Purucker adds further subdivisions, such as primary and secondary sub-races, family race, national
race, tribal race, tribal generation, ending with the individual human.55
The Theosophical discussion of race centers not on physical, cultural, or
national characteristics, but on the development or progress of the spiritualdivine soul or Pilgrim56 (consisting of the immortal Self or Atman in
combination with the Spiritual Soul or Buddhi), the reincarnating
monad progressing through the kingdoms, beginning with the mineral57
and moving to the higher realms, through all the rounds and races.58
The Grand Cycle includes the progress of mankind from the appearance
of primordial man of ethereal form. It runs through the inner cycles of
his [mans] progressive evolution from the ethereal down to the semiethereal and purely physical: down to the redemption of man from his
coat of skin and matter, after which it continues running its course
downward and then upward again, to meet at the culmination of a
Round, when the manvantaric Serpent swallows its tail and seven
minor cycles are passed. These are the great Racial Cycles which affect
equally all the nations and tribes included in that special Race; but there
are minor and national as well as tribal cycles within those, which run
independently of each other.59

Regarding that segment of the evolutionary journey that includes the


progress of humanity, three propositions are put forward by Blavatsky:
1. the simultaneous evolution of seven human groups on seven different
portions of our globe;
2. the birth of the astral, before the physical body: the former being a model
for the latter : and
3. that man, in this Round, preceded every mammalianthe anthropoids
includedin the animal kingdom.60

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The reference to a round is based upon the septenary nature of the
planet or globe. Thus, the planet Earth has six companion globes, as do
the other planets and the moon. This chain of globes is a planetary
chain. The globes, designated A to G, inhabit four of the seven cosmic
planes (the cosmic equivalent to human states of consciousness61): the
four lower planes. Globes A and G inhabit the Archetypal (ethereal)
World (Plane 4, or Plane 1 of the Manifested Worlds); B and F inhabit the
Intellectual or Creative World (Plane 5); Globes C and E inhabit the
Substantial or Formative World (Plane 6); and the Earth Globe inhabits
the Physical Material World (Plane 7 or Plane 4 of the Material Worlds).62
There is, therefore, a descent of consciousness into matter followed by
an ascent to the Archetypal Plane.63 The seven planes are divided into
the Unmanifested and Manifested worlds: the three uppermost (above
the Globes) designated arupa (without form) and described as inaccessible to human intellect in its present state of development. This teaching is based upon the Kabbala and what Blavatsky identifies as Eastern
Gupta Vidya (Eastern Hidden Wisdom).64
The planetary chain provides the arena for evolution to occur. The
classes of entities that evolve are divided into ten kingdoms or
classes: the Elemental Kingdoms (13); the Mineral Kingdom (4);
the Plant Kingdom (5); the Animal Kingdom (6); the Human
Kingdom (7); and the Dhyani Chohanic [= Angelic] Kingdoms (810).
Evolution progresses through all ten Classes.65 Evolution within the
Human Kingdom, a very small portion of the grand evolutionary
scheme, takes place on Globe D (the Earth) on separate areas of the
planet. On this Globe all seven root races will evolve and for each
their seven sub-races and seven branch or family races of each subrace. Five root races have nearly completed their time on Earth, two
are yet to come.66
At present the root race that is dominant is the Fifth Root Race.
Called the Aryan raceitself comprised of seven sub-races, with each
sub-race consisting of seven branch or family races67it has been in
existence for about one million years,68 with each sub-race69 lasting for
approximately 210,000 years and each family race surviving for 30,000
years.70 The European or fifth sub-race is expected to be replaced by the
sixth sub-race in a few hundred years, the germs of which are found
in America.71 It was this expectation that made the ascension of Jiddu
Krishnamurti (18951986) so important in Theosophical circles as the
vehicle of the World Teacher, the Master who appears in the world to initiate a new religion at the emergence of a new type of humanity, the next
sub-race. According to Annie Besant, two signs indicate his imminent
arrival: the emergence of a new type of humanity and a time of dislocation and cataclysm such as earthquakes and wars. The emergence of the
sixth sub-race was to take place in America in southern California as well
as in countries such as Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Rim. The
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DIAGRAM 1: Blavatskys diagram of the globes existing on the


subtler planes that are affiliated with planet Earth, making a
planetary chain. Instead of A to G this diagram numbers the
globes 1 through 7. Globes 1 and 7 correspond to Globes A
and G; Globes 2 and 6 correspond to Globes B and F; Globes
3 and 5 correspond to Globes C and E; Globe 4 is Globe D, the
Earth. Planetary Division diagram in Blavatsky, The Secret
Doctrine, 1: 153. No copyright.

arrival of the World Teacher was more imminent in the minds of Annie
Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater than anticipated by Blavatsky.72
The Aryan race arose and developed in the far north, descending
from the previous race, the Atlantean, and from the more spiritual
races of the Lemurians, the Third Root Race.73 Two additional races,
together with these three, make up the five that have already appeared.
The First Root Race consisted of the astral doubles of their genitors,
the Fathers or Pitris.74 It was a race that was spiritual within and ethereal
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without,75 sexless,76 and was created by having been oozed out, so to say,
from the bodies of the Pitris.77 Its home was the Imperishable Sacred
Land, so-called because it was the only continent that was not
destroyed.78
The Second Root Race or Hyperborean or Sweat-Born Race, was
an asexual race originating out of the sexless shadow (chaya79) First
Root Race, the latter merging in the second race.80 As a reproductive
being, a member of the Second Root Race might produce an offspring
by budding or fissure. The Second Root Race was devoid of the vehicle of desire (kama-rupa),81 but it developed the second sense, touch,
while retaining the first, hearing. It also had an ethero-physical body and
psycho-spiritual mentality.82 Its home was the Hyperborean continent,
the land beyond the Boreas,83 the land southwest from the North Pole
and is now identified as North Asia, which was the favorite abode of
Apollo, the sun god.
The Third Root Race of Lemurians was sweat-born, evolving out of
the Second Root Race when the sweat-drops of the latter developed
into eggs, which were warmed and matured by the Sun. Three divisions
developed in this race: the first two produced by an oviparous method.84
The continent on which they lived was Lemuria,85 extending from
Madagascar to Sri Lanka and Sumatra, remnants of which are New
Zealand, Madagascar, and other lands.86 Of importance is the development of the intellect by the race and its having astral-physical bodies.
Beginning as hermaphroditic beings, the Lemurians later divided into
two sexes during the time of the fifth sub-race, which occurred about
18 million years ago.87 The first man to be born is associated with Enos
or Henoch, the son of Seth.88 Because of the separation of the sexes, the
Lemurians came to be called almost human from the fifth sub-race on.
The Atlantean or Fourth Root Race, the first truly human race89
evolved over the course of between four to five million years. Speech or
language developed over this time, from the logographic languages of
the yellow races to the agglutinative languages.90 Also, physical and
intellectual evolution progressed to the point where their development
was more advanced than nineteenth-century science. Thus, The Secret
Doctrine says the Atlanteans developed aeronautics, meteorology, mineralogy, geology, physics, and astronomy. In the early period of this
race, its members were gigantic in stature,91 which explains the colossal
buildings such as the Druidic temples and pyramids.92
A feature of both the Third and Fourth Root Races is the appearance
of the third eye,93 which existed from the time of the hermaphrodites.
This eye was capable of embracing Eternity, but by the time of the
Fourth Root Race it became petrified and gradually disappeared. Its disappearance caused the increase of materiality and the corresponding
decrease of spirituality.94

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The Fourth Root Race perished around 850,000 years ago when the
first Great Flood within the Aryan historical memory . . . submerged the
last portions of Atlantis.95 As with the previous races, a continent of the
same name is associated with the Atlanteans,96 which is discussed
throughout The Secret Doctrine. The tradition is that the main Miocene97
continent98 was destroyed several million years ago. Yet remnants survived only to perish at later times. Thus around this time (850,000 years
ago), the island-continents of Ruta and Daitya99 perished toward the
close of the Miocene Age, which destroyed the last of the giant
Atlanteans around 11,000 years ago, witnessed by the Aryan Asiatics,
the fifth family race of the fourth sub-race of the Fifth Root Race.100
With the sinking of Atlantis came the elevation of the Alps and the
destruction of Poseidonis, the island remnant of Atlantis mentioned in
Platos Timaeus. It was destroyed by water, for all continents are
destroyed by either fire or water; such an event served as the cause of the
biblical flood.101
The Fifth Root Race has been in existence, sui generis, for about
1,000,000 years, with each sub-race existing for 210,000 years, and each
family race for 30,000 years. It was engendered and developed in the far
north, or in northern Asia, and spread south and west after the sinking
of Atlantis.102 In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky states that with the Fifth
Root Race [w]e have crossed the meridian of the perfect adjustment of
Spirit and Matter [= brain, intellect and spiritual perception] moving
toward the Spiritual side.103
The fifth continent associated with this race is Europe; it arose from
the ocean at the time of the sinking of Atlantis but will ultimately sink due
to earthquakes and subterranean fires, just like Lemuria and Atlantis.104
Just as the Fifth Root Race overlapped the Fourth Root Race, and the
Fourth overlapped the Third, so too will the Sixth Root Race overlap the
Fifth Root Race. Currently the European fifth sub-race of the Fifth Root
Race is dominant, yet the germs of the sixth sub-race are being formed
in the Americas.105 Perhaps it was this statement that led Annie Besant,
the president of the Theosophical Society from 1907 until her death in
1933, to consider southern California (much of which was part of
Lemuria106) as the site of the coming race, in addition to the more
immediate cause mentioned by Emmett A. Greenwalt: the number of
child prodigies.107
According to The Secret Doctrine, it is during the sixth and seventh subraces of the Fifth Root Race that the Sixth Root Race will develop. Due
to the upward arc of human evolution from the mid-point of the Third
Root Race, the Sixth Root Race will be in a position roughly equivalent
to the Second Root Race: the bodies will again be more ethereal than
physical, and androgynous. Furthermore, the so-called occult powers of
clairaudience and clairvoyance will again manifest in this race.108 Such

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DIAGRAM 2: Blavatskys diagram of the spiraling evolution of human


consciousness into increasing dense bodies of earlier root
races, making a turn in the Third Root Race with the human
races from this point evolving greater consciousness and more
subtle physical bodies. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1: 172.
No copyright.

a sixth sense will become most potent when manas (mind) merges with
the buddhi (the faculty that perceives unity).109
Humanity will once again gain spiritual status in the Seventh Root
Race, a condition that it gradually lost in the Second and Third Root
Races, but reversed with the Fourth through the Sixth Root Races. The
Sixth Root Race will develop clairvoyance, and instant perception will
develop in the Seventh Root Race. The descriptions provided throughout The Secret Doctrine are primarily of the seven root races in the fourth
round. There is one exception, however, and that is the anticipated
state of humanity in later rounds, especially as it appears as the Seventh
Root Race in the seventh round:
It is not in the course of natural law that man should become a perfect
septenary being, before the seventh race in the seventh Round. Yet he has
all these principles latent in him from his birth. Nor is it part of the
evolutionary law that the Fifth principle (Manas), should receive its
complete development before the Fifth Round. All such prematurely
developed intellects (on the spiritual plane) in our Race are abnormal; they
are those whom we call the Fifth-Rounders. Even in the coming seventh
Race, at the close of this Fourth Round, while our four lower principles
will be fully developed, that of Manas will be only proportionately so.110

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CONCLUSIONS
Even a superficial reading of the works of A. P. Sinnett and Helena
P. Blavatsky, the two authors who respectively popularized and provided
a grand synthesis of the esoteric or occult universe, reveals the absence
of racist attitudes. Their primary emphasis was on humanity or the
human life wave and its indescribably lengthy passage and journey
within the immense evolutionary expanse of the global and planetary
rounds and the planetary manvantara. Throughout this journey, the
unit that passes from life to life and from race to raceafter progressing from the mineral, plant, and animal kingdomsand evolving even
further into the higher Angelic or Divine (Dhyan Chohanic) kingdoms
before entering at the close of the Solar Manvantara or the Age of
Brahma that state known as Parinirvana, only to re-emerge on a still
higher plane, is the monadconsisting of the duad of atman and buddhi
the spiritual-divine soul, which takes on a third principle, manas, the
intellectual or mind principle, which also is equated with the reincarnating ego on the human plane.111 What is emphasized, therefore, are
the divine and divinely influenced principles that make up the human
being, not the physicalgross or subtlecomponents. To place this
teaching in the context of the nineteenth century, Blavatsky probably
employed the label race only because of its scientific connotations, a
term that would fit well into the notion of discrete evolutionary stages
of humanity. Yet, as the subject was developed in the Esoteric context,
it bore little resemblance to the academic and popular discussions and
opinions of race at the time.
Blavatsky and other Theosophists never suggested that the teachings
as presented by her, the Mahatmas, and others were unique and original. If we accept Blavatskys opinion, it is entirely derived from the
archaic Occultism that lies hidden to the majority of humankind but
is discoverable through the ancient philosophies, religions, and modern
science. It must be read from a certain methodological perspective, to
be sure, but once it is approached in that manner, a cohesive, ordered,
and comprehensive intellectual system is revealed that can be very
appealing, satisfying, and fascinating to the intellectually inquisitive.
Furthermore, it provides answers and purpose to those aspects of physical existence and the mysteries of life. It is little wonder that such a
teaching appealed (and still does) to intellectually inclined individuals.
The attraction of Theosophy to Westerners and South Asians in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is partially explained by
the familiarity of many intellectuals with the Western classical tradition
from the time of the early Renaissance and the growing familiarity with
the South Asian Vedic and Hindu philosophical traditions throughout
the nineteenth century. Blavatsky identified these teachings as the
Wisdom of the Ages, Buddhism, Esoteric Wisdom, Wisdom Religion,
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and Parent Doctrine,112 which implied a Divine Source, an opinion not
very different from the teaching of the prisca theologia (primordial theology) or philosophia perennis (perennial philosophy) during the
Renaissance period in the works of Marsilio Ficino (14331499) and
Agostino Steuco (14971548), and preceded by Giorgios Gemistos
Plethon (1355/601454)the Greek philosopher who introduced
Greek and Platonic studies to Renaissance Italy and founded the
Florentine Neo-Platonic Academyand the thirteenth-century alchemical work Turba Philosophorum.113 It is very likely, too, that the template
for Blavatskys Theosophical system comprised the major ingredients of
the prisca theologia, including the Corpus Hermeticum associated with
Hermes Trismegistus, whose ideas influenced the Sepher Yetzirah (The
Book of Creation) of the Kabbala, the Sabaeans of Harran who introduced Neo-Pythagorean, Neo-Platonist, and practical alchemy into
Islam, and the teachings of Freemasonry during the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries.114
Yet the content of the earlier philosophia perennis is not the only source
of the Theosophical system worked out by Blavatsky and her Mahatmas.
Their Theosophy is not solely Western but global in scope. Indeed, we
might characterize this teaching as Global Esotericism115 as opposed to
Western Esotericism. Therefore, the assertion in The Secret Doctrine makes
sense when Blavatsky claims that archaic Occultism would remain
incomprehensible to all, if it were rendered otherwise than through the
more familiar channels of Buddhism and Hinduism.116 This wedding
of Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, and Hermeticism with the Hindu
(Vedanta) teachings of kalpa and karma, forming a broad synthesis with
scientific inquiry and discovery, created a macrohistory117 encompassing the entire macro- and microcosm. The individual sources are
simply too many in number to be itemized in this article. Rather than
selectively referring to Blavatskys citations, it would be more useful to
devote a separate work to this topic, due especially to the questions arising from her sources and method of citation. Regarding the latter, plagiarism has been one of the main reasons why her sources have been the
topic of discussion in the past, a charge that may be unjustified if we
understand that no universally agreed-upon guidelines for using
sources properly existed until the late nineteenth or early twentieth
centuries.118
The question, remains, however: Who first devised the grand
Theosophical scheme? Blavatsky certainly expanded upon the first published account in Esoteric Buddhism. But Sinnett was not the originator,
only the compiler and redactor. His source was the letters sent by the
Mahatmas Koot Hoomi and Morya. But who wrote the Mahatma letters?
The charge that Blavatsky wrote them has been challenged by handwriting expert Dr. Vernon Harrison.119 Harrison came to a cautious
conclusion that Blavatskys authorship could not be proved based on the
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handwriting. The latest discussion on this issue was presented by Kerri
Barry, who takes a somewhat critical stance on Harrisons conclusions by
suggesting that he may have been too zealous in defending Blavatsky
and indicting Richard Hodgson, the author of a report (1884) on the
Mahatma letters for the Society for Psychical Research. She also suggests
that it is possible that Blavatsky wrote the letters in an altered state, an
opinion not ruled out by Harrison.120 If the handwriting analysis holds
up, it is likely that Blavatsky did not write the letters. Thus a conundrum
arises. If Blavatsky was not the direct source of the letters, then there was
a second major source of Theosophical teaching. Blavatsky then cannot
be considered the source of the system presented in Esoteric Buddhism,
although there are seeds of this teaching in her Isis Unveiled. If Koot
Hoomi and Morya are separate entities and not Blavatsky writing in an
altered state of consciousness or supervising others to write the letters,
then it is impossible to establish the sources of the teaching except
through indirect means. We can argue, therefore, that two variant
Theosophical teachings existed in the early 1880s until Blavatsky appropriated the Mahatmas teachings in The Secret Doctrine.
The indirect source of the teachings in The Secret Doctrine is obvious.
It would appear that a shift in emphasis leaning heavily toward
Hinduism (especially the Vedanta) and Buddhism occurred between
the publication of Isis Unveiled in 1877 and The Secret Doctrine in 1888. Of
course, Blavatsky during this interval migrated to India in early 1879 and
interacted with pandits and other learned scholars of the Hindu and
Buddhist philosophies and practices, so it is no wonder that her knowledge of these topics grew well beyond what she knew earlier.
We end with a mystery. Who actually devised the uniquely Theosophical
world system? Was it Blavatsky? The Mahatmas? Or both?
The primary purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the teachings contained within the Theosophy of Helena P. Blavatsky and A. P.
Sinnett, are not, and were not, considered to be about race in the ordinary use of the term, nor were they racist in tone. The Theosophical discussion of race was intended to demonstrate that the cosmos (both
metaphysical and physical) was but a self-revelation of the Divine,121
and that the movement or the dance of the cosmos was ordered, cyclic,
evolving, and purposive. It would appear that the template for such a discussion was based on Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and Kabbalistic sources.122
At least that is the impression given in Blavatskys prototype work, Isis
Unveiled.123 Yet, one cannot deny the important contribution of the
Mahatmas in their letters to A. P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume in the early
1880s.124 The controversy surrounding the authorship of the letters
and the suspicion that Blavatsky was involved with their production is
a matter of great concern to Theosophists. If she was not involved in
their authorship, then that leaves open the possibility and probability
that Theosophical teaching as it is presented today and as it has been
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presented since the 1880s is not as much Blavatskys vision as it is the
Masters vision as presented through Sinnett. Why this is important in
the present context is that it makes the task of tracing these ideas that
much more problematic. Indeed, if the Mahatmas are given credit for
the teachings, then would it not make more sense to credit the East,
especially South Asia, for their content? If so, then we have a primarily
South Asian-based teaching with a veneer of Western Esoteric content.
Indeed, this gives added significance to the book that first introduced
the topic to the world: A. P. Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism.
I thank Jerry Hejka-Ekins of Alexandria West in Turlock, California for
his suggestions and criticisms, and Ina Belderis of the Theosophical
Society Library in Pasadena for her help and insights.

ENDNOTES
1

The phrase is from Oliver Goldsmith, A History of the Earth and Animated Nature
(1774, 1776, 1862), cited in the entry on race in the Oxford English Dictionary,
2d ed., vol. 13 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 69 (I.1.d).
2 Alfred Percy Sinnett (18401921) was editor of the Allahabad Pioneer when
Helena P. Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, two of the founders and
guiding lights of the Theosophical Society, arrived in India. It was Sinnett who
publicized their arrival in India and activities. He and his wife Patience became
members of the Theosophical Society in 1879, mainly due to their attraction to
Blavatskys demonstrations of occult phenomena. It was this curiosity that led
Sinnett to ask Blavatsky whether she could deliver a letter to her teachers and
occult masters, the Brothers or Mahatmas. Consequently, the correspondence
between Sinnett and the Mahatmas began with the first letter written by Koot
Hoomi Lal Singh and addressed to Sinnett on 15 October 1880. The
correspondence to Sinnett and others lasted until 1884 with over 120 letters
written by Mahatmas M. (Morya) and K. H. (Koot Hoomi). See A. P. Sinnett, The
Occult World, 8th ed. (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1908), 79105;
Geoffrey A. Barborka, The Mahatmas and Their Letters (Adyar, Madras:
Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 3361.
3 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 2 vols. (Los Angeles: Theosophy
Company, 1974; originally published in 1888), 2: 167. Humans, like all else in
nature, are described as being made of seven constituents: the physical body
(sthula sarira), life force (prana), the model or astral body (lin.ga-sarira), the
principle of animal desire (kama-rupa), the manas (mind or thinking principle),
the buddhi (spiritual soul or latent consciousness) (2: 275n), and the atman, the
Divine Self or the one real and eternal substratum of all (1: 570). On the
septenary principle in humans, see Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 593; Barborka, The
Divine Plan (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 178201.
The incarnating principle that appears throughout the kingdoms of the
cosmos consists of atman-buddhi and is identified as monad. The inclusion of

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manas causes the monad to become a personal ego (Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 245),
which begins to appear in humanity. See also Barborka, Divine Plan, 911, 251.
4 A round is the seven-fold circuit of a planet or globe, in a chain of seven
globes, of the life wave, the latter undergoing seven stages of development. An
evolutionary circuit of the life wave around one globe (of the seven making up
a planetary chain) is a global round. Seven circuits of the evolutionary wave
around the seven globes in a planetary chain makes a planetary round.
5 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 620.
6 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 146 note: There were in the First Manvantara
seven celebrated sons of Vasishta, who in the Third Manvantara, were sons of
Brahma (i.e., Rishis), the illustrious progeny of Urja.
7 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 146 note.
8 Mahatmas or Masters are described as being more highly evolved humans who
have divulged in part the Secret Wisdom, which serves as the basis of the worlds
religions, philosophies, and science. The letters to A. P. Sinnett were eventually
published in 1923 by A. T. Barker, transcriber and compiler, The Mahatma Letters
to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. & K. H. The edition used here is the second
(New York: Rider and Company, 1948).
9 An abridged translation of Gobineaus work is the The Inequality of Human
Races, trans. Adrian Collins (London: William Heinemann, 1915).
10 UNESCO, The Race Question in Modern Science: Race and Science (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1961), 14. Thomas Gossett cites numerous examples
of race antagonism among the ancient Aryans of India, the Chinese, the ancient
Egyptians, and Israelites in his Race: The History of an Idea in America (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1997), 35. The examples must be taken with caution,
however, since other reasons for the differentiation of groups may exist.
11 Alain Locke, and Bernhard J. Stern, eds., When Peoples Meet: A Study in Race and
Culture Contacts (New York: Committee on Workshops, Progressive Education
Association, 1942), 89.
12 UNESCO, The Race Question in Modern Science, 1415. Aristotles theory of
slavery is mainly located in Politics, Book I, Chapters 37. Aristotle, Politics, Book
V, reads:
But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom
such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a
violation of nature?
There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of
reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a
thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth,
some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.
Benjamin Jowetts translation at <http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.
html>, accessed 17 September 2007. Consult, too, the companion work of
Politics, Nicomachian Ethics, Book VII.
13 A system whereby Indian workers were allocated to Spanish settlers on the
understanding that they would be instructed in the Christian faith in return for
their labor. Quoted in Bonar Ludwig Hernandez, The Las Casas-Seplveda
Controversy: 15501551, note 6, at <http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~epf/2001/
hernandez.html>, accessed 17 September 2007.

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14

Hernandez, The Las Casas-Seplveda Controversy; see also UNESCO, The


Race Question in Modern Science, 1516.
15 UNESCO, The Race Question in Modern Science, 1516.
16 Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, Natural History, General and Particular, trans.
William Smellie, 3d ed., vol. 8 (London: 1791), 15153, quoted in Gossett, Race, 36.
17 Gossett, Race, 6667.
18 Gossett, Race, 68.
19 C. H. Layman, Man of Letters: The Early Life and Love Letters of Robert Chambers
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990), 18083.
20 Gossett, Race, 68, quotes Robert Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of
Creation (London, 1844), 22627: The leading characters . . . of the various
races of mankind are simply representations of the development of the highest,
or Caucasian type.
21 Cited in Gossett, Race, 55. See also James D. Bilotta, Race and the Rise of the
Republican Party, 18481865 (New York: Peter Lang, 1992), 45, 47.
22 Sir William Jones, The Third Anniversary Discourse on the Hindus, Delivered
2 February 1786, Works I, 1934, now online as Chapter One of Winfred P.
Lehmanns A Reader in Nineteenth Century Historical Indo-European Linguistics at
<http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/books/read01.html>,
accessed
6 October 2007. Jones was not the first to observe the connection of Sanskrit to
Greek and Latin. Most likely it was Filippo Sassetti, a Florentine merchant who
lived in Goa from 1583 to 1588, who first noted this relation. For more
information see Alfred Master, The Influence of Sir William Jones upon
Sanskrit Studies, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 11, no. 4
(1946): 799.
23 For a detailed account of the Aryan Myth, see Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The
Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival (London: Thames and Hudson,
1993), 3745. Arya (noble, honorable) in Vedic literature normally referred to
a member of one of the three upper social classes (brahmana, ksatriya, and
vaisya) standing in opposition to the dasa or s udra. For references, see Arthur
Anthony Macdonell, and Arthur Berriedale Keith, Vedic Index of Names and
Subjects, vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1912), 6465.
24 Josep R. Llobera, The Making of Totalitarian Thought (New York: Berg, 2003), 57.
25 This is the claim of Michael Biddiss, in his Father of Racist Ideology (London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970). This view is discussed at length in Llobera,
Making of Totalitarian Thought, 57f. Llobera is somewhat defensive of Gobineau
since his ideas were not that divergent from the prevailing scholarly opinion of
the times.
26 Llobera, Making of Totalitarian Thought, 63.
27 Peter Levenda, Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult (New
York: Avon Books, 1995).
28 A. P. Sinnetts Esoteric Buddhism, 5th ed. (San Diego: Wizards Bookshelf, 1981;
first published in 1883; fifth edition, 1885), 8, 17. A Mahatma or Master is defined
by Blavatsky as a personage who, by special training and education, has evolved
those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge, which ordinary
humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of reincarnations
during the process of cosmic evolution, provided, of course, that they do not go,

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in the meanwhile, against the purposes of Nature and thus bring on their own
annihilation. This quote appears in her Mahatmas and Chelas, The Theosophist,
5, no. 10 (July 1884): 233, in H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, ed. Boris de Zirkoff,
vol. 6 (Los Angeles: Blavatsky Writings Publication Fund, 1954), 239. Mahatmas,
then, are living persons who have existed in all historic ages . . . [who] constitute
a Brotherhood, or Secret Association . . . the principal seat of which for the
present I gather to be in Thibet. Quoted from A. P. Sinnetts The Occult World,
21. Therefore Theosophical Mahatmas are different from the later Ascended
Masters, a term introduced in 1930 by the founder of the I AM Activity, Guy
Ballard (18781939), who published his Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence
under the pen name Godfr Ray King. Theosophical Mahatmas, such as the one
who wrote to A. P. Sinnett, are embodied, living men, whereas Ascended Masters
are generally thought of as having ascended to higher planes, sometimes having
achieved this status after death. Ballard taught that once ones karma was
perfectly balanced and self-mastery gained, the physical body transformed into
an Ascended Master body in the ritual of the Ascension. This quote is given in
Kenneth and Talita Paolini, 400 Years of Imaginary Friends: A Journey into the World
of Adepts, Masters, Ascended Masters, and Their Messengers (Livingston, Mont.: Paolini
International, LLC, 2000), 346.
29 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, 2 vols. (Los Angeles: Theosophy
Company, 1982; originally published in 1877).
30 Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, 1: 295.
31 Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled. 1: 329.
32 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 14.
33 The Mandukya Upanisad 7 gives an explanation of the OM, which is identified
.
with the world, Brahman (the Supreme Principle), and the Self (atman). These
Sanskrit terms are used to describe the fourth part or foot, i.e., that beyond
the first three parts, thereby beyond all duality, and therefore unthinkable
(acintyam), unspeakable and incapable of being represented in any way
(avyapadesam). See Patrick Olivelle, The Early Upanisads: Annotated Text and
Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 474.
34 So stated by S. Radhakrishnan, trans., The Principal Upanisads (New York:
Greenwood Press, 1968), 30.
35 Eliot Deutsch and J. A. B. van Buitenen, A Source Book of Advaita Vedanta
(Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1971), 270.
36 Olivelle, Early Upanisads, 75.
37 A somewhat mysterious statement, implying from other passages that this
(idam) represents the world, often rendered as idam sarvam this all. Here it
might be considered to be the world in potentia.
38 sa iksata/lokan nu srja iti (He desired: Let me emit the worlds.) In
Blavatskys Secret Doctrine, this passage is recognized and described as follows:
Parabrahm is, in short, the collective aggregate of Kosmos in its infinity and
eternity, the THAT and THIS to which distributive aggregates can not be
applied (1: 7).
39 So stated by Barborka, Divine Plan, 2.
40 This definition is inspired by Merwin-Marie Snell in his Modern Theosophy in
Its Relation to Hinduism and Buddhism, The Biblical World, 3, no. 5 (1895): 200.

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41

Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New


York Press, 1994), 23.
42 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 17.
43 Brahm
a, the grandfather (pitamaha) of the whole world, the creator, and the
cosmos itself. Manu 1. 9. See Patrick Olivelle, Manus Code of Law: A Critical
Edition and Translation of Manava-dharmasastra (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2005), 236, 384.
44 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 6970; Barborka, Divine Plan, 1218.
45 The four yugas make up a mahayuga or great age. The four periods (yuga) are the
krta (satya), treta, dvapara, and kali, each succeeding period being less perfect that
the preceding period, and each period being temporally less extensive than
the preceding (4000, 3000, 2000, 1000 years respectively). To come up with the
number of 12,000, a period of dawn and twilight equal to a tenth of each
periods length is added (4800, 3600, 2400, and 1200). The 12,000 years are
thought to be divine years, so they must be converted into human years by
multiplying by 360: 4,320,000. A summary of the four yugas together with the
citations are in Ludo Rocher, The Puranas (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz, 1986),
124. It is discussed in Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 69.
46 Blavatsky states that Manu is not really an individuality, it is the whole of
mankind. You may say that Manu is a generic name for the Pitris, the
progenitors of mankind. They come, as I have shown, from the Lunar Chain.
They give birth to humanity, for, having become the first men, they give birth to
others by evolving their shadows, their astral selves. H. P. Blavatsky, Transactions
of the Blavatsky Lodge, Meeting 6, 14 February 1889, at <http://www.theosociety.
org/pasadena/sdcommnt/sdc-6.htm>, accessed 22 October 2007. A discussion
also appears in Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 307312.
47 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 308.
48 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 309.
49 Rocher, The Puranas, 12425, 143, 165.
50 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 309: Vaivasvata . . . is the primitive Root-Manu of
our fourth Human Wave, while our Vaivasvata was but one of the seven Minor
Manus, who are made to preside over the seven races of this our planet. The
reader must always remember that Manu is not a man but collective humanity.
51 On the number seven, see Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 3436.
52 The source of this summary is Jerry Hejka Ekins in an email dated
2 September 2007.
53 Charles Webster Leadbeater, A Textbook of Theosophy (Adyar, Madras:
Theosophical Publishing House, 1912), 125. A third scheme is presented by
Gottfried de Purucker, the Leader of the Theosophical Society (Point Loma)
from 1929 to 1942. He suggests that there are twelve sacred planets, not seven.
Otherwise, he follows Blavatsky. See G. de Purucker, The Fountain-Source of
Occultism, Section 7, Part 2, at <http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/fso/fso7b.
htm>, accessed 16 September 2007.
54 Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism, 134.
55 G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, 2d ed. (Pasadena:
Theosophical University Press, 1979; originally published in 1932). The
reference, found in Chapter 21, is located online at <http://www.theosociety.

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org/pasadena/fund/fund-21.htm>. Blavatsky mentions little tribes, shoots,
and offshoots of the last-named [Branch races] but they are not named.
Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 434.
56 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 16 note: the appellation given to our Monad (the
two in one) during its cycle of incarnations.
57 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 178.
58 This notion of progress through a series of incarnations through the
kingdoms from lower to higher referred to as the Cycle of Necessity or
Incarnation, may be termed metempsychosis. This term is used in Isis Unveiled
in numerous places (1: xxxvi-xxxvii, 9, 29192, 351, and by implication, 2: 456).
What Blavatsky referred to as metempsychosis, Allan Kardec (18041869), one
of Blavatskys older contemporaries who wrote on similar topics, referred to as
reincarnation, the latter for him being a progressive improvement of the soul
until it reaches a state of purification and perfection. See Allan Kardec, Le Livre
des Esprits, translated by Anna Blackwell as The Spirits Book (Sao Paulo, Brazil:
Lake-Livraria Allan Kardec Editora Lta., 1972).
59 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 642.
60 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 1.
61 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 199.
62 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 200. A summary of the septenary chain of worlds is
given in 1: 15860: (1) Everything in the metaphysical and physical universe is
septenary, including the planets; (2) The globes are formed through the
rebirth of planetary chains (or rings). A dying process occurs at the end of the
planetary cycle (the seventh round), with a transfer of the life wave and energy
to another planet (such as the transfer from the moon to the Earth chain (vide
172); the Earth is the visible representative of its invisible, superior fellow
globes . . . . During the fourth of seven rounds, the Earth settles and hardens
following a forming and consolidation in the first three rounds (Globes A to D),
only to return to its first or ethereal form; (3) Humanity develops fully only in
the fourth round, which is the present round. Prior to this round, what will
appear as human in the later round passes through the mineral and vegetable
kingdoms [see Barker, The Mahatma Letters, Letter 14, 7884]; (4) The Earth and
its fellow globes live through seven rounds; (5) Its Humanity develops fully only
in the Fourthour present round. Up to this fourth Life-Cycle, it is referred to
as humanity only for lack of a more appropriate term. This is due to
humanity passing through all forms and kingdoms during the first round and
through all human shapes during the next two rounds. We recognize humans
only on the fourth round. During the next three rounds, humanity tends to
assume the form of the Dhyan Chohanic Host; (6) The seven root races
appear on Globe D; (7) The first humans (the first root race) were the progeny
of the Lunar Ancestors (Pitris) (beings who have graduated from the human
kingdom to that of the Dhyani Chohans or the Lords of Meditation [the
Angelic Host]).
63 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 176.
64 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 200. Buddhist cosmology divides the conditioned
reality into three realms: arupyadhatu (the formless realm) consisting of states of
consciousness experienced by the most advanced devas (gods) and inaccessible
to most humans; rupadhatu (the form realm, corresponding to states of

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consciousness lower than those of the formless realm and experienced by devas
and exceptional humans); and kamadhatu (desire realm, consisting of the even
lower states of consciousness associated with the lowest devas, the jealous
gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in the hells. See Richard
H. Robinson, Willard L. Johnson, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Religions: A
Historical Introduction, 5th ed. (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth/Thomson, 2005),
1213. This cosmology is preserved in Tibetan Buddhism. See John Powers,
Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion, 1995), 7274.
65 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 200.
66 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 443.
67 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 43435. Compare Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism, 59:
Each race of the seven which go to make up a roundi.e. which are
evolved on the earth in succession during its occupation by the great
wave of humanity passing round the planetary chainis itself subject to
subdivision. Were this not the case, the active existences of each human
unit would be indeed few and far between. Within the limits of each race
there are seven subdivisional races, and again within the limits of each
subdivision there are seven branch races. Through all these races, roughly
speaking, each individual human unit must pass during his stay on earth,
each time he arrives there, on a round of progress through the planetary
system. On reflection, this necessity should not appal the mind so much
as a hypothesis which would provide for fewer incarnations.
68 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 435. Although the root race has existed
independently of other races for this period of time, it originated at about the
mid-point of each preceding root race. So, the Fifth Root Race would have
been in its developmental stages much longer, around five to six million years.
This information is given by Jerry Hejka-Ekins in an email dated 5 October 2007.
69 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 435.
70 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 435.
71 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 444.
72 Catherine Lowman Wessinger, Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism
(Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988), 26384.
73 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 318, 768.
74 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 110, 116, 233 note, 248.
75 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 29899 note.
76 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 116, 125.
77 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 174. On this form of birth Blavatsky cites the VisnuPurana III.2.
78 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 6. Blavatsky associates this land with Greenland and
Siberia (2: 327) and, from the Puranas, Mount Meru.
79 A shadow of its creators (the Pitris or pitr-s). Pitris (Fathers) is the term used
in the Vedas to refer to deceased ancestors.
80 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 121.
81 The desire body, the eidolon or ghost or apparition, which is associated with
the emotions and desires, is the fourth of seven principles making up the
human.

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82

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 299 note.


Literally, Beyond the North Wind. The term has connections to the worship
of Apollo of Delphi and Artemis at Delos. The term is mentioned in Herodotus,
Book IV. See the discussion of the continent of Hyperborea in Godwin, Arktos,
1921.
84 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 132, 166. Oviparous refers to producing eggs
that hatch outside the body: hence, egg-born.
85 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 7, 27273, 324, 779. Although Blavatsky popularized
the concept of Lemuria, she did not invent it. It was inspired by a part of
Darwins evolutionary hypothesis, which sought to explain why plant and animal
species were located where they were. Since lemurs were found in great
numbers on Madagascar and also exist in India and southern Africa, a large
land-bridge was conjectured connecting these areas. Philip Sclater (18291913)
gave the continent its name in 1864. Alfred Russel Wallace supported this theory
and the naturalist Heinrich Haeckel even maintained that it was the evolutionary
cradle not only of lemurs but also of humanity. It is not by accident that Blavatsky
looked to Haeckel for support (2: 327f.; 779).
86 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 177, 296, 313, 332f. The full expanse of the
continent is given on page 324.
87 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 14849, 177. The age of the two and a half Races
preceding this division is calculated to have been 300,000,000 years. The later
sub-races of the Second Root Race and the early sub-races of the Lemurian race
were also hermaphroditic.
88 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 2: 715 note.
89 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 227, 715 note.
90 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 19899. Agglutinative languages, such as Turkish,
are somewhat like inflectional languages (Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek) with the
exception that the morphemes (minimal units of meaning) never change their
shape when combined with other morphemes.
91 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 199, 27172, 426, 42931.
92 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 331, 337 (the Bamian statues of the Buddha), 42932.
93 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 28999. This is the eye of Siva or the third eye.
94 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 288, 291, 29495, 299 note.
95 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 332.
83

96

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 314, 33334.


In the Tertiary Period, which lasted 7, 360,000 years (Secret Doctrine, 2: 710).
Geological chronology is summarized in Secret Doctrine 2: 70911. As a continent,
it is also mentioned in Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism, 70.

97

98

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 11; and Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism, 70. The latter is
based on Mahatma Letter XXIIIB, Barker, Mahatma Letters, 14978.
99 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 314 and note, 395, 433; Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism, 70.
100

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 433.


Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 141, 307 note.
102 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 198 note, 445, 471, 768.
103 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 300.
101

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104

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 266, 724, 751 and note.


Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 444, 446.
106 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 328.
107 Emmett A. Greenwalt, California Utopia: Point Loma: 18971942, 2d ed. (San
Diego: Point Loma Publications, Inc., 1978; originally published in 1955),
21213. Besant also asserted that the children being born in southern California
and Australia were exceptional in intelligence and spiritual awakening. See
Wessinger, Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism, 264.
108 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 184, 537; 2: 446.
109 Manas is the thinking principle, likened to the conscious, rational,
individual Soul (Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 247). This is the fifth principle in
the human being. Without it, the monad (Atma-Buddhi) can have no
individuality on Earth, cannot be man, unless there is (a) the Mind, the ManasEgo, to cognize itself, and (b) the terrestrial false personality, or the body of
egotistical desires and personal Will, to cement the whole, as if round a pivot . . .
to the physical form of man (2: 241). The buddhi is latent consciousness
(2: 275). Manas causes the buddhi to become conscious due to the accretions
it gets from Manas after every new incarnation and the death of man (1: 244).
110 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 167. Plato is one example of a Fifth-Rounder. See
Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 161.
111 Barborka, Divine Plan, 23; Jerry Hejka-Ekins, in an email message dated
7 September 2007. See also Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 79.
112 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: xviii, xx, xliv; 2: 133, 272, 636.
113 A translation of the text appears on the Sacred-Texts.com website at
<http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/turba.htm>, accessed 17 September 2007.
See also Adam MacLeans website at <http://www.levity.com/alchemy/
turba.html>, accessed 17 September 2007.
114 An excellent overview of Western Esotericism is Joscelyn Godwins The Golden
Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions (Wheaton, Ill.:
Theosophical Publishing House, 2007). For more details on Hermes
Trismegistus, see Antoine Faivre, The Eternal Hermes: From Greek God to Alchemical
Magus (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Phanes Press, 1995); and Garth Fowden, The
Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1986).
115 This idea was broached by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in his paper,
Orientalism and Theosophy: The T. S. and the Mystic East, presented at the
Theosophical History Conference in London on 7 July 2007.
116 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 668. What she adds is even more provocative: For
the former [the Gnostic schools and the later Platonists] is the emanation of
the latter [Buddhism and Hinduism]; and both are children of one mother
ancient Lemuro-Atlantean Wisdom.
117 Garry W. Trompf, Macrohistory in Blavatsky, Steiner and Gunon, in
Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion, ed. Antoine Faivre and Wouter
J. Hanegraaff (Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 26996. See also Trompfs article,
Macrohistory, in the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter
J. Hanegraaff, vol. 2 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 70116. Therein, Trompf describes
macrohistory as comprising all general(ized) visions of human destiny, whether
105

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as great stages or a procession of cycles through time, as an overall progress or
regress, or as an encasement of the known order between determinative
primordial events and some extraordinary eschaton (701).
118 Quoted from the Congressional Quarterly Researcher (19 September 2003),
which appears in Darrell Erixsons Plagiarism and the Secret Doctrine,
Theosophical History, 12, no. 3 (July 2006): 24.
119 Vernon Harrison, H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An Examination of the Hodgson
Report of 1885 (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1997). An earlier
version of the work appeared as JACCUSE: An Examination of the Hodgson
Report of 1885, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 53, no. 803 (April
1986): 286310.
120 Kerri Barry, Genius, Fraud, or Phenomenon? The Unsolved Case of H. P.
Blavatsky, Theosophical History, 12, no. 2 (April 2006): 2335. Barrys approach
is sharply criticized by Michael Gomes, Response to Kerri Barrys Genius,
Fraud, or Phenomenon? Theosophical History, 13, no. 1 (January 2007): 39. His
purpose is to defend Harrisons methodology and conclusion.
121 Godwin, Golden Thread, 11.
122 See Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 4143.
123 It is an arbitrary decision on my part to consider Isis Unveiled to be the first
detailed statement in modern Theosophy of the movement of the cosmos to be
cyclic, spiral, and progressive.
124 A few of the letters from the Mahatmas were sent to Allan Octavian Hume
(18291912), including the very important first letter sent to him by Koot
Hoomi. Hume was a member of the Indian Colonial Service (18491882) and
a noted ornithologist. Perhaps he is most famous for helping to form the Indian
National Congress in 1885. Although a Vice-President of the Theosophical
Society from 18801888, he eventually left the Society. See Philip Sydney Harris,
A. O. Hume, Theosophical Encyclopedia, ed. Philip S. Harris (Quezon City,
Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 2006), 290; and Barborka,
Mahatmas and Their Letters, 3133. The first letter is discussed and quoted in
Sinnett, Occult World, 10517; and Margaret Conger, Combined Chronology for Use
with the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and the Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P.
Sinnett (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1973), 2838. For a discussion
of the letter, see Barborka, Mahatmas and Their Letters, 6282.

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