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Answer to a Russian Philosopher

On the Eastern Sources of Modern Theosophy
Helena P. Blavatsky

Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-1891)

A 2011 Introductory Note:
Vladimir Solovyov, whose surname can also be transliterated as “Soloviof” or “Soloviev”, is one of the best-known Russian philosophers of all time. 
In 1890, he reviewed H.P.B.’s book “The Key to Theosophy”: the following text is her answer to his commentaries.
Vladimir was the brother of Mr. Vsevolod Solovyov, who, after infiltrating the theosophical movement, became its enemy and started a slandering campaign against H.P. Blavatsky. Vsevolod forged letters supposedly written by her, but whose originals he naturally found convenient never to show. 

Boris de Zirkoff reports in his introduction to the present text that H.P.B. sent it to the “Russian Review” but the magazine refused to publish it. It was finally included by Zirkoff in the “Collected Writings” of Mrs. Blavatsky, under the title of “Neo-Buddhism”. Zirkoff published these words by H.P.B.’s sister, Vera Zhelihovsky:
“Since the Russian Review did not accept this reply for publication, my sister, H. P. Blavatsky, asked me to have it published in some other Russian periodical or newspaper; owing, however, to many absences from home and to family circumstances, I was unable to carry this out during her lifetime. The time has now come for her to speak for herself, because the opinions of many of our writers (…..) are based precisely upon this article of Vladimir Sergueyevich Solovyov.”
Solovyov’s view of Theosophy was not honest or fair. Besides, H.P.B. refers in her article to his apparent affinity to the Vatican:
“It would have been understandable (…..)  if I, reviewing in an English journal some of Mr. Solovyov’s lectures or works, had described them as ‘Neo-Papism,’ as the whole of orthodox Russia has understood them in that light.”
Indeed, Vladimir  Solovyov advocated the establishment of a “free universal Theocracy”, with national states submitting themselves to the Church and to its “Supreme Pontiff”.  As part of his global theocratic government, he wanted the unification of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches. Some Russian magazines considered he had adhered to the Vatican. [1] It is therefore at least an interesting coincidence that his brother Vsevolod Solovyov should first infiltrate the theosophical movement and then turn against it.   
H.P.B.  writes about  “selfish intrigues (even in Russia) among pseudo-Theosophists who have turned into unscrupulously lying and confirmed enemies of the Theosophical Society and especially of me, its ‘scapegoat,’ because of their failure and the refusal of the Mahatmas to provide them with money for various ventures.” 
This seems to be a reference to what Vsevolod Solovyov had done not long before this article was written.
H. P. Blavatsky makes an important point as to the occult relations between Islamism and Judaism.
Quoting Elphinstone, she says in footnote number 9 that “the Cabbala of the Jews and the Sufiyism of the Mohammedans seem to be derived from the same source” (id est, the Upanishads and Eastern philosophy). This is something the nations in the Middle East should investigate and think about, as understanding the common origin of their religions will help them build more fraternal relationships.    

In reproducing the article from the “Collected Writings” [2], we simplify Boris de Zirkoff’s transliteration from Sanskrit, adapting terms more freely to English language spelling.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
[1] “Histoire de la Philosophie Russe, des origins a 1950”, a book by N. O. Lossky, published by Payot, Paris, 431 pp., 1954, see pp. 109, 116, 117, 118, 119, 123, 124, 125, 126.  On his messianic dream of a unification of different Churches, see p. 123 and p. 125. On Solovyov’s possible relation to Catholicism, see pp. 125-126.

[2] “The Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky”, edited by B. de Zirkoff, TPH, volume XII, pp. 334-349.

Answer to a Russian Philosopher
Helena P. Blavatsky
In the section entitled “Criticism and Bibliography,” in the “Russian Review” for August, 1890 (see pp. 881-886), I find a review of my book, “The Key to Theosophy”, by Vladimir S. Solovyov. This in itself is very flattering, and the author of the “Key,” finding a review of her work by such a well-known person and in such a reputable journal, should in all humility be delighted over this honor. But the truth of the matter is quite different and for this reason: the review by Mr. Solovyov is no review at all, and not even ordinary criticism, but simply a wholesale distortion of the book from the first paragraph to the last, as much of its entirety as of the few and skillfully chosen points which have appeared to the critic as “especially curious.”

One would have thought that a philosopher with so wide a reputation throughout Russia as Mr. Solovyov, ought, at least for the sake of his personal standing, to have honestly delved into the real essence of the book under review, and incidentally learned a little more about Hindu philosophy, before giving expression to such ex cathedra conclusions concerning both, drawn, by the way, from his own imagination. After reading his article, however, anyone who is at all acquainted with my book and with the English language, will realize that the critic has not even taken the trouble to read it carefully; or, if he has read it, has not grasped the meaning of the points which he sets out to criticize. This is obvious. It would be difficult indeed to suppose, that in the section “Criticism and Bibliography” Mr. Solovyov was guided not by the actual substance of what he was reviewing, or by the philosophical systems mentioned in the work, but simply by prejudice against the author or against the system itself which he has failed to understand. Professional jealousy, it would seem, would be quite unthinkable here.

What is at stake here, incidentally, is not so much me as a person, but rather the distortion of the teachings which are ascribed to me; it is not a question of my pride as an author, which, by the way, I have not, but rather of the mistakes, and the deliberate as well as involuntary errors of the critic himself. This negligence often becomes phenomenal with him. Distorting both Theosophy and Hindu philosophy, he makes an error on every line. In consequence, I consider it my moral duty, as much on behalf of the Society entrusted to my care, as for the sake of the Russian readers, to correct them. Besides, having the love of my country at heart - as I would wish all Russians outside of Russia would have - and therefore cherishing the opinion of all orthodox Russian people, I cannot allow the strange conclusions of Mr. Solovyov to remain without protest. In Russia there are very few who ever heard of the Theosophical Society, or who are acquainted with its ideas, and have read Theosophical books - which are rarely to be found in Russian bookstores. And yet, to the readers who hear about us for the first time, we - these little known Theosophists - are being presented by the very well-known Mr. Solovyov as “Neo-Buddhists,” “Atheists,” and at the same time, as ignoramuses, if not just ordinary fools, playing at philosophy. To put it plainly: it is dishonest to cheat the readers by this kind of review; and it is still more dishonest to distort in this way the thoughts of the author, choosing at random some phrases from a foreign book unavailable to the readers - single phrases which for that very reason are easily subject to a false interpretation - and, distorting the main ideas in the book, to write a few pages about them in a sort of nonchalant and satirical spirit, presenting all this to the reading public as the last word of “Theosophy”!

I will not dwell on such insignificant trifles as, for instance, the distortion of my name which, though he refers to me as “a very well-known author,” is given by the critic as Blavazky instead of Blavatsky; nor will I emphasize such errors in translation as for instance the rendering of Isis Unveiled as “Isis Without Veil,” even though this shows a lack of knowledge of the English language. [1]  I will devote but a word or two to the fact that our critic assures the public, as if in defense of “Mrs. Blavazky,” that she could not have “invented the Tibetan brotherhood or the spiritual order of the Khe-langs” (?!), as the missionary Huc furnishes “positive and reliable information” about them in a book written by him “more than thirty years before the formation of the Theosophical Society.” In answer to this, I will take the liberty to ask our critic where he has read or heard that Mongolian Khe-langs, Lamaist-Buddhists, have ever been referred to as “Mahatmans” by proud Brahmanas? Have I not stated in my letters, “From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan”, that the one whom we recognize as our chief teacher (and whom Hindus recognize as a Mahatman) is a Rajput by birth, and therefore belongs to the caste of Kshatriyas or warriors? There are other Raja-Yogins known to us, Brahmanas and Himalayan ascetics, mystics of various nations, among whom are some Mongolians, but of course they are not Khe-langs. How could, not only Khe-langs, but even Hutuktus and Hubilkhans (the incarnations of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) teach us anything else but Lamaist-Buddhism? This is no place to speak of our teachers; for one reason, because of the only truth expressed by Mr. Solovyov, namely that, though the relations between us and our “hidden inspirers in the distant Orient cover nothing prejudicial,” yet it would be better “if this mysterious relationship remained secret.” Very true, especially as this relationship is apt to incite personal ambition in the West, and give rise to selfish intrigues (even in Russia) among pseudo-Theosophists who have turned into unscrupulously lying and confirmed enemies of the Theosophical Society and especially of me, its “scapegoat,” because of their failure and the refusal of the Mahatmas to provide them with money for various ventures.
Then again, why should Mr. Solovyov be so surprised (or is it delighted?) at my declaration in the “Key” that our Society is sometimes “a very sorry example of universal brotherhood”? Maybe as the result of the daily Cain-ship, if I may coin such a term, which goes on all around us, I have shown myself too severe in regard to our members. Where on earth, in what circles, is there no “envy, strife and all sorts of pettiness”? Indeed, if in private families there are often feuds which prevent blood brothers from shaking hands with each other, how then can we hope to escape dissension in a “spiritual” brotherhood of many thousands, composed of all races, creeds and characteristics? What would be more natural than such occurrences in an enormous society? In joining it, a Fellow merely declares his sympathy with one of its three fundamental objects. But if he is no Theosophist by nature, he will remain the same old Adam, “bone of its bone.” It does not follow, however, that, because of a few unworthy Fellows, a shadow should be cast on the entire Society. And this is exactly what Mr. Solovyov does when he asserts, contrary to all truth, that “Mrs. Blavazky does not have a very high opinion of most of the remaining members,”  while I declare  precisely  the opposite of  this in my book![2]
But enough about these petty errors which concern me alone. Let us pass on to some of the more important ones.

For instance, why did Mr. Solovyov find it necessary to describe “The Key to Theosophy” as a “Catechism of Neo-Buddhism,” when such a term is not to be found either in the book under review or, generally speaking, in Theosophical literature? Is it in order to prejudice, from the outset, readers, who are not aware of the difference between Budhism with one “d”, and Buddhism with two “dd”, against the Russian author and her “Society”? It would have been understandable, however, if I, reviewing in an English journal some of Mr. Solovyov’s lectures or works, had described them as “Neo-Papism,” as the whole of orthodox Russia has understood them in that light. But where has he found Neo-Buddhism in our teachings? There is none, but simply a considerable amount of old Christian Gnosis. Besides, the whole of our literature proves that real Theosophists, worshipping universal wisdom, worship in reality the same wisdom which has been proclaimed by St. James in the third chapter of his Epistle [verse 17], i.e., “the wisdom that is from above [which] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy,” avoiding, on the advice of the same Apostle [verse 15], wisdom that “is earthly, sensual, devilish.” Therefore, if trying to follow to the extent of our strength the higher wisdom, we use the word Bodhi, instead of Sophia, it is first because both words, the Sanskrit and the Greek, are synonymous, and second because for every European Fellow we have some fifty Asiatic Fellows-Brahmanas and Buddhists. Why should there be in this connection the prefix “new,” when Bodhi or Sophia, i.e., “wisdom from on high,” is older than the creation of the world?
Surely philosophy did not originate with Mr. Solovyov, and wisdom will not die with him! Had he said that, preferring the spirit to the dead letter, we seek this eternal wisdom and truth in the basic principles and the prototype of the pre-Christian religions, now distorted by the “earthly, devilish wisdom” of the dead letter, and in so doing give the opportunity to those short-sighted and ignorant to see in us either heathens or Buddhists - he would not have stepped outside the limits of facts, and thus would have acquired the right to criticize our system from his own point of view and in all possible ways. But not only does he not do that, but constantly ascribes to “The Key to Theosophy” that which has never existed in it. For instance, according to the words of Mr. Solovyov, on page 882, “It is curious that from the religions based on Theosophical truth, the Judaic religion be excluded, as it does not express any truth, according to the author,” i.e., me (italics are mine).

This is entirely wrong. One of two things: either Mr. Solovyov understands so little English that, confusing the interrelation of words, he has mistaken the part for the whole; or he desires to slander the author of “The Key”. Here, word for word is the passage from page 45 of the “Key,” which he refers to. Quoting a sentence from the Declaration of Principles of the American Nationalist Clubs which states that “the principle of the Brotherhood of Humanity is one of the eternal truths that govern the world’s progress on lines which distinguish human nature from brute nature,” and having remarked, “What can be more Theosophical than this?” I continue as follows:

“. . . . . But it is not enough. What is also needed is to impress men with the idea that, if the root of mankind is one, then there must also be one truth which finds expression in all the various religions - except in the Jewish, as you do not find it expressed even in the Kabala.”

Does that mean that we do not recognize any truth in the Jewish faith? And can even Mr. Solovyov discover a feeling of brotherhood toward men of other beliefs, among the Jews, whether ancient or modern? Does he not understand that the truth of which I speak on page 45 has reference to the “truth” of the principle of brotherhood, and not to divine truth in general?
I cannot refrain from suspecting that he understands well enough, but nevertheless hastens to throw an additional slur on me in the eyes of the readers who reverence the Old Testament. I leave the behaviour of the “critic” to the judgment of all just and unprejudiced men. The insinuation is completely devoid of any foundation and may be easily refuted by perusing any of our journals. Theosophists, collectively, respect the Bible as much as they do the sacred scriptures of other people, finding in it the same eternal truths as in the Vedas, the Zend-Avesta, the Tripitakas, etc., and Christian-Theosophists see in it the highest truth. In our Society there are as many orthodox and other Christians, as there are devout Jews (even Rabbis), Brahmanas, Buddhists, Parsis, Mussulmans, repentant Materialists, and ardent atheists; these latter, however, do not study philosophy. The Theosophical Society has never been a “sect” - another error of the critic. It includes representatives of all the sects and religions, and none has ever been required to renounce his own religion upon becoming a Fellow of the Society.[3]  It is founded on pure ethics and in the spirit, if not the dead letter, of pure science, and because of this some Theosophists study the Upanishads, the Kabbalah, the Hermetic Sciences and Symbolism, without a key to which it is impossible adequately to understand either the Vedas or the Old Testament. Surely Mr. Solovyov is not going to contradict the fact that the Pentateuch of Moses, and especially Genesis, are full of allegories and figurative expressions. This is exactly what is taught by the Apostle Paul (see Epistle to the Galatians iv, 24 et seq.) when he speaks of the story of Abraham and his two sons, and of Sarah and Agar, as being “allegories.” That much was taught by the Church Fathers as well as by Jewish philosophers and rabbis - Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Hillel, Philo Judaeus, up to the time of and including Maimonides.
The same laxness in translation and conclusion characterizes the words of the critic concerning the Divine in Theosophy, the “passional soul” (i.e., simply “the seat of human passions”), will-prayer, and everything else. That is why he does not find any “definite and firm statements,” in the book and hence pictures “Mrs. Blavazky” vacillating from one side to the other I make bold to assure the well known philosopher that I am not vacillating at all, of which, I hope, he will become convinced when he is better acquainted with the language in which my book is written. What does he intend to say when he affirms that our divinity “is either defined [by us] as absolute being, or is looked upon merely as a pure abstraction”? Can anything absolute, whether being or non-being, exist for finite human thought - conditioned in its concepts by form - otherwise than as a “pure abstraction”? Do I, a mere pygmy in comparison to such a philosophical giant, have to teach him that in pure philosophy there is an abyss between the infinite and the absolute? Can absoluteness ever be “fragmented,” or in philosophy have any relation whatsoever to the finite and the conditioned? Really, in reading the criticism of Mr. Solovyov, one would imagine that I am teaching the Fellows of our Society some sort of new philosophy invented by myself. It would seem that all those acquainted with our teachings know that all such world problems are explained not by “Madame Blavazky” but by the philosophy of the Upanishads (vide infra), the key to the meaning of which is to be found in the secret works of the Vedanta, inaccessible, so far, to the Orientalists. As to the philosophy of India, our critic apparently knows as little about it, as he does of Theosophy - even less, if that be possible. For instance, for the sake of the pleasure of saying to “our author” (i.e., his humble servant) that he is unable to ascribe to the author of the “Key” (that means me) any of the varied viewpoints of Indian philosophy; in other words, that my (?) Theosophical system is sillier than the “least of the Indian degrees of illumination” - our critic enters a blind alley! He informs the world of the alleged existence of “sixteen systems of Indian philosophy” (!!!). I can assure our Russian philosopher that he is much mistaken; that there are in Indian philosophy only six recognized systems which are known as the Shad-Darshana, literally the six demonstrations or “six schools.”[4] Mr. Solovyov is referring to the “code of systems” by Madhavacharya, in the work entitled “Sarva-darshana-samgraha”, in which this sectarian of the 14th century analyses 16 systems, placing Buddhism on the last rung of world conceptions. But he has not taken into account, first, the fact that Buddhism has never been regarded as a school in India, where for many centuries there have been few Buddhists; and second, that the code of systems mentioned by Madhavacharya represents merely an incomplete catalogue of both orthodox and heretical sects which existed in his day, and against which he fought during his lifetime, defending and praising his own system (a sect nowadays) of Dwaita (or dualism), of which he was the founder. Thus, it is not at all a “code of systems of Indian philosophy” but merely a code of opinions of Madhavacharya, a fanatical Vedantist and a worshipper of Vishnu. Moreover, where did Mr. Solovyov get the idea that “Vedanta or absolute pantheism [5] . . . . . . the highest and sixteenth [?] system, was founded by the philosopher Shankara-Acharya”? (p. 884) - a statement which, in three lines contains three important errors. In the first place, Vedanta is not the sixteenth system, but one that includes the 5th and 6th schools (or Mimamsa) of interpretation; in the second place, “Shankara-Acharya” (i.e., Shankaracharya, namely, Shankara the Teacher) could not be the founder of the Vedanta because the Vedanta had existed for a thousand years before his birth; [6] and in the third place, Vedanta in itself is not a school, but, as already said, a system of interpretation of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Mimamsas. It is a descriptive term which literally means; “end of the Vedas,” i.e., end of knowledge or cognition (Vidya) [7] and is also known as Brahma-Jnana or “knowledge concerning the Divine.” Shankaracharya was a great Yogin and reformer who taught the idol worshippers the universal oneness of divinity (Parabrahman) and the soul, of matter and spirit, and has for that reason been nicknamed prachchhanna bauddha (disguised Buddhist), and his school, Vedantism turned inside out. Even the Orientalist sometimes call his school the new Vedanta or Neo-Vedantism, as our own enemies call us “Neo-Buddhists” - terms in both cases neither clever nor correct.

In the system of the Adwaita there is a great deal of the true, secret teaching of the Buddha, namely that which he taught to his Arhats, Budhism, i.e., the universal system of a hidden science containing all the other esoteric or secret teachings, e.g. the Kabbalah of the Tannaims, the Zohar of Shimon-ben-Yohai, the Books of Hermes, etc. That such teaching exists to this day is evidenced by the Upanishads, i.e., the “esoteric doctrine,” even in the translation of the Orientalists.[8]  Eitel, Inspector of Schools in Hong Kong, and author of a Sanskrit-Chinese lexicon, and Edkins, a missionary who had lived his whole life in China and had studied the Chinese systems of philosophy as well as Buddhism in all its aspects, as it exists in the Celestial Kingdom and Tibet, both of them, devote whole chapters to the “secret schools,” although, knowing very little of the real teaching, they understandingly say many foolish things about them. According to the assertion of Sanskrit pundits generally, the Upanishads are that which destroys ignorance, and leads those who study them to spiritual liberation, due to the knowledge acquired and on account of their greater understanding of divine truth. Do we not find the same definition of the teachings of Christ in John viii, 32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”? Just as the treatises known as Brahmanas (a supplement to the Vedas), full of dry ceremonialism, of dead-letter ritualism, and idol worship, are the Talmud of the Hindus, so are the Upanishads their Kabbalah, explaining the spirit of that dead letter. But the Upanishads and the Kabbalah require for their complete understanding a key, and the latter can be found only in the hands of the “initiated” Adepts of the Gupta-Vidya, the secret science, i.e., the authors of the books on the Vedanta.[9]  Shankaracharya was one of the most remarkable of these Adepts after the Buddha and is considered by the “Adwaita Vedantists as an incarnation or an Avatar of the god Shiva, the great Yogin (Mahayogin) of India. He was one of the best interpreters of the Upanishads according to the system of the Vedanta, but there were better ones than he. Vanishing from this world when only 32 years of age, he explained only a part of the whole; and according to tradition no one could be found anywhere in the world able to explain the secret sciences from beginning to end, though they are all contained in the Upanishads . . . . . .

It is these very teachings of the oldest conceptions in the world, that we consider to be the chief witnesses to that which we call the Wisdom-Religion (the religion of reason), Theosophy - and we call our teaching a religion only because (owing to the etymology of the word) these tenets once upon a time united the entire human race by means of their spiritual thought. He who understands the essence and the meaning of universal truth, will not be surprised therefore to find its rays fragmented here and there, not only in the ancient philosophical beliefs but even in the gross fetishism of the savage, where it is still possible to trace them in the dying sparks of that truth. And the savage, unlike Mr. Vladimir Solovyov, will not arbitrarily label as Neo-Buddhism that which includes in itself the seeds of all the ancient and modern conceptions of life. He will not assert (i.e., if he be not a Catholic to whom the reading of the Gospels is forbidden), forgetting the teachings of the latter, that “the pure ray of the universal principle, refracted by human consciousness” is “in the first place merely a metaphor,” and in the second place - remembering the injunctions: “I and my Father are one,” “The Father is in me, and I in him” (John x, 30 and 38), and especially the forked tongues of fire (Acts ii, 3) - he won’t ask, “Where does this human consciousness come from, with its capacity to divide the Divine Light, and to fragment absolute oneness?” Likewise, if he remembers the words of the Apostle Paul, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” [1 Cor. iii, 16] (and also the assertion of Christ himself, in answer to the calumny of the Pharisees, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods” - John x, 34), he will not accuse us of self-deification. Assuring the public that all of us (Theosophists) “are endowed with a very definite and quite unique inclination to self-deification of man and opposition to any superhuman principle” (p. 886), Mr. Solovyov merely distorts the truth and slanders us wholesale.

This should suffice. I will merely add the following: if our critic had studied the Theosophical teachings half as well as he has studied Papism and Judaism, he would easily have succeeded in the difficult task of writing about the meaning of our teachings. Then he would probably have abstained from writing about the “Key to Theosophy”, since he would have understood that this book was not written for Russia - the only country where the pure ideal of Christ is still preserved; and knowing this he would have understood for whose benefit I was quoting the Gospel precept concerning the tree that is known by its fruit. [10] The “Key” has been written by me for countries where such things are possible as the Salvation Army, with its wild street howlings and song themes from the repertoire of operettas, and where the name of the “beautiful Helen” is changed to the name of Him they call the Son of God; for a country where at the present moment there are not less than sixteen incarnations of Christ, from the Reverend Missionary Schweinfurt, to Kennedy, a former thief from a reformatory, and now recognized by the Connecticut sectarians as a Messiah; it was written for pseudo-Christian countries like England and America, where in the former, Bishops make public speeches against the “Sermon on the Mount,” calling it a Utopia, [11] and the citizens of the latter, members of the 772 warring sects, build five saloons for every church or chapel, and as many houses of ill repute; for these countries from which cant (hypocrisy), the mad rush after money, superstition instead of religion, and all sorts of vices, in their most disgusting aspects, have long ago driven not only any kind of faith in the divine self of man and the immortality of the soul, but even all human feeling. Finally, he would understand that the “Key to Theosophy” does not contain any special teaching, but is simply an attempt to correct some of the rather wild ideas held by the public concerning certain beliefs of the Asiatic mystics, and the Theosophical Society. I will say more: he would have been convinced that not only Christian Fellows continue - in spite of their fellowship - to look upon Christ as a God descended on Earth, but that even Theosophists who are Buddhists, Brahmins, Parsees and Mussulmans look upon him as a great Arhat and Prophet. Had Mr. Solovyov known all this, there would have been no incentive for the present answer, the whole meaning of which is contained in the immortal saying:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

H. BLAVATSKY (Radda-Bai)

London. September, 1890

[1] Note by Boris de Zirkoff: Indeed. Even the dictionary makes a clear distinction between unveiled and veilless.
[2] Note by H.P.B.:
This is what I actually wrote on page 257 of the “Key”:
“ . . . don’t you think that there must be something very noble, very exalted, very true, behind the Society and its philosophy, when the leaders and the founders of the movement still continue [in spite of all persecution] to work for it with all their strength? They sacrifice to it all comfort, all worldly prosperity, and success, even to their good name and reputation—aye, even to their honour - to receive in return incessant and ceaseless obloquy, relentless persecution, untiring slander, constant ingratitude, and misunderstanding of their best efforts, blows, and buffets from all sides - when by simply dropping their work they [the Fellows] would find themselves immediately released from every responsibility, shielded from every further attack.”

Mr. Solovyov mentions in his review the “touching straightforwardness of the author of the “Key.” I sincerely regret that in view of his criticism I am deprived of the pleasure of returning the same compliment to him. 
[3] Note by H.P.B.:
With the exception of a few agnostics, all the Fellows of the outer (exoteric) section of the Theosophical  Society, continue to profess the respective religion in which they were born, remaining in it and following its dogmas and rituals, just as they did before becoming “Theosophists.” Acquainted with our Society as he has been for many years, Mr. Solovyov should also know that “Theosophy” is not “a religion without definite dogmas,” as he expresses it, but is a universal system of philosophy, absolutely without any man-made dogmas. Therefore, the Society, as such, remains in its collective whole without participation in the dogmas of any religion, but respects both the beliefs and rites pertaining to the faith of each one of its members, belonging as they do to various religious creeds.

[4] Note by H.P.B.:
Namely: (1) Nyaya, the logical school of Rishi Gautama; (2) Vaisheshika the atomic system of Kanada; (3) Shankhya, the pantheistic school of Kapila; (4) Yoga, the mystical school of Patanjali; (5) Purva (early) Mimamsa; and (6) Uttara (later) Mimamsa, of Vyaua, which is called Vedanta. There is a seventh school which is a much later one, the Pauranika or the eclectic school which presents the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, but is not included in the number of the ancient Darshanas. None of the other, later schools are taken into account. 

[5] Note by H.P.B.:
Not altogether “absolute” pantheism. The Vedanta is divided in India into three aspects or sects, namely:  Adwaita, founded by Shankaracharya and the only absolutely pantheistical, Dwaita, the sect of Madhavacharya, which teaches pure Deism; and Vishishtadwaita, which is something between these two. All the three sects belong to the system of the Vedanta, but the Dwaitas have never been pantheists.
[6] Note by H.P.B.:
If Mr. Solovyov should refer me to the translation of Madhavacharya’s Sarva-darshana by Cowell, the best English Sanskritist, by the way, then I will refer him to Elphinstone’s “The History of India” edited by Cowell himself. On page 130 of this authoritative work, under the heading of “Vedanta, or Uttara-Mimamsa School,” it is said: “The foundation of this school is ascribed to Vyasa, the supposed compiler of the Vedas, who lived about 1400 B.C. . . . . . ” This seems to be clear enough! Shankaracharya  was only the interpreter of the Vedanta and of the Upanishads, and the founder within his own system of the Adwaita school, i.e., “Unitarianism.”
[7] Note by H.P.B.:
The word “Veda” is derived from the root vid, “to know” or “to cognize.” One of the names of the Veda is brahma-vidya, meaning literally “cognition” of, or “wisdom concerning Brahma,” as the Rig-Veda is ascribed to the pen of that god himself, and the other three Vedas to his own direct revelation. Brahma-vidya translated means “theosophy.” 

[8] Note by H.P.B.:
Some thirty years ago the Upanishads, consisting of brief treatises, numbered approximately 150. Little by little, hidden away by the Brahmanas, they gradually disappeared, with the exception of some 20 of them, and even those were not all genuine. There is a widespread rumor in India that all the best Upanishads, as well as the explanatory manuscripts of the Vedanta (gradually composed through the centuries and providing the key to the Upanishads) are in the hands of initiated Taraka-Raja-Yogins, in the chief Mathas (monasteries) of the Vedantists belonging to the Adwaita school; and also in the hands of some independent Yogins, adept-mystics, scattered through the jungles of the Himalayas and the inaccessible summits of the mountain ranges of Southern India. These brotherhoods or communities have existed for thousands of years, and enough of them exist even in our day for us to form some judgment of them. But now the real learned Yogins become fewer and fewer with every year that passes, yielding to charlatans and ignorant parasites, who live at the expense of the superstitious masses. I hope in the near future to submit to the Russian periodicals an article on the subject of contemporary Yogins with the description of some of the Ashrams, i.e., retreats, known in India. [Sub-note by Boris de Zirkoff: Death prevented H. P. Blavatsky from carrying out her intention.]

[9] Note by H.P.B.:
As a proof of the fact that it is precisely in the Upanishads that we have to look for the source of all the succeeding systems of philosophy of Asia Minor and Europe, I quote the opinion of Elphinstone from his “The History of India” (edited by Cowell):

“When we examine the older Upanishads, however, we are struck by one remarkable peculiarity - the total absence of any Brahmanical exclusiveness in their doctrine. They are evidently later than the older Sanhitas and Brahmanas; but they breathe an entirely different spirit, a freedom of thought unknown in any earlier work except the Rig-Veda hymns themselves. The great teachers of this highest knowledge are not Brahmans but Kshatriyas, and Brahmans are continually represented as going to the great Kshatriya kings (especially Janaka of Videha), to become their pupils . . .” [p. 282]. 
“. . . no Hindu works have probably exercised a wider influence on the world [than the Upanishads]. It is from these forlorn ‘guesses at truth,’ as from a fountain, that all those various rills of Pantheistic speculation have diverged, which, under different names, are so continually characterised as ‘Eastern philosophy.’ Thus the reader of the Upanishads soon recognises familiar ideas in the speculations of the Phaedrus as well as in Empedocles or Pythagoras, -  in the Neo-Platonism of the Alexandrian, as well as in the Gnostic, schools, although Plotinus aimed to emancipate Greek philosophy from the influence of the Oriental mind; and the Cabbala of the Jews and the Sufiyism of the Mohammedans seem to be derived from the same source . . . . . . and why should the tradition of the Eastern origin of much of early Greek philosophy be incredible or even improbable?” [p. 281].

[10] Note by H.P.B.:
I suggest that Mr. Solovyov read my article in The North American Review (New York, August, 1890) entitled “The Progress of Theosophy,” where he will find listed the fruits of the Theosophical tree.

[11] Note by H.P.B.:
Bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough.

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Answer to a Russian Philosopher

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