The Succession of a Russian Sorcerer
Passing From Seer to Seer, the “Word” Flashes
Out Like Lightning; Yet Sometimes There Is a Problem
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Helena Blavatsky at work
In many a religious or philosophical movement, the issue of spiritual succession is not simple and easy to understand. One can see that, for instance, by studying the original teachings of esoteric philosophy and observing the history of modern theosophical movement.
Helena P. Blavatsky writes about the spiritual tradition of her native country:
“There is a wide-spread superstition (?), especially among the Slavonians and Russians, that the magician or wizard cannot die before he has passed the ‘word’ to a successor. So deeply is it rooted among the popular beliefs, that we do not imagine there is a person in Russia who has not heard of it. It is but too easy to trace the origin of this superstition to the old Mysteries which had been for ages spread all over the globe.” 
“The ancient Variago-Rouss had his Mysteries in the North as well as in the South of Russia; and there are many relics of the by-gone faith scattered in the lands watered by the sacred Dnieper, the baptismal Jordan of all Russia. No Znachar (the knowing one) or Koldoun (sorcerer), male or female, can die in fact before he has passed the mysterious word to some one. The popular belief is that unless he does that he will linger and suffer for weeks and months, and were he even finally to get liberated, it would be only to wander on earth, unable to quit its region unless he finds a successor even after death. How far the belief may be verified by others, we do not know, but we have seen a case which, for its tragical and mysterious dénouement , deserves to be given here as an illustration of the subject in hand.”
At this point Blavatsky shares with her students a practical example:
“An old man, of over one hundred years of age, a peasant-serf in the government of S________, having a wide reputation as a sorcerer and healer, was said to be dying for several days, and still unable to die. The report spread like lightning, and the poor old fellow was shunned by even the members of his own family, as the latter were afraid of receiving the unwelcome inheritance. At last the public rumor in the village was that he had sent a message to a colleague less versed than himself in the art, and who, although he lived in a distant district, was nevertheless coming at the call, and would be on hand early on the following morning. There was at that time on a visit to the proprietor of the village a young physician who, belonging to the famous school of Nihilism of that day, laughed outrageously at the idea. The master of the house, being a very pious man, and but half inclined to make so cheap of the ‘superstition’, smiled - as the saying goes - but with one corner of his mouth. Meanwhile the young skeptic, to gratify his curiosity, had made a visit to the dying man, had found that he could not live twenty-four hours longer, and, determined to prove the absurdity of the ‘superstition’, had taken means to detain the coming ‘successor’ at a neighboring village.”
Ignorant individuals tend to create little trouble as long as they are aware of their ignorance. They are especially harmful when they believe they are wiser than others and start acting in aggressive ways. HPB proceeds:
“Early in the morning a company of four persons, comprising the physician, the master of the place, his daughter, and the writer of the present lines, went to the hut in which was to be achieved the triumph of skepticism. The dying man was expecting his liberator every moment, and his agony at the delay became extreme. We tried to persuade the physician to humor the patient, were it for humanity’s sake. He only laughed. Getting hold with one hand of the old wizard’s pulse, he took out his watch with the other, and remarking in French that all would be over in a few moments, remained absorbed in his professional experiment. The scene was solemn and appalling. Suddenly the door opened, and a young boy entered with the intelligence, addressed to the doctor, that the koum was lying dead drunk at a neighboring village, and, according to his orders, could not be with ‘grandfather’ till the next day.”
Then the lesson came:
“The young doctor felt confused, and was just going to address the old man, when, as quick as lightning, the Znachar snatched his hand from his grasp and raised himself in bed. His deep-sunken eyes flashed; his yellow-white beard and hair streaming round his livid face made him a dreadful sight. One instant more, and his long, sinewy arms were clasped round the physician’s neck, as with a supernatural force he drew the doctor’s head closer and closer to his own face, where he held him as in a vise, while whispering words inaudible to us in his ear. The skeptic struggled to free himself, but before he had time to make one effective motion the work had evidently been done; the hands relaxed their grasp, and the old sorcerer fell on his back - a corpse!”
The Znachar was now free, and the skeptic was not.
“A strange and ghostly smile had settled on the stony lips - a smile of fiendish triumph and satisfied revenge; but the doctor looked paler and more ghastly than the dead man himself. He stared round with an expression of terror difficult to describe, and without answering our inquiries rushed out wildly from the hut, in the direction of the woods. Messengers were sent after him, but he was nowhere to be found. About sunset a report was heard in the forest. An hour later his body was brought home, with a bullet through his head, for the skeptic had blown out his brains! What made him commit suicide? What magic spell of sorcery had the ‘word’ of the dying wizard left on his mind? Who can tell?”
The Need to Pass the Word
Elsewhere in “Isis Unveiled” HPB refers to this same event and says it is an evidence that “there are fearful secrets in nature”; because often a sorcerer “cannot die until he has passed the word to another, and the hierophants of White Magic rarely do”.
“It seems as if the dread power of the ‘Word’ could only be entrusted to one man of a certain district or body of people at a time. When the Brahmatma  was about to lay aside the burden of physical existence, he imparted his secret to his successor, either orally, or by a writing placed in a securely-fastened casket which went into the latter’s hands alone.”
HPB then refers to other examples and says:
“Moses ‘lays his hands’ upon his neophyte, Joshua, in the solitudes of Nebo and passes away forever. Aaron initiates Eleazar on Mount Hor, and dies. Siddhartha-Buddha promises his mendicants before his death to live in him who shall deserve it, embraces his favorite disciple, whispers in his ear, and dies; and as John’s head lies upon the bosom of Jesus, he is told that he shall ‘tarry’ until he shall come. Like signal-fires of the olden times, which, lighted and extinguished by turns upon one hill-top after another, conveyed intelligence along a whole stretch of country, so we see a long line of ‘wise’ men from the beginning of history down to our own times communicating the word of wisdom to their direct successors. Passing from seer to seer, the ‘Word’ flashes out like lightning, and while carrying off the initiator from human sight forever, brings the new initiate into view.” 
The above considerations by HPB provide us with a key to better look at some facts in the history of the esoteric movement.
If we apply the law of analogy to the story the Russian Znachar, it helps us understand the sudden loss of common sense that dominated even the best students of Helena Blavatsky, soon after she abandoned physical life in May 1891.
It seems there was no one capable of “properly listening to HPB’s final words”. As a result, the sense of reality in the theosophical movement could only be lost, and so it happened indeed.
It took a few decades for the movement to slowly start recovering discernment. In the first half of the 21th century, the task is far from complete and nonsense dominates many a theosophical institution. On the other hand, large clouds of illusion and error have been dissolved already, and a significant progress can be made towards 2075 and beyond.
 From the long footnote on pages 42, 43 and 44, volume II of “Isis Unveiled”, by Helena P. Blavatsky (Theosophy Company, 1982).
 Dénouement: “outcome”, in French.
 Brahma-atma or Brahmatma was the chief of the initiates in the temple of Hinduism. See “Isis Unveiled”, volume II, p. 31.
 See page 571, volume II, “Isis Unveiled”, Theosophy Co.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.The Succession of a Russian Sorcerer