ISIS

Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, published in 1877, is a book of esoteric philosophy and was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky‘s first major work and a key text in her Theosophical movement.

(For a profound minute example of the information within this book, read the SAMPLE chapter at the end, in red. Note the quivering of your soul – much like that of the ‘moving metal’ (quicksilver) written about in this article – as your every atom recognizes  what is TRUTH exposed . . . finally!)

Isis Unveiled – A Perspective:

Isis Unveiled was never intended to unveil Isis, the Egyptian
goddess who here represents the mysteries of nature. Blavatsky
had given this book to the printer with the title, The Veil of Isis.
But after printing had commenced, it was found that this title
had already been used elsewhere. So a new title had to be found
quickly. The publisher suggested Isis Unveiled, and Blavatsky
had little choice but to agree.1
The book which came out as Isis Unveiled was intended not
to unveil the mysteries of nature, but to make known to the
world the existence of a once universal Wisdom-Religion, now
hidden from view. The symbolical Isis, the Wisdom-Religion, is
indeed veiled since it had been lost to the world for long ages,
but it exists! This startling news caused so much excitement that
the first printing of 1000 copies sold out in 10 days.2
 
What is the Wisdom-Religion? It is described by Blavatsky
in her later book, The Secret Doctrine, as the universally diffused
religion of the ancient and prehistoric world.3 Further, all the
presently existing religions and philosophies originate from it.
When this is recognized, the divisive walls that separate one
group of people from another crumble. It was brought out to
help achieve this, in keeping with the first object of Blavatsky’s
Theosophical Society, to promote universal brotherhood.
In making known to the modern world for the first time
the existence of the once universal Wisdom-Religion, Blavatsky
had a twofold task. She had first to show that science did not
have all the answers; that the ancients had knowledge of things
not yet discovered by science. This she did in volume I of Isis
Unveiled. She had also to show that religion in its separativism
had ceased to meet humanity’s needs, but that these separate
pieces come together in the one archaic Wisdom-Religion. This
she did in volume II.
 
Throughout both volumes of Isis Unveiled she cited book
after book written by ancient authors from all over the world,
showing on their part a knowledge of the teachings of the now
lost Wisdom-Religion. In this way she showed that although this
knowledge had become lost, partly through the religious fervor
of followers of separative religions, and partly through being
withdrawn by its custodians to safeguard it from such sectarians,
it was once common knowledge. But it had for many centuries
been carefully hidden away.
 
So how did Blavatsky learn of the existence of the once
universal Wisdom-Religion, hidden so well for so long? She had
gone to the East in search of wisdom, and found there certain
individuals who were its custodians. But Blavatsky was not the
only person to travel to the East in search of wisdom. Why did
she find the Wisdom-Religion, when others did not? It would
seem, rather, that its custodians found her.
The custodians of the Wisdom-Religion make up a secret
Brotherhood centered in Tibet and India. Two members of the
Tibetan Brotherhood were Blavatsky’s primary teachers, called
in Theosophical writings the Mahatmas K.H. (Koot Hoomi)
and M. (Morya). The great fourteenth-century Tibetan teacher
Tsong-kha-pa, who reformed Tibetan Buddhism and founded
the Gelugpa order, is said to have also reformed the secret
Tibetan Brotherhood who are the custodians of the Wisdom-
Religion. Among his reforms of the latter is an injunction to
make an attempt to enlighten the Western barbarians during
the last quarter of each century.4 Hitherto, we are told, each
such attempt had failed. Then came the attempt in 1875. The
Mahatma K.H. writes about the choice of Blavatsky as the agent
for this in a letter now preserved in the British Library:
After nearly a century of fruitless search, our chiefs had to avail
themselves of the only opportunity to send out a European body
upon European soil to serve as a connecting link between that
country and our own.5
Thus it was the custodians of the Wisdom-Religion who found
her, and then allowed her to find them.
 
After receiving instruction from them, Blavatsky founded
the Theosophical Society in 1875. She then wrote Isis Unveiled,
which was published in 1877. In this way she made known to the
modern Western world for the first time the existence of the
Wisdom-Religion, still preserved in the East. She was entrusted
with the task of bringing out a portion of its teachings, for which
she used the term “Theosophy.” The first installment of these
teachings is found in Isis Unveiled. It is thus a pioneering work, a
work which paved the way for the much fuller installment given
in her later work, The Secret Doctrine.
 
In bringing out something altogether new, Isis Unveiled
had to devote much space to tearing down and clearing away
existing beliefs that stood in the way of the acceptance of the
new teachings. The existing beliefs, as said before, were firstly
that modern science had all the answers, when in fact it was
limited to physical reality alone; and secondly that religion had
the whole truth, when in fact it had only pieces. Thus, much of
Isis Unveiled was devoted to showing the inadequacies of science
and religion, and comparatively little of it was devoted to giving
out new teachings, other than the very fact of their existence.
An exposition of the new teachings as such was to come later.
Those who have studied The Secret Doctrine should therefore not
expect to find in Isis Unveiled the same kinds of things they
found in The Secret Doctrine. Isis Unveiled is quite different.
In order to get a perspective on what one will find in Isis
Unveiled, it may be useful to review some of the comments on it
made by the author and her teachers. Blavatsky writes:
 
. . . it was the first cautious attempt to let into the West a faint
streak of Eastern esoteric light . . . .6
While writing Isis, we were not permitted to enter into details;
hence—the vague generalities.7
The Mahatma K.H. writes in his letters:
The author was made to hint and point out in the true direction,
to say what things are not, not what they are.8
 
Many are the subjects treated upon in Isis that even H.P.B. was
not allowed to become thoroughly acquainted with . . . .9
Don’t you see that everything you find in Isis is delineated,
hardly sketched—nothing completed or fully revealed.10
“Isis” was not unveiled but rents sufficiently large were made
to afford flitting glances to be completed by the student’s own
intuition.11
 
Not only was Blavatsky not permitted to give clear details,
she had to express what she could give out in a language that
was foreign to her. She informs us:
When I came to America in 1873, I had not spoken English—
which I had learned in my childhood colloquially—for over
thirty years. I could understand when I read it, but could hardly
speak the language. . . . Until 1874 I had never written one word
in English. . . .12
Therefore she submitted the manuscript of Isis Unveiled to her
co-worker Colonel Olcott to correct her English. They worked
together on this, rewriting all but the passages which had been
dictated to her by her teachers. Thus she says:
It is to him [Olcott] that I am indebted for the English in Isis.
. . . .
The language in Isis is not mine; but (with the exception of that
portion of the work which, as I claim, was dictated), may be called
only a sort of translation of my facts and ideas into English.13
However, Olcott was not then in a position to correct errors of
doctrine that Blavatsky was oblivious to because of her lack of
fluency with English.
 
It was my first book; it was written in a language foreign to me—
in which I had not been accustomed to write; the language
was even more unfamiliar to certain Asiatic philosophers who
rendered assistance; and, finally, Colonel Olcott, who revised
the manuscript and worked with me throughout, was then—in
the years 1875 and 1876—almost entirely ignorant of Aryan
Philosophy, and hence unable to detect and correct such errors
as I might so readily fall into when putting my thoughts into
English.14
 
Indeed, Olcott could not correct what he did not understand,
and Blavatsky could not express what she understood.
I am [at] 47th St. New York writing Isis and His voice dictating to
me. In that dream or retrospective vision I once more rewrote all Isis
and could now point out all the pages and sentences Mah. K.H.
dictated—as those that Master did—in my bad English, when
Olcott tore his hair out by handfuls in despair to ever make out
the meaning of what was intended.15
 
This situation necessarily led to mistakes in Isis Unveiled.
One that was soon to catch up with her was her usage of the
term “God.” Blavatsky writes in the Preface to Isis Unveiled:
 
“When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the
penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring
questions oppressed our thoughts: Where, WHO, WHAT is
GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to
assure himself of man’s immortality?
 
“It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems
that we came into contact with certain men, endowed with
such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we
may truly designate them as sages of the Orient. To their instructions
we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining
science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of
man’s spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid.
For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental
philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and
immovable faith in the omnipotence of man’s own immortal
self. We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the
kinship of man’s spirit with the Universal Soul—God! The
latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former.
Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a
source from which it must have come. . . . prove the soul of man
by its wondrous powers—you have proved God!”16
 
When writing Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky was unaware of the
connotations of the word “God,” and therefore used it when she
actually meant the impersonal and universal principle known in
Hinduism among Adwaiti Vedantins as Parabrahman.
A sceptic in my early life, I had sought and obtained through the
Masters the full assurance of the existence of a principle (not
Personal God)—“a boundless and fathomless ocean” of which
my “soul” was a drop. Like the Adwaitis, I made no difference
between my Seventh Principle and the Universal Spirit, or
Parabrahm; . . . My mistake was that throughout the whole work
[Isis Unveiled] I indifferently employed the words Parabrahm
and God to express the same idea . . . .17
 
A few years later the problem with the use of the term
“God” emerged. Two Englishmen living in India, A. P. Sinnett
and A. O. Hume, had in 1880 begun a correspondence with
Blavatsky’s two teachers, the Mahatmas M. and K.H. The two
Englishmen then wrote about the heretofore hidden or occult
teachings of the Mahatmas based on these letters. Hume had in
1882 written a “Preliminary Chapter” headed “God” intended
to preface an exposition of Occult Philosophy. The Mahatma
K.H. responded clearly and unmistakably:
 
Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of
all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. . . . Our
doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or it denies,
for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth.
Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists.
We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and
we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either
personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute
immutable law. . . .18
 
Hume’s chapter had added “God” to their philosophy, which
the Mahatma regarded as a very serious problem, saying:
. . . if he publishes what I read, I will have H.P.B. or Djual Khool
deny the whole thing; as I cannot permit our sacred philosophy
to be so disfigured.19
 
A different kind of problem arose due to the fact, noted
above, that Blavatsky could not give out Theosophical doctrines
in their completeness in 1877 when Isis Unveiled was published.
In this book she taught the threefold constitution of a human
being: body, soul, and spirit. When the Theosophical teaching
on the sevenfold constitution of a human being was brought
out four years later, she was accused of contradiction. But as the
Mahatma K.H. explained in a letter to Sinnett:
 
In reality, there is no contradiction between that passage in Isis
and our later teaching; to anyone who never heard of the seven
principles—constantly referred to in Isis as a trinity, without any
more explanation—there certainly appeared to be as good a
contradiction as could be. “You will write so and so, give so far,
and no more”—she was constantly told by us, when writing her
book. It was at the very beginning of a new cycle, in days when
neither Christians nor Spiritualists ever thought of, let alone
mentioned, more than two principles in man—body and Soul,
which they called Spirit. If you had time to refer to the spiritualistic
literature of that day, you would find that with the phenomenalists
as with the Christians, Soul and Spirit were synonymous.
It was H.P.B., who, acting under the orders of Atrya (one whom
you do not know) was the first to explain in the Spiritualist the
difference there was between psyche and nous, nefesh and ruach
Soul and Spirit. She had to bring the whole arsenal of proofs
with her, quotations from Paul and Plato, from Plutarch and
James, etc., before the Spiritualists admitted that the theosophists
were right. It was then that she was ordered to write Isis—just
a year after the Society had been founded. And, as there
happened such a war over it, endless polemics and objections to
the effect that there could not be in man two souls—we thought it
was premature to give the public more than they could possibly
assimilate, and before they had digested the “two souls”;—and
thus, the further sub-division of the trinity into 7 principles was
left unmentioned in Isis.20
 
For reasons such as this the Mahatma M. told Sinnett to beware
trusting Isis Unveiled too implicitly,21 and the Mahatma K.H. told
him the same thing:
 
By-the-bye you must not trust Isis literally. The book is but a
tentative effort to divert the attention of the Spiritualists from
their preconceptions to the true state of things.22
 
The Mahatma K.H. is here not referring to the two versus three
human principles question, but to the teaching of Spiritualism
that the spirits of the dead can return and communicate with
the living through mediums. Theosophy opposed this strongly,
teaching that such activity causes serious harm to the departed,
and usually to the medium as well. What can return is not the
spirit of the departed, but only a “shell,” made up of his or her
disintegrating lower principles. This shell may retain memories
of the recently departed’s life, but it is devoid of the actual spirit
or higher principles of that person. So communication with it is
of little value to the living; but this positively harms the departed
and seriously hinders his or her passage to the next world.
This teaching, however, was not quite clear in Isis Unveiled.
An 1882 article called “Fragments of Occult Truth,” published
in The Theosophist, included the clear statement: “in short, that
no departed SPIRIT can visit us.”23 A letter to the editor asked if
this contradicted what was taught in Isis Unveiled, where it said:
“many . . . among those who control the medium subjectively . . .
are human, disembodied spirits.”24 Blavatsky replied that it did not;
that here the term “disembodied spirit” refers to the “reliquiae of
the personal EGO,” not to the spiritual Ego. She explained that:
the term “spirit” had to be often used in the sense given to it by
the Spiritualists, as well as other similar conventional terms, as,
otherwise, a still greater confusion would have been caused.25
 
She concluded her article:
 
We may well by taxed with too loose and careless a mode of
expression, with a misuse of the foreign language in which we
write, with leaving too much unsaid and depending unwarrantably
upon the imperfectly developed intuition of the reader.
But there never was, nor can there be, any radical discrepancy
between the teachings in Isis and those of the later period,
as both proceed from one and the same source—the ADEPT
BROTHERS.26
The next month another writer in another journal quoted
this concluding sentence, and then brought up what appeared
to be, indeed, a “radical discrepancy” between the teachings
given in Isis Unveiled and those given out later.27 Reincarnation
seems to be denied in Isis Unveiled, which says:
 
Reincarnation, i.e., the appearance of the same individual, or
rather of his astral monad, twice on the same planet, is not a rule
in nature; it is an exception, like the teratological phenomenon
of a two-headed infant.28
Blavatsky responded in The Theosophist the following month that
“the ‘astral’ monad is not the ‘Spiritual’ monad and vice versa.”29
In other words, the same individual personality, a Mr. Smith,
does not reincarnate; only the immortal spiritual monad that
gave rise to Mr. Smith will again give rise to another personality,
perhaps a Mrs. Jones. Therefore, there is no discrepancy. She
remarks here, in the same vein she had earlier:
 
The most that can be said of the passage quoted from Isis is, that
it is incomplete, chaotic, vague perhaps—clumsy, as many more
passages in that work, the first literary production of a foreigner,
who even now can hardly boast of her knowledge of the English
language.30
On this reincarnation question, the Mahatma K.H. says about
“the confused and tortured explanations” in Isis Unveiled:
. . . for its incompleteness no one but we, her inspirers are responsible.
. . .31
This same reincarnation question on this same passage in
Isis Unveiled was to arise again and again. Four years after her
first brief reply, Blavatsky gave a detailed response, providing a
description of the reincarnation process. She again showed that
“there is no ‘discrepancy,’ but only incompleteness”32 in what was
given out earlier. She adds, however, that there are important
mistakes in Isis Unveiled, resulting from being edited by others,
that should be corrected. The sentence saying that the Hindu
dreads transmigration and reincarnation “only on other and
inferior planets, never on this one,”33 should be corrected to:
 
“The Hindu dreads transmigration in other inferior forms, on
this planet.”34 Similarly, in the sentence saying that “this former
life believed in by the Buddhists, is not a life on this planet,”35 the
phrase “life on this planet” should be corrected to “life in the
same cycle.”36
 
Just over two years later, these same two sentences were
again corrected in a similar manner.37 But here she also added a
correction to the sentence cited above, “Reincarnation, i.e., the
appearance of the same individual, or rather of his astral
monad, twice on the same planet, is not a rule in nature.” She
here said that the word “planet” was a mistake and that “cycle”
was meant, i.e., the “cycle of Devachanic rest.”38 She had already
explained, more than once, that the “astral monad” is only the
personality; therefore the doctrine of the reincarnation of the
immortal spiritual monad is not being denied. In this article she
explained further:
 
The paragraph quoted meant to upset the theory of the French
Reincarnationists who maintain that the same personality is reincarnated,
often a few days after death, so that a grandfather can
be reborn as his own grand-daughter.39
 
Errors such as “planet” for “cycle” were permitted to remain in
Isis Unveiled, she repeats, because its stereotyped plates were
owned by the publisher and not by her. She then says:
 
The work was written under exceptional circumstances, and no
doubt more than one great error may be discovered in Isis
Unveiled.40
The “great error” discovered in Isis Unveiled pertaining to
reincarnation was due, then, to two causes. First, as with the
problem of wrong usage of the term “God,” Blavatsky had to
write in a language that was foreign to her. Second, as with the
problem of three human principles versus seven given later, the
teachings found in Isis Unveiled are incomplete. The teaching
that the personality does not reincarnate, without stating that
the immortal spiritual monad does, led to the misconception
that reincarnation is denied in the Wisdom-Religion. Blavatsky
could maintain that there is no radical discrepancy between the
earlier and later teachings because they come from the same
source, her teachers. Thus, this would be true irrespective of
whether or not she herself knew the whole teaching from the
beginning. Colonel Olcott, who worked with her throughout
on correcting the English in Isis Unveiled, writes in his Old Diary
Leaves about the reincarnation teaching:
 
When we worked on Isis it was neither taught us by the
Mahatmas or supported by her in literary controversies or
private discussions of those earlier days. She held to, and
defended, the theory that human souls, after death, passed
on by a course of purificatory evolution to other and more
spiritualised planets.41
Besides errors due to faulty expression and those arising
from incompleteness, others were added by proofreaders when
Isis Unveiled went to press. As Blavatsky describes:
. . . the proofs and pages of Isis passed through a number of
willing but not very careful hands, and were finally left to the
tender mercies of the publisher’s proof-reader.42
This resulted in other serious mistakes, such as on its opening
page. About this the Mahatma K.H. writes:
 
Proof reader helping, a few real mistakes have crept in as on
page 1, chapter 1, volume 1, where divine Essence is made
emanating from Adam instead of the reverse.43
There is yet another kind of error in Isis Unveiled, that for
obvious reasons was not noted during Blavatsky’s lifetime. This
kind arises from the fact that Blavatsky used the then current
knowledge and books to support the teachings given to her by
her teachers. For example, while writing about the Jainas, she
adds that Gautama Buddha was the pupil of the Tirthamkara,
the great Jaina teacher, who is called Mahavira:
 
It is clear that Gautama Buddha, the son of the King of
Kapilavastu, and the descendant of the first Sakya, . . . did not
invent his philosophy. Philanthropist by nature, his ideas were
developed and matured while under the tuition of Tirthamkara,
the famous guru of the Jaina sect.44
Professor C. P. Tiele wrote in his book, Outlines of the History of
Religion, at that same time:
According to the Jainas, Gautama (Buddha) was a disciple of
their great saint, Mahavira.45
 
This was the current view in 1877, when almost nothing was
known about the Jainas, and very little about Buddhism. It is
based on the fact that Mahavira’s closest disciple was named
Gautama. But it has long since been known that this Gautama
was not Gautama Buddha, and that the latter was not a disciple
of the Jaina Tirthamkara Mahavira.
Errors of this kind in regard to Buddhism are frequent in
Isis Unveiled, attributing to Buddhism both the teaching of God
and of an immortal soul, or atma. These teachings, of course,
are not found in Buddhism. Some of these errors, such as the
ones regarding God, may have been due to Blavatsky’s lack of
fluency with English, while others were apparently due to the
fact that she drew from then available sources to back up the
material given to her by her teachers.
Despite Blavatsky’s repeated statements that Isis Unveiled
was far from perfect, some of her followers regarded the whole
book as infallible truth. Because some of it was dictated to her
by her Mahatma teachers, they thought every word of it was.
These “friends, as unwise as they were kind,” writes Blavatsky,
spread this idea, “and this was seized upon by the enemy and
exaggerated out of all limits of truth.” She continues:
 
It was said that the whole of Isis had been dictated to me from
cover to cover and verbatim by these invisible Adepts. And, as the
imperfections of my work were only too glaring, the consequence
of all this idle and malicious talk was, that my enemies
and critics inferred—as they well might—that either these invisible
inspirers had no existence, and were part of my “fraud,” or
that they lacked the cleverness of even an average good writer.46
The idea of writing by dictation from unseen teachers was
so supernatural-sounding that such rumors about Isis Unveiled
easily arose. Blavatsky points out, however, that there is nothing
supernatural about it. She affirms that the teachings come from
her Eastern Masters, and “that many a passage in these works
has been written by me under their dictation.” She explains:
 
In saying this no supernatural claim is urged, for no miracle is performed
by such a dictation. Any moderately intelligent person,
convinced by this time of the many possibilities of hypnotism
(now accepted by science and under full scientific investigation),
and of the phenomena of thought-transference, will easily
concede that if even a hypnotized subject, a mere irresponsible
medium, hears the unexpressed thought of his hypnotizer, who can
thus transfer his thought to him—even to repeating the words read by
the hypnotizer mentally from a book—then my claim has nothing
impossible in it. Space and distance do not exist for thought; and
if two persons are in perfect mutual psycho-magnetic rapport,
and of these two, one is a great Adept in Occult Sciences, then
thought-transference and dictation of whole pages, become as
easy and as comprehensible at the distance of ten thousand
miles as the transference of two words across a room.47
 
Blavatsky stresses repeatedly that her teachers are living
men, not disembodied spirits. She, while living in New York,
could easily receive dictation from them, living in Tibet, since
distance is no barrier to this. She also received dictation from
other teachers, living in other places, for use in Isis Unveiled. As
described by her co-worker, Colonel Olcott, their ability with
English varied greatly, so that sometimes he had to make several
corrections per line, and other times hardly any. The unique
work of one of these teachers is described by Olcott as follows:
 
Most perfect of all were the manuscripts which were written for
her while she was sleeping. The beginning of the chapter on the
civilisation of Ancient Egypt (vol. i, chap. xiv) is an illustration.
We had stopped work the evening before at about 2 A.M. as usual,
both too tired to stop for our usual smoke and chat before
parting; she almost fell asleep in her chair while I was bidding
her good-night, so I hurried off to my bedroom. The next
morning, when I came down after my breakfast, she showed me
a pile of at least thirty or forty pages of beautifully written H.P.B.
manuscript, which, she said, she had had written for her by—
well, a Master, whose name has never yet been degraded like
some others. It was perfect in every respect, and went to the
printers without revision.48
 
The material for Isis Unveiled was thus given to Blavatsky
piece by piece, without system. When it began, she had no idea
that it would eventually become a book. The material was later
arranged and rearranged. She often commented on its lack of
system, saying about the resulting book:
 
. . . it looks in truth, as remarked by a friend, as if a mass of
independent paragraphs having no connection with each other,
had been well shaken up in a waste-basket, and then taken out
at random and—published.49
According to the Mahatma K.H., her own contributions to
Isis Unveiled were similarly unsystematic, and her explanations
were unclear.
She . . . is unable to write with anything like system and calmness,
or to remember that the general public needs all the lucid
explanations that to her may seem superfluous.50
 
For these reasons, and the several reasons given above that
errors entered Isis Unveiled, the Mahatma K.H. remarked:
 
It really ought to be re-written for the sake of the family honour.51
Blavatsky in fact did start to rewrite it in the mid-1880s, and
announced it as such. But this was soon transformed into an
altogether new book, The Secret Doctrine, because she was able to
give out so many more truths in clear terms. Already in 1882,
the situation had changed significantly. She then says:
When Isis was written, it was conceived by those from whom the
impulse, which directed its preparation, came, that the time was
not ripe for the explicit declaration of a great many truths which
they are now willing to impart in plain language. So the readers
of that book, were supplied rather with hints, sketches, and
adumbrations of the philosophy to which it related, than with
methodical expositions.52
 
By 1886, the situation had changed greatly. She writes:
And I tell you that the Secret Doctrine will be 20 times as learned,
philosophical and better than Isis which will be killed by it. Now
there are hundreds of things I am permitted to say and explain.53
So Isis Unveiled was never rewritten; instead it was replaced
by The Secret Doctrine. But these two books cover very different
ground, and much of the material given in Isis Unveiled is still to
this day found nowhere else. We are therefore fortunate that a
new edition of Isis Unveiled was prepared by Boris de Zirkoff,
who spent countless hours correcting references, quotations,
spellings, etc. We are also fortunate that an abridgement of Isis
Unveiled was prepared by Michael Gomes, which eliminated
most of the dated or erroneous explanatory material. For as
Blavatsky said about this book of hers just eleven days before
she died:
 
I maintain that Isis Unveiled contains a mass of original and never
hitherto divulged information on occult subjects. That this is so,
is proved by the fact that the work has been fully appreciated by
all those who have been intelligent enough to discern the kernel,
and pay little attention to the shell, to give the preference to
the idea and not to the form, regardless of its minor shortcomings.
Prepared to take upon myself—vicariously as I will show—
the sins of all the external, purely literary defects of the work, I
defend the ideas and teachings in it, with no fear of being
charged with conceit, since neither ideas nor teachings are mine, as I
have always declared; and I maintain that both are of the greatest
value to mystics and students of Theosophy.54
 
As summed up by Olcott, her co-worker on this book:
The truest thing ever said about Isis was the expression of an
American author that it is “a book with a revolution in it.”55
 
NOTES
1. “Introductory,” by Boris de Zirkoff, p. [43], in Isis Unveiled, by H. P.
Blavatsky, rev. ed., Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House,
1972 (1st ed., 1877); and H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Wheaton,
Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, vol. 1, p. 302.
2. Old Diary Leaves, by Henry Steel Olcott, 2nd ed., Adyar, Madras:
Theosophical Publishing House, vol. 1, p. 294.
3. The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky, 1st ed., 1888; rev. ed. [by Boris
de Zirkoff] (pagination unchanged), Adyar, Madras: Theosophical
Publishing House, 1978, vol. 1, p. xxxiv.
4. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 431.
5. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, ed. A. T. Barker, 3rd rev. ed.,
Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1962, p. 201.
6. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 5, p. 221.
7. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 184.
8. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 45.
Isis Unveiled: A Perspective 17
9. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 179.
10. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 127.
11. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 118.
12. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, p. 197; see also The
Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 472.
13. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 198, 201.
14. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 50.
15. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 472.
16. Isis Unveiled, “Preface,” vol. 1, p. vi.
17. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 51.
18. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 52.
19. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 300; see also p. 152.
20. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 285; see also H. P.
Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 288.
21. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 179.
22. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 45.
23. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, pp. 119, 120.
24. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 120; Isis Unveiled, vol. 1,
p. 67.
25. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 120.
26. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 122.
27. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 182.
28. Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 351.
29. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 184.
30. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 184.
31. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 169.
32. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 181.
33. Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 346.
34. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 183; see note 37 below.
35. Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 347.
36. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 184; see note 37 below.
37. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 10, pp. 215-216. These two
sentences were here corrected as: “Hindus dread reincarnation in
other and inferior bodies, of brutes and animals or transmigration”; and
the “former life believed in by Buddhists is not a life in the same cycle
and personality.”
38. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 10, p. 215.
39. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 10, p. 215.
40. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 10, pp. 215-216.
41. Old Diary Leaves, vol. 1, p. 278.
42. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, p. 199.
18 Isis Unveiled: A Perspective
43. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 45.
44. Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 322.
45. Outlines of the History of Religion, by C. P. Tiele, London and Boston,
1877, pp. 141-142.
46. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 195-196.
47. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, p. 196.
48. Old Diary Leaves, vol. 1, p. 211.
49. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, p. 192.
50. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 126; see also pp. 103,
111, 127.
51. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., p. 127.
52. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 253.
53. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 3rd ed., pp. 473-474.
54. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, p. 193.
55. Old Diary Leaves, vol. 1, p. 297. This American was Dr. Alexander
Wilder; see “Introductory” by Boris de Zirkoff, Isis Unveiled, p. [51].
[The foregoing article was written by David Reigle for the German
study edition of Isis Unveiled, and was published in German translation
as the “Einführung,” or Introduction, in Isis Entschleiert, edited by
Hank Troemel, 2003, pp. 25-46. It was also published in the original
English in The High Country Theosophist, vol. 18, no. 5, Sep./Oct. 2003,
pp. 2-15. This online edition is published by Eastern Tradition
Research Institute, copyright 2005.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ISIS UNVEILED

(Volumes one and two of the original transcription in 1877 is free online at this link. An accepted reprint – approved by the Theosophical Society and containing a worthy preface by her editor, Boris de Zirkoff – can be purchased here.)

APPENDICES

Theories about Reincarnation and Spirits,” by H. P. Blavatsky

My Books,” by H. P. Blavatsky

How Isis Unveiled Was Written” by Alexander Wilder, M. D.

Letters from H. P. Blavatsky to Alexander Wilder, M. D.


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(SAMPLE)

CHAPTER VIII.

           “Think not my magic wonders wrought by aid
       Of Stygian angels summoned up from Hell;
                Scorned and accursed by those who have essay’d
 Her gloomy Divs and Afrites to compel.
But by perception of the secret powers
       Of mineral springs, in nature’s inmost cell,
       Of herbs in curtain of her greenest bowers,
                             And of the moving stars o’er mountain tops and towers.”
                                                                                                    — TASSO, Canto XIV., xliii.

“Who dares think one thing and another tell
                My heart detests him as the gates of Hell!” — POPE.

“If man ceases to exist when he disappears in the grave, you must be compelled to affirm that he is the only creature in existence whom nature or providence has condescended to deceive and cheat by capacities for which there are no available objects.”
                                                                                        — BULWER-LYTTON: Strange Story.
THE preface of Richard A. Proctor’s latest work on astronomy, entitled Our Place among Infinities, contains the following extraordinary words: “It was their ignorance of the earth’s place among infinities, which led the ancients to regard the heavenly bodies as ruling favorably or adversely the fates of men and nations, and to dedicate the days in sets of seven to the seven planets of their astrological system.”

       Mr. Proctor makes two distinct assertions in this sentence: 1. That the ancients were ignorant of the earth’s place among infinities; and  2. That they regarded the heavenly bodies as ruling, favorably or adversely, the fates of men and nations.* We are very confident that there is at least good reason to suspect that the ancients were familiar with the movements, emplacement, and mutual relations of the heavenly bodies. The testimony of Plutarch, Professor Draper, and Jowett, are sufficiently explicit. But we would ask Mr. Proctor how it happens, if the ancient astronomers were so ignorant of the law of the birth and death of worlds that, in the fragmentary bits which the hand of time has spared us of ancient lore there should be — albeit couched in obscure language — so much information which the most recent discoveries of science have verified? Beginning with the tenth page of the work under notice, Mr. Proc-
————————————————————————————————————
* We need not go so far back as that to assure ourselves that many great men believed the same. Kepler, the eminent astronomer, fully credited the idea that the stars and all heavenly bodies, even our earth, are endowed with living and thinking souls.


254                                                                                                                    THE VEIL OF ISIS.

tor sketches for us the theory of the formation of our earth, and the successive changes through which it passed until it became habitable for man. In vivid colors he depicts the gradual accretion of cosmic matter into gaseous spheres surrounded with “a liquid non-permanent shell”; the condensation of both; the ultimate solidification of the external crust; the slow cooling of the mass; the chemical results following the action of intense heat upon the primitive earthy matter; the formation of soils and their distribution; the change in the constitution of the atmosphere; the appearance of vegetation and animal life; and, finally, the advent of man.

       Now, let us turn to the oldest written records left us by the Chaldeans, the Hermetic Book of Numbers,* and see what we shall find in the allegorical language of Hermes, Kadmus, or Thuti, the thrice great Trismegistus. “In the beginning of time the great invisible one had his holy hands full of celestial matter which he scattered throughout the infinity; and lo, behold! it became balls of fire and balls of clay; and they scattered like the moving metal † into many smaller balls, and began their ceaseless turning; and some of them which were balls of fire became balls of clay; and the balls of clay became balls of fire; and the balls of fire were waiting their time to become balls of clay; and the others envied them and bided their time to become balls of pure divine fire.”

       Could any one ask a clearer definition of the cosmic changes which Mr. Proctor so elegantly expounds?

        Here we have the distribution of matter throughout space; then its concentration into the spherical form; the separation of smaller spheres from the greater ones; axial rotation; the gradual change of orbs from the incandescent to the earthy consistence; and, finally, the total loss of heat which marks their entrance into the stage of planetary death. The change of the balls of clay into balls of fire would be understood by materialists to indicate some such phenomenon as the sudden ignition of the star in Cassiopeia, A.D. 1572, and the one in Serpentarius, in 1604, which was noted by Kepler. But, do the Chaldeans evince in this expression a profounder philosophy than of our day? Does this change into balls of “pure divine fire” signify a continuous planetary existence,
————————————————————————————————————
* We are not aware that a copy of this ancient work is embraced in the catalogue of any European library; but it is one of the “Books of Hermes,” and it is referred to and quotations are made from it in the works of a number of ancient and mediæval philosophical authors. Among these authorities are Arnoldo di Villanova’s “Rosarium philosoph.”; Francesco Arnolphim’s “Lucensis opus de Iapide.” Hermes Trismegistus’ “Tractatus de transmutatione metallorum,” “Tabula smaragdina,” and above all in the treatise of Raymond Lulli, “Ab angelis opus divinum de quinta essentia.”

† Quicksilver.


255                                                                                                         AN INVISIBLE EARTH.

correspondent with the spirit-life of man, beyond the awful mystery of death? If worlds have, as the astronomers tell us, their periods of embryo, infancy, adolescence, maturity, decadence, and death, may they not, like man, have their continued existence in a sublimated, ethereal, or spiritual form? The magians so affirm. They tell us that the fecund mother Earth is subject to the same laws as every one of her children. At her appointed time she brings forth all created things; in the fulness of her days she is gathered to the tomb of worlds. Her gross, material body slowly parts with its atoms under the inexorable law which demands their new arrangement in other combinations. Her own perfected vivifying spirit obeys the eternal attraction which draws it toward that central spiritual sun from which it was originally evolved, and which we vaguely know under the name of GOD.

       “And the heaven was visible in seven circles, and the planets appeared with all their signs, in star-form, and the stars were divided and numbered with the rulers that were in them, and their revolving course was bounded with the air, and borne with a circular course, through the agency of the divine SPIRIT.” *

       We challenge any one to indicate a single passage in the works of Hermes which proves him guilty of that crowning absurdity of the Church of Rome which assumed, upon the geocentric theory of astronomy, that the heavenly bodies were made for our use and pleasure, and that it was worth while for the only son of God to descend upon this cosmic mote and die in expiation for our sins! Mr. Proctor tells us of a liquid non-permanent shell of uncongealed matter enclosing a “viscous plastic ocean,” within which “there is another interior solid globe rotating.” We, on our part, turn to the Magia Adamica of Eugenius Philalethes, published in 1650, and at page 12, we find him quoting from Trismegistus in the following terms: “Hermes affirmeth that in the Beginning the earth was a quackmire or quivering kind of jelly, it being nothing else but water congealed by the incubation and heat of the divine spirit; cum adhuc (sayeth he) Terra tremula esset, Lucente sole compacta est.

    In the same work Philalethes, speaking in his quaint, symbolical way, says, “The earth is invisible . . . on my soul it is so, and which is more, the eye of man never saw the earth, nor can it be seen without art. To make this element invisible, is the greatest secret in magic . . . as for this fæculent, gross body upon which we walk, it is a compost, andno earth but it hath earth in it, . . . in a word all the elements are visible but one, namely the earth, and when thou hast attained to so much per
————————————————————————————————————
* “Hermes,” iv. 6. Spirit here denotes the Deity — Pneuma, d qevo” .

THE VEIL OF ISIS.


256                                                                                                                

fection as to know why God hath placed the earth in abscondito,* thouhast an excellent figure whereby to know God Himself, and how He is visible, how invisible.

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