The modern' occult movement began at the end of the nineteenth century with the early writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. There had been considerable interest in spiritualism for a few decades before her first book was published. There was, however, much fraud among mediums, some of whom were certainly not genuine, but some were, and the explanations of the psychic phenomena were inconsistent and obviously unreliable. The spiritualistic movement did, on the other hand, call attention to another dimension of existence and to a large extent justified a belief in survival after death.
H.P. Blavatsky's first major work was Isis Unveiled, published in New York and London in 1875. This did much to combat the general materialism of the time and the dogmatism of current religion and science. It introduced the idea of the essential spiritual nature of cosmos and man, and explained in national terms, against a background of a deep and extensive knowledge of classical and modern literature, a wide range of relevant topics, not only spiritualistic phenomena but much else concerning the powers latent in man.
In the early years of the 1880's, Mr A.P. Sinnett was receiving letters from two Initiates in the Arcane Sciences. These contained a core of teaching never before made public. These letters, of inestimable importance to us now, are lodged in the British Library [The Mahatma Letters]. From the information contained in them, Mr Sinnett produced his book Esoteric Buddhism. He had previously written a book, The Occult World, describing something of the realms behind our physical world and describing some of the remarkable phenomena produced around that time by Madame Blavatsky.
Mr Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism outlined a scheme or framework of esoteric knowledge quite revolutionary at the time. It was, however, defective in some details. These defects were corrected and the grand scheme of esotericism greatly extended in H.P. Blavatsky's monumental work, The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888. This, like Isis Unveiled, is a work of tremendous erudition. In either work well over 1,000 other works, ancient and modern, are referred to.
The subject matter of The Secret Doctrine is divided into two, Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis. These headings indicate very broadly the content. In both of them there is unfolded a vast evolutionary development of our planet, and the human family on it, quite beyond anything which has been proposed before or since. In the work the nature of man and his relation to cosmos is worked on. The work has two principle bases - one is an ancient book containing the Stanzas of Dzyan, and the other a few fundamental propositions, containing the very essence of the teachings. The stanzas are a poetic description in mystical language of the genesis and post genesis processes of our globe, and then the story of man's appearance and development on it.
The great developmental stages of the process are described, together with the sources and information of man's body and his inner principles, particularly his mind. This information inverts the Darwinian view. All that is in the book is against an extensive knowledge and dialogue with philosophers and scientists. It relates its teachings to the great religions of the world, and explains their symbolism. It tells us something of the Mysteries and of the 'Occult' Societies and Fraternities that have existed since remote ages. The knowledge, now called Theosophy, of the processes and nature of Nature on the greatest as the smallest scale underlies, is in fact the source, the origin, in their purest form, of all these. It is religion itself.
As it says in the Introduction of The Secret Doctrine:
"...in Century the Twentieth some disciple more informed and far better fitted ... but contains all that can be given out to the world in this century."
So far as is known, no such disciple has yet appeared. Certainly no work of the magnitude and content of The Secret Doctrine has appeared, although some, ignorant of its content, might claim otherwise. About the study of it, however, H.P. Blavatsky characteristically said, "Theosophy is for those who can think, or for those who can drive themselves to think, not mental sluggards."
Regarding individual man, he will find in The Secret Doctrine sublime spiritual teaching. It is scattered throughout the book, but she refers to the very study of it as follows:
"The true student of "The Secret Doctrine" is a Juana Yogi; and this Path of Yoga is the True Path for the Western Student. It is to provide him with sign posts on the Path that The Secret Doctrine has been written."
It is interesting to note that two Masters of the Wisdom admitted to a part in the authorship of The Secret Doctrine and Col. H.S. Olcott, a co-founder of the Theosophical Society, intimated in his Old Diary Leaves that at various time some seven known Masters had taken a hand in the writing of Isis Unveiled.
Apart from these two great works, H.P. Blavatsky was continually at work on other writing. She wrote dozens of articles, addresses and open letters in Russian, French and English - which latter language she only learned late in life. Collected together, these miscellaneous writings fill fourteen large volumes. All this material has been arranged and edited by Boris de Zirkoff, her last surviving relative. (online)
In 1889 she wrote her last two books, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence. The Key epitomises the highlights of these teachings, in question and answer form. It is in relatively simple terms but is full of illustrative material and relates the great tenets of The Doctrine to everyday life. The book is suitable for beginners but students have found it virtually inexhaustible. The Voice of the Silence is "Dedicated to the Few" and is "for the daily use of Lanoos (disciples)". It must be one of the finest manuals of spiritual instruction in the world of such literature.
Her writings, including her books, and even her voluminous correspondence (even so much as is extant), cover an enormously wide range of subjects. Apart from the description of the vast cosmic scheme, with the story of its origins and developmental, evolutionary progress from age to age, her writings cover the whole human scene, from birth to death and after. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett include the most authentic and detailed description, in terms of cosmic and human principles (the inner constitution of man), of processes of death, the after death states and the processes of rebirth, available to mankind at this time. This information far exceeds that in any other literature, ancient or modern, and removes the subject from the realms of beliefs and speculation. It is worthy of a much wider public attention.
Similarly H.P. Blavatsky's writings constitute a framework of knowledge which provides a basic foundation for the better understanding of our earthly existence. Virtually to ignore it, as has been the case for the last hundred years, is to deprive ourselves of probably the greatest boon vouchsafed to humanity in historical times. It would perhaps not be too much to claim that its study, acceptance and the practice of its guidance and ethics could be the only really effective way to alleviate the evils that beset humanity on this earth, at this time and way into the future.