H.P. BLAVATSKY, EDITED BY MICHAEL GOMES
Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 2015. 356 + xxvi pp., paper, $17.
Renowned Theosophical scholar Michael Gomes has prepared a new edition of the Esoteric Instructions — a series of teachings originally written by H.P. Blavatsky for the use of the members of the Esoteric Section (ES) of the Theosophical Society.
The ES was formed by HPB in October 1888 “to promote the esoteric interests of the Theosophical Society by the deeper study of esoteric philosophy.” Soon after its formation, she began to write some “Instructions” that were privately circulated among the members of that Section. Instructions 1 and 2 were printed early in 1889, while Instruction 3 was issued in 1889–90.
In these works, HPB discusses a variety of esoteric and occult topics. Instruction 1 explores the power present in sounds, colors, and numbers, illustrating their correlation with planets, days, metals, and human principles. She also discusses the correspondence between macro- and microcosmic processes. Instruction 2 elucidates some obscure concepts from the previous discussion. It also examines the true nature of magic and its connection with the hierarchies of celestial beings. Instruction 3 elaborates on the human constitution from a more esoteric perspective. It examines the methods of development in the schools of hatha and raja yoga, along with the principles (tattvas) they activate. It also discusses the destiny of the different aspects of human consciousness after death.
In August 1890, Blavatsky formed an “Inner Group” of the ES, which consisted of twelve members — six men and six women. This group held weekly private meetings, where a more advanced teaching was orally given. These meetings dealt with a wide variety of esoteric teachings, in what can be regarded as a deepening of the exploration started in the Instructions. Topics included the different planes and states of consciousness, meditative exercises, the correspondence between the organs of the body and the principles of consciousness, and many other related subjects. What transpired in these meetings was carefully written down by the students and preserved in the form of minutes for each session.
The information in the three Instructions and the teachings of the Inner Group remained private until 1897, when they were made available to the general public in the “third volume” of The Secret Doctrine edited by Annie Besant. They appeared at the end of that volume under the heading “Some Papers on the Bearing of Occult Philosophy on Life.” The three Instructions were published as Papers 1, 2, and 3, and roughly 95 percent of the text of the minutes of the Inner Group was published under the subheading “Notes on Some Oral Teachings.”
In Esoteric Instructions: H.P. Blavatsky, Michael Gomes compiles the three sets of Instructions and the Notes, presenting them as a separate publication. It is important to mention that in this book, the Notes, originally published with no order or system, have been rearranged alphabetically under a series of headings so that the reader can use them as supplementary material in the study of the Instructions.
There are also four appendices with articles and documents written by HPB on matters related to the Instructions. “Practical Occultism” and “Occultism versus the Occult Arts” discuss the character of occultism and the qualifications necessary for its practice. Two “Preliminary Memoranda” explain the nature and work of the ES. The final document presents an editorial note by HPB on the article “Stray Thoughts on Death and Satan” by the French occultist Éliphas Lévi, where she discusses personal immortality. Along with Blavatsky’s remarks, there are some footnotes from one of her adept teachers, Mahatma Koot Hoomi.
In addition, Gomes provides an introduction exploring the historical context in which the ES was formed, how the Instructions were produced, and the origin of the Notes from the Inner Group. Throughout this work there are footnotes added by the editor providing general references to people and publications mentioned in the Instructions. When presenting the Notes, the editor also provides alternative readings derived from other records of the Inner Group teachings.
Esoteric Instructions: H.P. Blavatsky is a welcome publication of these lesser-known but important teachings in a compact and handy edition that the earnest student of Theosophy or esoteric subjects in general will find of great value.
Pablo Sender gives Theosophical lectures and classes throughout North and South America. His writings can be found on his website: www.pablosender.com.