The Transcendental Universe: Six Lectures on Occult Science, Theosophy, and the Catholic Faith

The Transcendental Universe: Six Lectures on Occult Science, Theosophy, and the Catholic Faith

by C. G. Harrison, edited with an Introduction by Christopher Bamford
Lindisfame Press, 1993; paper.

Startling occult machinations may have underlaid - in fact, distorted-the efforts of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to found the Theosophical Society in America, argues C. G. Harrison, an independent American occultist who presented his controversial research findings in a series of lectures in 1893 to the Berean Society of London. Harrison, 38 at the time, presented himself as a self-initiated, unaffiliated Christian esotericist who, through his own clairvoyance, had made various discoveries "be hind the veil" of public knowledge and misinformed speculation regarding the manipulative power plays of the various secret lodges of Europe and America in the nineteenth century. H. P. Blavatsky -literally a "born" troublemaker, as her astrological natal chart indicated to the prescient-was at the center of it all. In fact, Harrison explains, for nearly a decade, she was imprisoned in a "wall of psychic influences" that paralyzed her higher activities, generating "a kind of spiritual sleep characterized by fantastic visions." One of these was the experiential illusion that she had in fact spent time in Tibet with the Masters when, Harrison claims, she never left Nepal and had been deceived by metaphysical impostors. Even so, "Madame Blavatsky emerged from 'prison' a Tibetan Buddhist and the prophetess of a new religion" called Theosophy.

These are serious claims indeed and must be put into perspective. Without question, The Transcendental Universe is an exceptionally valuable work that fills in certain aspects of the hidden history of our time; after all, Blavatsky's Theosophy is generally regarded as one of the primary seeds of our late twentieth century's "new age" and its metaphysical aspirations. Harrison's lectures - which cover an astonishing range of interests including angelic hierarchies, secret brotherhoods, the mystery of evil, the War in Heaven, the nature of initiates, the importance of the Christ – were originally published and basically ignored in 1893. They shouldn't have been, because, according to editor Christopher Bamford, Harrison's lectures on the implications of Theosophy embody "courage and daring, remarkable coherence, impartiality, compassion, and wisdom." They integrate "occult knowledge of a very high order into reasoned, intelligent cultural discourse, also of a very high order"- a rare enough accomplishment in any age.

Bamford himself deserves high praise for his penetrating " Introduction," which lucidly sketches the probable history of European secret societies back to the Renaissance and profiles some of the dubious lodge members who may have worked the levers of the nineteenth century's most active occult brotherhoods, most conspicuous among which was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. I Bamford provides an additional forty-five pages of notes and bibliography that put all the names, societies, dates, and metaphysical concepts at our fingertips-a great service to the reader.

Without preempting the richness of Harrison's insider's view, this is a brief sketch of events as he claims they happened. Around 1840, the various occult lodges of Europe perceived that Western culture had arrived at the point of " physical intellectuality," or extreme materialism. Lodge members, who for centuries had withheld from the public spiritually valuable information about the transcendental realms behind the physical world, decided upon an experiment. They would use psychics and mediums to provide the Western mind a startling glimpse into the unseen world of causes, energies, and influences; through this they hoped to leaven the evolutionary dead end of materialism. In other word s, they deliberately launched what became known as Spiritualism, a wildfire phenomenon that spread throughout Europe and America between 1850 and 1880, culminating in the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875 as an epistemological corrective for Spiritualism's wild excesses. Not long into the experiment those lodge members most concern ed with humanity's positive evolution saw their attempt to spiritualize culture had failed; everybody misconstrued the phenomena and thought they were conversing with the spirits of the dead when in fact it had been the living lodge members working astrally through the mediums. Lodges with more self-centered notions of their charter deliberately continued the ruse to further their own obstructive agenda, creating further confusion and misattribution that continues to this day.

Blavatsky- full of "wild eccentricity and almost willful freedom of spirit," says Bamford - was onto them and threatened to blow the whistle on their unwholesome activities. According to Harrison, a consortium of American brotherhoods decided to stop Blavatsky by casting a nasty "spell" on her, employing a form of rarely used black magic to wrap Blavatsky in a self-delusive veil-an "occult imprisonment"-in which she mistakenly believed all manner of events to be real, such as her contact with the Mahatmas in Tibet. It was only by cutting a deal with Hindu occultists that she would essentially favor their philosophies in her Theosophy that she was released from this psychic prison. These facts, Harrison claims, somewhat qualify Blavatsky's credentials, though he admits she should be regarded as "more sinned against than sinning." Her faults, says Harrison, are numerous: she was unaware of the true sources of her inspiration, the "instrument in the hands of unscrupulous persons"; on intellectual grounds her Secret Doctrine is "exceedingly faulty" and severely "tinctured and pervaded by her personality"; she perverted facts when they didn't fit her grand scheme; and "her sectarian animus in favor of any and every non-Christian religious system (Judaism alone excepted) all combine to render her a most unsafe guide to the Higher Wisdom." To be fair, Harrison praises Blavatsky for her "vigorous intellect," her enormous capacity for assimilating knowledge, regarding her as "a medium of a very exceptional kind," as a unique psychic personality gifted with second sight and copious energy.

Harrison's allegations of veiled events underlying the foundation of Theosophy will both annoy and elucidate readers, provoke and inform, spark controversy while illuminating shadows, as any important book ought to, and we're grateful for the opportunity, however unsettling, to reconsider the matter that the centennial reissue of this book affords.


Summer 1994