Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine [Amazon, Bookshop] by Max Heindel, introduction by Manly P Hall.

Heindel Hall Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine

According to the introduction by Manly P. Hall, Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine was the earliest of Max Heindel’s writings on mysticism, composed as a pair of lectures for the Theosophical Society in Los Angeles, and its posthumous publication in 1933 made it the last of his works to see print (11). Other than the useful data on the provenance of the text, Hall’s introduction presents both Heindel and Blavatsky as moral exemplars, and exhorts neo-Rosicrucians and Theosophists to regenerate and maintain the putative holiness of their legacies.

The introduction is followed by an unattributed twelve-page hagiography of Heindel, emphasizing the challenges of his ill-health, just as he stressed Blavatsky’s in his treatment of her. His final words are said to have been addressed to his wife: “I am all right dear” (29).

The first of the two lectures, here given as Chapters I-III, was on the history of the composition of The Secret Doctrine. Heindel admits to drawing freely on the relevant portions of Oclott’s Old Diary Leaves, and since I had read that material, there was little here that came as news to me. Heindel insists on HPB’s lack of material resources and native incapacity for literary production as evidence for her praeternatural inspiration, much as Mohammed is said to have been illiterate. He also compares her to Martin Luther as a “staunch and unflinching … reformer” (38).

The second lecture is two further chapters: one on the content of “Cosmogenesis,” the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, and the other on “Anthropogenesis,” the second. I will admit to having attempted study of the original work, and Heindel’s glosses seem accurate as far as they go. They do include substantial quotation from the “Stanzas of Dzyan,” which are the alleged archaic nucleus of HPB’s Doctrine. Evidently I lack the “perseverance and intuition” (57) which Heindel sets out as requirements for successful readers of The Secret Doctrine, because I have found it less illuminating than other conspicuous works of its author, such as Isis Unveiled and The Voice of the Silence. Taking Heindel’s summaries as given, I cannot see why these metaphysical yarns should incline their students to any particular forms of practice or purity of contemplation.

Appended to this short book are a few pages of “Aphorisms” by Heindel. These are in fact pithy quotations from larger works, and evidently not written as aphorisms. They are all, as far as I can tell, from Heindel’s later period of Christian neo-Rosicrucian teaching, and do not relate to the Theosophical material of the main text.

Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine is perhaps a useful curiosity for someone researching Heindel or his Rosicrucian Fellowship. As an occultist’s retrospective study of Blavatsky and the development of her teachings in The Secret Doctrine, it is inferior to the equally idiosyncratic but much later Book of Dzyan by Tim Maroney.