An Attempt to Prevent the
Publication of “The Secret Doctrine”
Publication of “The Secret Doctrine”
Helena P. Blavatsky
Helena P. Blavatsky
A 2011 Editorial Note
The following material includes three letters. The first one was written by H.P.B. to Judge in 1887. The second letter was written by W.Q. Judge and others: it is addressed to H.P.B. and dated 10th January 1888. The third one was sent by H.P.B. to W. Q. J. in the second semester of 1888.
The first and the third letter are reproduced from “Theosophical History” magazine, volume V, Number 7, July 1995, pp. 222-224. Their originals are part of the Blavatsky Letters collection in the Andover-Harvard Divinity School Library. The second one is reproduced from “The Path” magazine, February 1888, pp. 354-355.
1. A Buddhic Editorial Alliance
In the 1887 letter to Judge, H. P. B. proposes an editorial alliance between her militant theosophy and his purely buddhic line of theosophical work.
She warns Judge: if he can’t see the need for mutual trust and cooperation between both viewpoints, then his intuition “must be wool-gathering”. She mentions the difference between the two styles, and adds: “I am not born for meek & conciliating literature!” In the same letter, H.P.B. makes it clear, once more, that the future of the movement depends very much on Judge. While asking him to make an alliance in the U.S.A. with the “militant” Coues, she says:
“But Judge, if you love theosophy & the Cause, if you would save the unfortunate building, trembling & splitting on all its seams put that strong indomitable character over the movement. Work with him be the palliative.”
Although short term events did not work out as H.P.B. wanted, longer term facts showed that the preservation of her work after her death did depend on William Judge and his associates. In the 1890s, Annie Besant (Europe) and Henry Olcott (India) would be allies in their fight against Judge (U.S.A.) and the original teachings of theosophy as given by H.P. Blavatsky. Besant and Olcott thus caused the first formal separation within the movement.
2. Subba Row and Others at Adyar Try to Prevent Publication of the SD
The second and extraordinary document reveals the fact that influential sectors in Adyar tried to prevent the publication of “The Secret Doctrine”(SD). First published in February 1888, the text is a collective letter expressing the wish of North-American students to see the SD published at once, in spite of the opposition of “pundits” in Adyar – a reference to T. Subba Row and his followers.
The letter significantly says “we well know that it is from the West the chief strength of the Theosophical Society is to come, although its knowledge and inspiration may and do reach us from the East.” And it closes with these vigorous words:
“We therefore earnestly entreat you not to be moved from your original purpose and plain pledge that, before passing away from our earthly sight, you would lay before us the Secret Doctrine.”
Such an open support to “The Secret Doctrine” was to be “the last straw” which, according to H.P.B., led to Subba Row’s resignation from the theosophical society. The Secret Doctrine was published later in that same year.
3. HPB Examines Subba Row’s Crisis and Sees a Collapse at Adyar
The third letter was written in the second semester of 1888. The date is clear from the fact that in it H.P.B., who was in London, mentions a note published by H.S. Olcott in the June 1888 edition of “The Theosophist”, in India.
An interesting question is how to approach Mr. T. Subba Row’s chain of mistakes in opposing H.P.B.s work, boycotting her and “The Secret Doctrine”, producing imaginary contacts with Masters and finally giving up Theosophy only to die at an early age. These actions can be better understood if one takes into consideration that Subba Row was not the only one to fail in trying to understand the essentially impersonal and transcendent (i.e. Buddhic) nature of any real contact between Masters and Disciples.
In a letter to a group of London Theosophists, H.P.B. had already written in 1887:
“I can do you no good if you yourselves fail to place yourselves in the atmosphere of Theosophy and the Masters; or rather, if you still fail to sense Them around yourselves – as you have done so far.” 
Such an atmosphere does not need words. The student must strive to hear his own conscience, instead of hearing words from Masters. One can infer that this is the basic process with regular chelas too.
Subject to the fire of probation, which even advanced disciples must face, T. Subba Row began to “get messages from Masters”. These were in reality the products of his own mind. Such “Masters” told him (in Sanskrit language) what his lower self would like to hear: that he was so wise and had so many talents that he should completely reorganize the theosophical movement as he liked best.
Subba Row’s nationalistic pride, which had first made him oppose H.P.B., had now become personal pride, and he fell. The loss of common sense in his lower self quickly led him to make further and equally serious mistakes. This ended up causing his premature death in 1890, when he was 33 years old.
Perhaps he was protected from a long life of mistakes (whose karma would have been much worse) by the fact that he was an advanced disciple. His higher self had to get rid of the lower self who had failed, and so it did.
At the time of Subba Row’s death, H.P.B. wrote a note in her London magazine, “Lucifer” . Under the title of “Death of Subba Row”, the short text said:
It is with the deepest possible regret and sorrow that we have to announce the “death” of our learned and gifted brother, T. Subba Row, B.A., B.L., on June 24th, at the early age of 33 years. There are few members of the Theosophical Society who have not heard of Subba Row, the great Vedantin scholar; few readers of the Secret Doctrine who are not familiar with his name, as the talented author of the Lectures on the Bhagavad Gita. And yet, with the exception of these lectures and his contributions to the pages of the Theosophist, as remarked in the latter journal, he has left scarce any literary monument of his extraordinary ability.
“Our great Vedantin”, writes Colonel Olcott, “was of the Nyogi caste of the Smartha (Advaita) Brahmans”, and practiced as a Vakil (Pleader) of the High Court. Strangely enough he showed little promise in early days of his extraordinary philosophical ability, and it was not until he made the acquaintance of H.P.B., H.S.O., and Damodar, in 1882, that he began to devote himself to metaphysics and Occultism. “It was then as though a store house of occult experience, long forgotten, had suddenly opened to him . . . his stored-up knowledge of Sanskrit literature came back to him . . . and if you would recite any verse of Gita, Brahma-Sutras, or Upanishads, he could at once tell you whence it was taken, and in what connection employed.”
The cause of his death was a mysterious cutaneous disease which resulted in a terrible outbreak of boils, of so painful a nature that all sleep was denied to the sufferer. Karma has mysterious ways of working out its ends, which to the profane must remain for ever unfathomable. We can only feel profound regret that such Karma has reached one by whose death Madras has been deprived of a giant-intellect, and India has lots one of her best scholars.
May his next rebirth be speedy and his life-span longer, and, above all, may he be reborn in Aryavarta still.
“Sit tibi terra levis.”
4. On the Transcription
In the following texts, underlined words are thus in the original. Sometimes, they are underlined with a double line in the transcription made by Mr. Michael Gomes. We don’t take that into consideration. Words in square brackets, followed by question marks, are attempts by the transcriber to understand the original. We add a few explanatory notes.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
 “Extract of a Letter from H.P.B. to a London Group, 1887”, with an introduction by Michael Gomes, “The Theosophist”, India, July 1988, pp. 386-389, see p. 387.
 The word “Lucifer” is an ancient name for the planet Venus, which has been distorted since the Middle Ages by ill-informed theologians. The following note by HPB is reproduced from the August 1890 edition of “Lucifer”, p. 509.
Letters Between Blavatsky and Judge – 12
Helena P. Blavatsky
[Letter One – 1887]
My dearest W.Q.J.
If I thought for one moment that “Lucifer” will “rub out” Path I would never consent to be its editor. Now listen to me my good old friend: Once that the Masters have proclaimed your “Path” the best the most theosophical of all theosophical publications – surely it is not to allow it to be rubbed out!! I know what I am saying & doing, my “commanding genius” notwithstanding. To prove this – (which will be proven to you by the first number of “Lucifer” when you see its polemical contents) I will write every month regularly for “Path” occult, transcendental & theosophical articles. I give you my word of honor of HPB. I will force people to subscribe for Path & this will never hurt “Lucifer”. One is the fighting combative Manas – the other (“Path”) is pure Buddhi. Can’t both be united in an offensive & defensive alliance in one [rupa ?] or Sthula Sarira – theosophy? “Lucifer” will be Theosophy militant – “Path” the shining light, the Star of Peace. If your intuition does not whisper to you – it is so: then that intuition must be wool-gathering. No Sir, the “Path” is too well, too theosophically edited for me to interfere. I am not born for meek & conciliating literature!
Now for C.  What I thought of him I say so still. But he will hence forward have an iron hand upon him unconsciously to himself. He too, is Theosophy militant & the General in chief thereon in the U.S. I thought reflected, pondered, till I nearly became mad. I never thought he would give up the Society in giving up that d____d Board of Control. But Judge, if you love theosophy & the Cause, if you would save the unfortunate building, trembling & splitting on all its seams put that strong indomitable character over the movement. Work with him be the palliative. But unless we place that Atilla as the “Angel of the Sword” no one, not even Olcott is up to that task in America. See, Adyar is collapsing. I just received another letter from O.  He sends me a letter to him from Cooper-Oakley who brought [the?] Council to vote for my not returning this year to Adyar. I will send you this specimen of foul plot & intrigue & you will judge. Beware of C.O.! He is determined to make away with me & has enrolled Subba Row with him by lies, slanders & insinuations. Believe me my Son, Hystaspes  “Lucifer” & the “Path”, are barely sufficient as an army to hold in check dark intrigues & plot. They all want to get into my shoes. May they never hurt their favorite corns!
Be quick, hurry on, whatever you do. Be ready, if you would go to the end & force by conquering it the kingdom  of Heaven . [ ] to be [ ] chela [ ] has to regard [ ] as [ ] guru. Such are the orders.
Yours in haste
[Letter Two – February 1888]
[Published at “The Path”, February 1888]
[ Note by W.Q. Judge, Editor of “The Path” and main author of the text: ]
The following letter has been sent to Madame Blavatsky from New York. It is not intended to reflect upon the East Indians as a body in any way; but solely to show why the signers desire that the Secret Doctrine should not be held back because some Indian pundits are against it.- [ED.]
New York, January 10, 1888.
Madame H.P. Blavatsky,
Respected Chief: – We have just heard that you have been asked to withdraw from publication the Secret Doctrine.
This extraordinary request emanates, we are told, from members of the Theosophical Society, who say that if the book is brought out it will be attacked or ridiculed by some East Indian pundits, and that it is not wise to antagonize these Indian gentlemen.
We most earnestly ask you not to pay heed to this desire, but to bring out the Secret Doctrine at the earliest possible day.
It is a work for which we, and hundreds of others all over the United States, have been waiting for some years, most of us standing firmly on the promise made by yourself that it was being prepared and would appear.
While the West has the highest regard for the East Indian philosophy, it is, at the same time, better able to grasp and understand works that are written by those acquainted with the West, with its language, with its usages and idiom, and with its history, and who are themselves westerns. As we well know that it is from the West the chief strength of the Theosophical Society is to come, although its knowledge and inspiration may and do reach us from the East, we are additionally anxious that you, who have devoted your life to this cause and have hitherto granted us the great boon found in Isis Unveiled, should not now stop almost at the very point of giving us the Secret Doctrine, but go on with it in order that we may see your pledge fulfilled and another important stone laid in the Theosophical edifice.
Further, we hasten to assure you that it makes but small difference – if any whatever – here in the vast and populous West what anyone or many pundits in India say or threaten to say about the Secret Doctrine, since we believe that although a great inheritance has been placed before the East Indians by their ancestors they have not seized it, nor have they in these later days given it out to their fellow men living beyond the bounds of India, and since this apathy of theirs, combined with their avowed belief that all Western people, being low-caste men, cannot receive the Sacred Knowledge, has removed these pundits from the field of influence upon Western thought.
And lastly, knowing that the great wheel of time has turned itself once more so that the Powers above see that the hour has come when to all people, East and West alike, shall be given the true knowledge, be it Vedantic or otherwise, we believe that the Masters behind the Theosophical Society and whom you serve, desire that such books as the Secret Doctrine should be written.
We therefore earnestly entreat you not to be moved from your original purpose and plain pledge that, before passing away from our earthly sight, you would lay before us the Secret Doctrine.
Receive, Madame, the assurances of our high esteem and the pledge of our continued loyalty.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE, J. CAMPBELL VER PLANCK, SAMUEL HICKS CLAPP, ALEXANDER FULLERTON, EDSON D. HAMMOND, ABNER DOUBLEDAY, GEORGE W. WHEAT, JNO. W. LOVELL, GEORGE W. SALTER, LYDIA BELL, MRS. J. C. GRIFFIN, ALEX. O. DRAGICSEVICS, E. H. SANBORN, E. M. TOZIER, E. DAY MACPHERSON, JNO. F. MILLER, M. D., WILLIAM M. GATES, EMILY G. FLEMING, E. B. GRAY, JR., HADJII ERINN, for himself and 26 others.
[Letter Three – Second Semester of 1888]
My dear Judge,
A few words but most serious. Subba Row, Cooper Oakley N. Cook have resigned from the T.S. & left Adyar. Olcott with his usual tact having, on S.R.’s request, to announce this in the Theosophist , wrote to say in a brief para “non committal as possible” as he expresses it, that the reason for it is “the strained relations between him (S.R.) & yourself” (me!). Well, that’s probably done. All I know is, that at the first word about S.R. or C.O. or any of them S.R. will come down heavily upon myself, Olcott & the S. Doctrine. It will be a new scandal worse than that of Coulomb. It is your address to me in “Path”  that broke the last straw. Well I ask you in the name of the Masters, for my sake & that of the Cause not to mention their resignations by one single word in “Path.” Let it pass unnoticed. He is ready to pounce on us, supported by C.O. & N.C. & others. I will not say one word in Lucifer, just as if he had never existed. You know that S.R. claimed for the two past years to be in communication with my Master; actually with M !!! That he showed Sanskrit letters from Him (no handwriting no indiscrete calligraphy – in Sanskrit!) to himself & translated them to C.O. The letters were to the effect that he, S.R. had to reform the Society & hinted that I, HPB, had been given up by the Masters!! C.O. who has chosen S.R. for his guru, who worships him as does N. Cook, believes in him explicitly. What are the “muslin & bladder Mahatmas” of the Coulombs compared to such doings!!
Bus, bus  – I must say nothing, however much I may be disgusted. But, as the ranks thin around us, & one after the other our best intellectual Forces depart to turn bitter enemies – I say – Blessed are the pure hearted who have only intuition for intuition is better than intellect. I will copy your paper [&] send it to you this week.
Yours ever, HPB
 Mr. Elliott Coues.
 “Adyar is collapsing”. H.P.B. does not refer here to any sort of political or institutional collapse. It was an ethical collapse, the collapse of loyalty to truth, to theosophy, and to the Masters that was taking place. An occult and moral collapse is much more serious than a merely institutional one.
 Henry Olcott.
 The transcriber of the letter, Michael Gomes, reports that Hystaspes was a name Coues had given himself. It’s a reference to the Persian conqueror Darius Hystaspes. In this passage, therefore, H.P.B. counts on an alliance between Coues and Judge and says that even this alliance is hardly strong enough to face the challenges ahead.
 “Conquering the kingdom of Heaven”. This idea appears in expanded form in the Letter 2 of the Mahatma Letters:
“He who would lift up high the banner of mysticism and proclaim its reign near at hand, must give the example to others. He must be the first to change his modes of life; and, regarding the study of the occult mysteries as the upper step in the ladder of Knowledge must loudly proclaim it such despite exact science and the opposition of society. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is obtained by force’ say the Christian mystics. It is but with armed hand, and ready to either conquer or perish that the modern mystic can hope to achieve his object.” (“The Mahatma Letters”, TUP edition, Pasadena, California, 1992, pp. 6-7)
 In the following sentence, the transcriber has used empty square brackets to mark the places where words have been scratched out in ink.
 The transcriber writes at this point: “The Supplement to ‘The Theosophist’ for June 1888, p. xli, carried a brief three line note to the effect that T. Subba Row and J.N. Cook had resigned their membership in the Theosophical Society.”
 See the open letter published in the February 1888 edition of “The Path” and reproduced above.
 “Bus, bus”. A note by the transcriber explains that this is a Hindi expression meaning “enough” or “that will do”.
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.