Nov 13, 2015

A Lesson to Henry Olcott

On the Feeling of Respect for One’s Teacher

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Helena P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott


The following text reproduces Chapter Four of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, Carlos Cardoso Aveline,  The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013. 


“They that love beyond the World,
cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill,
what never dies. Nor can Spirits ever be divided
that love and live in the same Divine Principle;
the Root and Record of their Friendship.”

(William Penn) [1]

To be able to defend one’s teacher from slander and persecution is a high privilege for theosophists who have any real knowledge of esoteric philosophy and its ethical implications.

The beneficial effects of such a defense should be identified and remembered. It is in a way a fortunate circumstance that since the 1880s theosophists have had a number of occasions to defend Helena P. Blavatsky from slanderers of various kinds. If the same theosophists were situated in different points in time, they would defend other sages.

Pythagoras, Socrates, Lucius Seneca, Hypatia, St. John of the Cross, Paracelsus, Giordano Bruno, Baruch Spinoza, Alessandro Cagliostro and HPB all suffered persecution, and they are no exceptions in History. Examples are countless. The legendary story of Jesus in the Gospels illustrates a fact that can be seen everywhere, at all times. Wise people challenge the routines of organized ignorance, thus becoming the object of criticism. For millennia now, nearly every brave soul who worked in favor of mankind’s evolution has been in one way or another attacked by his contemporaries. A Master of Wisdom wrote:
“It has ever been thus. Those who have watched mankind through the centuries of this cycle, have constantly seen the details of this death-struggle between Truth and Error repeating themselves. Some of you Theosophists are now only wounded in your ‘honour’ or your purses, but those who held the lamp in preceding generations paid the penalty of their lives for their knowledge. Courage then, you all, who would be warriors of the one divine Verity…” [2]

Whenever a teacher of universal wisdom is unjustly attacked, the Law of Karma creates an opportunity for his or her students to preserve the common source of learning and create good karma for themselves and for others. 

Through active solidarity, the learner enhances his magnetic link with the Messenger and with the Wisdom behind the Messenger. By omission, he has his link to the source either damaged or destroyed. The challenge is both individual and collective; entire societies may fail the test.

An event in the early days of the theosophical movement illustrates the karmic consequences of failing to defend one’s Teacher.

During the late 1870s, Henry S. Olcott, the co-founder of the theosophical movement, met a man in the streets of New York and stopped to chat with him for a few moments. Olcott wrote in his autobiographical work “Old Diary Leaves”:

“He was very prejudiced against H.P.B., and spoke very harshly against her, keeping to his opinion despite all I could say. At last he used such objectionable language that, in sheer disgust, I hastily left him and went on my way.”

A few hours later, when Olcott was at home, a paper got materialized in front of him. It was a copy of three paragraphs from the Buddhist “Dhammapada” and one from the “Sutras”. The text came with the signature from one of the Adept-Teachers and a two-word message which simply said:

“Translation correct.”

Olcott explained:

“The verses were reproaches to my address for having allowed H.P.B. to be reviled without defending her; unmistakably referring to my encounter down town with the person I had met, although no names were mentioned.” [3]

The importance of this event is that the lesson given by the message with the quotation from the “Dhammapada” and the “Sutras” is not limited to the past. The message remains valid for students of HPB in the 21st century and in the next centuries. The paragraphs quoted by the Master and sent to Olcott give every student real food for thought. The three main paragraphs say:

*  “He who hears his brother reviled, and keeping a smooth face leaves the abuse unnoticed, tacitly agrees with the enemy, as if he ad­mitted the same to be proper and just. He who does it is either mouse-hearted, or selfishness is at the bottom of his heart. He is not fit as yet to become a ‘companion’.”

* “Revenge is sinful and throws the ‘companion’ in the embrace of Zahak. He who permits his left hand to be polluted with dung without immediately wiping it with his right cares little for the cleanliness of his whole body. What constitutes the integral? - Parts. Of what is composed a human body? - Of limbs. If one limb cares not for the appearance of another limb, is not Zahak ready with trowel and brush to blacken the whole? Such a ‘companion’ is not ready to become a Brother.”

* “It is easy to destroy the poisonous houâbà in its first germina­tion. It is difficult to arrest its progress when once allowed to mature. Its unhealthy emanations will fill the atmosphere with miasmas. It will spread and infect its healthy brethren and cause the limpid waters of the lake to stagnate and dry. Avoid the houâbà and its husbandman, Beloved.” [4]

The message from the Master is as clear as it could be. It did not prevent Henry Olcott from making other mistakes along the same line, later on. It is comparatively easy by now to see Olcott’s mistakes. Instead of dwelling too much on that, one should ask oneself:

“What about my own failings?”

No one should think he or she is necessarily better situated than Olcott in this regard: self-examination often brings us surprises, and John Garrigues wrote about one’s correct attitude towards Helena P. Blavatsky and other teachers of the past:

“These Great Beings the sincere student must come to feel and to know as not dead nor in some distant retreat, but ever near and ever potent like the magic of some resistless power, as a mighty rushing river.” [5]
Life is probationary, and human loyalty takes place within conditions given by historical and karmic cycles. In the 21st century, the theosophical movement is getting to the third and best moment of its evolution so far, as the next Chapter attempts to show.


[1] “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, Fruits of Solitude, William Penn”, Harvard Classics, P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1909, 416 pp., p. 402.

[2] “The Mahatma Letters”, Transcribed by A.T. Barker, T.U.P., Pasadena, California, see Letter LV, p. 322. A facsimile of these words is included at the opening of Part One in the present volume.

[3] “Old Diary Leaves”, H. S. Olcott, First Series, TPH, Adyar, 1974, 490 pp., see pp. 414-415. See also “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, Second Series, TPH, 1973, p. 49.

[4] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, Second Series, transcribed by C. Jinarajadasa, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras, India, 1973. See Letter 23, pp. 47-49. We did not find these passages in the versions of the “Dhammapada” that are presently available to us and to the public.

[5] John Garrigues (1868-1944) in his article “How Far Away is H.P. Blavatsky?”, which can be found at our websites. It was first published with no indication as to its author in “Theosophy” magazine, Los Angeles, May 1922 edition, pp.197-198.


Here is a one-minute contemplative video, produced by our associated websites: 


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.