May 24, 2016

Letters Between Blavatsky and Judge - 18

Bertram Keightley Makes a Mistake And
Gets Suspended From the Esoteric School

Helena P. Blavatsky 

Bertram Keightley and Helena Blavatsky

A 2013 Editorial Note:

The present chapter transcribes one letter from H. P. Blavatsky to W.Q. Judge which was published in “Theosophical History” magazine, July 1996 edition, pp. 91-93.

The letter is dated August 1890 and discusses a mistake made by Mr. Bertram Keightley, one of H.P.B. assistants in the Esoteric School.  Bertram was born on April 4, 1860, in England. In 1890 he was 30.  He had joined the theosophical movement in 1884.

Bertram helped edit and organize the contents of “The Secret Doctrine” in the form of a two-volume book. Until the episode discussed in the present Chapter, he was one of the closest assistants to H.P.B.

He died in the 1940s.  

It is not certain whether H.P.B. was quite fair to “Bert” Keightley in the present episode. She may have exaggerated in her reaction to his mistake due to her own level of stress, to her fears and intuitions about future disloyalty from her assistants, or because she received incorrect information regarding Bertram’s actual mistake. Perhaps the three factors are involved. Her level of stress is certainly among the causes linked to her death a few months later, in May 1891.

H.P.B. condemns Bertram for having said in her name, in North-America, something which she considers an absurd. The gravity of the matter for her is, above all, in that she thought Bertram had spoken using her name. She might be misinformed about that, for Bertram wrote to William Judge the following note which the transcriber reproduces:

My dear Judge,                 Aug 9 90

In reply to your questions;-

1. I never said “that they are to form the auric Egg &c &c &c” by HPB’s orders.

The fact is, I was often asked how people were to protect themselves when going about their ordinary life, & I told them that I had worked out an idea from a hint given by HPB & that I had found it useful.

Whether it is correct or not, I do not know but as I told it as my own idea & not as HPB’s, I felt safe in speaking of it. Yours ever Bertram Keightley.

B. Keightley was an honest soul and he tried to help. There is nothing wrong about that. 

If H.P.B. had had the conditions to avoid the high levels of emotional stress she lived with, and had developed a significant degree of Stoic indifference, she could have lived longer and handled her group of assistants in a more efficient way.  Karma and her intensely emotional “Russian soul” would not allow that to happen. 

H.P.B. also had to face the complexities of living several hours a day in high levels of consciousness, often far above the levels of consciousness she herself was entitled to attain without the help of Mahatmas - only to suddenly go down again and to have to breathe the difficult emotional atmosphere created by students on probation while the movement - being under severe attack - suffered from all kinds of inner disloyalty provoked by outer pressure. 

In the following transcription, underlined words are thus in the originals and in the text as published by “Theosophical History”. Sometimes, they are underlined with a double line in the transcription made by Mr. Michael Gomes. We don’t take that into consideration.

A word between square brackets is an attempt by the transcriber to understand the original handwriting.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)

Letters Between Blavatsky and Judge - 18

Helena P. Blavatsky

private & E.S. August [1890]

19 Avenue Road
Regent’s Park W.

My dear W.Q.J.

I answer your question re E.S. and Bert. If he has informed all the E.S. groups . . . that “they are to form the auric egg & are to do this by means of colors, and are to do this 7 times a day & so as until formed” - then he has said that which has no more meaning than an order to form a sheep out of a goose’s egg. If he added to this that “this was by my order” then he was either insane or he fibbed, not to use a worse word.

My opinion is, that he got this alleged “order” through Mrs. K. Sherburne (the second edition & supplement of M.C.) [1] and went as mad over it as over his magnetised water for Mrs. Gahan.

Now I beg of you to notify all the E.S. members at once of this: i.e., that I have never dreamt of giving any such absurd & idiotic orders. Moreover, issue a short notice to the effect that unless you, or any other I may send to represent me (which I will not do in a hurry) can show any such “order” signed with my physical hand, not the astral (damn these phenomenal orders!) I repudiate such a signature. More still: any one who after having been notified of the present accepts and acts upon such an “order” through a third person - let it be Olcott himself - I expel him from the E.S. as I do not want any fools in it.

All this - K.S. (the defunct) “mesmerized water” in my name and “auric egg” by my “order” have forced me, acting according to the rules, to suspend Bert. I cannot expel him for ever, as this would be to ruin him for ever - but I suspend him for an indefinite period of time and - I send him to India. He is to sail in three days. I do not want Olcott nor any one to know anything of his guilt or his suspension. I trust in him theosophically if not esoterically, & you know the difference. [I ?] leave him even the Instructions till No. 3 but he will receive no more; no [sic] can he belong to the inner group & receive its [2]  final teachings or have access to the “occult room” as those few of the inner group. If he succeeds in saving the situation in India where Theosophy is falling into dreamless sleep & decay - well & good. If not - he will have to work until he has atoned for his sins. [3]

Yours ever the same


Please see that none but the Councillors know of his expulsion. I write to [Sherburne ?] myself & will try to pacify him. Oh, woe to me as the Head of the E. S.!


[1] M. C. ; Ms. Mabel Collins, who had already committed treason against HPB and the Theosophical Movement, after being HPB’s close assistant for some time. See more on M. Collins’s betrayal in Letters 45-A and 45-B, at “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, First Series, TPH, 1973 edition. C. Jinarajadasa adds useful information in his commentaries to these Letters. (CCA)

[2] “its”; we have “it” in the original. A mistake made by H. P. B.  (CCA)

[3] In fact, Bertram had no chance. From an occult point of view, the situation in India was far worse than anyone could possibly handle. (CCA)


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.