Feb 10, 2017

What H. P. Blavatsky Taught Us

The Testimony of One of Her London Students

William Kingsland

William Kingsland (1855-1936)


Editorial Note:

William Kingsland presided the Blavatsky Lodge,
 in London, during H.P.B.’s life. He was present in
in the 1889 meetings with H.P.B. whose transactions
are transcribed in the volume “The Secret Doctrine
Dialogues[1]. He took an active part in all of
those discussions and chaired twelve of the 21 meetings.

Twenty years later, in December 1909, Kingsland
resigned his membership of the Adyar Society. He then
wrote an Open Letter  stating the fact that Mrs. Annie
Besant had abandoned Ethics and Theosophy. A significant
part of his document is reproduced in the first chapter of the
book “H. P. Blavatsky, a Great Betrayal”, by Alice Cleather.[2]

The following testimony, written in 1891, is among the best
written on H.P.B. Original title: “What She Taught Us”.[3]

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


“…She did something more than teach
us a new system of philosophy. She drew
together the threads of our life, those threads
which run back into the past, and forward into
the future, (…..)  and showed us the pattern we
had been weaving, and the purpose of our work.”

(William Kingsland)

If I were to write this short memoir simply as an imperfect expression of what H. P. B. was to me personally, and of the influence of her life and teachings upon my own life and aspirations, I should merely be adding one more testimony to that affection and reverence which she inspired in all who learnt to understand her in some degree.

There were those who were attracted to her by the magnetism of her personal influence, by her extraordinary intellect, by her conversational powers, and even by her militant unconventionality. But I was not one of these. It was her message that attracted me; it was as a teacher that I learnt to know and love her. Apart from her teachings I might have looked upon H. P. B. as an interesting and unique character, but I do not think I should have been attracted to her, had not her message spoken at once right home to my heart. It was through that message that I came to know H. P. B., not as a mere personal friend, but as something infinitely more.

Let me dwell therefore upon H. P. B. as a teacher, let me endeavour to express what it was that she set before me, and before so many others, the acceptance of which united us by ties which death cannot sever.

First, and above all else, she showed us the purpose of life.

And when I say this I mean much more than might be commonly understood by this phrase. I mean much more than that she gave us an interest and a motive in this present life, and a belief or faith with regard to the next. Those who have learnt the lesson of the illusory nature of that which most men call life, whether here or hereafter, need to draw their inspiration from a deeper source than is available in the external world of forms. But to the born Mystic there is often a long period of waiting and seeking before that source is found. Many years are spent in testing and rejecting first one system, then another, until it seems perchance as if life could be naught but a hopeless problem. And perhaps just when all seemed darkest and most hopeless, when it even appeared best to abandon the quest, to take up the position, “we do not know, and we cannot know”, just then it has been that the light has dawned, the teacher has been sent, the word has been spoken, which has recalled the lost memory of that hidden source of truth for which we have been seeking; and we have taken up once more, at the point at which we dropped it in a previous life-time, that great task which we have set ourselves to accomplish.

And thus she did something more than teach us a new system of philosophy. She drew together the threads of our life, those threads which run back into the past, and forward into the future, but which we had been unable to trace, and showed us the pattern we had been weaving, and the purpose of our work.

She taught us Theosophy - not as a mere form of doctrine, not as a religion, or a philosophy, or a creed, or a working hypothesis, but as a living power in our lives.

It is inevitable that the term Theosophy should come to be associated with a certain set of doctrines. In order that the message may be given to the world it must be presented in a definite and systematic form. But in doing this it becomes exoteric, and nothing that is exoteric can be permanent, for it belongs to the world of form. She led us to look beneath the surface, behind the form; to make the principle the real motive power of our life and conduct. To her the term Theosophy meant something infinitely more than could be set before the world in any “Key to Theosophy”, or “Secret Doctrine”. The nearest approach to it in any of her published works is in “The Voice of the Silence”; yet even that conveys but imperfectly what she would - had the world been able to receive it - have taught and included in the term Theosophy.

The keynote of her teachings, the keynote of her life, was Self-sacrifice.

“But stay, Disciple …..  Yet one word. Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION? Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of LAWS - eternal Harmony, Alaya’s SELF; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right, and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal …… Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva - Compassion speaks and saith: ‘Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?’ ”

And thus though doctrinal Theosophy speaks of Devachan and Nirvana: of rest for the weary storm-tossed pilgrim of life; of a final goal of bliss past all thought and conceiving; yet, to those who are able to receive it, it says that there is something higher and nobler still, that though thrice great is he who has “crossed and won the Aryahata Path”, he is greater still, who having won the prize can put it aside, and “remain unselfish till the endless end.”

And so H.P.B. often pointed out to us those men and women who were true Theosophists, though they stood outside of the Theosophical movement, and even appeared antagonistic to it. Already in the world, a Theosophist has come to mean someone who believes in reincarnation and Karma, or some other distinctive doctrine. But the term was never so limited in its application by the great founder of the Theosophical Society. She taught these doctrines in order that men might dissociate themselves from all forms of doctrine, and reach “Alaya’s Self”. There is no older doctrine than this of Divine Compassion, of Universal Brotherhood. It is the essence of all the teachings of all the Buddhas and Christs the world has ever known. It is above all doctrines, all creeds, all formulas; it is the essence of all religion. Yet men ever miss it, miss the one principle which alone can save the world, and take refuge instead in the selfish desires of their lower nature.

Individualism is the keynote of modern civilization; competition and survival of the fittest, the practical basis of our morality. Our modern philosophers and scientific teachers do all that is possible to reduce man to the level of an animal, to show his parentage, his ancestry and his genius as belonging to brute creation, and conditioned by brutal laws of blind force and dead matter. What wonder then that one who believed so ardently in the divine nature of man, in the divine law of love, should oppose with scornful contempt the teachings of both religion and science which thus degrade humanity.

And she paid the inevitable penalty. Misunderstood, slandered, and vilified to the last degree, she lived a hero’s life, and died a martyr’s death. Only those who were her intimate friends knew how she suffered, mentally and bodily. The man who dies with his face to the foe, fighting to the last though covered with wounds, is accounted a hero. But in the heat of battle there is oblivion of pain, there is a superhuman strength of madness and frenzy. How much more should be accounted a hero who could hold on to life, and work as no other woman has worked, through years of physical and mental torture.

Some few years ago she was at death’s door. Humanly speaking, she ought to have died then. She was given up by the doctors; she herself knew she was dying, and rejoiced greatly. But the Master came to her, showed her the work that must still be done, and have her choice - the bliss of dying or the cross of living.

She chose the cross. And thus not merely did she teach us the meaning of Theosophy by precept, but also by example. She was herself the greatest of the Theosophists, not merely because she founded the movement, and restored to the world the treasures of ancient wisdom, but because she herself had made the “Great Renunciation”.


[1] “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues”, by H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 2014. (CCA)

[2] On Kingsland’s resignation from the Adyar Society after it abandoned the original theosophy, see “An Open Letter to Annie Besant”, by Alice Leighton Cleather, which is published in our associated websites. (CCA)

[3] This article first appeared in July 1891 at “Lucifer” magazine, London, pp. 385-387. (The reader will remember that the word “Lucifer” is an ancient name for the planet Venus, whose meaning has been distorted by theologians since the Middle Ages.) Kingsland’s text was also published in the volume “In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky”, by Some of Her Pupils, first edition, Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1891, 96 pp.; facsimile edition, 1991, The Theosophical Publishing House Ltd., London, see pp. 78-80. (CCA)


In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.