The Disciples of ‘Esoteric Buddhism’: Charles J. Ryan and Vladimir Solovyov on the Adepts

Contrary to what this Wiki article claims, Theosophy did not merely borrow concepts and terms from Buddhism. This is customary theorizing within academia, like a formulaic and predictable conclusion grafted onto everything. Consider the following:

“But before the Orientalists are able to prove that the doctrines as taught in Mr. Sinnett’s exposition are “not Buddhism, esoteric or exoteric,” they will have to make away with the thousands of Brahmanical Adwaitee and other Vedantin writings—the works of Sankaracharya in particular,—from which it can be proved that precisely the same doctrines are taught in those works, esoterically.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 5, pg. 344)

The Trans-Himalayan School’s system has been referred to as ‘Pre-Vedic Brahmanism’ or the ‘Universal Wisdom-Religion.’

“We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of all these sects—Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included—but sprang from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once universal religion, which antedated the Vedic ages—we speak of that prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, 1877, Vol. 2, pg. 123.)

“We repeat again, Buddhism is but the primitive source of Brahmanism.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. 2, pg. 169.)

“Pre-Vedic Brahmanism and Buddhism are the double source from which all religions sprang (…)” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. 2, pg. 639)

The theosophists, at first criticised, have never stated they were a new sect of Buddhists, nor teaching popular Buddhism. As Morya addresses in a correspondence, advising Hindu Theosophists who’d follow the system, to abandon caste and belief in God and Gods:

What have we, the disciples of the true Arhats, of esoteric Buddhism and of Sang-gyas [Buddha] to do with the Shastras and Orthodox Brahmanism? There are 100 of thousands of Fakirs, Sannyasis and Sadhus leading the most pure lives, and yet being as they are, on the path of error, never having had an opportunity to meet, see or even hear of us. Their forefathers have driven away the followers of the only true philosophy upon earth from India and now it is not for the latter to come to them but for them to come to us if they want us. Which of them is ready to become a Buddhist, a Nastika as they call us? None. Those who have believed and followed us have had their reward.” (Morya, The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, no. 134, Dehra Dun, Dec. 4)

The theosophists desired to restore the philosophy and ethic of the Wisdom-Religion, that was once the “inheritance of all the nations, the world over (…)” (H.P. Blavatsky. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xvii-xviii.).

William Quan Judge had stated, that:

“(…) on my asking her [Blavatsky] in 1875 what could the Masters’ belief be called she told me they might be designated “pre-Vedic Buddhists,” but that no one would now admit there was any Buddhism before the Vedas, so I had best think of them as Esoteric Budhists.” (The Path, vol. 9, March 1895, p. 431.)

Charles J. Ryan wrote:

“The foreign names include among many other notabilities such famous ones as William James, Bret Harte, Eduard von Hartmann, Jules Simon, and Paul Bourget. The same copy of the magazine contains a long and appreciative review article of H. P. Blavatsky’s The Key to Theosophy by the great Russian philosopher, Professor Vladimir Solovyoff, who was a kind of Russian Herbert Spencer in reputation, though more spiritual in outlook. (He must not be confused with H.P.B.’s false friend, Vsevolod Solovyoff who slandered her after her death when she could no longer expose his vindictive misunderstandings and misrepresentations.) The eminent reviewer shows great acumen and a profound knowledge of Eastern philosophies, and he immediately recognized the serious importance of his author’s presentation of theosophy. He was deeply interested in the revival of the wisdom-teaching of Bodhi or Budhi which H.P.B. makes clear and which he distinguishes from exoteric Buddhism, observing that theosophy, or what he calls “Neo-Budhism,”† is not “an embroidery upon the doctrine of Gautama.” He strongly approves of H.P.B.’s emphasis upon the concept that the individuality in man is a pure ray from the universal Principle, refracted through the personal human consciousness. In regard to her revelation of the inner meaning, he points out that it is not found in the best-known systems of Hindu philosophy, although they offer no small number of diverse opinions not suggested by H. P. Blavatsky, who gave the pure wisdom-teaching, Bodhi. An interesting passage, translated from Professor Solovyoff’s article on The Key to Theosophy, reads:

“It has been said that Theosophy is a paying proposition and that a good deal of money can be made through it. The same opponent also claims that the Tibetan Guides of the Society, Mahatmans and Chelas, have never existed but were invented by H. P. Blavatsky. To the first accusation the author answers by convincing data and figures; as to the second, we ourselves, a disinterested party in the matter, can vouch that it is false. How could H. P. Blavatsky have invented the Tibetan Brotherhood or the Order of the Chelas, when it is easy to find definite and authentic data regarding the existence and character of this Brotherhood‡ in the book of the French missionary Huc [Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China], who visited Tibet in the early forties, i.e., some thirty years before the founding of the Theosophical Society.

However it may be, and having taken due account of all the theoretical and ethical shortcomings of the Theosophical Society, it is evident that this society, whether in its present form or otherwise, and the Neo-Budhist movement reawakened by its efforts, have an important historical role to play in the near future . . . This latest work of H. P. Blavatsky is particularly interesting to us because it presents Buddhism from a new angle, unsuspected heretofore, i.e., as a religious movement without dogmas or creeds and yet with a very definite and unique trend (toward the raising of man to Divine Self-Evolution, and against the belief in any superhuman principle) . . . .”

The careful use of the words Budhism and Buddhism in Prof. Solovyoff’s article show his clear understanding of the distinction H. P. Blavatsky made between the ancient wisdom (Budhism) and the exoteric religion called after the Buddha, the enlightened Teacher” (Charles J. Ryan, see H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement).


“Many prefer to call themselves Buddhists not because the word attaches itself to the ecclesiastical system built upon the basic ideas of our Lord Gautama Buddha’s philosophy, but because of the Sanskrit word “Buddhi” — wisdom, enlightenment; and as a silent protest to the vain rituals and empty ceremonials, which have in too many cases been productive of the greatest calamities. Such also is the origin of the Chaldean term Mage.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, no. 85, Dec. 7, 1883)


Buddha vs Budha

† It has been 132 years, since Alfred P. Sinnett’s “Esoteric Buddhism” was first published, which is a record of the unique philosophy A.P. Sinnett summarised. There’s a difference between Budhism (Budha or Mercury) and Buddhism (religion of Buddha “the Enlightened” or “Buddhaïsm” she alternatively suggests). The term, Budha, pre-dating the Vedas, is personified in the Puranas; and it means wisdom or intelligence, described as the “son of Soma” (Lunus). Soma was a once celebrated Védic god who “represents and animates the juice of the Soma plant.” Soma was known in Italy, as Bacchus.

“THIS SOMA IS A GOD; HE CURES
THE SHARPEST ILLS THAT MAN ENDURES.
HE HEALS THE SICK, THE SAD HE CHEERS,
HE NERVES THE WEAK, DISPEL THEIR FEARS…”

Soma, gave man, the Soma Pavamana in the Rig Vedas utters, “kinship with the Gods,” and is higher than Indra.

“This Budha, son of Soma, and regent of the planet Mercury, must not be confounded with Buddha*, the teacher whose tenets are held by the Buddhists of the present day. The two beings have nothing in common; and the names are identical only when one or other of them is misspelt” said W.J. Wilkins, in “Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic” (p. 69, 1900).

*Buddha, or Gautama is the sage. Buddha is actually a title. Budha (or Mercury) is the personification of secret wisdom.

Budha and Sophia are synonymous. Budha, is simply a reference to Vidya (knowledge), or the faculty of cognising. The terms, Buddha, Bodha, Buddhi, or Bodhi, are the same, and linked in the process of liberation from illusion, and attainment of divine intelligence, which is innate. Western metaphysics have similar concepts.

H.P.B. on Solovioff and S.P.R.

‡ “A Tibetan who came back with the Prjivolsky expedition (or after it) — ‘a plant doctor’ they call him as he produces mysterious cures with simples, told Solovioff [Vsevolod] and others it appears, that they were all fools and the S.P.R. asses and imbeciles, since all educated Tibet and China know of the existence of the ‘Brotherhood in the Snowy Range,’ I am accused of having invented; and that he, himself, knows several ‘Masters’ personally.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Letters of H.P.B. to A.P. Sinnett, no. 104, Jan. 10, 1887)

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