Dual Sides of Occultism: From Dugpas in Theosophy to Popular Fiction

The theme of dual-sides of Occultism in popular fiction taught by theosophists and in esoteric instructions:

Despite all that we elucidate upon, people are convinced of the existences of true manifested and corporeal evil, and this is what they want to know about. Meaning, not primarily begotten by the human mind, but of supernatural origin. We would like to explain such subjects from our philosophy, but this is a question many of you have probably been asking yourselves. Now, many of the popular themes we’ve grown up with, from Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, &c., have all shown a common struggle between two forces — “two schools of magic” or opposing fraternities of secret societies versus a hero.

Such fictional theme was last depicted in Marvel’s Dr. Strange (2016).

This theme shows up in Tibetan Buddhism, where the belief in black magic, good spirits and bad spirits, are apart of its foundations. We’ve taken a passage from The Key to Theosophy (published in 1889), in which the enquirer is asking the theosophist (i.e., H.P. Blavatsky) questions about the Theosophical system. Enquirer asks are Blavatsky’s superiors Devils or ‘Spirits of Light?’ She says, no they are mortal men. 

Then H.P.B. speaks of counterpart “sorcerers” —

“Even the students of occultism, though some of them have more archaic MSS. and direct teaching to rely upon, find it difficult to draw a line of demarcation between the Sodales [adepts] of the Right path and those of the Left.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pg. 211.)

“The Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, is but a series of historical records of the great struggle between white and black Magic, between the Adepts of the right path, the Prophets, and those of the Left, the Levites, the clergy of the brutal masses (…) That there were two schools of Magic, and the orthodox Levites did not belong to the holy one, is shown in the words pronounced by the dying Jacob.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pg. 211)

K.H. and M. explains in their letters with Sinnett and Hume, that their adversaries are various, e.g., embodied, and disembodied. Even mentioning, those “unborn.” So, the issue is more complex than Christian lore, since it is from other cultures and spiritual lineage.

Dugpas and the Druk-pa Lineage

This issue surrounds the term, “Dugpa” and the Drukpa Lineage. It was used by Blavatsky when she referred to red-hat or red-cap sects of Tibetan Buddhism, like the Nyigmapas, Kagyupas, Sakyapas, and pre-Buddhist natives Böns, that were not reformed under Tsong-Kapa. The`Brug-pa are a sub-sect of the red-cap sect Kagyupa, known in the main school of Buddhism in Bhutan, as the “Drukpa Kargyu.”

Blavatsky used the term when referring to Nyingmapas and Shammars in Bhutan, but seems to overly use the term dugpa as a synonym for black magic. She seems to apply the term dug-pa to all non-gelugpa Buddhism, which is like accusing them all of being black magicians; but this also reflects inter-religious conflict in that period. On the Shammars, according to H.P.B., they’re described as “an offshoot of the Bön religion—itself a degenerated remnant of the Chaldean mysteries of old, now a religion entirely based upon necromancy, sorcery and sooth-saying” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 4, pg. 15 fn.).

“The “Dug-pa‡ or Red Caps” belong to the old Nyang-na-pa sect, who resisted the religious reform introduced by Tsong-kha-pa between the latter part of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries. It was only after a lama coming to them from Tibet in the tenth century had converted them from the old Buddhist faith so strongly mixed up with the Bhon practices of the aborigines–into the Shammar sect, that, in opposition to the reformed “Gyelukpas,” the Bhootanese set up a regular system of reincarnations.”

‡The term “Dug-pa” in Tibet is deprecatory. They themselves pronounce it “Dög-pa” from the root to “bind” (religious binders to the old faith): while the paramount sect–the Gyeluk-pa (yellow caps)—and the people, use the word in the sense of “Dug-pa” mischief-makers, sorcerers. The Bhootanese are generally called Dug-pa throughout Tibet and even in some parts of Northern India.”

—Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 4, pp. 9-10.

Theosophists note, that references to this Bhutanese sect should not be taken in a general sense:

“In Sikkim and Tibet they are called Dug-pas (red-caps), in contra-distinction to the Geluk-pas (yellow-caps), to which latter most of the adepts belong. And here we must beg the reader not to misunderstand us. For though the whole of Bhûtan and Sikkim belongs to the old religion of the Bhons, now known generally as the Dug-pas, we do not mean to have it understood that the whole of the population is possessed, en masse, or that they are all sorcerers. Among them are found as good men as anywhere else, and we speak above only of the élite of their Lamaseries, of a nucleus of priests, “devil-dancers,” and fetish worshippers, whose dreadful and mysterious rites are utterly unknown to the greater part of the population.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 6, pg. 198)

Adeptship and Human Development

About “unknown superiors,” it is said —

“Our MASTERS (…) are simply holy mortals (…) higher than any in this world, morally, intellectually and spiritually.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 7, pg. 242)

“Adeptship is a logical necessity in the natural order of human development.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 11, pg. 399)

“…Think of us as demi-gods and my explanation will not satisfy you; view us as simple men — perhaps a little wiser as the result of special study — and it ought to answer your objection.” (K.H., The Mahatma Letters, Letter no. 1 to A.O. Hume, Amritsur, Nov. 1, 1880)

Bane: Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated…but we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows!” (Batman: The Dark Knight Rises)


The Two Types of Adepts

“THEOSOPHIST. On the contrary, it is a well-established fact that a Hypnotist can affect the brain of his subject so far as to produce an expression of his own thoughts, and even his words, through the organism of his subject; and although the phenomena attaching to this method of actual thought transference are as yet few in number, no one, I presume, will undertake to say how far their action may extend in the future, when the laws that govern their production are more scientifically established. And so, if such results can be produced by the knowledge of the mere rudiments of Hypnotism, what can prevent the Adept in Psychic and Spiritual powers from producing results which, with your present limited knowledge of their laws, you are inclined to call “miraculous”?

ENQUIRER. Then why do not our physicians experiment and try if they could not do as much?*

*Such, for instance, as Prof. Bernheim and Dr. C. Lloyd Tuckey, of England; Professors Beaunis and Liegeois, of Nancy; Delboeuf of Liege; Burot and Bourru, of Rochefort; Fontain and Sigard, of Bordeaux; Forel, of Zurich; and Drs. Despine, of Marseilles; Van Renterghem and Van Eeden, of Amsterdam; Wetterstrand, of Stockholm; Schrenck-Notzing, of Leipzig, and many other physicians and writers of eminence.

THEOSOPHIST. Because, first of all, they are not Adepts with a thorough understanding of the secrets and laws of psychic and spiritual realms, but materialists, afraid to step outside the narrow groove of matter; and, secondly, because they must fail at present, and indeed until they are brought to acknowledge that such powers are attainable.

ENQUIRER. And could they be taught?

THEOSOPHIST. Not unless they were first of all prepared, by having the materialistic dross they have accumulated in their brains swept away to the very last atom.

ENQUIRER. This is very interesting. Tell me, have the Adepts thus inspired or dictated to many of your Theosophists?

THEOSOPHIST. No, on the contrary, to very few. Such operations require special conditions. An unscrupulous but skilled Adept of the Black Brotherhood (“Brothers of the Shadow,” and Dugpas†, we call them) has far less difficulties to labour under. For, having no laws of the Spiritual kind to trammel his actions, such a Dugpa “sorcerer” will most unceremoniously obtain control over any mind, and subject it entirely to his evil powers. But our Masters will never do that. They have no right, except by falling into Black Magic, to obtain full mastery over anyone’s immortal Ego, and can therefore act only on the physical and psychic nature of the subject, leaving thereby the free will of the latter wholly undisturbed. Hence, unless a person has been brought into psychic relationship with the Masters, and is assisted by virtue of his full faith in, and devotion to, his Teachers, the latter, whenever transmitting their thoughts to one with whom these conditions are not fulfilled, experience great difficulties in penetrating into the cloudy chaos of that person’s sphere. But this is no place to treat of a subject of this nature. Suffice it to say, that if the power exists, then there are Intelligences (embodied or disembodied) which guide this power, and living conscious instruments through whom it is transmitted and by whom it is received. We have only to beware of black magic.

ENQUIRER. But what do you really mean by “black magic”?

THEOSOPHIST. Simply abuse of psychic powers, or of any secret of nature; the fact of applying to selfish and sinful ends the powers of Occultism. A hypnotiser, who, taking advantage of his powers of “suggestion,” forces a subject to steal or murder, would be called a black magician by us. The famous “rejuvenating system”‡ of Dr. Brown-Sequard, of Paris, through a loathsome animal injection into human blood — a discovery all the medical papers of Europe are now discussing — if true, is unconscious black magic.

ENQUIRER. But this is mediaeval belief in witchcraft and sorcery! Even Law itself has ceased to believe in such things?

THEOSOPHIST. So much the worse for law, as it has been led, through such a lack of discrimination, into committing more than one judiciary mistake and crime. It is the term alone that frightens you with its “superstitious” ring in it. (…) You cannot believe in the efficacy and reality of the powers of suggestion by physicians and mesmerisers (or hypnotisers), and then refuse to believe in the same powers when used for evil motives. And if you do, then you believe in Sorcery. You cannot believe in good and disbelieve in evil, accept genuine money and refuse to credit such a thing as false coin. Nothing can exist without its contrast, and no day, no light, no good could have any representation as such in your consciousness, were there no night, darkness nor evil to offset and contrast them.

ENQUIRER. Indeed, I have known men, who, while thoroughly believing in that which you call great psychic, or magic powers, laughed at the very mention of Witchcraft and Sorcery.

THEOSOPHIST. What does it prove? Simply that they are illogical. So much the worse for them, again. And we, knowing as we do of the existence of good and holy Adepts, believe as thoroughly in the existence of bad and unholy Adepts, or — Dugpas.§”

Here again, dugpa is used as a synonym for “unholy Adepts.” It is best not to copy that terminology. There is an adjective gdug (adj.) or gdug pa for poisonous; malevolent; evil, etc., etc. The term gdug pa klu refers to vicious nagas, and gdug pa can to evil person; harmful; cruel, wicked, vicious, savage. It has been noted however, that gdug pa is not a noun, and wouldn’t work, nor is it related to `brugpa linguistically. The use of the term dugpa has been said to reflect prejudices within Tibet then, and the Western usage of the term.


† Dugpa or `brug-pa. See Who Are the Dugpas in Theosophical Writings?”
‡ For example, Adolf Hitler used ‘Bulls Semen,’ as rejuvenation. See link. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/10/14/adolf-hitler-crystal-meth-bulls-semen-doctor_n_5983282.html.

§ One imperfect, but in this case applicable analogy, would be similar to Nolan’s Batman: a) students and adepts subsumed by the monad equals sympathetic morals and ethics of Bruce Wayne (kind of similar analogy); and b) students and adepts subsumed by the Astral light equals the twisted morals and ethics of Henri Ducard. Different thought, or motives, are sufficient to drive you into two different directions (i.e., centrifugal or centripetal), whether conscious or unconscious (or ‘not knowing what you do’).

K.H., Commentaries on H.P.B.’s Esoteric Instructions I and II by K.H., pg. 10, last line, Par. 2: “It is impossible to worship both sides, – the male and female of nature, – at once; one or the other must predominate. Only by following the absolute, sexless Unity, can the white path be trodden. Hence the necessity for chastity. The occult and the physical must never be mixed up. It is absolutely necessary to concentrate on one or the other. The tendency naturally is to Black Magic, and that is why several years of training are necessary to cut away every sort of prejudice before power can be entrusted to you. Before you can become an occultist you have to give up every prejudice, every liking, every feeling of preference for one thing or another. The adept must entirely separate himself from his personality. He must say, I am a power! It is easy to fall into Black Magic. A black magician prepares to do mischief without giving a thought to whether it will harm others. He is essentially selfish, for he works for a thing he personally loves. Apparent unselfishness may be really selfishness. A deed of kindness done with partiality may become evil, viz., by stirring up animosity in the minds of others. It is necessary when acting to lose all sense of identity and become an abstract power. There is good and evil in every point in the universe, and if one works however indirectly for one’s own partiality, one becomes to that extent a black magician. The opposite of Justice is partiality. When a man uses the powers of Nature indiscriminatingly, with partiality, and with no regard to justice, it is Black Magic. But to help a sick person is not Black Magic, but no personal preference must guide you. Like a blackleg, a black magician acts on certain knowledge. Magic is power over the forces of nature, viz., the Salvation Army by hypnotizing people and making them psychically drunk with excitement, is Black Magic. Bismarck and Beaconsfield are types of black magicians.

On the astral and psychic planes the Masters are always stronger than the Dugpas, because there, good is stronger than evil.  But on our material plane, evil is stronger than good, and the Adepts having to exercise cunning if acting on this plane (which is contrary to their natures), encounter great difficulty and can only palliate evil effects. In powers not good there is an absence of good, but not presence of evil, and the higher you go, the more does evil become the absence of good. The first exercise of Dugpaship is to psychologize people. Every man has a potential Dugpa in him. (…) A Dugpa may become converted during life, at the expense of terrible suffering and trials. Dugpas are usually destroyed by Kundalini, the astral fire. They consume themselves. The Dugpa is forced to his own destruction. He becomes fascinated, runs into the evil current and so destroys himself. The beasts of Dugpas have nothing but the animal in them, and even when they awaken the highest spirituality in them, it is the spirituality of the beast where there is nothing but vile, selfish instinct. On earth there is no evil power higher than the Dugpas. They cannot when seen psychically conceal the presence of red about them. It is always visible in their aura. The color is deep crimson red. The sign of the presence of a Dugpa is a cold, clammy, empty, snaky feeling. Do not mistake the above for another feeling, viz., when chelas materialize they create a vacuum around them, which feels to us like a change of atmosphere, like being suddenly removed to a high plateau in Thibet. (The one a dry cold like high atmosphere, the other clammy).”
¹ Helena Blavatsky. The Key to Theosophy, Section 14: Theosophical Mahatmas.


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