William Q. Judge in The Vahan: Why Criticize the Western Systems of Occultism?

William Quan Judge answers why H.P.B. criticizes Western Occultism.

The Vâhan, Vol. 1., no. 12., 1891. pg. 5

“Query.—How is it that H.P.B. so severely criticizes the Western systems of Occultism and yet admits in some of her writings that they lead to the same end as the Eastern systems?

Ans.—H.P.B. knew that the system was based upon the primeval revelations given to the early races of mankind, and that it had been carefully guarded and taught only under correctly strict conditions, which were actually part of that revelation. Thus it has remained pure and undefiled and is felt as such by all aspirants to its mysteries. On the other hand, the Western systems reached the Europeans through the Egyptians and more especially through the Mosaic channel, by which the primal truths became coloured and distorted, a fact due first of all to the corrupt motives which induced to their study, and secondly to the faulty interpretations given to the traditions by individual writers. The history of Western Occultism shows it to be nothing less than a pot-pourri of individual research and speculation, which disfigured the original truths almost beyond recognition. The Jewish tradition, which is the basis of Western Occultism, is full of national egotism. The Jews claim to be a chosen people, and to this all their Occultism is subservient (…)

By W.Q.J.—It is very true that all systems of Occultism lead to the same end, since all must be based on similar principles however distorted some may be in practice., but the road by one will be more difficult than by another until the real highway of Universal Occultism is reached.

It was thought by H.P.B. that true Eastern Occultism was the primeval system and hence better than the Western. For the Western is all overgrown with the weeds sown by Judaism in the beginning and mediaeval Christianity in the end. So it will be found that although at bottom Western Occultism has the same doctrines as the Eastern, a vast mass of rubbish has to be carried off in order to get at the truth. Anyone who will dive into Rosicrucianism will find those difficulties. It must always be borne in mind, too, that H.P.B. in speaking of Eastern Occultism had in view the real thing and not the many systems in India which would juggle the student quite as much as the things in the Western schools.

Speaking for my own beliefs, I do not think Western Occultism is worthy of the name and is only a hodgepodge that produces confusion when the mere outer crust of virtuous living is mastered. It leads to saintliness but not to that higher knowledge which must be added to the good in order to make them also the wise.”

Query.—Is it well to talk about Occultism to the ordinary enquirer into Theosophy?

Ans. (W.Q.J.)—It is better not to do so. Ordinary enquirers may be attracted to Theosophy because of its mysterious appearance, but that is no reason for giving them what they demand. For surely later on they will find that the pursuit of the mysteries and the occult is hedged about with many difficulties and that it demands an acquaintance with every other philosophy that ought to have been offered to them when they first enquired. Furthermore it is not the many who are fit for Occultism, but rather the few, and those soon will find their way into the path no matter how they may have approached it. Enquirers will then be directed to this philosophy and the ethics of the Theosophical system, as true Occultism springs from philosophy, and its practice is alone safely possible for those who have a right system of ethics.”


  1. Reply

    Some deeper reasons for preferring Eastern theosophy because of Occidental corruption:

    In HPB’s article “The Cycle Moveth” (Collected Writings 12, 120) she wrote:
    “…messengers [are] sent out westward periodically in the last quarter of every century —
    ever since the mysteries, which alone had the key to the secrets of nature, had been crushed out of existence in Europe by heathen and Christian conquerors…”

    In CW 14, 294-95, “The Last of the Mysteries in Europe” HPB said:
    “The frst strokes if its [the Mysteries’] last hour sounded in the year 47 B.C. … It was during the frst century before our era, that the last and supreme hour of the Mysteries had struck.” First Alesia and then Bibractis in Gaul were “plundered and razed.” Bibractis “was the last city in Gaul wherein died for Europe the secrets of the Initiations of the Great Mysteries…”

    She also mentioned that the beginning of the end of the European Mysteries began with the conquests of Alexander the Great around 320 B.C.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reply

      Some of the Western Occultists and Spiritualists REALLY did not like the emphasis on Eastern Esotericism. I found the criticisms weak however. It is wondered whether these Mysteries could be known more, as to their content. Their doctrines seemed more close to Asia. Christianity has seemed to draw a great line in the sand, that was not there originally in the so-called “West.”


      1. Quite so about the Xtian ‘great line’. There have been and always will be distinctions in practice & doctrine, but those are based on the differing minds, tendencies and spiritual progress of human beings. However, essentially, as Numenius & Iamblichus pointed out, all paths lead toward benefitting & uplifting beings on the Path. One could do worse than study the Initiate Iamblichus’ on the Mysteries. Thomas Taylor and Alex Wilder have translations. There is a recent scholarly one by Dillion et al, also. Here is a link to Wilder’s version: http://www.esotericarchives.com/oracle/iambl_th.htm


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