White Lotus Day

EVERY year on what is called White Lotus Day, May 8th, theosophists all over the world celebrate the anniversary of the passing of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society.

A world-famous figure of mystery and controversy and a leading intellect behind the occult revival in the West, Blavatsky published The Secret Doctrine in 1888 as her magnum opus.

“The time had now come when it was necessary to speak plainly about the real interpretation of the spiritualistic manifestations,” wrote Charles J. Ryan, an early student of Theosophy.

“H. P. Blavatsky had gained the attention of the public by her brilliant intelligence, the charm of her striking personality, and her slashing attacks on materialism and other evils. Her voice would now be listened to and recognized as speaking with authority.”

In her will, HPB suggested that her friends might gather together on the anniversary of her passing (May 8, 1891) and read from poet Sir Edwin Arnold‘s The Light of Asia, and from the ancient Hindu scripture The Bhagavad-Gita.

Lotuses grew in unusual profusion in India on that day. May 8th became known as White Lotus Day ever since.

“That which men call death is but a change of location for the Ego, a mere transformation, a forsaking for a time of the mortal frame,” wrote her friend and colleague William Q. Judge

“a short period of rest before one reassumes another human frame in the world of mortals.”

“The Lord of this body is nameless — dwelling in numerous tenements of clay, it appears to come and go. But neither death nor time can claim it, for it is deathless, unchangeable, and pure, beyond Time itself, and not to be measured.”

A New Humanity

The Unveiling

“I met H. P. B. in 1875 in the city of New York where she was living in Irving Place. There she suggested the formation of the Theosophical Society, lending to its beginning the power of her individuality and giving to its President and those who have stood by it ever since the knowledge of the existence of the Blessed Masters.

“In 1877 she wrote Isis Unveiled in my presence, and helped in the proof reading by the President of the Society.

“This book she declared to me then was intended to aid the cause for the advancement of which the Theosophical Society was founded. Of this I speak with knowledge, for I was present and at her request drew up the contract for its publication between her and her New York publisher. When that document was signed she said to me in the street. ‘Now I must go to India.'”

The Divine

When asked if Theosophy was some newfangled religion, Mme. Blavatsky replied,”It is not.” One of the main purposes of this Society was “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.”

She also referred to the ancient esoteric tradition as “Divine Wisdom,” explaining “Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science,” and forms the “substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies, taught and practiced since man became a thinking being.”

“In its practical bearing,
Theosophy is purely divine ethics.”


Upon launching Theosophy, Blavatsky and her Teachers chose to publicize its existence by associating temporarily with the popular spiritualism movement of the time. But very soon there was a falling out when Blavatsky openly warned the popular craze was an unhealthy worship of the dead, and held serious mental and psychic consequences for its wide-eyed adherents.

Secret Influences

“Theosophy” was the name given to the initial society and movement founded by Madame Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others in New York City in 1875. Since that time, the movement has spread worldwide and branched off into different groups and organizations.

The driving force was Blavatsky herself and her occult writings, most notably The Secret Doctrine, and the indomitable spiritual will of her hidden Teachers, certain Indian Masters called Mahatmas in Sanskrit.

How She Did It

In his Path magazine article Authorship of The Secret Doctrine, Willliam Q. Judge confirms the occult methods used in the writing of Isis Unveiled, and later of the Secret Doctrine. “No secret was made of it, for those who were with [Blavatsky] saw day after day

“that she could gaze with ease into the astral light and glean whatever she wanted.” 


“But in the early days she did not say precisely to the public that she was in fact helped in that work by the Masters, who gave from time to time certain facts she could not get otherwise,” Judge reveals. “Hence the Secret Doctrine was written, and mostly by the Masters themselves, except that she did the arranging of it.”

A Trailblazer

Theosophy blossomed like the lotus, and continues to ignite new ways of frontier thinking that humanity might realize its potential for universal brotherhood, harmony, and peace. “There is no Religion Higher than Truth” became its signature mantra. Social historian Theodore Roszak ranked H. P. Blavatsky:

“… among the modern world’s trailblazing psychologists of the visionary mind.”

In her quest for truth and universal brotherhood, H. P. Blavatsky opened a new realm of ideas to the world, influencing poets, writers, artists, philosophers, and scientists alike. Among them Yeats, James Joyce, L. Frank Baum, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Scriabin, Gandhi, William James, Thomas Edison — and even Einstein’s ideas had a distinct metaphysical flavor.

Occult NYC

An Extraordinary Life

A product of 14 years’ research and writing, “this book portrays HPB’s supporters and detractors, using newly uncovered materials to present as complete a biography of this enigmatic woman and her wisdom as possible” (Booklist, American Library Association). An important addition to theosophical history.

Click to purchase

Also by Sylvia Cranston: Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery : An East-West Dialogue on Death and Rebirth from the Worlds of Religion, Science, Psychology, Philosophy (Paperback).

“What I said last year remains true today,” Blavatsky wrote, “that the Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts.

“The [psychic laws] relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man — the reincarnating Ego.

“We are outwardly creatures of but a day — within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races.”

Magnum Opus

“The Secret Doctrine, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s masterwork on the origin and evolution of the universe and humanity itself

is arguably the most famous, and perhaps the most influential, occult book ever written.”


Occult America

“Occult America: the Secret History of how Mysticism shaped our Nation” by Mitch Horowitz. New York: Bantam Books, September 8, 2009. Hardcover. 304 p.

(Buy at Amazon)

“There has long been a need for an overview on the influence of esoteric movements in America. Catherine L. Albanese’s 2007 A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion while exemplary in many ways is simply too detailed at 628 pages for anyone other than the specialist.

“In her approach occult, esoteric, and gnostic beliefs are subsumed under the larger rubric of metaphysical, and while acknowledging them with a passing reference they play no dominant part in the narrative.

“Mitch Horowitz attempts to rectify this with the colorful history of some of the leading exponents in occult America.

“Starting with the Shakers it quickly moves through the American reception of mesmerism, the development of spiritualism, the growth of Theosophy and New Thought.”

“Along the way he deals with charismatic figures like Andrew Jackson Davis (whom Olcott and Blavatsky knew), Edgar Cayce, and Manly Palmer Hall.

“His treatment of Theosophy is depicted through Olcott’s contribution, usually neglected, during its formative period, and since the focus is on America, leaves off after the departure for India.”

The Shakers, USA Circa 1780

“The portrayal of Blavatsky is neutral, though more sympathetic than works of this kind. The index contains 16 references to her. What Horowitz manages to do, and successfully so, is to show the contribution to the inner life of America by these often disparate figures who were united in their vision of a world made better by better people.”

Time for TED

This rousing video (blog.TED.com) was produced by John Boswell of the “Symphony of Science,” who came to TED2012 and made this remix of the speakers onstage. Think Theosophy, and how its ideas are changing the world, influencing the frontier thinkers of our century, and centuries to come.

The Time is Now

Frontier thinkers in science, religion, psychology and consciousness were welcomed and frequently promoted by H. P. Blavatsky in her books and articles. The same point of view inspires the editorship of Theosophy Watch.

Ideas relevant to Mme. Blavatsky’s original Theosophy and its declared objects was exemplified in a phrase coined by her —”Ancient Thought in Modern Dress,” the adopted subtitle of this blog.

“WE are outwardly creatures of but a day — within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races.”

– H. P. Blavatsky


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7 responses to “White Lotus Day

  1. Pingback: The history of Madame Blavatsky-Movie | Villa Manor

  2. White Lotus Day provides theosophists with an opportunity to renew their gratitude to the great teacher who brought inspiration into our lives: “What man has done man can do.” If HPB and the Masters have achieved, so can we. Let us keep Theosophy as a guiding principle in our day-to-day life.

  3. What an incredible demonstration of the powers of man, and put to the highest use of it at that – that HPB was able to look into the astral plane, and with guidance from the Masters, obtain all the information needed to write down the Secret Doctrine. So, to be in her presence was to witness the living embodiment of the truths she wrote down – in action!…I feel it had to be impossible, no matter how great the souls around her, to not be in absolute awe of her, the teachings, and the teachers. What an amazing privilege it must have felt like to be a witness to this, knowing the world, willingly or unwillingly, would be changed by it…thank you for this, NAMASTE ALL!

    • Yes, its hard to imagine the world today without the foundation They (including HPB) built, rooted so deeply in the the Perennial Occult Philosophy and Science. They gave the needed boost to the spiritual, the “soul of things” at a time when the world was becoming ever more obsessed with material science and religion. It was a critical juncture. In retrospect, the timing was impeccable. The ‘hundred year cycle’ of re-presentation for the first time had got a firm foothold on the mind and heart of humanity, an influence that would thread its way through the following centuries, a result all other efforts had failed to achieve: The Secret Doctrine 1:272:

      “Let us recapitulate and show, by the vastness of the subjects expounded, how difficult, if not impossible, it is to do them full justice.

      “(1.) The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Puranas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the “soul of things,” and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the ‘Wise Men’ of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions — so obtained as to stand as independent evidence — of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.”

      Secret Doctrine 1:272-3

  4. HAPPY WHITE LOTUS DAY!…HAPPY WHITE LOTUS DAY!…HAPPY WHITE LOTUS DAY!…What a wonderful post, thank you so much, TW…Precious and rare, the tremendous opportunity and gift we have in HPB and the Masters of Wisdom. It must have been quite something to be in her presence in those salons in those days. I am grateful to them and all their teachers who every single day elevate, sustain our world, helping us, waiting patiently for us to grab hold of these ideas and consciously make them the foundation of our reality. I am grateful for Theosophy Watch and for Theosophy. Hands down my favorite place in Manhattan is Grand Central Station. From a child, I’ve always loved it, a definite feeling of inspiration is Still There…a jewel…but, I must say I have a whole new level of respect for Eighth Avenue @ 47th Street! Thank you again, NAMASTE ALL.

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