An independent quarterly journal founded in 1985 London England

July 1985
Vol. 1 No. 3

Jesus in Theosophical History

The "Anacalypsis" of Godfrey Higgins – precursor of H.P.B.

Leslie Shepard


S.P.R. Archives:
The British Letter

A New Star in the East

International Conference on Theosophical History  



Some Theosophical leaders have taught that Jesus lived about 100 B.C., and that he was not crucified; they identify him with Jeschu Ben Pandera (the spelling varies, and will do so in this note) of Jewish tradition, who was stoned. This effectively undercuts orthodox Christianity - if there was no suffering "under Pontius Pilate", then there was no conventional Atonement, and if the New Testament can be wrong on so important a matter as the date and manner of death of its main character then its reliability is low.

The 100 B.C. theory (the precise date is sometimes given differently) was introduced by H.P. Blavatsky in - "Isis Unveiled" Vol. 2 p. 201. She cites Eliphas Levi "La Science Des Esprits" (Paris, Germer Balliere, 1865, a publisher with offices in London and New York also.) Levi there printed the Jewish accounts. His book has not been translated, but it is in the S.P.R. Library. Although she did not always commit herself to the theory, H.P.B. did endorse it in several places, notably in 1887 in two articles "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels" and her response in French to the Abbe Roca's "Esotericism of Christian Dogma". Both are in Collected Writings Vol. 8 - see especially pages, 189, 224, 380-2 and 460-1. Among scholars she cited Gerald Massey in support, but added (p. 380) "Our Masters affirm the Statement."

The anti-Semitic writer Nesta H. Webster "Secret Societies and Subversive Movements" (London, 1928), quoting this same article asks "Who were the Masters whose authority Madame Blavatsky here invokes? Clearly not the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood to whom she habitually refers by this term, and who can certainly not be suspected of affirming the authenticity of the Toldoth Yeshu. It is evident, then, that there were other "Masters" from whom Madame Blavatsky received this teaching, and that those other masters were Cabalists." (p. 297-8) Webster had already quoted the same Levi [39] book (Webster p. 68), whose subtitle read in part "Revelation du dogme secret des Kabbalistes ". Now the connections between Eastern and Western occult inspirers of H.P.B. are interesting and important, but Mrs. Webster's distinction does not immediately work. We do find the Eastern masters supporting the 100 B.C. theory, though the references are not as full as might be wished for such a significant matter. K.H. for example speaks of "John the Baptist having never heard of Jesus who is a spiritual abstraction and no living man of that epoch.' (M.L. Sinnett 3rd ed. p. 409). Earlier the man "Jeshu" is called "but a mortal like any of us, an adept more by his inherent purity and ignorance of real Evil that by what he had learned with his initiated Rabbis and the already (at that period) fast degenerating Egyptian hierophants and priests." (p. 339)

In 1881, too, K.H. wrote footnotes to some Levi articles, and said of the doctrine of Jesus, both public and private, "But he preached it a century before his birth." (Paradoxes of the Highest Science").

Whether Levi himself subscribed to the theory, I do not know; despite two recent biographies in English, Levi remains obscure, and in other books, speaks derisively of the theory (but was that to avoid legal trouble?) I hope to discuss his links with H.P.B. in a separate paper. (A useful starting point is the biographical essay by Boris De Zirkoff in C.W. Vol. 1. p. 491-5.) The theory about Jesus became entangled, in France especially, with anticlericalism, politics, antisemitism and occult streams little known in the English world, or to Theosophists generally.

Among later Theosophists, G. de Purucker was firm in support of the theory. His comments in 1934 about the "Real Birth-Date of Jesus" are included in "Studies in Occult Philosophy" (1945) p. 426-8. "The Statement" he noted "is made from our esoteric records; but these esoteric records also are largely based on astronomical and genuinely astrological wisdom." Each Messianic [40] Cycle of about 2160 years had its own Messiah "and the Messiah of the present Messianic Cycle was the power, the influence, working through H.P.B."

Annie Besant popularised the theory in her "Esoteric Christianity", in the chapter on "The Historical Christ". She says "The Child whose Jewish name has been turned into that of Jesus was born in Palestine B.C. 105, . . " Eventually "the human body of Jesus paid the penalty for enshrining the glorious Presence of a Teacher more than man", apparently a reference to stoning by other Jews. (4th ed. Adyar T.P.H. 1946 p. 96, 100-1).

Mrs. Besant enjoyed the clairvoyant assistance of C.W. Leadbeater on this as on other matters, though as made clear above, this theory was not a later development of Theosophy, but entered early. Leadbeater characteristically quoted "Esoteric Christianity" in his book "The Christian Creed" 2nd ed. T.P.H. 1917 p.13-4), in which also the theory of a greater Master Christ possessing Jesus is deployed. In expounding the credal statement "was crucified, dead and buried" he was obliged to explain it as allegory" (P. 81) while Pontius Pilate, historical though he was, is held to have got into the story by mistranslation (p. 80).

In the background for both these writers is clairvoyant research carried out at the turn of the century in cooperation with G.R.S. Mead, the Theosophical scholar with a special interest in Christian origins. A valuable description of this research was given by C. Jinarajadasa "Occult Investigations" (T.P.H. 1938) p. 34-40 - it is of course only one chapter in the investigations that the two made, the most famous perhaps being in occult chemistry. Jinarajadasa points out of Mead "in the end he lost all faith in the veracity of the investigations." (P. 40) - this was after he had left the T.S. and had developed doubts about his colleagues in other respects.

Mead himself alluded guardedly to these experiments in his book "Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.? (T.P.H. 1903) which was a careful account of the Jewish and early [41] Christian material relevant to the question. Speaking of the occult researchers with whom he worked he observes "Now, this handful of friends of mine who are endowed in this special fashion are unanimous in declaring that "Jeschu", the historical Jesus, lived a century before the traditional date." (p. l9) He gives the impression that there were several researchers, but I suspect it was mainly Leadbeater. Mead did not commit himself in the end of the book, and he made no appeal to the authority of the Masters.

Another Theosophist of the time, who-did eventually claim a mahatmic source (D.K.) was Alice Bailey. She taught much that was congenial to the Theosophy of her day; sometimes cited Mrs. Besant; and was aware of the symbolical value of the life of Jesus, with the crucifixion for example, representing one initiation for disciples - but she apparently had no interest in the 100 B.C. theory and accepted the traditional date. And Rudolf Steiner directly - indeed forcefully, challenged the theory. Claiming his own occult lineage, and a capacity to read the akashic records, he dated the crucifixion as 3rd April A.D. 33. He identified Jeschu teen Pandira as a forerunner and herald of Jesus of Nazareth. Pandira had lived a century before him, and was a very important individuality, the current holder in fact of the rank of Bodhisattva in the Theosophical scheme - but not the same as Christ Jesus. For good measure Steiner added that Jeschu teen Pandira was again in incarnation, preparing for the new perception of the etheric Christ in the twentieth century. Thus the clairvoyance of Steiner and Leadbeater was in opposition.

Mr. Jinarajadasa remained interested in the 100 BC theory to the end of his life. Reviewing a work on biblical criticism in "The Theosophist" June 1950, (Martin Dibelius "From Tradition to Gospel") he argued that the events had probably taken place very much earlier that at the period narrated. In the July 1950 issue, he returned to the theory, suggesting that the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947, supported the belief [42] "that the Essenes had had a Messiah who had been killed 100 years before the crucifixion.

Mr. Jinarajadasa was the last Theosophical leader to take a personal interest in the theory, but it still surfaces, both in expositions of H.P.B.'s teachings, and of those of her successors. In "The Theosophist" April 1985, Miss Rosamunde Prior, exploring the meaning today of "Gospel Truth" (p. 252) notes; "Occult Tradition with regard to the life of Jesus states that he lived a hundred years before the received date and was murdered at Lydd (or Ludd) about 70 B.C." The reference in the Fourth Gospel to the High Priest's fear that the Romans would come and take away to refer to about 70 B.C. their place and nation, is said (Lydda incidentally was a town about 25 miles from Jerusalem, an administrative centre, and the site of an early Christian community mentioned in Acts of the Apostles.)

A somewhat severe judgment of the theory is found in Gregory Tillett's biography of Leadbeater "The Elder Brother" (1982). "There is not a single reputable Biblical scholar, archaeologist or historian who supports this claim, and, on the basis of modern research, there is no reason to seriously question the traditional date for the birth of Jesus at about 5 B.C." (p. 272). As we have seen, however, this theory was not invented by Leadbeater, and has been held by persons at an opposite pole to him in theosophical thought. It is true, so far as I am aware, that the theory has not found any definite takers among biblical scholars, though the sceptical Professor George Wells who doubts if Jesus existed, more than once alludes to Mead. Even Jewish reference works accept the conventional dating. So independent a scholar as Professor Morton Smith, whose "Jesus the Magician" (1978) is of great interest to the student, accepts the fact that Jesus was executed by Pilate. Noting "the confusion produced in rabbinic material by several factors." he explains "First, the rabbis are generally ignorant of chronology and constantly guilty of absurd anachronisms. Second, they [43] habitually refer to their enemies by abusive nicknames and puns, usually bad. Third, in the case of Jesus, particularly, this practice of concealed reference has been carried to the extreme by manuscript copyists to avoid censorship." (p. 47).

However, it may be that biblical scholars are confused by the material through not realising esoteric levels to it that would make it much clearer. And the mainstream labours of biblical scholars who accept the usual date have not resulted in a generally convincing interpretation of Jesus. What we need of course is a re-examination of the evidence that updates the scholarship from Mead's time to the present; and with all respect to those who stand by occult tradition, unless this is done the case for the theory will partly go by default. Indeed it becomes one person's reading of the akashic records, or otherwise secret records, set against another. The theory is not crucial for a gnostic or esoteric interpretation of Jesus. If it became known to Jewish students of the Kabala, and thence was transmitted to Gentile students, and was passed by some Western occultists to their oriental colleagues, we can see how both H.P.B. and K.H. could have come to espouse it. But should we accept it today without more study? Too much rests upon it for it to be a passing reference in the teachings.


1. Mr. Leslie Shepard, who edited the University Books edition of "Did Jesus live 100 Years B.C.?" tells me that he has Gerald Massey's annotated copy of the Rev. S. Baring-Gould's book "The Lost and Hostile Gospels: An Essay on the Toledoth Jeschu and the Petrine and Pauline Gospels of the First Three Centuries of which Fragments Remain." (1874). This is probably Massey's main source of Jewish accounts of Jesus. Was Baring Gould's account known to H.P.B.?


2. It is important to recognise that the "Toldoth Jeshu" was not a novelty in France when Levi wrote. It had been praised by Voltaire who died in 1778. See Schonfield (cited below) p. 21. 3. Among later writers who briefly mention Mead, see:

a) "Jesus of Nazareth his life, times and teaching" by Joseph Klausner, Ph.D. (Heidelberg) who published the Hebrew edition in Jerusalem in 1922. Translated by Canon Danby, London 1925. Includes a section on Hebrew sources. Argues that Jesus is understandable in terms of the Palestinian Judaism of his day. This shocked his fellow Zionists, and will also irritate those who insist on seeing Jesus as obtaining his teaching outside Palestine, and outside Judaism.

b) "According to the Hebrews, a new translation of the Jewish Life of Jesus (Toldoth Jeshu"), with an enquiry into the nature of its sources and special relationship to the lost Gospel according to the Hebrews" by Hugh J. Schonfield (London, Duckworth, 1937).

c) "Christian Origins in Jewish Tradition" by Ernst Bammel in New Testament Studies 13 (1967) p. 317-35. (I would welcome details of later articles in theological journals that review this material. There is much solid work being done at present on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, but this often contains only passing references to the early Jewish traditions about Jesus.)

d) "Origen and the Jews, Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations in Third-Century Palestine" Nicholas R.M. De Lange. C.U.P. 1976 esp. p. 173.

4. The main text of this paper was included in my remarks to the T.S. conference "Rediscovering Gnosis: a renaissance in Christian thought?" in London on 16 June I was greatly interested that Nigel Blair, another speaker, independently raised the Steiner and Edgar Cayce teachings on the dating and background of Jesus.


A Theosophist would naturally write off Cayce's revelations as trance fantasies, but if he did accurately foresee the finding of scrolls at Qumran, then perhaps he did have some clairvoyant capacity.

5. For Rudolf Steiner's views, a starting point is "The Gospel of St. Matthew" 12 lectures given in Berne 1st-12th September 1910 4th ed. Rudolf Steiner Press 1965, especially lectures 4 & 5 and Appendix II "Jeschu ben Pandira" which cites Mead.



The Order of the Star in the East, founded in 1911, was well- known as the organisation for Krishnamurti, until he dissolved it in 1929. (Its name had been shortened to "The Order of the Star" in 1927.) The Order is an unusual example of a theosophical fringe body that did not persist - or did it? It is now claimed that the Order continued to work behind the scenes, and that a group known as "Lodge of the Star", which commenced public work in January 1982, is its new expression. The Lodge claims contact with the Master K.H. and the Spiritual Hierarchy. It seeks to prepare the world for the reappearance of the Christ. The directors of the Lodge, which from early 1985 has become known as "The Order of the Star" are Steven Barron and Robert Adams. They can be reached at 57 Warescot Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 9HH, England. We are mentioning it, because we think the student of theosophical history will be interested in the re-use of some familiar concepts - terms like "Reappearance of the Christ" which indicates (as with Benjamin Creme, who has no connection with this Order) some parallel with Alice Bailey.



The Anacalypsis of Godfrey Higgins–Precursor of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine

by Leslie Shepard

In his devastating essay The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings (Appendix C, V.S. Solovoff, A Modern Priestess of Isis, 1895), W. Emmette Coleman claimed to have identified some 2,000 passages copied from other books without proper acknowledgment, and suggested that Isis was compiled from little 100 books and periodicals. Coleman also claimed that The Secret Doctrine was a rehash of other books and permeated with unacknowledged plagiarisms.

Coleman's charges are difficult to rebut, since they are specific and pedantic, although the conventional defence against plagiarisms is that H.P.B. received texts 'in the astral light', while it is well known that her collaborators were obliged to check and edit a mass of inchoate material before it could be shaped into a systematic presentation. G.R.S. Mead, perhaps the greatest scholar of the Theosophist movement, admitted that friends had 'devilled assiduously for H.P.B. at the British Museum and otherwise' *

*G.R.S. Mead "Facts about 'The Secret Doctrine'" Occult Review April 1927 p. 249.

Coleman's claim that Isis derived from 'little over 100 books' is supported by Col. Olcott's statement (Old Diary Leaves, First Series, Chapter XIII p. 207) that 'our whole working library scarcely comprised one hundred books of reference.' Coleman meticulously listed the number of passages 'plagiarised' from specific books. One source which he mentioned only in passing was 'the writings of Godfrey Higgins.' This source deserves closer examination.

The main works of Godfrey Higgins have always been rare books, difficult to obtain. These include The Celtic Druids (1827; 1829) and Anacalypsis (2 vol., [47] 1833-36). The first work, intended as an introduction to the second, has been long out of print. The major work Anacalypsis was first published in a limited edition of only 200 copies. It was partially reprinted in 1878, and in full in a limited edition of 350 copies in 1927. In 1965, I wrote a study of Higgins for an edition of 1,000 copies issued by University Books Inc., New York. I was struck by the similarity between certain basic ideas of Higgins and those of H.P.B. Because of the rarity of Higgins' books these similarities have not received the attention they deserve.

Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833), archaeologist, humanist, social reformer and author, was one of the most remarkable men of early nineteenth century Britain. Born January 30, 1772, he was educated at Cambridge (Trinity Hall) and studied law. During the threatened invasion of Britain by Napoleon, Higgins joined the Volunteer Corps, becoming a Captain in the Third West York Militia, commissioned as a Major in 1808. He resigned following a severe fever and was appointed a Justice of the Peace in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

As a magistrate, he courageously exposed the scandalous treatment of pauper lunatics and campaigned for Parliamentary Reform, criticizing excessive taxation, the Corn Laws and the exploitation of children in factories. In the course of time, he became preoccupied with the purpose of life and the meaning of religion. He became a member of the Society of Arts, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and other learned bodies. He attended lectures and spent some ten hours a day for many years in study of religious beliefs. In 1826, he published Horae Sabbaticae, a study of the origin of the Sabbath, in which he recommended that it be kept as a festival instead of a gloomy fast: His publication of An Apology for the Life and Character of Mahommed (1829) brought indignant criticism from dogmatic Christians. His book The Celtic Druids (1827) was a substantial work which was criticised by priests because it was [48] 'anti-Christian' and by Deists because it was 'superfluously religious.' In a Preface to the second edition in 1829, he stated that he was preparing a new work which would review 'all the ancient Mythologies of the world, which, however varied, and corrupted in recent times, were originally ONE, and that ONE founded on principles sublime, beautiful, and true.' This was his monumental work Anacalypsis. It was published in two large quarto volumes, totalling over 1,300 pages, with meticulous references to hundreds of other books.

There are two basic themes which emerge from his intricate discussion, end to which the whole work moves - that there were ancient civilisations that had achieved superior religious knowledge, much of which has since been lost, and that there is a universal basis to all religions.

The full title of this massive work is Anacalypsis; An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis; or an Inquiry into the Origin of languages, Nations and Religions. Higgins was a freemason, and well aware of claimed secret traditions. He referred to two Rosicrucian societies but stated that he was not a member. He has been claimed as a member of AnUileach Druidh Braithreaches, an ancient Druid order believed to be a precursor of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, although this has not been substantiated. In view of his extensive studies in The Celtic Druids, he was clearly aware of traditions of Druid orders.

Anacalypsis is an astonishing book. Like the later and equally erudite studies of Gerald Massey, it is limited by the scholarship of the time, but is full of extraordinary insights, and was the first large scale attempt at a synthesis of religion and science, a theme later echoed by the writings of H.P.B. As a prior attempt to unveil Isis and to propagate the existence of a secret doctrine throughout history, Anacalypsis is a precursor of the themes, method and ground plan of H.P.B.'s writings. Coleman's citation of Higgins'[ 49] writings as merely a source for unacknowledged quotations is a narrow pedantic view, which ignores the central theme and scope of Anacalypsis. Astonishingly it not only anticipated the title of Isis Unveiled, but also referred frequently to a secret doctrine and to cycles of reincarnation. The following quotations from Anacalypsis are surely significant when considering the later work of H.P.B.:

'Is it not possible that a golden age may really have existed; that is, an age when there were no wars; that a scientific or learned race of priests like those of Tibet, holding the system of the renewal of cycles - re-incarnation - which I have strewn existed in every part of the world, may have governed the whole?.... What is the secret doctrine? The mythos, the parable, is the fable under which the mystery is concealed; the mystery is the secret doctrine taught by Pythagoras, by Jesus, by Mohammed - the renewal of cycles, the inspiration with the holy ghost of persons, in every cycle, to teach mankind the doctrine of a future existence of happiness or misery, according to their conduct in this life.' (Vol. 2, Book IV, Section 31)

'The whole tends to support the doctrine of nearly all the learned men of antiquity, that, like the Mythological histories of the Gentile nations, a secret doctrine was concealed under the garb of history.' (Vol. 1, Book V, Chapter II, Sec. 7)

'Nothing astonishes me more than the absolute ignorance displayed in the writings of the ancients, of the true nature of their history, their religious mythology, and, in short of every thing relating to their antiquities. At the same time it is evident that there was a secret science possessed somewhere, which must have been guarded by the most solemn oaths. And though I may be laughed at by those who inquire not deeply into the origin of things for saying it, yet I cannot help suspecting that there is still a secret doctrine known only in the deep [50] recesses, the crypts, of Thibet, St. Peter's and the Cremlin.' (Vol. 1, Chapter III, Sec. 4)

Higgins traced the history of avatars and cycles in India and Judaea up to the ninth, the birth of Jesus and discussed the ninth avatar in the East and the tenth in the west. He cited Plutarch on the concepts of ages and races: 'On the priests of Etruria being consulted they declared, that a new age was about to arise, - that there had been EIGHT races of people, different in their lives and manners, - that God had allotted to each race a fixed period, which is called the great year, - that when one period is about to end and another to begin, the heaven or the earth marks it by some greet prodigy.' (Vol. 1, Book V, Chapter III, Sec. 5).

Of course, Higgins was concerned primarily with secret doctrine of mysticism rather than occult phenomena, but it is clear from quotations in the writings of H.P.B. that she was familiar with the books of Ennemoser and Eliphas Levi (A.L. Constant) which traced the occult tradition throughout history. The ground plan of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine closely resembles Anacalypsis with an occult dimension. Most of the other books punctiliously listed by Coleman supply secondary reference and were admittedly part of the library at Olcott's Lamasery.

It is not clear at what stage H.P.B. titled her work on the theme of the unveiling of Isis. In A Modern Priestess of Isis, V.S. Solovyoff cited a letter i which H.P.B. stated: 'I am now writing a big book, which I call by John's (i.e. the soi-disant spirit guide John King's) advice, Skeleton Key to Mysterious Gates.' Subsequently 'John King' was deposed as a spirit guide by Eastern Masters, and in a later letter, to her sister, Vera, H.P.B. wrote: 'You may disbelieve me, but I tell you that in saying this I speak but the, truth; I am solely occupied, not with writing Isis but with Isis herself. I live in a kind of permanent enchantment, a life of visions and sights, with open [51] eyes, and no chance whatever to deceive my senses! I sit and watch the fair goddess constantly. And as she displays before me the secret meaning of her long lost secrets, and the veil becoming with every hour thinner and more transparent, gradually falls off before my Byes, I hold my breath and can hardly trust to my senses!' (Quoted by Olcott O.D.L. Vol 1 p. 214)

According to Col. Olcott, he suggested 'he title The Veil of Isis, which was altered to Isis Unveiled when the work was largely in stereotype form, since Charles Sotheran pointed out that W. Winwood Reade had already used the title The Veil of Isis for his book on the mysteries of the Druids (1861). *

The significance of the Isis theme in the title of Higgins' Anacalypsis and his discussion of a secret doctrine are also echoed in another post-Higgins work titled Isis Revelata: An Enquiry into the Origin, Progress and Present State of Animal Magnetism by J.C. Colquhoun, published in 1837. This claimed to show that all faiths including Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity and Masonry, are based on 'identical cosmical myths, symbols and allegories.' Surprisingly this work was not cited in Coleman's industrious list of sources.

It seems probable, however, that consciously H.P.B.'s Isis Unveiled was inspired by the Anacalypsis of Godfrey Higgins. Throughout his work, Higgins insists on 'a secret doctrine' of esoteric knowledge guarded by priests r it is significant that the phrase itself should form the title of H.P.B's second large treatise. It must be acknowledged that she brought to her writings a very individualistic genius and insight of her own, and her books have rightly had tremendous influence. It is surely time however, to acknowledge the priority of Higgins.

His style and methods were quite different from

* (The Theosophist Nov. 1892 p. 73. Not in book edition of "Old Diary Leaves". See also the publisher Mr. Bouton's letter on this, p. (43) of Introductory "Isis Unveiled" C.W. Edition 1972 Vol. 1)


those of H.P.B. end may be more acceptable to modern readers. He does not ask for anything to be taken on trust, and shares with us every stage of his search, while H.P.B. writes as an oracle. It is interesting to compare the different approaches of rationalism and occultism. When H.P.B. cites as reference those elusive akashic records written in the astral light, Higgins points to monuments of stone. It is typical of the rational approach of Higgins that he should modestly call his Anacalypsis an 'attempt' to unveil the Saitic Isis.

The resemblance between the work of Higgins and H.P.B. was immediately noticeable on publication of Isis Unveiled, but no critic attempted a detailed comparison. The massive work of Higgins demands a long period of study, and outside major libraries it was a rare book, difficult to obtain. The American Bookseller (October 1877) stated: 'in 1783 (sic) Godfrey Higgins published his Anacalypsis, a work of similar character and although only 200 copies were printed, at the death of the author, a number of years after, many copies remained unsold, and were disposed of in bulk by his executors to a London bookseller. The work is now exceedingly rare... The world has grown older since the days of Higgins, and Madame Blavatsky's book is of greater interest; but still the demand for it is quite remarkable, and far beyond the expectations of its publishers.' The literary critic of the New York Herald (September 30, 1877) commented: 'There is a great resemblance between the works.' There are also differences. (O.D.L. 294-5).

The word Anacalypsis is a rare one, deriving from the Greek and meaning an uncovering or revealing. According to Plutarch, the true devotee of the goddess Isis is he who ponders over sacred matters and seeks therein for hidden truth. It was Plutarch who described the veiled Isis in front of her temple at Sais, with the famous inscription 'I am everything that has been, and is, and will be, and my veil no mortal has uncovered.' Higgins' great work will stand as one of the [53] first and boldest attempts to answer this age-old enigma of human history and religion.

Leslie Shepard is editor of The Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology (revised edition 3 vol., 1984-5, Gale Research Co., Detroit, U.S.A.) All references to "Old Diary Leaves" (First Series) are to the 1941 edition, by T.P.H., Adyar.


11 May 1985

Dear Friend

Thank you for the April issue of theosophical History, We are sending you, with our compliments, a copy of The Heart Doctrine, a selection of articles by W.Q. Judge, since three of them throw light on the relationship between the Masters and the outer Movement at the end of the active first quarter of the centennial effort to enlighten the world. They contradict Miss Jean Overton Fuller's belief that the Theosophical Society "ceased to be regarded by the Masters as the spearhead of their work from the moment Krishnamurti left it" (Theosophical History p. 20)

'Will Masters' Help Be Withdrawn After 1898?'

'The Closing Cycle'

'Are We Deserted?'

You may remember that H.P.B. wrote: "I trust Judge more than anyone in the world," and referred to him as "the Antaskarana between the two Manas(es), the American thought and the Indian - or rather the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric knowledge. DIXI." Letters That Have Helped Me: W.Q. Judge (The Theosophy Company edition pp. 281 and 278).

Yours sincerely,


62 Queens Gardens, London, W

("The Heart Doctrine" is available at 45 p. (plus postage 28 p.) direct from U.L.T. Ed.)


S.P.R. Archives


In 1879, the first president of the British Theosophical Society, Charles Carleton Massey, received a letter from a "Brother". It was found in the B.T.S. minute book by Massey. Later Massey was shown a letter from H.P.B. to the medium Mrs Hollis-Billing, asking her to mysteriously convey an enclosed letter to Massey. He concluded that he had been imposed upon, and this incident, with the Kiddle case, led to his resignation from the T.S.

The incident is well-known to both psychical researchers and Theosophists. The former were told about it in the 1885 Report, page 207 and in more detail p. 397400, though the names of the medium and her guide were not given. Theosophists learned what the Mahatmas thought about the case when "The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett" were published in 1923. Unfortunately index references to Mrs Billing (and to her husband Dr Billing) have dropped out of the 3rd ed. 1962, at the top of p. 488, though an occasion when she is called Mrs Hollis-Billing is indexed. The explanation of K.H. is given in Letter 91B p. 409-13, and again on 379-80, with more data on Dr Billing in such places as p. 301.

The documentation in this case, such as it is, has never been published fully, and we reproduce below such items as are in the S.P.R. archives.

Athenaeum Club

Pall Mall S.W.


My dear Sidgwick

I enclose the three letters I reed (sic) from Mme. Blavatsky last May, two from Mrs. Hollis-Billing of an earlier date, and one from Olcott with "K.H.",'s views upon the subject in an original letter of the latter 's.

As I mentioned, Mme. B's have more direct refer- [55]erence to another matter, and to make the whole correspondence perhaps more intelligible I also send a copy of my reply to her first letter.

The simple question which neither Mme. B. nor K.H. has answered at all satisfactorily is why instructions ski. have been sent to Mrs. Hollis-Billing to get the letter delivered tome mysteriously if it was not to impress me with the belief that it was occultly conveyed by the writer (the 'Brother') himself - which was just such a test as we in London were asking for. While this point is evaded all the rest is mere verbiage. As to any part of the letter shown to me by Dr. Billing being forgery that is all nonsense. I had a thorough acquaintance with Mme. B's handwriting and style, and examined the whole letter long and carefully. It was hers' (sic–LP) throughout.

The other enclosures from Col. Bundy to Stainton Moses will explain themselves. S.M. sends them to me to be forwarded to you, as he is quite unable to write himself. But they seem to require no explanation.

Ever yours sincerely

C.C. Massey.

(Col. Bundy was editor of "The Religio-Philosophical Journal" of Chicago, a Spiritualist journal antagonistic to H.P.B. LP)

The second letter from Massey which follows rather gives the impression that he sent certain letters to Sidgwick a second time.

1 Albert Mansions

Victoria St. S.W.

6th Nov. 84

My dear Sidgwick

Myers wrote to me to Lynmouth desiring me to send you the letter of Mme. Blavatsky to Mrs. Hollis-Billing in which the former instructed the latter to procure the surreptious conveyance, to me of a [56] letter she enclosed, I have not the original, but have seen it and taken a copy, of which that I now send you is an exact transcript. At the time Mme. B. wrote to Mrs. Billing, she knew that I and other fellows of the Society here were extremely anxious for some producible (?LP) proof of the existence and powers of the "Brothers". The only conceivable object of the instruction to Mrs. Billing was to make me and others believe that we had attained that proof. While denying this motive, Mme. B. in her letters to me last summer on the subject has been unable to suggest any other rational or intelligible account. I will if you desire it forward you her letters, but the immediate occasion of them was another matter.

She says the letter she enclosed to Mrs. Billing for me really was from a "Brother", who gave it to be sent to me without any directions as to how it was to be forwarded. To the best of my recollection in reply to my questions in 1879 abt this letter, she returned an evasive reply; certainly the impression on my mind has always been that the letter I found in the minute book - which I did not for a moment suppose had been brought occultly from India - was not acknowledged by her at the time to be genuine. I was just left to think what I pleased about it. She knew that Mrs. Billing had failed to deceive me. I put the matter out of my mind, as one which I had no prospect of clearing up. And I will tell you privately, what no one else knows, (I think) that I have not got either the "Brother's" letter, or Mme. Blavatsky's to me, of that period. I have not let this be known because Mme. B.'s knowledge of it might have encouraged Mme. B. to make aspersions (sic–LP) or denial of facts, which as it is she has not ventured upon. And I could not have disproved anything she chose to say, probably.

Now how this happened is this. Three years ago, just after my father's death, when I was in a state of great depression, having also lost nearly all [57] interest in the Theos. Socy. and looking on my past life as broken off, on moving from my father's house, I destroyed an immense quantity of correspondence, among it many letters of Madame B.'s and Olcott's; some I retained as early mementoes or for other reasons. But I have few (?) doubts (?LP) that these letters of that time I destroyed, not thinking that anything wd ever turn up to make them important.

However, I think the case of an intended deception upon me, and the motive, are sufficiently apparent without more. There is a curious parallel between this instruction to Mrs. Billing and that in the alleged letter to Mme. Coulomb directing Damodar to be similarly imposed upon.

(cf. Stack Memorandum T.H. Jan. 85 p. 11 for same point, the other way round - LP)

In like manner, the statement that she had hidden cigarettes where they were to be found as proofs of occult agency has a parallel to an exactly similar charge of hiding the things at Mme. Tousseau's (sic-LP) wax works in London in 1879, which was made in Light of May 6th 1882 by a correspondent signing himself R.B.A. The statement was quite unsubstantiated by details and I wrote to Light very indifferently about it at the time. But it is curious that these two methods - sending letters to an accomplice, and hiding things herself - shd be alleged agst her from entirely unconnected quarters.

I should be happy to give you any further information in my power that you may require, and remain

Always yours sincerely

C.C. Massey

(The incident at Madame Tussaud's as Col. Olcott correctly calls it, is related by him in Old Diary Leaves Vol. 2 p.7. More details in a later issue.)

The enclosure with the letter now follows; Massey writes:


Copy of first part of a letter from Mme. Blavatsky to Mrs. Hollis-Billing, bearing date 28th June 1879, registered London post-mark 21st July, 1879.

"My dear good friend

Do you remember what Sky (sic - LP) told or rather promised to me? That whenever there is need for it, he will always be ready to carry any message, leave it either on Massey's table, his pocket, or some other mysterious place? Well now there is the most important need for such a show of his powers. Please ask him to take the enclosed letter and put it into his pocket or in some still more mysterious place.* But he must not know it's Sky. Let him think what he likes, but he must not suspect you had been near him with Sky at your orders. He does not distrust you, but he does Sky. (Also if he cd. treat L.L. with some oriental token of love it wd. be right, but none of them must suspect Sky of it, therefore it is more difficult to make it to do it. (sic) (Massey's comment - LP) than it wd otherwise be were it to be produced at one of your seances."

Massey continues:

"I copied the above from the original showed to me by Dr. H.J. Billing (who said he had found it in his wife's drawer) on 22nd May 1882. The rest of the letter was full of devotion to the "Brothers" and evidenced, to my thinking, a genuine belief in their existence. Or if not that it was clear that Mrs. Billing was only partially in the writer's confidence. "Koot Hoomi" however, Sinnett, denied the authenticity of the letter, and (word illegible) have put in brackets, referring to L.L. (Lord Lindsay?), while admitting the earlier part. Mme. B. herself has since admitted writing the earlier part. Mrs. Billing denies having ever seen the letter at all. Shortly after 21st July/79, a letter purporting [59] to be from a Brother, was found by me at her house in the Minute Book of the T.S. which she placed before me."

C.C. Massey

(* The published version of this letter has "some other still more mysterious place" in the first paragraph.)


We have not been able here, for reasons of space, to attempt any full account of what K.H. calls "the famous Massey-Billing letter affair" (Mahatma Letters p. 411). We have not even quoted H.P.B.'s own explanation. So we must caution anyone from jumping to conclusions on the evidence quoted. It has been quoted because it is unpublished, and needed to be in the public domain for a proper study of the case, not because it necessarily has merit. We understand that a careful account of the affair will appear in Jean Overton Fuller's forthcoming biography of H.P.B., and we advise readers to wait for this before reaching conclusions.


All S.P.R. archival material is used by permission of the S.P.R. to whom grateful acknowledgment is made. It should be noted that writers commonly used shortened forms of words (such as cd. for could) and these have been retained.


Was there an S.P.R. member at Theosophical headquarters in Adyar in 1884, whose comments helped to turn the S.P.R. against phenomena? We hope to print a letter naming this person, and showing how his views reached the S.P.R. Committee.





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