H.P. Blavatsky had already written a few articles in spiritualist magazines when she came out with ‘A Few Questions for Hiraf‘. She called this article her ‘first occult shot’ in the diary she kept with Olcott.
This article was a response to a strange joke a few fellows had made who had concocted out of their miscellaneous notes an article about Rosicrucianism. [More about the historic background of the “hiraf” club]
The answer Madame Blavatsky gave has been called a summary of all her later teachings, which is quite enough reason to introduce it here.
Blavatsky starts out by saying that occultism is dangerous when it isn’t pursued wholeheartedly. She continued to say this for the rest of her life. One of the reasons is, though I’m going beyond Blavatsky’s early work by saying it, that to delve into occultism is to delve into the subconscious. To awake the possible demons there without taking the time to fully master them is indeed dangerous. One who does so risks madness. In our century madness brings therapy in its wake and that may actually help, but therapy had not been invented yet in Blavatsky’s time. And psychotherapy has, like occultism, to be taken seriously in order for it to work.
Blavatsky goes on to note that there is a great difference between theory and practice. She states that practical occultists (or Rosicrucians and Cabalists as she calls them in this article) do still exist, though their specific methods and dogmas may differ widely. That situation sounds all too familiar now, though it is not hard to find people calling themselves Rosicrucians or Kabalists these days. I wonder: are they practical workers or theoreticians by Blavatsky’s standards?
The next theme in the article is the ultimate science being desecrated by being taught to too many people, mixed up with superstition and dogma to be recognizable now. She describes this history in details I won’t repeat here. The main point is that there is a truth that initiates have known since the dawn of time. This truth is still known and all the religions in the world are pale reflections of that truth. But the truths hidden in religion are hard to find because of the dogmas that cover them up.
By naming Buddha and Christ as teachers of mankind as a whole, she sets the stage for one of her criteria of true spirituality: the teachings have to be right for all of humanity. In this article she uses Confucius as an example of a teacher that could only reach his own people and thereby strengthened negative qualities in the Chinese.
As she does later on, in this article she already sets up the East as the best place to find spiritual teachings.
She closes by saying of spiritualism:
Spiritualism is but a baby now, an unwelcome stranger, whom public opinion, like an unnatural foster mother, tries to crush out of existence. But it is growing, and this same East may one day send some experienced, clever nurses to take care of it.
Later it will be clear that what Blavatsky appreciated in spiritualism was mainly the fact that it reopened the door to belief in non-physical reality at a time when science was already making it hard for educated people to believe in religion or even a soul.