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Blavatsky and Yates, and the failure of the "Esoteric Section"

In spite of Blavatsky's elaborate occult cosmology, frequent reference to super-human Masters, miraculous materialisations, and so forth, the Theosophical Society, even when still under the guidance of its Founder, never got beyond the pure intellectualising stage.  This is illustrated by the progress in the Theosophical Society of one of its members, W. B. Yeats, who was later to join the Golden Dawn.  He met Blavatsky and joined in 1887.  He was to play an important role in Blavatsky's short-lived "Esoteric Section".

 "For about a year after her arrival in London Madame Blavatsky discouraged her over-eager followers from plunging too deeply into Theosophical depths, warning them of the danger of black magic...But in 1888 the Theosophists' demnd for magical instruction was so great that she resolved to form an Esoteric Section for the sincerest of her "chelas".  Yeats was delighted and joined the group soon after it was formed.  He was eager to probe more deeply into Theosophical arcana, and he hoped too that the Esoteric Section would...(prove) that occult phenomena were possible..."

[Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, pp.65-6 (Penguin, 1979)]

The Esoteric Section had strict, indeed, puritanical rules.  Members had to pledge to renounce all vanity, and live a life of abstinence and ascetism.  Members of the Esoteric Section would not practice magic, but simply undergo the necessary training required before magical power might safely be entrusted. [Ibid, p.66]

In 1890 a Research Committee was appointed with Yeats as secretary.  several experiments took place; none were successful, doubts arose in the minds of other members, and Yeat's committee seemed unlikely to further the Theosophical cause.  His last public appearance was in Augst 1890, with Annie Besant, and shortly afterwards he was asked to resign. [Ibid, p.69]  The Esoteric Section continued for a while longer, but it never managed to produce any real occult or magical phenomenon.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 January 2000; last modified 7 August, 2004.