Isis Unveiled by Madame Helena P Blavatsky, the formidable founder of The Theosophical Society was the author’s debut work, and was to become a foundational text in Theosophy.
The book is made up of two volumes. We’ll be starting off by reading and exploring the first one: The ‘Infallibility’ of Modern Science - with the first Esoteric Book Club session focusing on Chapters 1 through 8. This volume looks at the true meaning of occultism - that is, hidden - and specifically dives into occult science; which is to say the science of phenomena that cannot be perceived by the physical senses and therefore measured by manufactured tools and instruments. It then goes on to look at the Inner & Outer Man from an esoteric viewpoint. Mainstream culture - both then and now - separates the two as mutually exclusive, with science taking control of the outer, and organized, orthodox religion - disguised as spirituality - taking control of the inner. And never the twain shall meet - in respectable, sensible social circles at least.
Isis Unveiled, like many similarly seminal works, sought to disrupt the categorizations of reductionist materialist science and the hollow literalism of organized religion. Indeed - this book “accomplished a major statement of modern occultism's defiance of materialist science,” which is why it has been so appealing to true students, teachers and practitioners of Western and Eastern occultism.
A woman unapologetically writing a book like this during the turn of the century Victorian era naturally attracted a lot of attention - much of it predictably from male scholarly detractors accusing Blavatsky of plagiarism. Admittedly, there is a huge amount of source material from which Madame Blavatsky drew from, but at no time did she claim all of the theories and conclusions put forward in the volumes to be exclusively her own.
Instead, Isis Unveiled was intended as a synthesis of Western occultism, contemporary discoveries in science and Eastern mystery traditions. Its comprehensive nature, rightly earned the book many accolades and admirers - although it can often be a dense tome to work one’s way through.
Fundamentally, with this first book, it was Helena Blavatsky’s intention to shine a very bright light on the Hermetic arts and philosophy as the foundational bridge between science and theology; as well as the route to individual and collective liberation that Hermeticism has the potential to reveal, if engaged with bravely, with independent thought, and uncontested from the rigid dogmas of meaning that conventional science and religion bestows upon the human being.
Our reading of Isis Unveiled at Esoteric Book Club will begin with a brief overview of the relevant chapters, followed by questions to prompt discussion and conversation.
As with any occult text, in order to truly absorb its meanings, suspending the left brain’s rigid intellectualism and scientific grasping is helpful. To do this, the contemplative method of reading known as Lectio Divina is worth practicing. Read a paragraph or a section, then put the book down and allow the information you have imbibed to unfold their meanings to you, notice any sensations in the body, and follow this subjective experience of meaning-making. This will deepen your experience, and allow you to bring your own authentic experience of the book to our session.
Rohini Walker bio
Indian-born British writer Rohini Walker has been living in the Mojave high desert for almost eight years. She’s the co-founder and Editor of the print periodical Luna Arcana, and also works one-on-one with clients exploring the intersection of inner-decolonization and indigeneity using Eastern and Western esoteric practices, with a focus on inner alchemy, mythology and a blend of Tantric-Hermetic philosophy. Find out more about her work at rohiniwalker.com.