Leslie Price has asked me whether I think that Madame Blavatsky would have approved of such rituals as were developed within the (Adyar) Theosophical Society.\
He noted an old paper of Ted Davy, located by Barry Thompson, which was given at the 1998 HPB conference in Edmonton. The volume was called ” The Works and Influence of H.P. Blavatsky, and Davy’s paper was: “A material body which suffocates the soul: H.P. Blavatsky’s attitude to ritual” (p.81-88.)
I am certainly not an authority on Blavatsky, but it seems to me that she did not object to ritual as such – after all, the TS was originally intended to involve rituals – as a form of what might be called “symbolic drama”, but did object to ritual that was claimed to be “magic”.
Carlos Cardoso Aveline has also written on this topic in: “Why Theosophy Excludes The Practice of Ceremonialism” available on-line at: http://www.theosophyonline.com/ler.php?id=4106#.WUXu1ukRWUk
“In “The Mahatma Letters”, one of the Raja-Yogis of the Himalayas mentions the illusion of “belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession.”
While discussing the same paragraph in the book “Early Teachings of the Masters”, C. Jinarajadasa adds this information:
“Of the ten ‘Fetters’ on the Path to liberation, the first three are: 1) Sakkayaditthi, the delusion of self; 2) Vichikicheha, doubt; 3) Silabbataparamasa, belief in the efficacy of rites and ceremonies.”
In another paragraph of the same letter, the raja-yogi refers to a rite performed by high lamas in Tibet, many decades before the Chinese invasion of the 20th century, and a rite of which he himself, a Mahatma, would be a part. And the Master clarifies that even a ceremony of that level is no better than a meaningless superficiality, whose usefulness is limited to childish and scarcely advanced souls. The Master says:
“In about a week – new religious ceremonies, new glittering bubbles to amuse the babies with, and once more I will be busy night and day, morning, noon, and evening.”
Esoteric philosophy gives its students tools with which they can liberate themselves from such delusions.
In the famous Letter of 1900, which was addressed to Annie Besant, a Master anticipates and warns against the main mistakes that the Adyar society would make from that moment on.
He clarifies that the modern theosophical movement was meant “to be the corner-stone of the future religions of humanity”. In order to accomplish this object, “those who lead” it, says the Master, “must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true Theosophists both in inner thoughts and outward observance”…
…Henry S. Olcott was one of the main founders of the Theosophical Movement in 1875. In his book “Buddhist Catechism” one finds this question:
“What was the Buddha’s estimate of ceremonialism?”
And Olcott answers:
“From the beginning, he condemned the observance of ceremonies and other external practices, which only tend to increase our spiritual blindness and our clinging to mere lifeless forms.”
In one of the Letters from Mahatmas, a Master says it is impossible to perform good ceremonial magic in the West. He narrates the frustrating result of “the last attempt” in that direction, in London around 1860, of which meetings the master took part in “about half a dozen” occasions. The meetings were led by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and included Eliphas Levi, Regazzoni and other occultists.”