The Theosophical Society and its Future
Supplement 1997 to Manifesto 1996
by Geoffrey A. Farthing
CONTENTS OF SUPPLEMENT
1. COMMENT ON REPLIES TO MANIFESTO 1996
It is noteworthy that the historical outline from the formation of the Society through the Besant/Leadbeater era was not questioned and that the disassociation of the Society from all other bodies, e.g., Co-Masons, was neither questioned nor even mentioned.
Although the Manifesto expressly supported all members' freedoms, i.e., to read what they like and join whatever institutions they wanted it was taken in some quarters that the Manifesto would restrict freedom, particularly in the matter of what should be read. The Manifesto in fact defended the freedoms but it did say that people's private opinions as to what Theosophy was were not in themselves Theosophy. Theosophy is a definite science related to the nature of Nature herself and is not in any way a matter of opinion, belief or view. It cannot be either 'true' or 'false.' Theosophy proper is the knowledge of what is, and as it is, at all levels of being. It opens up to the student the whole Cosmic scene. Its bounds are the furthest limits of the Universe and its profundity the greatest depths to which human (and superhuman) cognition can go by faculties developed to their fullness in aeons of evolutionary time. It has no conceivable limits and is all-embracing. It is open-ended and can in no sense be regarded as limiting or interfering with 'opinions' about which it has nothing to do.
It would appear that those who regard its study as limiting are judging it against a background of the circumscribed personal non-Initiate literature of second generation 'theosophy.' The limitation is in those who have got what they want and do not want to look further.
To discuss such matters as freedom of thought and dogmatism is not really relevant because those issues are not raised. The purpose of the Manifesto is to discuss what is to be done to preserve the Society into the next century so that it can fulfill its intended functions, and to justify any action that may be necessary. The historical background to the Society as it now is, is very relevant to these considerations.
The presumption that neither Annie Besant nor C. W. Leadbeater were, after possibly some initial incidents, in contact with the Masters was questioned. That assumption, however, was made after an extensive analysis of all major events in the Society's history during their terms of office. Too many irreconcilable things happened to indicate that there was direction by any Masters either directly or through them. For example, the question arises: why did Krishnamurti not only renounce the office claimed by him but very soon leave the Society altogether? Surely if he had been a protegé of the Masters he would have known their intentions for the Society. He would have wished to stay and work for it. After he left, however, he had no more connection with it and certainly did not propound Theosophy. The answer to this question must be that he became convinced that the role that Leadbeater cast for him was not ordained by the Masters, and particularly not one of the highest degree.
The communication with Masters that some leaders—and others—claimed to have had was based on their saying so, or by inferences and implications, which it was not possible to corroborate. We have the Masters' statement about their communicating through H.P.B. and that when she was not available or even when her aura was exhausted, there would be no more letters (see Letter 20, p. 54, of Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1st Series, Jinarajadasa).
Leadbeater was able to cast a 'glamour' over not only Mrs. Besant but the majority of members of the Society. This glamour still hangs over it and is at the root of much erroneous, even superstitious, thinking.
It was from this conditioned thinking and a dependence on leaders, guides, institutions, etc., that Krishnamurti urged his hearers to liberate themselves and become free, relying only on themselves. He was, however, not the leaders, gurus, etc. who imprisoned them, it was themselves. Krishnamurti through not knowing, or ignoring, Theosophy was not mindful of Nature's processes, one of which is growth in time by stages. Freedom, as propounded by him was not and is not yet within the possible comprehension or experience of the majority of human-kind at this time. 'Guides, philosophers and friends' are still very necessary. Even so we should not be unmindful of Jesus' saying, "The Truth shall make you free." What this really means may not be obvious but it is reiterated in various ways in Theosophy.
There is a passage in the Conclusion to The Key to Theosophy relevant to this:
Yet there are some who see it changing with the times!
2. THE SOCIETY IN CONTEXT OF PREVAILING CONDITIONS AT ITS INCEPTION
The role for the Society has to be seen against a background of what was 'topically in the air' at the time when it was founded. Science had become arrogant and was voicing a view that at its present rate of progress it would soon be able to answer all questions concerning the nature of Cosmos. On the other hand, religion, particularly in the West, was wholly dogmatic, formal and institutionalized. Against this dual background there was a lively interest in Spiritualism and to a lesser degree magic. The Rosicrucianism, the Kabala, Masonry, Hermeticism, Ceremonial Magic, were all movements involving a relatively large number of people on both sides of the Atlantic. Each faction had its own group of elite, degrees of secrecy and a literature freely circulated amongst members, but not so freely available to the general public. Many of these movements had roots going back into antiquity. Where though was an earnest and serious seeker after Truth to go for genuine non-partisan information on these matters?
There were (and maybe still are) some secret Occult lodges then working. From amongst these the two 'theosophical' Masters, members of the Trans-Himalayan branch, were given permission to give out a certain amount of occult teaching. They decided to make the effort in spite of the scepticism of their brethren. They had to find someone with the necessary qualifications to operate as their mouthpiece in the world. We do not know how many candidates there were but they said that H.P.B. was the best available at the time and through her a mass of information was eventually given to the world (see M.L. 2).
The Manifesto tells of her labours in the literary field to introduce the Ancient Wisdom to the world—particularly the West as all her principal writings were in English.
Her writings later included Instructions to her Inner Group which she formed during the last two years of her life. Apart from her continuing articles, there is a compilation of Notes taken at meetings of the Blavatsky Lodge, known as the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, where in many abstruse aspects of Theosophy are explained.
During the course of H.P.B's life the interest in Spiritualism somewhat diminished; science opened new fields of exploration and became less dogmatic; to a small extent dogmatic religion became less rigid. In this field the advent of translations of the scriptures and other holy books from India and the Far East becoming generally available in the West was beginning to have an effect.
The relationship to Theosophy as given us by H.P.B. with modern thought in terms of the stage at which science has now established itself and having regard to the present freedoms within the religious and psychological fields, has not yet been specifically explored to any extent. However, the prophetic nature of the writings of H.P.B. in a number of aspects in these fields is very significant. Her works are as relevant today as they were when they were written, validating their claim even now to speak for the Ancient Wisdom, or the Wisdom Religion as she sometimes termed it.
It is important that the outpouring of knowledge given us through H.P.B. should be clearly distinguished from the longstanding traditional knowledge and wisdom which for centuries have been freely available and even now are sources of inspiration and instruction for many people. The latter were in no sense esoteric or occult. Whole areas of theosophic thought and explanation are not in them.
3. THE HODGSON REPORT
The full report by Dr. Vernon Harrison of his investigations into the Hodgson Report has now been published. This document completely vindicates H.P.B. of all the charges of fraud in the matter of the production of the Mahatma Letters. It re-establishes H.P.B's standing as an author in her own right, but not of the Mahatma Letters. According to Dr. Harrison there was no author of those letters other than the Masters themselves, regardless of how the letters may have been produced and received. A second aspect of this vindication is the clearing of H.P.B. of all the charges brought against her by the missionaries in Madras in the Coulomb affair.
This vindication has far-reaching effects. Had these charges of fraud not been levelled against H.P.B. it is very unlikely that she would have left Adyar at the time she did. When the charges were brought by the missionaries H.P.B. wanted to take legal action against them. Olcott advised against this and he was supported by the General Council. It appears, however, that some at least of the members of the General Council were inimical to H.P.B. They would do nothing to support her; rather did they wish, for reasons of their own, that she should leave Adyar. What pressure was brought to bear on her we do not know but we do know that in her going she was required to renounce her claim to any property rights she might have had on the compound and to give up ownership of The Theosophist which she had founded. These requirements indicate that her going was not to be temporary. It has been claimed that her health was a reason for her returning to Europe; that may have been a contributory factor but her health having been restored she could have gone back to Adyar. As things were, however, she felt it quite impossible to return. In plain fact she had been 'dismissed.'
The consequences of this departure were not immediately obvious to those left behind. In effect, however, it meant that the magnetic link between the Masters and Adyar was severed. There was no one else there to act in H.P.B's capacity. Damodar had received some training and might to some extent have done so but he was not there any more.
It has not been really understood or accepted that H.P.B. was in fact the direct agent of the Masters (see Letter 19 of Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1st Series, Jinarajadasa). For example, Sinnett could not accept this and resented it, with the result that with his increasing irritation at having to receive correspondence through her, the letters from the Masters just ceased. H.P.B. would not transmit any more. Both the Masters and H.P.B. warned him this would happen. Without H.P.B. to operate through they would and did retire into obscurity.
The karmic consequences of Olcott's and the General Council's unwillingness to support H.P.B. and her subsequent departure from Adyar is something that remains. Her dismissal inflicted great personal hurt and injustice in the light of her innocence (now proven). Any General Council that over the years has neglected to rectify the position or even acknowledge what happened and has taken no measures whatever to redress the situation has transmitted the karmic consequences of the action of the original Council to its successors up to the present time. This is something that must be recognized when considering this action to be taken to ensure the proper continuity of the Society.
4. THE UNIQUENESS OF THEOSOPHY
In the Manifesto some historical background to the founding of the Theosophical Society was given. Against this background an appreciation of what was intended for the Society can be made.
It is important to realize how these teachings stand in relation to the various classical schools of antiquity. In The Secret Doctrine it says, "It is not taught in any of the six Indian Schools of Philosophy, for it pertains to their synthesis—the seventh, which is the occult doctrine. It is not traced on any crumbling papyrus of Egypt nor is it any longer graven on Assyrian tile or granite wall. The Books of the Vedanta (the last word of human knowledge) give out but the metaphysical aspect of this world-Cosmogony; and their priceless thesaurus, the Upanishads, Upa-Ni-Shad being a compound word meaning the "conquest of ignorance by the revelation of secret, spiritual knowledge" [S.D., I, 269] -- require now the additional possession of a master key to enable the student to get at their full meaning."
This quoted passage clearly distinguishes Theosophy from what was contained in even the greatest of the world's religious teachings then available. This distinction was very soon overlooked and forgotten.
What was distinctly different between the new outpouring and the old systems lies in the field of Occultism or Esotericism proper. Many of the old religious and philosophical systems had an occult background for the most part kept secret and jealously guarded. A detailed examination of the essential differences has no place in a document such as this but they are primarily based on a fuller knowledge of the planes of Nature, together with scales of correspondences, and the inner constitution of man, showing how these can be quickened and developed to 'expand' his consciousness by the study and assimilation of the Eternal Verities of Theosophy.
5. SOME RECOMMENDATIONS
The case made above indicates that in the hundred years or so since H.P.B's death and her leaving Adyar the whole character of the Society has changed. It can never go back to what it was in the late 1800's because the whole world situation has changed.
Nevertheless, what the Society has to offer by way of the Ancient Wisdom is itself changeless. The 'Eternal Verities' do not change as the world situation changes in terms of culture, politics and the vicissitudes of national fortunes, or any other such circumstance.
The setting, however, in which the Ancient Wisdom is presented to the world, and the means for its presentation, have to change. In the Manifesto a warning was issued against trying to 'popularize' Theosophy by simplification. This can only lead to dilution and possible distortion.
Because of the magnitude and, for many people, the inherent difficulty of acquiring a knowledge of Theosophy, the great temptation has been to substitute for the real thing something easier to apprehend or practice. Substitute activities may in themselves have intrinsic, sometimes perhaps even considerable value, but they do not contain or even reflect the unique nature of Master-inspired Theosophy.
This diversion of attention from the purposes of the Society is the main argument for the disassociation of all other organizations from the Theosophical Society. In The Key (p. 21 Orig. Ed.) H.P.B. outlines reasons for joining the Society and instances the importance of each Lodge having its own specific activity. She mentioned healing as one. Members should realize that some of the teaching, direct or implied, in for example the Egyptian Rite, is directly at variance with Theosophy, particularly the 'adoration' of post-human entities (angels, etc.) who have long since lost all the limitation of personal feelings, and want no worship.
All who would see in ceremonial a means of salvation are recommended to read in The Secret Doctrine, from the bottom two paragraphs of page 279, Orig. Ed. and the third paragraph on page 280. These passages include the following:
Then follows the much quoted sublime passage:
It must be repeated that nothing here said means that members of the Society are 'forbidden' to read anything that they like. Anyone wishing to study Theosophy, however, is advised to read the original literature in the original. That literature has an intrinsic quality by reason of its being Initiate-inspired; a virtue very rare in other literature. Any experienced student will confirm that.
Commercialism and professionalism were mentioned in the original Manifesto. These properly have nothing to do with Theosophy. The Theosophical Society was certainly never envisaged as a money-making concern. Money helps it in its work, that is undeniable, but such money should come from those who want to support its activities and feel some duty in that respect. Some commercialism can be justified on purely rational grounds: money is needed for publishing, advertising, etc., but those who pursue money-making activities are exposed to risks, anxieties, etc., which wholly militate against Theosophy. Further serious consideration must be given to what is published; does it propagate the intended message?
Professionalism can lead to the paid proponent of Theosophy of having to 'tread the party line' or becoming crystallized in what he or she regards as ideas acceptable to his pay master. Real freedom of expression would thereby be inhibited and also prevent the growth of insight in the lecturer. The more one knows of it the more 'living' a thing Theosophy becomes. It can never be a fixed 'dogma.'
Amateurism proper means the doing for the love of it whatever one feels one can or should do for the 'cause,' and it ought to be the hallmark and only motive of the theosophical worker.
In the Manifesto the world communication network (Web-sites, etc.) was mentioned. These are the modern means of letting it be known that such a thing as Theosophy exists. Their techniques should be learned and their use carefully considered. Some means whereby the 'authentic' message of Theosophy as opposed to the garbled versions of it now being put out under that name could be readily recognized will have to be devised if at all possible.
6. KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE
There have been various attempts in the past to reform the Society along Blavatsky/Master lines but so powerful has been the prevailing 'cloud of glamour' overshadowing the whole Adyar Society (with perhaps a few disregarded pin-holes of light) that members not only have not seen the case that was being made but deliberately did not want to. Such attempts have been regarded as a particular personal quirk of whoever has at the time been trying to penetrate the fog. The matter, however, is not a personal one, it has to do with a world event of the utmost importance to humanity as a whole. This has just not being appreciated. People have preferred their entrenched beliefs.