Re: Theos-World The Adyar Society,CWL & AB
Jul 25, 2004 07:43 AM
by Anand Gholap
We should just keep writings of HPB, AB, CWL etc. before people exactly as they wrote and let reader form his own judgement, accept ideas he wants to and reject ideas he doesn't agree with.
There are contradictions, even mistakes as admitted by HPB, in every writing but it depends on capacity of reader what he makes from the body of knowledge.
Critical writers are likely to present sentences out of context and show contraditions, form their conclusions and spread impression that this and that author is stupid. I think original writing of all occultists should be placed before people and let them decide themselves.
----- Original Message -----
From: Perry Coles
Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2004 6:25 PM
Subject: Theos-World The Adyar Society,CWL & AB
The Adyar Theosophical Society has for many years supported and
maintained the publication and dissemination of the writings of C.W
Leadbeater and Annie Besant.
Most members have come to accept these two writers as being
representative and true to the teachings of the Mahatmas and their
student and spokesperson Madame H.P. Blavatsky who together helped
establish the Theosophical Society in 1875.
This acceptance arose from repeated statements by both Leadbeater and
Besant claiming to be in direct contact with these same Mahatmas.
Followers were further reassured that, far from changing any of her
teachings, they were merely simplifying Blavatsky's works to enable
greater accessibility for students.
However, even the most cursory comparison of the teachings of the
Mahatmas and Blavatsky with those of Leadbeater and Besant
demonstrates clear and profoundly opposing views. (1)
The main purpose of this post is not so much to discuss these critical
differences, although some references will be necessary, but to try
to address my problem of why there seems to have been no open and
free debate of this in the Adyar Theosophical Society, from which I
>>From my experience, it appears very few members of the Society are
aware that these contradictions exist.
For an organisation supposedly dedicated to the search for Truth,
doesn't this put the responsibility and onus on the leadership of the
Society, its sections and branches to point out these differences to
the membership at large, through their magazine articles, promotional
pamphlets, lectures and online? And if not, why not?
So the questioning begins for me, not so much with whether the
theosophy of Blavatsky and the Mahatmas is right and Leadbeater and
Besant's wrong, although this will be considered later, but whether
the differences and contradictions are being somehow hidden from the
Adyar Society membership passively through non-exposure due to what
seems to be the practice of the Adyar society in not publishing
articles that are seen as `divisive' or critical of CWL, ABs
My understanding of the theosophical process is one of jnana yoga ie;
using compassion, reason and rigorous ongoing investigation to try to
understand the nature of reality.
Many people who get earnestly involved with the theosophical movement
would presumably support the idea that a non-dogmatic and free mind,
one that is prepared to change its point of view and re-examine new
evidence and insights is, next to that of a compassionate mind, of
the utmost importance.
Moreover, those same people would hopefully agree that the writings of
Blavatsky and the Mahatmas are limited and can only at best point in
a particular direction towards gaining an understanding of that
reality and should not in any sense be considered infallible holy
writ. Blavatsky's and the Mahatmas' writings hold no more authority
than any other.
So, as mentioned, the main problem for me is not so much with the
teachings although, as we will see later, Leadbeater and Besant's are
highly contentious, but that they appear to me not be seriously
challenged in the public or private publications of the Adyar Society.
Nowhere have I read in Adyar theosophical pamphlets or literature
where the controversial differences have been debated and properly
aired and discussed with free and legitimate, intellectual comparison.
In my experience, if anyone starts to call this to test they are
likely to be advised of the potential for divisiveness, shown the
official "Freedom of Thought" statement and/or provided with some
other convenient diversion.
This to me, seems to be a most insidious kind of unwritten 'law',
where written exposure of some obvious contradictions of teachings,
for the purpose of discussion and debate, can be disallowed by a
governing body. How can there be a genuine search for Truth or
legitimate freedom of thought if this is allowed to occur?
The Theosophical Society was established to be the custodian of the
theosophical doctrine given out by Blavatsky's Adept teachers. This is
Blavatsky pointed out repeatedly that these teachings were never
intended to become another form of religious belief system, but were
offered as a kind of matrix for members to freely compare and reflect
upon in comparison with science, philosophy and religion.
This principle of freedom of comparison, naturally supports the rights
of members to also read, share and discuss those teachings of
Leadbeater and Besant. So why, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't a
consideration of the contradictions appear in any Adyar publication?
After studying some of these contradictions and the claims made by
Leadbeater and Besant concerning their alleged contact with the same
Mahatmas of Blavatsky, it strikes me that their writings cannot and
should not be presented as theosophy.
They may have some similarities but they are not the same teachings.
As an example, some of the extant Buddhist ideas such as reincarnation
into an animal form, or Christian ideas of vicarious atonement are
not the theosophical teachings of either the Mahatmas or Blavatsky
and, if true to its mandate, would not be presented as such in the
Adyar Society. People and members are of course allowed to believe
these concepts if they wish, but the Mahatma/Blavatsky theosophy
suggests something entirely different.
Furthermore, the General Council's response(4) to Geoffrey Farthing's
manifesto (5) is as follows:
"Belief that the writings of H.P.B. and the Mahatma Letters constitute
the only source of the message the T.S. should promulgate cannot be
imposed on the members, as such limitation goes against the grain of
that freedom of thought.
Each one must have the freedom to decide what best helps understanding
of oneself and provides inspiration to work for the ideal of human
progression and perfection."
To this I would ask what they mean by promulgate?
Do they mean the books sold in the bookshops or offered for loan from
the libraries of the Theosophical Society lodges and branches, or do
they mean that which is promulgated in the books published by the
Society as being the theosophical perspective?
For example, would the Society support the idea of a priest being able
to absolve sins?
Is that a view the Society should promulgate as theosophical?
Well, Leadbeater's book "Science of the Sacraments", a book published
and distributed for sale from theosophical bookshops by the
Theosophical Publishing House at the Society headquarters in Adyar,
states that a priest can do this in some kind of 'astral
Leadbeater also supports the idea of special powers and the
relationship of the priest with the "Christ" that the "laity" don't
This flies in the face of one of the fundamental theosophical
propositions of Oneness, not to mention the first object of the
Society (2) which re-establishes the very ideas the Mahatmas were
trying to breakdown ie; an elitist priesthood.
I would support everyone's right to study Leadbeater and Besant's
writings, but I cannot support them being "promulgated" in the
Society as being theosophical.
The General Council's statement seems to make it sound like Mr
Farthing was asking for an imposition of belief and thought of the
Mahatma/Blavatsky material which, in my opinion, is a complete
misreading of what he was proposing.
Hopefully no-one would suggest that members or students should only
read Blavatsky or the Mahatmas' letters, this should go without saying.
Additionally, will it be denied by the General Council that Blavatsky
and the Mahatmas went to great lengths to point out the differences
between their theosophical doctrine on life after death and that
given by the Spiritualists? The Mahatmas went so far as to describe
Spiritualism as "...the most insane and fatal of superstitions..."
(L20 ML to etc)
If the Society had no definite teachings on this subject then why
would Blavatsky and her teachers spend so much time explaining the
occult rationale behind some of the phenomena being experienced by
the Spiritualists and the philosophical differences between the two
It's a very interesting point that Leadbeater's ideas on life after
death are much more like Spiritualist beliefs than Blavatsky and the
Mahatmas' theosophical concepts.
So again, Leadbeater and Besant's beliefs attempt to re-establish the
very ideas the Mahatmas were attempting to counter. And Leadbeater
and Besant claimed to be in contact with these Mahatmas!
The Mahatmas and Blavatsky were not presenting the occult rationale
out of a need to set up new dogmas rather, on the contrary, to get
people out of their 'worn grooves' of wanting to believe emotionally
gratifying, but limited and superstitious beliefs that were not based
in any kind of legitimate, philosophical rationale or spiritual process.
I think I would be able to take the Adyar Society more seriously if it
allowed articles that were genuinely and constructively,
intellectually and theosophically critical of Leadbeater and Besant's
beliefs to be published in its journals. If it is true to its
"Freedom of Thought" statement then students would be free and in
fact encouraged to do just that, if they have genuine issues to
investigate and take to task.
Anyone who has studied at University, or any other credible
institution and has learnt the techniques of critical thought would
simply take this as being an expected matter of course. But, in my
experience and as far as I know in the Adyar Society, this type of
critical approach is frowned upon.
One has then to ask, where is the freedom in that?
HPB in an article titled "To the readers of Lucifer" (3) says
-"Sincerity is true wisdom, it appears, only to the mind of the moral
philosopher. It is rudeness and insult to him who regards
dissimulation and deceit as culture and politeness, and holds that
the shortest, easiest, and safest way to success is to let sleeping
dogs and old customs alone.
But, if the dogs are obstructing the highway to progress and truth,
and Society will, as a rule, reject the wise words of (St.)
Augustine, who recommends that `no man should prefer custom before
reason and truth, is it a sufficient cause for the philanthropist to
walk out of, or even deviate from, the track of truth, because the
selfish egoist chooses to do so?'....
Readers, therefore, who are accustomed to find in magazines and party
publications only such opinions and arguments as the editor believes
to be unmistakably orthodox--from his peculiar standpoint-must not
condemn any article in Lucifer with which they are not entirely in
accord, or in which expressions are used that may be offensive from a
sectarian or a prudish point of view, on the ground that such are
unfitted for a theosophical magazine.
They should remember that precisely because Lucifer is a theosophical
magazine, it opens its columns to writers whose views of life and
things may not only slightly differ from its own, but even be
diametrically opposed to the opinion of the editors.
The object of the latter is to elicit truth, not to advance the
interest of any particular ism, or to pander to any hobbies, likes or
dislikes, of any class of readers. It is only snobs and prigs who,
disregarding the truth or error of the idea, cavil and strain merely
over the expressions and words it is couched in.
Theosophy, if meaning anything, means truth; and truth has to deal
indiscriminately and in the same spirit of impartiality with vessels
of honour and of dishonour alike."
If the Society has to continue to 'promulgate' the 'neo-theosophy'
doctrines then surely they are obliged to allow those members, who
feel duty bound to criticize those teachings, that freedom they claim
to support in their own "Freedom of Thought" statement without, what
appears to me to be, the cold hand of censorship.
I would here challenge the Adyar Theosophical Society to publish such
articles in its international magazine 'The Theosophist' so that the
arguments can be put to the membership directly and openly.
If the Society has any credibility in its search for Truth, it will
welcome this challenge with open arms.
I think it would have wide implications for the theosophical movement
as a whole if this were to happen and perhaps even be the first step
in bridging the gap between the various theosophical organisations
and groups, even if only in the area of more serious dialogue.
With regard to the 'Freedom of Thought' statement (hereinafter
paraphrased) there is a part I would be interested in having clarified:
"The Theosophical Society maintains the right of individual freedom of
thought for every member. Those who join the Society are not asked to
give up the teachings of their own faiths. No doctrine, no opinion,
by whomsoever taught or held, is in any way binding on any member of
the Society, and no teacher or writer, from H.P. Blavatsky onwards
any has authority to impose opinions on others. All members are urged
to defend and act upon these fundamental principles and also
fearlessly to exercise their own right of liberty of thought and of
expression within the limits of courtesy and consideration for others."
Do 'the limits of courtesy and consideration' imply a "no debate
allowed" stance by the Society.
If this is the case, how can authoritarian pronouncements made by
members past or present receive an open challenge and debate as
Blavatsky clearly encourages for theosophical journals?
A political irony is that it was Besant who released this "freedom"
statement for the Society while at the same time demanding absolute
obedience within the Esoteric Section and coming out with the most
authoritarian, fanciful and deluded pronouncements.
Here are some of the statements she was making regarding the 12
theosophical apostles and the "World Teacher" -
"And now I have to give you, by command of the King, His message, and
some of the messages of the Lord Maitreya and His great Brothers. . .
what I am saying, as to matter of announcement, is definitely at the
command of the King whom I serve.
His taking possession of His chosen vehicle . . . will be soon. Then
He will choose, as before, His twelve apostles . . . and their chief,
the Lord Himself. He has already chosen them, but I have only the
command to mention seven who have reached the stage of Arhatship."
Who were the "Arhats"?
"The first two [Mrs. Besant continued), my brother Charles Leadbeater
and myself, . . . C. Jinarajadasa, . . . George Arundale, Oscar
Kollerstrom, . . . Rukmini Arundale,
I left out one and must leave out another. Naturally, our Krishnaji
was one, but he is to be the vehicle of the Lord. And the other is
one who is very dear to all of us, as to the whole Brotherhood:
Bishop James Wedgwood. He had borne his crucifixion before the seal
of Arhatship was set upon him by his King.
Those are the first seven of the twelve whom He has chosen, with
Himself as the thirteenth. `Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye do
well, for so I am'. Now the wonder may come into your mind: H.P.B.
was the only one who was really announced as the messenger of the
Master. Since then the world has grown a good deal, and it is
possible that while the few may be repelled, many thousands will be
attracted to the Christ. . . . Whatever the effect, since He has said
it, it is done. . ." Unquote.
And the pledge of obedience for ES members :
"I pledge myself (a) to support before the world the Theosophical
Society, (b) in particular to obey, without carvel or delay, the
orders of the head of the Esoteric Section in all that concerns my
relationship with the theosophical movement.(c) to work with her, on
the lines she shall lay down in preparation for the coming of the
World Teacher, and (d) to give what support I can to the Society in
time, money and work."
These statements show the mindset of arrogance, pure fantasy and blind
faith that was rife in the Society at the time Mrs Besant was
This is interesting in the light of the "Freedom of Thought" statement
which was put together after all the very embarassing Messianic mayhem.
If no teacher or writer from "H.P.Blavatsky onwards" is outside
criticism then let that statement be tested, tried and put into
practice. Otherwise the Statement is nothing more than a hollow and
empty mockery and should not be presented as the "policy" of the
Surely tolerance means not only allowing others to hold views contrary
to our own, but also allowing them to be intellectually challenged?
Besant and Leadbeater may have said and written some interesting and
wise statements but they demonstrably and consistently lied and
subverted the purpose of the Society for their own ends under the
pretence of being high initiates in contact with Blavatsky's Adept
Their claims fail to concur with the facts once a critical analysis is
If members still believe them to be legitimate after such an analysis,
then at least that decision has been made after a thorough and
objective examination of the facts has been made.
What right does a Society, supposedly dedicated to the search for
Truth, think it has in not openly presenting this information to its
members in its publications, information they have a right to know
however uncomfortable it may be to read?
Will the Adyar Society take up the challenge and actively discuss
these issues with the membership?
Leadbeater and Besant have a very large following in the Society
especially in India and so for the Society to openly and in print
start to compare and challenge their writings with those of the
Mahatmas and Blavatsky, would be to raise difficult political issues
within the organisation.
But for a Society with such a high sounding motto of "There is no
religion higher than Truth", one has to ask whether political
expediency is being practised, to put it mildly.
To me, the answer is obvious and once one has heard all the
apologetics for Leadbeater and Besant and the ready quoting of the
"Freedom of Thought" statement, my conclusion is that the Adyar
Society is possibly trying to keep things under wraps.
In my opinion, if it was sincere in its motives, it would welcome and
encourage a comparative, critical analysis of Leadbeater and Besant's
"theosophy" with that of Blavatsky and her teachers, rather than
seeming to avoid it.
It will undoubtedly be a difficult process and one that may involve
considerable discomfort, but if it is Truth and genuine Self Knowledge
we are searching for, then we will know and understand that these
types of challenges are all part of the process.
Rather than take the easy comfortable route, we need to be prepared to
follow dharma where it takes us on that journey.
Perhaps it's too tall an order. Arjuna faced the same sort of
questions on the field of Kurukshetra.
In the end it's up to each of us whether we face these challenges or
seek rather the path of comfort and ease.
If the Adyar Society were to sincerely and actively do this, I would
seriously consider renewing my membership.
But without genuine, intellectual rigor in these areas, I would see no
reason to support the Society as it now stands.
(1) Please see the following link to examine some of these differences-
(you will need Adobe Acrobat reader to view this) HYPERLINK
(2) To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without
distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour
(3)The General Council 1996 Annual Report (Adyar Theosophical Society)
(4)The Theosophical Society and Its Future" by Geoffrey A. Farthing
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