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Blavatsky, Judge and the loss of autonomy

Mar 03, 2006 02:03 PM
by Robert Bruce MacDonald


Many theosophists sympathize with the sentiments of Radha Burnier expressed in 1987:

"A study of theosophical history does not have too much importance in fulfilling the aims of the Society if it consists of digging out new details, comparing characters or declaring who was a failure. On the other hand, it is history which can show what sacrifice, courageous thought and energy led to the building of the world-wide organizations which has served to inspire the hearts and minds of millions. Sacrifice and selfless energy characterized the work, not only of our remarkable President-Founder Colonel Olcott and that unique seer H.P. Blavatsky, but also their great successors like Annie Besant. To be fired by a passion for serving humanity such as theirs is more important than learning details about various incidents and passing judgement on them. . . . Such sacrifice was natural because it arose out of a knowledge of the direction in which humanity has to progress and a realization of the unitary nature of life. . . . The activities of the Society from the earliest years were such as to encourage change in contemporary thought and situations." - Krotona of old Hollywood p. xiv from Radha Burnier's "Presidential Address to the 112th Annual Convention of the T.S., Adyar, December 26, 1987". The Theosophist, Vol. 109, n.4, January 1988, p. 124.

It is very clear what Radha is attempting to do here. It is the same thing that many of those ignorant of the true import of the events of the Society's early history try to do. They try to frame the dispute as a fight between various factions where each faction champions its hero and is busy uncovering all the evidence they can for their champion and all they can find against their champion's opponent. Such a description is an insult to all theosophists as it suggests that theosophists have not even realized a basic theoretical understanding of Universal Brotherhood and would waste their time on such an exercise. Also, I hope that Radha is not saying that sacrifice for a foolish cause is a noble way to spend one's life. Yet it might be argued that those that came after Blavatsky and Judge sacrificed foolishly.

Krsanna in a reply to 'HPB Sees "Poor Cowards" in Adyar', points to a very telling point:

"Adyar was abolished as the parent society by HPB, and local lodges
were essentially set up as autonomous at the time the Esoteric
Section was created after the 1888 letter from the Adept that Olcott
received while on the Shannon."

The implication is that Adyar had somehow lost the moral authority to carry on as the voice of theosophy. How did they do this?

This is rather difficult when you remember that the only object that the Masters cared about was that of setting up a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity with no creeds, etc. This was the Society's moral raison d'etre. Was this object somehow undermined?

Well this is exactly what those fighting to clear the names of Blavatsky and Judge maintain. Blavatsky and Judge were attacked first by enemies outside the Society and finally by friends from within. This attack on the integrity of the two founders required a vigorous and wise defence. Judge demonstrated this in his defence of HPB, sadly the wisdom was lost after his death.

We can see why Blavatsky wanted to neuter the power of Adyar. Once it turned away from the First Object, it was capable of moving in any direction. Any nonsense it would eventually spout would flow down to the lodges beneath them within their organizational structure. If Lodges were autonomous, then they would be less likely to adopt the mistakes of a parent organization. The Masters understood that autonomy begins with the individual and works its way up. Lodges are autonomous only if their members are autonomous. A top down approach is very unstable and will crumble as soon as you get a politically motivated individual in power. Politics enter at the expense of the First Object.

When politics enter you get the following nonsense as described by Joseph Ross in his non-judgmental way in "Krishnamurti: The Taormina Seclusion - 1912". Ross helps the reader to understand the spirit of the book with the following from the Foreward:

"In the many biographies of J. Krishnamurti little attention is given to the time he spent during 1912 in seclusion in Taormina, a village in Sicily. In the four-month period, March through June, Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, then leaders of theosophical movement, supervised the preparation of four young people for Initiation into the Brotherhood of the Inner Government of the World. Mrs. Besant was the President of the international Theosophical Society, and Mr. Leadbeater was a lecturer and author of theosophical books and a clairvoyant. It was believed that Krishnamurti would be the vehicle of the coming of the World-Teacher, the Lord Maitreya. The other three young people would be closely associated with Krishnamurti when his ministry began.

"Krishnaji . . . had taken the First Initiation on January 11, 1910, at age thirteen. Initiation, comes from the Latin word, inire, in- and ire, into, and to go, therefore, the making of a beginning of a life of self-fulfillment, or the entrance into. Therefore, we say, they all were about to enter or begin the new life, which shall ultimately lead them to the heights of their being as man. In theosophical parlance, initiation is a ceremony conducted on a superphysical plane, usually at night while the candidate is asleep and is conscious in his subtle body. The candidate undergoes tests to determine his dedication and worthiness, and his sponsors testify as to his service to humanity. During the ceremony, occult teachings are given and his powers are expanded. As the candidate progresses in wisdom, power and service, further initiations may be taken. Mrs. Besant and Mr Leadbeater at this period had previously taken the Fourth (Arhat) Initiation. Of the five major ones, the Fifth Initiation qualifies one as a Master.

"Some years earlier C. Jinarajadasa, a Cambridge graduate, was a lecturer for the Theosophical Society. At thirty-seven he had taken the First Initiation. Nityananda, a younger brother of Krishnaji, and George Arundale, a college principal, were expected to take their First Initiation. . . ." (pp. 7-8)

Ross is brilliant at giving you a flavor for this period in the Theosophical Movement. He tends to let the participants speak for themselves through letters and speeches, etc. His description above gives the reader a very good understanding of what was going on in the minds of theosophists at that time. Instead of working on understanding what they had, they were waiting for some "World Teacher" and his "Inner Government" to come and tell them what to think. Meanwhile theosophical leaders were flying around in their "subtle bodies" at night undergoing initiations and gaining powers. Is it any wonder HPB wanted to establish the autonomy of the Lodges? This nonsense wasn't isolated to Adyar only, it was world-wide. If theosophists looked at stories like this from any other organization, what would they think? Would they give that organization any credence?

If the modern Theosophical Movement is to ever get properly back on course, this abandonment of principle (the first object) must be recognized and dealt with. Blavatsky and Judge must be accorded the respect they deserve and theosophists must learn this lesson so that it is never repeated again. In order to give more than lip service to Universal Brotherhood, we need autonomous organizations, and we must protect the autonomy of each other in order to realize those organizations.

Bruce

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