THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 8, June, 1935
(Pages 339-349; Size: 31K)
(Number 6 of a 10-part series)



The prisms through which Occultism appears ... are as multi-colored and varied as human fancy can make them....

There are not in the West half-a-dozen among the fervent hundreds who call themselves "Occultists" who have even an approximately correct idea of the nature of the Science they seek to master. With a few exceptions, they are all on the highway to sorcery....

And once being mistaken, and having acted on their mistakes, most men shrink from realizing their error, and thus descend deeper and deeper into the mire. 

--H.P.B.: Lucifer, May, 1888.
MRS. BESANT departed this life at Adyar, Madras, India, on September 20, 1933. Her death was shortly followed by that of C. W. Leadbeater who, since 1895, had been the determining influence in her career and in that of the theosophical society of which she was President, as in its "esoteric section" of which she was the Head.

There can be no doubt that both of them regarded themselves as Occultists of the very highest degree, for they called themselves Arhats; nor is there any doubt that they were so considered by the great majority of their followers. Although they professed to serve the same Masters and the same Cause as H.P.B. and W. Q. Judge, it is unmistakable that this could not have been the case. Why, then, were they not themselves aware of the fact, and why did their followers continue in such an erroneous view of them?

The solution is not to be found in affirmation or denial, but in the study of theosophical principles and theosophical history; in an understanding of the nature of the Science of Occultism, no matter by whom that Science may be practised or attempted to be practiced.

Spiritualists had been practising Occultism for many years when H. P. Blavatsky appeared among them. Mystics of every variety have been engaged in the practice of Occultism for untold ages. In Buddhism, in Hinduism, in Mohammedanism, Christianity, Judaism, to-day there are numberless practitioners of arts and sciences which, properly speaking, lie within the domain of Occultism. In matters of physical and mental concern, among scientists, men of affairs, educators, and especially in what passes for psychology, the delvers into sub-human and preter-human consciousness increase with every passing generation. All this is "practical occultism" of sorts.

When the motives of these multi-colored experimenters and dabblers are examined, when one considers the nature of the laws and principles which must govern in the spiritual and psychical worlds as in the physical, he can but stand appalled at the lack of even an elementary appreciation of the difficulties and problems involved in the attempt to explore regions beyond the range of human consciousness.

Beginning with Isis Unveiled, and continuing to the hour of her death, the writings of H. P. Blavatsky are filled with warnings on the subject of Occultism and the Occult Sciences. Mr. Judge followed in her steps, and all the extant direct communications of the Masters of Wisdom confirm the teachings and advice of the great Messenger and her Colleague. And surely all recorded history, and the steadily mounting casualties among Theosophists since 1875, should serve to put every neophyte on his guard against this "dweller on the threshold" -- the thirst for "practical Occultism" which wakens in every aspirant to Wisdom.

The Karma of the Adyar society is a heavy one, and, since it is by far the largest of all the theosophical bodies, its good or evil fortunes are necessarily a matter of the deepest concern to Theosophists at large. Those who for many years surrounded Mrs. Besant and Mr. Leadbeater, and upon whom has now fallen the responsibility for the conduct of the society and its esoteric section, have need for what can only be provided by themselves -- a resurvey of the existing facts in the light of the original teachings.

Mr. George S. Arundale has now become the President of the Adyar society and Mr. C. Jinarajadasa the Head of its esoteric section. Although they lack the prestige of Mrs. Besant and Mr. Leadbeater, that may be made by them a blessing instead of a handicap. Besides Mr. Smythe and Dr. Stokes there are, throughout the Adyar society, many members who, though they have tolerated the cumulation of what they knew to be evils, have themselves sufficient knowledge of true Theosophy and of the course of Theosophical history not to be misled by the "occultists" who have dominated the general membership. More, perhaps, depends on such members than they themselves realize. If they continue as before, no effective opposition can be made to the rise of even worse extravagances, of still more fatal tendencies, than those which during forty years have reduced the society to its present state. In such case Mr. Arundale and Mr. Jinarajadasa will fail to benefit by that true counsel from within the society, without which they cannot resist the force of the current in which they have been so long embarked. The great mass of the members, having no true knowledge or information for their guidance, will inevitably follow the course set by their leaders. However great the sympathy of independent Theosophists, however genuine their desire to serve the best interests of their fellows irrespective of organization or differences of teaching and conduct, they are powerless until the Adyar membership, leaders and followers alike, have and exercise the courage to search and find a fresh orientation, to chart the course to be taken, to learn beyond doubt or cavil in which direction they are headed on the two-fold path of Occultism.

What the Adyar society has to face was well stated by Mr. Smythe, General Secretary of the T.S. in Canada in the October, 1933, Canadian Theosophist, immediately following the death of Mrs. Besant. Under the title of "The Great Illusion," he says:

"Mr. Krishnamurti's declaration that he no longer acknowledges any allegiance to Mrs. Besant or the Theosophical Society should surely give occasion for reflection....

"When Mrs. Besant assumed the Presidency of the Theosophical Society in 1907 she had a clear path ahead of her. She made overtures to the other Societies and the former members by offering to receive them once more in the T.S. without further formality. She had broken with Mr. Chakravarti after eleven years in which she said she had not found the satisfaction she had hoped. She had declared that she could never permit Mr. Leadbeater to enter the Society again. It seemed that Madame Blavatsky was about to get her due and that the Society was to be developed on the lines she had laid down.

"It was not long, however, before Mr. Leadbeater asserted his influence over Mrs. Besant, Svengalized her, so to speak, and persuaded her to restore him to membership. The Great Illusion once more held sway in the Society.... There was the Liberal Catholic Church with its spurious orders. There was 'Man: Whence, How and Whither' with its bogus calculations and descriptions of future races. There were the Seven Arhats, one of whom quickly defected, and the others remained as notorious warnings. Then there came the World Teacher, the Messiah, with law suits and prophecies. The law courts denounced Leadbeater; the police had him under surveillance. The prophecies all proved false. Then the World Religion was formulated,...

"Then we had Alcyone's past incarnations, the baldest drivel that man ever excogitated, and utterly baseless.

"Then we had the great Arena at Sydney in Australia, built, like Mrs. Tingley's World Tour, out of the offerings of the poor and needy, as well as of the wealthy and deluded. Mrs. Besant's check for $500 for a seat in this arena for the Great Occasion when the Christ would appear there and declare himself, was facsimiled and printed in the magazines to lure the doubtful....

"The abomination of desolation was never more truly set up in a shrine than when the Theosophical Society had its sanctities defiled and violated in the quarter century of Mrs. Besant's Presidency...

"What now are we to expect? Are these others to whom she left authority and guidance to continue to degrade the Theosophical Society with false and discredited teachings and bogus legends? Or will the members, as last awakened and alive to the downward course the Society has been taking and its desertion of the Secret Doctrine principles and the course marked out for it by Madame Blavatsky, assert themselves and restore it to its first ideals and its proper service?"

Powerful as is this indictment of Mrs. Besant's fatal weakness and the morass into which her leadership had carried the society, the other contents of the same number of the Canadian Theosophist largely vitiate it. They disclose that immediately following Mrs. Besant's death, Mr. Smythe, as General Secretary, had, after consultation with the other members of the "General Executive" of the Canadian society, sent the following cablegram to Adyar:
"The Theosophical Society in Canada in conjunction with Toronto and other Lodges wishes to unite with Headquarters in deepest regret over the passing of Mrs. Besant -- great orator, great reformer, great woman, and great Theosophist."
Making all possible allowances for the "amenities of the occasion," this official affirmation can scarcely be found consistent with the indictment of her as Theosophist, written almost immediately after this cablegram was sent. Great the inconsistencies of Mrs. Besant undoubtedly were, but are they any greater than those shown by these contrasted quotations from Mr. Smythe -- indicative of the bewilderment of mind among the best of the "Blavatsky Theosophists" in the Besant society?

Under Mr. Smythe's influence the Toronto Lodge, then an independent body, had re-entered the Adyar T.S. at Mrs. Besant's invitation soon after she became its President in 1907. Had it continued as an independent association, the Toronto Lodge would have been free to promulgate, study, apply, unhampered by questionable alliance or allegiance, the original teachings of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. Having made the mistake of entering Mrs. Besant's motley society on her terms, Mr. Smythe and others continued in that unhappy relation for a quarter of a century, and at her death were still of "divided mind."

It is interesting, and worth consideration by students now, that Mr. Crosbie began the United Lodge of Theosophists at the same time that Mr. Smythe and the Toronto and other Canadian Theosophists chose to enter the Adyar T.S. Which course has better served the cause of Theosophy pure and simple? There was nothing then, and there is nothing now, to prevent any individual Theosophist, or any body of Theosophists, from "independent devotion to the cause of Theosophy without professing attachment to any theosophical organization." Mr. Smythe and his fellow-protestants within the Adyar society were powerless to prevent its degradation, and were equally powerless to work effectively for pure Theosophy because of the inconsistency of their position. Suppose they had taken the same course as Mr. Crosbie and his associates? Suppose the many sincere students everywhere, in the various societies or out of them, were now to do the same thing? The Theosophical Movement would be quickly rescued, all semblance of Authority, spiritual or official, would at once be done away with, and the bane of the past and present be destroyed. There would be emulation, not rivalry, fraternity, not antagonism, between all such associations, for all would have the same aim, purpose and teaching. The whole Theosophical Movement would at once be placed on its true basis, as designed by H.P.B. Moreover, the now existing sectarian societies would be forced by the contrast either to return to the true Foundation, or to drop the use and desecration of the word Theosophy, and pursue their own tangents under honester designations than those now employed.

Informed Theosophists know that, immediately following Colonel Olcott's death enveloped in the highly questionable first "Adyar manifestations," Mrs. Besant and her supporters began what can only be described as a political campaign to insure her election to the Presidency of the society. This campaign quickly degenerated into the tactics of the ecclesiastical conflicts which have disgraced the centuries of church Christianity -- the miracle-element was lugged in, and the Masters were pictured to the members as having "ordered" Colonel Olcott to nominate Mrs. Besant as the one chosen by Them to head the society. This was to head off the openly expressed suspicions of Mr. Sinnett, at the time Vice-President of the society, and of Mr. Alexander Fullerton, then General Secretary of the American Section. At the same time it was declared that the Masters condoned the offenses confessed by Leadbeater just before Olcott's death and which had resulted in the resignation of Leadbeater from the society. Mrs. Besant had felt it necessary to repudiate Leadbeater to clear herself, though it was known that she had been well aware of his pederastic conduct. The campaign succeeded. Mrs. Besant was elected by an almost unanimous vote; Sinnett was driven out of his office; Mr. Fullerton was replaced by Dr. Weller Van Hook, an ardent Leadbeater-Besant devotee -- Mrs. Besant coming to America to re-cement her hold on the important American Section. It was during the Convention of the Section that Mrs. Besant declared to the members that she had opposed the expulsion of Mr. Judge from the old T.S. -- a declaration which went unopposed! She made this utterly false affirmation in answer to a question, and in order to defend -- herself and Leadbeater! As in the "Judge case," her assertions were accepted as facts by the membership, and, reassured as to her unshaken hold upon the confidence of her followers, she began the campaign which ended in the invitation by the General Council to Mr. Leadbeater to resume his place in the society -- which he did.

It was in such circumstances that Mr. Smythe and the Toronto Theosophical Lodge accepted Mrs. Besant's promises as against her own past record, and that Robert Crosbie began the independent United Lodge of Theosophists. When Mrs. Besant passed from the scene, twenty-five years seems to have taught little, either to her followers or to the recalcitrants within the Adyar society -- for at once the same tactics that had been pursued in 1907 were repeated to procure the election of Mr. Arundale. First came a statement by Mr. Jinarajadasa, dated October 3, 1933, making public two letters of Mrs. Besant, one written September 9 and the other October 12, 1926 -- both to Mr. Arundale, and affirming "Master said you were to become President."

Mr. Smythe published the communications in the Canadian Theosophist for December, 1933, followed by his own comments:

"The foregoing circular letter from Mr. Jinarajadasa and the letters from the late Mrs. Besant are part of the system pursued by Adyar in its political methods of electing an official. We regarded the election of 1907 as possibly the last in which such methods would be employed. But we were mistaken....

"Mrs. Besant's letter does not lend any evidence that the Masters wish Dr. Arundale to be President any more than her assertion was reliable that they had appointed him and Oscar Kollerstrom and five others to be Arhats and apostles of Mr. Krishnamurti, who was announced as a Messiah. Mr. Krishnamurti and Mr. Kollerstrom appear to be the only two of the five who had sense enough to see that this was all wrong. And now it is Mr. Arundale, who also professes to have been in Nirvana and got back again, who is nominated by Mr. Jinarajadasa, another of the Arhats, who evidently stick together,...

"The relation of the E.S. to the T.S. as it has been for a number of years is an impossible one. It leads to deceit and double-dealing to begin with and initiates its members into what must revolt them at first, so that they have to keep asserting that the E.S. has no official connection with the T.S., while all the time they know that they are expected to dominate the T.S., and influence its members, until the T.S. is a mere tool of the E.S. and its officials.

"It has in fact, become a political machine, to carry out the orders of its head, not of the Masters, but what he chooses to pretend the Masters wish."

With this declared conviction, what did Mr. Smythe and his fellow-sympathizers do? They nominated Mr. Ernest Wood as a sacrificial "goat of atonement" in opposition to "arhat" Arundale. Mr. Wood promptly issued an election manifesto in which his own disposition to carry water on both shoulders is the predominant feature. After protesting against undue psychic influences during the long career of the society, he proceeds to assert his devotion to Mrs. Besant and cites her appointment of himself as Recording Secretary to show her confidence in him, as well as giving him "what many would regard as 'orders.'" Equally he swears a "minced-oath" as to Mr. Leadbeater, thus:
"I am still carrying out her wishes, as well as the principles I believe to be right. I should, however, feel it much harder to stand against the powerful combination of Bishop Leadbeater (my greatest and most honoured friend and benefactor for many years) and his two distinguished pupils, were I not confident of my position with regard to the real Annie Besant and her Master."
As General Secretary of the Canadian society, Mr. Smythe comments on Mr. Wood's "manifesto," and affirms that--
"It represents ... the original conceptions of the Theosophical Movement. A resumption of these ideas ... would mean the immediate resuscitation of the Society, the recovery of its waning influence, and the spread of its principles throughout the world which so badly needs its inspiration and illumination."
Perhaps the key to the confusion of mind which has misled so many sincere Theosophists is indicated in the foregoing. It is the assumption that the or any theosophical society is to be credited with either principles or illumination or inspiration. All these come from Theosophy, not from any organization; and Theosophy comes to the world and to all Theosophists from H. P. Blavatsky, not from any of her students. For forty years Mrs. Besant, her intimates, her "esoteric section," and her theosophical society had, according to Mr. Smythe and others, committed the gravest of offenses -- had spread a counterfeit Theosophy as the genuine; yet he and they remained as attached as ever to the society. Could there be a more mistaken sense of loyalty, a greater misapprehension of the aims and objects of H.P.B. and her Masters?

Mr. Arundale also issued a "manifesto," in which his own confusion of mind is apparent:

"Fully do I realize how arduous and responsible is the office of President of the Theosophical Society....

"I offer myself for election, first because Dr. Besant -- Mother, Teacher and my General for over thirty years -- wished me to stand....

"If I am elected to office, I shall consider my paramount duty to be to help to spread far and wide that Theosophy which is the very heart of our Society, the Theosophy which the Master-Founders Themselves gave to the world through H. P. Blavatsky and those who followed her....

"Because I have known and loved H. P. Blavatsky, because I have known and loved the President-Founder, and because I have known and loved Dr. Annie Besant, and have tried to serve her and our Society for many years, I offer myself for election..."

Naturally, "Bishop" Leadbeater offered his contribution to the contest:
"I was one of those who nominated Dr. Arundale. I cannot imagine that any true Theosophist could hesitate for a moment after seeing our late revered President's nomination of him and her clear statement that her Master thoroughly approved it."
As the campaign proceeded it took on more and more the same identifying characteristics as had accompanied Mrs. Besant's example in 1907. When the votes were cast it was found that in the Canadian society Mr. Wood received 276 votes to 11 cast for Mr. Arundale, but the balloting as a whole throughout the entire society showed a total vote of slightly over 20,000 members -- a third of the membership not voting at all! Of the actual votes cast, Mr. Arundale received over 75 per cent.

The votes showed that the Canadian Theosophists are almost a unit against the whole policy steadily followed by the society to which they belong; it shows also that nearly one-sixth the membership throughout the world voted for Mr. Wood as "the lesser of two evils." Mistaken as the allegiance of these members may be to a society which repudiates and betrays the Theosophy in which they must be assumed to be interested, their protest is nevertheless relatively encouraging -- for when Mrs. Besant was elected and reelected, none could be found to enter any effective opposition to her rule or ruin methods.

Since his election, Mr. Arundale has made two statements from which various inferences may be drawn. The American Theosophist, the official publication of the society in the United States, contains as its leading article for December, 1934, Mr. Arundale's address on "The Magic of 'The Secret Doctrine,'" at the "Summer Proceedings, 1934." He begins:

"Being at the present moment an officer of the Theosophical Society, naturally I have had to plumb down into the depths of that movement, and when I do plumb down into the depths of that movement I find obviously at the heart of it the book called The Secret Doctrine. I have naturally had contact with that book before, but I took up my contacts with that book again, because no one can be effective in the Theosophical Society, in the real sense of the word 'effective' unless he has had a definite acquaintance at least with the spirit of The Secret Doctrine."
These remarks show that Mr. Arundale recognizes and admits the writings of H.P.B. as the standard whereby to judge theosophical books and theosophical policies and conduct. Taking him at his own statement of valuation, what is he to do with the writings of Mrs. Besant and Mr. Leadbeater, which are certainly alien in both letter and spirit to The Secret Doctrine? And with what measure of consistency and sincerity can he present these contrasted and contradictory teachings as alike trustworthy? How, for the matter of that, can he reconcile his own writings, his allegiance to the Liberal Catholic Church, to Mr. Krishnamurti, to the "World Religion," with genuine devotion to The Secret Doctrine? Can he, any more than any other, successfully "serve both God and Mammon?"

Mr. Arundale, despite many discursive remarks which betray his own actual unfamiliarity with the teachings of The Secret Doctrine, nevertheless is able, like Mrs. Besant, to point out to others what he has himself failed to take to heart. No one could better express, if expression were all that is requisite, the very purpose of The Secret Doctrine, as of the Theosophical Movement, than is contained in this paragraph:

"The Secret Doctrine is a challenge to effort and never an imposition of authority. Every page is a call to a voyage of discovery, and only he who sets out upon his travels can hope to begin to understand the book. It is a book which demands action, freedom from domination by conventional thinking, freedom from prejudices of all kinds, freedom from the limitations imposed by the forms in which science, religion, philosophy are for the time being expressed, freedom from the restrictions of the present stage of evolutionary advancement. It demands an adventurous spirit, the pioneer spirit, a spirit of indifference to the persecution of the small-minded. It demands the spirit of one who has left behind him all attachment to numbers, to crowds, to orthodoxies, and seeks beyond all these the companionship of the few and the compelling call for the unknown."
Have the leading officials, writers, speakers in the Adyar society, including Mr. Arundale, at any time themselves shown the spirit pervading The Secret Doctrine --the spirit which inspired H. P. Blavatsky and Mr. Judge? Out of their own mouths their careers stand exposed, for their profession of faith is that of the true Teachers. Where, then, lies the tell-tale difference? Where else but in the discrepancy between profession and practice?

The other statement of Mr. Arundale will be found in the "Watch-Tower," the editorial section of The Theosophist, for December, 1934. Mr. Arundale there writes:

"Traveling, ... I had the pleasure of an interesting conversation with a lady who had been a member of the Society but had felt compelled to resign. I naturally enquired the reason, and was told that she had joined the Society for the purpose of studying Theosophy, but found that most of the lectures of the local Lodge were about everything except Theosophy.... What she expected was a serious study of Theosophy, ... and then study-classes to gain a more or less comprehensive grasp of our science. She said she found the syllabus full of addresses on Astrology, Financial Schemes, India, Archaeology, and so forth -- all interesting, but for the most part dealt with more ably by bodies specializing in such subjects. What she wanted was Theosophy, and a progressive course in it. For what other reason, she asked, would she join the Theosophical Society? ... I must admit I was inclined to agree with her; and I wonder how far she represents the average enquirer and our failure to offer him that for which he comes."
Earlier in this series attention was drawn to the enormous percentage of lapses in membership in the Adyar society year after year. Mr. Arundale has given the explanation in part in the above remarks, but he has not called attention to the number of ex-members of his society who have emulated the example of Mrs. Besant and her coterie, and who have "set up shop" on their own account in order to gain a following for their own revelations. The number of these is large, and their combined memberships vastly exceeds the most prosperous Adyar period. Rudolph Steiner, Max Heindel, Manly P. Hall, Alice A. Bailey, and numerous others got their lesson and their example in Mrs. Besant. All these have been far more honest, in one respect at least, than Mrs. Besant, Leadbeater, Jinarajadasa and Arundale: they have dropped the use of the word Theosophy and sail under their own colors.

Nor has Mr. Arundale called attention to the fact that, with such a constant drain from those who resign and those who set up competitive movements, the intellectual and moral barometer of the Adyar society shows a steady lowering of level. The caliber of the majority is that of mere curiosity-seekers, dabblers in one or another form of psychism, having no more sincerity or seriousness of purpose than those who, a century ago, played with spiritualism.

Nevertheless, "it is never to late to mend," and it is possible for a genuine reform to be inaugurated in the Adyar society at this crucial period in its life-cycle. That reform can only come about through a Theosophical education -- an education of which its leaders even more than its followers stand in need. It cannot come about in any other way than by an honest return to the source of the Movement -- the teachings, the example, the devotion, of H. P. Blavatsky. Nor can it be brought about without retraction of the wrong done to William Q. Judge, the repudiation of the accusations and the accusers, whose false charges and false teachings have done more evil to the movement than the combined forces of all the professed enemies of that Movement. Will Mr. Arundale and others face the issues before them in the spirit of the two extracts given? Those issues cannot be evaded, cannot be compromised, for "these two, light and darkness, are the world's eternal ways."

Next article:
(Part 7 of a 10-part series)

Back to the
series complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".


(1) Corrections, objections, criticisms, questions and comments are invited from all readers on any facts or conclusions stated in this series. --Editors, THEOSOPHY.
Back to text.

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.