Robert Crosbie On The Best Approach To Other Theosophical Groups & Teachings

If as associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists – founded in 1909 by Robert Crosbie with the expressed mission statement “To spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge” – we believe that Mr Crosbie’s writings contain good, sound, wise, and deeply insightful advice for us to practically implement, there is a necessity of examining what he has to say on the subject of the various different and mutually contradictory versions of “Theosophy” that have been promulgated and the various Theosophical organisations which publish and promote such varied “Theosophies.”

In the present day, when “Theosophical Unity” and “cross-pollination” are being often talked about, there is surely no better place for ULT associates to turn for guidance than the words of Mr Crosbie.

Because there are differing personality types and characters, it is not surprising that some associates have a tendency to “pick and choose” and give regard to only those Crosbie quotes which seem to endorse and inculcate a completely non-critical, non-confrontational, and non-polemical, approach to the later versions of Theosophy and the writers/teachers who propounded them . . . and also not surprising that some associates have a tendency to disregard those quotes and focus instead on those which seem to endorse a more polemical and combative approach.

HPB once told WQJ in a letter that his magazine “The Path” was “pure Buddhi” and that her magazine “Lucifer” was “the fighting, combative Manas.” As students of Theosophy with understanding of the various principles of the human constitution, we surely recognise that both are necessary and mutually complementary as well as both being required for the sake of harmonious and productive action.

Some Theosophical students are by nature and character more inclined towards taking the “pure Buddhi” approach with regard to matters of different Theosophical groups and teachings and history. Others are more inclined towards the “fighting combative Manas” approach. Are either of them wrong or to be criticised for this? No, they are only in the wrong when they assert that the other approach – which should be complementary – is in the wrong, or when they become dogmatic. With human nature being what it is at this point in time, the most liberally minded nature can be just as dogmatic as the most conservatively minded, just as the spiritually-oriented person who believes themselves to be “heart-centred” can sometimes be as rigidly dogmatically fixed as the one who others would describe as “head-centred.”

The highest ideal, but which few of us are likely to perfectly accomplish in this lifetime although we can try our best, is to have both polarities of perception and action united within us. This may perhaps be signified in Mr Judge’s words in “Letters That Have Helped Me” (p. 112): “Let the warrior fight, the gentle yet fierce Krishna, who, when he finds thee as his disciple and his friend, will tell thee the truth and lighten up the darkness with the lamp of spiritual knowledge,” and in his statement on p. 102 of the same book that we ought not to be solely “of and for war” but also “of and for peace” and not solely “of and for peace” but also “of and for war.”

Presumably then it is necessary to find out all that Robert Crosbie has to say in this regard and then individually conclude what is the right approach to take. For almost all of us, if we are honest with ourselves, this will require a certain degree of adjustment and alteration of attitude and approach.

Let us start with the more “positive” and “open” of his statements, from his letters published in the book “The Friendly Philosopher.” These are the passages which tend to be favoured by the more unity-minded ULT associates and sometimes ignored by others amongst us:

“. . . Theosophy can be used selfishly as well as in the right way. The good comes from the fact that Theosophic ideas pave the way for those who are as yet not clear-eyed. So even those who selfishly use Theosophical ideas unconsciously help by keeping these ideas before the world. Theosophy is, and even a mistaken idea of it may lead to a correct understanding. Let us keep to the correct understanding and refrain from condemnation, and success must come in some measure. . . . Either Theosophy pure and undefiled is the most real thing in the world, or we are all wasting our time and effort. If we are able to conceive its reality in all seriousness, we should then never cease trying to understand and apply what has been recorded by Masters’ Messenger for our guidance and instruction.” (p. 398-399)

““We cannot prevent people from doing the things they can do,” and would not use force even if we could, because the mind has to be free to choose; otherwise there would be no real progress. We might apply an analogy right here: let Oxygen represent the Truth, and Nitrogen purely terrestrial conceptions; the more nitrogenous the conception, the less room for “oxygenation” in any given vehicle. There can be no breath whatever without some oxygen, and a little is better than none at all. Perhaps the Tingley, Besant and other stripes of Theosophy have their place in the great economy of consciousness; they must have, or minds would not seize and hold that kind. If the “kind” does not bring the expected result or knowledge, a further search is indicated. “It is better to have no side, for it is all for the Master, and He will look out for all, if each does just right, even if, to our view, another seems not to do so. By not looking at their errors too closely the Master will be able to clear it all off and make it work well. Hence, go on, and keep the spirit that you have only to proceed, and leave the rest to time and the Lodge.” I think that this is a good attitude for us all in the matter of Theosophical claims and exponents. Every person really waked up by them will touch us sooner or later if we hold to the straight line.” (p. 92-93)

“We should push nothing, while responding to everything. We would not use force if we could, because each mind has to be free to choose; otherwise there would be no true progress. And I think this is a good attitude to be taken in the matter of questions concerning theosophical claims and exponents. These various stripes must have their place in the great economy of consciousness – they must have, or people would not be attracted by them, would not seize and hold on to them. When the particular “stripe” does not bring the devotee the expected result in knowledge, then a further search is indicated to the mind so caught. Every person really waked up by such claims or exponents will touch us sooner or later, if we hold to the straight line. On this, Mr. Judge once wrote: “By our not looking at their errors too closely, the Master will be able to clear it all off and make it work well.”” (p. 371, this is a paraphrasing of the previous passage)

Now let us see these other passages – which must surely be equally important, unless someone knows some good reason otherwise –  which tend to be ignored or avoided nowadays by some ULT associates:

“As to Mrs. Besant’s opinion of Leadbeater: It is of value only to those who see value in it, and in any event it is only an opinion. It has been said that he who speaks of seeing and meeting the Master thereby loses touch. My judgment would be that if, as is said, Leadbeater had stood face to face with the ‘Great Initiator,’” it would never have been spoken of by him, and no other would know the fact. Leadbeater sought to be recognized as a great teacher and in order to break into other realms of nature used most abhorrent means – black magic, in fact. One may be sure that anyone claiming Adeptship is not an Adept, and this in the very nature of things. Apply this to Leadbeater and Mrs. Besant, who are continually making public claims in this direction. The question arises: how much is real, how much for effect, how much self-delusion? The imagination is the image-making power and may create a glorified image of oneself. I am sorry it all occurred, for in the public mind Theosophy is connected with it, and many strange things are assumed to be Theosophy.

[Note: It is significant to note that it was not until the publication of Gregory Tillett’s “The Elder Brother: A Biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater” in the 1980s that clear evidence was provided of Leadbeater having indeed used auto-erotic sexual magic practices – truly black magic, according to HPB’s teachings – to force open his psychic abilities and perceptions of the astral plane. In Crosbie’s time, no-one was saying or suggesting this. Yet we see here that he very clearly knew it, which suggests the development of legitimate psychic faculties on his part.]

“Perhaps I should submit to you my opinion that in the interests of those who are new to the subject of Theosophy, and because of the general tendency to follow personalities (particularly living ones), it is not wise to put such in mental touch with writers, who, however good any particular writing of theirs may be, have failed to show a true appreciation of Theosophic principles. I say this at the risk of being misunderstood; it is for you to accept or reject my opinion, as it meets your viewpoint.

“The most painful experiences I have had in my Theosophical life have been the witnessing of the negation of Theosophic principles by those professing them, and were it not my duty to put you in possession of the facts as I know them – facts representing dangers which lie about us in our quest –I would not have spoken. You asked for the facts; I have to give them as I know them. It should be said that while we condemn the act, we never condemn the actor. The Theosophist must recognize that failures are not irremediable if followed by undaunted struggles upwards, and for professing Theosophists, who to our eyes appear to have strayed from the Path, we know that the time will come when the failure will be recognized, and the struggle back will be hard. Such must necessarily have our pity and sympathy, if we are true to the spirit of the Teachings.(p. 28-29)

“Olcott was not young when he was “pulled out of the fire,” and had the vices of his time and position in the world. But he did what no one else at that time would undertake; the Masters assisted him, while knowing his weaknesses; and we should judge him by what he did for Theosophy. So also with Mrs. Besant, who is sincere, if mistaken. In Mrs. Tingley there is apparent lack of sincerity, and much that is the opposite of theosophical conduct. When questions are asked, and when occasion compels it, plain statements of fact have to be made, but in defense of Theosophy, not in condemnation of any person. This is our key to a right attitude in all such cases presented by theosophical history, made or in the making. It may be a hair line – but we have to find it, and while pointing out truth, whether in Theosophical philosophy or history, to avoid condemnation, even where names have to be mentioned. Where others have made mistakes and gone wrong, they become a vicarious atonement for those who might have done the same thing but for the lesson learned from the errors of others.” (p. 375-376)

“To say that H. P. B. now believes in a personal God, or ever could [i.e. as said by some followers of the Besant/Leadbeater/Bailey version of “Theosophy”], is the greatest absurdity that was ever uttered: this very statement is the most conclusive proof of delusion. Now, in default of direct knowledge, what evidence has any man as to H. P. B.? Certainly no more than the evidence contained in her voluminous writings, which directly refute such an assumption, and at the same time point out the laws that govern life, being, and consciousness on all planes, so that all men may be free from the “lo here!” and “lo there!” claims of would-be prophets. For any to declare that they have private directions to do as they are doing, regardless of what were the lines laid down by the Teachers, would be no better nor more elucidating than is the declaration of the Besant people that the Lodge did not know enough to foresee, and had changed Its plan and purpose. [Note: This is referring to the view put forth by “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” under Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater that the Mahatmas eventually realised after HPB’s passing that the Eastern approach taken by her in her writings would not sufficiently reach the Western mind and that They thus determined that a Westernised and Christianised approach, including the Liberal Catholic Church, should be adopted in its place.] Both these declarations vitiate all that has been said and done, as well as making it appear that the Lodge does not work according to Law and Cycles in public effort. For interim efforts of Their followers and disciples, all ways are open, and in these, conditions must be availed of as they arise; the eternal verities can be used in whole or in part according to the minds reached. All this is to be expected from the variety of mental conditions in the world; yet this variety is not from strength and understanding, so much as from weakness and inability.

Those who are able to perceive, to understand, and to use what They gave have no reason to deviate or dilute anything to suit contemporary forms or ideas, nor to bolster up a decadence that pollutes the mental atmosphere of men. The sooner Christianity is discredited as a religion, the better for Universal Brotherhood. As it is, orthodox Christianity stands in the way, as do all other forms constructed around a basis of Truth. . . . the majority of people . . . asked for bread and have been given a stone. Shall any true Theosophist deem it his duty, then, to persuade these hungry ones that there is valuable nutriment in the stone? Yet, it seems to me, this is just what such would-be Theosophical efforts are doing. Our duty is clear. We will “feed the hungry” with nourishing food, and in so doing follow Law, precept and precedent – thus reverencing our great and illustrious Predecessors and continuing the work They so well began and left in our care.” (p. 32-33)

The defection of Mrs. Besant from loyalty to the Path shown, and to H. P. B. and W. Q. J., was due to such Dark side efforts. In her last message to students, H. P. B. said, “Never is the danger greater than when ambition, and a desire to lead, dresses itself up in the peacock feathers of altruism.” She knew; and in that last Message are many prophecies, some of which have already been fulfilled. She said that the Brahmins are the Jesuits of India. Mrs. Besant fell under the influence of Brahmins and the Brahminical lines, and their influence can be clearly seen in her evolution and in all the developments in her society. The Dark Ones could not destroy or pervert all the efforts of the White Lodge, but they could, did, and do minimize and corrupt them. In a consideration of all this may be found the explanation of many things that might otherwise be a puzzle. All those who do not follow the lines laid down by the Messengers are certain to be misled. Yet the way is clear; the pity of it is that otherwise sincere and devoted persons will not heed the warnings given; will not study, think, and apply what was recorded for them and their guidance.” (p. 35-36)

“I was looking over the magazine article you mentioned. It is interesting, instructive in places, intelligent and bountifully interspersed with diagrams. It gives the impression of great learning on the subject. But it speaks here and there of the Logos and His care of His children. [Note: From this description, it is immediately clear that a magazine published by “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” under the Leadbeater/Besant influence is what is being referred to.] Too much of the personal God under another name, thus leaving “His” poor, ignorant, sinful children none the wiser as to their godlike nature! The article made me think of the way the Jesuits side-tracked Masonry. They entered it, obtained its secrets, invented “higher degrees” to draw attention from what lay hidden in the original ones, and gradually made it innocuous, and incapable of leading to the knowledge that they feared. Much that is going on and has gone on in the . . . . society has the appearance of leading into innocuous desuetude. This is the mode of working of Brahmano-Jesuitical forces, and the ordinary thinker is unable either to perceive, or credit it if warned. It is not believed that there are Dark Forces and their agents in the world, and that they war within that which they would destroy; that they dress themselves up in “sheep’s clothing” so as to be unsuspected. But it is too true. Every failure to establish the Wisdom-Religion is to be traced to the work of the Dark ones among the unsuspecting stupid “sheep,” who are appealed to through their weakness and led astray. There is no panacea for stupidity and ignorance but self-knowledge, discrimination; anything that leads away from them leads to desolation. Would that there might be some way by which eyes could be opened to a wise and proper consideration of all things. Yet, if one should publicly point out these things, “untheosophical” would be the least charge laid at his door. All that we can do is to accentuate the difference between the Eye Doctrine and the Doctrine of the Heart with full exemplification. The . . . talk glibly of these, but in the words of Kipling, “what do they understand?” Those in that society who have the “heart-desire” may find that doctrine, but the mass have it not, and are kept from its consideration by every means.” (p. 161-162)

Undoubtedly, quite a lot has changed for the better in the Adyar Society since Mr Crosbie’s time. But one should not assume that positive changes therein are by any means worldwide or even nationwide. If one researches Lodge by Lodge, Section by Section, it is soon seen that the majority of that Society is still very much oriented towards the Leadbeater/Besant version of “Theosophy” and HPB and her teachings ignored almost entirely and apparently virtually unknown and untouched by many of the members and leaders.

Unless we think that Mr Crosbie was sometimes deluded and paranoid then what he says above about “the Dark ones,” Jesuitical/Brahminical forces, and black magic, has to be kept in mind and taken into account. If one thinks that these words of his are no longer relevant then one has to be able to explain from the occult perspective why that is.

Crosbie does not make mention of G. de Purucker, perhaps because the latter did not come to prominence in “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma” (now split into the Point Loma and Pasadena Theosophical Societies) until 1929, upon Katherine Tingley’s death, and ten years after Crosbie’s passing. The matter of whether or not Purucker’s additions and alterations to the Theosophical teachings are legitimate, reliable, and in harmony with what HPB herself taught, is for each person to decide for themselves, but a few articles on this site may help in the process, by providing comparison of HPB’s and Purucker’s statements on various subjects; see particularly “The Divine Plan” by Geoffrey Barborka – A Review and Purucker Says The Absolute Was Once a Man.

What is of most relevance in this article is these words which we saw above:

“In Mrs. Tingley there is apparent lack of sincerity, and much that is the opposite of theosophical conduct. When questions are asked, and when occasion compels it, plain statements of fact have to be made, but in defense of Theosophy, not in condemnation of any person. This is our key to a right attitude in all such cases presented by theosophical history, made or in the making. It may be a hair line – but we have to find it, and while pointing out truth, whether in Theosophical philosophy or history, to avoid condemnation, even where names have to be mentioned.”

The “hair line” is what we all have to find. If we project vitriolic condemnation towards Tingley and her work, that is not treading the “hair line.” But nor is it treading that “hair line” to ignore and strictly refrain from mentioning all the important historical facts and heap only praise and positivity upon Tingley, Purucker, and their Society. No-one can conclude from the above that this would be Mr Crosbie’s recommended approach, yet it is what is being regularly done at the moment by a small number of ULT associates, all in the name of Unity and Brotherhood.

Part of the root of the issue may be due to the history book “The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950,” which was published by the Cunningham Press on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles, going out of print. This book lays bare all the details, complete with verifiable references, about the Point Loma “Successorship” and the activities and claims of Tingley and Purucker. Numerous ULT Lodges having now seen the necessity for its republication – and certainly not just because of the Point Loma aspect – it was brought back into print in 2020 and is once more widely available. It can also be found online in PDF by clicking here.

On these subjects, there is more from Mr Crosbie in some of his “Theosophy” magazine articles. In response to a question received as to whether it was possible that Besant, Leadbeater, Tingley, and other leaders of other Theosophical Society organisations, were in genuine contact with the genuine Masters and Adepts, he answered:

“Consider these things in relation to claims made by self-styled successors. Are these not all students of the knowledge She [i.e. HPB] imparted? Have any of these added anything of value to what She gave? A diligent search reveals nothing but re-arrangements interspersed with wild and useless speculations; and worse than all else a deliberate attempt to belittle the Teacher from whom they learned, and to divert attention to themselves. Would Masters be so unwise, so ungrateful to Their direct agent as to communicate with or uphold those who hold Her in contempt? Common sense says No; the occult laws made known to us deny the possibility.” (“Questions and Answers,” “Theosophy” April 1913)

Perhaps the ULT Founder’s strongest words on these things are from an article in his important “Masters and Their Message” series in the February 1915 issue of “Theosophy”:

“Like the numberless religions and religious off-shoots throughout all time, and like the numberless schools of the mysteries, secret societies, occult orders, of the past and of the present, the various theosophical societies and esoteric sections of the day are in no sense representative of the School of the Masters or the Theosophical Movement. They represent merely claimants to the mantle of the prophet and those who accept those claims. They rest upon personal assumptions, personal claims and followings, personal psychological experiences of one kind and another. They are subversive of freedom of thought, separative and disintegrating in their very nature, set up forms and formulas, confer no real knowledge, and are the shadow and imitation of the real, deluding and deceiving the ignorant, the unwary, and all those who seek to find and enter the small old path by any other road than that of self-induced and self-devised efforts for the good of Humanity along the lines laid down by the Founders, whether of Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, or The Theosophical Society.”

As the principal founder and mind behind the United Lodge of Theosophists, that seems a direct insinuation on his part that the ULT – which is not a “Theosophical Society” – is “representative of the School of the Masters [and] the Theosophical Movement,” to the exclusion of all the other Theosophical organisations and groups, both exoteric and esoteric. He goes on to clarify:

“The Anciently universal Wisdom-Religion, the School of the Masters and the Theosophical Movement are in unbroken continuity of existence to-day as always. They are spiritual, and not physical or psychical; are invisible, save in effect. Now, as always, they have their representatives and agents among men, who cannot be found out by any but those who have earned the right to know them. In all Societies and in all religions are earnest, sincere and devoted men, not seeking to find the Masters except by doing Their work, and all these are helped unknown to themselves, and to them only, when they are ready, the Master will appear.”

So as “sectarian” as that passage may appear to some (we hope ULT associates will not view it in that light however), it cannot justifiably be viewed wholly in that way, seeing as he acknowledges that “In all [Theosophical] Societies . . . are earnest, sincere and devoted men . . . and all these are helped [by the Masters] unknown to themselves.”

Part of the basis of this statement may be that his mentor, Mr Judge, had stated in print in 1895 upon he and the most loyally pro-Blavatsky Theosophists declaring organisational independence and autonomy, that “The Theosophical Society . . . in Europe and India . . . has ceased to be a portion of the real theosophical movement.” (“The Judge Case,” “William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles” Vol. 2, p. 325, and WQJ Pamphlet #27 “Issues in the T.S.” both published by Theosophy Company)

Also worthy of consideration is that the injunction to not look too closely at the errors of certain Theosophical leaders cannot mean to refrain from commenting on them or from exposing and bringing to light where their teachings have diverged from and misrepresented the Philosophy of HPB and her Teachers. If this was what it meant, then how do we explain these words on p. 113 of “The Friendly Philosopher”:

“In any effort to point out fallacies every factor counts: a harsh uncompromising voice, an abrupt manner, together with words whose significance is unfriendliness – these can easily provoke a charge of intolerance. To point out where a system of thought is inadequate, however, is not “tearing it down.” The motto of Theosophists is: “There is no religion higher than Truth,” and all philosophies must be able to stand the most rigid and critical examination in its light, or they are valueless.”

So for some of us, the message there is the explanation that pointing out and critically examining the inadequacies of a particular system or philosophy is not “tearing it down.” We’ve seen Mr Crosbie’s helpful warnings against engaging in condemnation but it is to be remembered that honest, fair, and factually accurate criticism is not necessarily the same thing as condemnation. HPB even says:

“Theosophists and editors of Theosophical periodicals are constantly warned, by the prudent and the faint-hearted, to beware of giving offence . . . “Judge not, if thou wilt not be judged,” is the habitual warning. . . . I maintain, . . . that criticism is the great benefactor of thought in general; and still more so of those men who never think for themselves but rely in everything upon acknowledged “authorities” and social routine. . . . Friends and foes! Criticism is the sole salvation from intellectual stagnation. It is the beneficent goad which stimulates to life and action – hence to healthy changes – the heavy ruminaries called Routine and Prejudice, . . .” (“Literary Jottings on Criticism, Authorities, and Other Matters”)

And for others, the message to take away from that “Friendly Philosopher” passage is that the way in which such work is done is of serious importance and that efforts should carefully be taken to avoid giving the impression of intolerance.

And let’s not forget that HPB wrote an article titled “On Pseudo-Theosophy” (a term which many Theosophists do not like, even though HPB coined it, wrote about it, and in so doing authorised its use) in which she describes it as the duty of all serious students of Theosophy, and especially the more esoterically minded and committed, to expose and unmask “the false prophets of Theosophy” and the distortions they may wreak upon the original Theosophical teachings and principles.

Granted, differences in human character and personality mean that not all of us will feel personally suited and inclined towards such a task and activity as that but someone has to do it and in that article and elsewhere HPB clearly endorses and requests the doing of it.

To those fellow associates and students who may have thought or said that this website is overly focused on combating Pseudo-Theosophy or on polemical matters, it may be worth mentioning that the site contains over 350 articles and that we can count only 30 of them which deal with, or focus to any particular extent on, such issues and themes. That’s a mere 8.5% of the total content of the website. And to those who say that such articles do no good and only have the effect of alienating people from wanting to get involved with the ULT, we could name almost twenty people from around the world who as a direct result of those articles ended up in the past few years discarding the Alice Bailey and Leadbeater/Besant teachings in favour of the original and, in most cases, also becoming ULT associates and involved in various ways with ULT work. Surely this can only be a good thing? We readily agree, however, that it would not be good for a site to be primarily dealing with polemics and Pseudo-Theosophy; that would indeed put most people off the ULT and even Theosophy as a whole. Such should only be a minor part of Theosophical work and endeavour.

As this present article has been written primarily for the interest and consideration of ULT associates, it would not be right for the one ULT associate writing it to provide any type of “conclusion” presenting a supposed “right” answer or solution to the matters raised and discussed. That cannot be given as it is for each of us to work out for ourselves. But hopefully Robert Crosbie’s words have shown that there is more to consider and reflect upon than the limits of our personal preferences and comfort zone may have thus far allowed. Let each of us then, regardless of persuasion and preferred approach, try to find the “hair line.”

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