The Occult Life of B. P. Wadia

Bahman Pestonji Wadia (1881-1958) was not only a significant and

B.P. Wadia in later years in London, England. Photo c. 1950s.
B. P. Wadia in later years in London, England. Photo c. 1950s.

important part of the modern Theosophical Movement – especially for the United Lodge of Theosophists, which owes much of its international presence to his endeavours – but also, it would seem, a chela (disciple) of the Eastern Masters who were the real Founders of the Movement and the Teachers and co-workers of H. P. Blavatsky.

Anyone can make such a claim on their own behalf but it is significant to note that he never did. Nor has anyone ever expressly and explicitly made such an assertion on his behalf. Even now, we are not specifically stating it but leave it up to each one to form their own conclusions as they see fit. There is, however, interesting and important information available, most of which was neither published nor known of during his lifetime, which allows us an inspiring – albeit undoubtedly very minimal – insight into the occult life of B. P. Wadia. It is sufficient to lead to the encouraging assurance that the Masters have never completely abandoned the Theosophical Movement and that Their genuine work continues even to this day.

In 1907 – the same year that he went to work for Annie Besant at the international headquarters of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” – the young Mr Wadia, then 26 years of age, paid a visit to Elephanta, the famous ancient cave temple on the island a few miles off the coast of Bombay (Mumbai). Amongst many other statues and carvings, there is a 20 foot high sculpture of the Hindu Trinity or Trimurti, Brahmā-Vishnu-Shiva. There he had a “vision” as well as meeting and speaking with one of the Masters of Wisdom, although it is unclear as to whether the meeting with the Master took place bodily on the physical plane. It is not known what was said but it proved a life-changing, destiny-shaping experience.

At Adyar, Mr Wadia was asked to speak at the 8th May 1909 “White Lotus Day” Meeting, the special annual commemoration by Theosophists of the life and work of H. P. Blavatsky, who passed away on 8th May 1891.

Although he had written his talk and memorised exactly what he was going to say, he found when on the platform that he had somehow completely forgotten it. As he was expected and required to speak, he began to do so, finding that the words just came to him and the audience seemed unusually enthused and inspired, although once the talk was over he had no recollection of what he had said.

Taking off his shirt later that day, he noticed that it smelt strongly and unaccountably of sandalwood incense. The shirt retained the unmistakable odour for many weeks afterwards and he formed the opinion that he had given his “White Lotus Day” talk under the influence and unseen presence of one of the Masters.

On 21st November 1918, Mr Wadia experienced a “vision” of HPB, which served as a great inspiration to him for the remaining forty years of his life. No details are known but it is interesting to note that this occurred at the time that he was beginning to busily engage himself with the “Back to Blavatsky” movement, an attempt within the Adyar Theosophical Society to restore the focus to HPB’s own work, writings, and teachings, which are those of the Masters Themselves. This was met with much opposition by Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater, Alice Bailey (who was then still working within the Adyar Society) and others, who did not want the focus to be on HPB and her teachings but on their new and very different version of “Theosophy” instead.

The Masters are not interested in nor appealed to by mere words, promises, and feelings of devotion. What They want and what They demand from those who would make themselves fit to be Their disciples is definite work and action both to keep Their Teachings and Message alive in the world and unmistakably upheld in the Movement which They founded. This, carried on consistently in the right spirit and with ever-refined and purified motives, is bound to eventually bring the sincere aspirant to an encounter with the Masters and Their Messengers for himself or herself. But let us always remember the motto repeated by HPB in this regard: “First deserve, then desire.”

The British esotericist and medium Dion Fortune had some contact with B. P. Wadia shortly after the First World War. She wrote the following in the July 1936 issue of her “Inner Light” magazine:

“When Mr. Wadia, once a worker at Adyar, and later founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, was in England shortly after the War, trying to make a start with his scheme, he gathered together a small group of people, of whom I was one, and put us in touch with the Himalayan Masters. For what my testimony is worth, I can vouch for the genuineness of these contacts; I certainly got in touch with something; but although it was not evil, it was to me alien and unsympathetic, and it seemed to me that it was hostile to my race, but that is another story. Anyway, the rapport soon came to an end so far as I was concerned. Whether I was cast out, or walked out, I cannot be certain, anyway, the parting was simultaneous and by mutual agreement.”

There is an inaccuracy in the above, in that it was not Mr Wadia but rather Robert Crosbie who founded the United Lodge of Theosophists. At the time of this visit to England by Mr Wadia, he was still a member of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” and the visit in fact occurred as part of a tour of European Theosophical Society Lodges.

What Fortune means by “trying to make a start with his scheme” is unclear, unless she misremembered certain details and thought in retrospect that he had been in England to try to start up the ULT, which was obviously not the case.

His visit to England was, however, in 1919, and shortly before he travelled on to the USA where he came in contact for the first time with the ULT. Mr Crosbie had just passed away a few months before. This meeting with ULT associates signalled the beginning of the end of Mr Wadia’s long yet increasingly dissatisfied association with the Adyar Society, from which he resigned his membership three years later, declaring in print that “The Theosophical Society is disloyal to Theosophy” and enthusiastically joining the ULT in order to do everything in his power to help it fulfil its mission “To spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”

Dallas Tenbroeck reports in his “B. P. Wadia: A Life of Service to Mankind” that “It was known that Mr. Crosbie had told some of his closest associates just before his death when they spoke of their discouragement, that “they would not have too long to wait” for some help to arrive.”

“It was interesting for me to note in conversations I have had with “old-timers” from the days of Crosbie, and shortly thereafter at the Los Angeles ULT,” he said elsewhere, “that some of them were apprehensive of the ability of the ULT to survive the passing of Crosbie, who must have known of his approaching death as he told several of his friends. When they expressed this, he consoled them saying that they would receive “help” – “soon.” Mr. Wadia arrived in Los Angeles some 4 months later! Seeing an advertisement of the ULT Sunday lecture to be held in down-town Los Angeles at the Metropolitan Building, near the Biltmore Hotel, he attended. There was almost immediate recognition of congruent ideals and motives between him and Mr. John Garrigues, and Mrs. and Mr. Clough, and others who had been closest to Mr. Crosbie and the ULT work.”

In “Dion Fortune and her Inner Plane Contacts” her biographer John Selby shares the following which serves as a means of elucidation on the above:

“During the immediate post-war years, Fortune had no continuous inner contacts of her own and so, when invited by a respected Indian Theosophist, B. P. Wadia, then visiting England, to make contact with the Eastern Masters for the purpose of regenerating the group soul of the British nation, she readily agreed. However, it was not long before she became sensitive to Wadia’s underlying dislike of Britain as an imperial power and perceptively he soon invited her to leave the group for it became obvious that she felt at the time that he and his contacts were hostile to her Western racial consciousness. There were synchronous disturbances associated with this incident, perhaps reinforcing Fortune’s insistence on Western contacts for Western aspirants.”

Further, Dion Fortune is reported to have written:

“I remember, many years ago, when I did not know as much about occultism as I do now, that I met a certain Indian Theosophist, and he offered to put me in touch with the Master K.H. I am quite satisfied that he did what he undertook to do, and that the Master K.H. was of the Right-Hand Path and of a high grade…” (Original source unknown; quoted by Dallas Tenbroeck in his biographical overview of B. P. Wadia)

This last quote is interesting on two counts, one being that here she specifically speaks of the Master K.H. rather than just “the Himalayan Masters” and the other that she seems more positive here about the matter, although of course the quote is incomplete and we may never know what she went on to say, unless the document in question can be located. It would be interesting to know whether she wrote this before or after the other.

Nevertheless, several key facts can be deduced from these references:

(1) B. P. Wadia’s visit to England shortly after World War I was apparently under the guidance and direction of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood and partly with the aim of gathering together a small group of British occultists – not necessarily Theosophists – in order to put them individually in contact with the Master K.H. and/or other Adepts of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, with the ultimate aim of “regenerating the group soul [or one might say, the occult atmosphere and collective consciousness] of the British nation.”

(2) Through means and methods unknown, Mr Wadia put the individuals directly in touch with the Master K.H., a contact about which Fortune said, “I can vouch for the genuineness of these contacts . . . I am quite satisfied that he did what he undertook to do.” So, far from being a mere transmitter of purported messages or acting as any sort of “channeller,” he placed them individually in contact for themselves with the Trans-Himalayan Adepts.

(3) To Fortune, the Master K.H. “seemed hostile to her Western racial consciousness” and “alien [i.e. foreign] and unsympathetic.” This in fact reinforces the likelihood of it having genuinely been the real Master K.H., as anyone who has read any of the letters written by the Masters will be aware that They are most definitely not pro-Western (like Fortune was), pro-Christian (like Fortune was), or in favour of European tastes, styles, and methods (like Fortune was). On the contrary, They are distinctly pro-Eastern, pro-Indian, and profoundly Buddhistic and do not hesitate to express their thoughts, perceptions, and insights very clearly about the failings and problems of the West. It is thus perhaps not overly surprising that Fortune reacted in the way that she did, although the Masters must have thought quite highly of her inherent potentials and possibilities in order to have selected and allowed her this great opportunity in the first place.

It is not currently known what became of this small group of people, nor who any of the others were. It presumably operated in secrecy, in light of the sensitive nature of the work.

In considering these details, it may be concluded that it is one thing to gather together a group of people and claim to be in contact with Masters and then proceed to act – whether genuinely or otherwise – as an intermediary but quite another for someone to gather together a group of people, offer to put them in direct contact with one or more of the Masters, and then actually do so. This fact alone must be quite conclusive as to Mr Wadia’s occult status and the nature of his own connection and relation with the Mahatmas.

But there is more and part of it relates to Bhavani Shankar. He was one of the most prominent of the last surviving Indian chelas (disciples) of the Masters from HPB’s Adyar days. The Masters wrote of him in glowing terms and it is known, both from Them and from his own private letters, to such fellow chelas as Damodar K. Mavalankar, that he was a chela of the Master K.H.

He once testified regarding the Masters in the pages of “The Theosophist” that:

“These Brothers are not mere fictions of our respectable Madame Blavatsky’s imagination, but real personages, whose existence to us, is not a matter of mere belief, but of actual knowledge.”

Viewing the attitudes and teachings of such people as Leadbeater and Besant as “blasphemous talk” and “flippant prattle” and saying that in their books “high names and doctrines have been dragged down to the level of modern ignorance,” he ended up separating himself entirely from The Theosophical Society and eventually aligned himself instead with the ULT, when Mr Wadia established it at Bombay. He felt that here was an association – apparently the only one – which was true to the real Cause and real Teachings of the real Masters of whom he was the faithful disciple and with whom he was personally acquainted.

From Dallas Tenbroeck we learn that at some point following Mr Wadia’s joining of the ULT, Bhavani Shankar “was living temporarily at Versova (north of Bombay, near Juhu beach, where the Wadias had been given land in part payment for their services as ship-builders many years before, by the British East India Company). BPW was invited to come and to attend the Pandit’s “morning puja” – a period which he spent in meditation and devotion with thought centered on HPB and the Masters. This, BPW said, began at 4.00 a.m. and would continue for a period of 4 to 5 hours. Bhawani Shankar used at that time a special bell. It had a “peculiar, a curious ring to it” which “produced a deep psychological effect on those who heard it.”

Further: “At the time of his death, Bhawani Shankar asked B. P. Wadia to come and visit him. He apparently delayed that event until his arrival. They had a private talk, after which he expired. The date was the Full Moon of the month of Ashadha – the 4th of July 1936. Born in 1859, Bhawani Shankar was 77 years old, and, active to the last, was ever ready to help and instruct his fellows.”

One may conclude that the closeness and nature of the relation and contact between Mr Wadia and Mr Shankar is further indication as to Mr Wadia’s own occult status and connection with the Great Ones.

The mysterious and apparently occultly significant Toda tribe of India is written about by HPB between p. 613-615 of the second volume of her first book “Isis Unveiled.” Tenbroeck, who lived much of his early life in India in the regular company of B. P. Wadia, tells us the following:

“Mr. Wadia knew more about those mysterious personages than many. He stated one time that the “real Todas” had retired to secluded and secure places shortly after the British started coming there. They had “had themselves replaced” with others who looked like them, but were not Todas. An incident in 1937-40, when walking in the afternoon (as was usual) between tea-time and dinner, with Mr. Wadia and others of his household, comes to mind. We saw on one of rough access forest roads on the high hill backing Gurumandir, some distance ahead, a person dressed in the customary white wool, toga-like attire of a Toda. He was apparently waiting for Mr. Wadia. BPW asked us to wait for him and he walked alone up to this personage who was a few hundred yards away. They exchanged some words. The “Toda” turned and left, walking up into the jungle of the mountain above. Mr. Wadia then waved us up, but he did not explain the encounter, nor allay our curiosity until several years had passed.”

We close this article with the following, which also concludes Tenbroeck’s “B. P. Wadia: A Life of Service to Mankind”:

“August 20th 1958 early in the pre-dawn of Bangalore, the intimate friends of Mr. Wadia were called in an emergency. The time was 2.20 a.m. He knew that he was approaching death and desired to speak to them of the future. He spoke of the changes that the cycles had brought to him. He reviewed some past incidents in his life. His first meeting with the Master in the “Brahma-Vishnu-Siva Cave” in 1907; his vision of HPB during his stay in Adyar (November 18th 1918), which two events he said had inspired his life.

“He indicated that there would be changes now, and that responsibility had henceforth to be shared among those who had been near to him, and who would survive him. After this meeting, a number of students left reports on what they remembered hearing, differing somewhat as to actual content. The main ideas are reported here.

“It was not until that evening, that he actually passed away. The time of the death of his body was 7.17 p.m. His friends met immediately after the event and read from the devotional books he loved: the BHAGAVAD GITA, VOICE OF THE SILENCE, and LIGHT OF ASIA.

“Cremation was the next morning at Chamrajpet, a suburb of Bangalore.

“As is customary, in the early dawn of the morning following a cremation, two ULT students went to the cremation ground to collect the ashes in earthen jars so that they could be later scattered in the Cauvery river, some 80 miles away. They both stated, that they had noticed on arrival, that there was a very distinct and penetrating odor of sandalwood in and around the ashes of Mr. Wadia’s pyre. These were collected in jars and taken by car to the banks of the Cauvery river, some 80 miles West of Bangalore. There at the southern tip of the island of Seringapatnam those ashes were poured into the great river.”

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Like Robert Crosbie, B. P. Wadia did not describe or present himself as a “Teacher” but merely as a student of Theosophy who was willing to help other students. His hundreds of articles were published anonymously during his lifetime in such magazines as “Theosophy,” “The Theosophical Movement” (which he founded), and “The Aryan Path” (which he also founded). It was only after his passing that many of them were compiled together and published in book form under his own name and under such titles as “Studies in The Secret Doctrine,” “Studies in The Voice of the Silence,” “Living the Life,” and “Thus Have I Heard.” All these and more are still in print and in demand today. For more information please visit the Books on Theosophy page.