Examining The Point Loma & Pasadena “Successorship” Claim

The 1893 Theosophical Convention in New York City. William Judge is seated front centre, next to the hand rail. Photo courtesy of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles.
The 1893 Theosophical Convention in New York City. William Judge is seated front centre, next to the hand rail. Photo courtesy of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles.

“Madame Blavatsky has no “successor,” could have none, never contemplated, selected, or notified one. Her work and her status were unique. . . . all who enjoyed her confidence will unite with me in the assertion that she never even hinted at “succession.””

(William Q. Judge, “Lucifer” Vol. 10, March 1892)

“Questions from Eleanor H. Dunlop in January, 1900, brought the following replies from Mrs. Cleather [i.e. Alice Leighton Cleather]:

“Did you hear the ‘Leader’ [Mrs. Tingley] depreciate H.P.B.?”

“Yes, repeatedly.”

“Have you any evidence that Mr. Judge appointed a successor?”

“No. I never saw any of the documents said to exist.”

“You accepted the ‘Leader,’ then, simply on faith?”

“Entirely, and was utterly disappointed in the result. So far as I have been able to observe from pretty close association she showed no real knowledge of the esoteric philosophy, and constantly violated the occult teaching.”

(“The Theosophical Movement” 1875-1950, p. 287)

“There should be calmness. Hold fast. Go slow.”

(Last words of William Q. Judge, 1851-1896, Co-Founder of the modern Theosophical Movement)

~ * ~

In 1895, the American Section (led by William Q. Judge) of The Theosophical Society declared itself independent, thus severing all official and organisational ties with Adyar, the international headquarters of the original Theosophical Society.

Its new name was “The Theosophical Society in America.” Numerous Theosophists in the UK, Europe, and elsewhere, separated from the Adyar Society (then led by Col. H. S. Olcott and Annie Besant) and joined forces with the autonomous group.

The following year, Mr Judge passed away at the untimely age of only 44. A very strange and unfortunate set of circumstances then occurred, resulting in the entirely misleading notion of “Theosophical Successorship,” a mistaken and groundless concept which has been a potent source of confusion, controversy, division and sectarianism, ever since, to the detriment of the great Theosophical Cause and the obscuration of the real Teachers and the real Teaching.

Here the whole story is told in such detail as to leave no doubt in any honest and unbiased mind as to the true nature of this so-called “Successorship.”

~ * ~


(A book published in 1951 by the Cunningham Press, Los Angeles, California, on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists; republished in 2020 by the United Lodge of Theosophists in Bangalore, India)

Explanatory Note: “E.S.” and “E.S.T.” are abbreviations for “Esoteric Section” or “Esoteric School” and “Eastern School of Theosophy” or “Esoteric School of Theosophy.”

With this development, the Theosophical Movement entered aThe Theosophical Movement 1875-1950 phase which threatened to defeat the careful plans laid by H. P. Blavatsky and to obliterate the example set by William Q. Judge. “Let the Society,” one of the Theosophical Adepts had said, “flourish on its moral worth alone.” But this was precisely what those who were left after the passing of Mr. Judge feared to do. They did not hold fast. They did not go slow. Hardly a week had gone by, after his death, when his closest associates in the work combined to impose a “successor” upon the membership of the Theosophical Society.

The position occupied by Judge in the Movement had been due to what he was and what he did. If Judge enjoyed a special place in the minds of many students, it was not because of any assertions made about him, whether by himself or his supporters, but because of his immeasurable services to the Theosophic cause. What might be said about him, concerning possible occult relationships with H.P.B. and the Masters, was in explanation of his manifest greatness, and consistent with it, rather than the basis for acknowledging him as a “Theosophical Authority” or a “Spiritual Leader.”

These relationships were now reversed in the representations made in behalf of Mr. Judge’s supposed “successors.” Here was a person “practically unknown to the Theosophical Society” who was now to be accepted as having high occult “status” simply because a small group of theosophists said so. Not “moral worth,” but “claims,” were now to be recognized as settling all questions of Theosophical leadership. It was indeed an insult to the memory of Judge that, so soon after his death, a procedure of “successorship” was established which violated everything he had stood for in life. Inevitably, and in less than two years, the Society was thrown into confusion and another split occurred.

The E.S.T. meeting held in New York on March 29 was presided over by E. T. Hargrove. Mr. Hargrove read to those present some extracts which he declared to be from Mr. Judge’s diary, offering “proof” of the latter’s “constant intercourse with Masters.” He read further from a “message” alleged to be from H.P.B. to Mr. Judge (dated January 3, 1895), in which “Promise,” the “chela” now offered as Mr. Judge’s successor, was referred to. There are several such messages in the report of the March 29 meeting, none of them suggesting the strength and moral depth that is characteristic of H.P.B.’s writings. Whatever the origin of these messages, the use made of them by Mr. Hargrove and his associates can hardly be justified. After reading these “messages,” Hargrove concluded by saying:

“Trust is our only salvation, but reason alone should show us that he [Judge] could not have left that body if he had not had an occult heir and successor to take his place, for that is the law in the Lodge. This occult heir is the link between ourselves and him, and so on from the Rajah [an “occult” designation of Judge] to H.P.B., to Masters and to the great Lodge. There must be that link; his papers showed us where to find it; we have found it, have tested it and verified it beyond all question, individually and unitedly.”

Other members of the Council, on the platform with Mr. Hargrove, now confirmed what he had said. James M. Pryse offered a written statement endorsing Hargrove’s revelations. J. H. Fussell said: “I know of my own knowledge that what our Brother Ernest T. Hargrove has stated is true; that our Chief . . . has not left us by the death of his worn-out body . . . . he is still working along the same lines that he has worked hitherto; and will continue to so work and to lead us.” H. T. Patterson gave similar testimony, and Claude Falls Wright declared that he had been sent by Judge to see “Promise,” and that “this chela went into a trance and told me much of the future.” Mr. Wright spoke of the continuing “direct protection of the Masters and the Lodge” and added: “We on this platform have in the last few days had marvelous proofs of this.” Mr. and Mrs. Griscom added their support to Hargrove’s assertions, and finally, Mr. E. A. Neresheimer read “A communication from the Masters” which he said he had received through “Promise” in March, 1895. The last sentence of this message, “Under no circumstances must Mr. Judge know of this,” does not speak very well for its authenticity. Mr. Neresheimer also informed the gathering that the Council would receive further instructions, “whatever there may be, from the Outer Head, with whom, as I previously stated, I am acquainted, and so are the others.”

As the eight persons who joined in asserting that a “successor” had been made known to them, both by written instruction from Mr. Judge and through “occult” enlightenment and “messages,” were all well-known theosophists, it was natural that their word was accepted by nearly everyone in the Society. Actually, it was a matter of either wholly rejecting or wholly accepting what Mr. Hargrove and his supporters said; and to reject what they said would amount to declaring the entire movement in America a sham and a failure. Moreover, the death of Mr. Judge had doubtless stirred the feelings of members everywhere to particular anxiety and uncertain wonderings about the future, so that the declarations of the pamphlet of April 3 could easily be taken as representing a new security for the work.

The second annual Convention of the T.S. in A. was held at the end of April, 1896. By this time, although Mr. Judge’s “occult heir and successor” was to have remained unknown for the period of a year, it was an open secret that it was Mrs. Katherine Tingley, a person who, some two weeks later, Hargrove was to claim had undergone “a training and preparation even more rigid and comprehensive than that experienced by either H.P.B. or W.Q.J.” This latter statement appeared in a seven-page circular issued by Hargrove on May 17 to the E.S.T. membership, in which, under the title, “An Occultist’s Life,” he set forth what purported to be an account of significant events in the life of the new “Outer Head.” Mrs. Tingley, still called “Promise” in this circular, was described as under the direction of “the Master,” and Hargrove alleges that Mr. Judge had recognized her “true occult position” several years before his death and approved of her activities as a “psychometer.”

The day after the appearance of this circular, the New York Tribune printed an article of more than two full columns, disclosing Mrs. Tingley’s identity as the “Successor,” and containing a long authorized “interview” with her. This public announcement was amplified to the E.S.T. membership by another confidential circular issued on May 21, in which “Promise” was identified as Mrs. Tingley.

Hargrove, whom the Convention had elected president of the T.S. in A., took charge of the editing of the Path, which was now called Theosophy, and appointed J. H. Fussell as his private secretary. Claude Falls Wright was “called to more important work” as the private secretary of Mr. Judge’s “successor.” . . .

During the summer of 1897, the laudation of Mrs. Tingley as “successor” to Mr. Judge and as “Leader of the Theosophical Movement throughout the world” reached such a pitch of enthusiasm that all lesser lights were eclipsed or shone as mere satellites.

As the year wore on, however, signs of discontent began to manifest. E. T. Hargrove resigned from the Presidency and retired from his editorial duties on Theosophy. August Neresheimer and Mrs. Archibald Keightley (previously Mrs. Julia Campbell VerPlanck, who, as “Jasper Niemand,” had written for the Path during Judge’s lifetime), to whose joint care Mr. Judge had willed the Path, fell out over matters of editorial policy, Mrs. Keightley supporting Hargrove, and Mr. Neresheimer siding with Mrs. Tingley. In an E.S.T. circular dated September 3, 1897, Mrs. Tingley let it be known that she had “suggested” Mr. Hargrove for the Presidency because, as she explained, “I knew at that crisis he was the only available man to fill the place.” A few months later, Mr. Hargrove was to make a similar admission of a much graver nature, at the time of the 1898 Convention.

Ernest Hargrove - the man responsible?
Ernest Hargrove – the man responsible?

The atmosphere of rivalry between Mr. Hargrove and Mrs. Tingley was now so tense as to affect the entire E.S.T. and the membership of the T.S. in A. . . .

So far as numbers were concerned, Mr. Hargrove captained a forlorn hope. More than 95 per cent of the membership ratified the action of the Chicago Convention, only 200 out of a total of some 6,000 members joining with Hargrove and his associates. But Mr. Hargrove had not done with his protests against the course of events within the Society under the leadership of Mrs. Tingley. On March 1, 1898, he published a documentary record of a meeting he had called and presided over in Chicago on February 19, at which time he read copies of a series of letters addressed by him to Mrs. Tingley. The burden of this correspondence is to the effect that he, Hargrove, had made Mrs. Tingley the Outer Head, and that now he realized he had made a serious mistake. He thereupon removed her from that office, saying he did so “by Master’s order.” He added that “The Outer Head to follow you has already been appointed by the Master.” Specifically, regarding Mrs. Tingley’s elevation to the status of Judge’s “successor,” Hargrove wrote on January 30, 1898:

“Now, my dear friend, you have made an awful mess of it – that is the simple truth. You were run in as O[uter] H[ead] as the only person in sight who was ready to hand at the time. We were all of us heartily glad to welcome you, for you solved the problem which confronted us – who was to be O.H.; you were a sort of neutral centre around which we could congregate. And most of us fairly yelled with delight, for you solved our difficulty and we had ample proofs that some members of the Lodge were working through you and that you had high and rare mediumistic and psychic gifts and that you were a disciple of the Lodge. So things went swimmingly for a time.

“Our enthusiasm and anxiety to see all go well carried us too far – carried me too far to the extent of . . . leading me to use my personal influence with people to get them to accept you as O.H. I thought it was for the good of the work, but since then I have learned better.” [Italics added.]

The correspondence published by Mr. Hargrove and his comments about private meetings of the Council held after Mr. Judge’s death make it reasonably apparent that Hargrove’s influence, rather than any written instructions from Mr. Judge, led the Council to declare that “Promise” or Mrs. Tingley was Judge’s “occult successor.” Further evidence of some sort of fantastic juggling of the facts, whether by psychic glamor or by deliberate, if pious, falsification – which, or how, will probably never be finally determined – lies in a letter of Joseph H. Fussell to a New Zealand member, the Rev. S. J. Neill. This letter is in Mr. Fussell’s own handwriting and is dated March 28, 1896 – the day before that on which Mr. Fussell, with six others, solemnly approved all that E. T. Hargrove asserted concerning the “instructions” from Mr. Judge. The letter is as follows:

March 28, ’96

144 Madison Ave. New York

Rev. S. J. Neill, Auckland, N. Z.

Dear Bro. Neill,

I know you will wish to hear concerning E.S.T. matters and the status of affairs since the passing away of the Outer Head of the E.S.T.

So far as is at present known W.Q.J. has left no directions in regard to carrying on the work of the School. Of course if he has done this, such directions will be followed.

An informal meeting was held last Sunday afternoon (Mar. 22) at the house of C. A. Griscom, Jr. to talk over matters relating to the work. There were present C. A. Griscom, Jr., E. A. Neresheimer, Jas. M. Pryse, E. T. Hargrove, C. F. Wright, H. T. Patterson, A. H. Spencer, E. B. Page and J. H. Fussell.

In regard to the E.S.T. the following plan was proposed. That in the event of there being no directions left by Mr. Judge, a circular letter be sent out, signed by the above named and other New York members of the School to all E.S.T. members in America, suggesting that a Council be formed to carry on the routine work of the School, such Council to be concerned solely with this and having no authority as teachers or in strictly esoteric matters. Members will be asked to sign and return a printed slip to the effect that they approve of the plan for organization, etc.

The above is only a rough statement of the idea, but its purpose is to get the members to hold together and to coordinate the effects of all so that we may be kept in touch with one another.

As soon as such Council is formed we will have a basis from which to work and be able to cooperate with the Council in the Eastern Division appointed by Mr. Judge.

Of course nothing will be done in this matter until we are assured that no directions have been found among the Chief’s papers.

I will keep you informed of anything that may be done or that may turn up in regard to the work.

With good wishes to you all,

Fraternally yours,

(Signed) Joseph H. Fussell

It was this same Fussell who, on March 29, 1896, solemnly assured the E.S.T. meeting in New York: “I wish to say first that I know of my own knowledge that what our Brother Ernest T. Hargrove has stated is true. . . .” Hargrove had unequivocally claimed the discovery of “papers” of Mr. Judge directing the formation of the Council and indicating the identity of the new “Outer Head.” But Mr. Fussell, on March 28, says that the Council was proposed as a “suggestion” to be submitted to members of the E.S.T. for their approval!

Who is telling the truth, and when is he telling the truth? Was Fussell telling the truth to Neill? Then why did he sign the pamphlet dated April 3, asserting that Mr. Judge had ordered the formation of the Council? If Hargrove is telling the truth in his letter of January 30, 1898, to Mrs. Tingley, then he, supported by seven other members of the Council, was merely using his “influence” to ensconce Mrs. Tingley as “occult” successor to Judge, although there were no clear directions from Mr. Judge at all.

Katherine Tingley relocated the organisation to Point Loma in California.
Katherine Tingley relocated the organisation to Point Loma in California.

As to Mr. Judge’s effects, this much is known: Almost at once after the funeral services, E. A. Neresheimer and C. A. Griscom went to Mrs. Judge and asked and obtained from her the keys to Mr. Judge’s desk and to the safe-deposit box in which Mr. Judge kept his personal papers. Later on, when Mrs. Judge visited the headquarters she found no private papers of Mr. Judge in his desk, and on going to the safe-deposit box, found it empty. Whatever papers were taken from these places have never been produced or identified as such. In any event, Mr. Fussell knew nothing of any “directions” several days later, on March 28, when he wrote to the Rev. S. J. Neill. . . .

The claims for Mrs. Tingley’s high status rested, as we have seen, upon alleged “written instructions” from Mr. Judge and upon “psychic” impressions or communications received by the eight prominent members, headed by E. T. Hargrove, who arranged and participated in the E.S.T. meeting in New York of March 29, 1896. Of these eight, Hargrove was the first to reverse himself and to repudiate Mrs. Tingley as Judge’s successor. In his E.S. pamphlet of May 17, 1896, “An Occultist’s Life,” he had by implication elevated Mrs. Tingley above even H.P.B. and Judge in respect to her “training and preparation.” He was, he explains, “directed” to make these statements concerning Mrs. Tingley. But two years later he is again “directed,” this time to reject Mrs. Tingley and to “expose” her. His authority in both cases was “the Master.” Together with his few associates, Mr. Hargrove re-formed the “original” Theosophical Society and continued to hold small and “conservative” meetings in New York City. . . . Mr. Hargrove died on April 8, 1939. It should be said, finally, that among those who regarded Mr. Hargrove as “Masters’ Agent” were some of the most cultured minds in the Movement, and some of its best known writers. Among them were Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Griscom, Jr., Mr. Charles Johnston (to whom are owed exquisite translations of the Upanishads and of Shankaracharya’s Crest-Jewel of Wisdom), Dr. Archibald Keightley and his wife (“Jasper Niemand”), Dr. J. D. Buck, and Professor H. B. Mitchell. . . .

Of the eight “witnesses” to the Tingley succession, Hargrove and the Griscoms have been accounted for. James M. Pryse, who died in Los Angeles several years ago, did not remain loyal to Mrs. Tingley, . . . Claude Falls Wright drifted out of any species of Theosophical activity and is now dead, as is H. T. Patterson, whose influence was minor compared with the others’.

E. August Neresheimer, who died in 1937, was of all those who survived Mr. Judge the best loved and the most respected as a disinterested man. It seems apparent that he was somehow attracted by Mrs. Tingley’s occult pretensions and impressed by her “psychic” capacities, and that these influences, together with Hargrove’s representations, led him to support the Tingley succession. Fortunately, before he died Mr. Neresheimer put into writing a sworn statement of his recollections of the events following Judge’s death. This statement, dated February 25, 1932, contains the following affirmation:

“Among all the papers and other documents left by Mr. Judge, we found nothing whatever in his handwriting bearing upon the future conduct of the society after his death. Nor did we find anything in his writing naming Mrs. Tingley or anyone else, either directly or indirectly, as his successor in the affairs of the Theosophical Society in America, or in its Esoteric Section, or any directions of any kind to be followed in the event of his death. . . .

“Mr. Judge cannot, in my opinion, be held responsible for the mistakes – made by others after his decease, since he never either by spoken or written word nominated, or even suggested a successor, or gave any instructions whatsoever as to the direction of the Society, or the “Esoteric Section” after his death.”

When it is recalled that Mr. Neresheimer was made by Mr. Judge his Executor and that as such he took possession of all Judge’s papers, including the so-called “Diary,” supposed to have contained the written appointment of “Promise,” this statement, issued under oath, ought to cause those who still claim the appointment of Mrs. Tingley by Mr. Judge to produce unequivocal evidence to controvert what Mr. Neresheimer says. . . .

Alone among the eight witnesses, Mr. Joseph H. Fussell remained faithful to his testimony of March 29, 1896, becoming the indefatigable apologist of the “successorship” claim, whether in behalf of Mrs. Tingley or of Dr. de Purucker. On the occasion of Dr. de Purucker’s bid for re-union of all theosophists under the aegis of the Point Loma headquarters, Mr. Fussell asserted that “successorship” is the veritable essence of all Theosophical achievement, . . .

Until his death in 1942, Mr. Fussell continued to argue, almost obsessively, for the validity of Theosophical “successors.” He conducted a voluminous personal correspondence on this subject, continuously affirming that Mr. Judge appointed Katherine Tingley to succeed him and as continuously failing to produce more than loose descriptions of the “evidence” of this action by Mr. Judge. Mr. Fussell’s correspondence is also marked by gross attacks and slanders against the character of other Theosophists, while, in his public writings, he was calling for “unity” and greeting the members of other societies and associations as “Brothers.” Further, in one letter he referred to the treachery of Mrs. Besant, while publicly he was soliciting fraternal relations with her society, despite the fact that the “treachery” spoken of had been unacknowledged, unatoned for, and repeated again and again. What value has a “unity” that is sought on such contradictory grounds? . . .

Katherine Tingley and G. de Purucker.
Katherine Tingley and G. de Purucker.

The later history of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society founded by Mrs. Tingley is marked by little except the similar claims of her “successor” to similar occult distinction. Mrs. Tingley died at Point Loma on July 11, 1929. In a printed letter, dated July 29, 1929, addressed to both the “exoteric” members of the Point Loma society and to the “members of its E.S.,” Dr. Gottfried de Purucker, who had long been associated with Mrs. Tingley, made claim to occult successorship on his own behalf. This letter said in part:

“All the Comrades here feel a supreme confidence in the future, for they know that the Work is fully safeguarded, and thanks be to the immortal gods! they trust the one who now assumes the reins of government in the line of succession from H.P.B., W.Q.J., and K.T. . . .

“In assuming the heavy burden of responsibility that has devolved upon me by K.T.’s appointment of me to succeed her . . . I realize that, due to the work of our blessed K.T., more even than to the work of my two previous great Predecessors, our members have been trained, taught to reflect and to have an intuitive realization of what the Theosophical Movement means, not only to ourselves, but to Humanity.”

Dr. de Purucker reaches an unprecedented climax for “successors” in informing the membership of his own occult status and relationships:

“Thrice recently, before and since the passing of K.T., has one of the Great Teachers been with me here in Lomaland. I will open my heart to you and tell you something. The two Masters who originally founded the Theosophical Society, and who are the Chiefs of the E.S., are still working with the Society both inner and outer, and for it. . . . Each of these two has progressed far along the Path of Initiation since H.P.B.’s days, . . .

“I have seen and conversed with Master M. within this last month, and twice has Master K.H. been in my office, once alone, and once with a chela, . . .”

Later in the year, on September 1, Dr. de Purucker addressed another letter to the membership, asking for a new constitution, to enable him, as he explained, to make better use of the “forces” now focussing upon his humble person. Describing them, he said: “The spiritual and intellectual forces pouring through me from the Great Lodge at times seem almost to tear into pieces the fabric of my being, so strong are they. . . .” The members responded by according the new “Leader” unqualified power to make the Society’s policy, “to take such steps or measures as in his judgment shall be necessary for the safeguarding of the best interests of the Theosophical Society,” and “to remove from office any officer of The Theosophical Society when the Leader shall deem such action to be for the best interests of the Society.”

The second letter also contained the following assurances:

“. . . as I am the intermediary or mediator between the Great Lodge of the Masters of Compassion and Wisdom and the general membership of the T.S., and more particularly of the E.S.: being the channel through which the Lodge-forces pour: so also am I therefore the Teacher, and will hand on what I may and can to those who prove themselves fit and ready to receive.

“Consequently, it will be my duty as soon as time and strength permit me to do so, to issue new E.S. teachings of a far deeper and more esoteric kind than those which were issued even by H.P.B. or by W.Q.J., or by our beloved, Katherine Tingley. This I can do for the simple reason that these, my three great Predecessors, never had the opportunity to do what Karman now impels and compels me to do: to besiege the Portals of Destiny and to open a way into the Mysteries, because the members through the life-work of our beloved K.T., are now ready to hear and therefore to receive what I can give them – an opportunity of incalculably splendid promise which neither H.P.B. nor W.Q.J. nor even K.T. had.”

This claim of occult successorship was to be Dr. de Purucker’s theme throughout his tenure of office as “Leader” of the Point Loma Theosophical Society. Except for his effort, in 1931, on the anniversary of the birth of H.P. Blavatsky, to gather the members of the other Theosophical Societies into the “true” Society at Point Loma – a gesture of “fraternization” and “reunion” which could hardly succeed so long as Mrs. Besant at Adyar, and Dr. de Purucker at Point Loma, both claimed to represent the “true” Theosophical succession – the regime of Dr. de Purucker was uneventful. Lacking in Mrs. Tingley’s capacities for showmanship, the Point Loma Leader was driven to various methods of raising money to hold the organization together. . . .

On September 27, 1942, shortly after the removal of the headquarters to Covina, Dr. de Purucker died of a heart attack at the age of 68 years. After a few days, it was announced that the affairs of the Society were being governed by a five-member “cabinet,” and on October 8, Iverson L. Harris, chairman of the cabinet, issued the following statement:

“The Theosophical Society, ever since its foundation, has been under direction of an uninterrupted succession of leaders and the present situation of its being in charge of members of the late leader’s cabinet is merely temporary, the normal procedure during the interval between the passing of one leader and the succession of the next.

“Dr. de Purucker left full and detailed instructions to his cabinet as to the carrying out of his wishes in the event of his decease. These are being carried out with full approval and confidence of members of the society here and elsewhere.”

Three years later, The Theosophical Forum, the official organ of the Society, announced that Colonel Arthur L. Conger had been elected to succeed Dr. de Purucker as Leader. The claims made for Col. Conger, while more subdued, perhaps, were in no significant way different from those made either by or for Mrs. Tingley and de Purucker.

The above is excerpted from “The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950” p. 266-276, 279-282


From an email sent to the writer in September 2012 by a very

Col. Arthur L. Conger
Col. Arthur L. Conger

longstanding Point Loma Theosophist:

“Purucker left no designated successor (neither an exoteric nor esoteric one) and in his written instructions said that the governing cabinet should wait at least three years and then elect someone to fulfill the exoteric leadership position of the society.

“The cabinet followed these indications and then in 1946 elected Arthur Conger to be the head of the society. However, shortly after his election, Conger stated that he was the esoteric ‘successor’ to de Purucker and it is at this point that differences took place.

“Many could not accept Conger as their spiritual Teacher and as the spiritual guide in the esoteric group and either left (e.g. some well known included Gordon Plummer, Emmett Small, Barborka, de Zirkoff, Judith Tyberg and many hundred worldwide) or were forced to leave (e.g. Iverson and Helen Harris.) I would guess the ‘split’ was probably half and half.

“Conger then died in 1951 and there were two contenders to succeed him. One was James Long (followed by Grace Knoche and Randell Grubb today) from which Pasadena group is sourced and the other was William Hartley (followed by D.J.P. Kok and Herman Vermeulen today).”

In fact, after Conger’s death in 1951, there was great dispute amongst the Society’s members as to who he had appointed as the Successor.

Some said there was evidence that he had chosen James Long; others said that William Hartley was the “chosen one.” This led to actual physical fighting and assault amongst the prominent members in a private meeting, whereupon a major split occurred, which was in that same year, 1951.

James Long and his followers became “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena” and Hartley and his became “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma.”

The two societies have exactly the same teachings and views but refuse to co-operate or communicate with one another, all because of this dispute over what is sufficiently proven above to be a non-existent and wholly unauthentic “Occult Successorship” via Katherine Tingley and G. de Purucker. Both Pasadena and Point Loma try to ignore each other’s existence as much as possible and avoid mentioning each other. When questioned about the other, both societies tend to respond very negatively and critically.

Robert Crosbie, who founded the United Lodge of Theosophists, was one of Katherine Tingley’s supporters at Point Loma in her early years of leadership but after a few years came to see through the whole farce and left, establishing the ULT on an entirely impersonal, non-organisational, and non-leadership basis, in 1909. He wrote that the two things which had most damaged the Theosophical Movement in its various streams and branches were personalities and “successorship.” As a result, the ULT has always followed Crosbie’s example and avoided both these pitfalls.

Its expressed mission statement is “To spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.” It currently has Lodges and study groups in fourteen nations around the world.

Today there are sadly still two individuals – Herman Vermeulen of the Point Loma Society (now based in the Netherlands) and Randell C. Grubb of the Pasadena Society – who claim or are considered to be the direct Occult Successors of H. P. Blavatsky in a direct and unbroken chain and lineage from her and William Quan Judge. Although there are indeed good people and wonderful Theosophists in these organisations, it is impossible to take their leadership and organisational basis seriously, as long as such a blatant sham continues to be kept alive and promoted as something legitimate.

It’s important to note that some people “in the know” say that Randell Grubb does not claim any type of Successorship such as that described above and that Pasadena believes any lineage of Occult Successorship ended quite some time ago. However, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Society gave a different impression during a phone conversation with the writer several years ago. What is for certain is that in the Point Loma Society, claims of Occult Successorship are still very much alive and prominent.

Due most probably to the above and to matters arising from it, such as an inordinate focus on the writings and teachings of G. de Purucker, these two societies have shrunk drastically in size and influence over the past several decades and are now the two smallest branches or streams in today’s Theosophical Movement, the two largest and most prominent being “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” and the United Lodge of Theosophists.

The subject of the claims and teachings of G. de Purucker has been addressed in much greater detail in other articles on this site. In one of them it was said:

“If one attends one of the Pasadena Society’s study classes in Germany (they no longer have any meetings in the USA), one will be given Purucker’s “Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy” to study, not anything by HPB or WQJ. Visit one of the Society’s meetings in the Netherlands and you will be introduced to Purucker’s “The Esoteric Tradition,” and his “Golden Precepts of Esotericism,” a purportedly “devotional” book which many Pasadena and Point Loma Theosophists rate even more highly than “The Voice of the Silence,” translated by HPB from the actual Book of the Golden Precepts.

“Go along to one of the meetings of the Point Loma Society in the Netherlands, Germany, or Sweden, and the texts being studied will be the same as those just referred to, but perhaps along with Purucker’s “Studies in Occult Philosophy” or “In the Temple.”

“William Judge, although highly regarded and respected, is pushed into the background. HPB, greatly revered, is nevertheless viewed as having prepared the way for Purucker and her own teachings always made subservient to his, no matter the discrepancies or contradictions. It is Gottfried de Purucker and Katherine Tingley who are the leading lights for these particular Theosophists and there is no mistaking this. So be it.”


“As we see it, our line of succession is as follows: HPB, William Quan Judge, Katherine Tingley, Gottfried de Purucker, Arthur Conger, William Hartley, Dick Kok and me; consequently I am the last one in that line. ‘Last’ meaning of course, that I am still alive. . . .

“Hierarchy is one of the fundamental principles in Nature. Maybe

Vermeulen's chart, attempting to illustrate his "direct succession" from HPB and Mr Judge. Source: http://www.blavatskyhouse.org/Theosophical_Society. Source for these quotes: http://www.blavatskyhouse.org/tspl
Vermeulen’s chart, attempting to illustrate his “direct succession” from HPB and Mr Judge. Source: http://www.blavatskyhouse.org/Theosophical_Society. Source for these quotes: http://www.blavatskyhouse.org/tspl

not in name, but in practice we find it everywhere. Our succession of leadership is an important topic, because for as far as I know, we are almost the only Theosophical organization that honors the leadership-idea. . . . let me state it loudly and clearly, for now and times to come: I am very proud to be the leader of The Theosophical Society Point Loma, period.

“How do I fulfill this responsibility? Well, let me explain. Being the leader certainly doesn’t mean that I am the boss, a dictator. No, at all times I try to be an inspiring source within the organization. . . .

“As to leadership, you’d need to consider one thing: the succession of leadership is more than stepping into a historical line; the process is dual. Firstly to pass on our spiritual heritage, the fruits of the past. Secondly, to maintain the connection with the source we originate from. I do not mean the original books or publications, but our real source: the Lodge of Wisdom and Compassion. That is an essential fact. . . .

“Being a leader in a spiritual succession is being like a fountain-source. . . .

“What is our view on the Theosophical line of leaders? We see each successor as a spiritual focal point, and such a spiritual focal point is the combination of a leader and his co-workers, like a beehive. If you have ever looked into a beehive, then you will know that the queen is not a queen in the sense of “commander”, i.e. sitting on a high throne and acting bossy. No, the queen is one of the special bees having a very heavy and complex task. She is continuously assisted by her co-workers to get all the eggs in the right place. Then the workers take care of their growth and development. The symbolic idea behind the beehive describes exactly what I intend to be, and what the other leaders in our line have been in the past.”


Absolutely not. We have entered into the Aquarian Age, in which most people are quite rightly fed up with talk of leadership, claims of authority, and so forth.

As we see and hear every day from visitors to this website, what people around the world want is Theosophy as it is…the real deal…Theosophy exactly as the actual Masters gave it to the world through H. P. Blavatsky. Hers is the name that everyone knows and encounters. Hardly anyone in the world has heard of Katherine Tingley or G. de Purucker and – thankfully – hardly anyone is interested in them. People do not want interpretations, unreliable additions, or highfalutin pretensions of spiritual grandeur. What they want is TRUTH and they recognise instinctively – or intuitionally, rather – that they will only find it in the Teachings themselves and not through organisations, organisational claims, or people posing as special successors or stressing the supposed importance of strong leadership.

The United Lodge of Theosophists, mentioned earlier, is an independent international association of students of Theosophy, not an actual organisation or Society. There is no international president or Leader, no local presidents, no officers, positions, or hierarchy; just groups of Theosophists working together to spread and study the original teachings of Theosophy, without personal ambition or attempting to draw attention to themselves as personalities.

This is the way Theosophy will be increasingly approached and applied in this New Age and Robert Crosbie’s words of a century ago are just as fresh, valid, and important today.


(Excerpts from letters published in “The Friendly Philosopher” p. 386-389, 368-369)

Robert Crosbie in 1893.
Robert Crosbie in 1893.

“They [i.e. Theosophists] need guidance, not leadership. Study and work is their only salvation and we can help them all to the degree that our Karma and theirs permits, if only by example. Our work is with all Theosophists. As far as I can see, “U.L.T.” is the only real “olive branch” in the Movement, for it means peace with all, in unity of aim, purpose, and teaching. . . .

“Theosophists, if they would follow the one safe, true and royal road, have to forget persons and leaders and attend to Principles, and be loyal to Those who gave them out. In order to be loyal to H. P. B. and W. Q. J., they have to follow the lines laid down by the Teachers. If we are loyal to H. P. B. and Judge and what They stand for, we shall not be found running after leaders who cry lo here, and lo there. . . .

“The “U.L.T.” Declaration should turn the attention of every open-minded Theosophist from forms to principles. It provides a real basis for study and work. Its reasonableness should awaken many to get busy on themselves. The door is open to all, but we cannot help those who will neither listen nor think. I was amused at the statement published in the Besant periodical that U. L. T. is a “secession from Point Loma.” I wonder how they made that deduction? As it is largely composed of Theosophists from different organizations, it might better be called a “secession” from them all! The fact that “U. L. T.” does not profess attachment to any organization, and that it has no organization of its own, does not appear to have registered with those who would pigeon-hole us as well as themselves. We can leave it to time to vindicate the truth. As the years go on, and “U. L. T.” becomes better known by its fruits, it will be more and more difficult for those who have an axe to grind to label us anything but straight-line Theosophists, resolutely declining any connection with any theosophical organization, but always in full sympathy with our fellow-Theosophists of all organizations or of none. Yet we must be watchful to correct the impression wherever it exists that “U. L. T.” is a secession or succession, or anything but an Association to study and apply Theosophy pure and simple. Can any sincere student observe the things taught and done in the name of Theosophy and fail to see the crying need for just such an Association as “U. L. T.”?

“Some otherwise loyal Theosophists think that the Movement has failed for this cycle, because of the dissensions and false doctrines so much in evidence. They ought to remember that Masters never cease working, and that it is always possible for even the humblest Theosophist who is clear-eyed and humanity-loving to aid Their endeavor. The way to know the truth is to get back to what the Teachers themselves gave, both in philosophy and in right work. If that is done, it will be found that there is neither “variableness nor the shadow of turning” in the “U. L. T.” from the lines laid down by those Teachers.”

“Our purpose is to draw attention to the Teachers and the Teaching, not to any others; hence it is conservation, safety, to maintain the impersonality of “U. L. T.” . . .

“Let “U. L. T.” flourish on its moral worth alone. The work we have to do, the knowledge we have to give out, depends on no other names than those of the true Teachers, H. P. B. and W. Q. J. Associates must learn to look to Them, to point to Them and to the Masters whom They served. Nothing else will restore the Movement. Unity is the key note of our attempt, and living persons, if made prominent, will detract from that attempt, will be attacked, to the injury of the Movement. So we will keep their names out of consideration. Let the curious and antagonistic surmise all they want to – the really earnest will then judge by the fruits, not by persons. Theosophy does not emanate from any society nor from any living persons. So far as the world and all Theosophists are concerned, Theosophy comes from H. P. B. and W. Q. J., or rather, through them. So, to avoid misconceptions, we get back of living persons to the Message and the Messengers.

“W. Q. J. was not the “successor” of H. P. B.; he was her Colleague

Robert Crosbie (1849-1919) towards the end of his life. On this site we describe him as "the man who rescued Theosophy" for this is exactly what he did.
Robert Crosbie (1849-1919) towards the end of his life. On this site we describe him as “the man who rescued Theosophy” for this is exactly what he did.

and Co-worker who retained his body a few years longer than she remained in hers. He was the “stone that was rejected by the builders,” who desired to pose as successors to H. P. B. – to the confusion of all who depended on them. The real foundation of the “successor craze” is the itch for more instructions; this begets the hunt after anyone who will promise fresh “revelations.” What was given out by H. P. B., and applied by W. Q. J., was not and is not studied by Theosophists at large, or it would have awakened a fuller thought and realization by the students. All the theosophical follies are the result of ignorance, superstition and selfishness, which knowledge alone can overcome. Our efforts may seem inadequate, but they are in the right direction, and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” We will do what we can and all that we know how to do, enduring the evils of the present while attempting that which will work for greater good in the future, here a little and there a little, thus leading the minds of Theosophists of every degree and in every society to as broad a conception of the Philosophy as possible. . . . H. P. B. once wrote: “If anyone holds to Buddha’s philosophy, let him say and do as Buddha said and did; if a man calls himself a Christian, let him follow the commandments of Christ – not the interpretations of his many dissenting priests and sects.”

“The moral is – If anyone desires to be a Theosophist, let him study Theosophy as it was given by those who enunciated it.”

~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~


A Parting Question to our Critics: “If people are being misled, is it not doing them a service to present them with the real facts of the situation? Or is it better to leave them in blissful ignorance, self-deceived and unwittingly deceiving others, all in the sacred name of Theosophy?”