The Theosophical Movement after H.P. Blavatsky

This article is an excerpt from the much lengthier article

Sunrise at Mount Everest

The story of the Theosophical Movement after the passing of H.P. Blavatsky is to a large extent a very sad and tragic one.

It takes a certain amount of humility, a real sacrificing of what has been called “the personal idea,” for one to be truly content and satisfied to remain as a mere transmitter and “hander on” of a Teaching which has already been given out. Within the hearts of many lurks the desire to be looked upon as a great leader, to be viewed as a Teacher in their own right, and to be admired and revered as a new “Messenger” for “new teachings” from the Masters.

This, combined with the constant childish longing of the masses for “fresh revelations” and the “latest messages,” especially when they have not even bothered to make proper use of the huge mass of teaching and information already available, has resulted in considerable damage and tremendous harm for both the Theosophical Movement and the world of spirituality in general.

The statements made in regard to the closing of the cycle at the end of the 1875-1900 period were soon forgotten by many. Others simply ignored them, while others deliberately suppressed and denied them, having done the same with the various clear and unequivocal statements from the Masters and HPB such as: “Truth is One, and cannot admit of diametrically opposite views,” [1]; “Our doctrine knows no compromises,” [2]; “We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject,” [3]; and “Occult Science has its changeless traditions from prehistoric times,” [4].

It has now been more than a century since there was just one Theosophical Society. The first split in the Movement occurred in 1895, just four years after the death of HPB. This was when the American Section, led by William Q. Judge, declared independence from the rest of the Society and ceased to be under any organisational control or influence by the likes of Col. Olcott and Annie Besant. Judge had felt forced into this decision because of unfortunate developments in the Society, largely instigated by a cunning Hindu Brahmin named G.N. Chakravarti who did not sympathise with HPB’s work or teachings and who had influenced Besant, Olcott, and others, resulting in their virtually turning against HPB and constantly criticising and belittling her, in some cases attempting to rewrite her teachings and even her books, while passing themselves off as being so much greater, wiser, and better than she.

Later, a new form of “Theosophy” sprung up, derived almost exclusively from the self-proclaimed clairvoyant revelations and discoveries of an English Theosophist named C.W. Leadbeater, who Besant, succeeding Olcott as president of the Society, had chosen to be her close colleague and spiritual guide.

Together, they proceeded to completely rewrite the teachings of Theosophy and to present in their place an entirely different and incompatible system, whilst deliberately pushing HPB and her legacy well into the background. HPB had written and warned against what she described as “Pseudo-Theosophy.” The version of “Theosophy” promulgated by Besant, Leadbeater, and their adherents, was certainly this!

Besant had grown up in England as a Christian and had been married to a Church of England minister. She later became an outspoken atheist and materialist before eventually becoming a Theosophist. Under Chakravarti’s influence she had been received by the Indian Brahmins into the fold of sectarian orthodox Hinduism. Later, under the influence of Leadbeater, formerly a Church of England priest, she reverted back to her early favouritism for Christianity, albeit Leadbeater’s peculiar psychically inspired form of Christianity. Under the rulership of Besant and Leadbeater, “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” ended up taking on a distinctly Christian tone, emphasis, and nature in its teachings, practices, pronouncements, and publications, even to the extent of endorsing the practice of confession and priestly absolution of sins in the Liberal Catholic Church and proclaiming the Second Coming of the Christ, with whom the two claimed to be personally acquainted!

HPB’s teachings, reputation, and work were purposely subtly depreciated and not so subtly suppressed, ignored, rejected, and pushed into the background under the joint influence of he and Besant, with them happily allowing “The Secret Doctrine,” “Isis Unveiled,” “The Key to Theosophy” etc. to go out of print and to remain forever unmentioned so as to divert attention to their own radically different teachings. In their place were published such tomes as Leadbeater’s weighty work “The Science of the Sacraments”, “The Christian Creed” and “The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals” and Besant’s “Esoteric Christianity” and “The Coming Christ.”

In 1906, Leadbeater was forced out of the Society in shame and disgrace after admitting under oath to having performed sexual acts on young boys in his care. [5] Only a couple of years later, Besant took it upon herself to invite him back, much to the shock and disgust of many members of the Society. She swiftly raised him to a place of prominence, although he never actually had any official title or designated position or role, and the rest is history. Leadbeater gained almost complete psychological control and domination over Besant, brought scandal after scandal upon the Society through his continuing perversions, the Society lost 15,000 members around the world and the notion of what Theosophy actually is was deliberately and systematically distorted and misrepresented.

The Liberal Catholic Church, a purportedly “Theosophical Church” co-founded by Leadbeater (who promptly became “Bishop” Leadbeater) and “Bishop” James Wedgwood of the famous Wedgwood pottery family of England, was the most extreme antithesis imaginable to everything the original Theosophical Movement had stood for. Whilst HPB had stated towards the end of “Isis Unveiled” that “The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown that the apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud,” [6] Leadbeater, who claimed clairvoyant powers, declared, “My clairvoyant investigation into those early periods absolutely confirms the contention of the Roman Church. They know that there has been no break in apostolic succession.” [7]

Even the more sceptically inclined could not help but begin to suspect that there may have been some truth after all in HPB’s repeated warnings about the Jesuits – the Order known as the Society of Jesus within the Roman Catholic Church – seeking to infiltrate and affect potent movements and organisations from the inside in order to minimise or even destroy their potential effectiveness and usefulness in the world. They had done the same with Freemasonry [8] and it was only to be expected that they would sooner or later try the same with Theosophy, in light of the major and very real threat that genuine Theosophy posed, and still poses, to blind belief, priestly or ecclesiastical domination, and organised religion as a whole, particularly the Christian religion.

Unfortunately for Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood, however, they, along with certain other bishops and priests of the Liberal Catholic Church, were frequently under surveillance and investigation by the police and considered by them as “persons of interest” due to both rumours and accusations of paedophilia. Extensive references and details, including of how Leadbeater always managed to narrowly escape sentencing or imprisonment, can be found in the book “The Elder Brother – A Biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater” by Gregory Tillett.

When faced, as they quite often unavoidably were, with the glaring fact of the Adyar Society’s version of “Theosophy” being so entirely different from that of HPB, Leadbeater and Besant calmly assured enquirers that they knew and understood the Masters far better and more accurately than HPB had ever done and that her works were filled with major mistakes and serious errors and thus not worth even bothering with.

Leadbeater repeatedly fabricated stories of meetings with Masters, such as the account told with great sincerity and emotion in his book “The Masters and The Path” of having met the Master Morya physically and in person in London in 1851 when he was “four years old” and around the same time that HPB had met the Master there. The discovery after Leadbeater’s death that he had actually not been born until 1854 casts this tale in its true and consciously deceptive light. He had consistently lied about his age and date of birth throughout all his Theosophical career, claiming to have been born in 1847, in order to make Annie Besant and others believe that both he and she had incarnated in the same year (she was born in 1847) in order to work together to fulfil a supposed “joint mission.”

In recent times the vast majority of Leadbeater’s books and writings have been deliberately allowed to go out of print by the Adyar Society’s “Theosophical Publishing House,” whilst those kept in print have often been highly edited and abridged, as most of the Society’s leaders and members naturally feel embarrassed about publishing and promoting such nonsense, especially in light of the now inescapable facts about the true character and highly unsavoury nature – one might even say “criminal” nature – of this individual, who caused more harm for the Theosophical Movement than anyone else in its history.

Alice Bailey, a former Christian missionary, was a member of the Adyar Society and an admirer of Leadbeater and Besant. She distanced herself outwardly from the Theosophical Movement and formed her own organisation in order to promulgate teachings she had purportedly received from one of the Masters and which are in fact largely derived from and based on the teachings and self-proclaimed clairvoyant discoveries of Leadbeater.

Today there are four main branches of the Theosophical Movement, all of which are organisationally distinct from one another. We use the term “Theosophical Movement” to include all of these as well as the many independent Theosophists around the world, who are not connected with any of these societies or associations. There is no such thing as THE Theosophical Society, since there are three totally unrelated international organisations all using this name. These are “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma,” and “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena.” There is also a fourth worldwide group which does not call itself a Theosophical Society but the “United Lodge of Theosophists.”

The Adyar Society is the largest, having branches and lodges in many countries and cities, with members in almost 70 countries around the world. Its national section in the USA is known as “The Theosophical Society in America.”

This society has for a long time been very divided, with many factions and opposing groups. Some members follow the teachings of Krishnamurti (which he himself said were not Theosophy), others follow the teachings of C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant (including the Liberal Catholic Church), others treat the Society as just an open forum for discussing and teaching any type of spiritual ideas, and a very small minority study and promote the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky. Very few of these few Blavatsky students place any emphasis on the work and writings of William Q. Judge.

The Point Loma and Pasadena Societies were originally one international society which split into two on disputed “successorship” grounds in 1951. Both these societies have seriously declined in number and influence over the past few decades. The only lodges and study groups of the Point Loma Society, which is now headquartered in the Netherlands, are in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, whilst the branches and study groups of the Pasadena Society are two in Germany, several in the Netherlands, and one in Belgium. This Society has repeatedly declined to provide a clear answer as to whether any meetings are still held at its international headquarters in Altadena, near Pasadena, in California, USA.

The focus and emphasis of these two is the writings and teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, Katherine Tingley, and G. de Purucker, with special and overriding emphasis on those by de Purucker, who contradicted and altered HPB’s teachings in various ways whilst claiming, of course, to be an agent and representative of the Masters.

The United Lodge of Theosophists, often known simply as the ULT, was founded in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1909 by Robert Crosbie, who had been a colleague and friend of Judge during the last decade of Judge’s life. Initially supporting Katherine Tingley after Judge’s death, Crosbie later parted company with Point Loma and established the ULT a few years later. Observing the tremendous amount of confusion, misunderstanding, abuses, and disarray existing in the Theosophical Movement at large due to the personal ambition of the various leaders and the obscuration of the original teachings and aims of the Movement, he felt that the only way of keeping genuine Theosophy alive in the world would be to go back to the Source.

The expressed mission statement of the ULT is “To spread broadcast the original teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”

The ULT 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. Neither Crosbie nor anyone else in the ULT has ever claimed to be a representative of the Masters.

There are autonomous lodges and study groups in fourteen cities in the USA, plus three in India, four in France, and in Canada, Belgium, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. The ULT is characterised by a constant strong emphasis on the writings and teachings of HPB and Judge. There is occasional minor reference to the writings of Robert Crosbie himself and B.P. Wadia, an Indian man who initially had a place of some prominence in the Adyar Society but who left it in the early 1920s, declaring “The Theosophical Society is disloyal to Theosophy,” [9] and thereafter joined forces with the ULT.

Perhaps the most important of the ULT’s accomplishments has been to revive the publication of the exact, unaltered, unabridged writings of HPB and Judge – often in photographic facsimile form – and to make them available at the most affordable, lowest possible prices. The original 1888 version of “The Secret Doctrine” had been out of print and unavailable since Annie Besant’s publication in 1893 of her “Third and Revised Edition” of “The Secret Doctrine,” which was found to contain tens of thousands of alterations from HPB’s own text, ranging from minor and unnecessary alterations of words and grammar to major distortions in the form of deletion of entire sentences and paragraphs. In 1925, at great personal expense on the part of some associates of the ULT, the original and unaltered “Secret Doctrine” was republished and has remained in print and in demand ever since.

It is impossible to say or even accurately estimate how many people in the world view and describe themselves as Theosophists. The number is certainly at least a few thousand and is thought by some to be in the tens of thousands. In the 21st century many Theosophists are using the internet and online social media to promote, study, and discuss Theosophy and its teachings. As a result, more and more people are discovering Theosophy and acquiring an active interest in it. Counting the number of people in attendance at a Theosophical meeting on the physical plane will not give anything like an accurate insight into the size and spread of the Theosophical Movement.

This article is an excerpt from the much lengthier article

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Footnote References: [1] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #IX, p. 49, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press. [2] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #X, p. 52, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press. [3] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 87, Theosophy Company. [4] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 516, Theosophy Company. [5] See [6] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 544, Theosophy Company. [7] C.W. Leadbeater, “Science of the Sacraments” p. 286, Theosophical Publishing House. [8] H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol. XIV, p. 265-266. Also “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, Chapter VIII “Jesuitry and Masonry.” [9] B.P. Wadia, “To all Fellow Theosophists and Members of the Theosophical Society – A Statement by B.P. Wadia,” 18 pages, July 1922. Publisher unknown but presently available from the United Lodge of Theosophists in London, England.