ANSWERING 12 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT THE ULT
Many Theosophists around the world still have the mistaken notion that The Theosophical Society with its international headquarters at Adyar, India, is the only Theosophical organisation in the world or at least that it is somehow “central” or “superior” within the Theosophical Movement. This is not the case at all.
It has been more than a century since there was just one Theosophical Society. There are today four main “branches” or “streams” within the modern Theosophical Movement.
“The Theosophical Society – Adyar” (including its American Section named “The Theosophical Society in America”) is only one of these and thus amounts to only ¼ of the Theosophical Movement at large. There are three unrelated international organisations using the name “The Theosophical Society,” all organisationally distinct and independent from one another. These are “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena,” and “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma.”
There is also the United Lodge of Theosophists, or ULT for short, which does not call itself a “Theosophical Society” but rather a voluntary international association for the study and promulgation of the original teachings of Theosophy. In terms of numbers, size, locations, and influence, the ULT is second in the Movement today. The Adyar Society and the ULT have become the two “major players” in the Theosophical Movement of the 21st century.
Yet misunderstanding, confusion, or even total lack of knowledge regarding the ULT still prevails amongst many. It is hoped that these questions and answers will help to provide a clearer understanding and awareness of the ULT, its basis, how it works, what it stands for, and how to become a part of it.
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Q. What is the mission and purpose of the United Lodge of Theosophists?
A. 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.” In short, it exists to preserve, present, promote, and practise, the teachings of Theosophy in the way they were originally given to the world.
Q. Who was Robert Crosbie and why did he start the ULT?
A. Robert Crosbie (1849-1919) was a member of the original Theosophical Society and a colleague and friend of William Quan Judge and also a pupil of both he and H. P. Blavatsky. He held important positions in the Society in Boston, Massachusetts, and New England in general. When the first split in the Movement occurred in 1895 – with Mr Judge and the American Section (and also their supporters in other countries) declaring complete independence and autonomy from Adyar – Mr Crosbie gave his full support and allegiance to Mr Judge. In the following years, when Katherine Tingley became Leader of the independent Society after Mr Judge’s death, Mr Crosbie initially gave his full support and allegiance to her too. Before long, he realised that this was a mistake and that the claims and very notion of an “Occult Successorship” of Theosophical Leaders were neither true nor legitimate. Parting with Tingley’s organisation, he eventually established the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles, California, USA, with an initial group of seven students, which soon grew and expanded.
Observing events that had occurred in the Movement following the deaths of HPB and WQJ, he had concluded that “personalities” lay at the root of the Movement’s problems and that the exalting of individuals as “Leaders,” “Successors,” and “New Messengers” of the Masters, had resulted only in confusion, schisms, and the increasing obscuration of the teachings, writings, work, and special occult status, of HPB and WQJ. The ULT was founded as a timely reaction to all this and as an attempt to help restore the Theosophical Movement to its only safe and reliable basis, one always emphatically insisted upon by HPB and the Masters, namely the “original lines,” the “original programme,” the “original impulse,” the “original system,” and the “original teachings.”
Q. What makes the ULT different from other Theosophical groups?
A. The ULT is the only “branch” of the Theosophical Movement which promulgates only the original, unaltered, undistorted teachings of genuine Theosophy. None of the Theosophical Societies do this, since one and all accept and promote later teachers and writers (whether C. W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, G. de Purucker, Alice Bailey, or others) as legitimate “Successors” to HPB and WQJ and even as having been able and authorised to revise, improve upon, add to or delete from, the Message of HPB. The ULT is distinctive in adhering and pointing exclusively to H. P. Blavatsky and William Judge as the two Teachers and Messengers of Theosophy and of the Lodge of Masters for our present times. It is only in and through the ULT that one can get Theosophy EXACTLY the way that HPB gave it, in its pure and uncorrupted form. That is neither boasting, self-promotion, nor sectarianism, but simply an undeniable statement of fact.
The principle and application of impersonality and anonymity also seems to be unique to the ULT. The vast majority of articles, magazines, publications, and other endeavours undertaken by ULT associates are unsigned and anonymous as well as avoiding all references to the personal opinions and experiences of the Theosophist responsible. This also extends to the actual Lodges and meetings, where it can be found that the regular students and attendees generally avoid all references to themselves when addressing their fellow students in talks and discussions, as well as making efforts to keep their own personality and individual character traits in the background. The names of speakers are not usually announced or given. All of this is as an attempt to ensure that attention and interest is drawn solely to Theosophy and its teachings rather than to those presenting it, who are but fallible students and who should not be desirous of personal recognition, admiration, or fame. At present, there are one or two ULT Lodges that do advertise the names of speakers, etc. Although unusual from the standard ULT perspective, this is not to be criticised, since Robert Crosbie himself emphasised that the ULT “should never at any time, nor should any of our policies and practices, degenerate into hard and fast conclusions as to men, things, or methods of work.”
Q. Who was B. P. Wadia and what did he do for the ULT?
A. B. P. Wadia (1881-1958) was an influential Indian Theosophist who joined forces with the ULT in 1922, three years after the death of Robert Crosbie. He had initially been a member of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” and a colleague and supporter of such people as Besant and Leadbeater. Looking into the facts and comparing the Adyar versions of the Theosophical teachings and Theosophical history with the actual details and information, he came to the opinion that that Society had strayed hopelessly far from its original intended course. His efforts at reform were largely futile and were suppressed and condemned by the Adyar leaders. Declaring that “The Theosophical Society is disloyal to Theosophy,” he eventually resigned, publishing a famous open letter (which can be read here) to explain his reasons, and aligned himself instead with the ULT, whereupon he became greatly responsible for the spread and establishment of the ULT in numerous countries of the world, including his native India. Numerous Lodges still in existence today owe their origins largely to the work and sacrifices of B. P. Wadia.
Q. Does the ULT have policies, rules, bylaws, regulations, and so forth?
A. It has only one guiding document, which is known as the “Declaration” of the United Lodge of Theosophists. In one sense it is a sort of “Declaration of Independence.” It is included below and is largely a compilation of statements and phrases by HPB and WQJ, quoted from various sources and publications. The Declaration presents the idea that the only legitimate and lasting basis for unity amongst Theosophists is similarity of aim, purpose, and teaching, and that where this similarity or even unity exists among students and workers, there is no need for policies, rules, bylaws, officers, regulations, etc., since unity, harmony, and effective co-operation, will be the natural and inevitable result. Some have viewed this as a very “Aquarian Age” initiative, in that when internal harmony exists, external structures become obsolete.
The Declaration simply states that the work the ULT has on hand is “the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the philosophy of Theosophy” and that the end it keeps in view is “the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.” Naturally, the ULT also holds to the three main objects of the original Theosophical Movement.
Q. Where is the headquarters of the ULT and who are the presidents and leaders?
A. There is no headquarters. The ULT is an independent international association of students of Theosophy, more of an organism than an organisation or Society. The oldest and largest ULT Lodge, where most of the printing and publishing is done, is in Los Angeles and whilst some refer to this as the “Parent Lodge” or “Mother Lodge,” this should not be construed in any organisational or authoritative sense. There is no international president or leader, just as there are no local presidents, officers, or hierarchies.
All Lodges are autonomous and self-governing and even those students who have become most responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a Lodge and its activities are insistent that they be looked upon solely as “students of Theosophy,” never as teachers, leaders, or guides. The ULT is in essence a School of Theosophy, with the only Teachers being HPB and WQJ. There are currently Lodges and study groups in fourteen nations around the world, namely the USA, India, France, Canada, Belgium, England, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. Some countries have numerous Lodges and groups; others have only one.
The most famous “name” within the ULT since the time of B. P. Wadia was Raghavan Iyer (1930-1995) who was an influential but at the same time controversial figure, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Although rarely heard of in the ULT at large nowadays, there are still a couple of Lodges and a comparatively small number of associates who hold him and his writings in high regard and at times make reference to them. More can be learnt about him and his work by clicking here.
Q. How does one become a member of the ULT?
A. There is no membership in the ordinary organisational sense of the term. “Members” are instead spoken of as “associates,” since rather than belonging to something they are associating and connecting themselves with something. There are no costs or fees involved in becoming an associate but nor does it confer any special benefits or privileges. No-one is ever asked or pressured to become an associate. It is simply a voluntary decision to make an outer expression of one’s inner commitment and devotion to the work of the Masters. Some do not feel the need or wish to become an associate and this is perfectly fine. Others do and find it to be something quite transformative and significant in their inner life and spiritual journey.
The way one actually becomes an associate is by signing their name on what is called the Associates Card, a yellow card which contains the Declaration on one side and the associate form on the other. The card can be obtained in person at any Lodge or study group or by requesting it in writing or over the phone from either one’s local Lodge or the Los Angeles Lodge, who can send it by mail. Regardless of which Lodge one becomes an associate through, one is an associate of the entire worldwide ULT and not merely an associate of the New York ULT or an associate of the Paris ULT or whatever it may be.
Anyone can become an associate, even if they live in an area or country where there is currently no ULT. Numerous associates have never even been to a Lodge or attended a meeting but nevertheless feel a great connection with the work and mission of the ULT. After writing their name and address on the card, it is then handed back or sent back, at which point the person is registered as an associate. The Associates Card emphasises that “such association calls for no obligation on my part, other than that which I, myself, determine.”
Q. Is it possible to join the ULT and also be a member of other Theosophical organisations?
A. Yes, of course. There are no restrictions or qualifications that have to be met to become an associate.
Q. How many ULT associates are there around the world?
A. There are likely to be at least a few thousand and certainly tens of thousands since the ULT was first begun in 1909. However, the numbers are not counted or published, since physical plane statistics are of little overall importance. What really matters in the Theosophical Movement is quality, not quantity. The quality here referred to is quality of knowledge, understanding, application, appreciation, and devotion, towards the Eastern Esoteric Philosophy that has been given to us by the Masters and Initiates of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood.
Q. Is the ULT growing or shrinking in the 21st century?
A. Students of Theosophy ought to be aware that everything goes in cycles. Whilst it is true that some Lodges are at present experiencing a reduced amount of attendance and interest, it is also true that others are currently experiencing an increase, in attendance, interest, and active participation and commitment. In this technological age, more and more people are encountering and discovering the ULT through the internet and online social media. Quite a few of these become associates and feel energised to work for the Cause, either at or with an existing Lodge or by starting a group or endeavour of their own, be it on the physical plane or online. Nowadays, one cannot derive anything like an accurate insight into the size, spread, and influence of the ULT by counting the number of people in physical attendance at a Lodge meeting or study class.
However, the law of cycles should never be used as an “excuse.” Self-reflection and analysis of approach, attitudes, presentation, and outreach/advertising methods should be continual for any Lodge. It is unfortunate that several ULT Lodges do not even yet (in 2022) have a website or even a designated contact email address or, in one or two cases, even a working telephone number! Some Lodges have not modernised their website for almost 20 years, while others have not redesigned their printed programmes/leaflets since the 1980s or earlier. While it’s true that the collective magnetism engendered by a group of associates (such as described in William Judge’s article “Each Member A Centre”) is crucial, it’s also true that some of those Lodges just described are shrinking year by year, while others remain fixed and static in their attendees, year in, year out, without any new person coming to any meeting. Obviously none of this is ideal and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, if those Lodges are to survive. But this does not apply to the ULT at large. It is also not a problem unique to the ULT but found throughout the Theosophical Movement.
Q. ULT Lodges have framed photographs on the walls of H. P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, and Robert Crosbie, but not of Colonel Olcott. Why is this?
A. The original Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 with three main founders – Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge. Olcott became the organisational leader and international president of the Society, which eventually moved its headquarters from the USA to Adyar in India. As these are well known facts, it is perhaps understandable why people ask why Col. Olcott is only very rarely mentioned in the ULT, why there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of admiration for him, and why it is often the case that some speak only of HPB and WQJ as “the founders” of the Movement.
Actually, it is not only the ULT but also the Pasadena and Point Loma Societies which share this somewhat distant attitude towards Col. Olcott. The reason lies in a number of important historical facts, most of which are unfortunately unknown to the majority of the members and supporters of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” who seem to labour under the misconception that HPB and Olcott continually worked closely and happily alongside each other, were always the best of friends, and that Olcott remained completely faithful to HPB, her teachings, and the Masters. Sadly, this is not the case at all and in this, as in other matters, Adyar Society members have been fed a false and misleading picture of Theosophical history. The story is so lengthy that it cannot be dealt with in a brief answer. It is better to read the article Col. Olcott’s Disloyalty to H. P. Blavatsky.
Despite his many serious mistakes and faults – including turning against HPB even while she was still alive and later relentlessly persecuting Mr Judge, in collaboration with Annie Besant and others – Col. Olcott achieved much for the Cause of Theosophy, particularly in the earlier part of his Theosophical career, and also deserves our lasting gratitude and appreciation for his tremendous contribution to the revival of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy in Asia and elsewhere. But when it comes to the living Theosophical Movement itself, the fact is that this sincere but eventually misguided man disqualified himself through his own actions from the great respect and reverence in which he would otherwise have been held by all Theosophists everywhere.
Q. Doesn’t the ULT claim that its interpretation of HPB’s teachings is the only correct one?
A. The ULT does not provide or offer an “interpretation” of HPB’s teachings. It provides, offers, and studies HPB’s teachings in their original and unadulterated form and without mixing or blending them in any way with later “Theosophical” teachings. Where such mixture and blending occurs, numerous interpretations of HPB’s teachings can arise, since the student is then viewing her teachings and statements through the lens and filter of other teachings and writings, which more often than not contradict her own. Those who study HPB in undiluted form invariably arrive at the same “interpretation,” which is really no interpretation at all but merely an understanding of what she said and what she meant. Her work needs no interpreters; it merely needs to be studied . . . studied with the recognition that it is self-explanatory and self-consistent. This does not however deny that there are multiple layers of depth to HPB’s vast teachings, which can become more apparent the more that one evolves, progresses, and endeavours to “live the life.” Anyone who might say “I understand absolutely and completely everything H. P. Blavatsky has ever written” is not to be taken seriously. But no-one does make such far-fetched claims.
It is the ULT position that (1) Theosophy is a very definite Body of Knowledge, a specific System of Teaching, and that contradictions, dilutions, and alterations are not part of it and cannot be accepted as legitimate Theosophical teaching. According to HPB, there is such a thing as “Pure Theosophy” and such a thing as “Pseudo-Theosophy,”; (2) It is necessary for Theosophists and the Theosophical Movement to stay true and faithful to what HPB and the Masters variously called the “original lines,” “original programme,” “original impulse,” “original system,” and “original teachings,”; (3) Under the Law of Cycles the Masters were only able and permitted to give out new teachings to the world between 1875-1900 and that no further or deeper information would or could be made available from the Esoteric Doctrine until the closing quarter of the following century – i.e. 1975-2000.
This has been erroneously described as fundamentalism, dogmatism, or orthodoxy, by those who are either unacquainted with what the Masters, H. P. Blavatsky, and William Q. Judge, have themselves said or who simply believe that they know better than what the Masters and Their Agents clearly stated. There is a clear and solid basis for these positions, as can be seen in the article Why Stick To The Original?
Earnest students of Ancient or Ageless Wisdom may find in the United Lodge of Theosophists that for which their heart and soul have been silently yearning. They may also find, perchance, that the Theosophical Movement has never yet been abandoned by the true Masters and Their true Messengers, nor will it ever be, as long as the bright flame of devotion continues to burn within the hearts of true students and disciples. “Keep the link unbroken,” said HPB as She departed from this plane.
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THE UNITED LODGE OF THEOSOPHISTS
The policy of this Lodge is independent devotion to the cause of Theosophy, without professing attachment to any Theosophical organization. It is loyal to the great Founders of the Theosophical Movement, but does not concern itself with dissensions or differences of individual opinion.
The work it has on hand and the end it keeps in view are too absorbing and too lofty to leave it the time or inclination to take part in side issues. That work and that end is the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the philosophy of Theosophy, and the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.
It holds that the unassailable basis for union among Theosophists, wherever and however situated, is “similarity of aim, purpose and teaching,” and therefore has neither Constitution, By-Laws nor Officers, the sole bond between its Associates being that basis. And it aims to disseminate this idea among Theosophists in the furtherance of Unity.
It regards as Theosophists all who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization, and
It welcomes to its association all those who are in accord with its declared purposes and who desire to fit themselves, by study and otherwise, to be the better able to help and teach others.
“THE TRUE THEOSOPHIST BELONGS TO NO CULT OR SECT, YET BELONGS TO EACH AND ALL.”
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For contact details of ULT centres around the world, please visit the Theosophy Around The World page.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
Learn more about the United Lodge of Theosophists: The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement, The Man Who Rescued Theosophy, On Anonymity and Impersonality, The Commitment of the ULT, Sources of The ULT Declaration, and B. P. Wadia’s Resignation from The Theosophical Society.