Theosophy

File:CWL 1914.jpgI am a link in the golden chain of love that stretches round the world, and I promise to keep my link bright and strong, the Theosophist child recited. In 1875, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and the civil war veteran Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, clairvoyants both, founded the Theosophical Society, “to form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity”. They took ancient traditions of the East into their creed.

Mankind evolves through reincarnation towards perfection. The Masters had reached perfection. There were many masters, but Master Morya and Master Kuthumi took the Society under their special protection. They lived in a ravine in Tibet. Madame Blavatsky claimed to have lived with them for several months, being given the teachings which she passed on in her books Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. The Masters could materialise in other places, and communicate with the leaders of the Society. On the strength of the first chapter, I find Isis Unveiled huge fun, with “hermetic wisdom” in sonorous language. 70,000 years ago humans had a spiritual golden age, from which the race has degenerated to the fleshly lumps we see today. It has lots of citations, none of which I can trust.

The Bodhisattva, Lord Maitreya, would take over a human being when the world had especial need of him, including Jesus; and the Theosophists believed he would take over the body of the young Jiddu Krishnamurti in the same way.  The clairvoyant Charles Webster Leadbeater, a former Anglican priest, became a leader. He was the spokesman of Master Kuthumi, and guided his disciples along the path of Discipleship, through the stages of Probation, Acceptance, and five Initiations culminating in Adepthood, the attainment of perfection. Leadbeater would take sleeping candidates to the house of Master Kuthumi in the astral plane, and tell them in the morning whether they had successfully attained that stage on the path. This gave him great power over his flock. In 1906 it became known that he had encouraged boys to masturbate as a way of way of relieving obsessive sexual thoughts, and he was charged with sexual misconduct going beyond that, though these charges were not proved. The society split, and he was required to resign.

On Olcott’s death in 1907, Annie Besant was elected president. She invited Leadbeater to return to the Society and its headquarters at Adyar, south of Madras. They claimed they had reached the fourth stage of initiation, Arhat, when Krishnamurti arrived in 1909 aged 14. In 1911 they set up the Order of the Star in the East to proclaim the Coming of the World Teacher, with Krishnamurti at its head, and Besant and Leadbeater its Protectors.

Krishnamurti, the putative Messiah, remained with the Theosophists until 1929. Then he broke with the society, returned its members’ gifts of land and money, and travelled the world teaching his own philosophy, to set human beings free from the cages which divide us, such as race, religion, nationality, class and tradition, that man to man the world over should be brothers. He refused to be a guru, and especially refused disciples who might build up a hierarchy or religion around him.

From Mary Lutyens’ biography of Krishnamurti.

19 thoughts on “Theosophy

  1. Lovely post, Claire. It’s very interesting to see how the purity of certain ideals gradually becomes hijacked by those who prefer influence and power to wisdom. Influence must be incredibly seductive. I hope there is a next instalment. xxx 🙂

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  2. This was truly, truly interesting, Clare. I once found a note blowing on the sidewalk, so I picked it up … it was a somewhat bizarre quote from someone named Krishnamurti. I remember saying to my friends, “Who’s Krishnamurti?” No one knew. Well done !

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  3. H.P. Blavatsky died in 1891 not in 1907. Around the world, students celebrated her life and her work on May 8th, the day of her passing.

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      • Pretend what? She wrote and never claimed credit for what she wrote saying she had given us a bouquet but she only provided the string that held the flowers together… quoting Montaigne, I think. Those who came after and wrote their own versions of Theosophy changed things so it is best to refer to her original works. These can be found on a website, phx-ult-lodge.org, provided by the United Lodge of Theosophists in Phoenix, Arizona.

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          • What does it matter what I believe, or anyone else believes? Belief never made anything real that wasn’t real and disbelief never destroyed anything that is real. What matters is what is reasonable to our own minds and then finding it reflected in the minds of great minds who came before us. What do I care where those great minds are said to have lived or might be living now? Still, if you asked me where would be the place on earth that would be un-polluted enough for such beings, the Himalayas or thereabouts seems reasonable. But, again, why should I care about such things? It is enough to care what I do with what I am learning and to learn more.

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  4. Hi Clare, thank you. I enjoyed reading this. I have a certain admiration for the Thosophists. After all who can resist Madame Blavatsky’s hypnotic eyes? But I share your caution. And Krishnamurti? Surely their most important gift to the world, though not exactly in the way they expected. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about him.

    Respects

    Michael

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    • I heard of Mme. B in high school, but only as:
      It’s no go the yogi man, it’s no go Blavatsky
      All we want is a bank balance, and a bit of skirt in a taxi

      Widening western spirituality outside the churches’ ideas was a great thing.

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  5. Hi Clare! I have recently started doing some research on Theosophy and the golden chain of love! Have you ever heard of a woman named Kate Cubbage Havens?

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