Apr 16, 2016

Theosophy and the Second World War

Nazism, Fascism and the Theosophical
Movement During the Twentieth Century

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Theosophy and the Second World War
The aftermath of a Nazi bombing raid, in London



“To form the nucleus of a Universal
Brotherhood of Humanity, without
distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.”

[The first and main object of the theosophical
movement, founded in 1875 in New York City]



In a world still partly dominated by bigotry and by ritualistic religions, it is only natural that the theosophical movement  - being rather a non-violent extinguisher of illusions - should be attacked in various ways, from within and from without.

As an instance of such attacks we have a variety of baseless texts which accuse the theosophical movement of having had sympathies for Nazism or Fascism. There are various sources of disinformation around the subject of Theosophy and Hitlerism, and it seems proper to bring  some evidence about the actual relationship between the two, including the period during  the Second World War.

Nazism misused Hindu sacred symbols with selfish goals. Nazi leaders practiced some kind of anti-humanistic sorcery, and they had much in common with the disguised “mysticism of hatred and violence” which was carefully developed by the Jesuits and used by the Vatican since the 16th century. Of course, the Vatican has always been against Theosophy, for Theosophy proposes universal brotherhood and denounces and fights every form of religious dogmatism. 

As facts often speak by themselves, we will start by examining the actual situation, country by country,  during the second world war.     

* In May 1940, the  Netherlands Section of the Adyar Theosophical Society  was closed right after the German invasion. Theosophical activities went on privately and clandestinely, although they were forbidden by the Nazi invaders. [1]  

* In Belgium, on the 10th of May, 1940, an intense bombardment of Brussels took place. After that came the Nazi pillage of all Lodge and private libraries. Josephine Ransom writes that the General Secretary, Miss Serge Brisy, with the concierge, made a huge fire,  while the air raids went on, and burnt all papers that might compromise the members. Miss Serge Brisy was then a refugee in Bordeaux for some months. During her absence, the Gestapo searched her house and took away her books and lectures,  as also the books in  the Section headquarters and in  the houses of several prominent members in Brussels and of Lodge Presidents in the Provinces.  In December she returned to find the Section closed. The Gestapo in vain threatened  punishment if  the list of members was not produced. Names were not revealed. [2]

* In France, a few days after the German army entered Paris, military officers closed the headquarters. Later they carried away records, library books, and other objects belonging to the Adyar Society. A few months after that the Vichy [Nazi-controlled] government dissolved the Society and twice all Civil Servants had to declare they were not members of it.  The Gestapo took the headquarters building in Paris and made it their centre for their Secret Service. [3] This is interesting because the Gestapo used jesuitic and sorcery-oriented procedures, as we will see later on in the present article. They might be interested in taking advantage of any “subtle magnetism” created by theosophical studies. 

In spite of the Nazi occupation, some meetings of Adyar Society members went on in France, clandestinely. The movement went back to life as soon as the Allies liberated the country.  

* The Greek Section of the Adyar Society made a pronouncement to all theosophists worldwide denouncing  invasion of Greece by Benito Mussolini’s, Fascist  Italy. [4]  We must remember that the Vatican -  located in Rome - officially supported the Fascism in Italy.

* The Italian Section of the Theosophical Society had been dissolved in 1939 by the Fascist Government. Some informal activity was kept and the work came back  to public life in 1946. [5]  

* After Poland’s invasion,  members of the Adyar Society in Hungary helped masses of Polish refugees arriving in that country,  some of whom  were Theosophists. [6] 

* In Germany, the theosophical movement was dissolved and forbidden from 1939 through 1945. Only a few private meetings took place clandestinely. [7]

* In Norway, all theosophical activities were forbidden  since the invasion of the country by the Nazis in April 1940,  and up to its final Liberation in 1945. [8]

* In England, Josephine Ransom reports that the Adyar Society work was much hampered, though lectures and classes continued despite heavy air-raids and some bombs falling so near to headquarters that windows were shattered  and ceilings fell.  [9]

* In the New Year of 1942, George Arundale, an English citizen and then the international president of the Adyar Society, once more urged India to participate whole-heartedly in the war against the Nazis. [10]

* As to C. Jinarajadasa, who in those days played a leading worldwide role with regard to the inner or esoteric activities of the Adyar Society,  L. H. Leslie-Smith wrote: 

“Brother Raja spent the greater part of the period of the second war in London, which had become the headquarters for many European governments whose lands had been overrun and also for the Theosophical Society in Europe. He lived at 33 Ovington Square to make it a spiritual centre and focus of  theosophical inspiration during the dark years.   From there, by means of a vast correspondence, he  gave comfort and encouragement to members in all countries where there was still a postal service. He often worked through the night till four o’clock,  and a pile of letters would be left on the floor  for his secretary later to stamp and dispatch to various parts of the world.”   And L. H. Leslie-Smith adds: “He played a  courageous citizen’s part as a volunteer in the Air-Raid Precautions service [Special Fire Guard]. His attitude to danger was exemplified one afternoon when the present writer was sitting  with him in his first-floor room at 33 [Ovington Square]. The sirens sounded to give warning of enemy bombers approaching.  He registered the warning, and we went on talking. A few minutes later there was the crescendo whine of a bomb coming down - still no  reaction; then  the crash of the explosion not far distant. The conversation continued without the flicker  of an eyelid to its natural conclusion.” [11]

The United Lodge of Theosophists

* The Pasadena Theosophical Society and the United Lodge of Theosophists (U.L.T.)  were both founded in the United States - as the theosophical movement itself -  and are, even now,  most active in this country. During World War II, “Theosophy” magazine, published in Los Angeles by  U.L.T. associates, criticized a few times, mostly in small notes,  aspects and events of the war. It showed how unfortunate wars in general are.  This  was made from the philosophical perspective of  the sacred wisdom and ancient tradition, and on the basis of the principles of non-violence (ahimsa) and universal brotherhood. [12] 

* From 1931 and up to 2011, every year around June 25 the central office of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles used to send a letter to its Associates and friends all over the world. The yearly U.L.T. Letter dated June 25, 1941, opened with these words:

“This year, as our annual greeting goes to members of the United Lodge of Theosophists everywhere, it is with no certainty that the message will reach its destination by other than ‘astral’ mail. Last year, London Associates read the U.L.T. Letter in a cellar while bombs burst overhead; this year, their building is gone, save for two rooms and the books, while meetings still continue, the London Bulletin has been published regularly, and lecture work has been extended to Bath and Salisbury.”[13]

* In the following year, 1942, the U.L.T. Letter expressed a feeling of admiration for its London Associates:

“Theosophists there set courageous example in the moral striving that the world at large needs so much to learn. Without hate, without despair, without condemnation of any human soul, the London work goes under terrific stress and growing privation.  This is an immortal spirit worthy of a brave people.....”

The text goes on then to comment on the Nazi occupied Norway: 

“Elsewhere, in lands suffering the heavy hand of occupation, the moral life of the people grows strong. From Norway, where regular meetings are no longer possible, came this stirring word last summer; ‘.... it seems that present trials make people  more open-minded and eager to listen and to realize; so the possibility of more and more people turning to the study of philosophy is greater and the prospect brighter’.” [14]

* In 1943 and 1944, the U.L.T. Letters accompanied the sustained effort to keep the theosophical movement active in spite of war. In 1945, it greeted the end of war and the progress of the U.L.T. in London. In 1946, it announced that, after the Nazi defeat, regular meeting of the U.L.T. were once more in session in the Paris Lodge as in other parts of Europe.

A Letter From Jean Overton Fuller

British theosophist Ms. Jean Overton Fuller lived and wrote near London. She was one of the main biographers of H.P.B.  Author of  “Blavatsky and Her Teachers” [15] , among her various books there are other interesting biographies, including works on the Comte of St. Germain and on Francis Bacon.  She lived a long life of service and died in 2009, at 94.  Jean not only studied History. She lived it, too. In 2006, I had already started to investigate the true relationship between Nazism and Theosophy, and asked her to write down a few commentaries on the Second World War.  Jean wrote, in a letter dated 27 May 2006:

“Dear Carlos,”  

“I was pleased to hear from you again but shocked to learn from you that there has appeared a book, UNHOLY ALLIANCE [16], which accuses the Theosophical Society of having inspired Hitler.  This is of course nonsense.”       

“I lived in London throughout the war, through the Blitz and through the V missiles.  I worked from 9-5 daily for a Government Department, the Postal Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information, and at night, three nights a week, I worked, first in caring for people whose houses had been destroyed by bombing, then as a trained  fire-fighter belonging to a group that liaised with the regular Fire Brigade.  If the alarm went and it  was my night on duty I had to get out of my bed and go and stand on a cold doorstep, with others, with pick-axe, bucket and a hose ... I was also a member of the Theosophical Society. My membership dates from 1942, and never did I hear within it any expression of liking for the Nazis!”

“But wondering what could have given this writer this strange,  erroneous idea, it came to me that the tracing of the origin of the races – particularly as it is set out in A. E. Powell’s book THE SOLAR SYSTEM, based on texts here and there by Annie Besant  and C.W. Leadbeater, from their researches, could give to someone’s becoming over-interested in race.  I am sure neither Mrs.  Besant or Leadbeater ever thought to encourage racial discrimination. Discrimination against any race or religion would be in direct contradiction to the Society’s First Object.  But I imagine  to what use a mind like Hitler’s could put those texts.  I am glad to have your useful information about what happened to the T.S. in the various countries occupied by the Germans.”

The Arcane School and World Good Will

* Originated in the Theosophical Movement and founded by Alice Bailey,  the Arcane School, the “World Good Will” and its  “New Group of World Servers” got totally engaged in actively supporting the Allies during the Second World War.  Bailey even criticized the pacifism of Mahatma Gandhi - who as an activist was very much inclined against the British and found it perhaps politically profitable not  to support them against  the Germans, but was criticized for it.

In August 1942,  Alice  Bailey wrote about “...The pacifist attitudes - idealistic and impractical and finding their focus today in the attitude of Gandhi. He brings into clear perspective the uncompromising, fanatical attitude which is non-realistic and which will willingly sacrifice lives, nations and the future of humanity in order to attain its object.”  Throughout her writings in the years of War, Bailey described the Allied and democratic nations as inspired by the Masters, and Hitler’s Axis as inspired by hatred and evil motives. [17]   Ms. Bailey was right in this respect and in general lines. For theosophy needs liberty of thought and respect for human rights.  

Jiddu Krishnamurti

* Jiddu Krishnamurti, who left the Adyar Theosophical Society in 1929, had a radical pacifist position. On describing the 1942 events, his personal friend and biographer Mary Lutyens admits: 

“For  those in England who had been proud to stand alone against Nazi aggression, who had felt exalted by the Battle of Britain, who had thrilled to Churchill’s words and somehow managed to contain their terror  during the blitz, believing passionately that they were fighting the embodiment of evil, Krishnamurti’s pacific outpourings from such paradises as Ojai [in California], Martha’s Vineyard and the Sequoia National Park were hard to take. Lady Emily evidently told him as much with some asperity and accused him of escaping from horror...”. [18]

This was not the only mistake made by Krishnamurti, who - since 1929 - was not a member of the theosophical movement. Yet, whatever one’s opinion about Mr. Krishnamurti’s pacifist attitude, he clearly cannot be accused of having sympathies for Nazism or Fascism.  

The Theosophical Ideal in the United Nations’ Charter

* After Adolf Hitler’s defeat, the United Nations Organization emerged in 1945 as a global network of countries. This occurred exactly 70 years after the Theosophical Movement was founded,  in 7 September 1875.  The period of seven decades is numerologically significant. Probably it is also not a coincidence that the U.N. is established in New York,  the very same city where the theosophical movement - its own occult archetype - was founded.    

* The first and main object of the theosophical movement, which refers to the ideal of Universal Brotherhood, was clearly adopted by the United Nations. The first Article of the U.N. Charter, which states the four Purposes and Principles of the U.N.,  is profoundly theosophical.  The United Nations goals are:

1) To maintain peace and security (...); 2) To develop friendly relations among nations (...); 3) To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and  4) To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.” [19]

* Since 1945, the victory of  the Allies has been officially celebrated every 8th of May. And it is  the very same day when  H.P. Blavatsky died in 1891, and when  theosophists have celebrated her life since her departure. Another interesting numerological “co-incidence” is that Harry Truman - the President of the U.S.A. during the last moments of  the War - was born precisely in a  8th of May. 

Considering the facts mentioned above, it is not difficult to arrive to, at least, one conclusion.

Whatever criticisms one may have with regard to this or that theosophical organization - and there are many - it is a simple matter of common sense to admit that all of  the movement, including Adyar Society, is naturally and intrinsically in favour of liberty and democracy, and against any disrespect for human life. The movement has an inherent tendency towards its main goal, universal brotherhood.

How the Vatican Gave Support to Adolf Hitler

In the paragraphs above,  we saw that Nazism and Fascism persecuted the theosophical movement in every nation they dominated, both before and during the second world war.  The movement only came back  to normal life after Hitler and Mussolini were defeated by the democratic nations. 

Let’s now examine another side of the problem. What exactly were the relationships among the German Nazism, the Italian Fascism,  and the Vatican?

There was an uneasy but intimate cooperation among the three. It started in the early 1920s, as author John Cornwell demonstrates in his well-documented book “Hitler’s Pope - The Secret  History of Pius XII” [20].  The Vatican also gave its decided support to the violent pro-Nazi dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain. 

Eugenio Pacelli was the Pope’s representative in Germany during the 1920s. He would later become Pope Pius XII.  Pacelli  played a key and central role in preventing German catholics, traditionally democrats,  from resisting Hitler’s political march to absolute power.  Thanks to Pacelli, as soon as Hitler took the power in 1933 German Catholicism gave Nazism an active support.  (Lutheran Church  was already supporting the Nazis for some time.)

As to Italy, in 1929 pope Pius XI signed a comprehensive Agreement with the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. All of this confirmed the existence of strong mutual help mechanisms between the Roman Church and Nazi-Fascism.  

It was no coincidence, then,  that in 1930  Eugenio Pacelli left  Nazi Germany to go to Rome and to work there as Secretary of State.  In 1939, Pacelli was formally made  Pope and adopted the name of Pius XII.  John Cornwell reports that almost immediately after that Pacelli wrote a  kind and friendly letter to Adolf Hitler, renewing his personal commitment to the “alliance between Church and State” in Germany, and saying he would remain “devoted to the welfare of the German people, which is under your guidance”. [21] 

Another Historian, Paul Johnson (who, by the way, is not the author of similar name who wrote books about the theosophical movement),  writes about this:

“Pius XII,  elected pope in March 1939, could hardly wait to send Hitler a  friendly letter. He refused to condemn the absorption of Czechoslovakia a few days later, although he knew  this meant  the Czech  Catholics (...) would immediately lose their schools.  (...) In April 1939, Protestants and Catholics  rang their bells [ in Germany ]  for Hitler’s birthday, and Cardinal Bertram, the Catholic primate, sent him a greetings-telegram.” [22]

Adolf Hitler now had the blessings of the Vatican, and they opened room for him to deepen his policy of mass-murder, and to spread it around the world.  

There was one group of Christians which resisted Hitler, though. It was the Jehova’s Witnesses.  Paul Johnson writes:

“They refused any cooperation with  the Nazi state, which they denounced as totally evil. (...)  Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service and inciting others to do likewise; or they ended in Dachau and lunatic asylums. One third were actually killed; ninety-seven per cent suffered persecution in one way or another.” [23]

These, of course,  are but a few data about the cooperation between the Vatican and Hitler. There are  plenty of them available.

From a theosophical perspective,  we should remember how radically H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters   opposed and denounced  the Vatican policies, and especially the Jesuits.  It is enough to read about that  in “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”,  especially Letter XXX  in the Theosophical University Press edition [24] In this letter, a comparison is made between the antagonically different  methods used by the Jesuits and by the Himalayan Masters of the Wisdom. A Master writes in the Letter:

“As I once said before, they [ id est, the Jesuits ] know that what they teach is a lie; and we know that what we impart is truth, the only truth and nothing but the truth.  They work for the greater power and glory (!) of their order; we - for the power and final glory of individuals, of isolated units, of humanity in general (....). They work, and toil, and deceive, for the sake of the worldly power in this life; we work and toil, and allow our chelas to be temporarily deceived, to afford them means never to be deceived hereafter; and to see the whole evil of falsity and untruth, not alone in this but in many future lives. They - the Jesuits - sacrifice the inner principle, the spiritual brain of the Ego, to feed and develop the better the physical brain of the personal and evanescent man, sacrificing the whole humanity  to offer it as a holocaust to their Society - the insatiable monster feeding on the brain and marrow of humanity, and developing an incurable cancer on every spot of healthy flesh it touches. We - the criticized and misunderstood Brothers  - we seek to bring men to sacrifice their personality - a passing flash - for the welfare of the whole humanity, hence for their own immortal Egos, a part of the latter, as humanity is a fraction of the integral whole, that it will one day become. They are trained to deceive; we - to undeceive (...)”. [25]

This is how true Theosophy sees the Vatican and Jesuitism.

On the other hand, one cannot but perceive that there is an  interesting “inner”, essential connection between  Hitler’s Nazism and the Jesuits.  This has been frankly described by  the Jesuit historian Vincent A. Lapomarda in his book “The Jesuits and the Third Reich”.

Quoting from various Nazi documents, Lapomarda seems to be almost proud  to bring varied evidence on this point. He wrote, repeating the words of another author: 

“Himmler modelled his SS  so closely on the Jesuits that even Hitler called him ‘my Ignatius Loyola’.” 

Lapomarda also reports:  

“Himmler kept a medieval castle, the Wevelsburg, which served, so to say, as the SS monastery.”

Quoting another author in the same page, the Jesuit admits:

“...Hitler not only regarded the SS as his Jesuit Order but insisted that these Nazis became familiar with The Spiritual Exercises written by St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.” [26]

Two of the main reasons why the theosophical movement was persecuted both by Nazism and the Vatican were: 1) that it has been envisioned and created as a nucleus of  the Universal Brotherhood;   and   2)  that the idea of Universal Brotherhood inspires its main declared object and the substance of its activities.   

The Nazi military defeat was, therefore,  a grave political defeat for the Vatican. Since the end of World War II,  the Jesuits never regained the influence they had before, or during, the years when the Nazi-Fascist freely developed their criminal activities. 

On the other hand, it has been a most fortunate and meaningful  “coincidence”  that the main theosophical goal, universal brotherhood, was clearly adopted in 1945 as part of  the Charter of the United Nations Organization. 

Since then it has been one of the main long term objects of the whole U.N. system - or perhaps the central one.    


NOTES:

[1] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society, A Short History of the Society (1926-1950)”,  by Josephine Ransom,  TPH, Adyar, 1950, 252 pp., see pp. 106-107.

[2] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 107.

[3] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, pp. 107-108.

[4] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 109.

[5] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 109.

[6] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 110.

[7] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 111.

[8] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 111.

[9] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, p. 121.

[10] “The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society”, pp. 122-123.

[11] “The Theosophist”, a monthly magazine, Adyar, India, vol.  97, No. 03, December 1975,  p. 123.

[12] See for instance “Theosophy” editions for  December 1940, p. 96 ; June 1942, pp. 382-383;  August 1942, pp. 471-473;  September 1943, pp. 481-484;  January 1946, pp. 111-115 (on atomic bombs); February 1946, pp. 150-153 (also on atomic bombs).

[13] “United Lodge of Theosophists”, Los Angeles, California, U.L.T. Letter dated June 25, 1941. See in our associated websites the compilation “The ULT Day Letters, 1931-1960”, in PDF.

[14] “United Lodge of Theosophists”, Los Angeles, California, U.L.T. Letter dated June 21, 1942. See in our associated websites the compilation “The ULT Day Letters, 1931-1960”.

[15] “Blavatsky and Her Teachers”, Jean Overton Fuller, East-West Publications, London/The Hague,  in association with the TPH/London, copyright 1988, 270 pp.

[16] “Unholy Alliance: A History of the Involvement of the Nazi with the Occult”, a book by Peter Levenda, mentioned in the magazine “Insight”, the journal of the Adyar Theosophical Society in England, Spring 2006 edition, p. 30. 

[17] “The Externalization of the Hierarchy”, by Alice A. Bailey, Lucis Publishing Co., New York, Lucis Press Ltd., London, copyright 1957, fourth printing 1972, 744 pp., see p. 368. The whole book takes an activist viewpoint, strongly supporting the Allied and democratic countries.

[18] “Krishnamurti, The Years of Fulfilment”, by Mary Lutyens, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, copyright 1983, 248 pp., see p. 56.  For more information on Krishnamurti and  the Second War, look at pp. 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 57, 61.

[19] See also Chapter IX, Article 55, clauses (b) and (c).  The Charter is published and widely distributed  by the U.N.  Its text  can also be seen at the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”,  William Benton, Editor, 1967, volume 22,  p. 570.

[20] Penguin Books, London, 1999.  In the Portuguese language, see “O Papa de Hitler, a História Secreta de Pio XII”, Ed. Imago, RJ, Brazil, 2000, 472 pp. 

[21] “Hitler’s Pope - The Secret  History of Pius XII”, Penguin Books, Chapter 12. 

[22] “A History of Christianity”, Paul Johnson, Penguin books,  England, 1976, 556 pp., see p. 489. 

[23] “A History of Christianity”, Paul Johnson, Penguin books,  see p. 489.

[24] T.U.P., Pasadena, CA, USA, 1992, see pp. 228-240. The same letter is numbered as Letter 74 in the Chronological Edition of “The Mahatma Letters”, TPH, Philippines, 1993,  600 pp., see pp. 219-230.

[25] “The Mahatma Letters”, see p. 231 in the TUP edition; and pp. 222-223, chronological edition, TPH-Philippines.

[26] “The Jesuits and the Third Reich”, Vincent Lapomarda, The Ewin Mellen Press, Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter, Wales, United Kingdom, 2005, 458 pp.,  see pp. 42-43.

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On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  


Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.

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