Dec 29, 2016

Distorting Esoteric Philosophy

How An Adyar Leader Tampered
With the Book “The Voice of the Silence”

Alice Leighton Cleather

Alice Leighton Cleather (1846-1938) remained loyal to ethics


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Editorial Note:

The following text is reproduced from the book “H. P.
Blavatsky - A Great Betrayal”, by Mrs. Alice Leighton
Cleather (Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta, India, 1922,
96 pp.). It is in pages  71-74, and it is the first part of the
chapter entitled “Tampering With H.P. Blavatsky’s
Writings”. Alice Cleather was one of the closest disciples
of  H.P.B.’s, in her final years in London. In the paragraphs
previous to the present text  Mrs. Cleather discusses (p. 70)
the fiasco of Annie Besant as a disciple, after H.P.B.’s death.

The first failure happened according to Cleather by doubting
her teacher, H.P.B., and by adopting orthodox Hinduism in
India in 1893. “Bound up with this failure (.....) was her attack
on her fellow chela Mr. [William] Judge.”  The second failure
was the protection and reinstatement of Charles W. Leadbeater
after he had been rightfully expelled by Henry Olcott from the
Adyar Society in 1906. In fact, soon after that episode, Olcott
died in February 1907 after making a severe self-criticism for his
lack of loyalty towards H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.[1]

Mrs. Cleather starts the text, then, mentioning Besant’s first failure.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)

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The result of Mrs. Besant’s first failure, through harbouring doubts of her Teacher’s bona fides and esoteric knowledge, was soon manifested when she began to publish new editions of H. P. B.’s works.

The first noteworthy example was her excision from “The Voice of the Silence” of passages and notes, presumably out of deference to Brahmin sentiment, which then governed her actions. One of the last verses in “The Two Paths” (the second of the “Three Fragments” forming the little book) in the original edition (1889) begins thus:

“He who becomes Pratyeka Buddha, makes his obeisance but to his Self.” In a footnote H. P. B. explains that “Pratyeka Buddhas are those Bodhisattvas who strive after and often reach the Dharmakaya robe after a series of lives. Caring nothing for the woes of mankind or to help it, but only for their own bliss, they enter Nirvana and - disappear from the sight and the hearts of men. In Northern Buddhism a ‘Pratyeka Buddha’ is a synonym of spiritual Selfishness.”

In Mrs. Besant’s edition both the passage and the footnote I have quoted are omitted. Her reason for this unscrupulous proceeding is given in a footnote on p. 416 of the so-called “third volume” of “The Secret Doctrine”. In this note Mrs. Besant, from the heights of her then newly-acquired Brahmanical wisdom, adopts the following dictatorial and censorious tone towards her late Teacher:

“The Pratyeka Buddha stands on the level of the Buddha [!], but His work for the world has nothing to do with its teaching, and His office has always been surrounded with mystery. The preposterous [sic] view that He, at such superhuman height of power, wisdom and love could be selfish, is found in the exoteric books, though it is hard to see how it can have arisen. H. P. B. charged me to correct the mistake, as she had, in a careless moment, copied such a statement elsewhere. - A. B.” [2]

Observe the assumption of superior knowledge to H. P. B.’s, and the use of the words “preposterous” and “careless.”  To any real Oriental chela such an attitude towards his Guru would be simply unthinkable; but we have seen how very quickly Mrs. Besant believed herself to have soared far above the “chela on probation” state of her H. P. B. days into that of an “Initiate” and future “Supreme Ruler of the World of Gods and men.” To such vanity and self-delusion everything is possible. How different was the attitude of the real Occultist who was spoken of by the Masters as “Our Brother H. P. B.,” yet called herself “a Chela of one of Them”!

The passage I have italicised in the above footnote by Mrs. Besant is untrue on the face of it to anyone who knew, as I did, the loving care with which H. P. B. prepared this unique little book of “Golden Precepts.” Moreover, she states in her Preface that the verses given are selected from a much larger number which she “learnt by heart.” Further, H. P. B. not only repeated but greatly amplified this statement about the Pratyeka Buddha in her “Theosophical Glossary”, a fact which Mrs. Besant had evidently forgotten when she concocted the footnote quoted above. [3] The Pratyeka Buddha is doubtless much that Mrs. Besant claims for him, but she does not seem to know, or has probably forgotten, that there are two classes of Masters, two “Paths” (as this very section of “The Voice of the Silence” shows); that the “Pairs of Opposites” obtain on all planes of Manifestation and Being, right up to the threshold of the Unmanifested - the ONE; that, while there are Masters of COMPASSION, there must of necessity exist also the opposite pole - the wearers of the “Dharmakaya robe,” with all the power and knowledge which that state implies, without that Compassion which alone makes a Master of the “Right Hand Path”. [4]

It was a great and valuable feature of H. P. B.’s method that she taught us to reason on these lines, checking everything by the Law of Correspondences. But Mrs. Besant has evidently long since abandoned this, and prefers the sacerdotal plan of accepting everything on “authority,” which in her present phase means Leadbeater or her own psychic delusions. The “World Teacher” dogma is a case in point. She asserts it as a fact to be accepted because she says it; whereas, as I have shown, it is untenable in the light of “The Secret Doctrine” (see ante p. 2) [5], which endorses Oriental tradition and cyclic law.

Mrs. Besant’s partiality for the Pratyeka Buddha, however, may possibly be explained by some words that H. P. B. once wrote of her to Mr. Judge: - “She is not psychic or spiritual in the least - all intellect.” For H. P. B. opens her paragraph in the “Theosophical Glossary” on the Pratyeka Buddha with these words: - “The Pratyeka Buddha is a degree which belongs exclusively to the Yogacharya school ..... one of high intellectual development with no true spirituality”. (Italics mine.) Moreover, we have the authority of the Maha Chohan Himself (the Head of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood) for the statement that even Nirvana is, “after all, but an exalted and glorious selfishness.”

NOTES:

[1] Both Leadbeater’s expulsion and Olcott’s self-criticism for his absence of loyalty towards Judge and Blavatsky are narrated in books published by the Adyar Theosophical Society.  Leadbeater was accused of being a criminal and invited by a Committee to resign to his membership of the Society. He was warned that if he did not resign, he would be formally expelled. He resigned.  [See “A Short History of the Theosophical Society”, Josephine Ransom, with a preface by George Arundale, TPH, Adyar, 591 pp., 1938, p. 358.]  Olcott’s self-criticism before his death is  described in the book “Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement”, by Sven Eek, TPH, Adyar, second printing, 1978, 720 pp.,  see pp. 656-659 and also p. 628. (CCA)

[2] This note by Annie Besant is still present at the Adyar TPH editions and / or reimpressions of 1968, 1971, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1988.  In the miniature edition of “The Voice of the Silence” published in 1988, the note is at pp. 180-181.  It also appears at Besant’s version of “The Secret Doctrine” (1897 / 1938 / 1971). In the 1971 edition, the note is at Volume V, p. 399, footnote.  Besant’s illegitimate version of “The Secret Doctrine” was finally abandoned in 1979, when the Adyar Society  published a correct edition of the work, prepared by Boris de Zirkoff. (CCA)

[3] [Note by Alice Cleather:] See also “An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism”, by W. M. McGovern, 1922, Kegan Paul. He confirms H. P. B.’s definition.

[4] [Note by Alice Cleather:]  “It was ..… during the highest point of civilisation and knowledge, as also of human intellectuality, of ….. the Atlantean Race that ..… humanity branched off into its two diametrically opposite paths; the Right and the Left-hand paths of knowledge or of Vidya. “Thus were the germs of the White and the Black Magic sown in those days. The seeds lay latent for some time, to sprout only during the early period of the Fifth (our Race).” (Commentary). - “The Secret Doctrine”, First Edition, Vol. I, p. 192.

[5] Alice Cleather is referring to her book “H.P. Blavatsky, a Great Betrayal”,  p. 2, including the footnote. (CCA)

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In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  

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