Feb 28, 2017

Transcript of Autobiographical Notes

The Life-Testimony of a Great Theosophist

Robert Crosbie

Transcript of Autobiographical Notes
Robert Crosbie


A 2012 Editorial Note:

A few months before his death, Mr. Dallas
TenBroeck (1922-2006) sent CD copies of his
theosophical files to some theosophists around the
world. The following text reproduces from those
files the 1907 autobiographical notes by Mr. Crosbie. 

In 1909, Robert Crosbie (1849-1919) was the main
founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, ULT. 
His autobiographical notes examine some of the most
difficult moments in the history of the theosophical
movement. Their importance, as a first-hand narrative, is
unquestionable. Since politics cannot replace truth, the
differences among the various currents of theosophical
thought can be frankly examined on the principle
that truth stands above other considerations.

The candid testimony given by Robert Crosbie
shows the importance of sharing with other
truth-seekers one’s own experiences along the Path. 
Theosophists have much to learn from the facts in
each other’s lives, and H.P. Blavatsky wrote about
this. In an 1887 letter to her London students, she said:

“…It is the first rule in the daily life of a student in
occultism (…) to never take off your attention from
the smallest circumstances that may happen, whether
in your own or your fellow-worker’s lives; to record
and place them in order in those records, whether they
may or may not be connected with your spiritual
pursuits, and then bind (religare) them together by
comparing notes with the record of others and thus
extract from them their inner meaning. This you ought
to do at least once a week. It is from these totals that
you would find out the direction and path to pursue.”[1]

We add a few explanatory notes to the text.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


Transcript of Autobiographical Notes

Robert Crosbie

Los Angeles, Cal. March 24th 1907

I was born into the present physical body on January 10th 1849 in the city of Montreal, Canada.  My parents were both Scotch; they met and married in Canada, my father having been connected with the Hudson Bay Company for many years, traveling from Post to Post, and my mother being companion to Lady Simpson the wife of the Governor of the Hudson Bay Company. In the early days the family was brought up in the Presbyterian faith, and I have a distinct recollection of the gloom of the “Sabbaths”, and the horrible incubus of the doctrines inculcated. Later, my father asserted a more rational view of religion, as also did my mother, although nominally retaining their connection with the church. My mother being of Highland blood, had the characteristics of that people, among them that known as “second sight” (i.e. clairvoyance); she made no attempt to use this faculty, but showed instances of its possession on important occasions affecting the well-being of her people. What is termed the “religious instinct” was strong in her, and her life was one of self-sacrifice and she never consulted her own comfort.  I realized later, and perhaps more fully now, how much I am indebted to her for much of the ease of response in certain lines, of the body she gave to me. Great Karma will sometime permit me to repay that soul with whatever of knowledge I may have gained.

Although my parents relaxed much in their application of the tenets of their faith, the children (of whom I was the eldest) were sent to “Sabbath school”. Thus it went on for some years - I endeavoring by study and instruction to “reach salvation”, but never at all succeeding in reaching any condition which would represent the wonderful change such realization must necessarily be.

When I was 16 years of age, my dear old Sunday school teacher took me aside and seriously talked to me of joining the “communion”; I was amazed and startled, and at once replied that I was not fit, I had no realization of salvation such as I had heard of. His reply was that a young man was safer as a communicant than otherwise. But said I, does not the bible say that he who eats and drinks unworthily at the table of the Lord is condemned? He admitted that it did, but that the association would be good for me, and light might come later. Still amazed, I asked him if many had joined the communion without realization. His reply was “most of them”. I do not remember what further speech we had - if any - but I do remember how utterly alone I felt, and how completely the whole superstructure of the church fell to pieces.  I then began to search for the Truth. I pictured to myself a person with full reasoning powers, never having heard of religion, going to the highest representative of every known religion and asking each one “do you know the Truth”? and realizing that each one would but state their own particular form of belief.  I saw then that truth could not be a belief, it must be knowledge - but where - oh where was that knowledge to be found; how could it be obtained.  I received no answer then.

My school life was much like that of other boys I imagine, although there was always that under current of questionings in regard to the object of life; why sickness and unhappiness? why death? why were we born? The religious information on these points was vague, and on some points devoid of justice, mercy or love.  It was such a terrible picture that I resolutely closed my mind to it as much as possible, and took interest in the companions of my youth and their affairs.

I desired the world of men rather than books, and went into a manufacturing business at the early age of 20 years, soon after marrying the daughter of my partner.  The latter became a spiritualist through losing his wife, and frequented séances for the purpose of communicating with her, but I found nothing in the spiritist philosophy, or the facts, that drew me.

A favorable opportunity offering, we sold out our business in Montreal and went to Boston, where we established a similar one.  Boston offered a larger field for my partner’s quest among the “spiritists”, and so many wonderful things were told to me that I was induced to attend a number of séances with him.  In short, I found much fraud, and what little genuineness there was, carried no evidence of the spiritists’ claim that the souls of the dead returned “to communicate with easy-going mediums”.  Some of these experiences suggested the idea of hypnotism (which was then coming to the front).  I took lessons from the best available teachers of the “art”, and practiced hypnotism for several years with unusual success.  I also studied telepathy and clairvoyance.  I had struck the line of “the psychic powers latent in man”, but did not understand the rationale. Many of the experiments I made were of much benefit to me in later years, for they gave me a practical understanding that I would not otherwise have had.  Nevertheless there was a grave danger in it all, and I cannot but think that there was some guidance which kept me from tumbling into unconscious black magic, although I had never heard of such a thing. I always had a strong regard for the rights of others and would never use my power against another’s will, or suggest any idea detrimental to the moral sense in the least degree.  It was while in this line of thought that my partner brought word to me of the formation of a branch of the T.S. in Boston.  The word Theo-Sophia suggested much, so I went to the first meeting.  I knew at once, even from the meager presentation of that time, that here was what I had been in search of.  I joined the Society that evening and was shortly after elected its Secretary.  Judge came to Boston soon after; I was introduced to him together with other members, and had no other notice from him until after the meeting when we had parted at the door, he, going with some members to his hotel, and I in another direction.  We had got some distance apart when I heard him call out “good night Crosbie, I’ve got you on my list”, I said “good night” but was much exercised at the rest of his remark.  Something however happened then; a veil was lifted.  A tie was formed which has never since been broken.  He frequently came to Boston and stayed at my house, and I frequently went to N.Y.  I was made President of the T.S. in Boston.  Subsequently, when the Esoteric Section was formed by H.P.B. and W.Q.J., I was admitted and afterwards became - was appointed - its President.  These positions I held until I left Boston in April 1900.

At the time I joined the T.S. H.P.B. was in India, and had started “The Theosophist” magazine there.  Judge had begun the publication of the “Path”. There was little else in the way of Theosophical literature. “Man - Or Fragments of Forgotten Truth”[2] came next; this was later expanded into “Esoteric Buddhism”; “The Occult World”; “The Key to Theosophy” came in rapid succession.

Right here it would be well to say that Sinnett [3] was never admitted to the E.S., because he would not pledge himself not to divulge certain of the teachings which can only be given under such restriction. Some of these reasons are given in “The Key to Theosophy”.

In consequence of Sinnett’s refusal to accept such a pledge he went wide of the mark in some important points in his “Esoteric Buddhism” in regard to the evolutionary chain.  This gave rise to some controversy which never could be settled without that which could not be made public.

In the early days those who were first drawn to the T.S. were the spiritualists - also various kinds of faddists. When these found that Theosophy did not pander to, nor agree with their preconceptions and prejudices, they took their departure; there were some however who sought for truth alone, and those remained.  In the meantime there was going on a great work; that of laying down of the occult lines of force, and centers of work.  When it is remembered that H.P.B. was for some years a visitor to this country before she “woke up” Judge and Olcott and formed the T.S., the idea may be grasped that the most important work of the Movement was not on the surface.  The average person makes much of organization, form, method - authority and what not, and in crystallization of idea, defeats understanding. Thus the attacks, splits, controversies, and other foibles that have been perpetuated during the history of the Movement in this generation. You must have noticed that all the difficulties that have arisen in the T.S. raged around personalities; there have been no doctrinal differences; this is significant.  You may also have observed that those who belittle Judge, will be found belittling H.P.B.  An ancient saying has it that “accursed by Karmic action will find himself he, who spits back in the face of his teacher” - not an elegant saying perhaps to our ideas, but it conveys a fact of most grave import in occultism.  By these fruits you will know them.

I think that I have told you that my connection with Judge was intimate on inner lines; these cannot be explained, but to me they are the only real ones.

The T.S. represents the world; in it, in embryo are fought the battles of the world; ignorance, superstition, selfishness, ambition - all are there; but as the Master wrote once “So long as three true brave souls remain the T.S. cannot be destroyed”. It is my belief that the true T.S. is not contained in any one organization, but that its members exist in many organizations, the binding force being difficult to give understandingly, but I will try.

At the time of the passing of W.Q.J. the members of the T.S., and particularly of the E.S., knew that they had been in personal touch with the messengers of the Great White Lodge, so that their minds were more than ready to receive a successor in that line. Two or three of the prominent New York members - notably E. T. Hargrove, who was Judge’s private secretary during the last year of his life - and E. A. Neresheimer - obtained possession of Judge’s keys and went through his private papers; in these they found references to a certain chela, whom Neresheimer determined to be in regard to Mrs. Tingley whom he had known for about a year, and whom he had brought to Judge’s notice. The idea being in their minds that there must of necessity be an occult successor, and concurring in the opinion that Mrs. Tingley was indicated, they send out a circular to the E.S. that Judge had appointed her as such. The minds of all, being in the receptive condition I have mentioned, accepted everything as stated by the few in New York, but those at a distance had no inkling of the true state of affairs and kept on in full confidence. Those who found that they had made a mistake in the first place in foisting Mrs. T. upon the organization were in too doubtful a position to attempt explanations; one of them only - Mr. Neresheimer - (who had introduced her to Judge) - remaining as her supporter.

Mr. Neresheimer had been the Treasurer of the T.S. for years and was well-known to the members, and his support was sufficient to offset any withdrawal of the others in N.Y.

Mrs. T. took advantage of the situation, and most plausibly and shrewdly strengthened her position for two years after her advent, then formed the “Universal Brotherhood” with herself as absolute dictator; carrying with her by far the greater number of the members throughout the country. A year later she went to Point Loma and established the institution there.

As to my part in it - I was in Boston, and saw no reason to doubt the statements made of those in N.Y. whom I believed to be sincere and of good training and judgment.  I should have known by other means the true state of affairs, - but this had happened - when Judge passed out of life, I lost touch with him; doubtless I relied on him too much, and had not exercised my own intuition; from later events my comprehension is, that this loss of touch was purposely done in order that I might strengthen my weakness in that direction.  I went to Point Loma at Mrs. Tingley’s urgent request to assist in the proposed work, and was there for two years, helping to prepare the way for the expected developments, before I began to get back the touch I had lost. I am slow to turn back from any task I have set myself, and am prone to excuse inconsistencies and deviation in others, so that although I had begun to doubt, and to see, it was more than a year afterwards before I saw so clearly and unmistakably that I took occasion to tell Mrs. T. the facts as I saw them, and to state my intention to withdraw from all connection with her.  She tried of course in every way to change my determination, but finding me unchangeable, she let me go, and as I afterwards heard, gave out that she had sent me away for “bad conduct” - just what I do not know. This of course, to “save her own face” as the Chinese say. I am quite well aware [4] of her capacities in the above direction from the history of others [5] who had discovered her real character, and left;  there is no slander too low or mean for her to use in such cases to justify herself. Sorry as I am to say it, such is the character of Katherine Tingley, the Leader of the Theosophical Movement Throughout the World, as she styles herself - (there is more of it that is simply too nauseating to write.) It was a hard schooling for me, but it had its good uses and effects. I feel no enmity towards her; I truly pity her and would help her do right any time it might be in my power.  I also feel most deeply towards those who are held in mental bondage by her; but nothing can be done - they must open their own eyes, they are not in a condition to have them opened by anyone else.

Perhaps you may see now, why it is that I am so fearful of any abridgment of individual judgment, or cessation of effort to develop individual intuition.

Katherine with a large number of her “students” are in this city this evening giving the play of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; It will be beautifully staged, and everything will be done to give a fine impression [6] - undoubtedly with success. She will also speak in Belasco Theater on Sunday eve on “Some Practical Lessons in Human Life”, and will doubtless present a fair picture to the mind’s eye; and yet she is as I have said.  Those who see these pictures would not believe anything different from what they see - and she knows it, and preys upon the best and noblest in human nature for her own ends.  I tremble for the Karma she invokes.

Well I must turn in now; will write again soon.

With love, as ever,

[The above is typed]

(Signed) Robt. Crosbie


[1] See the penultimate paragraph in the article “Leaning from Each and Every Event”, by Helena P. Blavatsky, which is available in our associated websites. The same text was published as “Extract of a Letter from H.P.B. to a London Group, 1887”, in “The Theosophist”, Adyar, July, 1988, pp. 386-389.

[2] Actually, “Fragments of Forgotten History”, by Two Chelas, London: Reeves and Turner, 1887, 165 pp.  The “two chelas” who wrote the book were Mohini Chatterjee and Laura Holloway. At this point Mr. Crosbie is quoting several books, not necessarily in their precise chronological sequence.

[3] Sinnett - Alfred P. Sinnett, the British author of “Esoteric Buddhism” and “The Occult World”.

[4] quite well aware - In Dallas TenBroeck’s transcription, we have “quite will aware”. A misspelling, therefore.

[5] from the history of others - In Dallas TenBroeck’s transcription, we have “form the history of others”. A misspelling, therefore.

[6] a fine impression - In Dallas TenBroeck’s transcription, we have “a fine a fine impression”.


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.  


If There Is a Problem With Our Civilization

A Few Notes on the Need to Awaken

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

If you see politicians saying falsehoods on a daily basis and their words are often governed by mere appearance and opinion polls, then you must avoid the corresponding waves of negative feelings.

Keep in touch with sincerity in your consciousness, and look at the present state of the theosophical movement.

The quality of life in a community reflects the existence or not of a sufficient number of wise people in it.   How many sensible people are there in esoteric circles?

The theosophical associations are meant to play an active role at the invisible essence of our civilization, positively inspiring it and leading it to the right path. The effectiveness of the effort does not depend on the quantity of members in the movement:  it results from their quality and from the wisdom they have.

Therefore if the commercial media lie and say whatever is convenient for those who control banks, money and governmental bureaucracies, then remember that this is only the result of the problem, and carefully observe the theosophical associations, for their duty was to inspire our civilization with ethics and sincerity, through the power of individual and collective examples. 

And this is still their duty: they must enable themselves to discharge it.

And if nuclear proliferation accelerates while acts of religious war and terrorism occur, kindly ask yourself why the theosophical movement, as it was originally designed, has not been stronger, or more active; and why it did not feel more clearly responsible for the future of our mankind.

And if the esoteric movement seems to be weak and to have adopted a childish irresponsibility regarding mankind, ask yourself what you can do to accelerate your own awakening as a student of eternal wisdom, and how you can help the awakening of other friends around you. 

Do not underestimate your potentialities.

Persevere each day in trying your best, and you will learn constantly renewed lessons. Victory comes with no noise, in due time and in the right rhythm.  It takes place on subtle levels some time before becoming visible.


An initial version of the article “If There Is a Problem With Our Civilization” was published in the January 2016 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist” at pp. 1-2. It had no indication as to the name of its author.


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.  


Feb 27, 2017

To the Outer Head of the Adyar ES

The 1976 Letter to Dr. I. K. Taimni,
Regarding the Future of Adyar Esoteric School

Geoffrey A. Farthing

To the Outer Head of the Adyar ES
G. A. Farthing (1909-2004)

“Are the Masters likely to use again the T.S., a
vehicle which has not availed itself of what they
gave out before and has not propagated it, for
the next outpouring? (…..) This must be corrected
before the Society can make significant progress…”

(Geoffrey A. Farthing, in his 1976 Letter to I. K. Taimni)

A 2011 Editorial Note:

Geoffrey Farthing (1909-2004) was a leading member of the Adyar Theosophical Society in the 20th century and author of several books. In 1976, he wrote a classified letter to Dr. I.K. Taimni, then the Director or “Outer Head” of the Esoteric School (E.S.) of the Adyar Society.

Farthing sent copies of his letter to “sundry individual members of the E.S.” It was his first written document to Adyar leaders suggesting they should take courageous steps in the direction of real theosophy.

Twenty years later, Farthing would issue two public texts in which he defended the same general ideas, while avoiding a direct discussion of the Esoteric School.  In November 1996 he distributed his 15 pp. text “A Manifesto”, with the subtitle “Action to launch the Theosophical Society effectively and healthily into the twenty-first century, and even the next millennium”. In July 1997, his 9 pp. “Supplement 1997 to Manifesto 1996 Concerning the Future of the Theosophical Society” was published.

Although the 1996 and 1997 texts have played an important role in the movement and will do so in the future, the 1976 letter is different for it deals with that which has been called “the heart of the theosophical movement”.

It is now published for the first time.

The decision to make the document public was taken after careful consideration of the challenges and perspectives of the Adyar section of the movement, especially since the institutional crisis in 2007-2010. The structural paralysis of Adyar Society remains chronic. Its effects are transmitted to the theosophical movement as a whole. Its origin is in the problems described by Farthing in his 1976 letter.

Truth liberates from ignorance. Truthfulness is the key to the future, and time never passes in vain. At the occult level, there are no separations in the theosophical movement, and the action of karma heals every wound.

Farthing left physical life seven years ago, in 2004. Thirty-five years have elapsed since the 1976 letter was written.  It is time for it to be available to all theosophists, because it is more than just a historical document. It can inspire action in the present. It may offer a partial view of the future.  Its power to change and to help is easier to perceive in the 21st century than it was in the 20th.

It clearly announces:

Are the Masters likely to use again the T.S., a vehicle which has not availed itself of what they gave out before and has not propagated it, for the next outpouring?”  And also:  “This must be corrected before the Society can make significant progress…”

Dr. I.K. Taimni (1898-1978), to whom the letter is addressed, was the author of various books, especially on the Hindu tradition. 

We add explanatory notes at the end of the text. Underlined words are thus in the typewritten copy we received from Mr. Farthing in January 2000.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


To the Outer Head of the Adyar E.S.

Geoffrey A. Farthing

All recipients of this letter are asked to read it as objectively as possible and to think long and carefully over what has been proposed and the justifications for the proposals. Nothing less than the whole effective future of the Theosophical Society is at stake, maybe its very life, and that at a time when the next ‘outpouring’ is due. Please make your views positively and quickly known to your local Secretary of the E.S. and ask him or her to pass them on quickly to Mr. Taimni.   Geoffrey A. Farthing



Dear Mr. Taimni,

You may know that over the years I have had communication with your predecessor [1] and other Heads of the Esoteric School concerning its relationship with and influence on the Theosophical Society.

You will know that I am not a member of the E.S. However, I have been acquainted with the main aspects of the School’s teachings and practices. Because of my non-membership of the school these are, in themselves, of no direct concern to me. I am nevertheless very concerned for the Theosophical Society, for its image in the public mind, for its proper function in the world, and for its future.

I have been at considerable pains to read the history of the Theosophical movement in all its branches. I have read a number of books beginning with the factual histories of the Society, like that of Mrs. Ransom. [2] I read a number of books on the life of H.P.B., some of which in many respects, being grossly inadequate and slanderous. I have also read the modern descriptions of the activities of the Society, written by single individuals from their own experiences, such as those of Mary Neff, Alice Cleather, Emily and Mary Lutyens. From this reading and widespread travelling I have some knowledge of how the Society is regarded in the outside world. It is generally not well known at all, except [3] possibly in India. Where it is known of, it is regarded as a small sectarian body.

I came into the Society after the War after having read fairly widely in philosophical and spiritualistic literature and spent a number of years reading mostly the Besant/Leadbeater type literature. This formed my first views as to what Theosophy was. In the light of pronouncements of Mr. Jinarajadasa and later by Mr. Sri Ram, I formed the view that Theosophy was at best ill-defined and even that it was not susceptible of definition. This led to the view that it was largely, if not entirely, a matter of opinion and this in fact seemed, and even still seems, to be the common view of the leaders and members of the Society. It did not then occur to me that they were confusing two things; (a) Theosophy and what they think it is, and (b) the Objects of the Society which allow freedom of opinion and belief to all its members.

In later years, however, beginning with the study of the “Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett” and graduating to “The Key to Theosophy”, “Secret Doctrine”, “Isis” and “The Collected Writings of H.P.B.”, I have had radically to alter my views as to what Theosophy is, particularly having regard to the quite positive statements made in this respect by H.P.B. and the Masters themselves. They can in no sense be regarded as allowing the view that Theosophy is a matter of opinion. To them, Theosophy is exact science, as susceptible of verification in all its various aspects, as are the tenets of any other science, provided the right approach is made to it and the right methods used and persevered with. On the other hand one discovers that views of it put out after H.P.B.’s death are in many respects quite contradictory to what the Masters said. For example much of the descriptions of the astral plane, our activities during sleep, the after-death states and the nature of spiritualistic phenomena, the personalisation of Manu, Christ, Maitreya etc., cannot in any sense be reconciled with that the Masters taught on these subjects. Similarly, many religiously inclined members have come to regard their religious theologies if they include, or had added to them, the teachings of Karma and Reincarnation, as being Theosophy whereas this is far from the truth. These ideas however do justify, for example, Hindu students feeling that in their wonderful religious literature they are already possessed of Theosophy, without having to study it as something distinct. The Buddhists likewise, because they teach the Karma and because much of their philosophical and canonical views can be reconciled with the teachings of Occultism or Theosophy, feel that they too are possessed of it.

The point, however, is that in both these cases the scriptural teachings that are now available to the adherents of these religions were available hundreds or even thousands of years ago and they are the exoteric teachings of those religions. In neither case are the esoteric teachings made available in any extant literature nor are they propounded outside of certain closed schools, which may or may not still exist. H.P.B. said of the massive Indian religious literature that the six great schools of Indian philosophy represented “the six principles of that unit body of WISDOM of which the ‘gnosis’, the hidden knowledge is the seventh…” (S.D.,Vol I, p.278). She follows this by saying that she hopes “enough has been given out in the cosmogonic portion of the work to show Archaic teachings to be more scientific (in the modern sense of the word) on their very face, than any other ancient scriptures left to be regarded and judged on their exoteric aspect.”

The Masters, who instituted The Theosophical Society, intended it to be an instrument for conveying some up-till-then occult, esoteric, information to the general public. This information was only then made publicly available for the first time. This does not mean to say that if one had the keys to the symbolism, the allegories, parables and other allusions in ancient religious writings that it is not referred to or, at least, hinted at in them but it is not stated in plain language. For example, the Masters’ teachings on the seven-fold constitution of man as a reflection of that of Cosmos, the teachings on the vast cyclic evolutionary process involving chains of globes etc.., the theory (to put it no higher) of rounds and races with corresponding development of faculties, the true nature of space and of original spirit-substance and its differentiation into matter, the origin of forms in the kingdoms of Nature, the states of consciousness corresponding to Cosmic principles, the mechanics of astral travel, the working of miracles with the agency of the elementals etc., explanations of fore-knowledge and ‘omniscience’ (in their sense of the term), the plain language explanations of the spiritual development processes in man leading up to the expansion of the consciousness and the unfolding of his powers, culminating eventually in the super-human states and much more; all this they gave out and explained to us and for the most part it is not so stated or explained anywhere else. Further they related what they taught to the old religious systems and teachings and to the teachings and practices of the schools of magic and mystery, to the western Kabalistic tradition and so on, giving us valuable explanations of ancient theologies and interpretations of myths. In doing all this they not only gave us a mine of information which is not in any exoteric religious writings, but they showed how it extended into and was relevant to, the fields of the study and speculation of the philosophers of ancient and modern times. To quote H.P.B. again, “Our chief care it to elucidate that which has already been given out, and, to our regret, very incorrectly at times; to supplement the knowledge hinted at - whenever and wherever possible  - by additional matter.”

Theosophy is therefore unique in giving us this additional explanatory knowledge. It is true that the immediate appeal of this aspect of it must be to the intellect but I suggest that in the case of fifth race man and, in particular, the fifth sub-race, it is to the intellect that the appeal must be made now. I believe that this is the relevance of H.P.B.’s statements that Theosophy is “for those who can think or for those who can drive themselves to think, not mental sluggards,” and that “the true student of the Secret Doctrine is a Jnana Yogi, and this path of yoga is the true path for the Western student. It is to provide him with sign posts on that path that The Secret Doctrine has been written.” [4] In this context it should be borne in mind that the teaching was given out in English, to the Western World. I submit that since the death of H.P.B. these clear indicators of the  …………. [5] real nature and message of Theosophy, and their implications have been very largely, if not completely, ignored in the Society. More importantly they have been largely omitted for a very long time from the instruction given to members of the Esoteric School. This instruction has been based commonly on the ancient Eastern tradition, mostly Hindu. [6]

The results of this on The Theosophical Society as an institution for the promotion of the special Theosophical ideas and therefore on the image the Society has created on the outside world, has been very serious. In my view the failure of the Society to make its proper impact has been entirely due to this omission, and this serious omission must be laid at the door of the successive ‘Outer Heads’ [7] and other leaders of the Esoteric School. The justification for this charge against the E.S. is that people are attracted into the School by reason of the claims made for it. As I understand these claims they are so to train candidates that they will (a) become more effective members of The Theosophical Society and (b) be brought, at least, to the notice of, if not into contact with, the Masters. The way to achieve both of these is by way of the School’s personal disciplines, its recommended material for study and its meditational practices.

These objects have attracted the most sincere of the Society’s members who from among their number, have provided most of its leaders and workers in its various activities throughout its life so far. They have become the writers and lecturers. They have become its administrators. They have been the members of its Councils and Executive Committees. They have acted as an example to younger members and, generally as a body, they have been the biggest single formative influence within the Society. Included in their number has always been the President of the Society with his or her special influence by reason of his office. These members have been conditioned by their training in the Esoteric School. This means to say that through them as the Society’s workers, the Esoteric School has itself been the most influential single factor in the life of The Theosophical Society, apart from its original founding and objects. Note especially what H.P.B. herself said in her Esoteric Papers (Preliminary Explanations to Instruction III): “The reputation of the T.S. is in the keeping of each one of you, (i.e. members of the E.S.) and as you regard or neglect it, so will it prosper. But you have to remember that the life of the E.S. too, depends on that of the Body. The moment the T.S. falls in America (it cannot die in India, or even Europe, so long as the Colonel or I are alive) through your apathy or carelessness, every member of the E.S. who has not done his duty will go down with it. From that day there will be no hope of acquiring true Eastern secret knowledge to the end of the 20th Century.”

(It should be noted that when H.P.B. died most of the known chelas of the Masters were heard of no more in the Society except for a few like the Countess Wachtmeister and W.Q. Judge.)

My contention is that the conditioning of members of the School has been such that they have been actually drawn away from the original teachings of Theosophy. In so far as this has been the case, then this has been the root cause of the public’s wrong image of the Society and of what the outside world now thinks of it. It also accounts for the disrepute into which the Society has fallen in that it accounts for the extraordinary things that happened, for example, during the Krishnamurti era when, for example, some members of the E.S. were said to have achieved a number of initiations in a few weeks etc., and all members were required to believe that he was to be the World Teacher. Members of the E.S. joining such organizations as the Co-Masonry, the Liberal Catholic Church and others, the attitudes generated towards Krishnamurti, all these could not have possibly taken place had those leaders and members been only reasonably well-acquainted with, and mindful of the Masters’ and H.P.B.’ teachings. These teachings are specific about the times when attempts are made to enlighten men and they make quite clear the occult standing of Masonry, of popular religious ceremonial, of Western magic etc. Except for possibly some of the Western magical groups, the real occult significance of religious and Masonic ceremonial is not known to those organisations. It is known only to the occult (or Theosophical) student. He has to explain their practices to them. It is not the other way round. We are told they (except in so far as any secret organisations survive) are occultly dead.

One has only to read of the effect on the public mind of much that the Society and its leaders did in the second and third decades of this century to realise how public opinion was hardened against both the Society and the word ‘Theosophy’. Krishnamurti himself repudiated the claims made for him and abandoned what he had thought was Theosophy. He, consequently, did incalculable harm to the ‘cause’. It is quite apparent that he was really never instructed in Theosophy proper and therefore did not know what he has abandoning. It is obvious that he still does not. [8]

Great discredit, and even ridicule, was reflected on the movement when public pronouncements were made that not only had certain individuals suddenly achieved high initiation but that, in good time, of course, they were to be members of the world government. This brought the whole movement, and Theosophy, into ridiculous disrepute. From a proper Theosophical point of view such initiations were quite impossible. It is also quite obvious now that the prominent members of the Society involved at that time had no knowledge of what they were doing and of what real initiation meant. They were however senior members of the E.S. and should have known. This is more important than might be immediately obvious. If they did not know these things what qualifications had they for leading an Esoteric School and preparing its instructions etc. Is not their influence still imprinted in the E.S. teachings and practices? Can these not now be called into question?

My conclusions from all this and my contentions are that, through the influence of its members, the E.S. affects the image created in the public mind of Theosophy and the Society. The disastrously erroneous impressions of four or five decades ago still persist in the public mind, at least in the West, to which the message was primarily addressed. This must be corrected before the Society can make significant progress and before Theosophy can attain to the recognition it should have. At present virtually no notice is being taken in the E.S. of the great out-pouring of occult knowledge then made at the instigation of the Masters and through the terrible sacrifices of Mme. Blavatsky. Why did the Masters demand this sacrifice if what they were then giving out could be ignored within the inmost section of the very Society which they had founded specifically to bring to the notice of mankind that such a thing as Theosophy (in their terms) existed?

Another important point is that whereas the Society allows complete freedom of thought and expression to its members, within very wide limits, and does not interfere with their religious or philosophical beliefs, it nevertheless does have this very specific teaching to put out to the world. In itself this teaching can form a framework for all knowledge and experience. It also gives to modern thinking man explanations as to his origins and spiritual nature, of which his traditional religions, particularly in the West, have so sadly deprived him. At this time in history there is no other such system of knowledge available. Members of the Society are not required, as a condition of membership, to acquaint themselves with these teachings but they are sooner or later exposed to them. They can make their choice to study Theosophy or not. This is no reason, however, for its not being studied at all, as in my experience very largely is the case, in large areas throughout the world. The E.S. through its prescribed reading could correct this position very quickly and to judge from their talks and writings, there are a few members of the E.S. with a sufficient knowledge of Theosophy to devise papers and instructions based on the doctrines given by the Masters. Even if it were thought that the original teachings as a whole are too difficult for some or even most of the members of the E.S., they could be used as a background to the E.S. instructions, and the more gifted members could be encouraged actively to study them. For this to happen the Outer Head and the leaders of the E.S. generally must, themselves, be well versed in the teachings. The writings and lectures that have emanated from them for many years and still do, do not indicate that this is the case. This is not to suggest that what is being taught is not otherwise time honoured and admirable. It is however not particularly Theosophical. It could be given against a background knowledge of, for example, the extant Hindu scriptures which have been available for centuries, or against much of what Krishnamurti has to say. None of this reflects the special information given us by the Masters at the end of the last century and surely this is what we members of the Theosophical Society should primarily be concerned with. This special knowledge is what distinguishes Theosophy from everything else and the Theosophical Society from all others in a like category, in that it was set up to promote a knowledge of Theosophy. To quote “The Key to Theosophy” p. 39, the Society “was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by study and assimilating its eternal verities”.[9] This quotation indicates not only the intention for the Theosophical Society but that Theosophy is something specific in its own right.

There are many members in the Society who rather derisively use the expression “Back to Blavatsky” as if this were both a backward step and limiting one. Only those quite ignorant of the teachings could think so. First Blavatsky was the amanuensis of the Masters. Any derision is therefore, maybe indirectly, aimed at them. The tacit refusal is to go “Back to the Masters”. Secondly, the teachings are an extension of all other extant, true, knowledge. They do not ignore all that as gone before. Nor do they, by implication or otherwise, suggest there will not be any more teaching after them. Rather do they emphasise that there will be. But what was given out was limited to what was thought wise and what could be assimilated by man at present; it was an extension of what was already known. It was in addition to it, and what is much more important, Initiate inspired. It is therefore those who refuse to study original Theosophy who are imposing limitations on their Theosophy, not those who go back to Blavatsky and study her writings. The latter have access to all that was given out both old and new. The others content themselves only with what was there before. They will also not be aware of the great discrepancies that exist between what they regard as Theosophy and that given us in the original literature. Further it is important to realise that any occult knowledge additional to what was given out at the end of the last century will, in the nature of things, have to come from Initiates. It cannot come, as some seem to think possible, from modern research because such research necessarily deals with the objective manifest world. Even psychology and drug induced mystical experience can only touch the fringe of the occult proper.

An important point arises here; if there is to be another outpouring, in the same or another idiom, in this latter quarter of the century by what standard will it to be judged? If it is, again, to be Initiate inspired it will accord with what was given out before. How will we know if this is so if we are not familiar with the teaching we already have? With what will we compare it? Are the Masters likely to use again the T.S., a vehicle which has not availed itself of what they gave out before and has not propagated it, for the next outpouring?

The foregoing is criticism of the E.S. as it has existed and as it seems it exists at the present. If these comments are well based and the evidence is that they are, what can be done to correct the situation?

May I suggest for your consideration and appropriate action the following alternative to the present E.S. arrangement. That the existing E.S., in its present form, be wound up or allowed to die off for as long as there are existing members who want to stay in it. No new members would be recruited. This recommendation is justified because the present School has no initiate teachers and is therefore not a truly esoteric School. It is at least misnamed. Further there is no need for its secrecy or even confidentiality. There is nothing it produces or practices that is not to be found in ordinary published literature. The use of the two founder Masters’ portraits should be suspended as a school activity. People might use these privately on their own initiative and responsibility.

The private nature of the present E.S. in that it forms a brotherhood within the general brotherhood of the Society, makes it separatist, even divisive, and facilitates its abuse as a political influence in the T.S. Obviously this does not necessarily occur generally but it is claimed that it has done in the past, and may still do so in places. In any case the members of the E.S. being known as such to each other and being the influential members of the T.S. tend to form a hierarchical ‘government’ within it, even though this may not be deliberate. This position is reinforced if the E.S. members are also members of Co-Masonry.

Mr. Sri Ram, with whom I discussed these matters, agreed with me on many of my points. He said however that he felt he could not close the E.S. or 4,000 Indian members who looked to him (as Outer Head of the E.S.) as their guru would leave the Society. This could be the case in other countries.

The closing of the present E.S., which as said is not an occult school in the proper sense, would not, in itself, prejudice the possibility of the Society being used by any Initiate who may come in connection with the next outpouring. If we are again to have initiate teachers, they will if they think fit form around themselves a new genuine esoteric school.

What to do? Is something equivalent to the E.S. desirable? Many members of the T.S. would say definitely that it was. There is a place for such a school, but one to which the above objections do not apply.

It is proposed that, in place of the existing E.S., a Theosophical Training School be established. There are obviously some requirements to be met and considerations to be taken into account. The requirements would include:

1) The Training School should be one for Theosophical instruction and practical guidance in the spiritual life on Theosophical lines.

2) The School should be part of the T.S., not separate or distinct, from it. Its members would be members of the T.S. and it would be open to all who wanted to join.

3) The Training School would not interfere with the objects and activities of the T.S.

4) The School, as such, would own no property. It could share meeting accommodation and office space and equipment with the T.S., use T.S. registers, duplicating and postal facilities etc.

5) The School would have no fees. Its instructions would have to be quite free, but members might be called on to meet the special expenses of the school, in addition to their subscriptions to the T.S., so that in no way would the School be a charge on the T.S.

6) The Officers (if any) of the School would most likely be existing officers of the T.S. but not necessarily. This rule would obviate any feelings of separation.

7) The School would make no claim to be esoteric beyond the teachings given us by H.P.B. and the Masters. Any purported new teachers, posing as such, who may come would have to justify themselves against the previous teachings.

8) The School would claim no special relationship with the Masters and make no claims that scholars on joining would enjoy any special privileges or attention from the Masters, or even be in the way of so doing simply by reason of their joining and being members of the School. As there would be no “Inner Head” of the School; there would be no “Outer Head”. There would need to be a Principal in charge.

9) Membership of the School would, in itself, confer no rights or status with the T.S.

10) There would be no degrees or initiations. The ability to lead the good life in all respects, scholarship and service would be the only qualifications for respect from other students, and members of the T.S.

11) Scholars writing or lecturing, while as members of the T.S. would be free to utter what they liked, would undertake not to put out their private views and opinions as Theosophy. What is taught as Theosophy must accord with the Masters’ teachings. (The question of dogmatism might arise here but anyone at all familiar with the teachings would realise the impossibility of making a dogma of them. Dogma can only be based on belief or opinion, not on fact.)

12) Scholars could be expelled from the School on well-substantiated grounds of dishonesty, immorality, malicious gossip, slander, or for not doing reasonably within his or her power to further the interests of the T.S.

13) Scholars would be in three groups:

i) Beginners. These could stay in this grade for say two years only. They must then move up or resign.
ii) Ordinary. These scholars would be free in that they would not have taken any vows but have expressed the earnest intention, possibly in writing, to study and be willing to work for the T.S. in any capacity their circumstances allowed.
iii) Committed. By a vow to their Higher Self (but only to that Self) to work for and further the interests of the T.S., the Theosophical movement generally, and thereby all humanity.

14) The curriculum of the school would include the study of prescribed books and papers, graded according to the group and seniority of the scholar. Papers would be circulated to scholars privately: they would not be secret nor be returnable. Initially all instruction would be based on H.P.B. and Master teaching. They left us plenty of chela instruction up to, and beyond, training scholar standard.

15) The school regime would include meditation periods, on recommended material and outline methods would be taught. Meditation practices would be on classical lines, using initially at any rate, the H.P.B. guides. Minimum periods of study would be obligatory. Alcohol forbidden. Vegetarian diet recommended. Smoking at discretion of scholars, not recommended. The highest codes of ethics and morals would be the aim of all students.

There is an important point which arises because of the world wide nature of the Society and the different national and religious backgrounds of members. The E.S. instruction has been based so far – except for the brief initial period – almost exclusively on traditional Hindu lines. It appears quite obviously however that this was not intended. It is also obvious that either (1) existing religious views of scholar must be regarded, in which case we should need instruction in the Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, Jewish etc., idioms; or (2) existing religious backgrounds be transcended. This latter would seem to have been the intention of the Masters. If denominational and sectarian differences are to be regarded in the Schools instruction, they can only be so, having regard to the extant exoteric literature of the religion or sect because any esoteric teachings there may be behind the outer teaching of any particular religion is still not available publicly. Anything of their secret teachings that is available has been divulged in the theosophical original basic literature, including the five E.S. papers published in the third (fifth, Adyar Ed.) volume of “The Secret Doctrine”.[10] This latter must then surely be the base for the Theosophical Training School’s instruction. If this were adopted then we would get, at least as far as the Training School members were concerned, a unified teaching stemming from a common source, transcending that of any individual religion. In view of the immense amount of material in the early literature descriptive and explanatory of the particular doctrines, Deities, traditions and practices of all the major religions, including the old classical ones, this, transcending of limited individual religions, seems to have been the intention.

Such a transcendence of these religious differences could have far reaching, and deep global repercussions to the inestimable long term benefit of humanity. Please note that nothing in this letter is meant to reflect against the great public work that Annie Besant and others in the E.S. have done in their time.

In the sincere hope that you will see the vital importance of what is written here, having full regard to the great influence – and it is right that it should have: - that the E.S. has on all phases of work in the T.S. all over the world, and in the further hope that you will, as a matter of urgency, take the necessary action that it calls for, I sign myself,

Yours affectionately and truly,

Geoffrey A. Farthing


1) Mrs. Radha Burnier
2) The President and Vice-President of the T.S.
3) All Corresponding and local Secretaries of the E.S.T. or The General Secretaries of the T.S.
4) Sundry Individual Members of the E.S.

P.S. Since this letter was drafted I have (by chance?) become possessed of a copy of E.S.T. paper, 3 Nov.1894 by W.Q. Judge which corroborates the views as to the standing of the E.S. which I have made in the letter. I had, however, arrived at my views quite independently from my reading and thinking about what has happened in the past, leading into the present situation.

You will remember that Mr. Judge was a direct chela of the Masters, that he wrote the rules for the E.S. in 1888 in London, that he was manager and teacher for it, especially in America. Please see the paper referred to.

November 1976,
G.A. Farthing.  
Lake Farm, Eavestone,
Ripon HG4 3HD, N. Yorkshire


[1] Dr. Taimni’s predecessor was Mr. N. Sri Ram (1889-1973), the fifth president of the Adyar Society and father of the seventh president, Ms. Radha Burnier.

[2] “A Short History of the Theosophical Society”, compiled by Josephine Ranson, TPH, Adyar, Chennai (Madras), India, 1938, 1989, 591 pp.

[3] Except – the original has “expect”, an obvious typing mistake.

[4] “The Secret Doctrine and Its Study”, a text by P. G. Bowen transcribing H.P.B. statements, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles. 6 pp., see p. 6.

[5] The text is so in Farthing’s typewritten document. 

[6] This applies to the E.S. during Dr. I.K. Taimni’s direction (1973-1978). Dr. Taimni was a student of Hindu tradition. Since 1978, the E.S. gradually took distance from I.K.T.’s line of work, while still ignoring the original teachings of Theosophy.

[7] N. Sri Ram took the position of Outer Head from C. Jinarajadasa in 1953.

[8] Indeed, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) never went beyond the limits of a vague new age thinking. He did not include in his view of life fundamental concepts in modern theosophy like Karma, Dharma, Reincarnation, Higher Self, Adeptship and Discipleship. He ignored the concept of Theosophy, and in his lectures and writings never manifested sympathy for the theosophical movement or its objects.  

[9] “The Key to Theosophy”, H.P. Blavatsky, Section 4. The passage is at p. 57 in both Theosophy Company editions of 1987; the one made in Los Angeles, USA, and the one published in Mumbai, India.

[10] These materials are now included in the “Collected Writings” of  H.P. Blavatsky. The adulterated version of “The Secret Doctrine”, prepared in six volumes by Annie Besant, was abandoned by the Adyar Publishing House (TPH) in 1979, when it published the original text of the work, edited by Boris de Zirkoff.


See also the text “Life And Work of Geoffrey Farthing - The Autobiographic Testimony Of a Leading Theosophist”. It is available at our associated websites.


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.