The individual impulse to agree
with the ideas of others and go along with one’s colleagues is no new
phenomenon. It helps one to be accepted in a group. In some situations it seems
necessary in order to avoid retaliation.
In groups and nations, coming
to a consensus reduces individual freedom for the sake of cooperation,
effectiveness and safety. The process is largely healthy as long as altruism is
present, and if the collective mentality still preserves a fundamental respect
for truth and for diversity of viewpoints.
When fury and fear dominate, however, obligatory uniformity of thought
may come in and artificial consensuses are often established.
“Truth is the first casualty
in a war”, as the popular saying goes. Exaggerated political fights have the
same result. Authentic thought is then left aside: being politically correct is
more important than truthfulness. Political leadership becomes tantamount to
mind domination. In this context the fabrication of scapegoats is necessary,
for people use an organized expression of hatred against someone else in order
to avoid the symptoms of their own chronic anxiety and negativity. George Orwell
called the phenomenon “doublethink” in his prophetic 1948 novel entitled
Truth and mistakes coexist in
human mind, yet voluntary falsehood
should be rejected. It is on the fundamental basis of self-deception that
collective illusions occur. The disease of fake thoughts or double thinking is both
internal and external, individual and social.
The theosophical movement
suffers from the same illness, and so do most churches, universities,
scientific circles and the public opinion. Theosophists and esotericists should
be aware of the problem. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the modern esoteric
movement in 1875, warned against collective hypnotism and wrote about the need
for independent thought in philosophical matters:
“…Once that a student abandons
the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of
independent thought - Godward - he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a
seeker after the eternal truth with ‘an inspiration of his own’ to solve the
universal problems. With every man that is earnestly searching in his own way
after a knowledge of the Divine Principle, of man’s relations to it, and
nature’s manifestation of it, Theosophy is allied.” 
Soon after the death of
Blavatsky in 1891, however, the majority of theosophists abandoned the original
proposal of the theosophical movement. Having no great interest in the
classical, ethical teachings of esoteric philosophy, most leaders of the second
generation worked on the merely formal or ritualistic side of things, leaving
contents aside. The movement became similar to a church.
In his 1936 book “Is This
Theosophy?”, Ernest Wood described the moment he realized that the idea of
liberty of thought had become a façade in the Adyar Society, the largest
theosophical association. Freedom was now a void slogan under which everyone
had to obey and exercise blind belief, as in the Roman church.
Wood - an experienced
theosophist - had served for many years as the international secretary of the Adyar
Society and delivered talks around the world.
“As the new tendency in the
theosophical movement increased it offended me more and more. My object all
along had been to sift the gold from the ore, but now it seemed that the ore
was growing more and the gold less.”
Liberty in one’s search for
truth was to be accepted in appearance only:
“Theoretically, there was
freedom of thought and opinion, and the Society was a truth-seeking body, and
our truth-seeking was to be done as a brotherhood, without distinction of race,
sex, creed or colour. In this spirit we were to study and investigate for the
promotion of knowledge of the truth, especially about man, his relation to his
environment and his destiny. But in practice there was more than a tendency to
give the platform to the believer and to squeeze out the critic or the
independent thinker. Instead of the subjection of all doctrines to a
co-operative inquisition, ‘You must respect the faith of your fellow-members’.”
Such a brotherly dictatorship
of thought reached its highest point during the 1920s. Wood proceeds:
“By 1925 prayers of all the materially
powerful religions were introduced on the Society’s official platform, and the
movement definitely degenerated into a brotherhood of creeds. Criticism of
other people’s ideas became ‘unbrotherly’! And besides, it ‘spoiled the work’,
and the work was largely a conveyance of blessings and forces by those who were
admitted to the systems of organized access to these things. On these grounds offices
were filled, and invitations were issued to leaders to preside and lecture at
the Society’s gatherings nearly all over the world.” 
Ernest Wood explains the
double standards and double-thinking
used by the servants of central power. Twelve years before the publication of
“1984”, he unknowingly anticipates Orwell’s “doublethink”:
“Bishop Leadbeater and his
agents were eminent in the theosophical weakness of wanting things both ways at
once, though that was quite illogical. The Society must be quite without dogma,
and yet its councils must be governed and its platforms occupied by those who
were eager to promote certain beliefs, leaderships and objectives, and members
who opposed these must be kept in the background.”
With their technique of collective
mind control through ritualism and “having both ways at once”, Annie Besant and
Charles Leadbeater were among the forerunners of the political order based on
mental domination that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. How is that possible?
Limited Number of Just Men
As above, so below, says the
Human history unfolds
simultaneously on various levels of consciousness, and the inner facts are the
main causes of external events. That which occurs on the higher realms of mind
tends to take place on the lower realms.
Civilization is sustained by a limited number of Just and Wise men, says
the Jewish tradition: if these Few or their disciples fail, the world fails.
Led by good intentions
combined with vanity and pride, Annie Besant naively announced to the world
that Lord Christ himself would soon come back to live among human beings in an
event coordinated by her , and would do so together with a great
An eloquent orator, a
charismatic woman, Annie Besant became all-powerful in esoteric circles.
Several pseudo-clairvoyants provided her with a number of fancies about the
great messianic event.
Everything is interconnected,
and by spreading her official brand of wishful thinking among mystical minds
and idealistic souls, Mrs. Besant unconsciously paved the way for a wider
politics of mind domination and hypnotic propaganda. After the beginning of the
messianic fiasco, around 1910, it did not take long for the spiritual ruin of
the higher levels of human consciousness - now sick with false messianism and
blind attachment to mere ritual - to reach the sociological level. When
Besant’s messianic operation failed, illusion remained in the air.
Soon Adolf Hitler became an
“infallible” dictator in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Joseph Stalin
in Russia. The three charismatic leaders used rather similar ways of
authoritarian thought, based on state-controlled uniformity of language and
intensive propaganda, in the phenomenon called “doublethink” and “newspeak” by
Orwell. A certain mental pattern was shared by them all. A central aspect in
their common ground included a blind worship of “superhuman” leaders. In the
1930s, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, two fake Messiahs, oppressed nations and
struggled for global power while using grotesque forms of mind domination.
Orwell denounces “doublethink”
as the process of indoctrination through which an individual comes to adopt as
true ideas that are evidently absurd, and adhere to two mutually exclusive
notions. This is the same process described by Ernest Wood. In doublethink, slogans replace original
thoughts. Orwell says in his essay entitled “The Prevention of Literature”:
“Political writing in our time
consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the
pieces of a child’s Meccano set. It is the unavoidable result of
Arguments Against Freedom
In one of his essays on
liberty of thought, Orwell wrote:
“Freedom of thought and of the
press are usually attacked by arguments which are not worth bothering about.
Anyone who has experience of lecturing and debating knows them off backwards.
Here I am not trying to deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an
illusion, or with the claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian
countries than in democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous
proposition that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form
of antisocial selfishness.”
Thinking by oneself can be
seen as a selfish attitude and a form
of boycotting the common goals. The argument is often used in every social
group, including the theosophical movement.
“The enemies of intellectual
liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism.
The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background.
Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his
opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, either of
wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist
display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of
history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privileges. The Catholic and the
Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and
Concealing uncomfortable facts
is then seen as one’s duty. Only convenient ideas should be mentioned, even if
they are sometimes false:
“The argument that to tell the
truth would be ‘inopportune’ or would ‘play into the hands of’ somebody or
other is felt to be unanswerable…”. 
Yet the denial of well-known
realities and the imposing of artificial thinking are mere symptoms of a deeper
“Totalitarianism (…) does not
so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes
totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when
its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by
force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never
afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. (…) It can never
permit either the truthful recording of facts, or the emotional sincerity, that
literary creation demands.” 
Sweet forms of blackmail use
the best hopes and noblest feelings of people to attain terrestrial goals like
On the other hand, the
phenomenon of mass hypnosis was
diagnosed by Orwell in the 1940s:
“As far as the mass of the
people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the
emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper
and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from
money and mere physical safety. (…) Atrocities are believed in or disbelieved
in on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities [or mistakes, C.C.A.] of the enemy and
disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the
The same method of political
control is used in more than one mystical or esoteric organization, in
conventional religious groups and national and international politics. However, artificial systems of leadership
based on collective mind control have no solid foundation, and seldom last
In order to build a road
towards a sane future, people who think with independence must unmask, discuss,
fully understand and leave aside the manipulative methods of social leadership.
Teaching truthfulness by
example, like Orwell personally did, is a good idea.
The privilege of honest
citizens consists in using reason and speaking with sincerity. Pretending
infallibility constitutes a fraud, however religious in appearance. Learning
from our mistakes, individual and collective, is unavoidable. No one is
perfectly consistent. Everyone makes mistakes, and correcting our failures will
be easier if we stop seeing every criticism as an attack. Anxiously policing
other people’s thoughts and words is not helpful.
“No tirades against
‘individualism’ and ‘the ivory tower’, no pious platitudes to the effect that
‘true individuality is only attained through identification with the
community’, can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind. Unless
spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible,
and language itself becomes ossified.” 
Common sense recommends
abandoning the emotional blackmails that forbid independent thought.
Good-willing falsehood is worse than useless. An ugly truth is much better than
a beautiful falsehood, and every honest dialogue brings us blessings.
 From the article
“What Are the Theosophists?”, which is published in the “Collected Writings”,
H. P. Blavatsky, TPH, USA, volume II, pp. 102-103.
 “Is This
Theosophy?”, by Ernest Egerton Wood, London: Rider & Co., Paternoster
House, E.C., 1936, 318 pp., facsimile edition by Kessinger Publishing, LLC,
Kila, MT, USA. See pp. 300-301.
 “Essays”, George
Orwell, Penguin Books, 466 pages, page 335.
 “The Prevention of
Literature”, in the book “Essays”, by George Orwell, Penguin Books, UK, 466
pages, page 330.
 “Essays”, George
Orwell, Penguin Books, page 332.
 “Essays”, George
Orwell, Penguin Books, page 336.
 “Looking Back on
the Spanish War”, in the book “Essays”, by George Orwell, Penguin Books, page
 “The Prevention of
Literature”, in “Essays”, by George Orwell, Penguin Books, page 340.
“A Few Lessons from George Orwell” was published in
the associated websites on 6 February 2021, being reproduced from the our blog
at “The Times of Israel”.
An initial version of the
article was published in the December 2020 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, under the title of “George Orwell and ‘Doublethink’: Ernest Wood, on Liberty of Thought in
the Adyar Society”.