Robert Crosbie - The Friendly Philosopher
1849 -- 1919
By Dallas Tenbroeck
Mr. Tenbroeck wants me to make explicit that he is not a spokesman for the ULT. The articles on this website are strictly his personal opinion and knowledge talking.
January 10th 1849
Born:- Montreal, Canada
Both parents were Scottish, they met and married in Canada. His father was connected for many years with the Hudson Bay Co. as a supervisor, traveling from Post to Post for a good part of the year. His mother was a companion to Lady Simpson, wife of the Governor of the Hudson Bay Company. A "highlander," she had, but rarely used, her capacity for "second-sight." She lived a life of self-sacrifice, compassion, and service to others.
Robert Crosbie was raised a Presbyterian, and was invited to join the communion at 16; Robert Crosbie said he considered himself still "unfit." The subsequent discussions caused him to doubt the honesty of that church's practices.
He determined to find "the Truth, which must be knowledge," and which was to be found in due course by seeking it. He adopted an attitude of constant questioning as to life's object, pain, sickness, death, mercy, justice, fate. He found that the religions around him offered no satisfactory answers when he questioned them deeply..
Robert Crosbie, and an older partner started a leather and shoe manufacturing business in Montreal. Soon after that he married the daughter of his partner. His partner's wife died, and this brought on an interest in spiritualism. Crosbie, investigating that, found nothing attractive in its facts or philosophy. Robert Crosbie observed some fraud and in some cases, hypnotism seems to have been involved. He then studied hypnotism, mesmerism, clairvoyance and telepathy with some personal success, but always had a sense of restraint, an instinctive sense of its inherent dangers.
The "psychic powers latent in man" were found to exist and seen by him, but their rationale was still to be understood. He sensed there was danger in those, and also sensed that he was receiving "some guidance" which he later said, helped him avoid "unconscious black magic practices." Crosbie always had a strong regard for the rights of others, and, aware of this, always exercised a strong moral control over himself.
A favorable opportunity to sell their business in Montreal arose. The partners, after the sale, went to Boston, and there started another shoe and leather manufacturing business. It became well known and was highly respected.
One day, R C's partner brought him news of the proposed establishment of a branch of the Theosophical Society in Boston. As the word: Theo-Sophia suggested much to him, Crosbie went to the first meeting. He recognized at once that this was what he was searching for, and he joined the T S immediately. (Admitted: June 5th, 1888)
Soon after, Mr. W. Q. Judge came to Boston to speak at the Branch of the T S, and Crosbie was introduced to him together with other new members. After the meeting, leaving for his hotel, Judge called back to Crosbie: "Good night Crosbie, I've got you on my list !" Mr. Crosbie recorded: "a veil was lifted...a tie was formed which has never since been broken."
Mr. Judge came frequently to Boston and stayed at the Crosbie house. When Crosbie visited New York he would stay with him. (1)
Of this first meeting with Mr. Judge, Crosbie wrote :
"A FRIEND OF OLD TIME AND OF THE FUTURE"
"Having been engaged in active T.S. work in Boston for over seven years, it has been my Karma to be brought in touch with him under many different circumstances, the various crises, local and general, through which the Society has safely passed... The future will reveal much in regard to him that is now hidden, will show the real scope of his life- work... The lines have been laid down for us by H.P.B., W.Q.J., and Masters, and we can take again our watchword, that which he gave us at the passing of H.P.B., 'Work, watch and wait.' We will not have long to wait." R. Crosbie THY 7-292
Crosbie, in retrospect observed that in those early years, students had few materials for the actual study of Theosophy. There were only HPB's Isis Unveiled, articles in the issues of The Theosophist and The Path, Esoteric Buddhism, and the Occult World written by Mr. Sinnett. Later, apart from articles in Theosophist, Lucifer, and Path, HPB wrote The Key to Theosophy, The Secret Doctrine and The Voice of the Silence.
Judge in publishing the magazine The Path (1886-1896), provided students with a great many practical hints on Theosophy. These not only covered his observations, but illustrated aspects of doctrine and metaphysics which students were interested in.
When the E.S. was formed, Mr. Crosbie became one of its earliest members. He was first Secretary and later President of the E S Group in Boston under a charter issued to him by H.P. Blavatsky through Mr. Judge, her agent in America. THY 24 337, THY 23 100
"(He)...identified himself with the Dzyan section of the Theosophical Movement and the T S., and was for many years the devoted and close Companion of William Q. Judge, and an occult pupil of H.P. Blavatsky...He...loved these two great Beings, trusted Them and those whom They trusted..." THY 7 320; THY 7 290
Mr. Judge, in his lifetime, used to refer students in the New England States to Mr. Crosbie, saying:- "Ask Crosbie, he thinks and acts as I do." THY 24 337
Crosbie was elected Secretary of the Boston Branch T S, nominated by C.F.Willard. Mr. Griggs was its President.
After HPB's death Mr. Judge put Crosbie in charge of the EST Groups in the 7 New England States. This was done under a charter issued by HPB to Robert Crosbie through him as her agent in America.
Crosbie was present in New York at a meeting with Mrs. A. Besant, Mr. Judge, and other Theosophists at Astor House. During that meeting, Mrs. Besant narrated the events that took place following the death of HPB at the General Council Meeting of the I. G. of the E. S. in London on May 27th 1891.
This meeting followed H. P. Blavatsky's death. Mr. Judge was present as "HPB's representative, with full power." Mrs. A. Besant was present as "secretary and recorder of the teachings." In the meeting at New York, Annie Besant stated that at that time, a "note" on which the Master had written:-- "Judge's plan is right," fell out of the packet of letters she had tied, and which had been in her sole possession, until she had brought it, herself, to that meeting. This related to Mr. Judge's suggestion of having two Co-"Outer-Heads" for the E S to carry on its guidance, A. Besant to be responsible primarily for the "Eastern section" [Britain, Europe and Asia], and Judge for the "Western section" [Americas, Australia], and both to stay in all cases in mutual consultative positions as "Co-Outer Heads."
She was to supervise E S Groups in England and Europe in the East, Mr. Judge to supervise America and groups in the West, and both were to work in close consultation, cooperation and harmony with each-other.
Mr. Crosbie made a written record of this meeting, along with others who were also present. Later, during the furor of the "Judge Case," Mrs. Besant repudiated this statement. THEOS. MOVEMENT, 1875-1925, p. 646, 296-7, 649-50.
It may also be noted that Mrs. Besant had separately written on this object to Jasper Niemand (Mrs. Julia Keightley) and therein she had then made the statement that the note from the Master had "fallen out of the bundle she had earlier tied together, and locked in her desk".
Crosbie's first marriage did not go at all well. One of their daughters was sickly from birth and needed constant nursing, for this special help several servants to assist Mrs. Crosbie were hired successively.
When Robert Crosbie became interested in Theosophy around 1888, the situation at the home with Mrs. Crosbie worsened and a legal separation was agreed on around 1892. A suit for permanent divorce followed, and this became final some years later. At this time, Mr. Crosbie sold his business and turned the proceeds as well as their house over to his wife. Later, a fire in that home occurred and this may have killed his first wife and their children after the divorce. He then started a new leather business on his own.
Mr. Crosbie was appointed President of the Boston E.S. In addition he was also the President of the Boston T S branch.
He helped organize the 5th Convention of the American Section of the T.S. held in Boston April 24/25th 1892.
In 1895 he helped organize the 8th Convention of the American Section of the T. S. in Boston, (April 28/29th, 1895 ).It was during this convention that the American Section passed resolutions that transformed it into the THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICA, giving it full legal autonomy.
On p. 24 of the Report for the Convention, we find Mr. Judge stating in an article the basis for fraternal affiliation which unites all Theosophical working bodies and Theosophists together:
"The Unity of the Theosophical Movement does not depend upon the singleness of organizations, but upon the similarity of work and aspiration; and in this we will 'KEEP THE LINK UNBROKEN !'" (Those were HPB's last words.)
Along with Mr. L. Wade, and Mr. Ayers, Mr. Crosbie submitted to the Convention an "Historical Sketch of the T.S." This traced the major events of its existence and work in America since 1875. And, this was included in the Proceedings and Report issued by the Convention. Later a pamphlet embodying this information was issued under the title: "What is the Theosophical Organization?"
1894 -- 1896
During this period Mr. Judge was attacked, exonerated, and, later persecuted again by the chief officers of the T. S. outside of America. Those were Col. H. S. Olcott the President Founder, and Mrs. Annie Besant as President of the British and European Sections of the T S. Contemporary Theosophical magazines printed articles and contributions on this, and from them, considered altogether one may reconstruct the motives and events.
Neither of these two officers appeared to understood that Mr. Judge (and Mr. Crosbie in Boston) stood primarily for Theosophy (as HPB did) and not only for the T S . To them, the T S was a useful tool, to be sustained as a promulgating body for the doctrines of Theosophy.
To Judge and Crosbie, and others in America and England, the T S was to be directed on the basis of the principles which Theosophy laid down and no others. No individuals' "authority" was recognized by them. Each member's free-will and free-determination was his own responsibility and no one else could wield authority over him or her. Theosophy alone was held to be the sole reason for the T S. and the Officers in its management ought to present that basis at all times.
Mr. Crosbie supported Mr. Judge's principles fully. He acted as one of the "witnesses on the scene." He, kept the "link" of pure Theosophy "unbroken," after Mr. Judge's death. The hints given by W.Q.J. during his life in regard to Crosbie were not grasped by those around him, who had what they fancied to be their own positions. And, in addition, seemed to be glamoured and deluded by the psychic powers Mrs. Tingley exhibited (she had only been a member for only a year prior to Mr. Judge's death).
In New York, Mr. Neresheimer, who was Mr. Judge's executor and Mr. Hargrove went through Judge's papers. They found what was later described as an incomplete and very fragmentary, cryptic diary of Mr. Judges', but which Hargrove claimed (in 1896) to be an "occult" diary; and in this, he said he detected that Mr. Judge's indicated that Mrs. Tingley was to "succeed" him. Mr. Neresheimer had introduced Mrs. Tingley to W. Q. J. about a year before his death. She became a member of the T S and later, a member of the E S. She was a psychic and apparently did not have a very profound knowledge of Theosophical philosophy.
She had however been of help to Mr. Judge during the last year of his life which was spent in great discomfort and illness. However this gave her no special "position" in regard to the management of the T.S. or the conduct of the E.S. Many years later (1923), Mr. Neresheimer made a deposition outlining these events, and in that he reversed some of his earlier pronouncements, on which the "succession" of Mrs. Tingley had been based. This deposition is available.
From time to time this "occult diary" has been mentioned as giving "authority" for the "Tingley succession," however, when requests were made to see it, or have it published, for all to verify, this was not done at that time. Copies were made of it and are available from several sources, but a reader will find it is difficult to establish any coherence in those phrases and notes. (see also: THY 3, p. 280)
Mr. Judge Dies
Mr. Judge died March 21st l896. Mr. Crosbie was in Boston. Of the events in New York, he wrote:--
"Two or three of the New York members--notably E.T.Hargrove and E.A.Neresheimer--obtained possession of Mr. Judge's keys and went through his private papers; in these they said ] they found reference to a certain "chela," whom Neresheimer determined to be 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. T. was indicated, they sent 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.
The attitude assumed by Mrs. T. soon began to estrange those members who were brought in close touch with her 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 her supporter...his support was sufficient to offset any withdrawal of the others in New York."
"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."
Crosbie wrote in an autobiographical note: --
"As to "As for my part in it--I was in Boston, and saw no reason to doubt the statements of those in N. Y. whom I believed to be sincere and of good training and judgment..." (Autobiographical Note by R.C.)
19 close friends of Mr. Judge wrote articles about him that were published in the May, June and July issues of THEOSOPHY. The death of Mr. Judge brought choices to Mr. Crosbie. Some of those are hinted at in articles to be found printed in: THY 24 339-40, THY 64 229
One of these related to impersonality, on which he offered his thoughts. see Friendly. Philosopher, pp. 127-8
April 1896 and later Mr. Crosbie, in Boston was in cordial relations with Mrs. Tingley who had been placed, shortly after Mr. Judge's death, in the position of "Outer Head" of the E S Section of the T S in America. He retained his supervision of its affairs over the area comprising the New England states.
In reviewing this period, Mr. Crosbie wrote:--
"I was in Boston and had no reason to doubt the statements 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...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. T's urgent request to assist in the proposed work, and was there two years, helping to prepare the way for the expected developments, before I began to get back the touch I had lost. I am prone to excuse inconsistencies and deviations in others, so that although I had begun to doubt, and to see, it was more than a year afterwards 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." (AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOTE by R.C.)
Mr. Crosbie married his second wife: Josephine Parsons, on April 10th 1900, in Manchester, N.H. They had two children: a daughter named Kathleen, (Kay, Kittie) and a son: Cameron. These two went to High School in Long Beach, Ca. They had neighbors who also came to U.L.T. and were students of Theosophy and who remember them well. (per: R. McOwen, R. Law)
Move to Point Loma
Mr. Crosbie was summoned by Mrs. Tingley to take up residence in Point Loma outside of San Diego,California, where a Headquarters had been located for the T S IN A, now renamed UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD and THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. Mr. Crosbie noted that he had been active in Theosophical matters in Boston for some 14 years. THY 7 293
He went there with Mrs. Crosbie, and as was required then, on taking up residence, all their assets were turned over to the organization. He gave his support to Mrs. Tingley, as will be noted from several articles and letters of his written during those years. THEOS. MOVEMENT ('75-'50),p. 317-19 THY 65 159-60
Considering the close relationship that existed between Mr. Crosbie and Mr. Judge, and the special position that Mr. Crosbie occupies in the Theosophical Movement of modern times, one wonders whether Mr. Crosbie might not be considered a "shepherd" who was following his straying "flock." And when that "flock" dispersed, the "shepherd" went in search of a new one.
1904 - Left Point Loma
Conflicting reports were circulated from the Point Loma organization as to why Mr. and Mrs. Crosbie left the Point Loma establishment. None of the family assets which he turned over at the time of entry were returned to him. He and Mrs. Crosbie, when they left were left penniless.
There have been hints ( Lischner Pamphlet ) of financial irregularities at Point Loma. Mr. and Mrs. Crosbie were not the only ones to leave at that time. Later, the T S at Point Loma went through a crisis around the time of Mrs. Tingley's death. They were heavily taxed without warning by the government on their extensive lands. As one who witnessed that event said: they were "land rich and cash poor" at the time. (THEOS. MOVEMENT ('75-50); THY 317-19; THY 23 492; THY 7 291)
Mr. Crosbie is reported to have said: -- "We quietly left Point Loma." And that closed the subject. (The Register of Members kept in Point Loma shows a smudged remark in red ink against his name: "Expelled 1904.")
Mr. & Mrs. Crosbie found a house to rent in South Pasadena. He secured a job as a bookkeeper with the Los Angeles Times. This work was arduous and required long hours standing, and was not well paid. Like many others he rode the "Red Cars" (street-cars) to work.
Mr. Crosbie became acquainted with his neighbors in South Pasadena: the Garrigues, Cloughs, Laws, and Churches. He found that they were interested in theosophical ideas, and with their joint interest a study class in Theosophy was started, using Mr. Judge's The Ocean of Theosophy, and Mme. Blavatsky's The Key to Theosophy as the first texts to be studied, and also the BHAGAVAD GITA, the Theosophy of 5,000 years ago..
"Robert Crosbie preserved unbroken the link of the Second Section of the Theosophical Movement from the passing of Mr. Judge in 1896, and in 1907--just eleven years later--made that link once more Four Square amongst men. In the year 1909 the Third Section was restored by the formation of the United Lodge of Theosophists. In 1912 he founded the magazine THEOSOPHY..."THY 7-289; THY 3-187/8; THE ULT ITS MISSION & FUTURE, p.8.
Organized Theosophical meetings were first held by Mr. Crosbie under a charter obtained from the T S in A that Hargrove had reformed, after splitting away from the Point Loma TS, in New York 1898/99. This had attracted a number of Mr. Judge's earlier companions including Dr. A. Keightley and his wife, Julia, better known as "Jasper Neimand." THY 23-544-5
A year later this Society in New York decided to change their appellation back to : "The THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY." Since this was considered injudicious, some in the L.A. Branch rejected the change.
Mr. Crosbie and 7 others decided to organize on their own, adopting the original principles and the original program of the Masters which HPB and Mr. Judge had embodied practically during their life- time. These PRINCIPLES are to be found in the Declaration of the United Lodge of Theosophists THY 23-544-47
Nov. 17th 1908
Mr. Crosbie issued an announcement:-- "TO ALL OPEN-MINDED THEOSOPHISTS"
THY 24 341; FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER, 409
February 18th 1909
U.L.T. was launched. The DECLARATION is its only basis. An initial explanatory statement will be found in : THY 23-337 and FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER, p. 412-14
"No formal bond existed among the Associates of the ULT, the sole object being the study and dissemination of Theosophy pure and simple." THY 23-102 & THY 23-548-9
There were 7 original associates. THY 23 102 F.P. 412-4 The "Third Section" was said to be restored by the formation of the U.L.T. THY 7 289; ULT ITS MISSION & FUTURE, p. 8
"All sincere Theosophists deplore the evils in the Movement and long for their eradication. They "dimly perceive" that these evils have an originating and sustaining cause which must be counteracted, but so long as their attention is fixed on effects, how can they , except with "divided mind," study the producing cause or causes ?...They cannot learn the truth about nature and themselves in any other school than that provided in Theosophy and in the lessons to be learned from self-study and the study of theosophical history. The Theosophists of today are ... faced with the same inherent difficulties, the same problems, the same weaknesses...but the real lack then is the real lack now--the disposition to face the facts, to make the necessary effort to gain first-hand knowledge of Theosophy as a basis and standard of discrimination and judgment--and then the will to act upon those finely established principles thus self-perceived...From the beginning, but a handful recognized the gravity of the issues involved, and that is still the case. ... work--the will to study, apply, and so come to understand the play of forces in human nature--is the practical application of the 3rd. Object." THY 23-102/3
The "semi-esoteric character of the U.L.T." was a phrase that Mr. Crosbie used. He also said that the ULT had to do work, which the various T Ses, then in existence, had all failed in. It had to work to restore the integrity of the Original Impulse, as laid down by Masters through HPB." THY Nov. 1951, THY 50 338
Crosbie stressed impersonality and anonymity to protect the work and to help protect the workers from "pride," and "ambition. "It was recorded that in his work Mr. Crosbie was "undeviating." THY 52 252
As regards himself and family, Mr. Crosbie was always well dressed in public, at work, and at the Lodge rooms, so that Theosophy might not be rated on a poor personal appearance. He made a point of this to all those who worked at ULT.
The children of Mr. & Mrs. Crosbie later on:
1. their daughter, Kathleen (Kay), married a Mr. Deeds (they had two children: Scott and Keith).
2. Their son's name was Cameron.
Mrs. Josephine Crosbie was always well regarded by those who knew her. She and Mr. Crosbie were neighborly, and as said earlier, they made friends with Mr. and Mrs. Garrigues, Mr. And Mrs. Clough, Mr. and Mrs. Law, and Mr. and Mrs. Church. Later still, this circle of friends was widened to include: Mr. And Mrs. Bentley ( Mrs. Bentley was for almost 35 years the superintendent of Theosophy School ); Mr. and Mrs. Wyman; Mr. and Mrs. Brinton Jones; Dr. and Mrs. Frederick F. Strong; Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Manske; Miss W. Egan, and many others.
Letters "In The Beginning" (The Friendly Philosopher) were written by Mr. Crosbie to early students at various ULTs. Some of these lived and worked out of the San Francisco and other areas. These few letters concerned themselves with the principles on which the ULT was established.
Impersonality, conferencing together on decisions affecting the operations of a Lodge, and a direct approach to the actual teachings of HPB and WQJ was stressed again and again.
FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER, pp. 376-7, 382-3
THEOSOPHY magazine was founded, Mr. Crosbie serving as chief editor until his death in 1919. THY 7-291
"In 1912, the mid-point of the 2nd quarter of the Movement, the magazine THEOSOPHY was founded to provide a medium for dealing with theosophical philosophy and history, free from sectarian affiliations or influences. Slowly the effort spread despite all obstacles and opposition, the impregnable basis of impersonal devotion keeping the work unsullied, an impersonality strictly continued after the death of Mr. Crosbie in 1919." THY 23-102 & THY 23-548
THEOSOPHY magazine, in its second volume started to publish a series of articles on Theosophical History under the title: MASTERS AND THEIR MESSAGE.
This historical review of the events and the documents of the modern Theosophical Movement forms the basis for the book later issued under the title: "The Theosophical Movement: 1875-1925", edited by Mr. Crosbie. In the same year the Theosophy School was started. This activity was adopted and implemented by most ULTs as they became established.
"Because -- For Children who ask why" edited by Mr. Crosbie, was issued.
Two new Theosophy Schools started around new ULTs in San Francisco and Berkeley.
1917 - 1919
Mr. Crosbie set most of the Theosophy School songs to music himself.
"(Mr. Crosbie's) ... burdens during many years have been enormous. In addition to his other work, he was a frequent speaker at the meetings of the United Lodge; he was constantly at the service of the hundreds of students who sought his wise and benign counsels in their many problems; he attended personally, under no matter what pressures upon his time and energies, to an incessant stream of correspondence from unknown inquirers who came in some unknown ways to learn of him and to seek his kindly advice and suggestion. He never denied his help, but gave freely, without stint or limit."
"Worn out in these unselfish labors for the benefit and advantage of his fellow men, burdened with the toll of advancing years, the frail body could no more sustain the increasing demands upon it.
He died as he had lived, calm and serene, with no word of complaint during the days of intense suffering that preceded his release.
Something of his firm principles and the impersonality of his life and work can be gained from his last published article, printed in the (July 1919 THEOSOPHY :-- "Is Theosophy a Progressive System of Religion ?"). THY 7-289-90
June 25th 1919
Death of Mr. Crosbie THY 7 320
Mr. Crosbie's last article was: "Is Theosophy a Progressive System of Religion ?" (Theosophy, July 1919). It reiterates the position that Theosophy is not a constantly changing set of ideas, but a consistent and complete body of knowledge to be studied, applied and promulgated as originally presented.
THY 23 390 THY 23 491-2 ]
Following the principles of the ULT DECLARATION neither Mr. Crosbie, nor has any student of the ULT made any public claim to be a "successor," "leader," or "teacher."
Each student and inquirer has been carefully put into direct touch with H P B, our teacher through her writings--original and unchanged.
Each has been encouraged to study, work for Theosophy and practice that universal brotherhood which forms the unifying basis of all Nature.
Mr. Judge's writings have been selected for study and reproduction because they most faithfully and carefully follow and supplement Mme. Blavatsky's writings and all students are encouraged to prove this for themselves.
(1)See: THY. Vol. 24, 337; THY 64, 229 THY stands for Theosophy Magazine.
(2) Letters That Have Helped Me. (Theosophy Company Edition) P. 291