THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH
Developments in The Theosophical Society
BY E. L. Gardner
The Theosophical Publishing House (London) Ltd
For help in preparing and presenting this statement I am much indebted to Mr V. Wallace Slater and Mr L. H. Leslie-Smith, and to the latter also for the final section.
E. L. Gardner -October 1963
About forty-five years ago an announcement of the Coming of the World Teacher was made by Mrs Annie Besant and Bishop C.W. Leadbeater. Most of the Sections and Lodges of The Theosophical Society accepted this proclamation with confidence and diverted much of their energy to the Star Campaign — in preparation for his Coming.
Obviously there has been no Coming. Bishop Pigott, writing some years ago, expressed the truth of the matter in the words ‘Leadbeater was wrong’. Naturally that had been the suspicion of many in the 1930's, but there was little evidence and no proof of the actual cause of that catastrophic error. It has, however, now become known that the source of the proclamation was Bishop Leadbeater himself. In letters he wrote to Mrs Besant during the years 1916-20 that have recently been examined he tells repeatedly of the intention of the ‘Lord Maitreya’ to come again — as he did ‘twenty centuries ago’.
As Truth is a priority among Theosophists, it is my hope that the following explanatory analysis of important events in the history of the Society will be helpful.
A witty satirist declared: ‘He who never makes a mistakes makes nothing else.’ But there are mistakes and mistakes. The most misleading, far-reaching and disturbing are those who are honestly believed to be truth. It is with these that we are concerned here.
C.W. Leadbeater's Writings
Charles Webster Leadbeater became a welcome exponent of Theosophy soon after joining the Society in the 1880's. Many of his early contributions in articles, special manuals, treatises and books are still widely held as good, useful and instructive; and I would add my own warm indebtedness to him during several years of my early membership. Later, in studying Man, Whence, How and Whither, I questioned some of the statements; and with The Masters and the Path I had serious doubts, apart from the wisdom of publishing such a book. Then, however, came Mrs Besant’s wholehearted endorsement of his views—and I put all suspicions on the shelf until further evidence or proof appeared. The evidence and proof, though long delayed, have now emerged.
A number of letters sent by C.W. Leadbeater, then living in Sydney, to Annie Besant, President of The Theosophical Society, at Adyar, between 1916 and 1920 are concerned with the ‘Lord Maitreya’ and the Liberal Catholic Church, which was then being founded. These have but recently come to my knowledge.
The claim of the Liberal Catholic Church for support from Fellows of The Theosophical Society was based on the belief, expressed in this correspondence, that the World Teacher, the Lord Maitreya, had ‘brought it into being’ and ‘approved’ its liturgy. Mrs Besant accepted the information in good faith and announced the founding. A letter dated April 7, 1920 contains the following:
He (the Lord Maitreya) told us to ask questions from the Master K.H. upon points as to which we were uncertain — and the information which we gained in this way was of the very greatest value to us.
The questions put by Bishop Leadbeater to the Master K.H., and said to have been answered by him, run to several thousand words. They relate to the celebration of Mass, the effect of consecration and of priesthood, and to numerous details of ecclesiastical procedure. The answers to these many questions all support and endorse the clerical views of Bishop Leadbeater himself. Evidently the ‘Lord Maitreya’ knew nothing of the Master K.H.’s strong views on religions and sacerdotalism. The Mâhatmâ Letters to A.P. Sinnett had not at that time been published. Letter No.10, signed by the Master K.H., states:
The chief cause of nearly two-thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ... is religion under whatever form and in whatsoever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity .... The sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, morality and universal charity the altars of their false gods.
And in Letter No.134 the Master M. speaks of:
invisible results proceeding from erroneous and sincere beliefs. Faith in the Gods and God and other superstitions attract millions of foreign influences, living entities and powerful agents ..... who delight in personifying gods... These are the gods that Hindus and Christians and all others of bigoted religions and sects worship.
These extracts from letters written by the Masters K.H. and M. furnish convincing evidence of ‘unconscious kriyâšhakti’ projections by Bishop Leadbeater. The extracts would also seem to imply that the liturgies of churches devoted to the adoration and worship of personal gods — the projected mental images of the worshippers — induce a kind of refined idolatry.
Moreover, the imminent Coming of the World Teacher is the theme of Leadbeater’s letters:
Close and perfect is the communication I have opened .... I have chosen you to hold it .... occupy till I come.
quotes these words as from the Lord Maitreya. Yet Krishnamurti — the
Chosen Vehicle — was
beginning to rebel, and a few years later utterly repudiated all connection.
Later, Bishop Pigott, Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church,
The Lord did not come in the way foretold ... The Lord has not come, so far as we know .... Leadbeater ... was wrong about the Coming ..... Theosophists are in no sense bound to accept Leadbeater as an infallible teacher. (August, 1952).
An Occult Phenomenon
With the advantage of forty years perspective, plus the letters to Annie Besant and the events of 1920-30, it is now clear (as some have long known or suspected) that the Lord Maitreya and the Masters with whom Leadbeater was on such familiar terms were his own thought-creations. Yet I feel certain that there was no intention to deceive. Bishop Leadbeater’s honesty and sincerity were undoubted. His clairvoyance was unquestioned. It was by that faculty that he discovered the boy Krishnamurti, who has at any rate turned out to be a great leader of thought, widely acknowledged all over the world. This discovery in itself was no small feat, and it was not an isolated case. And Leadbeater’s frequent references to the Masters were, from his own point of view, utterly sincere and true. Nor was it a case of a split mind. The projection was a vivid example of the phenomenon of ‘unconscious kriyâšhakti’. The explanation of this phenomenon given below, which I wrote for The Theosophist, is reprinted from the issue of July, 1963.
Kriyâśhakti Conscious and Unconscious
Mind and Memory
The Sanskrit word Kriyâšhakti is defined as the Power of Creative Thought. It is a well-known term in Occultism, and its meaning has been abundantly demonstrated during the past few decades in research work on the mysteries of the human mind. The description of the mind by Patanjali, given long ago, is still much to the point:
The mind may be compared to a lens in the form of a sphere, so constructed as to be capable of giving a three-dimensional image inside itself of every external object. (Book 1, 41—Stephen’s translation.)
Personal memories consist of such images imprinted on the mind, in size minute but readily expanded when the higher mental ray of light is focussed on them. Such a momentary focus is all that one needs to recognize a familiar face and figure. Some of the imprints in the sphere of the lower mind are very clear images because of frequent repetition — for example, those of parents, children and other relatives, friends and acquaintances—but others need some scrutiny by the focussed ray in order to be remembered. Pictured forms can also be built in the mind by the ray itself.
Unconscious Thought Power
Any memory record can be strengthened by repeated recollection and, occasionally, the picture will become most pronounced: for instance, the mental imprint of the betrothed, a cherished friend, a revered teacher, an historical figure who has fired the imagination. Indeed, in cases of extreme contemplation, the mind, or part of it, may be filled by the hero — hence the Napoleons, Henry VIIIs, Jesus Christs, etc., in mental asylums. They have mentally conceived and created a form — and stepped into it. Unconscious creative thought may also follow long-continued contemplation of a religious symbol, such as a crucifix. Deep and sincere yearning to share the agony of the Adored can cause stigmata to appear on hands and feet. Mento-etheric repercussion is the simple reason. The same kind of effect — a bruise on the body—may follow from a very vivid dream in which one shrinks from, but receives, a severe dream blow. Psychotherapy is becoming familiar with all of these.
Mind and emotions are of the second and third elemental kingdoms, and the essence of which these are composed is itself very much alive. A memory training course will speedily prove this, and is well worth the experiment. Although well-planned exercises enable one to memorize verse and prose easily, retain figures and dates by association devices and so forth, one soon realizes that the mind is a separate entity from oneself. When well drilled it can take things over on its own. Long passages can be recited and simple calculations made without higher mental attention. Indeed, much routine work can be handed over. A common experience will illustrate this automatism. A pleasing melody or a catchy tune is heard and hummed repeatedly; then one tires of it, yet it continues and may become an obtrusive nuisance. The will must be invoked to curb or dismiss the tune. Obviously the mind, though mine, is not I.
We all have the ability to visualize mentally. Some find it easy, many do it only with difficulty. A good example of an expert’s skill in this art is given by a chess master playing a number of games blindfold. On the chessboard two armies of 16 pieces face each other, and the board is of 64 squares, black and white. Countless combinations are possible, and all the games differ. Yet a blindfold master, playing against 20 opponents simultaneously, recently won 16 of the 20. Such an amazing feat of clear and detailed visualization is convincing evidence of the power of creative thought. The thought-form of the chessboard and the pieces in each game is brilliantly real.
Master and Chela
The automatism of the elemental essence of thought-forms is used, it is said, in the occult relationship of Master and chela. A mental image of the chela is made by the Master, with a ‘radio’ link between image and chela. This image is isolated in the Master’s ‘cave’ and records the chela’s progress. The reverse process, though less efficient, is also possible. By intense contemplation a devotee can imprint the picture of a Master in his mental aura. Any link that a Master might make with the Chela’s pictured thought-form depends, however, on the clarity and purity of the created form. Conscious Kriyâšhakti builds the form, but unconscious Kriyâšhakti may endow it with the emotional vibrations of the chela. Therein lies the extreme hazard of the venture.
The pure elemental essence of the mental plane, untouched by human emotion or thought, is of the clarity of ‘rock crystal’ (Patanjali). But the slightest Skandas of its creator — i.e., personal desire vibrations—will be awakened into a desire to live. And, should its creator weaken, it may become his Frankenstein. Such is the vivid description given by H.P.Blavatsky of the possible result of unconscious Kriyâšhakti. (The Secret Doctrine, Adyar edition, v, 560.)
Subjective to Objective
Built by thought within the mind, the created form is subjective. When endowed with the skandhas of its creator and thus aroused, in a measure, into a life of its own, it may be reflected in the Astral Light (Pure Elemental Essence, the universal matrix) and become objective. This property of the Astral Light as a medium of impressions — a matrix — that may actually crystallize thoughts is referred to in The Key to Theosophy. After the death of the physical body, the content of the mind being mirrored in the golden glow of the Astral Light, one is surrounded by one’s own creations and hence very much at home.
The Methodist will be a Methodist, the Mussulman, a Musselman, at least for some time, in a fool’s paradise of each man’s own creation.
This is the early devachan of Loka II, and probably pleasant enough while it lasts. Many dream experiences illustrate this mirrored objectivity of one’s thinking. The Astral Light is, however, but ‘the shadow of Divine Light’. (The Secret Doctrine, v,566.)
A clear and finely built thought-form of a Master may, occasionally, be the skilled product of conscious Kriyâšhakti by a devotee. If its rock crystal purity be undisturbed, the form may presumably provide a medium for communication. But if its elemental life is affected by the skandas of its creator — though quite unconsciously conveyed — then absorption and enhancement by the elemental will merely mean the birth of an attractive royal edition by its creator. Thus one’s own thought-creation of a Master may provoke the dangerous illusion of being the Master himself. And mental clairvoyance assists its realistic objectivity. The results of such a mistaken identity could well be disastrous.
On the large scale of religious movements and nations, the power of creative thought — conscious and unconscious — is abundantly evident. The mentally projected figure of an ‘Almighty God’, or the ‘God of our Fathers’, is still a popular idol, though being widely challenged today. As the Master K.H. wrote:
The word ‘God’ was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has either admired or dreaded without understanding them.
And H. P.B. said:
It is not the Ever-Present God — the Divine Plenum — that is rejected, but the humanized God of religious dogma which man has shaped from his own brain-fabric. (The Secret Doctrine, I, 75.)
Mistaking the False for the True
The President, Mr Sri Ram, commenting on this article in The Theosophist,
under the title
‘Mistaking the False for the True’, says that it
‘throws a clear light on a phenomenon which occurs among people of all religions, namely, that of an image formed subjectively, partly out of material from the creator’s thought-environment, and partly out of ideas generated by his own personal emotions and desires, assuming an objectivity, a full-scale reality, that is completely convincing to him. Many a vision takes place in this manner and is afterwards proclaimed to others and becomes the basis of a legend. The image is really a projection from the person’s own mental make-up, to use a modern psychological term, but it gains a strength and a vitality from his sub-conscious reactions, which give it the character of an independent entity. The process involved in this phenomenon is well illustrated by what is said about ‘elementals’ in early Theosophical literature, artificial entities which are either created for a specific purpose and maintained by deliberate design and volition, or, coming into existence more naturally through repetitive or collective thought, get strengthened through interchange with the psychic condition of their unconscious progenitors and thus prolong their life for as long a period as the impulse might last.
Mr Gardner points out that while an image of some loved and reverenced person, or Teacher, if it be of rock-crystal purity, as he calls it, can be a medium for communication with him, any unconscious desire vibrations — also any established tendencies of thought — will affect the image — and it may then become a ‘talking image’ reflecting the subconscious mind of its creator. H.P.B refers in her writings to the ‘enormous mysteries’ of the human mind and of the deceptive nature of the psychic realms to which it is related.
The Only Safety
There are many people today in different parts of the world who give out messages which by their content may well be judged to come from their own subconscious minds, but are invested by them with the authority of some well-known historical figure or of one of the Teachers associated with the Theosophical movement. It is a very great pity that the names of these Teachers, who are objects of the deepest reverence to those who know anything of Them, should be bandied about and turned into trademarks for the most commonplace outpourings, usually containing, besides some ethical injunctions, a reference to current events, thus giving the message a certain contemporary colour, and also embellished quite often with picturesque phrases which are particularly fascinating to the minds of their promulgators. The only safety for anyone who does not wish to be misled with regard to such messages or by any other kind of psychic revelation lies in weighing for oneself impersonally every statement, from whatever source it might purport to come, strictly on its intrinsic nature and merits.’
Annie Besant's Part
The overriding factor in the acceptance by T.S. members of Leadbeater’s views was Annie Besant’s whole-hearted endorsement and approval. Her authority and prestige were enough to satisfy most members. In 1912 she shut herself off from investigation of the inner planes. This she did because she could not both continue that and also do the political work for India that she felt so imperative. The strain would have been too great. Thenceforward, without any longer checking occult matters, the President loyally accepted the statements of Leadbeater and others.
My last interview
with Mrs Besant was in 1930, on her return from a short continental tour
with Bishops Leadbeater and J.I. Wedgwood. Certain incidents on that tour
had opened her eyes, and she saw clearly much that had been obscure. It was
plain that she knew the truth, and it was devastating. The dreadful burden
was that she herself might have prevented the illusion and its results if
she had retained her occult faculties and had checked statements instead
of blindly accepting them. Indeed, Mrs Besant had earlier been well aware
of the possibility of the disastrous error that had now disrupted the activities
of The Theosophical Society for many years. She had written that there are
Subtle temptations that do not touch the lower nature but dare to raise their heads against the higher ... subtle temptations than ensnare the inner man. He must have gained utter control of the mental images he has himself created ere he will be able to hold his own unshaken. (In the Outer Court, fifth editions (1955) pp. 46-7; see also p.41 — older editions, p.70 and pp.63-4.)
On her return to India Mrs Besant became mentally and physically ill, and died in 1933 at Adyar.
Twenty-one Fateful Years
It may be useful to tabulate some of the outstanding facts already mentioned and others that are personally known to me.
1909 onwards: Krishnamurti was found by Leadbeater clairvoyantly, as he similarly
discovered a number of other outstanding young people both before that time
and after. Then Krishnamurti was adopted by Annie Besant. This was followed
some years later by the announcement of the Coming of the World Teacher. The
Star campaign was opened, and a monthly magazine, Herald of the Star,
was launched. There was general acceptance among members of The Theosophical
Society of the Coming and Krishnamurti was named as the Chosen Vehicle, privately
at first and publicly later. Great activity ensued in many Sections: a stadium
was built near Sydney; in Holland a castle with 5,000 acres was given, a camp
was formed and much money spent on improvements; in California the Happy Valley
estate was purchased for the future.
1912: Annie Besant entered Indian politics to assist the aim of Dominion Status. She shut off her clairvoyant faculties and inner contacts.
1916-20: Letters from Leadbeater to Mrs Besant announcing founding of Liberal Catholic Church with approval of ‘the World Teacher’, who had also approved the liturgy. This was accepted and endorsed by her.
1925: At the Holland Camp Mrs Besant announced the initiation of several Arhats—all to assist the Coming of the World Teacher.
1928-29: Krishnamurti withdrew from The Theosophical Society and from all connection with the Star activities, renouncing everything.
1930: I had my last interview with Annie Besant. Everything connected with the Coming closed down. The castle and land in Holland were returned to the donor; the Sydney stadium was sold; Star shops were closed, etc.
Krishnamurti on ‘The Beloved’
It is appropriate to give here an extract from Who Brings the Truth? by J. Krishnamurti, published in 1927.
When I was a small boy I used to see Sri Krishna, with the flute, as he is pictured by the Hindus, because my mother was a devotee of Sri Krishna. She used to talk to me about Sir Krishna, and hence I created an image in my mind of Sri Krishna, with the flute, with all the devotion, all the love, all the songs, all the delight — you have no idea what a tremendous thing that is for the boys and girls of India. When I grew older and met with Bishop Leadbeater and The Theosophical Society, I began to see the Master K.H. — again in the form which was put before me, the reality from their point of view — and hence the Master K.H. was to me the end. Later on, as I grew, I began to see the Lord Maitreya. That was two years ago, and I saw him then constantly in the form put before me ... It has been a struggle all the time to find the Truth, because I was not satisfied by the authority of another, or the imposition of another, or the enticement of another; I wanted to discover for myself and naturally I had to go through sufferings to find out. Now lately, it has been the Buddha whom I have been seeing, and it has been my delight and my glory to be with him.
I have been asked what I mean by ‘the Beloved’ — I will give a meaning, an explanation, which you will interpret as you please. To me it is all: it is Sri Krishna, it is the Master K.H., it is the Lord Maitreya, it is the Buddha, and yet it is beyond all these forms. What does it matter what name you give?
‘The Beloved’ of Krishnamurti appears to be identical with H.P.B’s ‘Ever-Present God — the Divine Plenum’, referred to on page 14.
The Ancient Wisdom Stands
That The Theosophical Society’s work and reputation suffered seriously is unquestionable. These mistakes wrought great havoc, the end of which is not yet. But what has the founding of a church or the supposed Coming of a World Teacher to do with Theosophy? The basic principles are unaffected by such events. The three Fundamental Propositions of the Proem is the first volume of The Secret Doctrine and the ideals expressed in The Mâhatmâ Letters remain untouched. Theosophists are said to have as bond of union a common search and aspiration for Truth. We must, then, like the research scientist, be prepared to go wherever Truth shall lead, even to the most unexpected and surprising conclusions. An open mind is essential. We do not believe statements because some exalted person made them — nor because they are written in some scripture. Everything has to be brought to the bar of reason, common-sense and experience. Yet an open mind should not be an empty or vacant mind . It is perfectly consonant with firm convictions, provided we are ready to modify them in the light of any future knowledge that may come to us. Truth can be neither confirmed nor falsified by what we happen to think. If an idea is true, disbelief will not make it untrue; if it is not true, the sincere belief of millions cannot turn fancy into fact.
Principles, Not Personalities
We have seen how, in all honesty, extraneous ideas can be thrown across the Theosophical trail, and how a great many may be diverted from their search. But none who keeps to basic principles can be put off the scent or go astray. We must now be realistic, or we do the cause great harm. False images of leaders must be got rid of. While absorbing their wisdom, let us be careful not to put any of them, past of present, on imaginary pedestals. We can best show gratitude for devoted lives and benefits conferred by appreciating also imperfections and mistakes, and by amending and correcting so far as lies in our power. We owe it to them to do that; it surely is our duty. But in doing this let us not be merely destructive, but critically constructive. No mistake can affect Theosophy itself. The Ancient Wisdom is greater than all its exponents. It is principles that matter, not personalities.
Let us then try to get back to ‘those fundamental principles that are in every human being’, as Mr Sri Ram puts it. With utter honesty and freedom of outlook let us see how far the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom will stand up to critical scrutiny in this latter part of the twentieth century. We shall find that many of the ideas propounded in The Secret Doctrine, which challenged orthodox religion and science eighty-five years ago, and were then bitterly attacked and laughed to scorn, are generally accepted today. For example, the probable age of the earth and of man upon it, the fact that matter is nothing but energy, and that there is a subtle homogeneous base from which all forms derive. Other Theosophical concepts are likewise taken as probable or possible and are current in the thought of the world.
Questing and Questioning
There is a body of Theosophical teaching, available to all but obligatory on none, which does make life intelligible and also death negligible. Study of it gives an increasing realization of what Man is, and his all-important place, part and purpose in the universe. Theosophy is not a faith once for all delivered to us. It is a limitless fount of Wisdom from which our intuition may draw as it is able. It is ever flowing, never stagnant. Not only then must we be ever questing, but also questioning. For there must necessarily remain an element of doubt until we can really know in our own experience.
The Guiding Inspiration
The founders of our Society have often been accused of fraud and charlatanry. But charlatans and swindlers seek riches or power or fame; they do not court abuse, hardship and all manner of misunderstanding, which our founders got and yet continued on their chosen way. Why did they do it? What inspired these totally dedicated people with burning enthusiasm to establish The Theosophical Society? They themselves declared that they were instructed and guided to do so by certain personages — Elder Brethren, Masters of the Wisdom — who existed but to forward Man’s spiritual evolution. From Them, they said, came the teachings, and They were the real Founders. That was the inspiration that upheld and guided them to the end of their lives.