[Katinka 2014: I've moved on from the Theosophical Movement and many of the concerns expressed by the author of the below seem unreal to me these days. However, in a way that merely means I agree. I am publishing this for two reasons:
- While harsh, the author is speaking the literal truth on many issues. I have not personally come across many people who take The Secret Doctrine as literally as he suggests though.
- I still get more response to my work as a theosophist than as a (newbie) Buddhist, so I guess theosophists want me involved in their world in some way or shape.
I totally agree that it's a pity that the work that was started in the 19th century by people who manifestly felt for the good of humanity as a whole, is now in such bad shape that documents in the Adyar Archives are crumbling. I hope a new president can change that. It takes only the willpower to restore Olcott's vision. The money for such a worthy cause will follow when a good plan is made. The only ray of hope I see for the TS otherwise is in the work of the TOS. Since both candidates for the new presidency have roots in that organization, the TS as a whole has some reason to hope as well.]
Anonymous contribution from Nicolas van Gelder, a 4th generation theosophist (with a last name that I recognize from my studies of theosophical history)
While many of my points may seem, at times, harshly critical of the 1875 founding of the T.S. and its literature, it should be noted that I am a fourth generation theosophist. I merely point out that it is a poor ideology that does not countenance debate. Clinging to a 19th and early 20th Century perception of man, his (her) origins, is to be like religious people devotedly attached to words said to have been spoken by omniscient beings hundreds to thousands of years ago. We should take the best of the past and integrate it into the best of the present.
- The T.S. must embrace 21st Century science. To ignore this is to be like a creationist who believes the earth was created some 6000 years ago and denies the empirical evidence of evolution. Thus we all came out of Africa 150-250,000 years ago. Ipso facto, there is no evidence whatsoever of root races: no Lemurians, no Atlanteans, no cloud-like beings of the first root race. Our genetic code is only one chromosome away from our cousins, the chimpanzees. We are quite simply primates. The Manu and the Bodhisattva did not arrive in human form as Adam and Eve in order to give birth to the Fifth Root Race. Contra: a writer in a theosophical magazine proclaimed: “Theosophy has exerted considerable influence on scientific thinking, and today science, unknown to itself, is more and more picking up the sacred message.” I think not. It is a bombastic utterance that would offend the vast majority of sentient scientist (there are a few who are flakey, e.g. the ones who reject global warming). No scientist takes theosophy or God into the lab.
- The Cosmos shows no evidence of a Divine Plan since the 100 billion galaxies and the 100 billion stars in each are chaotic only obeying the laws of gravity and quantum mechanics. Galaxies are colliding with each other and annihilating themselves. They are also, thanks to dark matter and the dark force, accelerating away from each other at the speed of light. In a few billion years the Milky Way will be knowable only to itself – the other galaxies will be beyond detection.
- There is no evidence for Ākāśa or the Aether (that was disproved more than a hundred years ago). Space is not empty but filled with virtual particles that appear and disappear in nano seconds (Space has been weighed and it has weight, detected by gravity waves). I am willing to promote the notion that there is an under-lying field (one concept that is part of theosophy); no astrophysicist would be opposed to such a proposition since physicists are continually looking for super symmetries. The recent discovery of excess gamma rays in the Milky Way provides a clue to the makeup of dark matter. Science does not stand still, it is constantly moving forward while discarding theories when the evidence for them is over-turned. Does the T.S. ever discard the fallacious?
- Religions are man-made, which is not to reject the wisdom of the Buddha. He merely points out that ultimate reality is accessible to inner empiricism (higher states of consciousness through meditation). The T.S.’ problem is that it provides no practical methodology for achieving higher consciousness, other than to talk airily about it.
- The term soul should be utterly abandoned. There is no soul despite the efforts of early 20th Century spiritualists to demonstrate that a body weighed before death is fractionally less heavy after death, establishing in their minds that the soul had left the body! They did not understand that the body exudes gasses after death. The same goes for the Higher Self.
- It is now far more respectable to talk about consciousness. No scientist (including neuro-scientists) has a clue as to what is consciousness or how it appears from the sludge of the brain, though everyone is certain that he or she is conscious. But it is a topic of considerable interest for researchers. Should it be ever discovered that consciousness is a field matrix, independent of the mind, the cosmological perspective will be forever changed. And then there will no longer be any need for declaring that there are cosmic logoi and that our sun is the body of the solar logos.
- Forget Shambala. It is myth, coming from the Tibetan Kālacakra Tantra and the Zhang Zhung culture which predated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. The Bön scriptures speak of a closely related land called Olmolungring. A theosophist visiting Krotona screamed in my face that she knew exactly where Shambala is (was) and exactly where to enter it. I was too polite to suggest she should, for the sake of her spiritual development, go there immediately.
- Theosophists all too frequently talk about things that they know nothing about and are spoken with a degree of certainty that evangelical Christians and Muslims eagerly espouse. I once heard a theosophist talk about how powerful a being the Solar Logos is. How did she know? It is like the preacher in the pulpit declaring: “What Jesus meant …?” How does he know? Where did she obtain this knowledge and does she know the difference between belief and fact?
- The T.S. can only continue its mission by attracting younger people and retaining their membership; otherwise, it will die a lingering death. So many people are rejecting the Society, if not theosophy. They have become utterly disgusted with the secretive, hierarchical powers of a group of elderly individuals who refuse to let go the invidious arcane of the past. For example, Katinka in Holland worked very hard and diligently for the T.S. in the Netherlands and at Adyar, only to burn out in frustration. She sent me an email that seems like a cri de coeur:
I have to be guided by two things only:
- what’s best for me personally: the TS makes me very unhappy.- what is best for humanity and (from that) where my talents will be most useful. The TS is not that place since it doesn’t seem to want to use them much.
[Katinka 2014: Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist style has made me a l0t happier than I have ever been before. I hope my theosophical friends can be happy for me.]
So I don’t think I’ll be very active in the TS in future. However, I am still a member, I won’t be deleting the theosophical material on my site, and will continue to be available to give lectures. I will obviously also continue to use what I learned from theosophy in my writings.
[Katinka 2014: I have since left the TS, but as promised I have left the theosophical material on my site. I don't plan to delete it: it has helped and inspired me after all.
I am putting the finishing touches on a book called 'Essays on Karma' which will be self-published through the Amazon Kindle ebook system. I have left in references to Blavatsky, Judge and theosophy, though I have tempered them with what I've learned in the Gelugpa (Lama Tsong Khapa) Tibetan Buddhist tradition.]
Quite so. Adyar has become the centripetal point of the decay and malaise in the Society. The international headquarters lives in a surreal world that refutes progress while putting up with potholes and a crumbling infrastructure. The most appalling sign is its failure to maintain the archives: one of the finest collections of Sanskrit and Pali scriptures in the world, including a large number of writings on palm leaves. These are cared for by rat poison but no temperature control. In addition, the secretiveness makes it virtually impossible for anyone to gain access.
[Katinka 2014: The Adyar archives are renowned in the world of the study of Indian religion (Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism etc.). Olcott gathered these manuscripts for the welfare of humanity as a whole. Since the archives are so very important to the study of Indian religion, raising money for a project to preserve it ought to be possible.]
10. The T.S. must distance even farther from the Liberal Catholic Church and from Co-Freemasonry. They are both failed or failing organizations that have little, if anything, to do with the Society’s mission statement. They were superimposed as an adjunct of the Society, bringing a religious and a mystical agenda to the hyper-mix of occultism and esotericism.
11. Now we need to consider the Esoteric Section of the T.S. It is another moribund organization, having lost its purpose shortly after HPB’s death. Yet it’s grip on the Society has been viselike (morte main). Most Section presidents and International presidents have been members and acceded to its exclusivity: you can only become a member if it’s your karma to do so. To which I respond the ES is BS. It should have been obvious that a society within a society would only lead to sectarianism, more huverry and puffery. There is nothing mystical or secretive about it and its fading membership can only mean that its own karma has turned against it.
12. Next we ought to take a close look at the Great White Brotherhood. While it was meant to distinguish itself from the Black Brotherhood of black magicians, the modern connotations of white and black imply the racial divide between whites and African Americans. HPB referred to them as Dugpas or Drukpas. Alas, she was completely wrong and exposed her limited knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drukpas (Dugpas) are a branch of the Kagyu School and the official ‘religion’ of Bhutan. Besides, why is there no Great White Sisterhood? Spiritual chauvinism is rather infra dig.
13. Which leads to the need to discuss some of the myths surrounding HPB’s occult travels. I have read over a hundred books and articles on Tibetan history. There is absolutely no evidence to support the contention that she, accompanied by a Master or two, spent time at the Panchen Lama’s Tashilumpo Monastery in Shigatze. Two Indians and a white woman would have stuck out like African Zebras. No, the furthest HPB got was Kashmir. Why doesn’t the T.S. officially accept this fact? The desperate attempts by Sylvia Cranstrom to show that she did cross the frontier are painful to read.
14. For many theosophists, The Secret Doctrine is as close to a bible for the movement as possible, unveiling the arcanum fidei non vulgarent (the Roman Catholic dictat). However, those who do not perceive it as an entirely allegorical account of anthropogenesis and cosmogenesis tend to evincing all kinds of misunderstandings. What, for heaven’s sake is an Auric Egg? My answer is to ask, “Do you want it poached, fried or scrambled?” The response from the group is inevitably scowls as if I had committed a blasphemy. It reminds me of the Holy Koran that can only be understood by reading it in the original Arabic, according to imams and mullahs and ayatollahs. Which produces the strange situation that non-Arabic Muslims (the largest number living in Indonesia who don’t understand a word of Arabic) are instructed in Malay as to what it all means). Get real Mara. Yet, the T.S. continues to send out speakers to explain the true meaning of the Secret Doctrine. I have never encountered a single theosophist who can fully explain a 100th of the three volumes. Naturally, I don’t understand much of it either, even though I have been perusing it off and on for 50 years. Of course the great book ought to be studied to provide inner empiricism, to establish intuitive insights. Yes, indeed, but I don’t want to hear from preachers.
15. As to the Spiritual Hierarchy, we need to examine it very carefully. For a start, there is no evidence whatsoever for its existence. Sanat Kumara, the eternal virgin youth, Lord of the world, who, along with the Four Kumaras, supposedly came from an ‘etheric’ Venus, is telepathically in constant communication with the Solar Logos, is cherry picked from the Hindu purāṇas, early texts coming from an oral tradition dating back to 1000 B.C.E.
So let’s see how this hierarchy was created by Leadbeater, Alice Bailey, Benjamin Crème, A.E. Powell, Elizabeth Clare Prophet and others. The first two initiations are too banal to consider. The 3rd initiation involves clairvoyance and clairaudience. This is silly; I have met a few clairvoyants (at least they claimed they were) who are schizophrenics, prone to hallucinations.
By borrowing from Buddhism, without fully understanding it, they declared that the 4th initiation involved the Arhat and the 5th the Asekha. Arhat in Sanskrit (Arahant in Pali) is an individual who has penetrated to the ultimate truth (paramārtha – see Vasubhandu’s Abhidharma-kośa) and gained enlightenment (nirvāṇa). Not the same as the Buddha’s enlightenment (parinirvāṇa), but I don’t have the space to explain the difference. To the point: arhat is a Sanskrit term coming from the root han, meaning to slay, and ari means obstacles – greed, hatred, anger, etc. By slaying or overcoming the obstacles, the Arhat sees the world as it really is, i.e. without substance. So said Nāgārjuna, the most brilliant mind following the Buddha, and whatever he said is good enough for me. Now we come to the problem. When Mahayana Buddhism developed, it replaced the ideal of the Arhat with the ideal of the Bodhisattva. The amount of vitriol this created was really stunning. I may appear to be abrasive, but I’m mild and meek in comparison. They first hurled insults at the Arhats (the last one dying in the late first century B.C.E.) and the Pratyeka-buddhas (those who have achieved enlightenment on their own). Then they screamed epithets at each other, on the lines of: your commentary is like a goat’s droppings (that’s the softest way I can put it). Then they constructed 10 Bhumis (grounds) in the development of a bodhisattva: six to nine are celestial bodhisattvas, such as Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara (Chenrezig in Tibetan) and Samantabhadra, and the tenth is Buddhood. But they were forced to acknowledge, by their own logic, that Arhats and Pratyeka-buddhas belonged to the 9th Bhumi.
Yes, I am shamelessly demonstrating my erudition. But there is a point to be made: how can the Arhat be a 6th initiate in Theosophy and one rung from Buddhahood in Buddhism? Why used the term Arhat? And why symbolize it with crucifixion (which is purely Christian)?
As for Asekha, there is only more confusion. It is a mysterious word, not to be found in Sanskrit and thought rather vaguely to be Tibet. Nevertheless, in Theravadin Buddhism the Asekha is the equivalent of the Arhat (see Maha Thera Nyanatiloka’s Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines). Asekha as is the Arhat is the one who has no more to learn. Again how did this become the 5th Initiation? According to Bailey, Leadbeater and Crème there are only 43 beings at this level. How do they know this? Beats me. And why do they always have human faces and bodies?
I remain puzzled by these designations firmly stated without evidential criteria.
Onward to the 6th initiation. Chohans and the Seven Rays. The word Chohan is not found in Sanskrit or in Tibetan. As for the Seven Rays they are surely allegorical. Ernest Wood wrote a whole book on them. Later, John Algeo gave a forceful talk in which he assigned characteristics to them, such as philosophers belong to such and such a Ray, etc. I think this is humbug, like astrology, best read for laughs in newspaper horoscopes.
Now onto the mangling of the 7th initiation. Vaivasvatu Manu, the Maha Chohan and the Bodhisattva Maitreya. I have trouble with all of them.
In Hinduism Manu is considered to be originator of human beings. Vaivasvatu is the seventh Manu. According to the Bhagavad Gita, “The lifespan of one Manu, is 71 Mahayugas (306,720,000 years), and each Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years.” (Bhagavad Gita 8.17) “The duration of one manvantara, the lifespan of one Manu, is seventy-one Mahayugas, and each Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years”. The present Manu has already lived for 28 Mahayugas, which is 120,960,000 years.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.49) Obviously, these figures are meaningless. Sanskrit literature is full of vast numbers; the meaning is surely “a very long time.” Now why or how did Manu become a 7th initiate in theosophy? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Maha Chohan I will pass on. Maha simply means great.
Maitreya is another story. First he is supposed to have been an historical figure and author of Five Buddhist Books. Scholars find this hard to believe for technical reason I will not go into. There is also a possibility that the name was taken from the Persian Mithra in the Zoroastrian Avista literature. Suffice to say, the Bodhisattva Maitreya now resides in the Buddhist Tuṣita Heaven preparing himself to be born as the next Buddha in 25,000 years time. This would put him on the 9th Bhumi. Thus Maitreya finds himself demoted in the theosophical schema.
Worse: the 8th initiation, that of the Buddha and the Pratyeka-Buddhas, makes no sense at all. Alice Bailey makes extravagant claims about them. They can teleport their minds, leaving their bodies behind, as far as the star Sirius. It seems to me that these writers made up stuff as they went along. For example, the Buddha is a fully enlightened being. Fully enlightened means just that. There can be nothing beyond enlightenment. But that’s not good enough for theosophy.
The 9th initiation is that of Sanat Kumara, Lord of the World. In his consciousness is the knowledge of all goes on on Earth. He has the power to destroy and to create according to his wishes. He is obviously the equivalent of a monotheistic God.
I wish theosophists had stopped there, but no, they had to create a 10th initiation. The Planetary Logos. I am so weary of these imaginations that I cannot continue.
Suffice to say that Leadbeater and Bailey should have kept their mouths instead of pandering their “insights” to their devotees. In the case of Leadbeater, I can claim to have some opinions from my aunt, Dora van Gelder Kunz, who became part of CWL’s inner circle at the age of 12 in Sydney, Australia. After badgering her constantly for many years, she finally told me, “He believed in what he thought he saw.” Yes, and what he saw was through the eyes of a Victorian gentleman. He objectified the hierarchy and established Maitreya as the Christ. His vision of Maitreya bears a striking similarity to the headmaster of an English private school. And Maitreya consequently became the object of veneration in the Liberal Catholic Church – see my The Manor: A short history, published last year. Much, much worse were the sayings of George Arundale who said he had achieved the 5th initiation and, when performing the Mass in an LCC Church in, I seem to remember, Los Angeles, declared that Maitreya had appeared to him to tell him all was well and to ignore all and any criticisms. He, along with Jinarājadāsa, were demented. That, of course, is my opinion. I defy you to contradict with evidence.
I have written, perhaps, too much on this subject. But to all who believe in invisible Gardeners watering humanity, I say just provide, just a little evidence to support your claims. Where was St. Germain when the Nazis destroyed so many lives? After all, he was supposed to have influenced the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
16. I could go on and on with criticisms. But that would exceed my goal. The issue is what can theosophy and the Theosophical Society do to ameliorate the suffering in this world? Nothing else matters.
a. Prune the theosophical tree. Get rid of the occultism, the esotericism and fraudulence of the past. Stick to the Three Objectives.
b. The human species is at risk today (where have all the Masters gone?): global warming, racism, fragmentation of society (Scotland wants to become independent, so does Catalonia, so do the Tamils in Sri Lanka, so does Quebec, so does Tibet, et al), the conflict with Islam, Chinese and Russian human rights abuses, the state of African tribalism, the denigration of women in the Islamic World and India, the 9 million children who die each year under the age of five from the effects of malnutrition and other diseases, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the general suffering of humanity, the abysmal corruption of governments, and so on. Isn’t it the purpose of the T.S. to play a greater role in the common humanity of all sentient beings? If not, it has lost sight of its goals.
c. Education is the most important element in addressing the above. Poverty is a grim and awful cycle. The poor will remain poor until two things happen: women in second and third world countries are given the means to become entrepreneurs, to control their own lives; that education is the number one priority in order to create a more egalitarian society. This is also true for Western societies. Consider that in an international test of 15 year old pupils, the U.S. came in at 18 out of 20 countries. Theosophy can become relevant when it takes on the Fritz Kunz model: the integration of all subjects to inform students of the continuity of inquiry. The religious and right wing ideologues are determined to bring back the Middle Ages by ranting about family values, abortion, creationism, the refusal to accept that the gay are genetically predisposed, not psychologically, to their sexual inclinations.
More importantly, theosophical perspectives can hammer away at the continuum of nature by teaching that nature is inviolable, that humans and other primates have a common ancestry, that evolution is a continual process, that the human mind in a few thousand years will comprehend existence in a profoundly different way (scientists concur).
d. Let’s prune the tree. As theosophy has remained locked in the past, it has become a cult, not so dissimilar to the Mormons and the Scientologists, both of which advance the most bizarre ideas. Why can’t we admit that science has a validity that we don’t have? Only the rattle-headed can accept metaphysics, a speculative perspective. And what if we don’t? Theosophy and the Theosophical Society will die a lingering death as evidence pummels its beliefs.
e. It should be required reading for all Theosophists to read J.J. (Koos) van der Leeuw’s Revelation or Realization: The Conflict in Theosophy. Koos was probably the greatest intellectual within the Society. He became a priest in the LCC before discarding his collar. He became disillusioned by devotees who were believers rather than thinkers. It was a dreadful loss to theosophy when he died crashing his own plane into a mountain while traveling in Africa. He was much too young to die before completing his epistemological work.
f. Yes, theosophy still has much to offer the world. All it has to do is bring its ideas into the world of the 21st Century.
 Katinka 2014: The author intended a full bibliography, but I don’t think it is necessary. His summary is a good start, but is no more than a summary, with all the limitations that implies. Anybody who can read can look up sources like a reputable Buddhist Dictionary, Hindu Encyclopedia or even merely Wikipedia to check his assertions, and correct them where necessary. These things can be dealt with properly as soon as one realizes that Blavatsky’s definitions work only in the context of her own work, not outside it. When a inter-religious dialog is attempted, respect for the traditions involved should come first. Assuming they don’t know what their own gods stand for is the height of folly and arrogance.
I can’t find references to this work online. Anyone who finds it will know the author of this otherwise anonymous piece. Nicolas van Gelder has given me the details: The Manor: A Short History, Nicolas van Gelder, Theosophical History Occasional Papers, Volume XIV, 2011, Copyright James Santucci (ed). It deals with the history of the Manor from 1922-2011.