THEOSOPHY, Vol. 10, No. 2, December, 1921
(Pages 47-54; Size: 24K)
(Number 24 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
[Part 1 of 2]
THE Adyar "parliament" following the withdrawal by Col. Olcott of his resignation, was held at the close of 1892, and is notable for several matters. The Presidential Address of Col. Olcott illustrates the workings of his mind over recent events. On the subject of his late resignation he reiterates that it was prompted by ill-health, and in discussing his resumption of duties as President he calls it a "sacrifice demanded by the best interests of the Society." On the action taken by the various Sections he says:"The Indian Section expressed its desire that I should hold office for life, even without performing the duties; the American Section begged me to reconsider and cancel my resignation; and the European Section, misled by ignorance of the exact phraseology of an Executive Order which I had published, into supposing that I had absolutely refused to resume the Presidentship, simply elected Mr. Judge as my successor."The student may compare these statements with the facts as set forth in our two preceding Chapters. It is important that this should be done, as this matter of his resignation and the two bogies of "dogmatism in the T.S.," and the "worship of H.P.B." continued to haunt the mind of Col. Olcott. The Presidential Address of 1892 also contains the admission by Col. Olcott that the so-called Adyar Conventions were neither official nor unofficially representative of the whole Society; it marks also the recrudescence of the effort made in 1888-9 to focus the attention of the members upon the Society, upon Adyar, upon the official authority of the President-Founder, as detailed in Chapters XV and XVI. We quote Col. Olcott's germane remarks on these subjects:"The loose federal organization of the Society in autonomous Sections, provides a very efficient means of local management, but is apt to give rise to a powerful disintegrating tendency, leading individual Sections to lose sight of the unity of the Society, in an all-absorbing interest in their own special work.We have already noted the immense acceleration of the Movement and growth of the Society in the United States following the establishment of the "Path," the formation of the Esoteric Section, and the still closer adhesion to the original impulse thus made possible. The reaffirmation of the lines laid made the American growth in the two years following the death of H.P.B. greater than in all the rest of the world, and greater than the entire active world membership at the beginning of 1891. In England, under the impetus of Mrs. Besant's leadership and close accord with Mr. Judge's program to carry on the work, the augmentation was proportionately great. Wherever the attention of the members was turned to the Cause instead of the Society, wherever their devotion was to the Teacher and the Teaching instead of to organization and authority, there the Movement advanced by leaps and bounds. The death of H.P.B. was in that respect an actual and visible benefit: it removed her from attention as a person and made possible the impersonal consideration of her as the Teacher whose inspiration and message were the vis vitae of the Society as of the Movement. An instructive contrast is offered by considering the state of the Society and the Movement in India and the Orient generally. The "marked lassitude" of which Col. Olcott speaks is made very plain by turning to the Report of Bertram Keightley, General Secretary of the Indian Section, included in the report of the proceedings of the Adyar convention at the end of 1892. His report shows 145 Branches on the roll of the Indian Section, and he speaks in detail of their condition. He summarizes as follows:
"Under the present Rules, no General Convention of the whole T.S. is now held; and the federal unity of the whole body finds expression only in my Annual Report, which is sent to every Branch of the Society throughout the world.
"My Annual Report, therefore, assumes a special historic value and great importance, as it is the only means by which the members and Branches of the Society have brought before them a complete view of the Society's work as a whole. ... For it must be remembered that the gathering I am now addressing is a purely personal one, and in no sense a Representative Convention of the whole T.S. ... it is simply a gathering of Theosophists to whom I am reading my Annual Report before despatching it to all parts of the world....
"It is only by viewing our work from the standpoint of the Federal Centre, the real axis of our revolving wheel, that the nett loss or gain of the year's activity can be estimated. Thus, for instance, intense action is the feature within the American Section, while a marked lassitude has of late been noted in the Indian work. Europe, manifesting a maximum of activity in London, a lesser yet most creditable degree at Paris, Barcelona, The Hague, in Sweden and elsewhere, shows seven new Branches to India's eight and America's thirteen. Thus while the outlook is not exhilarating in one part of the world, it is highly encouraging, taking the field as a whole.""It is foolish for us to console ourselves for the many deficiencies of our Indian Section, by pointing to our long list of Branches and gazing with placid satisfaction at the numerous shields on these walls, when we know in our inmost hearts, that there are, as my report shows, only five Branches that are really doing satisfactory work."When the student remembers that the Indian Section and the Orient generally, had been, since 1885, exclusively under the unquestioned control and inspiration of the President-Founder, supported at all times by the loyal co-operation of H.P.B. and W.Q.J., supported also in great part by dues and voluntary contributions from America and England, and by numerous volunteer workers who went in a steady succession from the West to the East, but two conclusions can be drawn: First, that Colonel Olcott's ideas as to the proper basis for work were erroneous; second, that the spirit of the First Object and the teachings of Theosophy, made no practical appeal either to the Hindus or to himself. They, like himself, were interested primarily in the second and third Objects and in the Society as a forum for their discussion -- not in Brotherhood and "the vital principles which underlie the philosophical systems of old."
Turning now from the public phases of events and their discussion in the Sectional Conventions, in the various Reports, and in the three leading magazines, the "Theosophist," "Lucifer," and the "Path," we may review the trend of the Esoteric Section or School during the same period and in relation to the same issues. We have already considered the reorganization of the School and the reaffirmation of principles and policies as contained in the Circular of May 27, 1891. Under the clear and logical lines thus established the work of the School proceeded apace, free from dissensions or disharmonies. The public writings of H.P.B. and of others recommended by her, the private Instructions issued by H.P.B., and the various papers with "Suggestions and Aids" supplied by Mr. Judge and Mrs. Besant as joint heads of the School, afforded abundant and consistent material for study and application in daily life. The Rules of the School itself, the incentive provided by its teachings and purposes, and the example of Mr. Judge and Mrs. Besant, were more than ample to make the members active and energetic in the public promulgation of Theosophy and in the support of the T.S., while the very freedom from any taint of authority, external supervision or prescribed regulations but made the members voluntarily more self-sacrificing in time, money and work to make the exoteric Society a real and true success in the line of its proclaimed Objects. It should be clearly borne in mind that the "Instructions" of H.P.B. to the E.S.T. were in no sense "orders," but simply more definite and specific statements of Teaching than are contained in her exoteric writings. The "Rules" of the School were, in the same way, not regulations to be enforced by any outside pressure of superior authorities, but those statements of discipline and conduct which each member voluntarily gave his "most solemn and sacred word of honor" to enforce upon himself in his own thoughts and actions. And it should be remembered that while thousands of members of the T.S. were not members of the E.S., no one could enter or remain in the E.S. who was not also a member of the T.S. In a word: the exoteric Theosophical Society had three defined Objects and was committed to no religion, no philosophy, no science, no system of thought; the Esoteric School had the same three Objects, but in addition its members were voluntarily pledged to do their utmost to make those objects effective in their own lives through the study and practice of Theosophy, exoteric and esoteric. As, outside of Col. Olcott and Mr. Sinnett, nearly all of those most active in the Society were pledged probationers of the Esoteric School, there was necessarily room for speculation, question, doubt and suspicion among members of the exoteric Society not members of the E.S. as to that body. As we have noted, these fears possessed Col. Olcott long before the formation of the E.S. and continued till long afterwards. H.P.B. had done her utmost to allay them during her life-time. It was not long after her death before the stand taken in regard to her and her work by the reorganized E.S. became a matter of more or less common knowledge in the exoteric Society, and it was this which in fact stirred Col. Olcott to renewed apprehension lest there arise an "H.P.B. cult," a "worship" of H.P.B., "dogmatism in the T.S." and a "breach of the neutrality of the T.S." in matters of opinion and belief, and led to his public remarks in his "Presidential Address" at the Adyar convention at the close of 1891. How these apprehensions and misapprehensions were met publicly by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge has already been shown. Within the School itself a circular, "strictly private and only for E.S. Members" as usual, was sent out on March 29th, 1892. It began with an "IMPORTANT NOTICE" in italics, reading as follows:"The E.S.T. has no official connection with the Theosophical Society.The body of the circular contained an added reference to the subject under the caption, "THE T.S. AND THE SCHOOL":
"When first organized it was known as a section of the T.S. but it being seen that the perfect freedom and public character of the Society might be interfered with, H.P.B., some time before her departure, gave notice that all official connection between the two should end, and then changed the name to the present one.
"This leaves all T.S. officials who are in the E.S.T. perfectly free in their official capacity, and also permits members if asked to say with truth that the School has no official connection with the T.S. and is not a part of it.
"Members will please bear this in mind.ANNIE BESANT
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE.""Members must carefully remember that the School has no official connection with the Society (T.S.), although none are admitted who are not F.T.S. [Fellow of the T.S.]. Hence the T.S. must not be compromised by members of the School. We must all recollect that the T.S. is a free open body. So if one of the Heads is also an official in the T.S., his or her words or requests as such T.S. official must not under any circumstances be colored or construed on the basis of the work of this School.Although this circular was signed by both Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge, it was in fact written by Mr. Judge, and its occasion is an illustration both of the difficulties under which he, like H.P.B. before him, labored in trying to secure continuity of policy in line with proclaimed principles on the part of associates, and of the methods of the true Occultist in maintaining that continuity without exposing the sins or the failings of co-workers. The occasion was as follows: Following the public news of the resignation of Col. Olcott, Mrs. Besant, then full of faith in Mr. Judge and of zeal to influence others to adopt her own particular ideas, had sent, on March 10, a circular letter to all members of the School urging the election of Mr. Judge to the office of President of the T.S. This circular of Mrs. Besant's was sent out by her as an individual, not as President of the Blavatsky Lodge or as co-head of the E.S., and was sent out without Mr. Judge's knowledge. So soon as he learned of it he prepared the circular of March 29th, from which we have been quoting, to offset as far as possible the mischief it might lead to, and to restate the true position without chagrin for Mrs. Besant.
"This caution is necessary because some members have said to the General Secretary of the U.S. Sect. T.S. [Mr. Judge] that they regarded his words as such official to be an order. This is improper and may lead to trouble if members cannot see their plain ethical duty under the pledge. They are, surely, to work for the T.S., but must also use their common-sense and never let the T.S. become dogmatic."
The aftermath of Mrs. Besant's circular is equally interesting and instructive. As Mr. Judge had anticipated, some members of the E.S. took Mrs. Besant's circular as an "order," and others resented it as an interference; still others saw in it an attempt of the E.S. to control the T.S. and make a breach in the neutrality of the exoteric Society. And when the July, 1892, Convention of the European Section ignored the request of the American Section to join with it in asking Col. Olcott to revoke his resignation, and instead accepted the resignation as a fait accompli, its action was ascribed by many to the E.S. influence exerted by Mrs. Besant's circular, and since Mr. Judge seemed in their eyes to have been the beneficiary, as he was chosen President in place of Col. Olcott, it was easy for the jealous and suspicious minded to conclude that the whole proceeding had been, if not actually engineered by him, at least carried through with his willing consent and tacit approval. And this was actually one of the charges against him in the affairs of 1894-5. It is now time that the actual facts and real actors should be known, and the circular to the E.S. of March 29, 1892, three months before the European Convention of that year, shows Mr. Judge's entire innocence and good faith. More, when the suspicions spoken of were voiced, as they were, immediately following the European Section Convention in July, 1892, by partisans and friends of Col. Olcott and by others envious of the sudden rise to prominence and power of Mrs. Besant, Mr. Judge joined with Mrs. Besant in signing the circular sent out by her from London, dated August 1st, 1892, explaining and defending her action. This circular, written by Mrs. Besant, and sent to all E.S. members, is really a key to the workings of her consciousness when her actions, good or bad, were questioned by anyone. She says:"You will see that Annie Besant, as one of the two to whom MASTERS committed the charge of the E.S.T., was discharging an obvious duty when she called on members of the School to show strength, quietness, and absence of prejudice, and to try and infuse similar qualities into the branches of the Society at such an important time as the first Presidential Election. The direction to act as pacificators and to make harmony their object, is in exact accord with the word of our Teacher, H.P.B....Certain exceptions must be taken to the foregoing as to matters of fact: (a) the original "pledge" was not, in fact, in the wording given in quotation by Mrs. Besant; (b) no member was ever asked, attempted to be influenced, or permitted to "abdicate his liberty" in the Exoteric Society, or "bind himself to carry out in the Exoteric Society the orders he received from the Head of the E.S.," either by H.P.B. or Mr. Judge or in any messages received through them from the Masters; these are Mrs. Besant's own interpretations and conclusions; (c) "obedience to the Masters," is one thing, obedience to the "Outer Head of the E.S.," quite another thing, whether that "Outer Head" were H.P.B., Mr. Judge, Mrs. Besant or anyone else; (d) the "pledge," "rules," and "instructions" of the E.S.T. were for the help and guidance of the members in their relation of pupils to a teacher in a School, not for the regulation and government of an organization by its authorities, and were uniformly so stated to be and so construed by both H.P.B. and W.Q.J.
"There remains the statement, not made as one of the Outer Heads, that Annie Besant hoped that the choice of the Society would fall upon William Q. Judge as President, and it was suggested ... that this would be taken as a direction to Esotericists to vote for him, although they were told, in so many words, that as no direction had come each must use his own best judgment. But had a far stronger form of advice been used, would the liberty of members have been unfairly infringed? Once more a glance at the past may help us. The first form of pledge in the School bound the disciple 'to obey, without cavil or delay, the orders of the Head of the E.S. in all that concerns my relation with the Theosophical Movement.' On becoming an Esotericist he voluntarily abdicated his liberty as regarded the Exoteric Society, and bound himself to carry out in the Exoteric Society the orders he received from the head of the E.S.
"It is true that this simple frank pledge was altered by H.P.B. in consequence of the criticism of some, who feared lest obedience against conscience should be claimed by her; but, as she herself said, the remodeled clause was a farce. She changed it, not because the new form was good, but because Western students were, many of them, not ready to pass under Occult training. They do not understand the privilege of obedience, when rendered to such as are the MASTERS...
"Obedience is forced on none: ... Meanwhile let all feel assured that neither of us two will make any attempt to give orders to the School, except in its societies and ordinary work, and that you are free to accept or reject our advice as you will."
The student not a member of Masters' School may very well inquire, why did not Mr. Judge himself take exceptions to this circular of Mrs. Besant's which he signed with her? The answer is, we think, entirely obvious to any reflective mind which can grasp the spirit of the Movement and the related facts. Mr. Judge did take exceptions in advance, by stating the true position in the circular of March 29, 1892, -- the same position that both H.P.B. and himself had repeatedly taken previously, both in the School and in the public Society. When Mrs. Besant asked him to sign with her this defensive circular of August 1st, 1892, he was placed in the same position as H.P.B. so often was in relation with Col. Olcott: Having stated the true position on his own account, he went to the utmost limits to shelter and support a colleague who had erred, and left to the discrimination of the students themselves to see the difference between his colleague's actions, the facts and the teachings. To have done other than as he did would have been to himself violate the spirit of the School, to infringe on the freedom of the members, to expose the mistakes of a co-worker, and to invite a rupture. All the members of the School had the Pledge, the various E.S. communications of H.P.B., and her Preliminary Memoranda and Instructions; it was for the members to apply them to the case in hand, uncoached and uninterfered with. To have interfered, except in a drastic emergency where the course was not clear upon reflection, was to retard or subvert the very purposes of the School as set forth in one of the most important of the "Rules":"It is required of a member that when a question arises it shall be deeply thought over from all its aspects, to the end that he may find the answer himself; and in no case shall questions be asked ... until the person has exhausted every ordinary means of solving the doubt or of acquiring himself the information sought. Otherwise his intuition will never be developed; he will not learn self-reliance; and two of the main objects of the School will be defeated."In other words, the very object of the mission and message of H.P.B., esoteric and exoteric, was to destroy that authority which human nature alternately seeks to impose or to lean upon. Another episode, equally illustrative of this human tendency to substitute some authority for self-knowledge, as of its other pole, the ambition to pose "as one having authority" before the ignorant, the credulous and the self-seeking, is to be found in the question of "successorship" which was raised immediately after the death of H.P.B.
(To be Continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
[Part 2 of 2]
(Part 25 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
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