The Benedick IX: The Theosophical Movement.

The Benedick IX: The Theosophical Movement. February 12, 2023


April 27, 1907

The Brevoort Hotel
New York, New York.


Charles Johnston, Chairman of the Executive Committee, acting as Temporary Chairman, called the Convention to order at 11 A.M. “Fellow-members,” said Johnston, “it is always a pleasure to come together for our annual Conventions, and this year I feel that we have quite exceptional cause for happiness and thankfulness. Many things are happening to make this so.

“To begin with, we have a new wave of energy within the Society, with the enlistment of new members, the formation of new Branches, and, most important, the much more complete extension of our organization to other lands. Since we met in Convention a year ago, a large number of members have been added to our ranks in England, and a considerable number have more recently joined us in Germany. In these two countries we have now vigorous and harmonious Branches, and we can see that a complete international status, the natural one for a society designed to bring together those of differing nations, has once more been resumed. In this we have great cause for thankfulness and for hope.

“The Society has grown here in America also. And this is in a considerable measure due to the condition of things restored by the last Convention, a condition under which the Society is once more, what it was for many years, ‘a federation of autonomous Branches.’ Within the Branch each individual member is wholly independent, and has the fullest liberty to hold and profess any belief or unbelief. The Branch is made up of individuals, enjoying the fullest religious liberty. In the same way, the Society is made up of Branches, each one enjoying the fullest local autonomy in organization and work alike; provided only that the individual Branch member shall show to all others the toleration he expects for himself; and that the Branch shall adhere to the principles expressed in the Constitution: the principles of brotherly love and tolerance for all differences of opinion and belief.

“Certain members were apprehensive, a year ago, that the representation of Branches at the Convention might disfranchise members who did not then belong to Branches. It was pointed out, in reply to this, that all members were in a position to become Branch members, whether local or corresponding, so that every member who wished could thus secure voting power. And during the year since the last Convention every member not in a Branch has been invited to join a Branch, and a great many have complied. As a result, two new Branches have already been chartered, and two or three more will, in all likelihood, be chartered in the next few weeks. Our new Branches in America are in Boston and Detroit, and we hope that both will bring valuable contributions to our common life.

“There is another matter, which has caused me personally, as it has caused others, great happiness. This is the coming of young members and young students to our movement. During the last dozen years we attracted almost no young people. The stress of weather kept them away. But now, it would seem, the spring time is returning, and with it we have the joy of seeing young people, once more, drawn toward our work, and impelled to join with us in carrying it on. For us, who are growing old in harness, who have been working for twenty years and more for Theosophy and Theosophical principles, this accession of new recruits brings joy and reassurance. In the nature of things, we shall not go on forever; and it is fine and encouraging to see young people joining us, who will, in due time, take our places in the ranks.

“Cheered and encouraged, therefore, by these happy auguries concerning past, present and future alike, it is with special thankfulness and happiness that I declare this Convention open.”



On reconvening, the Chair called for the report of the Committee on Resolutions. “We have but one resolution to consider,” said Johnston, “that of which notice has been given to all members in the call to the Convention, and which recommended that the words ‘in America’ be omitted from the title of the Society. During the year just past, we have more fully returned to our original status as an international Society, and we now have active Branches, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Venezuela, England and Germany, as well as individual members in other lands. Two of our members independently suggested that, under these circumstances, our present title is somewhat misleading; that we are compelled to speak of members of ‘The Theosophical Society in America in England,’ and it was pointed out that, should students in India join the British Branch, we should have to speak of members of ‘The Theosophical Society in America in England in India,’ and so on. It was, therefore, proposed that the geographical limitation should be dropped from our title, as it no longer coincides with the fact. The Executive Committee considered the matter, and a majority of its members thought the suggestion a very good one. It was embodied in a resolution, and sent out to all members for full consideration.

“Certain objections were raised, which may be stated somewhat as follows: First, it was said that we should be accused of appropriating the name of another Society, and complications might result. But the truth is, this accusation has been made long years ago. Our present title, ‘The Theosophical Society in America,’ originally belonged to the American Section of the T. S., and so appears on its Constitution as early as 1887. We therefore appropriated the title of the American Section twelve years ago, at the Boston Convention. And as for accusations, they were also made long years ago. We had a few members, who were also affiliated with Adyar, and we may read, in a Presidential Proclamation, issued at Adyar, that they were threatened with expulsion, for consorting with thieves and robbers, who had stolen the name “Theosophical.” Some were actually expelled on that ground, with Jovian thunders; so that both complications and accusations have been in existence for years.

“Another class of objections seems to me to have been founded on a misapprehension of facts. One Branch decided to vote against the resolution to drop the words ‘in America,’ on the ground that it was inexpedient to have an international Society, for the reason, among others, that this opened the way for a central authority, which would dominate the Branches. To this it may be said that the question of international organization is not being voted on, as it was already settled at previous Conventions, a provision therefore having long been in the By-laws; and, further, ‘The Theosophical Society in America’ has always been an international Society. In 1895, it was limited, in title, not to the United States, but to the New World; and in fact it has always had members in Europe, as well as in Canada, Central and South America, and has them to the present day. Therefore, our international status has always existed, and recent events have only broadened what existed from the start. As to the ‘central authority,’ surely that is less to be apprehended in an international Society where the Executive Committee is likely to be scattered over several different countries; and, moreover, the Executive Committee is in no sense an ‘authority,’ except so far as authority is delegated to it between annual Conventions, which are the real ‘authority,’ so far as a Theosophical Society can have any ‘authority.’

“Other objections arise rather from sentiment, from attachment to our present name, from apprehension of change, and so forth; with all of which one can fully sympathize, though they do not touch the real question at issue: the squaring of our title with the facts.

“The facts as to the representation of Branches, and their wishes in this matter, are in the hands of the Committee on Credentials, which has already reported. And we have further heard letters from some of our strongest Branches in the Middle West. So that we have an accurate knowledge of the wishes of all parts of the Society in this matter, and it seems that the votes in favor of the resolution to omit the words ‘in America’ from our title are something like six or seven to one, whereas, only a two-thirds majority is required to pass an amendment to the Constitution.”

“The actual figures are over seven to one,” said Mitchell.

“One may say,” continued Johnston, “therefore, that there is an overwhelming sentiment in favor of the resolution; that the number of those who wish to have the change made, constitutes an overwhelming majority. Now I wish to make a proposal which may serve as a precedent. While we see that we have an overwhelming majority in favor of this Resolution, I think we shall all agree that the last thing we wish to do, the last thing we desire, as adherents of the great principle of tolerance, is to ‘overwhelm’ a minority of our members, or to coerce them by superior numbers. Therefore, as there are strong objections to this resolution in the minds of some of our old and valued members. I ask you to allow me, on behalf of the Committee on Resolutions, to propose that this resolution be laid on the table.”

Johnston’s motion was met with instant and enthusiastic applause, and when he put the question to vote, it was unanimously carried.

“There is, so far as I know,” said Griscom, “but one other religious body in the world which attempted to regulate its affairs upon the principles here exemplified. I am referring to the Society of Friends, or Quakers. It is their custom to meet several times a year for the discussion of their affairs, and especially at their ‘yearly meeting’ do matters of government and business come before them. There is a full and free debate, everyone being welcome to speak. Then the clerk of the meeting puts into succinct form what he understands to be the voice of the meeting, and it is that which is voted upon. If there is any opposition whatever, the matter is allowed to go over for another period, as they believe that time will heal most differences of opinion, and that it is better that many things should not be done, than that there should be friction and dispute amongst the members. I think this is a spirit which all religious bodies would do well to emulate, and I am very glad to see that our little Society is willing to forego the usual insistence upon majority rule, and to express, in the practical management of its affairs, the same principles of tolerance, brotherliness and belief in unity, for which its name and teaching stand.”

The Chair then called for the Report of the Committee on Nominations. H. E. Davis, of Indianapolis, as Chairman of the Committee, reported the following nominations: “For Members of the Executive Committee: Dr. Archibald Keightley, of London. Dr. Paul Raatz, of Berlin. For Secretary: Mrs. Ada Gregg, of Brooklyn. For Treasurer: Mr. H. B. Mitchell, of New York.

“May I have the privilege of seconding the nominations of Dr. Keightley and Mr. Raatz,” said Johnston. “We have, already, many reasons for thankfulness; to them we may now add, as a special cause for congratulation, the fact that we are to have Dr. Keightley as a member of the Executive Committee of the Society. On this, we are all to be most sincerely congratulated. I can think of no member in the Society whose addition to the Executive Committee I would view with deeper satisfaction. Dr. Keightley was for years Madame Blavatsky’s closest and most trusted friend. He wrote out on the typewriter nearly the whole of The Secret Doctrine from Madame Blavatsky’s manuscript, and also took a large part in the establishment of the London headquarters and the foundation of Lucifer in 1887; and from that time to her death he was Madame Blavatsky’s most intimate and trusted friend. He was equally close to Mr. Judge, and, during the events of thirteen years ago, was Mr. Judge’s strongest ally and support in Europe. In fact, there is no member in the Society of whom one could say in equal degree that his election to the administrative body gives cause for satisfaction and rejoicing.

“Mr. Raatz has also a fine record, though he is, of course, a much younger member than Dr. Keightley. He is identified with the revival of Theosophical work on sound lines in Germany, and he has from small beginnings developed an excellent magazine, Theosophic Life, and has also published German versions of many of our books. Mr. Raatz was a prime mover in the more recent developments in Germany which have brought us a large membership in that country, so that in all ways we are to be congratulated on these two nominations to the Executive Committee in this new period of our development.”

With no other nominations for the Executive Committee, the Chair put the nominations separately to the vote, and declared Keightley and Raatz unanimously elected. The vote was then taken on the nominations of Ada Gregg, as Secretary, and Mitchell, as Treasurer. Both were unanimously re-elected to their respective offices.

Griscom was then asked to speak about the distribution of The Theosophical Quarterly among libraries.

“The idea was suggested to me from Toronto,” said Griscom, “and in accordance with the Quarterly, it was sent directly to some two hundred of the largest public and university libraries. Of these, only six refused to place them upon their reading tables. In many cases, requests were received for the back numbers. The circulation of the Quarterly has steadily increased, as has, I believe, its value and usefulness. Many Branches have seen to its placing on the newsstands and in book shops, and wherever this has been done, interest has been awakened.”

“I have been privileged to be closely associated with the Quarterly since its inception,” said Johnston, “and know what labor of love it has been to the man chiefly responsible both for its inception and character. I only regret that the Editor-in-Chief still desired not publicly to be known as such, and so I am unable to thank him as I would like, but I suspect that our members have already guessed to whom they are indebted.” Johnston then made reference to criticism of the Quarterly by a prominent publisher who was asked his opinion of it. “The critic,” said Johnston, “was under the common misapprehension of the purposes of the Society, and so pointed out as faults precisely those characteristics which the editors had tried hardest to secure. He spoke or wrote of the Quarterly as ‘an agreeable miscellany, and perhaps of more general literary and philosophical interest than the title might indicate.’ He suggested that it needed vitalizing by ‘some strong and original mind,’ and continued:


The articles seem to be the work, for the most part, of students rather than teachers. One misses the aggressive didactic note which one always welcomes, whether he agrees or not with the man by whom he is being lectured, and which always aroused me, for example, in reading a book by Brunetiere. I think the success of magazines depends generally upon the motive force imparted to them by such men as Brunetiere. I confess myself surprised at the tolerant tone of the magazine which pretends to represent such a sect as Theosophy. You seem almost too willing to represent all sides and to present your articles with an air of “take it or leave as you like.” If it were not for the word “Theosophical” on the cover, it would be almost difficult to decide that the editors were imbued with any particular strong conviction one way or the other, or possessed by anything more than, let us say, taste for the theosophical interpretation of philosophical problems.”


“I think,” said Johnston, “this is a most gratifying testimony to the success of the magazine in genuinely exemplifying the open platform for which the Society alone stood.”

When it came time for the local Branches to furnish reports of their activities, Mitchell, as President of the New York Branch, delivered the report. “Years ago,” said Mitchell, “the New York Branch was forced to recognize that their true work lay with the essence of things rather than with their names. To dwell upon names is to dwell upon differences; to seek essences is to find unity. Names are both necessary and useful, but they are to be given after, rather than before the substance. The chief aim of the work in New York is, therefore, to deal directly with spiritual truths, and to strengthen spiritual movements; seeking unity of essence behind differences of form and expression, and unity of heart and aspiration behind differences of opinion and methods. This ideal necessitates that much of our work is unlabelled. Of our labeled work, we have fortnightly T.S. meetings, alternating with fortnightly study of The Secret Doctrine. To these, all were welcome. The T.S. evenings have been devoted to a study of the teachings of Jesus, and recently to a consideration of mysticism and the mystics. There was no leader or teacher at either of these series—the meetings being a general symposium to which everyone contributed, the text itself furnishing the thread unifying the discussion.

“In addition to these, there are public lectures, held once a month by someone or other of the Branch members, to which printed cards of invitation are widely distributed. These serve the purpose of advertising and making the Branch invitation as wide and open as possible.

“Beyond this, the work is chiefly unlabelled, done by the members as members, but without the use of the name, and with, of course, as in all the work, a single eye to the religious principles themselves. In this fashion the Branch members worked through church and scientific organizations, through universities, through the religious and secular magazines. Some of this is reflected from time to time in The Theosophical Quarterly, some of it could not be reported upon at all, though it was nonetheless theosophic in spirit and effect. The necessary labor connected with the work of the parent Society, the publication of the magazine, the duties of membership on the Executive Committee, and the conduct of the Secretary’s and Treasurer’s offices, while regarded as a high privilege, yet make many demands upon the time of certain of the New York members. I feel that the year past has been unusually fruitful, and has seen a long step forward taken.”

“It seems to me,” said Genevieve Griscom, “that it is no longer possible for the Theosophical Society to fulfill its mission without the careful study and analysis of the conditions which surround it—of the religious, philosophic and scientific movements of the day.” Like her husband, C.A. Griscom, Jr., Genevieve was equally devoted to the Theosophical cause. “Our greatest opportunity,” she continued, “lies in finding our principles in these movements, and in helping their expression and growth. On all sides there is evidence of the revivifying of spiritual truths, and the reassertion of spiritual forces. It is for us to recognize this, and act with them. They are the great levers ready to our hand, forged, in large part, by the thirty years of the Society’s work. Where these are, there was already interest, and the awakening of the religious consciousness. We have now only to study, as it were, the spiritual tides—and act with them. We have not even to create an interest. If we only look for it, we will find it all about us. Mr. Johnston, would you supplement what I have said, as I know, from our frequent conversations together, that you share the views I desire to express.”


Brevoort Hotel.


“I will gladly comply with this request,” said Johnston, “not that I could make the point any clearer, but perhaps by restating what you have said, you might be assured that your sentiments are understood. It seems to me that the success of the Theosophical movement means just this: The spiritual principles for which the Society stood, and had so long labored, are now actually living, moving powers in the world. They are present in philosophy—witness James’s Varieties Religious Experience, or Pratt’s Psychology of Religious Belief, or host of other books. They are present in science—witness the way in which science was pushing its way into the unseen, abandoning its old materialism, and approaching, as never before, an almost verbal agreement with the teachings of Theosophy; as is shown, for example, in Duncan’s New Knowledge, or, better still, in the agreement between true religion and science, upon which Sir Oliver Lodge is so insistent, and which he was doing so much to make clear. In our literature and in our universities the spiritual and moral revival is now so obvious as to be a matter of common talk, and is expressing itself, I believe, throughout our entire civilization: in finance, in politics, in all departments of human life. Think of the keenness of interest in which religious subjects and principles are now awakened among all thoughtful people, once the opportunity is given to discuss them impartially. The increased sale of religious books is instanced, and the great success of the Hibbert Journal, which stands, in literature, for precisely the open platform in all matters, religious, philosophic and scientific, which the Theosophical Society aimed to furnish both literature and speech. Above all, I think the true movement of spiritual life is evident in the Christian Church—and this, irrespective of denomination, is showing itself in all lands. In France, in the purification of the Roman Church from its dream of temporal dominion and its absorption in politics; and no less markedly in French Protestantism in such books as August Sabatier’s Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit. In England, also, as witness that remarkable Theosophic interpretation of Christianity put forward by Campbell in his New Theology, or in the works of Archdeacon Wilberforce of the English Church. I think it worthy of note, in this connection, that those Branches which have reported the greatest success, all united in speaking of their work through, and with, the Christian Church. All this evidence points to one great fact. The seed has been sown, and the crop is now springing up on all sides. It is time for us to tend that crop; to seek our harvest of spiritual knowledge and power for the world, in these growing, living movements around us, and not to look disheartedly at the unsown seed which still remains within our hand. We need to recognize how successful those workers who came before us were. We need to tend the fruits of their labors.”

Johnston followed with the keynote address of the Convention, titled simply, “The Theosophical Movement.”

“It will be best to treat my theme historically,” said Johnston, “and I may be pardoned, perhaps, if I speak of my own observation of the Theosophical Movement, as it has been the most important thing in my life for the last two and twenty years.

“When I first came to know of the movement, much had already been accomplished since the foundation of the Theosophical Society at New York in 1875. While Mme. Blavatsky was still in America, her first great work, Isis Unveiled, appeared, and even as early as 1878, the Theosophical Society, of which she was the tireless Corresponding Secretary, had carried its organization and work to England, India, Australia and other lands. Colonel Olcott’s lectures on Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science had also been published, with their very interesting views of psychic force, and the comparative study of religions. Certain other books had also been written, of which more in a moment.

“For some little time before we came in touch with the Theosophical Movement, some of us had been unconsciously preparing the way for it by other studies. We had gone pretty deeply into astronomy, geology, physics and natural history, paying special heed to the doctrine of Darwin and the large laws of Evolution, which play so great a part in the life and growth of the world. We had also applied ourselves to the study of Christianity, trying to get a firm grasp of the teachings of Jesus, in theory and practice alike, and also gaining some knowledge of the modern criticism of religious documents. Our natural and spiritual studies were in complete harmony. In Henry Drummond’s phrase, we were able to recognize “natural law in the spiritual world.”

“Thus prepared, we came across Mr. Sinnett’s book, The Occult World. This was toward the close of 1884. For my own part, when I first read this admirable little book, the occult phenomena there described seemed to me wholly credible, and I found no difficulty at all in believing that powers commonly called miraculous should be possessed by men who had come to their full spiritual heritage. But far greater than the occult phenomena were the personalities that shone through the narrative: the clear outlines of those great men whom we call Masters, revealed in their letters and acts throughout the book. The full significance of the subject came home to me just before Easter, 1885, when I read Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism. After that reading, Theosophy was no longer an open question. The entire reasonableness of the account there given of the life and growth of the soul, interwoven with the long history of the world, came home with convincing force, and has remained with me ever since.

“Meanwhile clouds had been gathering. During 1884, the recently founded “Society for Psychical Research” had become deeply interested in the phenomena described in The Occult World and in Madame Blavatsky’s magazine, The Theosophist, and had appointed a Committee to investigate these phenomena. A very favorable preliminary report had been issued, which shows that the members of the Committee saturated themselves with the ideas of the Theosophical Movement. It was decided to supplement this preliminary work by further investigation in India, and a young student of psychic phenomena, Mr. Richard Hodgson, was asked to go to India, to carry this out.

“During this period, events had been happening at Adyar, near Madras, the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. While Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott were absent in Europe, two members of the Society, M. and Mme. Coulomb, who had for years been sheltered at the headquarters at Bombay and Madras, were asked to withdraw. There were charges of misappropriation of funds, evil speaking and trickery, which made it inexpedient for them to remain at the central office of the Society in a position of trust. These two persons presently retaliated by making an attack on Madame Blavatsky, to which publicity was given by a Madras missionary organ, and in which it was asserted that the phenomena described in The Occult World and elsewhere were tricks, and that many of them had been produced by these two members, who now repented of their misdeeds. Letters were published by them, which they said had been written by Madame Blavatsky, and which gave color to the charge of fraud; but the originals of these letters were never available for impartial examination, and the alleged copies were full of mistakes, vulgarity and puerility, and bore little resemblance to the genuine letters of the great Theosophical writer. Mr. Richard Hodgson arrived in India shortly after this attack was made. He found something congenial in the thought and methods of these two retired members who accused themselves of fraud, and he practically adopted their views and pretensions as to the whole of the phenomena he had been sent to investigate. He spent a short time in India, and returned to England early in 1885. Toward the end of June, 1885, he read a part of his Report on the phenomena before a meeting of the “Society for Psychical Research.”

“That meeting made an epoch in the attitude of public opinion toward the Theosophical Movement. Never sympathetic, public opinion thereafter became frankly hostile and incredulous. Madame Blavatsky was treated as an imposter, and her friends as fools. The public accepted Mr. Hodgson’s view without question or examination. And public opinion has never gone behind that verdict, but has rested on it for more than twenty years.

“With others, I was present at that fateful meeting. After Mr. Hodgson had read his Report, members of the Committee went among the audience to discuss it. Mr. F.W.H. Myers was one of these. When he asked what impression the meeting had made on me, I remember replying that the whole thing was so scandalously unfair that, had I not been a member of the Theosophical Society, I should have joined it forthwith, on the strength of Mr. Hodgson’s performance.

“My reason for this extreme expression was that, while it was popularly supposed that the ‘Society for Psychical Research’ had investigated the phenomena in question, that Society had never, in fact, investigated the phenomena. It delegated its work to a Committee of five. But the Committee never investigated the phenomena. The Committee in turn entrusted its task to Mr. Richard Hodgson. But Mr. Hodgson never investigated the phenomena. And for an excellent reason. Mr. Hodgson came to India at the close of 1884 and left it early in 1885. But the phenomena had, for the most part, taken place years earlier, the most important of them at Simla, in 1880. So what Mr. Hodgson really did, was to make a pretence of investigating phenomena which had taken place four or five years before, while he was thousands of miles away. He was somewhat in the position of a small boy poking about a laboratory, after some lecture on spectrum analysis, and coming sagely to the conclusion that the experiments had been carried out with the aid of a tallow candle and a piece of painted ribbon.

“Certain things may be cited, to illustrate the candor and judgment of Mr. Hodgson. He submitted to an expert in handwriting parts of letters attributed to a Master, and some writing said to be by Madame Blavatsky. The expert, in a somewhat detailed reply, after commenting on the documents, gave it as his positive conclusion that Mme. Blavatsky was not the writer of the letters attributed to the Master. It will hardly be believed that Mr. Hodgson deliberately cut out this part of the expert’s letter. It is only from a stray sentence a hundred pages away that we get the purport of the missing passage.

“Again, consider Mr. Hodgson’s credulity. For example, there is the question of a meeting not far from Darjeeling, between a disciple, Ramaswamier by name, and a Master, said by those who have met him to be a Rajput by race, certainly not less than six feet four, and of majestic bearing. But Mr. Hodgson seems able to believe that this great Rajput was “personated” by a little Madrasi, not much over four feet six. And he believes that an intelligent man, such as Ramaswamier was, could talk to the little Madrasi for a considerable period, in broad daylight, in the open air, and believe him to be the majestic Rajput with whose portrait he was familiar. And this is the more singular, as Mr. Hodgson elsewhere dilates at length on the peculiar type and voice of this very Madrasi, as evidence that he would be recognized even if carefully disguised.

“Or take Mr. Hodgson’s treatment of handwriting. We have already seen how he disposes of adverse expert opinion. He prefers to be his own expert. And he makes a great show of counting g’s and d’s and e’s. He finds that in some pieces of writing there are two forms of the letters e and d; what might be called a German d and a Greek e, alternating with the ordinary copybook forms. On this discovery he builds great conclusions. When he comes to count up hundreds of these letters, one is insensibly persuaded that something is being proved. I was somewhat impressed, until it occurred to me that my own writing shows exactly the same variations of the same letters, and in about the same proportions. So the evidence pointed strongly to me, as the real delinquent. Emerson’s handwriting also has the same peculiarity. One sees how flimsy is Mr. Hodgson’s reasoning. In exactly the same way it can be proved that the English, or the Red Indians, are the lost tribes of Israel, or that Shakespeare wrote Bacon’s Essays.

“Again, one notices that, where the conditions under which certain phenomena took place were vague, Mr. Hodgson is fertile in conjecture. But where everything is clear-cut and convincing, the Report airily declares that it “does not profess to give completely satisfactory explanations.” Soon after he reached India, Mr. Hodgson fell under the spell of the Coulombs, became the victim of their suggestions, and saw exactly what they wished him to see. Othello-like, he found confirmations strong as holy writ in every suspicion that they suggested to him; and this, although he knew that the Coulombs were hundreds of miles away when the more important phenomena occurred; that they had a personal spite to wreak, and, perhaps, a personal profit to secure. The really grave charge against the ‘Report of the Society for Psychical Research’ is, that not one of all those who are reporting was actually a witness of the phenomena as they occurred. The whole thing is hearsay and conjecture; very credulous hearsay, and not very intelligent conjecture.

“Procedure of this kind, in any established field of research, would have imperiled the reputation of the Committee and its members. But they were perfectly safe in this instance, because they had behind them an immense force of hostile public opinion, suspicious of all suggestion of Occult force, suspicious of Madame Blavatsky because she proclaimed the reality of Occult force. Not one in ten thousand of those who to this day believe that the Society for Psychical Research “exposed” Madame Blavatsky, ever read the Report. As the verdict fell in with their prejudices, they accepted the view of the Society, which accepted the view of its committee, who accepted the view of its agent, who never saw the phenomena he professed to investigate.

“The wiser course is, to set aside this hearsay and conjecture, and with clear and candid mind to consider the testimony of those who were actually present when the phenomena occurred. This is the easier, at the present day, as the general understanding of these things has made great strides forward in the last twenty years. The phenomena produced by Madame Blavatsky and the Masters who worked with her, were not mere exhibitions of magic. They were experiments intended to show that certain kinds of force existed, that definite powers could be applied to produce results of a definite kind, in the physical and psychical worlds. Now it is the fact that almost every type of force illustrated by the phenomena of Madame Blavatsky and her friends has since been very generally recognized, even by popular opinion. For instance, there were the appearances of ‘astral bodies.’ But under the name of ‘phantasms of the living,’ astral bodies have passed into the realm of accepted fact. Again, certain phenomena implied ‘action at a distance,’ Occult force operating through void space. But we have now, on the one hand, the ‘telekinesis’ of the psychical researchers, and, on the other, wireless telegraphy, the wireless direction of torpedoes, and so on. So that both the mental generation of force, and the movement of matter at a distance are fully admitted. Other phenomena which took place in Mme. Blavatsky’s presence were attacked because they seemed to involve the disintegration of matter. But nowadays all matter has disintegrated. The very atoms have gone to pieces. Once again, Madame Blavatsky made the very fertile suggestion that certain phenomena might be understood, by taking the fourth dimension of space into account. But today the fourth dimension is becoming familiar. On the one hand, physicists invoke it to express the action of radiant matter, while chemists use it to explain the vagaries of some of the coal-tar compounds; and, on the other, we find an advanced theologian putting forward the view that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were made possible by his mastery of space of four dimensions.

“The principles which underlay the phenomena of Madame Blavatsky and the Masters who worked with her, are becoming widely recognized. The time is coming when it will be possible for people in general to understand that these phenomena were simply experiments, produced to illustrate still unfamiliar natural forces, and entirely within the realm of law. This simple truth, though repeatedly stated by Madame Blavatsky and her friends, was obscured and distorted by Mr. Hodgson’s make-believe investigation, and by the verdict of the Society for Psychical Research. That verdict was accepted by a prejudiced public, hostile to Madame Blavatsky, and inflamed against her because thirty years ago she expressed concerning the established churches and sciences views which one may now hear any day, from the pulpits of the New Theology.

“Not so many years earlier, Charles Darwin was the target of a not less hostile fire. He was branded as a fraud and a blasphemer by good people who thought they were doing God service. Darwin has had his revenge. His thought has transformed the very theologians who denounced his doctrine of transformation. I believe the day is rapidly approaching when we shall see a like reversal of the verdict against Madame Blavatsky; when it will be recognized that she was a pioneer not less valiant than Darwin. While Darwin taught the evolution of the body, Mme. Blavatsky taught the evolution of the soul.

“Madame Blavatsky did a great deal more than illustrate, by her experiments, unfamiliar phases of force. She brought forward, with great force, certain spiritual and moral principles. First among these was the principle of universal brotherhood, without distinction of race, creed, caste, color or sex. This, for immediate application in life. Then there were more abstract doctrines, such as that of the One Spirit manifested in the universe, and of which all lives, including our own, are the expression. Then there was the teaching of the larger self, of which the personality of each one of us is but a part; the deeper self which, touching our daily life on one side, on the other dwells with the infinities. Again, she taught the periodical manifestation of life, including the life expressed in our personalities. And she pointed to the elder religions of the East, as fertile sources of spiritual suggestion.

“But these very ideas are finding universal acceptance today. We are familiar with the Peace Conferences, which rest their work boldly on the brotherhood of man. And all science, even the most materialistic, now sees in the universe the manifestation of a single ever-mysterious Power. The doctrine of the larger self, the deeper self, the ‘subliminal’ self, is abroad everywhere, notably in the newest books. And as for the old wisdom of the East, we find the author of The New Theology avowedly drawing thence his theory of manifested life, and Sir Oliver Lodge taking from the same source his very suggestive teaching of Life and its periodic expression. It is true that these two writers, speaking, the one, of “the higher self,” and the other of “the larger self,” believe they are indebted for their thought to Mr. F.W.H. Myers. But it is more than likely that Mr. Myers got this thought from the Theosophical writings which he studied so attentively during 1884, and in which it fills so large a place.

“We find, therefore, that the experiments made by Madame Blavatsky, and those who worked with her thirty years ago, illustrate forces and powers now beginning to be generally recognized. Can we be expected to believe that, by a happy inspiration, she “invented” just the right phenomena to illustrate subsequent discoveries? And can we be expected to believe that is likely to have been done by one who anticipated by thirty years the last conclusions of the “new science” and the “new theology”?

“At the time, we saw how futile was Mr. Hodgson’s supposed investigation, and we were, therefore, confirmed in our belief in the good faith of Madame Blavatsky, our belief that the phenomena described in The Occult World were entirely genuine, and had taken place as described, and our belief in the Masters who had given an account of spiritual and bodily life as satisfactory to the reason as it was inspiring to the soul. So we set ourselves to search the Scriptures of many lands, to study the teachings of the Sages of all times, to try to realize, in study and life, the spiritual principles which, in their large simplicity, underlie the teachings of Scriptures and Sages alike. The Report of Mr. Hodgson in no way disturbed the even tenor of our work, which was positive and constructive, along spiritual and moral lines.

“A good many members of the Theosophical Society were shaken or driven away by the storm of adverse public feeling aroused by the Report. But many remained and continued to work, and the Society steadily grew in numbers. It must be confessed that it did not grow equally in real unity and brotherly love. This was presently to be shown by events.

“In 1891 MadameBlavatsky died. The bitter attack on her, which we have discussed, so far from checking her energies, in reality ushered in her greatest and most creative period. To it belong The Secret Doctrine, such books as The Voice of the Silence, The Key to Theosophy, and her new magazine, Lucifer, besides other work of enduring power. In all ways, her achievement vindicated her, and she stands as one of the most courageous and self-sacrificing workers for humanity, one of the great names of all time.

“After the departure of Mr. Hodgson, the atmosphere of suspicion lingered at Adyar. Colonel Olcott remained there, while Mme. Blavatsky passed the closing years of her life in Europe. It is unhappily true that from that time onward Adyar became a storm-center in the Theosophical Movement. Whoever went there found an atmosphere filled with suspicion, and many came away strongly tinged with that atmosphere and spreading suspicion through the Theosophical Society. It would be pleasanter to pass over these things in silence; but justice demands that stress be laid on certain facts.

“Among those who made the pilgrimage to Adyar, and came within its atmosphere of suspicion and accusation, was Mrs. Besant. The final result of the suggestions among which she found herself was, that she formulated charges against Mr. Judge, Vice-President of the Society, and General Secretary of the American Section, which he had built up by untiring and devoted effort during the years following the attack on Mme. Blavatsky. Mrs. Besant declared that Mr. Judge had been guilty of dishonesty, in giving out, as from Masters, letters and messages which, she said, were not from Masters; and she demanded a Committee of Inquiry. Colonel Olcott, whose hostility to Mr. Judge colors all his later writings, was entirely willing to appoint the Committee. It was appointed, and met, with Colonel Olcott as Chairman, in London, in the summer of 1894.

“Colonel Olcott should have seen that his procedure was entirely unconstitutional, and against the whole spirit of the Theosophical Movement. He should have seen that all views as to the existence of Masters, their power, and their part in any phenomena or messages, were, in fact, matters of religious belief, and as such, privileged under the Constitution of the Society, which secures to every member the right to believe or disbelieve any teaching whatever, and to assert his belief or disbelief, without in any way impairing his standing in the Society. Colonel Olcott should further have seen that he had no more right, morally and theosophically, to question Mr. Judge’s good faith, than he had to question the good faith of some other member, who may have professed his belief in the miracles of the New Testament, the wonders of Buddha’s paradise, or the views of Zöllner concerning the fourth dimension of space. But Colonel Olcott saw none of these things. He carried the Committee of Inquiry forward, and Mr. Judge appeared before it. What happened may be recorded in Colonel Olcott’s own words:


Mr. Judge’s defense is that he is not guilty of the acts charged; that Mahatmas exist, are related to our Society, and in personal connection with himself; and he avers his readiness to bring many witnesses and documentary proofs to support his statements. You will at once see whither this would lead us. The moment we entered into these questions we should violate the most vital spirit of our federal compact, its neutrality in matters of belief…For the above reason, then, I declare as my opinion, that this enquiry must go no further; we may not break our own laws for any consideration whatsoever.


“Admirable words. One wonders, though, how Colonel Olcott failed to see, months before, that “the moment we entered into these questions we should violate the most vital spirit of our federal compact, its neutrality in matters of belief.” Had he seen that, he would have seen that he was wrong in appointing the Committee; wrong in allowing the matter to be brought before him in his official capacity, and kept before him; wrong in not pointing out, at the outset, that the bringing of such charges was “a violation of the most vital spirit of the Theosophical Society, its neutrality in matters of belief.”

“The Committee of Inquiry was dissolved. But, unfortunately, neither the letter nor the spirit of Colonel Olcott’s wise words was adhered to in the months that followed. Public and private attacks were directed against Mr. Judge, in the newspapers, in letters, and in other ways even more prejudicial. In spite of the warning of Colonel Olcott that such attack was a violation of the most vital spirit of the Theosophical Society, Mr. Judge was denounced, with growing bitterness, by those who should have been the first to uphold the Theosophical ideal of “neutrality in matters of belief,” of tolerance, of charity. These attacks went so far that those who adhered to the ideals expressed, but not acted on, by Colonel Olcott, joined with Mr. Judge in 1895 in forming a separate society, the Theosophical Society in America, to carry on the work on these true and enduring lines. From this time forward, Colonel Olcott wholly forgot what he had so truly said of neutrality, and began a series of bitter attacks on Mr. Judge which he continued long after Mr. Judge’s death, early in 1896. Nor was he alone in thus violating the most vital spirit of the Theosophical Society. Attacks multiplied, and grew in bitterness; and, as is almost invariably the case with the spirit of persecution, these attacks were nominally made in the interest of pure morals, and to defend the Theosophical cause. One fails to see how the Theosophical cause could be defended by violating its most vital spirit. Nor can one say much more for the claim that these attacks were in the interest of good morals, and to defend members of the Society from delusion and “psychic tyranny.”

“In a society of students, banded together in the search for truth, in the spirit of tolerance and good will, what place is there for this patronizing attitude on the part of a few, who undertake to guard the rest against delusions? Is not that attitude an entire mistake, perhaps a somewhat questionable assumption of superior virtue and wisdom? Or let us look at the matter in another way: Was the persecution of Mr. Judge justified by its results? Those who took part in public or private attacks on Mr. Judge have since been prominent in the Adyar Society. Will they venture to say that the persecution of Mr. Judge, the bitter attacks on him after Colonel Olcott’s declaration of neutrality, did, in fact, secure their society against delusion, against astral dangers, against “psychic despotism?” Once more, these attacks were made, we were told, to protect “the victims of Mr. Judge,” those who believed in Mr. Judge, his ideals, his good faith, his work. As one who thus believed and believes, I should like to ask whether those who hold the same view have showed any marked symptoms of moral or mental deliquesence? Are these painfully manifest in their works? Take a concrete case: The Theosophical Quarterly for April is in the hands of the public. It is, to a large degree, the work of those who believe in Mr. Judge. Does it show, in a marked degree, a weakness of morals and intellect, as compared, let us say, with the April numbers of the magazines which represent the party hostile to Mr. Judge, the party of inquisition and prosecution? These magazines are also in the hands of the public. I am perfectly content to leave the decision to those who read them.

“These considerations should make it clear to all that the attacks on Mr. Judge were exactly what Colonel Olcott called them, a violation of the most vital spirit of the Theosophical Society. They were so, in two ways. They were a violation of the spirit of charity, of tolerance, of brotherly love, of that kindly affection which seeks virtues and not deficiencies, which looks for faults at home, and not in others, which seeks not its own, and thinks no evil. They were also a violation of the vital spirit of the Theosophical Society, since that Society is a body of students, of seekers after truth, on perfectly equal terms; a body of students, each of whom has an entire right to hold any belief or unbelief that commends itself to him, and to express that belief or unbelief; as indeed must be the case in all free search after truth.

“And this brings me to the closing portion of my subject: the Theosophical Society and its work in the world. For I have hitherto spoken of something larger and more inclusive: the Theosophical Movement. Madame Blavatsky always spoke of the Theosophical Movement as being, as it were, a wave of force, set in motion by Masters, the Elder Brothers of humanity, and destined to bring spiritual life to the hearts of men. The Theosophical Movement has many expressions. Of these, the Theosophical Society is one. If I were asked what the Theosophical Society is, I should be inclined to say that, for me, it stands for a state of mind, or rather an attitude of the heart. That attitude is essentially this: To put my own interest as secondary and the interest of my friend as primary; to be more willing to hear than to speak; to endeavor always to see the truth in my neighbor’s heart, rather than to seek to impose my own view of truth. Instead of antagonism, the Theosophical Society should bring unity of heart. When in action we make the interests of others primary, and keep our own interests in the second place, we bring unity. We must by no means fall into the error of thinking that this will mean giving way to our neighbor, letting him get the better of us, yielding to him in a servile way. That could never be for his interest, and, in doing this we should by no means be putting his interest first. Cowardice is one thing. Devotion to the interests of another is a quite different thing, and one calling for high courage as well as self-sacrifice. Gently to hear, kindly to judge: this is the principle for which the Theosophical Society stands; genuine toleration, an entire willingness to hear the other side; a readiness to accept new truth. This attitude in action is well described in the primary object of the Theosophical Society:


To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, caste, color or sex.


“One may ask, is not this exactly what the Churches are doing? Happily, yes; and to an ever increasing degree. Among many branches of the more liberal Churches, the spirit of toleration and reconciliation has already gone far, and will, let us hope, go much farther. Yet there are still many directions in which mediation is needed. For example, do the older branches of the Church, the Eastern and Western, freely admit each other’s equality, each other’s possession of spiritual truth? Or do the Christian Churches, as a whole, approach the non-Christian religions in a brotherly and kindly spirit, not claiming any superiority, not demanding any paramount position, not insisting on deep differences, but seeking rather the truths which are common to all? Again, we have much liberty and light, on the one hand, among the followers of science; and on the other, within the Churches. But do the Churches render full justice to the votaries of science? Do these see what are the ideals, the hopes, the aspirations of the Churches? Here is still great need for mediation, for reconciliation. And whence can come mediation and reconciliation, but through mutual understanding? And how can mutual understanding come about, except through gentle listening, a willingness to hear the other side, a wish to learn and enter into the other’s truth, rather than to impose our own. This, if I am right, is the Theosophical method, the method for which the Theosophical Society exists.

“Tolerance, brotherly love, conciliation, spiritual unity: such are the ideals of the Theosophical Society. For those who hold these ideals, great horizons open, wide vistas of work and hope spread before them. These vistas, this work, this hope, are not the mere private concern of our members. They are common and universal. And in closing, I cannot do better than advise all whose concern these things are, to attend to them.”

The following day, on April 28, a General Meeting was held for the members of the Eastern School of Theosophy, the secret Esoteric Section, under the direction of the Outer Head, whose true identity only a select few knew. The history of the E.S. ran parallel to its exoteric sibling, The Theosophical Society, but to safeguard the secret teachings espoused, membership was limited to only the most dedicated of students. The Outer Head, it was claimed, was the liaison between the temporal world and that of the Brotherhood of Masters, the semi-divine guardians of humanity who made up the White Lodge.

At the beginning of the meeting, members were reminded that the ensuing half-hour coincided with the prescriptive Sunday Meditation of the School; that the Masters invariably took part in the Sunday Meditation; and that, on such an occasion the Masters made a special effort to reach the consciousness of the School and its members, therefore, should make a similar effort to open their hearts to the spiritual life offered to them. Following the end of half-hour Meditation, the following facts and principles were delivered before the members by Johnston, the Chairman of the Reference Committee, at the wish of the Outer Head.

“The present time is very significant in many ways,” said Johnston. “First, there is the return of ‘the Theosophical Society in America’ to the international character which the Theosophical Society was always intended to possess, and did possess for the first twenty years of its life. Much was said on this great theme, during the Convention. Certain things may now be added.

“In the first place, we may draw additional confidence from the fact that this return to our proper international character has long been foreseen, and provided for, by the Masters. More than four years ago, a question on this subject was addressed to the Outer Head, whose answer I am permitted to give. The Outer Head said:


Get your real unity first the organization will follow suit readily enough then. When you have difficulty in organization the trouble lies somewhere in yourselves, and the most perfect constitution ever formulated would be useless until you found the people whom it fitted.


“This was said in March, 1903. And about a year ago we were told that the Lodge had been considering the matter, and that the time had come for a closer unity. Immediately after, the events which lead up to a complete unity of heart, as well as of organization, began to develop, with results which give us cause for deep thankfulness.

“Another sign of the times, not less important, is the fact that we are once more drawing young people into our ranks. Not only has this been conspicuously the case in New York, but in the last four Branches formed there have been, among the Charter members, young people about twenty years old; and others, who have not yet joined the Society, are constant and deeply interested attendants at our meetings. If we consider the eight or nine years just past, we note the almost complete absence of younger recruits, as the troubles and trials in the Society very naturally drove them away. This was cause for regret and misgiving, as the future of the movement depends on new recruits. We may, therefore, draw renewed hope and assurance for the future from the recent accession of young people to our ranks. And to whom, more than to the young, should the tidings of everlasting youth appeal?

“Yet another sign of the times. The international character of the Society, which had existed for the first twenty years of its life, was interrupted by events which took place thirteen years ago. At that time certain dark elements of suspicion, of evil speaking, of hostility, of disintegration found a lodging in the minds and hearts of many members, and this tide of suspicion and attack was turned against W. Q. Judge. The result was that those who stood for brotherly love, charity and loyalty formed ‘The Theosophical Society in America” as a separate autonomous society, with Mr. Judge as President. Other national societies were formed on the same lines in other lands.

“And now that this temporary separation has come to an end, and we have once more returned to the original character of the Society, it is in the last degree striking to find cyclic time equally operative in the Adyar Society. Thirteen years ago, members of that Society turned the forces of suspicion, hostility and disintegration against W.Q. Judge. The death of Colonel Olcott, on February 17, 1907, marked the completion of an epoch, and these same forces of suspicion, hostility and disintegration are once more in full flow, this time directed against the very members who attacked and persecuted W.Q. Judge thirteen years ago. The tide is now in full flood, and it is likely to go far.

“It is, therefore, in the highest degree significant to find this violent reaction in the Adyar Society, at the very time when we ourselves are rejoicing in closer unity and renewed force. We have been told not to seek a sign; and we have not sought a sign. Perhaps for that very reason this striking sign is given us, and we see the great cyclic law operative before our eyes.

“From these noteworthy events we should draw two lessons. The first is the lesson of faith. For long years we have carried on the work of the movement with little outward encouragement, against endless obstacles, none the less formidable because often of our own making; and now at length we see our efforts openly rewarded, our hopes fulfilled, our dearest aspirations for the work surpassed. Let us draw from this a larger faith for the days to come. Let us fill our hearts with higher hopes, with stronger confidence. Let us go forward with high courage justified by the victories already won.

“The second lesson we should draw from these events is the lesson of humility. We can see that those who failed, failed through faults whose germs are in us also. More than that, we should always remember that their failure was due, in large measure, to their unreadiness, their unripeness for the tasks they were allowed to undertake. The needs of the movement made it imperative that certain things should be attempted, and, to meet that great need some who were not yet ready were asked to undertake heavy and responsible tasks, which proved beyond their strength. If in some cases they failed, we should remember that they were in a sense sacrificed, and that we have profited by that sacrifice. So that we should have for them only feelings of compassion, of regret, of brotherly kindness; and, for ourselves, we should be filled with humility, always remembering that our time of trial will surely come.

“The great task is now committed to our hands. The outer life of the Theosophical Society is ours, to make or to mar. We can only become equal to our task, and rise to the high privilege of our work, through sacrifice. For each one of us there is some sacrifice to be made, and only by making it can we fit ourselves for the work we have to do.

“If we consider the failures of which we have been speaking, we shall see that, in every case, they had their origin in breaches of the Pledge and the Rules of the School. The Head of the School has pointed out that these failures have invariably had their origin in evil listening and evil speaking, expressly forbidden by the Pledge and the Rules. Our safety, therefore, lies in faithfully keeping the Pledge and the Rules of the School.

[“I pledge myself to support the Theosophical Movement; its leaders, and its members, and in particular to obey without cavil or delay, the orders of the Outer Head in all that concerns my relation with the Theosophical Movement. I pledge myself never to listen, without protest, to any evil thing spoken of a brother Theosophist, and to abstain from condemning others. I pledge myself to maintain a constant struggle against my lower nature, and to be charitable to the weaknesses of others. I pledge myself to do all in my power by study and otherwise to fit myself to help others. I pledge myself to preserve inviolable secrecy as regards the signs and passwords, confidential documents.” E.S.T. Pledge.]

“How far are we familiar with the Pledge and the Rules? How far do we know definitely what we have promised to do? The Outer Head advised us, in the first message he sent to the School, nine years ago, to repeat the Pledge daily, every morning and evening. How far have we obeyed? It may not be unprofitable for us to test our familiarity with the Pledge, by asking ourselves some such questions as these: Three clauses of the Pledge define our duty to others. Are we quite familiar with the details of these duties? Two clauses of the Pledge speak of our relation to the Theosophical movement. Are we clear as to what is said? One clause defines our loyalty to each other in a certain important department of the School work. A part of one clause defines our relation to the Masters. and the attitude we should hold toward them. What should that attitude be?

“And there is the great opening clause, which in a sense includes all the others: “I pledge myself to endeavor to make Theosophy a living power in my life.” St. Paul has used the word “Theosophy” as a synonym of the Christ, the Christos the Logos. So we stand pledged to endeavor to make the Christ, the Logos, a living power in our lives. If we think of the seven divine powers of the Logos, which are to be made living in our lives, we shall be awestruck at the immensity of our undertaking, and filled with humility, as we consider our performance.

“Then as to the Rules of the School. In a certain special sense, they express the will of the Head of the School, and are orders of the Head of the School, such as we are pledged to obey without cavil or delay. Are we familiar with our orders? Let us test the matter as before: First, as to individual duties. The Rules speak of one thing which every member is expected to do, every day. What is it? One thing is ‘strictly prohibited’—the only absolute prohibition that is laid on us. What is it? Of our relation to others, we are told that a certain attitude will entirely prevent progress of any sort. What is this attitude? We are also told that a certain attitude will completely prevent the pupil from attracting the attention of the Masters. What is it? Again, money or affairs concerned with money, are mentioned in three Rules. What is said in each case? Our relations to Branch work and the Theosophical Society are defined in three Rules. What of these? What of our fulfilment of them? Two Rules touch on public opinion and our action toward public opinion. Which are they? Groups would do well to take up these two sets of questions for study.

“In some such way as this, we may become more familiar with the duties we have undertaken; the orders we have promised to obey. And whenever we are considering the Rules, we should do well to bear in mind that they are not mere regulations laid down for our benefit. They are very much more. If we search, in each Rule, for its fundamental principle, we shall find the principles of the Rules, not only of the School, but of the Lodge, the Rules which Masters themselves obey. For our Rules are a particular expression of these greater Rules. We should think of our Rules as Rules of the Lodge, and we should take courage and joy from the thought that these are the Rules which Masters themselves obey, and through obedience to which they have become Masters.

“When we thus seek to keep the Pledge and the Rules, what end have we in view ? What is it we are trying to do? We should have this clearly in mind before we can hope to have lucid ideas as to the best manner of going about the doing of it. I wonder how many of us have thought of this directly and how many have distinct ideas on the subject? I take it that our replies to this question would vary within considerable limits. In other words we by no means all possess the same ideal. I think we can say without any fear of contradiction, however, that we all have an honest and earnest desire to improve ourselves and to help along the general amelioration of the condition of the human race. and that we believe that membership in the School will assist us in accomplishing these ends. We feel our own degradation, our own departure from spiritual ideals and conditions, and we realize that the whole human race is in a state of spiritual, mental, moral and physical impurity which causes a heavy load of suffering and misery and pain and which cannot be removed save by the bettering of the influences which create them. We believe that the Great Lodge of Masters who are behind the School, who started the School and without whose continued aid the School could not exist, are keenly alive to these conditions in the world and that they spend their lives doing everything which their wisdom prompts them to do to help suffering humanity.

“I think we may say without fear of contradiction that we, all of us, have a more or less clear idea of this and that we are also anxious to contribute our little mite of help to the great work. We believe that the School is one of the ways in which the Masters work with this end in view and that the formation of the Theosophical Society was the special effort which they made at the end of the last century. We feel too, that by being members of these organizations we are helping this work, and I believe that this is in large measure true.

“So far, so good; but these are all very general considerations and what we especially want just now are personal and specific considerations. We want to bring these general considerations, in which we all agree, down to our own selves so that we may work them out in thought and action and speech. What are we personally trying to do? Taking for granted that we all believe in the crying necessity for the regeneration of humanity, what are we doing personally to contribute our quota of strength and power and force and intelligence to the great work? Surely we must conclude at once that mere membership in the School, and even a fair degree of participation in its activities, is not enough. What then should we try to do? What are we trying to do?

“It seems to me that here again the answer is quite clear. As Light on the Path says, the llumined disciple is horrified to find how badly he does his work; so we must conclude that our first great duty is to make ourselves fit and able to take a greater and growing and more efficient part in the Masters’ work. This idea, however, is to my mind still too general, but it is getting closer to the direct personal application which I am seeking. Let us agree that our great task is to grow ourselves, for by so doing we know that we can render an ever increasing assistance to the great work of the Masters, the regeneration of humanity.

“Now what do we mean when we say that we wish to grow? Of course we mean that we wish to become good; we wish to purify our hearts, our minds, our bodies, we wish to make ourselves fit vehicles for the power and inspiration of the spiritual world, but while this is more concrete and has a direct personal bearing I find it still too general. I want an ideal which is even more specific towards which we may work. What is it that we expect, that we hope, will happen to us when we do succeed in purifying ourselves? We are not working for wealth, or for worldly power, or for worldly influence, or for any of the things which ordinary men consider desirable. Our ambitions do not lie in these directions. What then are we working for? I believe the answer is clear.

“We wish to become one with the Great Brotherhood of which we have heard so much and in which some of us implicitly believe, which has for its prime object the spiritual advancement of the human race. We wish the companionship of the Masters. We crave the opportunity and the right to enroll ourselves as members of that glorious band whose light and life and power are ceaselessly exercised for the benefit of others. We too, in our humble way, are stirred by the pain and suffering we see. We realize in some measure our own shortcomings and the shortcomings of the multitudes of men, and we feel, rather than know, that true happiness and true peace are only to be found through service for others. In plain words, we wish to become conscious disciples of the Masters. and to feel that we are an integral part of the Great Lodge and share in its work and privileges.

“This, I think, is what we all really want. This is what we are all really trying to do, and I can conceive of no higher ambition, of no nobler ideal. Let us turn then to the practical application of this ideal to our daily lives. What should we do to realize our ideal? What course of action should we mark out for ourselves? How should our ideal affect our conduct, from day to day, from hour to hour, aye, from minute to minute? Can we get further light on this important point? It seems to me that much has been gained when we clearly formulate our ideal, and this we have succeeded in doing. Once the ideal is clean cut in our minds we have a standard against which we may measure every incident of our lives. How does this or that chime in with our ideal? Will this course of action, will that thought, will this speech, level up to the standard we have set ourselves? Surely much of the mystery of existence is already solved for us when we possess a standard which will designate clearly front minute to minute what we may do and say and think and what we should refuse to permit ourselves to do and say and think.

“But there is more in it than this. Although much has been gained by having our standard, our ideal, we still must deal with weak and erring human nature. We are still far from strong enough always to do what we know very well we ought to do. We, in common with the rest of the race, have inherited the rotten bodies and the perverted minds of our day and generation. We are filled with evil tendencies, with low desires. Our minds are biased towards many forms of crude and ignoble thought. We are selfish and unkind our instincts, many of them, are bad and must be controlled. The animal in us is immensely strong and has a tendency to lead us far astray.

“Our problem, then, would appear to be to reconcile these two opposing forces, to make our perverted sensual natures conform to our ideal. We know from experience that it is no easy task, but we also know from experience that it is possible for us to do it, that others have done it, that others are doing it this very day, and we shall be wise if we refuse to dwell upon the difficulty of it and fill our minds instead with a vision of the goal at which we aim. I think we are much too prone to consider the difficulties of the task, we are appalled at the amount to be overcome, we sigh for the things we must abandon. We are accustomed to the service of Mammon and have as yet but small experience of the service of God.

“But this kind of thought is an unhealthy thought, and my first piece of advice would be resolutely to refuse to allow the mind to dwell upon what we are giving up. Refuse to think of the difficulty of our task. Refuse to consider obstacles. All this kind of thought is negative and destructive. Let us on the contrary fill our minds with what we want to do. Let us dwell upon our ideal. Let us think of what we wish to become. Cultivate the wish to grow in spiritual strength and power. It is all a question of desire. It has been said that we could become adepts in a single day if we really wished it with our whole natures. With most of us, there is only a part of us which really wishes it; the rest, and a large part, wants nothing of the kind and prefers to stay playing in the dirt and mud of material life. So my second piece of advice is steadily to cultivate the desire to grow, to learn to place more and still more of the weight of the nature on the. side of the higher life, for we are taken at our actual desire and not at what at times we fancy we desire.

“Therefore, the general trend of our lives should be positive towards the things of the Spirit; we should refuse to consider the things we must give up and we should cultivate a desire for the things we are reaching out for. We should develop in ourselves a real want for communion with the Masters, for all the other rewards of the Spiritual Life. These two things cover the general trend of our lives. We also have a touchstone with which we must harmonize our thoughts and acts and speech. What more is there in an occult life than this? Why—living. We must do these things, not merely theorize about them. Chelaship is a state of being; it is a life; not a contract or a rite. Talk never got anyone anywhere. We must live these things and that is the only secret of occultism.

“Now the way to make it easy to live them has already been pointed out. It is easy to do anything we want to do. It is not hard to go to the theater, or to eat our dinner, or to spend money, or to do any one of the thousand and one things which make up the pleasurable part of our lives. It is not hard because we want to do them. So living a spiritual life will. cease to be hard the very minute we want to do it, the very minute we really want to do it with a preponderating part of our nature. ‘Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.’ Nothing more profound or more true was ever said.

“Let us then cultivate a love for the things of the Spirit; let us dwell upon the delights of the Spiritual Life; let us crave the companionship of the Immortals; let us build up within our hearts a vision of Eternal Life that will draw us as the north star draws the compass; let us fill our Souls with a love of everything Divine that will pull us forward with an irresistible attraction. Only so may we hope for strength to look beyond the things of sense to the unfading fulfillment of Spirit.

“We have been told in Light on the Path that, when the disciple reaches a certain point, he must learn to listen to ‘the voice of the silence,’ and H.P.B. took this phrase as the title of a book especially written for disciples. We should hold this in mind, when we determine to follow the path of discipleship. Then, if we are disheartened and discouraged by the seeming lack of response to our aspiration, we may hear within the heart the Master’s voice: ‘In the very fact of the silence is the evidence of my presence. I put my stillness about you, that you may feel my peace.’

“We must, therefore, at this point learn to seek and practise Silence. Meditation is the innermost point of our lives. Work is the outermost. Between these two poles lies the whole of our activity. We must, then, learn to seek and practise Silence, first in Meditation, and then in Work.
“In Meditation, Silence has three degrees. First, there is the Silence of the body. We must learn to still its restlessness, all nervous twitching and fidgeting, and to sit quiet and still. Then there is the Silence of the mind. We must still the voices of the mind, its discursiveness, its passing fancies, its chatterings of self. Then we must win the Silence of the heart. We must still the emotions, fears, desires.

“In reverent Silence we must seek to draw near to the sacred Soul, as we would enter into a holy place; in the stillness of the entire nature its presence and its power will pass into us. Next, there is Silence in Work. We should practice Silence here also, and above all, we should learn always to speak from the Silence. We are a link between the inner and the outer. We are to work for the inner, for Unity, by interpreting between those whose views seem to clash, revealing to each the inner meaning of the other. To do this, we must never depart from an inner attitude of Silence. We must never let our own thoughts and views and ways of putting things crowd up between us and what another is saying. The circle ‘Pass not’ is to be kept also against our own thoughts, so that we may give full and complete attention to the thoughts we seek to interpret, and which we can only interpret, as we understand. Too often everything reaches us only through a wall of our own thoughts, and we are so busy thinking about what we shall reply, that we miss the actual significance of what is said. Before we can learn how to speak, we must learn how to listen; and to listen, our minds must be silent and sympathetic. As soon as we become partisans, we cease to be Theosophists.

“We should try to stand aside and let the Master speak through us; we should try to perceive intuitively what should be said; not seeking to make a point of our own, but rather trying to help our friend to a clearer understanding of himself, or of the difficulty which confronts him. We should keep alert, cool, and impartial, always listening, always the peacemaker and interpreter.

“In this way we shall keep ourselves always receptive to guidance from above, and shall learn not to mistake the flash of a personal thought for the light of intuition. Thus we shall learn to let the Warrior fight through us. This is in fact letting the Life live in us. We have reached the point where this is entirely possible for us, and we may gain it by practicing Silence of the personality.

“As the Life acts through us, we shall realize more and more that it is our true being, that the personality is only that which is not the Life, not the pure stream of spiritual being. The freeing of ourselves from personality becomes the perfectly practical task of freeing ourselves from everything that is not the Life. We look back to the Life, in Silence, and seek in the Silence to obey It.

“The success of the Theosophical Movement, the turning of the cycle, has meant the Lesser Mysteries have been spread abroad in the world. When the disciple has learned the Lesser Mysteries, he must begin to live them. Only by living the Lesser Mysteries does he gain the Greater, for the Greater Mysteries pertain to the One Spiritual Life.

“That the Lesser Mysteries have been spread throughout the world is evident; in the churches, in science, in philosophy, we see everywhere the search after unity, piercing through forms to the entrance beneath. This is the success which the Theosophical Movement has attained. What is the next step, its next task?

“The next step of the Theosophical Movement is to help the world to live the Lesser Mysteries. The unities of heart and thought, the new spiritual insights, must all be lived; must be turned into experience, must be woven into the nature, embodied in the Life.

“This is the task we have to accomplish. And it is at once supremely important and supremely difficult; for before we can aid others to live the Life, we must make some progress in living it ourselves. We can inspire only by our example, letting spiritual principles be felt as a living power in our own lives.

“In every act, in every circumstance and situation, there should be felt in is that Inner Silence and sureness where dwells the Soul; there should be simplicity and directness, a constant return to a few simple principles, until all who know us could tell beforehand how we should look on any matter, by knowing these principles. We become these, and they are felt as a living force, wherever we may be, not through their enunciation, but by their presence and their work.

“We can take few steps in this direction without becoming aware of the tremendous power and richness of this Life. There is no limit to the inspiration and force waiting to be drawn on, waiting to act through us to the extent of our capacity. We have only to make ourselves channels for it, to clear the channels now choked by our personalities, and filled by their turmoil. As we silence the personality, we learn to see the beginning of the Life in others, and learn how to foster it wisely in them and in ourselves. We learn to live only this Life, from Meditations to Work, from Work to Meditation: and, as we do so, its current grows mightily in us, and through us, in the world.”


Exordium: Conscientious Clergyman.

Chapter I. The Nature of the Inquiry.

Chapter II. Christianity and Nature.

Chapter III. Evolution And Ethics.

Chapter IV. Power, Worth, and Reality.

Chapter V. Pragmatism and Religion.

Chapter VI. Mysticism and Faith.

Chapter VII. The Historian’s View.

Chapter VIII.Organization and Religion.

Chapter IX. The Theosophical Movement.

Chapter X. Signs of the Times.

Chapter XI. Has the Church Failed?

Chapter XII. Silence.




Anon. “T.S. Activities.” The Theosophical Quarterly. Vol. V., No. 1 (July 1907): 96-112.

Johnston, Charles. “The Theosophical Movement.” The Theosophical Quarterly. Vol. V., No. 1 (July 1907): 16-26.

In re Hargrove’s Will, 262 A.D. 202,28 N.Y.S. 2d 571, 1941 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis. 5329 (N.Y. App. Div. June 27, 1941.)

Kenneth R. Small Archive of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society at Lomaland, 1874-1960. Special Collections & University Archives. San Diego State University. Series 4: E.S.—Esoteric Section. Folder 4: Eastern School of Theosophy—American Section (Hargrove/Mrs. Griscom), 1898-1906.

Higgins, Shawn F. “The Benedick: An Analysis of Talks on Religion.” Dewey Studies. Vol. VI, No. 2. (2022): 16-75.

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