How the Theosophical Movement Died: Adepts Break Ties, The Judge Case, and Olcott’s Decision

The idea of the “mahatmas,” and their secret brotherhood was abused by later leaders of the T.S. to establish new authorities. Ties were broken, due to a sense of betrayal, and the Society schisms.

The men originally associated with H.P.B. broke their ties with the T.S.:

“Yet, to those Theosophists, who are displeased with the Society in general, no one has ever made to you any rash promises; least of all, has either the Society or its founders ever offered their “Masters” as a chromo-premium to the best behaved. For years every new member has been told that he was promised nothing, but had everything to expect only from his own personal merit. The theosophist is left free and untrammeled in his actions. . . . no harm in trying elsewhere; unless, indeed one has offered himself and is decided to win the Masters’ favors. To such especially, I now address myself and ask: Have you fulfilled your obligations and pledges? Have you, . . . led the life requisite, and the conditions required from one who becomes a candidate? Let him who feels in his heart and conscience that he has, — . . . let him, I say, rise and protest. . . . I am afraid my invitation will remain unanswered.” (William Quan Judge, The Path, Vol. 1, 260-1, Dec. 1886)

Then it begins, with K.H. reminding H.S. Olcott, in his growing distrust, that the movement’s life is directly tied to H.P.B., their agent or emissary. In the Old Diary Leaves of Henry S. Olcott, Vol. 3., pg. 91, this letter is given as a brief extract, but this full publishing of the letter of August 1888, would have shown context during their conflicts:

“Misunderstandings have grown up between fellows both in London and Paris which imperil the interests of the movement. You will be told that the chief originator of most, if not all, of these disturbances is H.P.B. This is not so; though her presence in England has, of course, a share in them. But the largest share rests with others, whose serene unconsciousness of their own defects is very marked and much to be blamed. One of the most valuable effects of Upasika’s {i.e., H.P. Blavatsky’s} mission is that it drives men to self-study and destroys in them blind servility for persons. Observe your own case, for example. But your revolt, good friend, against her “infallibility” — as you once thought it — has gone too far, and you have been unjust to her, for which, I am sorry to say, you will have to suffer hereafter, along with others. Just now, on deck, your thoughts about her were dark and sinful, and so I find the moment a fitting one to put you on your guard.

. . . Her fidelity to our work being constant, and her sufferings having come upon her thro’ it, neither I nor either of my Brother Associates will desert or supplant her. As I once before remarked, ingratitude is not among our vices. With yourself our relations are direct, . . . That they are so rare is your own fault as I told you in my last. To help you in your present perplexity: H.P.B. has next to no concern with administrative details, and should be kept clear of them, so far as her strong nature can be controlled. But this you must tell to all: — with occult matters she has everything to do. We have not abandoned her. She is not given over to chelas. She is our direct agent. I warn you against permitting your suspicions and resentment against “her many follies” to bias your intuitive loyalty to her. In the adjustment of this European business, you will have two things to consider — the external and administrative, and the internal and psychical. Keep the former under your control and that of your most prudent associates, jointly; leave the latter to her. You are left to devise the practical details with your usual ingenuity. Only be careful, I say, to discriminate when some emergent interference of hers in practical affairs is referred to you on appeal, between that which is merely exoteric in origin and effects, and that which beginning on the practical tends to beget consequences on the spiritual plane. As to the former you are the best judge, as to the latter, she.” (K.H., Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom, First Series, pg. 52-53)

Pablo Sender stated that —

“In an attempt to save the Society, Olcott proposed to redi­rect its activity and publications, dropping all mention of phenomena, the occult, and the Masters, to work on the less controversial field of comparative religion, phi­losophy, and science. (…) Koot Hoomi, said that although this move was well-calculated to save the physical integrity of the Society, it would kill its soul.” (Pablo Sender, The Esoteric School of Theosophy, Quest Magazine 101. 3, Summer 2013, pg. 100-104)

K.H. told H.P.B. in a letter on the Theosophical Society and Olcott:

“Olcott (…) wants to know why? Because the Society has liberated itself from our grasp and influence and we have let it go – we make no unwilling slaves. He says he has saved it? He saved its body, but he allowed through sheer fear, its soul to escape, and it is now a soulless corpse, a machine run so far well enough, but which will fall to pieces when he is gone. Out of the three objects the second alone is attended to, but it is no longer either a brotherhood, nor a body over the face of which broods the Spirit from beyond the Great Range. His kindness and love of peace are great and truly Gautamic in their spirit; but he has misapplied that kindness. (…) This is his (Olcott’s) sin. (…) In our sight there is no crime worse than ingratitude and injustice.” (K.H., Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series, Letter no. 60)

In the letter, of Feb. 1882, on the forlorn hope, K.H. threatens that the status of the Society is at a peril, and they will subside out of public view. At a time of inner conflict, when either William Quan Judge or Besant were going to lead the T.S., was Judge unjustly treated?

In a letter between H.P.B. and Richard Harte, a temporary editor of The Theosophist, London, September 12, 1889, H.P.B. states that:

“The Theosophist my dear sir, belongs to myself and Olcott only. . . . I will not permit Judge to be lowered or humiliated in it. Judge is one of the Founders and a man who has ever been true to the Masters. . . . And Judge will be the president of the T. S. after our death or the T.S. will die with us.” (Theosophical Forum, V, 133, Jan. 1934.)

She signals a betrayal afoot in India summed up in an 1890 letter, as she had drifted from the Adyar Theosophical Society. Helena Blavatsky begins shifting her last work towards the Theosophical Movement in Europe in the West, and leaves to England, pondering on the positive results of her mission.

“Their [the adepts] chief desire was to preserve the true religious and philosophical spirit of ancient India; to defend the Ancient Wisdom contained in its Darshanas and Upanishads against the systematic assaults of the missionaries; and finally to reawaken the dormant ethical and patriotic spirit in those youths in whom it had almost disappeared owing to college education. Much of this has been achieved by and through the Theosophical Society, in spite of all its mistakes and imperfections. (…)And let me say at once, to avoid misconception, that my only reason for accepting the exoteric direction of European affairs, was to save those who really have Theosophy at heart and work for it and the Society, from being hampered by those who not only do not care for Theosophy, as laid out by the Masters, but are entirely working against both, endeavouring to undermine and counteract the influence of the good work done, both by open denial of the existence of the Masters, by declared and bitter hostility to myself, and also by joining forces with the most desperate enemies of our Society.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Why I Do Not Return to India, 1890)

This issue is continued in Theosophy and Freemasonry: Esoteric Schools within the Theosophical Society.

2 thoughts on “How the Theosophical Movement Died: Adepts Break Ties, The Judge Case, and Olcott’s Decision

  1. The Theosophical Society did not die.I’m a member of it for last 60 yeares.Still it’s light guides me throuh the.lonely sea of life.


    1. Thank you for commenting. I must say in all honesty, while I understand what it has done for you, and me still being somewhat distant but involved with the Society by even writing and promoting its ideas, I say, that as a movement with its once potential and stature, that status and mystique is dead. I think the point was demonstrated here, though others may freely dispute it. By realizing the truth, one could find the flaws of such an organization and fix it. Hoping others could see it that way.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.