With the reintroduction of theosophical research comes the opportunity to gain victory over our narrative, and the way others understand our mission to be, through facts, our writings, and tongue. What Thomas Mace-Archer-Miles, Chairman of the British Monarchist Society stated to The Economist in an interview on monarchism is similar to the role of theosophy, where he describes the role of the British constitutional monarchy as being apolitical. Apolitical here being believed to be “above partisan politics,” and therefore a unifying factor and identity between multiple parties, and forces. However, in the literature of the Theosophical Society, there’s an overabundance of vague universalistic language, that others have used when applying theosophy to their socialist, internationalist, even authoritarian leanings, that should be highlighted. Alice A. Bailey is a clear example of this, who considered the function of government as being controlled by a “spiritual” hierarchy of beings a good thing. These are terrible ideas and conclusions SHE arrived at. The IRONY OF APOLITICISM is not to say, YOU CANNOT WRITE ABOUT POLITICS. This is absurd.
There are political implications in the ideas that must be confronted, as I’ve shown; and to say, that it is not there, or that these are “material concerns,” is delusional. Herman de Tollenaere asked two central questions when he wrote The Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and labour, national, and women’s movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947. A summary is published online on this Netherlands site. A summary still relevant for recent discussions, and a valuable source of information about the relationship between theosophists and political involvement. The politics of members was always separate outside of the Theosophical Society, but a study of the history of members and how ideas in Theosophy played in them are valuable. He states, that my “two central questions are: (1) What were the Theosophical Society’s relationships to three political movements: labour, national, and women’s movements; and (2) How did outsiders, linked to these movements’ fields of activity, agree, or clash, with the theosophists’ approach to them?”
“Often, authors see theosophists’ occult views as politically irrelevant; this shows in the little attention political history pays to them. On the other hand, authors connect them to progressive political views. James Webb associated occultism with ‘Nationalisms, Socialisms.’ Daniel Bell linked ‘gnostic esotericism’ to ‘anarchism’ without explaining this. Authors both left and right in the political spectrum, opponents and supporters of theosophy, often took one of these two views. This book questions both. I limited the complex notion ‘nationalism’ to nationalism in a colonial rule situation. (…)
“The great majority of supporters belonged to more or less privileged strata like the nobility, business, and officers. Theosophy, promising an international élite, inter alia worked as ideological support for some sections of groups who felt they might lose privileges. (…)”
“In theory, theosophy was for everyone. However, attempts to reach workers or peasants were infrequent and unsuccessful.”
“TS’ relationship to three tendencies in the labour movement: social democracy, communism and anarchism. From the beginning, the relationship was strained, as showed in Madame Blavatsky‘s anti-socialist declaration of intent in the first issue of her monthly The Theosophist in 1879. Marx and Engels referred quite often briefly, and not in a very complimentary way, to spiritualism. Engels once, in a 1890 private letter to Kautsky, referred, not in a positive sense, to the Theosophical Society. This set a pattern for later Marxists: reactions to viewpoints of theosophists mostly came only where these views were influential.
Opposition to revolution, as in the czar’s empire in 1905, to anarchism, to communism, was consistent in theosophists’ writings. The relationship with moderate social democrats was more complex. On the one hand, there were quite some links; on the other hand, a basic principle like universal suffrage was a problem with theosophists.” (see The Politics of Divine Wisdom: How Theosophy influenced Indonesian and South Asian Nationalisms for more information.)
The Irony of Apoliticism
Theosophy aims at a moral and spiritual regeneration of human civilization. It aimed to strengthen the bonds between nations, and so forth, when H.P.B. compared their mission to the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists. This is practically impossible to conduct, without solving the most basic of political, social, and economic questions. Thankfully today, there are others who attempt to fill in these gaps, that speak all over the world on their ideas in changing the way we see the world and the markets. The looming esoteric autocracy of the Theosophical Movement right after Helena P. Blavatsky’s death was embodied in aims expressed at the T.S. Jubilee Convention in 1925 to establish a World Government on the spiritual basis of the restoration of the ancient mysteries under self-declared “Mahatma” Leadbeater, and Besant. When Annie Besant attempted to orient the T.S. in India towards a theistic cult with the organization begun by George Arundale, its timid cult leader later rejected it all as a lie. Many now believe, it is Theosophy that runs counter to tradition. Rene Guenon called it theosophism and ‘anti-tradition,’ although his condemnation is based on a conflation of the conflicting ideas between the two periods of the Society’s history.
Annie Besant believed that Theosophy had answers for all questions, explanations for all phenomena, and has no unsolved problems. Helena P. Blavatsky presented Theosophy in this same manner, as a ‘solution to everything.’ Besant wrote, that Theosophy is supra-religion and supra-science, but if this is so, is it also supra-political? If the T.S. became a political body of action, would it had functioned like the Italian Carbonari? What does it become in practice? Strange controversial “race doctrines” and racial politics would be begotten by a social movement manifested out of even Blavatsky’s writings if misunderstood, like the Austrian theosophist, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels — founder of the Ostara. In this instance, concerning the ‘Veddas, Bushmen, and few African tribes,’ she or her teachers believed the “sacred spark” misses in them, and nothing may develop them. What she states can be easily taken, and misconstrued, but never does H.P.B. advocate selective breeding, euthanasia, eugenics, abortion, and racial segregation, but to the contrary.
Yes, all life is interdependent. It is a fact, but how does that work for an economy, and the concept of the State? Since, all life is interdependent, then what does that mean for individual freedoms, liberty, law, and does it mean we should now all become one global federal union — one world government? You see, this is the bad logic, and ignorant politics unthinking and gullible persons are falling into still today.
Muslims believe the same thing about Islam. Islam is not a religion, but a complete system, they say. The Muslim believes Islam is the best system, and all actions are for the glory of Islam, and to please Allah. Islam and Sharia deals with every aspect of life (i.e., totalitarian), and developed those systems that offer itself to be the answer to everything capable of governing an entire civilization, from how to wipe your ass like Muhammad, to handling personal finances. Bhagavan Das, Indian theosophist and socialist, advocated an all-inclusive World Religion, and this is seen as theosophy.
George Arundale also believed Theosophy to solve all problems of politics — nationalism and internationalism. Then explain, why theosophists avoid political dialogue, then hide under apoliticism, or pretend to be above bias — an impossibility. Does not Wisdom apply to all these aspects? Have we ever heard of Kong Fuzi, who applied his sagely wisdom to governing? Why not just be honest? No group or person is above reproach. Unlike the Marxists and Catholic Party of the Netherlands, or any other political and religious organization of that day, theosophists claimed both religious and scientific truth.
Where are the great scientific discoveries? You see the error of romantic enthusiasm, and ignorantly portraying modern Theosophy as this COMPLETE TRUTH, since what Modern Theosophy is, is not even the full system, but a restatement of principles and fundamentals explained by the men from that secret Trans-Himalayan brotherhood, which they explain is embodied in their “Catechism.”By the 1890’s, the tendency of theosophical writers is in speaking of world organizations, in which all nationalities, and all forms of governance or political persuasion can participate. These were ideas growing then, and succeeding Post-War. Thus, the modern attitude is driven by its geopolitical and metapolitical machinations. The Indian Theosophists thought within the context of nation-states, fighting to liberate their countries from imperialistic forces, and therefore, choosing to take over their own destinies.
We still have sovereign nations, and we should be grounded in reality. Today, there lies a vague view, that deliberately tries to reconcile all the conflicting and contradictory ideas that festered in the Theosophical Society. This is a waste of time, since even this view carries very little of the original fervor and vigor that inspired the 19th c. theosophists, who could see the importance of both the parochial and grander view of things. An enthusiastic universalist, and a close-minded bigot are both blind-fools, so open, that they are prone to such manipulations of the masses seen in the 20th century; and with the theosophists who allowed their Society to be subverted into a political theology that would bring about despotism itself, to after the war, reverse this condition, but now left to wither and die, removed from its original mission, which mirrors the ideas of the republican revolutions that were disrupting the network of European monarchies.
There are instances, when H.P.B. declared she was “not a thirty-third degree Mason” of any Western Masonic Lodge, and kicked out Charles Sotheran for being a “political wrangler,” and socialist revolutionary engaged in rioting, but then, as stated in Apoliticism in the Theosophical Movement, why did she join the political wranglings of the Red Shirt revolutionaries with Garibaldi in Italy years prior then? By 1879, she has changed, and states, that social reforms must come before political reforms.
“Unconcerned about politics; hostile to the insane dreams of Socialism and of Communism, which it abhors—as both are but disguised conspiracies of brutal force and sluggishness against honest labour; the Society cares but little about the outward human management of the material world. The whole of its aspirations are directed towards the occult truths of the visible and invisible worlds. Whether the physical man be under the rule of an empire or a republic, concerns only the man of matter. His body may be enslaved; as to his Soul, he has the right to give to his rulers the proud answer of Socrates to his Judges. They have no sway over the inner man.” (Helena Blavatsky, What Are The Theosophists, October, 1879)
“Make men feel and recognize in their innermost hearts what is their real, true duty to all men, and every old abuse of power, every iniquitous law in the national policy, based on human, social or political selfishness, will disappear of itself. Foolish is the gardener who seeks to weed his flower-bed of poisonous plants by cutting them off from the surface of the soil, instead of tearing them out by the roots. No lasting political reform can be ever achieved with the same selfish men at the head of affairs as of old.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, pg. 229)
This condemnation is similar to her condemnation of the Russian Nihilists that sprung up before the Bolsheviks, and because of this, I wonder what she would have thought of Gustav Le Bon, Giovanni Gentile, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings in comparison to hers, as to the occult and the will.
When H.P. Blavatsky was naturalized as a U.S. citizen, she later writes on Race. She says in 1878, I abjure “all titles of nobility upon being naturalized (…) I am too democratic, and I love and respect the people sufficiently, having devoted all my sympathy to them, and this without distinction of race or color…”
Theosophy has no Political or Socioeconomic Doctrine
Theosophy has no political, or socioeconomic doctrine. It is a body of principles, doctrines, and values, about man, God, and Nature. K.H., Morya, and the Chohan (their chief) in The Mahatma Letters explain Theosophy as this new ideal, that had to be spread to curb the direction of humanity from entering basically an age of nihilism, hopelessness, despotism—swinging between extreme sacerdotalism and extreme atheism.
H.P. Blavatsky notes, that neither “the Tibetan nor the modern Hindu Mahatmas for the matter of that, ever meddle with politics, though they may bring their influence to bear upon more than one momentous question in the history of a nation—their mother country especially.” The second-generation leaders of the movement in their newfound scheme and Messianic enthusiasm after the 1890’s (1900-1930) do meddle with politics, directly. In the second generation, there are open political undertones of Utopian fantasy built on the ‘Maitreya-Krishnamurti scheme.’
Theosophists broke boundaries, because it wasn’t about politics. It was not above politics. It sought to curtail the influence of materialism. An idea, identical to ours, we find in no other philosophy that obtained such prominence in government, than in the Fascist philosophy. The most important and influential philosopher to date, is Karl Marx—a contemporary of Helena P. Blavatsky. Karl Marx’s critical theory of society and industrial capitalism advocated Socialism as a panacea of recurrent weaknesses of Capitalism, and Communism as its end result. Karl Marx, and those whom adapted Marxism into a system of governance, have considerably influenced the West, beginning in the 20th century, with the expanded power of the Soviets into Eastern Europe. Several theosophists have tried to adapt theosophy into socialist model, but the T.S. was not a national political organization, despite some theosophists trying to advocate such a thing at the T.S. annual convention in 1884.
It was the ideas of Theosophy that the British colony feared.
Theosophy inspired the native religions and cultures in India, and would generally, wherever it were to be. This aided in part in the destabilization of British rule in India. The Raj feared the Society, and kept H.P.B. and Olcott under police surveillance, while H.P.B. was accused, or suspected of being a Russian (or to others — British) spy.
J. Brailsford-Bright’s gives an appraisal of Socialism in the Theosophical Siftings (Vol. 2, No. 7), Theosophy and Modern Socialism. The appraisal was quite romantic about socialism. You never find a Theosophist giving an appraisal of Capitalism. It is like asking, if Buddhism is Marxist. Hence, we can see the difficulty of bringing politics into any lodge, which is forbidden, but still can a fellow student be ever assured, that his brother, or sister-member remains his comrade and compatriot in person and in heart, if discovered to be of different political persuasions? If so, one could hardly say, a theosophist is inhuman, and incapable of bias. Socialists also spoke much of brotherhood, and yet still, splintered in different directions. H.P.B. did not deal with economics, and the T.S. never developed a political doctrine and socioeconomic system.
H.S. Olcott stated, that Theosophists were focused on the scientific study of the occult, philanthropic efforts, &c, but the vagueness of ‘modern Theosophy’ has led it open to be easily co-opted. This is why it is necessary to do research on the early history, rather than relying on poetic statements about brotherhood and altruism.
- The Politics of Divine Wisdom: How Theosophy Influenced Indonesian and South Asian Nationalisms that includes K. Paul Johnson’s article on General Mikhail Kotkov and H.P.B.’s Political Loyalties.