Blavatskycentrism: true/false and good/bad

The constitution, no doubt, of the Society is broad enough to include minds more sceptical than my own in regard to the alleged sources of its vitality and influence. But let any one try to realise this nominal freedom, and he will find himself, not only in an uncongenial element, but in an attitude of controversy with his ostensible leaders, with the motive forces of the Society. That is not consistent with the sympathetic subordination or co-operation which is essential to union.

TS Founder C.C. Massey explaining his resignation, July 22, 1884 (from Blavatsky Archives)


Removal of the name Blavatsky from the header of this site came after long deliberation. I was not party to the discussion or decision, but it contributed to my willingness to return as a participant.  This change comes as a welcoming gesture to the minority of site members who are not Theosophists, but likely at cost of offending many who are.  Having written books in which Blavatsky was indubitably the central figure, I can't point a finger of blame at others, saying Blavatskycentrism is false and bad, without self-incrimination.  That conclusion is hard to escape—yet Blavatskycentrism has been also in other ways both true and good.  Hence I think the subject needs to be discussed here.  "Theosophy= teachings of HPB and the Mahatmas" is the crucial factor alienating most of the TS Founders.  It's still a big elephant in the room, an unquestioned dogma in a movement that denies having any.  The more fervent believers in K.H. and M., and therefore HPB's phenomena, bullied everyone else out of the British TS by 1885, including one of the TS Founders.  Anna Kingsford's experience with A.P. Sinnett in London was very much that of a monolithic personality cult taking over and (in her and Massey's view) destroying a heretofore diverse organization ostensibly devoted to impersonal investigations. 

It is unquestionably true that the writings and personality of Blavatsky, and those of the Mahatma Letters, are central to the thoughts and feelings of Theosophists in multiple organizations, and that this has been the case since 1884.  But it is also an anachronism to read the present and longterm monopoly of HPB, Mahatmas,  and derivative authors as in any way being the original Theosophical Society.  Two dozen Founders of history have been edited down into two or three Founders of hagiography; dozens of adepts of history have been edited down into two Mahatmas of epistolary legend.  Evidence suggests that Blavatskycentrism is both a) false as history of Theosophical origins and b) harmful, possibly fatal, to the future health of the modern Theosophical movement.  It also is paradoxically both a) true as history of Theosophy post-SPR Report and b) helpful, perhaps essential, as a reaction to the excesses of Leadbeater, defection of Krishamurti, and the proliferation of competing Master contactees in the 20th century.  Blavatskycentrism, when I was a young Theosophist in the 1970s and 80s, seemed like a way to rescue Theosophy from the crazies.  Perhaps it was in the late 20th century.  But thirty years later it seems like it was the kiss of death for the movement in the 21st, at least in the West.  "No religion higher than truth" has been displaced by "our religion is higher than and impervious to historical truth."

Three separate questions that seem to have gotten harmfully confused:

How central historically were HPB and her Mahatmas to the creation of the Theosophical Society?

How central are HPB and her Mahatmas in the contemporary Theosophical movement?

How central should HPB and her Mahatmas be to the future Theosophical movement?

Comments are open, and I ask only that no one address blame to living persons and especially not fellow TN members in their remarks, but focus on the questions themselves. 




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Comment by K. Paul Johnson on September 19, 2011 at 2:37pm

Here is the latest financial report from the ARE website, which shows a membership of 29,000.  It was 17,000 when I joined in 1977, skyrocketed to almost 100,000 in the late 1980s, then shrank down to 24,000 by 2002.  Complicating the picture here is that the group has become more Cayce-centric, but less Jesus-centric, removing the cross from its logo in 2007.  Fighting about Jesus got quite ugly around 1998-2001, with the more committed Christians bullying the more universalistic members.

CofL has been growing slightly since the move to NM but I gather had been shrinking for decades in California-- have seen reports of current numbers but not past ones. 

Comment by K. Paul Johnson on September 19, 2011 at 3:17am
The one thing that is sure is that change will come, in one direction or another.  Two examples I know of that moved in opposite directions: the Association for Research and Enlightenment now labels itself "Edgar Cayce's ARE."  Meaning, research and enlightenment are reduced to initials, and the name of the founder takes priority-- not a good sign IMO.  On the other hand, the Church of Light is less focused on the founder, and more on the entire range of human spirituality, than it was in past decades.

Comment by M K Ramadoss on September 19, 2011 at 12:33am

However the three objects evolved over a period of time, I think there is still a lot of vitality in them that can be used in the future.


One lesson we can all learn from the activities of HPB is that she constantly engaged with the public on various spiritual topics and she had to use the publications and periodicals of the day to engage the public.


What is now lacking is the public discussion of spiritual subjects by theosophical students with the use of today's Internet technology. The future of theosophy is going to depend on independent dedicated and committed students and independent thinkers and not blind followers of writings of HPB and others however tempting and comfortable blind following appeals to those who are not ready to do  independent thinking.

Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on September 17, 2011 at 9:53am

These questions are valid for any organization, not just the TS. But it takes courage to ask, and for that you must be commended.


Indian thought thrived and survived many onslaughts through the ages due to its diversity. It allowed all sorts, Samkhya, Advaita, Vaishnav, Sanatana, Shaivism, Budhism, left path, right path, middle path, even Carvaka, to flourish and compete with each other. Sages and scholars ridiculed each other, yet were respected.


History teaches us that followers can not become leaders because they are followers. Once the leader is no more on the scene, followers inevitably turn a movement into a cult and then into religion. Had HPB or the Mahatmas been on the scene today, I am sure they would have allowed open questioning of themes they proposed and professed and would have answered adequately in a civil manner. Since the followers are not up to the mark, they must resort to fundamentalist view of the TS.


David Reigle is a fine example. His life is that of search for the truth. There is no better defender of HPB or the Mahatmas than he. Yet whenever he finds an error in their writings, he places it before everyone and does not try to construct arguments to support that error. Alas, there are no others like him. And he is not with the TS.


Thank you KPJ, for asking these questions openly.

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