The Theosophical Society and Its Future - the debate

Geoffrey Farthing

hpb seal

Manifesto stylised picture

In May 1997 a controversial article 'The Theosophical Society and its Future', link written by Geoffrey Farthing, was published in 'The High Country Theosophist' (HCT). The article, referred to later as the 'Manifesto' encouraged some debate. The letters published in HCT, over the following months, are collected together, and published below.

link to original HCT article (opens new window)

Comments by Dallas Tenbroek, HCT June 1997,
Comments by Robert Hütwohl, HCT Nov 1997,
Reply by Geoffrey Farthing to Robert Hütwohl, HCT Dec 1997
Comments by Paul Johnson, HCT April 1998
Reply by Wane Kell to Paul Johnson, HCT June 1998
Reply by Geoffrey Farthing to Paul Johnson, HCT June 1998
Geoffrey Farthing on the manifesto and 'A Trilogy', HCT Dec 1998
Comments by Abhinyano, HCT Feb 1999

Comments on G.A. Farthing’s “Manifesto” by Dallas Tenbroeck

We (HCT) received the following letter and an attached commentary from Dallas Tenbroeck. Editorial comments are footnoted. February 17, 1997

The letter first appeared in 'The High Country Theosophist', in June, 1997. (Vol. 12 No. 6)
link to original text (opens new window)

Dear Friend and Brother: A copy of your “Manifesto” has come to me and I have looked over it carefully.

Although you state that it does not “mention ... motives or morals” it seems to me they are implicit. Applied Theosophy cannot be but ethical and moral, although the applications and choices will vary because, as I have observed, they are made by free-willed individuals, and they make individual applications.

The real problem with the Theosophical Society (T.S.), as I look at its history, is that many FTS (members) have mistaken the “outer form” (organization) for the ever elusive, yet, definite philosophy: Theosophy.

To expect some kind of unanimity in formalisms, is not possible, since individuals are ever free to choose their own paths, and no “organization” has the sole “key to heaven,” or the “Truth” limited to it. (This is what so many religions claim: the sole “pathway” to...., whatever way in which they define “the goal!”) And increasingly intelligent mankind desires to be free as individuals, if they are also honest and bold. The only value of any association or organization is that it affords a focus for study and for the comparison of individual understandings, hypotheses, hopes and conclusions. And for this to operate well, there has to be freedom from any kind of ”authority.” Any attempt to coordinate the thinking of individuals inevitably leads to apathy and dissolution.

The T.S. was originally designed for this purpose and it functioned well so long as it was sustained by an impartial adherence to truth, impartiality in all things and impersonality.

To me, a “Theosophical Society”, consisting of a constantly changing group of people who subscribe to its “Objects,” is one thing. Theosophy, as a statement of facts in Nature, is another. Some sympathy must exist between those who make of themselves members of a T.S., and the principles of Theosophy, however garbled, that originally attracted their attention and raised their hopes. Loyalty to Theosophy (because its practical nature is more or less grasped) does not imply political “loyalty’’ to a T.S.

It seems to me that the degree of assiduity and sincerity of individuals in their study of Theosophy makes for most, if not all of individual convergences, which may then express itself as a “T.S.” But this convergence is voluntary and cannot be coerced, or identified by some external appearance or vocal agreement to forms, rules or names. The “heart” counts, not the “lips”.

As I see it Theosophy lies at the root. The Theosophical Society was started [as a formal body wherein freedom of study and ease of association to compare the results of study were encouraged] in New York in 1875. Some 17 persons agreed to be the founders, and of these only three remained to sustain it till their death: HPB [H.P. Blavatsky], HSO [H. S. Olcott] and WQJ [W.Q. Judge]. It was formed to promote the study of that historic-philosophical system we call Theosophy. When trouble arose in the original T.S., it always centred on personal differences. It appears to me that personal views, through gossip, led away from Theosophy to personal opinions, which being grasped and sustained by “followers,” made for all subsequent disunities and eventual divisions, as the uniting force of Theosophy was abandoned.

At present several bodies deriving from the original Society are in existence, exhibiting objects more or less similar to the originals, but now following some tradition which depends on an historical and personalized basis and yet respect for and adherence to Theosophy is acclaimed.

Theosophy, as I perceive it, is not the property of any one of the “Societies,” nor is the “path” to “perfection” or to the Masters through any one of those “societies.” Rather, it is an inner connection that each student makes for himself and by his own determined efforts. The basic premise is that each is an immortal, and that the Higher Self is the inner resident attuned to the Universal All—the ever impersonal and incognizable ABSOLUTE. Therefore, not only are all men brothers, but brotherhood extends without exclusions or interruptions to all other “beings.” HPB makes it amply clear that only moral excellence gives the key, and for each student (or member) the “path” is entirely individual, and free of organizational over-burden. True students of Theosophy cannot be considered a “flock of mindless sheep,” or, the “blind following the one-eyed”!

The politics of the T.S., down the years, have distracted individuals from the study, and application of Theosophy in, as you observe, a saddening way. And yet, it must be admitted that the launching of the T.S., as an organism that would enable individuals to group together and assist each other in study and in the personal embodiment of Theosophy has left an indelible stamp on the era. If it can be returned to that, then success will be yours. I sincerely hope you secure that success.

But it is Theosophy that has done this and not the T.S. as an organization. Without Theosophy, the T.S. would be just another society, similar to Masonry perhaps, dedicated to its three “Objects,” and subject to the internal politics of office (as we have seen in T.S. history). Adherence to Theosophical principles by individuals ought to have precluded the present history of un-brotherliness and incapacity.[1] (Compare the contents of most contemporary “Theosophical magazines and journals” with the vigor and depth of the original magazines: Theosophist, Vols. 1 to10, Lucifer, Vols. 1 to 5, and Path, Vols. 1 to10. I am sure you will conclude, as I have, and I see them all, that much of the thrust of living ,seeking, independent thought and research is now quite absent.)

We have all been fortunate in terms of time, to participating at close range in the beginning of the modern effort to reinstall Theosophy, as a means to philosophical freedom, in the minds of people. Individually we share in the sustaining, by whatever way we have contributed, to its diffusion and perpetuation. In terms of this proximity, I sense a great responsibility rested and rests on our combined shoulders. Our own destiny, made by our present choices, will inevitably shape our future incarnations.

But the problem that I believe I sense in your “Manifesto,” relates largely to a failure you outline in the “physical”) or “organizational” basis for the work that the T.S. was framed to pursue and promote. In my observation, the several T.S. organizations, as such, have narrowed their focus to some selected aspect of Theosophical philosophy, and rate loyalty by the formal behavior of individuals within the parameters they have adopted. This consists of judgments made by others within such a group on the actions and presumed motives of individuals, either singly or taken en masse. The continuity of affiliation is based on politics and formal adherence, rather than on the broad base of a universal brotherhood that tolerates and includes all who are sincere in promoting the purposes for its existence.[2] The only ones that have been excluded in the lifetime of HPB were those who were destructive and sought to disrupt the Unity of the T.S.

I would say, however, that among those who join, or work in and through any of those organizations, there are very few who seem to understand the difference between Theosophy and its vehicle: the T.S. And, there are fewer still who know, at least intellectually, what are the principles Theosophy offers to them for study, investigation, practice in their daily lives, and promulgation. And finally, there are fewer still who apply Theosophy in their daily lives—in that secret “closet” into which they can retire—and there, answer only to their own conscience, to their Higher Self, and to the Masters [3].

Promulgation of Theosophy is especially important and ought to be limited to the presentation and consideration of the “original writings” for which we owe HPB a debt that is un-repayable except through the careful preservation of that basis, and the offering, in our turn, of a forum entirely free from coercion or authority [4].

To my understanding, the distinction between Theosophy and the organizations is the difference between the “Eye” (or “Head”) doctrine and the “Heart” doctrine. This characterization may well lay me open to criticism. The resolution is not through arguments, but by each individual considering what he or she has done, and what their future living will be. In the forum of our own conscience stand the motives that have carried us this far. In no way could I presume to lay down for anyone any principles. Each of us does this for themselves. Theosophy, being ideal, it offers each of us a “touch-stone” to rate our own character.

Theosophy, as a universal system, embraces us all, whether we know it or not, whether we are “members” of the T.S. or not, and whether we acknowledge Theosophy or not. I believe that those who assume the burden of “membership” in any association called “Theosophical” assume a great responsibility. I have found this aspect discussed in the older magazines, (Theosophist, Lucifer, Path) published during or closely following HPB’s lifetime.

I also believe that an understanding of the seriousness of choosing one’s individual growth in understanding and applying Theosophy is a primary factor in such changes as we might impose on ourselves. That leads one to eventually perceive that Universal Brotherhood is a fact in life. It is a study that changes the orientation of the way we live and work.

Sincerely and most fraternally, Dallas Tenbroeck

End Notes added by HCT

[1] What are “theosophical principles?” Is it “brotherliness” itself? If so, then we may have to wait even longer before humanity is ready. Perhaps K.H. and Morya’s master should have waited longer before allowing the trial:

One or two of us hoped that the world had so far advanced intellectually, if not intuitionally, that the Occult doctrine might gain an intellectual acceptance, and the impulse given for anew cycle of occult research.

Others - wiser as it would now seem held differently, but consent was given for the trial.

It was stipulated, however, that the experiment should be made independently of our personal management; that there should be no abnormal interference by ourselves.

So casting about we found in America the man to stand as leader - a man of great moral courage, unselfish, and having other good qualities. He was far from being the best, but (as Mr. Hume speaks in H.P.B.’s case) - he was the best one available.
With him we associated a woman of most exceptional and wonderful endowments. Combined with them she had strong personal defects, but just as she was, there was no second to her living fit for this work. ... In a few more months the term of probation will end. If by that time the status of the Society as regards ourselves - the question of the “Brothers” - be not definitely settled (either dropped out of the Society’s programme or accepted on our own terms) that will be the last of the “-Brothers” of all shapes and colours, sizes or degrees. We will subside out of public view like a vapour into the ocean. Only those who have proved faithful to themselves and to Truth through everything will be allowed further intercourse with us. ... ML 44/45C

[2] Yes, some organizations may appear to be un-brotherly but isn’t criticizing them unconstructively also un-brotherly?

[3] "There are very few who understand the difference between Theosophy and its vehicle: the T.S. and fewer still who know the principles of Theosophy intellectually.” Says who? Until we have the ability to “go within”, how can we be sure of that statement? Isn’t that a judgement and a waste of time on pettiness?

[4]. How is it possible to “limit promulgation ... to presentation & consideration of original writings,” and yet “offer a forum entirely free from coercion or authority?” Marty Lyman, Ed HCT


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Comments on G.A. Farthing’s “Manifesto” by Robert Hütwohl

In its Letters section, November 1997, HCT published the following (from Robert Hütwohl), and in December 1997, Geoffrey's response.

'The High Country Theosophist' in November, 1997. (Vol. 12 No. 11) link to original text(opens new window)

'The High Country Theosophist' in December, 1997. (Vol. 12 No. 12) link to original text(opens new window)


Robert Hütwohl:

I would like to briefly respond to a few points expressed in “The Theosophical Society and Its Future” by Geoffrey Farthing, printed in “The High Country Theosophist,” May 1997. The article is called a “manifesto,” by its author. There are many points in his “manifesto” I think are accurate and need to be considered by the theosophical arena in order to initiate needed change, but there are also some other comments which I question in his research.

The first specific concerns Mr. Farthing’s interpretation of “Mahatma Letters” 136, 2nd and 3rd ed. I cannot see how what is said in that letter could be interpreted that “there would be no more contact with them" [the Masters]. This becomes the lead paragraph for introducing Alice Bailey and her communications with the Master Djwal Khul as positively bogus and impossible because of what is supposed to be said in that Mahatma letter (which is actually a letter to Sinnett from H.P. Blavatsky.) It is difficult to interpret, but I assume Mr. Farthing is speaking against Alice Bailey when he says “these communications ... received psychically or ‘channeled’ ... were all uncorroborated.” Mixing his facts, Mr. Farthing goes on to imply that Bailey was a psychic medium.

However, if one reads A. Bailey’s “The Unfinished Autobiography,” which was curtailed within 30 days after her 30-years work with Mahatma Djwal Khul, due to her dropping the physical body, she says her work was as an amanuensis. She was totally coherent and aware of the mental-telepathic rapport between herself and the Master D.K. while she transcribed the vast information from him. (Note, I say mental-telepathy (mind-to-mind), not solar plexus-telepathy (solar plexus-to-solar plexus3.)

She even said she did not agree with everything he issued to her, yet she wrote it down nevertheless. She also wrote five books on her own and one can detect the vibrational qualities and timbre of those books are considerably different from the other Bailey writings of sole Djwal Khul authorship. I do not call this procedure a form of the channeling-kind, mediumship, or automatic writing, yet it certainly was psychic in the higher sense of using the mental body to perform the telepathic tasks. Furthermore, perhaps Mr. Farthing needs to review the many processes or methods under which H.P.B. worked in terms of higher psychic interchange or telepathic communication with other Masters of Wisdom and how that information got on paper. The second specific concerns Mr. Farthing’s taking Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater to task in his “Second Generation Theosophy” subhead. I sense a pervasive dislike for Leadbeater, which is most unfortunate.

Mr. Farthing says “in the Introduction to his book ‘The Astral Plane’ where he [Leadbeater] says that his manuscript ...” (This Introduction was written by Jinarajadasa, not Leadbeater. **However, Farthing seems to correct himself in a later paragraph.) Farthing goes on to say “it is not clear ... which ‘astral’ plane he is describing, the H.P.B. or the A.B/C.W.L. one, the former being the 2nd plane of Nature and the latter being the 4th.

My quick re-read of the early portion of this book (2nd Adyar Ed., 1941) on the first and second pages indicates Leadbeater is clearly not talking about the etheric regions but that of the plane of Kama or emotional or the Astral-desire realm, the “Hades or underworld of the Greeks, the purgatory ...” In chapter II, Leadbeater assures the reader that H.P.B’s observations and teachings on the “seven principles of man” are accurate. Leadbeater then mentions the etheric double, the carrier of prana, as separate from the physical body, and then goes on to describe Astral matter as more brilliant than even etheric matter.

Also note Mr. Farthing’s above statement about the Astral body being of A.B/ C.W.L.’s 4th plane of Nature. In A. Besant’s and C.W.L.’s early literature, the Astral-Emotional is the second plane of Nature, but I am wondering where and when this was changed to the 4th plane of Nature in their books, as Farthing says it was? If in fact this change occurred in the quite later A.B/ C.W.L. writings, then this error certainly needs to be corrected by the Adyar T. S. Perhaps Mr. Farthing is confusing the septenary planes of Nature with the septenary human principles? They are not pari passu in the strict use of the nomenclature. However, Annie Besant clearly has Kama as the 4th principle among the Quaternary or four lower principles in her “The Seven Principles of Man” (revised and corrected edition, 1909, page 22) being purely as it is, an animal-soul (actually, the personality is the animal-soul, without the light of the Soul). In her “The Ancient Wisdom” (first ed. 1897, p. 81) she repeats the same. In her “A Study in Consciousness” (2nd ea., p. 41) she gives a diagram depicting Kama as the next plane above the physical, and as the plane below the mental or Manas. Leadbeater does the same on plate II. opposite p. 21 in his “Man Visible and Invisible” (2nd and revised ea., 1907).

Mr. Farthing says “there is also no mention of the ‘etheric double’ per se in the H.P./Masters classification of the human principles.”

H.P.B. calls it “the Double, the phantom body” equated with the Astral body and in Sanskrit: Linga-Sharira in “The Key to Theosophy” [p.91].

It is clear this Linga-Sharira in the Hindu works (the term is certainly not as abundant as the word prana) is not akin to Kama or the desire principle but to the vehicle of prana, and with prana as equivalent to the pranamaya-kosha, the carrier of the life-principle or the 7 Rishis as the vital-airs, and in fact it is composed of threads of the life-force.

She also calls the etheric double the “shadowy form or the human double” in “The Key to Theosophy” [p. 96] for it is the model-body upon which the physical is formed.

I admit H.P.B.’s astral body or etheric double should not be confused with her plane of Nature called the Kama or plane of desire, but see no reason to avoid using the term etheric-double just because H.P.B. did not. The only solution I can see is to maintain the metaphysical and scientific accuracy of the Sanskrit terms when speaking of the planes of Nature and the seven principles of the human. H.P.B. obviously used the Astral Body as equatable to the Linga-Sharira, which is also found in “Esoteric Buddhism.” But the Astral Plane is the same as the Kama Loka found in “Esoteric Buddhism” and the “Substantial or Formative World” as found in “The Secret Doctrine” I, p. 200. There is no contradiction here with what Leadbeater has for it. Thus, the fourth principle corresponds to the second plane of Nature. Importantly, Besant states that H.P.B. said before her departure to revise the nomenclature for the principles and planes to improve upon those poorly and quickly devised by her (H.P.B.) and A.B. was only attempting to do so.

Mr. Farthing says “she [Annie Besant] seldom, if ever, specifically referred back to its teaching, or to that in “The Key to Theosophy.” " One should reread the references to A. Besant’s above titles, to name a few where H.P.B.’s statements are mentioned. Besant drew on a vast knowledge from herself as well as other writers, not just H.P.B.; doing just as Blavatsky did in her own writings: original work with supportive documentation wherever applicable. I beg to differ especially with Mr. Farthing’s disdain for attempts at validating the world’s religions and the kernels of Theosophy found therein. Large masses in the world today are heavily influenced by the world’s religious doctrine and its regiment of leaders in those fields as well as science. To implicitly scoff at the leading scholar’s search and interpretation in the great fields of religion and metaphysics is a great error, for these leaders, if they could make connections with the “ancient wisdom” imbedded in their manuscripts and scholarly pursuits, would certainly pass on their findings to the masses and the entire world would be better for it.

It is one of our essential and primary duties, just as H.P.B. attempted to do so, as seen in her “Isis Unveiled” and “The Secret Doctrine,” to vindicate theosophy by equally finding its ties among the religious and philosophical exoteric bodies. Furthermore, any Theosophist’s display of disapproving the research done in those respected fields of religious-philosophical-metaphysical research would imply to any non-Theosophist (in or out of those fields of research) that this member of the worldwide body of Theosophists lacks the insight or vision of H.P.B’s own writings and hence would contribute a weak link to the world-wide body of esoterists and true occultists of the compassionate-kind. I have met and seen how the so-called vision of “new-agers” who only approve of the collective body of “esoteric works” (which includes the channeling kind), lacking respect for scholarly research and have not and never will gain the respect of the masses and genuine researchers in the departments of science-religion-philosophy and thereby all of the other departments of human activity will suffer.

Mr. Farthing and others holding similar views, have grossly misinterpreted the import of H.P.B.’s message on the above points throughout her writings. Are we Theosophists going to continue to peddle this message? The “new-agers” are speculating to a far more dangerous degree than the lower-Manas speculation of the scholars, yet the latter will eventually make a far greater influence on the masses. But only the theosophical-scholar will overcome the extremes of the above two types. Mr. Farthing’s later comment in the first paragraph under the “About Theosophy” subhead is quite erroneous.

H.P.B. meant that the keys, methodology, and occult or inner interpretations have never been made public before in the modern world. (Farthing)*** In stating that “H.P.B. (in her) ‘The Secret Doctrine’ explains much of their symbolism and practices:” whereas, in my view, she hardly scratched the surface in her “The Secret Doctrine,” having neither the time, nor space to do so, especially with Mahayana Buddhism, for much of it was not in English translation at the time.

This in part, may be the reason for a large number of Theosophists’ lack of interest in Mahayana Buddhist writings. However, H.P.B. says in her “The Key to Theosophy,” [from the 1889 first edition, p. 13-15]: “His [Buddha’s] esoteric teachings were simply the Gupta Vidya (secret knowledge) of the ancient Brahmins ... And this Vidya has passed into what is now known as the inner teachings of the Mahayana school of Northern Buddhism.... the schools of the Northern Buddhist Church ... teach all that is now called Theosophical doctrines, because they form part of the knowledge of the initiates--thus proving how the truth has been sacrificed to the dead-letter by the too-zealous orthodoxy of Southern Buddhism [Theravada].” My vision is that some of the keys provided by H.P.B. and certain other writers as well as the Vedic writings will play an important future role in the implementation of raising the interpretation of Mahayana Buddhist texts to a level never imagined in the present day. In fact, there is plenty of occultism in Mahayana Buddhism to keep numerous theosophical workers busy for lifetimes.

Robert Hütwohl, Santa Fe, New Mexico first published in The High Country Theosophist November, 1997 link to original text (opens new window)


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... And in its Letters section, December 1997, HCT published Geoffrey's response:

I have just received the November issue of the High Country Theosophist and seen Robert Hütwohl’s comments on my Manifesto. It is good to see so much notice taken of what one writes and get some feedback.

Mr. Hütwohl may well be justified in many of the things he says. The more thinking we do on these matters the better. It is important that our thinking should be based on objective research with as little admixture of personal coloration as possible. Obviously I cannot agree with all his points but that is no matter.

Mr. Hütwohl may be interested in a copy of the little book ‘The Etheric Double?’ which I found it necessary to write to try to eliminate some confusions which arise in the minds of students when they try to reconcile some aspects of second generation ‘theosophy’ with the Master original. ['The Etheric Double?' is available online]

In one thing Mr. Hütwohl is wrong: I have no ‘pervasive dislike of Leadbeater’. I never met him or Annie Besant although I am old enough to have done so. I have, however, studied the works of both extensively and read much biographical matter.

I read their books with the avid eye of a student beginning to learn. Theirs was the first ‘Theosophy’ that I came across and for a number of years it was the only one. It was something of a shock to discover the Mahatma Letters and later The Key to Theosophy and then The Secret Doctrine. I am well aware of the ‘potency’ of Alice Bailey’s writings (I met her twice at our Lodge). I studied them as avidly as I did the others when I was starting on my quest. I have come to my present view after much other study and many years of contemplation.

Wishing you and your Journal well, Yours very sincerely, G A Farthing, Fetcham, Surrey, England

first published in The High Country Theosophist December, 1997 link to original text (opens new window)


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by Paul Johnson

The “manifesto” published by Mr. Farthing reflects an opinion shared by a fair number of Theosophists that a “back to Blavatsky” movement is necessary to save the TS. But I find that his recommendations are often quite out of kilter with Blavatsky’s own views of the Society.

In the early days of the Theosophical Society, a great effort was made to include people of widely varying religious views, and to avoid any official discrimination between belief systems. But in the Besant/Leadbeater era, increasingly anyone who didn’t buy the official party line was ostracized. I’ve never seen even the subtle imposition of obligatory beliefs at the local level of TS activity, but it’s getting more and more evident at the national and international levels. What do we mean by “obligatory?” Nothing is obligatory for TS "membership". But to be treated with respect and inclusiveness by the leadership, a whole range of dogmatic beliefs are required, without which one is regarded as a “fringe Theosophist.” Mr. Farthing’s recommendations would, if carried out, add more pressure for doctrinal conformity among members.

People who claim that their statements are not speculation, opinion or theory, but pure fact, are a dime a dozen. Mr. Farthing asserts this on behalf of HPB and her Masters, but her own assessment of her work and their knowledge was more modest. The genuine original programme of the TS was absolutely opposed to treating "any” pronouncements from anyone as authoritative. There is abundant documentation of this truth. It is said that all beliefs concerning Theosophy and the T.S. should be checked against the original, and The Key To Theosophy is a good starting point. But beliefs also ought to be questioned seriously against all other knowledge prior or subsequent to HPB and the Mahatma letters, if the TS is to be true to its mission. The core literature of modern Theosophy was intended to be a cornerstone for the future religions of humanity, not a rigid canon against which every other book should be evaluated for “consonance” with orthodoxy.

Although I personally find the writings of Leadbeater without merit, I don’t want the TS leadership to officially label anything as “theosophically defective and misleading” as proposed by Mr. Farthing. It is not the Society’s business to determine any such thing, but to provide freethinking members with information on which to base their evaluations. Mr. Farthing calls for a housecleaning, with all literature not “wholly consonant” with the original teachings to no longer be promoted. But he does not explain how the Society should select authority figures who get to decide for the rest of us what is and is not wholly consonant, or what gives them the right to dictate to the membership. Mr. Farthing further proposes that non “consonant” material be physically segregated and/or labelled in Theosophical libraries. As a librarian, I point out that the segregation and labelling of “accepted” and “suspect” literature is a profound violation of intellectual freedom. As to not selling “non-theosophical books,” remember HPB who advertised non-theosophical books in her magazines, and reviewed them favourably. The mentality that decides Bailey and Steiner are “fringe” while their own favourite post-HPB authors are “mainstream” is responsible for driving many
people away from the Society.

Baileyites and Steinerites are often dogmatic about their own literature being authoritative. The TS is called upon to be open, eclectic, and non dogmatic, in marked contrast to most religious and esoteric movements. Mr. Farthing limits his definition of “Initiate-inspired literature” to the works of Blavatsky and associates, but HPB and H.S. Olcott certainly had a much vaster view of what that includes than many purporting to speak on their behalf. Decrying efforts to “popularize” Theosophy, Mr. Farthing calls for concentration on the original literature to the near exclusion of any other emphasis. But I see such efforts to keep Theosophy “pure” as a sure recipe for shrinking the TS to a tenth its current size and making it the “carcass stranded on a sandbank” that HPB warned about in The Key To Theosophy as the inevitable result of dogmatism.

first published in The High Country Theosophist April, 1998 link to original text (opens new window)


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A Comment by Wane Kell on the Article ‘QUESTIONING FARTHING’S MANIFESTO’
by K. Paul Johnson

I think that Mr. Johnson has missed the point of Mr. Farthing’s MANIFESTO and the following ADDENDUM, published 6 months later. As I understand Mr. Farthing, he recommended that the Theosophical Society membership determine for themselves what THEOSOPHY is. Its source is, of course, the writings of Mme. Blavatsky. She never claimed authority, but, contrariwise, disclaimed it. She neither invented, nor claimed as new, the doctrines of Karma, Reincarnation, Devachan, Cycles, etc. If one desires to go that source, then one can secure a view of the development of the “message” she said she brought from the Masters of Wisdom, which she named Mahatmas (Great Souls).

A disservice to the membership of the T S has been to frequently say: “Madame Blavatsky is too difficult to read. ‘The Secret Doctrine’ is too difficult! Take this other book, it will tell you what Theosophy is!” It may take years for a sincere student to find that they had been misled by another’s hobby.

The claim made for Theosophy was that it was universal. It is a record of the history of the living of innumerable classes of beings, including mankind. And it offers a perspective of the laws and events of the constant interaction of these cooperative beings of many kinds. And, also, of the rules and laws of growth in intelligence and consciousness that all develop together by means of this aggregation. It covers all departments of nature and concerns itself with the powers and faculties that each human being can develop through self-effort. It is posited that Adeptship lies at the end of the process of moral self-development. It does not claim to be a “religion.” It does indicate, on study and reflection, that all religions emerged from the work done at various times and places by its Scientists (the Adepts), by Those whom H.P. Blavatsky called her “Masters.” She made no claims to be a revealer. She stated that Theosophy, as a system, was the basis and substratum of all the great world philosophies and religions. And, therefore all found their unity in that single Source.

Consequently, tolerance ought to reign among the votaries of the fellow faiths of the World: a true “Brotherhood.” And, she pointed, as evidence, to the great degree of moral similarity to be detected in each of them. Further, she indicated that the historical development of each of them, could be compared to a great tree, as they apparently sprang from the same root and trunk, and, as branches, each sprang, as a successive reform, from an earlier branch, and from each other. It is evident, she averred, that the great Teachers and Prophets who are honoured in our World Religions, all form the Great Brotherhood of the Wise.

What Mr. Farthing is trying to present to the membership of the T S and to all who read his Manifesto, is that there is, independent of any “Theosophical Organization,” or “Theosophical body,” certain statements of fact that ought to be familiar to those, who today, profess to be “Theosophists,” or, “Students of Theosophy,” or to be those interested in the study of the impact that Theosophy has made on our world since its renewed presentation through Mme. Blavatsky.

Mr. Farthing deplores the lack of basic and “core” knowledge among the membership of the T S. He points to the fact that inquirers are usually diverted from the study of Mme. Blavatsky’s writings, and thus their acquaintance with “the core teachings,” is an actual disservice to them. It is a matter of fact, he says, that their lack of knowledge of the historical perspective of the recent Theosophical Movement during the last 125 (or so) years has prevented them from enjoying that freedom of fact and thought horizon, which is so valuable as an initial condition for all who approach Theosophy.

He does not encourage “belief.” He does encourage study, and acquiring a free and unbiased working knowledge of original theosophical “Objects,” “Doctrines,” and facts. Then each can make their own decisions. He notes the provable fact that between the writings of Mme. Blavatsky and those who wrote on “theosophy” following her, there are differences of several kinds. He points to the divergence (from the first presentation of Theosophical doctrine) in the writings of later writers. Those facts can be verified. For those who know what the original teachings (“core teachings”) are, the differences are plain. In fact in 1925, Miss Margaret Thomas wrote and published: ‘Theosophy vs Neo-Theosophy’. It is a short booklet in which the writings of Mrs. Annie Besant and Mr. C.W. Leadbeater are contrasted with statements made by Mme. Blavatsky. It is currently available at Blavatsky Archives (opens new window)

Knowledge is power. Ignorance is not always “bliss.” Whether readers are encouraged by Mr. Farthings’ statements to find out for themselves or not, is a matter for individual decision. Ever since we all went to school, we have progressed independently, depending entirely for results on the amount of effort we put into our learning. To accept the statements made by another without verification is “blind faith.” Our ignorance is not dispelled, but may be intensified, depending on the truth of the information. HPB made no claims to authority. She offered propositions, and left it to the individual’s choice, as to whether he would study diligently, and decide about value for himself. What she said and wrote 100 years ago, when Theosophy was to be represented, and offered as a reconciliation of Philosophy, Religion and Science; Its propositions are worth studying today.

The most simple and condensed version of Theosophical principles and their suggested implementation and practice can be found in Mme. Blavatsky’s ‘The Key to Theosophy’. Without Theosophy, no ‘society’ or ‘body’ calling itself “theosophical” has any clear basis for its continued existence. It is THEOSOPHY, taken either as a philosophy, or a set of propositions, or a record of the history of research done on our world, that sustains and maintains the onward progress of all student bodies. We are those who are now responsible to see that the gap of the cycles is filled with our support, research and devotion. This is as I understand it.

Wane Kell

first published in The High Country Theosophist June, 1998 link to original text (opens new window)


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26 May 1998
Geoffrey Farthing writes from Fetcham Surrey England:

Herewith some remarks on Paul Johnson’s comments on my ‘Manifesto’. I agree with nearly all he said but it does seem that I have not made myself clear on one or two points.

I am wholly in favour of the complete freedom of members of the Society, or anyone else come to that, to read or write what they like without interference or censure. What I am against very firmly is a lot of literature that came out after H.P.B’s death purporting to be Theosophy. In my view there is only one Theosophy and that is based on the deepest knowledge of the nature and processes of Cosmos. Only the Adepts have this knowledge but they did make some of that knowledge available through H.P.B. for the first time at the end of the nineteenth century. Their statements were precise; they were not opinions or beliefs or conjecture. In my view the Masters KNOW what they are talking about, and insofar as she reproduced their teachings accurately, so did H.P.B.

Much material that came later is not in accord with what the Masters said; therefore I hold that it must not be described as Theosophy. I am aware that many people take the view that anybody’s opinion is Theosophy but I cannot go along with that. A decision that the Bailey and Steiner writings are ‘fringe’ can only be taken if one has studied both the Masters’ Theosophy and that as given out by them. Not everything that the latter two writers write is inconsistent with Theosophy. They do, however, make statements that are incompatible with it. My view is that it is the students’ responsibility to discover the original teaching and what the others have said and to decide for one-self which to believe. Apart from this firm view that I hold on Theosophy I do not disagree with most of what Paul Johnson has said in his notes.

Yours very sincerely, G A Farthing

first published in The High Country Theosophist June, 1998 link to original text (opens new window)


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In December 1998 HCT published a letter from Geoffrey Farthing regarding the 'Manifesto' and 'A Trilogy' a booklet published by Geoffrey

go to 'A Trilogy'

26 November 1998
To all General Councillors and others concerned

Dear Fellow Member,

For the last two years I have communicated with you by way of a Manifesto and a Supplement to it. Both of these had no other motive than to promote the welfare of the Society into the future and to emphasize the responsibility that was placed upon it to promote knowledge of Theosophy.

Both the Manifesto and the Supplement were written against a background of a complete belief and faith in the Masters of the Wisdom who were responsible for the founding of the Theosophical Society, and recognition of their intentions for it. Also in mind was their selection of H.P. Blavatsky to carry out not only the launching of the Society into the world in 1875 but through her writings the dissemination of so much of the Ancient Wisdom as they felt prepared to make available to mankind at that time.

This was done through the books written by H.P.B., much Influenced by the Masters, and her numerous other writings. These were the source of present-day Theosophy; we have no other. What came later was largely commentary on the original. Some was of high quality based on the classics; some derived from psychic sources and was very much personalized. The authors of these works did not have the intimate and continuous connection with the Masters to the same extent that H.P.B. had. It was this close relationship with her Masters that give her writings their authenticity.

It is said in The Secret Doctrine that some of the Information then being given out was for the first time in the world’s history.

It is very important that this statement be given its full value. This was the advent in the world of a teaching which had not been made public before. It was an epoch-making event of a magnitude at least as great as the advent of Jesus and his teaching. No religious teachers prior to the two Masters responsible for the founding of our Society had ever before made available information about the nature of the Universe and mankind, as a justification of their teachings and the following scriptural writings. Until the advent of Theosophy all that had been made available of the Ancient Wisdom was in glyph, symbol or parable. The Masters’ writings were in plain language. They did state, however, quite clearly, that only a small portion of their vast esoteric lore was then being given out. Nevertheless, as H.P.B. said in the introduction to the S.D., it was a comprehensive, whole doctrine.

If one believes implicitly in the Masters and their wisdom and powers, one has to accept that they knew what they were doing in making this information available and in the form they did it. They knew the present state of humanity; they knew the general levels of comprehension of mankind in the world. They foresaw that English was going to be the most commonly spoken language for generations to come. It is not that they addressed their message wholly to the western world. What they had to say was fresh information, given to the western peoples; to the eastern peoples it constituted material explanatory of many of their old time-honoured writings. They also knew the level of intelligence of the people to whom their works were addressed, and who would learn and hopefully assimilate the truths that they contained.
A common complaint since then is that their message was couched in terms too difficult for the ordinary person to understand, or even to read. The message was, however, obviously for those who could understand in the same way Jesus gave his message to his disciples, to a chosen few: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Similarly when Jesus was facing the prospect of crucifixion he said to his disciples that he would “.. give you another Counsellor.... even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive”. H.P.B. tells us that in this context ‘the world’ is the generality of people who have in no way concerned themselves with the deep problems of existence and have not yet developed the faculties for ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ in the sense of the words used by Jesus.

Surely within our Theosophical Society there are those with the necessary powers of comprehension to read our massive literature, who can ‘hear’ and ‘see’ what is contained in it. It would appear that few of those who wrote what has become known as the ‘second generation’ theosophical literature did, in fact, so ‘hear’ and ‘see’. They conveyed the message in the terms with which they were familiar, those of the old time philosophies and religions but Theosophy is not a reiteration of these. It is NEW.

Herewith is a small booklet entitled ‘A Trilogy’ written for those who have not familiarized themselves with either the stories behind the writing of our original literature, or its contents, or the intentions behind the founding of the Theosophical Society. The booklet describes some of the very extraordinary happenings behind the writing of Isis Unveiled and also the very great sacrifice demanded of H.P.B., for many years, in the writing of The Secret Doctrine. So far, neither of these has seemingly been fully appreciated, particularly by those members of the Society who have joined in the last few decades or so. These stories in themselves give a background to the birth of this new world teaching. They also indicate something of what is demanded of us if we would carry on the work which was then begun. At the very least we must first acquaint ourselves with the teachings contained in those massive literary works.
It is not suggested that this is a responsibility placed on every member of the Theosophical Society. The Society can be regarded as one for seekers after truth at any level at which they may be operating. He or she is under no obligation to do any study, or even to promote the well-being of the Society. The only obligation such people undertake is to further the idea of universal brotherhood and to subscribe to the three objects. These objects do not require anyone to study the Theosophy as given us by the Masters. But it is surely expected that every one of us in the Society who is helping to promote the epoch-making message uttered by the Masters is acquainted with it. No one can possibly hand on to future generations a message they do not themselves adequately possess.

There is in our literature a sufficiency of indications to us that this is what was intended. This is not a personal message, it is a reiteration of what anyone who reads the original literature of the Society, in the writings of H.P.B. and of the Masters will find stated over and over again. The charge laid upon us is abundantly clear; the dissemination of these teachings is the prime responsibility of those who have access to them, can understand them and appreciate their immense value to humanity.

The Society was not founded for us to substitute anything for these teachings and call it Theosophy. The Maha Chohan, the then Master of Masters, indicated that the Society was to be Corner Stone of the future religions of humanity. This is an assignment of the utmost importance and magnitude. How is our Society to be established to be effectively such a Corner Stone? A discussion of a question of this magnitude is surely worth the time of the General Council. It is surely an obligation upon its members, and all concerned members of the Society as a whole.

Yours fraternally, G A Farthing Ex-General Secretary of the English Section

AN EXPLANATORY NOTE Some of the principal differences between the original Master/H.P.B. literature and that which came later are:

1. The constitution of the Earth Chain of Globes (Mars and Mercury?).
2. The numbering and classification of the cosmic planes and the human principles. (The introduction of the etheric double).
3. The descriptions of the various planes, particularly the Astral (corresponding to the 4th H.P.B. plane, Kama).
4. The after-death states (per C.W.L., not A.B.).
5. Cosmic planes.

In spite of these discrepancies, books containing them continue to be produced and their sale promoted by the Society. The Masters account of the after death states given in the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett is written up in my book When We Die; further, all the information given about these and matters pertaining thereto in the whole of the H.P.B./Masters literature is given in my book After Death Consciousness and Processes. The idea of the Corner Stone as the intended role of the T.S. in the future is of the utmost importance. In The Secret Doctrine there is a recurrent theme that man’s destiny is to become free of the limitations of the personality, and to unfold his consciousness into that of the Ego, or immortal Individuality. This is of course the ultimate religious aim. An indication of this is to be seen in what is said about Maya in both the Collected Writings and The Secret Doctrine.
I have extracted the relevant passages, together with references; a copy of this material is available online

G.A. Farthing November 1998

first published in The High Country Theosophist December, 1998 link to original text(opens new window)


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In February 1999 HCT published a letter from Abhinyano

Re: Brother Farthing’s letter in HCT December issue. G.A. Farthing has many friends among learned Theosophists and this writer is among his admirers and confederates! He affirms that our Masters Morya and Kuthumi & the Maha Chohan behind them are responsible for the writing of the Original Theosophy equal the Arhat philosophy and discipline! He also believes that only this Arhat philosophy offers the recondite doctrines of ‘Esoteric Budhism’ the secret teachings of Gautama Buddha and not any exoteric religious system of the East entering now the West.

It is recommended that any serious Theosophist study the Paper: ‘The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future’ in which HPB answers the famous Orientalist Emile Burnouf:

“There is an esoteric doctrine, a soul-ennobling philosophy behind the outward body of ecclesiastical Buddhism .... This secret system was taught to the Arhats alone generally in the Saptaparna-Mahavamsa’s Sattapani) cave near the Mount Baibhar - (in Pali:Webhara,) in Rajagriha the ancient capital of Magadha by the Lord Buddha himself between the hours of Dhyana [or mystic contemplation] of the Raja Yoga discipline.” [Blavatsky Collected Writings Vol. X p. 71]

Theosophy thus is a part of this ‘secret system’ and comes indirectly via the Masters and HPB from Gautama Buddha! The Maha Chohan, the ‘boss’ of our Arhats said that the Theosophical Society was to be the Corner Stone of the future religions of humanity. To this G A. Farthing answered: “How is our Society to be established to be effectively such a Corner Stone? A discussion of a question of this magnitude is surely worth the time of the General Council. It is surely an obligation upon its members and all concerned members of the Society as a whole."

If brother Farthing thinks a ‘discussion’ will do the trick then this statement appears to this writer as very unrealistic considering the Present status quo of the international and local theosophical Societies. Other great Theosophists like G de Purucker and others have tried to unite these different groups and bring them back to the original teachings. They failed! Mr. Farthing does not seem to recognize the fact that the new impulse, the new thrust of the Arhat Brotherhood is already in full swing and that it is carried by the Dalai Lama his Geluk-pa monks and the Theravadins of Sri Lanka and Indochina. Even the Zen Buddhists of Japan are involved here. The Theosophical Society can only survive when it cooperates with this new effort of the Arhat Brotherhood and recognizes the BUDDHIST ORIGIN NATURE CHARACTER and MISSION of Original Theosophy which is this ARHAT PHILOSOPHY and DISCIPLINE.

Mr. Farthing may not care much for the present thrust of the Arhat Brotherhood which HPB said would come at the end of this century according to the prophecy of the great Tibetan Reformer Tsong-Kha-pa. New Buddhist groups are being formed and new Buddhist temples are being built as a consequence of their efforts. Some of these Buddhist temples offer Yoga exercises on a regular basis and these are done in a very serious and sacred way! I, myself, have been practicing yoga for a long time, and recently participated in a series of exercises within the new Buddhist temple, built by the Vietnamese right here in Santee. These exercises were organized by the Zen-Buddhists. There are no sermons, no jibberish, and no twaddle but total silence where the consciousness is concentrated on the Astral plane or Kama Loka, (the realm of the Unconscious or medically speaking, the autonomic brain-and nerve system ). “Yoga is the [temporary] inhibition of the functions of the mind” specifically within the pyramid cells of the brain-cortex and the transfer of the consciousness into the Astral plane where everything is SEEING and OBSERVING and not thinking. The new age Aquarian people do not want boring lectures anymore; they want to see inside of their realm of the Unconscious. They know by now that here they can find the ‘Way back Home.’ Listening to some abstract and metaphysical lecture is merely theory. Yoga (the Royal or Raja Yoga) is REAL!

Thus there exists today a popularity of Yoga-classes and if these exercises take place in a beautiful Buddhist temple with statues and pictures of the Buddha around, then one experiences an exalted spiritual state. HPB has given proof in The Secret Doctrine Vol.III, p. 581 that she knew a great deal about Yoga although she was not permitted to emphasize the practices at the time of her writing. The great yogic disciplines are the hidden and secret core of the ORIGINAL RELIGION behind all the genuine Eastern religious Philosophies.

In answer to a question on the seven stages of perception, HPB said that thought should be centred on the seventh and highest. An attempt to transcend this will prove that it is impossible to go beyond on this plane. Since there is nothing in the physical brain to carry the thinker beyond, the thought activity of the brain must be Stopped and if thought is to rise yet further it must be of the mind without a physical brain (i.e., the pyramid cells of the cortex cease to function). Let the eyes be closed, and allow the mind to become a passive witness of its own activity.

All the seven stages of perception come before Antahkarana; if you can pass beyond you are on the Manasic Plane that is acting with your fully concentrated consciousness. Try to focus your mind on something which transcends your power of thought, i.e., a mantra or one of the Stanzas of Dzyan “... Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration.” [SD I, 27] Make the brain [the cortex] passive and pass beyond into the Astral Plane. You will see a white radiant light like silver but opalescent as mother of Pearl; then waves of colour will pass over it beginning in the tenderest violet and through bronze shades of green to indigo with metallic lustre and that colour will remain. If you see this you are on another plane. You should pass through seven stages.

In this new age of Aquarius, the Theosophical Society must re-structure itself. It should begin to emphasize Jnana Yoga or the acquirement of Esoteric Wisdom and the development of Buddhi - Manas or Bodhicitta, the re-activation of the Inner Eye, the ‘Eye of Shiva’ (the pineal gland or epiphysis). The Society should take into account that thousands of people wish to learn about Yoga and thus should encourage and offer classes in it with actual meditation exercises.

Finally it should adjust itself to the new impulse and thrust of the Arhat Brotherhood by cooperating with the Dalai Lama, the Geluk-pa- monks, and with the Theravadan monks of the Southern of Sri Lanka and Indochina. Our theosophical groups should study and apply ‘The Voice of the Silence’ teaching of the Bodhisattva Path. We need a detailed mixture of Raja and Hatha Yoga, and study of Dr. I.K. Taimni’s “The Science of Yoga” based upon the classical Sutras of Patanjali and finally read ‘The Mystery of the Buddha’ and ‘Re-incarnations of the Buddha’ in Blavatsky Collected Writings. We possess an important part of ESOTERIC BUDHISM and we have something very valuable to offer to exoteric Buddhism of today, in the form of the teachings of ‘The Mystery of the Buddha’ and ‘Re-incarnations of the Buddha.’ [BCW, Vol. XIV- Pages 388-99 and 400-07, respectively.

Abhinyano [Note: Substantially edited by HCT - D.S. and M.L.] First published in The High Country Theosophist February, 1999 link to original text (see P.13) (opens new window)

For additional information on this subject see Abhinyano’s 2-part article:
Eternally Vigilant in Fohat Magazine, Part 1 Vol. II No. 2 and Part 2 Vol. II No.3 (opens new window)

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