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1900 letter

Oct 05, 1994 08:13 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

Since Astrea posted a response, I will go ahead and give my own,
with the DISCLAIMER!!!! that no one is expected to accept or
believe anything I say, that this is a very rough draft, that I'm
not out to convict anyone of anything, that I need to take a
course in historical research...(fill in the blank).

Now-- the authenticity of this letter has not been widely
discussed to my knowledge.  Leslie Price, in reprinting it,
pointed out that there was something here to offend everyone: the
Judge lineage Theosophists because AB shouldn't have gotten ANY
letters from KH, the Adyar Theosophists because it criticizes
everything not only that was going on at the time but that would
be happening for the next 30 years in the TS, the deniers of KH's
existence because the letter appeared years after HPB's death,

I think the authenticity of the letter is closely connected to
the issue of the correctness of Olcott's views of the Masters and
their relation with the TS.  After the Hodgson report, HPB blamed
Olcott for wanting to distance himself from publicity about the
Masters.  In a letter in her handwriting, but signed KH
(apparently notes from an astral conversation), HPB wrote "the
Society has liberated itself from our grasp and influence" due to
Olcott's policy which saved the body of the TS but "allowed
through sheer fear, to [sic] 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" since "it is no longer a
brotherhood, nor a body over the face of which broods the Spirit
from beyond the Great Range."

Not only in the ULT, Pasadena and Point Loma factions but even in
the Adyar TS, the view that Olcott had wronged HPB and misled the
TS has been accepted.  This may be partly due to a letter he
received on board the Shannon in August 1888 en route to London.
This was the year the ES was created, and Olcott was totally
opposed to this development, as well as to other actions by HPB
which he saw as interference in the TS.  In this letter KH warned
HSO that his "revolt...against her infallibility-- as you once
thought it-- has gone too far and you have been unjust to
her...with occult matters she has everything to do (underlined).
We have NOT abandoned her; she is OUR DIRECT AGENT.  I warn you
against permitting your suspicions and resentments against "her
many follies" to bias your intuitive loyalty to her." In
Jinarajadasa's commentary on this letter, he defends the ES and
explains that the letter sufficed to modify the Colonel's
opposition to it.  He adds that "it was not, however, till 1908
that the T.S.  fully regained its original position, with the
Masters of the Wisdom as once more the `First Section' of the
Society." (All these quotes are in Letters from the Masters of
the Wisdom, First Series).

So the gist of these two letters is that HPB was right and Olcott
wrong in virtually everything related to the Masters and the TS
after the Hodgson report.  Moreover, according to Jinarajadasa,
it will not until 1908, the year Leadbeater was invited back into
the TS, that the Masters received their proper acclaim and were
placed back into the forefront of Theosophical propaganda.

This looks like HPB, KH, Annie, Leadbeater and Jinarajadasa all
ganging up on Olcott for wanting to deemphasize the Masters.  And
he has indeed pretty much been the odd man out in terms of
posthumous esteem.  But throwing a wrench into this wonderful
consensus is the 1900 letter, which echoes virtually point for
point the policy that Olcott had been defending ever since HPB's

In his 1892 annual address, the President-Founder said "I do
especially protest against and denounce a tendency which is
growing among us to lay the foundations of a new idolatry...I
protest against the first giving way to the temptation to elevate
either them, their agents, or any other living or dead personage
to the divine status, or their teachings to that of infallible
doctrine.  Not one word was ever spoken, transmitted, or written
to me by the Masters that warranted such a course, nay, that did
not inculcate the very opposite.  I have been taught to lean upon
myself along, to look to my Higher long as you keep me
in office, I shall proclaim this as the basis, the only basis and
the palladium of the Society.  I am led to make the above remarks
by what I have seen going on of late..." ODL IV:427-8 Later in
the same volume, Olcott writes that although the danger of
creating a Blavatskyite sect had been averted, "let no one
suppose that this vicious tendency towards hero-worship has been
rooted out from our natures, for a new idol is being fashioned in
the form of that dear, unselfish modest woman, Annie Besant." In
volume V, he comments of Annie, "My praise of her is not tinged
with blind impartiality.  She is religious fervor and devotion
personified, the ideal female devotee who in time evolves into
the saint and martyr...H.P.B.  and I had none of this love of
worship in our constitutions...A more consistently religious
woman I never met, nor one whose life is a more joyful

This is most of the background material I have collected for a
discussion of the 1900 letter.  That discussion will continue in
a second post.

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