Robert Crosbie Biography - Part 1 of 2
Mar 01, 1998 10:20 AM
by M K Ramadoss
Many of the theosophists do not know much of the contributions of many
pioneers who contributed a lot to the spread of Theosophy. One such is
Robert Crosbie. Recently I came across a biography which was very
informative and eye opening for me. I am posting it in 2 parts. Hope some
will find it interesting.
R O B E R T C R O S B I E -- Compiled by Wane Kell
The Friendly Philosopher
Mr. Crosbie is to be known through his writings:--
THE FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER -- 415 pp. (Letters & Lectures)
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS on the OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY
NOTES ON THE BHAGAVAD GITA, (Chapters: 8 to 18)
Editor of THEOSOPHY MAGAZINE:- 1912 - 1919
Editor: THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT: 1875-1925 (History)
Editor: BECAUSE -- FOR CHILDREN WHO ASK WHY.
January 10th 1849
Born:- Montreal, Canada
Both parents were Scottish, they met and married in Canada.
His father was connected for many years with the Hudson Bay Co. as a
supervisor, traveling from Post to Post for a good part of the year.
His mother was a companion to Lady Simpson, wife of the Governor of the
Hudson Bay Company. A "highlander," she had, but rarely used, her capacity
for "second-sight." She lived a life of self-sacrifice, compassion, and
RC was raised a Presbyterian, RC was invited to join the communion at 16; RC
said he considered himself still "unfit." The subsequent discussions
to doubt the honesty of that church's practices. He determined to find "the
Truth, which must be knowledge," and which was to be found in due course by
seeking it. Then he adopted an attitude of constant questioning as to life's
object, pain, sickness, death, mercy, justice, fate. He found that the
around him offered no satisfactory answers when he questioned them deeply..
RC, and a partner started a leather and shoe manufacturing business in
Soon after that he married the daughter of his partner.
His partner's wife died, and then he became interested in spiritualism.
investigating that, found nothing attractive in its facts or philosophy. RC
observed some fraud. In some cases, hypnotism seems to have been involved.
He then studied hypnotism, mesmerism, clairvoyance and telepathy with some
The "psychic powers latent in man" were found to exist and seen by him, but
their rationale was still to be understood. He sensed there was danger in
and also sensed that he was receiving "some guidance" which he later said,
helped him avoid "unconscious black magic practices." Crosbie always had a
strong regard for the rights of others, and, aware of this, always
control over himself.
"...from his earliest years deeply interested in religious, philosophical
subjects..." THY. Vol 7 p. 320
A favorable opportunity to sell their business in Montreal arose. The
after the sale, went to Boston, and there started another shoe and leather
manufacturing business. It was highly respected.
One day, RC's partner brought him news of the proposed establishment of a
branch of the Theosophical Society in Boston. As the word: Theo-Sophia
suggested much to him, Crosbie went to the first meeting. He recognized at
once that this was what he was searching for, and he joined the T S
(Admitted: June 5th, 1888)
Soon after, Mr. W. Q. Judge came to Boston to speak at the T S, and Crosbie
was introduced to him together with other new members. After the meeting,
leaving for his hotel, Judge called back to Crosbie: "Good night Crosbie,
got you on my list !" Mr. Crosbie recorded: "a veil was lifted...a tie
which has never since been broken."
Mr. Judge came frequently to Boston and stayed at the Crosbie house. When
Crosbie visited New York he would stay with him.
[ See: THY. Vol. 24, 337; THY 64, 229 ]
Of this first meeting with Mr. Judge, Crosbie wrote (following the death of
"A FRIEND OF OLD TIME AND OF THE FUTURE"
"The first Theosophical treatise that I read was his Epitome of Theosophy; my
first meeting with him changed the whole current of my life. I trusted him
as I trust him now and all those whom he trusted...trust is the bond that
that makes the strength of the Movement, for it is of the heart. And this
called forth was not allowed to remain a blind trust, for as time went on,
energy, steadfastness and devotion of the student became more marked, the
W.Q.J." was more and more revealed, until that power radiated through him
became in each an ever present help in the work. As such, it remains to-day, a
living power in each heart that trusted him, a focus for the Rays of the
"Having been engaged in active T.S. work in Boston for over seven years, it
been my Karma to be brought in touch with him under many different
circumstances, the various crises, local and general, through which the
has safely passed... The future will reveal much in regard to him that is now
hidden, will show the real scope of his life- work... The lines have been laid
down for us by H.P.B., W.Q.J., and Masters, and we can take again our
watchword, that which he gave us at the passing of H.P.B., 'Work, watch and
wait.' We will not have long to wait."
-- R. Crosbie THY 7-292
Crosbie, in retrospect observed that in those early years, students had few
materials for the actual study of Theosophy. There were only HPB's ISIS
UNVEILED, articles in the issues of THE THEOSOPHIST and THE PATH,
ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, and the OCCULT WORLD written by Mr. Sinnett.
Later HPB wrote THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, THE SECRET DOCTRINE
and THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE.
Judge in publishing the magazine The Path, provided students with a great many
practical hints on Theosophy. These not only covered his observations, but
illustrated aspects of doctrine and metaphysics which students were
When the E.S. was formed, Mr. Crosbie became one of its earliest members. He
was first Secretary and later President of the E S Group in Boston under a
charter issued to him by HPB through Mr. Judge, her agent in America.
[THY 24 337, THY 23 100]
"(He)...identified himself with the DZYAN section of the Theosophical
Movement and the T S., and was for many years the devoted and close
Companion of William Q. Judge, and an occult pupil of H.P.
Blavatsky...He...loved these two great Beings, trusted Them and those whom
[THY 7 320; THY 7 290]
Mr. Judge, in his lifetime, used to refer students in the New England
Mr.Crosbie, saying:- "Ask Crosbie, he thinks and acts as I do." [THY 24-337]
Crosbie was elected Secretary of the Boston Branch TS, nominated by
C.F.Willard. Mr. Griggs was President.
After HPB's death Mr. Judge put Crosbie in charge of the EST Groups in the 7
New England States. This was done under a charter issued by HPB to Robert
Crosbie was present in New York at a meeting with Mrs. A. Besant, Mr. Judge,
and other Theosophists at Astor House. During that meeting, Mrs. Besant
narrated the events that took place at the General Council Meeting of the
the E.S. in London on May 27th 1891.
This meeting followed H P B's death. Mr. Judge was present as "HPB's
representative, with full power."
In the meeting at New York, Annie Besant stated that at that time, a "note" on
which the Master had written:-- "Judge's plan is right," fell out of the
letters she had tied, and which had been in her sole possession, until she had
brought it, herself, to that meeting. This related to the plan of having two
Co-"Outer-Heads" for the E S.
She was to supervise E S Gpoups in England and Europe in the East, Mr. Judge
to supervise America and groups in the West, and both were to work in close
consultation, cooperation and harmony with each-other.
Mr. Crosbie made a written record of this meeting, along with others who were
Later, during the furor of the "Judge Case," she repudiated this statement.
THEOS. MOVEMENT, 1875-1925, p. 646, 296-7, 649-50.
It may also be noted that Mrs. Besant had separately written on this
Jasper Neimand (Mrs. Julia Keightley) and therein she had made the statement
that the note from the Master had "fallen out of the bundle she had earlier
together, and locked in her desk.
[ See Judge bio-notes ]
His first marriage did not go at all well. One of the daughters was sickly
birth and needed constant nursing, for this special help several servants
Mrs. Crosbie were hired successively.
When RC became interested in Theosophy around 1888, the situation at the
home with Mrs. Crosbie worsened and a legal separation was agreed on around
1892. A suit for permanent divorce followed, and this became final some years
later. At this time, Mr. Crosbie sold his business and turned the proceeds
as their house over to his wife.
Later, a fire in the home that he left to his wife is reported and this may
killed his first wife and their children after the divorce.
He then started a new business on his own.
Mr. Crosbie was appointed President of the Boston E.S. In addition he was
the President of the Boston T S branch.
He helped organize the 5th Convention of the American Section of the T.S. held
in Boston April 24/25th 1892.
In 1895 he helped organize the 8th Convention of the American Section of
S. in Boston, (April 28/29th, 1895 ). It was during this convention that the
American Section passed resolutions that transformed it into the
THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICA, giving it autonomy.
[On p. 24 of the Report for the Convention, we find Mr. Judge stating in an
article the basis for fraternal affiliation which unites all Theosophical
bodies and Theosophists together: --
"The Unity of the Theosophical Movement does not depend upon the singleness
of organizations, but upon the similarity of work and aspiration; and in
will 'KEEP THE LINK UNBROKEN !'" (These were HPB's last words.)]
Along with Mr. L.F.Wade, and Mr. Ayers, Mr. Crosbie submitted to the
Convention an "Historical Sketch of the T.S." This traced the major events
existence and work in America since 1875. And, this was included in the
Proceedings and Report issued by the Convention. Later a pamphlet embodying
this information was issued under the title:
WHAT IS THE THEOSOPHICAL ORGANIZATION ?
1894 -- 1896
During this period Mr. Judge was attacked, exonerated, and, later persecuted
again by the chief officers of the T. S. outside of America. Those were
Olcott the President Founder, and Mrs. Annie Besant.
Neither appeared to understood that Mr. Judge (and Mr. Crosbie in Boston)
stood primarily for Theosophy (as HPB did). To them, the T S was viewed as a
useful tool, to be sustained as a promulgating body. To Judge and Crosbie,
others in America and England, the T S was to be directed on the basis of the
principles which Theosophy laid down and no others. No individuals'
was recognized by them. Each member's free-will and free-determination was
his own responsibility and no one else could wield authority over him or her.
Theosophy alone was held to be the sole reason for the T S. and the
its management ought to present that basis at all times.
1894 - 96
Mr. Crosbie supported Mr. Judge's principles fully. He acted as one of the
"witnesses on the scene." He, kept the "link" of pure Theosophy "unbroken,"
after Mr. Judge's death.
The hints given by W.Q.J. during his life in regard to Crosbie were not
by those around him, who had what they fancied to be their own positions.
in addition, seemed to be glamoured and deluded by the psychic powers Mrs.
Tingley (who had only been a member for only a year prior to Mr. Judge's
In New York, Mr. Neresheimer, who was Mr. Judge's executor and Mr.
Hargrove went through Judge's papers. They found what was later described as
an incomplete diary of Mr. Judges', but which he claimed (in 1896) to be an
"occult" diary; and in this, he said he detected Mr. Judge's indication
Tingley was to "succeed" him. Mr. Neresheimer had introduced Mrs. Tingley to
W. Q. J. about a year before his death. She became a member of the T S and
later, a member of the E S. She was a psychic and apparently did not have a
very profound knowledge of Theosophical philosophy. She had however been
of help to Mr. Judge during the last year of his life which was spent in great
discomfort and illness. However this gave her no special "position" in
the management of the T.S. or the E.S.
Many years later (1923), Mr. Neresheimer made a deposition outlining these
events, and in that he reversed some of his earlier pronouncements, on
"succession" of Mrs. Tingley had been based. From time to time this "occult
diary" has been mentioned as giving "authority" for the "Tingley succession,"
however, when requests were made to see it, or have it published, for all to
verify, this was never done. Copies were made of it and are available from
several sources, but it is difficult to establish any coherence in those
notes. (see also: THY 3, p. 280)
Mr. Judge died March 21st l896. Mr. Crosbie was in Boston. Of the events in
New York, he wrote:--
"Two or three of the New York members--notably E.T.Hargrove and
E.A.Neresheimer--obtained possession of Mr. Judge's keys and went through his
private papers; in these [ they said ] they found reference to a certain
whom Neresheimer determined to be Mrs. Tingley whom he had known for
about a year, and whom he had brought to Judge's notice. The idea being in
their minds that there must of necessity be an occult successor, and
the opinion that Mrs. T. was indicated, they sent out a circular to the E.
Judge had appointed her as such. The minds of all, being in the receptive
condition I have mentioned, accepted everything as stated by the few in New
York. The attitude assumed by Mrs. T. soon began to estrange those members
who were brought in close touch with her in New York, but those at a distance
had no inkling of the true state of affairs and kept on in full confidence.
who found that they had made a mistake in the first place in foisting Mrs. T.
upon the organization were in too doubtful a position to attempt
one of them only -- Mr. Neresheimer--(who had introduced her to
Judge)--remaining her supporter...his support was sufficient to offset any
withdrawal of the others in New York."
"Mrs. T. took advantage of the situation, and most plausibly and shrewdly
strengthened her position for two years after her advent, then formed the
"UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD" with herself as absolute dictator; carrying
with her by far the greater number of the members throughout the country. A
year later she went to Point Loma and established the institution there."
"As to my part in it--I was in Boston, and saw no reason to doubt the
of those in N.Y. whom I believed to be sincere and of good training and
(Autobiographical Note by R.C.)
In the May 1896 issue of THEOSOPHY (formerly--The Path) will be found an
articles signed by Mr. Crosbie: --
" A FRIEND OF OLD TIME AND OF THE FUTURE "
reprinted:THY 7 292
(Already quoted above)
19 close friends of Mr. Judge wrote articles about him that were published
May, June and July issues of THEOSOPHY.
The death of Mr. Judge brought choices to Mr. Crosbie. Some of those are
hinted at in articles to be found printed in:
[THY 24 339-40, THY 64 229]
One of these related to impersonality, on which he offered his thoughts. see
Friendly. Philosopher, pp. 127-8
April 1896 and later
Mr. Crosbie, in Boston was in cordial relations with Mrs. Tingley who had been
placed, shortly after Mr. Judge's death, into the position of "Outer Head"
E S Section of the T S in A. He retained his supervision of its affairs
area comprising the New England states.
== continued in Part 2 of 2
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