Chapter 19: Ancient Wisdom Family
Ancient Wisdom Family
Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.
The idea of the existence of an ancient hidden (occult) wisdom, an alternative to the dominant Christian orthodoxy, perpetuated by a lineage of secret adepts until such time as the wisdom could again be given to humanity, has a long history in the West. It was clearly stated, however, in the early seventeenth century in the primary documents announcing the existence of the Rosicrucian Order and a central part of the myth of the revived Freemasonry of the eighteenth century. Perpetuated through Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, the idea experienced a marked revival in the nineteenth century with the formation of several public Rosicrucian bodies, the Theosophical Society, and some new occult orders. By the end of the nineteenth century, these new occult organizations formed a distinct alternative to Spiritualism, the main form of occultism through the century, and could be found in both the United States and England. Rather than contact with spirits of the deceased and a desire to demonstrate the proof of life after death, these occultists claimed to be the bearers of a hidden (i.e., occult) wisdom that had been passed to them from contemporary representatives of a lineage of teachers whose beginning was in the remote past. Now available for the first time in centuries, it could be given to those individuals prepared to receive it.
The accounts of the emergence of an ancient wisdom follow usually one of three basic formats. First, a person claims to have made direct contact with the present bearers of the lineage usually in some remote corner of the earth (for example, Tibet, Egypt, Arabia). From the teachers of the lineage that person returns to civilization to disclose its essential truths. Second, the wisdom may be revived through the rediscovery of texts, long hidden away, which contain its teachings. Most frequently, however, rediscovery of the ancient wisdom comes through a special person who is able to enter into the occult realms, not accessible to ordinary persons, and be taught the secret wisdom directly by various occult masters. The Great White Brotherhood is a common designation for those who have kept the ancient wisdom through the centuries. The term may be applied to a group of noncorporeal beings (some of who may occasionally take a human body) or to a group entirely or partially composed of individuals currently living on earth.
Two main ancient wisdom schools have appeared in the English-speaking West–the Rosicrucians and the Theosophists. The former claimed to have obtained the ancient wisdom from Christian Rosencreutz who discovered it during travels in the Near East. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the first Theosophist to discourse with the masters extensively, claimed to have recovered an ancient document of which no copies had survived in the mundane world, the Stanzas of Dyzan, which summarized occult truth.
Besides the Theosophists and Rosicrucians, and those groups that have derived from them (Arcane School of Alice A. Bailey and the "I AM" Religious Activity of Guy W. and Edna W. Ballard), there are few that have found an alternative source for acquiring the ancient wisdom. Also, several groups, drawing upon the theosophical model, have developed variations on it within other religious traditions. Thus Paul Twitchell, founder of ECKANKAR, while drawing the content of his teaching primarily from the literature of the Sant Mat Sikh tradition, claimed to have traveled to what he termed "soul realms" to translate and bring humanity various ancient documents. Similarly, flying saucer contactees, most of whom came out of a spiritualist tradition, identified the extraterrestrial entities with whom they claimed contact as the Great White Brotherhood.
Typically, ancient wisdom groups are modeled upon the ancient gnostic schools rather than contemporary churches. They offer instruction in occult truth through classes and correspondence courses. Upon manifesting their accomplishment of a body of teachings and mastery of certain occult techniques, the student is awarded a degree and admitted to instruction in the next level. Groups vary in the number of levels of work offered, the nature of the oversight given to students, and the strictness in applying any standards by which they judge the completion of a degree by a student. Thus one group may have ten degrees, limit contact with students to correspondence, and be lax in advancing the student through the degrees. Another group may have only four degrees, do all their work in small groups, and advance students only after the student demonstrates the proper competence level in both occult theory and practice (clairvoyance, psychokinesis).
The Rosicrucians, growing out of a story published in the seventeenth century in Germany, is the oldest of the several ancient wisdom groups with any following in the United States.
ROSICRUCIANS. "The Rosicrucian Order had its traditional conception and birth in Egypt in the activities of the Great White Lodge" (H. Spencer Lewis, Rosicrucian Questions and Answers, 9th edition [San Jose, CA: Supreme Grand Lodge of AMORC,1969], 33). So begins one account of the history of the Rosicrucians. Actually, if there were historical continuity between any Egyptian secret occult order (or any other ancient group) and modern Rosicrucians, documents attesting to this connection have never been made public. Twenty-first-century American Rosicrucian groups appear to be highly eclectic bodies drawing on the Western magical tradition, Theosophy, Freemasonry, and modern parapsychology in varying degrees. The interaction with Theosophy has been extensive and there are many likenesses. But while Theosophy was founded in 1875, the Rosicrucians attempt to document their organizational continuity with the mystery-schools of the ancient Mediterranean Basin.
The first actual mention of a possible Rosicrucian group was the appearance in the second decade of the seventeenth century of a pamphlet, the Fama Fraternitatis, in Germany, written by someone under the pseudonym of Christian Rosencreutz (C.R.). The Fama Fraternitatis, translated, is the Discovery of the Most Laudable Order of the Rosy Cross. The book detailed the travels of C.R. to the Mediterranean Basin in the early 1400's, where he acquired all wisdom about the microcosm and macrocosm, attunement with the All, the nature of health and disease, and other occult wisdom.
Returning to Germany, C.R. saw the world was not ready for him, so he lived quietly, affiliating with three followers and then four more. These eight were the original Rosicrucians in Germany. They agreed on the following points:
They would not profess anything but curing the sick without reward, They would wear no special habit, They would meet every year in the House Sancti Spiritus, The brothers would choose their successors, The letters "R.C." would be their only seal and character, and The fraternity would remain secret for one hundred years. C.R. died in 1484, at age 106. Knowledge of the location of his secret tomb was lost and its rediscovering by a brother created a great stir. The tomb's inscription said that after 120 years he would return. The meaning was that the Rosicrucian Order would surface again in 1604 and take all initiates who were worthy.
There was great response to the pamphlet Fama Fraternitatis from doctors, the altruistic, and those who just wanted to live 106 years. In 1615, a second pamphlet, promised by the first, was issued. It attacked the present worldly situation and boasted of the wisdom of C.R. (i.e., the magical world) and the importance of the secrecy of the order.
Many commentators have suggested that a Lutheran pastor, Valentin Andreae (1586–1654), was the author of the pamphlet, since he was admitted author of the 1616 novel, The Hermetic Romance or the Chemical Wedding; written in High Dutch by Christian Rosencreutz. From this time forward, sporadic works claiming to be products of a secret fraternity of Rosicrucians appeared. Evidences of other secret fraternities of an occult nature also are in the record. One such group is the Illuminati, founded in 1676 by Adam Weishaupt. In 1670, the Abbé de Villars published The Count of Gabalis or Extravagant Mysteries of the Cabalists and Rosicrucians. It was outwardly an attack on the Rosicrucians (thus good evidence of their existence), but many have seen it as an attempt to spread occultism by making public its ideas. It was rumored that De Villars was murdered a few years later by the Rosicrucians.
English Rosicrucianism was given its direction by Robert Fludd, alchemist and author of the Apologia Compendiaria Fraternitatemde Rosea Cruce in 1616. He is the probable source of the rumor that Francis Bacon was a Rosicrucian. Among the founders of the English Rosicrucians was William Lilly, the famous astrologer. British Rosicrucians were pro-alchemy, as opposed to those on the continent at that time. Rosicrucian lodges proliferated in the eighteenth century. Many were fraudulent, but many were legitimate attempts at forming societies attuned to Rosicrucian ideals. It was also at this time that the free intercourse between the Rosicrucians and Freemasons occurred and Freemasons added a Rosicrucian degree to their initiations.
FREEMASONRY. The dominant role of Freemasonry as a fraternal organization has often obscured its crucial role in the building of modern occult tradition and many histories of the modern occult movement make only passing mention of them. What is today known as Freemasonry emerged in the seventeenth century out of the older craft guilds of stone workers. The guilds included a secret wisdom, the knowledge of architecture used in the building of many churches and public structures, which was carefully guarded. By the seventeenth century, many nonmasons had been "accepted" into membership in guilds as friendly associates. The number of such "accepted" members grew steadily and by the middle of the century some lodges were dominated, if not entirely composed of, "accepted masons, rather than nay who claimed knowledge of the builder's art." The fellowships of accepted masons served as covers for occult speculation and activity.
In 1771, four lodges of accepted masons came together to form the Grand Lodge of England. The third grand master, Rev. John Theophilus Dasaguliers, used his social and professional status (he was chaplain to the prince of Wales) to spread the movement and the authority of the Grand Lodge not only across Great Britain but to France. However, the Scottish and Irish lodges organized separately in the 1850s as the Ancient Grand Lodge and only merged with their English brethren in 1813 to become the United Grand Lodge.
The accepted Masons built a speculative gnostic occult cosmology with borrowed symbols from the stone workers as religious symbols. God became known as the Great Architect of the Universe. The Great Pyramid of Egypt, an exemplary achievement of the stoneworkers' skill, was portrayed in masonic symbolism as a building constructed of 72 stones, one each for the possible combinations of the Tetregrammaton, the name of God in Hebrew that consisted of four letters. This symbolic pyramid was capped by the all-seeing eye of God. The masonic pyramid can be seen on the American one-dollar bill, which pictures the Great Seal of the United States strongly influenced by several masons among the country's founders.
The different Lodges in the eighteenth century developed an elaborate degree system loosely tied to an understanding of a universe emanated in layers from the realm of the Divine. The rituals associated with each rite (or set of degrees) were filled with occult content and seemingly in a constant state of flux and development. Eventually, the 33 degree system still used in British and American Masonic came to dominate the lodges of the United Grand Lodge.
Masonry came to the United States from England in 1730 when Daniel Coxe was appointed Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Among the members soon welcomed into membership was a youthful Benjamin Franklin whose task it became to publish the first American edition of The Constitution of the Free-masons by James Anderson in 1734. The lodges, especially in the middle colonies, became meeting grounds for revolutionaries and welcomed among their members George Washington, James Monroe, Paul Revere, Benedict Arnold, and Patrick Henry.
That so many revolutionaries were Masons gave early American masonry some connection with its Continental counterparts. Masonic and Rosicrucian lodges also became the focus of efforts at democratic reform and became the object of both Church and government hostility. As early as 1738, the Roman Catholic Church issued a pronouncement condemning Masonry and in Europe Masons were identified with various efforts to overthrow monarchial regimes. In England and the United States masonry developed in a nonpolitical manner and became the birthing place for much of modern Rosicrucianism.
In 1865, a Masonic-based Rosicrucian body was founded in London by Robert Wentworth Little. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was modeled on the German "Fratres of the Golden and Rosy Cross" of the previous century, and membership was confined to master masons. This group became the breeding ground of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Like those of Theosophy and Freemasonry, Rosicrucian teachings are a form of gnosticism and mysticism. Transmutation, psychic development, and meditative/yogic disciplines are stressed. Teachings are differentiated into outer or public teachings (which include most of the philosophic material) and inner, for-member-only, teachings (which include most of the instruction on ritual and development exercises). It is difficult for nonmembers to obtain the secret materials, especially from the smaller bodies.
As in Masonic rituals, a system of initiation through a number of degrees is used, each initiation admitting members into deeper and more secret knowledge. Most Rosicrucian groups have published books covering their general orientation, which they sell to the general public and place in libraries. Some of these have become widely used, quite apart from any involvement in the group that published it.
ROSICRUCIANISM IN AMERICA. The history of Rosicrucians in the United States dates to 1694 with the arrival of the Chapter of Perfection in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Chapter, composed of Rosicrucians who derived their teachings from mystic Jacob Boehme, the Kabbalah, and several German psychic visionaries, built an observatory and Temple and thrived for a generation, but slowly died away after the death of its leader, Kelpius. The Chapter left no group to carry on its work, but the first powwow magicians, the Pennsylvania Dutch practitioners of folk magic, once belonged to the Chapter of Perfection. No further reference to Rosicrucians in America occurs until the nineteenth century, when Pascal Beverly Randolph, the founder of the first of the present Rosicrucian bodies, appeared.
While largely forgotten in North America, Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–1875) was the premier occult theorist of the nineteenth century. Growing up as Spiritualism was making its impact upon the West, he would author more than 20 books that would offer Americans the first major alternative system of occult thought. Four years before Robert Wentworth Little founded the first viable European Rosicrucian group, Randolph launched the Rosicrucian Fraternity in America. He advocated the idea of rein-carnation and was the first to write extensively on themes of occult sexuality. Randolph continually had to fight racial prejudice (his mother was black) and misunderstandings of his sexual ideas, but his works survived him to provide the foundation upon which the likes of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky were to later build.
THEOSOPHY. The reputation of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891) has largely outlived the scandal that surrounded her for the last twenty-five years of her life, and she is now recognized as one of the most influential writers in the whole psychic/occult world. Through her two major books, Isis Unveiled (1877) and especially The Secret Doctrine (1888), she has taught several generations about occult lore, and the Theosophical Society she founded has become a major force in the occult community.
Blavatsky was born in Russia of an aristocratic family. She became a student of the occult and showed mediumistic tendencies. In 1851, she began a life of wandering that took her to India. She claimed contact with the mahatmas, persons who had evolved to a point from which they have become conscious co-workers with the divine plan of the ages and are thus beings of great authority, attainment, and responsibility. Their wisdom guides all movements for growth, particularly the Theosophical Society. During her life, Blavatsky claimed constant contact with them.
Blavatsky went to England and the United States and became deeply involved in Spiritualism (she was later to become a major antagonist). In 1873, she met Henry Steele Olcott, and together they founded the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875. Isis Unveiled became the society's central document. As the first president, Olcott became the chief administrator in the movement and Blavatsky's right arm.
The Theosophical Society set three objectives for itself:1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
The original society was an outgrowth of Spiritualism, and, in her early writings, Blavatsky still rejected reincarnation. She claimed that Spiritualist phenomena were genuine but were the work of lower astral entities rather than disincarnates.
In 1879, Olcott and Blavatsky sailed for India and established permanent headquarters in Adyar. Blavatsky discovered Hinduism and Buddhism and became fascinated with them as continuations of the ancient wisdom of Egypt and the Mediterranean. Also, at this time, the concept of the mahatmas or masters came to the fore. From a special altar in her home at Adyar and a few other places, letters from the masters in the spirit world began to arrive.
Blavatsky's cosmology is the basis of theosophical thought. To the novice, the cosmology is a highly complicated Pleroma of Gods and lesser entities, organized in a divine hierarchy and controlling the overall evolution of the earth. Aiding the hierarchy are the mahatmas or masters, men who have evolved to an almost semi-divine status and who directly represent the hierarchy to the human race. The masters are the key to the theosophical system. As in most Gnostic systems, numerical symmetry is a feature; the numbers three, seven, and ten continually arise.
At the top of the occult hierarchy is God, usually referred to as the Cosmic Logos. He expresses himself as a Trinity, usually thought of in Hindu categories as Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the Hindu deities.) There are also seven Planetary Logoi; every star in the universe is assigned to one of these logoi. Our sun and solar system are assigned to the Solar Logos, the Lord of this system and God for mankind. The Solar Logos emanates a Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and seven logoi. Along with these logoi, there are a number of lesser angelic entities called Devas.
Mankind is the product of a lengthy evolutionary process. The earth (and universe) is in the midst of a seven-stage cycle. The first three stages are steps toward materialization; the fourth is crystallization, and the last three will be characterized by spiritualization and a return to spirit. We live in the fourth stage now. Mankind appeared at the beginning of the fourth round and has furthered his physical evolvement from lower life forms through the merger of his spirit with the body, welded together with the mind. Thus, physical evolvement of more complicated material animal forms met Spirit being thrust into matter, and, because spirit and matter could not be joined in themselves, Mind became the intermediate principle.
Man's evolvement takes him through seven root races, each of which has seven subraces. The first three root races perfected the union of matter and spirit; the fourth expresses the union; the last three will represent the struggle of the spirit to be free of matter. We now live in the Fifth Root Race. The third race was the Lemurian, so named for the mythical submerged continent in the Pacific Ocean, and the fourth was the Atlantean, so named for Atlantis, the supposed paradisiacal origin of man. The Fifth Root Race, the Aryan, finds its culmination in the Anglo-Saxon subrace. From this point, mankind will evolve into spiritual adepts.
Man himself is a complicated being composed of seven bodies ranking from his pure spirit true self to the gross material body. These planes of existence are outlined thus:
- Divine – Adi
- Monadic – Anupadaka
- Spiritual – Nirvanic
- Intuitional – Buddhic
- Mental – Mental
- Astral – Astral
- Physical – Physical
In this list, the terms on the right are the proper terms, several of them being the Eastern words for the planes of existence. The terms on the left are explanatory of the proper terms. Level six, the astral, is a low-grade immaterial plane that is not highly regarded; it is occupied by such lesser figures as ghosts. Level two, the monadic, is the level of union with all that exists.
Man is a spark of divinity that manifests itself as a trinity of spirit, intuition, and mentality. Man assumes a body appropriate to each level of functioning. As he moves downward, each body he assumes is composed of denser substance. The astral and the physical are the densest, and these are discarded at death. It is the Theosophist belief that most Spiritualist phenomena are centered on contact with the astral plane and "discarded astral shells"; Theosophists often complain that Spiritualists are engaged in lower psychism.
In the present evolutionary struggle to become free from matter, humanity is hindered because its consciousness is stuck in the gutter of the physical plane. The goal of this life is to raise the consciousness to higher levels. Humankind is hindered in this goal by each body's inability to apprehend the higher vibration rate of the less dense substance above it, but humanity is helped by various occult practices, reincarnation, and the masters from the spirit world.
Theosophy offers a number of occult practices, such as meditation and yoga, as techniques to help the self to reach life on higher planes. These techniques, common to most religious traditions, overcome the tendency to place attention purely on the physical plane.
Reincarnation is the educative process by which the self is given repeated opportunities to rediscover its true life. Humans take on successive bodies until they overcome attachments to the lower planes. Each life is a representation of the state of evolvement of the soul in previous lives.
By far the greatest help to human evolvement are the masters. These are spiritual giants, men and women who have progressed far beyond the human race, who no longer need to incarnate, but who do so in order to aid the struggling race. They form an intermediate hierarchy between man and the Solar rulers. The hierarchy of masters is given a name by position. Each position is currently filled by entities who were once incarnated on this physical plane and who are known, in many cases, as great spiritual giants. The masters are organized in a complicated system, much as the Solar Hierarchy is organized.
At the top is the Lord of the World, the agent of the Solar Logos. Under him is the Trinity of Buddhas. These four are often referred to as Sanat Kumara and the Three Kumaras. The three department heads in the hierarchy are Will, Love/Wisdom, and Intelligence. Each of these has a representative: Manu Vaivasvata, Bodhisattva Maitreya, and the Maha Chohan. The hierarchical assistants, who manifest Will, Love/Wisdom, and Intelligence to humans, are the Seven Rays. The first three of these Rays (Master Morya, Master Koot Hoomi, and the Venetian Master) are called the Three Aspects or Major Rays. The other four are called the Four Attributes or Minor Rays (Master Serapis, Master Hilarion, Master Jesus, and Master Prince Rakoczi). Morya manifests Will to humans; Koot Hoomi manifests Love/Wisdom; and the other five masters manifest Intelligence. [Various Theosophical groups spell Koot Hoomi's name differently–sometimes Kuthumi, sometimes Kut Hoomi.] Master Jupiter is an assistant to Morya with a special relationship to India. Master Djual Khool is an assistant to Koot Hoomi with a special relationship to the Theosophical Society. The following chart shows the hierarchical arrangement. Those numbered are the Seven Rays.
|Manu Vaivasvata||Bodhisattva Maitreya||The Maha Chohan|
|1 Master Morya||2 Master Koot Hoomi||3 Venetian Master|
|Master Jupiter||Master Djual Khool||4 Master Serapis|
|5 Master Hilarion|
|6 Master Jesus|
|7 Master Prince|
These masters are confusing at first until one realizes that their names designate their positions, not their name in this earthly life. The entities who presently hold those positions have reappeared in physical form throughout history, but not always as the individual one might expect from a casual perusal of the chart. For example, the position in the hierarchy called Master Jesus is now filled by the person who was known on earth as the Greek figure, Apollonius. The masters, their characteristics, and their most famous incarnations are charted below:
|1. Morya||Power and Strength||A Tibetan|
|2. Koot Hoomi||Wisdom||Pythagoras|
|3. The Venetian||Adaptability||Plotinus|
|4. Serapis||Harmony and Beauty|
|6. Jesus||Purity and Devotion||Apollonius|
|7. Prince Rakoczi||Ordered Service||Rosencreutz and|
|(Ceremonial Magic)||Roger Bacon|
The one known on earth as Jesus in this life was a reincarnation of Shri Krishna and is now filling the position of Bodhisattva Maitreya. Master Jupiter is the special guardian of India, and Djual Khool is especially attached to the leaders of the Theosophical Society. The masters work through the leadership of the Theosophical Society and thus become the teachers of the human race. They possess the wisdom that mankind needs to escape the repetition of incarnations and rise to the spiritual home. The Seven Rays use the seven colors of the rainbow in aiding people.
While the masters speak in cognitive language, the wisdom of which they speak is occult (hidden) and, in the long run, available only by the apprehension of the higher self. Like the knowledge that comes out of the relationship of loving another person, it cannot be reduced to statements or adequately conveyed by words.
Theosophy, as a movement, developed centers of work in the United States, England, and India, but the major issues were being decided in India. In Adyar, Blavatsky had set up headquarters. From there, her continued contact with the masters grew at an increasing rate. Quite apart from the Theosophical system, the question of the existence of the masters became the issue for the last years of Blavatsky's leadership.
In 1884, while both Olcott and Blavatsky were in England, Emma Coulomb and her husband, who were in charge in Blavatsky's home, passed some materials to Christian missionaries, who published them and attacked what they considered fraud in the production of the messages from the masters. The messages, which appeared in the specially designed cabinet with secret openings to Blavatsky's bedroom and to another room in her house, were credited to Blavatsky herself.
The newly founded Society of Psychical Research (SPR) sent Richard Hodson, a young British scholar, to investigate the whole matter. He quickly found the opening from Blavatsky's bedroom into the place where the master's letters were delivered. In a lengthy report, he concluded that Blavatsky's phenomena were fraudulent and described at great length how various seemingly miraculous incidents had occurred. The SPR report was a major blow and signaled a period of eclipse for the Theosophical Society.
In 1888, Blavatsky formally constituted and for the rest of her life headed what was known as the Esoteric Section (ES). The ES became an inner group of trusted students to whom she taught an advanced course of occultism. While not an official part of the society, it tended to include the most dedicated theosophists who, in effect, became an elite controlling group.
Blavatsky settled in London in 1887, where she was visited by Annie Besant, a young radical activist and orator who had made quite a name for herself as a colleague of atheist Charles Bradlaugh. Besant, having read The Secret Doctrine, was ready to leave her liberal background and become a theosophist. Blavatsky recognized her talent and encouraged her. As a result of their effort during the last five years of Blavatsky's life, the society recovered and expanded in Europe. Some outstanding workers, such as George R. S. Mead and Mabel Collins, were attracted to the society. Colonel Olcott continued to offer his administrative ability.
Upon Blavatsky's death in 1891, Annie Besant's popularity began to rise. She succeeded Blavatsky as head of the esoteric section. During the next decade, with Olcott's help, the society became a world-wide organization. Shortly before his death in 1907, Olcott received a message from the masters "appointing" Besant the new president. With her strong leadership, a new era began, and the society started a process of slow and steady growth that has resulted in its spread to all parts of the globe. Its literature now is distributed to the entire occult/psychic community. Only three things marred Besant's career–the Leadbeater affair, the Krishnamurti affair, and the loss of strong leaders in America and Germany who disagreed with her on points of administration and doctrine.
Charles W. Leadbeater, a priest in the Church of England, joined the Theosophical Society in 1883. Soon afterward, he went to India, at the insistence of Master K, to aid in its defense. An occultist, he became a popular lecturer and writer. In 1895, he became assistant secretary of the European Section and a close friend of Besant, with whom he co-authored several books. The primary content of these books was the clairvoyant exploration of the cosmology of Blavatsky. Gradually, these books became the dominant literature of the movement.
The crisis with Leadbeater came in 1906. Charges were preferred against Leadbeater for giving immoral sexual advice to some youths who had been left in his charge. He had taught the boys the practice of masturbation as a means of dealing with their own physical problems (sexual urges). Besant tried to defend her friend, who was being verbally attacked. The scandal was eventually overcome, and Leadbeater remained active in the Theosophical Society, but the blot on Besant continued to be used by her adversaries.
During the early years of the century, Besant, also with input from Leadbeater, began to talk of the coming to visibility again in the flesh of an Avatar, a world teacher, to lead the world into a new stage of evolution. In a series of lectures in 1909 on "The Changing World," she declared that a new race was coming and a new Christ was to appear. Then in the winter of 1908–09, a Theosophical Society member in Adyar named Narayaniah asked the society to care for his motherless boys, among them, Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Leadbeater, now living in Adyar, immediately became attached to Krishnamurti, whom he called Alcyone, meaning the calmer of storms. Convinced that Krishnamurti was destined to be a great spiritual leader, Leadbeater became his teacher. During the next two years, Leadbeater worked with him psychically, and the product was a now-famous book, At the Feet of the Master. Besant soon became convinced that Krishnamurti was the body to be used by the Bodhisattva (Avatar) for his new appearance. In January 1912, a new periodical, Herald of the Star, was begun, to announce his appearance. Already formed as a preparatory organization was the Order of the Star of the East. The material advocating his cause began to roll off the Adyar presses.
But obstacles asserted themselves before the new Christ could begin his mission. Krishnamurti's father demanded the return of his son; the sexual charges against Leadbeater were revived, and a series of court cases initiated. The court finally ruled in the favor of the Theosophical Society. The Order of the Star of the East progressed until Krishnamurti himself began to reject his assigned role in 1929. The Order of the Star of the East then died for lack of a messiah.
Over the period of the various scandals from the 1880s until the 1930s, schisms were rending the Theosophical Society. As various leaders and groups jockeyed for power, they found themselves disgusted with Leadbeater and opposed to many of Besant's new ideas. Alternate messages from the masters began to appear through different channels, challenging Besant's authority. The story of these schisms is the story of the development of the Theosophical subfamily of religious groups.
Theosophy in America . The Theosophical Society had been founded in New York City in 1875, at which time co-founder William Q. Judge became the group's counsel. After Olcott and Blavatsky moved to India, the activity level of the American organization fell measurably. Judge gradually revived it, and it was reconstituted in 1886. Judge also became head of the American branch of the Esoteric Section (ES), authored a number of books, including the classic Ocean of Theosophy, and edited the society's two periodicals, The Path and The Theosophical Forum.
From the first there had been resentment at the control of American Theosophy from India. Judge also hoped eventually to become the international president of the Theosophical Society and hence did not favor the rise of Annie Besant. Her triumphant American tour, which included speaking to overflow crowds at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, did not help the situation.
Besant was able, however, to work out a temporary arrangement to share power in the Esoteric Section–Judge in America and she in Europe and India. This arrangement came about partly as a result of Judge's proposal of the plan, and the subsequent appearance of a message from Master Morya with the words, "Judge's plan is right." As other messages appeared, remarks that they were emanating from Judge rather than the masters became formal charges. Unfortunately, there was no mechanism for handling such charges, so the supposedly bogus messages were given to the newspapers, which attacked Judge viciously. Judge retorted by declaring that Annie Besant was no longer head of the Theosophical Society and was under the control of dark forces.
In 1895, at the American Theosophists' Convention in Boston, the Americans declared themselves independent of the British and Indian headquarters and formed the Theosophical Society in America. Seventy-five American branches went with Judge. Fourteen remained loyal to Adyar and were rechartered as the American Theosophical Society (now called the Theosophical Society of America), with Alexander Fullerton as president. During the twentieth century, these two rival Theosophical societies became the source for a number of new groups, most especially those growing out of the work of Alice Bailey and Guy W. Ballard.
LIBERAL CATHOLIC CHURCH. During the second decade of the twentieth century, theosophical ideas became established among the priests of the independent Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain, which had been established by Bishop Arnold Harris Matthew in 1908. In 1914, little realizing the implications of his act, Matthew consecrated Frederick Samuel Willoughby, an active theosophist, as a bishop in his church. Over the next year, however, he realized that theosophy was threatening to over-whelm his jurisdiction. In August 1915 he condemned Theosophy and ordered all of his clergy to sever their ties with the Society. Still unaware of the extent of theosophical penetration of the church's priesthood, he saw the majority of his priests resign.
The disruption took most of the strength from the Old Roman Catholic Church, which never recovered from the loss and today remains a small inconsequential organization. The resigned priests reorganized and elected James Ingall Wedgewood as their bishop. Willoughby consecrated him in 1916 and Wedgewood sailed soon afterward around the world on tour. In Australia he met with Charles Leadbeater, who was living there in a kind of self-imposed exile, and consecrated him regionary bishop for the subcontinent. Leadbeater would later write the major theological books reworking the Christian tradition in a theosophical/gnostic mode.
At a synod in 1918, the new organization adopted the name Liberal Catholic Church. The following year, Wedgewood went to the United States and there consecrated Irving Steiger Cooper as the regionary bishop for the United States. Cooper, who had earlier worked with Leadbeater, assumed major duties in developing a liturgy for the new church. In 1934 he published a first edition of a complete book of worship as the Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Rite. The Liberal Catholic Church spread into most countries where the Theosophical Society was established and has continued as a small body for people attracted to the society who also wish to participate in a liturgical worship program. Other branches of the theosophical movement generally saw the Church in negative terms.
THE ALICE BAILEY MOVEMENT. Alice La Trobe Bateman (1880–1949), a teenage church school teacher in the Church of England, was stunned one Sunday morning to see the door to her home open and a tall stranger with a turban walk in and speak to her. He told her of important work already mapped out for her future. This event was but one of a number of psychical/mystical happenings that, coupled with world travel for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and an unsuccessful marriage, brought her to the Theosophical Society in Pacific Groves, California.
Theosophical teachings of a divine plan for humanity, a hierarchy of masters, and reincarnation and karma appealed to her. Also, it was at the Theosophical Society that she saw a picture of the man in the turban, who was identified as the Master Koot Hoomi. He figures in the cosmology of the Theosophical Society, discussed in the preceding section of this chapter. She became active in the society and there met Foster Bailey, whom she married. He became national secretary of the society, and Alice, editor of the Messenger, the sectional magazine.
In 1919, Alice was approached by a Master Djwhal Khul(D.K.), who requested that he become her control in the transmission by clairvoyant telepathy of a series of books. After first objecting, Alice began to receive (channel) Initiation, Human and Solar, her first book. Nineteen books in all were dictated between 1919 and 1960; there were also other books written by Alice and/or Foster.
At first, the chapters of Initiation, Human and Solar were received with some enthusiasm and were serialized in The Theosophist, but then publication abruptly stopped. Concurrently, trouble developed within the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society over the dictations. Alice complained that Annie Besant, the head of the society, acted autocratically, demanded that members cut outside ties and swear loyalty to her, and allowed contact with the masters from the spirit world only with her consent. The trouble came to a head at the 1920 convention, when Besant's supporters were placed in all the key offices, and both Foster and Besant were dismissed from their positions. They thus became free to pursue their own work of transmitting the material from D. K. (Theosophists spell his name Djual Khool.)
Alice Bailey's teachings resemble Theosophy closely, with the description of the divine hierarchy, the seven rays, and the evolution of humans to higher levels. Humans had evolved by 1920 to the point where one could look toward the new age when groups could form advanced training schools to prepare for the real esoteric schools. In the 1930s, this observation took on an eschatological emphasis when it was revealed that, because of the spiritual yearnings of humanity, the new age was coming closer. According to the followers of Alice Bailey, this reappearance of the Christ is being accomplished by the power of the divine hierarchy being brought into this world and by service based on the love of humanity. A two-pronged program is being implemented to carry through the double emphasis.
To encourage the advent of the Christ, meditation groups are set up to help channel the energy from the hierarchy. Each group or person is seen as a point of light radiating the power of the world. A particularly effective way of channeling makes use of what Bailey promulgated as the Great Invocation. It is repeated slowly and with solemnity while one visualizes the funneling down of power from the hierarchy. Various Bailey groups reprint and distribute this prayer, and it is often used by other people with little comprehension of Bailey's understanding of its intent:
From the point of Light within the Mind of God Let light stream forth into the minds of men. Let Light descend on Earth. From the Point of Love within the Heart of God Let love stream forth into the hearts of men. May Christ return to Earth. From the centre where the Will of God is known Let purpose guide the little wills of men– The purpose which the Masters know and serve.
From the centre which we call the race of men Let the Plan of Love and Light work out. And may it seal the door where evil dwells. Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth. Particular times of the month and year are periods when special spiritual energies are available from the hierarchy. The period of the full moon is such a time; meditation groups always gather on the evening of the full moon to celebrate and meditate. On three of these full moon dates occur the great spiritual festivals. Eventually, all men will celebrate these three festivals as focal points of the hierarchical year. The festival of Easter occurs with the full moon in April and is the time of active forces of restoration of the Christ. The festival of Wesak occurs in May, the time of Buddha's forces of enlightenment. The festival of Goodwill is in June when the forces of reconstruction are active. The festivals also illustrate Alice Bailey's belief in the synthesis of East and West into a new unity of mankind.
The program of service has found expression in the New Group of World Servers. Within this nebulous body are those who, desiring to be disciples of the masters from the spirit world, work as intermediaries between the hierarchy and the mass of humanity. The second group is composed of people of goodwill who, knowing nothing of the hierarchy, nevertheless strive for goodwill under the guidance of the masters' disciples. From this ideal of service have come a number of practical programs in education and political realignment.
In 1923, the Baileys founded the Arcane School. After Alice's death in 1949, the movement splintered, and a number of full-moon meditation groups emerged. All of the Alice Bailey groups agree on the content of teachings, though few individuals can master the voluminous writings. All gather for the full moon and celebrate the festivals. In southern California, most of the groups cooperate in publicizing and holding the celebrations. The main differences among the groups concern non-acceptance of the Bailey family leadership and local autonomy in spreading the teaching. Among members of the psychic community, the Bailey disciples have the reputation for evangelical fervor and proselyting activity. This proselyting zeal is often based on the Theosophical notion of the astral versus the higher spiritual planes. Nonbelievers are often seen as enmeshed in lower psychism.
THE "I AM" RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT. Among the most colorful of the several divergences within the larger Theosophical Movement is the "I AM" Religious Activity founded by Guy W. Ballard (1878–1939) and his wife, Edna W. Ballard (1886–1971). Guy Ballard, a mining engineer during his early life, had decided, in 1929 upon completion of a job in the West, to visit Mt. Shasta, California. As early as the 1880s, the mountain had been seen as the home of a lost race of mystic adepts from Atlantis who lived inside the massive volcanic structure. Throughout the next half-century, the occult legends had grown, and Ballard, a student of occult metaphysics, was intrigued.
One day during his visit while hiking up the side of the mountain, Ballard knelt to dip water from a mountain stream. A young man appeared and offered him "a much more refreshing drink than spring water." The cup was filled with a vivifying white liquid that the stranger identified as Omnipotent Life itself. The young man continued to talk of abundant supply, reincarnation, and the laws of cause and effect. As he did, he changed into the mystical figure of Saint Germain, the seventeenth-century occultist, now an Ascended Master.
Saint Germain described his task as that of initiating the Seventh Golden Age, the permanent "I AM" Age of Eternal Perfection on Earth. During the previous six centuries he had searched Europe for someone in human embodiment strong enough and pure enough that the Instruction of the Great Law of Life could be released through them. Having failed to find such a person, he turned to America and eventually located Ballard. He designated Ballard, his wife Edna, and son Donald, the only Accredited Messengers of the Ascended Masters.
During the ensuing months, Ballard had numerous experiences with Saint Germain and other Ascended Masters about which he regularly informed his wife through a series of letters. Upon his return to Chicago, where the family dwelt, Edna's position as a Messenger was confirmed and she began regular contact. Using the pen name Godfre Ray King, Guy Ballard recorded his initial experiences with Saint Germain, which were published as two volumes in 1934, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence. These were followed by additional volumes, including The "I AM" Discourses (1936), a series of lectures by Saint Germain, which summarize the basic teachings; "I AM" Adorations and Affirmations(1935), which give the text for the decrees (the peculiar "I AM" form of prayer); and a hymn book, "I AM" Songs (1938). A periodical, The Voice of the I AM, appeared in the spring of 1936.
In 1932 the Ballards began to release the message of the Ascended Masters to the public. They formed the Saint Germain Foundation to administer the work and the Saint Germain Press to publish their materials. In 1934 they held the first public 10-day class in Chicago at the Civic Opera House. During the next few years similar classes were held in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles. More than 7,000 attended the Los Angeles classes. By the time of Guy Ballard's death in 1939, the movement claimed more than one million students (though the actual number seems much smaller).
According to the "I AM" teaching, in 1929 the Ascended Masters instituted a new thrust of activity. There had, of course, been previous thrusts, such as that initiated through Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society. This new thrust was begun by Saint Germain, the Lord of the Seventh Ray, who in previous incarnations claimed to be the Old Testament prophet Samuel, the British Saint Alban, and Sir Francis Bacon. As Bacon, he claimed to have authored the Shakespearean plays. In 1684 he "illumined and raised His body" and spent a period of time in the Himalayas only to return to Europe at the time of the French Revolution. During the past centuries, he has worked in America, the seat of the new civilization, which is to be the permanent condition on the planet in the future.
Saint Germain taught the nature and importance of the "I AM" Presence, the Mighty Presence of Light, God in Action. The "I AM" Presence emanates from the Mighty Creative Fire, the Great Central Sun, the impersonal Source of reality in our world. Out of its abundance, the Great Central Sun pours forth the Primal Light. That primal light is the basis for all manifested form, both the visible and invisible world. Through the individualization of the light, everything comes into existence.
The term, "I AM," refers to that Primal Light, the Opulence and Energy of God. Individualized, it is the essence of each person. It is to be constantly invoked and activated. The individual's "I AM" Presence is the real point of contact with divine reality, and hence properly referred to as the Presence of God within each person. It is visualized in a chart used by "I AM" students that shows an individual surrounded in a column of purple flame. Above him, connected by a shaft of white light is the "I AM" Presence, pictured as a person clothed in golden light surrounded by a circular rainbow of light, a color radiance indicative of the accumulated good of previous lives.
The "I AM" Presence is invoked by the use of decrees, affirmative commands for the "I AM" Presence to initiate action. In calling upon the "I AM" Presence, the violet flame pictured around each person is activated as a purifying fire to burn undesirable personal conditions away. A wide variety of decrees for handling both personal and social situations is used by "I AM" students. Most controversial are the several negative decrees that target specific conditions for annihilation, to be blasted from existence. These come, it should be noted, with instructions that such decrees can be used only for the dissipation of discord and imperfection. They can have no effect upon that which is good, and are certainly not to be directed against any individual, though they may be directed to a negative condition surrounding a person.
Assisting and guiding humanity, both individuals in their personal conditions as well as the human race in its process of evolving, are the Ascended Masters. A Master is an individual who has passed through several human incarnations but, by his own effort, has generated the conditions necessary to rise above human limitations (ascend) and escape the necessity of continued re-embodiment. Such Ascended Masters radiate love and power, which can be called upon to correct the various destructive currents that retard humanity. Each master, a visible tangible Being, has a particular quality or talent that is invoked for particular situations.
The steady progress of the "I AM" movement was interrupted by a series of events that began shortly after the sudden death of Guy Ballard in 1939. Several former students became vocal critics of the Activity. One, Gerald B. Bryan, wrote a series of books against the foundation. Finally in 1941, Edna and Donald Ballard and several members of the staff of the foundation were indicted for mail fraud, in reference to their promotion of the "I AM" movement through the mail. In a trial, which began in December 1941, the Ballards were charged with making a variety of fraudulent misrepresentations and false promises to some ex-members who testified that the Ballards were not only advocating a false religion but that they knew it to be false. They were convicted. Subsequently, the postal department denied both the foundation and the press their privilege to use the mail.
The conviction was appealed, and in 1944 a landmark decision in religious liberty was granted in the Supreme Court's ruling that reversed the judgment. Justice Douglas, in stating the opinion of the Court, asserted, "Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs." The case, sent down for review, was finally dismissed in 1946.
During the period of the initial trial and the subsequent appeals, the "I AM" Religious Activity became the victim of a hostile press, and many students left the movement. The ending of criminal litigation set the stage for the rebuilding of the movement, even though additional legal action over the next decade was required to handle the problems created by the original conviction. For example, eight years of further action were needed to reverse the effects of 1943 decision of the Post Office Department and return full use of the mail system. (During the intervening years, the foundation and press had distributed materials through American Express.) The period of rebuilding also set the stage for the formation of new organizations by individuals who agreed with the essentials of the Ascended Masters' teachings, but who also claimed subsequent direct contact with additional teachings.
ANCIENT WISDOM IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. As the new century begins, the Rosicrucian, Theosophical, Alice Bailey, "I AM," and Liberal Catholic organizations that developed through the twentieth century have continued with relatively few new organizations being formed through the 1980s and 1990s. A set of new Rosicrucian groups arose from a major controversy that hit the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crusi; however, this is not symbolic of the life and ferment that saw a dramatic increase in the number of those who adhere to the Ancient Wisdom tradition.
The previous chapter included a discussion of the New Age movement and channeling. A close examination of the two inter-twined phenomena indicate that the affirmations of the Ancient Wisdom, including its basic theological perspective and its search for authority by appeal to an ancient perennial wisdom, permeates the teachings offered by various channeled entities (such as Ramtha, channeled by JZ Knight, and Michael, channeled by various individuals). It is found as an important element in the ongoing New Age movement. The New Age movement alone has involved several million people and has captured the allegiance of individuals who might be otherwise expected to adhere to the various older ancient wisdom organizations. No reversal of that trend has as yet appeared.
Sources–The Ancient Wisdom Family
Research on occult history is given focus by the Theosophical History Foundation, which may be contacted at the Department of Religious Studies, California State University, Fullerton, 1800 North State College Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92634-9480. It publishes the quarterly journal, Theosophical History. Significant collections of theosophical literature are available at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Pasadena, California; at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Wheaton, Illinois; and at the Krotona Institute (affiliated with the Theosophical Society in America) in Ojai, California. The largest academic collection is found in the American Religions Collection at Davidson Library at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California.
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Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. 448 pp.
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Hall, Manly Palmer. Great Books on Religion and Eastern Philosophy. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1966. 85 pp.
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Thirty Years Work. New York: Lucis Publishing Co., n.d. 32 pp.
Cooper, Irving S. Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Rite. Ojai, CA: St. Alban Press, 1964. 380 pp.
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Leadbeater, Charles Webster. The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals. Los Angeles: St. Alban Press, 1920. 508 pp.
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"I AM" Religious Activity
King, Godfre Ray [Guy W. Ballard]. The Magic Presence. Chicago: Saint Germain Press, 1935. 393 pp.
——. The Unveiled Mysteries. Chicago: Saint Germain Press, 1935. 260 pp.
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