Excerpts from
A. A. Bailey's Autobiography and
J. Ransom's A Short History of the Theosophical Society
about the events in the TS in America in 1919-22.

   
Autobiography
by Alice A. Bailey

A Short History of the Theosophical Society
by Josephine Ransom

   

Towards the end of 1919 Mr. Bailey was made National Secretary of the Theosophical Society. Dr. Shepherd was made Publicity Director and I became editor of the sectional magazine, The Messenger, and chairman of the committee which was running Krotona. All phases of the work and all the different policies and principles governing the administration were, therefore, open to us. The General Secretary, Mr. A. P. Warrington, was a close friend, and all the senior workers were friends and there seemed to be great harmony and a truly cooperative spirit. Little by little, however, we discovered how superficial this harmony was. Little by little we entered upon a most difficult and distressing time. Our affection and personal loyalties were with our friends and co-executives, but our sense of justice and our adherence to the governing principles were constantly being outraged. The truth of the matter was that the management of the Theosophical Society in the United States, and still more so in Adyar (the international center), was at that time reactionary and old-fashioned whereas the new approach to life and truth, freedom of interpretation and impersonality were the characteristics which should have governed policies and methods but did not.

The society was founded for the establishing of universal brotherhood but it was degenerating into a sectarian group more interested in founding and sustaining lodges and increasing the membership than in reaching the general public with the truths of the Ageless Wisdom. Their policy of admitting nobody into the E.S. for spiritual teaching unless they had been for two years a member of the T.S. is proof of this. Why should spiritual teaching be withheld until a person had demonstrated for two years their loyalty to an organization? Why should people be required to sever their connection with other groups and organizations and pledge their loyalty to what is called the "Outer Head" of the E.S. when the only loyalties which should be required are those dedicated to the service of one's fellowmen, the spiritual Hierarchy and, above all, one's own soul? No personality has the right to ask spiritual pledges from other personalities. The only pledge that any human being should give is, first of all, to his own inner divinity, the Soul, and later, to the Master under Whose guidance he can more efficiently serve his fellowmen.

I remember at one of the first E.S. meetings I attended Miss Poutz, who was the secretary of the E.S. at that time., made the astounding statement that no one in the world could be a disciple of the Masters of the Wisdom unless they had been so notified by Mrs. Besant. That remark broke a glamor in me, although I did not speak of it at that time except to Foster Bailey. I knew I was a disciple of the Master K.H. and had been as long as I could remember. Mrs. Besant had evidently overlooked me. I could not understand why the Masters, Who were supposed to have a universal consciousness, would only look for Their disciples in the ranks of the T.S. I knew it could not be so. I knew They could not be so limited in consciousness and later I met many people who were disciples of the Masters and who had never been in touch with the T.S. and had never even heard of it. Just as I thought I had found a center of spiritual light and understanding, I discovered I had wandered into another sect.

We discovered then that the E.S. completely dominated the T.S. Members were good members if, and only if, they accepted the authority of the E.S. If they agreed with all the pronouncements of the Outer Head and if they gave their loyalty to the people that the heads of the E.S. in every country endorsed. Some of their pronouncements seemed ridiculous. Many of the people endorsed were mediocre to the nth degree. A number who were looked up to as initiates were not particularly intelligent or loving, and love and intelligence, in full measure, are the hallmark of the initiate. Amongst the advanced membership there was competition and claim making and, therefore, constant fighting between personalities - fighting that was not confined just to oral battles but which found its expression in magazine articles. I shall never forget my horror one day when a man in Los Angeles said to me, "If you want to know what brotherhood is not, go and live at Krotona." He did not know I lived there.

The whole situation was so serious and the split in the section so great between those who stood for brotherhood, for impersonality, for non claim-making and for dedication to the service of humanity that Foster cabled Mrs. Besant to the effect that if the E.S. did not cease dominating the T.S. the E.S. would soon be under very serious attack.

The T.S. situation was getting more and more difficult and plans were being made already for the convention of 1920, where the whole situation blew up. Speaking of my interior experience, I had become as disillusioned with the T.S. as I had with orthodox Christianity but the situation was not so acute because great and basic truths had come to have meaning to me and I was not alone because Foster and I were already planning to get married.

 
 

Since Mr. Warrington was head of both The Theosophical Society, as General Secretary (or National President, as is the title used in the United States), and of the E.S., opinion had grown up that these posts combined gave him too much power. A group was presently formed which worked under the title of “Towards Democracy League,” urged by the idea that The Society, as such, should be free from all entanglements with any Cause whatsoever.

Footnote: In 1910 a Theosophical Centre was started, in pursuance of Mrs. Besant’s recommendation to Mr. Warrington to found a Centre, which was to be a training ground for leaders, and to establish and maintain a School or Institute of Theosophy. In April 1912 a site was purchased in Hollywood, and named Krotona. When Mr. Warrington became General Secretary in 1912, both The Theosophical Society and the E.S. were combined in Krotona and the property was under Mrs. Besant s control, but managed by a local Committee. It proved somewhat difficult to maintain financially. In 1919-21 problems arose, and criticism was focussed on Krotona. Eventually, 1922, Mrs. Besant decided to sell sufficient of the property to pay off the mortgage, and to retain a suitable section of the Estate for the E.S. Anyone thinking the property was owned directly by the American Section could have his donation transferred to the Section. The Section Headquarters were transferred back to Chicago and finally to Wheaton. The whole property was eventually sold. The Krotona Institute and the E. S. offices were transferred to a new Krotona at Ojai.

The original platform of the T.S. had been founded on the autonomy of the lodges within the various national sections but, at the time that Foster Bailey and I came into the work, this whole situation had been fundamentally changed. Those people were put into office in any lodge who were E.S. members and through them Mrs. Besant and the leaders in Adyar controlled every section and every lodge. Unless one accepted the dictum of the E.S. members in every lodge, one was in disgrace and it was almost impossible for the individual, therefore, to work in the Lodge. The sectional magazines and the international magazine, called "The Theosophist," were preoccupied with personality quarrels. Articles were given up to the attack or the defense of some individual. A strong phase of psychism was sweeping through the society due to the psychic pronouncements of Mr. Leadbeater and his extraordinary control over Mrs. Besant. The aftermath of the Leadbeater scandal was still causing much talk. Mrs. Besant's pronouncements about Krishnamurti were splitting the society wide open. Orders were going out from Adyar, based upon what were claimed to be orders to the Outer Head by one of the Masters, that every member of the Theosophical Society had to throw his interests into one or all of the three modes of work - the Co-Masonic Order, the Order of Service and an educational movement. If you did not do so you were regarded as being disloyal, inattentive to the requests of the Masters and a bad Theosophist.

Books were being published at Adyar by Mr. Leadbeater that were psychic in their implications and impossible of verification, carrying a strong note of astralism.

 
  A study of the magazines of this period shows that there was an uneasiness lest the priesthood of the Liberal Catholic Church, composed mostly of prominent workers in The Society, should lead to the dominance of ecclesiastical influence, and so draw it into the sectarianism from which it had always kept clear. Many Sections passed resolutions disclaiming any official association with any and all divisions of the Christian Church, or with any religious or anti-religious bodies, and affirmed the entire liberty of belief or disbelief of each Fellow, and his freedom to work in any organisations he might wish - “whether closely associated in the public mind with The Theosophical Society or not.” (See The Vahan, Nov. 1918.)
About that time Mrs. Besant sent B. P. Wadia over to the States to investigate and find out what was going on, and official meetings were held with Wadia arbitrating. Foster, Dr. Shepherd and myself, along with many others, represented the democratic side: Mr. Warrington, Miss Poutz and those ranged with them represented the side of authority and the domination of the E.S. I had never before in my life been mixed up in an organizational row and I did not enjoy this period at all. I loved some of the people on the other side very much and it distressed me exceedingly. The trouble in time spread to the whole Section and members kept resigning.  
  Another problem showed itself in an acute form in America, where adverse opinion had begun to be formulated against the Section administration, on the plea that it needed reform along more democratic lines. Mr. Wadia had gone to the United States in the latter part of 1919 as technical adviser to the India delegation to the International Labour Conference held at Washington, D. C. He was the Hon. Manager of the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, with branches in London and Krotona. Mr. Warrington invited him to stay longer than at first intended, in order to give him some assistance in the difficulties which had arisen. He persuaded Mr. Warrington to take a well-deserved rest and go to India for a year or two (as he had worked hard for eight years to create Krotona), and evolved a plan to put before Mrs. Besant whereby Krotona could become the Headquarters of the American Theosophical Society, owned and controlled by members and their elected representatives.
In 1920 this whole situation was reaching a climax. The cleavage between the authoritarian of the E.S. and the more democratic minds in the T.S. was steadily widening. In America Mr. Warrington and the E.S. wardens and heads everywhere represented one group, and the other group, at that time, was led by Foster Bailey and B. P. Wadia.  
  The Towards Democracy League ... announced that as “the T. S. must take its place with those who are striving towards world-democracy … a band of harmonious and constructively inclined F.T.S. at Krotona are endeavouring to promote that brotherly tolerance which expresses itself through a spiritually democratic form of government. …” Its Object was: “The promulgation and application of the Ideals of Democracy in The Theosophical Society and the Body Politic.” On his journey back through eleven other towns, Mr. Wadia was eagerly welcomed and many believed him to be Mrs. Besant’s “agent.”

This was the situation which was rampant when the famous convention of 1920 took place in Chicago in the summer. I had never been present at any convention in my life and to say that I was disillusioned, disgusted and outraged is putting it mildly. Gathered together was a group of men and women from all parts of the United States who were presumably occupied in teaching and spreading brotherhood. The hatred and rancor, the personality animus and the political manipulation was so outrageous and shocking that I made a vow never to attend another Theosophical Convention again in my life. Next to Mr. Warrington, we were the ranking officials of the T.S. but we were a small minority. It was obvious from the first moment of the Convention that the E.S. was in control and that those who stood for brotherhood and democracy were hopelessly outnumbered and, therefore, beaten.

Others, who came over to the Convention with an open mind, threw the weight of their interests and backing on our side. In spite of it all, however, we were hopelessly defeated and the E.S. was aggressively triumphant. There was nothing for us to do but to return to Krotona and the situation was such that eventually Mr. Warrington was forced to resign as head of the Theosophical Society in America, though retaining his position in the E.S. He was succeeded by Mr. Rogers who was bitterly opposed to us and far more personal in his opposition than Mr. Warrington. The latter realized our sincerity and apart from organizational differences there was a strong affection between Mr. Warrington, Foster and myself. Mr. Rogers was of a much smaller caliber and he threw us out of our positions as soon as he got into power. Thus ended our time at Krotona and our very real effort to be of service to the Theosophical Society.

 
 

When the American Section met in Convention, Chicago, 4 September, the question of the relation of The Society to the Liberal Catholic Church was very fully discussed, for it was charged by some that if priests of the Church worked at Krotona this was a “rank violation of the ideals upon which The Society was founded.” Mr. Warrington pointed out that though “sanction and encouragement” had been given to the new Church by Mrs. Besant and Bishop Leadbeater, The Society as such had not done so. He recalled that the “same kind of sanction and encouragement was given to Buddhism by Col. Olcott and Mr. Leadbeater, and to Hinduism by Mrs. Besant in the early days …” (The Messenger, Sept. 1919.) A cablegram was received from Sydney from Bishops Wedgwood, Leadbeater and Cooper declaring “Society and Church absolutely independent.” (Ibid., Oct. 1919.) Opinion was expressed that there was danger in having pledged priests in official positions, as that might result in complete dominance of The Society by the head of the L.C.C. It was urged that all priests of the L.C.C. holding offices or positions of trust in the Section be asked to resign, in order that The Theosophical Society might preserve impartiality towards all religions and sects. A cablegram was sent to Mrs. Besant asking her opinion, and she replied that she “disapproved any disabilities imposed on religious grounds.”

The Towards Democracy League agreed with these views.

On 18 March Mr. Warrington resigned his office, to take effect upon the acceptance of it by Mr. L. W. Rogers, the Section’s Vice-President. Mr. Wadia took as his special slogan the words “Back to Blavatsky.” He laid stress on the idea that The Theosophical Society was in his opinion not following the lines laid down by H. P. B., and was in danger of being overtaken by the fate she said would happen to it should it fall short of its mission. By the time he left America he had so interested himself in the outlook of the Towards Democracy League that Mr. Rogers felt it necessary, 21 May, to send a cable to Mrs. Besant regretfully but emphatically protesting against his “unwarranted interference in Section politics …” In his favour it was argued “Mr. Wadia took part in the affairs of the American Section only at the request of Mr. Warrington and the Administration, and that he was only condemned when the evidence compelled him to disapprove of the actions and policies of the administration.”

After that completely shocking annual convention of the T.S. in Chicago, Foster and I returned to Krotona utterly disillusioned, profoundly convinced that the T.S. was run strictly on personality lines, with the emphasis upon personality status, upon personality devotions, upon personality likes and dislikes and upon the imposition of personality decisions upon a mass of personality followers. We simply did not know what to do or along what line to work. Mr. Warrington was no longer president of the society and Mr. L. W. Rogers succeeded him. My husband was still national secretary and I was still editor of the national magazine and chairman of the Krotona committee.

I shall never forget the morning when, upon his assumption of office, Mr. Rogers took over, we went up to his office to tender to him our desire to continue to serve the T.S.   Mr. Rogers looked at us and asked the question, "Is there any way which you can think, by which you can be of service to me?" Here we were, therefore, without jobs, no money, no future, three children and utterly uncertain [177] as to what it was we wanted to do. A move was instituted to have us ousted off the Krotona grounds but Foster cabled Mrs. Besant and she immediately squashed the effort. It was just a little too raw.

 
 

The Section Board of Trustees found it necessary to remove from their Section offices some of the chief leaders of the Towards Democracy League: 1. The National Secretary, Mr. Foster Bailey; 2. the Editor of the American Section, Mrs. Alice A. Evans (afterwards Mrs. Alice A. Bailey); 3. Publicity Director, Mr. Woodruff G. Sheppard, on the grounds, among others, that they were wholly out of harmony with the administration. Much objection was taken to these dismissals. The League supported Miss Isabel B. Holbrook, a well-known lecturer and worker, as National President in the coming election.

When Mrs. Besant wrote concerning the problems affecting the Section, she said to the members in general, “Will not you, as you have now a new General Secretary and a new Headquarters … try, even if some of you blame and find fault with him, to emulate his work in serving the Society.” These words were used by some as meaning she endorsed Mr. Rogers’ candidacy. Foster Bailey cabled to her saying her letter caused members to think that if they voted against Rogers they were disloyal to her. To which, 9 May, she gave the important ruling, “President cannot interfere election choice. No question loyalty to me involved …” (Letter from Foster Bailey to Mrs. Besant, 12 May, 1921.)

All this time Foster was acting as secretary to the Theosophical Association of New York - an unofficial independent organization.

Foster at this time organized the Committee of 1400 - a committee pledged to endeavor to swing the Theosophical Society to its original principles... It was a fight between an exclusive faction and an inclusive group. It was not a fight of doctrines; it was a fight of principles and Foster spent much time organizing the fight.

B. P. Wadia returned from India and we were at first hopeful that he would give strength to what we were trying to do. We found, however, that he planned to take over, if possible, the presidency of the T.S. in this country with the help of Foster and the Committee of 1400. Foster, however, had not organized in order to put into power a man who would represent the committee. The committee was organized to present the issues involved and the principles at stake to the membership of the T.S. When Wadia discovered that this was so he threatened to throw his interest and weight into the United Lodge of Theosophists, a rival and most sectarian organization.

The Committee of 1400 went ahead with its work. The next election took place, the membership named its choice (or rather the E.S. dictated its choice) and the work of the Committee, therefore, came to an end. Wadia threw his weight, as he had said he would, into the United Lodge of Theosophists.

 
 

At the Convention held, 12 July, Mr. Rogers was elected General Secretary (National President). The voting showed commendation of removing Section Headquarters to Chicago, establishing a Section-owned Book Concern, and passed a hearty vote of thanks to Mr. Warrington. It condemned: 1. the custom of circularising the Section; 2. the work of the Theosophical Towards Democracy League and its methods, and approved the dismissal of the three officers. It endorsed the protest against Mr. Wadia’s interference, but thanked him for his brilliant services on the platform. The voting was by delegates, not by proxies, and as the opposition held 1,400 proxies, it referred to itself as the “Committee of 1,400.” It drew up an elaborate Petition to Mrs. Besant and, after recital of all its views and the publication of many documents, argued that Mrs. Besant had the right and should veto the majority decisions of the American Convention, and make a new statement of principles applicable to the situation.

The “Back to Blavatsky” movement had gained strength in the United States. It was fostered by those who felt opposed to the leaders in The Society. Bishop Irving S. Cooper thought the stand taken was that Bishop Leadbeater’s investigations were not acceptable to some “because they seemed to go beyond what H. P. B. taught,” and because the results of his investigations did not conform to what they considered “the limits of Theosophical truth. …” Many thought this movement indicated an irresistible human tendency to drift into orthodoxy.
Mrs. Besant deprecated as a form of orthodoxy that there was any rigidity about the “end-of-the-century movement,” when some new “messenger” might bring fresh light to the world, and that there could be no other teacher sent to enlighten the minds of men. She thought this storm in the United States and elsewhere was really some of the reaction from the War, when the whole emotional world had been thrown into whirlwinds and tumultuous waves, and strained nerves caused by these impacts led to irritability and distorted views and stirred party strife. It was open to all to condemn what they thought a bad or corrupt system, but she protested against personal attacks. Till matters grew calmer, she suspended the main activities of the E. S. in America for a year, and asked members to think and speak peace, and to act in a manner which would bring peace. (From Private Papers.)

On 31 March, Mrs. Besant replied to the Petition from “The Committee of 1,400,” in an “Official Document.” She thought it obvious that the Back to Blavatsky movement was “intended to depreciate the later exponents of Theosophical ideas, as though growth were confined to H. P. B. herself. … Anything I have to say to a National Society, I send through the General Secretary, elected by that Society. … To come to the bedrock of principle on which my answer to the Petition is based, a National Society, or Section is autonomous, and no appeal lies to the General Council.” Mrs. Besant cited those matters on which appeal may be made to the President, and said: “I find nothing in the Constitution which permits an appeal to the General Council by a dissident miniority within a National Society, and the Bye-Laws of the T. S. in America cannot give to the General Council a power of interference with an autonomous National Society, the freedom of which is guaranteed by the Constitution.” She concluded by appealing to them all to throw the past behind them and “to go forward together to the helping of the world. …”

The President had received letters from America asking her advice on the election of the General Secretary, as there were conflicting views still strongly agitating the Section. She said that giving such advice was not included in her duties, but she would welcome and work with those who were elected to represent their country. “The policy of the T. S. is not to be imposed upon it by one person, but is to be a policy jointly agreed upon by all. … Individually, we are all free. Corporately, the Council decides.” (The Theosophist, May, 1921, p. 110.)

I, in the meantime, had started a Secret Doctrine class and had rented a room on Madison Avenue where we could hold classes and see people by appointment. This Secret Doctrine class was started in 1921 and was exceedingly well-attended. People from the various Theosophical societies and occult groups came regularly. Mr. Richard Prater, an old associate of W. Q. Judge and a pupil of H. P. Blavatsky came to my class one day and the next week turned his entire Secret Doctrine class over to me.

I mention this for the benefit of United Lodge of Theosophists and for those who claim that the true Theosophical lineage descends from H.P.B. via W. Q. Judge. All the Theosophy that I knew had been taught me by personal friends and pupils of H.P.B. and this Mr. Prater recognized. Later he gave me the esoteric section instructions as given to him by H.P.B. They are identical with those I had seen when in the E.S. but they were given to me with no strings attached to them at all and I have been at liberty to use them at any time and have used them. When he died many years ago his theosophical library came into our hands with all the old Lucifers and all the old editions of the Theosophical magazine, plus other esoteric papers which he had received from H.P.B.

Among the papers which he gave me was one in which H.P.B. expressed her wish that the esoteric section should be called the Arcane School. It never was and I made up my mind that the old lady should have her wish and that was how the school came to get its name. I regarded it as a great privilege and happiness to know Mr. Prater.

In 1921 we formed a small meditation group of five men and my husband and myself who used to meet every Tuesday afternoon after business hours to talk about the things that mattered, to discuss the Plan of the Masters of the Wisdom and to meditate for awhile on our part in it. This group met steadily from the summer of 1922 until the summer of 1923.

By the time we returned to New York in September 1922 it was necessary to consider in what way we could possibly handle the correspondence that was accumulating as a result of the increasing sales of the books and how to meet the demand for Secret Doctrine classes and how to handle all the appeals for help along spiritual lines with which we were confronted. We, therefore, in April 1923, organized the Arcane School.

The basic training given in the Arcane School is that which has been given down the ages to disciples. The Arcane School, if it is successful, will not therefore in this century at least have a large membership. Those ready to be trained in the spiritual laws which govern all disciples are rare indeed, though we can look for an increasing number. The Arcane School is not a school for probationary disciples. It is intended to be a school for those who can be trained to act directly and consciously under the Masters of the Wisdom. There are in the world today many schools for probationers and they are doing great and noble and necessary work.

 

  In the United States there were still echoes of the storm of 1920-1. The Committee of 1,400 had disbanded, and some had joined the “Back to Blavatsky” movement, led mainly by Mr. and Mrs. Foster Bailey on its more progressive side. They have themselves organised an “Arcane School,” with emphasis on intellectual development, and have evolved their own ideas of the Inner Governance of the world, accompanied by prophecies that The Theosophical Society would disappear if it did not follow certain lines of conduct.