The Theosophical Society (Adyar)


"Is this Theosophy?"
by Ernest E. Wood

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Now commenced a painful period for me. As Secretary of the Theosophical Society I had to call for nominations and to conduct the election to the office of President - a process which was to take nine months, since the electors were scattered all over the world. Sure that if I were President the Society would not be one thing in the proscenium and another behind the scenes, many members requested me to accept nominations. I did so, and on the same day resigned from the office of Hon. Secretary.

Only one other nomination came in - that of Bishop Arundale - and he had the great advantage of me that he claimed to be the candidate wanted by Dr. Besant and her Master, though she had left no evidence to that effect, but had on the contrary repeatedly declined to express an opinion or do anything that might influence the members with reference to her possible successor.

It had happened that seven years earlier she had accepted for a time an occult statement made to her that Bishop Arundale was to be her successor, and in two private and very affectionate letters to him (in which she said she did not wish to miss any hint of the Master’s desire) she mentioned it, said she thought he would make a splendid President, and advised him to begin some pre-electioneering in America. These old letters, with others, Bishop Arundale gave to Mr. Jinarajadasa shortly before the death of Dr. Besant, and Mr. Jinarajadasa circulated facsimiles of them as a first move in his election campaign on behalf of his nominee, Bishop Arundale.

In reply to this some members who had been closely in touch with Dr. Besant requested the President pro term., Mr. A. P. Warrington, to prevent backstairs propaganda by printing Dr. Besant’s letters and also their own testimony to her later views, in fairness to the electorate. But he declined to publish anything more than the names of the candidates, and would not allow me a statement of policy, even in the paid advertisement pages of the magazine.

We then had the extraordinary spectacle of a great worldwide Society conducting its presidential election (which was of the nature of a referendum on policy) with no statements published in the presidential magazine - in which the business affairs of the Society had always theretofore been published - and no publication of the electoral roll.

The Society was thus delivered into the hands of other organizations, for Mr. Jinarajadasa had the advantage of possessing lists of active workers in the Eastern School and other movements to whom to send out his circulars. Those enthusiasts could be relied upon to do all the necessary propaganda among the members of the Society all over the world.

Mr. Jinarajadasa followed up with one circular letter after another. With reference to my memorial lecture on “Dr. Annie Besant and the Theosophical Movement” he circulated and supported an electioneering canard to the effect that in it I had made a studied depreciation of her. He did not quote a single word of the lecture nor allude to my refutation of the canard in the Indian newspaper which first printed it. He misrepresented my policy, ignoring my manifesto, and only one of the General Secretaries in various countries who printed his letters gave me an opportunity to reply. At last came a circular saying that supporters of Professor Wood - acting no doubt under instructions - accused Dr. Besant of misuse of funds. A French lady had so written to him. He circulated her statement in lands as widespread as Europe, India and Australia, with his own testimony to Dr. Besant’s honesty. That was going too far. I insisted upon a public explanation, which was ultimately forthcoming - too late, however, to repair the damage done. Though I could forgive him for the harm done to my name among Theosophists and also for thus depriving me of many votes, my regard for Dr. Besant made it impossible for me to forget that some of this mud flung round the world would surely stick to her.

Thus the election which ought to have been a courtly record of policy and opinion - a manifestation of brotherhood in a society established “to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity” - degenerated into something worse than any political election I have ever known. Alas, that every experiment in brotherhood should fail, on reaching a modicum of material prosperity.

Since Krishnamurti’s announcement that he would have no disciples, and that he disapproved the methods prevailing in the Society, there had been a stream of resignations and lapses, which lost the Society 28,000 (out of 45,000) members between 1928 and the time of the election. This decline was not due to economic depression, as some thought; the biggest part of it took place in 1928, the year of the boom, and besides, the Society had always maintained its upward trend through previous depressions and wars.

The result of all these things was that I received less than five thousand votes while my opponent scored more than fifteen thousand. It was a victory for Bishop Leadbeater, who had at last attained practically full control during Dr. Besant’s illness, though he himself, then at the age of eighty-seven, did not live to see the result of the election.

He was entirely sincere in wanting to guide things by his own psychic experience. But in such an atmosphere psychic experiences were bound to come to many people - and to conflict. One afternoon, as I was about to enter the bathroom to wash my hands (I had been gardening) I was told by an inner voice to go at once to the library. When I arrived there I found the Master standing near the table, and the whole room throbbing - as it appeared to me - with his aura. He thanked me, for himself and his colleagues, for what I had done in connection with the election. I record. The true inwardness of it I do not know. I am quite prepared to believe that a thought-form or entity which can be created by a group of people, having psychic influence but no intelligence of its own, can hover above all and impress each sensitive person according to his own subconscious desire.

The new President, Mr. Arundale he now dropped the use of his title of Bishop outside the church activities, as he had announced his intention to do or Dr. Arundale, if we are to recognize the honorary degree conferred upon him by the short-lived National University wrote me that his intentions were to pursue a thoroughly liberal policy. I could not congratulate him on his election, considering the way in which it had been conducted, but I wrote wishing him success in the liberal intentions expressed in his letter to me.

But I saw no landing-place for the weary unwelcome foot of the white dove of truth in the new interpretation of the Society’s principle of tolerance: “Thou shalt not find fault with a brother’s views or activities.” What a convenience that sort of tolerance would be to lawbreakers in general, if only it could be adopted in the outside world!

I learned to detest theosophical politics, with their hiding of everything that does not redound to the credit of those in power, and their perpetual circles of mutual admiration, but I was left with a high regard for the theosophists scattered over the world as a lovable - albeit most innocent and childlike - body of people.

It is not here, nor is it there, that pure life or truth shall be found. There are no secret passages to truth. No hocus-pocus of incantations, of word or of the subtler word that is thought, can light or fan the central fire. No establishment can establish it; no communications communicate.

Last update: January 2009
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