In my previous post I talked about the quality of a spiritual teacher, and how to sense it. However, since I get asked this question a lot, I’d like to go into the Blavatsky-Bailey-Creme triangle a bit more.
Last night we had a lecturer in our The Hague theosophical lodge, who was – aside from being a former journalist with a big Dutch newspaper – the author of a book about the world view of Shakespeare. Peter Liefhebber sees in Shakespeare a teacher of what theosophists would call ‘The Great White Brotherhood‘ and others might refer to as ‘The Perennial Philosophy’. In short: in cloaked words Shakespeare refers to reincarnation, karma, the eternal nature of the soul, the unity of all that IS and more.
Peter Liefhebber is relevant to today’s post, because while he played lip service to Blavatsky, he is clearly more of an Alice Bailey man. And he’s supportive of Benjamin Creme, who he described as audacious. Well – he certainly made me see that Benjamin Creme might have a point, even though my conclusion is still that I don’t see what’s so interesting about him.
Let’s start with the basic premise though:
According to H.P. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, Benjamin Creme and a host of other theosophical teachers, there’s a brotherhood of adepts, mahatmas or brothers – spiritual teachers with occult powers and (compared to us normal folk) near omniscience. They have strict rules about how to use their powers, because to use them is to invoke karma – and besides, their main aim in life is to help on humanity. Because they know karma to be a fact, what they want is NOT to force humanity in any one direction. Anything we do has to be our own choice. Instead all they can do is give hints every once in a while to give us more options than we might have seen on our own. That’s the only guidance they’re allowed to give humanity as a whole. Individual humans may be helped on their spiritual path of course, and some will become the next generation of Mahatmas (like Djual Khul presumably).
In Blavatsky’s time it wasn’t clear to the brotherhood whether they should work out in the open at all. Two brothers, Koot Hoomi and Morya, got permission to (in their spare time) teach not just Blavatsky herself, but also A.P. Sinnett – which gave us the Mahatma Letters. The aim of that teaching was, because that’s how Sinnett wanted it, learning to understand the world view of the Mahatmas: the occult truths. This is what shaped Blavatsky’s teachings: the people of her time wanted a world view to compete with science, Christianity and Spiritualism that included the truths in all three and helped explain the discrepancies. She also incorporated major aspects of Hindu and Buddhist world views into her work.
The brothers in the meantime were most interested in helping humanities suppressed masses – inequality was still the norm – gain in self confidence and freedom. Hence the first object of the Theosophical Society: a brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex etc. (my paraphrase).
We’re talking the 19th century here. There wasn’t any talk of human rights yet. The revolution of the 60’s with equal rights for colored people in the US wasn’t fought yet. South Africa hadn’t even developed it’s ‘apartheid’ regime yet. The British Empire was as yet whole, and few people dared even mention independence for India. Olcott had to go to Britain to get them to accept some of the Buddhist holidays as national holidays for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Women did not have the right to vote.
Now that first object of the Theosophical Society is a self evident norm that most well meaning people take for granted. While the problems between people of different races and creeds aren’t over – they’re firmly on the world agenda, and there’s a consensus amongst most that freedom of religion is important. Alright, the Chinese government may not agree, but it doesn’t get many countries to avoid the Nobel Peace Prize.
By the time we get to Alice Bailey the world had changed. The Theosophical Society, though never very large, had certainly become prominent due to Besant’s involvement. While science and religion were still on the agenda, people were getting more interested in the spiritual path towards becoming a Mahatma themselves. This shaped Bailey’s version of the Mahatmic teachings: she taught both a world view and a spiritual path. The result is that her books are way more legible to most people (not to me though), less nuanced when it comes to the ultimate truths – and her teachings, through the Arcane school, are more practical as well. Though still pretty hidden and secret.
Also, in India there was an independence movement and education was no longer automatically Christian in nature. Alice Bailey herself, despite having lived as a Christian missionary in India, seems to me to have a more parochial outlook.
She continues many of Blavatsky’s themes but doesn’t write anything that’s socially revolutionary for her time. While I do think her teachings may be genuine in the sense that she really did have a connection to a real life Mahatma – I’m not sure she was a very faithful amanuensis to him. It’s a bit like taking notes in class: some people are very good at only giving the teacher’s statements, others fill in the blanks with their own understanding more. Either way: college notes are never as reliable as a book a teacher has written himself.
By the time we get to Benjamin Creme the world had changed again. Also: Creme is an artist. Apparently, based on what Liefhebber said last night, he claims that Maitreya has been on tv several times this year. The main aim, according to Creme, of the White Brotherhood at this time is: food, health care and education for everybody. Worthy aims I’m sure. And yes, it might well be that these aims are what humanity needs to hear right now. We might not be ready to implement them world wide, but with equality clearly on the agenda and in many places practiced to a reasonable extent – the brotherhood might think it’s time for the next practical step.
However, if Maitreya has been on TV several times, it ought to be possible to tell us who Maitreya IS. What human body he’s in. Then again, telling us would remove the mystery of course. From a mahatmic standpoint that mystery is an important ingredient to set us thinking. At least, that’s the reason Sinnett got when the Mahatmas refused to prove irrevocably for the eyes of everybody, that their occult powers were real. [He’d decided that if an Indian newspaper were to appear simultaneously in London as well – that nobody could deny there were occult powers involved. These days of course that would not be a miracle at all: with the internet it’s perfectly feasible. However, in the days of telegraphs and steam boats, it would indeed have been a great feat.] The Mahatmas said that they had no interest in proving their existence. They were interested in putting doubt in people’s minds, setting them thinking.
From that perspective Benjamin Creme is perfectly in the tradition of the representatives of the White Brotherhood over the past 150 years or so. Mystery it is. However, that doesn’t make his teachings in any way interesting the way Blavatsky’s are still interesting to me.
Post script: Geoffrey Hodson
In response to a question by Frank Dyer:
You mention AAB and Benjamin Creme, both of whom are really outside the Theosophical mainstream. I would be interested in your thoughts about Geoffrey Hodson, a mainstream TS [Theosophical Society] figure whose posthumously published autobiography discloses that he claimed to have had extensive contact with a number of Mahatmas, as well as HPB [Blavatsky]! He also claimed that a certain Mahatma helped him with some of his better known books. If all this is legit, then he should be getting lots more recognition than he has received. And if it’s not legit, then Mr. Hodson was seriously self-deluded (or frankly delusional), in spite of his wide acceptance by theosophists of the Adyar camp. Quite a problem.
However much I may believe that clairvoyance is possible, I’m not really all that interested in what clairvoyants have to say. So I have not studied Geoffrey Hodson’s work in detail. Still, I have read some of his work. It seems to me spiritually healthy and possibly true. This means that his claim that he had support from Mahatmas may well be true. I think the ‘problem’ is not any graver than the similar problem with Blavatsky or Bailey. Every teacher who claims a connection to the Masters will have people doubting them. That doubt is an essential part of the spiritual path.
It’s not really a problem to the Theosophical Society, in my view, because in the TS we’re free to believe whatever we want – as long as we believe in the necessity of the first object.
Moreover: Geoffrey Hodson, like William Quan Judge, may be more ‘theosophically’ mainstream – but neither made a mark upon the world. In that sense Bailey and Creme have way more in common with Blavatsky.
Either way – the teachings of Hodson have to stand on their own two feet. I they’re true and relevant, they’ll survive. If they’re not, they’ll be forgotten. Whether he was helped by Mahatmas is ultimately not relevant. Again: compare to a university student. Just because they have a teacher help them write their papers, doesn’t mean what they end up writing represents what the teacher would say.