Socialism and Communism
In an October 1879 Article in The Theosophist, it begins —
“Unconcerned about politics; hostile to the insane dreams of Socialism and of Communism, which it abhors—as both are but disguised conspiracies of brutal force and sluggishness against honest labour; the Society cares but little about the outward human management of the material world.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, What Are The Theosophists, 1879.).
This denunciation is similar to H.P.B’s views of Russian Nihilists that sprung up, before the Bolsheviks.
The theosophical movement was raised in a time, amidst several direct and indirect lines of thought, political revolution, etc. The movement after the 1890’s does become political. In both the first and second generation, there are political undertones. Theosophy does not stand above politics. It cannot, and we should be having these conversations, because Carlos C. Aveline is criticised for entering political topics, but he is basically the only contemporary Theosophist doing that. Traditionalist currents are making influences again, and Theosophy is behind the times. It is how you make yourself relevant, by relating what can Theosophy do for people on practical level. RockingMrE says it’s impossible to be apolitical, while still having social opinion.
Members of variety of political, religious, and social persuasion, joined the T.S. in its beginnings.
Socialists, aristocrats, and capitalists, all joined the Theosophical Society. The earlier Society however, was not occupied with political parties. Its members took different stances upon social and political situations, and expressed a variety of conservative, liberal, and progressive views. To express the religio-philosophical ideas of theosophy in those times appeared “progressive,” and appealed therefore to liberals. We all should know, that today’s American conservatives were yesterday’s classical liberals. Republicanism and democracy was viewed then, by the monarchists as leftist revolution.
Helena P. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott converted to Buddhism, and popularised it in the West, alongside others.
The established Churches spread a fear and conspiracy about it, that still lingers.
Yet, theosophy still appealed to the aristocrats, the upper-class, and conservatives. It broke the boundaries, because it wasn’t about politics, but was it above politics? No. Regarding the esteem of philosophy, and the theosophical renaissance, it sought to curtail the influence of materialism. The most important and influential philosopher to date, is Karl Marx—a contemporary of Helena P. Blavatsky. Karl Marx’s critical theory of society and industrial capitalism advocated Socialism as a panacea of recurrent weaknesses of Capitalism, and Communism as its end result. Karl Marx, and those whom adapted Marxism into a system of governance, have considerably influenced the West, beginning in the 20th century, with the expanded power of the Soviets into Eastern Europe. Several theosophists have tried to adapt theosophy into socialist model. The T.S. was not a national political organisation, despite some theosophists trying to advocate such a thing at the T.S. annual convention in 1884. It was the ideas of Theosophy that the British colony feared.
Theosophy inspired the native religions and cultures in India, and would generally, wherever it were to be. This would not only have destabilising effects upon British rule in India, as they feared. The Raj feared so, that they kept H.P.B. and Olcott under police surveillance, whence the accusations that H.P.B. was a Russian or to others — a British spy. In Key to Theosophy, H.P.B. remarked, “social reform” should precede political reform.
J. Brailsford-Bright’s gives an appraisal of Socialism in the Theosophical Siftings (Vol. 2, No. 7), Theosophy and Modern Socialism. It merely applies Marxism. Why has no Theosophist given an appraisal of industrial Capitalism in the Theosophical Siftings? The appraisal was merely romantic, and not about what works when it is put into practice. H.P.B. did not deal with economics, and the T.S. never developed a socioeconomic system.
H.S. Olcott stated, that Theosophists were focused on the scientific study of the occult, philanthropic efforts, &c.
The vagueness of the ‘modern Theosophy’ however leads it open to be easily co-opted, but it was defined.
If the T.S. became a political body of action, would it had functioned like the Italian Carbonari? It decided against these. Theosophy is focused on creating the new man, and a brotherhood around it. Perhaps, something like the mythical Roundtable of gentlemen in the story of King Arthur. A nucleus of elite noblemen in character and action, to educate; and this rank would be made and pulled from the masses without any distinction to sex, class, caste, color, religion or creed — to learn and promulgate Theosophy.
H.S. Olcott states, that Theosophists avoided all politics in its meetings, and had to do it, outside of it.
“Neither the Tibetan nor the modern Hindu Mahatmas for the matter of that, ever meddle with politics, though they may bring their influence to bear upon more than one momentous question in the history of a nation—their mother country especially”. Now, we are no adepts. We are immersed within the general world power struggle, and I believe we have lost in this power struggle. Many organisations today do the work theosophists did, so theosophists are not competition.
This was advice given in The Key to Theosophy:
“Make men feel and recognize in their innermost hearts what is their real, true duty to all men, and every old abuse of power, every iniquitous law in the national policy, based on human, social or political selfishness, will disappear of itself. Foolish is the gardener who seeks to weed his flower-bed of poisonous plants by cutting them off from the surface of the soil, instead of tearing them out by the roots. No lasting political reform can be ever achieved with the same selfish men at the head of affairs as of old.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, pg. 229)
On Socialism and Communism, it was said:
“Unconcerned about politics; hostile to the insane dreams of Socialism and of Communism, which it abhors—as both are but disguised conspiracies of brutal force and sluggishness against honest labour; the Society cares but little about the outward human management of the material world. The whole of its aspirations are directed towards the occult truths of the visible and invisible worlds. Whether the physical man be under the rule of an empire or a republic, concerns only the man of matter. His body may be enslaved; as to his Soul, he has the right to give to his rulers the proud answer of Socrates to his Judges. They have no sway over the inner man.” (Helena Blavatsky, What Are The Theosophists, October, 1879)
It doesn’t take long to demonstrate that the original mission of the Theosophical Movement was apart of the general human struggle, rather than above it. The apoliticalism of the Theosophical Society is questionable. The ideas of the Theosophical Movement have had social and political aspects, and political consequences, as all such ideas. Quietism is contrary to the modern theosophical mission, because it aimed at a moral regeneration of the civilisation. It also encouraged that it becomes popularised. Commonly, it is the progressives who are seen to want to move beyond the “old traditions.” Vaguely stated, old traditions cannot be uprooted.
Which ones will be?
The original system is grounded in classical tradition, but with a modern revolutionary tinge. The adepts actually encourage theosophists to go for what they want, but upon their principles though. When, Annie Besant attempted to orient the T.S. in India towards such fashion with the organisation begun by G. Arundale, it was a reflection of the socialistic model with a timid cult leader, who later rejected the whole lie. Many now believe, Theosophy runs counter to tradition. Rene Guenon called it ‘Anti-Tradition.’
Classical tradition is the soul of the People, underlying Western civilisation. The esoteric autocracy that dominated the Theosophical Movement right after Helena P. Blavatsky’s death expressed one of its aims at the Jubilee Convention in 1925 to establish a World Government on the spiritual basis of the restoration of the ancient mysteries, which we reject.
The works of C.W. Leadbeater contain this exact idea and wording imaginatively, in awaiting the herald of their “Lord.” Annie Besant left the Anglican church, atheism, the women’s rights movements, and Fabian socialists; but tendencies of thought that inspired her to social change hadn’t ceased from her mind. Indeed, we would like a genuine restoration of the ancient mysteries, but as a science, an outlook, an approach, a study; and not a socio-political and economical system. Anything that develops a political or party model and economical system is merely applying elements. It should be your own independent effort. We do not aim, e.g., at a new Hellenism built around romanticisation of Bacchian rites. If you want to do so — fine. We have no power, over who is inspired by the ideas.
The true aim of the Theosophical Movement is quite simple, but bold. I have read the proclamations of Charles W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant. It is true that there are socialist and feminist influences in Besant’s theosophy; and they had internationalist and globalist motives like A. Bailey. They rashly portrayed modern Theosophy to be the full secret doctrine, and swindled people. The fact however, is that modern Theosophy was admitted to only be an expression from a few of the fundamental teachings of the secret doctrine.
All over, we have scattered these evidences, whether it is the “Maha-Chohan” Letter, or the notable declaration, “He who would lift up high the banner of mysticism,” that in fact, Theosophy as an outlook, is meant to spurn more than intellectualism and mental masturbation. Philosophy has moved beyond idealism, into a need to embody spiritual will into acts of mobile force, goodness, charity, etc. Ideas may in a sense rule the world, but so does materiality. Thus, theosophy still has to fight for its way onto the world’s arena of notoriety and credibility, and the letters absolutely reveals that. It is a duty therefore, an imperative that we begin to reexpress the original attitude, and goal preceding them.
Strange controversial “race doctrines” and racial politics would be begotten by a social movement manifested out of even Blavatsky’s theosophy, like the Austrian theosophist, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels — founder of the Ostara. What she states can be easily taken, and misconstrued, but the concept of the root-race, is a matter of consciousness, not pigmentation. In some instances, concerning the ‘Veddas, Bushmen, and few African tribes,’ she or her teachers believed the “sacred spark” misses in them, and nothing may develop them.
Never does however, H.P.B. advocate selective breeding, euthanasia, eugenics, abortion, or racial segregation.
Just the opposite, she declares, that we all are of common origin, and should respect each other more.
Annie Besant believed that the philosophy of Theosophy, she would say “Brahma-Vidya,” has answers for all questions, explanations for all phenomena, and has no unsolved problems. Helena P. Blavatsky presented Theosophy in this same manner, as a ‘solution to everything.’ Well, then where are the great theosophical economists, political philosophers, etc? There is no divorcement between science and religion in theosophy, Annie Besant taught. If theosophy, as she taught is supra-religion and supra-science, then related to practice, is it also supra-political? What does it become in practice? What if occult laws and restrictions are applied to civilisation? This is impossible, and impracticable. Yes, all life is interdependent. It is a fact, but how does that work for an economy on either the system of barter or money, and can it work in practice? These systems tend to fail.
Muslims believe the same thing about Islam. Islam is not a religion, but a complete system, they say. The Muslim believes, it is the best system. Islam and Sharia deals with every aspect of life, and developed those systems that offer itself to be the answer to everything capable of governing an entire civilisation. Bhagavan Das, Indian theosophist and socialist, advocated an all-inclusive World Religion, which is but the natural consequence of the global idealism bred by socialism. It is also the Neo-Papism H.P.B. criticised of Solovyov, just in different form. George Arundale believed Theosophy to solve all problems of politics — nationalism and internationalism. Then, explain, why theosophists avoid social and political commentary? Does not Wisdom apply to all these aspects? Have we ever heard of Kong Fuzi, who applied his sagely wisdom to governing?
Unlike the Marxists and Catholic Party of the Netherlands, or any other political and religious organisation of that day, theosophists claimed both religious and scientific truth. Where is the great scientific discoveries? You see, the error of romantic enthusiasm, and ignorantly portraying modern Theosophy as the complete TRUTH in the form given gets us? Early formulation of theosophical doctrine in the nineteenth-century were nearly indistinguishable from spiritualist circles. After the 1888’s The Secret Doctrine, it was now a coherent teaching, but it is a formulation of ideas selected from a larger system. You could, from its points, create an orientation to spread its idea and mission. Theosophical members began to proclaim scientific, religious and metaphysical propriety with great enthusiasm then. By the 1890’s, the tendency of theosophical writers is in speaking of world organisations, in which all nationalities, and all forms of governance or political persuasion can participate. These were ideas growing then, and succeeding post-War. Thus, the modern attitude is driven by those geopolitical machinations and ideology. Less people of this generation think in terms of nation-state, and often speak about world citizenry. The early Theosophists thought within the context of nation-states. We still have sovereign nations, and we should be grounded in reality. Today, there lies a vague view, that carries very little of the original fervour that inspired the 19th c. theosophists.
This issue is not generational, but the result of social conditioning of ideas, and political persuasion; when we might believe our views are not persuaded by any political view.