The 2007-2008 Events in Adyar
A Timeline of the Facts, and
An Open Letter to John Algeo
Pedro R. M. de Oliveira
Pedro Oliveira and Ms. Radha Burnier (1923-2013)
A 2014 Editorial Note:
The strange idea that one does not have to learn from one’s own mistakes, individual and collective, and that the past does not need to be accepted as a source of lessons, is one of the naïve illusions unnecessarily adopted as true in some theosophical circles.
From this mistaken notion results a denial of past events.
Then the wrong ideas emerge that the past is not inevitably linked to the future, and that the Karmic Law and the Law of Cycles can be completely ignored in theosophy, especially when they are uncomfortable and not helpful to our own short-term political career. One then makes an effort to erase one’s responsibility for past and future facts, and often for present events as well.
In reality, though, life is not about making rituals. It is not about short-term politics, either. Life is about learning, and that includes respect for facts. Learning is a historical process. History is the record of collective karma. Trying to erase past events does not help one’s search for truth. It is by learning from them that we make real progress and build a better future.
Mr. Pedro Rogério Moreno de Oliveira is a lifelong theosophist. He also has an extensive international experience. Born in the Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil, he served as the international secretary of the Adyar Theosophical Society in the early 1990s, and played a key role in the 2007-2010 institutional crisis in the Adyar Society.
The two texts reproduced below have been public since they were first widely circulated by Pedro himself in 2008. They are important for several reasons: 1) They have been written by someone who is in direct and existential contact with the whole process of Adyar leadership since the 1990s. 2) They are objective texts. They show facts. 3) They reveal an intense and blind search for short-term political power as a goal in itself.
The struggle for power described by Mr. Oliveira is not a causeless event. It is the karmic result of a historical process in which Adyar abandoned the ethics and the teachings of true theosophy.
The 2007-2010 power struggle went beyond ignoring the concept of brotherhood. It left aside all respect for the life and health of the international president of the Adyar Society, herself. Every human being, in any circumstance, deserves more respect than Mrs. Burnier got from her political opponents between 2007 and 2009. And Mrs. Radha Burnier was as long as she lived a sincere human being, an idealist woman and thinker, and a theosophist worthy of respect and consideration from all. On the other hand, and from a wider perspective, the unjust attacks against her were also a symptom.
It is a fortunate circumstance that in the short term political chessboard, the unethical political campaign against Mrs. Burnier was defeated in the second semester of 2011. Yet the same disrespect practiced against her is still taking place regarding the main founder of the theosophical movement, Helena Blavatsky. Mr. John Algeo, to whom Pedro Oliveira wrote his 2008 Open Letter, is the same editor who since 2003 circulates false letters against H. P. Blavatsky. Mr. Algeo’s methods - and the whole context where his “methods” could be adopted - are worthy of consideration.
One must impersonally study even the most disgusting mistakes and treacherous events in the history of the theosophical movement, so that they can be avoided in the future.
This helps us get rid of the Causes of disloyalty. In such a learning process, one must accept the fact that the theosophical movement is but one. There is no occult “separation” between different associations or societies, for there is no separation in Nature, and the movement cannot be an exception to such a rule.
We all must learn from each other, and different events are connected in various ways. In order for us to fully understand the lack of ethics which sustains the on-going circulation of gross lies against H.P. Blavatsky in the name of a theosophical publishing house, one needs to study, the 2007-2010 political campaign against Radha Burnier.
There is but one short step from slandering the founder of the movement and slandering its present-day leaders. And loyalty is not a “selective” feeling: one who is loyal to his own conscience is inevitably loyal to all.
The Adyar Society as a whole is slowly making progress in learning from historical experience, and going ahead from falsehood and pseudo-theosophy, to fulfill its sacred duty towards humanity. In fully doing this it will be more inspired than ever by the original teachings and Ethics of theosophy. These, of course, do not belong to the past. They are meant for the future.
Some of the Internet links indicated by Pedro Oliveira in the texts below may be outdated. By the end of March, 2012, as the present material was published by us, every important document relating to the 2007-2008 events was available at the website http://teozofija.info/Teozofsko_gibanje/Elections_2008.htm , including the two following texts.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
1. Timeline of TS (Adyar) Presidential Election
11 November 2006 – Radha Burnier, President of the Theosophical Society, suffers a mild stroke at her residence in Adyar. She herself telephoned her doctor who recommended rest.
26 December 2006 – Radha Burnier declares the 131st International Convention at Adyar open. The Presidential Address is delivered in part by the Vice-President, Dr John Algeo, and by the International Secretary, Mary Anderson. Mrs. Burnier attended a number of Convention events.
27 February 2007 – The Vice-President, Dr John Algeo, issues an electronic newsletter entitled MESSAGE FROM THE VICE-PRESIDENT, which was sent out to all General Secretaries, Presidential Representatives, Organising Secretaries of the TS world wide, plus a number of individual members. He commented on the President’s condition:
“As you have doubtless heard, the President had a light stroke in November. It did not affect her body or her mind except for a slight and temporary memory loss with respect to names. Her doctor predicts a full recovery, which will take several months. At present she is progressing nicely and doing very well. She attended all the major meetings during Convention, although she let others do some of the speaking and presiding that she normally does. She has taken a short time off (which she well deserves) to recuperate, free from the demands on her at headquarters, but she is now back at Adyar and attending to business. While I was at Adyar in December and January, I had extensive discussions with her about Theosophical business around the world, and she is on top of all the facts and her judgment is as sharp as ever. The outlook is very favorable for a full recovery. The Adyar staff responded in exemplary fashion during convention, and all went very well indeed.”
1 to 18 July 2007 – Having recovered from the mild stroke, Mrs. Burnier undertook an European tour, visiting and lecturing in several countries, including Slovenia, Hungary and Finland. In this last country she, together with Ven. Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime-Minister of the Tibetan Governement in Exile, were the guests of honour at the triennial European Congress of the TS, which included the Centennial Celebration of the Finnish Section.
19 December 2007 – Elvira Carbonell, then assistant to the International Secretary, Mary Anderson, sends out an email letter to members of the General Council, the day after official Nomination papers were issued by the International Secretary by ordinary mail. Among other things the letter says:
“Since there has been uncertainty about the state of our President’s health and our Vice-President’s willingness and ability to accept nominations for the upcoming Presidential election, several of us at Adyar feel the need to write to the members of the General Council to share the following information.”
“We have learned that our Vice-President has been asked if he will accept nominations, and have confirmation from him that although he is not eager to run for President, he will do what seems to be in the best interest of the Society when the time comes, and he will accept nominations. We have also received confirmation from him that he feels Adyar has to remain the international Headquarters of the TS, for both practical and symbolical reasons.”
4 March 2008 - Radha Burnier was awarded the Chennaionline Golden Lotus Award 2008 for her lifetime achievements in theosophy at a function in Chennai. Her work inspires “human regeneration, self-knowledge, truth, beauty and goodness,” said Latha Rajendran, secretary and correspondent of Dr. MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women. The function was organised by Chennaionline as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations.
12 March 2008 – Radha Burnier writes a letter, by ordinary mail, in her personal letterhead, to all General Secretaries of the TS, stating her personal views about the nomination process and highlighting the importance of Presidents of the TS to reside at Adyar. The full text of her letter can be seen here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theos-talk/message/43516
19 March 2008 – Mrs. Betty Bland, National President of the TS in America, circulates an email message to all General Secretaries, accusing Radha Burnier of blatant electioneering. Among other things she says: “Her memory and clarity are inconsistent, sometimes right on, and sometimes far afield—as is the case for all of us when aging, especially by stroke, takes its toll.” Bland includes in her email message John Algeo’s personal, and multilingual, website. The full text of her letter can be seen here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theos-talk/message/43531
20 March 2008 – Miss Tran Thi Kim Dieu, Chairman of the European Federation of the TS, circularizes an email message for wide distribution. Commenting on Radha’s letter, Kim Dieu says, among other things: “What a pity that such a great soul now errs because of the misfunctioning of the brain!”
29 March 2008 – The French TS Board issues a circular letter, signed by Mme. Maxence Ondet, to all TS members in France, which are 387, with several statements about Radha’s health, including: “In November 2006, she had a serious stroke which left her unable to speak for at least a month and deprived her of a large part of her memory. Her recovery was slow and incomplete, especially as far as short term memory and recall of names are concerned. In conversation, she no longer understands anything but short and simple sentences.”
The French letter also said: “The leaders of several Sections in the world present at the Convention at Adyar in December 2007 noticed with sadness and embarrassment the great difficulty with which she delivered her principal Convention address, an address that was wandering and repetitive, and showed a weakened mind or brain damage.”
The full text of the French TS Board letter can be seen here:
11 April 2008 – Betty Bland issues a personal letter to American TS member before the ballot papers were sent to them. In it she says: “Radha seems to be recovering physically from the stroke she suffered over a year ago, but, given her age, she still has periods of low energy and her memory is inconsistent. While I have deep respect for the wonderful service she has given to the Society and feel she can continue to be useful as a wise elder, it is for the good of the whole that the leadership pass smoothly to John Algeo, who currently serves as the international Vice-president.” She then concludes: “I hope you seriously consider this information when casting your vote.”
According to the official 2007 Annual Report of the TS, published by the International Secretary at Adyar, the American Section of the TS has 4,072 members.
19 April 2008 – The Election Committee at Adyar issues a letter to Mrs. Nano (Jeannine) Leguay, General Secretary, The Theosophical Society in France. Enclosing two medical certificates from Radha’s doctors that attest to her complete recovery from her mild stroke of November 2006 and that she was allowed to drive a car. After pointing out a number of untruths in the French Board letter, the Committee stated: "If the General Council and the Executive Committee of the Society had thought that her mental condition affected the Society's work, they would have said so and considered her candidature a liability. The fact that many Sections agreed to nominate her proves her suitability and not the contrary." The Committee further instructs the French General Secretary to “take immediate action to counteract the impression created in the letter from Maxence Ondet dated 29 March 2008.”
The full text of Radha’s doctors’ certificates can be seen here:
23 April 2008 – John Algeo adds a Hindi web page to his website.
2. Pedro’s Open Letter to John Algeo
Is well known that Radha Burnier nominated you for the position of Vice-President of the TS three times: in 2001, 2004 and 2007. Nominating the same person three times for such an important position implies a great deal of trust in the person thus nominated. Even after suffering a stroke in November 2006, and having recovered from it, she still chose to nominate you as the Vice-President of the Society.
I was very relieved, and reassured, when I received the MESSAGE FROM THE VICE-PRESIDENT, which you kindly sent, electronically, on 24 February 2007, to all General Secretaries, Presidential Representatives, Organising Secretaries plus a number of individual members around the world. This information was important not only because it came from our Vice-President but also because you had met with and talked to Radha at Adyar a little more than a month after her stroke. I reproduce the relevant part of your message:
"As you have doubtless heard, the President had a light stroke in November. It did not affect her body or her mind except for a slight and temporary memory loss with respect to names. Her doctor predicts a full recovery, which will take several months. At present she is progressing nicely and doing very well. She attended all the major meetings during Convention, although she let others do some of the speaking and presiding that she normally does. She has taken a short time off (which she well deserves) to recuperate, free from the demands on her at headquarters, but she is now back at Adyar and attending to business. While I was at Adyar in December and January, I had extensive discussions with her about Theosophical business around the world, and she is on top of all the facts and her judgment is as sharp as ever. The outlook is very favorable for a full recovery. The Adyar staff responded in exemplary fashion during convention, and all went very well indeed."
When I arrived at Adyar, last December, something had changed for I soon became aware that some workers there were preparing to send out a letter to the members of the General Council, both about Radha's health as well as informing them that you had agreed to accept nominations for the office of President. Later on I was able to obtain a copy of Elvira Carbonell’s letter to a General Council member. The letter, dated 19 December 2007, clearly indicates that you had accepted to be a candidate even before the official nomination papers had reached the great majority of General Council members residing overseas. As you know, I did protest at Elvira's letter in my own letter to the General Council, saying that it "is a clear attempt to interfere with the constitutional election for
President of the TS."
After the nomination phase was over, signs of a wider and active campaign in your favour started to appear. On 29 March 2008, Mme. Maxence Ondet, Secretary to the French TS Board, sent out a letter to all TS members in France. She says, among other things, that Radha, after the stroke, was “unable to speak for at least a month and [it] deprived her of a large part of her memory. Her recovery was slow and incomplete, especially as far as short term memory and recall of names are concerned. In conversation, she no longer understands anything but short and simple sentences.” If we compare Mme. Ondet’s statements to your abovementioned report about Radha’s condition the discrepancies in the French letter become self-evident.
Mme. Ondet went on to say that those present “at the Convention at Adyar in December 2007 noticed with sadness and embarrassment the great difficulty with which she delivered her principal Convention address, an address that was wandering and repetitive, and showed a weakened mind or brain damage.” The same letter states that “she no longer writes speeches; someone does them for her. Since the stroke, the editorials of the international magazine ‘The Adyar Theosophist’ are no longer written by her.”
While at Adyar, last December, I visited Radha almost everyday for a period of almost eighteen days and can therefore attest that the above description of her condition is utterly false. I also saw proofs of an upcoming issue of The Theosophist on the coffee table in her living room. She reads every article that is submitted for publication. As a matter of fact, the table was full of theosophical magazines and books, the same way it was when I used to visit her when I worked at Adyar more than twelve years ago. Although you, Mary Anderson and Surendra Narayan wrote the “On the Watch-Tower” notes in The Theosophist for the first few months last year, Radha resumed writing them in May and we can again see her own style in the magazine which she edits.
The closing paragraph of Mme. Ondet’s letter is even more revealing (italics mine):
“For sure, we loved Radha. We probably still do. And this has perhaps nothing to do with her mental state. Even so, we think that the destiny of the Theosophical Society would be even more shaken if Radha were to take on a fifth term of office. We therefore invite you to reflect seriously before the forthcoming election which will be crucial for the future direction of the Theosophical Society. Most fraternally,”
What is there of fraternal in this most unkind, biased and untruthful communication?
What has shocked, and continues to shock, many of us is that the President of the Theosophical Society is the subject of an immoral and utterly unbrotherly attack by the executive body of a National Society, and yet members world wide have not heard a word from their Vice-President about it. Your continued silence raises many questions: do you object to the immoral attacks at the President which distort, disfigure and blatantly lie about her real condition which you saw at Adyar soon after the stroke and which now has been confirmed by her doctors? Do you consider appropriate, as our Vice-President, for the executive body of a National Society to issue such a letter as Mme. Ondet’s to all its members on the eve of their voting in the international election?
Then we saw Betty Bland’s letter of 11 April 2008 sent to thousands of members of the American Section. In it she says:
“Radha seems to be recovering physically from the stroke she suffered over a year ago, but, given her age, she stills has periods of low energy and her memory is inconsistent. While I have a deep respect for the wonderful service she has given to the Society and feel that she can continue to be useful as a wise elder, it is for the good of the whole that the leadership pass smoothly to John Algeo, who currently serves as the international Vice-president.”
She concludes her letter by encouraging members to see your personal website, which since 23 April 2008 has a Hindi webpage in its “Theosophical” page, and adds: “I hope you seriously consider this information when casting your vote.”
In an election with only two candidates, does not Betty’s letter come across as visible electioneering in your favour? Has she the right to condition or influence the choice of the American members in an election? When some of your supporters say that you are not campaigning, is not Betty's letter an active and widespread campaign on your behalf that hurts the freedom and fairness of the most important election in the TS? I am aware of Radha’s letter to the General Secretaries, which was sent by ordinary mail. She had the right of reply after being misrepresented and placed into disadvantage by Elvira’s letter which was sent a day after the official nomination papers were issued by the International Secretary at Adyar.
Given your continued silence I have no reasons to believe that you will address the questions I have asked you in this letter. But as a member I needed to tell you, personally, that the actions of your supporters have cast a thick cloud over the electoral process as they have violated cherished and time-honoured principles of our Society. And your continued silence is disappointing and disturbing.
Those of us who have followed your serialized studies on The Voice of the Silence, which are being published by Radha in The Theosophist, cannot help but remember one of the poignant verses in that great book: “Sow kindly acts and thou shalt reap their fruition. Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes action in a deadly sin. Thus saith the Sage.” (II, 135)
Radha, as a legitimate successor of Col. Olcott in the office of President, deserves much more respect and courtesy than your supporters have dispensed to her in this election. The Theosophical Society is now poorer because of their actions which have desecrated the institution of the Presidency and what it stands for.
I just could not remain silent.
With sincere sadness,
[Pedro Rogério Moreno de Oliveira]
On the dharma and duty of the theosophical movement during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.
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The 2007-2008 Events in Adyar