How Would You Lead If You Were President?
A Canadian Theosophist
“Fohat” magazine, Fall 2006 edition
A 2017 Editorial Note:
The following article is reproduced from
FOHAT, the international magazine published
at Edmonton, Canada, issue of Fall 2006, pp. 67-68.
The yearly correspondence to Radha Burnier proceeded
for various years. After Mrs. Burnier died in 2013, the
confusion and precariousness of the international structure
of the Adyar Society showed it was the time to stop the
action. A considerable amount of awareness about the issue
of Justice to William Judge had been attained already.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
In the Spring of 2006, “Fohat” asked its readers to send letters to Radha Burnier, the International President of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar. We asked readers to implore Mrs. Burnier to open up the Adyar archives to responsible researchers so that they could research any additional material pertaining to the Judge Case. The following letter to Mrs. Burnier from R. Bruce MacDonald tries to appeal to her moral integrity as it pertains to leading a Society based on Universal Brotherhood. The letter from Edmonton, April 13, 2006 reads:
“Dear Mrs. Burnier:”
“In the spirit of the open letter by Carlos Cardoso Aveline printed in Fohat Spring 2006, I would like to implore you to action. The Theosophical Movement needs leadership more than ever. With the recent passing of Grace Knoche, you more than any other leader have a perspective informed through the experience of time. You, more than any other leader, have an opportunity to make a difference. You more than any other leader have the most to lose, but also the least to lose. You more than any other leader have the most to gain.”
“Adyar housed the pulse of the Theosophical Movement for many years, years when theosophists were bound together by trust with one another and a vision of a better and more just future for all of humanity. This trust and great hope gave the theosophists at Adyar the strength to rebuff the many attacks by her enemies. For a time there was a spirit there that has not since been alive anywhere in the mundane world that we inhabit. If the Movement cannot find a way to renew itself, even the memory of this spirit will in time be lost. That indeed would be a great loss.”
“Adyar today is fast losing the majesty that once graced it. When you turn over the leadership to the next generation, I dare say that majesty will be gone. The ability of Adyar to exercise any pull on the Theosophical Movement will be over. Many theosophists look upon Adyar as a lost cause. I believe it is not a lost cause until its leader demonstrates that it is so. Carlos Aveline has faith in your integrity, and as such I implore you to act. Adyar has very little left to lose.”
“The Theosophical Movement has lacked any real vision now for many decades. We can blame this on the Presidents of the various organizations, but the membership of those organizations must also share the blame. Great leaders are forged in times of crisis and we are now at a crisis. Real leadership on your part could turn things around and revitalize both the Movement and Adyar. You have everything to gain.”
“We are leaving the sign of Pisces and moving into Aquarius. Pisces is a sign of schools, institutions, bodies of people. It is also a sign of secrets. Those secrets will be brought to the surface as we move into Aquarius and people will turn away from institutions and move towards individual self-reliance. The Theosophical Movement has got to be aware of these eventualities and restructure itself in order to play a role. Organizations must restructure themselves in form and spirit from hierarchical models towards models where the various lodges are fully independent. Centers like Adyar and Pasadena must transform themselves into spiritual centres if they should want to continue to have influence. Political influence is sure to wane.”
“H.P. Blavatsky and W.Q. Judge will, in the end, be vindicated. I suspect we both know this. Besant, Leadbeater, and others will in time be reduced to footnotes. Adyar can lead and help fight for this vindication or it can stand by and become increasingly irrelevant. I am sure that you can see this as well. I implore you to act. Put aside family, political lobbies, the fear that immobilizes your colleagues and act. Open up your archives and invite the best we have to research the documents and vindicate the Founders. Work to make alliances with Pasadena and ULT so that they do the same. The only thing that divides theosophists is a lack of trust. Demonstrate trust.”
“I truly believe that if theosophists cannot find a way to trust one another, this will be reflected in the world at large. The disastrous political realities of today will only get worse. The Masters created the Theosophical Society to demonstrate to the World an example of Universal Brotherhood in action. If we do not find within us the wisdom to make this a reality, the consequences will be dire.”
“Theosophy can play a role in today’s world. One way of doing this is to demonstrate that theosophists can produce great leaders. We have had theosophical managers for much too long. I implore you to lead and show theosophists the possibility of what can be. If you do not do it, then who is left?”
Mrs. Burnier kindly responded, reminding the writer that one earns leadership, the importance for a leader to stay true to her own convictions, and of her own experience of finding trust and brotherliness wherever she has travelled. Mrs. Burnier writes from Adyar on May 22, 2006:
“Dear Mr. McDonald [sic],”
“In responding to your letter of 13 April, I cannot but say that the leadership of the Theosophical Society is the responsibility always of whoever has earned it. No person in a position of responsibility can act according to what another person thinks and feels should be done.”
“Perhaps you are unnecessarily pessimistic about Adyar and the Theosophical work in general. You may even be wrong in imagining that you have a truer perception of Theosophical work than other people, and that your assessments are final. Travelling all over the world as I have been doing for many years, I find a great deal of trust, brotherliness and devotion to the Theosophical Society among members everywhere. Of course, there are always higher levels to reach.”
To Mrs. Burnier’s response, I have the following points to make. First on earning leadership, it has to be agreed that leaders are often the hardest working members of the Society. However, as we have alluded to in many places in this magazine, we have had a string of leaders in the Movement who have moved the Movement in directions based on alleged authority given to them by the Masters or by Blavatsky or Judge. This is what this plea to open the archives is about – to negate the ability of those who allege to act on the authority of the White Brotherhood. To give an example of this kind of nonsense, Ernest Hargrove writes the following when criticized for not joining the leaders of Adyar and Point Loma to participate in a White Lotus Day Memorial:
“There was a very active correspondence among other societies calling themselves theosophical, in which we were invited to participate. Point Loma, instructed by a Mahatma to do so, invited us and invited Adyar, and invited everybody else, to assemble on White Lotus Day at Point Loma. And Adyar (in other words, Mrs. Besant), by order of the Maha Chohan – because a Mahatma would not do, as Point Loma had used that already – Mrs. Besant accepted the invitation.” (“The Judge Case”, Part 1, p. 268.)
Naturally, this exercise in competing authorities broke down and the Memorial came to naught. This nonsense has been too frequent with the leaders of The Theosophical Society and must cease if the Movement is to ever grow up. Leaders must gain their authority by working hard, working selflessly, and working wisely.
Mrs. Burnier further states, and again quite rightly, that a leader must follow their own convictions. Hopefully, a leader’s prime conviction is that of Universal Brotherhood. The Theosophical Movement was created to encourage people to enter onto the Spiritual Path. It also pointed to material for those on that Path to think about. The Spiritual Path is underpinned by the principle of Universal Brotherhood. Universal Brotherhood can only exist in an atmosphere that does not endorse creeds of any type. Creeds are the means by which dugpas foster division and seek to control the minds of people. For some in the Movement there is a creed known as Apostolic Succession where it is supposed that the word of the leaders of some Societies have greater weight because there is an authorized leadership traced back to Blavatsky. This creed and others like it must be uprooted and destroyed. No leaders of a Theosophical Society can carry on with creeds such as this being tolerated. They undermine self-reliance and destroy the possibility of Universal Brotherhood. This nonsense began with the attacks on Blavatsky and Judge by Olcott and Besant. Olcott and Besant put themselves forward as authorities and thereby created a creed that has been protected in one way or another ever since. The question that must be put to Mrs. Burnier is does she think that her words and actions are officially sanctioned by the Mahatmas? Does she think that was the case with Besant, with Olcott, with Tingley, etc.? The real fact is that even leaders make mistakes; what is important is that these mistakes are not institutionalized.
Finally, Mrs. Burnier talks about trust. The Theosophical Society in Canada finds such words empty. As Edmonton Theosophical Society knows the entire story as to why the Canadian Section was excommunicated by Adyar, and as it knows the various trusts that were betrayed in order to do this, these words must remain an empty claim for us. When politics enter into the running of the Theosophical Movement there can be no trust. There are instead alliances and intrigue. The exoneration of Blavatsky and Judge will end all of that. It will eliminate the creeds and reestablish the Society as a Spiritual Beacon for all of humanity. Mrs. Burnier is not being asked to follow convictions of others; she is being asked to follow the convictions of any true theosophist and to reestablish the trust.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.