Monday, November 6, 2023

The Way of Peace and the Sword

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

- Matthew 10:34 (KJV)

True to his own admission that "unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables", Jesus has shrouded the above in occult symbology for the profane. But the inner meaning, he revealed only to his apostles as we see in Pistis Sophia - Book III, Chapter 116. The setting of Pistis Sophia is post-resurrection and Jesus is on the Mount of Olives surrounded by his apostles who ask him a series of questions. And in response to one of his recondite answers, Mary Magdalene offers to interpret his discourse as follows:

"And moreover the word which thou hast spoken unto us aforetime: 'Think ye I am come to cast peace on the earth? Nay, but I am come to cast division. For from now on five will be in one house; three will be divided against two, and two against three,'--that is: Thou hast brought the mystery of the baptisms into the world, and it hath effected a division in the bodies of the world, because it hath separated the counterfeiting spirit and the body and the destiny into one portion; the soul and the power on the other hand it hath separated into another portion;--that is: Three will be against two, and two against three."

The five in the canonical gospel are mother and mother-in-law against father, daughter and daughter-in-law. In all likelihood, this made so little sense to the uninitiated Fathers of the early Church that they were forced to append the following gratuitous and prosaic explanatory verse: "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

On the other hand, the Gnostic reading lists the five as, the counterfeiting spirit, body and destiny against the soul and the power. These are clearly the constituent principles of Man - three of the lower portion and two of the higher. In the light of Theosophy we can glean the following:

1. The Counterfeiting Spirit is Kama. In Pistis Sophia, Mary Magdalene asks Jesus, "who constraineth the man until he sinneth?" This is the same question that Arjuna asks Krishna in the 3rd chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, "by what, O descendant of Vrishni, is man propelled to commit offenses; seemingly against his will and as if constrained by some secret force?" 3-36

Krishna answers that it is Kama which is the enemy (vairiṇam) of man. Jesus gives the same answer, "this [counterfeiting spirit] is in fact the foe of the soul, and this compelleth it until it doeth all sins."

2. Destiny is shown to come from the region of the Fate, that of the Rulers of the 12 Aeons - astronomically, the Zodiacal signs. Astrologically, these are said to impress upon the incarnating Ego its Swabhava or tendencies concomitant with the Skandas or Mental Deposits that the Ego itself has engendered in its past lives. Further, Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, prakr̥tim yānti bhūtāni or that all creatures act according to their own natures. So, this Swabhava is the actor which brings about the Ego's just desserts in its many incarnations on earth. In one sense, Destiny is the Sanchita Karma (accumulated Karmic load) that the Ego has to overcome in order to liberate itself from the incessant cycle of birth, decay, death and regeneration. For a more detailed treatment of Destiny see the Lecture Presentation on The Problem of Free-Will.

3. Body, of course, is the physical body along with the prototypal principle of the Astral or linga śarīra and its vitalizing element, Praṇa.

The above are the three of the lower portion and the following are the two of the higher:

A. The Soul it would seem is the reincarnating entity, the sūtrātma on which the personalities of each incarnation hang as beads on a thread. It finds itself in embodiment during life and following death, it is shown to travel through postmortem realms in a disembodied state until it reincarnates again in a new personality.

B. The Power is "a portion out of my power" says Jesus, which the Rulers "inbreathe" into the Soul. Simplistically, one may say that the Soul is Buddhi and the Power is Atma but very likely they have more to do with the essence of the threefold, fourfold and the fivefold Dhyan Chohans.

When seen in this light, it is clear that Jesus is talking about instigating an inner spiritual struggle against the lower nature of Man (or endogenous evil). This is the way of the sword. Even in the Mahabharata, we see that Krishna only begins his guidance after Arjuna has precipitated the battle. WQJ points out that the whole of Mahabharata is an allegory representing Man in his evolutionary development. And the two opposing forces in the battle are "human faculties and powers" of the lower and higher dispositions respectively. The metaphor of war for this inner spiritual struggle is discernible in almost all Theosophical works.

Now, what does Jesus say regarding externally perceived evil (or exogenous evil)?

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

- Matthew 5:39 (KJV)

This is the way of peace. Hence, Jesus enjoined the way of peace as the ONLY legitimate response to Exogenous Evil while advocating the way of the sword ONLY for Endogenous Evil.

According to the LAW of Karma, all seemingly exogenous evils are simply the effects of our own prior actions that were motivated by endogenous evil. With this understanding we see that the way of peace neutralizes the effects by engendering no new causes, while the way of the sword attacks the cause - the very root of all evil that is within us. Their synergetic dual-action becomes "SHILAthe key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action."

If only the world understood and implemented the true teachings of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven would be instantaneously realized on earth.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Thy Kingdom Come

Crossing the river Lethe which carried thou thither

Through lands of oblivion from out yonder

Nursed back to health though mortally wounded

Seemingly wholesome yet memory beclouded

What knowest thou that knowest not thyself?

Borrowed knowledge is but wretched pelf.

When to thyself thou doth not belong,

Misery thou wreakes, so this misery can prolong.

Feelest not thou, pangs in thy heart?

Like fate in some lore that rends love apart.

For in every victory thou sense self-defeat,

As to ash does turn gratifications surfeit.

Harken! Harken to that voice though forlorn,

That echoes in thy mind at the crack of the morn.

Sing they of times of such felicity,

Bleedest thy heart of all duplicity.

Awake son of Aryavarta, open thy eyes,

Awaits new Albion to take to the skys!

Ash covered embers stir in anticipation,

Of what is to be a conflagration.

Shakes off the lion his perennial stupor,

At long last his tamer he shall devour.

Regaining the elephant in strength his trust,

Shall trample his Mahut into the dust.

Consuming its smoke shall leap this fire,

Rising to heaven from its earthly mire.

As became the elixir from oceans churned,

Proclaim ye! Proclaim all –

Thy king has returned.

Published in the Theosophy Movement Magazine:

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Swami on Theosophy

A Humble Response to Swami Vivekananda’s Criticism of Theosophy


  • This is an opinion piece which solely represents the views of its authors and should be considered on its own merit. The ULT does not endorse any views expressed herein.

  • In every case, we have chosen brevity over completeness. So, please write to us or comment below if further clarifications are warranted on any particular topic.

Swami Vivekananda, as a renowned religious figure of the late 19th century, naturally came in contact with the Theosophical Society (TS) of India which was itself enjoying the peak of its public popularity, albeit spiritual decline during that time. The TS was the body of expression of the Theosophical Movement started in New York by H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) and William. Q. Judge (WQJ) in 1875. The society was of-the-world with constitution, by-laws and officers while the movement, or the cause of Theosophy, was the transcendental ideal of universal brotherhood upon which rested the entire Occult Science or Wisdom Religion. The spirit of the movement needed a body to come into manifestation and that body was the TS.

It is important to understand this profound distinction between the society and the movement, corresponding as it were, to the body and the soul respectively. While HPB threw her weight behind the TS and was instrumental in its formation, she still endeavored to highlight in stark relief the contrast between the cause of theosophy on the one hand and the TS on the other, which as a representation of the cause was only as useful as it was faithful to the Cause. She wrote in Lucifer August 1889:

Therefore the degree of her [HPB’s] sympathies with the “Theosophical Society and Adyar” depends upon the degree of the loyalty of that Society to the CAUSE. Let it break away from the original lines and show disloyalty in its policy to the CAUSE and the original programme of the Society, and H.P.B., calling the T.S. disloyal, will shake it off like dust from her feet.” — A Puzzle from Adyar by HPB.

But it is clear from the History of the Movement that even during HPB’s life, and certainly following her death in 1891, the TS in general, and Adyar, specifically, fell into a steep and precipitous decline in its loyalty to the original cause. Consequently, many of the criticisms that Swami Vivekananda directed at Theosophy during this time, are really failings of the TS and some of its members. But Swami was justified in equating Theosophy with the TS, as it was the only extant body of expression of Theosophy at the time.

However, many of the same shortcomings of the TS that Swami points out, motivated one of its members by name Robert Crosbie to resign from its ranks and start a new, constitutionally faithful body of expression for the original cause of Theosophy called the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) in 1909. The students of ULT feel strongly that if Swami were alive during its formation, especially during its ascendence under B.P Wadia, he would have certainly endorsed it as a step in the right direction for Theosophy. With this inspiration, the current students of ULT take this opportunity to provide a humble response to Swami’s criticism from the standpoint of the overarching Theosophical Movement and its current embodiment in the declaration of the ULT.

Criticism of TS and its Members

Much of Swami’s criticism of Theosophists are to be found in two of his writings: (a) the opening part of My Plan of Campaign and (b) Stray Remarks on Theosophists. The former was delivered as part of a lecture tour following Swami’s return from the USA in 1897. While the latter was posthumously found among Swami’s unpublished papers and hence cannot be accurately dated. But going by internal evidence, it was very likely written after his return from the USA as well. In his critique of the TS and its members, the following pointwise categories can be gleaned:


Critique: “Theosophists' method can never be ours, for the very simple reason that they are an organised sect, we are not.” – Alasinga 1895.

Response: The original impulse of the Movement was diametrically opposed to sectarianism. The very first object of the TS is “to form a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.” The TS was a pioneer of this universal, egalitarian outlook, which may seem like commonplace morality today but was radical and novel in the 19th century. Additionally, the second object of the Movement is the study of all religions, philosophies and sciences without any sectarian predilections.

It is, however, to be lamented that certain personalities associated with the TS did behave in a sectarian manner such as when H.S. Olcott denied Swami any assistance unless he joined the TS. But human foibles of some of its members cannot implicate the whole movement. It is also true that personal ambition of certain of its leaders, the nefarious influences they attracted and the resulting organizational fervor, eventually led to the moral and intellectual collapse of the TS.

This is precisely why the very first line of the declaration of the ULT avows: “The policy of this Lodge is independent devotion to the cause of Theosophy, without professing attachment to any Theosophical organization.” It further stresses that "The true Theosophist belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all." ULT is constitutionally non-sectarian and non-organizational.

Critique: “Theosophists were advised not to come and hear my lectures, for thereby they would lose all sympathy of the Society, because the laws of the esoteric section declare that any man who joins that esoteric section should receive instruction from Kuthumi and Moria, of course through their visible representatives — Mr. Judge and Mrs. Besant — so that, to join the esoteric section means to surrender one's independence.” – My Plan of Campaign.

Response: The TS was open to everyone with no distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color. However, the Esoteric Section was only for those committed to treading a certain spiritual path rather than just studying it. As such there were specific rules that its members were obligated to follow. But to the best of our knowledge, none of them prevented its members from attending public lectures. To draw a parallel to the Ramakrishna Order that the Swami himself founded, all are welcome to attend lectures in Ramakrishna Math and study its philosophy but once ordained as a monk of the order, adherence to certain rules are obviously expected.


Critique: “A coterie of young Hindus has been found to welcome even this graft of American Spiritualism, with its panoply of taps and raps and hitting back and forth with Mahâtmic pellets.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

This Indian grafting of American Spiritualism — with only a few Sanskrit words taking the place of spiritualistic jargon — Mahâtmâ missiles taking the place of ghostly raps and taps, and Mahatmic inspiration that of obsession by ghosts.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

[...] one of the Swami's brother-disciples spoke of the spirit-world and read an extract from a theosophical book. Swamiji at once came down upon him and extinguished him completely. I saw that the Swami was a hater of spookism. He clearly said that all this was weakening and debilitating and had nothing to do with true religion.” – Reminiscences Of Swami Vivekananda.

Response: HPB began her mission among the Spiritualists in America as it was the one irrepressible phenomenon of her time that spread like an epidemic all over the western world, which both Science and Religion were at a loss to explain. Theosophy being the a priori synthesis of both Science and Religion provided the only reasonable explanation, due to which, many former Spiritualists became early members of the TS. But Theosophy is unequivocally not Spiritualism and is in fact antithetical to such practices. However, it is true that some of those early members of the TS who were former Spiritualists relapsed into Spiritualism, much to their own individual detriment. As for Theosophy, it is one with Swami in denouncing Spiritualism as nothing more than Necromancy.


Critique: “Indian thought, charlatanry, and mango-growing fakirism had all become identified in the minds of educated people in the West, and this was all the help rendered to Hindu religion by the Theosophists.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: If one dispassionately considers the historical context within which HPB was placed, it becomes clear that the iron fortress of 19th century materialism had to be penetrated before the teachings of Theosophy could be placed before the western mind for consideration. It was a time when Science had entirely dismantled the prevailing religious order and Darwinism was proclaimed to have solved the very mystery of life. Hence, the first phase of HPB’s mission was to show through iconoclastic arguments that the chink in the 19th century Scientific armor was in fact a gaping hole. This was akin to tilling the soil before sowing and this phase of work culminated in her first Magnum Opus, the Isis Unveiled. It was only for this reason that HPB employed and quoted phenomena that were unexplainable by Science of the day. And once this phase of work was complete, HPB abandoned all phenomena, dissuaded against it and only gave pure philosophical teaching which culminated in her second Magnum Opus, the Secret Doctrine.

Mango-growing fakirism refers to an article HPB wrote in the Religo-Philosophical Journal in 1877 where HPB is quoting Dr. Carpenter who witnessed and documented the phenomenon. This was part of the first phase of her work and has to be considered in that context.

Conflicting Claims to Mahatmas

Critique: “I have no right to criticise the dispute between him [Judge] and Mrs. Besant when each claims that his or her Mahâtmâ is right. And the strange part of it is that the same Mahatma is claimed by both.” – My Plan of Campaign.

Response: By the time Swami wrote about Theosophy, the TS had deviated completely from the original spirit of the Movement and had devolved into a personality cult. This is corroborated in Swami’s own writing when he says, “Modern Theosophy is Mrs. Besant.” Personal ambition combined with nefarious influences precipitated Annie Besant, though well intentioned, to lead TS to utter moral and intellectual ruin. On the other hand, WQJ upheld and sustained the original lines of the Movement and hence Annie Besant came in conflict with him. All associates of ULT, strictly adhering to the original lines and teachings, naturally stand in solidarity with WQJ, as it seems Swami himself did when he wrote “Now tell the Hindu Theosophists to support Judge.


Critique: “The great immediate visible good effect of Theosophy in every country, so far as we can see, is to separate, like Prof. Koch's injections into the lungs of consumptives, the healthy, spiritual, active, and patriotic from the charlatans, the morbids, and the degenerates posing as spiritual beings.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: The above criticism is right on point when one considers what went in the name of Theosophy during the time that Swami wrote this. Annie Besant along with C.W Leadbeater, a person of questionable moral character, entitled themselves “Arhats” and declared some thirty volumes as “straight” Theosophy, of which all but one were the product of their own psychic maunderings. They anointed people around them as “Arhats”, “World Mother”, “Messiah” and “World Savior”. The last being Jiddu Krishnamurti, who found himself unable to participate in this farce, dissolved his own office and entirely withdrew from the TS. The associates of ULT agree with the Swami in criticizing and denouncing this so-called “Neo-Theosophy” as fraudulent. But at the sametime, we emphatically assert that Theosophy is NOT Neo-Theosophy.

Col. H.S Olcott

Critique: The allegation against HSO is that he refused to help Swami Vivekananda unless he joined the TS. Additionally, one of the members of TS wrote disparagingly about swami Vivekananda when he was in dire straits in Chicago, going as far as to allegedly write "Now the devil is going to die; God bless us all." And that despite this, HSO and other theosophists claimed that TS had paved the way for Swami Vivekananda’s success in America.

Response: HSO was a co-founder of the TS (the body) but not of the Movement (the Soul), of which only HPB and WQJ were the rightful co-founders. HSO’s organizational predilection continued throughout his life wherein he invariably chose the TS over the Movement every time their respective interests came under tension. It is therefore not surprising that he may have acted as alleged and if so, we stand with Swami in his condemnation. In fact, to protect against this exact human failing of valuing worthless tangibles over the soulful intangible, ULT was constituted to be non-organizational from its very Declaration.

Criticism of Teachings

In his criticism, Swami mostly targeted Theosophists and their organizations rather than the original teachings of HPB and WQJ. However, the following two points could be interpreted as critiquing the teachings themselves, to which we respond in this section.


Critique: “The Theosophists claim to possess the original divine knowledge of the universe. We are glad to learn of it, and gladder still that they mean to keep it rigorously a secret.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

And one heaves a sigh of relief that this wonderful wisdom is kept a secret.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: Every religion has its esoteric and exoteric sections. Buddha taught the Eye Doctrine for the masses but the Heart Doctrine only to the elect. Jesus said, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11). Krishna calls his teachings गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं (18.63) or more secret than secrecy itself and in the 4th chapter says that he is only revealing this mystery to Arjuna because of his devoutness. Similarly, Judaism has its exoteric Pentatush and its esoteric Kabbalah. To this, one may rejoin with the fact that the esoteric texts in all these cases are now in the public domain. To which we answer, but who really understands them? The Vedas for example, are supposed to contain the last word on the mysteries of life and yet only the ritualistic interpretation is currently known.

Even so, the teachings given out through Theosophy lifts the esoteric veil as much as humanity in its current condition is able to assimilate. Hence, every sincere student of Theosophy will bear witness to the fact that the study of Theosophy has helped them better understand and appreciate all religions, including the religion into which they happen to be born.


Critique: “Again, whatever be the predilection of the writer in question, the Hindus have enough of religious teaching and teachers amidst themselves even in this Kali Yuga and they do not stand in need of dead ghosts of Russians and Americans.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

We Hindus — let the writer, like that of the articles referred to, know once for all — have no need nor desire to import religion from the West. Sufficient has been the degradation of importing almost everything else.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: We are unable to locate the article that Swami references here from the Advocate of Lucknow and hence cannot make conclusive remarks as to the nature of its contents. However, taking Swami’s criticism at face-value, we can provide the following clarifications. 

Theosophy is NOT a western import into India. In one sense, it is in fact an export. The true Source of Theosophy is the common heritage of all world-religions and hence of humanity as a whole. But this knowledge being lost over time with other civilizations of the world, elevated India to be the storehouse of this ancient wisdom. At the confluence of certain important cycles, it was deemed expedient to place once again before the world as much of this ancient wisdom as could be assimilated. And given that western thought was to sweep over the world in coming years, it was presented so as to best appeal to the western mind. Today, most educated Indians possess a western outlook and a western mindset. So, Theosophy in India is really the retelling of its own ancient wisdom in modern garb. 

Favorable Comments

Even though Swami lived contemporaneously with HPB, he unfortunately never had the chance to meet her. Most of Swami’s exposure on the subject was to the nonsensical doctrines of what was to later be denominated “Neo-Theosophy” and the so-called leaders of the TS who espoused it. Hence, we posit that his criticism was directed towards Neo-Theosophy and its proponents which we agree is entirely justified. As further evidence of this point, we find that Swami spoke very highly of the only co-founder of the original Theosophical Movement who he actually met, namely WQJ. So, with the following favorable quotes from Swami, we rest our case.

No use quarrelling with the Theosophists. Do not go and tell them all I write to you... Theosophists are our pioneers, do you know? Now Judge is a Hindu and Col. a Buddhist, and Judge is the ablest man here. Now tell the Hindu Theosophists to support Judge. Even if you can write Judge a letter, thanking him as a co-religionist and for his labours in presenting Hinduism before Americans; that will do his heart much good. We must not join any sect, but we must sympathise and work with each... Work, work — conquer all by your love!...” – Alasinga 1894.

I had a great respect for Mr. Judge. He was a worthy man, open, fair, simple, and he was the best representative the Theosophists ever had.” – My Plan of Campaign.