Messianism, ‘Doublethink’ and
Fraud in the Theosophical Movement
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 
George Orwell, the author of “1984”
 
 
 
The individual impulse to agree with the ideas of others and go along with one’s colleagues is no new phenomenon. It helps one to be accepted in a group. In some situations it seems necessary in order to avoid retaliation.
 
In groups and nations, coming to a consensus reduces individual freedom for the sake of cooperation, effectiveness and safety. The process is largely healthy as long as altruism is present, and if the collective mentality still preserves a fundamental respect for truth and for diversity of viewpoints.  When fury and fear dominate, however, obligatory uniformity of thought may come in and artificial consensuses are often established.
 
“Truth is the first casualty in a war”, as the popular saying goes. Exaggerated political fights have the same result. Authentic thought is then left aside: being politically correct is more important than truthfulness. Political leadership becomes tantamount to mind domination. In this context the fabrication of scapegoats is necessary, for people use an organized expression of hatred against someone else in order to avoid the symptoms of their own chronic anxiety and negativity. George Orwell called the phenomenon “doublethink” in his prophetic 1948 novel entitled “1984”.
 
Churches and Universities
 
Truth and mistakes coexist in human mind, yet voluntary falsehood should be rejected. It is on the fundamental basis of self-deception that collective illusions occur. The disease of fake thoughts or double thinking is both internal and external, individual and social.
 
The theosophical movement suffers from the same illness, and so do most churches, universities, scientific circles and the public opinion. Theosophists and esotericists should be aware of the problem. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the modern esoteric movement in 1875, warned against collective hypnotism and wrote about the need for independent thought in philosophical matters:
 
“…Once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought – Godward – he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with ‘an inspiration of his own’ to solve the universal problems. With every man that is earnestly searching in his own way after a knowledge of the Divine Principle, of man’s relations to it, and nature’s manifestation of it, Theosophy is allied.” [1]
 
Soon after the death of Blavatsky in 1891, however, the majority of theosophists abandoned the original proposal of the theosophical movement. Having no great interest in the classical, ethical teachings of esoteric philosophy, most leaders of the second generation worked on the merely formal or ritualistic side of things, leaving contents aside. The movement became similar to a church.
 
In his 1936 book “Is This Theosophy?”, Ernest Wood described the moment he realized that the idea of liberty of thought had become a façade in the Adyar Society, the largest theosophical association. Freedom was now a void slogan under which everyone had to obey and exercise blind belief, as in the Roman church.
 
Wood – an experienced theosophist – had served for many years as the international secretary of the Adyar Society and delivered talks around the world.
 
He confessed: 
 
“As the new tendency in the theosophical movement increased it offended me more and more. My object all along had been to sift the gold from the ore, but now it seemed that the ore was growing more and the gold less.”
 
Liberty in one’s search for truth was to be accepted in appearance only:
 
“Theoretically, there was freedom of thought and opinion, and the Society was a truth-seeking body, and our truth-seeking was to be done as a brotherhood, without distinction of race, sex, creed or colour. In this spirit we were to study and investigate for the promotion of knowledge of the truth, especially about man, his relation to his environment and his destiny. But in practice there was more than a tendency to give the platform to the believer and to squeeze out the critic or the independent thinker. Instead of the subjection of all doctrines to a co-operative inquisition, ‘You must respect the faith of your fellow-members’.”
 
Such a brotherly dictatorship of thought reached its highest point during the 1920s. Wood proceeds:
 
“By 1925 prayers of all the materially powerful religions were introduced on the Society’s official platform, and the movement definitely degenerated into a brotherhood of creeds. Criticism of other people’s ideas became ‘unbrotherly’! And besides, it ‘spoiled the work’, and the work was largely a conveyance of blessings and forces by those who were admitted to the systems of organized access to these things. On these grounds offices were filled, and invitations were issued to leaders to preside and lecture at the Society’s gatherings nearly all over the world.” [2]
 
Ernest Wood explains the double standards and double-thinking used by the servants of central power. Twelve years before the publication of “1984”, he unknowingly anticipates Orwell’s “doublethink”:
 
“Bishop Leadbeater and his agents were eminent in the theosophical weakness of wanting things both ways at once, though that was quite illogical. The Society must be quite without dogma, and yet its councils must be governed and its platforms occupied by those who were eager to promote certain beliefs, leaderships and objectives, and members who opposed these must be kept in the background.”
 
With their technique of collective mind control through ritualism and “having both ways at once”, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater were among the forerunners of the political order based on mental domination that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s.   How is that possible?
 
A Limited Number of Just Men
 
As above, so below, says the philosophical axiom.
 
Human history unfolds simultaneously on various levels of consciousness, and the inner facts are the main causes of external events. That which occurs on the higher realms of mind tends to take place on the lower realms.  Civilization is sustained by a limited number of Just and Wise men, says the Jewish tradition: if these Few or their disciples fail, the world fails.
 
Led by good intentions combined with vanity and pride, Annie Besant naively announced to the world that Lord Christ himself would soon come back to live among human beings in an event coordinated by her [3], and would do so together with a great world-statesman.
 
An eloquent orator, a charismatic woman, Annie Besant became all-powerful in esoteric circles. Several pseudo-clairvoyants provided her with a number of fancies about the great messianic event.
 
Everything is interconnected, and by spreading her official brand of wishful thinking among mystical minds and idealistic souls, Mrs. Besant unconsciously paved the way for a wider politics of mind domination and hypnotic propaganda. After the beginning of the messianic fiasco, around 1910, it did not take long for the spiritual ruin of the higher levels of human consciousness – now sick with false messianism and blind attachment to mere ritual – to reach the sociological level. When Besant’s messianic operation failed, illusion remained in the air.
 
Soon Adolf Hitler became an “infallible” dictator in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Joseph Stalin in Russia. The three charismatic leaders used rather similar ways of authoritarian thought, based on state-controlled uniformity of language and intensive propaganda, in the phenomenon called “doublethink” and “newspeak” by Orwell. A certain mental pattern was shared by them all. A central aspect in their common ground included a blind worship of “superhuman” leaders. In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, two fake Messiahs, oppressed nations and struggled for global power while using grotesque forms of mind domination.
 
Orwell denounces “doublethink” as the process of indoctrination through which an individual comes to adopt as true ideas that are evidently absurd, and adhere to two mutually exclusive notions. This is the same process described by Ernest Wood.  In doublethink, slogans replace original thoughts. Orwell says in his essay entitled “The Prevention of Literature”:
 
“Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child’s Meccano set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship.” [4]
 
The Arguments Against Freedom
 
In one of his essays on liberty of thought, Orwell wrote:
 
“Freedom of thought and of the press are usually attacked by arguments which are not worth bothering about. Anyone who has experience of lecturing and debating knows them off backwards. Here I am not trying to deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of antisocial selfishness.”
 
Thinking by oneself can be seen as a selfish attitude and a form of boycotting the common goals. The argument is often used in every social group, including the theosophical movement. 
 
Orwell proceeds:
 
“The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, either of wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privileges. The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent.” [5]
 
Concealing uncomfortable facts is then seen as one’s duty. Only convenient ideas should be mentioned, even if they are sometimes false:
 
“The argument that to tell the truth would be ‘inopportune’ or would ‘play into the hands of’ somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable…”. [6]
 
Yet the denial of well-known realities and the imposing of artificial thinking are mere symptoms of a deeper process:
 
“Totalitarianism (…) does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. (…) It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts, or the emotional sincerity, that literary creation demands.” [7]
 
Sweet forms of blackmail use the best hopes and noblest feelings of people to attain terrestrial goals like personal power.
 
On the other hand, the phenomenon of mass hypnosis was diagnosed by Orwell in the 1940s:
 
“As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety.” (…) Atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities [or mistakes, C.C.A.] of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.” [8]
 
The same method of political control is used in more than one mystical or esoteric organization, in conventional religious groups and national and international politics.  However, artificial systems of leadership based on collective mind control have no solid foundation, and seldom last long.
 
Teaching by Example
 
In order to build a road towards a sane future, people who think with independence must unmask, discuss, fully understand and leave aside the manipulative methods of social leadership. [9] 
 
Teaching truthfulness by example, like Orwell personally did, is a good idea.
 
The privilege of honest citizens consists in using reason and speaking with sincerity. Pretending infallibility constitutes a fraud, however religious in appearance. Learning from our mistakes, individual and collective, is unavoidable. No one is perfectly consistent. Everyone makes mistakes, and correcting our failures will be easier if we stop seeing every criticism as an attack. Anxiously policing other people’s thoughts and words is not helpful.
 
Orwell wrote:
 
“No tirades against ‘individualism’ and ‘the ivory tower’, no pious platitudes to the effect that ‘true individuality is only attained through identification with the community’, can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind. Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible, and language itself becomes ossified.” [10]
 
Common sense recommends abandoning the emotional blackmails that forbid independent thought. Good-willing falsehood is worse than useless. An ugly truth is much better than a beautiful falsehood, and every honest dialogue brings us blessings.
 
NOTES:
 
[1] From the article “What Are the Theosophists?”, which is published in the “Collected Writings”, H. P. Blavatsky, TPH, USA, volume II, pp. 102-103.
 
[2] “Is This Theosophy?”, by Ernest Egerton Wood, London: Rider & Co., Paternoster House, E.C., 1936, 318 pp., facsimile edition by Kessinger Publishing, LLC, Kila, MT, USA. See pp. 300-301.
 
 
[4] “Essays”, George Orwell, Penguin Books, 466 pages, page 335.
 
[5] “The Prevention of Literature”, in the book “Essays”, by George Orwell, Penguin Books, UK, 466 pages, page 330.
 
[6] “Essays”, George Orwell, Penguin Books, page 332.
 
[7] “Essays”, George Orwell, Penguin Books, page 336.
 
[8] “Looking Back on the Spanish War”, in the book “Essays”, by  George Orwell,  Penguin Books,  page 218.
 
[9] Regarding the theosophical community, see for instance “Political Life on the Red Planet”, “The Fraud in Adyar Esoteric School” and “Besant Announces She Is An Adept”. Such mistakes do not prevent the various positive aspects of the Adyar Society: life is contradictory, and the Society has been as inclusive as it could and has been helpful to mankind in many ways. 
 
[10] “The Prevention of Literature”, in “Essays”, by George Orwell, Penguin Books, page 340.
 
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A Few Lessons from George Orwell” was published in the associated websites on 6 February 2021, being reproduced from the our blog at “The Times of Israel”.  
 
An initial version of the article was published in the December 2020 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, under the title of “George Orwell and ‘Doublethink’: Ernest Wood, on Liberty of Thought in the Adyar Society”.
 
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