The Annotated Story of a Ring Shows
the Need for Honesty Among Theosophists
Radha Burnier
(International President of the Adyar TS from 1980 until 2013)
Radha Burnier (1923-2013) and the image engraved in HPB’s signet ring
During my travels and often at the time of the International Convention [of the Theosophical Society of Adyar] someone or other enquires about “HPB’s ring” and whether it can be seen. The story of HPB’s signet ring [1] has been related by former President [of the Adyar TS] C. Jinarajadasa, who heard it from Miss Francesca Arundale. It was published in the “HPB Centenary Number” (August 1931), a special issue of The Theosophist.
When HPB was staying with Miss Arundale and her mother in 1884, as she wanted a signet ring made according to her own design, Miss Arundale got it made. It was of dark green, almost black agate [2], engraved with the double triangle incorporated in the TS emblem and the word sat in Devanagari characters. Sat means “Truth” in Sanskrit. At the same time, with HPB’s permission, Miss Arundale got a similar ring made for herself. But there was a difference: HPB’s seal was set on a heavy gold ring and was mounted on an oval frame with a hinge, which formed the lid for a shallow locket. Miss Arundale’s copy of the ring was lighter and without locket or hinge. Jinarajadasa says HPB wore her ring from 1884 to the day of her death, after which it was passed on, in accordance with her wish, to Annie Besant. Dr. Besant always wore the ring – on the index finger of her right hand.
Miss Arundale too always wore her ring and at her death, we are told, it passed to her nephew, G.S. Arundale [3], who presented it to the Esoteric School Archives. It was that ring that Brother Jinarajadasa placed on the finger of N. Sri Ram at the inaugural meeting after the latter was elected President. Many members are familiar with the photograph depicting the occasion. The ring was passed on to John Coats when he became president [of the Adyar Theosophical Society] and is now with me. It would therefore be more correct to call it the President’s ring rather than to speak of it as the HPB ring.
When Annie Besant died, George Arundale, who was her residuary legatee and became the TS President, acquired HPB’s ring. On his death, Rukmini Devi came into possession of all his assets and affairs, and it is not known what happened to HPB’s ring and to whom it was transferred on the demise of Rukmini Devi.
Strangely, two rings particularly associated with HPB have disappeared from the memorabilia of the [Adyar] Theosophical Society.  
The origin of the other ring, called the “Rose Ring”, is described by Col. Olcott in his Old Diary Leaves [TPH, First Series, pp. 93-97], and we summarize his account here. After a visit to Mrs. Mary Baker Thayer of Boston, known as the “Flower Medium” because in her presence flowers rained down, Col. Olcott handed to HPB a beautiful, half-opened rose sent by Mrs. Thayer “as a gift of the spirits”. As HPB held the rose in her hand and smelt the perfume, she had the faraway look associated with phenomena. At that moment, her host, Mr. Charles Houghton, a lawyer, entered and asked to have a look at the rose. On HPB’s handing it over to him, he suddenly said, “How heavy it is! I never saw a flower like this. See, its weight actually makes it bend towards the stalk!” When he gave the flower to Olcott to see, HPB exclaimed:
“Take care, don’t break it!”
A point of light appeared in the heart of the rose and a heavy, plain gold ring leaped out, and the rose immediately straightened up. One evening a year and a half later, Mrs. W.H. Mitchell, the sister of Olcott, came for a visit and wanted to see the ring. After looking at it, she held it out towards HPB in the palm of her hand in order to return it. Instead of taking the ring, H.P. Blavatsky briefly closed Mrs. Mitchell’s fingers on the ring. On opening her hand, Mrs. Mitchell and everyone present saw that three small diamonds were set in a triangle on what had been a plain gold ring. This ring was lost around 1979. [4]
At a meeting of the Executive Committee held on 12 October 1979, with Mr. John Coats, President of the Theosophical Society, in the chair, it was reported:
“Two items had been stolen from the cupboard in Dr. Annie Besant’s Room, used to house certain historical items associated with Madame Blavatsky. Between two and three years previously, the Subba Row Medal given to Madame Blavatsky had disappeared. Approximately two weeks before the Executive Committee meeting, it had been discovered that the Rose Ring had also disappeared. As the cupboard had not been opened for over a year, it was not known exactly when the ring had been taken. The matter had been reported to the police and investigation was proceeding. Since then, all other items from the cupboard had been removed to a Godrej (steel) almira in the Archives Department.”
In the minutes of a later Executive Committee meeting held on 20 November 1979, also with President John Coats in the Chair, it was reported:
“… The police are checking the pawnbrokers’ records for the Rose Ring. The General Manager is to confirm that a photograph of the ring has been published in the police gazette. A facsimile of the Subba Row Medal which had been presented to HPB would be made at the headquarters of the TS in America, Wheaton, where several blank medals are being kept, and the facsimile would be brought to Adyar.”
Apparently the Society was not destined to retain either one of these special objects, or the real HPB ring with the locket. [5]
[1] Used for thousands of years by kings and spiritual leaders, the signet ring is a symbol of the holder’s position of power, and, in addition to being worn on a finger, it also functions as a small stamp to sign or authenticate signatures – and to seal written messages in their envelopes – with a special red wax where the image of the ring gets impressed. (CCA)
[2] These are a few slices of green agate stones, similar to the ones belonging to the library of the Independent Lodge of Theosophists:
Agate stones have several occult properties, and they are said to protect honest people who have them. In “Isis Unveiled, volume II”, pp. 600-601, HPB reveals that she used a special talisman which consisted of “a simple agate or carnelian”. One of the historical names of carnelian is precisely “carnelian agate”. The talisman had a triangle engraved upon it, within which were contained a few mystical words. Seeing the talisman was enough for some distinguished mystics to immediately decide to help HPB in whatever she needed. However, that “agate or carnelian” talisman was not the green agate ring here discussed by Radha Burnier. (CCA)
[3] George S. Arundale was elected and took over the international presidency of the Adyar Society in 1934. (CCA)
[4] This is a photo of the “flower ring”:
It was first published by H.S. Olcott on p. 96 of “Old Diary Leaves”, first series. (CCA)
[5] The final sentence of the article is significant. Such thefts of sacred objects in the Headquarters of the Adyar Society further deprived it from the feeling of sacredness and mutual confidence necessary to real theosophical work. In this as in other issues, Radha Burnier was frank and honest enough. The word SAT, TRUTH, engraved in HPB’s ring, is there for a reason. It refers to an unavoidable obligation. And it is not about absolute truth only. It states the need for absolute sincerity and good will in all things, in theosophical life.  The distancing between Ethics and Adyar started during HPB’s life. HPB was sadly expelled from Adyar in the 1880s and had to start her work again from England. Since 1891, the distance between real theosophy and Adyar Society has slowly but constantly grown, with some exceptions here and there. In her article “Why I Do Not Return to India”, Blavatsky admitted: “… Nor can I, if I would be true to my life-pledge and vows, now live at the Headquarters from which the Masters and Their spirit are virtually banished. The presence of Their portraits will not help; They are a dead letter.” HPB knew that the Law of Karma can never be cancelled. Every mistake is thoroughly corrected, and compensated, in due time. (CCA)
Born in 1923, Radha Burnier was the international president of the Adyar Theosophical Society for 33 years, from 1980 until 2013.
Interesting information on HPB’s rings is to be found in the book “The Judge Case”, by Ernest E. Pelletier, Edmonton Theosophical Society, Canada, Part I, p. 323 (the occult influence of the ring helps William Judge), and Part II, pp. 115 through 119.
Henry Cornelius Agrippa discusses the topic of magic rings in “Three Books of Occult Philosophy”, Kessinger Publishing Co., USA, 288 pp., Chapter XLVII, pp. 141-143.
The article “H.P. Blavatsky’s Signet Ring” was published as an independent item in the websites of the Independent Lodge of Theosophists on 21 February 2024. It is also part of the February 2024 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist” (pp. 1-4). Its first publication, however, occurred at “The Theosophist” magazine, Adyar, India, June 2001 edition, pp. 368-369, as part of the Editorial Section “On the Watch-Tower”. Notes have been added in 2024.
Read more:
* The 2007-2008 Events in Adyar (by Pedro Oliveira).
Helena Blavatsky (photo) wrote these words: “Deserve, then desire”.