Five Editorial Trends in
The Theosophical Movement
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Front cover of “The Fire and Light”
The following text reproduces Chapter Eight of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline,  The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013. 
“Where thou art Obliged to speak, be sure
to speak the Truth; For Equivocation is half
way to Lying, as Lying, the whole way to Hell.”
(William Penn) [1]
The theosophical effort largely expresses itself through written words. Since the independence of every student should be stimulated, theosophists have the right to know the editorial criteria by which the texts and books read by them are produced and published.
In order to get a better understanding of these criteria, it is not enough for us to identify the inaccurate editorial policies followed – since the death of H.P. Blavatsky in 1891 – by the biggest theosophical association, the Adyar Society. It is also necessary to examine the premises and assumptions of the editorial policies which are sincerely committed to the original teachings of modern esoteric philosophy.
Looking at the history of the theosophical work since 1875, we may distinguish five main editorial trends, which express themselves in the way their periodicals and books are produced and presented to the public.
No one, of course, can say that there are only five editorial lines. Besides, these general editorial trends often mix and combine with each other.  It is not always easy to “classify” one individual as a member of this or that group only. C. Jinarajadasa, for instance, was arguably responsible for actions which belong to three of the following five groups of editorial trends. Also, every editor or writer who belongs at any given time to an editorial trend may change his or her loyalty and viewpoint, and this is something that has happened often. In spite of these factors, the five groups of trends do exist, and they can be easily recognized. The first one provides us with the most important tests, as it is contrary to truth, and it disguises itself.
1) Extreme Pseudo-Theosophy
It is a matter of defending the rights of consumers. Readers deserve respect, and they should be helped to identify that editorial policy which tampers with the originals of the books and does not pay attention to the veracity of what is published.
The practice was inaugurated by Annie Besant in the 1890s – soon after HPB left the scene. It has been adopted by a few editors who present themselves as “Blavatsky students”. Besides spreading libels against HPB and – in some cases – against the Masters of the Wisdom, they can be recognized by their personalistic approach to life, and by not being committed to building the movement in any way.
Such “scholars” defend a relativistic philosophy. They say that anything can be equally accepted as true or as false, according to one’s wishes. They are unable to see any substantial difference between truth and falsehoods. They freely authorize themselves to tamper with originals, to spread doubts about the honesty of the founders of the movement while still calling themselves “theosophists”, and to present shameless hypocrisy as a sacred expression of “liberty of thought”, which they say no one should be allowed to question or confront.
Flatly ignoring the vast difference between an honest and a dishonest individual, they use to suggest that “since the founders were not perfect, they can also be described as liars”. For these editors, the image of the main Founder of the movement plays the role of a psychological looking-glass, on which they can only see their own and low condition reflected.
2) Moderate Pseudo-Theosophy
The second group of editorial procedures can be considered an expression of “moderate pseudo-theosophy”. Group 2 accepts both theosophy and pseudo-theosophy. It has a preference for Annie Besant’s ritualistic variety of pseudo-theosophy, often combined with the Adventist view according to which Jiddu Krishnamurti was an “avatar”. It is therefore rather sophistic and relativist in philosophy.  But it avoids slandering the founders of the theosophical movement and – also an important point – it does not actively promote tampering with originals.
Chapter 17 of the present volume, “Adulterating Theosophical Literature”, narrates a 1966 conversation among Adyar leaders which reveals the subtle but profound difference existing between Group 1 and Group 2. A more recent example of such a contrast emerged when Dr. John Algeo published a remarkable collection of lies against HPB, as if they had been written by herself. His action is examined in the Chapters 18, “Defending the Old Lady”, and 19, “A Masterpiece of Editorial Forgery”.
A few months after the publication of the fake letters, the international president of the Adyar Theosophical Society, Mrs. Radha Burnier, sent me a letter in which she admitted that those texts are “obviously spurious”. [2]
A few years later – in 2007 and 2008 – John Algeo provoked an unprecedented electoral crisis in the Adyar Theosophical Society by using fraudulent and disrespectful methods to challenge Mrs. Radha Burnier’s leadership. By letting his followers spread false rumours about her health, he further employed the same methods used by the slanderers of HPB.
3) Authentic Academic Work
The third group of editorial trends corresponds to the work of independent researchers and university-oriented editors who do not slander the founders, nor show disrespect for truth but, on the contrary, generally help the Movement and its Cause, broadly defined.
They are easy enough to recognize. They do not have always a clear vision of what is theosophy and what is not. Yet they do tend to stay away from pious fraud and pseudo-theosophy in its more aggressive expressions.
These editors avoid ritualistic illusions. They typically make useful research on the history of the movement, and thus provide students of true theosophy with elements of information for their renewed effort in the 21st century.
4) Editors of the Original Theosophy
One should not forget that the Adyar Society has published in a correct way a great deal of books belonging to the original theosophy.
The fourth group of editorial trends includes authors and editors related in various ways to the Adyar Society, to the Pasadena Society, the United Lodge of Theosophists, the Edmonton Theosophical Society in Canada, the Point Loma groups in several countries, the Fundación Blavatsky in Mexico, and other associations. Group 4 is committed to the original teachings of Theosophy. Books have auras, as one Adept wrote in a Letter [3], and an authentically Buddhic or spiritual influence flows from these editorial lines and from the magazines and books resulting from them. Anyone can see this, by going beyond appearances and studying deeper theosophy. Group 4 holds a key to the next phases in the historical development of the movement, in the 21st century and beyond.
5) The Activist Trend in Original Theosophy
There is a creative tension between two groups of editorial lines, both loyal to the original teachings of Theosophy: group 4 and group 5. H.P. Blavatsky used the words “militant” and “combative” to define what we are classifying as Group 5. It is useful to remember that the Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English language (in its 1989 edition), offers this first definition of the word “militant”:
“Vigorously active, aggressive, or combative; a militant group of reformers.”
Group 5 is militant, as opposed to Group 4. The creative contrast between these editorial trends grants an extra amount of strength and dynamism to the theosophical movement. The two lines are discussed by HPB in an 1887 letter to William Q. Judge.  She opens the text with the words “My dearest W.Q.J.”, and goes on to describe the difference in editorial lines between “Path” magazine, then published from New York by Judge, and “Lucifer” magazine, then published from London, by herself. HPB writes:
“I will force people to subscribe for Path & this will never hurt Lucifer. One is the fighting combative Manas – the other (Path) is pure Buddhi. Can’t both be united in an offensive & defensive alliance in one or Sthula Sharira – theosophy? Lucifer will be Theosophy militant – ‘Path’ the shining light, the Star of Peace. If your intuition does not whisper to you – it is so: then that intuition must be wool-gathering.  No Sir, the ‘Path’ is too well, too theosophically edited for me to interfere.  I am not born for meek & conciliating literature!” [4]
The “fighting combative Manas” HPB writes about is but the expression of a Flame coming from the Star, or Atma.  Such a fire burns illusions as much as it enlightens that which is valuable.  It is Atma-Manas, and it cannot work otherwise, for no one can seriously adopt both wisdom and illusions. This one White Light is probably related also to HPB’s own main source of spiritual inspiration -; a source which, as we can see by studying “The Mahatma Letters”, does  not put diplomacy first in its agenda.
The alliance between Group 4 and Group 5 is then a long term, stable and strategic factor. At its root, it is also the alliance between Atma-Buddhi (Group 4) and Atma-Buddhi-Manas (Group 5).
These two trends of editorial action have remained alive since 1875. In his books and through the pages of “Theosophy” magazine, John Garrigues expressed one line of action in Group 5, up to his death in 1944. Another thinker of the fifth group was British author Geoffrey Farthing (1909-2004). The editors of “The Aquarian Theosophist” have in more than one occasion followed the same path, and these are certainly not the only examples of such an editorial view, which was established by HPB and the Mahatmas themselves. [5]
In her text “The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society”, also known as “The Organization of the Theosophical Society”, HPB wrote about four main objectives of the movement, as they were stated by her own Master. She concludes her description of the fourth object by saying:
“Superstition had to be exposed and avoided; and occult forces, beneficent and maleficent – ever surrounding us and manifesting their presence in various ways – demonstrated to the best of our ability.” [6]
This approach to the movement’s Mission is therefore not HPB’s idea only; it comes from a much higher source. Sincerity is one of the decisive qualities in theosophy, and differences must not be wiped out artificially, if its students are to remain sincere. The true theosophical movement welcomes enriching differences among its workers. Since it invites everyone to implement self-devised efforts, it must see outer differences as an inevitable and fundamentally positive factor along the path.
How can one deal with outer contrast and contradiction in a correct way? A popular saying in Brazil expresses something of interest: “Everything is worthwhile if the Soul is not small”. It means that the bright side of everything tends to appear once we look at it from the viewpoint of a universal heart.
Some students are closer to HPB’s editorial line. Others prefer to avoid confronting errors. The two trends are in close unity, as Robert Crosbie knew and taught. He expressed the inner harmony between the combative Buddhi and the non-combative Buddhi with these words:
“We need only Loyalty – loyalty to the work, loyalty to our convictions, loyalty to each other in full faith and confidence that each is a part of the other and of all. So shall we be united in one thought, one will, one feeling. This does not mean indiscriminate acceptance of everything and everyone. The attitude of ‘namby-pambyism’ is but a pseudo-tolerance. Carried to its legitimate conclusion, this false idea of ‘brotherhood’ would signify that sin, sorrow, suffering, error, all religions and all philosophies are all right; that everybody is doing the best he can, and the best he knows how to do, and cannot do any different, and that all are steps of learning.”
And Crosbie went on:
“Humanity sins, sorrows, suffers and dies a thousand deaths; because of what? Just IGNORANCE. Theosophy is TRUTH and as such can have no alliance with any form of error and remain Truth. If partial philosophies could save the world there would be no need for the sacrifices of the Masters. For those who never knew Theosophy, or whose minds are so crooked in action that they cannot receive it, there should be pity and compassion. But pity and consideration for their false positions cannot call for a surrender of our discrimination – for a surrender of what we know, and of what it is our purpose to live and to know. I am no believer in diluted Theosophy. The Masters did not dilute it. We either carry on Their work or we do not; there is no need for hypocrisy nor self-deception. Others in the world, not able to perceive the Oneness of Theosophy, nor its bearing at the present time, may and do use portions of it – some of them, it is to be feared, to their own condemnation and the further bewilderment of mankind. Are they right, or to be praised or ‘tolerated’? Is it not the bounden duty of those who know, to hold aloft the White Standard of Truth? It must be so, else how could an enquiring one perceive it? Theosophy has to be held aloft in such a way as to confront errors of every kind, with their handmaidens of cant and hypocrisy.” [7]
This viewpoint may be considered as a guiding light for the theosophical movement’s websites, magazines and journals, in the present century and in the future ones.
[1] “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, Fruits of Solitude, William Penn”, Harvard Classics, P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1909, 416 pp., p. 353.
[2] The facsimile of Mrs. Burnier’s letter opens Chapter 18.
[3] See “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, T.U.P. edition, 1992, Letter LXXXVI, page 405, lower half of the page. In the 1972 Adyar edition of the Mahatma Letters, see p. 399. In the Philippines TPH, 1993, Chronological edition, it is the Letter 119, p. 408.
[4] “Theosophical History” magazine, volume V, number 7, July 1995, p. 222.
[5] See Chapter 9, “Journals According to the Mahatmas”.
[6] “The Organization of the Theosophical Society”, Helena P. Blavatsky, in “Theosophical Articles”, a three volume compilation of her short texts, published by Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1981. See volume I, 512 pp., p. 223.  The text was published by “The Theosophist” magazine, Adyar, India, in its August 1931 edition, under the title of “The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society”. It is the main text in a small book published by TPH-Adyar under the same title of “The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society” (first edition, 1931).
[7] “The Friendly Philosopher”, Robert Crosbie, Theosophy Co., 416 pp., 1945, pp. 11-12.
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.