Theosophical Acheiropoieta

Massimo Introvigne “Painting the Masters in Britain: From Schmiechen to Scott” in Christine Ferguson and Andrew Radford (eds) The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947 Routledge, London, 2017: 206-226. For details of the book, see:

Occult Imagination

“The Victorian and post-Victorian British occult milieu was fascinated by occult hierarchies and mysterious adepts. Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), co-founder and leader of the Theosophical Society, brought from America the notion of the Masters. They were evolved adepts of immense knowledge, whose mission was to guide humanity and, more particularly, the Theosophical Society. Quite early in the movement’s history, Blavatsky conceived the idea of asking painters to portray the Masters as they really were, either by having the painter’s hand physically guided by a Master, or by impressing in the artist’s mind the image of the High Adepts through several different, clairvoyant means. Other portraits were miraculously produced without the intervention of human hands…..”

Master 1

“During the Byzantine iconoclastic riots, an apocryphal document claimed that a Church Council of 836 produced a list of “acheiropoieta”, i.e. paintings of Jesus, the Virgin or saints “not produced by human hands” that even the iconoclasts should respect.  “Acheiropoieta” appeared in many religious traditions in difficult times, including in the Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, and in Hindu temples during the tragic partition between India and Pakistan.

We can consider the Theosophical portraits of the Masters as modern esoteric acheiropoieta. They are acheiropoieta, as they appeared in times especially difficult for the Theosophical Society and, according to Theosophists, were not “really” produced by human hands. They were, however, modern acheiropoieta: unlike the old acheiropoieta, which were invariably anonymous, in their Theosophical counterparts, the artist’s name and credentials reinforced the authority of the painting, a notion that first appeared in the fourteenth century in Italy but was utterly foreign to the early Middle Ages.

Finally, the Theosophical acheiropoieta were esoteric: Theosophists were reluctant to show them to the general public and the identity they wanted to reinforce was primarily that of the initiates.

Master 2

To this date, the portraits of the Masters remain sacred objects rather than simple works of art. Although some of the painters involved, including Schmiechen – and Roerich, if one wants to include him – were respected as artists well beyond Theosophical circles, they were regarded by Theosophists as instruments of the Masters. And the portraits were never used for purely decorative ends.”

From: Massimo Introvigne “Painting the Masters in Britain: From Schmiechen to Scott” in Christine Ferguson and Andrew Radford (eds) The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947 Routledge, London, 2017: 206-226.

“Acheiropoieta (Medieval Greek: ἀχειροποίητα, “made without hand”; singular acheiropoieton) — also called Icons Made Without Hands (and variants) — are Christian icons which are said to have come into existence miraculously, not created by a human. Invariably these are images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. The most notable examples that are credited by tradition among the faithful are, in the Eastern church the Mandylion, also known as the Image of Edessa, and the Hodegetria (depending on the version of their origin stories followed—in many versions both are painted by human painters of Jesus or Mary while alive), and several Russian icons, and in the West the Shroud of Turin, Veil of Veronica, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Manoppello Image.


The term is also used of icons that are only regarded as normal human copies of a miraculously created original archetype.

Although the most famous acheiropoieta today are mostly icons in paint on wood panel, they have been in several other types of technique, such as mosaics, painted tile, and cloth. Ernst Kitzinger distinguished two types: “Either they are images believed to have been made by hands other than those of ordinary mortals or else they are claimed to be mechanical, though miraculous, impressions of the original”.  The belief in such images becomes prominent only in the 6th century, by the end of which both the Mandylion and the Image of Camuliana were well known. The pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza was shown a relic of the Veil of Veronica type in Memphis, Egypt in the 570s…

Such images functioned as powerful relics as well as icons, and their images were naturally seen as especially authoritative as to the true appearance of the subject. Like other icon types believed to be painted from the live subject, such as the Hodegetria (thought to have been painted by Luke the Evangelist), they therefore acted as important references for other images in the tradition. They therefore were copied on an enormous scale, and the belief that such images existed, and authenticated certain facial types, played an important role in the conservatism of iconographic traditions such as the Depiction of Jesus.  Beside, and conflated with, the developed legend of the Image of Edessa, was the tale of the Veil of Veronica, whose name was wrongly interpreted in a typical case of popular etymology to mean “true icon” or “true image”, the fear of a “false image” remaining strong.”


See also:


Theological Contradictions?

The Liberal Catholic Church had its origins in the ordination of the eminent Theosophist, James Ingall Wedgwood (1883-1951), as a Priest.

Wedgwood priest

Wedgwood had joined the Theosophical Society in 1904, having been obliged, as a consequence, to give up his Anglican theological studies. Wedgwood had contacted Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919), head of a tiny independent church, the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, in 1913, and he and a number of his Theosophist associates were received into Mathew’s church and ordained.


When Wedgwood and his Theosophical colleagues in London submitted to, and were ordained in, the Old Catholic Church, they were required to solemnly swear to commit to, uphold and teach a very conservative declaration of Catholic doctrine.

Mathew seminary

They were all required to sign a declaration confessing a traditional Catholic faith. How the Old Catholic faith could be reconciled with Theosophy remains a mystery. It surely strains credulity to accept that Wedgwood and his Theosophical colleagues actually held to the traditional Catholic doctrines specified in the declaration, while being devout Theosophists.

The full text of the declaration was:

In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Amen. I…….. having formally united with the Ancient (Catholic) Church of England, Ireland and Scotland, hereby declare that I know of no canonical impediment to my ordination, and that it is my firm purpose and intention, if ordained, to devote my life to the ministry of that Church; and I do hereby solemnly undertake and promise canonical obedience to all my ecclesiastical superiors, and that I will faithfully hold and teach without alteration the Faith of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Orthodox Church, in accordance with the Decrees of the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils, and as laid down, in precise terms, in the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed of the Universal Church. I profess my belief in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the Dogma of Transubstantiation, in the Seven Sacraments, and in the Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672.

The formal doctrinal position of the Church was defined thus in its official statement of faith:

  1. The Way of Salvation. Eternal Salvation is promised to mankind only through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and upon condition of obedience to the teaching of the Gospel, which requires Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the due observance of the ordinances of the Orthodox and Catholic religion.
  2. Faith, Hope and Charity. Faith is a virtue infused by God, whereby man accepts, and believes without doubting, whatever God has revealed in the Church concerning true religion. Hope is a virtue infused by God, and following upon Faith; by it man puts his entire trust and confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, and looks for the fulfillment of the Divine promises made to those who obey the Gospel. Charity is a virtue infused by God, and likewise consequent upon Faith, whereby man, loving God above all things for His own sake, and his neighbour as himself for God’s sake, yields up his will to a joyful obedience to the revealed will of God in the Church.
  3. The Church. God has established the Holy Catholic Church upon earth to be the pillar and ground of the revealed Truth; and has committed to her the guardianship of the Holy Scriptures and of Holy Tradition, and the power of binding and loosing.
  4. The Creed. The Catholic Church has set forth the principle doctrines of the Christian Faith in 12 articles of the Creed, as follows: I believe in One God, the Father, The Almighty, Maker of the heaven and earth, and all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, He suffered died and was buried. On the third day He rose again in the fulfillment of scriptures, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son the Spirit is worshipped and glorified, and has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. This sacred Creed is sufficient for the establishment of the Truth, inasmuch as it explicitly teaches the perfect doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
  5. The Sacraments. The fundamental ordinances of the Gospel, instituted by Jesus Christ as a special means of conveying Divine Grace and influence to the souls of men, which are commonly called Mysteries or Sacraments, are seven in number, namely, Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), the Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, Penance, and Unction. Baptism is the first Sacrament of the Gospel, administered by three-fold immersion in or affusion with water, with the words, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” It admits the recipient into the Church, bestows upon him the forgiveness of sins, original and actual, through the Blood of Christ, and causes in him a spiritual change called Regeneration. Without valid Baptism no other Sacrament can be validly received. Confirmation, or Chrismation, is a Sacrament in which the baptized person, on being anointed with Sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishops of the Church, with the imposition of hands, receives the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost to strengthen him in the grace which he received at Baptism, making him a strong and perfect Christian and a good soldier of Christ.  The Holy Eucharist is a Sacrament in which, under the appearances of bread and wine, the real and actual Body and Blood of Christ are given and received for the remission of sins, the increase of Divine grace, and the reward of everlasting life. After the prayer of Invocation of the Holy Ghost in the Liturgy, the bread and wine are entirely converted into the living Body and Blood of Christ by an actual change of being, to which the philosophical terms of Transubstantiation and Transmutation are rightly applied. The celebration of this Mystery or Sacrament, commonly called the Mass, constitutes the chief act of Christian worship, being a sacrificial Memorial or re-Presentation of our Lord’s death. It is not a repetition of the Sacrifice offered once for all upon Calvary, but is a perpetuation of that Sacrifice by the Church on earth, as our Lord also perpetually offers it in heaven. It is a true and propitiatory Sacrifice, which is offered alike for the living and for the dead.  Holy Orders is a Sacrament in which the Holy Ghost, through the laying-on of hands of the Bishops, consecrates and ordains the pastors and ministers of the Church, and imparts to them special grace to administer the Sacraments, to forgive sins, and to feed the flock of Christ. Matrimony is a Sacrament in which the voluntary union of husband and wife is sanctified to become an image of the union of Christ and His Church; and grace is imparted to them to fulfill the duties of their estate and its great responsibilities, both to each other and to their children. Penance is a Sacrament in which the Holy Ghost bestows the forgiveness of sins, by the ministry of the Priest, upon those who, having sinned after Baptism, confess their sins with true repentance; and grace is given to amend their lives thereafter. Unction is a Sacrament in which the Priests of the Church anoint the sick with oil, for the healing of the infirmities of their souls, and if it should please God those of their bodies also. The efficacy of the Sacraments depends upon the promise and appointment of God; howbeit they benefit only those who receive them worthily with faith, and with due preparation and disposition of mind.
  6. Holy Scripture. The Scriptures are writings inspired by God, and given to the Church for her instruction and edification. The Church is therefore the custodian and the only Divinely appointed interpreter of Holy Scripture.
  7. Tradition. The Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Traditions received from the seven General Councils and the early Fathers of the Church may not be rejected, but are to be received and obeyed as being both agreeable to Holy Scripture and to that Authority with which Christ endowed His Church. Matters of discipline and ceremonial do not rank on the same level with matters of Faith or Morals, but may be altered from time to time and from place to place by the Authority of the Church, according as the welfare and greater devotion of the faithful may be furthered thereby.
  8. The Communion of Saints. There is a Communion of Saints in the Providence of God, wherein the souls of the righteous of all ages are united with Christ in the bond of faith and love. Wherefore it is pleasing to God, and profitable to humanity, to honour the Saints and to invoke them in prayer; and also to pray for the faithful departed.
  9. Religious Symbols. The Relics and representations of Saints are worthy of honour, as are also all other religious emblems; that our minds may be encouraged to devotion and to imitation of the deeds of the just. Honour shown to such objects is purely relative, and in no way implies a confusion of the symbol with the thing signified.
  10. Rites and Ceremonies. It is the duty of all Christians to join in the worship of the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in accordance with our Lord’s express command; and to conform to the ceremonies prescribed by Holy Tradition for the greater dignity of that Sacrifice and for the edification of the faithful.
  11. The Moral Law. All Christians are bound to observe the Moral Law contained in the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, developed with greater strictness in the New, founded upon the law of nature and charity, and defining our duty to God and to man. The laws of the Church are also to be obeyed, as proceeding from that Authority which Christ has committed to her for the instruction and salvation of His people.
  12. The Monastic Estate. The monastic life, duly regulated according to the laws of the Church, is a salutary institution in strict accord with the Holy Scriptures; and is fully of profit to them who, after being carefully tried and examined, make full proof of their calling thereto.

Organic Articles

  1. Head of the Church. The Foundation, Head and Supreme Pastor and Bishop of the Church is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, from Whom all Bishops and Pastors derive their spiritual powers and jurisdiction.
  2. Obedience. By the law and institution of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, all Christians owe obedience and submission in spiritual things to them who have rule and authority within the Church.
  3. Ministerial Authority. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not commit rule and authority within the Church to all the faithful indiscriminately, but only to the Apostles and to their lawful successors in due order.
  4. Apostolic Succession. The only lawful successors of the Apostles are the Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, united by profession of the self-same belief, participation in the same Sacraments, and mutual recognition and intercommunion. The Bishops of the Church, being true successors of the Apostles, are by Divine right and appointment the rulers of the Church. In virtue of this appointment, each individual Bishop is supreme and independent in that part of the Church which has been committed to his care, so long as he remains in Faith and Communion with the united company of Catholic Bishops, who cannot exclude any from the Church save only them who stray from the path of virtue or err in Faith. By virtue of this same Divine appointment, the supreme Authority over the whole Church on earth belongs to the collective Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate. They alone form the highest tribunal in spiritual matters, from whose united judgment there can be no appeal; so that it is unlawful for any single Bishop, or any smaller group of Bishops apart from them, or for any secular power or state, to usurp this Authority, or for any individual Christian to substitute his own private judgment for that interpretation of Scripture or Authority which is approved by the Church.
  5. Church Authority. The collective body of the Orthodox Catholic Episcopate, united by profession of the Faith, by the Sacraments, and by mutual recognition and actual intercommunion, is the source and depository of all order, authority and jurisdiction in the Church, and is the center of visible Catholic unity; so that no Pope, Patriarch or Bishop, or any number of Bishops separated from this united body can possess any authority or jurisdiction whatsoever. The authority of this collective body is equally binding, however it may be expressed: whether by a General Council or by the regular and ordinary consultation and agreement of the Bishops them-selves. It is an act of schism to appeal from the known judgment of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate, however it may have been ascertained; or to appeal from any dogmatic decree of any General Council even though such appeal be to a future Council. For the Episcopate, being a continuation of the Apostolate, is clearly a Divine institution, and its authority is founded in Divine right. But General councils are not of themselves of direct Divine appointment; and so the Episcopate having clearly the Scriptural promise of Divine guidance into all Truth, cannot be hampered in the exercise of its authority by the necessity of assembling a General Council, which may obviously be rendered impossible through natural circumstances. There have been seven General Councils only, which are recognized by the whole of Catholic Christendom, held respectively in Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople (553), Constantinople (680), and Nicea (787). At no other Councils was the entire body of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate representatively assembled; and the decrees and pronouncements of no others must of themselves be accepted as binding upon the consciences of the faithful. The Authority of the Church can never be in abeyance, even though a General Council cannot be assembled. It is equally to be submitted to and obeyed in whatever way it may be exercised, and although it may be exercised only through the ordinary administration of their respective jurisdictions by individual Bishops.
  6. Hierarchy. All Patriarchs, Archbishops and Metropolitans (that is to say, all Bishops exercising authority over other Bishops) owe that authority solely to the appointment or general consent of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate; nor can they ever cease from owing obedience to the collective body of the Episcopate in all matters concerning Faith and Morals.
  7. The Five Patriarchates. There are five Patriarchates, which ought to be united and form the supreme authority in the administration of the Holy Catholic Church. These are Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Unfortunately, owing to disputes and differences on the one hand and to the lust for power on the other, the Patriarchs are not at present in Communion; and the welfare of Christendom is jeopardized by their disedifying quarrels, which we pray may soon have an end. [A.H.Mathew Articles of Belief of the Old Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland, of the Western Orthodox Church The Western Orthodox Church, Bromley, 1911]

Did Wedgwood and his colleagues falsely “solemnly swear” to the conservative declaration of Catholic doctrine?



The Promise of Christ’s Return

Dr. Weller Van Hook (1862-1933), General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in America, 1907-1912, wrote a play, The Promise of Christ’s Return, originally published in The Theosophic Messenger (December, 1909). It was first performed in Chicago, in 1910, with Jinarajadasa as the stage manager. It was then performed in Seattle, in 1911, with Jinarajadasa performing the role of one of the characters.

Promise van Hook

It was performed at the 1920 convention of the Australian Section in Sydney, and “It was much appreciated by a very large audience.” It was performed again in 1948 at the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society at Adyar.


For Weller van Hook, see:


The Final Work?

Work on reconstructing, with the aim of publishing, Leadbeater’s final remaining unpublished volume, “An Enquiry Into The Failure of Christianity”, has again been assisted by access to another typescript manuscript of the work held in a private collection. The manuscript is labelled “Essays on Christianity” and misidentified as “apparently a new edition of “The Christian Creed””.

CWL Ms Christian Gnosis

I have now had access to the manuscript in the Library and Archives of The Theosophical Society at Adyar [L*091 Lea AF], two additional manuscripts, and this fourth version of the text. To these can be added the published volumes (falsely) claiming to be the original work: A Christian Gnosis (1983) and Christian Gnosis (2011).

CWL Ms 2

While I regard preparing an accurate, un-redacted, annotated version of Leadbeater’s final work on Christianity with something only slightly less than unmitigated horror, I think that it is a project that should be undertaken.

See: , , and


The Manor – a minor mystery solved

References to the history of The Manor have noted that, prior to it being purchased for the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society and named “The Manor”, it had an earlier name. It was known locally as “Bakewell’s Folly” or “Bakewell’s Mansion” after the man who built it, or “Garroch”.


However, details of the house published when it was offered for auction as part of the Bakewell Estate in September 1922 by Stanton and Son Ltd, Real Estate Agents and Auctioneers, provide the facts.

Manor ad 1

Stanton and Son offered for auction two houses, built by Bakewell, as part of his estate. One was “Garrock”. It was located at the corner of Wharf Road and Mary Street, and was described as an “Imposing Residence” of brick, with slate roof, having a hall, 2 reception rooms, a breakfast room, a billiard room, a ballroom, 5 main bedrooms, 2 maids’ rooms, 3 bathrooms, “all modern offices, exceptionally well appointed”. “The grounds are most attractively arranged in gardens, lawns, shrub, and arc surrounded by brick wall on stone coping. Area for tennis court. This is one of the finest private residences over the harbour, and lends itself for convenient alteration into flats.

The second house was indeed already named “The Manor”, and was on what was then Sarah Street, extending to the harbour front reservation. “This mansion residence comprises approximately 45 rooms, all exceptionally large, also servants’ quarters, garage, stables, laundries, and gardeners’ rooms…Such a fine property should be particularly desirable for an Educational Institution, Residential Flats, for a Private Hotel, or for a Large Hospital.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 16 September 1922, Page 9

Garrock  Manor 2

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 2 September 1922, Page 18




The Graduated Coming


Coming II

C.W.Leadbeater The Liberal Catholic Vol 5 No 3, 2 December, 1926


Identifying the characters in “The Lives” – again

The large collection of lists identifying the characters in “The Lives” has slightly expanded.

I have received a copy of a duplicated (on the now long forgotten Gestetner Cyclograph which was probably the most popular, and certainly the cheapest, means of document reproduction from around 1900-1990). The document is undated, but appears to come from the mid-1920s.


Various private lists of “Star names” circulated within the Theosophical Society, especially during the hey-day of “the Lives’”; some of these were consulted in the Theosophical Society Archives and Library at Adyar.  In addition, handwritten annotations in copies of The Lives of Alcyone and Man. Whence, How and Whither in the Adyar library provided additional information, as did material on file in the Theosophical Society Archives at Adyar.  Of the three hundred or so “Star names” that were employed, only about forty were ever published with the corresponding names for their present incarnation. Arthur Nethercot, in his research for his biography of Mrs Besant discovered the identities of over 90. Gregory Robertson, who acted as my research assistant for most of the time I was at Adyar, and for a time after my return to Sydney, identified all “Star Names” bar one (“Scorpio) by a laborious, and meticulous, cross-matching of published and unpublished lists. See Gregory Robertson The Identification of Characters in The Lives of Alcyone Privately published, Sydney, 1980.

Although various suggestions were made as to the identity of “Scorpio”, it is clear that it was kept by Leadbeater as a threat which might be applied against a particular enemy.




Leadbeater in “Gems of Thought”

Gems of Thought

A curious volume, Gems of thought from leading intellectual lights: education, soul elevating and spiritualizing; designed to illustrate certain grand truths which are connected with the spiritual philosophy Compiled by John R Francis, Chicago, IL : Progressive Thinker Publishing House, 1906, contains some interesting early versions of some of Leadbeater’s writings:

“Dreams and their significance” 46-68

Dreams Gems

“Man and his bodies” 190-202

“Reincarnation” 215-228

“The law of cause and effect” 240-253

“Life after death: Purgatory” 254-267

“Life after death: The heaven world” 268-282

“Telepathy and mind cure”  294-309

“Invisible helpers”  329-343

“Clairvoyance: what it is” 344-356

Available in digital format on-line at:


Leadbeater and the Gospels

One of the interesting, and perhaps unexpected, results of modern New Testament scholarship, including the discovery of ancient documents, has been to essentially confirm traditional accounts of the origin and dating of the Gospels. This contradicts Leadbeater’s claims, allegedly based on his clairvoyant research, regarding the Gospels.

Those claims were initially made to a group of his students and originally published in the private (or secret) ES publication, The Link, May, 1908 [although the date at the top of the pages on which the work was published read May, 1901].

The Link Gospels i

The Link Gospels ii

The Link Gospels iii

The claims were then repeated and expanded in The Inner Life. Theosophical Talks at Adyar (1911):

Certainly the Christian Bible ought not to be taken literally, for many of its statements are symbolical, and others are simply not true. When we examine clairvoyantly the life of the Founder of Christianity, for example, we can find no trace of the alleged twelve apostles, it would seem that as men they never existed, but that they were introduced into the story for some reason– possibly to typify the twelve signs of the zodiac. The disciple Jesus, whose body was taken by the Christ, was not an illegitimate son, as is implied in the gospel, nor was his father a carpenter. He was in reality of the highest aristocracy of the Jews, a descendant of their own old royal line. He may however have had a tinge of Aryan blood in him, which would be quite enough to cause the exclusive Jews to say that he was not legitimately of the seed of David, and that statement might very easily be taken to mean such an irregular birth as is suggested by the narrative.

The truth is that the four gospels at any rate were never intended to be taken as in any sense historical. They are all founded upon a much shorter document written in Hebrew by a monk named Matthaeus, who lived in a monastery in a desert to the south of Palestine. He seems to have conceived the idea of casting some of the great facts of initiation into a narrative form and mingling with it some points out of the life of the real Jesus who was born 105 B. C., and some from the life of another quite obscure fanatical preacher, who had been condemned to death and executed in Jerusalem about 30 A. D.

He sent this document to a great friend of his who was the chief abbot of a huge monastery at Alexandria, and suggested to him that he, or some of his assistants, might perhaps recast it, and issue it in the Greek language. The Alexandrian abbot seems to have employed a number of his young monks upon this work, allowing each of them to try the task for himself, and to treat it in his own way. A number of documents of very varying merit were thus produced, each incorporating in his story more or less of the original manuscript of Matthaeus, but each also adding to it such legends as he happened to know, or as his taste and fancy dictated. Four of these still survive to us, and to them are attached the names of the monks who wrote them, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The splendid passage with which the gospel of St. John opens was not original but quoted, for we found it in existence many years before the time of the Christ in a manuscript which was even then of hoary antiquity.

The Inner Life. Theosophical Talks at Adyar Rajput Press, Chicago, 1911: Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1917:119-120. The 1917 edition is available on-line at:




Blavatsky and Ritual

Leslie Price has asked me whether I think that Madame Blavatsky would have approved of such rituals as were developed within the (Adyar) Theosophical Society.\

He noted an old paper of Ted Davy, located by Barry Thompson, which was given at the 1998 HPB conference in Edmonton. The volume was called ” The Works and Influence of H.P. Blavatsky, and Davy’s paper was: “A material body which suffocates the soul: H.P. Blavatsky’s attitude to ritual” (p.81-88.)


I am certainly not an authority on Blavatsky, but it seems to me that she did not object to ritual as such – after all, the TS was originally intended to involve rituals – as a form of what might be called “symbolic drama”, but did object to ritual that was claimed to be “magic”.

Carlos Cardoso Aveline has also written on this topic in: “Why Theosophy Excludes The Practice of Ceremonialism” available on-line at:

“In “The Mahatma Letters”, one of the Raja-Yogis of the Himalayas mentions the illusion of “belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession.”  

While discussing the same paragraph in the book “Early Teachings of the Masters”, C. Jinarajadasa adds this information:

“Of the ten ‘Fetters’ on the Path to liberation, the first three are: 1) Sakkayaditthi, the delusion of self; 2) Vichikicheha, doubt;  3) Silabbataparamasa, belief in the efficacy of rites and ceremonies.”  

In another paragraph of the same letter, the raja-yogi refers to a rite performed by high lamas in Tibet, many decades before the Chinese invasion of the 20th century, and a rite of which he himself, a Mahatma, would be a part. And the Master clarifies that even a ceremony of that level is no better than a meaningless superficiality, whose usefulness is limited to childish and scarcely advanced souls. The Master says:

“In about a week – new religious ceremonies, new glittering bubbles to amuse the babies with, and once more I will be busy night and day, morning, noon, and evening.” 

Esoteric philosophy gives its students tools with which they can liberate themselves from such delusions.

In the famous Letter of 1900, which was addressed to Annie Besant, a Master anticipates and warns against the main mistakes that the Adyar society would make from that moment on.

He clarifies that the modern theosophical movement was meant “to be the corner-stone of the future religions of humanity”. In order to accomplish this object, “those who lead” it, says the Master, “must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true Theosophists both in inner thoughts and outward observance”…

…Henry S. Olcott was one of the main founders of the Theosophical Movement in 1875. In his book “Buddhist Catechism” one finds this question:

“What was the Buddha’s estimate of ceremonialism?”

And Olcott answers:

“From the beginning, he condemned the observance of ceremonies and other external practices, which only tend to increase our spiritual blindness and our clinging to mere lifeless forms.”

In one of the Letters from Mahatmas, a Master says it is impossible to perform good ceremonial magic in the West. He narrates the frustrating result of “the last attempt” in that direction, in London around 1860, of which meetings the master took part in “about half a dozen” occasions. The meetings were led by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and included Eliphas Levi, Regazzoni and other occultists.”