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The s

o ho p

istor y

A Quarterly Journal of Research

Volume 3, No. 5 January 1991

ISSN 0951-497X
A Quarterly Journal of Research
Founded by Leslie Price, 1985

Volume 3, No. 5, January 1991

EDITOR The Editors assume no responsibility for the views expressed by authors
in Theosophical History.
James A. Santucci
California State University, Fullerton The Theosophical History Foundation is a nonprofit public benefit
corporation located at the Department of Religious Studies, California State
University, Fullerton, 1800 North State College Boulevard, Fullerton, CA 92634-
ASSOCIATE EDITORS 9480 (USA). Its purpose is to publish Theosophical History and to facilitate the
study and dissemination of information regarding the Theosophical Movement.
John Cooper The Foundations Board of Directors are April Hejka-Ekins, Jerry Hejka-Ekins,
University of Sydney J. Gordon Melton, and James A. Santucci.

Robert Ellwood *******************


J. Gordon Melton The final copy of all manuscripts must be submitted on 8 12 11 inch
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publish contributions specifically related to the modern available.
Theosophical Movement, from the time of Madame Helena There is no limitation on the length of manuscripts. In general,
Blavatsky and others who were responsible in establishing articles of 30 pages or less will be published in full; articles in excess of 30 pages
the original Theosophical Society (1875), to all groups that may be published serially.
derive their teachings - directly or indirectly, knowingly or Brief communications, review articles, and book reviews are
unknowingly - from her or her immediate followers. In welcome. They should be submitted double-spaced.
addition, the journal is also receptive to related movements All correspondence, manuscripts, and subscriptions should be sent
(including pre-Blavatskyite Theosophy, Spiritualism, to: Dr. James A. Santucci
Rosicrucianism, and the philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg Department of Religious Studies
to give but a few examples) that have had an influence on or California State University
displayed an affinity to modern Theosophy. Fullerton, CA 92634-9480 (U.S.A.)
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January 1991
Volume III, Number 5

Editors Notes
James Santucci 133

Correspondence 136


The Hidden Hand, Part IV:

The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor
Joscelyn Godwin 137

The First Practical Expression of Theosophy

in Italy: The Villaggio Verde (Green Village)
Bernardino del Boca 149

Review of Books

In Search of the Masters

Gregory Tillett 151

Krotona of Old Hollywood

James Santucci 153
Editors Notes
In This Issue

Theosophical History finally enters 1991 information not only of the Institute but also of the
with this issue. The present issue continues and American Section of the Theosophical Society
completes Professor Godwins The Hidden Hand, during the early portion of the twentieth century.
the first three parts of which previously appearing We eagerly await future volumes of this study.
in III/2-4. This final study investigates the some- Please note the cover photograph for the
what mysterious Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. July 1990 journal is of Annie Besant wearing the
One of the interests of this journal is the Cagliostro Jewel. See the page 79 drawing of that
exploration of theosophical societies and move- jewel. The picture was donated by Mr. Joseph E.
ments in countries not usually associated with Ross.
such organizations. Professor Bernardino del
Boca, a former Italian Consul in Singapore, was International Theosophical History
kind enough to send information on what he calls Conference
in the title of his essay, The First Practical
Expression of Theosophy in Italy: The Villagio Call For Papers
Reviews are also included of two rather It is with great pleasure that we an-
significant historical publications. The first book, nounce plans to hold an International Theosophi-
In Search of the Masters by Paul Johnson, is bound cal History Conference at Point Loma, California
to generate considerable discussion. Just who the from 12-14 June 1992. As many of our readers are
Mahatmas in the Theosophical Society are has already aware, four previous conferences took
been argued since the inception of the Society. place at the headquarters of the English T.S. in
The last significant discussion on these mysteri- London from 1986 to 1989 under the auspices of
ous personages came with the Hare brothers the Theosophical History Centre. With this in
denial of their very existence in their book Who mind, the Theosophical History Foundation wishes
Wrote the Mahatma Letters? (by Harold Edward to continue the valuable work of the Centre and
Hare and William Loftus Hare [London: Williams the founder of this journal, Leslie Price.
and Norgate Ltd., 1936]). Mr. Johnson has taken
a more middle-of-the road approach, indicating The location of the conference will be on
that they were neither superhuman nor figments the grounds of the old Point Loma theosophical
of Madame Blavatskys imagination. The review community (Lomaland), now the Point Loma
is contributed by Dr. Gregory Tillett of Macquarie Nazarene College, from Friday, 12 June 1992, to
University (Australia). The second review exam- Sunday, 14 June 1992. The conference activities
ines Joseph Rosss publication on the origins of will be in Boney Lecture Hall. For those who wish
the Krotona Institute of Hollywood (California). to remain on the campus of P.L.N.C., Finch Hall
Mr. Ross has provided us with much valuable has been reserved at a cost of $15 a person or $30

133 Editors Notes

for a double room. This residence hall is a short Meals, and Information forms were included in
walking distance to Boney Hall and provides a the last issue (III/4). Should you require addi-
lovely view of the Pacific Ocean. A quote in the tional forms or information, please write to the
standard work on the Point Loma community, editor (James A. Santucci, Department of Reli-
Emmett A. Greenwalts California Utopia: Point gious Studies, California State University, Fuller-
Loma: 1897-1942 [second and revised edition ton, California 92634-9480).
(San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, Inc.,
1978), 33], aptly describes the locale:
Book Notes
Point Loma is the northern and
westernmost land-arm protecting San Diego Although Theosophical History custom-
Bay. Its elevation of nearly four hundred feet arily includes reviews of books addressing histori-
commands a view which Charles Dudley
cal topics on the Theosophical Movement, we will
Warner in Our Italy described as one of the
worlds three finest, with San Diego and the include occasional notices of publications that
mountains to the east, and the broad Pacific might be of more general interest. Readers are
to the west. The site [Lomaland] is itself three welcome to send in titles and comments on such
miles short of the lighthouse standing at the works they wish to see mentioned herein.
tip of the point.
The Human and Divine Universe: Pla-
No particular theme is intended to domi- tonic, Neo-Platonic and Theosophic Insight into
nate the Conference proceedings. Papers on any the Nature of Reality (San Diego, California: Point
aspect of the Theosophical Movement as defined Loma Publications, 1989, 116 pages, $6.75) con-
on the inside cover of the journal will be wel- sists of essays by mystic scholars William Laudahn
comed. We suggest that the paper title and a short and Kathleen Raine as well as short selections
precis (50 to 100 words) be sent to the editor at from late nineteenth and early twentieth century
your earliest convenience. We do intend to writers in the theosophical movement: G.R.S.
publish the summaries and abstracts of the papers Mead, Alexander Wilder, Fritz Darrow, Henry T.
and presentations in Theosophical History. It is Edge, and Thomas Taylor.
our hope that the Conference and the publication
of the proceedings will establish and strengthen Point Loma Publications has also an-
a network of scholars in theosophical studies. nounced the publication of Dr. H.J. Spierenburgs
Since the papers will be considered for publica- The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky. The book is a
tion in Theosophical History, it is important that compilation in one volume of her perspective,
the full length paper be sent no later than two both controversial and stimulating [in] value, for
weeks in advance of the Conference. Scheduling all interested in the Buddhist and Theosophic
constraints may require that papers be summa- world view. The address of Point Loma Publica-
rized, but the full paper will definitely be made tions is P.O. Box 6507, San Diego, California
available either through the journal or through 92166 (U.S.).
some alternative publication. Expanding Horizons by a former Leader
Registration and Accommodations, of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), James A.

Theosophical History 134

Long, is a 1990 reprint of the 1965 edition pub-
lished by the Theosophical University Press (P.O.
Bin C, Pasadena, California) as a Sunrise Library
Book. It is available in cloth ($12), softcover ($7),
and three audiocassettes ($15). The question and
comment format in this 248 page book includes
topics on karma, theosophia, psychic vs. spiri-
tual development, good and evil, the Lords
Prayer, the Golden Rule, and much more.

H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings: Cu-

mulative Index, volume XV, compiled by Boris de
Zirkoff and assisted by Dara Eklund (Wheaton,
Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1991,
xiii + 633 pages, $27.95) has just been published
and was given a favorable review in The Cana-
dian Theosophist (May-June, 1991) by Ted G.
Davy. In the same issue is mention of a limited
Centenary Edition of H.P. Blavatskys Voice of the
Silence, now available at a cost of $20 (U.S.)
through the Edmonton Theosophical Society,
P.O. Box 4804, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6E

Adjustment of Subscription Rates

The publication of the past four issues of

Theosophical History require that the subscription
rates be brought more in line with the costs of its
publication. An increase in the postal rates and
the high cost of printing in California require
increases in actual subscription rates for both the
U.S. and overseas. These adjustments take effect
with number seven of volume III (July 1991). The
new rates are as follows:
U.S. and Canada $14
Elsewhere (surface) $16
Air mail (outside the U.S.
and Canada) $24
Price per issue $4

135 Editors Notes

The following letter is from Professor Robert such from the rapture of exploring new dimen-
Ellwood, Professor of Religion at the University of sions of awareness. History helps us to get out of
Southern California and Associate Editor of Theo- the one-dimensionality of the present, and grow
sophical History. in wisdom and compassion by sensing what it
would be like to be a person of a very different
time and place. To me, this is a most profound
I appreciated the suggestion by Joseph and rich experience, entirely worthwhile in its
Ross in the Letters column of the July 1990 own right.
Theosophical History that we think in terms of
perspectives in history. Whether or not a I believe this is what Mr. Ross means
change in the title of TH is needed, the reminder when he finally says, The real importance of
that no historical work can entail all possible history viewed as the experience of that unity
angles of vision is important. Historical insight or called Mankind, is Mankind knowing Himself. I
truth is always partial and selective. The finite would, though, have preferred the term Human-
human mind can never know all the virtually ity or Humankind, and I hope TH would also. If
infinite number of factors that go into any contem- it is thought necessary to use a single-gender term
porary event, much less comprehend all those generically to cover the entire human race, it
that make up a happening back in the past. would be more rationalespecially in the context
Furthermore, the selection by historians of the of Theosophical history!to employ the femi-
data that seems significant out of all the rest often nine, e.g., Womankind knowing Herself, since
tells us more about the historians themselves, and there are more women in the world than men.
the age in which they write, than it totally unlocks
the past, even though it is surely possible to Best wishes, and thanks for the excellent
undertake some significant reconstructions of job you are doing with this interesting and impor-
former ages. tant journal.

I would, however, not go so far as Mr.

Ross in stating that the only valid reason for
studying history lies in its lessons for the present.
Certainly there are lessonsthough often am-
biguous and hard to decipher arightto be
gleaned from the study of history. But for myself
I find that the perusal of history can be no less
important as what in the sixties was called an
expansion of consciousness, and as finally a
kind of spiritual experiencestemming like all

Theosophical History 136

The Hidden Hand, Part IV:
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor
Joscelyn Godwin

The Brotherhood of Luxor, or of Light, lost solid evidence for the foundation of such an order
its most famous members when Madame Blav- in 1870, the succeeding years saw a lot of activity
atsky and Colonel Olcott left for India in 1878. of the sort that might be expected to follow on the
Now it disappears from view for several years, so launching of an occult movement. One character
that when a Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor had no place in the description of those events,
emerges in the mid-1880s, there is some question because his association with them is purely on
as to whether this was still the same group, under hearsay; but now it is time to introduce Max
a modified name. For Olcott, it was definitely not: Thon (1847-1927), born in Warsaw as Louis-
he said that the title Brotherhood of Luxor was Maximilien Bimstein, the son of a rabbi. If we can
pilfered by the schemers who started, several believe the story told, years later, by his sometime
years later, the gudgeon-trap called The H.B. of pupil in occultism, Mirra Alfassa-Richard3 (later
L.1 Olcott was determined to dissociate the the Mother of Sri Aurobindos ashram), Thon
Brotherhood of Luxor, whose Masters Tuitit and was very young when he became involved in
Serapis had enrolled him in 1875, from the H.B. occultism, and mastered many languages and
of L. as represented by Peter Davidson in the mid- crafts.4 He had worked with Madame Blavatsky,
1880s. The H.B. of L. was equally keen to and had founded an occult society in Egypt.5
emphasize its pedigree, and this is obviously what Until reading Nahars book on Mirra, I could make
prompted the remark in the later, official history no sense of the rumor, published by Ren Gunon,6
of the order: that the Brotherhood was founded in that Thon was the son of Paulos Metamon, the
1870, and not, as the January number of The
Theosophist says, in 1884...2 3
For Thons biography, see Sujata Nahar, Mothers Chronicles,
In The Brotherhood of Light (Part II of Book 3: Mirra the Occultist (Paris: Institut des Recherches
this article) I concluded that, while there was no Evolutives, 1989). This contains the findings of Patrice Marot
and Christian Chanel; the latter cautions, in private communi-
Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves: The History of the cation (8 June 1991) against attributing too much importance
Theosophical Society. First Series: America 1874-1878. Sec- to Nahars account. I am grateful to Paul Johnson for access
ond edition (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing to this book.
House, 1941), 76. The order in question has always been
known by its initials alone, which leaves it ambiguous whether Ibid., 51f.
the L. stands for Luxor or Light (though they may mean the
same thing). Ibid., 48.

2 6
Peter Davidson, Origine et objet de lH. B. of L. in H. B. of Ren Gunon, Le Thosophisme: Historie dune Pseudo-
L. Textes et documents secrets de la Hermetic Brotherhood of religion (rev. & augmented ed., Paris: Ed. Traditionnelles,
Luxor (Milan: Arch, 1988), 4. 1982), 313.

137 The Hidden Hand

Coptic magician whom Mme Blavatsky met in sent from Egypt by Metamon, passing through
paternity in question was that of master to pupil, Paris to England, and making contact with the
several dissociated facts fall into place. neophyte Peter Davidson. In any case, this docu-
To continue with Mirras sketchy biogra- ment of 1887 makes frequent allusion to Thon,
phy of Thon,7 we find him appointed Grand showing that he cannot have left the H. B. of L. in
Master of the Outer Circle of the H. B. of L. in 1873, 1877, as Mirra understood him to have done. He
at the age of only 26, while the Scotsman Peter was publicly acknowledged in Peter Davidsons
Davidson was its frontal Chief. Olcott and Blav- Occult Magazine as the eminent Occultist and
atsky were both members until 1877, the same an exalted Adept behind the scenes. This maga-
year in which Thon, then in Egypt, severed his zine was produced in Glasgow from the beginning
relationship with the Brotherhood. Thon came of 1885 through 1886, by Davidson and the Orders
to London at some time after that and was a great secretary, Thomas H. Burgoyne.
social success, with his long hair and a reputation With the activities of Davidson and
akin to that of the Comte de Saint-Germain. In Burgoyne, we come to the ascertainable begin-
1885 he married a mediumistic Englishwoman, nings of the H. B. of L. and its public appearance
Mary (or Alma) Ware, and held sances with her under that name. Probably its first advertisement
in England and France. In 1887 he moved to was in a note inserted in the 1884 edition of The
Algeria, restoring a large villa at Tlemcen where Divine Pymander, published by Robert Fryar in
he lived until his death, heading (as Aia Aziz) a Bath with an Introduction by Hargrave Jennings.9
movement for the propagation of the Cosmic Against the skepticism of the Theosophists,
Philosophy for which his wife acted as the Davidson writes in a letter to The Theosophist10
writing medium. that he has himself known the adepts of the H. B.
It is odd that one has never before heard of L. in the flesh for fourteen years (thus from
of such a social lion in the London of the early 1871). So we must take a glance into the past of
1880s. Leaving that aside, however, I turn again to this interesting character.11
the H. B. of L.s official account of its own origins. Peter Davidson first came to public no-
This mentions an adept who resolved in 1870 to tice in 1871 with a book not on occultism but on
seek a neophyte in Great Britain who would The Violin12, which was widely reviewed and
establish an Exterior or Outer Circle. After having
performed an important and secret (private) mis- 9
Information from Christian Chanel, Lyon. The note is not to
sion on the European Continent, he arrived in be found in the reprint of this work (Minneapolis: Wizards
Bookshelf, 1973).
Great Britain in 1873 and discovered by chance a
neophyte who satisfied his plans.8 This language 10
The Theosophist, December 1884.
makes it sound as if the adept came from outside
Europe, and allows for the possibility of Thon, The Library of Congress Catalogue gives Davidsons dates as
1842-1916. R. Swinburne Clymer, The Book of Rosicruciae
This paragraph is based on Nahar, 50-56. (Quakertown: Philosophical Publishing Co., 1946-9), which
contains a brief idealized account of Davidsons life and
8 extracts from his works, gives (III, 215) the dates 1837-1915.
H. B. L. Textes, 4. Another version in Ren Gunon, F.Ch.
Barlet et les socits initiatiques, Le Voile d Isis, Yr.30, No.64
(April 1925), 216f. Glasgow: Porteous Bros., 1871.

Theosophical History 138

eventually ran to five editions. We learn from this ghastly crimes of Constantine, the first Christian
that he lived in Forres, near Findhorn, Scotland, emperor, and the greed of the Church.
and worked as a violin dealer and repairer.13 He If one mentions such things in a book
had a wide knowledge of violin collections in that is supposed to be about the violin, it must be
Scotland and England, and had traveled to Paris for a reason. These digressions alone would place
in 1859.14 Peter Davidson unambiguously in the camp of the
When his violin book went into its third Brotherhood of Light, as I have outlined its
edition (1881), Davidson enlivened it with re- doctrines in Part II of this article, for he has
marks on the symbolism of color and of number managed to mention astral travel, occult phenom-
and on the marvelous powers of music, referring ena, the superior science of the ancients, the
to Hargrave Jenningss The Rosicrucians, Their primacy of Indian wisdom, and the shortcomings
Rites and Mysteries (first published 1870).15 He of official Christianity. Moreover, in printing his
suggests that the claims of the Rosicrucians con- own address, he was not only soliciting trade for
cerning music may not be so far-fetched as they his violin business, but inviting communications
seem, [p.37] and speaks of the Astral Body that is from those who were intrigued by these hints of
set free in sleep, and the imperishable tablets of another sort. It may be that the first members of
the Astral Light on which all things are recorded. the H. B. of L. were enrolled in this surreptitious
[p.193] An appendix of musical anecdotes brings way, at the beginning of the 1880s.
in trance and Spiritualistic phenomena, and also The third person active in the propaga-
prints the entire story The Ensouled Violin, tion of the H. B. of L. was Thomas H. Burgoyne
taken from The Theosophist. (Mme Blavatsky (1855-94), the son of a Scottish physician.16 Ap-
attributed it to Hilarion Smerdis, one of her parently he was making enquiries among occult
Masters.) Praising India as the cradle of music, as students in 1882, contacting among others
of all arts and sciences, Davidson cites the Surya Hurrychund Chintamon and the Rev. William
Siddantha, a Hindu astronomical work much Ayton, the Alchemist of the Golden Dawn.
used by Mme Blavatsky, and the Agroushada Burgoyne did not get along well with Ayton, as
Parikshai, one of Jacolliots sources. At the end of we will see below, but he and Chintamon were
the book he takes the opportunity to mention the birds of a feather. As we may remember from Part
III of this article, the erstwhile President of the
Elsewhere he is called a cabinet-maker, which is what violin-
makers sometimes have to do to earn a living; also a teacher. 16
None of the sources on Burgoyne is entirely trustworthy,
After immigrating to the USA, he tried to establish a model with the exception of Ellic Howes notes in his edition of
farm. He appears to have had a family. I do not think that he Aytons letters, The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn
ever had an easy life. (Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1985). I have consulted Waites
Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (reprinted New York:
In the third edition of The Violin (London: Pitman, 1881), p. Weathervane, 1970), I, 349-50 (based on an article Waite wrote
90, Davidson says that he saw a certain instrument in Paris for The Occult Review, May 1925); its correction by Ren
twenty-two years ago. This may incline one to favor the earlier Gunon in Quelques prcisions propos de la H. B. of L.,
birthdate, which would make him twenty-two and not seven- Le Voile dIsis, Yr. 30, No. 70 (Oct. 1925), 592-95; and the
teen at the time. expurgated versions in The Church of Light, P.O. Box 76862,
Los Angeles, Ca. 90076), and in the Introduction to Burgoynes
P. Davidson, The Violin (1881), 19, 190. The Light of Egypt, I (see note 39 below).

139 The Hidden Hand

Bombay Arya Samaj had fled to England after Dowd,19 and Palingenesia, or The Earths New
relieving his master Dayananda of 4000 rupees, Birth, by Theosopho and Ellora.20 Ghostland
and was now spreading calumnies about Mme and Isis Unveiled are quoted, but virtually no other
Blavatsky to the members of the London Theo- modern authorities are acknowledged.
sophical Society. In January 1883, Burgoyne, Some of the language in this magazine is
under what must have been his true name of not without its resonances. At pains to make itself
Thomas Dalton, and described as a grocer, was agreeable to the Theosophists, it says: The H.B.
sentenced at Leeds to seven months imprison- of L. is purely and simply the Western Division of
ment for swindling.17 the UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD OF ADEPTS.21
After his release, Dalton/Burgoyne con- And again: The Adepts who guide the Interior
tacted Peter Davidson and forthwith became the Circle of the H. B. of L. are however not Mahat-
Secretary of the H.B. of L. Davidson and Burgoyne mas, though members of the same Sacred Band of
ran the H.B. of L. from Scotland, soliciting mem- the Himalayas.22 In a note to a correspondent we
bership from likely people such as Ayton. The read: there is a Section of our Order, who have
Occult Magazine is the best source for their ideas certain Lodges in the United States, who are under
and activities. Most of the magazine was written the control of a Committee of Seven. But there are
pseudonymously by Mejnour (presumably other Orders in the States, entirely distinct from
Davidson himself), with help from Zanoni ours, whose Lodges also consist of a Committee
(Burgoyne), later joined by Glyndon, a French of Seven.23 (Remember the mysterious document
occultist (probably F.-Ch. Barlet). Taking their sent to Olcott in 1875 by The Committee of
names from Bulwer Lyttons Zanoni perhaps had Seven, Brotherhood of Luxor.) It speaks of the
no more significance than any other attempt unseen races of elementals, made visible by our
made in the later 19th century to enroll the MASTERS, recalling George Felts promises made
enigmatic novelist to ones cause. Among other to the early Theosophists in the same year. I
hints of filiation, The Occult Magazine praises consider these coincidences as strong pointers
Lieut. Morrison (the astrologer Zadkiel) and 19
Freeman Benjamin Dowd was one of the successors of P.B.
Sampson Arnold Mackey, the author of The Mytho- Randolphs Rosicrucian order. The Temple of the Rosy Cross
logical Astronomy of the Ancients Demonstrated was first published in 1882.
(1822-3), the latter being called the Neophyte of 20
Ellora again! (See Part II of this article.) This very strange
an Initiate of the H. B. of L., whence he got his utopian book is by G. J. R. Ouseley (1835-1906), published
information.18 Among the few books recom- Glasgow: Hay & Nisbet, 1884. The Revd. Ouseley was a close
mended in the magazine that are not by Davidson friend of Edward Maitland, the collaborator with Anna Kingsford
in her revelations.
himself are The Temple of the Rosy Cross by F. B.
The Occult Magazine, I/7 (Aug. 1885), 56. Compare the
words of Blavatsky, cited in Part III of this article: The
Poor Burgoynes swindle was the most timid and pathetic Brotherhood of Luxor is one of the sections of the Grand
kind of mail fraud, getting people to send him stamps and then Lodge of which I am a member.
keeping them! I am grateful to John Patrick Deveney for this
information. 22
Ibid., II/12 (Jan. 1886), 7.
The Occult Magazine, II/15 (April 1886), 31. 23
Ibid., I/8 (Sept. 1885), 63.

Theosophical History 140

towards a connection of this new H. B. of L. with the Hodgson Report and attendant scandals.
the Brotherhood of Light of the 1870s. What did the H.B. of L. do? Besides the
As far as doctrine is concerned, the material published by Davidson and Burgoyne, a
magazine is rather vague. It has a strongly anti- sizable collection of manuscripts has survived,
ecclesiastical tone, tending towards the christology including essays that were given out as instruc-
of Dupuis and his English disciple Robert Taylor: tion,26 and a correspondence between Peter
that Jesus is just another solar symbol, his Cross Davidson and some French members. I base the
solely that of the vernal point in the celestial following account on these materials.
zodiac. Someone - probably Glyndon, the French People joined the H.B. of L. by contacting
occultist - seems to have read Jean Sylvain Bailly Peter Davidson and sending him their photo-
(the historian of astronomy), Fabre dOlivet, and graph, the details of their birth, and a five-shilling
Louis Figuier. A new translation of the Hermetic fee. He then drew up and interpreted the horo-
treatises Asclepius and The Virgin of the World is scope of the postulant. If accepted, one filled out
published in parts. But above all, the H. B. of L. a pledge of secrecy and sent Davidson the admis-
stands not for theoretical research and scholar- sion fee of one guinea. One was then permitted
ship, but for precisely that practical instruction in to borrow and copy a series of manuscript essays
occultism that the Theosophical Society was fail- and instructions, for an annual fee of five shillings.
ing to provide for its members: hence its idea that (These sums make Aytons remarks on Davidsons
the two movements were not competitive but profiteeringsee belowseem a little unfair.)
complementary. The idea was that members should work as far as
Mme Blavatsky felt otherwise. To judge possible by themselves. Davidson provided per-
by her letters written from Germany to A. P. sonal guidance and answered queries by letter
Sinnett, she was taken unawares when in late when these could not be handled by the Provin-
1885 an American Theosophist enquired about cial Grand Masters. But there was no initiation
the H. B. of L. Her first reaction was that It is ceremony or other rituals; the whole thing could
evident theres some new treachery emanating 26
Most of these have been published in the Arch volume (see
from the fair Anna,24 i.e., Anna Kingsford, who note 2 above), with an anonymous preface based uncritically
had recently founded the Hermetic Society on Gunon. Se Christian Chanels review in Politica Hermetica,
upon her resignation from the London Lodge of 3 (1989), 146-152. The manuscripts owned by Barlet, with
related correspondence, are now in the Fonds Papus of the
the Theosophical Society. A friend of Countess Bibliothque Municipale de Lyon. A guide to them has been
Wachtmeister later investigated the H. B. of L., prepared by Robert Amadou. An additional letter of early
and identified Burgoyne as a convicted felon. 1890, presumably from Barlet to Chaboseau, is published in
Mme Blavatsky commented that It is the work of Jean-Claude Frre, Vie et mystres des Rose+Croix (Paris:
Marne, 1973), 197-207, outlining the H.B. of L.s policies and
the Jesuits I spoke to you of. Now the Kingsford the means of joining it. Frre is otherwise quite inaccurate (see
is mixed up in it and many others...Warn all the his uninformed treatment of Randolph, 199f.) Further useful
theosophists...25 This sounds like paranoia, but information is in Paschal Thmanlys, Max Thon et la
perhaps that is understandable, at the height of Philosophie Cosmique (Jerusalem: Bibliothque Cosmique,
1955). I am grateful to Grard Galtier for knowledge of these
This paragraph is based on Nahar, 50-56. works, and to Christian Chanel for sharing with me the
researches for his dissertation on Thon and other matters. No
Ibid., Letter CXIII, 240; see also CLXXXII, 348. one but myself is responsible for any errors here.

141 The Hidden Hand

be done, as it were, by mail-order. cal cycles, developed from Mackeys The Mytho-
The H.B. of L. allowed its members logical Astronomy of the Ancients and from
complete liberty of thought; they might belong to Trithemius, and compared with Hindu chronol-
anything else they liked, and several of them ogy.30
belonged to the Theosophical Society.27 Its spe- 7. Psychic Culture, by Peter Davidson, on
cialty was the teaching of practical occultism. moral and physical hygiene, dated 1887. This
Here follows a summary of its basic manuscript urges total abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and
instructions. meat.
1. Eulis, extracted from P.B. Randolphs 8. Magic Mirrors, partly arranged by
book of that name (1874) with notes by Burgoyne. Davidson from P.B. Randolphs Seership (1870);
2. Brief Key to the Eulian Mysteries, oth- on the types, construction, consecration and
erwise called Eros, partly arranged (from an practice of magic mirrors, and on the invocation
unpublished work of Randolph) by Burgoyne; on of planetary angels at the appropriate times.
the development of the will and its magical use; Davidsons teachings are strongly moral,
also on sexual mysteries. and have a reverent, devotional air, as do his
3. Symbolic Notes for the First Degree, letters. While he makes ample use of Randolphs
largely adapted from Hargrave Jennings The work, in Psychic Culture he warns the aspirant
Rosicrucians (1870) and Thomas Inmans An- against the sexual doctrines which misled Randolph
cient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names (1868) and ruined many others, namely the idea that
also on sexuality and love. through concentration during sexual intercourse,
4. The Abbot Trithemius On Secondary one can obtain anything one wants. Davidsons
Causes (Nuremberg, 1522), a treatise on the adaptation of these doctrines and mental tech-
cycles of history and their angelic rulerships; niques is always with the intention to raise and
almost certainly translated by the Rev. William refine the brute instincts, especially of the male.
Ayton.28 He says categorically that the sexual magic of the
5. The Key, a short explanation of H.B. of L. has only two purposes: the spiritual
Trithemius.29 elevation of the partners, and the benefit that this
6. The Hermetic Key, a system of histori- confers on any child conceived.
Peter Davidson himself had originally been on the Council Here is an extract from a letter of
of the Theosophical Society, and other members of both Davidsons to Barlet, circa October 1889, contain-
included William Ayton, Barlet, Arthur Arnould, Louis Dramard, ing a long message for Arthur Arnould who was
and Papus. mourning the recent death of his wife and hoping
See H.P. Blavatsky, H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings: 1874-
to get in touch with her.
1878. Compiled by Boris de Zirkoff. Volume I (Adyar:
Theosophical Publishing House, 1966), 421. Olcott records in Tell Mr Arnould then that after a certain
his diary, dated 20 November 1878, the arrival of Aytons stage of occult development is reached there
translation of Trithemius prophecies. William Hockley was is no longer mine or thine as commonly
also a student of the Abbot of Spanheim; see John Hamill, The understood, there is a new degree in fact of
Rosicrucian Seer (Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1986), 80. preferential Love. An Arch-Vril is formed and
Reprinted in Burgoynes The Light of Egypt, I, 109-117. 30
Reprinted in ibid., 86-108.

Theosophical History 142

condensed in which the living forms of the At the very time of this correspondence,
affections are enabled to become embodied Arthur Arnould was President of the newly-
as was impossible formerly. If a man loved his founded Herms Branch of the French Theo-
wife before, he now loves her with a love of sophical Society, and a member of the Esoteric
singularity enhanced more than a hundred
Section.31 It was natural for him to wonder whether
fold, and she is enabled to demonstrate to him
according to the measure of this abundance. the two were compatible. Barlet, for his part, was
Oriental Buddhist initiates assert that in the beginning to find the Theosophical teaching
states arising beyond, and superior to deficient in precisely this element of love, signifi-
Devachan personal affection is less and less cantly enough the central teaching of the Christi-
but this is a gross and mighty misnomera anity that Mme Blavatsky seemed to reject.32 He
cold, heartless, untrue philosophy, for, in had come to believe that:
reality and in truth, affection and love become
intensely more concentrated. They also assert above this [Buddhist] Theoso-
that in order to renew the physical frame, man phy, and also above Christian esotericism,
must die out of the affections that unite him there is Esotericism unqualified (whose Mas-
to his kind. This I again repeat is an outra- ters are also in India), which is far above all
geous delusion, for in the Adeptship of the our heads. You have no need to share my
Divine Science progress is first made by conviction. But I think that Christianity, and
cleansing loves from the taint of self-desire, especially Catholic Christianity, approaches
then, by loving till we hold a creation of loves, more closely to this transcendent degree than
living loves, fashioned in the heaven of our Orientalism, and that Egypt (from which India
body, as the spirits of the glittering stars in the probably derives) possessed it more than
blue immensity of heaven. India, and that it is from this that Christianity
The Barlet-Davidson-Arnould correspon- All this implies, as you can see,
dence emphasizes one point that places the H.B. the conviction that the Mahatmas of the
of L.s teaching on this matter poles apart from that Theosophical Society are not of a superior
of common Spiritualism. This is that efforts to order. More than that: since Sinnett (and
contact the dead are justified only if they involve Esoteric Buddhism), these Mahatmas are said
no longer to involve themselves with the
raising the living person to the higher, spiritual
Theosophical Society. Mme Blavatsky may
level which their loved ones now inhabit, and still be in communication with Koot Hoomi,
never trying to drag the dead down to earth. This but not with him personallyand he declares
can be done, perhaps, but only at dreadful cost to himself a gifted beginner. I add in confidence
those who have been released from matter; that such was also the opinion of our friend
whereas the opposite ideal involves not merely an
emotional indulgence but a notable step forward
in the living persons progress. The correspon- 31
See J. Godwin, The Beginnings of Theosophy in France
dence makes moving reading, ones intrusion into (London: Theosophical History Centre, 1989).
Arnoulds private grief being justified, perhaps, by 32
On Barlets esoteric career, see Gunon, F.-Ch. Barlet et les
what one learns from his example as an earnest socits initiatiques and Quelques prcisions propos de la
follower of this path. H. B. of L., cited above, notes 8, 16.

143 The Hidden Hand

Dramard [...] If only we can ever arrive at this P.D. knew that T.H.B. was a convicted felon, but
inferior degree, for all this is relative!33 when he did know it, he still embarked with his
family and this felon for America. He has not been
Barlets qualms resemble those felt on over scrupulous and has been making use of
the other side of the English Channel by certain Occultism for mere secular gain. I could tell you
people who were at that very moment making up much of it if I were to see you personally. On 29
their minds between the Theosophical Society December 1890, Ayton went into more detail
and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn - about Burgoyne: It came to my knowledge that
or both. The parallel is complete if one realizes Burgoyne, the Secretary, of whom I had always
that Barlet is alluding, between the lines, to been suspicious, was no other than a man I had
certain Secret Chiefs of whom he has heard known previously under the name of DAlton
rumors, though in his case they are those of the who made such a confession of Black Magic that
Brahmatmic center with which Saint-Yves I rejected him altogether as being impossible.
dAlveydre believed himself to be in touch.34 [p.58] Evidently Ayton was one of the occultists
The Occult Magazine, for the two years it whom Burgoyne had contacted earlier in the
appeared, is full of news of Davidson and hope of joining some order, before his imprison-
Burgoynes plans to emigrate to America and ment and change of name.
found an agricultural community there. Accord- However, both men eventually succeeded
ing to Ren Gunon, who must have learnt this, in emigrating, Davidson to the remote village of
too, from Barlet, Mme Blavatsky got wind of their Loudsville, Georgia, and Burgoyne to Carmel,
plans and drew the attention of the immigration California. Here Burgoyne met Norman Astley, a
authorities to Burgoynes criminal record, sup- retired British Army officer who had studied
posedly in revenge for her own expulsion in 1878 occultism in India, and received from Astley and
from the Brotherhood of Light.35 some other members a commission to write a
Another who learnt of Burgoynes record series of lessons for the H.B. of L.s teachings.37
was the Rev. William Ayton. He was appalled to These lessons were at first privately circulated to
discover in 1886 that the man whom he had members, but in 1889 were published as The Light
known as Secretary of the H.B.of L. was identical of Egypt, of which a second volume followed in
with T.H. DAlton, or Dalton, alias Seymour, a 1900; both have been reprinted recently.38
convicted felon.36 Ayton adds: I do not think Burgoyne signed his own name to them followed
by Zanoni and a swastika, the traditional signa-
Undated letter in Bibliothque Municipale de Lyon (Fonds
Papus), circa May 1889.
ture of the Fratres Lucis, which, according to

See J. Godwin, Saint-Yves dAlveydre and the Agarthian
Connection, in Hermetic Journal, 32 (1986), 24-34; 33 (1986),
See The Church of Light, note 16 above.
Gunon, Le Thosophisme, ed. cit., 314.
Thomas H. Burgoyne, Zanoni, [swastika symbol], The Light
Ellic Howe, The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn of Egypt, or The Science of the Soul and the Stars. Two volumes
(Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1985), 20. (Albuquerque: Sun Books, 1980).

Theosophical History 144

Kenneth Mackenzie, was otherwise known as the polemic, Burgoynes disagreements with Theo-
Order of the Swastika.39 sophical teachings come down to only three: (1)
The Light of Egypt may not be the loftiest The fifth of the Seven Principles in Man is the
of teachings, but it certainly does not read as the Spiritual Body, not, as Theosophy has it, the
work of a grocer turned felonnor, one might Higher Manas; (2) It is impossible for mediums to
say, of the rather slick customer pictured in the contact the shells of the dead; (3) There is no
frontispiece photograph. It also seems exceed- reincarnation.
ingly doubtful that if, as is stated, The Hermetic The title of the book of course puts it in
Key dates from 1880, it was from the pen of the 25- the Egyptian, rather than the Indian current, yet
year-old Dalton whom Ayton had spurned on first though it gives historical precedence to Egyptian
sight. Possibly Burgoyne was simply turning his wisdom over Indian, it is not anti-Oriental. The
secret H.B. of L. manuscripts to profit; but it is only author praises the true Hindu and Buddhist reli-
fair to hear his own statement about their publi- gions, which apparently do not teach these poi-
cation: sonous doctrines, and, surprisingly enough,
speaks favorably of A.P. Sinnetts outline in Eso-
The chief reason urging this step was teric Buddhism of the system of rounds and
the strenuous efforts being systematically put chains. More predictable is Burgoynes friendli-
forth to poison the budding spirituality of the ness to the author of Art Magic, and even to Isis
western mind, and to fasten upon its mediu- Unveiled as a work from before the time of Mme
mistic mentality, the subtle, delusive dogmas
Blavatskys defection to the East. Emma Hardinge
of Karma and Reincarnation, as taught by the
sacerdotalisms of the decaying Orient.40
Britten would return the compliment by calling
The Light of Egypt a noble, philosophical and
Already in The Occult Magazine, instructive work.41 But by that time Burgoyne
Burgoyne had been much more anti-Theosophi- was dead.
cal than Davidson, on occasion making remarks The syllabus of the H. B. of L., as de-
that Davidson later had to apologize for and scribed above, was evidently a creation of Davidson
retract. Hostile remarks about Oriental Theoso- and Burgoyne, including sources that were not
phy are scattered throughout The Light of Egypt, even published at the supposed time of its foun-
while even the Western branch, represented by dation in 1870. It seems as if Thon was content
Anna Kingsford and Lady Caithness, is not spared. to remain in the background as minence grise,
Yet when one tries to pinpoint the motives for this leaving his colleagues to design and run the
practical work on the basis of whatever they
It might be fruitful to investigate other authors of the themselves found helpful. Thus, for example,
periodRudyard Kipling, of course, the chief among them Davidson was obviously much taken with Hargrave
who decorated their books with this symbol, with the idea that Jennings The Rosicrucians, Their Rites and Mys-
it might imply membership of this or a cognate order. I return teriesas was Mme Blavatsky, in her New York
to this subject, and to much else tangential on the present
topic, in Arktos: Myths and Mysteries of the Pole (Grand Rapids: periodand therefore made extracts from it re-
Phanes Press, 1992).
Publishers advertisement at the back of Ghost Land, 1897
The Light of Egypt, I, v. edition.

145 The Hidden Hand

quired reading for neophytes. The same probably Davidson, doubtless disillusioned by the
applies to the books of P. B. Randolph. One is left ceaseless squabblings of the Paris occultists, now
with the intriguing question of whether Jennings renewed his contact with Max Thon, and hence-
and Randolph themselves acquired their ideas, in forth devoted his magazine, until its cessation in
some degree, from earlier initiatic orders of the H. 1910, to Thons Cosmic Philosophy. Since the
B. of L. type.42 revelations of Alma Thon were made in her native
After his marriage in 1885, Thon seems English, they could be taken over directly by The
to have been totally taken up with the cosmic Morning Star. Mirra Richard translated many of
teachings given through his wife. Peter Davidson them for publication in France, in the two-volume
kept in touch for a few years with the French La Tradition Cosmique (1900-01) and the journal
occultists whom he had initiated, of whom Papus, La Revue Cosmique (1900-08). Barlet also threw in
with his new Martinist Order, was the most his lot with Thon and helped with these publica-
prominent. In 1892 Davidson started a new jour- tions; he is credited as co-author of the anonymous
nal, The Morning Star, which resembled his Oc- La Tradition Cosmique. The subsequent history of
cult Magazine, but with a more Christian outlook. Mirra is well documented, but it is worth mention-
A French Martinist, Edouard Blitz, went to the USA ing that although she moved into a very different
and contacted Davidson in 1894, reporting back sphere as soon as she settled with Aurobindo
to Papus that Davidson had not yet given a single Ghose in Pondicherry, to this day the publications
grade,43 presumably referring to the H.B. of L. of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram carry the symbol that
rather than to the Martinism which Davidson was Thon devised for his own: the lotus within the six-
still hesitating to join, not being a Freemason.44 pointed star. Perhaps in the last-ditch efforts of the
Blitz founded a Martinist group in Pentwater, nonagenarian Mother to attain physical immor-
Michigan, and The Morning Star served for a tality, one can detect an echo of Thons transcen-
while as voice for that order, too. But by 1896 Blitz dental materialism.
had broken with Davidson and was slandering In the German-speaking world, the most
him to Papus as a plagiarist, for having printed the notable member of the H. B. of L. was the Austrian
Golden Verses of Pythagoras without acknowl- industrialist Karl Kellner (1850-1905). In 1895,
edging their modern translator, Fabre dOlivet.45 Kellner met Theodor Reuss, and the two of them
conceived the idea of a masonic academy which
See my article Hargrave Jennings, in The Hermetic Journal, was later to materialize as the OTO (Ordo Templi
1991. A parallel study of Paschal Beverly Randolph is in Orientis).46 Based on the Rite of Memphis and
Misram, which had been obtained from John
The correspondence with Blitz, and other essential materials Yarker, the OTO was supposedly the more exo-
for any history of Martinism, are in the Fonds Papus of the teric part of Kellner and Reusss enterprise, while,
Bibliothque Municipale de Lyon. in the latters own words, the teachings of the
Hermetic Brotherhood of Light were reserved for
Neither was Papus, but he had obtained certain high grades
such as those of the Order of Memphis and Misram.
See the biography of Reuss by Ellic Howe and Helmut Mller,
This was a calumny. Fabre dOlivet is credited on the cover Merlin Peregrinus. Vom Untergrund des Abendlandes
of The Morning Star, I,1. (Wrzburg: Knigshoven & Neumann, 1986), 87.

Theosophical History 146

the few initiates of the occult inner circle.47 One surely not ignorant of the H. B.of L.s teachings,
does not have to look further than the H. B. of L.s though it cannot be sufficiently stressed that such
secret documents for the source of the sexual knowledge, or for that matter membership of the
practices developed by Kellner and taught to OTO, did not necessarily imply depraved sexual
Reuss, and later elaborated by Aleister Crowley. practices masquerading as yoga. (This was an
It is hard to believe that Rudolf Steiner issue in the War of the Roses of the 1930s
did not also penetrate to these inner teachings between Lewis and R. Swinburne Clymer.)
upon joining the OTO in 1906 and being imme- At least two groups today claim to carry
diately delegated Grand Master to found a Berlin on the tradition of the H. B. of L. The Church of
Lodge. How seriously they were pursued in the Light in Carmel, California descends from the
OTO itself is another matter. Peter Davidson put Astleys who had patronized T.H. Burgoyne, and
the Outer Circle of the H.B. of L. to sleep in 1913, propagates the Light of Egypt teachings. I have not
which may simply mean that being old, tired, and made a special study of this branch, but I have
very far away, he ceased to have anything to do noticed the Brotherhood of Light credited on
with it. The H. B. of L. under his administration publications by John H. Dequer and Coulson
had never had a fraternal system with group work Turnbull.50 In less direct line, Clymers Rosicrucian
and ceremonial initiations, having been in effect Fraternity, based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania,
a correspondence course for solitary aspirants. traces its descent from P.B. Randolph and his
Oaths were taken not to pass on the manuscripts, successor F.B. Dowd, while recognizing Peter
but without a strong organization there was little Davidson as a great initiate. Thons Cosmic
to prevent leaks from occurring, or to stop other Philosophy still has a small following, mainly in
orders from adopting the teachings that, after all, France and Israel.
were not original except in their combination. By But these obscure groups do not exhaust
1917 the distinction in the OTO of inner and outer the influence of the H. B. of L., which was out of
circles appears to have broken down, for in that all proportion to its scale. As I have shown, its
year a manifesto published from Monte Verit, teachings of practical occultism reached many of
Ascona, openly named the Hermetic Brother- the key figures of modern esotericism. These
hood of Light, known as the O.T.O. as the include the most important German-speaking
pioneering organization for world-reform.48 From occultist of the century, Rudolf Steiner; the most
what is known of Reuss, it seems unlikely that he influential French one, Papus; the most notorious
would have long withheld his orders most pre- English one, Crowley; and the most successful
cious assets from the eager initiate. One such, H. American, Spencer Lewis. To these one should
Spencer Lewis,49 founder of the AMORC, was add Ren Gunon, who never condemned the H.
B. of L. as he did most modern esoteric move-
Ibid., 136, citing Reuss in Oriflamme, Jubilee No. (1912), 15.
J.H. Dequer, Arrows of Light from the Egyptian Tarot. A
Howe & Mller, 214. practical application of the Hermetic System of Names and
Numbers, based upon the teachings of the Brotherhood of Light
Lewis received an OTO diploma from Reuss in 1921, but (New York: Author, 1930); C. Turnbull, The Divine Language
does not seem to have had a closer relationship. See Howe of Celestial Correspondences (San Diego: Gnostic Press/Los
& Mller, 247. Angeles: Brotherhood of Light, 4th ed., [1913]).

147 The Hidden Hand

ments; and, through Mirra, Sri Aurobindo. read The Light of Egypt when one can read The
This article has presented hints and sug- Secret Doctrine? Why stare into magic mirrors and
gestionsnothing more is possiblethat there cultivate mediumship if one has understood The
was a hidden hand at work behind the launching Voice of the Silence?
of Modern Spiritualism in 1848; the foundation of The parting of the Eastern and Western
the Theosophical Society in 1875; and the H. B. of streams goes far deeper than the backbiting and
L. in the 1880s. I believe that Paul Johnsons criticism of their respective leaders. It hinges on
researches into Egyptian Freemasonry51 are highly two contrary philosophic views of the ultimate
relevant to this operation, with its agents in Cairo, destiny of the human being and the purpose of life
Paris, and New York. However, Blavatsky and on earth. The H. B. of L. and its higher Spiritualist
Olcott set themselves apart from it when they allies imagine the soul, single or with its beloved
settled in India under the influence of Himalayan partner, leaving this earth after a single lifetime to
Masters (whom I am not quite ready to identify travel ever finer, grander spheres, leading ever
with Johnsons Sikhs and Sufis). Western more marvelous angelic and cosmic existences in
esotericists were thereupon faced with the chal- universes beyond universes, finally being reab-
lenge of assimilating Eastern wisdom, or of reject- sorbed into God. Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita
ing it. Vedanta, on the contrary, see the ultimate goal as
From the point of view of the H. B. of L., being attainable here on earth, in a human body
the Theosophical episode would have been seen that is the fruit of many incarnations. The Bodhisattva
in terms of Mme. Blavatskys meteoric appear- or Jivan-mukti who achieves this goal is simulta-
ance in Cairo and her equally meteoric fall four- neously in the world of existence and in that of
teen years later, leaving the Brotherhood shaken Non-Being or Nirvana which is the support of all
but not overwhelmed, and faced with the impera- universes, no matter how spectacular or how
tive need to disavow her brand of esotericism. For sordid. In Buddhist language, the H. B. of L. can
a moment, she and Colonel Olcott, with their only lead to the realm of the Long-Lived Gods;
formidable occult and organizing powers, must while in Hindu terms, its practical occultism, taken
have seemed the Brotherhoods greatest hopes as an end in itself, can only reinforce the bondage
for a broader activity and a deeper influence on of the Mayavic illusion.
the course of human thought. But this promising
pair was lured away by the wiles of the Orient into
preaching phony Mahatmas, working fraudulent
phenomena, and teaching misleading doctrines.
That, as I said, is one view of the matter.
Blavatskian Theosophists, in turn, might regard
the Brotherhood of Light as an order with worthy
ideals, but not of the highest inspiration, and the
H.B. of L. as a rather pathetic hotch-potch. Why

See P. Johnson, In Search of the Masters: Beyond the Occult
Myth (South Boston, Va: Author, 1990), Pt. I.

Theosophical History 148

The First Practical Expression of
Theosophy in Italy:
The Villaggio Verde (Green Village)
Bernardino del Boca

From 1947 to 1951 I was the Italian Consul literature. At the present time, the Villaggio Verde
in Singapore and, being a member of the Theo- possesses a library of 13,000 books and maga-
sophical Society and former president of the zines.
Besant-Arundale Lodge in Novara, Italy I would In 1970 I founded, together with the
often visit the Singapore Lodge located on 8 theosophist Edoardo Bresci, the Publishing House,
Cairnhill Road. At a meeting of the Malayan LEt dell Acquario (The Age of Aquarius), and
Vegetarian Society, I met a Chinese nun, Pitt Tze the magazine LEt dell Acquario, now in its
Hui, who asked me to help her establish a seventy-first issue.
Buddhist society in Singapore. I did my best to In 1981 we bought some wooded land
help her, as did other theosophists, such as Rie near the place of origin of my family, Boca, not far
and S.H. Ph. von Krusenstierna (now Bishop of from Lake Maggiore and Arona, and we started
the Liberal Catholic Church in Australia), Mrs. the Villaggio Verde, a community conforming to
H.B. Moorhead, Mr. V. Rajagopal, and Mr. Chan the principles of Theosophy, trying to escape
Chim Lee. from both the illusion of Time and Space and
Together with Pitt Tze Hui, we published especially from the negative influence of the mind
A bilingual graduated course on the Fundamen- and of the sensory illusion of materialism. Our
tal Teachings of the Lord Buddha (Jen Chien Fu goal is to build fifty-one moduli (apartments)
Chion - Buddhism for this Sansara World). We around a small artificial lake, the already com-
also established a model for a community in Italy pleted lake being the symbol of the Aquarian Age.
where it was possible to live to be and not to At the time of this writing, sixteen have been
have. We had many dreams and we hoped to be constructed (see photo). In front, at the entrance
able to make people understand the invisible of the Village, is a shrine of the phi [spirit beings
reality of the Continuous Infinite Present. who usually inhabit rivers, mountains, wild places
At that time I was very young, but this and trees. In front of many Thai homes is the Sam-
dream of a community or village with individuals Phra-Phum, the home of the earth spirit, to
living in harmony, not just intellectual harmony which this most certainly is - ed.] originating from
but a harmony with the invisible reality of the Bangkok, Thailand. It is a symbol of our greater
Spiritual Realm, has persisted to be somewhat of belief and confidence in the invisible world and
an obsession to me. To this end, I began to collect its spiritual energies. Our agricultural endeavors
books and magazines on alternative and spiritual give us food enough for the inhabitants.

149 Villaggio Verde

We are now in the process of establishing
a Museum of Animism. To that end, we have
collected many statues of the nats [spirit-beings]
of Burma, the phis of Thailand, the kami of Japan,
and fetishes.

For many years I have been a friend of

John Coats [the late President of the Theosophical
Society, Adyar], who often visited us in Singapore
and Italy, and who discussed the Villaggio Verde
with us on numerous occasions. It is a pity that
John did not see the realization of the project.

A visitor (left) and Bernardino del Boca (right) standing in front of the entrance to the Villaggio Verde, on either
side of the shrine to the phi.

Theosophical History 150

Book Reviews
THE OCCULT MYTH. By Paul Johnson. South Speculation about Blavatsky, the origins of
Boston, VA: author, 1990. Pp. 305. $11.95 + $2.00 her teachings, and the nature of her Masters, has
handling. May be ordered through the T.S. produced some of the worst pseudo-scholarship
bookshops in Paris, Sydney, and London, and and most vividly mindless hagiographies or ex-
directly from the author. poses in the writing of religious history. This
book, as the author notes, falls neither into the
This is a difficult book, both to read and true believer nor the all lies camps. For that
to review. Different readers, and reviewers will reason, Johnson may succeed in pleasing no-one.
find it difficult for different reasons. The typical, But that will not be his fault.
historically ill-informed Theosophist will be un-
likely to read it, but, if he or she does, will He takes on the difficult, and probably
doubtless reject it outright as an unjustified attack impossible, task of seeking to answer the ques-
on Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, which it is not. tion: who were Blavatskys masters? To which
Scholars of Theosophical history may likewise be can be added: and what were they trying to do?
deterred by the methodology and the specula- Johnson provides quite clear answers to both
tion, both of which are an inevitable consequence questions, and his conclusions are extraordinarily
of the subject matter. Neither Blavatsky nor those original and interesting.
who have followed her in Theosophical organiza-
tions have had any great enthusiasm for history; Previous Theosophical authors, as John-
they preferred mythology, though usually under son notes, have tended to argue that the Masters
the guise of history, but history edited, adjusted were supernatural, or at least superhuman, beings
and laundered (in the tradition of religious and (or Beings), remote from the ordinary world; this
political movements generally) to adjust the often was not what Blavatsky taught, but it became the
inconvenient fact to suit ideology. general Theosophical tradition after her death
when the Masters became oriental variants on the
The trail that Paul Johnson has sought to Inner Plane Adepti of the tradition of the Hermetic
follow has therefore been far from straight, or well Order of the Golden Dawn or, less flatteringly, the
sign-posted. Blavatsky, no less than her disciples, Guides of Spiritualism. Questions about the
sought to obscure rather than to reveal her, and Masters and their earthly activities have tended to
indeed their, history. In addition, the circles into be avoided by Theosophical commentators, apart
which Johnsons explorations took him were from those such as Leadbeater who (in works like
often preoccupied with secrecy and obscuration, The Masters and the Path) offered extraordinary
and were not usually of sufficient significance guides to their physical appearance, characters
socially or culturally to have been documented and personal tastes.

151 Book Reviews

Essentially, Johnsons thesis is this: The writers of Theosophical history, and conspicu-
Mahatmas to whom Blavatsky referred were his- ously lacking in previous writers on Blavatsky.
torical human beings, men of flesh and blood His research took him on a world-wide journey in
rather than the ascended spirit being of later neo- an attempt to trace the outlines of the conspiracy
Theosophy, and they, and Blavatsky, were in- and the conspirators. Although assisted by a wide
volved in what amounted to a network of politi- range of scholars and Theosophical organizations
cal-cum-religious conspiracies. For example, he joined the distinguished ranks of those against
Johnson identifies the Master KH with Sirdar whom the Adyar Society kept its secret archive
Thakar Singh Sandhanwalla. The Masters were door closed. Although one suspects that there
not Tibetan, but rather Indian or Persian. may have been little there to assist him.

The myth, or masks, of the Mahatmas It is easy to find minor flaws in the book;
was, Johnson argues, established to conceal the they have nothing to do with the major thesis or
real identities and purposes of the men. Blavatsky the substance of his research. In large part they
was prepared to allow herself to be declared a are the result of the author publishing his own
fraud and a charlatan rather than disclose the real book. Mainstream Theosophical publishers pre-
identities of her Masters. sumably found the subject matter too challenging
and controversial. Playing a game of trivial
However, the problem Johnson faces, pursuit to find fault with the book does not detract
given the elaborate concealment and mythologiz- from the central arguments, and the overwhelm-
ing in which (if his hypothesis is correct) Blav- ing (and, for some readers, probably almost
atsky and her Masters engaged, is to establish unendurable) mass of detail and documentation.
coherent and historically convincing evidence for
his thesis. Like all who enter the shadowy realms Does the author satisfactorily establish
of conspiracy theory, he is caught in something of his thesis? Inevitably, not, but through no fault of
a trap: if there was a secret conspiracy, there is his own. The case he makes out is coherent and
unlikely to be any direct evidence of it. He is well-documented; it depends, however, on sub-
therefore reduced to circumstantial evidence, stantial conjecture, rather than on soundly docu-
suggestions, implications, coincidences, and as- mented history. This is hardly unorthodox in the
sociations. This is the major, and inevitable, area of Theosophical history, or the history of
criticism of his book. occultism generally. Two relatively recent studies
of Blavatsky - Meades Madame Blavatsky: The
And this, to a large extent, explains the Woman behind the Myth (1980) and Fullers Blav-
difficulty of the book, no less than of the research atsky and her Teachers (1988) - make no less use
on which it is based. The research is virtually of speculation and conjecture, from diametrically
beyond criticism; Johnson has explored, uncov- opposed positions, and without the degree of
ered and documented both major pathways and supporting evidence which Johnson employs.
obscure byways and dead-ends of Theosophical
and occult history with a zeal and enthusiasm for The book lacks an index which, particu-
detail which is otherwise almost unknown in larly in works arguing complex historical con-

Theosophical History 152

spiracies, makes serious study difficult. The ex- such notables as Mrs. Annie Besant, C.W.
tensive endnotes and bibliography are, however, Leadbeater, and A.P. Warrington, that would
extremely helpful. otherwise have never seen the light of day. This
material serves as the basis of a detailed and
In Search of the Masters is difficult read- fascinating account of the conception, origin, and
ing, but it is also fascinating and challenging first year of operation in this first volume on the
reading. Whether or not the reader accepts history of the Krotona Institute. From its very
Johnsons central thesis, the mass detail, the inception it was characterized as a community of
curious byways of Theosophical, occult and po- members of the Esoteric Section [now known as
litical history, and the vivid impression of it all the the Esoteric School of Theosophy] of the Theo-
author creates, makes it compelling, if exhaust- sophical Society (iv) by the then head of the
ing, reading. This book ought to be read, and Esoteric Section and, later, General Secretary of
carefully, by anyone interested in Blavatsky and the American Section, Albert Powell Warrington.
the origins of the Theosophical Society or, in-
deed, in the occult revival of the last quarter of the The author divides the book in six chap-
nineteenth century. ters, beginning with the early life of Mr. Warrington
from his birth in 1866 to his admission to the E.S.
Dr. Gregory Tillett in 1906 [Chapter 1]; his dream of establishing a
community on Pythagorean lines (letter from
C.W. Leadbeater to A.P. Warrington on p. 12)
consisting of a community dedicated to the
ideals of discipleship and brotherhood (11) [Chap-
KROTONA OF OLD HOLLYWOOD: ter 2]; the search for the ideal location of the
VOLUME I, 1866-1913. By Joseph E. Ross. community [Chapter 3]; the establishment of the
Montecito, CA: El Montecito Oaks Press, 1989. Krotona Institute in 1912 as an educational
Pp. xiv + 298. $22.95. [A free supplement of the nucleus (132) as well as becoming the center of
Krotona letters will be included with the book.] the Esoteric Section (the owner of the Krotona
Institute), the American headquarters of the Order
In her informative book, 100 Years of of the Star in the East and of the American Section
Theosophy: A History of the Theosophical Society of the Theosophical Society, and to house for a
in America, Joy Mills has observed that the full time the Temple of the Rosy Cross [Chapter 4]; the
history of the Hollywood Krotona is still to be expansion and growth of Krotona during the
written. (51) I am happy to report that this remainder of 1912 [Chapter 5]; and its first full year
deficiency is now being remedied by a former of operation in 1913 [Chapter 6].
resident of Krotona (Ojai) and the present Direc-
tor of the International Lalita Kalas Foundation, Because of the wealth of detail and the
Inc., Joseph Ross. Mr. Ross is in a unique position copious reproduction of letters by the principals
to conduct this study because of his foreknowl- containing much extraneous information, readers
edge in collecting and preserving a treasure trove might well be advised to read Mr. Warringtons
of letters from the founders of Krotona, including address, Krotona Past and Present, delivered

153 Book Reviews

on 2 February 1913 during the opening day Child Lifein the Light of Theosophy
ceremonies of the Winter Session (216-221). In its Anthropology and Folklore and Develop-
principal role as a center of learning, he states that ment of Religion
the Krotona Institute provides the Everyday Law
adult an opportunity for a measure of in- Untried Theories, Social and Political
struction which he cannot get in other institutions Esoteric Interpretation of the Drama
of learning.... We discover Theosophy, feel its Esoteric Interpretation of the Poets
grandeur, and then yearn to spread its message. Music Theosophically Interpreted
To such the opportunity will here be given to Care of the Body
learn of that light of truth and love which is so
filling the world today.... Men and women who, Turning to the style of the book, the reader
for lack of training, have no capacity to express should be forewarned that this is not an easy
the things that fill their souls, who have had no book, the main reason being that the narrative is
opportunity to study and to qualify themselves to broken up repeatedly by often lengthy letters that,
express something of the souls fullnessit is for on numerous occasions, contain references to
such that the Krotona Institute is brought into topics and events that have little or nothing to do
existence. (218-9) with Krotona, and this usually without the benefit
of the authors annotation. This may cause some
Although Mr. Ross does not provide a frustration on the part of those attentive readers
complete list of the courses that were provided by having little or no knowledge of the Theosophical
the Institute during 1913 Winter Session, that list Society and its leaders in the earlier part of the
does appear in the journal, the O.E. Library Critic twentieth century. Unfortunately, a full under-
(II/5, 23 Oct. 1912). In a most sympathetic article standing of some of the contents of the letters
by the future scourge of the T.S. (Adyar), the cannot always be complemented by secondary
editor, H.N. Stokes, considered Krotona at its reading material. For this reason, the book would
inauguration to be not merely a school of Theoso- have been of even greater value had Mr. Ross
phy but the beginning of a university in which pursued these nooks and crannies of theosophi-
every subject so far as it admits of it will be treated cal history. Examples include mention of Douglas
from the theosophical standpoint, just as the Pettit (56, 69, 103, 125, 185, 193, 203-4, 206-7), the
universities treat everything from the standpoint unusual role of Marie Russak in the American
of evolution. (4) The courses that were offered Section and her supposed psychic powers (23,
were: 160, 253-5, 260-1), the presence of rival occult
societies such as the Universal Brotherhood (171,
The Aryan Sub-Races 185) or the Mahacakra Society (179), the role of
Applied Theosophy that supposed nemesis of the T.S., the Jesuits
The Astral World (171-2, 186). One last regret is the failure to give
Elementary Philosophy a more rounded, three-dimensional portrait of
Science and Theosophy Correlated General Secretary Mr. Warringtons immediate
Abnormal Psychology predecessor, Dr. Weller Van Hook. He is a most

Theosophical History 154

shadowy figure who appears only as the oppo-
nent to Warringtons dream of establishing the
Krotona Institute. Also, Mr. Ross has purposely
chosen to follow a purely narrative style rather
than to attempt to analyze and define events and
personalities in the book. This will be welcomed
by some readers, but the authors perspective,
after examining this subject so meticulously, would
be appreciated.

On the other hand, it is unfair to fault the

author for omitting what was admittedly beyond
the purview of the book. Admittedly, our knowl-
edge of theosophical history has been greatly
expanded. Indeed, the original source material
reproduced therein is enough to make the book
required reading for all historians of theosophical,
communal, and Californian history. Mr. Ross is to
be especially commended in shedding light where
only lacunae previously existed. It is my fervent
hope that succeeding volumes will offer as much
insightful material as this first initial effort.

James A. Santucci

155 Book Reviews