B.P. Wadia (1881-1958) and the Theosophical Movement Renaissance

Jean-Louis Siémons1

As is well-known, the concatenation of great political and social events, that strike the attention of superficial observers, tends to mask the true inner evolution of collective humanity and to cause a misinterpretation of some of the important lessons of History. With the Theosophical Movement too - and perhaps more particularly in its case - historians should take care not to stop at outer appearances of success or failure like the response of the masses, rates of increase of the fellowship, number of books printed, authority of the leaders, etc. (as if the TM was to conquer a place on the market) - but rather attempt to gauge the progress and penetration of the ideas and knowledge which that Movement was meant to convey to the minds and hearts of modern men. Also with individual Theosophists who played a part on the worldly scene, the number of their achievements and the public fame gained thereby should not be the true criterion, but the way in which they conformed themselves to the original programme of the Movement, to meet the urgent needs of humanity in a dramatic period of transition. From that point of view some men, or women, who may have passed for secondary characters in History may be counted as important agents who played a necessary role at a critical juncture. Such an one was B.P. Wadia.

In spite of half a century of an existence spent in the service of Theosophy, Wadia's name is practically unknown to historians2. He wrote no books, left no autobiographical notes, but thousands of pages of articles generally unsigned, published in theosophical magazines bound by a strict policy of impersonality, so that, had it not been for the zeal and affection of some of his friends and co-workers who gathered much available information and wrote down their own testimonies, whole parts of Wadia's exceptional life would have fallen into oblivion.

Enough has been preserved, nevertheless, to sketch a resembling picture of a man whose memory is still cherished by the few of his companions who have survived him to this day.

An Eventful Life: A Few Dates in Wadia's Life

1) The Years of Preparation

An Indian Parsi by his family, Bahman Pestonji Wadia was born too late (8 Oct. 1881) to actually meet Mme H.P. Blavatsky, but in time to come in contact with what remained of the old Theosophical Society in 1903 and to work under Olcott, then as A. Besant's assistant, for nearly 2 decades. His youth was marked by a most important event: his acquaintance with HPB through her Secret Doctrine, handed over to him by an old family friend, a member of the Bombay TS. He was then 18, working in a large British textile firm, when his father died, the following year, leaving a family with 4 children; BP promptly learned to manage his business (in the sale of textiles) and prospered at it. He could thus have accumulated a large fortune, but this first promising avenue of life he refused: by 1904, having made a great success of his firm, he sold it to free himself of all business engagements, and devoted himself entirely to Theosophy thereafter.

2) A Fertile Period of Experience in the TS

In 1903, Wadia having joined the Bombay TS was given responsibilities in the edition of theosophical periodicals. Col. Olcott accepted his offer of service (in 1904), then A. Besant agreed on his coming to Adyar (1908), to serve as manager of the Theosophical Publishing House. From this time on, Wadia was closely associated with AB in all manner of theosophical work; as an ardent patriot he also sided by her in her political action (Indian Home Rule Movement) and he was interned with her, and G. Arundale, by the Government of Madras, from June to September 1917. He came to know personally all the major political figures of India. His great integrity, his instinctive love of the masses and his tremendous power of character would have opened to him an easy ingress to political fame and success - this second promising avenue he refused, in spite of repeated urges of Indian leaders, knowing that a militant of his worth was much needed, especially after Gandhi's murder.

Also in 1917, Mrs Besant prompted him to take interest in the labor conditions of textile workers in the local Madras mills: these conditions he found oppressive and inhumane. With his help and counsel, the first Labor Union was organised and started in India (27 April 1918), Wadia as the President being asked to represent the laborers. Unexpectedly, this commitment obliging him to travel abroad was to be instrumental in a great change in his theosophical life, as will appear later on. Summoned by the British Parliament, he sailed to London (Spring 1919) to give testimony on the labor unrest in India. Then, as a delegate appointed by the Indian Government, he attended the First International Labor Conference, under the League of Nations, at Washington DC (in the Fall 1919). Again in 1921, he was a member of the Indian Delegation as a technical advisor to the Second Conference of this type, held in Geneva (25 Oct.). His great versatility, charm of manner, his scholarly knowledge along many different lines, his peculiar sympathy and understanding of people, had made him extremely popular3; a third promising avenue was opening to him, for a career as a social activist and a respected Labor representative.

But he felt called upon by a more urgent need: for him social miseries could be alleviated but to a certain point, while the root of all worldly injustice remained alive in the selfishness of men and finally in their ignorance of the basic laws of existence, so that all energies had to be devoted to the spreading of Theosophy, which "alone can furnish the beacon-light needed to guide humanity on the true path", in HPB's words4

Naturally, being a well-known co-worker of A. Besant, a bright lecturer and active Theosophist engrossed in the Theosophy of HPB, he was invited by many TS Lodges on a lecture-tour, while he was in Europe and in America. His wide popularity, both in India and abroad, and his real capacities as a manager and organiser were opening for him another avenue of personal success: as a theosophical leader, promised to take one day the succession of A. Besant, when she died. That only if he had followed and sustained her in all her policies and projects. Which he did not, refusing once again another passage opened to him in the labyrinth of his life.

For in the progress of time and especially during his travels in the West, he had finally come to the conclusion that Theosophy was no longer at home in the TS which was "no more a Society of seekers of the Wisdom, but an organisation where many believe in the few, and blind following had come to prevail"5

All his efforts to direct the mind of the TS leaders at Adyar, as also the members he had addressed in his lectures, "back to Blavatsky and her Theosophy", having failed, being interpreted as prompted by mere narrow orthodoxy or, worse, inspired by "Jesuits and Black Magicians"6, the situation was becoming untenable.

But in the meantime an alternative had opened when in Los Angeles (Nov. 1919) he had by chance (?) found a newspaper advertisement of lectures on theosophical subjects conducted by the United Lodge of Theosophists. He came and found there an independent association of devoted Theosophists, whose Declaration embodied precisely, to his mind, all the necessary principles of brotherly work and unity for the Cause of Theosophy from which all considerations of personalities, authority, leadership, etc. were excluded. There was seen in application a policy that could inspire a reform programme to be proposed to the TS leaders. Being much interested, Wadia attended more

meetings, and a life-long brotherly relationship was established between the Indian TS representative and a number of active ULT associates, like John Garrigues, Westcott and Mrs Grace Clough, who, at the time, lamented the recent death (25 June 1919) of Robert Crosbie, the founder of the ULT, and creator of the magazine Theosophy. There also, Wadia became familiar with the character and writings

of William Quan Judge, one of the founders of the original TS, an active co-worker and supporter of HPB whose memory in TS circles had been lost after a series of painful events that had torn apart the unity of the Society in the years 1894-6.

Upon his return to India, BPW attempted, during over 2 years (1920-21), to bring about a change in the policy of the TS at Adyar and elsewhere, always pointing to what stood for him as the true Theosophy of HPB. Also, after several heart to heart conversations with A. Besant concerning Judge, he found that while she admitted in private the latter had been wronged, at the time of the case against him (1895) and later, she refused to make a public declaration to do him justice; moreover, she would not allow Wadia to do it himself.

3) A Resignation - for the Sake of Theosophy

Finally in 1922, Wadia determined that the only course left to him was to resign from the TS (18 July). He made his reasons known in an Open Letter "To All Fellows and Members of the Theosophical Society" - a truly epoch-making letter that would deserve a close analysis. In a remarkably balanced and dignified style, it gave out frankly, but with no accusation of persons, the opinion of a man for whom "Theosophy... is the bread of life, its Cause the object of primary concern", and who had come to the conclusion that "the TS has strayed away from the 'Original Programme' inspired by the 'Original Impulses'" whereby the Masters brought it into existence through the help of their Messenger, H.P. Blavatsky. Briefly: "The TS, as feared by HPB, has drifted on a sand bank and is, spiritually speaking, a dead body". Then page after page, the writer enumerated a number of facts and situations existing in the present TS, in flat contradiction with HPB's warnings and teachings: "Pseudo-Theosophy has taken the place of Theosophy" (...) "A hierarchy of 'initiates' has been set up within the TS and blind following and ludicrous worship of personalities has been rampant (...)" The holy names of Masters are used on every occasion and at every turn" (...) messages, orders and instructions from "Masters and 'Devas' are issued", etc., etc., etc.. Finally, "the existing conditions in the TS are so deep rooted and so wide spread that the disease is incurable"7.

To conclude, feeling that "those who remain loyal to Theosophy can not be loyal to the TS ", BPW warned his Fellows of his decision to continue his service of the Cause with the United Lodge of Theosophists, ending his letter by a vibrant appeal to his Brothers he was leaving in the TS.

This memorable letter of a prominent TS Officer provoked a variety of replies but none from the first person concerned - Annie Besant, President TS. A kind of response, in rather lenient tones, was issued as "An Open Letter to Mr Wadia" under the signatures of J. Krishnamurti and his brother, J. Nityananda, who at the time were resting in the Ojai Valley8. But a sizeable number of members interested in HPB's Theosophy separated from the TS, to eventually become ULT associates in their turn.

4) Joining the United Lodge of Theosophists

Then opened for BPW a time of intense "missionary" activity, from 1922 to 1928, to strengthen the roots and influence of the ULT and to help in the creation of new Lodges, first on the American continent, then in Europe.

To his new companions, devoted to the ULT programme, his unexpected arrival and joining hands with them had something providential. R. Crosbie's recent death had left some despondency among them they were so few as yet, and there was a temptation to rejoin perhaps an existing TS (under E.T. Hargrove, in New York). Wadia strongly dissuaded them from doing so. The time had come for a steady extension of the ULT movement. With older ULT associates, he threw himself into the work with his usual enthusiasm and capacity, his charismatic eloquence in spreading Theosophy, whose teachings he had in deep command, his constant desire to help other people in their search of Truth, without forgetting children in their awakening to the laws of life.9

These were years of training in the ULT methods of work and confirmation of a vocation he had adopted for the rest of his existence. Then the time of his return to India arrived: B.P. Wadia landed in Bombay (31 May 1929) just before the monsoon rain arrived.

5) A Renaissance of Theosophy in India

Now, 1929 was to be a memorable year for the Theosophical Movement founded by Mme Blavatsky. Annie Besant who for years had passed for the enthusiastic and talented champion of Theosophy in the world, and spent treasures of energy, care and love in the education and preparation of her promising protégé J. Krishnamurti, acclaimed as the coming World-Teacher sent by the venerable Lodge of Great theosophical Masters, saw all her hopes dramatically fall to the ground, when the young Indian publicly refused at the Camp of Omen (Aug. 1929) the role expected of him, thereby rejecting all allegiance to Theosophy, Mme Blavatsky and her Masters - never to refer to them again in his teachings for the rest of his life.

That same year, it was the privilege of another son of India10, B.P. Wadia, to plant in the soil of old Aryavarta - "the Motherland of my Master", in HPB's words - a fresh scion of the tree of pure Theosophy that Blavatsky had planted herself and nurtured with care during all the years of her public life: the Bombay branch of the ULT was opened on the 17th of November 1929 (a date obviously chosen in remembrance of the inauguration day of the TS, in 1875).

One year later, on the same auspicious day, was issued the first number of a 4-page magazine The Theosophical Movement which was to emulate the American Theosophy launched by Robert Crosbie (in Nov. 1912). Therein also, all articles were unsigned, except those that had been written by HPB and Judge, one object of these publications being to reprint original articles of these two pioneers that were no longer available to readers. While the size of The Theosophical Movement gradually increased to 48 pages, an active publishing programme was started, in book and pamphlet form, offering to average readers, at low price, a number of fundamental texts collected under one head or the other. Over the years, books like The Heart Doctrine, Vernal Blooms, Letters That Have Helped Me, etc. contributed to the re-discovery of Judge's teachings, practically unknown to the public.

Following the incessant work of Wadia and his devoted companions (some of whom had accompanied him, from the US or Europe over to India), other Lodges and Study-Groups saw the light of day in India (mainly in Matunga and Bangalore). Also, in 1941, an equipment was bought to set up a printing press for the Bombay ULT, later transferred to Bangalore, where the W.Q. Judge Press' was opened, in 1954.

Finally, one year before BP's death, the Bombay Lodge moved to a new 7 store-building, inaugurated on 17 Nov. 1957, the auditorium overflowing with people (over 700 persons were counted). Here, as in other major ULT centres, an important programme of activities could be run (lectures, Study-classes, Question and Answer meetings, Theosophy School), with one peculiarity: Study-classes for ladies unable to attend regular meetings.

On one floor, a large Reference Library was accommodated, with over 100,000 books and pamphlets available.

6) A Needed Opening to the Modern World

In spite of all this energy devoted to promote Theosophy, Wadia's opinion was that a particular effort should be made by Theosophists to go out to the world of modern thinkers.

In an article of 193011, he wrote:

There are two aspects of the Theosophical Movement, the abstract and the concrete. The first is diffused and expansive. Wherever thought has struggled to be free, whenever spiritual ideas, as opposed to forms and dogmatism have been promulgated, there the great Movement is to be discerned (...). The other, the concrete, and visible aspect of the Movement revolves round the Teachings of HPB (...).

In another article12 he warned that,

The Theosophical student of this generation has to guard himself against two extremes: one is to limit the freedom of thought and to live like a frog who looks upon his pond as the world, with nothing outside; the other is to expound and embrace indiscriminately in the name of brotherhood and fraternization, falsehood, ignorance and humbug.

Elsewhere, in a text on "Local Theosophists"13, he further commented:

The world is wider than any Theosophical organization, and if we would be universal in character, we must fight against narrowness and keep up our interest in what is going on in the outside world. And we shall find that there we have our friends and allies.

In a most significant way, he concluded:

Is the power of the Spirit in man to be limited to "Theosophical organizations" only? Perish the thought. We have to look for Theosophical ideas, ideas which, largely owing to the life of sacrifice of HPB, have percolated (albeit unconsciously to themselves) into the minds of our great thinkers – and welcome them whenever and wherever we find them.

To serve this purpose of a wider opening, a magazine was promptly founded in January 1930 - The Aryan Path ("the noble path") - supported by articles and editorials by BPW and T.L. Crombie, a former companion of the old Adyar days. Contributions were invited from prominent thinkers in their own fields, whose writings and outlook were significantly part of the more diffused aspect of the Movement. This non-sectarian, international magazine was also meant to help the Theosophical student, enabling him "to learn what able minds in East and West alike are thinking and how many among them understand propositions of the philosophy of Theosophy better than himself and his companions". For "If The Aryan Path takes Theosophy to the thinking public, it brings in a compact form to the Theosophical student from the world of science, philosophy and art, ideas and views and even inspiration which he sorely needs and so helps him to live and to labour for his Cause in a better fashion"14.

Obviously, as it appeared in the course of years, a mere monthly magazine would not suffice to answer the needs. After the necessary delay to firmly implant ULT Lodges in Indian soil, the time came for BPW, in 1945, to take a further step, by founding at Bangalore the Indian Institute of Culture on 11th August (HPB's birthday), thus affirming again the link between the two aspects of the Movement.

The first unit of the Institute was the William Quan Judge Hostel, a place where students could live unexpensively while studying at local institutions, the chief aim being to promote intercultural exchange and universal brotherhood without any distinction. Then, when the needed buildings had been erected to unfold the project to its full development, the Institute became the Indian Institute of World Culture (IIWC), on the opening of the New Hall by the Maharajah of Mysore (9 Nov. 1957).

In his Inaugural Address, Wadia had declared in 1945: "We want adult education not only for minds but also for souls (...). We want our brothers from China and Japan, Iran and Arabia, Europe and the Americas, to visit us to learn as also to teach - learning and teaching being but one process (...). Especially we need a cultural centre - not an academy of scholars, we repeat, but an institution for the ordinary minds, the men and women who are the builders and sustainers of homes (...) for the cultivation of the international outlook, the truly cosmopolitan spirit."

In addition to regular publications, the IIWC offered a wide range of talks, exhibitions, drama, dance, film shows and other demonstrations in furtherance of its objectives. The list of orators who spoke on its platform, year after year, include a number of Nobel Laureates, leading political men (like S. Radhakrishnan and V.V. Giri, Presidents of India), H.E. the Panchen Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Arnold Toynbee and M.V. Krishna Rao (historians), and many prominent scientists, MD's, philosophers, religionists, poets and artists.

In this Institute, widely open to all persons willing to contribute their share to culture in a spirit of brotherhood, without restriction of caste, colour, religion or belonging, it must be noted that Wadia never concealed his firm conviction, as a Theosophist. In his last address, for the 14th Foundation Day (11 Aug. 1958), under the title "Our Soul's Need", he concluded: "What my colleagues and myself, who are students of Theosophy as taught by H.P. Blavatsky, whose 127th Birth Anniversary we are also celebrating today, have been able to achieve is wholly and entirely due to the power and wisdom of Theosophy. The Institute does not aim at proselytizing anyone, but we who have laboured for it have done so under the inspiration of the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge (...) What I have presented to you today for your consideration is the direct result of the study of Theosophy as recorded in their writings".

A few days later, (20th Aug. 1958) BPW who had been ill for a short time, felt he was approaching death. His intimate friends were called together to receive his warnings for the future. He also reviewed some past incidents in his life which had inspired his whole career. It was not before the evening that he passed away. His body was cremated the next morning and his ashes were poured into the waters of the great Cauvery river.

His death was noticed in all the major newspapers of the country.

The Hidden Face of BPW

All independent witnesses paid tribute to Wadia's outstanding character as a bright mind15, brilliant writer having an exceptional command of the English language, a most successful manager and a devoted student of Theosophy16. But these well-deserved laudatory appreciations can hardly give an idea of the tremendous magnetic power and energy that emanated from all his person17.

As said before, he was endowed with all that makes for success in worldly affairs – as a businessman, a politician or a leader of men. But in all his commitments, he was prompted by a sense of duty – first in the textile business, he had to cover the needs of his family suddenly deprived of the father, then in politics and the social service, patriotism and love of the masses were the incentives - but he would drop his activity the moment he felt his duty was fulfilled and a more pressing one was calling him.

In all cases, as reported above, the impulse came from his deep gratitude and attachment to Mme Blavatsky whose Secret Doctrine had entered his life at an early age answering all the questions of his eager mind. An oriental mystic at heart, following in this the example of Damodar when he first became acquainted with HPB, he acknowledged her as his Guru – for life – and devoted his energies to the spreading of Theosophy, the Message she had been appointed by her own Masters to bring to the world.

These Masters he considered not as intellectual abstractions but as "ideals and facts" (in Judge's words) - living men, whose "mighty hands" protected and upheld the Theosophical Movement, at large, in its onward progression.

Although Wadia was never heard in the TS stating publicly "Master says..." or "Master orders..." (as was to become frequent in Adyar circles), it was evident to all those who closely approached him that he had pledged his life to these Masters and to the service of Their Cause. At least, all his accomplishments on the world scene, all his writings, public or private, bring eloquent testimonies in this direction.

No doubt, very soon after his admission into the TS (1903), when he started to devote all his time to theosophical activities, his faith of an enthusiastic beginner had developed into a full conviction, enlightened by an inner perception of the wide extension of Masters' work. His resignation letter of 1922 (p. 5) has an enigmatic passage alluding to the sacred memory of "my early Vision on the Mountain Peak" - which suggest a deep spiritual experience of a kind which must have imprinted in the young man (then in his mid-twenties) an imperishable mark.

It must be added that early in his theosophical life BPW made friends with Bhavani Shankar, an Indian Brahmin who, in HBP's time, had been known as a direct chela of Master K.H18. Wadia narrated to some friends that he had the opportunity to be invited to attend the Pandit's morning puja - a lapse of meditation and devotion (of 4 to 5 hours) dedicated to the Masters and HPB. BP's relationship with Bhavani Shankar was never broken. After the formation of the ULT in Bombay, the old chela quickly recognized the real Theosophical work carried on there; under its auspices, he gave a series of talks (Oct. 1931, Sept. 1933 and Sept. 1934). He also participated in White Lotus Day meetings of the Bombay ULT, the last occasion being in 1934.

At the time of his death - he was 77 years old - Bhavani asked BPW to come, apparently delaying his passing until his friend's arrival. They had a private talk, after which he expired. The date was the Full Moon of the month of Ashada - the 4th of July 1936.

The importance of this connection of Wadia with the Hindu chela of HPB's time should not to be forgotten nor undervalued. For Bhavani Shankar, the existence of the Masters was not a subject for doubt or academic discussion. On several occasions, he had seen them visiting HPB at the Bombay headquarters, speaking or delivering messages to her for her work. As a witness, he firmly declared: "I was on seeing them neither hallucinated nor entranced (...) these Brothers are not mere fictions of our respectable Mme Blavatsky's imagination but real personages, whose existence to us is not a matter of mere belief, but of actual knowledge"19.

As it would seem, for Wadia too, the existence of Masters had become and remained to his death a matter of "actual knowledge". This would explain his incradicable faith and tenacity in his service of Theosophy.

Two Decades of Training, Tests and Trials.

Not infrequently, it happens that people join an organization like the TS, to enjoy what it offers, then to leave it, dissatisfied with what they have garnered, tired of a routine work, or offended by personal dissensions.

B.P Wadia's years of membership in the TS (1903-1922) tell another story. Moved by his ideal he had joined the Society, prompted by the same ideal he left it, when he found that the organization failed to answer the ideal TS which had been in HPB's mind.

No doubt these two decades of theosophical activity were for him years of active training and accomplishment, in the furtherance of the first two Objects of the Society. But, in a more subtle way, they spanned a period of tests of his devotion to the Cause, with the unavoidable trials attached to them.

As a matter of fact, a confusion is easily made between devotion to a universal Cause (or to a programme of service of that Cause) and devotion to the leading persons who appear to the world as the champions of said Cause.

When as a young enthusiast BPW offered his services to H.S. Olcott, then to Annie Besant, he made probably no distinction between those two forms of devotion, seeing that HSO and AB had been so close co-workers of HPB, And, no doubt, for Wadia who was as her pledged servant, Mme Blavatsky's living presence in Adyar continued to be felt along the years - sometimes in a very vivid way, as he confessed to some friends.

Still, the events at Adyar were to bring their lesson and force BP to learn it. As he wrote in his resignation letter (pp. 4-5) :

"The events of the last few years when examined in their proper order of succession and correctly linked up, produce a chain of evidence that leaves no doubt in the mind of the sincere student of the Wisdom (...) that the TS has proved disloyal to Theosophy and its Holy Cause. It is necessary to see the chain of events forged, for each event in itself appears innocuous and in certain instances even assumes a certain form of correct Theosophy (...) but when linked up, the disloyalty to the 'original programme' referred to by HPB emerges, clear and unmistakable."

Then, opposing the student who "observes with judicious care the Valley of the Theosophical Society by the sunlight of the Wisdom of HPB and her Masters", and who understands the illusory nature of the "ever-shifting shadows (...) that dance therein", in sharp contrast to "the children in the Valley playing with the moving shadows", mistaking them for realities20, the writer admitted: "I have been in that Valley and have played at the tragic game for a season, spending precious time and energy".

Fortunately, as he confessed, "I had been for a while on the mountain top ere I descended to the Valley, and the Vision remained enshrined in the heart of my memory". That Vision sustained his energy but, in the same time, would not leave his conscience in peace; it "gave birth to suspicions", which could not however prevent him from "mistaking shams for realities". For, as he wrote, "I put all doubts away, arguing with myself that perhaps I had not adequate knowledge. Thus for a while I was untrue to my own Higher Self, out of sincerity and humility21". Hence the apology: "False notions of devotion and allegiance, unverified acceptance of statements, belief in false doctrines and worship of personalities led me to influence others in these directions, for which Karma will demand its toll (...) ".

Elsewhere in the same letter (pp. 10-11), BPW added that he had first accepted the wrong tendencies which were observed in the TS "with the true Asiatic devotion22 of a student toward more advanced students". But that devotion had in time the beneficent effect to compel him "to seek to understand that which was not clear", until the logical conviction arose in him that the TS was slowly but surely straying away from the straight Path traced out for it.

The TS and Theosophy - Between Fixity and Evolution.

On perusing Wadia's letter of resignation, a modern observer, ignorant of the precise historical facts the writer had in view, may find in it as a touch of sectarianism. Nowadays, an accusation of "integrism", or "fundamentalism ", is easily passed to judge a personage or a movement claiming to return "back to the origins".

In the early 1920's, what were exactly the prevailing conditions in the TS, some thirty years after the time when HPB, in her Conclusion to The Key to Theosophy, had discussed the possible lines of its future? Great changes had taken place in its policy, which would have astonished Blavatsky herself, to say the least. But is not change an essential feature of all living organisms? Had not the Society to face the challenge of modernity, particularly around World War I?

On behalf of India's emancipation, Annie Besant, had boldly embarked in politics. For a good cause, no doubt. But was it not at the risk of compromising the TS neutrality, since the Society had become so closely identified with its President during those years?23

Soon after Leadbeater's reintegration into the TS, the rumor was started that a World-teacher was coming, his living "vehicle" being already found. This contrasted with HPB's written declaration : "No Master of Wisdom from the East will himself appear or send anyone to Europe or America (...) until the year 1975". Was it that the "Hierarchy" of Masters had changed their minds, and that all should be done to welcome the Lord Maitreya?

When in spite of Blavatsky's relentless denunciation of the pernicious influence of churches, priests, etc. the Liberal Catholic Church was established with its Bishops, its liturgy, etc., could it be that the new "change" was necessitated by the requirements of the hour?24

"Changes" of this kind, there were to be many in the TS; but when A. Besant repudiated Gandhiji's programme of civil disobedience25 and lost all political influence in India, when the Coming finally "went wrong" and Krishnamurti left, when the greatest doubts arose concerning the successive "Initiations" received by well-disposed members during their sleep, or the very highest grades reached by some prominent leaders, what remained in terms of spiritual benefit for humanity after those decades of " progress"? That was an open question for many Theosophists of the time.

It must be conceded that some changes had also taken place in the TS, during HPB's life. The Golden Book of the T.S. (1875-1925) has a chapter showing the evolution of the Objects of the TS from the beginning. Curiously enough, nowhere in the revised Rules and By-Laws of the Theosophical Society the word Theosophy is to be found. In the first years, it is true, no corpus of theosophical teachings was available that could provide a Doctrine to be studied and promulgated. But in course of time, it became more and more evident that in HPB's mind the TS was to be the selected channel for the propagation of Theosophy, now largely written down and published in books, articles and magazines.

These considerations finally explain the full title given by HPB to her Key to Theosophy, being a clear exposition [...] of the Ethics, Science and Philosophy for the study of which the Theosophical Society has been founded. In the same book (p. 16), Blavatsky was pleased to quote a paper read by Dr Buck at the Chicago Convention (April 1889): "The Theosophical Society was organized for the purpose of promulgating the Theosophical doctrines and for the promotion of the Theosophical life [...]".

The same view penetrates her Messages to the American Conventions:

"the recognition of pure Theosophy [...] is of the most vital importance in the Society" [1888].

Be Theosophists, Work for Theosophy - Theosophy first and Theosophy last".

Perhaps this prospect was not shared by all. It was fully adhered to by W.Q. Judge and later by Wadia.

The ideals for theosophical work expected of active TS members were laid down many a time by HPB, especially in her Messages to the American Theosophists.

For example, in 1888, she wrote:

Theosophists are of necessity the friends of all movements in the world, whether intellectual or simply practical, for the amelioration of the condition of mankind.

We are the friends of all those who fight against [...] injustice to women, against corruption in society or in government, although we do not meddle in politics26

But in our quality of Theosophists, we cannot engage in any one of these great works in particular. As individuals we may do so, but as Theosophists we have a larger, more important and much more difficult work to do.

For the recognition of "pure Theosophy - the philosophy of the rational explanation of things" - it was in fact the members' task to study and understand it, to make of it "a living factor in their lives" in order to be able in their turn to spread and exemplify its teachings, for it alone could "furnish the beacon-light needed to guide humanity on its true path".

To sum up the " TS project " in a few words :

It was evidently with this perspective in view that B.P. Wadia spoke of the "'Original Programme' inspired by the 'Original Impulses' whereby the Masters brought it [the TS] into existence, through the help of Their Messenger, H.P. Blavatsky".

Theosophy - An Evolutive Doctrine?

Should it be added that if TS members had the liberty to choose the best practical ways and methods to carry out that "Programme", they were not free to drop it or deviate from it – at the risk of losing the benefit of the "Impulses " and ending in complete failure?

As to the eventuality of an "evolution" of the doctrine, the question is easily solved in the perspective outlined above.

Although Blavatsky never pleaded infallibility for her writings, when she stated "The Secret Doctrine teaches" it was no invention of hers - she only recorded the Message she was made to transmit. And in fact, for an impartial reader, that Message has its own impressive inner coherence27.

As to a possible "evolution", by way of additions, complements, precisions, etc. it was not out of question, since two further volumes of the S.D. were in 1888 almost completed, their publication depending on the reception of the first two "at the hands of Theosophists and Mystics" (S.D. orig. ed. II 798). This never happened, HPB dying in 1891. Were Theosophists now condemned to wait for the next cyclic attempt of Masters' Lodge to receive more on the Secret Doctrine, or were they to put themselves to the task to fill up the blanks left? On the contrary, was there not enough matter in all that had been given for a study over a century, and perhaps more?

Shortly after HPB's death, A. Besant recognized: "none of us has any right to put forward his own views as 'Theosophy' in conflict with hers, for all that we know of Theosophy comes from her [...] Theosophists have it in charge not to whittle away the Secret Doctrine for the sake of propitiating the Christian Churches [...] (or) Materialistic Science. Steadily, calmly, without anger but also without fear, they must stand by the Secret Doctrine as she gave it [...] The condition of success is perfect loyalty..."28

Nevertheless, in the succeeding years, a great quantity of new literature appeared purporting to be "Theosophical", often claiming to emanate from so-called occult quarters, dictated or inspired by one of the "Masters"29. A tree is recognized by its fruit. In all this "modern" matter a connoisseur of Theosophy has no difficulty to recognize the good and to put his finger on the "flaws", the points of divergence sometimes gross and conspicuous from the original Doctrine. But the general public cannot do so, being lured by the more attractive contents of those novel publications, whose number would increase in proportion of their success. Finally, such an "evolution" of the theosophical teaching tended fatally to leave aside "the straight and virile doctrine taught by HPB" (Wadia's words) and to promote almost exclusively the abundant new literature more easy of access.

Lest Theosophy pure and simple should become an archaeological vestige, the time was coming for a small band of faithful, scattered through the world, to sound the bugle call of alarm. B.P. Wadia was one of them.

B.P. Wadia's Place in the Theosophical Movement Renaissance

Not without humour, an historian could perhaps analyze the adventurous destinies of the two TS's (Adyar and Point Loma) after the death of the three main Founders of the Movement (HPB, WQJ and HSO) as the experiences made by young adults when, freed from their parents' tutory, they feel eager to do, to do, in their turn, and possibly to change the world.

After a time of effervescence and achievement, attracting the outer world's attention, the fever quieted down, as was observed, both in East and West, the glamorous Utopias30 which had held people's breath for years vanished more or less abruptly, with the death of the leading figures. The reversal of the tide was at hand. What then of the morrow?

Fortunately for the Movement, counter-currents had arisen years before. For instance, early in the century, Robert Crosbie, having left Point Loma, founded the United Lodge of Theosophist in 1909. The "Back to Blavatsky" current showed signs of existence in the late 1910. Then there was the resignation of Wadia who had been at one time like Mrs Besant's first lieutenant.

When the reorientation of the Societies could appear as a pressing question, alternatives were already in existence, to suggest new policies. All pointed to an earnest return to Blavatsky and to Theosophy, as the safe source of inspiration.

Here, it may be said that Wadia came at the right time on the scene.

Early enough to be an efficient actor in the Adyar TS, and an honest witness of both successes and failures. Still at the right time – he had grown up to the age of 41, respected by his peers - for his contestation to be taken in earnest by reflective minds31.

At the right time also, when he met R. Crosbie's companions, in Los Angeles, to infuse in the ULT movement a fresh supply of energy and enthusiasm at a moment it was most needed, for that movement to really "take off" and spread to the whole world.

Now, an important point must be made, if necessary: once freed from his allegiance to the TS, steps taken by Wadia in the service of Theosophy can never be analyzed as actions - lest of all attacks - against the Society. While at the same epoch, a wave of contestation was spreading everywhere (particularly in Australia, where T.H. Martyn with his Sydney colleagues of the TS Loyalty League were battling hard to denounce the prevailing conditions in TS circles, plagued as they thought by the pernicious influence of "Bishop" Leadbeater), BPW set himself quietly - but vigourously - to a positive work of re-building.

All that precedes shows that, in his judgment, HPB would no longer feel "at home" in her Society32 now affected by an "incurable disease". To provide a sound Renaissance, Wadia could have launched a new "Theosophical Society" (like E.T. Hargrove or T.H. Martyn) - one more TS in the series. Fortunately, the ULT was already available, offering the conditions for an Association where Blavatsky would feel unquestionably at home.

In the ULT Declaration, Wadia was "thrilled" to find clauses that embodied most of his own conceptions:

In those clauses, all negative phrases had a preventive necessity, pointing as they did to potential causes of "disease" in any human organization, while the positive aspects stressed the unavoidable conditions for a healthy growth - or recovering of health - in the Theosophical Movement.

This Declaration, it must be noted, would never part from the spirit of Brotherhood infusing in the TS its true vitality. According to another clause,

It regards as Theosophists all who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, condition or organization.

Finally, Wadia acknowledged in the ULT its really free and non-sectarian position, being open to "all those who are in accord with its declared purposes, and who desire to fit themselves, by study and otherwise to be the better able to help and teach others"33

The spirit of the enterprise having been thus clearly defined, there still remained to engage in the work, to prove its redeeming effect on the Movement, and to set examples of its efficiency.

This work had many aspects - preservation and promulgation of the original teachings of Theosophy, exemplification, innovation, etc. Of course, if BP contributed his share on a large scale, he was never alone, nor the one who gave the first impulse, in most cases. But his importance and influence as an international actor in the Movement cannot be overlooked.

Theosophy as recorded by HPB had to be saved from oblivion or distortion.34 Wadia was in America (1925) when his ULT companions published the first photographic fac-simile edition of the original Secret Doctrine in two volumes, to be followed by similar re-publications (The Key, etc.). Later in India, as said before, he followed the example of R. Crosbie and his friends, by inserting in The Theosophical Movement, month after month, forgotten parts of the Theosophical literature.

This constant recalling to the public notice the wealth of the original teachings was no doubt instrumental in bringing many a Theosophical student, the world over, to the conclusion that the entire written work of HPB had to be preserved. This has been finally carried out thanks to the initiative of Boris de Zirkoff (a distant parent of HPB, who had been a follower of K. Tingley). Today, the H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings stand as one of the monuments pointing to the TM Renaissance. Similar efforts were also made by The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles (connected with ULT) and Point Loma Publications Inc. for the preservation of W.Q. Judge's writings.

As to Wadia's active contribution to the promulgation and exemplification of the Doctrine, enough has been said perhaps, in preceding paragraphs. Still it must be added that one of the constant sources of learning and help for BPW, as an advocate of Theosophy, was the work and example of W.Q. Judge: he had found in the latter a kind of genius for presenting HPB's teachings in simple words, for guiding others without interfering with their free will, stimulating his companions to work, without imposing his authority as a leader35. Also as a genius for finding new ways of expanding the scope and radiance of the Theosophical Movement in the world. Wadia certainly emulated his illustrious elder even in his innovations, when he created the Aryan Path and the Indian Institute of World Culture. These original attempts – theosophical in spirit although without the label Theosophy on them – assuredly instilled a new vigour into the Theosophical Movement at large.

No doubt it is difficult to evaluate with accuracy the impact on History of a personage like B.P. Wadia. The number of his achievements was great - impressive indeed. But still more impressive perhaps, for those who knew him, was his deep rooted devotion to all that Theosophy meant for him, his unshakeable faith in HPB's Masters and his constant readiness to help all those who approached him. Maybe the most impressive trait in him was his power of spiritual contagion. In the loving aura radiating from his person, students would find the light to dispel their doubts, the peace to quiet their souls, the courage to dare, and the faith to sustain their lives as probationers in the service of the Lodge.

No one can measure the effects of this mighty power of contagion. Perhaps it had a more decisive effect than can be imagined on the Theosophical Movement Renaissance.

"Back to Blavatsky"?

As seen, B.P. Wadia may be counted as one of the main protagonists of the Back to Blavatsky Movement. But for him this expression had something derogatory. Were the efforts of earnest Theosophists to come to a standstill? Were they to merely repeat in their own epoch what had been done in the 19th century? Not so, BPW argued, since there is no end to the study of the Secret Doctrine, no boundary in the range of practical applications of Theosophy in daily life, no limit to its capacities for changing the minds and hearts of modern humanity.

For Wadia, the spirit of Blavatsky was still alive - marching on. Theosophists had to move onward, to encounter her on their way ahead. Obviously he himself attempted to give the example, over years of his life. Most eloquent was his response in his letter of resignation to those who objected:

"Why 'Back to Blavatsky'?":
"If not 'Back to Blavatsky', then 'Forward to HPB'."

As it would seem, in this most concise formula lies the key to all the positive aspects of B.P. Wadia's appearance on the Theosophical scene.

Oct. 18th, 1996

A Short Bibliography

As said, B.P. Wadia never wrote a book but a considerable number of articles, essays and pamphlets, including his addresses to the various Conferences, Conventions and Congresses to which he was invited.

His literary production began in the late 1900's, during his TS period. To be noted: a few articles in The Theosophist (half a dozen) or the Adyar Bulletin; also pamphlets on problems of actuality (like "Will the Soul of Europe return?") printed by Theosophical Publishing House.

After his resignation, his contributions can be roughly divided as follows:

After his death, his friends and colleagues proceeded to collect a number of his most significant articles in book-form.

These books were published, under his name, in India (with successive reprints):

  1. by Theosophy Company (India) Private Ltd, Bombay:
  2. by Theosophy Company (Mysore) Private Ltd, Bangalore
  3. by the Indian Institute of World Culture, Bangalore

An undetermined number of articles and texts of lectures remain scattered in various publications, especially in The Theosophical Movement. Also to be mentioned a precious series of "Extracts from Unpublished Letters" from BPW, collected and published in the same journal between 1960 and 1965. In these private communications to companions of work and devoted Theosophists, readers may find a kind of spiritual testament left for the encouragement and guidance of generations of aspirants to the inner life, in the light of Theosophy.

1 Jean-Louis Siémons, Loge Unie des Théosophes, 11 bis rue Keppler, 75116 Paris, France.

2 Josephine Ransom in her book A Short History of the Theosophical Society (1875-1937) refers to him a dozen times, to acknowledge his zeal, capacity and devotion, his action with A. Besant, his constant reference to Blavatsky, to mention finally his difficulties with American TS leaders, and his resignation in 1922.

3 See article: "Mr. B.P. Wadia in New York", New India, 18 Feb. 1922.

4 See her first Message to the American Convention, 1888.

5 His letter of resignation, p.1.

6 Ibidem, p.11-2.

7 The balanced allusions of Wadia may be compared with the vivid descriptions given by objective witnesses of those "blessed days" when TS members were instructed to make ready for the Coming of the World-Teacher. See e.g. Lady Emily Lutyens (Candles in the Sun), or Mary Lutyens (Krishnamurti, The Years of Awakening).

8 This letter was reprinted by Krotona (1. Oct. 1922) and circulated to the American TS membership, also in Theosophy in India (Jan./Feb. 1923) pp.33 et seq.

9 In the newly formed Lodge of New York, BPW conducted one of the Theosophy School Classes for 5 years.

10 Wadia was J. Krishnamurti's senior by 14 years. Certainly, he was a witness of the rising of the boy's star at Adyar and, for a time, "actively participated in the work of propaganda along many lines", as he confessed in his letter of resignation (p. 5). See for instance in the "Appendix" to the XXVIIIth life of Alcyone (in Rents in the Veil of Time), his contribution, as a Parsi scholar, praising Leadbeater's wonderful capacities as a "seer " and a "hearer" of the "Akashic Records". This in the early 1910's. Later, he came to discover that he had "erred through mistaking shams for realities, and moonlight for sunlight". Once in 1921 as BPW confided to some friends - Krishnamurti feeling hesitant at the prospect of addressing a large audience in Paris, Wadia discussed with him the eventuality for him to reject all claims made on his behalf, but in vain. The times were not ripe.

11 The Theosophical Movement, Editorial vol.I, Nov. 1930.

12 The Theosophical Movement, article "The Aryan Path ", Dec. 1935.

13 The Theosophical Movement, Nov. 1938.

14 See note 11.

15 This feature happily agreed with the first of his names, Bahman, derived from the old Avestic Vohu-Manô, meaning "good, superior mind".

16 See, for instance, the article " Wadia Centenary" published in The Canadian Theosophist (July-Aug. 1982, p. 70).

17 By nature, Wadia was also served by an imposing physique, being well over 6 feet in height, with appearance and voice equally forceful.

18 Mentioned in the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Letters 48 and 88), Bhavani S. was deemed by Master K.H. as "stronger and fitter in many a way more than Damodar (...)". Also, HPB spoke of him (as Bhavani Rao) in a letter (N°26) to A.P. Sinnett. Being born in 1859, he was a young man of 20 when he came to HPB in 1879.

19 See the obituary published in The Theosophical Movement, (Aug. 1936, vol. VI, no 10) after BS's death.

20 Wadia's letter p.5.

21 Italics mine, JLS.

22 During these years of training, Wadia's "Asiatic devotion" was more than once tested and tried. From a (too often) blind devotion to persons, it turned into an adamantine devotion to Truth, as it appeared to him. If, in the beginnings, his devoted consideration "for more advanced students", had made him accept C.W. Leadbeater's claims as a seer and an agent of the Masters, BP's "observation and reflection" had finally opened his eyes (see note 10). Once, he recalled to some friends, CWL called him to his room at 11 p.m. telling that he had a message from Master K.H. for him, but that he must promise to obey. Wadia answered that he could not agree to that until he knew what it was, also adding that the Master having great powers, and he, BPW, having big ears, the Master would communicate directly with him if there were something he wanted him to know.

23 See for instance J. Random (A Short History of the Theosophical Society, p.424) quoting AB's declaration : "It [the TS] has therefore allied itself [...] with the National Congress, the Moslem League and the Home Rule Leagues in one solid body united in resistance to autocracy and in defence of the liberty of the people, and I as the President of the Theosophical Society will conclude no separate peace".

24 After his consecration as a Bishop, Leadbeater sent a letter to AB (25 July 1916) referring to a very kind appreciation of the event by "my own Master". Was it also that the latter (Master K.H.) had so much "changed" his mind, since the days when he wrote to Hume in 1881: "I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two thirds of the evil that pursue humanity [...] it is religion under whatever form and in whatsoever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches". (Mahatma Letters, n° X).

25 At the time, members of the E(soteric) S(ection) had to choose either to follow AB in her decision, or to resign. (See Wadia's letter p. 10).

26 Italics mine, JLS.

27 Wadia was pleased to repeat: "The Secret Doctrine has not a flaw".

28 Article "Theosophy and Christianity", Lucifer, Oct. 1891.

29 As it would seem, Master K.H. condescended to be the obliging "patron" and "inspirer" (?) of a wide variety of individual writers, or spiritual groups, throughout this century to our days.

30 See for the attempt conducted by Mrs Tingley in America: California Utopia: Point Loma: 1897-1942, fairly impartial survey by Emmett A. Greenwald.

31 Many TS members were bewildered by his resignation, and greatly disturbed. His example was contagious, and encouraged independent thinking among heretofore credulous members in other parts of the world. However his non-violent attitude, respectful of persons, was not always imitated.

32 Already, during her life, HPB had alluded to her being no longer persona grata in some theosophical quarters. See, for instance, her article " A Puzzle from Adyar " (Lucifer, Aug. 1889), and " Why I do not return to India?" (an Open Letter, written in 1890 and kept in the Adyar Archives).

33 The latter part of this sentence, being a verbatim transcription of one of the clauses of the Pledge signed by ES members, explicitly integrates in the ULT Declaration the expressed desire of HPB to see her pupils devote their lives, by all means, to the awakening of their fellowmen, with the light of Theosophy.

34 In the Australian paper Dawn, (for March 1924, pp. 9-10) an article on "Mutilations of the 'Secret Doctrine' and the 'Key to Theosophy'", pointed to a great many alterations, suppressions or mutilations of various kinds in the recent editions of these books (no less than 32,000 alterations in the SD, and over 15 pages removed from the Key).

35 If BPW pleaded the cause of Judge with A. Besant it was not only to have justice done to his memory but also to reinstate WQJ in his due position as a major figure in the 19th century Movement.

There is no Religion Higher Than Truth - सत्यात् नास्ति परो धर्मः

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