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The Adyar-Theosophy School

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Madame Blavatsky's appointed succesor Annie Besant, together with Bishop Charles Webster Leadbeater (d.1934), gave a new slant to Theosophy after Blavatsky's passing.  Eventually it was Leadbeater and Besant's writings, representing the "Adyar" School, rather than Blavatsky's, that were to form the basis for Theosophical metaphysics.  Blavatsky's writings sufferred from a terribly difficult style, whereas Leadbeater and Besant's many books that made the general Theosophical cosmology accessable; although their writings have been disparagingly referred to by Blavatsky purists and Point Loma and other Non-Adyar factions of the Soceity as "Neo-theosophy", as distinct Blavatsky's own teachings ("Theosophy").

In Adyar-Theosophy the fluid cosmic evolutionary scheme of Blavatsky is replaced by a far more rigid system, in which the succession of Rounds, Root-Races, and Subraces, assumes the mechanistic complexity of the old Ptolemaic idea of cycles, epicycles, and epicycles upon the epicycles, all working like clockwork.  Thus the fluid, dynamic, but often chaotic and incom-prehensible, perspective of Blavatsky was replaced with an orderly, static system, although perhaps too rigid, too compartmentalised.  Yet this is not to deny that the Neo-Theosophical cosmology also did not contribute much of great value and insight; the concept of thought-forms and of the astral plane for example are very valuable.

In simplifying and systemmatising Blavatsky, Adyar-Theosophy took her turgid yet still multi-faceted teachings and made them into something rigid - a fixed metaphysical dogma - as well as introducing certain changes.  So for example Adyar-Theosophy tabularises the seven planes and the equivalent seven principles or levels of self in a fixed manner, and interprets them in terms of dif-ferent densities of the one material substance.  So physical atoms are the largest and grossest, astral atoms somewhat less so, mental atoms less so again.  This quasi-materialistic theory unfortunately seems to have some influence.

But perhaps the most important contribution this Adyar-Theosophical cosmology made was in the field of Spiritualism; in the existence and experiences of the consciousness after physical death.  The conception of after-life existence - generally down-played by Blavatsky - was developed and greatly emphasised by Leadbeater, so that there was a shift from Cosmology to the after-life, and certain optimistic Spiritualist concepts were adopted.  This new Spiritualist input stood in contrast to Blavatsky's more pessimistic view regarding the survival of the personality (as opposed to the higher or spiritual self) after death.  Blavatsky was in fact a bitter opponent of Spiritualism, charging Spiritualists with being limited to the lower psychic levels, and that their "spirits" were actually just personality shells.

C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant adopted a more positive picture of after-life existence.  Certain Spiritualist ideas were assimilated; and it has been convincingly argued that before his  entry into the Theosophical Society, Leadbeater was in volved in spiritualism, and he retained a number of their concepts [Gregory Tillett, The Elder Brother, pp.21-25 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1982)].  As Gregory Tillett explains:

 "(Leadbeater's) visions were virtually identical to those of...spiritualism...; the "other world" was simply a parallel of this, the inhabitants behaved according to the laws of this world, the Masters were little more than the supernatural upper classes who pontificated with the air of Victorian Anglican Bishops addressing candidates for  confirmation..." [Ibid, p.268]

But in addition, Leadbeater and Annie Besant described a number of distinct post-mortem stages, in a classification of astral and mental planes through which the soul ascends after death.  These successive levels are described as follows:

 THE FIRST (LOWEST) ASTRAL:  The lowest and most repulsive desires and feelings are expressed by the spirits of this plane, which have grotesque and ugly forms according to their desires.
THE SECOND ASTRAL: Spirits whose interests during life were trivial and petty; also those ruled by their lower natures (but not so degraded as the pre-vious group).
THE THIRD ASTRAL: Not so strongly bound to lower ex-periences, but still susceptable to earthly  stimulii.
THE FOURTH ASTRAL: More progressed, but still trapped by the thought-forms built through their remaining earthly interests.
THE FIFTH ASTRAL: The materialised thought-form heavens of the popular religions.  Here fundamen-talists have the literal satisfaction of their cravings.
THE SIXTH ASTRAL: Occupied by souls of a more ad-vanced type; creative artists.  The thought-form built landscapes are beautiful to behold.
THE SEVENTH ASTRAL: Intellectual people who still follow the pure pleasure of mental pursuits.
THE FIRST MENTAL/DEVACHANIC: Sincere and selfless affection for family and friends
THE SECOND MENTAL/DEVACHANIC: Selfless religious devotion (as opposed to the selfish religionism of the fifth astral)
THE THIRD MENTAL/DEVACHANIC: "...devotion expressing itself in active work.  The Christian of this plane, for example, instead of merely adoring his savior, would think of...going out into the world to work for him..." [p.82]
THE FOURTH MENTAL/DEVACHANIC: "Unselfish pursuit of spiritual knowledge, high philosophic or scientific thought, literary or artistic ability exercised for  unselfish purposes, and service for the sake of service..." [p.88]
THE HIGHER MENTAL/DEVACHANIC: "Formless" levels, the locus of reincarnating causal bodies.
[The Devachanic Plane, pp.109ff]

As can be seen, we have here an ascending sequence from the lower or more hellish and grotesque through successively more sublime and spiritual states of existence.

Yet there is a certain artificialness, a kind of Victorian prudishness, about this sequence.   This indicates that it is less of an objective account of the subtle realms as a subjective creation of the clairvoyant concerned.  Which is not to say it is totally lacking in value, for even the subjective clairvoyant can still per-cieve something of the objective psychic situation.

Yet even so this Spiritualistic Theosophy was to have a great influence on later after-life conceptions; even those which were meduimistically communicated, or "channelled", and in which the physical medium had no prior knowledge of Theosophy  or Spiritualism.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 January 2000; last modified 7 August, 2004.