Is Theosophy another form of escapism?

By Julian Ochoa

On the 3rd of august 1929 Jiddu Krishnamurti (J.K.)dissolved the order of the Star in the East. The order was constituted to prepare humanity for the arrival of the world teacher, which would manifest through Krishnamurti.[1] J.K. delivered the following words regarding his reasons for dissolving the order: 

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.” [2]

It has been almost 100 years since the dissolution of the order, his words are more relevant today than ever before. The purpose of this paper, is to discuss how Theosophy, like any other tradition can become another form of escapism for the human mind. J.K.`s “Truth is a pathless land” words were not new and did not bring something different to the world compared to what the TS was already teaching at the time. Krishnamurti was certainly a great spiritual teacher, and his departure from the TS was not just about what the TS was disseminating to the public; he departed to make a statement, putting into question whether, being part of any spiritual organisation, following a set of beliefs, rituals and yet not being truly honest and serious about the path was any useful to the human condition.

J.K. explained that most people was not truly serious about what he was saying and that very few were truly affected by his words. It is not certain how much a set of spiritual teachings or words from any spiritual source affects a person internally, but externally one can simply look at society in general and notice that things have not really improved in our relationship to one another and the world.

The title of this article asks if theosophy has become another form of escapism. In an age of escapism as it is today, it is not surprising that this question arises. To be or not to be in a spiritual organisation, is not the question, to be on the path or to have the desire to take the path does not depend of either, what it depends on is earnestness and a genuine desire for `light`.  

On Krishnamurti`s speech truth is a pathless land, he says:

 “Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. You use a typewriter to write letters, but you do not put it on an altar and worship it. But that is what you are doing when organizations become your chief concern.”[3]  

In the above quote Krishnamurti does not say that organisations are bad or that worshiping this or that God is bad, he implies by comparing them to a type writer, that they are simple tools to achieve a determinate goal, but that instead we as humans tend to focus only on the organisation rather than on the path or the ultimate goal, be it God or Enlightenment, we confuse the organisation with the path. 

He goes on to say: 

“How many members are there in it?” That is the first question I am asked by all newspaper reporters. “How many followers have you? By their number we shall judge whether what you say is true or false.” I do not know how many there are. I am not concerned with that. As I said, if there were even one man who had been set free, that were enough.”[4]

This comment is relevant today, spiritual, and religious groups are concerned with membership numbers. There is an assumption that greater numbers  in  a spiritual organisation signify that the organisation is worth joining, and that somehow it is more legitimate than a spiritual group that has very few members. But the question then is, what is the purpose of a spiritual organisation? Is it to have millions of members constantly going to its meetings religiously, or is it to impart teachings that provide moral and spiritual tools that humans can then use to lead a better life? 

In the same speech Krishnamurti says: 

“Again, you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.”[5]

Currently organisations are concerned about their dwindling numbers, blaming technology and other circumstances out of their control, yet these organisations do not undergo self-examination about their modus operandi and the possibility that people can find the path without being tied down to an organisation or a building. Thanks to globalisation and modern technology there are more spiritual groups for people to explore, and all the books that once were locked in secluded libraries can be found online. Indeed these are challenging times for spiritual organisations, but this gives them the opportunity to focus on the teachings and the real work in the community, rather than trying to monopolise truth as if the Ancient Wisdom was patented by a particular incorporated religious body or teacher. 

Theosophy like any other religious or philosophical doctrine can become another form of escapism, if its ideas become what Krishnamurti called crutches. The crutches in this sense would be any concept or idea that is used to lean for example: the Christian concept of heaven and hell. In the present karma has become a common word used to hide from personal responsibility, to justify the misadventure of a fellow human, and it is also used as a psychological pedestal, to make remarks such as: “it is your karma”, “if you leave our organisation you will have bad karma for 1000 incarnations.” “Only people in our organisation will reincarnate in similar groups or better circumstances”. This is not very different to saying: “if you go to church you go to heaven, but if you don’t, you go to hell.” These types of crutches lead us to think that if we are in a particular group, there won’t be consequences for our actions, thoughts, words or intentions towards those around us. It seems that if we join the right group, follow the right teacher, no matter what we do, we will reach heaven unscathed, but is that so? This leads to the concept of spiritual status where Krishnamurti said: 

“You are accustomed to being told how far you have advanced, what is your spiritual status. How childish! Who but yourself can tell you if you are beautiful or ugly within? Who but yourself can tell you if you are incorruptible? You are not serious in these things.”[6]

Spiritual status is another type of crutch, it seems that to be in the right group, the right race, the right country and the right group of friends lets you be closer to God or the celestial hierarchy, but is that so? 

In the New Testament in Luke 23:42 it says the contrary to such thinking, when Jesus was crucified besides two thieves one of them said to him: 

42: And he said unto Jesus, Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 

43: And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 

The above quote demonstrates that to enter paradise, to have good karma, a good life in the hereafter, it takes more than just reading the right book or being in the right group, it demonstrates that no matter who you are, what race you belong to, class or gender, time and place; if there is true honesty and the desire for inner transformation, it is possible to reach that eternal peace. 

In the key to theosophy H.P. Blavatsky explains that the laws of karma are indeed the reason why there is so much suffering in this world, but she gives no indication that karma should be used as a tool to manipulate, instigate fear or to build a psychological wall to hide from one’s personal responsibilities and actions. In fact, Blavatsky explains the connection between individual and collective karma: 

“It is an occult law, moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings, without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way, no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin alone. In reality, there is no such thing as “Separateness”; and the nearest approach to the selfish state, which the laws of life permit, is in the intent and motive.”[7]

Therefore, before anyone can even fathom that light eternal one has to do the basic groundwork, which is to have the right motive and intent. And not forgetting that there is no such thing as a banking system, accumulating credit for the ego, if any service is done to aggrandize the ego then, more work must be done until one learns that the Great Work must be done through selfless acts; service to humanity shouldn’t be a mantra, but a fact of life. 

Universal Brotherhood is the first object of the TS, it indicates that the first steps to living the life one must practice brotherhood, however, just professing brotherhood is not enough. One should be mindful of what one says about others and what one does to others, we should constantly mind our actions and words. We should even mind our thoughts, as thoughts of ill feeling manifest in unknown ways around us, even when professing brotherhood to the four winds. Brotherhood like service to humanity should not be something to be said, but it should something to be lived and acted upon. 

Some may consider that being spiritual is having read certain books, studied a particular course or joined this or that order, and that doing self-examination, being brotherly and helpful towards others is basic and something to be overlooked, but the fact is that the most difficult aspects of the spiritual path are the aspects that appear to be the simplest like knowing thy self

 Annie Besant describes Theosophy as the Science of Life, in her book The Theosophic Life, she says:  

“For if Theosophy be not a science of life, if the Theosophist, by the Divine Wisdom that he studies, does not become wise for the helping of all around him, then his life is really worse than the ordinary life. For where the inspiration is greater, then not to rise is to fall lower than the ordinary man.”[8]

It is easy to read books and give sermons about Theosophy, but it is harder to live the Theosophic Life. It is difficult to ascertain what each person thinks, there is certainly a degree of fear to self-observation, as that self-observation whether we like it or not leads to a form of change, when one observes ones actions in their entirety, whilst practicing open mindedness, one will realise that not all our actions were beneficial to those around us, and if we are truly in the business of wanting to change, then the transformation will certainly occur; but if we see our actions and justify them due to this or that reason, then we will simply continue feeding our very good name with lies, and this can be carried on to future lives until one day we realise our folly, but the question is, do we want to wait for a future life to make the necessary changes?

Theosophy like any other philosophical or religious body, can become a form of escapism, if we let our personality indulge in the intellectual wealth and hierarchical positions offered by the institution. Power struggles, gossip, slander, deception, all just to reach a position of power or to have a certain occult status may gratify the ego, but in the end, it will impoverish the soul. Therefore, Intellect and positions perceived to have power or any material wealth accumulated by any organisation can be a distraction from the path and instead lead its members in the opposite direction. 

Spiritual teachings of any kind are always clear and never intend for the teachings to become a religion or a rigid body of knowledge that imposes dogma upon its followers and hell to those that do not follow their preachers. In the case of Theosophy, Blavatsky says the following: 

“The members of the Theosophical Society at large are free to profess what ever religion or philosophy they like, or none if they so prefer, provided that they are in sympathy with, and ready to carry out one or more of the three objects of the Association. The Society is a philanthropic and scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on the practical instead of the theoretical lines.”[9]

Besant in the theosophic life emphasizes on the fact that one must accept ones place in the world and accept what has been given to us in this very moment as those are the tools with which we need to move forward, but most importantly she teaches us to mind our own business, and to allow every person to take their own path as it is their own life and dharma to live, to force someone to live their life in a particular way, is to go against the natural laws.[10]

Instead of focusing on trying to force our neighbours to agree with our viewpoints, one should put into practice teachings from books such as  “At The Feet Of The Master,” by Krishnamurti.  J.K. gives six points of conduct that must be studied and put into practice, in order to be of Service to Humanity, they are: Self-Control as to the Mind, Self-control in Action, Tolerance, Cheerfulness, One-pointedness and Confidence.[11] At the end he explains that the most important qualification for the path is Love: 

“Of all the Qualifications, Love is the most important, for it is strong enough in man, it forces him to acquire all the rest, and all the rest without it would never be sufficient.”[12]

In Light On The Path by Mabel Collins she gives a set of rules by which to live if one is interested on the path, one can read the book many times but until we put it into practice it will just be another book in the list of things we have read.  The following is written before the rules of The Light On The Path are given: 

“Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears. Before the ear can hear, it must have lost its sensitiveness. Before the voice can speak in the presence of  the Masters it must have lost the power to wound. Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.”[13]

To embark on this journey, the book Raja Yoga by Wallace Slater gives a few guidelines. Wallace says that one has to abstain from: violence, falsehood, stealing, intemperance, sensuality and acquisitiveness, and that there are five disciplines to be followed: Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, general study of the ancient wisdom and devotion to an ideal.[14] In Theosophical doctrines we are given, Meditation, Study and Service as three things we must follow. There is no set rule as to how it should be done, but all three must be done together otherwise there will be imbalance, if one meditates alone without service and study, one can become mentally secluded and out of touch with the realities of the world, if one focuses only on studying one can develop a great intellect but the ego will grow and the mind will become rigid, and if one does only service, the body can reach exhaustion and psychological burnout from not seeing any tangible changes. Therefore, Meditation, Study and Service done together bring balance to the mind, body and spirit, these three together help us have a greater understanding of life.

To conclude it can be said that theosophy can be a form of escapism if our intentions are not genuine, then like any other tradition theosophy can be just words and buildings, but if on the contrary we are truly sincere and have honest intentions, then like Annie Besant said: “it is better to try nobly and to fail, than ignobly not to try at all.” In a letter to A.P. Sinnett, one of the Masters said to him: “We have one word for all aspirants: TRY”.[15]

[1] Theosophy wiki (2019) “Order oft he Star in the East” (2022). 

[2] Krishnamurti J. (2022) “Truth is a pathless lant,” Krishnamurti Foundation,

[3] Krishnamurti J. (2022) “Truth is a pathless lant,” Krishnamurti Foundation,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Blavatsky, H.P. “The Key to Theosophy,” The Theosophy Company U.S.A, (1987) pg: 202-203.

[8] Besant A. “The Theosophic Life.” The Theosophical Publishing House Adyar (2011), Pg: 2. 

[9] Blavatsky, H.P. “The Key to Theosophy,” The Theosophy Company U.S.A, (1987) pg: 19.

[10] Besant A. “The Theosophic Life.” The Theosophical Publishing House Adyar (2011), Pg: 20-25.

[11] Krishnamurti, J. “At The Feet of The Master,” The Theosophist Office Adyar Madras (1912):pg: 26.

[12] Ibid, pg: 39. 

[13] Collins, M. “Light On The Path,” Theosophical University Press, Pasadena California, (1997),Pg: 1.

[14] Slater, W. “Raya Yoga,“ The Theosophical Publising House (2006),pg: 8-9.

[15] Theosophy Wiki (2021) “TRY“! (2022).