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print versionKrishnamurti:
An Esoteric View of his Teachings

by Govert Schuller

One is opposed to nothing more severely
than to errors recently laid aside

--Goethe

A question which might interest many Theosophists is what Blavatsky and the Masters might have thought about the teachings of Krishnamurti.  Although Blavatsky died before Krishnamurti was born, she fortunately left some writings which are helpful in determining on what points her teachings agree and disagree with those of Krishnamurti.  The focus will be on their differences because some disagreements pertain directly to the foundations of Krishnamurti’s teachings.(1)

For example, Blavatsky stresses that one cannot pass over even one step on the path to higher consciousness (2), yet Krishnamurti summarily rejects not only a path of graduated levels in attaining truth (3), but also the very existence of a higher self to unite with.(4)   Furthermore, Blavatsky makes it clear that a Guru plays an essential part in one’s mastery of higher consciousness (5), while Krishnamurti repudiates the role of a spiritual teacher.(6)

The differences even take a dramatic turn when it becomes clear that Blavatsky seriously warns about the kind of philosophy Krishnamurti teaches. She writes that certain doctrines in exoteric Vedantism--which are very similar to Krishnamurti’s teachings--might have the effect of disconnecting the soul or the personal self from its higher source, the higher self.(7)  This in turn might cause the ‘second death’ of the soul, which is like an implosion of consciousness into nothingness (8) as opposed to the ‘second birth’ of the soul when she expands into divinity by first uniting with the higher self and ultimately with the divine self.  These differences are not just philosophical and void of spiritual relevance.  From an esoteric point of view they are of great significance.

Aside from the serious and grave warnings inferred from Blavatsky’s writings, the Masters themselves made some specific comments on Krishnamurti’s teachings. Lord Maitreya, for example, pointed out that Krishnamurti made a mistake in assuming that anyone could reach his level of consciousness immediately.(9)  An English Master indicated that Krishnamurti is teaching an erroneous version of Advaita Vedanta (10), confirming indeed what was gleaned from Blavatsky.  Furthermore, this Master warned for some serious dangers in Krishnamurti’s teachings, notably his rejection of an esoteric system of spiritual evaluation and his invitation to intense meditation without occult protection.(11)  According to this Master, engaging in Krishnamurti’s brand of Advaitism might lead to hypocrisy and self-delusion.(12)  Krishnamurti’s former Guru, Kuthumi, likewise expressed a stern warning about the consequences of his philosophy.(13)  Finally, Geoffrey Hodson, a prominent Theosophist and clairvoyant pupil of the Masters, accuses Krishnamurti of circular reasoning (14) and intellectual arrogance.(15)  Again, it has to be stressed that these errors are not just a matter of intellectual interest without spiritual consequences.  The very health, even survival, of one’s spiritual being is involved here.

Regarding the feasibility of Krishnamurti’s suggestion of a profound fundamental transformation of the human consciousness, it has to be pointed out that Krishnamurti did not arrive at that level of consciousness by way of his own proposed instantaneous ‘non-method.’(16)  He arrived there solely by treading first the path of initiation under a Master (17)--going almost to its final conclusion--then stepped aside, and denounced the whole method.(18)   Furthermore, Vimala Thakar, the only one who executed his kind of transformation in a credible way (19)--and as such could prove its feasability--did not arrive there by his proposed ‘non-method’ either.  Instead, she transformed because Krishnamurti acted as Guru to her.  She first gradually acquired an experimental understanding of his erroneous brand of Advaita Vedantism and then Krishnamurti, while laying hands on her for healing an auditory ailment, initiated her into his rebellious state of consciousness.(20)  To quote Blavatsky, applying Krishnamurti’s ‘non-method’ is “like destroying a bridge over an impassable chasm; The traveler can never reach the goal on the other shore.”(21)

The foregoing does not imply that there are no truthful and salutary insights to be found in Krishnamurti’s teachings.  He exhorts people to think for themselves (22) and to change in a fundamental way (23); he skillfully diagnoses certain dangers of the human ego or synthetic self (24); and he invokes with compassion a sense of urgency about the dangerous situation mankind is in.(25)   But these pearls have to be found in a sea of errors. If the foundations of his teachings are erroneous then also its superstructure.  A well-grounded Theosophical conception of human nature and a mastery of the “abstruse difficulties of Indian metaphysics”(26) are indispensable to catch these pearls.  Even then, one might easily trip over the pearls and land in the mire of Krishnamurti’s misconceptions.  Due to the deceptive, even mesmerizing properties of Krishnamurti’s teachings--notwithstanding the apparent awakening and helpful qualities they have--one might not even be aware of it.

In the same way that Krishnamurti’s teachings can have a temporary beneficial effect upon certain individuals, a civilization based on his teachings might be successful in its first stages of growth.(27)  But, in the end, if not propped up or saved by esoteric corrections and guidance, it will falter, break down and disintegrate. It will never have the chance to develop into a Golden Age, because it rejects the Wisdom Religion.(28) Parallel to this notion is the idea that an individual will find the opposite of enlightenment if he rejects the age-old path of graded initiations.

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Endnotes

1.
At the same time it is an undeniable fact that Theosophy and Krishnamurti have much in common. So much even that some Theosophists consider Krishnamurti’s teachings a modern expression of the ageless Wisdom Religion. In many respects both are also very close to Vedantism, especially the monist (Advaita) version.
The likeness between Krishnamurti’s teachings and Vedantism, albeit Blavatsky’s understanding of it, will become hopefully clearer in endnotes 5 and 7, in which Blavatsky contrasts esoteric and exoteric interpretations of Vedanta. The esoteric interpretation is Theosophical and the exoteric interpretation is similar to Krishnamurti’s position. Endnote 10 contains the explicit remarks of a Master arguing that Krishnamurti is indeed teaching Advaita Vedanta.
About the likeness between Theosophy and Advaita Vedanta, Blavatsky states that “in the Esoteric philosophy [i.e. Theosophy], which reconciles all these systems... the nearest exponent... is the Vedanta as expounded by the Advaita Vedantists.”
H.P.Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (Los Angeles: The Theosophy Company, 1964), Vol. I, p. 55.
For more of Blavatsky on Advaita see H.J. Spierenberg, The Vedanta Commentaries of H.P.Blavatsky (San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1992), pp. 4-5.
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2.
“No single rung of the ladder leading to knowledge can be skipped. No personality [personal self or soul] can ever reach or bring itself into communication with Atm‚ [divine self], except through Buddhi-Manas [higher self]...”
H.P. Blavatsky, The Esoteric Writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky: A Synthesis of Science, Philosophy and Religion (Wheaton IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), p. 414.
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3.
This idea of a gradual process, this idea of gradual psychological evolution of man is very gratifying... . This gradual concept, which psychologically is generally called evolution, seems to me utterly false.”
J. Krishnamurti, The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1992), Vol. XVII, p. 67.
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4.
Most of us do not want to know what we are. We invent the higher self, the supreme self, the atma, and all the innumerable ideas, to escape from the reality of what we are--the actual everyday, every-minute reality of what we are. And we do not know what we are from day by day, and on that we impose something which thought has bred as the atma, which tradition has handed over as the higher self.”
J. Krishnamurti, The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1992), Vol. XIII, p. 151.
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5.
Blavatsky wrote:
“There is a great difference between an Avatara and a Jivanmukti: one, as already stated, is an illusive appearance, Karma-less, and having never before incarnated; the other, the Jivanmukta, is one who obtains Nirvana by his individual merits. To this expression again an uncompromising, philosophical Vedantin would object. He might say that as the condition of the Avatara and the Jivanmukta are one and the same state, no amount of personal merit, in howsoever many incarnations, can lead its possessor to Nirvana. Nirvana, he would say is actionless; how then can any action lead to it? It is neither a result nor a cause, but an ever-present, eternal Is, as Nagasena defined it. Hence it can have no relation to, or concern with, action, merit, or demerit, since these are subject to Karma. All this is very true, but still to our mind there is an important difference between the two. An Avatara is; a Jivanmukta becomes one. If the state of the two is identical, not so are the causes which lead to it. An Avatara is a descent of a God into an illusive form; a Jivanmukta, who may have passed through numberless incarnations and may have accumulated merit in them, certainly does not become a Nirvani because of that merit, but only because of the Karma generated by it, which leads and guides him in the direction of the Guru who will initiate him into the mystery of Nirvana and who alone can help him reach his abode.”
H.P.Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938) Adyar Edition, Vol. V, p. 352. Or: Idem., Collected Writings (Wheaton IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985) Vol. XIV, p. 374. Or: Idem., The Esoteric Writings, pp. 293-294.
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6.
I have told you frankly that Masters are unessential, that the idea of Masters is nothing more than a toy to the man who really seeks truth.”
J. Krishnamurti, The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti (Dubuque IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1991), Vol. I, p. 173.
Krishnamurti himself wrote:
“The core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said: 'Truth is a pathless land.' Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.”
J. Krishnamurti, The Core of Krishnamurti’s Teaching (Ojai CA: Krishnamurti Foundation of America, n.d.).
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7.
Blavatsky wrote:
“In order not to confuse the mind of the western student with the abstruse difficulties of Indian metaphysics, let him view the lower manas, or mind, as the personal ego [personal self] during the waking state, and as Antahkarana only during those moments when it aspires towards its higher Ego [higher self], and thus becomes the medium of communication between the two. It is for this reason called the ‘Path.’... Seeing that the faculty and function of Antahkarana is as necessary as the medium of the ear for hearing, or that of the eye for seeing; then so long as the feeling of ahamk‚ra, that is, of the personal "I" or selfishness [the synthetic self], is not entirely crushed out in man, and the lower mind not entirely merged into and become one with the higher Buddhi-Manas [higher self], it stands to reason that to destroy Atahkarana is like destroying a bridge over an impassable chasm; The traveler can never reach the goal on the other shore. And there lies the difference between the exoteric and the esoteric teaching. The former makes the Ved‚nta state that so long as mind (the lower) clings through Antahkarana to Spirit (Buddha-Manas) [higher self] it is impossible for it to acquire true Spiritual Wisdom, Jny‚na, and that this can only be attained by seeking to come en rapport with the Universal Soul (Atm‚) [the divine self]; that, in fact, it is by ignoring the higher Mind [higher self] altogether that one reaches R‚ja Yoga. We say it is not so. No single rung of the ladder leading to knowledge can be skipped. No personality can ever reach or bring itself into communication with Atm‚, except through Buddhi-Manas; to try to become a Jivanmukta or a Mah‚tm‚, before one has become an adept or even a Naljor (a sinless man) is like trying to reach to Ceylon from India without crossing the sea. Therefore we are told that if we destroy Antahkarana before the personal [personal self] is absolutely under the control of the impersonal Ego [the higher self], we risk to lose the latter and be severed for ever from it, unless indeed we hasten to re-establish the communication by a supreme and final effort. It is only when we are indissolubly linked with the essence of the divine Mind [higher self] that we have to destroy Antahkarana.”
H.P.Blavatsky, The Esoteric Writings, pp. 413-414.
Krishnamurti’s teaching neatly corresponds to the exoteric position as presented here by Blavatsky, for he proposes to access directly the impersonal universal creative intelligence (Atma) by tossing out aspiration (Antahkarana) and denying the existence of the higher self (Buddhi-Manas).
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8.
Blavatsky warns:
“Be it far from me the suspicion that any of the esoteric students have reached to any considerable point down the plane of spiritual descent. All the same I warn you to avoid taking the first step. You may not reach the bottom in this life or the next, but you may now generate causes which will insure you spiritual destruction in your third, fourth, fifth, or even some subsequent birth... Finally, keep ever in mind the consciousness that though you see no Master by your bedside, nor hear one audible whisper in the silence of the still night, yet the Holy Power is about you, the Holy Light is shining into your hour of spiritual need and aspirations, and it will be no fault of the MASTERS, or of their humble mouthpiece and servant, if through perversity or moral feebleness some of you cut yourselves off from these higher potencies, and step upon the declivity that leads to Avitchi [state of soulless-ness].” H.P.Blavatsky, The Esoteric Writings, p. 418.
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9.
Lord Maitreya:
"Thus although Krishnamurti was right to emphasize the necessity for independent thought, he was wrong in assuming that everyone else, regardless of past Karma and present limitations, could instantly reach that point which he himself had only reached through lives of effort, and by the aid of those Cosmic Forces apportioned to him solely for his office as Herald of the New Age."
Lord Maitreya in David Anrias, Through the Eyes of the Masters: Meditations and Portraits (London: Routledge, 1932), p. 67.
[Full text of Maitreya's message on Krishnamurti]
Any of the Masters quoted in these endnotes I believe to be genuine members of the Great White Brotherhood.
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10.
‘Sir Thomas,’ an English Master said:
“Also instead of giving forth the new Teaching so badly needed, he [Krishnamurti] escaped from the responsibilities of his office as prophet and teacher by reverting to a past incarnation, and an ancient philosophy of his own race [Advaita Vedantism] with which you are familiar, but which is useless for the Western World in the present cycle. But those to whom he speaks think they are receiving a new message, and as such it carries undue weight. The message he should have delivered, he has failed to deliver--or only partly delivered. Nothing about Art--no plans for the new sub-race--educational schemes dropped--and in place of all this: Advaita, a philosophy for chelas, and one of the most easily misunderstood paths to liberation... He who attempts to teach Advaita, and omits all Sanscrit terms, courts failure. Sanscrit words engender an occult vibration which is lost when translated. Western words not suitable to describe subjective states of consciousness, because their associations are mainly mundane... Another flaw in this pseudo-Advaita which Krishnamurti is giving out, is that he addresses the personality, the physical plane man [personal self], as if he were the Monad [divine self] or at least the Ego [higher self]. Of course the Monad, the Divine Spark, is the Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, and hence eternally free, but that doesn't mean that the personality down here, immersed in endless-seeming Karmic difficulties, can share its consciousness, or even that of the Ego--the link between the personality and the Monad."
‘Sir Thomas,’ an English Master, in: His Pupil [Cyril Scott], The Initiate in the Dark Cycle (London: Routledge, 1932), pp. 136-139.
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[Full text of relevant chapter]
11.
'Sir Thomas' again:
“Well did my Brother Koot Hoomi say that Krishnamurti had destroyed all the many stairways to God, while his own remains incomplete. Also being incomplete it may lead to dangers unforeseen by those who attempt to climb it. Danger Number One: Krishnamurti's casting aside of time-honoured definitions and classifications leaves aspirant without true scale of values. Danger Number Two: climbing his particular staircase necessitates constant meditation, which in its turn necessitates constant protection from Guru--and Guru not allowed by Krishnamurti. Of course a moderate degree may be practiced in safety without a Guru, but long-continued meditation leads to states of consciousness and excursions on to other planes where the Master's guidance is absolutely indispensable.”
‘Sir Thomas,’ in His Pupil, p. 138.
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[Full text of relevant chapter]
12.
Krishnamurti's Advaitism, which is not to be confounded with the recognized form of that philosophy, will, I fear, lead his followers nowhere except perhaps to hypocrisy and self-delusion.”
‘Sir Thomas,’ in: His Pupil, p. 139.
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13.
Kuthumi dictated in 1975:
“Today Krishnamurti, denounced by the Brotherhood, denounces the true teachers and the path of initiation, proclaiming that the individual needs only himself and that this is the only God there is. Leading thousands of youth in the direction of sophisticated disobedience to the God within [divine self], to Christ the inner mentor [higher self], and to the masters of the Brotherhood, this fallen one has been the instrument of a philosophy that is not and does not in any way represent the true teachings of the Great White Brotherhood.”
(Relevant Paragraphs)
Kuthumi, “An Exposť of False Teachings,” Pearls of Wisdom, Vol. XIX, no.5, p. 29. Copyright © 1976, Summit University Press, P.O. Box 5000, Corwin Springs, Montana 59030-5000. (406) 848-9891. Web site: http://www.tsl.org.
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14.
Hodson wrote:
“Here are his words [Krishnamurti’s] on the subject: ‘When we understand profoundly the significance of our existence, of the process of ignorance and action, we will see what we call purpose has no significance. The mere search for the purpose of life covers up, detracts from the comprehension of oneself.’ That quotation is a perfect example of the closed circle of thought outside of which I for one find myself to be shut when endeavouring to comprehend these teachings... He seems to put the very goal itself as the first step towards its attainment.”
Geoffrey Hodson, Krishnamurti and the Search for Light (Sydney: St.Alban Press, n.d.), pp. 12-13.
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15.
In him, singleness of purpose has developed into intolerance. Unique individuality has become a fetish, worship of which produces narrow-mindedness and causes him to display distinct signs of intellectual arrogance. He alone is right. Everyone else, from the Lord Buddha down to the latest teacher of the Law, is wrong, criminally wrong.”
Ibid. p. 8.
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16.
Theosophist John Algeo correctly observes that Krishnamurti is “teaching ends without means.”
John Algeo, review of Krishnamurti--Love and Freedom by Peter Michel in Quest Vol. 8, no. 3 (Autumn 1995), p. 86.
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17.
See Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975), for the story of Krishnamurti’s initiations and spiritual development. See Charles W. Leadbeater, The Masters and the Path (Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1925) for a Theosophical understanding of the initiatory process.
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18.
The Arhat initiation is the one in which the Master withdraws all guidance from his pupil, who may have to negotiate the most difficult problems without being allowed to ask any questions. He has to rely entirely on his own judgment, and if he makes mistakes, must bear the consequences. And so what did Krishnamurti do? Like the proverbial manservant who knows he is about to be given notice, he gave notice first. In other words, he cut himself adrift from the White Lodge, and repudiated all of us. And unfortunately he induced others far below him in spiritual evolution to do likewise.”
‘Sir Thomas,’ in: His Pupil, p. 139.
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19.
I wish I could describe how I witnessed the ego [the synthetic self] being torn to pieces and being thrown to the winds... . The center of thinking dissolved into nothingness.”
Vimala Thakar, On an Eternal Voyage (Ahmedabad, India: The New Order Book Co., 1969), pp. 46-47.
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20.
Vimala Thakar thought, and I think correctly, that her transformation had something to do with the healing-sessions with Krishnamurti. She wrote:
“I have told you [Krishnamurti] about the invasion of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable. I have told you how it has swept away everything. Now--this has something to do with the healing.”
Thakar, p. 43.
Krishnamurti on the contrary was quite sure that the two phenomena were not related. Apparently, when she published her autobiography against Krishnamurti’s wishes, he ended their friendship and later his biographers gave her the silent treatment. [This last statement is not fair, because it is not true. Pupul Jayakar did deal with the Krishnamurti-Vimala Thakar relationship in a 2-page segment in her 1986 Krishnamurti biography. She did not mention the end of their relationship though. See: Pupul Jayakar, Krishnamurti: A Biography (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), pp. 204-206. (Added March 2004)]
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21.
See endnote 7.
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22.
If with all its power and superiority, one cannot think for oneself, there can be no peace in the world.”
J.Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954), p. 64.
For this Krishnamurti received some compliments from the Masters:
“He did good work in teaching people to use their own brain.” ‘Sir Thomas,’ in: His Pupil, p. 139. And:
“Krishnamurti was right to emphasize the necessity for independent thought.” Lord Maitreya in: David Anrias, p. 67.
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23.
One sees that there must be change in oneself--the more sensitive, the more alert and intelligent one is, the more one is aware that there must be a deep, abiding, living change.”
J.Krishnamurti, The Awakening of Intelligence (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 43.
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24.
But when the mind seeks a timeless state which will go into action in order to destroy the [synthetic] self, is that not another form of experience which is strengthening the ‘me’[synthetic self]?... So, having projected this state of continuance in a timeless state as a spiritual entity, you have an experience; and such an experience only strengthens the self.”
From chapter IX, “What is the Self,” in The First and Last Freedom, pp. 76-82.
It is hard to find quotes by Krishnamurti, uncontaminated by his basic errors. In the previous quote, for example, Krishnamurti does not differentiate between aspirations of the soul, which are wholesome (see endnote 7 about the Antahkarana), and ambitions of the mind, which might be destructive depending on who or what principle directs the mind. This line of thought makes him throw out the baby (the soul) together with the bathwater (the synthetic self).
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25.
We have learned now the power of propaganda and that is one of the greatest calamities that can happen: to use ideas as a means to transform man... Man is not important--systems, ideas, have become important. Man no longer has any significance. We can destroy millions of men as long as we produce a result and the result is justified by ideas... When the intellect has the upper hand in human life, it brings about an unprecedented crisis.”
From “On the Present Crisis,” in The First and Last Freedom, pp. 145-146.
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26.
See endnote 7.
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27.
The whole Krishnamurti phenomenon might be one of world-historical significance. We might be observing the birth of a completely new, though flawed, religion and civilization based on Krishnamurti’s teachings, with its geographical center in India and its outposts in the West.
For some interesting ideas about the rise and fall of civilizations see Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (London: Oxford University Press, 1946).
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28.
H.P. Blavatsky had high hopes for the Judeo-Christian and Indic civilizations to transform themselves into a “heaven” in the 21st century with the aid of the Theosophical Society, led by a prophesied “torch-bearer of Truth,” expected in the last quarter of the 20th century. See her Conclusion, “The Future of the Theosophical Society,” in The Key to Theosophy (Pasadena CA: Theosophical University Press, 1995), pp. 304-307.
Annie Besant defended her involvement with Krishnamurti by referring explicitly to Blavatsky's view about the future mission of the Theosophical Society and the “torch-bearer of Truth.” She clearly believed Krishnamurti to be the vehicle for that expected teacher. She wrote in 1912 that the only difference between herself and Blavatsky regarding the coming of “the next great Teacher” was that “she put that event perhaps half a century later than I do. Which of us is right only time can show.” Annie Besant, “Freedom of Opinion in the T.S.,” letter to The V‚han 21\8 (March 1912), p. 153.
With the 20th century now drawing to a close; the world in a state of unparalleled crisis, the Theosophical Society only a minor agent of change and no sign of a “torch-bearer of Truth” connected with it, it behooves Theosophists to contemplate the texts quoted in this pamphlet and consider an alternative perception of the esoteric history of the 20th century.
My own proposal is contained in a pamphlet, "The Masters and Their Emissaries: From H.P.B. to Guru Ma and Beyond," in which is stated that the teachings of the Masters, which were originally planned to be given through Krishnamurti, were given through Guy and Edna Ballard in the 30s and 40s, through Geraldine Innocente in the 50s,  through Mark and Elizabeth Prophet in the 50s till the 90s, and through Monroe and Carolyn Shearer from 1995 on.
For an overview of a wide variety of other Theosophical views of Krishnamurti see "Krishnamurti and the World Teacher Project: Some Theosophical Perceptions."
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