This article originally appeared in Theosophical History
Vol. XIV, no.'s 1 & 2 (double issue) and is here fully
reproduced in pdf with the permission of the editor Dr.
James Santucci. Below you will find a summary and the editorial
introduction justifying its publication.
The focus is on a relatively unknown Theosophical master
who was known to H.P. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott under the
name of Narayan. Around 1910 some Theosophists in Adyar
thought they had met this master in the person of a blind
yogi named Nagaratnaswami in the little village of Tiruvallam
about 70 miles west from Madras. Almost a 100 years later
Jean Overton Fuller in her biography on Krishnamurti revived
this claim in the context of an extended and open discussion
she and I conducted about the Theosophical writers Cyril
Scott and David Anrias, who both provided very critical
Theosophical assessments of Krishnamurti.
The case is that David Anrias claimed to have been in contact
with Narayan and to have received these criticisms of Krishnamurti
from him and, through him, from other masters as well. Jean
Overton Fuller thought that Narayan was just too old to
have been alive in the early 1930s to be able to give Anrias
the communications in question and therefore Anrias' claim
can be dismissed as either fabricated or erroneously projected,
which also would provide the grounds to dismiss Cyril Scott,
because Fuller thought that Scott received his Krishnamurti
criticisms from Anrias. Her reasoning was based on the Narayan-Nagaratnaswami
identification by deducing the age of Narayan from primarily
what was known about the blind and quite old Nagaratnaswami
and secondarily from another blind yogi by the name of Tiravala,
who Fuller also identified with Narayan.
My counter-argument, as developed in this paper, is to
show that the identification does not hold for several reasons
and to make my case I collected as many reports and claims
by Theosophists about Narayan that I could find. In the
abstract I formulated the conclusion of the paper as follows:
"As a result it became clear that the identification
of Narayan with Nagaratnaswami did not hold and it therefore
invalidates Fuller's attempt to derive the age of Narayan
from Nagaratnaswami, which would also invalidate her skepticism
about a possible Narayan-Anrias connection." Even though
the conclusion might sound slim and maybe only relevant
in the context of the conversation Fuller and I conducted,
most of the interesting parts of the paper came up during
the discovery process and are hopefully intrinsically intriguing
regardless of the conclusions.
Unfortunately Jean made her transition in 2009. She did
read the paper and left us a response, which, with my reaction,
will be published in a later issue of Theosophical History.
The double issue includes an obituary by her good friend
Timothy d'Arch-Smith and her publisher has dedicated a web
page to her.
"In This Issue" by the editor James Santucci
Govert Schuller's article "Jean Overton Fuller, Master
Narayan, and the Krishnamurti-Scott-Anrias Issue" is
unlike most past articles appearing in this journal, mainly
because it does not conform to its usual historical subject
matter. This article is about the identification of a Master,
in this case Narayan, who is generally not mentioned in
most academic references to Masters. Just who is Narayan?
Is he identified with two yogis, Tiravala and Nagaratnaswami,
as Jean Overton Fuller contends? Why is this important?
The issue surrounds Krishnamurti's intended role as World
Teacher and what was written about him by two "Theosophically-minded"
writers, Cyril Scott and David Anrias, in two books written
in the early 1930s, The Initiate in the Dark Cycle
and Through the Eyes of the Masters. Since both Scott
and Anrias took a negative view of Krishnamurti, a view
based upon a Master's opinion communicated to Anrias, then
the question must be raised: "Who was the Master?"
What proceeds is a complicated story that is given in great
detail by Mr. Schuller. This topic alone will certainly
raise questions from non-Theosophical historians as also
the methodology employed. For one, it may be objected that
this is not a proper topic for an academic study since Masters
are presumed by many of the more sceptical historians to
be fictional characters invented by H. P. Blavatsky. Second,
Schuller incorporates his beliefs into the study. Third,
the format of the study may appear to be theological in
nature, not academic in scope.
The article requires a few observations apropos Theosophical
studies. While some readers may not be convinced that the
subject of this article does not fall within the scope of
legitimate academic study, Mr. Schuller addresses this argument
by employing academic sources that reject such reductionist
approaches. Most academicians today discuss Theosophical
topics from either sociological or historical perspectives.
This is understandable since both are empirical in kind,
with the former primarily data-based and statistical and
the latter based upon the written record. It is true that
Mr. Schuller takes the position that Cyril Scott and David
Anrias "were the chosen vehicles of the Masters to
make their assessment of Krishnamurti known," an assessment,
incidentally, that is negative. If this were the central
focus of investigation, then the article would be inappropriate
for this journal. The main thrust of the article, however,
is the identification of the Master Narayan based upon Theosophical
accounts, including those of H.P. Blavatsky, H.S. Olcott,
Ernest Wood, and co-authors Scott and Anrias. Mr. Schuller
is careful in his examination of the written sources, allowing
him to make reasoned judgments on the evidence presented.
What I look for in investigative articles is the author's
command of the subject matter, the comprehensiveness and
command of the primary and secondary material, the evaluative
quality of the conclusions, and the honesty of the author.
Regarding the last point, if investigators are relatively
free of an ideological stance, their personal beliefs are
irrelevant; if they have personal beliefs and opinions that
are freely admitted, however, the value of their work rests
on the cogency and breath of their research and conclusions.
What is important in this whole matter is whether the conclusions
are based upon the evidence uncovered, which must be comprehensive
and not selective, and whether their conclusions are properly
derived from the evidence and not forced to conform to a
It is my opinion that Mr. Schuller succeeds in this study.
Rather than ignoring a vast swath of Theosophical literature
as not fitting for academic study because it is dissociated
from empirical reality, this article points to the possibility
that such studies can be proper subjects for academic research.
This article is not the first to discuss such topics in
an academic manner. I also consider K. Paul Johnson's two
books, The Masters Revealed and Initiates of Theosophical
Masters, to be models for such studies. I do not expect
many studies of this sort, but if executed in the manner
described above, they will be welcomed.
Full text in pdf
"Jean Overton Fuller, Master Narayan and the Krishnamurti-Scott-Anrias
Issue" was originally published in Theosophical
History Vol. XIV, no's 1 & 2 -- January-April 2008
(Double issue), pp. 11-46 and is reproduced here with the
permission of the editor. The editor's introductory remarks
are on pp. 2-3.
Original pagination in square brackets.
I think the following groups of persons might be interested
in this study:
1) Theosophists and historians interested in any of the
aspects of the history of Theosophy as a worldview and the
history of the Theosophical Society as an initially influential
historical force on a global scale.
2) Theosophists and historians interested in H.S. Olcott,
as master Narayan, whether real or not, was experienced
by him as the master to whom he was most close. Originally
I intended this paper to be published in 2007, the year
of Olcott's centennial, as a contribution to our knowledge
3) Theosophists and Krishnamurtians interested in the ongoing
debate about the metaphysical status of Krishnamurti and
the esoteric soundness of his teachings. My discussion with
Jean Overton Fuller was primarily focused on that issue
and crystallized around the status of the claims made by
Scott and Anrias.
4) Theosophists and others belonging to the New Age movement
with an interest in the masters as this paper collected,
contextualized and analyzed most reports and claims existing
about a relatively unknown, but apparently quite active
5) Academic and Theosophical philosophers of the human sciences,
especially historians of the western esoteric tradition
with an interest in their own methodology, as I intended
in this paper to include and make relevant for academic-historical
consideration certain Theosophical-metaphysical claims and
doing such in a methodological agnostic manner, taking my
cue from pioneers in this field, who found methodological
tools in the philosophical school of phenomenology. In this
context I am very pleased that Santucci observed that "[r]ather
than ignoring a vast swath of Theosophical literature as
not fitting for academic study because it is dissociated
from empirical reality, this article points to the possibility
that such studies can be proper subjects for academic research."
of introduction) This should not be read as the possibility
of the validation of the Theosophical worldview content-wise,
but that the Theosophical worldview qua worldview
is important to take into detailed consideration in the
history of ideas and the understanding of the life-world
of the more important historical Theosophical actors.
6) People interested in politics and spirituality in India
as Theosophists claimed that Narayan was the "Spiritual
Guardian of India" and Annie Besant implying that Narayan
was to be identified with the Rishi Agastya, from whom she
claimed to have received her political "marching orders."
The last person I found to have made that identification,
though not mentioned in my paper, is Geoffrey Hodson. In
the 1960s he was Director at the School of the Wisdom at
the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar. On
one of the trips with his students they visited one of the
four monastic centers established by the sage Sri Shankaracharya
at the city of Conjeeveram. Here the group was received
by the reigning administrative head who, by tradition, also
was named Sri Shankaracharya. After the group audience Hodson
had a private meeting with him and was asked to submit any
question he still had. One of them was if the Rishi Agastya
was still the "Spiritual Guardian of India" and
still reachable. Sri Shankaracharya answered that the Rishi
was still in his physical body and lived in the Himalayas.
See: John K. Robertson "Aquarian Occultist: The Life
and Teachings of Geoffrey Hodson" (unpublished MS,
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