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Jean Overton Fuller, Master Narayan
and the Krishnamurti-Scott-Anrias Issue

Govert Schuller


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 predetermined conclusion.

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.

Target audience

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 of him.

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 master.

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." (Text 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, 1971), 292.

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