From the Editor’s Notebook: Cults, part 5

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Capsule Comments On The Cults
(Part 5)


Theosophy is closely akin to both Spiritism and Bahaism, being a mixture of Oriental occultism and Western liberalism. The term “Theosophy” is commonly identified with the Theosophical Society founded in New York City in 1875 by Colonel H. S. Olcott (1821-1907) and Madame H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891). They claimed to have been prompted by the latter’s

Himalayan Mahatmas. Helena Petrova Blavatsky was a native of Russia and an accomplished world traveler. At an early age she became interested in psychic phenomenon and Spiritism. She was the author of what is known as the Theosophist’s bible, a series of books entitled, The Secret Doctrine. In these books she unfolded in a compelling and winning manner the fruit of her years of research in the occult field. She won many followers, especially among the intellectual class. Today, Theosophy disciples number around 12,000 in the United States, all of whom revere Madame Blavatsky’s writings and assent to the highly complicated and illogical terminology that goes to make up a great part of Theosophical doctrine.

Mrs. Annie Besent (1847-1933), the ex-wife of a British minister and a brilliant exponent of Theosophical thought, was Madame Blavatsky’s successor. She was converted to the movement in 1889 and for a while was assisted by C. W. Leadbeater.

At an early stage both Olcott and Blavatsky moved to India, where Annie Besant also spent several years. Besant’s unusual personality and talents enabled her to popularize the movement, and here and there she even added a few innovations of her own. One of her innovations was the nominating of her adopted son, Krishnamurti, for the office of “World Messiah” on December 28, 1925 (see Matt. 24:5,24), both she and Leadbeater having believed him to be the reincarnation of the “Supreme World Teacher.” On November 20, 1931, Krishnamurti personally acknowledged his failure to hold this office. On September 20, 1933, Mrs. Besant died at the age of 86 and ever since then the cult has sorely lacked for a leader of either Blavatsky’s or Besant’s caliber. The works of Annie Besant fill 24 columns in the British Museum catalog.

The stated aims of the society are: “1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour. 2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science. 3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.”1

Some of the main teachings of Theosophy are as follows:

1. God is not a person and is generally looked upon as an unknown God, or else God and the universe are treated in a pantheistic sense.

2. Matter is eternal; therefore, it is part of God.

3. Man is a part of God or “innate Divinity.”

4. Devotees of Theosophy firmly believe in reincarnation, sin being simply a nasty and often bothersome twinge of conscience that must be atoned for by a series of reincarnations and purgings, finally culminating in the absorption of all personality into the great “World Soul.”

5. Through this long process of reincarnations one can become one of the supreme masters, called “Mahatmas.”

6. In itself matter is evil and must be eliminated by sacrifice.

7. Theosophists venerate all leading teachers of the great world faiths, the cult itself posing as the great unifier of world religions in general.

8. They teach the universal brotherhood of man.

9. They proclaim that all men in time will become individual Christs.

10. The Christian doctrines of prayer (it doesn’t matter to whom you pray — Buddha, Vishnu, Christ, or any other), the atonement, the resurrection, the deity of Christ and salvation by faith in Him alone are all repudiated by leading Theosophical writers without exception.

11. The Bible is rejected and the scriptures of Hinduism accepted instead.

12. They teach that there is no literal hell. Hell, like heaven, is in effect a spiritival state of mind.

A Useful Expository Note

A number of times now, and again just recently, I have come across a quaint story from the life of the great preacher and founder of Methodism, John Wesley. It seems that Wesley heard about a man named Tom who was both ill and poverty-stricken. Out of his busy schedule he took time to write a comforting letter to the man which read in part, “Dear Tom, I pray that you will soon be restored to health. ‘Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed’” (Psa. 37:3). With the letter, Wesley enclosed a five-pound note, a rather substantial sum in those days. Not long afterward he received a gracious reply from Tom who had been greatly blessed by his letter and generosity. He wrote: “Dear Brother Wesley, I have often been struck with the beauty of the Scripture passage you quoted, but I’ve never seen such a useful ‘expository note’ on it as the needed money you enclosed.”

All around us are people in need and among them are those who are destitute. As Christians we have a responsibility to assist those who are less fortunate than we are, particularly those who are our fellow believers (Gal. 6:10). It’s easy to rationalize and excuse ourselves by saying that the various federal, state and local governments provide for the poor today so that we need not be concerned. Nevertheless, one of the greatest failings among professing Christians today is the neglect of the poor. The Scriptures teach that needy saints have a right to expect practical help from their brethren in Christ (1 Cor. 16:1ff.). And for those motivated by the love of Christ to help their less fortunate fellow saints, there is promised a rich reward by the Lord Himself (Prov. 19:17).

As we approach another Christmas season, let us look for opportunities in the name of Christ to minister in a practical way to those in need, remembering that living is giving. If we are not in a position to visit someone personally, we can always send a few cheery lines with some comforting words of Scripture, and at the same time enclose a useful “expository note.”

Conditions For Prevailing Prayer

Having been a man of great faith, George Muller was also a man of prevailing prayer. The following are five conditions he listed for such praying:

1. Entire dependence upon the merits and meditation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only ground for any claim of blessing (John 14:13-14; 15:16) .

2. Separation from all sin. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us, for it would be sanctioning sin (Psa. 66:18).

3. Faith in God’s word of promise as confirmed by His oath. Not to believe Him is to make Him both a liar and a perjurer (Heb. 11:6; 6:1-20) .

4. Asking in accordance with His will. Our motives must be goodly; we must not seek any gift of God to consume it upon our lusts (1 John 5:14; James 4:3).

5. Importunity in supplication. There must be waiting on God and waiting for God, as the husbandman has long patience to wait for the harvest (James 5:7; Luke 18:1-8).

Editor’s Note

To help make room for a backlog of articles, it has been my decision to suspend, for a few issues, Dr. David Clifford’s series on the Holy Spirit.

1 The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 967.