Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Alice A. Bailey: Of Heaven, Hell, and The Hierarchy

Orthodox Christianity is not the usual breeding ground for ribald occultism. But when matters of the soul intervene, the linear human mind can be confronted with greater dualities than those posed by the traditional religious concepts of heaven and hell. No mortal being of the 20th Century knew this better than Alice A. Bailey, an evangelist who reluctantly became a swami's scribe.

Alice A, Bailey, born Alice Ann La Trobe-Bateman, on June 16, 1880, in Manchester, England, was birthed into a wealthy, conservative Christian family. Her initial spiritual tenure, religiously dogmatic and fixed, clashed with her acquistive, probing intuion. The home environment, cloistered and strictly supervised through her father, an engineer, was one of adherence to authority and compliance to the prescribed social etiquette of a proper, aristocratic young lady. A pensive, moody child who grew to question the tenants of her Christian upbringing, Alice attempted suicide several times prior to the age of fifteen.

On June 30, 1895, while her family attended church, Alice was confronted in her home by a mysterious turban-bedecked gentleman. Though shocked at the stranger's sudden appearance, she listened as he spoke. In her book The Unfinished Autobiography, Alice described the incident as follows: "He told me there was some work that it was planned that I could do in the world but that it would entail changing my disposition considerably; I would have to give up being such an unpleasant little girl and must try to get some measure of self-control. My future usefulness to Him and to the world was dependent on how I handled myself and the changes I could manage to make. He said that if I could achieve real self-control I could then be trusted and that I would travel all over the world and visit many countries, "doing your Master's work all the time"... He added that He would be in touch with me at intervals of seven years apart." When the man vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, Alice concluded that he was a manifestation of Jesus Christ, thus inspiring her to seek a life of evangelical service.

Alice's duties as a missionary for the British Army took her to India where she met her first husband, serviceman Walter Evans whom she married in 1907. Emigrating to Hollywood, California, the Evans family expanded as Alice gave birth to three daughters. Walter Evans became an Episcopalian minister while Alice grew active in the Theosophical Society, an esoteric spiritual order founded by occultist Helena P. "Madame" Blavatsky. Blavatsky's teachings involved the concept of spirituality as a hierarchical network of enlightened masters.

Alice felt that she had a personal calling to Theosophy after recognizing a painting of Kut Humi (a spiritual adept oft-cited by Blavatsky) as the man who had appeared to her in her home in 1895. What was even more remarkable than pin-pointing the identity of Alice's enigmatic visitor was the fact that she discovered he had died before she was ever born. As if this were not enough to boggle the mundane mind of a former evangelical Christian, Alice found herself the subject of telepathic solicitation by a living Tibetan master named Djwhal Khul who first contacted her in 1919 to "employ" her as his psychic secretary.

Following the dissolution of her marriage to Evans, who left to preach Christian gospel in Montana, Alice met and married Foster Bailey, a lawyer and fellow Theosophist who had no issue believing in Alice's link to Kut Humi and Djwhal Khul or grasping the enormity of her life work. Together they founded the Arcane School in 1923, just one year after Alice started the Lucis Trust Publishing Company. In an article entitled The Arcane School - Its Esoteric Origins and Purposes, Foster Bailey wrote "This visit of the Master was for the purpose of implanting in her physical brain consciousness the essentials of the pattern of her life as it was to unfold. She was strong enough to have knowledge of the program of service to which on the inner plane she was already pledged and consecrated and the essentials of which were the chosen program of her own soul. She was at this time a senior disciple in the ashram of the Master K.H. (An ashram may be thought of as a center of living spiritual energy in the group life of the Hierarchy.) As the years have slipped by and I have learned to profit by the teaching I have personally received from her, I have come to understand better what a senior position in an ashram necessarily involves. This position is the key to all the work that she did. There are many factors involved, some of which we can speak of now. Through the teachings of the Tibetan many have learned much about these things and others share with me the knowledge of certain essentials that constitute our esoteric background as a group."

The work referred to by Foster Bailey entailed the telepathic transmission (from Djwhal Khul or D.K., his more familiar and veiled reference, to the mind of Alice A. Bailey) of nineteen esoteric books bearing such titles as A Treatise On Cosmic Fire, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, The Reappearance of the Christ, Glamour: A World Problem, and The Consicousness of the Atom. Many of the Bailey books came into prominence after the Flower Child era of the late 1960s when occult bookshops became en vogue. Each edition, published by Bailey's own Lucis Trust Company, is presented with a plain blue cover upon which the title of the volume appears along with the triangular insignia for the Arcane School. Bailey also composed four books entirely of her own creation, including The Unfinished Autobiography, which she was writing at the time of her death on December 15, 1949.

Controversy notwithstanding, fundamentalist Christians, and enraged Jews have decried Bailey's works as Satanic and anti-semitic. The root of the word "Lucis" in Lucis Trust's name is derived from that of Lucifer, which means "The one who brings light." Originally called Lucifer Trust, the name was ammended because of its misrepresented association with the Biblical Lucifer, or Devil incarnate. Bailey's Hebrew hot water results from excerpts published in Esoteric Healing in which it is written "Their religious history has been built around a materialistic Jehovah, possessive, greedy, and endorsing and encouraging aggression..." and "Today [1949] the law of racial karma is working and the Jews are paying the price [for evil done in past lives], factually and symbolically ..."

Nonetheless, Bailey's collaborative volumes are prime fodder in the field of New Age literature, with numerous Alice Bailey study and discussion groups in existence throughout the world. The basic premise of hierarchical spiritual evolution combined with the assertion that non-tangible souls as well as creation itself can be drived from gradated rays of light, each governing a period in human evolution, has proven compelling for many students of ancient wisdom.

Even the basic structure of astrology is revamped in the Bailey writings:

Perhaps the best summarization of Alice A. Bailey, the corporeal human entity, was expressed in her own words as she wrote of her astrological birth sign of Gemini in The Unfinished Autobiography: "Gemini people are also supposed to be chameleon-like in nature and changeable in quality and often double-faced. I am none of these, at least, in spite of many faults and it is possible that my rising sign saves me. Leading astrologers, to my amusement, to assign different signs as my rising sign - Virgo, because I love children and cooking, and "mothering" an organization; Leo, because I am very individual (by which they mean difficult and dominant) and also very self-conscious; and Pisces, because that sign is the sign of the mediator or the intermediary. I am inclined myself to Pisces, because I have a Pisces husband, because my very dear eldest daughter was also born in that sign and we always understood each other so well that we frequently used to quarrel. Also, I have definitely acted as an intermediary in the sense that certain teaching which the Hierarchy of Masters wanted to get out to the world during this century is contained in the books for which I have been responsible. Anyway, no matter what my rising sign, I am a true Gemini subject and that sign has apparently conditioned my life and circumstances."