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Stokes, Henry Newlin

(1859-1942). Henry Newlin Stokes is best known today as arguably the most outspoken and caustic critic of the leaders and policies of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) and, to a lesser extent, other societies related to Theosophy directly or indirectly in his capacity as owner-editor of the O.E. Library Critic between the years 1917 and 1942.

Stokes lived a life that went through a number of stages; professionally a chemist in his earlier life, an editor and publisher in his later years; in the spiritual realm an agnostic in his early years and an esotericist in his later life — delving into spiritualism, yoga, psychism and finally theosophy. More of an activist than a theorist or dogmatist, he attempted, in his own unique way, to practice the First Object of the Theosophical Society, the brotherhood of humanity. This led him to form the O.E. Library League around the end of 1913 and beginning of 1914, whose purpose was to further the aims of social and philanthropic movements interested in human progress and brotherhood by circulating literature in this area and by promoting mutual help. His work within the Theosophical Society was anything but brotherly, however. As a revisionist, he was of the opinion that true theosophy was not the theosophy delineated by the leadership of the TS in the persons of Annie BESANT and Charles W. LEADBEATER. He therefore devoted the final twenty-five years of his life to promoting the writings and teachings of Blavatsky. His unabated criticism of the TS leadership and other esoteric organizations which he held in disfavor created a reputation that resembled a “Hun on the rampage” to his detractors, or the “guardian of Truth and exposer of purulence, deception and hypocrisy” to his supporters. Although he died in 1942, he is still remembered as one of the few writers who commented on a great number of groups within the broad Theosophical Movement, including the United Lodge of Theosophists, the Rosicrucians (AMORC), Brother XII and his Aquarian Foundation, Alice BAILEY and her Arcane School, the Ballards and the I AM Movement, and the Christian American Patriots (Silver Shirts) of William Pelley. His O.E. Library Critic, at least in the eyes of his supporters, served as a counterbalance to the official and, in his opinion, often self-serving pronouncements of the leadership of the major Theosophical societies; it also acknowledged the work of the smaller, lesser-known groups, supporting those groups and individuals who subscribed to the “Back to Blavatsky” movement.


(Most of the information on Dr. Stokes appears in the following articles; primary sources cited therein):

Santucci, J. A., “H. N. Stokes and the O. E. Library Critic,” Theosophical History 1.6 (April 1986), pp. 129-139. _____. “H. N. Stokes’ Early Contact with the Theosophical Society,” Theosophical History 2.1 (Jan. 1987), pp. 4-22. _____. “A Note on the Liberal Catholic Church ‘Raid’ on the Theosophical Society,” in Studies in the Humanities: Festschrift in Honor of Joseph Kalir, ed. Alan S. Kaye (Fullerton, CA: Fullerton Dept. of Religious Studies & California State U., Fullerton, 1985), pp. 149-160.


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