On Alice A. Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations by Isobel Blackthorn
Isobel Blackthorn is a novelist and independent scholar. She writes contemporary and literary fiction, mysteries and dark psychological thrillers. Much of her writing contains a touch of the esoteric. Her interest in esotericism has culminated in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey. Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of Alice Bailey’s body of work. Isobel has a background in theosophy spanning three decades and she’s a qualified Astrologer. Her book reviews, articles and opinion pieces on a wide range of topics have appeared in journals and magazines around the world. She talks frequently about books and writing on radio and podcasts in Australia, Britain and USA.
Esotericism is concerned with explanations and manipulations of the inner planes of existence. Alice Bailey’s writings belong to the variant of Western Esotericism known as Theosophy. While the term can be traced back to Neoplatonist Porphyry to describe a combination of the capacities of the philosopher, the artist and the priest, it was Russian aristocrat and Spiritualist Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who harnessed theosophy when she founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. British aristocrat and former devout Christian, Alice A. Bailey (born in 1880 Alice La Trobe-Bateman) was a second-generation Theosophist in communication with the same Master of the Wisdom as Blavatsky: The Tibetan or Djwhal Khul.
Drawing on Eastern mysticism and Western occult formulations, Bailey wrote twenty-four volumes, most as The Tibetan’s amanuensis, dedicated to informing future generations of seekers of the coming new age of spiritual enlightenment. Written between 1919 and 1949, Bailey’s opus includes works on meditation, esoteric healing, astrology, initiation, the chakras, yoga, education and psychology, along with an abstruse treatise on cosmology, A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. She also provides detailed explanations of the Plan of the Spiritual Hierarchy of Masters for the forthcoming era and instructions to her disciples to make that plan a reality. Much of the writing is impenetrable and alien to non-esotericists. The tone is instructional and dry. There is nothing exotic and enticing in the style and yet many will mention a strange almost magnetic pull once the mind starts to grapple with the meaning held within.
Of all the spiritual and occult teachers of her day, Alice Bailey was one of the most prolific and determined. Her legacy, whilst hidden, runs deep. She is regarded in scholarly circles to be the main theorist of the New Age movement, her teachings informing an early vanguard of writers and practitioners who went on to influence future generations of seekers. Many leading New Age proponents champion or acknowledge her influence. She is also a pet hate among conspiracy theorists, mostly due to her belief in the need for a ‘new world order’ based on ‘a plan’ devised by spiritual masters.
Alice Bailey’s main goal was to purify esotericism and make esoteric practice serve good not evil purposes. She imbued Theosophy with the basic Christian principle of goodwill and believed in the Second Coming of Christ. She exercised her formidable missionary zeal to establish all the foundations necessary to fulfill her vision for a better world.
Alice Bailey started out in life as a Christian missionary serving soldier’s homes in Ireland and India. She went on to endure years of hardship, first horrific domestic violence, then packing sardines in a cannery in Monterey while bringing up three young daughters alone.
Alice Bailey’s conversion to Theosophy was swift and absolute. She devoured the teachings.
In 1922, from a humble Theosophy class held in a room on Madison Avenue, Alice Bailey, with the help of a small group of dedicated followers, founded the Lucis Trust (who continue to publish her works to this day), and a year later the Arcane School – an esoteric training school delivered for free by correspondence. She also established a magazine, The Beacon, a meditation network known as Triangles, and Men of Goodwill.
Of all her organizations, Men of Goodwill, now World Goodwill, exemplifies the manner in which her dedicated co-workers, including those who have graduated from the Arcane School, operate in the world today. Founded in 1932 by the Lucis Trust, World Goodwill works to encourage right relations and unity amongst nations. Its aims are to foster goodwill and cooperation through education, and provide a universal spiritual perspective on the future.
World Goodwill serves as an advisory body, enabling individuals and groups to enhance their effectiveness in service. It cooperates with other groups in world service initiatives, and supports the various efforts towards human and planetary betterment. The organization holds seminars, conferences, and produces study guides, newsletters, articles, blog posts, all aiming to foster a way of understanding the problems facing the world, revealing the underlying universal principles at play, and finding ways to heal, transform and resolve problems. World Goodwill recognizes the unsustainable path of so-called free-market economics with its trajectory of ever increasing inequality, and that such an economic and political model is not the only pathway to a globalized world.
In April 1940, in response to the commencement of World War II, and to the evils of dictatorship and the oppression of the citizenry of a nation by its leaders, Bailey, like many others of her time, yearned for better global governance. She was distressed by the war, deeply affected by the suffering she saw, and appalled by the aggressor nations, which she viewed as agents of the Black Lodge. In response, she argued the need for a new world order, one that would meet humanity’s need for equality and goodwill. Bailey advocated equality of opportunity for all, individual freedom and autonomy, the eradication of poverty, the sovereign rights of all nations, a universal education, shared resources, distributed fairly, and disarmament.
Bailey had no outward anchor for her reflections until 1st January 1942, when government representatives of twenty-six nations pledged to fight against the Axis powers and signed the Declaration of the United Nations, a declaration that led to the founding of the United Nations on 24th October 1945 in San Francisco, when its charter was ratified. She was an admirer of Franklin Roosevelt, who came up with the term, and the United Nations gave Bailey a focus. From then on, in the last four years of her life, she directed her disciples towards it. If a new world order was to manifest then the singular hope for humanity was to be found in the United Nations, the only organization on the horizon capable of holding humanity’s highest aspirations.
Bailey’s support of the United Nations is unsurprising. The organization represents a dovetailing of her spiritual ethos with widespread concerns running through the minds of many during the war’s aftermath, concerns centering on finding ways to address the situation that had led to it. Not least among these concerns was the desire to create some form of international law designed to protect individuals and groups from abuses meted out by nation states, challenging the idea that a nation has an inviolable right to treat its citizens or anyone within its borders however it wishes. To that effect, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. There was at last hope of a better world, she had thought, one founded on unity, goodwill and right relations.
In 1947, as she neared the end of her life, Bailey wrote Problems of Humanity, a slim volume composed in her own pen, containing a collection of pamphlets dated from October 1944 to December 1946. As the title suggests, in this work Bailey discusses the pressing problems facing humanity and proposes solutions. In the final chapter, she discusses world unity in a post-war world, a world unity based on goodwill and cooperation, arguing that the United Nations must be the body to achieve it.
She knew the task was onerous. In The Destiny of the Nations, a volume dedicated to commenting from her esoteric perspective on the problems facing the United Nations. It was to her Units of Service that she called, those women and of goodwill, seeking to encourage them to help restore confidence.
In the same year, Bailey wrote the later sections of The Rays and the Initiations, in which she voices her concerns over the direction humanity takes in the aftermath of the war, particularly with regard to the Zionist movement and the formation of Israel. Even as early as April 1942, Bailey saw difficulties emerging in the United Nations, as nations followed their individual desires for victory and peace, using their own methods to end to suffering, cruelty, starvation, death and fear, rather than bow to spiritual unity.
Her commentary on the United Nations is given from her esoteric point of view and in no way compares to works of an erudite nature or comprehensive commentaries by political commentators of the day. Yet the little she had to say in her body of work was sufficient to direct her followers from then on to focus their efforts in the arena of the United Nations. Bailey’s co-workers took her at her word and forged links with the UN, not only through World Goodwill, but via a raft of other initiatives including hosting seminars, conferences, meditation days, founding magazines and organizations devoted to world peace. Their aim has never been to impose Bailey’s texts on the world as a form of dogma, but to gift to humanity their trained ability to think holistically and intuitively, to synthesize disparate perspectives, and to unify.
Bailey’s contemporaries, Rudolph Steiner and Krishnamurti, both founded systems of schooling. Bailey, too, saw the importance of education. Her focus was on the education of the whole of humanity. Written at a time of re-evaluation of educational theory and practice, her Education in the New Age work contains a preface composed by eminent professor of philosophy Oliver L Reiser (1895-1974), personal friend of Albert Einstein. Reiser draws parallels between Bailey’s thinking and that of educational philosopher John Dewey.
Of concern For Bailey was the need to educate the masses to realign values from material to spiritual; to find educational methods to synthesize discrete areas of academic thought to offset polarization and purism; and to find a unity of principles. In other words, to universalize education and build bridges between discreet disciplines, such as history or geography. Education in the New Age covers theory, methods and goals, a discussion on the mental development of humanity, and the need for personality control. The premise of the book is simple.
Humanity too easily slips into selfishness and greed, and the entire curriculum needs to change. Based on the ideas found in this book, Robert Muller, former assistant to three UN Secretary Generals, created the World Core Curriculum, for which he has been described the father of global education and received the UNESCO Peace Education Prize in 1989. The curriculum has four strands: openness with the planet, unity with people, harmony with self, and evolution through time.
World Goodwill is an accredited nongovernmental organization with the United Nations, working with other NGOs to foster unity in diversity. A cohort of co-workers dedicated to carrying forward Bailey’s vision can be found on the council of the Spiritual Caucus on the United Nations, which originated in 2000 and meets twice a month to meditate and create an inner group focus oriented to serve the UN’s highest potential. Members include Lucis trustees and other prominent figures closely associated with Alice Bailey, including Nancy Roof, Tara Stuart, Barbara Valocore and Steve Nation.
Alice Bailey’s sole aim was to foster human and planetary betterment. Yet few have heard of her outside of esoteric and alternative spirituality circles other than conspiracy theorists, who point to Bailey’s teachings and organizations as evidence not of good but of evil. Her support of the United Nations lies at the heart of their concerns. Conversely, Alice Bailey’s championing of the UN is used to support their argument that the UN is dedicated to instituting a new world order. From such thinking arises paranoia concerning population control, the notion of sustainability, and human-induced climate change.
Perhaps it is about time the conspiracy narrative surrounding Alice Bailey is challenged and her contribution to human thought acknowledged and evaluated and even appreciated, not least for its fundamental intention of goodwill. An opportunity exists today just as it did in Bailey’s day to step into a better world, yet this chance is contingent on the willingness of more and more people to do something to make a difference and take on the responsibility for co-creating alternatives. Good ideas abound. Innovation is everywhere. Maybe now, more than ever, humanity needs a touch of Alice Bailey’s zeal to fully realize our potential.
© Isobel Blackthorn