We remember Geoffrey Farthing (1909 – 2004)
Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil
In previous issues of Theosophy Forward we’ve honored Theosophists such as Dr. Richard Brooks, Ianthe Hoskins, Einar Adalsteinsson, Shirley Nicholson, Paul Zwollo, Dora van Gelder-Kunz, John H. Drais and Dara Eklund. In this issue we will remember Geoffrey Farthing.
In February 2000, in a widely-distributed letter, among other things, Geoffrey Farthing wrote to his many friends all over the world:
“After fifty years of fairly intense study I have come to the conclusion that the original outpouring of occult knowledge from the Masters, to the extent that they then gave it out, was a unique world event. It has not been properly appreciated as such.”
In the statement above the reader gets a pretty good insight on where Geoffrey stood when it came to the core-teachings as he understood them, and it is no secret that over the years he had developed a strong opinion regarding what he would describe as Theosophy’s “second version” as presented by Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater and others. His stance was clear: there was, according to him no doubt, and more than once he pointed out that under no circumstance was he able to merge the teachings as they were passed on to us by H. P. Blavatsky, and those which came in later years through the publications of Besant and Leadbeater. We now know that Geoffrey didn’t come to this conclusion easily, it took him time and deep study, but eventually it all came together for him.
Because of this, for some in the Adyar environment he therefore had become somewhat controversial in particular because he would not make a secret of his convictions. He openly conveyed his ideas and interpretations though many articles and outstanding books. He also wrote letters to his contacts around the globe and undertook lengthy and sometimes intense email correspondence with the leadership of the TS-Adyar in India.
Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu, Geoffrey and Michael Gomes in 2000
Geoffrey was of the opinion that many in the Adyar vehicle thought that H.P.B.’s oeuvre, written in the late 19th century, was obsolete and no longer applicable in modern times and that, by not focusing on the core-teachings, a wrong turn was taken.
It is not your editor’s intention to write about, or to go into the well-known arguments as they were brought to the table by Geoffrey into detail, this tribute is not the right place to do so.
Those who are familiar with the history of the Theosophical movement are aware that in the years after 1895, when the first split from the mother-society actually took effect, it became evident that there were great differences in interpretation of the teachings, especially involving the writings of those authors who came after H. P. B. Anyone interested in reading a detailed but objective account of the movement’s colorful and often baffling history should read Dr. James Santucci’s Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies. It is freely available and the fully updated 2020 version is published in five chapters in Theosophy Forward's category THEOSOPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA. To go there click: https://www.theosophyforward.com/articles/theosophical-encyclopedia (you might have to scroll down a few articles)
Geoffrey Farthing and Joy Mills, Valentine’s Day 1970
Geoffrey, by the end of his life was not too optimistic about the developments in the TS-Adyar, and in a way, he also felt that he was not treated fairly; this caused him to be disappointed. In an interview done in November 2000, four years before his passing, drawn up in a questions and answers format, he says:
“I was President of the T.S. in England from 1969 to 1972. During this time I let it be known quite openly that I was a Master/H.P.B. man; this was not acceptable to the generality of members. There was a strong Church and Masonic faction in the Society, the members of which eventually got together and voted me out of office. This was a considerable blow to me as I had given up my job - quite a lucrative one and of some influence - to come and work for the Society. Being voted out was a hurtful experience, but in a way it was a blessing. I was free of all other duties and could get on with my study and my writing.”
In the same interview, about the future of the TS-Adyar, he states:
“About the future of the T.S., I do not have a crystal ball. My feeling is that, if the Adyar Society persists in its present strategies, with its ignorance of the Masters/H.P.B. literature, and the idolizing of Krishnamurti, it will just fade out. It does not really stand for anything. What life there is in the other Theosophical movements I do not really know, except that there are obviously only a few very earnest students. Hopefully these can get together in my Association and form a cadre of true workers for the cause, knowing what they are doing.” For the complete interview published on the web-site of Blavatsky Trust, click here: http://www.blavatskytrust.org.uk/html/gaf%20life%20and%20work.htm (BLIND LINK PLEASE)
People tend to stand up for what they believe is right or wrong, Theosophists are no exception, and basically that is how it should be; a discriminative stand is a requirement for each earnest seeker for truth. When standing up turns into a synonym for pointing fingers, accusing, slamming, and making out-of-place comments, however, Theosophists definitely are on the wrong track. For many decades, the various Theosophical vehicles would hardly or not at all be in touch with each other, which is rather odd since all of them proclaim that Brotherhood needs to be fostered.
It is undeniably true that Geoffrey, unlike some others, never allowed himself to slam anyone, or to despise others who thought differently. Outspoken and convinced as he was, he at all times went down the path of reasoning. It is likely that Geoffrey’s somber outlook was based on what he had perceived during his life-time, in his region, reacting to what happened around him. It ought to be very clear though that not we as individuals, nor Geoffrey Farthing or anyone else in that respect, but time ultimately will decide who was right or wrong, what was genuinely reliable and in compliance with what H.P.B. reintroduced, or not. Just imagine if one could look into the future, let’s say 200 years from now, to see what Theosophical literature would still be available and read.
The man we honor in this tribute didn’t live long enough to witness that world-wide, and especially among younger Theosophists, step by step the interest in The Mahatma Letters, H.P.B.’s writings and those of her contemporaries such as William Quan Judge, is increasing and that next to the “second-generation” literature there is speech of a renewed longing to also go into what one could describe as the core-teachings. Instead of “Back to Blavatsky”, the motto nowadays sounds more like “Forward with Blavatsky.”
Geoffrey in 1996 after having received the Subba Row Medal, on the right Radha Burnier
Geoffrey in his life-time didn’t see that currently Theosophists from the various main streams regularly come together, under the auspices of International Theosophical Conferences to learn from each other and to study together, whereby the “right” and “wrong”, or the “true” or “false” mantras are silenced. Differences will remain, but the diversity will work for, not against the movement, because all can explore the path that Theosophical organizations can follow to serve mankind in togetherness, respectfully and constructively, spiritually, and cooperatively united, while each organization remains loyal to what it holds and advocates.
Although some would strongly differ with him, Geoffrey Farthing was respected in the TS-Adyar. He was always transparent when it came to what he believed. The task he had taken upon him, pointing to certain sensitive matters, wasn’t an easy one, but also from his end there always was genuine respect for the other.
He was driven, authentic and gifted; truly a wonderful Theosophist.
In Autumn 2004, the at that time President of the English Section Colin Price wrote in Insight:
In the summer issue of Insight, I reported the death of Geoffrey Farthing. His enduring vitality into his 95th year meant that he was still a powerful source of inspiration to his many friends and acquaintances in the Theosophical Movement.
From left to right: Colin Price, John Algeo, Adele Algeo and Geoffrey
Geoffrey devoted the last years of his life to writing down the various Theosophical teachings in a clear, straightforward style enabling newcomers to get a grasp of the subject before tackling the classical writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
His book, Deity, Cosmos and Man, particularly served thus purpose and it continues to sell well alongside his other book, lecture tapes and the videos produced under his direction. All of these can be purchased from Headquarters. Geoffrey’s work provides an invaluable resource for personal study and as leadership material for Centre and Lodge studies. I do hope all members will consider taling advantage of all it has to offer.
On a personal note I would like to thank Geoffrey for 15 years of wonderful friendship during which he taught me verbally and through his books all the Theosophy I know.
We talked endlessly on the innumerable occasions that arose in all the journeys and holidays we had together. It was a tremendous privilege to know such a marvelous and generous man.
You are surely missed, Geoffrey!
Geoffrey A. Farthing was an English lecturer and writer who was very active in the Theosophical Society, Adyar. He served the Theosophical Society in England in many capacities, including a term as General Secretary. He also was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Federation for a number of years, and as a member of the Society's General Council.
Early life and career
Geoffrey Farthing was born at Heaton Mersey near Manchester in Lancashire, England on December 10, 1909. He was educated at boarding schools at Eastbourne and Buckinghamshire, where he was quite happy. Raised as a devout Anglican, he became dissatisfied with the Church as a teenager and read many books in a quest for understanding. He happened to read the Initiate volumes by Cyril Scott, which referred him to publications of the Theosophical Society. He began his higher education at London University, but became apprenticed at a large electrical engineering works near Manchester. He attended night school at Manchester College of Technology, and studied Theosophy in his spare moments. He made the acquaintance of an Indian gentleman who gave him another view of religion, spurring further study.
In his career as a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Mr. Farthing was employed by the Central Electricity Board and the Yorkshire Electricity Board. He said he worked "nearly all my life with the nationalized industry in Yorkshire. I was in charge of about 100 shops, service centres as they were called, of contracting (wiring factories, shops and homes), advertising shows and distribution, appliance testing, repair and reconditioning, etc." His parents were not sympathetic to his interest in Theosophy.
Introduction to the Theosophical Society
While Mr. Farthing knew the name Theosophical Society from publications, he had no contact with members until the late 1920s.
At the end of the 1920’s when work was very scarce I very fortunately got a job in London. There was then a severe depression. A whole series of `coincidences’ eventually took me to the Theosophical Society in London with its wonderful library. From that I borrowed many books for a few years and began a longish process of self-education in Theosophy. It got more and more thrilling the more I knew about it.
One day my enthusiasm for my new-found subject got the better of me and I invited an old school friend to come to the Theosophical Society to hear a lecture given by a well-known theosophical lady on” The Masters”. This was in Besant Hall at the back of 50 Gloucester Place. It was the occasion of an Easter Convention which the Society at that time held regularly. The speaker was oddly dressed in a green gown with yellow lightning flashes across it and large triangular-shaped sleeves which she theatrically showed off at every opportunity. It was ludicrous and my friend and I got the giggles. We tried to suppress our laughter but we really could not. Eventually an usher came up to us and said that even if we did not want to listen to the lecture, others did, and would we mind going out. That was my first acquaintance with the Theosophical Society. Thereafter I thought nothing would induce me to join!
Mr. Farthing served six years in the Army in the Royal Corps of Signal (Royal Signals), attaining the rank of Major. When war broke out in 1939, he was called up immediately, since he had previously joined the Territorial Army (Volunteers).
He was to serve five years in various capacities in military Communications. He had always had an interest in radio. As a result of this he spent much of his early time in the Forces teaching and training other people in telecommunications, and although he became Commanding officer of a special technical unit towards the end of the war, he never saw active service abroad.
The point of this diversion is that during the five years of army service his interest in matters 'theosophical' was totally suspended. It was as if the light had been switched off. He had no interest whatever in all the things that had up till then been so enthralling. However, with the end of hostilities in Europe his interest suddenly flared up and by an odd quirk of fortune he found himself in very comfortable circumstances with no serious duties, billeted comfortably in a nice house with a servant looking after his needs, so that he could and did spend many hours every day reading The Secret Doctrine. This lasted for one year.
A book by Paul Brunton and an acquaintance with John B. S. Coats renewed his interest in the Society, and after the war he joined the local TS lodge in Leeds.
The Leeds Lodge quickly discovered that Mr. Farthing was very knowledgeable about the Ancient Wisdom, and particularly the esoteric teachings of H. P. Blavatsky. He was recruited to lecture, beginning a speaking career that spanned many countries and sixty years.
Over the years, he held most positions in the Theosophical Society in England, including a term as General Secretary. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Federation for a number of years, and also served a term as a member of the Society's General Council of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India.
Mr. Farthing was a founder and director of the European School of Theosophy, and frequently lectured at its annual study week that convenes all over Europe. In 1974 he was invited to deliver the prestigious Blavatsky Lecture at the Annual Convention of the English Theosophical Society on "Life, Death and Dreams".
The nonprofit organization that he founded, The Blavatsky Trust, continues to disseminate the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
Term as General Secretary
Mr. Farthing was President of the T.S,. in England from 1969 to 1972.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Geoffrey was a regular course leader at annual residential weekends exploring The Secret Doctrine, held at Tekels Park, Camberley, Surrey. He took an active part in the Theosophy/Science weekends held each year within the English Section. On April 6, 2001, he retired from the Executive Committee after 40 years' work, and was awarded a silver goblet in recognition.
Mr. Farthing wrote extensively about Theosophy. In 1996, he received the Subba Row Medal, awarded in 1995, for his significant contribution to Theosophical literature. Many books, articles, and lectures by Mr. Farthing are available online at the Blavatsky Trust Website, The Theosophy Library and other sources.
Geoffrey Farthing passed away in 2004. He never married.
Text from: Theosophy Wiki
Special thanks to: Colyn Boyce, Janet Lee and Janet Kerschner
The articles written by Geoffrey Farthing and selected for this tribute are: As One Grows Older, The Uniqueness of Theosophy, To Promote Further The Unity, An Outline of the Ancient Wisdom,