by Isobel Blackthorn
For conspiracy thinkers in the 1950s and 60s, the United Nations exemplified not internationalism as Alice Bailey pictured the organisation, but totalitarianism. As if Hitler, Stalin, Franco and Mussolini were not bad enough, Chairman Mao Zedong implemented his own communist version of group consciousness, the individual forced to serve the ideals of Chairman Mao. A consequence of this experiment was the great famine of 1959-61, leading to the deaths of up to forty-five million people. This example of a totalitarian regime requiring citizens to kowtow to a typically despotic leader, one with distorted ideals and a self-centred vision, terrified sections of the American community after McCarthy whipped up anti-communist fears.
The New World Order narrative emerged out of this anti-communist sentiment along with a newly politicised fear of global tyranny coming in the wake of the creation of collective security organisations: the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United Nations. This narrative pivots on the apprehension of a hidden plot to subsume sovereign nations, and personal autonomy by extension, under a one-world government.
As the twenty-first century unfolds in the shadows of the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 2001 and the global financial crisis of 2008, the New World Order narrative has gained credence. Both events have ushered in a new era of chaos and uncertainty, with deep fears in the populace concerning matters of terror and security, unjustified wars, and a widespread mistrust in the global financial system and the political will to do something about it.
All conspiracy theories require a scapegoat or fall guy, a human agent masterminding the plot. Alice Bailey is an easy target. She’s a Theosophist – and in conspiracy circles, Theosophists are known to be an evil, occult sect aligned with the Nazis. She’s dead, so can offer no defence, and she’s a woman, a soft target. She moved in high circles, counting among her friends numerous dukes and baronesses and sirs. She was linked to Freemasonry via her husband. As if that were all not damning enough, when Bailey made numerous statements in her texts in support of the United Nations, she effectively handed New World Order conspiracy thinkers the rope for her own execution.
The New World Order mega-theory is one of the most influential and persuasive conspiracy narratives at large today and has many variants. With respect to the United Nations version, not only does Alice Bailey’s writing provide substantial material that feeds the secret-occult-order trope, leading figures within the United Nations are known or thought to be or have been followers or admirers of her teachings, or have loose associations, arousing paranoia that the organisation has in fact been infiltrated.
This apparent merging of the occult with the United Nations in the eyes of conspiracists enables them to claim that various behind-the-scenes actors controlling the UN have a secret agenda to institute an evil plan laid out by Alice Bailey. It is a plan of absolute global control and domination of the economic, religious, political and social spheres. In effect, a one-world government with malevolent intent, poised to impose martial law over the United States, and institute programs of global depopulation.
Whenever conspiracists feel a need to justify their claims regarding the UN, they need only point to Alice Bailey. Since Bailey’s oeuvre is esoteric in nature and she had the audacity to re-interpret the role and significance of Christ, it seems predictable that the Bailey mega-theory has firm roots in the Christian far right.
One example can be found in Lee Penn’s False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion. The primary focus of Penn’s attack is the United Religions Initiative, which was launched by his former bishop, Bishop Swing, in 1995 to promote interfaith cooperation and help put an end to religiously motivated violence. Bishop Swing’s stance caused Penn to leave the Episcopalian church and switch to Eastern Catholicism. The URI describes itself as:
‘a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world.’http://www.uri.org
It is this trajectory towards universality that upset Penn, who saw his Eastern Catholic faith undermined; his own newly adopted and closely held creed no longer regarded as absolute truth, but positioned relative to other creeds. Penn is concerned that those associated with the URI are also proposing to construct a new world order through the United Nations. Penn goes on to cite the various ways that the URI and the UN are linked.
Penn’s scope is broad, his referencing meticulous, and his work has all the appearance of thoroughness and rigor. And he demonstrates the hallmarks of the conspiracy thinker. Having pre-judged the URI and all its associates, Penn bases his argument in part on the assumption that it is possible to assess the motives of an organisation based on the affiliations of its membership. Second, he believes that an organisation should be condemned on the basis of an apparent association with a particular current of thought, the New Age. Third, he believes that this current of thought is essentially evil. He then applies a dot-joining technique that masquerades as incisive analysis, stringing together various extracts taken out of context as representative of whole bodies of work and using them as evidence to support his claims.
In conspiratorial fashion, after citing the URI’s relationship with the United Nations, in a part of his work titled “Servants of the Shining Darkness: The Anti-Gospel of the New Age Movement”, Penn directs his scaremongering at Theosophists Blavatsky and Bailey, and idealist philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, all of whom advocate notions of interconnectedness, inclusivity or unity. In his Bailey chapter, from the outset he asks his readers to keep in mind the number of Bailey followers who have donated to the URI, including, according to him, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jean Houston, Avon Mattison and Robert Muller.
Penn begins his analysis by focusing on concerns raised by Cumbey that Bailey’s work is representative of the Antichrist, before spotlighting her statements relating to population control in which she, like many other thinkers of her time, considers ways to limit growth of the human population.
For Penn, matters of abortion and contraception, and the right of women to choose what happens to their bodies, cannot easily be separated from concerns over some imagined eugenics or ruthless cull being plotted by the United Nations. Ironically, Alice Bailey’s Edwardian moral values and sensibilities meant she distanced herself from her feminist sisters, including vociferous birth control campaigner Rose Pastor Stokes. For Stokes, women’s bodies were paramount, for Bailey it was the planetary body. Besides, Bailey argues that population control should be exercised not through some despotic program of eugenics, but through the exercise of personal self-control.
Penn’s presentation of Bailey’s teachings comprises little more than a series of quotes and linking sentences, as though, bereft of their original context, these quotes are able to more or less speak for themselves. In the section of his chapter titled ‘Bailey’s New World Order: “A New Power of Sacrifice”’ the only interpretation Penn offers is an accusation that Bailey is guilty of ‘spiritual totalitarianism’.
In support of his claim, Penn draws on Bailey’s vision for the New Age as based on group interplay, group idealism and group consciousness. He seems alarmed at the notion that individual awareness will become blended into group awareness, and that the individual is encouraged to surrender to the good of the whole. For him, this represents a loss of personal autonomy, something sacrosanct amongst conspiracists.
Soul awareness, or merging into group awareness isn’t a loss; it’s a gain, an expanded sense of self that carries with it a profound sense of sublime fulfilment and a kind of serene wellbeing, of feeling filled with love and joy. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you fall completely in love and feel yourself expanding. Or when you hold a newborn in your arms. You are still you, but you are also bigger than you. It is a both-and situation.
Penn seems incapable of understanding this. Using a string of quotes, he seeks to demonstrate what spiritual totalitarianism might look like. He conflates Bailey’s notion of subordinating the individual personality’s wants and wishes for the good of the whole as a form of Orwellian Big Brother.
For Penn, the New World Order equates to The Plan, which in turn equates to dictatorship.
Most references to a new world order in Bailey’s writings, were given in pamphlets to the New Group of World Servers’ Units of Service, collated in The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. Here the new world order concerns:
‘A general process of educating the public in the fact and use of goodwill. A great but undeveloped potency is still locked up in mankind which, if evoked by man himself, will prove adequate to do two things:Externalisation of the Hierarchy, 321-2.
1. Lay the foundation for a stable peace—active and positive because the result of active and positive action—after the Forces of Light have won the victory upon the physical plane.
2. Provide the subjective synthesis or network of light embodying the force of goodwill as the expression of right human relations. This will guarantee a workable world order and not an imposed tyranny or a mystical and impossible dream.’
When Bailey affirms the bringing about of ‘the eventual synthesis and unification of men of goodwill and of understanding into one coherent body,’ (Esoteric Psychology II, 669) the only harm that can be found in the idea is seated in ill-conceived threats to the individual ego, or the personality-centred individual. Conspiracy theorists like Penn see into this notion of the individual sacrificing their selfish desires, impulses and drives for the good of the whole, a loss of personal power and autonomy. Yet the entirety of Bailey’s work is spiritual and concerns the evolution of the soul, one that involves a journey away from all of the divisions that the personality likes to surround itself with, towards the embodiment of love. Goodwill is simply an ordinary and everyday expression of agape.
If conspiracists stopped for a moment and attempted to understand that the individual is not sacrificed for the good of the whole, that when Bailey talks of group consciousness, another may talk of the importance of community or neighbourhood, they might see that they are reacting to language, to words, only because they have imbued those words with meanings that were never intended.
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