Alice Bailey and the Plan

by Isobel Blackthorn

In my previous articles I’ve explored some of the roots of the Alice Bailey conspiracy theory and attempted to show how the theory is unjustified by providing a taste of the meaning and intention behind the theosophist’s thinking. Here I focus on a term that triggers alarm in the conspiracy mind, the notion of a ‘Plan’. It might be said that the entire conspiracy edifice rests on this single conceptual foundation. So contentious is this term that on the basis of it alone Bailey has been condemned to burn on the pyre of her own pages.

Out of the numerous definitions of the Plan, the most apposite can be found in Discipleship in the New Age II. ‘The Plan for this cycle…is goodwill for all men, and through all men, goodwill.’ In Bailey’s scheme, and in keeping with her own Christian faith, the task of her spiritual hierarchy is to bring about goodwill on earth in accordance with divine will. Goodwill is the hierarchy’s major thoughtform, the idea dressed up and sent out into the world in the hope that it may take hold. Goodwill is a synthesising energy; simply put, it brings people together in harmony. The Plan is ‘divine synthetic purpose’ or the Will of God.  It all sounds harmless enough, but religious fundamentalists react to the idea that anyone outside of Christ and the Bible could possible know God’s purpose.

There are more abstruse ways of defining the Plan in Bailey’s texts. She states that ‘The Plan is substance. It is essentially substantial energy. And energy is substance and nothing else.’ In such statements Bailey leaves the average reader behind, the words only meaning something for those in the know. The only way to understand esoteric thought is to stand inside it, and few are so predisposed.

In, False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion, key Bailey detractor Lee Penn views the Plan as spiritual totalitarianism. Whereas Bailey had in her sights the dawning of a new global consciousness, one fundamentally humanitarian in nature and not at all despotic, which totalitarianism implies.

Of concern for Penn is Alice Bailey’s so-called disciples of Shamballa. The legend of Shamballa comes from classical Hinduism and was introduced into Western esotericism by Blavatsky. She describes it as The White Island located in Central Asia. Bailey expanded on the notion, claiming it to be the central home of her Hierarchy of Spiritual Masters, at ‘a centre in the Gobi desert…It exists in etheric matter.’ She doesn’t explain a great deal about this mythical kingdom based in Mongolia, since her primary concern is the Spiritual Hierarchy. In simple terms, Shamballa is defined as the will-to-power:

‘Shamballa’ refers to ‘the world of pure energy, of light and of directed force’

‘Shamballa is simply a word conveying the idea of a vast focal point of energies.’ 

Or ‘Shamballa is the place of purpose…[it is] a major centre of related sates and a relatively static energy.’ 

Alice A. Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Vol II, 293, 404 and 519.

Without making any effort to understand this concept, Penn cites Bailey’s esoteric claim that despotic leaders from Napoleon and Bismark to Hitler and Mussolini were ‘disciples of Shamballa’ and were ‘great outstanding personalities who were peculiarly sensitive to the will-to-power.’ The detached tone of these statements appears callous. On first reading it is as though Bailey condones the cruelties these men meted out. On closer scrutiny, ‘great’ and ‘outstanding’ do not mean Alice Bailey thought they were in any way ‘good’. Rather, that they stood out. She also notes Hitler was an ‘exponent of the reversed reaction to Shamballa (and consequently the evil reaction), The Rays and the Initiations, 35.

However, she does put a positive spin, from an esoteric perspective, on aspects of destruction. Outmoded forms that can no longer cope with or are suitable to incoming spiritual energies inevitably die. As a lizard grows, it sheds its old skin. Human civilisations rise and they fall. From an exoteric perspective, the detached way Bailey talks about death might be a justifiable criticism of her work. Yet her contentious statements, such as those cited by Penn, extracted and amplified as though representative of the whole eleven thousand pages of text, are rare. Should the whole corpus be thrown out as a result, or should she be regarded as at times opinionated, outspoken and perhaps prone to an over-application of her own esoteric worldview?

In much of her body of work, Bailey applies her own esoteric logic to world affairs, and her teachings should be interpreted through the lens of her basic concern for the evolution of consciousness. Bailey not only argues that all of the world’s dictators were embodying the energy of Shamballa, which manifests most potently as the destruction of outmoded forms of thought, she also acknowledges this as ‘dangerous and terrible’. (The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, 133.) Although from the point of view of a collective unfolding awareness, she argues that such destruction serves a purpose in furthering the overall Plan (global goodwill), by breaking down existing boundaries that separate communities and nations. For some, this assertion jars and anyone who has read Voltaire’s Candide might note tinges of the ‘All’s for the best in the best of all possible world’s’ response to the terrible earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755 offered by prominent philosopher and optimist Leibniz. Is it ever desirable to frame the suffering that comes with destruction in a positive light?

Alice Bailey had a very particular way of seeing the world. For her, what matters is the evolution of consciousness. In this regard, she saw the emergence of the ideologies of democracy, totalitarianism and communism as evidence of an early form of group consciousness and world awareness:

‘It is therefore surely apparent that behind all the surface turmoil and chaos so devastatingly present today in the consciousness of humanity, and behind all the fear and apprehension, the hate and separativeness, human beings are beginning to blend in themselves three states of consciousness—that of the individual, of the citizen, and of the idealist.’ 

Education in the New Age, 103.

Bailey’s statements should be considered on their own terms and understood within her overarching belief system. The Plan is the expansion of human consciousness to embrace group consciousness and is brought about through the expression of goodwill. Shamballa is concerned with the expression of spiritual will and is not the primary focus in the Bailey teachings. Both the Plan and Shamballa represent aspects of the theosophical worldview. This worldview has its roots in Neoplatonic metaphysics. It is not possible to extract either concept from this worldview and try to reach an understanding independently of this context.

Isobel Blackthorn, PhD, is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the biography Alice A. Bailey: Life & Legacy.