(transcript of Biographical Notes signed by Mr. Crosbie, Los Angeles, CA March 24, 1907)
I was born into the present physical body on January 10th, 1849 in the city of Montreal, Canada. My parents were both Scotch; they met and married in Canada, my father having been connected with the Hudson Bay Company for many years, traveling from Post to Post, and my mother being companion to Lady Simpson the wife of the Governor of the Hudson Bay Company. In the early days the family was brought up in the Presbyterian faith, and I have a distinct recollection of the gloom of the "Sabbaths", and the horrible incubus of the doctrines inculcated. Later, my father asserted a more rational view of religion, as also did my mother, although nominally retaining their connection with the church. My mother being of Highland blood, had the characteristics of that people, among them that known as "second sight" (i.e. clairvoyance); she made no attempt to use this faculty, but showed instances of its possession on important occasions affecting the well-being of her people. What is termed the "religious instinct" was strong in her, and her life was one of self-sacrifice and she never consulted her own comfort. I realized later, and perhaps more fully now, how much I am indebted to her for much of the ease of response in certain lines, of the body she gave to me. Great Karma will sometime permit me to repay that soul with whatever of knowledge I may have gained.
Although my parents relaxed much in their application of the tenets of their faith, the children ( of whom I was the eldest ) were sent to "Sabbath school". Thus it went on for some years - I endeavoring by study and instruction to "reach salvation", but never at all succeeding in reaching any condition which would represent the wonderful change such realization must necessarily be.
When I was 16 years of age, my dear old Sunday school teacher took me aside and seriously talked to me of joining the "communion"; I was amazed and startled, and at once replied that I was not fit, I had no realization of salvation such as I had heard of. His reply was that a young man was safer as a communicant than otherwise. But said I, does not the bible say that he who eats and drinks unworthily at the table of the Lord is condemned? He admitted that it did, but that the association would be good for me, and light might come later. Still amazed, I asked him if many had joined the communion without realization.
His reply was "most of them". I do not remember what further speech we had - if any - but I do remember how utterly alone I felt, and how completely the whole superstructure of the church fell to pieces. I then began to search for the Truth. I pictured to myself a person with full reasoning powers, never having heard of religion, going to the highest representative of every known religion and asking each one "do you know the Truth" ? and realizing that each one would but state their own particular form of belief. I saw then that truth could not be a belief, it must be knowledge - but where - oh where was that knowledge to be found; how could it be obtained. I received no answer then.
My school life was much like that of other boys I imagine, although there was always that under current of questionings in regard to the object of life; why sickness and unhappiness? why death? why were we born? The religious information on these points was vague, and on some points devoid of justice, mercy or love. It was such a terrible picture that I resolutely closed my mind to it as much as possible, and took interest in the companions of my youth and their affairs.
I desired the world of men rather than books, and went into a manufacturing business at the early age of 20 years, soon after marrying the daughter of my partner. The latter became a spiritualist through losing his wife, and frequented seances for the purpose of communicating with her, but I found nothing in the spiritist philosophy, or the facts, that drew me.
A favorable opportunity offering, we sold out our business in Montreal and went to Boston, where we established a similar one. Boston offered a larger field for my partner's quest among the "spiritists", and so many wonderful things were told to me that I was induced to attend a number of seances with him. In short, I found much fraud, and what little genuineness there was, carried no evidence of the spiritists' claim that the souls of the dead returned "to communicate with easy-going mediums". Some of these experiences suggested the idea of hypnotism ( which was then coming to the front ). I took lessons from the best available teachers of the "art", and practiced hypnotism for several years with unusual success. I also studied telepathy and clairvoyance. I had struck the line of "the psychic powers latent in man", but did not understand the rationale. Many of the experiments I made were of much benefit to me in later years, for they gave me a practical understanding that I would not otherwise have had.
Nevertheless there was a grave danger in it all, and I cannot but think that there was some guidance which kept me from tumbling into unconscious black magic, although I had never heard of such a thing. I always had a strong regard for the rights of others and would never use my power against another's will, or suggest any idea detrimental to the moral sense in the least degree. It was while in this line of thought that my partner brought word to me of the formation of a branch of the T.S. in Boston. The word Theo-Sophia suggested much, so I went to the first meeting. I knew at once, even from the meager presentation of that time, that here was what I had been in search of. I joined the Society that evening and was shortly after elected its Secretary. Judge came to Boston soon after; I was introduced to him together with other members, and had no other notice from him until after the meeting when we had parted at the door, he, going with some members to his hotel, and I in another direction. We had got some distance apart when I heard him call out "good night Crosbie, I've got you on my list", I said "good night" but was much exercised at the rest of his remark. Something however happened then; a veil was lifted. A tie was formed which has never since been broken. He frequently came to Boston and stayed at my house, and I frequently went to N.Y. I was made President of the T.S. in Boston. Subsequently when the Esoteric Section was formed by H.P.B. and W.Q.J. I was admitted and afterwards became - was appointed - its President. These positions I held until I left Boston in April 1900.
At the time I joined the T.S. H.P.B. was in India, and had started "The Theosophist" magazine there. Judge had begun the publication of the "Path". There was little else in the way of Theosophical literature. "Man - Or Fragments of Forgotten Truth" came next; this was later expanded into Esoteric Buddhism; "The Occult World", "The Key to Theosophy" came in rapid succession. (1)
Right here it would be well to say that Sinnett was never admitted to the E.S., because he would not pledge himself not to divulge certain of the teachings which can only be given under such restriction. Some of these reasons are given in the Key to Theosophy.
In consequence of Sinnett's refusal to accept such a pledge he went wide of the mark in some important points in his Esoteric Buddhism in regard to the evolutionary chain. This gave rise to some controversy which never could be settled without that which could not be made public.
In the early days those who were first drawn to the T.S. were the spiritualists - also various kinds of faddists. When these found that Theosophy did not pander to, nor agree with their preconceptions and prejudices, they took their departure; there were some however who sought for truth alone, and those remained.
In the meantime there was going on a great work; that of laying down of the occult lines of force, and centers of work. When it is remembered that H.P.B. was for some years a visitor to this country before she "woke up" Judge and Olcott and formed the T.S., the idea may be grasped that the most important work of the Movement was not on the surface. The average person makes much of organization, form, method - authority and what not, and in crystallization of idea, defeats understanding. Thus the attacks, splits, controversies, and other foibles that have been perpetuated during the history of the Movement in this generation. You must have noticed that all the difficulties that have arisen in the T.S. raged around personalities; there have been no doctrinal differences; this is significant. You may also have observed that those who belittle Judge, will be found belittling H.P.B. An ancient saying has it that "accursed by Karmic action will find himself he, who spits back in the face of his teacher" - not an elegant saying perhaps to our ideas, but it conveys a fact of most grave import in occultism. By these fruits you will know them.
I think that I have told you that my connection with Judge was intimate on inner lines; these cannot be explained, but to me they are the only real ones.
The T.S. represents the world; in it, in embryo are fought the battles of the world; ignorance, superstition, selfishness, ambition - all are there; but as the Master wroten once "So long as three true brave souls remain the T.S. cannot be destroyed". It is my belief that the true T.S. is not contained in any one organization, but that its members exist in many organizations, the binding force being difficult to give understandingly, but I will try. (adapted from Dallas Tenbroeck’s article on Robert Crosbie's Bibliography and Bio-Notes)
Robert Crosbie founded the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) in 1909. In 1912, he founded the magazine Theosophy, which he continued to edit until his death in 1919. Robert Crosbie stressed impersonality and anonymity to protect the work and to help protect workers in the Theosophical Movement from pride and ambition.