My Story

Joseph Ross

Joseph was born in Culver City, California and grew up and was educated to the secondary level at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Akron Iowa. While there, I discovered that I had a natural aptitude for ceremonial religion, as I was questioning the Roman Catholic dogma.

After graduation in 1962, I returned to California and attended San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. Later I settled in Walnut Creek. There I encountered Theosophy in the person of an elderly English lady, Mrs. Rhoda Martin who became a very dear friend for many years and her theosophical inclined cohorts. I joined the Theosophical Society in 1968. Theosophy, being etymologically divine wisdom, or wisdom about things divine, resonated with my Catholic upbringing, but better, in that Theosophy as promulgated by The Theosophical Society, headquartered in Adyar, a suburb of Chennai (formerly Madras) India, leaves one perfect freedom in matters of belief. By 1969, I became a member of the clergy of the Liberal Catholic Church.

soon learned that Ojai had a School of Theosophy, at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy. So, I moved to Ojai in 1971 and joined the Esoteric School while attending the Krotona Institute. I was also able to experience my first talk of J. Krishnamurti in the Oak Grove near Krotona. After a few months, I became a resident and worker at Krotona for several years.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I believe I was about 28 and it was the summer of 1971 that I was invited to visit Far Horizons, a Theosophical camp in the Sierras with Catharine Gardener Mayes of Krotona, Niece of Isabel Gardener of Boston of the Peabody family. Rukmini Devi Arundale, wife of the Third President of the Adyar Theosophical Society was there, giving a lecture. After the lecture, Rukmini asked me if I would like to come and work with her in India. I did not respond immediately. She said, "Think about it." I did just that. By October 1972, I was off to India assisting Rukmini in her work in the Fine Arts College, Kalakshetra, which she founded. I also assisted in the Maria Montessori School in the art department on her campus and helped catalog her collection of Indian art objects and museum pieces connected with the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. Since that time, she encouraged me to start the Ross Collection. I had devoted a greater part of the 40 years to building the rare archives and caring for the collection to be known as the Ross Collection. Traveling on four continents looking for theosophical and Krishnamurti material. The collection contains about 100 bank boxes of authentic letters and documents showing Krishnamurti’s relationship to the Krotona Institute and the Adyar Theosophical Society from the turn of the century to 2010.

Indira Gandhi, Elizabeth Taylor, Martha Graham, Mae West, Peter Sellers, Cleveland Amory, an author who was the founding father of the modern animal protection movement, Dated Kathryn Etienne, and Malka Ruddick-Stanned, early silent movie stars of old Hollywood, introduced me to Debbie Reynolds and her charity The Thalians and Buddy Rogers, and dear friends of John and Robert Mitchum known as Them Onery Mitchum Boys, my neighbor in Montecito was a member of the Theosophical Society, Burl Ives, associates of Monica Ros, Beatrice Wood, Rosalind and Raja Rajagopal, Franklyn Lacy with Music Man, who invited me to meet and go to a movie premiere with Mae West. Rukmini introduced me to Peter Sellers in Gstaad, Switzerland along with Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews to be a stand in for "Return of the Pink Panther".

Those were just a few of the luminaries whose paths crossed that of Joseph Ross, now of Solvang/Buellton California.

Personally, numerous rare or unique documents I found at Krotona Library have seen listed in an archives list or in a bibliographic reference case, have now apparently disappeared, ranging from an entire set of magazines and pamphlets that have proved impossible to locate. Destruction of documents have been seen firsthand includes not only shredding of private documents, but collections of precious material soaked with water through leaky roofs, rats and mice building their nests using a very rare newspaper in file cabinets among letters and documents, and of course, acidic deterioration so server that the material simply disintegrates when handled. It seems to me our responsibility is to actively gather as much of this material for preservation as we reasonably can. Much has already perished forever, and things that might seem easy to get today are impossible to get tomorrow. We must mindfully collect it as we go. Some projects can wait, but every day of delay in establishing a vigorous will-funded acquisitions program means further loss of legacy.

A related major issue for any organization is the excluding publications, denying access to qualified researchers whom we fear might criticize the Adyar Theosophical Society including the Krotona Institute’s E.S. work, by distorting their history. Such censorship I feel is a real danger when historical materials are housed within specialized organizations as they censor or destroy material on the grounds that it is meant for private eyes only, and not for the uninitiated. Their intellectual and financial interest decides what the world ought to know about their heroes or places so called sacred. Censorship and concealment would harm the Adyar Theosophical Society, as well the Krishnamurti legacy including the Krotona Institute directly. We are fortunate to know objective facts about potentially controversial aspects of Krishnamurti’s life and the work at the Krotona Institute, which was built for Krishnamurti, regardless, these documents are of historical importance regarding the Krotona Institute and its relationship to the Esoteric School and the Adyar Theosophical Society for the future of humanity. It is up to us to do what we can to ensure the continuation of that work, but first and foremost by understanding and living the teachings to the best of our ability.

Major donations to the Collection came from Betty Warrington containing original letters and documents of Albert P. Warrington, her husband, and Rukmini Devi Arundale containing original letters and documents of her husband, George Arundale, and the history of the Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries. Over the years, donations to the Collection have been over thirty-five donors some of the richest and most influential members of Hollywood society that helped to build the Hollywood Bowl and nearby the Greek Theater, today known as the Ford Theater. They donated photographs; slides, audio tapes of interviews, sheet music written by early theosophical members from the turn of the century to 2010. The Theosophical Society in its early days attracted many prominent people. Among its members were the American scientist, Thomas A. Edison; Albert Einstein; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Irish poets, AE (George Russell) and William Butler Yeats, and many, many more.

Mark Lee, writes in the forward to the last volume of the six volumes on the Krotona Series:

"As there is no oeuvre of Theosophical Society history world-wide or in America except for the several volumes that comprise the Krotona history in California by Joseph Ross the reader has no other source to refer to that could provide the larger framework that would make sense of the history of the Society, Krotona as the Esoteric center, and of Krishnamurti’s association with the Society."

"Having curated these documents and images and feeling responsible for them", the author Joseph Ross relates, "I also have felt the need to make their story accessible. The Theosophical Society has been a very chapter in the West’s approach to new religious ideas and ideals and had an important role in the coming of J. Krishnamurti onto the world stage. For these reasons, I have felt really compelled to complete the Krotona Series."

This special collection represents a selection of original letters; manuscripts, artifacts, and photographs’ relative to the history of the Adyar Theosophical Society, and an Esoteric Center of Theosophy called Krotona Institute.

"The work is revealing how religious movements work internally as institutions, especially in the face of unexpected change" says Theosophical scholar Robert Boyd: "Volume six is a shattering account of the activities of the early leaders of The Theosophical Society, including their attempts at coercing Theosophical members into agreement … Much of this information is not available anywhere else."

This soon became a home and base for the proclaimed World-Teacher, J. Krishnamurti. By 1914 the Krotona Institute was recognized as a big part of propaganda because it had put the Krotona Institute and the Theosophical Society on the map, a thing that had never yet been done in America.

I have now written fourteen books on the Krotona Series so far, these books are not an advertisement for Theosophy, but as a factual history, as far as they go shedding light on the role the Adyar Theosophical Society had on the relationship with J. Krishnamurti. These books are not easy to read, but they are a collection of historical documents, and should not be read as a novel, but used as reference source for future research. Readers should note that the fourteen books have been written before 2022, and they require substantial revision, although not corrections, since nothing I wrote in those books has been shown to be inaccurate, and likewise, requires considerable expansion and up-dating.

I express my apologies for omitting the endless footnotes and end of Chapter reference that these volumes of Krotona Series required.

Since I do not have access to the following events, activities, as several allied organizations into which dedicated members have carried the theosophical vision. Such organizations as the Liberal Catholic Church, Co-Masonry, The Order of the Round Table in America, The Theosophical Order of Service, the Theosophical Book Gift Institute, the Theosophical Book Association for the Blind, and Taormina Community in Ojai all have their history. There are available in the Ross Collection, boxes of letters and documents referring to all the above organizations for future research.

It’s the source materials in the Ross Collection that make these works possible, according to documentary videographer Michael Mendizza, who is working on a documentary of Krishnamurti’s early life:

"Joseph has a rare and in-depth understanding of Theosophy, the intent, and practices of the Esoteric Section and equally a solid appreciation for Krishnamurti’s necessary transcendence of the forms and images that frame the society. Without understanding the forms, images, and structures that Krishnamurti went beyond, one has a very limited appreciation for what has been called Krishnamurti’s teachings. There would be no Krishnamurti or ‘the teachings’ were it not for Krishnamurti’s struggle to go beyond the limitations and constraints of these forms. Joseph, like no other that I know explores what and how this transcendence took place."

I have at least, three more books to finish the Krotona Series, which includes the 1945 policy of Disassociation of the Adyar Theosophical Society. I find as the writer of history, is not so much what should be included in a work, but what should be or even must be omitted. Because of the large number of letters held in the collection, a great deal of unused material remains in the Ross Collection to be for future books.

In 1976 I returned from India to settle in Montecito, California and pursued further studies in theosophy, psychology, and counseling where I received a certified certificate in 1981 from the Human Relation Family Counseling Center, Goleta California as an advisor in the field of marriage, drugs, and family counseling, now called the Joseph Campbell University or Pacifica Graduate Institute. During the same time, I maintained contact with Srimati Rukmini Devi traveling several months of the year as her secretary when she visited educational centers around the world. I also returned to the Krotona Institute as a guest lecturer for the Fall and Winter Terms in 1978-79 "Rhythms of Life" based on teachings of J. Krishnamurti. And the Winter Semester at Krotona Institute School of Theosophy, Ojai, "Realm of Living Ethics" based on J. Krishnamurti.

Since traveling extensively around the world, visiting 44 countries, meeting leaders of the different branches of the Theosophical Society, I found that my interest continued to grow in collecting letters, articles, books, photos, and memorabilia of the important personages to document the history of the Krotona Institute. I also began to write articles, which appeared in theosophical journals around the world, and some were translated into other languages.

In the early 1980’s, I founded the International Lalita Kalas Foundation (ILKF). ILKF was a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the fine traditional arts of both eastern and western cultures fostering a comprehensive understanding of mankind’s multifaceted culture. As I began work on the history of Krotona, which resulted in my establishing El Montecito Oaks Press, Inc., and my own Professional Word Processing business in Montecito, preparing page layouts for such magazines as Celebrity Society, Beverly Hills, CA, and designing a cover for a Centre News Huizen magazine in Holland. I reprinted Revival of the Traditional Puppet Theatre of Kerala, by G. Venu; a reprint of Dance and Music by Rukmini Devi along with Raghadana a catalog of south Indian ragas. Through El Montecito Oaks Press I published my first book in 1989, Krotona of Old Hollywood, Volume I; 1866-1913; In 2004, Volume II Krotona of Old Hollywood; 1914-1920, 2009, Volume III The New Krotona from Hollywood to Ojai, 1921-1922 and 2009, Volume IV, Krotona in the Ojai Valley, 1923-1926, 2009, Spirit of Womanhood; A Journey with Rukmini Devi, Volume V, Krotona, Theosophy and Krishnamurti 1927-1931, in 2012 Volume VI, Krishnamurti; Departure from the Theosophical Society 1932-1940; 2019 Volume I, Secrets: Hidden Agendas in the Theosophical Society and the Egyptian Rite, Volume II, Secrets: Hidden Agendas in the Theosophical Society and the Egyptian Rite, Volume III, Secrets: Hidden Agendas in the Theosophical Society and the Egyptian Rite, 2021, Volume VII, Krotona and Adyar Theosophical Secrets 1939-1951, 2023, Volume VIII, 1952-1996, Peering Behind the Veil: Krotona and the Adyar Theosophical Society.

Please remember, books are not living things, they are insufficient to light the flame of insight and intelligence in another.

Ever since I first heard J. Krishnamurti speak in Ojai and in Gstaad, Switzerland, I had to read his books, listened to tapes and videos of his talks, and attended his talks where possible. No one could attain the stature of Krishnamurti as a mystic-teacher without undergoing an intense training and inner discipline. This documentation is covered in the book, Krishnamurti: The Taormina Seclusion 1912, describing four months of that intense discipline, which has taken about 10 years for what could be called Avataric Power for that force to be accumulated in the great creative vehicle of Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti’s real work began at the age of about 33, speaking his message, he altered the world absolutely, unto its very foundations. It can be observed as a tremendous purifying and revolutionary power that brings a new release of understanding, a new awakening of a new consciousness, not as we know it, a new way of living, not merely for a few, but for all mankind. The first book was self-published in 2000, and later it was republished in 2003 by Edwin House Publishing, Mark Lee with the Foreword by Radha Burnier President of the Adyar Theosophical Society.

Will historians and future generations gain important insight into the life of J. Krishnamurti from studying how those closest to him during his most formative years understood what he was saying or not, how they treated him and how they reacted to his declarations which involved into his mature teachings

In 1984, I led tours throughout India, especially in remote villages, to discover traditional arts and very rare temples for ILKF.

In 1985, for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, I presented an audio-visual educational culture log on "Traditional Art and Life in Southern India." In 1991, I gave a Seminar at the Rose Croix University Cultural Center in San Jose on "Krotona of Old Hollywood". I was invited by Dr. James A. Santucci, Department of Comparative Religion, California State University Fullerton, California for a lecture on the history of Krotona in Old Hollywood. Also, the University of Louisiana invited me to lecture on Krotona.

During the early 90’s I was the owner of Uptown Books and Antiques, in Sonora, California, and owner of Montecito Oaks Books and Antiques in Twain Harte until 1998 when I returned to live in Ojai, California where I was known as the "Book Doctor", where I spent a great deal of my time painstakingly making house calls, and caring for and mending rare and new books that had frayed stitching, crumbling pages, spines coming unglued and cracked covers. Appearing in the Ojai Valley News for June 10, 1998, an article appeared "The Doctor Is In".

Most recently, in the summer of 2000, I authored a series of columns appearing in the Ojai Valley News, under the column title "A View from Krotona;" May 12, "From Hollywood to Ojai, theosophy spread principles of humanity;" June 2, "Performances came to Ojai with the Krotona Theosophical Colony;" June 16, "Newcomers gave Ojai a new spirituality and a church;" June 28, "Krotona Hill’s influence continued after 1924 move from Hollywood;" and July 28, "Tents dotted the Krotona Meadow for the Star Camp Congress".

July 2009, I created several audio-visual documentary histories on Krotona, Travels throughout India, and a mountain trek from Kathmandu to across the Langtang Valley to Tibet.

2011 created an exhibition, at the Chaparral High Auditorium Word Fest in Ojai, California, "The Mind of J. Krishnamurti World Teacher World Citizen".

By 2015 I moved to Solvang California to work in ZFolio Gallery representing over 100 international jewelry designers, along with artists working in contemporary art glass.

2022 a new website is being created for scholars and researchers interested in the history of the Adyar Theosophical Society and the Krotona Institute and all its associations.

Life events, forces and circumstances have placed me in between two paradigms, the Esoteric Section, and the Adyar Theosophical Society as they expressed different ‘ways of seeing’. Being caught in the middle, I am considered today somewhat of an outcast by both organizations, not quite fitting into either culture. Erica Georgiades sent me an email, "It might have been difficult to be in an outcast position between the two organizations. But again, this seems to happen with every person pursuing the truth. No matter what organization, social group the person may belong to; whoever pursues the truth more than anything else will always be a sort of outcast. But it is usually such persons who make the greatest contributions. The work you are doing is wonderful. I want you to know you have my admiration". Since the publication of the Egyptian Rite series, they claim the organization is private and secret as it is still being used today. Could it be that when the ER was created to defend against what Krishnamurti was saying that the members participating in the organization was unnecessary for initiations? The Esoteric Section of the Adyar Theosophical Society believes that which I published is private information, and not for those not belonging to the organization. When you take a vowel of obedience not to disclose any information you receive or talk to anyone outside of the group indicating that in such a tight knit group your well-being is secure and tied to regular interaction with others of the same group. When you break that pledge, you are ostracized which can be a very emotionally painful and effective punishment. In the documentation of the organizations, I did not publish any secret rituals or passwords. I did publish the letters to show my exclusions from visiting their centers or social events they might put on. I had to have written permission to be on their grounds. This type of action allows the organizations to show what would happen to other members if they broke their pledges or vowels, enforcing order and maintaining control of their subordinates. Make no mistake, this action is not a noble act, but an act of aggression, and can be every bit as harmful, if not deadly, to the person who is targeted. I can personally vouch for the outcome.

As you discover "Truth is a Pathless Land", you will see or observe the lack of transparency and unnecessary secrecy which is legendary dealing with Esoteric Vows of obedience, sexual conduct and fraudulent letters with signature’s magnificently forged, not mentioning the danger of development of insane Psychism with its art of eloquence, emotional excitement and worldly enjoyment being caught in its confusion like a whirl of energy in which one cannot discern how it stupefies the mind and bewilderment.

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