The Theosophy of Barack Obama
USA President Tries to Change
the World and Makes Gross Mistakes
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Barack Obama failed to understand what Benjamin Netanyahu,
the Prime Minister of Israel, explained to him about the Middle East
A 2017 Editorial Note:
Good intentions can provoke disasters if discernment
is scarce. The humanistic thinker who presided one
of the most powerful countries on Earth made ill-advised
efforts in the direction of peace. The following text
describes his philosophical trajectory until his first election
in 2008. The final paragraphs refer to Obama’s mistakes
from 2014. His failed policies with regard to Iran and
North Korea, combined with his boycott of Israel,
accelerated the process of nuclear proliferation in the
Middle East and around the world, causing severe harm
to the efforts for international peace and understanding.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
“The true Theosophist belongs to no
cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all.”
“In our household the Bible, the Koran, and
the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside
books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.
On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag
me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist
temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the
Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”
“To form the nucleus of a Universal
Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction
of race, creed, sex, caste, or color…”
(The first object of modern theosophical movement)
“The walls between old allies on either side
of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between
the countries with the most and those with the least
cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes;
natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew
cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”
Theosophy is a planetary philosophy, and its first goal is to stimulate an understanding of Universal Brotherhood as a law of Nature.
Both theosophy and the theosophical movement are beyond labels, personal names, ideologies or organizations. The field of action for classical theosophy and its students is defined by real, yet invisible factors, like an understanding of the laws of nature, an ethical consciousness, and a feeling of solidarity towards all beings.
Having access to divine wisdom is the goal of souls, not of institutions or corporations. Hence William Judge, one of the founders of the modern theosophical movement, wrote:
“The Theosophical Movement being continuous, it is to be found in all times and in all nations. Wherever thought has struggled to be free, wherever spiritual ideas, as opposed to forms and dogmatism, have been promulgated, there the great movement is to be discerned.” 
From such a viewpoint, a citizen who has good will, who adopted noble goals and possesses an open mind must be seen as a theosophist, even if he is not a member of any theosophical association. It does not matter whether he is a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian or a Buddhist; or if he follows some other philosophy. As long as he understands and shares the universality of planetary ethics, his life helps opening room for the perception of universal brotherhood, and he is a true theosophist at the soul-level.
This may be the case with Mr. Barack Obama, who was first elected as president of the United States in November 2008, and reelected in 2012.
Upon examining a few facts from Obama’s life and the books he wrote, one can evaluate the degree of affinity between his efforts and the Cause of modern theosophical effort. Even his failures - among them an appeasing attitude towards unethical, unacceptable actions - are also not too hard to find in theosophical circles.
Dissolving Walls Between Nations, Races and Religions
In July 2008, Barack Obama spoke in Berlin, Germany, to a multitude calculated in 200,000 people. He opened the unprecedented event by saying he was there as “a citizen of the world”, an expression which actually contains, in itself, the ideas of planetary citizenship and of a world without borders. Obama was then a candidate in the U.S. presidential elections, talking to a street meeting in a European country. On the occasion, he presented his idea of cooperation among all nations, which corresponds to the first object of the modern theosophical movement.
Referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he said:
“Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity. That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a union of promise and prosperity.”
And he added:
“Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid. So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who listen to each other, learn from each other, and, most of all, trust each other.” 
This, of course, is easier said than done.
To Liberate The World From Nuclear Weapons
In the same speech, Barack Obama announced:
“This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.”
In mentioning Iran, he declared:
“…We must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours [Germany] and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions.”
He discussed the ecology of the planet:
“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation [Germany] , and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.”
The Need For Remaking The World
Obama seemed to know well the direction he would try to go. And he could not be accused of having too modest goals. Born in Hawaii, the son of a Kenyan citizen, he closed his first speech outside the United States with these words:
“People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time. I know my country has not perfected itself. (…) We have made our share of mistakes (…). But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived (…) to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people, what drew my father to America’s shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please. (…) People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history and answer our destiny and remake the world once again.” (“Change We Can Believe In”, pp. 270-271)
Obama had expressed similar goals more than one year before his Berlin speech. In February 2007, in his Declaration of Candidacy, he said he would work for an ethical and ecological change in planetary scale:
“Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let’s be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.” 
Unafraid of adopting visionary goals, and looking much further than those North American elections, Obama said in that pioneering occasion:
“And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see, as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.” 
The Golden Rule
Obama’s project regarding the United States and the world was accused by his adversaries of being too vague and ambiguous. He was even denounced as “not quite American”. The truth was that he had a deeper and more complex vision than mere nationalistic and electoral slogans. The foundations of his approach to social reality were simultaneously interreligious, ethical and philosophical. The center of his thought was the well-known Golden Rule, an ancient principle of the Eastern wisdom, and of the Greek classical philosophy, taught by Confucius in the “Analects” (see Book V, paragraph XI) and only later adopted by Christianity. This timeless ethical principle could be correctly called “the law of good karma”.
“In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”
The Aloha Spirit
There is a theosophical substance in the real life of Barack Obama, which can explain why he makes a constantly renewed “brave declaration of principles”, to use the words from the Golden Stairs of H. P. Blavatsky’s theosophy. His “mantramic” teaching of theosophical principles is especially clear regarding the essential unity of all religions, in Ethics as in Wisdom. But what exactly is his direct experience regarding universal wisdom?
Obama was born in August 1961 in Hawaii, and it is not pure chance that his life and ideas express, up to a certain point, the “Aloha spirit”.
The word “Aloha” is a sacred mantra in Hawaiian culture, which is known all over the world for its open-mindedness and its feeling of brotherhood towards people from all nations. “Aloha” is a greeting and also a Universalist and theosophical concept. The term is equivalent to the Sanskrit word “Namaste”, which means “that which is divine in me greets that which is divine in you”. It also means “Shalom”, or “Peace”; and “Compassion”, and “Friendship”.
The so-called “Aloha spirit” indicates a mental state based on peace with oneself and peace with all beings. The speech, the philosophy and the actions of Mr. Obama seem to express something of this mantram and of this culture present in his youth.
His maternal grandparents, who played a central role in his education as a boy, not only lived in Hawaii with him, but they also were influenced in some moment by the Unitarian Universalist Church. That was a Church which worked for the fraternization of all religions and kept close ties with the Hindu society Brahmo Samaj. The Russian thinker Helena Blavatsky wrote a great deal about the Brahmo Samaj movement. She admired its founder. She criticized the mistakes made by its later leaders. Barack Obama himself wrote this on his maternal grandfather:
“…He liked the idea that Unitarians drew on the scriptures of all the great religions”.
According to Barack, his grandfather considered joining the Unitarians a unique opportunity: it was “like you get five religions in one”.
The idea of unity among religions is good and theosophical. However, it requires discernment, a severe respect for facts, a humble renunciation to illusion and unconditional love for truth. In that, Obama made mistakes.
An African Medicine Man With Healing Powers
Hussein Onyango Obama was Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather. A Medicine Man in Kenya, Africa, he was a Muslim who had healing powers and dedicated his life to local traditions. 
Barack Obama’s father, who had the same name Barack, was also Kenyan. Barack, the father, was his son’s hero and spiritual master. He left in the life of little Barack a transcendent presence and a mystical influence. In the world of Barack, the son, the intangible realm where his absent father existed got mixed with the very origins of the Kosmos. And this is more than a psychological event.
The origin and destiny of the Kosmos is a central topic in Theosophy. In the Eastern esoteric wisdom, it relates to the great initiations and the path that leads to them.
All along her work “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky makes a comparative study of the main narratives about the origin of the universe and mankind. She shows the points in common among the Chaldean Account of Genesis, the Jewish Kabbalah, the Jewish and Christian Bibles, the Central American “Popol Vuh”, the Hindu “Puranas”, and scriptures of many other traditions. Students of esoteric philosophy will see a meaning in the fact that Barack Obama faced the cosmic issue during his very childhood, and associated it to his quest for a mythic, heroic and inner father.
Obama confesses, with a degree of self-irony:
“…The path of my father’s life occupied the same terrain as a book my mother once bought for me, a book called Origins, a collection of creation tales from around the world, stories of Genesis and the tree where man was born, Prometheus and the gift of fire, the tortoise of Hindu legend that floated in space, supporting the weight of the world on its back. Later, when I became more familiar with the narrower path to happiness to be found in television and the movies, I’d become troubled by questions. What supported the tortoise? Why did an omnipotent God let a snake cause such grief? Why didn’t my father return? But at the age of five or six I was satisfied to leave these mysteries intact...” 
A Universalist Mother
It was Barack’s mother, a white North American lady, who taught him in daily life an interreligious and philosophical view of life, besides the habit of daily self-training and self-discipline. She kept a critical distance regarding dogmatic religions. This she had in common with the original and classical theosophy, while the pseudo-theosophy created by Annie Besant has preferred to invent its own versions of dogmatic sects, with their priests and rituals.
Barack wrote that his grandparents transmitted to his mother a combination of realism and joviality, and added:
“Her own experiences as a bookish, sensitive child growing up in small towns in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas only reinforced this inherited skepticism. Her memories of the Christians who populated her youth were not fond ones. Occasionally, for my benefit, she would recall the sanctimonious preachers who would dismiss three-quarters of the world’s people as ignorant heathens doomed to spend the afterlife in eternal damnation - and who in the same breath would insist that the earth and the heavens had been created in seven days, all geologic and astrophysical evidence to the contrary. She remembered the respectable church ladies who were always so quick to shun those unable to meet their standards of propriety, even as they desperately concealed their own dirty little secrets; the church fathers who uttered racial epithets and chiseled their workers out of any nickel that they could.”
Such a “religious” mediocrity did not occur by chance.
There is a wider context around this sort of narrow-mindedness, which is not a local phenomenon. It constitutes a global problem, decidedly denounced and fought by Helena Blavatsky and a few other theosophists since 1875.
True religiosity cannot be the prisoner of an institution or ritual, and it can’t be far from philosophy or science. It must make progress in an interdisciplinary way and accepting liberty of thought. In the famous Letter 10 of the Mahatma Letters (or Letter 88 in the Chronological edition), a Master of the Himalayas - a raja-yogi - says that two thirds of human suffering are caused by the falsehood and illusions of conventional, priestly religions.
Barack Obama’s narrative goes on:
“For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. This isn’t to say that she provided me with no religious instruction. In her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part - no introspective exertion or self-flagellation. Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways - and not necessarily the best way - that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives. In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist that she would become; it was a phenomenon to the treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.” 
Obama added this on his mother and teacher:
“And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I’ve ever known. She had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity, and love, and spent much of her life acting on that instinct, sometimes to her detriment. Without the help of religious texts or outside authorities, she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many Americans learn in Sunday school: honesty, empathy, discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. She raged at poverty and injustice, and scorned those who were indifferent to both.” 
A Theosophical View of Life
Barack built his life on these philosophical and emotional foundations. While having intellectual depth, such principles are inseparable from practical actions in the world.
In the books Obama wrote, the reader finds many passages in which he makes once and again, and under many forms, an open-minded declaration of principles. It is not difficult to see that Obama’s view of life can be called theosophical, both in the classical and modern sense of the word, as long as it is combined with a purity of life and a purity of personal motives. He taught theosophical ethics. But the possession of political power can change people.
“…Given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
And Obama went on:
“But let’s even assume that we only had Christians within our borders. Whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? (…) Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests that slavery is all right and eating shellfish is an abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?”
Obama thinks and openly says that all forms of blind belief in dead letter must be abandoned. The essential principles must be perceived, and they are beyond visible forms. Obama concludes by choosing common sense:
“What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason.” 
As a President, he would fail to apply that to the radical, unreasonable Islam, whose affinities lie with Nazism.
The White House: When Intention Meets Reality
As president of the United States, Obama didn’t make miracles: far from that.
Working under Karma - that is, within the historical limitations of his own time - he tried to produce an international atmosphere leading to a sense of respect for peace and for non-violent conflict-resolution. The militaristic euphoria of previous times seemed to be abandoned. Dialogue was possible.
Some of Obama’s critics were happy to exaggerate the mistakes of his administration in the material aspects of daily existence. This is part of life. The President made an attempt to expand the ethical foundations of a future civilization which will be hopefully based on universal brotherhood. The next step for the international community is a shared respect for peace and justice. In September 2011, Obama said in the United Nations General Assembly:
“It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this - to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other - because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That’s the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people. And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, ‘The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.’ The moral nature of man’s aspirations. As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that’s a lesson that we must never forget. Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.” 
Obama’s Policy Regarding Russia and Israel
During his second term in office, President Obama lost touch with the fundamental principles of global policy. His actions echoed the political mistakes of “progressive circles” and shared the illusions of significant sectors of the international peace movement. Under the appearance of a peacemaker, he created military tensions that benefit atomic industry, accelerate nuclear proliferation and pave the way to states which sponsor terror.
Three of such mistakes may be mentioned as examples.
1) Probably under the influence of the Industrial Military Complex, which uses its political strength to stimulate international disharmony and justify its high military expenses, Barack Obama took measures leading to a partial revival of Cold War with Russia. This was achieved by interfering with internal Ukrainian politics in alliance with the European Union. Under the excuse of promoting democracy, a civil war was fabricated in Ukraine in 2014. As a matter of fact, any Anti-Russia policy is counter-productive. From a humanistic point of view, the U.S. priority should be instead a common Russian-North-American effort against nuclear proliferation. Cooperation with Russia should also be essential for the United States regarding its declared goal of peace in the Middle East.
2) Obama adopted a childish pacifism in believing that Hamas, the notorious terrorist organization, is as legitimate as Israel, the only democratic government in that region. By partially siding with Hamas, Obama shared the same sort of ill-disguised anti-Semitism that one can easily find in social-activist circles and “progressive” political circles, sometimes funded by Islamic countries. In 2014 and 2015, such an unfortunate policy marginalized moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and was beneficial to governments whose policy was aggressively anti-Israel, like Qatar and Turkey. Obama thus weakened the same humanitarian principles he had advocated in previous years.
3) In his 2015 negotiations with Iran over this country’s nuclear project, Barack Obama led to a new scenario in the Middle East, in which Israel and moderate Arab countries have to face the actual possibility of a nuclear Iran in the near future. In August 2015 an acceleration of nuclear proliferation in the region was already a fact. By forgetting his commitment to “free the world from nuclear weapons” and by abandoning the USA allies in the region, Obama helped the atomic industry and the military industrial complex expand their power and operations. Tensions with Russia are a significant source of profit. Both superpowers have thus golden opportunities to sell deadly weapons and to bring about profitable catastrophes.
There is a subtle similarity between Obama’s appeasement of radical Islam and the childish pacifism one easily finds in theosophical circles. Just like many a nominal theosophist, Obama fails to use discernment between right and wrong. His mistakes do not take place for the first time in History: a comfortable naiveté and a blind love for short-term absence of conflict were fashionable in Europe in the 1930s, while Nazi Germany was preparing itself for world war. And pseudo-theosophical circles have little to say about the need to fight anti-Semitism, religious extremism or nuclear proliferation.
The matter of the fact is that peace can only endure where there is justice. Anti-Semitism (even if elegantly disguised) must be recognized as a major obstacle in making any real progress towards universal brotherhood. Esoteric philosophy teaches that ethical failures must be clearly identified and corrected as soon as possible, so that they do not get unnecessarily strong before being defeated. 
The mistakes made by Barack Obama show how dangerous mere good-will can be, in the absence of right discernment.
It is necessary to keep respect for truth in itself much higher, in one’s priorities, than any short-term political calculations. This is a decisive factor in the present times, when the karma of our mankind as a whole stands at a turning point and the substance of our common destiny is being updated in largely unpredictable ways.
 From the article “The Theosophical Movement”, by W. Q. Judge. It can be seen atour associated websites. It is also at “Theosophical Articles”, W. Q. Judge, The Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1980, a two-volume edition, vol. II, p. 124.
 “Change We Can Believe In - Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise”,Three Rivers Press, New York, 2008, 274 pp., see pp. 265-266.
 Germany is one of the countries where environmental consciousness is relatively strong. The then chancellor Angela Merkel herself defended environmental causes before leading the country.
 “Change We Can Believe In”, pp. 267-269.
 “Change We Can Believe In”, pp. 198-199.
 “Change We Can Believe In”, pp. 201-202.
 “Change We Can Believe In”, p. 228.
 See, for instance,“The Collected Writings”, Helena Blavatsky, TPH, USA, volume III, pp. 55-61 and pp. 286-287. And also “The Collected Writings”, volume IV, pp. 439-443, among other texts.
 “Dreams From My Father”, Barack Obama, Three Rivers Press, 1995 and 2004, New York, 458 pp., see p. 17.
 “Dreams From My Father”, Barack Obama, see p. 09.
 “Dreams From My Father”, p. 10.
 “The Audacity of Hope”, Three Rivers Press, 376 pp., 2006, pp. 203-204.
 “The Audacity of Hope”, see p. 205.
 “The Audacity of Hope”, see pp. 218-219.
 The best way to create peace in the Middle East is probably a long-term combination of various factors that transcend merely formal diplomatic efforts. One of them is an intelligent hardline action towards terror organizations whose aim is to destroy Israel, and which forbid their own populations from living with liberty of thought. The basic fact must be accepted that appeasing terrorists is not an efficient tool in building peace. Another factor and no less important in opening room for intercultural harmony in the Middle East would be to develop powerful, large-scale grassroots projects for creating Arab-Jewish friendship in every aspect of life, while recognizing the uniqueness of each culture and having respect for it. The wisdom traditions in Judaism and Islamism must be stimulated as intensely as possible.
The first version of “The Theosophy of Barack Obama” was published in 2008 in Portuguese language in our associated websites. Original title: “A Visão Planetária de Barack Obama”. The article was published in August 2015 in our blog at “The Times of Israel”.
See in our websites the articles “God and War in the Middle East”, and “Theosophy and the Middle East” by CCA.
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.The Theosophy of Barack Obama