Richard Harte was a New York newspaper man who worked for the New York Telegram. He had been a member of the Aryan T.S. since 1877 and a friend of H.S. Olcott before that. In April 1887, Harte attended the convention of the American Section of the T.S. at Mott Memorial Hall in New York City where he was elected as one of the members of the General Council of the American Section. Soon after this he left for England.
In England, he helped to support Madame Blavatsky and the efforts of her lodge. With his background in writing, he went on to serve as Secretary of the Theosophical Publishing Society, a new venture that was started up shortly after his arrival. There has come to be a body of thought that Harte was responsible for an early editorial of the new magazine, Lucifer. In December 1887, this famous editorial, titled "Lucifer to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Greetings!", was first printed. It was later to be reprinted by the Theosophical Publishing Society along with other such titles as, "Theosophy and the Church", "Keely's Secrets", and "Elementals and Elementaries". In addition, Harte was also responsible for writing an introduction to an article titled "The Hebrew Talisman". This article, originally printed in 1836, when coupled with Harte's introduction make for a fascinating read.
Harte's stay in England was short and given subsequent events, this may have been regrettable. On October 28th 1888, Harte, with the encouragement of his old newspaper friend H.S. Olcott, boarded a ship bound for Adyar. H.S. Olcott was president of the Theosophical Society headquartered in Adyar and his busy schedule meant that he needed trusted individuals to help him out. In addition, Harte was also made a delegate by the executive committee of the American Section for the 13th Convention and Anniversary of the T.S. which was held in India. He traveled with Charles and Vera (H.P.B.'s niece) Johnston, Baroness Kroummess and E.D. Fawcett and Col. H.S. Olcott, and they reached Bombay on November 10th. Before the month was out, Richard Harte was appointed by Col. H.S. Olcott as Librarian and Assistant Editor of The Theosophist.
In early 1889, Olcott was leaving on an extended trip to Japan. Consequently, on January 7th he appointed a three member commission to run things in his absence, one of whom was Richard Harte. While H.S. Olcott was away, Harte penned two notorious articles, "Applied Theosophy" and "The Situation". The implication of these two articles was to make Adyar the New Rome. This naturally angered at least two of the founding members, W.Q. Judge and H.P. Blavatsky. These articles attempted to undermine a central principle of theosophy, that being that the individual is responsible for his own karma and spiritual progress. Your duty is to your Higher Self, not to some worldly institution nor to the president of that institution, no matter how noble that institution's or president's intent. If allegiance to the institution and its president is compatible with your duty, then so be it. There exists no evidence that H.S. Olcott was involved with these articles and upon his return he accepted the following resignation from Harte:
"In order to avoid any suspicion that opinions expressed by me about the affairs of the Theosophical Society, etc., are of an official nature, or that you are, either directly or indirectly, responsible for them, I beg herewith to place in your hands my resignation of the office of Secretary of the Theosophical Society, the only official position I hold therein."
Harte continued on until a replacement could be found, with his last official duties occuring with the March 1891 issue. There is some evidence that he may have remained active with the Society in England at least until 1893. Blavatsky may have been forgiving towards Harte due to the noxious atmosphere at Adyar that she described in a letter at about that time.