The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett

Theosophical University Press Edition


Introduction

By A. T. Barker

It is well known, among students of Theosophy and Occultism, that the philosophical doctrines and ethics which were given to the world through the Theosophical Society during the 16 years immediately following its foundation in 1875, emanated from certain Eastern Teachers said to belong to an Occult Brotherhood living in the trans-Himalayan fastnesses of Tibet. H. P. Blavatsky who, together with Colonel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society, acknowledged these Eastern Brothers as her Teachers, stating not only that They existed, but that she herself had received training and instruction at their hands during her sojourn in Tibet, and was therefore able to speak from her own knowledge and personal experience. It was not until 1880 that further testimony became available. In that year the late A. P. Sinnett, then living in India, was enabled through the agency of Madame Blavatsky, to enter into correspondence with her own Teachers, whom she referred to variously under the terms, "The Brothers," "The Mahatmas," and later "The Masters of Wisdom." During the course of this correspondence which extended over the years 1880 to 1884 Mr. Sinnett received many letters from The Mahatmas M. and K.H., the Teachers in question, and it is these original communications which are published in the present volume under the title of "The Mahatma Letters." The circumstances attending their receipt were fully dealt with by Mr. Sinnett in his "Occult World" and they need not therefore be restated here.

They are now published with the permission of the Executrix of the late A. P. Sinnett, to whom they were bequeathed solely and unconditionally; she, in her turn at the suggestion of the writer of this Introduction, allowed him the great privilege of undertaking the whole responsibility for the transcription, arrangement and publication of the Letters in book form.

The writer undertook the task with the fullest sense of the grave responsibility attending his action, convinced that the moment had come when the highest interests of The Theosophical Society demanded the full publication of The Teachings of The Masters given to Mr. Sinnett. He feels the responsibility the more keenly since there is a passage in one of the letters in this volume in which The Master K.H. says that neither he nor his brother M., would ever permit the publication thereof. Though there can be no doubt that these letters were not intended for publication at the time they were written, it may also be fairly assumed that the present impasse in the affairs of the Society was not anticipated either. At a time when there is so much controversy in regard to what was, and what was not the original Teaching of The Masters, the publication of the words of its own Teachers can do nothing less than serve the highest interests of the great movement which claims for its motto that "There is no religion higher than Truth." The Masters are what they are; what they have written — they have written, and neither they nor their doctrines need the acclamation or apology of lesser minds.

It is almost impossible to arrive at the facts, or even to form a trustworthy opinion upon a subject so far reaching, by studying an edited book of extracts. Therefore, that the members of the Theosophical Society and the world at large, should be enabled to study the truth for themselves concerning The Masters and their doctrines as set forth in these letters signed by their own hands, has been the aim of the compiler. To this end, the whole of the Mahatma Letters left by Mr. Sinnett have been transcribed verbatim from the originals and without omission.

Mr. Sinnett's books The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism were based almost entirely on the material contained in Sections I. and II. of this volume. A careful study of the exposition of the teaching given in those early works, as in that of more modern Theosophical writers, yields some interesting results when compared with the original teaching as contained in these letters. Many theories which have become the accepted dogmas of modern Theosophical doctrines, are clearly shown to be inaccurate and misleading, and it may therefore be profitable if the principal points of difference are indicated to the reader.

It must be admitted that there has been an increasing tendency in the Society during the last twelve years, to place an undue reliance on ceremonial, orders, Churches, creeds and their equivalent, thereby sacrificing the virility of individual effort and freedom of thought, which was so noticeable in the early days of the movement. The Master K.H. writes in very clear terms on this subject, and it may be well to quote his own words. "And now after making due allowance for evils that are natural and cannot be avoided . . . I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two-thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ever since that cause became a power. It is religion under whatever form and in whatsoever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the Churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred, that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity, and that almost overwhelms mankind. Ignorance created Gods, and cunning took advantage of the opportunity." (Letter No. 10.) And again "Far from our thoughts may it ever be to erect a new hierarchy for the future oppression of a priestridden world." (Letter No. 87) The inference and the message of these words in our own times is sufficiently clear.

There has been a noticeable tendency also for sections of the Society to drift towards what Master K.H. calls "that most insane and fatal of superstitions — Spiritualism." (Letter No. 49) In another letter he says "a psychic Society is being founded . . . , it will grow and develop and expand and finally the Theos. Soc. of London will be swamped in it, and lose first its influence then — its name — until Theosophy in its very name becomes a thing of the Past." It is regrettable that these words are as true to-day, as when they were written. The, whole question is thrashed out from every point of view in these letters, so that no misunderstanding is possible to the mind of the impartial student. The mischief lies, then as now, in the misunderstanding of the real nature of spiritualistic phenomena. Those who adhere to the methods of Spiritualism claim that communication can be established with the souls and spirits of the departed by means of properly qualified mediums. That communication of a kind between the living and the dead can be made, is accepted as a demonstrable fact in these letters, and is not challenged in any way. But communication with what? Here lies the crux of the whole matter. Master K.H. states not once, but over and over again, that communication with the souls and spirits of the dead is an impossibility. At death, consciousness which pertains to the seventh, sixth, and fifth principles of man, (and in these are included the soul, and spirit and all that makes man human) withdraws into an unconscious gestation period which precedes re-birth in the Deva Chan or heaven-world. It leaves behind it, the physical corpse, the etheric counterpart or double, and lastly the emotional and mental shell which is the correspondence in subtler matter of the physical body, and which may be termed the vehicle of consciousness on its own plane, just as the physical body is the vehicle of consciousness in the physical world. It must be understood clearly however, that each of these empty shells has a certain illusory awareness or consciousness of its own, which is the collective consciousness of the aggregation of atoms and molecules of which they are composed, and quite distinct from the consciousness of the individual, or real entity, which informed them in life. The physical body has a similar consciousness which is purely animal and instinctive in nature. At death the consciousness of even the shell leaves it for a time, and does not return to it until the withdrawal of 5th, 6th, and 7th principles is complete. Not until after that is accomplished, does a certain awareness of existence return to the empty shells. It is these disintegrating corpses which can be temporarily galvanized into activity by the efforts of a medium; these can and do communicate, but only as it were from memory of what has been, and not from consciousness of present facts. This is the reason for the often stupid, meaningless, unspiritual messages from the other side of death which so disgust the seeker for real knowledge. The brief analysis given above, is the rule for all humanity, with the exception of the victims of accident and suicide on the one hand, and on the other those rare individuals (only the trained occultist knows how rare they are) who have won for themselves immortality.

Those students of "occultism" who believe themselves guided, by disincarnate entities ranging in degree from departed Theosophists to "Adepts who have relinquished the use of physical bodies on earth," (Esoteric Buddhism, p. 133. Eighth Edition) by means of the methods of mediums, ouija boards and their equivalent, will do well to consider their position in the light of these letters. Communication with departed Theosophists (i.e. the real entities) as already shown is an impossibility, for alas! they cannot be included among those who have achieved immortality, the exceptions to the general rule governing humanity being so very few; and with regard to the guidance of disembodied "Adept Spirits" it may be asked, how those who have not deserved individual instruction from Adepts in the flesh, can possibly expect to receive direct help from Their superiors — the Planetary Spirits, the Dhyan Chohanic Host? It cannot be too strongly emphasized that in thus externalizing the source from which he seeks inspiration, the student sacrifices all possibility of the grand realities of spiritual attainment and direct knowledge. "The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and untrodden ground of our heart — invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through the 'still small voice' of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it, ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls, making their Spirit the sole mediator between them and The Universal Spirit, their good actions their only priests, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the "Presence." (The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 280)

The importance of the correct understanding of the doctrines relating to post mortem conditions, may be judged by the significant phrase of Master K.H. "that he who holds the keys to the Secrets of Death is possessed of the Keys of Life." The dual meaning and application of the theosophical doctrines relating to Death would seem to have been missed — passed by. The entrance to the Mysteries has ever been through the Gate of Death; and as in the Egyptian "Book of The Dead" — under the symbolism of the passage of the Soul from life through Death to Devachan, lies hid the precious teaching which rightly understood will bring to rebirth the aspirant who has passed through the agonies of Death in Life.

The letters in the Section entitled Probation and Chelaship make a profound appeal to the heart of both mystic, and occultist. The wisdom, the instruction, the many intimate details, all combine to throw a new light not only on The Masters themselves, but on the whole question of discipleship. As one reads these pages written 40 years ago, the conviction is reached that the way to The Masters is open to-day as it was then. But the possibility of achievement for the individual lies not in following and pledging loyalty to any personal leader, but by uncompromising devotion to the Idea, — to principles. Master K.H. writes on this subject: — "There is a hero-worshipping tendency clearly showing itself, and you my friend are not quite free from it yourself. . . . If you would go on with your occult studies and literary work, then learn to be loyal to the Idea rather than to my poor self. When something is to be done never think whether I wish it, before acting; . . . I am far from being perfect, hence infallible in all I do. . . . You have seen that even an Adept when acting in his body, is not beyond mistakes due to human carelessness." (Letter No. 55)

In extenuation of the many anomalies created by the unfortunate discrepancy which exists between the principles of the Theosophical Society and their practice by individual members, it must be remembered that as emphasized in these letters, the Masters neither guide nor control the actions of their disciples. By the rules of the Brotherhood, pupils must be given "the fullest liberty and freedom of action, the liberty of creating causes, even if those causes become in time their 'scourge and public pillory.'" "Our chelas are helped but when they are innocent of the Causes which led them into trouble." (Letter No. 54) The path of discipleship leads into the heart of Nature itself; the condition of entrance — an obedience to her laws — complete and absolute. Before those Immutable Laws even the highest Adept must bow in humility. To the candidate for discipleship all things are permitted which are natural to Man. No simple natural act can defile. But "Occult Science is a jealous mistress, which allows not even the shadow of self-indulgence," and if the higher levels of spiritual attainment are to be reached the disciple must be prepared to sacrifice and transcend the natural desires of the body, and lead a life which, in the Master K.H.'s own words "is fatal not only to the ordinary course of married life, but even to flesh and wine drinking." (Letter No. 18) Those who would hope to solve the problem of sex by means of formulae which controvert laws that are obvious and known, dig with their own hands the pit which must ultimately engulf all that is human in them. To dare to suggest that such doctrines could have the sanction of The Masters of Wisdom (who are one with Nature) is to utter not only a blasphemy, but a self-evident absurdity which only a fool or a madman could be guilty of. If this question admits of any doubt in the minds of students of occultism in general, the same cannot be said of those who know anything of the inner mysteries of Astrology. That ancient Science can and will prove that no such formulae exist in the book of Nature, and any theories that are based on them can only be regarded as Sorcery of the most vicious description. That such doctrines exist is one of the reasons for the lack of virility in the Society to-day. The consideration of the inner condition of The Theosophical Society, reminds one irresistibly of all that was written in the Secret Doctrine (vol.II, pp. 409-415) of the sublime allegory of Prometheus — the crucified Titan, gazing in his suffering towards his own "heaven appointed deliverer — Herakles," but so far alas! in vain. At this momentous epoch in the history of the Society, those pages of Madame Blavatsky's have a message full of the profoundest significance for all who are not too blind or too unwilling to see the truth contained in it.

It is remarkable, more than thirty years after her death, how Madame Blavatsky is justified at almost every point in these letters. Few people have been more unjustly reviled, and even some of those who knew her intimately preferred to believe that she had committed every kind of error rather than admit for an instant that they themselves could be in the wrong. How far she was ever the deceiver depicted by Mr. Sinnett in his posthumous publication "The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe," may be judged by the reader if he will study the letter from Master K.H. (Letter No. 54) in which he gives his own opinion on her delinquencies. Those who love the memory of H. P. Blavatsky for her work and the gifts she gave them, cannot but feel after reading that letter that after all she was worthy of their high regard; and those who have tried to blacken that memory and minimise the value of the work she did, will rise to heights indeed if the prayer be granted — that they may never deserve worse condemnation.

In nothing is Madame Blavatsky more completely vindicated than in the explanation and refutation she gave in the Secret Doctrine, of the misconceived theory in regard to Mars and Mercury, which was originally published in Esoteric Buddhism. The details of that old controversy are well-known to Theosophists, and it is fortunate that the publication in this volume of the letter originally so misunderstood by Mr. Sinnett, refutes finally the amputations made against Madame Blavatsky in regard to it. It is indeed amazing that Theosophists have continued to permit the promulgation of the idea that Mars and Mercury belonged to the same planetary chain as The Earth, for the facts are evident that they do not. It is obvious to the eye of the Astrologer, if not to students of other branches of occult science, that such a theory must throw into confusion every system and scale of correspondence in the Solar System a fact which alone is enough to show that it must be false.

But the mere assertion of facts is not sufficient, and it is necessary to examine the whole controversy in detail from the beginning. Those who wish to go further into the matter are referred to the paper which has been included in the Appendix at the end of this volume. There, all the facts have been dealt with fully by the present writer, and he believes conclusively.

In the life of the Theosophical Society a cycle is closing, and ere the reader opens this volume it will have run to its inevitable conclusion. It leaves behind it a legacy of things done which had better have been left undone, and a record of mistaken zeal and wasted opportunity of which few can be proud. The vigorous new life of the dawning cycle which is beginning to course through the veins of the old body, has of necessity objectivised and made apparent, all that was contained in it of a nature subversive of true progress. If Master K.H. has said that, "the Society can never perish, though Branches and individuals in it may," the words of that other Teacher must also be remembered, "that new wine cannot be poured into old bottles and that he who would find his life must first lose it. Be on your guard against hypocrisy, for nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed, and nothing concealed that shall not be made known; and all that has been uttered in darkness shall be heard in the light, and what has been whispered in chambers shall be proclaimed from the house-tops. There are days that are coming when one stone shall not be left upon another without being torn down. Take care that you are not deceived, for many shall come in My Name saying, "I am He, and the time is near" — but do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be scared; these have to come first, but the end is not yet. For these are the days of Divine vengeance. And there will be signs in the Sun and Moon and Stars, while on Earth there will be dismay and bewilderment at the roar of the sea and the waves, men's hearts failing them for fear and foreboding of what is to befall the universe. For the orbs of the heavens will be shaken, and then they will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, look up — for your release is not far distant."

Out of the wreck that is inevitable a shape shall arise that may be worthy of immortality. Let those who have climbed the hill and seen the vision, and in that clean, sweet air have heard the key-note of the dawning cycle — hold fast — and remember in the days that are coming — the sweetness, and the beauty, and the truth they have seen.

— A. TREVOR BARKER,

Fellow of the Theosophical Society.*
London, September, 1923.

*The state of affairs in the Theosophical Society having become progressively worse, the writer resigned his membership in April, 1925.


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