The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett


To the Combined Chronology by Margaret Conger

In December 1923, the theosophical world was electrified by the publication of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett — over 120 letters purportedly written between 1880 and 1884 by two Eastern adepts, M. and K. H., to A. P. Sinnett of Allahabad, editor of The Pioneer, leading Anglo-Indian newspaper, and to his friend A. O. Hume, C. B., in the service of Her Majesty's Government in India, and an ornithologist of note. Until then, extracts only from this remarkable correspondence had been available for study, chiefly those portions which Mr. Sinnett had quoted in his book, The Occult World, in 1881. Now the original letters, without deletions, had been transcribed and compiled by A. Trevor Barker.

Two years later, a companion volume was issued: The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett — written not only to Mr. Sinnett, but many of them to his wife Patience, whom H. P. B. held in lasting and affectionate regard.

Just what prompted Trevor Barker to contact Maud Hoffman, executrix of the estate of the late A. P. Sinnett who had died in 1921, is not known. It is of record that the Mahatma as well as the Blavatsky letters had been bequeathed by Mr. Sinnett "solely and unconditionally" to Miss Hoffman, and that she in turn had allowed this young man the "great privilege of undertaking the whole responsibility" for their transcription and publication in book form. That Trevor Barker was keenly sensible of the "grave responsibility attending his action" is eloquently set forth in his Introduction to The Mahatma Letters (2nd edition), the more so as he was well aware that K. H., while encouraging Sinnett (ML 280) to "recast teachings and ideas" for his "future book" which became Esoteric Buddhism, had later on reminded him that the letters "were not written for publication or public comment upon them, but for private use, and neither M. nor I will ever give our consent to see them thus handled" (ML 357).

That was in 1884. By the 1920s the situation had greatly altered. The original message had in certain quarters become marred by intrusions of neo-theosophy, ideas counter to the teachings of H. P. B. and her teachers. So convinced was Trevor Barker that "the highest interests of The Theosophical Society demanded the full publication" of these documents in order that the members and the world at large could "study the truth for themselves concerning The Masters and their doctrines as set forth in these letters signed by their own hands," (1) that he determined to publish the whole of the Mahatma letters "verbatim from the originals and without omission" (ML xiii-xiv, 2nd ed.).

1. In 1938, in response to a number of inquiries, Mr. Barker explained that at the time of publication he had not had the opportunity "to assimilate fully the whole content of the letters," and therefore it might have been better not to have implied that the Mahatmas wrote the letters with "their own hands." He called especial attention to several wonderful passages (Letters 53, 93, 140) that deal with the transmission of teaching, i.e. by precipitation, impressing the minds of young chelas or trained amanuenses, by mental dictation or mental telegraphy. (Cf. Hill of Discernment by A. Trevor Barker, 1941, the chapter tided: "The Writing of the Mahatma Letters.") (return to text)

Incredible as it may seem, publication of the letters roused a good deal of antagonism, mainly among those whom one would have thought would be the first to rejoice that at long last the direct words of H. P. B.'s teachers could be studied at first hand. Some went so far as to ban the book, for reasons of their own. A few believed sincerely that no good could come from "raking out of a desirable oblivion the faults and failures of early workers," forgetting that the penetrating analyses of character were compassionately motivated and, moreover, were not pointed to the individuals involved so much as to human frailties that all of us share in common. Others protested because of the final section in the Appendix in which Mr. Barker had outlined the facts of the "Mars and Mercury controversy" — a divergence of interpretation between A. P. S. and H. P. B. of the Master's teaching regarding the planetary chains (Cf. The Mahatma Letters, pp. 489-93, 2nd ed.).

Most theosophists, of course, immediately recognized the book's intrinsic worth. Not least among these was Dr. H. N. Stokes, brilliant editor of the O. E. Library Critic, whose fearless reporting at the periscope of the theosophic ship was to earn him the title of 'watchdog' of the movement. To Mm The Mahatma Letters was "the most authoritative work of a theosophical nature ever made accessible to the public. It is simply transcendent in its importance" (March 12,1924). Now the actual letters, telegrams and memoranda from M. and K. H. in the possession of Mr. Sinnett at the time of his death could be read by all. In a word, the general public had access to the wellspring of inspiration, training and instruction on which H. P. Blavatsky herself had drawn. There was no further doubt as to authenticity of source or inner purpose.

Then in 1925, with the issuance of The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, covering the years 1881-87, students were given a glimpse into the innermost heart of H. P. B. as she valiantly battled to save the T. S., scarcely a decade old, and now reeling from the shock of the Coulomb treachery and the subsequent Report of the Society for Psychical Research, which had infamously branded her "as one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostors in history" (Cf.Proceedings, December 1885, London).

To read her letters, especially those to Patience Sinnett written in the summer of 1885, is to come profoundly close to the reality of sacrifice. Of that memorable night when H. P. B. was shown the future and what she would have to endure if she chose to remain their instrument, she writes: "Death was so welcome at that hour, rest so needed, so desired; life like the one that stared me in the face, and that is realised now — so miserable; yet how could I say No to Him who wanted me to live!" (BL 105).

The world is vastly in debt to the karma surrounding these letters, First, to Trevor Barker for the impetus, courage and tenacity of purpose to consummate their publication. Secondly, to A. P. Sinnett for his faithful care of these priceless documents, all the more because in his latter days he wrote disparagingly of his old friend H. P. B., casting a slur on her role as intermediary between himself and the Brothers. And thirdly to Maud Hoffman who held the safeguarding of this bequest as a most sacred trust. A fact that is amply attested by her foresight in arranging with Mr. Barker to present the entire collection of Mahatma and Blavatsky papers to the British Museum in 1939, where they are now housed in the Department of Manuscripts, beautifully bound in several volumes, and protected under the most favorable conditions for future generations of students.

Having myself had the inestimable privilege in 1951 of examining the originals, it doesn't take much imagination to sense the enormous challenge that must have faced Trevor Barker on receiving into his hands the wooden box which Mr. Sinnett had had made to hold the letters. Here were hundreds of loose letters, of every size, shape and color, some of them written on fragile rice paper, others on heavier grained stock, with the writing at times startlingly clear, but again, in places almost indecipherable, and with the style of handwriting varying nearly as greatly as the quality of ink, pencil or crayon used. What is more, most of the letters are undated, or only sketchily identified by the recipient as to date or place of receipt. Inevitably, as in the swift momentum of history in the making, too much is coursing through the consciousness to stop for minutiae. To the historian decades (or centuries) later, the lack of documentation looms large.

Trevor Barker, at once recognizing the impossibility of accurately arranging the Mahatma letters in chronological order, did the next best thing: he assembled the material under several major categories, starting with those letters from Sinnett's Occult World. Not only were they already well known to students, but were obviously the earliest received. Then came those majestic epistles on philosophical themes, dealing with the grand evolutionary pilgrimage through the kalpas of man and the kingdoms both below and above the human; next, the section on Probation and Chelaship, to read which is to be immeasurably chastened, and strengthened also, through identifying with those who sought then, as does the earnest aspirant of every age, to purify the heart of selfish motive.

Naturally it would have been preferable if Mr. Sinnett and Mr. Hume had conscientiously jotted down the date and circumstance surrounding the receipt of each communication, for then the moving force behind the sequence of events during those formative years of the theosophical effort might now be more clearly revealed. To compensate for this lack, Margaret Conger in 1939, after years of careful, painstaking examination of the early documents and periodicals of the Society, published her Combined Chronology for use with both the Mahatma and the Blavatsky letters — this being designed as a table of dates, with explanatory notes, giving the order (in certain instances approximate only) of the letters as they were written and received, and by whom. Mrs. Conger brought to her research a lifetime's study of and dedication to theosophical principles, having joined the Society and also its esoteric section under H. P. B. in 1890. From 1927-1939 she had the added advantage of testing her findings in her Mahatma Letters Class, in which her husband, Colonel Arthur L. Conger, and Dr. H. N. Stokes were active participants.

The next year, Mary K. Neff, author of Personal Memoirs of H. P. Blavatsky, published two small pamphlets, giving a chronological order of the letters of each volume separately. Other suggested arrangements by different scholars were made over the years, but to our knowledge never publicly shared. Then in 1972, George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson issued a Reader's Guide to the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, an important contribution inasmuch as it gives for each letter not only its physical description, (2) approximate date when received, but the circumstances as far as known, with references in the literature to support their research. They also indicate where they consider the Blavatsky letters fit in to the Mahatma series. No one claims to provide the definitive order, but it is useful to compare doubtful points with the conclusions of others.

2. Further detail on the physical characteristics of the letters, their calligraphy and methods of transmission, as well as historic background, will be found in The Mahatmas and their Letters (1973), by Geoffrey A. Barborka. (return to text)

The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett is again available, after being out of print for more than thirty years, and the reissuance now of Margaret Conger's work is therefore welcome and valuable. Her arrangement of order is just what the title says it is, a combined chronology. Simple and direct, there is nothing extraneous to detract from the full impact of H. P. B.'s or the Master's thought.

To be able to follow letter by letter, first in the Mahatma series, and then in the Blavatsky book, to find an illuminating sidelight by H. P. B. on the very event or person just alluded to by M. or K. H., is to get a feel, an atmosphere; it is to sense the flow not only of developments, but of relationships between the teachers and H. P. B., and between them and Olcott and Sinnett and Hume, and Damodar too, and, indeed, all who came within the circle of their compassionate interest.

It is a tremendously inspiring experience, even at this late date, to participate in the behind-the-scenes doings of those momentous years that finally persuaded the Chief to permit K. H. and his brother M. to enter into correspondence, through H. P. B., with those proud Englishmen, in order to instruct them in some of the laws of natural being. Unfortunately, these gentlemen, with all their amazing intellectual and moral endowments, and even their philanthropic urgings (which, alas, had "no character of universality"), never seemed able to grasp the simple fact that the "truths and mysteries of occultism," while of the "highest spiritual importance . . . for the world at large," would not be imparted for the delectation of a select group, a few 'enlightened minds,' but solely that they might "work for the good of mankind" (ML 23).

This is not to belittle Sinnett or Hume. Had it not been for their unique karma, humanity may well have had to wait a good deal longer before this mighty philosophy could have been given to the world as fully as it has. Indeed, who knows but that they, by their eagerness to learn, may have pushed the door sufficiently ajar so that H. P. B., far better equipped by training and innate soul-quality, could sweep through and unfold in master strokes the cosmic grandeur of the Stanzas of Dzyan on which her Secret Doctrine is based. From the perspective of the errors and successes of several generations of theosophists, of the decades of service given without thought of self, dare we be prideful? How would we have fared so close to the Flame, to the primal source of Power?

- - - - -

We are also reproducing herein two important letters because they rightly belong to the Mahatma letter series, although Trevor Barker did not include either of these in his published volumes. They are:

1) The first letter of K. H. to A. O. Hume, dated November 1st (1880), in response to Mr. Hume's proposition to form an Anglo-Indian Branch of the Theosophical Society, provided it would be independent of H. P. B. and the Parent Society (ML 11 et seq.); and

2) View of the Chohan on the T. S., as reported to A. P. Sinnett in an abridged version by K. H. and received by A. P. S. either in 1880 or 1881.

Today, after nearly a hundred years of theosophic ideas in circulation, the current generations of earnest seekers find them as natural and inevitable as they were shocking and revolutionary to those of a century ago. But there is danger here as well. Along with an inrush of light, always deep shadows form. With the outpouring of spiritual vitality, the wave of psychic interest has been steadily cresting, and nowadays more and more people, untutored in discrimination, self-discipline and awareness of their own dual nature, are being caught in its wake. Knowledge of who man is, and of the perils of wantonly opening the door into the astral realms, is needed if the tide toward psychic experimentation is to be controlled.

This is reason enough to reprint these additional letters for study with the Mahatma and Blavatsky correspondence, for it is essential at just this time, when the concept of Masters and the Brotherhood has been cheapened by vulgar publicity, to have particularly the view of the Chohan as a guideline.

To read the letters of H. P. B.'s teachers and of their teacher is to remind ourselves that benevolence, compassion, generosity of soul, are not intellectual theories with them; they are profound realities born from the dedication of ages.


November, 1973

Preface and Introduction to the Combined Chronology

By Margaret Conger

The decision to publish this combined Chronological Table for use with The Letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas and from H. P. Blavatsky has been made at the repeated requests of those who have felt it to be helpful in its gradually improving form during the twelve years of its advance in accuracy.

Mr. A. Trevor Barker's grouping of The Mahatma Letters has a very distinct value of its own, and one can only marvel at the work he has accomplished. Yet, as he himself says in his very modest preface, there is bound to be "some overlapping" and, necessarily, a lack of continuity. The present Table of Dates is the effort of one earnest student to achieve as far as possible both continuity in the teachings and a more exact sequence in the events of the epic period which the two volumes cover.

The original impulse to work out such a sequence was greatly stimulated by the loan in 1927 from Dr. J. H. Fussell, of Point Loma, of the first four volumes of H. P. B.'s first magazine, The Theosophist. These soon made it evident that Mr. Sinnett's own dating was not merely often indefinite but sometimes quite wrong. Mahatma M.'s letter 40 p. 254, for example, is grouped with those received "about February, 1882." But we find Mr. Sinnett had printed the article mentioned in his daily paper The Pioneer, on December 10, 1881. In letter no. 42, p. 257, he is asked to write a certain answer and we see he did this in time for the February Theosophist. Since that magazine normally went to press on the 15th of the month preceding its issue, it is allowable to presume that the request was received at least in the early part of January. Again Mr. Sinnett dates Mahatma Letter 65, p. 362, 'Summer of 1884," although on page 363 K. H. says "Damodar went to Tibet," which did not happen till February 25, 1885. Mr. Sinnett has here given, amusingly enough, not the date of the receipt of the letter but that of the period when the so-called "distressing event" occurred, the event which H. P. B. explains, as ordered, in Mahatma Letter 138.

Those letters to Mr. Hume which appear in this collection — for we by no means have them all — have been entered, not at the date when they were given to Mr. Sinnett to copy, sometimes months later, but at the approximate date of their receipt as evidenced by their content

and connection with then current events. As the two volumes of Letters form really a unit, the items from both have been entered in sequence on a single list. While this has been found not to interfere with its usefulness when reading The Mahatma Letters only, it has served to impress those students who are so fortunate as to own both volumes with the wondrous way in which they complete, corroborate and explain each other.

No arrangement, of course, could make The Mahatma Letters easy to understand. Hard work and intuition will always be required; yet those who have used this Table have felt it wipe out many seeming contradictions, clear up many small perplexities and, what is more important, it has shown that what in a few instances might perhaps appear to be a vacillating estimate by the Masters of some of the early members of the T. S. was a profound, patient, sympathetic understanding, of which subsequent events proved the correctness. The gradual coming to the surface of both good and evil qualities under the stress of discipleship, even in those who have only touched its outer fringe, becomes startlingly exampled, and provides a vivid lesson in occultism. Further, the many prophecies as to men and events, made sometimes months and even years before their fulfillment, gain in impressiveness when given their proper place in time.

In all cases when it has seemed necessary, either to justify a date or to give a clearer understanding of events, explanatory notes have been written. These, with a few brief biographical sketches, will be found in the Appendix. Should these not suffice, the compiler will gladly endeavor to answer any questions as to facts. A partial list of sources consulted is also given, but the one absolutely reliable and uncolored record of the period is to be found in the early volumes of The Theosophist. After 1884 H. P. B. was no longer in charge. Up to that time we have not only the extraordinary articles which we owe to her pen and editorial genius, but also accurate, official monthly reports of Theosophical events and of the movements of the two Founders, as well as of the more prominent of the early T. S. members. H. P. B., during the first years of her stay in India, traveled nearly as much as did Colonel Olcott, sometimes with him, sometimes alone, visiting and establishing Branches, initiating members and holding informal question-meetings, though there is no record of her ever having lectured.

The earlier volumes of Old Diary Leaves make of course absorbing reading and are in general reliable, but even Olcott sometimes errs in retrospect when giving dates and, naturally, while on those long tours when H. P. B. did not accompany him, he could record only his own experiences.

That resounding trumpet call The Occult World, by A. P. Sinnett, is still without a rival in its field, especially in the 4th English and 6th American editions. On the other hand, his posthumously published little book The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe written in his 80th year is entirely unreliable as to dates and sometimes even as to events. Doubtless had he lived to edit the book himself he would have corrected many of its inaccuracies. Yet, such as it is, it is well worth reading for its revealing portrayal of many early T. S. members, and is especially intriguing because of its unconscious disclosure of Mr. Sinnett's own psychology, that of a sincere and gallant, if somewhat snobbish, gentleman who appears to have been woefully without any power of self-analysis.

The two slender volumes of Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, edited by Mr. Jinarajadasa, are arresting and of much spiritual value. Unfortunately they need to be read with discrimination, for taken as the letters sometimes are, not merely from copies but from copies of copies, and differing in some instances from H. P. B.'s reproductions from the original, they cannot be considered as authentic material.

The difficulties which have been encountered during the years of arranging this chronology have steadily increased the compiler's already deep appreciation of Mr. Barker's success in surmounting what must have seemed at times insuperable obstacles. Theosophists everywhere must remain deeply in Ms debt for his devoted and meticulous labors in giving to the world those two epoch-making volumes The Letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas and from H. P. Blavatsky.

— Margaret Conger

810 Jackson Avenue,

Takoma Park, D.C.

Introduction to the Combined Chronology

By Margaret Conger

Mme. Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott landed at Bombay February 16, 1879. Because both had been much publicized, in both the United States and England, their arrival, as journalists say, "made news." Consequently, February 25, a letter arrived from A. P. Sinnett, Editor of The Pioneer, the leading English Daily of India, expressing interest and a willingness to publish any facts.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett had been much interested in Spiritualism and Mesmerism and, during the brisk correspondence which developed, they became curious to see demonstrations of Mme. Blavatsky's powers, and therefore soon invited the two newcomers to visit them. Much to Colonel Olcott's surprise H. P. B. accepted, but, owing to a long tour through the south of India, they reached Allahabad only on December 4, 1879.

In the matter of the phenomena which Mr. Sinnett had hoped for, the visit does not appear to have been entirely satisfactory, as far as the host was concerned. But, from the point of view of H. P. B.'s mission, it was of very great subsequent value in the lasting friendships which she then formed with a number of influential English people.

H. P. B.'s previous visits to India had, naturally, not made her acquainted with the social customs of Anglo-India where the newcomer makes the first calls. It had not occurred to her to make advances to the English and, thus far, her contacts had been entirely with the natives of the various races, religions and creeds, some of them very high personages indeed, and rulers of kingdoms, but "natives" nevertheless.

An unfortunate result of this was that her apparent catering to the native elements, in combination with her nationality, inevitably aroused the suspicion that she was a Russian agent or spy and that Colonel Olcott was in some way her assistant. It must indeed have seemed a novel form of spying, but England had good reason at that period to be warily watching "the bear that walks like a man." As the work on which Colonel Olcott was engaged for the Agricultural Department of the American Government took them into all sorts of out-of-the-way places, this, with their praise to the natives of their ancient religions and literatures, naturally lent color to the suspicion that they were fomenting unrest and discontent among the people. As a consequence they found themselves constantly watched and followed and subjected to a species of espionage so clumsy and so increasingly annoying that, as the months went by, it became necessary to set themselves right with the central government. Their efforts to do so through local British authorities had been of no avail.

At this juncture a second invitation came from Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, this time to visit them at their summer home in Simla, the summer capital of British India. It was gladly accepted in the hope that there where was the seat of government, and properly introduced this time, they might have better success. Accordingly, armed with all necessary credentials, they arrived there on September 8, 1880, and, between then and their departure on October 20, everything had been satisfactorily adjusted.

Some fifty pages of The Occult World are taken up with a description of this remarkable visit, notable not only because of the phenomena which took place, but because it saw the inception of the most extraordinary correspondence of which there is any record.

Mr. Sinnett, who was growing to feel that back of the phenomena which H. P. B. produced at will, and without any of the "conditions" required by mediums, there must indeed be real power and knowledge and a science which, though still occult, should not be unfathomable, one day asked H. P. B. whether, should he write a letter stating some of his questions, it would be possible for her to forward it to one of the "Brothers" and receive an answer from him.

She promised to try and, a few days later, said she succeeded in contacting a "Brother" who had consented, and she told Mr. Sinnett to write his letter. In it, in addition to his questions, Mr. Sinnett, still phenomena hunting, suggested that the very best "test phenomenon" would be the production, in the presence of a group of well-known English people at Simla, of a copy of the Times, on the very day of its publication in London.

Not many days later he one evening found on his writing table, the first of the Mahatma Letters.

Biographical Sketches and Bibliography

From the Combined Chronology by Margaret Conger

HUME, Allan Octavian, 1829-1912. His general career and the splendid work he did for the Indian people after his withdrawal from Theosophical activities make it easier to understand the almost incredible patience shown towards him by the farseeing Masters. He was an English ornithologist of repute, and an Indian Administrator of ability for some years. He had rendered distinguished service during the Mutiny and, between 1867 and 1871, had carried to a successful conclusion negotiations with the proud and powerful Rajput Chiefs for the opening of roads through their territories. After 1882, when he had ceased his Theosophical work and when he had retired from the service, he devoted himself to furthering the aspirations for self-government of the native Indians. The Indian National Congress which held its first session in 1885 owes its existence to his exertions. During the few years of his connection with the T. S. he wrote much and well. The first three numbers of Fragments of Occult Truth by "H. X." published in The Theosophist were largely from his pen, and were written by request in answer to questions from Mr. Terry, an Australian Theosophist. Under the same pseudonym, Mr. Hume also wrote and printed privately several Theosophical pamphlets, some of which have been reprinted under their original title Hints on Esoteric Theosophy. The later numbers of the Fragments, in answer to the same enquirer, were written by Mr. Sinnett and signed by him, as authorized by Mahatma K. H., "A Lay-Chela."

MAITLAND, Edward, 1824-1897. Educated at Caius College, Cambridge, but did not take orders. In 1857 he took up an advanced humanitarian attitude and also claimed to have developed a new sense by which he was able to discern the spiritual condition of people. He was closely associated with DR. ANNA KINGSFORD (1846-1888), supporter of vegetarianism and bitter and fearless foe of vivisection. Together they brought out, in 1882, The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ.

MASSEY, Charles Carlton. The son of the first Finance Minister of India and himself a barrister. Sufficient independent means gave him the leisure to prosecute his studies in philosophy, metaphysics and psychism. In 1875 he visited the United States, drawn there by reports of the phenomena at the Eddy homestead. He was one of the small original group that founded the T. S. in 1875 in New York. After his return to London he drew together a number of investigators and these, in 1878, obtained from Olcott a charter as the British T. S., with Massey as its President. In 1880 he translated a portion of Zollner's book under the title Transcendental Physics, and later, at the earnest insistence of Dr. Kingsford, translated Carl du Prel's monumental treatise The Philosophy of Mysticism. In 1884, frightened by the report of the Society for Psychical Research, he resigned from the T. S.

MOSES, The Rev. William Stainton — pseudonym M. A. (Oxon) — 1839-1892. A man of university education, a clergyman and a schoolmaster. In 1872 he became interested in spiritualism and soon began himself to manifest mediumistic phenomena which continued for some ten years. As evidenced by letters from K. H. certain of the Masters had hoped that his psychic constitution might make it possible for him to evolve from an unconscious passive medium into a conscious, intelligent and positive agent. His mediumistic phenomena included (besides trance communications) levitations, raps, production of lights, perfumes and sounds. His record of trance communications published by himself as Spirit Identity and Spirit Teachings is still considered by psychologists the most notable series of English automatic writings. He was recognized by the S. P. R. investigators as being absolutely honest and sincere in his mediumship, and the best general account of his phenomena was compiled by F. W. H. Myers in papers for the S. P. R.

MYERS, Frederic W. H., 1843-1901. An early member of the T. S. He was also one of the founders and most noteworthy members of the S. P. R. An earnest student of the various phases of psychism he gave many new words and ideas to psychology, among them retrocognition, direct knowledge of the past; and subliminal self, the consciousness below the threshold of ordinary awareness. In August 1883, after reading Esoteric Buddhism he sent to The Theosophist a series of "Enquiries from an English F. T. S." which Mahatma M. thought well enough of to answer in part himself. (See BL 23.) Even after the report of the S. P. R. he remained staunch until, in 1886, he came under the influence of Solovioff with whose distorted mentality his own honest mind was entirely unfitted to cope.



The original of this letter is not extant, although the major portion of it did appear in The Occult World. Why it was omitted in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett is not known. We can only suppose that the copy that Patience Sinnett had made of it was not to hand when Trevor Barker was transcribing the Mahatma letters, otherwise he undoubtedly would have included it in his published volume. It follows K. H.'s letter of October 29 (1880) to Mr. Sinnett (ML 4).

We reproduce the letter in its entirety, checked against Mrs. Sinnett's handwritten copy in the British Museum (Mahatma Papers, Vol. VII, Additional MS. 45289 B). The copy is liberally blue pencilled, indicating A.P.S.'s editing prior to publication, and in three places several sentences deleted appropriately so at the time. As stated, the text used here is verbatim with Patience Sinnett's copy.

It is of note that despite later difficulties which ended in the final breach between Mr. Hume and the Brothers, his "first letter was so sincere, its spirit so promising, the possibilities it opened for doing general good seemed so great, that . . . I carried it to our venerable Chief" (K. H. to A.O.H., ML 210). — G.F.K.

Amritsur Nov. 1st [1880]

Dear Sir,

Availing of the first moments of leisure to formally answer your letter of the 17th ultimo, I will now report the result of my conference with our chiefs upon the proposition therein contained; trying at the same time to answer all your questions.

I am first to thank you on behalf of the whole section of our fraternity that is especially interested in the welfare of India for an offer of help whose importance and sincerity no one can doubt. Tracing our lineage through the vicissitudes of Indian civilization to a remote past, we have a love for our motherland so deep and passionate, that it has survived even the broadening and cosmopolitanizing (pardon me if this is not an English word) effect of our studies in the hidden laws of nature. And so I and every other Indian patriot feel the strongest gratitude for every kind word or deed that is given in her behalf.

Imagine then, that since we are convinced that the degradation of India is largely due to the suffocation of her ancient spirituality; and that, whatever helps restore that higher standard of thought and morals must be a regenerating national force; every one of us would naturally and without urging be disposed to push forward a Society whose proposed formation is under debate; especially if it really is meant to become a society untainted by selfish motive, and whose object is the revival of ancient science and tendency to rehabilitate our country in the world's estimation. Take this for granted, without further asseverations. But you know, as any man who has read history, that patriots may burst their hearts in vain if circumstances are against them. Sometimes, it has happened that no human power, not even the fury and force of the loftiest patriotism, has been able to bend an iron destiny aside from its fixed course, and nations have gone out like torches dropped into water in the engulfing blackness of ruin. Thus, we who have the sense of our country's fall though not the power to lift her up at once, can not do as we would either as to general affairs or this particular one. And with the readiness but not the right to meet your advances more than half way we are forced to say that the idea entertained by Mr. Sinnett and yourself is impracticable in part. It is in a word impossible for myself or any Brother or even an advanced neophyte, to be specially assigned and set apart as the guiding Spirit or Chief of the Anglo-Indian Branch. We know it would be a good thing to have you and a few of your selected colleagues regularly instructed and shown the phenomena and their rationale. For though none but you few would be convinced, still it would be a decided gain to have even a few Englishmen of first-class ability enlisted as students of Asiatic Psychology. We are aware of all this and much more; hence we do not refuse to correspond with and otherwise help you in various ways. But what we do refuse is to take any other responsibility upon ourselves than this periodical correspondence and assistance with our advice; and, as occasion favours, such tangible, possibly visible proofs as would satisfy you of our presence and interest. To "guide" you we will not consent. However much we may be able to do, yet we can promise only to give you the full measure of your deserts. Deserve much and we will prove honest debtors; little and you need only expect a compensating return. This is not a mere text taken from a school boy's copybook, though it sounds so, but only the clumsy statement of the law of our order; and we can not transcend it. Utterly unacquainted with Western, especially English modes of thought and action, were we to meddle in an organization of such a kind you would find all your fixed habits and traditions incessantly clashing, if not with the new aspirations themselves, at least with their modes of realisation as suggested by us. You could not get unanimous consent to go even the length you might yourself. I have asked Mr. Sinnett to draft a plan embodying your joint ideas for submission to our chiefs, this seeming the shortest way to a mutual agreement. Under our "guidance" your Branch could not live, you not being men to be guided at all in that sense. Hence the Society would be a premature birth and a failure, looking as incongruous as a Paris Daumont drawn by a team of Indian yaks or camels. You ask us to teach you true Science, the occult aspect of the known side of nature: and this you think can be as easily done as asked. You do not seem to realize the tremendous difficulties in the way of imparting even the rudiments of our Science to those who have been trained in the familiar methods of yours. You do not see that the more you have of the one the less capable you are of intuitively comprehending the other, for a man can only think in his worn grooves, and unless he has the courage to fill up these and make new ones for himself he must perforce travel on the old lines. Allow me a few instances.

In conformity with exact modern Science you would define but one cosmic energy, and see no difference between the energy expended by the traveller who pushes aside the bush that obstructs his path, and the scientific experimenter who expends an equal amount of energy in setting a pendulum in motion! We do. For we know there is a world of difference between the two. The one uselessly dissipates or scatters force, the other concentrates and stores it. And here please understand that I do not refer to the relative utility of the two as one might imagine; but only to the fact, that in the one case, there is but brute force flung out without any transmutation of that brute energy into the higher potential form of spiritual dynamics, and, in the other there is just that. Please do not consider me vaguely metaphysical. The idea I wish to convey is, that the result of the highest intellection in the scientifically occupied brain is the evolution of a sublimated form of spiritual energy, which, in the cosmic action, is productive of illimitable results, while the automatically acting brain holds or stores up in itself only a certain quantum of brute force that is unfruitful of benefit for the individual or humanity. The human brain is an exhaustless generator of the most refined quality of cosmic force, out of the low, brute energy of nature; and the complete adept has made himself a centre from which irradiate potentialities that beget correlations upon correlations through Aeons to come. This is the key to the mystery of Ms being able to project into and materialise in the visible world the forms that his imagination has constructed out of inert cosmic matter in the invisible world. The adept does not create anything new, but only utilises and manipulates materials which nature has in store around him; a material which throughout eternities has passed through all the forms; he has but to choose the one he wants and recall it into objective existence. Would not this sound to one of your "learned" biologists like a madman's dream?

You say there are few branches of science with which you do not possess more or less acquaintance, and that you believe you are doing a certain amount of good, having acquired the position to do this by long years of study. Doubtless you do. But will you permit me to sketch for you still more clearly the difference between the modes of — physical called exact — often out of mere politeness — and metaphysical sciences? The latter, as you know, being incapable of verification before mixed audiences, is classed by Mr. Tyndall with the fictions of poetry. The realistic science of fact, on the other hand, is utterly prosaic. Now for us poor and unknown philanthropists, no fact of either of these sciences is interesting except in the degree of its potentiality of moral results, and in the ratio of its usefulness to mankind. And what, in its proud isolation, can be more utterly indifferent to every one and everything, or more bound to nothing, but the selfish requisites for its advancement than this materialistic and realistic science of fact? May I not ask then without being taxed with a vain "display of science" what have the laws of Faraday, Tyndall, or others to do with philanthropy in their abstract relations with humanity viewed as an integral whole? What care they for MAN as an isolated atom of this great and harmonious Whole, even though they may sometimes be of practical use to him? Cosmic energy is something eternal and incessant, matter is indestructible, and there stand the scientific facts. Doubt them and you are an ignoramus; deny them, a dangerous lunatic, a bigot; pretend to improve upon the theories — an impertinent charlatan. And yet even these scientific facts never suggested any proof to the world of experimenters, that nature consciously prefers that matter should be indestructible under organic rather than under inorganic forms; and that she works slowly but incessantly towards the realisation of this object — the evolution of conscious life out of inert material. Hence their ignorance about the scattering and concretion of cosmic energy in its metaphysical aspects; their division about Darwin's theories; their uncertainty about the degree of conscious life in separate elements; and, as a necessity, the scornful rejection of every phenomenon outside their own stated conditions and the very idea of worlds of semi-intelligent if not intellectual forces at work in hidden corners of nature. To give you another practical illustration. We see a vast difference between the qualities of two equal amounts of energy expended by two men, of whom one, let us suppose, is on his way to his daily quiet work, and another on his way to denounce a fellow creature at the police station, while the men of science see none. And we — not they — see a specific difference between the energy in the motion of the wind and that of a revolving wheel. And why? Because every thought of man upon being evolved passes into the inner world and becomes an active entity by associating itself — coalescing, we might term it — with an elemental; that is to say with one of the semi-intelligent forces of the kingdoms. It survives as an active intelligence, a creature of the mind's begetting, for a longer or shorter period proportionate with the original intensity of the cerebral action which generated it. Thus, a good thought is perpetuated as an active beneficent power; an evil one as a maleficent demon. And so man is continually peopling his current in space with a world of his own, crowded with the offsprings of his fancies, desires, impulses, and passions, a current which reacts upon any sensitive or and nervous organisation which comes in contact with it in proportion to its dynamic intensity. The Buddhist calls this his "Skandha," the Hindu gives it the name of "Karma"; the Adept evolves these shapes consciously, other men throw them off unconsciously.

The adept to be successful and preserve his power must dwell in solitude and more or less within his own soul. Still less does exact science perceive that while the building ant, the busy bee, the nidifacient bird accumulate, each in their own humble way as much cosmic energy in its potential form as a Haydn, a Plato, or a ploughman turning his furrow, in theirs; the hunter who kills game for his pleasure or profit, or the positivist who applies his intellect to proving that + x + = -, are wasting and scattering energy no less than the tiger which springs upon its prey. They all rob nature instead of enriching her, and will all in the degree of their intelligence find themselves accountable.

Exact experimental Science has nothing to do with morality, virtue, philanthropy, therefore can make no claim upon our help, until it blends itself with the metaphysics. Being but a cold classification of facts outside man, and existing before and after him, her domain of usefulness ceases for us at the outer boundary of these facts; and whatever the inferences and results for humanity from the materials acquired by her methods, she little cares. Therefore as our sphere lies entirely outside hers — as far as the path of Uranus is outside the earths — we distinctly refuse to be broken on any wheel of her construction. Heat is but a mode of motion to her, and motion developes heat; but why the mechanical motion of the revolving wheel should be metaphysically of a higher value than the heat into which it is gradually transformed — she has yet to discover. The philosophical but transcendental (hence absurd?) notion of the mediaeval theosophists that the final progress of human labour aided by the incessant discoveries of man, must one day culminate in a process, which in imitation of the sun's energy — in its capacity of a direct motor — shall result in the evolution of nutritious food out of inorganic matter — is unthinkable for men of science. Were the sun, the great nourishing father of our planetary System, to hatch granite chickens out of a boulder "under test conditions" tomorrow, they (the men of Science) would accept it as a scientific fact, without wasting a regret that the fowls were not alive so as to feed the hungry and the starving. But let a Shaberon cross the Himalayas in a time of famine, and multiply sacks of rice for the perishing multitudes — as he could — and your magistrates and collectors would probably lodge him in jail, to make him confess what granary he had robbed. This is exact science and your realistic world. And though as you say you are impressed by the vast extent of the world's ignorance on every subject, which you pertinently designate as "a few palpable facts collected and roughly generalized and a technical jargon invented to hide man's ignorance of all that lies behind these facts"; and though you speak of your faith in the infinite possibilities of nature — yet you are content to spend your life in a work which aids only that same exact science. You cause a waste of cosmic energy by tons, to accumulate hardly a few ounces in your volumes — to speak figuratively. And despite your intuitive perceptions of the boundless reaches of nature, you take up the position that unless a proficient in arcane knowledge will waste upon your embryonic Society an energy which without moving from his place he can usefully distribute among millions, you, with your great natural powers will refuse to give a helping hand to humanity by beginning the work single handed, and trusting to time and the great Law to reward your labour. (1)

1. The last nine lines of this paragraph were omitted in The Occult World. (return to text)

Of your several questions we will first discuss, if you please, the one relating to the presumed failure of the "Fraternity" to "leave any mark upon the history of the world." They ought, you think, to have been able with their extraordinary advantages to have "gathered into their schools a considerable portion of the more enlightened minds of every race." How do you know they have made no such mark? Are you acquainted with their efforts, successes, and failures? Have you any dock upon which to arraign them? How could your world collect proofs of the doings of men who have sedulously kept closed every possible door of approach by which the inquisitive could spy upon them. The prime condition of their success was, that they should never be supervised or obstructed. What they have done they know; all those outside their circle could perceive was results, the causes of which were masked from view. To account for these results, men have in different ages invented theories of the interposition of "Gods," Special providences, fates, and the benign or hostile influences of the stars. There never was a time within or before the so-called historical period when our predecessors were not moulding events and "making history," the facts of which were subsequently and invariably distorted by "historians" to suit contemporary prejudices. Are you quite sure that the visible heroic figures in the successive dramas were not often but their puppets? We never pretended to be able to draw nations in the mass to this or that crisis in spite of the general drift of the world's cosmic relations. The cycles must run their rounds. Periods of mental and moral light and darkness succeed each other, as day does night. The major and minor yugas must be accomplished according to the established order of things. And we, borne along on the mighty tide, can only modify and direct some of its minor currents. If we bad the powers of the imaginary Personal God, and the universal and immutable laws were but toys to play with, then indeed might we have created conditions that would have turned this earth into an Arcadia for lofty souls. But having to deal with an immutable Law, being ourselves its creatures, we have had to do what we could and rest thankful. There have been times when 'a considerable portion of enlightened minds" were taught in our schools. Such times there were in India, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. But, as I remarked in a letter to Mr. Sinnett, the adept is the efflorescence of his age, and comparatively few ever appear in a single century. Earth is the battle ground of moral no less than of physical forces; and the boisterousness of animal passions under the stimulus of the rude energies of the lower group of etheric agents, always tends to quench spirituality.

What else could one expect of men so nearly related to the lower kingdom from which they evolved? True also, our numbers are just now diminishing but this is because, as I have said, we are of the human race, subject to its cyclic impulse and powerless to turn that back upon itself. Can you turn the Gunga or the Brahmaputra, back to its sources; can you even dam it so that its piled up waters will not overflow the banks? No, but you may draw the stream partly into canals and utilize its hydraulic power for the good of mankind. So we, who can not stop the world from going in its destined direction, are yet able to divert some part of its energy into useful channels. Think of us as demi-gods and my explanation will not satisfy you; view us as simple men — perhaps a little wiser as the result of special study — and it ought to answer your objection.

"What good," say you, "is to be attained for my fellows and myself (the two are inseparable) by these occult sciences?" When the natives see that an interest is taken by the English and even by some high officials in India in their ancestral science and philosophies, they will themselves take openly to their study. And when they come to realise that the old "divine" phenomena were not miracles, but scientific effects, superstition will abate. Thus the greatest evil that now oppresses and retards the revival of Indian civilisation will in time disappear. The present tendency of education is to make them materialistic and root out spirituality. With a proper understanding of what their ancestors meant by their writings and teachings, education would become a blessing whereas now it is often a curse. At present the non-educated as much as the learned natives regard the English as too prejudiced, because of their Christian religion and modern science, to care to understand them or their traditions. They mutually hate and mistrust each other. This changed attitude toward the older philosophy would influence the native Princes and wealthy men to endow normal schools for the education of pundits; and old MSS. hitherto buried out of the reach of the Europeans would again come to light, and with them the key to much of that which was hidden for ages from the popular understanding; for which your skeptical Sanscritists do not care, which your religious missionaries do not dare, to understand. Science would gain much — humanity every thing. Under the stimulus of the Anglo Indian Theosophical Society, we might in time see another golden age of Sanscrit literature. Such a movement would have the entire approbation of the Home Government as it would act as a preventive against discontent; and the sympathy of European Sanscritists who, in their divisions of opinion need the help of native pundits, now beyond their reach in the present state of mutual misunderstanding. They are even now bidding for such help. At this moment two educated Hindus of Bombay are assisting Max Muller; and a young Pundit of Guzerat a Fellow of the T.S. is aiding Prof. Monier Williams at Oxford and living in his house. The first two are materialists and do harm; the latter single handed can do little, because the man whom he is serving is a prejudiced Christian. (2)

2. The last eleven lines of this paragraph were omitted in The Occult World. (return to text)

If we look to Ceylon we shall see the most scholarly priests combining under the lead of the Theos. Society in a new exegesis of Buddhistic philosophy and — at Galle on the 15th of September, a secular Theosophical school for the teaching of Singhalese youth opened, with an attendance of over 300 scholars: an example about to be imitated at three other points in that island. If the T.S. "as at present constituted," has indeed no "real vitality" and yet in its modest way has done so much of practical good, how much greater results might not be anticipated from a body organized upon the better plan you could suggest!

The same causes that are materialising the Hindu mind are equally affecting all Western thought. Education enthrones skepticism but imprisons spiritualism. You can do immense good by helping to give the Western nations a secure basis upon which to reconstruct their crumbling faith. What they need is the evidence that Asiatic psychology alone supplies. Give this and you will confer happiness of mind on thousands. The era of blind faith is gone; that of enquiry is here. Enquiry that only unmasks error, without discovering anything upon which the soul can build, will but make iconoclasts. Iconoclasm from its very destructiveness can give nothing, it can only raze. But man can not rest satisfied with bare negation. Agnosticism is but a temporary halt.

This is the moment to guide the recurrent impulse which must soon come, and which will push the age toward extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive and soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. He who observes what is going on today, on the one hand among the Catholics, who are breeding miracles as fast as the white ants do their young, on the other, among the free thinkers, who are converting by masses into agnostics — will see the drift of things. The age is revelling at a debauch of phenomena. The same marvels that the spiritualists quote in opposition to the dogmas of eternal perdition and atonement, the catholics swarm to witness as the strongest proof of their faith in miracles. The skeptics make game of both. All are blind and there is no one to lead them! You and your colleagues may help furnish the materials for a needed universal religious philosophy; one impregnable to scientific assault because itself the finality of absolute science; and, a religion, that is indeed worthy of the name, since it includes the relations of man physical to man psychical, and of the two to all that is above and below them. Is not this worth a slight sacrifice? And if after reflection you should decide to enter this new career, let it be known that your Society is no miracle-mongering or banqueting club, nor specially given to the study of phenomenalism. Its chief aim is to extirpate current superstitions and skepticism, and, from long sealed ancient fountains to draw the proof that man may shape his own future destiny, and know for a certainty that he can live hereafter, if he only wills; and that all "Phenomena" are but manifestations of natural law, to try to comprehend which is the duty of every intelligent being. (3) You have personally devoted many years to a labour benevolently conceived and conscientiously carried out. Give to your fellow creatures half the attention you have bestowed on your 'little birds," and you will round off a useful life with a grand and noble work.

Sincerely your friend

3. In The Occult World, the letter ends here. (return to text)

View of the Chohan on the T.S. (1)

Several good reasons given to K. H. by the Chohan why the T. S. should be a Brotherhood of Humanity.

for the Simla Eclectic T. S.

The doctrine we promulgate being the only true one, must, — supported by such evidence as we are preparing to give become ultimately triumphant as every other truth. Yet it is absolutely necessary to inculcate it gradually enforcing its theories, unimpeachable facts for those who know, with direct inferences deducted from and corroborated by the evidence furnished by modern exact science. That is why Col. H.S.O. who works but to revive Buddhism may be regarded as one who labours in the true path of Theosophy, far more than any other man who chooses as his goal the gratification of his own ardent aspirations for occult knowledge. Buddhism stripped of its superstitions is eternal truth, and he who strives for the latter is striving for Theos-sophia, Divine Wisdom, which is a synonym of truth.

For our doctrines to practically react on the so called moral code or the ideas of truthfulness, purity, self-denial, charity, etc., we have to preach and popularise a knowledge of theosophy. It is not the individual and determined purpose of attaining oneself Nirvana (the culmination of all knowledge and absolute wisdom) which is, after all only an exalted and glorious selfishness, but the self-sacrificing pursuit of the best means to lead on the right path our neighbour, to cause as many of our fellow creatures as we possibly can to benefit by it, which constitutes the true Theosophist.

The intellectual portions of mankind seem to be fast dividing into two classes, the one unconsciously preparing for itself long periods of temporary annihilation or states of non-consciousness owing to the deliberate surrender of their intellect, its imprisonment in the narrow grooves of bigotry and superstition, a process which cannot fail to lead to the utter deformation of the intellectual principle; the other unrestrainedly indulging its animal propensities with the deliberate intention of submitting to annihilation pure and simple in cases of failure, to millenniums of degradation after physical dissolution. Those "intellectual classes," reacting upon the ignorant masses which they attract and which look up to them as noble and fit examples to follow, degrade and morally ruin those they ought to protect and guide. Between degrading superstition and still more degrading brutal materialism the white dove of truth has hardly room where to rest her weary unwelcome foot. . . .

It's time that Theosophy should enter the arena. The sons of Theosophists are more likely to become in their turn Theosophists than anything else. No messenger of truth, no prophet has ever achieved during his life time a complete triumph, not even Buddha; the Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner stone, the foundation of the future religion of humanity. To achieve the proposed object a greater, wiser, and especially a more benevolent intermingling of the high and the low, of the alpha and the omega of society, was determined upon. The white race must be the first to stretch out the hand of fellowship to the dark nations, to call the poor despised "nigger" brothers. This prospect may not smile to all. He is no Theosophist who objects to this principle. . . .

In view of the ever increasing triumph and at the same time misuse of free-thought and liberty (the Universal reign of Satan, Eliphas Levi would have called it), how is the combative natural instinct of man to be restrained from inflicting hitherto unheard of cruelties and enormities, tyranny, injustice, etc., if not through the soothing influence of a brotherhood and of the practical application of Buddha's esoteric doctrines. For as everyone knows, total emancipation from authority of the one all pervading power or law called God by the Theists Buddha, Divine Wisdom and Enlightenment or Theosophy by the philosophers of all ages — means also the emancipation from that of human law. Once unfettered [and] delivered from their dead weight of dogmatic interpretations, personal names, anthropomorphic conceptions and salaried priests, the fundamental doctrines of all religions will be proved identical in their esoteric meaning. Osiris, Chrishna, Buddha, Christ, will be shown as different means for one and [the] same royal highway to final bliss Nirvana. Mystical christianity, that is to say that christianity which teaches self-redemption through one's own seventh principle — the liberated Para-atma (Augoeides) called by the one Christ, by others Buddha, and equivalent to regeneration or rebirth in spirit — will be found just the same truth as the Nirvana of mystical Buddhism. All of us have to get rid of our own Ego, the illusory apparent self, to recognise our true self in a transcendental divine life. But if we would not be selfish we must strive to make other people see that truth, to recognise the reality of that transcendental self, the Buddh, the Christ or God of every preacher. This is why even exoteric Buddhism is the surest path to lead men toward the one esoteric truth. As we find the world now, whether Christian, Mussalman or Pagan, justice is disregarded and honour and mercy both flung to the winds.

In a word, how, once that the main objects of the T. S. are misinterpreted by those who are most willing to serve us personally, are we to deal with the rest of mankind, with that curse known as the "struggle for life," which is the real and most prolific parent of most woes and sorrows and of all the crimes? Why has that struggle become the almost universal scheme of the universe? We answer, because no religion with the exception of Buddhism has hitherto taught a practical contempt for this earthly life, while each of them, always with that one solitary exception, has through its hells and damnations inculcated the greatest dread of death. Therefore do we find that struggle for life raging most fiercely in Christian countries, most prevalent in Europe and America. It weakens in the Pagan lands and is nearly unknown among Buddhist populations. (In China during famine and where the masses are most ignorant of their own or any religion, it was remarked that those mothers who devoured their children belonged to localities where there were the most of Christian missionaries to be found. Where there were none and the Bonzes alone had the field the population died with the utmost indifference.) Teach the people to see that life on this earth even the happiest is but a burden and an illusion, that it is but our own Karma, the cause producing the effect, that is our own judge, our Saviour in future lives, and the great struggle for life will soon lose its intensity. There are no penitentiaries in Buddhist lands and crime is nearly unknown among the Buddhist Tibetans. (The above is not addressed to you, and has nought to do with the work of the Simla Eclectic Society. It is meant only as an answer to the erroneous impression in Mr. Hume's mind of the "Ceylon work" as no theosophy.)

The world in general and Christendom especially, left for two thousand years to the regime of a personal God as well as its political and social systems based on that idea, has now proved a failure. If the Theosophists say, we have nothing to do with all this, the lower classes and the inferior races (those of India for instance in the conception of the British) cannot concern us and must manage as they can, what becomes of our fine professions of benevolence, philanthropy, reform, etc. Are these professions a mockery? And if a mockery, can ours be the true path. Shall we devote our selves to teaching a few Europeans fed on the fat of the land, many of them loaded with the gifts of blind fortune, the rationale of bell ringing, cup growing, of the spiritual telephone and astral body formation, and leave the teeming millions of the ignorant, of the poor and despised, the lowly and the oppressed, to take care of themselves and of their hereafter the best they know how. Never. Rather perish the Theosophical Society with both its hapless founders than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic and a hall of occultism. That we, the devoted followers of that spirit incarnate of absolute self sacrifice, of philanthropy, divine kindness, as of all the highest virtues attainable on this earth of sorrow, the man of men, Gautama Buddha, should ever allow the Theosophical Society to represent the embodiment of selfishness, the refuge of the few with no thought in them for the many, is a strange idea, my brothers.

Among the few glimpses obtained by Europeans of Tibet and its mystical hierarchy of "perfect lamas," there is one which was correctly understood and described. "The incarnations of the Boddisatwa Padma Pani or Avalo-Kiteswara and of Tsong Kapa, that of Amitabha, relinquish at their death the attainment of Buddhahood — i.e. the summum bonum of bliss, and of individual personal felicity — that they might be born again and again for the benefit of mankind." (R. Davids.) In other words, that they might be again and again subjected to misery, imprisonment in flesh and all the sorrows of life, provided that by such a self sacrifice repeated throughout long and dreary centuries they might become the means of securing salvation and bliss in the hereafter for a handful of men chosen among but one of the many races of mankind. And it is we, the humble disciples of these perfect lamas, who are expected to allow the T. S. to drop its noblest title, that of the Brotherhood of Humanity to become a simple school of psychology? No, no, good brothers, you have been labouring under the mistake too long already. Let us understand each other. He who does not feel competent enough to grasp the noble idea sufficiently to work for it, need not undertake a task too heavy for him. But there is hardly a theosophist in the whole society unable to effectually help it by correcting the erroneous impressions of the outsiders, if not by actually propagating himself the idea. Oh, for the noble and unselfish man to help us effectually in India in that divine task. All our knowledge past and present would not be sufficient to repay him. . . . Having explained our views and aspirations I have but a few words more to add.

To be true, religion and philosophy must offer the solution of every problem. That the world is in such a bad condition morally is a conclusive evidence that none of its religions and philosophies, those of the civilised races less than any other, have ever possessed the truth. The right and logical explanations on the subject of the problems of the great dual principles — right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and despotism, pain and pleasure, egotism and altruism — are as impossible to them now as they were 1881 years ago. They are as far from the solution as they ever were but, -

To these there must be somewhere a consistent solution, and if our doctrines will show their competence to offer it, then the world will be the first one to confess that must be the true philosophy, the true religion, the true light, which gives truth and nothing but the truth.

- - - -

An abridged version of the view of the Chohan on the T. S. from Ms own words as given last night. My own letter, the answer to your last will shortly follow.

1. Editorial Note: An aura of mystery has surrounded this letter, as the original has never been found. As early as the middle 80s of last century, it was circulated privately, in whole or in part, but not published openly until 1886 when John C. Bundy, F.T.S., editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal and Weekly Occult News, Chicago, Illinois, inserted it in his June 26 issue (vol. xl, No. 18). It is also known as the "Letter from the Maha-chohan" or "The Great Master's Letter."

The text we are using follows what we believe to be the earliest copy of the letter, that made by A. P. Sinnett to whom it had been addressed, and included by him along with other Mahatma letters (such as No. 11 to Hume) in a notebook now preserved in the British Museum (Mahatma Papers, Vol. VI, Additional MS. 45289 A). Our title is taken from the subscription at the close; the dots of omission are Sinnett's.

The several versions of the letter disclose some variations in wording, also in the deletion (or retention) of certain phrases or sentences. The chief difference lies in the year given in the penultimate paragraph — 1880, 1881, or 1886. H. P. B. gives it as 1880, both in editorial comment and in the quoted portion from the letter (Lucifer, August 15, 1888); A.P.S. has 1881, as does the published version of C. Jinarajadasa in his first series of Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom (4th and subsequent editions), recopied, he says, from the two manuscripts before him: the one, a 'cyclostyled' handwritten copy found among C. W. Leadbeater's papers, and the other, discovered in the Archives of the T. S. at Adyar, Madras in 1945, a copy made by Francesca Arundale, treasurer of the London Lodge during H. P. B.'s lifetime. This later copy is substantially the same as the Sinnett copy with only minor differences, although a few of them are of interest. But we are not concerned with these here.

In the Archives of the T. S., Pasadena, California, are three versions of the letter: a 'cyclostyled' handwritten copy in William Q. Judge's possession, which also has 1881 — he effectively drew upon the letter in his article "What the Masters Have Said" (The Path, Feb. 1893); two copies in the Notebooks of General Abner Doubleday, who was appointed president pro tem. of the American work of the T. S., with W. Q. Judge secretary, on January 17, 1879, the day before H. P. B. and Olcott with their two British companions set sail from Liverpool for India. The earliest of these is a typed copy pasted in Notebook No. 7 between letters dated 1884 and 1885; its heading reads ". . . given to Mahatma K. H. . . . for the Simla Eclectic Society" and ends "K. H. (signed)." His other copy in Notebook K-26 bears quite a different heading: "A Chohan's counsel to the T. S. — Given through R. H. and sent for publication in the Religio-Phil. Journal by a member of the T. S.' The Journal, however, did not use this wording, but printed the same heading as appears in the Sinnett copy, only with the initials "R. H." instead of K. H. Nor is there any mention of the Simla Eclectic Society.

Doubleday's handwritten copy also perpetuates the "R.H." The closing subscription in the Journal is of interest:

"[NOTE: The above is an abridged version of the views of the Chohan on the Theosophical Society from his own words, as given last night through an accepted chela, and now published for the benefit of those whom it may concern. F.T.S]"

The phrase, through an accepted chela, is not found in any other copy. In both the Doubleday handwritten copy and that of the Journal, the year is given as 1886. This is surely a misreading of a carelessly written 0 — or 1? as is the R. H. a misreading of a handwritten K. H.

It is likewise possible that H. P. B., quoting from the letter some seven or eight years after its receipt, mistook a 1 for an 0. Yet there seems to be some justification in the letters of K. H. and M. for not immediately abandoning the 1880 date. On the other hand, the Anglo-Indian Branch was not called the "Simla Eclectic Society" much before October 1881.

The question remains: when did the Chohan impart his vision of the T. S. and its mission and role in the world? In 1880, when K. H. brought up with him Sinnett's and Hume's first letters? Or in 1881, around the time when the Anglo-Indian Branch actually came into being, on August 21? To read letter no. 4 and the first letter of K. H. to Hume of 1880, in conjunction with K. H.'s and M.'s letters (28 and 29) written in the fall of 1881, is to see, in their insistence on the formation of a Branch of Universal Brotherhood and not of a "school of magic," a clear reflection of the same powerful current of universalism that characterizes the Chohan's stated directives.

There is no need to labor the issue. The matter of the year is of small consequence compared to the awesome truth that even today earnest students everywhere honor the lines here traced by the master-hand as the inner charter of the theosophical movement. — G.F.K. (return to text)

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