The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett

A. O. Hume’s Reply To K.H.’s 1st Letter

{Unedited text of Letter 99. K.H.’s # and numbers in boldface refer to his comments in Letter 98. Most, but not all of Hume’s end-of-sentence periods appear as small dashes.


My dear Koot Humi

I have sent Sinnett your letter to me & he has kindly sent me yours to him –  I want to make some remarks on this not by way of cavil, but because I am so anxious that you should understand me –  Very likely it is my conceit – but whether or no I have a deep rooted conviction that I could work effectually if I only saw my way & I cannot bear the idea of your throwing me over under any misconception of my views –  And yet every letter I see of yours, shows me that you do not as yet realize what I think & feel – #  To explain this I venture to jot down a few comments on your letter to Sinnett –

You say that if Russia does not succeed in taking Tibet, it will be due to you & herein at least you will deserve our gratitude –  I do not agree to this in the sense in which you mean it – (1)  If I thought that Russia would on the whole govern, Tibet or India, in such wise as to make the inhabitants on the whole happier than they are under the existing Govts, I would myself welcome & work for her advent.  But so far as I can judge the Russian Govt is a corrupt despotism, hostile to individual liberty of action & therefore to real progress – & it would only be in common with all well wishers of mankind & not as an English man (& indeed I have no nationality) that I should feel gratitude to you or any one else who by legitimate means (& what are under different sets of circumstances legitimate & illegitimate means may be a matter open to argument) prevented the further extension of a power, which is essentially hostile to the highest interests of humanity.

Then about the English speaking Vaquil –  Was the man so much to blame? –  You & yours have never taught him that there was any thing in Yog-vidya –  The only people who have taken the trouble to educate him at all have in so doing taught him materialism –  You are disgusted with him, but who is to blame?  he who having no teaching but a materialistic one, rejects as dreams, the vague rumours that have reached him as to spiritual possibilities, or you (I mean your brotherhood) who knowing all about these have failed to popularize the knowledge, have in fact failed to teach him better?  I judge perhaps as an outsider but it does seem to me, that the impenetrable veil of secresy by which you surround yourselves, the enormous difficulties which you oppose to the communication of your spiritual knowledge, are the main causes of the rampant materialism which you so much deplore –  You are the only people who possess any real, experimental knowledge of things spiritual – doubtless millions upon millions possess a sort of knowledge of these thro faith, pure life, meditation & in fact the higher discipline of all religions worthy of the name –  But this knowledge of theirs tho sufficing to their own souls, is not of a character to produce objective results, or tangible arguments, that they can appeal to in order to lead others by nature less spiritually minded to similar convictions to their own –  You alone do possess the means of bringing home to the ordinary run of men, convictions of this nature but you, apparently bound by ancient rules, so far from zealously disseminating this knowledge, envelop it in such a dense cloud of mystery, that naturally the mass of mankind, disbelieve in its existence.

 And this veil of secresy is I submit an anachronism –  It may have been very necessary in former days when the exhibition of the powers possessed by adepts might have led to prosecutions & persecutions, but now when in the most highly civilized countries, such exhibitions would at worst entail ridicule & abuse, (both of which the inexorable logic of facts would surely even tho slowly strangle) there can be no justification for not giving clearly to the world the more important features of your philosophy, accompanying the teaching with such a series of demonstrations as should ensure the attention of all sincere minds.

That you should hesitate to confer hastily great powers too likely to be abused, I quite understand – but this in no way bars a dogmatic enunciation of the results of your psychical investigations, accompanied by phenomena, sufficiently clear & often repeated to prove that you really did know more of the subjects with which you dealt than Western Science does. (2)

Perhaps you will retort “How about Slades case?” but do not forget that he was taking money for what he did; making a living out of it –  Very different would be the position of a man, who came forward to teach gratuitously, manifestly at the sacrifice of his own time, comfort & convenience what he believed it to be for the good of mankind to know –

At first no doubt every one would say the man was mad or an imposter – but then when phenomenon, on phenomenon was repeated & repeated they would have to admit that there was something in it, & within three years, you would have all the foremost minds in any civilized country intent upon the question & tens of thousands of anxious enquirers out of whom ten percent might prove useful workers, & one in a thousand perhaps develop the necessary qualifications for becoming ultimately an adept –  If you desire to react on the native thro’ the European mind that is the way to work it –  Of course I speak under correction & in ignorance of conditions, possibilities &c, but for this ignorance at any rate “I am not to blame –

Then you say – “It is not possible that there should be much more at best than a benevolent neutrality shown by your people towards ours –  There is so very minute a point of contact between the two civilizations they respectively represent that one might almost say they could not touch at all”  Now is this correct? –  Is it not in the first place misleading to talk of two civilizations?  All civilizations have the same necessary ingredients, mental & moral (or if you prefer it, spiritual) culture –  The one element may predominate here, the other there, but in both cases there must be a vast amt in common –  Essential to every civilization in any way deserving of the name is the intellectual culture necessary for the discrimination of the good, the true & the beautiful & the moral culture essential to the adherence at all cost to these in preference to their opposites –

 In the one country there may be less intellectual capacity & a purer devotion to the more dimly perceived truths, in the other it may be more of “Meliora videon proboque, deteriora sequor” {"I see and approve of the better, but I follow the worse"} but in both the essentials are the same & it appears to me to be a contradiction in terms to talk of the two civilizations which may almost be said not to touch at all –  Nor is this a mere matter of words, for starting with such idea’s failure is a certainty, whereas if the vast amt that is common to both be realized & recognized & if we seek to build on this common foundation, an active cooperation in lieu of a benevolent neutrality becomes not only a possibility, but a thing that may be commanded – (3)

Then I come to the passage – “Has it occurred to you that the two Bombay publications if not influenced may at least have not been prevented by those who might have done so because they saw the necessity for that much agitation to effect the double result of making a needed diversion after the brooch grenade & perhaps of trying the strength of your personal interest in occultism & theosophy? I do not say it was I but enquire whether the contingency ever presented itself to your mind.” Now of course this was addressed to Sinnett, but still I wish to answer it in my fashion –  First I should say, cui bono throwing out such a hint? You must know whether it was so or not –   If it was not, why set us speculating as to whether it may have been, when you know it was not –  But if it was so, then I submit, that in the first place, an idiotic business like this could be no test of any mans (there are of course lots of human beings who are only a sort of educated monkey,) personal interest in any thing –  Would any man, who felt even the slightest interest in any thing, suffer this interest to be affected by the fact that some other person made themselves ridiculous in connection therewith?  In the second place if the brothers did deliberately allow the publication of those letters, I can only say that from my worldly non initiated standpoint, I think they made a sad mistake – a cause may involve murder & robbery & yet not be wholly discredited, but make it ridiculous & you may write its epitaph. Mind I do not for one moment defend this – it is monstrous that it should be so – but it is unfortunately a fact, & the object of the Brothers being avowedly to make the T.S. respected, they could hardly have selected any worse means than the publication of these foolish letters –  I do not of course attach any very great importance to them – if there be a real vital [breath?] underlying the T.S. (& it is this I am vainly trying to arrive at), it will outlive & smother a hundred such bévues – Magna est veritas et prevalebit {"blunders – Great is the truth and it will prevail"} – but still when the question is broadly put, did you ever consider whether the brothers allowed this publication, I cannot avoid replying, if they did not, it is futile wasting consideration on the matter & if they did, it seems to me that they were unwise in so doing – (4)

Then come your remarks about Col. Olcott – Dear old Olcott, whom everyone who knows must love –  I fully sympathise in all you say in his favour – but I cannot but take exception to the terms in which you praise him, the whole burthen of which is that he never questions but always obeys –  This is the Jesuit organization over again – & this renunciation of private judgement, this abnegation of ones own personal responsibility, this accepting the dictates of outside voices as a substitute for ones own conscience, is to my mind a sin of no ordinary magnitude; & involves a principle inimical to all true civilization –  Moreover I venture to predict that such a system of passive obedience will never obtain the cooperation of the highest minds in any society –  Nay further I feel bound to say that if as I seem to gather from many incidental passages in your letters, this doctrine of blind obedience is an essential one in your system, I greatly doubt whether any spiritual light it may confer, can compensate mankind for the loss of that private freedom of action, that sense of personal individual responsibility of which it would deprive them –  Nay further state, unless I wholly misread the teachings of history & the spirit of the age, any organization, which has for its key note passive obedience is itself doomed – (5)

 Now for the first time I begin to get a glimpse of what you probably mean by what you so often allude to as the irreconcilable nature of Eastern & Western Ideas –  Truly despotism is of the East, Freedom of the West – but I confess that I have hitherto been unable to conceive of the possibility of a brotherhood like yours accepting as a tenet the principle that underlies all despotisms –  Yet when your highest praise is bestowed, not on someone who wisely & cleverly works out a good end but on one who amidst innumerable errors “always obeys & never questions” what else can I conclude?

And here I must take my stand –  as for physical matters, when where or what one eats or sucks, where or how one lives or sleeps, these are all accidentals – matters of no earthly consequence provided my health did not seriously suffer, I would as soon live on herbs & water & sleep & live in a cave or a mud hut if any good was to come of it, as in any other ways.  But if it be intended that I shall ever, get instructions to do this or that & without understanding the why or the wherefore, without scrutinizing consequences, blind & heedless, straightway go & do it – then frankly the matter for me is at an end –  I am no military machine –  I am an avowed enemy of the military organization – a friend & advocate of the industrial or cooperative system & I will join no society or no body which purports to limit or control my right of private judgement.  Of course I am not a hukum e,!? & do not desire to ride any principle as a Hobby Horse –  Where a matter is immaterial, i.e. so far as my unaided judgement enables me to discern can do no harm – then if the persons who asked me to do it were persons in whose good faith & capacity I had confidence I should like Olcott be quite willing to obey & ask no questions.  But if the thing was material, & either involved consequences which I could not clearly forsee, or appeared to me wrong or unwise, then I should most distinctly refuse to obey unless the “hakims” {"rulers"} were willing to explain to me the reasons for their “hukum” {"ruling"} & make it clear to me that despite any previous doubts, it was really the right thing to do –

To return to Olcott – I do not think his connection with the proposed Society would be any evil –  Sinnett thinks this I believe –  I do not – given any real vital principle as a basis to the Society & nobody’s connections with it could do any very permanent harm –  So I quite agree in all you say about this but when you go on to say “But if you now so dislike the idea of a purely nominal executive supervision by Col Olcott – an american of your own race – you would surely rebel against dictation from a Hindoo” you must entirely mistake my feelings at any rate –

In the first place I should not object in any way to dear Old Olcotts supervision, because I know it would be nominal as even if he tried to make it otherwise, Sinnett & I are both quite capable of shutting him up if he interfered needlessly –  But neither of us could accept him as our real guide, (6) because we both know that we are intellectually his superiors –  This is a brutal way as the French would say of putting it, but que voulez vous?  Without perfect frankness there is no coming to an understanding –

Truly I should object to the dictation not only of a Hindoo but of any human being –  I allow no man to dictate to me –  But if a Hindoo comes to me & gives me good advice, & shows me reasons why I should do this or should not do the other, I should be as readily guided by that advice as tho it had come from an English man or a French man –

So far as I am concerned the words “whose race you have not yet learnt even to tolerate let alone to love or respect” have no application –  I do not love the low lying Mookhtears, & vaquils, the khitmatgars & the bulk of the lower class officials & employe’s, Hindoo's or Mahomedans –  Nor do I love any more the similar classes in Germany France or England –  Nor do I love the self seeking, fawning, money lenders & the like, who constitute the majority of those who crowd about us official Englishmen –  I am civil to them, I try, to be kind to them, but I do not like or respect them, not because they are Hindoo’s or Sikhs or Mahomedans, but because they are self seekers – mean, base, – & because their presence sets on me like a nightmare & weighs down my own thoughts –  But there have been natives Hindoo’s & Mahomedans, whom I have loved & respected as much as I could have loved & respected any European –  There is no question of race or colour or creed at all – it is a mere question of intrinsic qualities – “sifaten” –

When you say that your highest adepts are “greasy Tibetans & Punjabi Singhs” & that “the lion is proverbially a dirty & offensive beast”, I presume you are joking –  If not, tho a diamond is a diamond, & I should prize it equally however badly set –  I should prefer to get it suitably set – & tho purity of soul is the one great first requisite, & all other things comparatively insignificant yet in its way purity & cleanliness of body is not to be despised & I confess that I think the perfect jewel, the pure soul set in the pure clean body, the thing to aim at –  Old, mean, clothes, are one thing (tho when a man can dress in good plain ones I cannot see why he should not), but dirtiness of body is another & I do not believe that where this can be avoided, it should be permitted –  And in fact I am unable to believe that any high adept can be really dirty or offensive –  But even were this so, this would not in the smallest degree repel me, once I knew that it was really an adept I was dealing with & that foul as the exterior husk might be, the true good seed was within –

I am quite sure that if you are true & genuine, as I believe you to be the kindly feelings that this correspondence has engendered toward you would be in no way weakened, but rather strengthened by personal intercourse with you –  I hardly see peoples outsides –  I often know & care for people without hardly knowing what they are like in body –  Men mostly think a great deal of womens looks – & I have been some times surprised when promising a woman to a man, at being told “look she may be very good but she is awfully plain” & then again on looking carefully at my lady friend to discover, tho I had never known it that she was awfully plain –  So I am quite certain that nothing in your external personal appearance could in the smallest degree affect my sentiments.

As for your dear dirty neophyte, I wish he had been sent to me, dirty pagri & all, & it would have gone hard with me, if while learning from him higher things, I had not been able to convert him to my views of the beauty & goodness of cleanliness –

The most important point of your letter to me is that where in you say “Powerless to send to you a neophyte before you have pledged yourself to us” Here perhaps is the real Crux –  What is the pledge you require? all seems to turn upon this –  If it is merely to preserve entire secresy as to all that we may learn, & as to yourselves, & your followers, never without permission to utilize any knowledge gained from you, & always to act in accordance with your wishes in all cases in which it did not seem to us wrong to do so, I at least think that if satisfied on the points refer'd to in former letters, I could give it – & if I did give it I would abide by it come what might; but if it is the old surrender of “dhun, man, Fan,” proposed to me twenty years ago, then I for one will never give it –  I feel that I am responsible to higher than earthly intelligences –  I don't pretend to know what they are – but I know that they exist, as certainly as I know that sugar is sweet to my taste, tho I can prove neither fact to anyone else – & I will resign that responsibility into no earthly hands

On the other hand, I do not care to play at Theosophy –  Either I go in for it in real earnest or not at all – if my retention of the right of private judgement renders the real earnest impossible under your rules – well & good – the thing must be at an end for me –

It seems to me useless to discuss articles of association & the like unless these fundamental questions are first settled – 

Sinnett is deeply interested in the phenomena as such, I am not he thinks it marvellous that things should be done which can not be accounted for by any laws known to Western Science –  I, as I have explained in former letters do not – perhaps I realize more acutely the vastness of our ignorance.

I do not care two straws for the powers or the phenomena, except as a means –  I do not see the slightest prospect of any good coming of the Society, unless it is to be a real & certain stepping stone to higher spiritual knowledge –  He does – each man must judge for himself – he I know will wholly disagree with me on many points – but this letter I send thro’ him & he will speak for himself – 

I am almost sorry that I have wearied you with these long letters for I seem to feel, that I am too essentially a radical at heart, to be acceptable to your naturally conservative order – but you will forgive me in that I am in earnest & tho' nothing further ever come of our interchange of thoughts, think kindly of me as I always shall of you as being fellow workers in the same cause, albeit under different flags, & you an officer & engineer & I a mere day labourer,

  Yours sincerely,

  A O Hume