The following article by A. Trevor Barker originally appeared in the January 1938 issue of The English Theosophical Forum, London, England. It is included herein because of its intrinsic value to students of The Mahatma Letters.
I have received a number of requests to publish a reply to two questions that are asked by students over and over again, and these questions may be formulated as follows:
In your Introduction to The Mahatma Letters you refer to the letters as having been signed by the Masters with their own hands. You may or may not have intended this to be taken literally, but a careful study of the letters in the opinion of many intelligent people reveals that some of the letters seem to drop below the standard that one would attribute to a supramundane or Mahatmic intelligence. What is the explanation for this if the Mahatmas M. and K.H. were actually responsible for them?
The only satisfactory way of answering these very important questions is to see what H.P.B. and the Masters themselves had to say upon the subject. As a matter of fact the Mahatmas M. and K.H. did not use their high intelligence to supervise the whole process of transmitting quite a number of these letters. This H.P.B. states quite clearly on page 480 of The Mahatma Letters in these words:
Has Master K.H. written himself all His letters? How many chelas have been precipitating and writing them — heaven only knows.
The Master himself writes on page 232:
In noticing M's opinion of yourself expressed in some of his letters — (you must not feel altogether so sure that because they are in his handwriting, they are written by him, though of course every word is sanctioned by him to serve certain ends) . . .
To understand the problem properly the whole of Letter 140 should be read carefully and in addition parts of Letters 138 and 92. In order to save space we only print the more important passages, and draw the reader's attention particularly to the following in Letter 92:
The letter in question was framed by me while on a journey and on horse-back. It was dictated mentally, in the direction of, and "precipitated" by, a young chela not yet expert at this branch of Psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it, therefore, was omitted and the other half more or less distorted by the "artist." When asked by him at the time, whether I would look it over and correct I answered, imprudently, I confess — "anyhow will do, my boy — it is of no great importance if you skip a few words." I was physically very tired by a ride of 48 hours consecutively, and (physically again) — half asleep. Besides this I had very important business to attend to psychically and therefore little remained of me to devote to that letter. It was doomed, I suppose. When I woke I found it had already been sent on, and, as I was not then anticipating its publication, I never gave it from that time a thought.
Two factors are needed to produce a perfect and instantaneous mental telegraphy — close concentration in the operator, and complete receptive passivity in the "reader" — subject. Given a disturbance of either condition, and the result is proportionately imperfect. The "reader" does not see the image as in the "telegrapher's" brain, but as arising in his own. When the latter's thought wanders, the psychic current becomes broken, the communication disjointed and incoherent. In a case such as mine, the chela had, as it were, to pick up what he could from the current I was sending him and, as above remarked, patch the broken bits together as best he might.
Well, as soon as I heard of the charge — the commotion among my defenders having reached me across the eternal snows — I ordered an investigation into the original scraps of the impression. At the first glance I saw that it was I, the only and most guilty party, — the poor little boy having done but that which he was told.
and later on the same page:
I transcribe them with my own hand this once, whereas the letter in your possession was written by the chela. I ask you also to compare this hand-writing with that of some of the earlier letters you received from me. Bear in mind, also the "O.L.'s" emphatic denial at Simla that my first letter had ever been written by myself. I felt annoyed at her gossip and remarks then; it may serve a good purpose now.
These passages from The Mahatma Letters prove and confirm H.P.B.'s statement in the letter quoted above from Letter 140.
In a letter to me on this subject Dr. de Purucker expressed himself as follows:
H.P.B. stated specifically, and more than once, that it was the rarest thing in the world for any one of the Mahatmans, or even for a high chela, personally to write a letter, i.e. indite any communication with his own hand. There are very, very few, very rare exceptions, such as one or two, it may be three, cases of direct precipitation from the Master or from a high chela, and possibly one or two brief notes, maybe a telegram or two, written by the Master's own hand. H.P.B. states positively that not only was such writing in the Master's own hand the rarest thing, but that practically in every case, with the few exceptions named, the Master impressed mentally his chela or amanuensis, or chelas or amanuenses, to write thus or so, to such or another person. Then the chela, if the receptivity was good, would get the message clearly from the Master's mind along the etheric currents, and in writing it down, if the receptivity was perfect the resulting production would be practically the Master's own words, and actually his own handwriting, real or adopted — whichever Master it might be who was the source, K.H. or M. or some other. If receptivity on the part of the chela or amanuenses was less perfect, there would be the immediate entrance into the psychology of the receiving chela of more or less, usually less, of the chela's own mental idiosyncrasies, ways of phrasing, what Hodgson and the Hare brothers call Americanisms or Gallicisms, etc., etc.
The writing of these letters was a mystery and must remain so for all but the initiates. The last passage we quote however could hardly be more definite.
Another of our customs, when corresponding with the outside world, is to entrust a chela with the task of delivering the letter or any other message; and if not absolutely necessary — to never give it a thought. Very often our very letters — unless something very important and secret — are written in our handwritings by our chelas. Thus, last year, some of my letters to you were precipitated, and when sweet and easy precipitation was stopped — well I had but to compose my mind, assume an easy position, and — think, and my faithful "Disinherited" had but to copy my thoughts, making only occasioally a blunder. — p. 296
In conclusion if it is contended that it would have been better if I had not stated in the Introduction that the letters were written by the Masters in their own hands, I agree. When I wrote that sentence I had not had time to assimilate fully the whole content of the letters, and therefore this particular aspect of the matter had not clearly taken shape in my consciousness. One of these days, when a new issue is being printed, it can be corrected.
The above explanation should be sufficient to clear up this problem, for any serious student who will take the trouble to read carefully the page references given to The Mahatma Letters.