Published by Blavatsky Study Center.
[Originally published in Theosophy: A Modern Revival
of Ancient Wisdom
by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Chapter VI, pp. 147-175. An online edition of the entire book
is available as well as a paperback reprint edition by Kessinger Publishing.]
The Masters whom Theosophy presents to us are simply high-ranking students in life's school of experience. They are members of our own evolutionary group, not visitants from the celestial spheres. They are supermen only in that they have attained knowledge of the laws of life and mastery over its forces with which we are still struggling. They are also termed by Theosophists the "just men made perfect," the finished products of our terrene experience, those more earnest souls of our own race who have pressed forward to attain the fulness of the stature of Christ, the prize of the high calling of God in Christhood. They are not Gods come down to earth, but earthly mortals risen to the status of Christs. They ask from us no reverence, no worship; they demand no allegiance but that which it is expected we shall render to the principles of Truth and Fact, and to the nobility of life. They are our "Elder Brothers," not distant deities; and will even make their presence known to us and grant us the privilege of cooperating with them when we have shown ourselves capable of working unselfishly for mankind. They are not our Masters in the sense of holding lordship over us; they are the "Masters of Wisdom and Compassion." Moved by an infinite sympathy with the whole human race they have renounced their right to go forward to more splendid conquests in the evolutionary field, and have remained in touch with man in order to throw the weight of their personal force on the side of progress.
But the rank of the Mahatmas must not be underrated because they still fall under the category of human beings. They have accumulated vast stores of knowledge about the life of man and the uni-
verse; about the meaning and purpose of evolution; the methods of progress; the rationale of the expansion of the powers latent in the Ego; the choice and attainment of ends and values in life; and the achievement of beauty and grandeur in individual development. Upon all these questions which affect the life and happiness of mortals they possess competent knowledge which they are willing to impart to qualified students. They have by virtue of their own force of character mastered every human problem, perfected their growth in beauty, gained control over all the natural forces of life. They stand at the culmination of all human endeavor. They have lifted mortality up to immortality, have carried humanity aloft to divinity. Through the mediatorship of the Christos, or spiritual principle in them, they have reconciled the carnal nature of man, his animal soul, with the essential divinity of his higher Self. And they, if they have been lifted up, stand patiently eager to draw all men unto them.
Madame Blavatsky's exploitation of the Adepts (or their exploitation of her) is a startling event in the modern religious drama. It was a unique procedure and took the world by surprise. To be sure, India and Tibet, even China, were familiar with the idea of supermen. India had its Buddhas, Boddhisatvas, and Rishis. But what not even India was prepared to view without suspicion was that several of the hierarchical Brotherhood should carry on a clandestine intercourse with a nondescript group, made up of a Russian, an American, and several Englishmen, and issue to them fragments of the ancient lore for broadcasting to the incredulous West, which would mock it, scorn it, and trample it underfoot.
It was only justified, according to Madame Blavatsky, by certain considerations which influenced the final decision of the Great White Brotherhood Council. Majority opinion was against the move; but the minority urged that two reasons rendered it advisable. The guillotine and the fagot pile had been eliminated from the historical forms of martyrdom; and, secondly, the esotericism of the doctrines was, in a manner,
an automatic safety device. The teachings would appeal to those who were "ready" for them; their meaning would soar over the heads of those for whom they were not suited.
The matter was decided affirmatively, we are informed, by the assumption of full karmic responsibility for the launching of the crusade by the two Adepts, Morya and Koot Hoomi Lal Singh. The latter, in the early portion of his present incarnation, had been a student at an English University and felt that he had found sufficient reliability on the part of intelligent Europeans to make them worthy to receive the great knowledge. Morya, we are told, had taken on Madame Blavatsky as his personal attaché, pupil or chela. She had earned in former situations the right to the high commission of carrying the old truth to the world at large in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
It is hinted that Madame Blavatsky had formed a close link with the Master Morya in former births, when she was known to him as a great personage. It is also said that she was herself kept from full admission to the Brotherhood only by some special "Karma" which needed to be "worked out" in a comparatively humble station and personality during this life. She said the Masters knew what she was accountable for, though it was not the charlatanism the world at large charged her with. We are led to assume that the Master Morya exercised a guardianship over her in early life, and later, that he occasionally manifested himself to her, giving her suggestions and encouragement. One or two of these encounters with her Master are recorded. She met him in his physical body in London in 1851. In one of her old note-books, which her aunt Madame Fadeef sent to her in Wurzburg in 1885, there is a memorandum of her meeting with Morya in London. The entry is as follows:
"Nuit memorable. Certaine nuit par un clair de lune que se couchait a---Ramsgate---12 aout, 1851,---lorsque je rencontrai le Maitre de mes reves."
Hints are thrown out as to other meetings on her travels, and we are told that she studied ancient philosophy and
science under the Master's direct tutelage in Tibet covering periods aggregating at least seven years of her life. The testimony of Col. Olcott is no less precise. He says:
"I had ocular proof that at least some of those who worked with us were living men, from having seen them in the flesh in India, after having seen them in the astral body in America and in Europe; from having touched and talked with them. Instead of telling me that they were spirits, they told me they were as much alive as myself, and that each of them had his own peculiarities and capabilities, in short, his complete individuality. They told me that what they had attained to I should one day myself acquire, how soon would depend entirely on myself; and that I might not anticipate anything whatever from favor, but, like them, must gain every step, every inch, of progress by my own exertions."1
The fact that the Masters were living human beings made their revelations of cosmic and spiritual truth, say the Theosophists, more valuable than alleged revelations from hypothetical Gods in other systems of belief. That their knowledge is, in a manner of speaking, human instead of heavenly or "divine" should give it greater validity for us. The Mahatmas were, it is said, in direct contact with the next higher grades of intelligent beings standing above them in the hierarchical order, so that their teachings have the double worth of high human and supernal authority. This, occultists believe, affords the most trustworthy type of revelation.
It was not until the two Theosophic Founders had reached India, in whose northernmost vastnesses the members of the Great White Brotherhood were said to maintain their earthly residence, that continuous evidence of their reality and their leadership was vouchsafed. The Theosophic case for Adept revelation rests upon a long-continued correspondence between persons (Mr. A. P. Sinnett, mainly, Mr. A. O. Hume, Damodar and others in minor degree) of good intelligence, but claiming no mystical or psychical illumination, and the two Mahatmas, K.H. and M. Sinnett, Editor of The Pioneer, at Simla in northern India, was an English
1 Old Diary Leaves, Vol. I, of June, 1893.
journalist of distinction and ability. Although he had manifested no special temperamental disposition toward the mystical or occult, he was the particular recipient of the attention and favors of the Mahatmas over a space of three or four years, beginning about 1879. It was at his own home in Simla, later at Allahabad, that most of the letters were received, addressed to him personally. Most, if not all, were in answer to the queries which he was permitted, if not invited, to ask his respected teachers.
Mr. Sinnett's book, The Occult World, was the first direct statement to the West of the existence of the Masters and their activity as sponsors for the Theosophical Society. He undertook the onerous task of vindicating, as far as argument and the phenomenal material in his hands could, the title of these supermen to the possession of surpassing knowledge and sublime wisdom. His work supplemented that of Madame Blavatsky in Isis, yet it went beyond the latter in asserting the connection of the Theosophical Society with an alleged association of perfected individuals. It put the Theosophical Society squarely on record as an organization, not merely for the purpose of eclectic research, but standing for the promulgation of a body of basic truths of an esoteric sort and arrogating to itself a position of unique eminence in a spiritual world order.
In the Introduction to The Occult World Mr. Sinnett elaborates his apologetic for the general theory of Mahatmic existence and knowledge. Fundamental for his argument is, of course, the theory of reincarnational continuity of development which would enable individual humans, through long experience, to attain degrees of learning far in advance of the majority of the race. But his "proofs" of both the existence and the superior knowledge of these exceptional beings are offered in the book itself, in which his experience with them, and the material of some of their letters to him, are presented. His introductory dissertation is a justification of the Mahatmic policy of maintaining their priceless knowledge in futile obscurity within the narrow confines of their exclusive Brotherhood. He then attempts to rectify
our scornful point of view as regards esotericism. Of the superlative wisdom of the Masters he posits his own direct knowledge. The Brothers are to him empirically real. But the logical justification of their attitude of seclusion and aloofness, or worse, of their selfish appropriation of knowledge which it must be assumed would be of immense social value if disseminated, is the point upon which he chiefly labors.
"There is a school of philosophy," he says, "still in existence of which modern culture has lost sight . . . modern metaphysics, and to a large extent modern physical science, have been groping for centuries blindly after knowledge which occult philosophy has enjoyed in full measure all the while. Owing to a train of fortunate circumstances I have come to know that this is the case; I have come into contact with persons who are heirs of a greater knowledge concerning the mysteries of Nature and humanity than modern culture has yet evolved. . . . Modern science has accomplished grand results by the open method of investigation, and is very impatient of the theory that persons who have attained to real knowledge, either in science or metaphysics, could have been content to hide their light under a bushel. . . . But there is no need to construct hypotheses in the matter. The facts are accessible if they are sought for in the right way."2
Spiritual science is foremost with the Adepts; physical science being of secondary importance. The main strength of occultism has been devoted to the science of metaphysical energy and to the development of faculties in man, not instruments outside him, which will yield him actual experimental knowledge of the subtle powers in nature. It aims to gain actual and exact knowledge of spiritual things which, under all other systems, remain the subject of speculation or blind religious faith.
Summing up the extraordinary powers which Adeptship gives its practitioners, he says they are chiefly the ability to dissociate consciousness from the body, to put it instantaneously in rapport with other minds anywhere on the earth,
2 A. P. Sinnett: The Occult World, p. 1.
and to exert magical control over the sublimated energies of matter. Occultism postulates a basic differentiation between the principles of mind, soul, and spirit, and gives a formal technique for their interrelated development. It has evolved a practique, also, based on the spiritual constitution of matter, which, it alleges, vastly facilitates human growth. The skilled occultist is able to shift his consciousness from one to another plane of manifestation. In short, his control over the vibrational energies of the Akasha makes him veritably lord of all the physical creation.
The members of the Brotherhood remain in more or less complete seclusion among the Himalayas because, as they have said, they find contact with the coarse heavy currents of ordinary human emotionalism---violent feeling, material grasping, and base ambitions---painful to their sensitive organization. This great fraternity is at once the least and most exclusive body in the world; it is composed of the world's very elect, yet any human being is eligible. He must have demonstrated his possession of the required qualifications, which are so high that the average mortal must figure on aeons of education before he can knock at the portals of their spiritual society. The road thither is beset with many real perils, which no one can safely pass till he has proven his mastery over his own nature and that of the world.
"The ultimate development of the adept requires amongst other things a life of absolute physical purity, and the candidate must, from the beginning, give practical evidence of his willingness to adopt this. He must . . . for all the years of his probation, be perfectly chaste, perfectly abstemious, and indifferent to physical luxury of every sort. This regimen does not involve any fantastic discipline or obtrusive asceticism, nor withdrawal from the world. There would be nothing to prevent a gentleman in ordinary society from being in some of the preliminary stages of training without anybody about him being the wiser. For true occultism, the sublime achievement of the real adept, is not attained through the loathsome asceticism of the ordinary Indian fakeer, the yogi of the woods and wilds, whose dirt accumulates with his sanctity---of
the fanatic who fastens iron hooks into his flesh or holds up an arm till it withers."3
How did the Mahatmas impart their teaching? Mr. Sinnett was the channel of transmission, and to him the two Masters sent a long series of letters on philosophical and other subjects, they themselves remaining in the background. The Mahatma Letters themselves, as originally received by Mr. Sinnett, were not published until 1925.4 Sinnett, early in his acquaintance with the Masters, asked K.H. for the privilege of a personal interview with him. The Master declined. His messages came in the form of long letters which dropped into his possession by facile means that would render the Post Office authorities of any nation both envious and sceptical. The correspondence began when Madame Blavatsky suggested that Mr. Sinnett write certain questions which were on his mind in a letter addressed to K.H., saying she would dispatch it to him, several hundred miles distant, by the exercise of her magnetic powers. She would accompany it with the request for a reply. The idea in Mr. Sinnett's mind was one which he thought, could the Adept actually carry it out, would demonstrate at one stroke the central theses of occultism and practically revolutionize the whole trend of human thinking. His suggestion to K.H. in that first letter was that the Mahatma should use his superior power to reproduce in far-off India, on the same morning on which it issued from the press, a full copy of the London Times. Madame Blavatsky disintegrated the missive and wafted its particles to the hermit in the mountains. The answer came in two days. The test of the London newspaper, he wrote, was inadmissible precisely because "it would close the mouths of the sceptics." The world is unprepared for so convincing a demonstration of supernormal powers, he argued, because, on the one hand the event would throw the principles and formulae of science
3 Ibid., p. 14. More detailed requirements in the way of preparation for Adeptship will be set forth when we undertake the general critique of the occult life, in Chapter XI.
4 In 1883 he published the general outlines of the cosmology involved in their communications in a work called Esoteric Buddhism.
into chaos, and on the other, it would demolish the structure of the concepts of natural law by the restoration of the belief in "miracle." The result would thus be disastrous for both science and faith. Incompetent as the thesis of mechanistic naturalism is to provide mortals with the ground of understanding of the deeper phenomena of life and mind, it does less harm on the whole than would a return to arrant superstition such as must follow in the wake of the wonder Sinnett had proposed. The Master asked his correspondent if the modern world had really thrown off the shackles of ignorant prejudice and religious bigotry to a sufficient extent to enable it to withstand the shock that such an occurrence would bring to its fixed ideas. If this one test were furnished, he went on, Western incredulity would in a moment ask for others and still others; shrewd ingenuity would devise ever more bizarre performances; and since not all the millions of sceptics could be given ocular demonstrations, the net outcome of the whole procedure would be confusion and unhappiness. The mass of humanity must feel its way slowly toward these high powers, and the premature exhibition of future capacity would but overwhelm the mind and unsettle the poise of people everywhere.
Mr. Sinnett replied, venturing to believe "that the European mind was less hopelessly intractable than Koot Hoomi had represented it." The Master's second letter continued his protestations:
"The Mysteries never were, never can be, put within reach of the general public, not, at least, until the longed-for day when our religious philosophy becomes universal. At no time have more than a scarcely appreciable minority of men possessed Nature's secret, though multitudes have witnessed the practical evidences of the possibility of their possession."
Letters followed on both sides, Mr. Sinnett taking advantage of many opportunities afforded by varying circumstances in each case to fortify his assurance that Madame Blavatsky herself was not inditing the replies in the name of the Adept. Frequently replies came, containing specific reference to detailed matters in his missives, when she had not been out
of his sight during the interim between the despatch and the return. The letters came and went as well when she was hundreds of miles away. The answers would often be found in his locked desk drawer, sometimes inside his own letter, the seal of which had not been broken. On occasion the Mahatma's reply dropped from the open air upon his desk while he was watching.
Madame Blavatsky and the Master both explained the method by which the letters were written. Theoretically, they were not written at all, but "precipitated." Among the Adept's occult or "magical" powers is that of impressing upon the surface of some material, as paper, the images which he holds vividly before his mind. He may thus impress or imprint a photograph, a scene, or a word, or sentence, upon parchment. He uses materials, of course, paper, ink or pencil graphite. But in his ability to disintegrate atomic combinations of matter, he can seize upon the material present, or even at a distance, and "precipitate" or reintegrate it, in conformity with the lines of his strong thought-energies. He can thus image a sentence, word for word, in his mind, and then pour the current of atomic material into the given form of the letters, upon the plane of the paper. The idiosyncrasies of his own chirography would be carried through the mental process. K.H., we are told, always used blue ink or blue pencil, while the epistles from M. always came in red. Specimens of the two handwritings are given in the frontispiece of the Mahatma Letters. The art of occult precipitation appears still more marvelous when we are told by Madame Blavatsky that the Adept did not attend to the actual precipitation himself but delegated it to one of his distant chelas, who caught his Master's thought-forms in the Astral Light and set them down by the chemical process which he had been taught to employ. The Master thus needed only to think vividly the words of his sentences, so as to impress them upon the mind of his pupil, and the latter did the rest. This was explained by H.P.B. in an article, Lodges of Magic, in Lucifer, Oct., 1888, while she was being accused of issuing false messages from the Master.
"For it is hardly one out of one hundred 'Occult' letters that is ever written by the hand of the Masters in whose names and on whose behalf they are sent, as the Masters have neither need nor leisure to write them; and that when a Master says: 'I wrote that letter,' it means only that every word in it was dictated by him and impressed under his direct supervision. Generally they make their chela . . . write (or precipitate) them. It depends entirely upon the chela's state of development how accurately the ideas may be transmitted and the writing model imitated. Thus the non-adept recipient is left in the dilemma of uncertainty whether if one letter is false, all may not be."
For example, when a Mr. Henry Kiddle, an American lecturer on Spiritualism, accused the writer of the Mahatma Letters of having plagiarized whole passages from his lecture delivered at Mt. Pleasant, New York, in 1880, a year prior to the publication of The Occult World, the Master K.H. explained in a letter to Mr. Sinnett that the apparent forgery of words and ideas came about through a bit of carelessness on his part in the precipitation of his ideas through a chela. While dictating the letter to the latter, he had caught himself "listening in" on Mr. Kiddle's address being delivered at the moment in America; and as a consequence the chela took down portions of the actual lecture as reflected from the mind of K.H.
Mr. Sinnett used the opportunity thus given him to draw from the Mahatma an outline of a portion of the esoteric philosophy and science which was presumed to be in his custody. The Master exhibited readiness to comply with Mr. Sinnett's requests for information upon all vital and important matters.
Koot Hoomi tells Sinnett first that the world must prepare itself for the manifestation of phenomenal elements in constantly augmenting volume and force. The age of miracles, he says, is not past; it really never was. Plato was right in asserting that ideas ruled the world; and as the human mind increases its receptivity to larger ideas, the world will advance, revolutions will spring from the spreading ferment, creeds and powers will crumble before their onward march.
The duty set before intelligent people is to sweep away as much as possible of the dross left by our pious forefathers to make ready for the apotheosis of human life. The great new ideas
"touch man's true position in the universe, in relation to his previous and future births; his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal; of the temporary to the eternal; of the finite to the infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognizing the universal reign of Immutable Law, unchanging and unchangeable in regard to which there is only an Eternal Now, while to uninitiated mortals time is past or future as related to their finite existence on this material speck of dirt. This is what we study and what many have solved."5
Many old idols must be dethroned, chief of all being that of an anthropomorphized Deity, with its train of debasing superstitions.
"And now," says K.H., "after making due allowance for evils that are natural and that cannot be avoided . . . I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ever since that cause became a power. It is religion, under whatever form and in whatever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity and that almost overwhelms mankind. Ignorance created gods and cunning took advantage of the opportunity. Look at India and look at Christendom and Islam, at Judaism and Fetichism. It is priestly imposture that rendered these Gods so terrible to man; it is religion that makes of him the selfish bigot, the fanatic that hates all mankind outside his own sect without rendering him any better or more moral for it. It is belief in God and Gods that makes two-thirds of humanity the slaves of a handful of those who deceive them under the false pretence of saving them. . . . Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, Morality and universal Charity the altars of their false Gods."6
5 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 24.
6 Ibid., p. 57.
He goes on to clarify and delimit his position:
"Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital G. Our philosophy falls under the definition of Hobbes. It is preeminently the science of effects by their causes and of causes by their effects, and since it is also the science of things deduced from first principle, as Bacon defines it, before we admit any such principle we must know it, and have no right to admit even its possibility. . . . Therefore we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Ishwar is the effect of Avidya (ignorance) and Maya (illusion), ignorance based on the great delusion. The word 'God' was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has ever admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim---and that we are able to prove what we claim---i.e., the knowledge of that cause and causes, we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them."7
The causes assigned to phenomena by the Mahatmas, he says, are natural, sensible, supernatural, unintelligible, and unknown. The God of the theologians is simply an imaginary power, that has never yet manifested itself to human perception. The cause posited by the Adept is that power whose activities we behold in every phenomenon in the universe. They are pantheists, never agnostics. The Deity they envisage is everywhere present, as well in matter as elsewhere.
"In other words we believe in Matter alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself, since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. . . . The existence of matter, then, is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self-existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure Spirit as a Being or an Existence---give it whatever name you will---is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity."8
7 Ibid., p. 52.
8 Ibid., p. 56.
Furthermore, says K.H., your conceptions of an all-wise Cosmic Mind or Being runs afoul of sound logic on another count. You claim, he says, that the life and being of this God pervades and animates all the universe. But even your own science predicates of the cosmic material ether that it, too, already permeates all the ranges of being in nature. You are thus putting two distinct pervading essences in the universe. You are postulating two primordial substances, two basic elemental essences, where but one can be. Why posit an imaginary substrate when you already have a concrete one? Find your God in the material you are sure is there; do not forge a fiction and put it outside of real existence to account for that existence. Why constitute a false God when you have a real Universe?
There is an illimitable Force in the universe, but even this Force is not God, since man may learn to bend it to his will. It is simply the visible and objective expression of the absolute substance in its invisible and subjective form.
From this strict and inexorable materialism K.H. seems to relent a moment when he says to Mr. Hume:
"I do not protest at all, as you seem to think, against your theism, or a belief in abstract ideal of some kind, but I cannot help asking you, how do you or can you know that your God is all-wise, omnipotent and love-ful, when everything in nature, physical and moral, proves such a being, if he does exist, to be quite the reverse of all you say of him? Strange delusion and one which seems to overpower your very intellect!"9
The intricate problem, then, of how the blind and unintelligent forces of matter in motion do breed and have bred "highly intelligent beings like ourselves" "is covered by the eternal progression of cycles, and the process of evolution ever perfecting its work as it goes along." Intelligence lies somehow in the womb of matter, and evolution brings it to birth. Matter and spirit, we must constantly be reminded, are but the two polar aspects of the One Substance.
The great philosophical problem of whether reality is monistic or pluralistic finds clear statement and elucidation
9 Ibid., p. 141.
in the Letters. It can be gathered from all the argument of K.H. that primordial nature is a monism, but that when the hidden energy, or sheer potentiality, of the unit principle deploys into action, or what the occultists speak of as manifestation, it splits, first into a duality, or polarization, and then into an infinity of modifications arising from varying intensities of vibration and modes of combination. Through the spectacles of time and space we see life as multiple; could we be freed from the limitations of our sensorium, however, we could see life whole, as a single essence. Non-polarized force is, in any terms of our apperceptive nature, an impossibility and a nonentity; pure spirit is a sheer abstraction. Spirit must be changed into matter, to be seen.
It is a silly philosophy which would exalt spirit and debase matter, as many ascetic or idealistic religious systems have done. Matter is the garment of spirit, and needs but to be beautified and refined. Spirit is helpless without it. "Bereaved of Prakriti, Purusha (Spirit) is unable to manifest itself, hence ceases to exist---becomes nihil."10 Likewise Spirit is necessary to the faintest stir of life in matter.
"Without Spirit or Force even that which Science styles as 'not-living' matter, the so-called mineral ingredients which feed plants, could never have been called into form."11
Form will vanish the moment spirit is withdrawn from it.
"Matter, force and motion are the trinity of physical objective nature, as the trinitarian unity of spirit-matter is that of the spiritual or subjective nature. Motion is eternal because spirit is eternal. But no modes of motion can ever be conceived unless they are in conjunction with matter."12
"Unconscious and non-existing when separated, they become consciousness and life when brought together,"13
says K.H. in reference to the two poles of being. If the spirit or force were to fail, the electron would cease to swirl about
10 Ibid., p. 142.
13 Ibid., p. 71.
the proton, the atom would collapse, the worlds would vanish. The world is an illusion in the same way that the solid appearance of the revolving spokes of a wheel is an illusion. Stop the swirl, and the universe not only collapses---it goes out of manifestation.
A novel and startling corollary of the teaching that the forces of nature are "blind unconscious" laws, is seen in the query of K.H. to Mr. Hume, whether it had ever occurred to him that
"universal, like finite human mind, might have two attributes or a dual power---one, the voluntary and conscious, and the other the involuntary and unconscious, or the mechanical power. To reconcile the difficulty of many theistic and anti-theistic propositions, both these powers are a philosophical necessity. . . . Take the human mind in connection with the body. Man has two distinct physical brains; the cerebrum . . . the source of the voluntary nerves; and the cerebellum---the fountain of the involuntary nerves which are the agents of the unconscious or mechanical powers of the mind to act through. And weak and uncertain as may be the control of man over his involuntary, such as the blood circulation, the throbbings of the heart and respiration, especially during sleep---yet how far more powerful, how much more potential appears man as master and ruler over the blind molecular motion . . . than that which you will call God shows over the immutable laws of nature. Contrary in that to the finite, the 'infinite mind' . . . exhibits but the functions of its cerebellum."14
That Master admits that he is arguing the case for such a duality of cosmic mental function only on the basis of the theory that the macrocosm is the prototype of the microcosm, and that the high planetary spirits themselves have no more concrete evidence of the operation of a "cosmic cerebrum" than we have.
The Master has taken many pages to detail to Mr. Sinnett the information relative to the evolution of the worlds from the nebular mist, and the outline of the whole cosmogonic scheme. As this will be dealt with more fully in our review of The Secret Doctrine, it need only be glanced at
14 Ibid., p. 137.
here to give coherence to the material in the Letters. Force or spirit descends into matter and creates or organizes the universes. Its immersion in the mineral kingdom marks the lowest or grossest point of its descent, and from there it begins to return to spirit, carrying matter up with it to self-consciousness. Impulsions of life energy emanate from "the heart of the universe" and go quivering through the various worlds, vivifying them and bringing to each in turn its fitting grade of living organisms. Thus came the races of men on our Earth, which is now harboring its Fifth great family, the Aryan.
What is of great interest in the scheme of Theosophy is that
"At the beginning of each Round, when humanity reappears under quite different conditions than those afforded by the birth of each new race and its sub-races, a 'Planetary' has to mix with these primitive men, and to refresh their memories and reveal to them the truths they knew during the preceding Round. Hence the confused traditions about Jehovahs, Ormazds, Osirises, Brahms and the tutti quanti. But that happens only for the benefit of the First Race. It is the duty of the latter to choose the fit recipients among its sons, who are 'set apart'---to use a Biblical phrase---as the vessels to contain the whole stock of knowledge to be divided among the future races and generations until the close of that Round. . . . Every race has its Adepts; and with every new race we are allowed to give them as much of our knowledge as the men of that race deserve. The last seventh race will have its Buddha, as every one of its predecessors had."15
And then Koot Hoomi undertakes to meet the inevitable query: What comes out of the immense machinery of the cycles and globes and rounds?
15 Ibid., p. 167. "En passant to show you that not only were not the 'Races' invented by us, but that they are a cardinal dogma with the Lama Buddhists, and with all who study our esoteric doctrines, I send you an explanation on a page or two of Rhys Davids' Buddhism,---otherwise incomprehensible, meaningless and absurd. It is written with the special permission of the Chohan (my Master) and---for your benefit. No Orientalist has ever suspected the truths contained in it, and---you are the first Western man (outside Tibet) to whom it is now explained."---The Mahatma Letters, p. 158.
"What emerges at the end of all things is not only 'pure and impersonal spirit,' but the collected 'personal' remembrances" . . .16
The individual, imperishable, will enjoy the fruits of its collective lives.
If the Mahatma's attempt to solve the eternal riddle of the "good" of earthly life is not so complete and satisfactory as might have been wished, we at least gather from this interesting passage that its ultimate meaning can be ascertained only by our personal experience with every changing form and aspect of life itself. We must taste of all the modes of existence. This inflicts upon us the "cycle of necessity," the imperative obligation to tread the weary wheel of life on all the globes. We will know the "good" of it all only by living through it. There is no vindication for ethics, for religion, for philosophy, for teleology and optimism, save in life and experience itself. Reason, dialectic, can do nothing for us if life does not first furnish us the material content of the good. All we can do is look to life with the confident expectation that its processes will justify our wishes. We must in the end stand on faith. If life prove not ultimately sweet to the tasting, no rationalization will make it so.
We are assured, however, that the unit of personal consciousness built up in the process of cosmic evolution is never annihilated, but expands until it becomes inclusive of the highest. It enjoys the fruitage of its dull incubations in the lower worlds in its ever-enhancing capacities for a life "whose glory and splendor have no limits."
But, says K.H. immortality is quite a relative matter. Man, being a compound creature, is not entirely immortal. You know, he reminds us, that the physical body has no immortality. Neither the etheric double nor the kama rupa (astral body), nor yet the lower manasic (mental) principle survive disintegration. Only the Ego in the causal body holds its conscious existence between lives on earth. Even the planetary spirits, high as they are in the scale of being, suffer breaks in their conscious life,---the periods of pralaya. In the true sense of the term only the one life has absolute
16 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 158.
immortality, for it is the only existence which has neither beginning nor end, nor any break in its continuity. All lower aspects and embodiments have immortality, but with periodic recessions into inanition.
The problem of evil received treatment at K.H.'s hands, and is summarized in the statement that
"Evil has no existence per se and is but the absence of good and exists but for him who is made its victim. It proceeds from two causes, and no more than good is it an independent cause in nature. Nature is destitute of goodness or malice; she follows only immutable laws, when she either gives life and joy or sends suffering and death and destroys what she has created. Nature has an antidote for every poison and her laws a reward for every suffering. The butterfly devoured by a bird becomes that bird, and the little bird killed by an animal goes into a higher form. It is the blind law of necessity and the eternal fitness of things, and hence cannot be called evil in Nature. The real evil proceeds from human intelligence and its origin rests entirely with reasoning man who dissociates himself from Nature. Humanity then alone is the true source of evil. Evil is the exaggeration of good, the progeny of human selfishness and greediness. Think profoundly and you will find that save death---which is no evil but a necessary law, and accidents which will always find their reward in a future life---the origin of every evil, whether small or great, is in human action, in man whose intelligence makes him the one free agent in Nature. It is not Nature that creates diseases, but man. . . . Food, sexual relations, drink, are all natural necessities of life; yet excess in them brings on disease, misery, suffering, mental and physical. . . . Become a glutton, a debauchee, a tyrant, and you become the originator of diseases, of human suffering and misery. Therefore it is neither Nature nor an imaginary Deity that has to be blamed, but human nature made vile by selfishness."17
It will be of interest to hear what K.H. says about "heaven."
"It (Devachan)18 is an ideated paradise in each case, of the
17 Ibid., p. 52.
18 Devachanna would be equivalent to the Sanskrit devachhanna, hidden (abode) of the gods. On page 373 of the Mahatma Letters the Master K.H. writes: "The meaning of the terms 'Devachan' and 'Deva-Loka,' is identical; 'chan' and 'loka'
Ego's own making, and by him filled with the scenery, crowded with the incidents and thronged with the people he would expect to find in such a sphere of compassionate bliss."19
Man makes his own heaven or hell, and is in it while he is making it. It is subjective; only, Theosophy postulates a certain (refined and sublimated) objectivity to the forms of our subjectivity. Man does in heaven only what he does on earth---forms a conception and then hypostatizes or reifies it. Only, in the case of nirvanic states, the reification is instantaneously externalized. On earth it is a slower formation. The "Summerland" of the Spiritualists is but the objectification of the Ego's buoyant dreams, when freed from the heavy limitations of the earth body.
"In Devachan the dreams of the objective life become the realities of the subjective."20
This means that the ideal creations, the highest aspirations of man on earth, become the substance of his actual consciousness in heaven. They are the only elements of his normal human mind that are pitched at a vibration rate high enough to impress the matter or stuff of his permanent body, and hence they alone cause a repercussion or response in his pure subjective consciousness when the lower bodies are lost. On this theory the day dreams and the ideal longings of the human soul become the most vital and substantial, and abiding, activities of his psychic life.
The only memories of the earth life that intrude into this picture of heavenly bliss are those connected with the feelings of love and hate.
"Love and hatred are the only immortal feelings, the only survivors from the wreck of the Ye-damma or phenomenal world."21
equally signifying place or abode. Deva is a word too indiscriminately used in Eastern writings, and is at times merely a blind." Deva may be roughly translated as "the shining one" or god. Devachan written alternatively Deva-Chan) is thus used to signify "the abode of the gods." Theosophists interchange it with our term "heaven-world."
19 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 179.
20 Ibid., p. 197.
21 Ibid., p. 187.
All other feelings function at too low a rate to register on the ethereal body of the Devachanee, and are lost.
"Out of the resurrected past nothing remains but what the Ego has felt spiritually---that was evolved by and through, and lived over by his spiritual faculties---be it love or hatred."22
Suicides, says K.H., must undergo a peculiar discipline following their premature death. Since they have arbitrarily interrupted a cycle of nature before its normal completion, the operation of law requires that they hang suspended, so to speak, in a condition of near-earthly existence until what would have been their natural life-term has expired.
"The suicides who, foolishly hoping to escape life, found themselves still alive, have suffering enough in store for them from that very life. Their punishment is in the intensity of the latter."23
Their distress consists, it seems, in remaining within the purview of their earthly life without being able to express its impulses. They are often tempted to enjoy life again by proxy, i.e., through mediums or by efforts at a sort of vampiristic obsession. Victims of death by accident have a happier fate. They are more quickly released from earth's lure to partake of the lethal existence in the higher Devachan.
All those souls who do not slip down into the eighth sphere---Avichi---through a "pull" of the animal nature which proved too strong for their spiritual fibre to resist, go on to the Devachan---to Heaven. To the Theosophist heaven is not "that bourne from which no traveler e'er returns," nor is access to it a matter of even rare exception. Millions of persons in earth life have had glimpses through its portals, in sleep, trance, catalepsis, anaesthesia, hypnosis, or in the open-eyed mystic's vision. It is a realm of sweet surcease from pain and sorrow, of happiness without alloy. But it is far from being the same place, or from providing identically the same experience, for every soul. Each one's heaven is determined by the capacities for spiritual enjoyment developed on earth. Only the spiritual senses survive.
22 Ibid., p. 187.
23 Ibid., p. 183.
To enrich heaven one must have laid up spiritual treasure on earth. Furthermore, the life there is not without break. The released Ego does not loll away an eternal existence there, but after due rest returns to earth. Nor is his enjoyment of the Devachan the same in each sojourn there. He bites deeper into the bliss of heaven each time he takes his flight from body. The constant enrichment of his experience in the upper spheres provides a never-ending novelty.
To Mr. Sinnett's assertion that a mental condition of happiness empty of sensational, emotional, and lower mental (manasic) content would be an intolerable monotony K.H. replies by asking him if he felt any sense of monotony during that one moment in his life when he experienced the utmost fulness of conscious being. Devachan is like that, he assured the complainant, only much more so. As our climatic moments in this life seem by their ineffable opulence to swallow up the weary sense of the time-drag, so the ecstatic consciousness of the heaven state is purged of all sense of ennui or successive movement. To put it succinctly, there is no sense of time in which to grow weary.
"No; there are no clocks, no timepieces in Devachan, . . . though the whole Cosmos is a gigantic chronometer in one sense . . . I may also remind you in this connection that time is something created entirely by ourselves; that while one short second of intense agony may appear, even on earth, as an eternity to one man, to another, more fortunate, hours, days and sometimes whole years may seem to flit like one brief moment. . . . But finite similes are unfit to express the abstract and the infinite; nor can the objective ever mirror the subjective. . . . To realize the bliss in Devachan, or the woes in Avitchi, you have to assimilate them---as we do. . . . Space and time may be, as Kant has it, not the product but the regulators of the sensations, but only so far as our sensations on earth are concerned, not those in Devachan. . . Space and time cease to act as 'the frame of our experience' 'over there.'"24
The land of distinctions is transcended and the here and there merge into the everywhere, as the everywhere into the here and there, and the now and then into the now.
24 Ibid., p. 194.
Koot Hoomi is sure that the materialistic attitudes of the Occidental mind have played havoc with the subtle spirituality embodied in Eastern religions, in the effort at translation and interpretation.
"Oh, ye Max Müllers and Monier Williamses, what have ye done with our philosophy?"25
You can not take the higher spiritual degrees by mere study of books. Progress here has to do largely with the development of latent powers and faculties, the cultivation of which is attended with some dangers. In this juncture it avails the student far more to be able to call upon the personal help of a kindly guardian who is truly a Master of the hidden forces of life, than to depend upon his own efforts, however consecrated. Each grade in the hierarchy of evolved beings stands ready to tutor the members of the class below.
"The want of such a 'guide, philosopher and friend' can never be supplied, try as you may. All you can do is to prepare the intellect: the impulse toward 'soul-culture must be furnished by the individual. Thrice fortunate they who can break through the vicious circle of modern influence and come above the vapors! . . . Unless regularly initiated and trained---concerning the spiritual insight of things and the supposed revelations made unto man in all ages from Socrates down to Swedenborg . . . no self-tutored seer or clairvoyant ever saw or heard quite correctly."26
The Master Morya has a word to say to Sinnett about "the hankering of occult students after phenomena" of a psychic nature. It is a maya 27 against which, he says, they have always been warned. It grows with gratification; the Spiritualists, he says, are thaumaturgic addicts. It adds no force to metaphysical truth that his own and K.H.'s letters
25 Ibid., p. 241
26 Ibid., p. 255.
27 Maya, a word frequent in several schools of Indian Philosophy, commonly used to denote the illusory or merely phenomenal character of man's experience which he gains through his sense equipment. It is often identified with avidya or ajnana and contrasted with Brahmavidya or knowledge of truth and reality, in their unconditioned form.
drop into Sinnett's lap or come under his pillow. If the philosophy is wrong a "wonder" will not set it right. Spiritual knowledge, made effective for growth, is the desideratum. Trance mediumship, he reiterates, is itself both undesirable and unfruitful. No mind should submit itself passively to another. "We do not require a passive mind, but on the contrary are seeking for those most active." Nothing can give the student insight save the unfolding of his own inner powers.
Much of the Adept's writing to Sinnett has to do with the conditions of probation and "chelaship" in the master science of soul-culture. He says there are certain rigid laws the fulfilment of which is absolutely essential to the disciple's secure advancement. They have to do with self-mastery, meditation, purity of life, fixity of purpose. These laws, which at first seem to the neophyte to bar his path, will be seen, as he persists in obedience to them, to be the road to all he can ask. But no one can break them without becoming their victim. Too eager expectation on the part of the aspirant is dangerous. It disturbs the balance of forces.
"Each warmer and quicker throb of the heart wears so much life away. The passions, the affections, are not to be indulged in by him who seeks to know; for they wear out the earthly body with their own secret power; and he who would gain his aim must be cold."28
A hint as to the occult desirability of vegetarianism is dropped in the sentence:
"Never will the Spiritualists find reliable trustworthy mediums and Seers (not even to a degree) so long as the latter and their 'circle' will saturate themselves with animal blood and the millions of infusoria of the fermented fluids."29
Arcane knowledge has always been presented in forms such that only the most determined aspirants could grasp the meanings. K.H. interjects that Sir Isaac Newton understood the principles of occult philosophy but "withheld his knowl-
28 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 274.
29 Ibid., p. 276.
edge very prudently for his own reputation." The "scientific" attitude of mind is declared to be unpropitious for the attainment of clear insight into truth, and the pretensions of modern scientists that they comprehend "the limits of the natural" receive some of the Master's irony. "Oh, century of conceit and mental obscuration!" he jeers.
"All is secret for them as yet in nature. Of man---they know but the skeleton and the form . . . their school science is a hotbed of doubts and conjectures."30
Furthermore, "to give more knowledge to a man than he is fitted to receive is a dangerous experiment." In his ignorance or his passion he may make a use of it fatal both to himself and those about him. The Adepts, it appears also, have their own reasons for not wishing to impart knowledge more rapidly than the pupil can assimilate it. The misuse of knowledge by the pupil always reacts upon the initiator; the Teacher becomes responsible in a measure for the results. The Master would only hinder and complicate his own progress by indiscreet generosity to his chela.
As one means of lightening this responsibility the chela is required, when accepted, to take a vow of secrecy covering every order he may receive and the specific information imparted. The Master knows whether the vow is ever broken, without a question being put.
The prime qualification for the favor of receiving the great knowledge is rectitude of motive. Wisdom must be sought only for its serviceability to Brotherhood and progress, not even as an end in itself:
"The quality of wisdom ever was and will be yet for a long time---to the very close of the fifth race---denied to him who seeks the wealth of the mind for its own sake, and for its own enjoyment and result, without the secondary purpose of turning it to account in the attainment of material benefits."31
The applicant for chelaship is tested---unknown to himself---in subtle ways before he is accepted, and often after-
30 Ibid., p. 281.
31 Ibid., p. 305.
wards, too. It is not a system of secret espionage, but a method of drawing out the inner nature of the neophytes, so that they may become self-conquerors.
K.H. reminds Sinnett that the efforts of theosophic adherents to restore or propagate esoteric doctrines have ever been met by the determined opposition of the vested ecclesiastical interests, which have not scrupled to resort to forgery of documents, alleged confessions of fraud, or other villainous subterfuge, to crush out the "heresy."
"Some of you Theosophists are now wounded only in your 'honor' or your purses, but those who held the lamp in previous generations paid the penalty of their lives for their knowledge."32
He points out, too, the distressful state into which certain over-eager aspirants have brought themselves by "snatching at forbidden power before their moral nature is developed to the point of fitness for its exercise." He says: "it would be a sorry day for mankind" if any sharper or deadlier powers---such as those the high Adepts are privileged to wield---were put in the hands of those unaccustomed to use them, or morally untrustworthy.
K.H. volunteers to explain the occult significance of the interlaced black and white triangles in the circle which forms part of the monogram on the seal of the Theosophical Society. The Jewish Kabbalists viewed the insignia as Solomon's Seal. It is "a geometrical synthesis of the whole occult doctrine."
"The two interlaced triangles . . . contain the 'squaring of the circle,' the 'philosophical stone,' the great problems of Life and Death, and---the Mystery of Evil."33
The upward-pointing triangle is Wisdom concealed, and the downward-pointing one is Wisdom revealed---in the phenomenal world.
"The circle indicates the bounding, circumscribing quality of the All, the Universal Principle which expands . . . to embrace all things."
32 Ibid., p. 322.
33 Ibid., p. 337
The three sides represent the three gunas, or finite attributes. The double triangles likewise symbolize the Great Passive and the Great Active principles, the male and female, Purusha (Spirit) and Prakriti (Matter).34 The one triangle points upward to Spirit, the other downward to Matter, and their interlacing represents the conjunction of Spirit and Matter in the manifested universe. The six points of the two triangles, with the central point, yield the significant Seven, the symbol of Universal Being.
Manifestation of the Absolute Life creates universes, and starts evolutionary processes; but, says K.H. to Sinnett,
"neither you nor any other man across the threshold has had or ever will have the 'complete theory' of Evolution taught him; or get it unless he guesses it for himself. . . . Some---have come very near to it. But there is always . . . just enough error . . . to prove the eternal law that only the unshackled Spirit shall see the things of the Spirit without a veil."35
Pride of intellect grows enormously more dangerous the farther one goes toward the higher realms; and after that is overcome spiritual pride raises its head. An average mortal finds his share of sin and misery rather equally distributed over his life; but a chela has it concentrated all within one period of probation. One who essays the higher peaks of knowledge must overcome a heavier drag of moral gravitation than one who is content to walk the plain.
From a purely political standpoint it is interesting to note that in 1883 K.H. had taken hold of a project to launch in India a journal to be named "The Phoenix," which, with Mr. Sinnett as editor, was to function as an agent for the cultivation of native Hindu patriotism, of which the Master saw a sore need in India's critical situation at that time. Native princes were looked to for financial support, as well as Theosophists, and propaganda for the venture had already been set in motion. But K.H. declares that his
34 The terms Purusha and Prakriti are employed in the Sankhya school of Indian philosophy to designate spirit and matter as the two opposing phases of the one life when in active manifestation.
35 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 348.
closer inspection of the situation and his discovery of the wretched political indifference of his countrymen made the enterprise dubious, financially and spiritually. He then ordered Sinnett to drop it entirely, as he saw certain failure ahead.
The Mahatma Letters, in the latter portion, go deeply into the affairs of the London Lodge, T. S., which Mr. Sinnett had founded on his return to England, and they even advise as to the "slate" of officers to stand for election. There was a factional grouping in the Lodge at the time, the Kingsford-Maitland party standing for Christian esotericism as against the paramount influence of the Tibetan Masters, whose existence was regarded by them as at least hypothetical; and the Sinnett wing adhering closely to H.P.B. and her Adepts. Mrs. Anna B. Kingsford had had a series of communications in her own right from high teachers, which K.H. himself stated were in accord with his own doctrine. These were published in a volume, The Perfect Way. The Master counsels harmony between the two parties, preaching, with Heraclitus, that harmony is the equilibrium established by the tension of two opposing forces.
Much or most of the substance of the later Letters is personal, touching Sinnett's relations with persons of prominence in the Theosophical movement. The Adepts make no claim to omniscience---they themselves are in turn disciples of higher and grander beings whom they speak of as the Dhyan Chohans,36 and whom they rank next to the "planetaries"---but they assert their ability to look from any distance into the secret minds of Sinnett's associates as well as into his own. They gave him the benefit of this spiritual "shadowing" to guide him in the Society's affairs.
Many complimentary things are said to Mr. Sinnett for his encouragement; but he is not spared personal criticism
36 Of the Dhyan Chohans Madame Blavatsky speaks in the Glossary as follows: "The Lords of Light," the highest gods, answering to the Roman Catholic Archangels, the divine intelligences charged with the supervision of Kosmos. Dhyan is a Sanskrit term signifying "wisdom" or "illumination," but the name Chohans seems to be more obscure in origin, and is probably Tibetan, used in the general sense of "Lords" of "Masters."
of the sharpest sort. He is told that his attitude of Western pride stands in the way of his true spiritual progress. While his admirable qualities have won him the distinction of being used as a literary aid to the Mahatmas, still he is pronounced far from eligible for chelaship.
Much of the material in the Letters, being of a quite personal and intimate nature, was, to be sure, never intended for publication; in fact, was again and again forbidden publication. But the Sinnett estate was persuaded, in 1925, to give out the Letters for the good they might be expected to do in refutation of the many bizarre divergencies which Neo-Theosophy was making from the original teachings. Their publication came at the conclusion of the half-century period of the existence of the Theosophical Society and was supposed to terminate an old and begin a new cycle with some exceptional significance such as Theosophists attribute to times and tides in the flow of things.
To most Theosophists the existence of the Masters and the contents of their teaching form the very corner-stone of their systematic faith. And ultimately they point to the wisdom and spirituality displayed in the Letters themselves as being sufficient vindication of that faith.
[End of Chapter VI.]
by Alvin Boyd Kuhn
The Secret Doctrine by Alvin Boyd Kuhn