Hugh Shearman quotes A.P. Sinnett on The Mahatma Letters

Daniel H. Caldwell

Although I think every Blavatsky/Mahatma Letter student should read and study what Hugh Shearman wrote about the Mahatma Letters, it is my considered opinion that Shearman presents a very one-sided view on the subjects under consideration.

Let me give an example or two to illustrate my point.

Hugh Shearman quotes A.P. Sinnett on The Mahatma Letters (In the article "Theosophical Ontologies"

"Here is how A. P. Sinnett, to whom the bulk of the still surviving Mahatma Letters were addressed, assessed the descriptive material that was in them and Madame Blavatsky's influence upon it.
He said:
'They contained masses of information concerning the natural truths that have since become the fundamental ideas underlying Theosophy, which were previously as unknown to Madame Blavatsky as to myself. Reincarnation, karma , the planetary chains, the succession of the root races, the sub-races and so on, were not tampered with. Madame Blavatsky did not know enough about them at that time to make it is possible for her to import confusion into information on these subjects which passed through her hands. But unhappily she had contracted - under conditions I will not attempt to elucidate - a bitter detestation of spiritualism, and sometimes when the letters touched on after-death conditions she wove this feeling into them. The result was dreadfully misleading and the consequences very deplorable'. (A.P Sinnett, The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe , p.28)"

But the inquiring reader might ask:

  • How did Sinnett really know that HPB had imported confusion into the information given in the Mahatma Letters?
  • How did Sinnett determine that HPB had distorted the teachings on the "after-death conditions"?
  • How did he also come to the conclusion that Blavatsky had not tampered with other teachings on "Reincarnation, karma , the planetary chains, the succession of the root races, the sub-races and so on"?

Unfortunately, Shearman does NOT give the reader any background on how Sinnett's above views may have developed.

The following information may help to give the reader a wider context to Sinnett's remarks.

In 1884, Sinnett came to believe he was in contact with the Master K.H., independent of H.P.B. acting as mediator. Sinnett wrote in his book The Early Days of Theosophy:

"About this time [early July 1884] Mrs. Holloway, a wonderfully gifted American psychic came to stay with us. . . . .She used to get vivid clairvoyant visions of the Master, - could pass on messages to me from K.H. and on one occasion he actually made use of her to speak to me in the first person."
p. 27

But the Master K.H. (in a letter received July 18, 1884) pronounced Sinnett's claim false and untrue:

"You ask me if you can tell Miss Arundale what I told you thro' Mrs. H [olloway]. . . . . .[But] I have never . . . communicated with you or any one else thro' her. . . . . She is an excellent but quite undeveloped clairvoyante. . . . ." The Mahatma Letters, 2nd ed., p. 355

In a letter to Laura Holloway herself, KH wrote:

"I have denied — black on white communicating with him [Sinnett] through you. I have never done so, and this I repeat; but he clings to his unwholesome illusion. . . . "
Quoted from Letter 17

Sinnett had such a strong belief that KH had communicated with him through Mrs. Holloway that he even doubted KH's letter (quoted above) received on July 18, 1884.

Soon thereafter, Blavatsky wrote:

"My dear Mr. Sinnett,
"It is very strange that you should be ready to deceive yourself so willingly. I have seen last night whom I had to see, and getting the explanation I wanted I am now settled on points I was not only doubtful about but positively averse to accepting. And the words in the first line are words I am bound to repeat to you as a warning, and because I regard you, after all, as one of my best personal friends. Now you have and are deceiving, in vulgar parlance, bamboozling yourself about the letter received by me yesterday from the Mahatma. The letter is from Him, whether written through a chela or not; and -- perplexing as it may seem to you, contradictory and 'absurd,' it is the full expression of his feelings and he maintains what he said in it. For me it is surpassingly strange that you should accept as His only that which dovetails with your own feelings, and reject all that contradicts your own notions of the fitness of things. . . . you imagine, or rather force yourself to imagine that the Mahatma's letter is not wholly orthodox and was written by a chela to please me, or something of the sort. . . . If you -- the most devoted, the best of all Theosophists -- are ready to fall a victim to your own preconceptions and believe in new gods of your own fancy dethroning the old ones -- then, notwithstanding all and everything Theosophy has come too early in this country. . . .
Yours, H.P.B."

Sinnett persisted in his "unwholesome illusion."

Notice what happened four years later.

Master K.H. in his August 1888 "S.S. Shannon" letter to Colonel Henry Olcott wrote:

"Since 1885 I have not written, nor caused to be written save thro' her [HPB's] agency, direct or remote, a letter or line to anybody in Europe or America, nor communicated orally with, or thro' any third party. Theosophists should learn it. You will understand later the significance of this declaration so keep it in mind. Her [HPB's] fidelity to our work being constant, and her sufferings having come upon her thro' it, neither I nor either of my Brother associates will desert or supplant her. . . . "
". . . (This letter) . . . is merely given you as a warning and a guide; to others as a warning only; for you may use it discreetly if needs be . . . Prepare, however, to have the authenticity of the present denied in certain quarters." Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Series I.

Notice KH's words:

"Prepare, however, to have the authenticity of the present denied in certain quarters."

When Sinnett was shown the letter in London, he wrote privately to C.W. Leadbeater:

"It reads to me very much en suite with the other letters in blue handwriting that came during the 1884 crisis, when Mm. B. herself admitted to me afterwards that during that time the Masters had stood aside and left everything to various chelas, including freedom to use the blue handwriting". (C. Jinarajadasa, The K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater, p. 75).

At this same time, Madame Blavatsky wrote an article in LUCIFER which
is very relevant to Sinnett's views. HPB stated:

"We have been asked by a correspondent why he should not "be free to suspect some of the so-called 'precipitated' letters as being forgeries," giving as his reason for it that while some of them bear the stamp of (to him) undeniable genuineness, others seem from their contents and style, to be imitations. This is equivalent to saying that he has such an unerring spiritual insight as to be able to detect the false from the true, though he has never met a Master, nor been given any key by which to test his alleged communications. The inevitable consequence of applying his untrained judgment in such cases, would be to make him as likely as not to declare false what was genuine, and genuine what was false. Thus what criterion has any one to decide between one "precipitated" letter, or another such letter? Who except their authors, or those whom they employ as their amanuenses (the chelas and disciples), can tell? For it is hardly one out of a hundred "occult" letters that is ever written by the hand of the Master, in whose name 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, whether near or far away, write (or precipitate) them, by impressing upon his mind the ideas they wish expressed, and if necessary aiding him in the picture-printing process of precipitation. 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, as far as intrinsic evidence goes, all come from the same source, and an are brought by the same mysterious means. But there is another, and a far worse condition implied. For all that the recipient of "occult" letters can possibly know, and on the simple grounds of probability and common honesty, the unseen correspondent who would tolerate one single fraudulent line in his name, would wink at an unlimited repetition of the deception. And this leads directly to the following. All the so-called occult letters being supported by identical proofs, they have all to stand or fall together. If one is to be doubted, then all have, and the series of letters in the "Occult World," "Esoteric Buddhism," etc., etc., may be, and there is no reason why they should not be in such a case-frauds, "clever impostures," and "forgeries," . . . . " Quoted from:
http://www.blavatsky.net/blavatsky/arts/LodgesOfMagic.htm

Hugh Shearman on the Mahatma Letters


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