The American Theosophist, dec. 1964, p. 290-91 (reprint from The Theosophist)

The Image of Infallibility

N. Sri Ram

With reference to my statement in the February Watch-Tower that no one should be set up as infallible - in other words, as the context indicates, we should not attribute infallibility to some person, and then later condemn him as a false guide or idol when, as we might think, he has failed to fulfill that condition ...
There may be a state of mind and heart, the perceptions of which are faultless, a "Warrior" deep within us (to use the description in Light on the Path) who "cannot strike one blow amiss." But not knowing what this state is, and judging on the basis of our own imperfect notions and views, when we think that someone cannot make a mistake in any statement or action he may adopt, this thought is not based on any knowledge; it is only a belief, a kind of support we create for ourselves, which will fail us as soon as we find there are differences between our preconceived and deeply entrenched ideas and his. Sooner or later such differences will manifest themselves on some important question, important as it might seem to us. Since the degree of respect we entertain - or think we do - for that person depends upon our notion of infallibility, that respect will then tend to fall. The more advanced that person is spiritually, the sharper such differences will be, because we are less likely to be able to share his evaluations, to follow the movements of his thought and understand the depth of his approach on matters of truly fundamental import.
We do not know that state of being which is faultless and forever true. When we project a concept of infallibility, we project it from our ignorance, our particular conditioning. When we identify another person with this concept, there is the possibility, not to say the probability, that in following his own course of action or development, he may not continue to be in alignment with that concept or support the ideas that constitute it. So in our estimation he would no longer have his place in the zenith in which we at first placed him. In other words, even if he far transcends us in his knowledge, not understanding him, we would think him mistaken as soon as he ceased to measure up to our ideas. There are striking instances in history which illustrate this truth. It is well to have a margin of latitude in our minds for possible variations, for error, real or only imagined, in matters of doctrine, as well as of occult revelations.
In Letter 24-B of the Mahatma Letters, the Master K.H. writes as follows: "An Adept - the highest as the lowest - is one only during the exercise of his occult powers ... We are forbidden to use one particle of our powers in connection with the Eclectics ... and then syllogize: K.H. when writing to us is not and Adept. A Non-Adept is fallible. Therefore, K.H. may very easily commit mistakes ... "
When this is what the Master writes about himself, should we expect of anyone else exemption from the possibility of making a mistake as a condition for whatever love, admiration, reverence or devotion we are able to give him?
I might point out in this connection that both Dr. Annie Besant and Brother C.W. Leadbeater (not to mention H.P. B.) repeatedly stated that their descriptions and statements from clairvoyant observation should not be regarded as above criticism, examination or revision. They were aware of the possibilities of error.
H.P.B. maintained that Mars and Mercury were separate chains from that of the earth. Dr. Besant and Brother Leadbeater declared otherwise from their own observations. Here is a discrepancy that no one has been able to solve, without considering that either the one or the other was mistaken. My own attitude in such matters is that mistakes of this sort or of the sort the Masters refers to, in fact any mistakes which arise from imperfect knowledge or a wrong identification and not from complexes, complications and distortions in oneself, do not matter; they are not of such importance as we may think. The kind of greatness that draws the deepest allegiance does not lie in the correctness of anyone's intellectual knowledge. Love does not ask for an image of infallibility, for an object that has all the answers.