Theosophical Notes, January 1952, edited by Victor Endersby
[This article is interesting as it goes into the famous '1900 letter' by Mahatma Koot Hoomi to Annie Besant. Most theosophists have interpreted this letter as genuine, but the author of this article goes into some very good arguments why it cannot have been. I'll leave it for the reader to decide.
The article all through refers to the letter as published in Jinarajadasa's Letters from the Masters of The Wisdom, First Series, letter 59 (in my sixth edition). The text of this letter had some words deleted. The complete letter has been published on my website. - Katinka Hesselink]
On Aug. 22, 1900, B.W. Mantri of Bombay,
wrote to Annie Besant in London as follows:
I have long wished to see you but somehow I have been so confused by many things I heard from several members of the Theosophical Society that I really do not understand what are really the tenets and beliefs of the Society. What form of Yoga do you recommend. I have long been interested in Yoga studies and I send you the "Panch Ratna Gita" by Anandebai who is much advanced in this science. I wish you could see her. I am going to Kholapoor but hope to come back soon and pay my respects to you when you come back to India.
This letter was reproduced as Letter 46 in the Fourth Edition of Letters
From the Masters of the Wisdom, p.155. Upon receipt at London, there
was found written on it, in the known handwriting of the Master "K. H." the
To Annie Besant
A PSYCHIC and a pranayamist who has got confused by the vagaries of the members. The T.S., and its members are slowly manufacturing a creed. Says a Thibetan proverb "credulity breeds credulity and ends in hypocrisy". How few are they who can know anything about us. Are we to be propitiated and made idols of ...The intense desire of some to see Upasika reincarnate at once has raised a misleading Mayavic ideation. Upasika has useful work to do on higher planes and cannot come again so soon. The T.S. must safely be ushered into the new century ... no one has a right to claim authority over a pupil or his conscience. Ask him not what he believes. ... The crest wave of intellectual advancement must be taken hold of and guided into Spirituality. It cannot be forced into beliefs and emotional worship. The essence of the higher thoughts of the members in their collectivity must guide all action in the T.S.... We never try to subject to ourselves the will of another. At favourable times we let loose elevating influences which strike various persons in various ways. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that can give the correct note of action. We show no favours. The best corrective of error is an honest and open-minded examination of all facts subjective and objective ...The cant about "Masters" must be silently but firmly put down. Let the devotion and service be to that Supreme Spirit alone of which each one is a part. Namelessly and silently we work and the continual references to ourselves and the repetition of our names, raises up a confused aura that hinders our work ... The T.S. was meant to be the corner stone of the future religions of humanity. To accomplish
this object those who lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true Theosophists both in inner thought and outward observance. The greatest of your trials is yet to come. We are watching over you but you must put forth all your strength.
"Upasika" refers to H.P. Blavatsky, who died in 1891.
Mr. Jinarajadasa, Editor of the Letters, comments as follows:
"...The supposition that the K.H. script is a forgery implies that the forgery was done by somebody familiar with the K.H. script after Mr. Mantri posted it in Bombay and before it was delivered in London. It should here be remembered that before I reproduced the K.H. script in my Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series, in 1925, and one Letter of the Master was reproduced in Barker's The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in 1923, the only other reproductions were (so far as I am aware) in the rare volume of the Society for Psychical Research which investigated the charges of forgery against H.P.B.
"The parts in the Letter which I have omitted refer to the occult life of Dr. Besant which only the Master could have known."
In our issue of January, 1951, we claimed this letter to be a forgery, not by physical, but by phenomenal means, for the purpose of confirming Annie Besant in her wrong conduct in the "Judge Case," and in
her then direction of affairs in the Theosophical Society. We claimed that it was morally impossible for a Master to treat as a chela (which this letter implies) one who had so conducted herself, and that the letter itself was irrelevant to what was actually going on in the T.S. at the time.
The revised edition of The History of The Theosophical Movement, issued by the Editors of Theosophy, reached us later. On pp. 296-297 this letter was reproduced in part, with the remark that it "has the ring of authenticity," qualified somewhat by "whatever the source." It is deplored that the Society had not followed the advice given in it. In our June issue, we dealt further with it from our standpoint.
Theosophia had the following in its Sept.-Oct. issue, 1951: "...Careful comparison of the handwriting establishes the genuineness of the communication, quite apart from the importance of the subject-matter, the authoritative language and the character of the style, all of which are further evidences of genuineness. It should be borne in mind that this message was received nine years after the death of H.P. Blavatsky in 1891.
"We recommend the contents of this communication to the most careful study of our readers and friends. It contains key-thoughts only too often disregarded or ignored in the Theosophical Movement of the present day. The text is reproduced from the facsimile where certain passages, pertaining to private matters, have been blocked out. Editor"
Private communications to Notes have suggested the following:
1. That the withheld portions of the letter contained a vindication of Judge, and a "last warning" to Annie Besant, which she disregarded.
2. That in the interim after the Judge Case, she had seen the error of her ways sufficiently to have become reinstated in the Masters favor.
3. That the Masters are men of such wide compassion and tolerance, and even the worst delinquents still have so much good in them, that they could still use the good in Annie Besant to work their own ends.
That it failed of having any apparent beneficial effect, is no sign that it was not from a Master; their work being to give people chances, not to insure their being taken.
It will be noted that the above four propositions are necessarily from people neutral or leaning toward the Judge side of the argument. So far as any communications received indicate, Notes stands alone in its opinion of the origin of the letter; save that some have not seemingly arrived at fixed conclusions one way or the other.
Now we do not have any particular hope of "converting" anybody; it would be rather unusual for anyone in the Theosophical Movement who has taken a public stand, to recant it. However, the real issues go far beyond the verity or otherwise of this letter and its individual effects. They go into the whole matter of identification of communications "from the other side," and some of the arguments put forth seem to us dangerous. Dangerous, because by assuming that all supernormal communications necessarily come from where they are supposed to, the possibilities of being disastrously deceived by them are infinite. It is our firm opinion that the current divisions in the Movement, which everyone wishes could be healed, are precisely due to lack of information and lack of discrimination regarding "supernormal" communications, whether written, precipitated, clairvoyant, or clairaudient. We are proposing, therefore, to set forth these principles as associated with this letter, not merely for the dubious pleasure of argument, but in the hope that more thorough thinking will result, regardless of the conclusions to which one comes. If there is ever to be any final "proof," it seems that it will have to come after 1975; and then that the nature of it will be according to which "Messenger" one embraces.
The different reasons for which various persons consider the letter authentic, are interesting and revealing. Jinarajadasa, because to him it seems to establish the Society and Annie Besant as in good standing after the "closure" date of Dec. 31, 1899. (We think he would agree with us that no such letter could be received except by a chela in good standing.) The Editors of Theosophy, because it seems to them to be a condemnation of the course, then and afterward, of the Society, they being Judge adherents. Theosophia, because it seems heartening evidence, independently of H.P.B., of the existence of Masters and their continued intervention, and condemns trends to which it objects. (But the letter proves that, even if it is an occult forgery; where
one side is, there the other is also.) We, because it does not appear to us to have had, or be intended to have, the effect of correcting the real deviation in the Society at that time, and other reasons. Hence the letter is ambiguous to say the least: its meaning lies in the circumstances and attitudes of readers. But study of Letters From the Masters and Mahatma Letters shows that their messages on errors have the ambiguity of a pile-driver.
First let us deal with the numbered suppositions; (these are of importance only to Judge adherents; Besant partisans holding that she was impeccably right throughout, hence needing no excuses for getting a Mahatma letter.)
1. If the letter was a "last warning" concerning Judge, it was certainly disregarded. The whole history of Annie Besant shows that she obeyed with implicit fidelity, at any cost to herself, anything that she really thought came from a Master. Her trouble was poor discrimination as to what did so come. Moreover, such an interpretation puts Jinarajadasa in a very queer light. He still publicly condemns Judge and upholds Besant. Such an interpretation would mean that he suppressed a favorable statement about Judge, in a letter that he publicly recognizes as authentic, and still publicly condemns Judge. He would not like that explanation, and we do not believe it. We do not think Judge was directly mentioned at all. Mr. Jinarajadasa is welcome to express himself on this point in Notes.
2. Surely the barest of Theosophical ethics would show that the least one can do, upon realizing a wrong done another, is to make the fullest and most immediate reparation and restitution possible! In this case it would consist of retracting the charges against judge and trying to bring about a reunion of the Movement on that basis. No such thing was ever done. Here again we have a case; where the record of a character comes into the matter. Nothing in Annie Besant's career, before or after her entry into Theosophy, indicates her to have been a moral coward. In fact her embracement of Theosophy and her rejection of her former agnostic associations, must have involved a trial of serious magnitude. To our mind, there is internal evidence in some of her writings that she had the necessary courage. On the other hand is the claim in the revised Movement (p. 297) that in the 1920's she confessed a realization of the wrong done Judge, to B.P. Wadia and demurred at announcing the fact on the grounds that it was all long ago and too late to do anything about now. If so, this indeed shows a vast degeneration of character, as well as perception; because the issue is exactly what keeps the Movement divided today. But this is in some doubt. The story of the Besant-Wadia interview, as it came to us shortly after, rather directly, is that while at dinner, Mr. Wadia asked her whether she could not have been mistaken about Judge. She seemed rather stricken, laid down her knife and fork slowly, and said in a low tone, "I may have been." We have no report on the rest of the conversation. The above differs in meaning considerably from the version given in the Movement. It may imply that Annie Besant found herself in the terrible position of fearing
that she had been wrong, yet not sure enough to precipitate the upheaval that would be caused in the work by a recantation. At that date it would have been somewhat comparable to what would happen in the Catholic Church should the Pope suddenly proclaim a realization that his office was a fraud. We would be glad to print any statement that Mr. Wadia cares to make on this interview. * (We wish meantime to suggest to those who feel themselves to have received great benefits through Annie Besant, that the best service that could be rendered her memory would be, if she was wrong, to make certain of the fact and set about the necessary repairs. To support anyone in a wrong is not loyalty but disloyalty; it injures the karma of that person to the utmost degree, as well as one's own.)
If Annie Besant had any doubts about Judge in August, 1900, they must have been of very recent origin. In the leading article of The Review, which she controlled, for March, 1899, is the following kind remark about Judge and his people:
"It is now an acquired fact of our experience that what at the time were considered severe blows to our general well-being, have turned out to be blessings in disguise. This is especially the case with the secession of a few years ago from our body of a number of people who preferred mystification and worse to straightforwardness. They followed their leader and speedily became an object lesson. We were for a moment weakened in number, but we learned a lesson that can never fade from our memory. The conscience of the Society rose above the delusion of charlatan adeptship."
3. Without going into the matter of how far it is possible for a Master, under the disciplinary rules about chelas which they themselves have first and most rigidly to observe, to communicate with a delinquent, the evidence is that the letter itself was not intended, and could not have been intended, to cure what was wrong at that time. We will deal with both these points later.
4. The answer is much the same. The question is whether the letter was couched in such terms as to tend to produce the effect at all. Before proceeding with the evidence, we will mention another point brought up - how one may presume to say what a Master would or would not do. To our mind they have left volumes of evidence as to what they would do in certain cases; they have warned us about bogus messages, and such a warning involves an admonition to learn enough about true ones and their writers to distinguish; and we think one is expected to work at it. The supposition that "no one knows what a Master might do" seems to us to separate their understanding from ours, their morals from what we are ourselves supposed to rise to; and in
* Mr. Wadia, then a prominent lecturer in the T.S., shortly after left it and joined U.L.T., where he is still, at Bombay.
general to be largely a version of "the will of God is inscrutable." In our own experience and observation, such a position has sometimes opened the door to attempts to pretend the consent of the Masters to very dubious propositions, as well as philosophical perversions of the teachings. We cannot know all that a Master would do, and much of it would bewilder us; but in some fundamental things the issues should be clear.
Before going into what seems to us the really solid evidence about this letter, let us deal with the phenomenal and material aspect, which so many seem to think is evidential if not conclusive. The message on Mantri's letter may have been either written or precipitated. Only a microscopic examination could settle that, and only in one direction: i.e., it could show the fact if it were not written. It could not show in any case that it was not precipitated. As to the mechanism: precipitation, short of practically prohibitive effort for such a long letter, has to be made through the magnetic forces of either a trained chela or a medium in the vicinity. Mantri, being a pranayamist, would be a medium by a hundred to one chance. Being such, he could unconsciously have written the message and mailed it in trance, as well as unconsciously precipitating it either in or out of the envelope. The same holds true at the other end. Either a medium or a trained chela in London could have been the agent of precipitation.
Now precipitation in itself can be accomplished by either a white or black adept, and it can be accomplished by an elemental under direction of either, if a medium is present; moreover, the style and habit of mind, as well as the handwriting, of a given individual, can easily be reproduced. We adduce four remarks, two by the Masters.
l. "I can now again say, as I have said publicly before, and as was said by H.P. Blavatsky so often that I have always thought it common knowledge among studious Theosophists, that precipitation of words or messages is of no consequence and constitutes no proof of connection with the Mahatmas; it is only phenomenal and not of the slightest value." (Wm. Q. Judge, statement of July 12, 1894.)
2. "Nature is two-sided... the Black magician is as powerful in the matter of phenomena as the white ...But what you should understand is that the false man and the true can both be occultists. 'By their fruits ye shall know them.'.... the same forces are used by both, and similar laws, for there are no special laws in this universe for any special set of workers in Nature's secrets." (Conversations on Occultism, Wm. Q. Judge reprinted in Theosophy, April 1949.)
3. "It may so happen that for purposes of our own, mediums and their spooks will be left free not only to personate the 'Brothers' but even to forge our handwriting. Bear this in mind and be prepared for it in London. Unless the message or communication - or whatever it may be is preceded by the triple words .... 'Know it is not me, nor from me.'" (A letter written by Mahatma K.H.
to A.P. Sinnett, Nov. 23, 1883, Mahatma Letters, p. 419.)
4. "My humble Pranams Sahib. Your memory is not good. Have you forgotten the agreement made at Prayag and the passwords that have to precede every genuine communication coming from us through a ... bhoot-dak * .... my message in a feigned hand when I am at dead loggerheads with my own; again I am made to date my supposed message from Ladhak December 16, whereas I swear I was at ...Lhassa ... A solemn evening, that Saturday, at Piccadilly over old Sutheran the mouldy book-seller. Knew premises well and watched with your leave .... Spooks worked remarkably well nothing abashed by my presence ... My attention was attracted by their forging H.P.B.'s handwriting... Too much light for the creatures coming from a Piccadilly street though Sutheran emanations helped a good deal. I would call your friend Mr. Myer's attention to psychic fact of rotten emanations.** Raise a good bhoot crop. Yes; the room with windows overlooking Piccadilly is a good place for psychic development." (A letter from the Mahatma M. to Sinnett, probably December, 1883. Mahatma Letters, p. 431.)
It is an ironic fact also that Judge once imitated several handwritings to show how easily forgery was done on the physical plane, and that this incident was used against him in the Judge Case to "prove" his proficiency as a "forger!" As to style and content: there is another excerpt from the Mahatma Letters, concerning a letter which we cannot indentify, and which runs as follows:
"He (Mr. Massey) argues that 'even if otherwise conceivable (the occult forgery) the later contents of the letter were inconsistent with the supposed object, for it went on to speak of the T.S. and of the adepts with as much apparently genuine devotion, etc. etc.' Mr. Massey, I see, makes no difference between an 'occult' and a common forger such as his legal experience may have made him acquainted with. An 'occult' forger, a dugpa, would have forged the letter precisely in this tone. He would have never become guilty of being carried away by his personal grudge, so as to deprive his letter of its cleverest feature. The T.S. would not be shown by him 'a superstructure upon fraud,' and it is 'the very opposite impression' that is its crown. I say is for half of the letter is a forgery and a very occult one."
* Literal translation: "spook-hotel." This word was printed "Choot-dak" but we think the Mahatma's "B", which looks like a capital "C" caused misprint.
** F.W.H. Myers, charter member of the Society for Psychical Research, and author of Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.
Here we have not merely the intimation of possible forgery of style and spirit, but of the possibility of a letter being partly a forgery! This surely ought to be warning enough of the uselessness of such evidence. We ourselves need no convincing on the matter of "styles," because close acquaintance with the operations of Theosophy magazine in former years demonstrated to us how deceptive "styles" are and how likely to lead to mistaken identifications. This was a good field - contemporary contributions are anonymous.
Moreover, the subject letter does not look to us authentic in style even if that were an evidence. There are phrases in it which sound much more like the "Master Hilarion," so-called, who for many years wrote messages - volumes upon volumes - through a medium known to us. But no party to the present contention would concede those messages to be authentically Mahatmic - even plus the sandal-wood perfume.
Let us for the moment analyze the bearing of the disputed letter on the situation as it was in the T.S. in 1900, examining what was actually going on at that time, and seeing what relevance there is.
The Theosophical Review, which was the new name for Lucifer, was edited by Annie Besant and G.R.S. Mead, being her chief organ. We have analyzed, with fair accuracy, we think, contents of Vols. 22 to 25 inclusive, running from April 1898 to Feb. 15, 1900, to an extent of 2,304 pages, which should be enough for sampling the tendencies just preceding the period of reference.
If words mean anything at all, the purport of the "Mahatma" letter is to the effect that the Society was (a) talking too much about, and trying to make people believe too much, in Masters; (b) making too much of H.P.B. and that it should be made freer and less dogmatic on these subjects. But what do we find? During that period, 107 historical and philosophical articles on religious traditions, ceremony, and history, of a dry intellectual tone; (how those dusty bones rattle to the modern ear!) 83 general essays on Theosophy, largely in the same tone, with hardly any mention of H.P.B. or Masters; 16 political and polemical articles on social questions, vivisection, prohibition, etc; 31 articles and items on psychic phenomena of various kinds; not involving mention of Masters; 49 articles on scientific correlations; 132 mentions of the name of Annie Besant; 16 articles by Annie Besant; 67 mentions of Charles Leadbeater; 28 articles by Charles Leadbeater; H.P. Blavatsky mentioned 40 times, articles by H.P.B. - zero. Masters mentioned 11 times, Masters' letters unquoted.
The above numbering does not tell the whole story; some of Leadbeater's articles, pontificating on psychic powers and their applications and his own proficiency therein, run to great length in several installments; in the above listing the mention of his name is given as once to each of such articles. *
* Some of his remarks are direct incitations to develop "psychic powers" and explore the astral world oneself.
Subdividing the mention of H.P.B., we find the most significant the following: 4 personal anecdotes of brief nature; 1 review of a book which mentions her; 4 remarks that she has been mentioned in White Lotus commemorations; 2 mentions of progress since her time; 3 mentions of publication and translations of the Secret Doctrine; 1 mention of her portrait as frontispiece of a journal; notices of reproductions of her writings in other journals (usually Theosophia, Holland;) 2 mentions of S.D. in connection with Keely's Force; 2 critical items; 3 mentions of study classes in her works in local Lodges; 1 on her being confused with another author; 1 on her relation with the Masters; 1 notice of mention of the S.D. by another journal; 1 briefly respectful not on her work; 2 mentions of her scientific predictions; 1 mention of the Coulomb case. These are all brief.
The way in which she is mentioned is illuminating.
In Vol. 24, pp. 484-487, she is defended against the charge of having been "taken in" by Keely, quite competently; then this "gimmick" is hooked in: "The attempt made by some Theosophists to set up this truly wonderful and splendid book as an inspired revelation dictated by the revered Masters, accurate in every detail, and free from any error, is ill-judged and mischievous. It contains an extraordinary number of occult truths, and we can never be too grateful to her for the selfless and laborious efforts she made to present these truths accurately to the world ... But she often, in her humility, buttresses her own true statements with a mass of rubbish from inferior writers, picked up haphazard; on minor points she often speaks hastily and carelessly; and further she confuses her teachings with excessive digressions." She is then quoted against herself in admitting the presence of errors in Isis Unveiled, and the probability of some in the S.D.; and is finally designated as "Greatest, strongest, and humblest is she of the teachers sent to our age." (Italics ours.)
The preceding phrasing is slanted to indicate that she herself would be against any attempt to class her books as accurate. But a Master wrote concerning the S.D. that "That she has not annotated from other works was dictated to her directly by us." Mr. Mead seems as oblivious of this remark as of the possibility that his classification of various writers as "inferior" may rest entirely upon the fact that he (a scholar of antiquities of lordly pretensions himself) disagrees with them in various respects; the opinions of the Masters might differ from his. All that does not do away with the possibilities of errors of various minor kinds, but certainly does not support the idea of "hasty and careless selection" at "haphazard." The prevailing tone during those days may be fairly represented by the remark on p. 225, Vol. 25: "Up to the present time Theosophists have been chiefly occupied in the study of the grand teachings given to them by H.P. Blavatsky, and of those which have been added thereto by other advanced students." The aforesaid showing hardly bears out that the "chiefly" applies to H.P.B. to any great extent.
On p. 575, Vol. 24, occurs the following: "June number of Mercury... the leading article is a useful one ... in which it is said 'we may now confidently study all human problems, without any chance of error, provided we keep close to our H.P.B.'s teachings.' - a well-meant but exaggerated statement, since H.P.B. only laid down general principles, and infinite possibilities of error arise in their application."
Mr. Mead is very, very careful indeed not to let get started any notion of H.P.B.'s "infallibility." But he seems quite confident that the "other advanced students" - Besant and Leadbeater - are subject to no such fallibility. Rivers of their product and doings - their books, their lectures; their articles; their answers to questions, their comings and goings - flow through these four volumes, with not one critical or cautionary word allowed. Indeed, the remarks thereon are fulsome and flattering from start to finish, and in great contrast to the prompt vigilance with which any similar sentiments about H.P.B. are slapped down.
In one issue, H.P.B.'s ideas on evolution are attacked by a correspondent, and Darwinism upheld. Mr. Leadbeater rushes to the rescue on p. 300, Vol. 23, citing Annie Besant's Ancient Wisdom in "corroboration" of H.P.B.: but adds a mightier evidence than that; he himself, it seems, has read the astral light and checked H.P.B. He then remarks that he doesn't care whether he has proved the point: "occult students care very little about argument ... no Theosophical view can be more than the best possible hypothesis to any man until he has learnt how to verify it for himself at first hand." (Like Mr. Leadbeater.)
There is liberal mention of the activities of various Lodges; among which (p. 281, Vol. 23) we find the following cold and curt note: "Mr. Baly has started a Secret Doctrine class." Nothing more about Mr. Baly, whoever that well-meaning soul may have been; or about the desirability of studying the S.D. either publicly or privately. But well-touted Ancient Wisdom classes are all over the place. (We do not consider the S.D. very practical for class study; but much less the Ancient Wisdom, with its "personal god slant" and ostentatious exhibition of great - and dubious - knowledge on many details that H.P.B. and the Masters did not go into.)
The record concerning the Masters is equally interesting. On p. 214, Vol. 22, we find: "It is true the Master when He looks at our heart would fain find it clean - void of all offence; but no more than the Master of Nazareth would He have it 'empty, swept, and garnished,' as we are too apt to leave it. The pattern of our virtue is furnished by the Masters Themselves; the constant effortless, natural flow of power and love from out of us, as it flowed from Jesus of Nazareth in His life on earth, as it flows from the Masters on those who lift up their hearts to Them now."
On p. 283, we find a brief reference to the task set by "A Master of Wisdom" as printed by H.P.B. in Lucifer, first volume. On p. 425 occurs: "A word may be said here to guard against one error that
might arise with regard to the Spiritual Hierarchy before mentioned, the guardians of the world's religions. It is from this Great Lodge that the World-Saviors have from time to time come forth, and from this centre have sprung all the 'Sons of God."' Here we have an excellent agreement with the apparent spirit of the phrase in the 1900 letter: "The T.S. was meant to be the corner-stone of the future religions of humanity." (The obvious interpretation of this statement of the Maha Chohan, made both by the writer of the Review extract above (Mrs. Cooper-Oakley) and the current Adyar clique, is that the Society should forthwith foster any and every kind of religious creed that chose to fasten on it. Here there is no need for "correction;" the Society seems already to have been heading the way indicated.)
On p. 56, Vol. 23, is: "Between the oyster's freedom from desire and that of the Master lies the whole scale of human progress... there is absolutely nothing that can bring you up to the Master's level but desires - ever more and more purified as you rise, I admit, but desire still." On p. 59, "We are not in the least more worthy in the Master's eyes for merely being without this desire or that." On p. 364 is a remark on the visit to Tibet of an Indian Theosophist, who did, or did not, as the case may be, see a Master; and an argument on the connection therewith of the meaning of some Tibetan words. (This has appeared elsewhere.) On p.548 begins a page or two on the "Master Jesus" as related to Masters in general. There is a little more on the same line beginning p, 58, Vol. 24, ending with a paragraph on Mrs. Besant's "truly marvelous expositions of the ideal Christianity," and her collateral adherence to Buddhism; "one who has reached that height of vision can never limit himself to a single creed, a single Master, however good and noble; and that point each one of us must strive to reach." (This is in line with the general tendency in the T.S. to represent all religions as true, and beneficial, in spite of the Master's recorded viewpoint on that.) In the eyes of this disciple, has or has not Annie Besant substituted herself as the ideal to be striven for?
On p.170 is another identification of Jesus as the "most accessible" of the Masters; in the discussion following, Mr. Leadbeater makes it clear that: (a) he knows all about it; and (b) no statement in Theosophy can ever be accepted as final "because those who make the statements are themselves all the while gaining new points of view and new faculties which enable them to add to or modify their previous knowledge on any and every subject." (This thought bore a lot of fruit in later years. It led, among other things, to the teaching that the Masters themselves were correcting, through later "agents," errors They had held when the S.D. was written. The twists and turns, the devious devices of this pride and vanity run mad, would fill several books. Even the later fiasco of the "Coming Christ," and Leadbeater 's scandals, seem not by any means to have cured the situation. This issue becomes a little confused in a review by Mead of Leadbeater's book Clairvoyance, in which it is said of the author: "He himself is a first-hand investigator of numerous phases
of consciousness beyond the threshold of physical sensation, and in the second he is a pupil in a School whose highest teachers know all that our humanity can know of consciousness in the Solar System .... Clairvoyance is an outline of the subject as far as he himself has seen and learned..... no more competent Theosophical writer could have been chosen for the task." (Poor, befuddled H.P.B.!) The modesty of these claims can best be judged by reading that book itself. This is the last reference to the Masters in Vol. 24, which had only three to begin with.
On pp. 3 and 4, Vol. 25, is a brief reference to a supposed Lodge of high initiates in Central America; the whole subject then flickers out; this as of September 1899. So far from "continued references to ourselves," there is no mention from beginning to end of the names of the Theosophical Mahatmas; almost nothing quoted from them. References are indirect and casual, and nothing is said, other than as above, on any direct actions of Theirs. This is about as much as one can find in 2304 pages, along the line of "the cant about Masters that must be silently and firmly put down."
As reflected in this enormous official output, was there a "creed" being built upon too much talk about Masters and H.P.B., too much mention of Masters' names? Or was the tendency exactly the opposite, the substitution of Annie Besant and Leadbeater for them?
What of other aspects of the T.S. at that time? The Review is replete with mention of the contents of other Theosophical periodicals, many in number, and of innumerable lectures and classes. Either mention of H.P.B. and the Masters is boycotted by The Review about every time it occurs, or it very seldom occurs. We do not know the actual contents of the innumerable Leadbeater and Besant speeches and books which are mentioned but not reviewed; but if they were leaning too much on Masters and H.P.B., it should show up somewhere; also they would be highly out of line with this publication, which was being run by Besant and Leadbeater, through Mead.
The situation seems to have been so well in hand with regard to too much about H.P.B. and the Masters, that one wonders why it was necessary for even a black adept to forge a letter on the subject. Our deduction is that most probably there was a strong underground movement against this submersion of the original modulus, and an attempt to get back to fundamentals; and that this letter was to help Besant suppress it.
The tendencies are as interesting as the actual contents. Between the first and last pairs of volumes, historical articles decrease from 55 to 52; general essays increase 21 to 62; politics and polemics climb from 3 to 13; psychic matters, 12 to 19; science decreases from 10 to 6 but increases in length; mentions of Leadbeater remain about constant; Leadbeater articles increase from 10 to 18, and increase in length; mention of H.P.B. gains from 17 to 23. (Couldn't she have been allowed that pitiful little extra six notices without a Mahatma having to write a whole letter to suppress her?) Her articles remain constant at zero; she gets two brief quotes in
each section, and is criticized only once in the second instance, instead of twice in the first. Mention of Masters drops from 7 to 4, vanishing entirely from the last volume, a few months before the "Mahatma" letter decrying against too much talk about them, was written. As we said, from the viewpoint of said letter, Annie Besant and the Society were doing all right already - barring underground insurgency. Where in that letter is an indication of a rebuke for making virtually infallible Masters of Besant and Leadbeater; for suppression and corruption of what they had taught in their own letters and through the Secret Doctrine? We would like our opposition to point out to us what, in view of this record, they think the Society was doing then that it shouldn't have been doing; what the consequent necessity of this letter from their point of view; and what action was taken because of it. And please be as specific as we have been.
The letter makes no sense in its contemporary relationships; it would have been very applicable years later, when a tremendous amount of nonsense about Masters did build up, having as a main theme the close association of Besant and Leadbeater with them. The letter is intelligible as part of a competent psychic plot to wean the members away from the real Masters and their Agents, and to substitute therefore, these meretricious presentments.
There are other aspects perhaps as serious. Judge pointed out that the work became weak whenever the Masters were put in the background, out of heart and mind as living Presences. Also, the great initiatory system of which they are part, is the only road even approximately safe through supernormal states of consciousness. The mystic who tries to attain these states except through chelaship is almost certain to fall into the Dharmakaya path, into that of the Star Rishis, or into various other psychic states of the "lower Iddhi" which he has no means of telling from spiritual ones. It should also be evident that conscious chelaship cannot be attained by one who sets Them aside to rely merely on the (to him) amorphous and intangible power of whatever he may choose to call the "Supreme Spirit." "The Masters are the Bridge," * various selfish, emotional, and religious conceptions of Them notwithstanding. This letter laid the axe to the "Bridge."
* ...How few of the many pilgrims who have to start without chart or compass on that shoreless Ocean of Occultism reach the wished for land. Believe me, faithful friend, that nothing short of full confidence in us, in our good motives if not in our wisdom, in our foresight, if not omniscience - which is not to be found on this earth - can help one to cross over from one's land of dream and fiction to our Truth land, the region of stern reality and fact..." (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, p. 358.)
It may be asked why, if the letter was so far off the contemporary mark, Annie Besant herself did not recognize the fact. Well - it is common human experience that an inflamed egotism such as exhibited in her journal, makes a mountain out of any mole-hill of opposition. Set on the course of displacing H.P. Blavatsky and the real Masters in her own favor, a few expressions of over-enthusiasm in behalf of H.P.B., such as we have quoted, could look to her and the proud, coldly intellectual Mead, personally inimical to H.P.B., like "manufacturing a creed." .
Again we say, prove that any "creed" was being "manufactured" other than Besant-Leadbeater worship. In the context and under the conditions, the "creed" objected to seems to have been H.P.B.'s Theosophy itself, which was that of the real Masters.
Of course the existence of the Masters, much less their names or imagined personal doings, should never be the subject of cheap chatter - as they were during the period of folly beginning years after the receipt of the 1900 letter. We suggest that the handling of the subject in The Ocean of Theosophy, and Judge's other works be studied.
Now let us consider a very important point for examination by those who may think chelaship still attainable and themselves possibly capable of it; for even if not before 1975, that may be an issue for many now living.
There is surely no dispute that any chela must strive, to the best of his ability, not only to observe the rules of ethical conduct recognized in the world, but to transcend them. At the time of the Judge case, Annie Besant was pledged on the most sacred of all oaths, to certain rules of conduct known to every Theosophist who is or has been a member of the Esoteric Section or its descendants. One of those Rules obligated the defense of a fellow-member against charges or derogatory remarks, unless known to be true, in which case silence was prescribed. Annie Besant listened to and accepted such charges without knowing them to be true. She not only listened to them and accepted them but engaged in consultation, behind Judge's back, with his enemies, for the purpose of doing something about it; namely, driving Judge out of the Society. Secondly, she had sworn, not only not to listen to such charges without protest, but under no circumstances to make any of her own except under a prescribed rule which she completely ignored. Members of the old esoteric section and some present ones know the nature of that rule. It was of such nature that had her charges been so made, Judge himself would have been the first to know of them and in a position to explain to her if he chose. Instead, she went to others. It ought to be evident to members of any ethical perception at all, that these are among the more important of possible rules. In addition to that, she exposed to the membership E.S. documents in regard to which she had sworn secrecy. This was an offense for which suspension from the E.S. was prescribed. Her final turning against Judge was due to a "vision of the Master" which followed her acceptance of "occult instruction" and "magnetization" by the Brahmin Chakravarti; a proceeding forbidden under the oath she had
taken. Finally, when Judge offered to prove himself an agent of the Masters before an open tribunal, she and her group evaded the hearing and continued the campaign against Judge by other means, which finally involved the splitting of the whole Society and the long sequence of evils, perversions, and diversions, which followed. To cap the climax, Judge was never allowed to see the so-called evidence against him. Olcott first promised him copies, then withheld them, stating that in court of law a criminal had no right to examine evidence against him before the trial; and then Olcott evaded a trial. All this is of record and Annie Besant connived at all of it.
These proceedings are not honorable or honest even by worldly standards; far less by those supposedly accepted by one who had pledged himself to the Highest. Since they were the actions of one who was, in previous days, honorable and high-minded, the evidence is that something psychic had happened to her. Such changes are not unusual in a chela under probation, with all the hidden evils of the past being violently boiled out. At the time when these deeds were done, she was still within the minimum seven year probationary period. The only possible interpretation of this conduct, other than that of a probationer in failure under stress, must rest upon a notion by the interpreter that Annie Besant was so high as to be "beyond the law" applying to all other chelas. The law of the occult - and what should be the exoteric law - is that the higher one is, the more he is bound by law. To take any other view seems to us to indicate a moral fog that we could not hope to penetrate with any argument of ours. Well - set it down as a failure - did Annie Besant ever redeem it? The record is public; she did not.
If Annie Besant did realize her injustice, or even suspect it, it was her duty, even under the standards of any honorable man of the world, to say so, to spare no pains to make clear the truth and to live to heal the wounds in the Movement that had been caused. Many a man, with no knowledge of Theosophy or its ethics, has done as much. Her failure to do so is most incompatible with continuance as a Chela; for here we have the picture of a woman who broke all the most important rules to which she had pledged herself; rules for whose breakage others were dismissed from the opportunity of Chelaship; in so doing, she commits the gravest of personal injustices, destroys the reputation and essentially the life of H.P. Blavatsky's "only friend;" wrecks his life-work; splits the Movement and sets it on a course of disunity and folly; and here, four years afterward, a Master is supposed to come after her, she unrepentant, with a letter of instructions, of trust and confidence, and directions as to her "occult life!"
As incredible to us as her continued chelaship, would be the plainly implied continuance of the T.S., which was her captive, as the chosen agency. (H.P.B. herself said that after 14 years it had become a "dead failure.") Indeed Jinarajadasa admitted that, but claimed that it had been taken back after 1900, apparently on the strength of this letter. In our opinion, its following of Annie
Besant in 1896, and the sterile condition of The Review in 1888-89 simply confirm the adandonment.
The rules and requirements, the stern obligations, trials and sufferings of real chelaship are the most serious matter possible. It is our opinion that the tendency toward the idea of "Christian forgiveness" of "absolution" without restitution, of broad-minded and charitable tolerance of the Masters toward everything and anything, is a primary danger to the future of real Chelaship and the Movement itself. However merciful and charitable, They are themselves bound by inexorable laws.
There are some students, at least, who know what happened to D.K. Mavalankar; that for offenses very trivial in comparison, he was put through an immeasurable hell that nearly killed him. He finally won through, and forever vanished from the cognizance of the world; but in his heart was never at any time, pride, hatred, ambition, vindictiveness or the shadow of injustice. Since a man never knows when he may tread unwittingly upon the rim of the "circle of probation," and be hopelessly engulfed into something that he has not the moral will to cope with, acting through laws that even a Master cannot stop nor stay, it is well to take heed of the rigors of the chela road.
It is evident that the verity of this letter, like every other serious cause of difference and division in the Movement, rests upon the truth about the Judge case. It is from this that stemmed the fight over personalities; from it, proceeded the other successive splits; from it came the coexistence today of conflicting systems of thought called "Theosophy." There is little prospect of unity, up to 1975, or beyond it, until the full facts and the consequences of that case are faced. This is the abiding unity of Karma.