Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.
Madame H.P. Blavatsky
Tis the Sublime of Man,
It was in May, 1880, that I first saw Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott at their residence at 108, Girgaum Back Road, Bombay. There were several Parsis and Hindus present, and friendly conversation took place on different subjects. I asked Madame about the Theosophical Society, and she laughingly said: "It is his" - pointing to Col. Olcott; "I have nothing to do with it." "But," I said: "You are the Corresponding Secretary of the Society," when she answered: "Will you care to read the correspondence that I carry on?" I replied: "Why not?" Because you may perhaps find my views too broad and strange," she said. "I wish to be acquainted with all sorts of dogmas, views and expositions of religious and philosophical subjects," I answered.
From day to day I went to the Headquarters for three weeks, and we had discussions on interesting subjects relating to morality and religion, Madame courteously answering our questions, which showed how wide her knowledge was. I joined the Society and left for Poona, but afterwards I took every opportunity to visit the two Founders.
In 1882 I asked them to come to Poona to my place, where I also invited a number of friends to whom I introduced them. Col. Olcott gave two public lectures at the City Town-Hall, and these were much appreciated. Afterwards a Branch Theosophical Society was established in Poona with 20 members. This Society still exists and is doing useful work. Thereafter Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott came to Poona on four different occasions, putting up twice at my place and twice at the house of the late Mr. A. D. Ezekiel.
That a Russian lady of noble birth, who had left her country at an early age and wandered about in unknown places for years, should ultimately go to the States, there form the acquaintance of an American lawyer, who had served bravery in the Civil War, afterwards sat as Special Commissioner to purge the financial department of the War of the frauds practised thereon and refused to receive a pension for his gratuitous services - should have thought of, and been able to found, a Society whose name reminds one of the Neo-Platonists, was a matter that puzzled many, and made others uncharitably say that there was some plot underneath the name of an association for reviving archaic philosophy.
At that time Russophobia was at its height, and the Government of Bombay sat its Secret Police to watch the movements and correspondence of the two strangers. It was not till both of them went to Simla, at the invitation of Mr. Sinnett, that the latter, with the assistance of Mr. A. O. Hume, convinced the Government of India that they were no spies; and Madame Blavatsky was eventually asked by the Political Department at Simla to translate for it important Russian documents and letters.
How Madame Blavatsky was called to Simla, how Mr. Sinnett, the editor of The Pioneer, a stiff Anglo-Indian paper, underwent a complete mental change which made him write favourably for the Indians and Indian learning, are very remarkable facts. Mr. Sinnett seemed at once to grasp the meaning and importance of Theosophical thought and teachings, and, sacrificing his highly paid post as editor, he devoted himself to the writing of the books and papers which greatly helped to popularise Theosophical knowledge in England.
Before they came to India the Founders had formed an alliance with Swami Dayanand Saraswati and his Arya Samaj, a reform-Hindu movement for reviving Vaidic thought. The Swami did not know English, and when H.P.B. and Col. Olcott came to Bombay they understood that the views of the Swami would not accord with the objects they had come to India to accomplish. A separation soon took place, and much bitterness was shown by some of the Samajists.
At that time the Prarthanasamaj movement, for the reform of Hinduism on rationalistic lines, had been established in Bombay, and the members thereof very much resented the efforts of the Founders to make the Hindus and other religionists look carefully into their orthodox beliefs, rites and customs before rejecting them. The aims of the Theosophical Society were misunderstood and misjudged by them, and it was believed that the T.S. had come to accentuate blind orthodoxy.
The Christian missionaries also took offence at the views that H.P.B. had expressed in her first work, Isis Unveiled, and also in some of her articles, criticizing Christian teachings.
Before they left New York, H.P.B. had many sharp controversies with the Spiritualists, whose ideas as to the causes of the phenomena - particularly spirit identity - and the accuracy of whose spiritualistic reports she used strongly to call into question. The Spiritualists therefore were opposed to the Theosophical movement. When the Founders came to India they talked about their divergence from Spiritualism; but very few in India knew anything about Spiritualism and cared less. The educated classes in India, imbued with the teachings of modern science, wanted exact evidence. A proclamation of the glories of ancient India sounded hollow in their ears.
When they read of the phenomena published by Mr. Sinnett in The Pioneer, and in his first book, The Occult World, of letters phenomenally received and of sages advanced in spiritual science, who lived in far-off mountains and would never show themselves, their opposition was shown in various ways, as they looked upon the exhibition of alleged unusual phenomena as clever tricks, and unbecoming as to the participation of the holy Masters of spiritual science. It would have been far better if no phenomena had been talked of or shown. Several learned and influential members who were at first enthusiastic for the Society resigned when they saw that the search after true spiritual knowledge was being mixed up with what they considered to be hypnotic practices.
The Founders did not know either Sanskrit or any of the vernacular languages of India. They were not acquainted with the manners and customs and bent of religious thought of the Hindus. The few persons who came to them in the beginning to assist them were men of little consequence, not capable of giving sound and practical advice to the strangers. Damodar was merely a boy, weak in body and unconsciously making mistakes. The late Mr. Tookaram Tatya was, however, a very sensible friend.
It was fortunate that Col. Olcott freely and openly declared in his lectures, and also in The Theosophist and in private conversations, that the Theosophical Society had nothing to do with politics, and would not concern itself directly or indirectly with it, in any way; otherwise the Society would have come to grief.
The visit of the Founders to Ceylon to revive Buddhism in that island, to found schools for the Sinhalese children and awaken in them a spirit of self-improvement, was a difficult but a very noble effort, and the seed sown at that time has grown into a vigorous tree.
Even the work of the Founders was misunderstood in India, and it was thought that the chief aim of the Society was to re-introduce Buddhism into this country. I wrote a long article in The Theosophist to remove the misconception on the subject. The title given by Mr. Sinnett to his second book - Esoteric Buddhism - helped to mislead superficial enquirers and to strengthen the suspicion that Buddhism was being put forward in another guise.
Bombay, with its highly mixed population and numerous mercantile activities, was not found a congenial place for locating the Headquarters. Men like the late Mr. Subba Rao, Diwan Bahadur Shrinivas Rao, Diwan Bahadur Raghunath Rao and several other sympathisers urged the Founders to come and settle at Adyar, where there was a commodious property for sale, which was purchased for nine thousand rupees. The Poona Branch T.S. contributed Rs. 1,050 for the purpose.
I saw H.P.B. at Bombay just as she was about to start for Adyar. She was in high spirits and said she would have more quiet, and a friendly atmosphere to work in. They were residing at the time at Crows Nest, Tardeo, Bombay, where they had more acquaintances and visitors than at Girgaum. Mirza Murad Ali Beg, the son of an English clergyman who had become a convert to Muhammadanism, a very clever young man, used often to come to the Crows Nest, being very much attracted by the teachings of H.P.B. He confessed to her all his failings. She advised him to give up his sensual and other wrong habits and become meek and obedient. She made him sit and write an article for The Theosophist, and he wrote: "The War in Heaven," a very suggestive essay. Later he wrote "The Elixir of Life," "Beni Elohim" and other articles. On his return to Bhavnagar, where he was in the service of the Raja, he was inclined to go back to his old ways, and there seems to have been a great struggle in his mind. H.P.B. visited Bhavnagar soon afterwards; when, seeing her, he lost his head and vowed he would kill her. The Maharaja however put guards to watch him and placed him at a distance. He died insane.
This one instance illustrates how several others who mended their immoral ways under the instruction of H.P.B. got overpowered after a time by their unholy practices, lapsed into undesirable ways and falsely accused H.P.B. for her supposed errors.
It was once said of her by an American that H.P.B. had a contempt for humanity. She certainly had a contempt for weak-minded, superstitious, self-deceiving persons, as well as for dogmatists and religious fanatics; but for those strong-minded people who possessed the moral courage to look round and search for truth in all theories, doctrines and teachings she had genuine respect.
Myself and others were always on the alert to catch even the smallest bit of new teaching that fell from her lips or appeared in her articles; and we tried to coax her to explain to us something more relating to the same. I used to read The Theosophist carefully and often put to her questions. She would say: "Why do you understand so much?" The explanation given in that learned articles of hers - "The Transmigration of the Life Atoms" - was written by her on a question put by me. There are several other expositions of hers in answer to my questions.
When Mr. Sinnett commenced writing the "Fragments of Occult Truths," I wrote to H.P.B. and asked her to explain the evolution of man in its several stages. She replied that the Master K.H. had made a remark on my letter, saying that He had already given the explanation of the question to Mr. Sinnett. In the next "Fragment" Mr. Sinnett propounded the true doctrine of Reincarnation. Those priceless "Fragments of Occult Truth" were scarcely read, or understood when read, by many educated Indians who frittered away their time in baseless speculations about the truths of religion.
H.P.B., after being engaged for more than twelve hours per day in writing, would come out in the evening and have some pleasant chats; but there were often some uncharitable tales brought to her and she would then become excited. Very few outsiders could understand what Theosophy was, and for what the T.S. established. A Branch Theosophical Society was established in Bombay, before the Founders left for Madras.
When H.P.B. and Col. Olcott left for England in the beginning of 1884, they left the late Dr. F. Hartmann in charge of the Headquarters and The Theosophist. Dr. Hartmann wanted to pry into everything and was inclined to be mischievous. He ill-treated the French couple, the Coulombs, and practically drove them away from Adyar. This made the woman take her revenge upon poor H.P.B. who, she wrongly thought, had induced Hartmann to send her away. The woman induced the missionaries to attack H.P.B. and her phenomena, and a great uproar was created, which however, finally ended in baseless vituperations.
In the Christmas of 1884 the Psychic Research Society deliberately sent their agent, in the person of Mr. K. Hodgson, to investigate phenomena and the Society. While the T.S. Convention was going on and members from all parts of India had assembled, Hodgson took up his residence at Adyar, where Col. Olcott and H.P.B. treated him as a guest and allowed him every liberty. He was so plausible in his talk and looked so innocent that H.P.B. was deceived and praised him. I, however, at once blamed Col. Olcott for allowing him to rush in where the members were deliberating, and told the Colonel that I entirely distrusted him. He was not a fair enquirer nor had he any knowledge of what psychic powers and phenomena meant, and how they were to be enquired into.
I was present at Adyar at the time Mr. Leadbeater had come from England and was very quietly pursuing his studies. He recommended to me Light on the Path, which he liked immensely. Dr. Hartmann thought very little of him, but the Doctor hardly knew or dreamed that a great disciple and future occultist had arrived at Adyar.
When H.P.B. in India spoke of her teachers as Mahatmas or Masters, who lived far, far away and were inaccessible, a great deal of doubt was shown and felt regarding this statement of hers. Even yet doubt is freely indulged in on this point. Very few, however, have noticed the independent testimony that is to be found in a little book published in England in 1884.
An obelisk from Egypt called "Cleopatras Needle" was brought to England and put up on the bank of the Thames, opposite which there lived a lady in a little house. Looking out of her window every day at obelisk, she used now and then to see strange-looking men coming out of the monument, as it were, dressed in a peculiar garb. She used to make her living by writing small novels. One day, while she was at work at her writing table, she saw a row of priests dressed in white passing by her side and she went into a sort of trance, but her hand went on working and sheet after sheet was written in a different hand. This went on for several days, and half of the book named The Idyll of the White Lotus was written, and then the writing stopped. A Jewish relative of hers used to watch her while this curious phenomenon was taking place. She knew nothing of the Theosophical Society. A friend of hers introduced her to Col. Olcott, to whom she told how The Idyll of the White Lotus was written but left unfinished. Col. Olcott recommended that, if she had ever thought of making money by publishing the Idyll, she should give up such a thought and try again. She did so and the writing of the Idyll was completed in the same manner, by automatic writing.
The lady was psychic, and she said that she used to be taken day after day for several days in her astral body to a Hall, on the walls of which she used to see and read some lines written in golden letters, which she remembered and, when she woke up, put down on paper. These lines, when all put together, formed the remarkable little book called Light on the Path written down by M.C. The book was published in the beginning of 1884, when H.P.B. and Col. Olcott were in England. When H.P.B. saw the book she told the writer, Mabel Collins, that she thought the lines were dictated by a Western "Master" whom she named. Mabel Collins resented this opinion of H.P.B. She was mediumistic and had been working as a medium in some Spiritualistic seances. She had no idea of occultism or disciples of the Masters, and yet she never thought seriously of what the first few lines of her book said:
These rules are written for all disciples. Attend you to them.
Before the eyes can see they must be incapable of tears.
Before the ear can hear, it must have lost its sensitiveness.
Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters, it must have lost the power to wound.
Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.
Mabel Collins subsequently joined the T.S. but she never entered into the true spirit of Theosophy or the aims of the T.S. Madame Blavatsky, when she first read Light on the Path, knew at once that a Western Master who was known to her must have dictated the book. Her own subsequent book, The Voice of the Silence, contains the same teaching but in a different and more expanded form.
The Masters mentioned in Light on the Path are no others than Those about whom H.P.B. was speaking in India, quite oblivious of the fact that one of them was independently dictating to an English lady-medium a small but masterly book, giving the first principles of occult study in a suitable form for the West.
When I saw Madame Blavatsky for the first time those peering large eyes made me ask myself - "Who is she, and what will she be able to accomplish?" She was voluble, impetuous, asking her hearers what they knew about their own religion, what were their customs and rites, and whether they understood the full import of their ancient writings. She wished to wake them up from their easy-going attitude and indifference, so as properly to understand their responsibility towards their own and other communities.
The idea of forming a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of humanity was too wide and vague for the comprehension of those who used to visit her. She wanted them to take up that idea in earnest, while they seemed to wish her and Col. Olcott to work for them. Both the Founders had spent large sums of their own to come to India from America. Since Indian acquaintances who assisted them in the beginning made many overcharges, it was very difficult for them for a long time to get on with their limited means. The idea of forming a Branch Society in Bombay was resisted at first, and it was after a great deal of urging that the first Bombay Lodge was formed. The majority of those, however, who came to her felt that she had something valuable to teach, and by slow degrees the objects of the Society came to be appreciated.
There were several little incidents that caused her annoyance. She was very quick of temper, and now and again she burst forth in wrath upon the devoted head of Olcott, who bore these unmerited storms with equanimity and a quiet smile. Her anger was only ephemeral, and she would again go on talking and explaining as if nothing had happened. She was said to have been an uncontrolled child in her younger years, of a psychic constitution, and often having strange experiences which she could not understand. Her peculiar ways were, it seems, due to the mysterious life that she had lived. The spiritual influences that controlled her were looked upon by her with awe, but her physical nature seemed to make her restive now and then. She was very averse to flattery, and any kind of reverence that was attempted to be paid to her was disliked by her. Once a Hindu member went up to her to touch her feet and make obeisance, when she suddenly got up from her chair and rebuked him: "I am not a saint; do not think of worshipping me."
The late Mr. K. M. Shroff, who was an ardent member of the T.S. and a friend of the Founders, at one time became very anxious to know who would take H.P.B.s place when she passed away. She coldly replied: "The work of the Masters will never be hindered by any accidents. They will know to whom to entrust the work when I am gone."
She sometimes committed errors of judgment, but on the whole she kept quite clearly before her the ideal and the goal of the great work that was entrusted to her.
In my conversation and correspondence with her I used gently to let her know what defects and shortcomings were attributed to her by others. She used to take all unwelcome remarks in good part, and she showed her friendliness towards me up to the last.
Very few really understood her attainments, her worth and her sublime teachings which have inaugurated a new era. Even now, after more than thirty years since her departure, the error is made of supposing she said the last word in Occultism and that no more progress is to be made in that direction. She had a great work to accomplish. She knew full well the difficulty thereof. She was single-handed, and had to work under the restrictions placed upon her by her Teachers. She was quite unconventional, and disregarded the stiff artificial manners of the West. Her dress was a loose gown, and her supple beautiful fingers were continually rolling up neat little cigarettes, which she was fond of smoking.
A copy of the Bible was always on her table, and on some occasions she would read out a passage thereof that would astonish an orthodox outsider. She had very few books, but she often wrote out quotations from rare books which were not with her. She once told me that, when she wanted any quotation, her method was to put her hands under her temples and look out far into space, and she would see before her gaze the required passage written out for her, or the page of the book opened before her from which she wanted to quote. On one occasion she said phenomena were psychological tricks. She was of a kind, loving and affectionate nature, ready to help any one in distress.
At one time she gave me two volumes on Egypt, that had been sent to her by Gerald Massey to review. The author had made out that India had taken a good deal from Egypt, but she was of a different opinion.
The followers of the several denominational religions do not generally look upon themselves as part and parcel of one wondrous whole, but believe that their different communities are special creations, each by a God who specially favours them, excuses their faults, forgives their sins, and is glad to see them keeping themselves sanctimoniously apart and hating other denominational religions. It has been truly said that "Religions are dividers of men". It was this erroneous idea of "special-favourite" revelations that H.P.B. warned her pupils against. The religious customs, rites and ceremonies of each nation, community, sect or tribe have usurped the place of true religion, and given rise to endless wars, quarrels and misunderstandings. She used to point out that rites and customs should be carefully examined, and those that were really useful and beneficial should be adhered to; that there were not different religions mistakenly supposed to be given by God, but there was only one religion for all, and that consisted in a knowledge and practice of the laws of Nature.
In the Key to Theosophy she has very clearly and appropriately said:
"If you ask me how we understand Theosophical duty practically and in view of karma, I answer you that our duty is to drink without a murmur, to the last dregs, whatever contents the cup of life may have in store for us; to pluck the roses of life only for the fragrance they may shed on others, and to be ourselves content with the thorns, if that fragrance cannot be enjoyed without depriving some one else of it."
During several of the most painful and trying years of the latter part of her life she bore all obloquy and attacks unflinchingly and with reverential devotion to her Masters, whose behests she explained and gave as a most important message to the world. As Wordworth says:
Blessings be with them and eternal praise,
Who gave us nobler lives and nobler cares;
The teachers who on earth have made us heirs
Of love and pure delight, in heavenly ways.
I give below extracts from the letters I received from her during ten years, even after she left for England. It was a happy circumstance that she left India in 1885, for by going to Europe she was able to write the great work which she has left for the benefit of humanity, The Secret Doctrine.
Simla, October, 1880.
I never question my superiors, when I receive orders.
If there is anything our Fellows can reproach me with, it is the most unvarnished sincerity, it is my inability to feign and play a part. I cannot control myself in the face of a lie or flagrant injustice; and I will say to people to their faces what I say behind their backs. Is this my greatest crime?
Bombay, August, 1882.
Mr. B. . . . is perfectly nonsensical. Well, if he is not satisfied let him say so. We do not want Theosophists who do nothing but dictate their ultimatums and conditions sine qua non. I am tired of them.
I am sorry that notwithstanding all my perseverance in my duty, my endeavours and desire to do good, I succeed in disappointing and vexing people. If a good deal of that disappointment was created by petty things, then the men themselves must be petty.
Adyar, February, 1884.
Doubt and distrust will ever linger in the breast of every one who is not in direct communication, as I am, with Them (Masters). And then it matters little for Them. They care little for thanks, nor gratitude, nor anything save duty. They can do much, but never miracles.
And now about my own uninteresting Ego, I am told by doctors that I am dying, and if I do not immediately change climate, and have three or four months complete rest, I have only three months more and no longer to live. I am going to France and Germany; it is worse than death for me. For they might have allowed me to die quietly here. I hate the idea; but They want me alive, it appears, not dead. Well, if the Masters want me to go, then I go - though I cannot make out why They should send me abroad to get relief, when They could as well cure me here, as They did twice before. Col. is going to London, and I too - I do not myself know where and why I am going.
Adyar, March, 1885.
And now about our Masters: I am innocent of every one of the phenomena that happened through the Shrine, and of most of the remarkable phenomena outside. They were not even produced through me, as people believe, but simply, at my prayer, by the Chelas of the Mahatmas, and with Their permission. Many were done simply by X . . . and others by Dj . . . K . . . the Mahatmas remaining quite unconcerned. Our members have no idea of the laws of Occultism; and those who have ceased to see in the Masters beings 3,000 years old, perched on trees and enveloped in their long hair, whistling loudly before every puplic or natural calamity, take them for infallible, omnipotent Gods.
The Masters have not pledged themselves to conduct and manage the Society, but simply to give advice to the Founders in questions and upon matters that it would have been impossible for them alone to decide upon.
The idea of a sane young man (Damodar) giving up his fortune, family, caste, everything, for the pleasure of helping a swindle, of writing forged letters to himself, is - superb! It only beats that other, that I, who have just refused a contract of 40,000 francs a year, if I remained in Europe and wrote solely for Katkofs papers, to come back to India to be stoned and covered with mud, as I now am; that I cheated and swindled the world with invented Mahatmas and bogus phenomena, for the sole pleasure of cheating - for I defy the whole world to show that I ever got one pie by it.
I can show by facts and letters that I could make an ample living by simply writing for the Russian newspapers, and doing literary work in general. As for fame - Heaven save me from such fame! My fame is in Russia, and could even be in England as a writer, if I wanted fame. I have preferred unremunerative work, worry and the most ungrateful labor in the world, followed by obloquy and ceaseless calumny, out of love and devotion for the Masters and Their country - and I have served Them faithfully and to the best of my ability. They know, if others do not.
I say, better that people should never have had a blind unreasonable faith in the Mahatmas, but had developed a little more faith in their own reasoning powers, and then they would have seen without the help of any foolish phenomena that had there been no Mahatmas (or some one immensely higher and more intelligent than I am) behind my back, there would have been no "Isis," no Esoteric Doctrine that Hodgson himself proclaims the highest, most philosophical system of all. If the alleged H.P.B. letters in the Christian College Magazine are genuine and I am a trickster, then I am the sole author of "Isis," of all the letters written by the Mahatmas to Hume and Sinnett, and of the best articles in The Theosophist. As Mme. C. . . . expresses it, "in such a case H.P.B. is a Mahatma herself".
Fraud or Mahatma, I have done my duty by the Masters and the Hindus.
Wurzburg, May, 1886.
I do not mind these reproaches at all, just because they are unmerited. Thiers used to say that he was an old umbrella on which the rain was pouring for fifty years, when he heared of any abuse lavished upon him. I may paraphrase it and say that I too am an old umbrella and tough; dirty water and slops have been poured on me generously for over twenty years and more; I ought to mind very little a few drops more or less of the liquid.
Between the Jesuits, the Protestant Padres and the idiotic Psychic Research Society, with the handsome Hodgson as their detective, I am very comfortably situated indeed!
And you take me to task for keeping secrets from all of you about the Mahatmas! But if by cutting off my tongue I could obliterate every word of truth I said about the Blessed Masters, I would become mute and dumb for ever, before I was five minutes older. I have said all I could lawfully say of them, and much more. It is for desecration of Their names, of things holy and sacred, that I suffer now. It is for loving the Cause (Theosophy) too well, that in my desire to help it, I became indiscreet and gave out that which I ought never to pronounce.
You have, all of you, - even poor Olcott - the fine part in this tragic-comedy. You are the supposed victims, the noble, confiding hearts, deceived by me, "the cleverest, the most unprincipled and the grandest Arch-Impostor of the age!" As Hodgsons report says: I am the vile "Russian spy," the plotter, the author of the Mahatmas. So be it. It is not me, H.P.B., who has little longer to live on earth, that the enemy is persecuting; fool is he who can believe it; it is the Society itself. It is Truth - however unskilfully managed against lies - that the enemy would crush.
Those who think I ever had any mortal object to deceive and bamboozle them, and invent Mahatmas and a system which for the last ten years brought me sorrow, dishonor, vilification, very nearly death; which beggared me, instead of allowing me to work for myself by writing what would bring me honour and money, plenty of it; or, siding with the Spiritualists, who would have stood for me in millions, and made me as famous as I am now infamous in the eyes of those who judge by appearances; those who doubt, I say, may take care of themselves. I wash my hands of these.
Wurzburg, October, 1886
I do not despond, I am writing the Secret Doctrine; but I have no books here, no one to help me, and it goes very slowly.
You wish me "to be respected by those who speak against me," but I care not for respect of those whom I despise from the bottom of my heart. That heart has become as callous as a corn on the toe. I care for nothing more, except my duty to the Masters and the Cause. To these two (I give) my every drop of blood, the last throb, the final pulsation of my heart - broken and poisoned by the vile, treacherous nature of Man.
London, January, 1888.
My life to live yet is not very long, and I have learnt patience in these three years. My health is better, but in general it is ruined for life. I am well only when I sit and write. I can neither walk nor stand for more than a minute.
London, July, 1888
Yes; you are right. My life was a chequered and marvellous one, but the marvels and checks in it are not all due to my connection with the great men whom they began calling "Mahatmas" in India, The Masters I know are neither the Yogis as known in India, who sit for ages buried in a jungle with trees growing between their arms and legs, nor do they stand for years on one leg, nor yet do they make tapas and hold their breath. They are simply adepts in Esoteric Science and Occultism, adepts whose Headquarters are in a certain part of Thibet, and whose members are scattered everywhere through the world. These are the men - great, glorious, more learned than any others on earth; some quite holy, others less so - whom I know, with whom I learnt what I know, with whom I lived, and whom I swore to serve for ever, as long as I have breath left in my body, and whom I do serve faithfully, if not always wisely and who do exist.
Now whether any believe in Them or not is not the question. Maybe They themselves did everything in their power to bring people to disbelieve in Them, as from 1879 to 1884 the belief had degenerated into worship and fetishism.
I never said I was their representative, I only said I was their servant and faithful slave; aye, unto the bitter death and end.
To conclude, you do not know me, nor have you ever known me as I really am; some day perhaps you will learn to know better.
London, November, 1889
This is no age in which to fire out facts indiscriminately, and I have suffered keenly, personally, from what the silly publication of my phenomena brought on my head.
The missionaries thought it a great triumph for themselves when I left India, almost dying; also the Psychic Research Society by their Punch and Judy exposures. But by leaving I have been able to write The Secret Doctrine, Key to Theosophy, Voice of the Silence, and prepare two more volumes of The Secret Doctrine, which I could never have done in the turbulent psychic atmosphere of India; nor would there be now a Society in England to-day, ready to match India for numbers and intellect.
* * * * * *
In another letter, written in April, 1890, which was written not to me, but was intended at first to be circulated to the Indian members, though afterwards for certain reasons not published, and of which I was permitted to take a copy, H.P.B. writes as follows:
One of the chief factors in the re-awakening of Aryavarta - which has been part of the work of the Theosophical Society - was the ideal of the Masters. But owing to want of judgment, discretion and discrimination, and the liberties taken with Their names and personalities, great misconceptions arose concerning Them. I was under the most solemn oath and pledge never to reveal the whole truth to any one, excepting to those who, like Damodar, had been finally selected and called by Them. All that I was then permitted to reveal was that there existed somewhere such great men; that some of Them were Hindus, that They were learned as none others in all the Ancient Wisdom of Gupta Vidya, and had acquired all the Siddhis - not as these are represented in tradition, and the blinds of ancient writing, but as they are in fact and in nature - and also that I was a Chela of one of Them. However, in the imagination of some Hindus, the most wild and ridiculous fancies soon grew up concerning Them. They were referred to as Mahatmas, and still some too-enthusiastic friends belittle Them with their strange fancy pictures. Our opponents, describing a Mahatma as a full-blown Jivan Mukta, urged that as such He was debarred from holding any communication whatsoever with persons living in the world. They also maintained that as this is the Kali Yuga, it was impossible that there could be any Mahatmas at all in our age.
What with the Patterson-Coulomb-Hodgson conspiracy, that the Society did not there and then collapse should be a sufficient proof of how it was protected. Shaken in this belief, the faint-hearted began to ask: "Why, if the Masters are genuine Mahatmas, have They allowed such things to take place, or why have They not used Their powers to destroy this plot or that conspiracy, or ever this or that man or woman?"
Yet it had been explained numberless times that no Adept of the right path will interfere with the just working of karma. Not even the greatest of Yogis can divert the progress of karma, or arrest the natural results of action for more than a short period; and even in that case these results will only re-assert themselves later, with even tenfold force, for such is the Occult Law of Karma and the Nidanas. We have each of us to win our Moksha or Nirvana by our own merit, and not because a Guru or Deva will help to conceal our shortcomings. There is no merit in having been created an immaculate Deva, or in being a God; but there is the eternal bliss of Moksha looming forth for the man who becomes a God and Deity Itself, by his personal exertions. It is the mission of Karma to punish the guilty, and not the duty of any Master. But those who act up to Their teachings, and live the life of which They are the best exemplars, will never be abandoned by Them, and will always find Their beneficent help whenever needed - whether obvious or invisibly. This is of course addressed to those who have not yet lost their faith in Masters; those who have never believed, nor cared to believe in Them, are welcome to have their own opinions. No one, except themselves perhaps some day, will be the losers thereby.
The fact is this: in my position half-measures are worse than none. People have either to believe entirely in me, or to honestly disbelieve; but it is worse than useless for people to ask me to help them if they do not believe in me. Here in Europe and in America are many who have never flinched in their devotion to Theosophy. Consequently the spread of Theosophy and that of the T.S. in the West, during the last three years, have been extraordinary. The chief reason of this is that I was enabled and encouraged by the devotion of an ever-increasing number of members, to the cause and to Those Who guide it, to establish an Esoteric Section in which I can teach something of what I have learned to those who have confidence in me, and who prove this confidence by their disinterested work for Theosophy and for the T.S. For the future, then, it is my intention to devote my life and energy to the E.S. and to the teaching of those whose confidence I retain. It is useless that I should lose the little time I have before me, to justify myself before those who do not feel sure about the real existence of the Masters, only because, misunderstanding me, it therefore suits them to suspect me.
Half-measures, I repeat, are no longer possible. Either I have stated the truth as I know it about the Masters, and teach what I have been taught by them, or I have invented both Them and the Esoteric Philosophy.
A conviction that wanes when any particular personality is absent is no conviction at all. Know, moreover, that any further proof and teaching I can give only to the Esoteric Section, and this for the following reason: Its members are the only ones whom I have the right to expel for open disloyalty to their pledge (not to me, H.P.B., but to their Higher Self and Mahatmic aspect of the Masters), a privilege I cannot exercise with the F.T.S. at large, yet one which is the only means of cutting off a diseased limb from the healthy body of the tree, thus saving it from infection. I can care only for those who cannot be swayed by every breath of calumny, and every sneer, suspicion or criticism, whomsoever it may emanate from.
Thenceforth let it be understood that the rest of my life is only devoted to those who believe in the Masters, and are willing to work for Theosophy as they understand it, and for the T.S. on the lines upon which They (Masters) originally established it.
If, then, my Hindu brothers really and earnestly desire to bring about the regeneration of India, if they wish ever to see back the days when the Masters, in the ages of Indias ancient glory, freely came among them, guiding and teaching the peoples, then let them cast aside all fear and hesitation and turn a new leaf in the history of the Theosophical movement. Let them bravely rally round the President-Founder, whether I am in India or not, and around those few Theosophists who have remained loyal throughout, and bid defiance to all calumniators and ambitious malcontents, both without and within the Theosophical Society.