Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Theosophical Mahatmas

by William Tournay Brown, F. T. S.

[Reprinted from The Religio-Philosophical Journal
(Chicago), October 16, 1886, p. 2.]

I am pleased to see in the Journal of September 25th, the short essay by Mr. Wm. Emmette Coleman on the subject of the theosophical mahatmas. The spirit of the writer is, in my judgment, that of a scientist and truthseeker, and, as I am just as anxious, in the interest of truth, to be shown how I have been deluded as Mr. Coleman can be to have genuine proof of the Mahatmas’ existence, it will be for the good of all that I should say some more upon this important subject.

In the first place, let me say that I am well qualified to pass an important judgment on this matter, as I am acquainted with all the parties concerned. Being impressed by the truth and beauty of the Koot Hoomi letters in the Occult World, and having made Mr. Sinnett’s acquaintance in London, I went out to India in the latter part of 1883, for the express purpose of testing the truth of the Occult Philosophy and of the Theosophical phenomena. I went out at my own expense and greatly against the wishes of my brothers and Scotch Presbyterian friends who wished me to go on with my profession, which is that of the law. I went out to the East in a quiet impartial spirit, neither pre-disposed to bolster up Madam Blavatsky nor to have satisfaction in proving her to be a fraud. I remained in India fifteen months; travelled over the country; lived at head-quarters with Blavatsky and Olcott; became friendly with Damodar and the rest of the chelas; compared notes from time to time, with my fellow investigator, Dr. Hartmann, of Munich; made the acquaintance of Mr. Hodgson of the London S. P.R. when he came out to India, and tried to assist him in his investigations; and was a member of the Board of Control which dismissed the Coulombs from the T.S. on the ground of fraud and corruption.

As regards the philosophy of self-moral culture and development, no one calls that in question. It is the same now as when Jesus worked his "miracles"; for natural laws do not change, though, for periods of time, they may escape human perception. Thus the task which lies before me is to dispose of the personalities in the case, if I can, in such a way as to show that the principles are unimpaired and to absolve the personalities themselves from false and unjust accusations.

On their own confession and statement the Coulombs are fraudulent deceivers. They were justly expelled from the T. S. and their statements are out of court.

Mr. Hodgson of the S.P.R. is a young man of my own age (28), cultured and truth-loving. But he was quite unprepared to pass serious judgment regarding psychic facts and occult phenomena, for the reason that he did not recognize the existence of psychic faculties with which to see the psychic facts. A well meaning man, like the majority of the materialistic school he had no explanation for anything in the occult aspect of Nature but non-existence or fraud. Colonel Olcott made a great mistake when he invited a member of a society of beginners to pronounce judgment upon the "miraculous" verities. He and the society have had good cause to realize his error in judgment and to profit by the experience.

No one calls the good faith of Colonel Olcott in question. My opinion of him is that he is a just, an eloquent and an honorable man.

Damodar, however, is supposed by some to have been an accomplice in deceit of Madam Blavatsky. To one who knows Damodar, as I do, this is simply absurd. Damodar is a vegetarian and total abstainer, and his writings show great truth and earnestness of purpose. He had to make great caste and pecuniary sacrifices on joining the Theosophical Society. And for what? For no visible reward. Not a single official of the T. S. receives a fraction of salary, and Damodar worked 7 hours a day as Joint Recording Secretary. Verily Damodar can say that virtue is its own reward and that it is a royal thing to do good and have evil spoken of one.

And now as regards the great Blavatsky. Shall I defend her? I shall not. But I shall defend the philosophy.

That Madam Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society are not one and the same is a fact which many are slow to recognize. Every man of us must work out his own salvation, and the Mahatmas are as responsible to us for what they do as we are to them. Thus it is that if at any time we choose to leave the straight and narrow path they are powerless to prevent us. Karma or self-responsibility is the central point of the occult philosophy.

Madam Blavatsky’s failings or virtues may be put aside. The evidence from all sources, and when Madam Blavatsky has been thousands of miles away, is theosophically conclusive.

I remember well at Adyar in August, 1884, when Madam Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott were in Europe and when the Coulombs had betaken themselves off the premises, a letter came to Dr. Hartmann and Mr. Lane Fox, from the master K. H., through the self-same desecrated shrine.

Damodar and I had had a dispute and, as neither he nor I would yield, the master evidently observed the psychic commotion and thought right to interfere. The letter took Damodar to task, much to his chagrin, telling him that he had "undoubtedly many faults;" but K. H. asked the Board of Control to remember that, though very imperfect, Blavatsky and Damodar were the best psychic evolutions in the circumstances. This letter, which is in the unmistakable K. H. writing, was in no sense a reflex of Damodar himself, as his self-estimate was considerably mortified thereby. Where then was the fraudulent deceiver? This is only one of numerous examples. All scientific Spiritualists will agree with me, I think, that the sooner we get into our minds and hearts that Theosophy is not Blavatskyism, but the Ancient Wisdom Religion, irrespective and independent of personalities, the better. The Theosophical Society has a mission in expounding Theosophy, but Theosophy (God’s Wisdom) will outlive each and every society.