Published by Blavatsky Study Center.

"I view M. as a composite character...."

Daniel H. Caldwell

Dear [name deleted],

I would like to make a number of points on what Paul Johnson has written to you.

I do not want to engage in a heated debate or have an argument with you, Paul Johnson or anyone else but I would like to have an intelligent and serious discussion of some of the major issues underlying what Paul has written.

Let us first consider this paragraph from Paul Johnson's posting:

"Had I said that every reference to Morya referred in reality to Ranbir Singh, one counterexample would disprove that. But I never said any such thing, making it clear that I view M. as a composite character including elements of Mazzini and Ranbir (and mentioning another possible prototype in the sequel, the raja of Wadhwan.)." Bold added.

What is Paul telling us here?  Let me try to think through this and jot down my thoughts.  I will hazard a few guesses and let Paul or you correct me if I stray from his actual view on the subject.

Paul writes:  "I view M. as a composite character...." 

In other words, it appears to me (if I do not misunderstand) that Paul does not really believe that there was a flesh and blood human being known as Morya.  Instead Paul holds the "view" or "hypothesis" or "proposed explanation" that H.P. Blavatsky created "Master Morya" (maybe like an author might create a character in a novel?).  This character HPB created was given some of the personal and/or physical characteristics and attributes of real flesh and blood men, i.e., Mazzini, Ranbir and possibly the Raja of Wadhwan.  Therefore, one might say that HPB's "Master Morya" existed only on paper.

When HPB writes about Master M in a letter or an article, her reference is actually to a composite character she created.  For example, when she writes to Sinnett that she met Morya in or near Sikkim (1), she didn't physically meet this Master in this mountainous country.  Why?   Because he is but a composite character created from her own imagination with personal and/or physical characteristics and attributes of real flesh and blood men, i.e., Mazzini, Ranbir, etc. added to her creation. 

If this "composite character" hypothesis is really true, some, no doubt, would conclude that HPB simply lied to Sinnett about her meeting Morya in Sikkim (1).  In other words, her meeting with M. was "made-up".

This hypothesis proposed by Paul is fairly understandable in the abstract but I have difficulties in both understanding certain aspects of this interpretation as well as believing that it approximates in any way the true explanation concerning Master M.

Furthermore, what is the real relationship between (1) this hypothesis of a "composite character" known as Morya and (2) the encounters various persons testified to having with "Master M"?

Here is a well-known testimony - that of Ramaswamier:

"It was, I think, between eight and nine am, and I was following the road to the town of Sikkim, whence, I was assured by the people I met on the road, I could cross over to Tibet easily in my pilgrim's garb when I suddenly saw a solitary horseman galloping towards me from the opposite direction. From his tall stature and the expert way he managed the animal, I thought he was some military officer of the Sikkim Raja. Now, I thought, am I caught. But as he approached me, he reined the steed. I looked at and recognized him instantly. I was in the presence of my own revered Guru. The very same instant saw me prostrated on the ground at his feet. I arose at his command and, leisurely looking into his face, I forgot myself entirely. I knew not what to say: joy and reverence tied my tongue. I was at last face to face with "the Mahatma of the Himavat" and he was no myth. It was no night dream; it is between nine and ten o'clock of the forenoon. There is the sun shining and silently witnessing the scene from above.

"He speaks to me in accents of kindness and gentleness. Nor was it until a few moments later that I was drawn to utter a few words, encouraged by his gentle tone and speech. Never have I seen a countenance so handsome, a stature so tall and so majestic. He wears a short black beard, and long black hair hanging down to his breast. He wore a yellow mantle lined with fur, and, on his head a yellow Tibetan felt cap.

"When the first moments of rapture and surprise were over and I calmly comprehended the situation, I had a long talk with him. He told me to go no further, for I would come to grief. He said I should wait patiently if I wanted to become an accepted Chela.

"The Mahatma, I found, speaks very little English—or at least it so seemed to me—and spoke to me in my mother-tongue—Tamil. I asked the blessed Mahatma whether I could tell what I saw and heard to others. He replied in the affirmative. He was pleased to say when I offered my farewell namaskarams (prostration) that he approached the British Territory to see [HPB].

"Before he left me, two more men came on horseback, his attendants I suppose, probably Chelas, for they were dressed like himself, with long hair streaming down their backs. They followed the Mahatma, as he left, at a gentle trot. "

Do you take Ramaswamier's experience at face value?  Many Theosophists have done so.  If taken at face value, certainly this helps to "prove" (in some sense of the word) that Master Morya was a real flesh and blood person.  This would be the first explanation: 

(1) the real flesh and blood Master Morya actually met Ramaswamier in Sikkim.

Of course, there are always "skeptics" of anything and this experience has been explained (away) in the following ways:

(2) In the First 1884 SPR Report, F.W.H. Myers and the other members of the SPR Committee suggested that the most probable explanation was that Ramaswamier had hallucinated the experience with Master M.  The encounter was "a dream or vision." No flesh and blood Master was there.  Ramaswamier was deceived by his own hallucinatory experience as he walked through the Sikkim countryside.

(3) But later when Richard Hodgson went to India and interviewed Ramaswamier and investigated the events surrounding Ramaswamier's experience, Hodgson rejected the hallucination ("a dream or vision") explanation and proposed that Ramaswamier was actually duped by a confederate of HPB's.  The most likely candidate for this masquerade was R. Casava Pillai, a policeman from Nellore, India.  According to Hodgson, Ramaswamier actually did met a flesh and blood person.  But it was HPB's confederate who was masquerading as Master M.

(2)  In Marion Meade's 1980 biography of HPB, she declares Ramaswamier's experience to be simply a hallucination.  She doesn't mention Hodgson's explanation or evidence that it was a real person (Pillai) duping Ramaswamier.

(4) Then we have Paul Johnson's book in which he purposes that Ramaswamier just lied about the whole incident.  Ramaswamier made up the story of his encounter with Master M. in Sikkim.

Here we should distinguish between (a) the actual testimony of Ramaswamier's encounter with Master M and (b) the four proposed explanations of his experience.  All four of these explanations are possible and plausible but not all four explanations can be true. Would you agree that there must be only one true explanation of this experience?  Of course, the difficulty is deciding which one explanation is the most probable explanation of Ramaswamier's encounter.

At this point I would like to quote from my favorite authors Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff.  In their classic work The Modern Researcher, they write:

"…the rule of ‘Give evidence’ is not to be violated without impunity. No matter how possible or plausible the author’s conjecture, it cannot be accepted as historical truth if he has only his hunch to support it. What would be more than adequate for village gossip does not begin to be enough for history. . . .

"The writer. . .[may even have] found his hypothesis consistent with the facts [evidence] he had gathered, and from this consistency he deduced confirmation. He may be imagined as saying: ‘. . . certain facts [evidence] can be made to support my view, therefore my view is proved.’ But proof demands decisive evidence; this means evidence that confirms one view and excludes its rivals. . . . [The author’s] facts will fit his view and his critic’s and several other possible views as well. To say this is to say that they support none of them in such a way as to discriminate between truth and conjecture. In short, mere consistency is not enough, nor mere plausibility, for both can apply to a wide variety of hypotheses.

"The commandment about furnishing evidence that is decisive leads us, therefore, to a second fundamental rule: in history, as in life critically considered, truth rests not on possibility nor on plausibility but on probability. Probability is used here in a strict sense. It means the balance of chances that, given such and such evidence [italics added], the event it records happened in a certain way; or, in other cases, that a supposed event did not in fact take place. . . ." (Fourth edition, 1985, pp. 174-175.) Red bold, etc. added to the above text.

How does one actually discriminate between truth and conjecture concerning Ramaswamier's experience?

Can you take what Barzun and Graff have written about the two fundamental rules of historical research and apply them to the Ramaswamier case?  There is alot that could be say in this direction. 

Keeping in mind Ramaswamier's experience, consider Henry Olcott's experience that I write about in my "House of Cards" critique:

"[On July 15, Mahatma Morya] visited me in the flesh at Bombay, coming in full daylight, and on horseback. He had me called by a servant into the front room of HPB’s bungalow (she being at the time in the other bungalow talking with those who were there). He came to scold me roundly for something I had done in TS matters, and as HPB was also to blame, he telegraphed to her to come, that is to say, he turned his face and extended his finger in the direction of the place she was in. She came over at once with a rush and, seeing him, dropped on her knees and paid him reverence. My voice and his had been heard by those in the other bungalow, but only HPB and I, and the servant saw him."

This event is referred to in Colonel Olcott’s handwritten diary for July 15, 1879 as follows:

"[I] had visit in body of the Sahib!! [He] sent Babula to my room to call me to HPB’s bungalow, and there we had a most important private interview. Alas! how puerile and vain these men make one feel by contrast with them." 

This same experience is related in Colonel Olcott's deposition to the Society for Psychical Research:

"MR. MYERS: We want now an account of seeing your Teacher in the flesh.

"COLONEL OLCOTT: One day at Bombay I was at work in my office when a Hindu servant came and told me that a gentleman wanted to see me in Madame Blavatsky’s bungalow --- a separate house within the same enclosure as the main building.  This was one day in 1879.  I went and found alone there my Teacher.  Madame Blavatsky was then engaged in animated conversation with other persons in the other bungalow.  The interview between the Teacher and myself lasted perhaps 10 minutes, and it related to matters of a private nature with respect to myself and certain current events in the history of the Society.  He put his hand upon my head, and his hand was perfectly substantial; and he had altogether the appearance of an ordinary living person.  When he walked about the floor there was noise of his footsteps, which is not the case with the double or phantasm. He was then stopping at a bungalow, not far from Bombay, belonging to a person connected with this brotherhood of the Mahatmas, and used by Mahatmas who may be passing through Bombay on business connected with their order.  He came to our place on horseback. I have seen him at other times."

What explanation would you give for Olcott's encounter?

Furthermore, how does this 1879 experience relate or fit in with Paul's "composite character" hypothesis about Master M.?

I haven't a clue as to how to answer this second question.  And I don't believe Paul has ever discussed (at least in detail) this aspect of the case.

In Johnson's first book In Search Of The Masters, a chapter is devoted to Jamal ad-Din 'al-Afghani, "a Muslim politician, political agitator, and journalist" (as described in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition). Johnson writes on p. 193 of that chapter:

"In light of available knowledge of Afghani's comings and goings in India, can he be connected to the Founders of the Theosophical Society? The evidence is intriguing if not convincing. The first problem is that Olcott rarely identifies adepts when they appear in his narrative, beyond the fact of their status as such. Thus, on August 4, 1880, [Olcott tells us that] ‘a Mahatma visited H.P.B., and I was called in to see him before he left. He dictated a long and important letter to an influential friend of ours at Paris, and gave me important hints about the management of current Society affairs....’[Old Diary Leaves, Volume II, 1972 printing, p. 208]."

Johnson's commentary on Olcott's narrative is as follows:

"Although there is no stated identity of this Mahatma, the mention of Paris rings true, since Afghani was indeed to proceed to Paris, where he must have had an influential friend from the evidence presented." Italics added

Now I quoted all this in my "House of Cards" critique but what I want to emphasize now is that at the time Paul was writing the words above quoted he was apparently willing to accept Colonel Olcott's account as evidence that a real flesh and blood man ("a Mahatma") was in HPB's room on Aug. 4, 1880.  Furthermore, he was willing to speculate that this physical "Mahatma" might be the real historical figure Jamal ad-Din 'al-Afghani.  Of course, what Johnson was not aware of at the time he wrote this narrative was that Olcott in his handwritten diary identifies this man as Mahatma M. (Morya).  See Henry S. Olcott's Testimony:  Nine Accounts of Meeting Masters and Adepts:  Case C.

Apparently Paul no longer believes (if only tentatively) that this "Mahatma" visiting HPB was Jamal ad-Din 'al-Afghani. But the following questions remain:

(1) Does Johnson still believe that a real flesh and blood man ("a Mahatma") was in HPB's room on Aug. 4, 1880?

(2) Olcott in his handwritten diary identifies this man as Mahatma M. (Morya).  Does Johnson accept or reject Olcott's identification?  If Johnson rejects Olcott's identification, why does he?

(3) Who was this "Mahatma" visiting HPB and Olcott on Aug. 4, 1880 in Bombay?

(4) How does this 1880 experience relate to or fit in with Paul's "composite character" hypothesis about Master M.?  In other words, what is the connection of this man in Bombay (identifed in Olcott's diary as Morya) with Paul's hypothesis:  "I view M. as a composite character"?

Let me close this posting with another quote from Paul's email:

"Do not take from the above that I find Daniel's criticisms to be worthless. They underscore the impossibility of coming up with solid "identifications" of Morya, KH, et al from the evidence at hand because it is so inconsistent and inadequate."

But is it the evidence that is "so inconsistent and inadequate" or is it the interpretation and purposed explanation of the evidence that is "so inconsistent and inadequate"?

See also:

Chart Showing Interpretations of Some of Henry S. Olcott's Encounters with the Masters

Henry S. Olcott's Testimony:  Nine Accounts of Meeting Masters and Adepts

A Closer Look at Some of K. Paul Johnson's Arguments Concerning H.S. Olcott's Testimony about the Masters


(1) In a letter to A.P. Sinnett (dated Oct. 9, 1882), H.P.B. recounts her visit with Masters K.H and M. in Sikkim:

"Oh the blessed blessed two days! It was like the old times....The same kind of wooden hut, a box divided into three compartments for rooms, and standing in a jungle on four pelican's legs....the same eternal ‘gul-gul-gul’ sound of my Boss's [Morya's] inextinguishable chelum pipe; the old familiar sweet voice of your KH (whose voice is still sweeter and face still thinner and more transparent)....." (The Letters Of H.P. Blavatsky To A.P. Sinnett, 1925, p. 38)

In a letter to Sinnett (received Oct., 1882), Master K.H. himself describes this same visit:

"I do not believe I was ever so profoundly touched by anything I witnessed in all my life, as I was with the poor old creature's [HPB's] ecstatic rapture, when meeting us recently both in our natural [physical] bodies...Even our phlegmatic M[orya] was thrown off his balance, by such an exhibition---of which he was chief hero. He had to use his power, and plunge her into a profound sleep, otherwise she would have burst some her delirious attempts to flatten her nose against his riding mantle besmeared with the Sikkim mud!...." (The Mahatma Letters, Letter No. 92 in the new chronological edition; Letter No. 54 in the 2nd, and 3rd editions.)