Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

“Do the Mahatmas Exist?”

by A.P. Sinnett

[Reprinted from Light (London), March 3, 1894, p. 107.]

[The personal names within brackets have been added 
to this online reprint of Sinnett's article. --- Blavatsky Archives editor.]

Sir, --- Mr. Gilbert Elliot’s letter in your issue of February 17th no doubt expresses a feeling often entertained by people on the outskirts of the Theosophical movement --- Why are we who are more closely concerned with the work of that movement so confident about the existence and attributes of those whom we call Mahatmas?  Let me answer for myself.

To begin with, fifteen years ago I first heard from Madame Blavatsky a statement concerning great initiates of occult science who had attained to wonderfully exalted knowledge, spiritual insight, and power over natural forces of which modern science knew nothing.  Madame Blavatsky claimed to have lived for a time amongst them; and to have learned some of their teachings.  She proved that she possessed some abnormal faculties and powers.  Growing much interested in the whole matter, I became acquainted with other persons also interested.  Two of these especially, natives of India, earnest, spiritual-minded men [Damodar K. Mavalankar and T. Subba Row], told me in course of time that they knew “the Masters” on the astral plane, i.e., in that extra-physical state of consciousness of which millions of crass materialists know nothing, but of which a large number of mystic students know a great deal, so that the fact of astral consciousness may surely be taken for granted in addressing such readers as yours.  For those to whom this assumption would not apply, explanations like that on which I have entered must begin at an earlier stage.

A third Indian acquaintance [S. Ramaswamier], after astral plane knowledge of the Masters, determined to reach them personally --- in the physical body --- or perish in the attempt.  He pushed across the Tibet frontier and, guided by his astral perceptions, succeeded in his quest.  He saw in the flesh those whom he and others had previously seen in vision, recognising them as such, and returning to tell of his success.  Meanwhile I had been receiving a long series of letters reaching me, apparently from certain Mahatmas, under peculiar circumstances described in my books (mainly, but not exclusively, through the intermediation of Madame Blavatsky), and conveying a mass of teaching which in due time I was enabled to publish, and in which great numbers of people have found a better clue to the comprehension of their own nature and of the world around them than any previously known religion or philosophy afforded.

One all-important fact thus revealed was that the avenues of initiation were still open for people who were qualified to advance along them; that the “Masters,” though in seclusion, were not inaccessible for persons in whom certain interior faculties were ripe for development.  Many persons, including some Europeans whom I know, were inspired by this revelation to make the necessary exertions, and beginning with the opportunities afforded by the Theosophical Society, have learned to transfer their consciousness to the astral plane, to get about freely on that level of Nature, to obtain access to the Mahatmas, and to recognise, as also astral pupils, friends whom they know in the flesh.  One such person, a European [Charles W. Leadbeater] whose development has taken place since the formation of the Theosophical Society, first came into conscious relation with the Mahatmas while working for Theosophy in India in connection with the headquarters at Adyar, sharing his progress, so to speak, with friends and pupils of Madame Blavatsky’s.  Another [Maude Travers] gained the same privileges here in Europe, scarcely knowing Madame Blavatsky, and wholly unconnected with the T. S. organization in India.  Within the last year or two other Europeans and one person of Eastern parentage (1), among my own circle of intimate friends, have in varying degrees acquired the faculty of consciousness on the astral plane, and of clairvoyance while in the ordinary state, so as to be able to hold converse, when permitted, with some of the Mahatmas, or to see them when they or some of their disciples have come astrally among us.

Thus you see I am dealing with eight witnesses of the truth, not including Madame Blavatsky.  Let me call them by letters of the alphabet, to show more definitely how their testimony hangs together.

A. [Damodar K. Mavalankar] went in the flesh many years ago to Tibet.  D. and E. have seen him with the Masters when themselves there in the astral.

B. [T. Subba Row] is “dead” as regards the body in which I knew him.  Being a regular chela, his post-mortem adventures do not follow the normal course.  D. knew him when living, in India; and sees him still from time to time in an astral body with the Masters.

C. [S. Ramaswamier] has died, I believe, since I knew him in India.  He is rather out of the circle of connection of my own chela friends.  I have not heard of him on the astral plane.

D. [Charles W. Leadbeater] is advanced as a chela, and as much at home on the astral plane, and as fully reminiscent of all that happens to him there, as though the matters dealt with were yesterday’s doings in the flesh.  On the astral plane he constantly sees E., F., and H., all of whom know him and know one another on this plane of life, discuss what takes place when with the Masters, after returning to their normal condition, and are in all respects themselves completely in their mutual relations on the higher plane.

E. [Maude Travers] --- Everything just said of D. applies also to E., if possible in fuller measure.  Occultly E. is still further advanced.  D. and E. knew one another on the astral plane before they were acquainted in physical life.  E. knows others of the Masters besides those of whom Theosophic literature has treated, sees on the astral plane (as D. does also) both in and out of the body.  Has friendly relations also with F., G., and H. on the other plane.

F. is not yet so far on, but knows the Masters on the astral plane; also sees D., E., and H. there constantly. (1)

G. is but just beginning to exercise the faculty of astral consciousness, and need not be more minutely explained. (1)

H. is in a position to be present frequently when astral meetings of chelas are held in the Masters’ presence; recollects everything; will corroborate D., E., and F. in respect of conversations at which all were present. (1)

Coupling all these facts with the fact that since Madame Blavatsky’s death, and through purely European channels, I have exchanged letters, and am still in a position to do so, when necessary (though common sense will show that under the circumstances described it cannot be often necessary for me to do so) with the same Master [Koot Hoomi] who wrote to me when I was at work on “Esoteric Buddhism,” I should think that any of your readers who can trust the honesty of my assurances will recognise that I have tolerably sufficient grounds on which to reply in the affirmative to the well-worn old question, “Do the Mahatmas really exist?”


P.S. --- Further reflection as I look over what I have written shows me that I might have extended my list of witnesses, but as it stands it will probably meet the present inquiry.

Endnote added by Blavatsky Archives editor:

(1) The true identities of these last two or three individuals mentioned by Sinnett are not known. Possibly the "person of Eastern parentage" is C. Jinarajadasa.  The individual designated as F. might be Count Bubua, described in A.P. Sinnett's Autobiography, p. 44 as "endowed with psychic faculties and in touch with his Master Mahatma Morya."