from The Theosophist Feb 1978
I hope I may be permitted to comment on certain implications of Mrs. Hanson's very readable, article on "The Mahatma Letters" in your issue of October , 1977.
These letters are often referred to as if they were actually written personally by Adepts and so carried some special authority or sanctity; and it was in this spirit that A. Trevor Barker presented to the public the book The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in 1923. Many have thus been led to accept the letters as representing the actual words of the Masters of the Wisdom to whom they are a attributed.
This, however, is not how they are represented in the letters themselves, or by Madame Blavatsky who played an important role in making possible their appearance, or by A.P. Sinnett who received so many of them.
In describing how such letters were produced, Madame Blavatsky said, "It is hardly one out of a hundred occult letters that is ever written by the hand of the Master in whose name or on whose behalf they are sent, and the Masters have neither time nor leisure to write them... Generally they make their chela, whether near or far away, write ( or precipitate) them, by impressing upon his mind the ideas they wish impressed, and, if necessary, aiding him in the picture-printing process of precipitation. It depends entirely upon the chela's state of development how accurately the ideas may be transmitted and the writing model imitated". ( Lucifer , iii, p. 93)
In one of the letters we are told that the Masters' custom was "to entrust a chela with the task of delivering the letter or any other message, and, if not absolutely necessary to never give it a thought. Very often our very letters - unless something very important and secret - are written in our handwritings by our chelas" ( The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, letter 53).
A.P. Sinnett referred to a time when " the Masters had stood aside and left everything to various chelas, including freedom to use the blue handwriting".( C .Jinarajadasa, The K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater, p.75)
In a letter to Frau Gebhard, Madame Blavatsky confessed that, to avoid complicated explanations, she had sometimes treated notes as having come directly from the Master in his own handwriting, when she knew that this was not really the case. Referring to the inadequacy of the chelas who were the real writers of most of the letters, she said that there were passages in some of the letters that were "expressed in such language that it perverted entirely the meaning originally intended". She said that " it is very rarely that Mahatma K.H dictated verbatim, and when He did there remained the few sublime passages... found in Mr. Sinnett's letters from Him " (C. Jinarajadasa, The Early Teachings of the Masters, foreword p.x)
She also said that she had known occasions when chelas who were precipitating letters "took ideas and expressions out of my head" (Ibid, p.xi) How far Madame Blavatsky's personal opinions and attitudes blended into the contents of the letters is a matter for speculation. A.P. Sinnett believed that "the correspondence as a whole was terribly contaminated by what one can only treat as Madame Blavatsky's own mediumship in the matter". (C. Jinarajadasa, The Story of the Mahatma Letters, p.25) Even if one regards this as too depreciative a way of expressing the fact, it seems impossible to reject Sinnett's futher and more temperate comment that "it must always be remembered that correspondence from a Master precipitated through the mediumship of a chela, cannot always be regarded as His ipsissima verba" (Ibid).
The writers of the letters directed in very emphatic terms that they were not to be published, a clear request for confidentiality which has not been honoured by a later generation. The letters "were not written for publication or public comment upon them, but for private use, and neither M. nor I will ever give our consent to see them thus handled" (The Mahatma Letters to A P. Sinnett, letter 63). One reason for this was that they contained "crude and complicated materials " (Ibid) But one may speculate that it was also realised that, if published, the letters were liable to have attributed to them an authority and a degree of accuracy which they did not possess and could do harm by being put to superstitious uses or used as ammunition in futile and destructive controversy.
As Mrs. Hanson has shown, there are many passages in the letters which convey much wisdom and insight; but in view of the manner in which they were written and produced, it would be well not to attribute any special kind of authority to them or to quote passages from them as necessarily representing accurately, or at all, the opinions of the august personages whose initials are subscribed to them.
Former Organising Secretary,
North Ireland Federation
from The Theosophist April 1978
The Mahatma Letters
I should like, if I may, to reply to Dr. Hugh Shearman's letter in the February Theosophist commenting on my article on The Mahatma Letters. I have always admired the clarity and cogency of Dr. Shearman's writing, and this is no exception. Especially appreciated is the point he makes about the danger of attributing special authority to the Letters - or to any other text, for that matter. One learns fairly early on in the study of Theosophy that there is no authority save the ring of truth within oneself. That this happens to have been my experience with the Letters - not invariably but frequently enough to be impressive - implies no insistence that it must be the same for others.
Admittedly, in any such study, many unanswered and unanswerable questions arise. These are, I think, valuable irritants. We may never have all the answers to anything, but that fact alone insures enormous increase of consciousness in every generation, which is surely one of the reasons we are here.
Interestingly enough, after saying that the Letters should not be used as authority. Dr. Shearman quotes from them to indicate their own lack of authenticity and to support the dictum that they should never have been published.
The passages which he cites are certainly not denied. A few other statements throw additional light upon the genuineness of the Letters as messages from the Mahatmas. These should not be considered "authority" but they do present a somewhat different and perhaps just as legitimate a point of view.
For example, in Letter No .5, from the Mahatma K.H. Bear in mind that these my letters are not written but impressed or precipitated and then all mistakes corrected ". (Italics mine). We know of one instance, of course, in which this was not done - an oversight which had near disastrous consequences in what is known as the Kiddle Incident. The letter was dictated to and precipitated by an inexperienced chela when the Mahatma was on horseback and physically very weary after 60 hours without sleep, 48 of which had been spent in the saddle.
It seems apparent also that, at least in some instances, the Mahatma K.H. wrote his own letters personally. At one stage in the correspondence, he was prohibited by his superiors from using precipitation as a method of producing his letters to Mr. Sinnett. In Letter No. 53, written probably in August 1882, the Mahatma mentions the fact that during the previous year his letters had been precipitated, and "when sweet and easy precipitation was stopped - well, I had but to compose my mind, assume an easy position, and think, and my faithful "Disinherited" (Djual Kuhl )had but to copy my thoughts, making only occasionally a blunder - this year, for reasons we need not mention, I have to do my own work - the whole of it" (Italics mine)
On another occasion, writing from a location high in the mountains, the Mahatma comments that time is precious and writing material even more so - "Precipitation" in your case having become unlawful - and I, being far from home, and at a place where a stationer's shop is less needed than breathing air, our correspondence threatens to break very abruptly unless I manage my stock in hand judiciously". (Letter 8)
In still another instance, after remarking that the abundance of letters he had been sending Mr. Sinnett gave evidence that he had found a little leisure but - "their blotched, patchy, and mended appearance also proves that my leisure has come by snatches, by constant interruptions, and that my writing has been done in odd places here and there, with such materials as I could pick up - I console myself for the miserable appearance of my letters with the thought that perhaps you may not value them the less for these marks of my personal subjection to the way side annoyances which you English so ingeniously reduce to a minimum with your appliances of sorts. As your lady one kindly remarked, they take away most effectually the flavour of miracle, and make us human beings, more thinkable entities - a wise reflection for which I thank here" (Letter No. 16)
The fact that the Letters do make quite apparent the human side of the Mahatmas [ "When the inner man rests the adept becomes an ordinary man, limited to his physical senses and the functions of his physical brain". (Letter No. 24B) "even an "adept" when acting in his body is not beyond mistakes due to human carelessness". (Letter No 55)] while at the same time giving ample evidence of their superior powers, may have been a valuable factor in preventing what might have grown into a rather horrendous superstition about them - perhaps a fact in itself providing some justification for their publication.
It is certainly true that the Mahatma stated that their letters were not to be published. Curiously enough, however, in a letter from the Mahatma K.H. to a chela, Mohini M. Chatterji (No 39, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series) we find the statement: "You may, if you choose so or find necessity for it, use in "Man" or any other book you may chance to be collaborating for, anything I may have said in relation to our secret doctrines any of my letters to Messrs. Hume or Sinnett. Those portions that were private have never been allowed by them to be copied by anyone; and those which are so copied have by the very fact become theosophical property. You are at liberty to even copy them verbatim and without quotation marks - I will not call it "plagiarism".
No doubt it would have been disastrous to have published many of the letters during the years in which they were written. But after a lapse of fifty or a hundred years this danger does not seem to exist. It has been pointed out that it would have been quite easy for the Mahatmas to have prevented their publication had this been deemed advisable, although I personally doubt that such interference with karma would have been sanctioned by the laws, so often mentioned in the Letters, by which the Mahatmas were found. Be that as it may, and whatever the consequences, they have been published,, and allowing for the fact that discrimination must be used in their study, as in all else, it is my conviction that they yield incalculable riches the one who studies them with an open and unprejudiced mind.
Travel to Mars
The observations made by Dr. Vartak (The Theosophist, Oct & Nov.1977) of other planetary bodies raise several questions on which one may speculate regarding the exact method used for obtaining such information.
Dr. Vartak states that he "clairvoyantly went" to Mars. This seems a contradiction in terms, for the process of clairvoyance does not involve a movement in space, but rather an attunement to a certain vibration not perceptible to most people. Assuming that all the particles in the universe affect each other by their vibrations, it seems possible that a sensitive individual may be able to receive impressions from distant objects by focussing his attention upon them, just as one tunes a radio to a certain vibration.
There are several other methods by which Dr. Vartak may have obtained his information. One is what is called nowadays "astral travel" or "astral projection". This is a process by which the individual actually moves to another point in space, leaving his physical vehicle behind. It is unlikely that Dr. Vartak used the etheric (astral) double of the physical as his vehicle because of the distances involved. We are told that the etheric double cannot be widely separated from its physical counterpart for fear of damage to, or death of, the latter.
However, projection may be carried our using the "astral body", (kamic, or probably more accurately, kamamanasic body) as the vehicle, in which case the etheric double remains behind with the physical body. Certainly, there appears to be much greater mobility with this method, and it may be the usual one used by persons who describe certain experiences in which they visit places at a distance while the physical body is asleep or in trance. If seers describe purely physical scenes, one may assume that they ar focussing on the densest levels of the astral, where it is said that counterparts of every physical object exist, and not on the unique qualities of the astral world itself, which go unnoticed. One would suppose that this also rules out the possibility that information is being obtained at a yet higher level such as the Causal (buddhi-manas).
Dr. Vartak describes the scenes on Mars and Jupiter as if he is actually there. He is conscious not only of visual impression, but also of tactile ones such as temperature and pressure (the wind). One would be tempted to conclude that this indicates that he did in fact travel astrally to the planet, but my impression is that clairvoyance may also include all such impressions. The extra-physical sense is a whole perception, not divided into sight, smell, touch, etc, although while transmitting it through the physical brain, it may be perceived in terms of one or more of the physical senses.
We must mention the possibility that Dr. Vartak may have obtained his formation by precognition. He may have foretold the information which would be picked up and transmitted later by the spacecraft. It is hard to rule this out. Even if he has supplied information which has not been picked up by the spacecraft to date, it may still be information which will be observed at some later date by future spacecraft and transmitted to earth, and theoretically it could still then be precognised. Admittedly, this seems a rather tortuous explanation, but it is one frequently invoked by investigators.
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