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Some Comments on Publication of The Mahatma Letters and HPB's Esoteric Writings

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  • Daniel H. Caldwell
    Some Comments on Publication of The Mahatma Letters and HPB s Esoteric Writings by Daniel H. Caldwell [These comments formed one message in a discussion held
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 25, 2002
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      Some Comments on Publication of The Mahatma Letters and HPB's
      Esoteric Writings

      by Daniel H. Caldwell

      [These comments formed one message in a discussion held on "Theos-L"
      regarding the value of The Mahatma Letters [available online at:
      http://mahatmaletters.net ], and of how appropriate it
      may be for their publication and public discussion.]

      One of the Masters (K.H.) wrote the following concerning the
      publication of his own letters and notes to Sinnett:

      "The letters, in short, were not written for publication or public
      comment upon them, but for private use, and neither M. nor I would
      ever give our consent to see them thus handled."
      — Mahatma Letter No. 63

      One should read the whole letter from which I have quoted in order to
      see the context in which those words were made. [See:
      http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/mahatma/ml-63.htm ]

      But there is another letter from the Mahatma K.H. which throws
      additional light on the issue of publishing the letters from the
      Masters. In the summer of 1884, Mohini Chatterji and Laura C.
      Holloway were writing a book on Theosophy entitled Man: Fragments of
      Forgotten History. Both Mohini and Laura were chelas of K.H. In a
      letter addressed to Mohini, Master K.H. wrote:

      "You may, if you choose so, or find necessity for it, use in Man [the
      above titled book] or in any other book you may chance to be
      collaborating for, anything I may have said in relation to our secret
      doctrines in 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. Besides, copies of my letters — at
      any rate those that contained my teachings — have always been
      sent by
      my order to Damodar and Upasika [H.P.B.], and some of the portions
      even used in The Theosophist. You are at liberty to even copy them
      verbatim and without quotation marks. ... Thus not only you, a chela
      of mine, but anyone else is at liberty to take anything, whole pages,
      if thought proper, from any of my 'copied' letters and convert
      their 'dross' into pure ore of gold, provided they have well grasped
      the thought. Show this to L.C.H. who was already told the same.
      — Letter 39 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First
      Series [Man: Fragments of Forgotten History is available online at:
      http://www.theosophical.ca/ManFragments.htm ]

      It should also be noted that a great deal of the teaching letters
      from K.H. and M. were quoted in the following books published in the

      * The Occult World by A.P. Sinnett. (First edition published 1881)
      [Available online at: http://www.theosophical.ca/OccultWorld.htm ]

      * Esoteric Buddhism by A.P. Sinnett. (First edition published 1883)

      * The Occult World by A.P.S. See 4th English edition, 1884, Appendix,
      pp. 145-149 for an additional KH letter. [Available online at:
      http://www.theosophical.ca/OccultWorld.htm ]

      * Man: Fragments of Forgotten History by Two Chelas [Chatterji and
      Holloway) (First edition, published 1885) [Available online at:
      http://www.theosophical.ca/ManFragments.htm ]

      * The Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky. (First published 1888). See
      especially Vol. I where H.P.B. quotes from several of KH's letters to
      Sinnett. [See: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd1-1-08.htm
      and http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd1-1-09.htm%5d

      * In additional to the above books, excerpts from the Masters'
      letters were published in various articles in The Theosophist (1881-

      * Also W.J. Judge published lengthy extracts from K.H.'s letters to
      Sinnett dealing with Kamaloka and Devachan. See The Path, August,
      1889, Nov., 1889, May, 1890 and June, 1890. These articles have been
      reprinted by The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, in their compilation
      Theosophical Articles and Notes, 1985, pp. 236-247.

      * H.P.B. also quoted extracts from KH's Letters to Sinnett in the
      pages of Lucifer.

      * Judge published the Prayag Letter [also contained in The Mahatma
      Letters to A. P. Sinnett] in The Path in the early 1890s. [See:
      http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/mahatma/ml-134.htm ]

      And there are many more . . . .

      It would be an interesting exercise to take a copy of The Mahatma
      Letters to A. P. Sinnett [ http://mahatmaletters.net ] and underline
      in red all the passages that have been published in the above sources.

      Directing attention back to KH's letter to Mohini in which mention is
      made of the "copied letters" which have "become theosophical
      property", Francesca Arundale, an early Theosophist, had "three
      manuscript books" of "these early teachings" from the Masters.
      Evidence indicates that Sinnett copied these "teachings" from the
      letters of the Masters and sent them to London for the benefit of
      Arundale and other students of Theosophy. These "teaching letters" as
      found in Arundale"s manuscript books were eventually published by C.
      Jinarajadasa in 1923 under the title The Early Teachings of the
      Masters 1881 to 1883. This book by Jinarajadasa was published some
      months before A. Trevor Barker published the complete collection of
      letters from the Masters K.H. and M. in London in Dec. 1923.
      [Jinarajadasa's compilation is available online at:
      http://www.theosophical.ca/EarlyTeachings.htm ]

      In the light of the above historical facts, would ULT students (who
      have usually objected to the publication of The Mahatma Letters) be
      willing to study The Early Teachings of the Masters? Would they be
      willing to publicly circulate this volume by Jinarajadasa or a
      similarly compiled work?

      Now another issue. ULT associates privately read and study The
      Mahatma Letters. But if we are to take literally and at face value
      the Master K.H.'s prohibition on the publishing of the letters in
      their entirety, then once any ULT student reads this prohibition,
      would not reason and logic dictate that he should close the book and
      never pick The Mahatma Letters up again? As H.N. Stokes once wrote
      about this very subject,

      If The Mahatma Letters are private documents today, no one without a
      diploma of sanctity and a special permit from the Mahatmas is more
      entitled to read them than any others.

      Speaking of H.N. Stokes, the editor of The O.E. Library Critic
      (Washington, D.C.), Dr. Stokes wrote at least two articles on the
      ULT's attitude toward The Mahatma Letters. The articles are:

      "Is the ULT Boycotting The Mahatma Letters?" (The O.E. Library
      Critic, April, 1934.)

      "Magazine Theosophy Places The Mahatma Letters on ULT Index
      Expurgatorius." (The O.E. Library Critic, May-June, 1935.

      Stokes notes that soon after The Mahatma Letters were first published
      in London in Dec., 1923, Theosophy Magazine (the L.A.-based ULT
      periodical) "hailed" the publication of these Letters as follows:

      "These letters are, beyond all question the one great and final
      contribution to Theosophical literature and history since The Secret
      Doctrine. They solve the hitherto baffling and inscrutable mysteries
      in connection with the public course of the Movement, by bringing to
      light the missing links of its degradation through theosophists,
      theosophical societies, and the world at large. ... Let all true
      Theosophists rejoice at the light that is now shed on the dark places
      of the past and present."
      — Theosophy Magazine, March, 1924

      But Stokes points out that four ULT magazines (including Theosophy
      Magazine) subsequently had the practice of quoting from The Mahatma
      Letters but never telling their readers that they were quoting from
      the book entitled The Mahatma Letters To A. P. Sinnett. Stokes found
      that in the years 1928-1933, these four ULT magazines had quoted 87
      times from the Letters. Stokes writes:

      "Of the 87 quotations from The Mahatma Letters only one gives
      reference; the others afford not the slightest clue to the source,
      not the slightest possibility of the student locating it without
      laborious search. He is not even permitted to know the existence of
      such a book as The Mahatma Letters."
      — The O.E. Library Critic, April, 1934

      In the other article cited above, Stokes discusses an article
      published in Theosophy Magazine for February, 1935. The anonymous ULT
      associate writes for two or three pages on The Mahatma Letters but
      then concludes:

      "All that is taught in the Letters is contained in The Secret
      Doctrine ... and is there presented in proper form for students under
      the direct instruction and sponsoring of the Mahatmas themselves. The
      publication of the Mahatma Letters in violation of Their own
      injunction, and recourse to these Letters [by Theosophical students]
      instead of to The Secret Doctrine for instruction in Occultism, shows
      the difference between true and false psychology. Mr. Sinnett's use
      of the Letters was such as to close to him the door opened via H.P.B.
      with the Mahatmas: What will be the effect of the unlawful
      publication and use of them thus made possible to so many hopeless
      Incurables in the Mysteries?"

      Stokes points out that several of the assertions made in this
      quotation are not true. Stokes goes on to say:

      "But when the Theosophy Magazine writer speaks of 'false psychology'
      and of 'hopeless Incurables in the Mysteries' one is prompted to ask
      whether these rather strong terms do not apply to himself. He is
      constantly referring in these articles to The Mahatma Letters.
      Consequently he must have read them. If so, why does he do that which
      he thinks it improper for others to do because of their private
      nature? And why did the magazine Theosophy in its series [of
      articles] later published as The Theosophical Movement [in 1925 as a
      book] constantly quote from documents [written by H.P.B. and] marked
      private and issued to E.S.T. members under pledge of secrecy? Are we
      to suppose that this anonymous writer, or the editors of Theosophy
      Magazine, are above all rules applying to lesser mortals? No, what is
      sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If The Mahatma Letters
      are private documents today, no one without a diploma of sanctity and
      a special permit from the Mahatmas is more entitled to read them than
      any others, or to discourage others from doing what he does himself
      when it suits his purpose ... .Sensible students will not be deterred
      by talk from those who do not practise what they preach."
      — The O.E. Library Critic, May-June, 1935.

      In the above quote from Stokes, he refers to the book The
      Theosophical Movement issued by the top officials of the ULT, Los
      Angeles, CA.

      Speaking of publishing "private and confidential" communications, in
      Chapter XI ("Work of the Esoteric Section", pp. 163-177) of this ULT
      1925 book, the anonymous author(s) quote(s) from two of H.P.B.'s E.S.
      documents which were marked: "strictly private and confidential". The
      author of this chapter XI writes:

      "Permissible extracts from the Preliminary Memorandum to the E.S.
      applicants show her esoteric treatment." [Compare:
      in Chapter 11.]

      Then long extracts are given from this E.S. document. Permissible
      extracts? Who gave the writer of this chapter permission to quote
      from H.P.B.'s "strictly private and confidential" paper? This is not
      discussed in the pages of The Theosophical Movement.
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