The Key to Theosophy
by H. P. Blavatsky
THE "THEOSOPHICAL MAHATMAS"
ARE THEY "SPIRITS OF LIGHT" OR "GOBLINS DAMN'D"?
ENQUIRER. Who are they, finally, those whom you call your "Masters"? Some say they are "Spirits," or some other kind of supernatural beings, while others call them "myths."
THEOSOPHIST. They are neither. I once heard one outsider say to another that they were a sort of male mermaids, whatever such a creature may be. But if you listen to what people say, you will never have a true conception of them. In the first place they are living men, born as we are born, and doomed to die like every other mortal.
ENQUIRER. Yes, but it is rumoured that some of them are a thousand years old. Is this true?
THEOSOPHIST. As true as the miraculous growth of hair on the head of Meredith's Shagpat. Truly, like the "Identical," no Theosophical shaving has hitherto been able to crop it. The more we deny them, the more we try to set people right, the more absurd do the inventions become. I have heard of Methuselah being 969 years old; but, not being forced to believe in it, have laughed at the statement, for which I was forthwith regarded by many as a blasphemous heretic.
ENQUIRER. Seriously, though, do they outlive the ordinary age of men?
THEOSOPHIST. What do you call the ordinary age? I remember reading in the Lancet of a Mexican who was almost 190 years old; but I have never heard of mortal man, layman, or Adept, who could live even half the years allotted to Methuselah. Some Adepts do exceed, by a good deal, what you would call the ordinary age; yet there is nothing miraculous in it, and very few of them care to live very long.
ENQUIRER. But what does the word "Mahatma" really mean?
THEOSOPHIST. Simply a "great soul," great through moral elevation and intellectual attainment. If the title of great is given to a drunken soldier like Alexander, why should we not call those "Great" who have achieved far greater conquests in Nature's secrets, than Alexander ever did on the field of battle? Besides, the term is an Indian and a very old word.
ENQUIRER. And why do you call them "Masters"?
THEOSOPHIST. We call them "Masters" because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life. They are not ascetics in the ordinary sense, though they certainly remain apart from the turmoil and strife of your western world.
ENQUIRER. But is it not selfish thus to isolate themselves?
THEOSOPHIST. Where is the selfishness? Does not the fate of the Theosophical Society sufficiently prove that the world is neither ready to recognise them nor to profit by their teaching? Of what use would Professor Clerk Maxwell have been to instruct a class of little boys in their multiplication-table? Besides, they isolate themselves only from the West. In their own country they go about as publicly as other people do.
ENQUIRER. Don't you ascribe to them supernatural powers?
THEOSOPHIST. We believe in nothing supernatural, as I have told you already. Had Edison lived and invented his phonograph two hundred years ago, he would most probably have been burnt along with it, and the whole attributed to the devil. The powers which they exercise are simply the development of potencies lying latent in every man and woman, and the existence of which even official science begins to recognise.
ENQUIRER. Is it true that these men inspire some of your writers, and that many, if not all, of your Theosophical works were written under their dictation?
THEOSOPHIST. Some have. There are passages entirely dictated by them and verbatim, but in most cases they only inspire the ideas and leave the literary form to the writers.
ENQUIRER. But this in itself is miraculous; is, in fact, a miracle. How can they do it?
THEOSOPHIST. My dear Sir, you are labouring under a great mistake, and it is science itself that will refute your arguments at no distant day. Why should it be a "miracle," as you call it? A miracle is supposed to mean some operation which is supernatural, whereas there is really nothing above or beyond NATURE and Nature's laws. Among the many forms of the "miracle" which have come under modern scientific recognition, there is Hypnotism, and one phase of its power is known as "Suggestion," a form of thought transference, which has been successfully used in combating particular physical diseases, etc. The time is not far distant when the World of Science will be forced to acknowledge that there exists as much interaction between one mind and another, no matter at what distance, as between one body and another in closest contact. When two minds are sympathetically related, and the instruments through which they function are tuned to respond magnetically and electrically to one another, there is nothing which will prevent the transmission of thoughts from one to the other, at will; for since the mind is not of a tangible nature, that distance can divide it from the subject of its contemplation, it follows that the only difference that can exist between two minds is a difference of STATE. So if this latter hindrance is overcome, where is the "miracle" of thought transference, at whatever distance.
ENQUIRER. But you will admit that Hypnotism does nothing so miraculous or wonderful as that?
THEOSOPHIST. On the contrary, it is a well-established fact that a Hypnotist can affect the brain of his subject so far as to produce an expression of his own thoughts, and even his words, through the organism of his subject; and although the phenomena attaching to this method of actual thought transference are as yet few in number, no one, I presume, will undertake to say how far their action may extend in the future, when the laws that govern their production are more scientifically established. And so, if such results can be produced by the knowledge of the mere rudiments of Hypnotism, what can prevent the Adept in Psychic and Spiritual powers from producing results which, with your present limited knowledge of their laws, you are inclined to call "miraculous"?
ENQUIRER. Then why do not our physicians experiment and try if they could not do as much?*
*Such, for instance, as Prof. Bernheim and Dr. C. Lloyd Tuckey, of England; Professors Beaunis and Liegeois, of Nancy; Delboeuf of Liege; Burot and Bourru, of Rochefort; Fontain and Sigard, of Bordeaux; Forel, of Zurich; and Drs. Despine, of Marseilles; Van Renterghem and Van Eeden, of Amsterdam; Wetterstrand, of Stockholm; Schrenck-Notzing, of Leipzig, and many other physicians and writers of eminence.
THEOSOPHIST. Because, first of all, they are not Adepts with a thorough understanding of the secrets and laws of psychic and spiritual realms, but materialists, afraid to step outside the narrow groove of matter; and, secondly, because they must fail at present, and indeed until they are brought to acknowledge that such powers are attainable.
ENQUIRER. And could they be taught?
THEOSOPHIST. Not unless they were first of all prepared, by having the materialistic dross they have accumulated in their brains swept away to the very last atom.
ENQUIRER. This is very interesting. Tell me, have the Adepts thus inspired or dictated to many of your Theosophists?
THEOSOPHIST. No, on the contrary, to very few. Such operations require special conditions. An unscrupulous but skilled Adept of the Black Brotherhood ("Brothers of the Shadow," and Dugpas, we call them) has far less difficulties to labour under. For, having no laws of the Spiritual kind to trammel his actions, such a Dugpa "sorcerer" will most unceremoniously obtain control over any mind, and subject it entirely to his evil powers. But our Masters will never do that. They have no right, except by falling into Black Magic, to obtain full mastery over anyone's immortal Ego, and can therefore act only on the physical and psychic nature of the subject, leaving thereby the free will of the latter wholly undisturbed. Hence, unless a person has been brought into psychic relationship with the Masters, and is assisted by virtue of his full faith in, and devotion to, his Teachers, the latter, whenever transmitting their thoughts to one with whom these conditions are not fulfilled, experience great difficulties in penetrating into the cloudy chaos of that person's sphere. But this is no place to treat of a subject of this nature. Suffice it to say, that if the power exists, then there are Intelligences (embodied or disembodied) which guide this power, and living conscious instruments through whom it is transmitted and by whom it is received. We have only to beware of black magic.
ENQUIRER. But what do you really mean by "black magic"?
THEOSOPHIST. Simply abuse of psychic powers, or of any secret of nature; the fact of applying to selfish and sinful ends the powers of Occultism. A hypnotiser, who, taking advantage of his powers of "suggestion," forces a subject to steal or murder, would be called a black magician by us. The famous "rejuvenating system" of Dr. Brown-Sequard, of Paris, through a loathsome animal injection into human blood -- a discovery all the medical papers of Europe are now discussing -- if true, is unconscious black magic.
ENQUIRER. But this is mediaeval belief in witchcraft and sorcery! Even Law itself has ceased to believe in such things?
THEOSOPHIST. So much the worse for law, as it has been led, through such a lack of discrimination, into committing more than one judiciary mistake and crime. It is the term alone that frightens you with its "superstitious" ring in it. Would not law punish an abuse of hypnotic powers, as I just mentioned? Nay, it has so punished it already in France and Germany; yet it would indignantly deny that it applied punishment to a crime of evident sorcery. You cannot believe in the efficacy and reality of the powers of suggestion by physicians and mesmerisers (or hypnotisers), and then refuse to believe in the same powers when used for evil motives. And if you do, then you believe in Sorcery. You cannot believe in good and disbelieve in evil, accept genuine money and refuse to credit such a thing as false coin. Nothing can exist without its contrast, and no day, no light, no good could have any representation as such in your consciousness, were there no night, darkness nor evil to offset and contrast them.
ENQUIRER. Indeed, I have known men, who, while thoroughly believing in that which you call great psychic, or magic powers, laughed at the very mention of Witchcraft and Sorcery.
THEOSOPHIST. What does it prove? Simply that they are illogical. So much the worse for them, again. And we, knowing as we do of the existence of good and holy Adepts, believe as thoroughly in the existence of bad and unholy Adepts, or -- Dugpas.
ENQUIRER. But if the Masters exist, why don't they come out before all men and refute once for all the many charges which are made against Mdme. Blavatsky and the Society?
THEOSOPHIST. What charges?
ENQUIRER. That they do not exist, and that she has invented them. That they are men of straw, "Mahatmas of muslin and bladders." Does not all this injure her reputation?
THEOSOPHIST. In what way can such an accusation injure her in reality? Did she ever make money on their presumed existence, or derive benefit, or fame, therefrom? I answer that she has gained only insults, abuse, and calumnies, which would have been very painful had she not learned long ago to remain perfectly indifferent to such false charges. For what does it amount to, after all? Why, to an implied compliment, which, if the fools, her accusers, were not carried away by their blind hatred, they would have thought twice before uttering. To say that she has invented the Masters comes to this: She must have invented every bit of philosophy that has ever been given out in Theosophical literature. She must be the author of the letters from which "Esoteric Buddhism" was written; the sole inventor of every tenet found in the "Secret Doctrine," which, if the world were just, would be recognised as supplying many of the missing links of science, as will be discovered a hundred years hence. By saying what they do, they are also giving her the credit of being far cleverer than the hundreds of men, (many very clever and not a few scientific men,) who believe in what she says -- inasmuch as she must have fooled them all! If they speak the truth, then she must be several Mahatmas rolled into one like a nest of Chinese boxes; since among the so-called "Mahatma letters" are many in totally different and distinct styles, all of which her accusers declare that she has written.
ENQUIRER. It is just what they say. But is it not very painful to her to be publicly denounced as "the most accomplished impostor of the age, whose name deserves to pass to posterity," as is done in the Report of the "Society for Psychical Research"?
THEOSOPHIST. It might be painful if it were true, or came from people less rabidly materialistic and prejudiced. As it is, personally she treats the whole matter with contempt, while the Mahatmas simply laugh at it. In truth, it is the greatest compliment that could be paid to her. I say so, again.
ENQUIRER. But her enemies claim to have proved their case.
THEOSOPHIST. Aye, it is easy enough to make such a claim when you have constituted yourself judge, jury, and prosecuting counsel at once, as they did. But who, except their direct followers and our enemies, believe in it?
ENQUIRER. But they sent a representative to India to investigate the matter, didn't they?
THEOSOPHIST. They did, and their final conclusion rests entirely on the unchecked statements and unverified assertions of this young gentleman. A lawyer who read through his report told a friend of mine that in all his experience he had never seen "such a ridiculous and self-condemnatory document." It was found to be full of suppositions and "working hypotheses" which mutually destroyed each other. Is this a serious charge?
ENQUIRER. Yet it has done the Society great harm. Why, then, did she not vindicate her own character, at least, before a Court of Law?
THEOSOPHIST. Firstly, because as a Theosophist, it is her duty to leave unheeded all personal insults. Secondly, because neither the Society nor Mdme. Blavatsky had any money to waste over such a law-suit. And lastly, because it would have been ridiculous for both to be untrue to their principles, because of an attack made on them by a flock of stupid old British wethers, who had been led to butt at them by an over frolicksome lambkin from Australia.
ENQUIRER. This is complimentary. But do you not think that it would have done real good to the cause of Theosophy, if she had authoritatively disproved the whole thing once for all?
THEOSOPHIST. Perhaps. But do you believe that any English jury or judge would have ever admitted the reality of psychic phenomena, even if entirely unprejudiced beforehand? And when you remember that they would have been set against us already by the "Russian Spy" scare, the charge of Atheism and infidelity, and all the other calumnies that have been circulated against us, you cannot fail to see that such an attempt to obtain justice in a Court of Law would have been worse than fruitless! All this the Psychic Researchers knew well, and they took a base and mean advantage of their position to raise themselves above our heads and save themselves at our expense.
ENQUIRER. The S. P. R. now denies completely the existence of the Mahatmas. They say that from beginning to end they were a romance which Madame Blavatsky has woven from her own brain?
THEOSOPHIST. Well, she might have done many things less clever than this. At any rate, we have not the slightest objection to this theory. As she always says now, she almost prefers that people should not believe in the Masters. She declares openly that she would rather people should seriously think that the only Mahatmaland is the grey matter of her brain, and that, in short, she has evolved them out of the depths of her own inner consciousness, than that their names and grand ideal should be so infamously desecrated as they are at present. At first she used to protest indignantly against any doubts as to their existence. Now she never goes out of her way to prove or disprove it. Let people think what they like.
ENQUIRER. But, of course, these Masters do exist?
THEOSOPHIST. We affirm they do. Nevertheless, this does not help much. Many people, even some Theosophists and ex-Theosophists, say that they have never had any proof of their existence. Very well; then Mme. Blavatsky replies with this alternative: -- If she has invented them, then she has also invented their philosophy and the practical knowledge which some few have acquired; and if so, what does it matter whether they do exist or not, since she herself is here, and her own existence, at any rate, can hardly be denied? If the knowledge supposed to have been imparted by them is good intrinsically, and it is accepted as such by many persons of more than average intelligence, why should there be such a hullabaloo made over that question? The fact of her being an impostor has never been proved, and will always remain sub judice; whereas it is a certain and undeniable fact that, by whomsoever invented, the philosophy preached by the "Masters" is one of the grandest and most beneficent philosophies once it is properly understood. Thus the slanderers, while moved by the lowest and meanest feelings -- those of hatred, revenge, malice, wounded vanity, or disappointed ambition, -- seem quite unaware that they are paying the greatest tribute to her intellectual powers. So be it, if the poor fools will have it so. Really, Mme. Blavatsky has not the slightest objection to being represented by her enemies as a triple Adept, and a "Mahatma" to boot. It is only her unwillingness to pose in her own sight as a crow parading in peacock's feathers that compels her to this day to insist upon the truth.
ENQUIRER. But if you have such wise and good men to guide the Society, how is it that so many mistakes have been made?
THEOSOPHIST. The Masters do not guide the Society, not even the Founders; and no one has ever asserted that they did: they only watch over, and protect it. This is amply proved by the fact that no mistakes have been able to cripple it, and no scandals from within, nor the most damaging attacks from without, have been able to overthrow it. The Masters look at the future, not at the present, and every mistake is so much more accumulated wisdom for days to come. That other "Master" who sent the man with the five talents did not tell him how to double them, nor did he prevent the foolish servant from burying his one talent in the earth. Each must acquire wisdom by his own experience and merits. The Christian Churches, who claim a far higher "Master," the very Holy Ghost itself, have ever been and are still guilty not only of "mistakes," but of a series of bloody crimes throughout the ages. Yet, no Christian would deny, for all that, his belief in that "Master," I suppose? although his existence is far more hypothetical than that of the Mahatmas; as no one has ever seen the Holy Ghost, and his guidance of the Church, moreover, their own ecclesiastical history distinctly contradicts. Errare humanum est. Let us return to our subject.
THE ABUSE OF SACRED NAMES AND TERMS.
ENQUIRER. Then, what I have heard, namely, that many of your Theosophical writers claim to have been inspired by these Masters, or to have seen and conversed with them, is not true?
THEOSOPHIST. It may or it may not be true. How can I tell? The burden of proof rests with them. Some of them, a few -- very few, indeed -- have distinctly either lied or were hallucinated when boasting of such inspiration; others were truly inspired by great Adepts. The tree is known by its fruits; and as all Theosophists have to be judged by their deeds and not by what they write or say, so all Theosophical books must be accepted on their merits, and not according to any claim to authority which they may put forward.
ENQUIRER. But would Mdme. Blavatsky apply this to her own works -- the Secret Doctrine, for instance?
THEOSOPHIST. Certainly; she says expressly in the PREFACE that she gives out the doctrines that she has learnt from the Masters, but claims no inspiration whatever for what she has lately written. As for our best Theosophists, they would also in this case far rather that the names of the Masters had never been mixed up with our books in any way. With few exceptions, most of such works are not only imperfect, but positively erroneous and misleading. Great are the desecrations to which the names of two of the Masters have been subjected. There is hardly a medium who has not claimed to have seen them. Every bogus swindling Society, for commercial purposes, now claims to be guided and directed by "Masters," often supposed to be far higher than ours! Many and heavy are the sins of those who advanced these claims, prompted either by desire for lucre, vanity, or irresponsible mediumship. Many persons have been plundered of their money by such societies, which offer to sell the secrets of power, knowledge, and spiritual truth for worthless gold. Worst of all, the sacred names of Occultism and the holy keepers thereof have been dragged in this filthy mire, polluted by being associated with sordid motives and immoral practices, while thousands of men have been held back from the path of truth and light through the discredit and evil report which such shams, swindles, and frauds have brought upon the whole subject. I say again, every earnest Theosophist regrets to-day, from the bottom of his heart, that these sacred names and things have ever been mentioned before the public, and fervently wishes that they had been kept secret within a small circle of trusted and devoted friends.
ENQUIRER. The names certainly do occur very frequently now-a-days, and I never remember hearing of such persons as "Masters" till quite recently.
THEOSOPHIST. It is so; and had we acted on the wise principle of silence, instead of rushing into notoriety and publishing all we knew and heard, such desecration would never have occurred. Behold, only fourteen years ago, before the Theosophical Society was founded, all the talk was of "Spirits." They were everywhere, in everyone's mouth; and no one by any chance even dreamt of talking about living "Adepts," "Mahatmas," or "Masters." One hardly heard even the name of the Rosicrucians, while the existence of such a thing as "Occultism" was suspected even but by very few. Now all that is changed. We Theosophists were, unfortunately, the first to talk of these things, to make the fact of the existence in the East of "Adepts" and "Masters" and Occult knowledge known; and now the name has become common property. It is on us, now, that the Karma, the consequences of the resulting desecration of holy names and things, has fallen. All that you now find about such matters in current literature -- and there is not a little of it -- all is to be traced back to the impulse given in this direction by the Theosophical Society and its Founders. Our enemies profit to this day by our mistake. The most recent book directed against our teachings is alleged to have been written by an Adept of twenty years' standing. Now, it is a palpable lie. We know the amanuensis and his inspirers (as he is himself too ignorant to have written anything of the sort). These "inspirers" are living persons, revengeful and unscrupulous in proportion to their intellectual powers; and these bogus Adepts are not one, but several. The cycle of "Adepts," used as sledge-hammers to break the theosophical heads with, began twelve years ago, with Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten's "Louis" of Art Magic and Ghost-Land, and now ends with the "Adept" and "Author" of The Light of Egypt, a work written by Spiritualists against Theosophy and its teachings. But it is useless to grieve over what is done, and we can only suffer in the hope that our indiscretions may have made it a little easier for others to find the way to these Masters, whose names are now everywhere taken in vain, and under cover of which so many iniquities have already been perpetrated.
ENQUIRER. Do you reject "Louis" as an Adept?
THEOSOPHIST. We denounce no one, leaving this noble task to our enemies. The spiritualistic author of Art Magic, etc., may or may not have been acquainted with such an Adept -- and saying this, I say far less than what that lady has said and written about us and Theosophy for the last several years -- that is her own business. Only when, in a solemn scene of mystic vision, an alleged "Adept" sees "spirits" presumably at Greenwich, England, through Lord Rosse's telescope, which was built in, and never moved from, Parsonstown, Ireland, (vide "Ghost Land," Part I., p. 133, et seq.) I may well be permitted to wonder at the ignorance of that "Adept" in matters of science. This beats all the mistakes and blunders committed at times by the chelas of our Teachers! And it is this "Adept" that is used now to break the teachings of our Masters!
ENQUIRER. I quite understand your feeling in this matter, and think it only natural. And now, in view of all that you have said and explained to me, there is one subject on which I should like to ask you a few questions.
THEOSOPHIST. If I can answer them I will. What is that?