Jun 11, 2017

On the Mahatma Letters

Direct Teachings from the Masters Shed a
Higher Light on the Theosophical Writings

John Garrigues


A 2017 Editorial Note:

The following text was first
published at the March 1924 edition of
“Theosophy” magazine, in Los Angeles,
pp. 204-209. It had no indication as to the
name of the author. An analysis of contents,
style, and date of publication of the article
indicates it was written by John Garrigues.
Original title: “The Mahatma Letters”.
We add a few explanatory notes to the article.

The complete 1926 edition of the Mahatma
Letters is available at our associated websites.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


The publication of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett signalizes the passing of the midway point in the centenary cycle of the Theosophical Movement, the entrance upon its upward curve to 1975, when a new Messenger - not a new Message - shall appear. [1]

Beginning with the coming of H. P. Blavatsky to New York City in 1873, the centenary cycle was formally launched with the foundation of the Parent Theosophical Society in November, 1875. From that day to this the various stages in the descent of the Movement from spirit to matter have been manifested in events that are, or should be, well known to all theosophical students. Before 1875 the fact of Masters, the teachings of the Wisdom-Religion, the existence of Theosophical Movement, were unknown in the West - a sacredly guarded secret of Occultism. Now the Messenger has come and gone, the Message has been placed of record, the Movement made public, and all are in the faithful or unfaithful stewardship of theosophists.

The Mahatma Letters, which now reach the stage of full publicity after forty years, were all written in the period from 1880 to 1885, that is to say during the first ten years of the Movement. In point of time they antedate the Secret Doctrine, which was published in 1888, and in point of fact they were the moving cause of the character of that great work, which was originally intended to be merely a revised edition of Isis Unveiled. 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. The triple aspects of the Movement are still either ignored or corrupted both on the part of theosophists and the public.

All three aspects are extensively treated in these Letters, and have become public property in inverse order. Philosophically, whatever there is of value in Mr. Sinnett’s two books - The Occult World, published in 1881, and Esoteric Buddhism, first issued in 1883 - was derived from the Letters. The student of today has but to compare the teachings in the Letters with the presentations made by Mr. Sinnett to see how often and how sadly Mr. Sinnett misunderstood both the spirit and the letter of what was given to him in trust. Man: Fragments of Forgotten History - now itself almost forgotten - written by Mohini M. Chatterji and Mrs. Laura Holloway, and published in 1885 - was also derived from these same Letters and, if anything, interpreted their teachings in still worse and weaker fashion. Fragments of Occult Truth, originally published serially in The Theosophist in 1882 and 1883, and written chiefly by Mr. Sinnett and Mr. A. O. Hume, were likewise based upon the Letters, but the errors there made were largely corrected in notes by H.P.B., Subba Row, Damodar Mavalankar and other Chelas, and occasionally by the Masters Themselves, as the Letters now make clear. After his removal to London Mr. Sinnett permitted copies of some of the Letters and of extracts from others to be made and privately circulated. Miss Francesca Arundale, Mr. C. W. Leadbeater, Mrs. Annie Besant, and a few others were thus favored. None of these ever made any public beneficial use of them, and therefore benefited from them personally as little as Mr. Sinnett and Mr. Hume.

Copies of all the Letters were originally supplied at the time to H.P.B. by the Masters Themselves. From H.P.B. Mr. Judge had copies and both Judge and H.P.B. made extensive use of them. Not only were they and other communications direct from the Masters employed in the composition of the Secret Doctrine, but textual extracts were published in the Path and in Lucifer.[2] Besides this, other extracts were published without mentioning their Source, and in scores of their magazine articles both H.P.B. and Mr. Judge embodied one and another aspect of the teachings imparted in the Letters. With the authentic text of the Letters now before him, the theosophical student of today can re-read the various writings of the pioneers of the Movement and easily discern for himself at first hand who was, and who was not, what was and what was not, true in substance and in form to the Great Example set in these Letters. Such a study and comparison will show the gradual divagations in teaching and in practice of many of those who rose to prominence and leadership.

Taken as the standard of theosophical teachings, ethics and conduct, these Letters shed an uncolored, albeit a terrible light on the corruption of the exoteric aspect of the Movement - the old Theosophical Society - by those to whom both the word and the Fellows looked for inspiration and guidance. No thoughtful man can avoid seeing how the existing debasement has been brought about, and how it parallels in every respect the debasement of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and all earlier impulsions of the Theosophical Movement. Now, as before, the corruption and degradation, have come about through Karma, Cause and Effect. Esoteric failures became exoteric leaders; psychics, mediums, and priests replaced the true Chelas; oracular and “inspired” utterances were substituted for a consistent philosophy; Authority dethroned Reason, faith took the place of knowledge; Theosophical sects have replaced the Theosophical Movement.

On the other hand, the Letters shed a glorious illumination on the Theosophical writings and career of H.P.B., and W.Q.J.  More these Letters are conned, more their contents and implications are used as a searchlight, more and more clearly will stand out the unique consistency and authenticity of the great Messenger and her Colleague. Neither in philosophy, in ethics, nor in practice did their life work vary in whole or in part from the lines laid down in the Letters of the Mahatmas. Their calumniated reputations are vindicated. It remains for individual Theosophists everywhere to demand for a spoliated past that credit for its achievements which has been too long withheld, to call for the restitution of borrowed robes - to show neither mercy for enthroned error, nor reverence for usurped authority, if the work of the Theosophical Movement is to be restored to its pristine purpose and purity. There must be a return to the Source of all theosophical teaching and endeavor - the Messenger and the Message.

The Mahatma Letters supply the missing links in many matters of historical as well as philosophical and occult mysteries. Readers of The Theosophical Movement, originally published in this magazine and beginning in January, 1920, will be able now to verify the exactitude of the deductions as well as the facts therein submitted on controverted subjects. A study of the complete text can alone show how vast and inclusive is their light on the past, the present and the future of the Theosophical Movement, but a partial index can be given of some of the hitherto unknown or unused values now made realizable.

The great mystery of the Psychical Research Society’s “exposure” of H.P.B. and her phenomena is now plain enough. The Letters disclose the disaffection of Stainton Moses (“M.A., Oxon.”), C.C. Massey, and others - all spiritualists - with the theosophical teachings on “communication with the dead” and mediumship in general. It was these gentlemen who were prime movers in the organization of the S.P.R. Their object was phenomena, not Brotherhood; mediumship, not chelaship. All were actuated by these motives and by distrust of H.P.B. and hatred for her teachings.

The “Kiddle incident” is treated at length and cleared up, and with it the obscure subject of “precipitations” and “occult messages” is covered far more fully than in any literature hitherto extant. “Messages” are shown by the Mahatmas Themselves as being precipitated by Chelas of varying degrees of proficiency by Their orders in Their own “adopted” handwritings for purposes of communication with non-chelas. The whole “Judge case” hinged on this sole subject. Mrs. Besant’s charges against Mr. Judge in 1894 were, on her own declaration, due, not to the fact that he gave out various messages from the Masters - she admitted their substance was from Them - but to the fact that Judge’s messages were in the script made familiar by the messages coming through H.P.B.

Because these messages “were neither written nor precipitated directly by the Master in whose writing they appear”, Mrs. Besant charged Mr. Judge with “forgery”, with “fraud”, and with “misusing the handwriting of the Mahatmas”. “Now personally”, declared Mrs. Besant, “I hold that this method is illegitimate and that no one should simulate a recognized writing which is regarded as authoritative when it is authentic. And by authentic I mean directly written or precipitated by the Master Himself”. Thus Mr. Judge was assailed and dishonored and his reputation covered with obloquy. Now, in His own Letters, we find the Mahatma Himself writing to Mr. Sinnett in a “strictly private and confidential” letter in or about 1882:

“Another of our customs, when corresponding with the outside world, is 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.[3]

This very fact had been repeatedly stated by both H.P.B. and Judge, with the further statement that no external signs, such as script, handwriting, cryptographs, seals, and “precipitation” itself, should be regarded by anyone as either “authoritative” or a certificate of “authenticity”, but that all messages, phenomenal or otherwise, should be regarded on the basis of their philosophical and moral worth. Yet it was precisely “signs” that the phenomena hunters high and low were always looking for. And when the “signs” were present but the contents of the messages such as to oppose or upset their preconceived notions, then, in every case, these would-be “occultists” were sure “fraud” had been practiced or attempted upon them.

Mr. Sinnett’s recently published posthumous “Early Days of Theosophy in Europe” shows that he very early became convinced that H.P.B. was a “fraud” also. The now published Letters show why and wherefore. Over and over the Master reproves, reproaches, corrects Mr. Sinnett, warns him, pleads with him; over and over He reaffirms the knowledge, the bona fides, the dependability of H.P.B. as Their Agent - all to no purpose. Finally the Master quit all communication with Sinnett - who thereafter had recourse to mediums and psychics for thirty-five years for his “messages from Masters”.

When Judge was accused he pointed to H.P.B. and finally published a certain “message” delivered through H.P.B. to the Brahmin members at Allahabad in 1881. This was the famous “Prayag Message”. Col. Olcott pronounced it a “fraud”, and Mrs. Besant a “forgery”. Now the complete text is published as No. CXXXIV, in The Mahatma Letters. [4] Readers can compare it with Mrs. Besant’s statements in the articles “East and West” and “The Prayag Letter”, in Lucifer for May and July, 1895, and with Col. Olcott’s “Postscript” in the Theosophist for April, 1895. Once more Mrs. Besant is shown to have been wholly mistaken and a pitiful as well as a pitiable guide in Occultism.

Still another matter cleared up in The Mahatma Letters is the famous controversy over whether Mars and Mercury are part of the “earth chain globes”. Mr. Sinnett thought and taught that they are, and when H.P.B. corrected his interpretations in the Secret Doctrine, he said she was wrong and maintained his own accuracy of presentation. Later on, after her death, he repeated his assertions and declared she was under “other influences than those of the Masters”. Judge defended the knowledge and faith of H.P.B. and this, in 1893, was the starting point of the conspiracy against Judge which culminated in the charges of 1894-1895. The original text of the Mahatmas Letters to Sinnett himself now make clear that H.P.B. was right and Sinnett wrong. On this Mars and Mercury dispute Mrs. Besant first sided with Judge and H.P.B. (Lucifer, August, 1893, pp. 576-577), then equivocated (Lucifer, November, 1893, p. 206), then sided point-blank with Mr. Sinnett (Lucifer, December, 1895, p. 271), and, to bolster up her affirmation, declared that the Master Himself had said “categorically, that Mars and Mercury made part of the chain of which our Earth is the fourth Globe…. Mr. Sinnett’s statement is entirely borne out by the original letter”. Mrs. Besant’s accuracy and trustworthiness can be examined by comparing her various statements as cited with the exact text as given in The Mahatma Letters, pp. 148 and 176. The subject matter of this controversy itself is ably treated in an Appendix, beginning at page 489, written by the Compiler of the Letters, Mr. A. Trevor Barker, himself a Fellow in Mrs. Besant’s Theosophical society.

The Letters make plain the basis and origin, not less than the hitherto concealed facts of the internal difficulties which, within the first seven-year cycle of the Parent Theosophical Society, made a breach which was never healed in the solidarity of the “Third Section”. Through this breach, as through a crevasse, poured the “muddy torrent of Kamaloca”, spreading disaster and ultimate ruin (a) to the professed “Objects” of the Society; (b) to the “Esoteric Section”, composed of “lay” and “probationary” chelas; (c) to the purity of the original teachings; (d) to the theosophical repute of H.P.B. and W.Q.J.  Step by step with this inundation the original impulses have been submerged, the spurious and the corrupt have usurped the place of the genuine. Black magic has triumphed over White in the public aspect of the Theosophical Movement, and the once living Theosophical Society is no longer even a “shell”; it has become a mere scattered and incoherent mass of skandhas. As a body, the Theosophical Movement has perished, but today, as always, there are the individual units, “the true Theosophists in every country and of every race”, who have in all times given the public Movement whatever vitality it may possess. They are now armed as never before, for they have a recorded philosophy, recorded history, recorded experience, before their very eyes in their own generation; the world’s need is greater than ever. The forces of evil have done their worst, but they could not prevent the making and the imprint of the triple record for the sure guidance of all who seek to form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood on the imperishable foundation. Let all true Theosophists rejoice at the light that is now shed on the dark places of the past and present, and go on with the work of fitting themselves to be the better able to help and teach others, by studying, applying, promulgating, the lessons and the facts of theosophical philosophy and theosophical history.

The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett should not be confused by theosophical and other students with a small volume lately published in India and Chicago by interests connected with the official conduct of Mrs. Besant’s society, and which is made up of copies and extracts, out of setting and out of relation to the whole series. The genuine edition of The Mahatma Letters contains the complete and unexpurgated verbatim transcript direct from the original Letters which were bequeathed by Mr. Sinnett to his executrix and by her turned over to Mr. Barker for publication. The volume is issued by the well-known London house of T. Fisher Unwin, Limited, and contains 492 + xxxv pages. The English edition is priced at 21 shillings, but we understand that an authorized American edition is to be brought out by Frederick A. Stokes Co. of New York City.


[1] This sentence refers to the influence of the 100-year cycle in the theosophical effort. See the article “The Theosophical Movement, 1875-2075”, which is the Chapter 22 of the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline (The Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 2013, 255 pages).

[2] “Lucifer” magazine, founded by Helena Blavatsky in London and edited by her until she left physical life in 1891. “Lucifer” means “light-bearer”. This ancient and pagan name of Venus, the morning and evening star, has been distorted by Christian fanatics since the Middle Ages.

[3] The italics bas been added by John Garrigues. The quotation is made from “The Mahatma Letters”, published by T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., in London, UK, with 493 pages and Index, Letter LIII (or 53), p. 296.

[4] See p. 461.


See the complete edition of “The Mahatma Letters” at our associated websites.


In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  


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