The Permissibility of the Mahatma Letters

What do you think of the claim that the Mahatma Letters to Sinnett were never supposed to be published? Supposedly, the editor made the choice of publishing them after his death. There is also the accusation that they don't accurately express the thoughts of KH and M. I suppose, all of the foregoing could be admitted and yet they would remain a valuable documentary resource.


A key component to the claim that they were not to be published is the belief that letter #39 is not authentic, because that letter does seem to license their being open.


I must say, I dislike what I perceive as taboos within Theosophy. I prefer the approach that everything is open, for scrutiny, for edification, or just for exploration. To me, any author may be studied, and any source of insight, even if it is "behind the scenes" can be considered useful.


Many of you are far better scholars than I. What do you think of the letters. Were they meant to be kept private.

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Comment by M K Ramadoss on December 7, 2011 at 9:16pm

I recall reading a comment from one of the Masters that parts and letters of a personal nature were never copied or distributed. Obviously secrecy of these letters were take care of. Secondly, in one of the letters one of the Masters stated that real secrets cannot be put in writing and hence anything in the letters cannot be considered as secret. After all everyone mentioned in the letters are dead long time ago. I suspect many of those who still continue to argue that the letters should not have been published come from the camp/group who have a predisposition to keep things unnecessarily secret. In any case, the letters are here and they contain very useful information and many theosophists have benefited from them. We are also able to go to British Museum and see and handle the letters.

Comment by Kirk W Walker on December 7, 2011 at 8:56pm

Thuan Do's remarks are of critical import. If Sinnett, bequeathed the letters unconditionally, then at least as far as he is concerned, it was alright to make them public. Or at least he wasn't against them becoming public. But that still leaves the writers of the letters to be considered. In at least some of the letters there is the suggestion that they could be made public. I should mention, however, that at least one letter, the pivotal number 39, has been disputed.

Comment by Thuan Do on December 7, 2011 at 5:58pm

Jon, Thank you for the link. So as I understand,  Mr. Sinnett trusted those letters to Ms. A. T. Backer "unconditionally" so she had the right to publish the letters as she saw fit (They are now published with the permission of the Executrix of the late A. P. Sinnett, to whom they were bequeathed solely and unconditionally), and that is a good thing, as this article mentions: "Madame Blavatsky is justified at almost every point in these letters. Few people have been more unjustly reviled, and even some of those who knew her intimately preferred to believe that she had committed every kind of error rather than admit for an instant that they themselves could be in the wrong".
I wonder why Mr. Sinnett misunderstood Mme Blavatsky; anybody knows why please enlighten me? Thanks. This is the quote: "How far she was ever the deceiver depicted by Mr. Sinnett in his posthumous publication "The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe".

Comment by Hannes Frischat on December 7, 2011 at 7:06am

Somewhat lengthy post here - had to break it up into parts, sorry for that :-)

Part 1 of 4

   This touches the question of secrecy, and the question of secrecy depends on what we think is theosophical learning.

   Studying the history of the theosophical movement it is quite obvious that there has always been a difference between authority and authorities. In the moment when self-assumed authorities use assumed authorisations without real authority (inner authority, or we could even say, authority of their self over themselves) things go wrong.

   Therefore most people today feel that any information should be available to everybody, and in times of the internet this seems to be reality. However, even it may not be popular here, I would like to add a different aspect – without claiming any authority for that. It is just a different aspect that should not replace the above but complement it and might or might not be useful for anybody.

   This thought or aspect is that theosophical learning is not so much about information, it is more about becoming, it is about a transformation process.

Comment by Hannes Frischat on December 7, 2011 at 7:05am

Part 2 of 4

   Ideally, theosophical learning is a search for truth, an honest search inside and outside. It is a process, and this process changes the searcher in three ways. One aspect is, that he builds up a yearning towards truth, towards essentiality, and with that comes a yearning towards purity and refinement, for he/she feels that it would impossible to harbor more aspects of truth if not being prepared and purified. With other words: ideally the search for truth changes the very character of the searcher. This is literally true … but only if by this process he/she really becomes another character than he/she had been before. His/her highest yearnings and the fundamental consequences of the lessons learned are those that go with the reincarnating part as a yield, and as a consequence directly change future incarnations, which means real, genuine evolution. They are the „treasures in heaven where moths and rust do not destroy“. Of course this is not to achieved quickly, for our character only changes very slowly during a life.

   The second aspect of theosophical learning is the understanding of principles, connections, details, facts. These are different graduations of capabilities of our mind, and all of them dissolve with death. However if cultivated, they will eventually be assembled faster or easier in future incarnations, so these efforts are not in vain. The more those insights are on the principle side of the understanding, the less volatile they are. Nevertheless everything that can be understood with our usual consciousness, clothed in words, written in books etc. is something that more or less belongs to the mortal part of us.

   The third aspect of learning is the work on the own karma. Here it really shows whether a theosophical learner uses the insights in order to turn to others, is able for practical charity, compassion and unpersonal love. This aspect is interweaved with the other two, and in the degree of which the kinks are evened out there will be new possibilities in future life, even if the transmission from one life to the other may go through many stations.

Comment by Hannes Frischat on December 7, 2011 at 7:04am

Part 3 of 4

   As a bottom line theosophical learning is a process of transformation and growth on many planes.

   Now from theosophical learning we come to theosophical teaching. Theosophical teaching in the essential sense does not have very much to do with providing mere information. It means showing the student a door to this process for self-transformation, and that is something entirely different.

   Therefore a good theosophical teacher (at least this is my opinion but everybody can have his own) does not say: „This and this is so and so, now you have it, try to remember this“. If he is a real teacher he gives the student a small portion and encourages him/her to think along the lines of analogy for more, to search within, to be a researcher, to prove for him/herself, to apply in the own life – and then to ask the teacher, whether what he/she found himself is along the right direction. Then the teacher will give some hint, no more.

   To state it again: teaching is not about giving information, it is about inducing a process, a process of inner transformation and growth. This is something that takes years and years, but it can be done, and this is at the very heart of theosophical learning and teaching.

   Now the question arises: If everybody has access to every formulation of teachings with the klick of a mouse, what happens?

Comment by Hannes Frischat on December 7, 2011 at 7:02am

Part 4 of 4

   The answer is, obviously, that in many cases the searcher is provided the information, but he/she is deprived of the according process. It can easily happen that the result is an impressive collection of facts stored in memory, but all this is gone with death. In a future incarnation some of the facts will sound familiar and come easier to the student but if he/she did not change the character and did not activate by constant training the truth-loving and truth-perceiving faculties inside … then not much of essential progress may have been achieved.

   This is why any theosophical teacher, any publisher, any speaker, any writer has a high responsibility of what to say and what not. If students are showered with teachings they don't have the proper foundations then they will not only get blinded about this or that detail but even be deprived of their chance for real inner growth. To do that would be a 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit', in order to word it in a christian way.

   As to the Mahatma Letters … as a consequence of all the above I am happy that they exist and can be studied by the earnest searcher, preferably after years of introductional and fundamental theosophcal works. However I would never publish them in the internet or any other place where the access for the unprepared mind is all too easy, where curiousity outweighs the earnest desire for truth. If a house has a stable fundament and strong walls it it is time to go into depth and add more details like nice windows and a beautiful chimney. If the fundament is not there, if the chimney is built first then it will not last.

Comment by Thuan Do on December 7, 2011 at 3:07am I assume that Mr. Sinnett published them in order to prove that the Mahatmas exist, therefore Mme Blavatsky said the truth about them, and we have hope to progress till we reach their level. If I were Mr. Sinnett, I certainly would publish them, otherwise they might be destroyed by accident or by other reasons or get lost later.

Comment by Kirk W Walker on December 6, 2011 at 9:39am

I agree with Jon that they were originally intended to be private. But once a decision was made after Sinnett's death to publish them, it seems that the cat was then out of the bag. Whatever the original intention, we are benefiting from their release.

I like the suggestion that the Mahatmas could have made the letters vanish. There's also the thought that if they were meant to remain private, Sinnett himself could have had them destroyed.

Comment by morry secrest on December 4, 2011 at 4:51pm

This question has arisen in study groups before.  There are differing opinions, of course, but in my experience, the overall concensus was that the proscription against publication was short-term, for the lifetime of correspondents; and that eventual publication was perfectly acceptable.

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