I have two questions to pose. I hope what I say is not too convoluted.

  1. Did the Theosophical Society’s conception of the Masters change after the first generation of leaders? They were once thought of as earthly human beings with paranormal abilities. Several different people apparently met some of them at various points in time. But later, from the time of Leadbeater, the Masters seem more otherworldly. Outside of the Theosophical Society the Masters are known as the “Ascended Masters.” But the Theosophical Masters are ascended now as well, aren’t they?
  2. I have read K. Paul Johnson’s first book on the historicity of the Masters. I must say, the picture he paints of them is quite deflationary. Meeting them through KPJ’s work, they are “not as tall” as one would have expected. Then again, he may be in error about their identities. This last point leads to my question, if anybody doubts the specific identifications suggested by KPJ, are they providing alternative hypotheses? I get the impression that many Theosophists don’t want to know who the original historic Masters were. Maybe I’m not sufficiently informed. Is there a place I could look for the competing theory to KPJ’s for the identities of the Masters? 

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Comment by Kirk W Walker on March 3, 2011 at 1:26pm
Thanks a lot for your input. It appears that for some there is merit in retaining the status of the Masters as mysterious, larger than life figures.
Comment by Kirk W Walker on February 28, 2011 at 6:02pm
Now I get what you mean, Dominique. Its the content of what is claimed, not who claims it. This applies even with respect to prominent documents such as the Bhagavad-gita and the various books of the Bible. Although names are associated with these books, their real authorship is often unknown. Even in some cases where we think we know the real name of the author of some esoteric literature, we might not know anything factual about the person. (Patanjali is one example of this.) So, what we are left with is the teaching. If one can confirm it for oneself, that's all one really needs.
Comment by Kirk W Walker on February 28, 2011 at 1:08pm
Dominique, I am not sure I understand you correctly. Could you clarify what you mean when you say on the one hand, that you can't accept claims of secret knowledge, and on the other that you want to "find if what they supposedly say in those letters is true or not, through experimentation."
Comment by Kirk W Walker on February 28, 2011 at 1:05pm

When I said that Johnson’s view is deflationary, I didn’t mean that it is an insulting or demeaning view. Again, it is quite possible that the notion of a Superman-like Master is a myth, a dream. Maybe the kind of human beings Johnson suggests as identifications of the Masters is the right way to go. But I think, then, that that would involve a divergence from a certain traditional Theosophical conception.

Comment by Kirk W Walker on February 28, 2011 at 1:02pm

Joe, I view Johnson’s account of the masters as deflationary in comparison to the following description, taken from Leadbeater’s Masters of Wisdom:

 “These perfected men are saints, but they are also very much more than saints, for they are men who have achieved all that was set before them. As it is put in The Light of Asia, they have worked the purpose through of what did make them Man, and so they are now more than men. They are super-men, and are entering upon a higher stage of evolution than any we know.” (Page 1) [My emphasis.]

“These are men who, having attained, are free from the usual laws governing humanity — I mean such laws as compel a man to take incarnation in this place or that. They are no longer forced into any incarnation; if they take a body it is for the purpose of helping humanity, and they can take that body where and when they please. It is not of any particular importance in what race they choose to present themselves.” (Page 8) [My emphasis.]

“What are the particular characteristics of an Adept? His powers are many and to us most wonderful, because he understands perfectly the working of many laws of Nature which are at present to us a sealed book.” (Page 9) [My emphasis.]

The descriptions you and Johnson both offer of the Masters are those of accomplished, perhaps wise men. In particular, your characterization would seem to include any truly insightful philosopher or mystic. That’s fine. Maybe that is all one should expect a Master to be. But in view of some of the literature published by the Theosophical Society in the past, such as the above excerpts, there is a rather distinct conception of the Masters as being significantly greater. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the views of Leadbeater are not atypical, at least within certain strata of the Theosophical community.

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