Masters of the Ancient Wisdom (Theosophy)


Masters of the Ancient Wisdom (Theosophy)


The Masters of the Ancient Wisdom are reputed to be enlightened beings originally identified by the Theosophists Helena Blavatsky, Henry S. Olcott, Alfred P. Sinnett, and others. These Theosophists claimed to have met some of the so-called Masters during their lifetimes in different parts of the world.[1] Sometimes they are referred to by Theosophists as Elder Brothers of the Human Race, Adepts, Mahatmas, or simply as The Masters.

Helena Blavatsky was the first person to introduce the concept of the Masters to the West. At first she talked about them privately, but she stated that after a few years two of these adepts, Kuthumi (K.H.) and Morya (M.), agreed to maintain a correspondence with two British Theosophists – Alfred P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume. This communication took place from 1880 to 1885, and during those years the reputed existence and objectives of the Mahatmas became public. The original letters are currently kept in the British Library in London and have been published as the Mahatma Letters.

Contents

Physical nature of the Masters of the Wisdom

The Masters of the Wisdom are enlightened yogis, similar in certain respects to those traditionally known in the East. However, there is a difference. An enlightened one, after having realized Truth, has gained the right to merge with the All in a state of absolute bliss (called moksha or nirvana). This prevents him from being in touch with humanity, since he has to abandon the lower vehicles of consciousness. By contrast, the Theosophical Masters, out of compassion, decide to give up entering into nirvana so that they remain able to help us in our struggle to realize Truth.[2]

The Mahatmas are in this respect what the Mahayana Buddhists call bodhisattvas. They choose to retain the body, not because of any fault in their development but as an act of self-sacrifice. Possessing a physical body subjects the adepts to certain unavoidable limitations. As Blavatsky said, they “are living men, born as we are born, and doomed to die like every mortal.”[3] Being perfect yogis, they have learned how to take care of their bodies so that they can live much longer than ordinary human beings; nevertheless, the bodies must eventually die.

The Mahatma Letters have several statements about the limitations intrinsic in leading a physical existence. For example, Mahatma K.H. wrote: “I was physically very tired by a ride of 48 hours consecutively.”[4] He also stated that he is limited to his physical senses and the functions of his brain “when I sit at my meals, or when I am dressing, reading or otherwise occupied” (Barker and Chin, 257).

But the physical body is where the Masters’ evolutionary development is the least apparent. It is said that if we see an adept on the physical plane, we may not even recognize him as anything more than a good and wise man. Yet on the inner planes, his nature is far beyond that of those who are still caught in the illusion. In their letters, the Mahatmas differentiate between the “inner man” (the spiritual Self of the adept which is relatively omniscient and beyond limitations) and “the outer man,” which is a very limited expression of the spiritual Self working through the psychophysical personality. This is why K.H. wrote: “We are not infallible, all-foreseeing ‘Mahatmas’ at every hour of the day.”[5] As he explained: “An adept—the highest as the lowest—is one only during the exercise of his occult powers.”[6]

Their Work for Humanity

Annie Besant said that the least part of their work is done here, in connection with the physical plane.[7] In Theosophy, as well as in most serious spiritual traditions, the physical plane is seen as an illusion. The Maha Chohan, one of the highest adepts, said: “Teach the people to see that life on this earth, even the happiest, is but a burden and an illusion.”[8] This concept echoes the teachings of Plato, who said this world is just the shadow of Reality. It is also related to the first Noble Truth the Buddha taught after his enlightenment: “All is dukkha (suffering) in this world.” This is one reason why they live in seclusion—most of their activity takes place on the higher planes.

Why they do not spend their time in connection with the physical plane is based on a profound knowledge of the structure of the cosmos. Blavatsky wrote: "It will be easily seen by any one who examines the nature of occult dynamics, that a given amount of energy expended on the spiritual or astral plane is productive of far greater results than the same amount expended on the physical objective plane of existence". [9] So what is the Masters’ work on these higher planes? This complex subject is beyond the scope of this article. When asked about this, Blavatsky answered: “You would hardly understand, unless you were an Adept. But they keep alive the spiritual life of mankind.” [10]

Theosophy says that the psychological ego is false, that the idea that we are this body, emotions, and mind is a mistake of perception and the source of sorrow. It says that real happiness comes only as an unsought by-product of reducing rather than increasing our attachment and identification with the personal. This is why Blavatsky wrote that “Occultism is not . . . the pursuit of happiness as man understands the word; for the first step is sacrifice, the second renunciation.” [11] K.H. agreed with this when he wrote: “We—the criticized and misunderstood Brothers—we seek to bring men to sacrifice their personality—a passing flash—for the welfare of the whole humanity.”[12]. The Theosophical Mahatmas would never pay attention to personal desires. During the early times of the Theosophical Society, some members, completely misunderstanding the nature of the Mahatmas, would bring HPB some personal requests to ask of them. In a letter Blavatsky explained: "The Masters would not stoop for one moment to give a thought to individual, private matters relating but to one or even ten persons, their welfare, woes and blisses in this world of Maya [illusion], to nothing except questions of really universal importance. It is all you Theosophists who have dragged down in your minds the ideals of our Masters; you who have unconsciously and with the best of intentions and full sincerity of good purpose, desecrated Them, by thinking for one moment, and believing that They would trouble Themselves with your business matters, sons to be born, daughters to be married, houses to be built, etc. etc. [13]

Their Relation to Humanity

The adepts are impersonal, universal forces, and respond only to those who are developing in that direction. Mme. Blavatsky wrote: "Although the whole of humanity is within the mental vision of the mahatmas, they cannot be expected to take special note of every human being, unless that being by his special acts draws their particular attention to himself. The highest interest of humanity, as a whole, is their special concern, for they have identified themselves with that Universal Soul which runs through Humanity, and he, who would draw their attention, must do so through that Soul which pervades everywhere."[14]

The Mahatmas do not communicate indiscriminately with people who fail to realize the illusion of the personal self, or who are driven by desires, fears, and ambitions: "They work on this plane through two kinds of agents: direct and indirect. Any person sincere and unselfish working in the line of the Masters’ work may receive their inspiration even if they do not know it. Their direct agents are their accepted disciples, who work consciously with the Masters."[15]

Their influence is always available for those of us acting with selflessness and compassion, even though they may be completely unaware of this. As K.H. wrote to Annie Besant: “At favorable times we let loose elevating influences which strike various persons in various ways.”[16] Thus any philanthropic act we perform may be part of the Mahatmas’ work. However, only accepted disciples have a conscious and personal relationship with them. The moral and spiritual qualifications needed to be an accepted disciple are very deep and demanding, and very few in humanity are at the level of spiritual maturity to achieve this. (For a description of these qualifications see At the Feet of the Master and Light on the Path.)

Masters of Wisdom versus Ascended Masters

In 1930, fifty-five years after the Theosophical Society was founded, Guy Ballard introduced the concept of "Ascended Masters", founding what later became known as the Ascended Master Teachings. Guy Ballard and Elizabeth Clare Prophet from the 1960s to the 1990s added more than 200 new "Ascended Masters" that they claimed to receive dictations from in addition to receiving dictations from the original Masters of the Ancient Wisdom of Theosophy.[17] However, the Theosophical Masters differ from the Ascended ones in many respects.

For example the so-called Ascended Masters, as their name suggests, are supposed to be Masters who have experienced the miracle of ascension, as it is said Jesus did. The original teaching, channeled by Guy Ballard, was that a new Ascended Master would not die but would take the body up with him. This teaching of ascension is in direct opposition to the Theosophical teachings. Mahatma K.H. refers to the idea disparagingly in one of his letters to Sinnett: “There was but one hysterical woman alleged to have been present at the pretended ascension, and . . . the phenomenon has never been corroborated by repetition.”[18]. Mme. Blavatsky also rejects ascension as a fact, calling it “an allegory as old as the world.”[19] In the Theosophical view, the Masters of Wisdom retain their physical bodies.

The Masters of the Wisdom are not like the Ascended ones, who are said to become Godlike, all-powerful beings beyond the laws of nature. In their teachings, the Theosophical Masters even denied that such beings exist. Mahatma K.H. wrote: “If we had the powers of the imaginary Personal God, and the universal and immutable laws were but toys to play with, then indeed might we have created conditions that would have turned this earth into an Arcadia for lofty souls.” [20] In their letters, the Mahatmas constantly talk about the “immutable laws” of the universe, and that they can help humanity only within the limits of these laws.

Proponents of the Ascended Masters sometimes attempt to account for these discrepancies by claiming that when the TS was founded most of the Theosophical Mahatmas were still “unascended Masters.” This leaves room to detach the Ascended Masters from the limitations that all the Mahatmas, “the highest as the lowest,” are said to have. But according to the Theosophical teachings, the higher the adept, the less we are likely to hear from him: "The more spiritual the Adept becomes, the less can he meddle with mundane, gross affairs and the more he has to confine himself to a spiritual work. . . . The very high Adepts, therefore, do help humanity, but only spiritually: they are constitutionally incapable of meddling with worldly affairs."[21]

Theosophy says that the psychological ego is false, that the idea that we are this body, emotions, and mind is a mistake of perception and the source of sorrow. It says that real happiness comes only as an unsought by-product of reducing rather than increasing our attachment and identification with the personal. This is why Blavatsky wrote that “Occultism is not . . . the pursuit of happiness as man understands the word; for the first step is sacrifice, the second renunciation.” [22] K.H. agreed with this when he wrote: “We—the criticized and misunderstood Brothers—we seek to bring men to sacrifice their personality—a passing flash—for the welfare of the whole humanity.”[23]. The Theosophical Mahatmas would never pay attention to personal desires. During the early times of the Theosophical Society, some members, completely misunderstanding the nature of the Mahatmas, would bring HPB some personal requests to ask of them. In a letter Blavatsky explained: "The Masters would not stoop for one moment to give a thought to individual, private matters relating but to one or even ten persons, their welfare, woes and blisses in this world of Maya [illusion], to nothing except questions of really universal importance. It is all you Theosophists who have dragged down in your minds the ideals of our Masters; you who have unconsciously and with the best of intentions and full sincerity of good purpose, desecrated Them, by thinking for one moment, and believing that They would trouble Themselves with your business matters, sons to be born, daughters to be married, houses to be built, etc. etc. [24]

And yet this kind of interest is a very marked feature of the Ascended Masters. They Ascended Masters Teachings even teach ways to dissolve unpleasant karma, a conception that the Theosophical Mahatmas emphatically opposed. K.H. wrote: "Bear in mind that the slightest cause produced, however unconsciously, and with whatever motive, cannot be unmade, or its effects crossed in their progress—by millions of gods, demons, and men combined."[25] The Ascended Masters are portrayed as cosmic fathers who will take care of their followers’ problems. In contrast, Mahatma M. said: “ We are leaders but not child-nurses.”[26]

Skeptical view

K. Paul Johnson suggests in his book The Masters Revealed: Madam Blavatsky and Myth of the Great White Brotherhood that the Masters that Madam Blavatsky claimed she had personally met are idealizations of certain people she had met during her lifetime.[27]

Also see the article “Talking to the Dead and Other Amusements” by Paul Zweig New York Times October 5, 1980, which maintains that Madame Blavatsky's revelations were fraudulent.

See also

References

  1. ^ Leadbeater, C.W. The Masters and the Path Adyar, Madras, India: 1925--Theosophical Publishing House--Diagram 5, Facing page 248, provides details about the "Great Ones" functioning on initiation levels five through nine. C.W. Leadbeater’s Spiritual Hierarchy Chart (The Bodhisattva=Maitreya)
  2. ^ The Master must be in a human body, must be incarnate. Many who reach this level no longer take up the burden of the flesh, but using only “the spiritual body” pass out of touch with this earth, and inhabit only loftier realms of existence. (Annie Besant, The Masters, p. 49. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985)
  3. ^ Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, p. 288. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987.
  4. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 398. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998.
  5. ^ Ibid, 450
  6. ^ Ibid, 257)
  7. ^ Quoted by Clara Codd in The Way of the Disciple, p. 45 Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988.
  8. ^ C. Jinarajadasa, Letters from the Masters of Wisdom, volume 1, pp. 6-7. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988, 2002.
  9. ^ Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. 5, pp. 338-39, Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  10. ^ Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol 8, p. 401, Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  11. ^ Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol 8, p. 14, Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  12. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 222. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998
  13. ^ C. Jinarajadasa, Early Teachings of the Masters p. iv. Chicago: Theosophical Press, 1923.
  14. ^ H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol 6, p. 240. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  15. ^ Clara Codd, Theosophy as the Masters See It, p. 9. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 2000.
  16. ^ C. Jinarajadasa, Letters from the Masters of Wisdom volume 1, pp. 123-24. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988, 2002.
  17. ^ Prophet, Elizabeth Clare and Prophet, Mark (as compiled by Annice Booth) The Masters and Their Retreats Corwin Springs, Montana:2003 Summit University Press--See Profiles of the Ascended Masters Pages 13-394--More than 200 Ascended Masters are listed
  18. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 5. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998.
  19. ^ Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. 8, p. 389. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91; See also CW 4:359-60.
  20. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 474. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998.
  21. ^ H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. 6, p.247. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  22. ^ Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol 8, p. 14, Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977-91.
  23. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 222. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998
  24. ^ C. Jinarajadasa, Early Teachings of the Masters p. iv. Chicago: Theosophical Press, 1923.
  25. ^ Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence, p. 77-78. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998.
  26. ^ Eek, Sven, ed. Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement, p, 605. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1965
  27. ^ Johnson, K. Paul The Masters Revealed: Madam Blavatsky and Myth of the Great White Brotherhood Albany, New York: 1994 State University of New York Press

Further reading

  • Campbell, Bruce F. A History of the Theosophical Movement Berkeley:1980 University of California Press
  • Godwin, Joscelyn The Theosophical Enlightenment Albany, New York: 1994 State University of New York Press
  • Johnson, K. Paul The Masters Revealed: Madam Blavatsky and Myth of the Great White Brotherhood Albany, New York: 1994 State University of New York Press
  • Melton, J. Gordon Encyclopedia of American Religions 5th Edition New York:1996 Gale Research ISBN 0-8103-7714-4 ISSN 1066-1212 Chapter 18--"The Ancient Wisdom Family of Religions" Pages 151-158; see chart on page 154 listing Masters of the Ancient Wisdom; Also see Section 18, Pages 717-757 Descriptions of various Ancient Wisdom religious organizations
  • Sender, Pablo Mahatmas versus Ascended Masters Wheaton, Il:Quest Summer 2011, The Theosophical Society in America. Online access.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Theosophy — This article is about the philosophy introduced by Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society. See Theosophy (history of philosophy) for other uses. The emblem of the Theosophical Society Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual… …   Wikipedia

  • theosophy — theosophical /thee euh sof i keuhl/, theosophic, adj. theosophically, adv. theosophism, n. theosophist, n. /thee os euh fee/, n. 1. any of various forms of philosophical or religious thought based on a mystical insight into the divine nature …   Universalium

  • The Secret Doctrine — For the Morgana Lefay album, see The Secret Doctrine (album). Part of a series on Theosophy Founders of th …   Wikipedia

  • Order of the Star in the East — The Order of the Star in the East (OSE) was an organization established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India, from 1911 to 1927. Its mission was to prepare the world for the expected arrival of a messianic entity, the so… …   Wikipedia

  • Morya (Theosophy) — For other uses, see Morya. Morya, one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom spoken of in modern Theosophy and in the Ascended Master Teachings is considered one of the Ascended Masters. He is also known as the Chohan of the First Ray (see Seven… …   Wikipedia

  • Maitreya (Theosophy) — Part of a series on Theosophy Founders of the T. S. Helena Blavatsky · …   Wikipedia

  • Manu (Theosophy) — In the teachings of Theosophy, the Manu [1] [1] is one of the most important beings at the highest levels of Initiation of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, along with Sanat Kumara, Gautama Buddha, Maitreya, the Maha Chohan, and Djwal Khul.… …   Wikipedia

  • Paul the Venetian — [http://www.zakairan.com/ProductsDivineLightImages/PFC/Paul%20215.jpg] [ [http://www.zakairan.com/ProductsDivineLightImages/DivineLightImages.htm Source of Image of the Master Paul the Venetian shown above] distributed by… …   Wikipedia

  • Initiation (Theosophy) — Initiation is a concept in Theosophy that there are nine levels of spiritual development. According to Alice A. Bailey, Initiation is the process of undergoing an [Higher consciousness|expansion [toward higher levels of] consciousness] [ Bailey,… …   Wikipedia

  • Buddhism in the United States of America — Buddhism is a religion with millions of followers in the United States, including traditionally Buddhist Asian Americans as well as non Asians, many of whom are converts [ [http://www.beliefnet.com/story/7/story 732 1.html Beliefnet.com American… …   Wikipedia