The Path is a large painting executed in oils and gesso by Reginald Machell, a pupil of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. It hangs in the headquarters of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena). The work measures 74 inches by 89 inches (188 cm x 226 cm). (This is a 'blue' version).
"The Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner stone, the foundation of the future religions of humanity"
Mahachohan's Letter [link]
In 1875 the Theosophical Society was born. This was a time when gross materialism, particularly in the West, religious ignorance and superstition were rife. There was some interest in spiritualism which many people were seeing as evidence of survival after death.
We have a statement from Members of an Eastern Occult Hierarchy indicating that the time might be ripe for the dissemination of some of their knowledge of the inner worlds and the idea of universal brotherhood. Two Brothers of the Hierarchy became responsible for making the attempt. They sought out a suitable person to help them and eventually found H.P. Blavatsky (H.P.B.). In spite of some personal deficiencies she was the only one suitable and available at the time. She was to be their amanuensis in giving their message to the world in the vast literature she produced during the remainder of her life. Its teachings were based on their knowledge of the occult sciences.
After the founding of the Theosophical Society (T.S.) and after H.P.B. and Col. Olcott had gone to India and had established the Headquarters in Adyar, the two Masters started a correspondence with A.P. Sinnett, a journalist in India, by miraculously precipitated letters containing a wealth of teaching. In these letters they repeatedly stated that the whole purpose of the newly formed Society was to form a universal Brotherhood of Humanity. An oft quoted passage, among many others, from those letters reads as follows:
"The Chiefs want a “Brotherhood of Humanity”, a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds ...”
[Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p 39, chronological edition]
The objects of the Society were first to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood. This was a significant statement. The Masters obviously saw that the setting up of a world-wide brotherhood under the conditions then ruling was perhaps not possible but it was perfectly feasible to create a Society of well-meaning persons who would get together and form a nucleus of such a brotherhood. Two other objects were, briefly, to encourage a study of comparative religion, philosophy and science, and to investigate the powers latent in man.
Further, in the letters there is reference to the fact that the Brotherhood of which the two Masters who founded the Society were members was already operating with ramifications world-wide. The members of that Brotherhood were Adept Initiates, with remarkable knowledge and powers, which however, for the safety of humanity at large, they kept to themselves. Such knowledge and powers could only be acquired by much effort and sacrifice over many lives.
There was no reason, however, why the idea of a Universal Brotherhood should not be widely promulgated to engender feelings of friendliness and cooperation between peoples in place of all too common competition and strife.
In the now famous Maha Chohan’s ‘letter’ (1881), the report of an interview conveyed through K.H. to Sinnett, there is a statement on the deplorable state of the world in the eyes of the Maha Chohan and his suggestions for its remedy. This message and passages from other letters indicated that the Masters K.H. and M. understood very well the position and its cause: material selfishness and self-interest. They also saw the segregating effects of denominational, sectarian religion which divided humanity so disastrously into antagonistic groups, each believing in its exclusive and bigoted way that it was specially under divine patronage.
The Masters saw clearly that there could be no possibility of a harmonious relationship between peoples as long as these religious differences pertained. They referred to them as superstitious beliefs in false gods, to be destroyed.
The Masters analysis of the state of the world applies equally today. It is even more materialistic than it was at the end of the 19th century. Religious strife and dissension have reached disastrous proportions, even to individuals who, in the name of god, are prepared to sacrifice their lives to kill people of a different faith. Religious riots and even wars are all too common symptoms of the times.
The Masters not only created the Theosophical Society to be a Nucleus of Brotherhood of man, but propounded a non-sectarian religio-philosophical teaching to replace current superstitious dogmas and ideas. They gave out and published through H.P.B. the loftiest possible spiritual ideas, ideals and training that the world has ever had. Their teaching embraces all that has gone before and much else. Moreover, they were at great pains to ensure that all this was preserved in writing. H.P.B.’s massive work during her lifetime was the putting of these teachings into book form, demanding enormous work and sacrifices on her part. She persevered in this work, latterly through serious illness, right up to her death.
These writings comprise many volumes, amongst them the two volumes of Isis Unveiled. These, according to Col. Olcott, were the result of assistance given to H.P.B. directly by several Masters, even to the extent at times of their taking over H.P.B.’s body. Isis Unveiled was the first general exposition of the mass of subject matter later to be elaborated in articles and books. Isis was published in 1878. At that time the book would have been a means of liberating its readers from entrenched ideas then common in conventional thinking. The book also provided a glimpse into the inner invisible realms behind objective existence and their significance.
Slowly in a mass of other writings H.P.B. began more definitely to expound her message. This process culminated in the writing of The Secret Doctrine, followed soon afterwards by The Key to Theosophy Then came The Voice of the Silence, of inestimable value to the mystically minded student.
These works were supplemented by notes taken of the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge in London where H.P.B. gave many verbal explanations on difficulties members were having in understanding some of the more abstruse ideas of Theosophy. Lastly she formed an Inner Group of six men and six women, all sworn to secrecy, to whom she gave much teaching that at that time could not be made public, but it marvellously supplemented what she had previously given in The Secret Doctrine.
The purpose of all this dissemination of ideas, some of it strange and of a difficult nature, was to indicate that the Cosmos or Nature worked according to Universal Law. It itself is comprised of life operating at various levels and in various modes to each of which there are corresponding states of consciousness. The supreme teaching was that man reflects in himself the whole nature of Cosmos, in a living way and that each life form is at a stage on the vast evolutionary journey. The teaching makes it clear that in certain circumstances with the right effort and training man can come to know of his divine nature for himself, and beyond that there is nothing else to know. In effect he is his own God, the only God he can ever know. This great concept was further amplified by what might be called the doctrine of Unity, extensive, all-embracing, of great depth and insight. When its full meaning is apprehended it becomes a perfect justification for the great idea that man is his own and only Deity.
All the rest of H.P.B.’s vast literature is a justification in terms of detailed explanations of widely diverse aspects of Nature’s working, for example, that of universal Law, all of which culminates in these lofty, even sacred ideas which really epitomise the grand message of the Masters.
Such was – can we say ‘is’ for some of us? – the vision of the real founders of the Theosophical Society. It is a vision of Universal Brotherhood and all that that means to an “orphan” humanity as the Masters called it. It is also a vision of one of the principal means of how that Brotherhood can be attained, the establishment of religion based on the Truths of Nature, of the real facts of existence, a true knowledge of Deity rather than belief systems based on superstition imposed by salaried priests promoting the ideas of their several institutions.
The vision was, however, of even more significance as an historical event. There have been a number of world teachers such as the Buddha, Krishna, Jesus and Mohammad. All these teachers have given the world a religious message suitable for their time and circumstances. However, they themselves never wrote down their message. The teachings were conveyed to posterity by their disciples and followers who wrote down the teachings as they understood and remembered them. It is known that these teachers had an inner group of students to whom they gave some ‘occult’ instruction to justify or amplify their public pronouncements. Their occult teaching was never made public but it is known from what H.P.B. had to say that such a teaching constituted a common thread through them all. She gave us as an example Subba Row who was an initiated Brahmin but who could not make aspects of his knowledge public.
Nevertheless, these teachers were the founders of great religions. If the theosophical teachings are to be believed, they were all members of a Hierarchy, very much involved behind the scenes in the overall ‘government’ of the affairs of humanity. The significant point is that these founders themselves never wrote anything.
With the advent of Theosophy it was different. Members of the Hierarchy went to great pains to ensure that their message was put into writing. The booklet called “A Trilogy” link gives some of the history of the writing of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine (S.D.) . It indicates the extent to which the Masters involved themselves in the writing of those two books and how, in the case of the S.D., they had to keep H.P.B. alive for a few years in order that she might complete the work. This is the first time in recorded world history that the hierarchical message had been directly committed to writing.
Now there is the great responsibility of the membership of the T.S. “to let it be known that such a thing as Theosophy exists and to help men to ascend towards it by studying its Eternal Verities.” That commitment is in The Key to Theosophy.
Further, we have in the letters from the Masters themselves published by Jinarajadasa the statement by the Maha Chohan himself (i.e. the Master of our Masters) that “the Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner stone, the foundation of the future religions of humanity”, and that was supplemented by the statement “for our doctrines to practically react on the so-called moral code or the ideas of truthfulness, purity, self-denial, charity, etc., we have to popularize a knowledge of Theosophy”; further, they said, “it is absolutely necessary to inculcate it gradually, enforcing its theories, unimpeachable facts for those who know, with direct inferences deduced from and corroborated by the evidence furnished by modern exact science.”
Then we have the 1900 letter generally accepted as genuine from the Master K.H. to Annie Besant wherein the Master concludes, “the T.S. was meant to be the corner stone of the future religions of humanity ... To accomplish this object those who lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true theosophists both in inner thought and outward observance.”
For accuracy it must be remembered that the so-called Maha Chohan’s letter was a report by K.H. of an interview with the Maha Chohan, in 1881. It is said of the Maha Chohan “to whose insight the future lies like an open page”.
Ought we not therefore to take note of what these Masters had to say? They did not appear in the world to deliver their message in person but they were of the same standing as those who did and have been recognized as the founders of religions. In effect the advent of Theosophy at the end of the 19th century was a world event at least as great as that of the founding of the other religions. There was the great difference, however, that, although the Masters may not have put in an appearance themselves, and although they are now not with us, we do have their message in writing. It is not subject to the vagaries of translation or interpretation or personal opinion as were all the other ‘scriptures’ written by followers, disciples, etc., after the Master’s death.
The intention was that the T.S. should disseminate this knowledge. It is our responsibility as members to do so. Further, as it was intended that the T.S. should be the foundation of the future religions of humanity, should not we seriously regard that trust and as far as we can faithfully endeavour to fulfil it? As a body heir to these great teachings the Society becomes the means of disseminating their message throughout the world. It is also significant that the message was given in the most common Western language and the books printed in the West.
Surely this grand vision which the Masters had should transcend any other vision, corporate or otherwise, that members of the Society might have.
The message of the Masters was that which they gave us directly in their own direct writings, in the Mahatma Letters, or in those writings for which they used H.P.B. as an amanuensis. These writings must be distinguished from those which came later as commentaries, personal views, even parodies on the originals, but which nevertheless were issued under the name of Theosophy. The Masters not only repeated what was already known in the classical religious and philosophical writings up to their day, but added much material which till then had been kept secret. Apart from the fact that we had the Masters’ message in writing, which was unique in itself, this supplementary material added to that of the old time makes their outpouring of a vast system of knowledge even more of a world event, greater even than, for example, the advent of Christianity. We do not have the Teacher but we do have the Teaching intact, and this is an event in world history.
First published in 'The Theosophist' magazine August 2004