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Re: The Theosophical Masters

Nov 21, 2000 05:30 PM
by compiler

Hello Doctor,

I'm not a scholarly type, but I want to ask your opinion, mostly from a 
scientific point of view, that if there are no such wise beings as 
Adepts or Masters at many levels, what was HPB herself if she was 
acting all alone and devising and/or making up a system that simply 
might be useful and helpful to humanity, without the guidance of what 
she said were "Masters of Wisdom" -- or Adepts at various levels.

How could she know so many things on so many subjects (an enormous 
number) that were way way way ahead of the science of her day, which 
were laughed at, ignored, and pooh-poohed back then, that are steadily 
coming true, as the decades roll along, while not one scientific item 
that she ever spoke of has yet to be "Proven" wrong, while so many are 
steadily being "proven right" as the scientific community little by 
little finds out the bits and pieces that they do. Where else is a 
scientific "track record" like this in all of human history -- coming 
from one lone person? Methinks that where there is smoke there is fire. 
Here is a link to a series that paints a picture, to a large degree, of 
what I am referring to. Keep in mind that this is just a small portion 
of this kind of theosophical work, which is that of watching the 
developments of science, year by year, and then comparing and bouncing 
them off of what HPB ever said on the subject. It was written for 
Theosophists, humanity and the scholarly and scientific world of the 
day and time-frame it was written in, pointing out the tremendous mass 
of scientific information that HPB expounded on in her work and 
mission, and where science stood at the time, and where it should head 
and what it should open-mindedly look into. This kind of work is 
constantly going on in the Theosophical Movement in trying to catch the 
attention of humanity:

Plus, as someone operating out of a room, more or less, with almost no 
books and references to speak of, how could she know so much about so 
many subjects that are spoken of in her Isis Unveiled, The secret 
Doctrine, and so on?

She herself joked about this once, in this paraphrased way, I think: 
Pointing out that if she was not being fed this mass of accurate 
information by the Adepts, to present to humanity, so much of it which 
I think was stored away and/or hidden away and located in so many 
remote places in the world, how could she possibly know all about it 
all as well as be so constantly accurate? I think her joke was that if 
people do not believe in the Masters and the fraternity of Adepts, then 
she herself must be considered a triple-Adept. :-)

Since I don't have much more to offer, I will now leave this response 
in the hands of you and others, who are much more knowledgeable than 
me, to comment on for all of us to read and ponder over.


--- In, Dr Gregory Tillett <gregory@z...> wrote:
> Recent discussion in this group has devolved upon the physical existence =
of the Theosophical Masters. Arthur Gregory, Peter Merriott, Daniel (Caldwe=
ll?), Nick Weeks, Bart Lidofsky, and Dallas have each made contributions. A=
lthough I have not previously taken part in any exchanges on this site, I th=
ought in this matter I might add one or two thoughts of my own.
> In the first place I should note that I have recently completed a Ph.D on=
the subject of the Masters. The thesis (2 vols; 850 pp) is entitled: 'The=
Theosophical Masters: An Investigation into the Conceptual Domains of H. P.=
Blavatsky and C. W. Leadbeater'. Thus it is that you can intuit my interest=
in your discussion. I should note further that I am not a member of the Th=
eosophical Society but a scholar with a longstanding interest in esotericism=
and methodologies for the study of religionist belief.
> Early in my researches it became clear that all discourse related to the =
Masters was predicated on their physical ontology; that is, their existence=
in time and space. Predictably, perhaps, claims such as those made by Blava=
tsky and Leadbeater (and their numerous disciples and continuators) have alm=
ost without exception been dismissed by commentators on the basis of evident=
ial facticity. Unless the doubting Didymuses can put their Œhands in thesi=
de1 of the Masters, then the latter ipso facto cannot be considered to exist=
. Such an epistemological attitude tends to establish opposing camps of tho=
se who believe and those who do not, with any ground in between considered a=
"No Man1s Land". This position (which amounts to an academic "stand-off")=
has led to a deep divide which I would consider to be a species of the relig=
ionist versus reductionist duel which characterises much religious discussio=
> Inevitably, then, the terrain of Theosophical studies has been made barre=
n for generations of scholars because of faulty methodology. It is simply t=
he case that meta-empirical faith claims are beyond the purview of the schol=
ar, who possesses no methodological tools with which to falsify (or, indeed,=
prove) such assertions. A study of the Masters, after all, is a study of r=
eligious belief. As such, the data may be examined phenomenologically, but=
the meta-empirical truth claims which inhere in such belief are beyond enqui=
ry. Yet the nostrum that religious credal formulae can be dispelled by the=
glare of science, philosophy, or even phenomenology persists to some degree=
in the Academy, and it has been this attitude which has stultified the study=
of Theosophy - and relegated it to a most unsatisfactory context: the socio=
logy of deviance (or 3flight from reason2).
> For my own work I adopted an empirical methodology predicated upon a pers=
pective of informed agnosticism. There was never any hope - nor any desire=
- on my part to prove or to disprove the historical existence of beings iden=
tified by Theosophists as Masters. This statement should not be taken as an=
early capitulation or as courteous even-handedness. Rather, it is crucial=
to recognise that the Masters may or may not exist, but for any author to pr=
esent a thesis as an attempt to demonstrate 3scientifically2 a personal meta=
physic (an approach which entirely belies his scholarly capacity) would be t=
o pan knowingly for fool1s gold. It is my contention that the Œreality1 of =
the Masters and their function within the discourse of Theosophy remain sepa=
rate concerns, and the latter question (in my opinion) is by far the more in=
teresting enquiry. Here are some of my conclusions.
> The Masters are a prime phenomenon of the occult. This latter has tended=
to be dismissed by scholars as a function of the sociology of irrationalism=
or, at best, a reactionary revolt against modernity. Yet close observation=
reveals that occultism is by no means a retreat from modernist paradigms, b=
ut a close engagement with the new epistemologies. Occultism, it seems, is=
a special form of critique in which the motifs of esotericism are deliberate=
ly refracted through the prism of secularism. Both Blavatsky and Leadbeater=
provide paradigmatic examples of the rhetoric of occultism; in their indivi=
dual ways they each enthusiastically adopted the discourses of modernity in=
order to argue against what they perceived to be its more pernicious qualiti=
> Blavatsky attempted to remythify a universe she believed had been denuded=
of its numinosity. Neither Church nor Academy offered sustenance to a worl=
d whose protective divinities were being undermined by materialist science a=
nd Positivist philosophy. Indeed, Blavatsky felt that the Churches and secu=
larist philosophers more or less cancelled each other out: Biblical criticis=
m and comparative mythology had dispelled Christianity1s assertion of unique=
ness and dogmatic truth, while the mute and mechanistic cosmos, as proposed=
by materialism and naturalistic evolutionism, left the world bereft of purpo=
se, design, and contingency. In order to reconsecrate the cosmos - for that=
was her intention - Blavatsky required a new mythos, but one which would be=
acceptable to a society grown wary of deity. The aspirational figure she s=
ought would not be able to occupy the undifferentiated mesocosm of myth, but=
would be required to tread the ground of fact.
> The Theosophical Master was Blavatsky1s riposte to the successive philoso=
phical and scientific exorcisms which had removed divinity from its hallows=
and, as an unexpected if ironical consequence, led to the 3deanthropomorphis=
ation2 of the world. The Master as a living man could indicate that human l=
ife - even human evolution - need not be under the authority of a blind dete=
rminism. The possibility of attaining physical, spiritual, moral, and sapie=
ntial perfection - which had grown dim in the years since the Enlightenment=
- was literally newly incarnated in the person of the Master, whose position=
of evolutionary preeminence was entirely won through individual effort. Th=
e anthropos, in danger of being relegated to accidental status in the univer=
sal processus, became in Blavatsky1s vision the centrepiece of the great cos=
mic telos; indeed, he was installed once more as the spiritual axis mundi.
> From esotericism Blavatsky absorbed the idea of an hierarchised cosmos le=
ading from the mundane sphere to the supracelestial. As part of her occult=
dynamic, she reconstrued this hierarchy as a schematised progressivist evolu=
tionism. Thus it was that she could co-opt much of the evolutionist idiom o=
f her day, and reconfigure an otherwise teleologically bereft material dynam=
ic as a divine cosmic process. Such progressivism also underscored the gnos=
ticism of her system, for the trajectory of evolution was deemed to ascend f=
rom the material to the spiritual, with absorption into Absolute Spirit (whe=
nce the human Monad came in the first place) as the ultimate eschatological=
> The Master enfleshes Theosophical cosmology in so far as he stands on the=
cusp of reintegration with Spirit. Indeed, he occupies a unique position w=
ithin the system as he alone inhabits the space which is situated at the end=
of human ontology and at the beginning of the infinite unknowable. Consequ=
ently, he is the ideal figure to enact a dialectical interchange between the=
discourses of transcendence and immanence. For the Theosophist, then, the=
Master is proof of the penetration of the divine into the human sphere, and=
an augury of the possibility of humanity transcending its physical limitatio=
ns and communing fully with the divine presence. Thus it is that the Master=
stands at the interstices of the ascent/descent figuration which resides at=
the centre of the Blavatskian vision.
> Blavatsky presented her Theosophical synthesis not as mythology, but as f=
act. This approach has caused even sympathetic scholars to suspect that her=
esotericism was diminished by contact with rationalist paradigms. Yet in a=
n era characterised by an emphasis on facticity, Blavatsky was simply playin=
g Hermesian games by exploring the transformative potential of mythic facts=
and factual myths. For in order to attract the attentions of a physical Mas=
ter, the aspiring chela needed to be prepared by achieving a comprehensive k=
nowledge of Theosophy via the Theosophical canon (Isis Unveiled, the Mahatma=
letters, and The Secret Doctrine). Yet in a classical artifice, such prepa=
ration itself enacted a form of initiatory transformation which would obviat=
e the necessity for a Master. Thus it was that fact bred mythology, and myt=
hology bred fact.
> Based on the Masters1 teachings, Blavatsky posited an endless reticulatin=
g process of human Monads engaging in matter and then becoming progressively=
more spiritualised until they reintegrated with the Absolute. Such a cycli=
c process, although presented in the vocabulary of Hindu kalpa theory, is in=
fact an instantiation of a classic gnostic telos of a fall into matter and=
a concomitant ascent to Spirit. The adoption of this favourite leitmotif of=
esotericism allowed Blavatsky to incorporate into her macrohistorical progr=
amme sufficient of the world1s mythologems to present her Theosophy as both=
a pansophic synthesis and as the undiluted prisca theologia. Of prime impor=
tance, it also enabled her to absorb the new temporalities sponsored by palæ=
oanthropology and geology. Thus it was that she could suggest not only that=
there had been Œchapters1 before Genesis (as Darwin1s theory so challenging=
ly implied), but that there were whole Œbibles1 with self-contained eschaton=
s and regenerations. Blavatsky1s cosmology - apparently unlike that of her=
nemesis, the Churches - could thus comfortably contend with the immensity of=
prehistory, and the apparent fact that primordial homo was more simian than=
> Following Blavatsky1s death, access to the Masters - and the charismatic =
authority such access implied - caused the Theosophical Society to fracture=
into competing factions. With Blavatsky gone, the revelatory and oracular p=
ower guaranteed by her position as mediator of the Masters1 teachings disapp=
eared. Soon, however, Leadbeater rose to prominence in the Adyar Society, i=
n part because the confidence of his assertions of contact with the Masters,=
and the clairvoyant method by which such communication was vouchsafed, seem=
ed unassailable. His claims of being in constant psychic association with t=
he Brotherhood calmed the collective fear that the Masters had abandoned the=
Society or, worse, that they had never been present in the first place.
> Leadbeater1s clairvoyant revelations remained for the most part within th=
e pre-mapped Theosophical cosmos, thus bolstering the edifice from the insid=
e. Yet he soon set about superimposing his own structure upon the Blavatski=
an model. He drastically truncated her cosmo-historical vision and, in so d=
oing, exaggerated the incline of its progressivist dynamic. Thus it was tha=
t rather than taking many lifetimes of labour, Mastership was attainable in=
a very few. To further speed the process he introduced various forms of the=
urgy which he considered to be evolutionary accelerants. Masonic initiation=
and Christian sacrament were reconstrued as conduits of perfecting power, a=
ble to advance the Monad closer to the ultimate goal: transformation into a=
> In sum, then, the Master is the ideal and the template for Theosophists. =
Nevertheless, it should be stressed that his physical ontology is ultimatel=
y of less value than the profundity of the gnosis which he 3conferred2 upon=
the aspiring chelas. Blavatsky, of course, remains the key mediator of the=
Masters1 illuminated gnosticism, and it is from her that the Master gained h=
is rich semiotic potential. Consequently, the Master operates on several he=
rmeneutical levels simultaneously, and as such creates of Blavatskian Theoso=
phy something akin to a grand polyphony. It was my task to discern some of=
the grand associations which Blavatsky consciously invested in her depiction=
of the Masters. Some examples of my conclusions can be ascertained from th=
e following quotation from my thesis:
> ŒThe Master is the Oriental sage who brings revelatory authority in hisw=
ake; he is also the monastic elder whose austerities and 3prayerfulness2 hav=
e earned him God1s ear. He is the personification of Enlightenment perfecti=
bilism, and the ideal of human progress and evolution; he is also the inspir=
ed pædagogue who encourages his charges to penetrate through the text andth=
ereby ascend to divinity. He is the Rosicrucian hero, the embodiment of the=
Ideal and the Real; he is also Enoch-Metatron, God1s angelic lieutenant who=
once was human, and Melchizedek, Œhaving neither beginning of days, nor end=
of life; but made like unto a Son of God1. Perhaps most clearly - and yet=
characteristically elusively - he is Hermes, the daimon of both antithesis a=
nd synthesis1.
> It is my hope that an empirical and comparative examination of the Master=
s will furnish further examples of Blavatsky1s genius for synthesis. Such r=
esearches must acknowledge, though, that the physical historical existence o=
f the Brotherhood lies beyond their expertise. Crucially, one suspects that=
reducing the vast potentialities of the Master topos to such limited (and b=
anal) questions as 3Did they appear physically at such and such a time?2 wil=
l only serve to deny Theosophy its proper place as a roaring tributary to th=
e great stream of the history of ideas.
> Brendan French
> Sydney, Australia.

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