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The Identity of Koot Hoomi of Kashmir, His College and Travels

This article has been rewritten into The Identities of the Theosophical Masters Series IX: Multiple Witnesses of Morya, Koot Hoomi’s Identity and Connections to Tibet.

AS EXPLAINED IN THE INTRODUCTION, THERE ARE IN THEOSOPHICAL LITERATURE, INDIVIDUALS KNOWN GENERALLY AS “ADEPTS,” Great Masters or Mahatmas, among many other names and according to language. They are considered masters of occult knowledge, captains of the world, having fully-developed in them their hidden higher faculties, and through special training have become elevated in character and knowledge of the world. These individuals are spoken of as being of various nationalities, whose true character may be even concealed to persons of the communities in which they live and move. There have existed adepts and initiates in every age, and much of Theosophical Literature focused on proving that such individuals have existed throughout human existence, despite any exaggerated mythology surrounding the legend of various known characters. There are also many individuals who are not known, and who pass out of existence having known no fame, and never chased it. One particular individual mentioned that is important to the beginning history of the Theosophical Society and story of H.P. Blavatsky is a man who went under the pseudonym of Koot Hoomi or simply “K.H.” Koot Hoomi (the name he went by in the letters) was said to be a Northern Brahmin of Kashmir, very learned in European ways. He was said to speak French and English so fluently, Morya — the other master in correspondence — in a letter (no. 26) calls him “Frenchified.” He lived in a house in a ravine in Tibet, along the Karakoram Range near Ladakh.

Colonel Henry S. Olcott wrote to A. O. Hume in 1881:

“I have also personally known [Master Koot Hoomi] since 1875. He is of quite a different, a gentler, type, yet the bosom friend of the other [Master Morya]. They live near each other with a small Buddhist Temple about midway between their houses. In New York, I had . . . and a colored sketch on China silk of the landscape near [Koot Hoomi]’s and my Chohan’s residences with a glimpse of the latter’s house and of part of the little temple.” (A.O. Hume, Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, Vol. 1. Bombay, India: The Theosophical Society, 1882, 83)

“In New York, I had . . . a colored sketch on China silk of the landscape near . . . [Koot Hoomi]’s and my Chohan’s [Morya’s] residences with a glimpse of the latter’s house and of part of the little temple.” (Letter from Col. Olcott to A.O. Hume)

This house was near Morya’s house, and is confirmed when K.H. mentions to A.P. Sinnett:

“I was coming down the defiles of Kouenlun — Karakorum you call them . . . and was crossing over to Lhadak on my way home.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 5)

Helena Blavatsky wrote to Mrs. Hollis Billings in a letter, Oct. 1881:

“Now Morya lives generally with Koot-Hoomi who has his house in the direction of the Kara Korum [Karakoram] Mountains, beyond Ladak, which is in Little Tibet and belongs now to Kashmire. It is a large wooden building in the Chinese fashion pagoda-like, between a lake and a beautiful mountain (…)”

K.H. was a Kashmiri by birth, and traveled and studied in Europe. What is the proofs of this? A.O. Hume makes this account of him:

“Take a case said to have occurred many years ago in Germany, in which a Brother, who has corresponded with us, is said to have taken part. He was at this time a student, and though in course of preparation was not then himself an Adept, but was, like all regular chelas, under the special charge of an Adept. A young friend of his was accused of forgery, and tried for the same. Our Brother, then a student as above explained, was called as a witness to prove his friend’s handwriting; the case was perfectly clear and a conviction certain. Through his mentor, our Brother learnt that his accused friend did not really deserve punishment that would necessarily fall on him, and which would have ruined not only him, but other innocent persons dependent on him. He had really committed a forgery but not knowingly or meaningly, though it was impossible to show this. So when the alleged forged document was handed to the witness, he merely said: “I see nothing written here,” and returned the deed blank. His mentor had caused the entire writing to disappear. It was supposed that a wrong paper had been by mistake handed to the witness; search was made high and low, but the deed never appeared, and the accused was perforce acquitted.” (A.O. Hume, Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, Vol. 1. Bombay, India: The Theosophical Society, 1882, 29)

K.H. wrote to A.P. Sinnett in 1881, July 5:

“I may answer you, what I said to G. Th. Fechner one day, when he wanted to know the Hindu view on what he had written — “You are right;… ‘every diamond, every crystal, every plant and star has its own individual soul, besides man and animal…’ and, ‘there is a hierarchy of souls from the lowest forms of matter up to the World Soul,’ but you are mistaken when adding to the above the assurance that ‘the spirits of the departed hold direct psychic communication with Souls that are still connected with a human body’ — for, they do not.”

1, ALBERT MANSIONS,
Victoria St., London,
15th April, 1883.

Portrait of K.H. by Hermann Schmiechen, 1884. Only authentic painting K.H. allowed. K.H. was a Kashmiri Brahman. He spoke and wrote French and English fluently; was educated in Europe; familiar with European ways and European thinking; most erudite and occasionally wrote passages of great literary beauty.

Leader of the British Theosophists in 1883, Charles Charlton Massey wanted to check this claim, so he wrote to Dr. Hugo Wernekke of Weimar, Germany, and who knew Professor Gustav Theodor Fechner, producing books with him. C.C. Massey wanted “to find out whether Professor Fechner ever had such a conversation with an Oriental.” To which Prof. Gustav Theodor Fechner replied in a letter to Dr. Hugo Wernekke dated “Leipzig, April 25th, 1883”:

COPY OF AN EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM PROFESSOR
FECHNER, DATED LEIPZIG, APRIL 25TH, 1883, TO DR. HUGO WERNEKKE

What Mr. Massey enquires about is undoubtedly in the main correct; the name of the Hindu concerned, when he was in Leipzig, was however, Nisi Kanta Chattopadhyaya, not Koot Humi. In the middle of the seventies he lived for about one year in Leipzig and aroused a certain interest owing to his foreign nationality, without being otherwise conspicuous; he was introduced to several families and became a member of the Academic Philosophical Society, to which you also belonged, where on one occasion he gave a lecture on Buddhism. I have these notes from Mr. Wirth, the Librarian of the Society, who is good enough to read to me three times a week. I also heard him give a lecture in a private circle on the position of women among the Hindus. I remember very well that he visited me once, and though I cannot remember our conversation, his statement that I questioned him about the faith of the Hindus is very likely correct. Apart from this I have not had personal intercourse with him; but, after his complete disappearance from Leipzig, I have been interested to hear about him, and especially to know that he plays an important role in his native country, such as undoubtedly he could not play here.

There are no proofs for the accusations that K.H. and Morya were the aspects of H.P. B.’s proposed “multiple personalities,” besides simply being skeptical. It was said, Helena Blavatsky spent almost every night til morning of 2 a.m. writing at her desk, by hand, as is witnessed by the sheer amount of detail in both her letters to colleagues and her Collected Writings. Where is the time to construct such an elaborate hoax of letters, and a consistent philosophy?

At that, one of high erudition.

In a letter, Morya speaks to A.P. Sinnett about him not being used to their “Indo-Tibetan ways” and saying of himself in relation to K.H.:

“I am not a fine scholar, Sahibs, like my blessed Brother” (…) We of the Indo-Tibetan hovels never quarrel (…) Owing to complicated politics, to debates and what you term, if I mistake not, — social talk and drawing-room controversies and discussions, sophistry has now become in Europe (hence among the Anglo-Indians) “the logical exercise of the intellectual faculties,” while with us it has never outgrown its pristine stage of “fallacious reasoning,” the shaky, insecure premises from which most of the conclusions and opinions are drawn, formed and forthwith jumped at. Again, we ignorant Asiatics of Tibet, accustomed to rather follow the thought of our interlocutor or correspondent than the words he clothes it in — concern ourselves generally but little with the accuracy of his expressions.” (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter No. 29)

So, they often are very telling about their relationship with the English, trying to relate and teach them their philosophy.

Of K.H., M. says again:

A few days before leaving us, Koot’hoomi speaking of you said to me as follows: “I feel tired and weary of these never ending disputations. The more I try to explain to both of them the circumstances that control us and that interpose between us so many obstacles to free intercourse, the less they understand me! Under the most favourable aspects this correspondence must always be unsatisfactory, even exasperatingly so, at times; for nothing short of personal interviews, at which there could be discussion and the instant solution of intellectual difficulties as they arise, would satisfy them fully. It is as though we were hallooing to each other across an impassable ravine and only one of us seeing his interlocutor. In point of fact, there is nowhere in physical nature a mountain abyss so hopelessly impassable and obstructive to the traveller as that spiritual one, which keeps them back from me.”

Two days later when his “retreat” was decided upon in parting he asked me: “Will you watch over my work, will you see it falls not into ruins?” I promised. What is there I would not have promised him at that hour!

At a certain spot not to be mentioned to outsiders, there is a chasm spanned by a frail bridge of woven grasses and with a raging torrent beneath. The bravest member of your Alpine clubs would scarcely dare to venture the passage, for it hangs like a spider’s web and seems to be rotten and impassable. Yet it is not; and he who dares the trial and succeeds — as he will if it is right that he should be permitted — comes into a gorge of surpassing beauty of scenery — to one of our places and to some of our people, of which and whom there is no note or minute among European geographers. At a stone’s throw from the old Lamasery stands the old tower, within whose bosom have gestated generations of Bodhisatwas. It is there, where now rests your lifeless friend — my brother, the light of my soul, to whom I made a faithful promise to watch during his absence over his work.” (ibid.)

Mary K. Neff outlined his travels, which he said were difficult for him, based on his statement and other sources.

Koot Hoomi traveled widely, as documented by Mary K. Neff in The “Brothers” of Madame Blavatsky, 1932, 63-79:

  • 1870s – student in Europe – Leipzig, Zurich, Wurzburg
  • 1880 – Toling, in western Tibet; Kashmir; Karakorum, in Mongolia
  • 1881 – Tirich Mir, a mountain in the Hindu Kush range; Sakkya-Jung, Ghalaring-Tho Lamasery, and Horpa Pa La, in unknown territory
  • 1882 – Unknown location of KH’s retreat; Himalayan lamasery near Darjeeling
  • 1883 – extended tour of Asia; Lake Manasarovara in the Himalayas; Lahore; Kashmir; Madras; Singapore; Ceylon; Burma; Mysore; Sanangerri (unknown location); China; Cambodia.

15 Comments »

  1. The exact actual identity, names, and trackable details of those we speak of as the Masters will never be permitted or allowed by Them to come into the possession of anyone who has not distinctly earned the right to know it and to have it…and those who have earned the right to it probably only number a few hundred in the world at the most and they are sworn to secrecy. People such as K. Paul Johnson can continue speculating all they like but they will never be able to come up with anything solid and substantial and which will stand up to all scrutinisation.

    One point to perhaps be considered by Theosophical writers, however, is whether it is suitable or appropriate to put pictures of the Masters online. The article “Photos and Pictures of The Masters of Wisdom” can be read in this regard at http://blavatskytheosophy.com/photos-and-pictures-of-the-masters-of-wisdom/. We used to include numerous pictures and apparent photos of the Mahatmas at BlavatskyTheosophy.com before reconsidering the matter at the end of last year. It is of course up to each person to decide for themselves what they think is the wisest course of action.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your insightful comment and I wholly identify with what you’ve said. I too hesitated to not use the picture, thus the bottom picture of Ladakh was to be originally put there. However, there’s a reason I simply used the picture. The picture is associated with so much of those strange “Ascended Master” pictures on the internet, I want the optimized index to highlight my post. However, I felt also using the picture, automatically it may make the viewers turn away without reading, because of the association. Then again, I simply used it for familiarity sake and sort of like how the internet can bump my file to the corners of the web that also feature that picture, as in Wiki. Thanks again.

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  2. Sananangerri is perhaps the city of Sringeri near Mysore. One of the Centers established by Shri Shankaracharya is at Sringeri. HPB mentioned that the heads of these Centers are Initiates. Mahatma KH probably traveled from Madras (Chennai) to Mysore enroute to Sringeri.

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  3. hello , thank you for the intriguing portrait of Koot Hoomi or is it?, but could you please let me know as to who the artist is ?, its typical of late eighteenth century portraiture and the style and pose is common depiction for the above said period. yours fraternally – jarmo kalevi tuovinen

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      • Hello again . Thank you for your information regarding ‘Portrait of K.H., Is there any information where this painting is hung or is it in private hands , would like very much to view it fully as i have an interest in 18th & 19th century British art in particular , thanks again for the fascinating articles .
        sincerely yours
        jarmo kalevi tuovinen

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      • It is at the Theosophical Society, Adyar, Chennai, India. Don’t think you will be allowed to see it. In early days, Col Olcott, President had custody of it and had permitted some visitors to see it. Since the painting is over century old, we do not know if there is any deterioration due to age.

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      • Hello again, As a member of the T.S. for over forty years I would imagine that somehow be allowed to view the painting as i’m interested to know more of the technique used being a artist my self to examine the finer aspects of it. Also I would find it unconscionable that a fine art work uncared for as you mentioned should be allowed to deteriorate in those dusty archives ,surely some respect and dignity should be afforded to Herr Schmiechen and the sitter in question . I have always felt that to deliberately hide interesting artefacts is ethically unsound , and the fact that Theosophy is slowly receding into a quiet sunset with little new blood to pulse thru its tired arteries , who in twenty years time is left to be the vanguard of this art work anyway ? Yours fraternally Jarmo.

        Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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      • The paintings are not collecting dust in archives! It is well cared for and is kept in the Shrine Room. Access is restricted to Esoteric Section members. It was during Annie Besant’s time that access to the paintings were restricted to the members of the Esoteric Section. The paintings are property of Theosophical Society and why the are not accessible to others including dues paying members. They are priceless and hopefully someone from the administration would clarify what is going on regarding access and current conditions. The membership is not growing world wide. It has a very serious problem in the USA due to lack of diversity. Minorities accounting for half the population, the membership has a sprinkling of minorities. For example in the State of Texas, I have seen just one afro american member in last forty years. In the city of Cleveland which has nearly 49% afro american, the branch has none. Status quo does not bode well.

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      • I would agree. In all my years, when I did some volunteering at the T.S. (Illinois), I’ve only seen 3 other Black people outside of the Society, and one was a kid that came in asking Pablo Sender at the time, was the Theosophical Society Illuminati. I’ve also attributed the decline in membership to the wider distrust and conspiratorial theories affecting perception about Theosophy, or the history of Esoteric Tradition in general. It is not the sole problem, but it is part of it. I forgot the book I read from, but it explained, that by the 1930s, the T.S. was in inevitable decline, because the Krishnamurti issue finally established it in the mind of the public as a sham, and since then were never able to recover. This is one reason I made this blog to educate on the history, but I had learned that some didn’t like the blog. Youth Groups were canceled from the top leadership. The reason given was lack of success in bringing in membership. It used to be, that Christianity and established traditions were declining, and people sought out alternatives (they still are), but that brought out a century of cults, phony gurus, etc. The fascination with “The Orient” wore out, for one reason due to so much fraud and scandals alongside the swift and relentless campaign Evangelicals went on throughout the 20th century against “Occultism” and foreign influences. I could give a very honest multiple number of reasons for the decline of the Theosophical Society, but apparently just talking about it makes those in the Society uncomfortable. I don’t know why they won’t listen. As to Black people in America, I cannot speak for all of course, but I have studied my own community, which would be hard to convince, given Christian and Islamic influence, including agnosticism or atheism (though quiet), and many pro-Black alternative traditions, mostly all steeped in conspiratorial thinking, i.e., Anti-Theosophy, Anti-Masonry, Illuminati conspiracy. These groups often mention H.P. Blavatsky in their lectures albeit through a negative twisted lens. The conversation is dominated by a racial perspective.

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      • Hello once again Mate! Thank you for your fine insights . First of it is difficult to convince people about anything : because to convince someone about something does not allow freedom of perspective .Discussions i’ve had with the huge kaleidoscope of opinions from a platonic understanding have been challenging . Convincing someone to me means that the recipient is unable to digest what is in question and may not have the finesse to reason intelligibly , most have this cognitive dissonance shielding their aura and anything ‘new’ has to be the work of the devil if coming from a Christian back ground . I pointed out to a friend who carried the banner of Christianity that the sun would burn out before ‘Christ ‘would return , due to the fact that the historicity of the man ‘Jesus’ never existed . It was the ‘Christos’ the immutable light that will manifest : by the way telling him that the light never went away anyway , only humanity’s ignorance became more pronounced hence the so called darkness and evil and all that !. I won’t ramble too much but Krisnamurti was truly a ‘god send? ‘for the T.S. he saw the old ‘bracket creep ‘ invading the pastures of clear light , and distanced himself from its suffocating tentacles . Thank you Brother for your thoughts , ……….i certainly hear them . Jarmo.

        Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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      • Getting across new ideas to others is difficult. Unless we all get involved in local activities where we get a chance to mix with diverse population, any amount of lecturing is not going to help. Also our individual daily interactions are very important as everyone is watching what we say and what we do. Many of us in professions where we help people across the spectrum, have great opportunity to apply great theosophical principles. I agree, Jiddu Krishnamurti is a godsend and makes us start thinking for ourself and not be a second hand person. Thanks

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  4. In many countries, during the early days, the leaders of theosophy movement were involved in many social welfare activities like running schools and homes for needy. Such activities brought in interaction between the local population and theosophical society. Unless theosophy gets involved in helping the needs of the local men and women, how do you interact with local population and give them an opportunity to know what theosophy stands for. BLM brought attention to lack of diversity in both Theosophical Society and Esoteric Section which is called the ‘heart’ of theosophical society. Lack of diversity seems to be prevalent in the branches around the country. Recently I noticed the Cleveland Branch has zero afro american members while the city is nearly 40% afro american. In addition, the branch is rich and last year shipped $50K to Wheaton while donating $13K to local charities. On the above facts, there were many postings on Facebook Theosophy News page and till todate no response from the leaders. Status Quo will only kill theosophical organizations. If status quo continues, Theosophical Society may be seen de facto discriminatory and lose its tax exemption it enjoys now. Surely the leaders would not be happy to see the real truth as it would hurt. Face the truth and deal with it in great haste and can be turned around.

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