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)
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.
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.