This is how you create misconceptions about Theosophy regarding Masters
I received an email last month, that made me feel that someone out there understands my approach, and I will just quote the first sentence:
“Thank you for having a website that addresses the currents of thought in a rational format. My perusal tells me deep matters both mystical and secular are discussed but without the magical thought processes that imbue many other sites.”
I wanted to acknowledge that, because this is the approach I try to take.
I wanted to explain how a Theosophist can create misconceptions in the minds of peoples about Theosophy when discussing “the Mahatmas” that I get technical with, that is different from how other Theosophists may write.
I never place before the names of Morya and K.H. titles, e.g., “Mahatma” every time I write their names like contemporary Theosophists, even if H.P.B. or other disciples did. Instead, I say, “the teachers of H.P.B.” (and other disciples) for example. As they taught none of us, and we only analyze, study and read them. Doing otherwise makes Theosophists mimic the habits of a religion, or sect.
As in Islam, one might be accustomed to hearing phrases of veneration such as ʿalayhi as-salām uttered after mentioning the name of Muhammad. It is like when everyone when saying the name Muhammad, although say Prophet Muhammad even when they are not Muslim and do not believe from the Islamic view, that Muhammad is a Prophet. I have always found that weird. Morya and K.H. are not like “prophets,” and H.P.B. not a prophetess in that eschatological sense we are familiar with in Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The mention of them being masters and H.P.B. as their emissary is quite literal, not theological, despite Theosophists that even try to make this seem prophetic. They become teachers and masters, (a) specifically to H.P.B. and their disciples (chelas) in the early history of the Theosophical Movement; and (b) she was agent and emissary for them.
Now everytime you write the name of some special religious figure, you would have to extend the same courtesy, and title them Mahatma and so forth, which would be ridiculous. Strangely, this is only done for K.H. and Morya by Theosophists, and later copyist groups titled every figure in their angelogy, “Ascended Master.” I would advise not putting titles while naming them. If you go to the Theosophy Wiki or any Theosophical article, e.g., whenever you may encounter their name, the title Mahatma is placed before it. Even though they themselves seemed uncomfortable with this in their letters, so it is not trivial to mention this.
These persons in the history of the Theosophical movement cannot be titled Masters by their contemporaries, to whom they are not. It is like when Christians mention Jesus Christ to a non-Christian, who recognizes Jesus the semi-historical man, but not Jesus Christ as God, or Son of God.
If a non-Theosophist comes upon an article of our day written by a Theosophist, they will see Master or Mahatma this and that, though for them they are not Masters, nor are they our masters. So, it just becomes a special title. We can talk about how they and such men in India were referred to as Mahatmas, but to use it so liberally as when one is addressing a Mrs or Mr is abit much.
Imagine me also using the term Adept casually like that: Adept Jesus, Adept Morya, Adept Thomas, Adept Buddha and so forth. It would be odd and incorrect. But a person may say, Theosophists specially believe in such and such Mahatmas, like a sect, and that Theosophy derives solely from H.P. Blavatsky or the “Theosophical Mahatmas.” People still labor under this mistaken notion. They do not have the memory of Theosophy as those in the 19th century do, or as those that study its history.
These type of movements appear past their prime, but in-fact they never reached their prime. The lack of certain perspectives in society today on these subjects indicate missing influences and gaps in our knowledge and perspective. When people learn of Theosophy and research it, pay attention to how they speak about it. They speak about it as something in the past, that prepared great work and interreligious dialogue, but. . .but, that is all.
Theosophy presents a threat to the traditional Christian narrative we have come to be familiar with, which deliberately constructs as H.P.B. puts it, a religion diametrically-opposed to the Greek Gnosis and Hindu esotericism. The belief of such traditional Christian view maintains, that enabling Gnosticism will encourage Luciferianism, blasphemy (people declaring they are God or gods) and create “false Messiahs” to lure people, or prepare them for what they believe would emerge as an “Antichrist-figure.”
So much for the “irrationality of Gnosticism”. . .
I mention another figure in the Theosophical Movement known as the Chohan, but all that is said of him in Theosophical literature solely uses his title. So, a person might like to know, “what is a Chohan,” “what does a Chohan do,” and “why is this figure called Chohan.” Nobody would understand going around casually calling a man Maha-Chohan, but that is simply what only this person is referred to in the letters (see The Identities of the Theosophical Masters Series X: The Bengali Spy, Sengchen Tulku and the Maha-Chohan Connection for details on the title and meaning of Chohan).
So, this is about how we are communicating our ideas to others. One time, Theosophist Pablo Sender was mentioning that when we are writing about Theosophy, we do not always have to use all of the jargon, or Sanskrit terminology, because it is not always needed for an English-speaking audience. It can be off-putting, or unnecessary, especially when the person themselves do not even know how to pronounce the words they are trying to teach others. You can use the English terminology first and bracket or parenthesize the terms in non-English after, or explain.
Whenever they must encounter the names Morya and K.H., they see Master, but no one says Master Jesus (Neo-Theosophy), Master or Mahatma Muhammad, Master so and so. A Muslim will say “Prophet Muhammad,” but a Theosophist should not have to introduce K.H. and Morya directly everytime as Mahatma. I find it strange, unnecessary and redundant.
Perhaps, this is me alone. In my writings, I never use epithets such as Buddha when referring to Siddhartha Gautama, his given name as the philosopher and merchant. Yes, I believe he became a Buddha, or attained Buddhahood, but I find I can relate the character better as the mortal philosopher. I may use the name Shakyamuni sometimes.
Terms like Tathagata and so forth carry extra spiritual and metaphysical meaning, so Tathagata, Buddha, and Christ are not terms I use so casually. It is different when I am speaking to someone calmly about the legend of Siddhartha Gautama the philosopher versus Buddha as Gautama the omniscient and omnipresent superman of mythology throughout Asia. Whenever I write of Jesus, it is the man, or the man that is written about (the literary Jesus), and the writers putting cryptic words in the character’s mouth, not the omnipotent Darkseid waiting to execute judgement over the unbelievers and reign on earth or in heaven!
K.H. mentions in one letter climbing the mountain to his location, that he cut himself, and that he is not omnipotent, but a mortal man as said many times. In the same manner, they view Jesus as a great man that is respected and would have respected them as a Brother. He is seen as a reformer like many others have attempted, but failed and died. For many Christians, that is not enough, and he is the greatest being there could ever be. This teaching goes in one direction.
When a Theosophist incessantly address K.H. and Morya as Mahatma so and so, it reminds me of such Christian who is different from the variety of Gnostic Jews in the formative periods in opposition to the Rabbis and the ancient Tanaim, or to those that “laid too much stress upon the forms, ceremonies and technicalities of the Pharisees” like their supposed heirs. It demonstrates to us the crystallization of a universal principle into the religious dogma of a particular sect to use against every other.
While K.H. and Morya call themselves Buddhists, and speak more highly of their “Lord Buddha” far more than Jesus, their philosophy is not to bring us to the worship of a particular man, or religion. They assert that their philosophy can be traced through antiquity, and their school has a historical connection to this drama, to the origin of Tibetan Buddhism, to Buddha’s disciples, Central Asian lore, to Egyptian and lost Chaldean wisdom.
There have been many adepts, initiate-philosophers and Buddhas in the traditions we study. Theosophy is not on an Island, nor a colonial invader of other Islands, and yet it would be capable of doing what a true religion would do, in binding humanity, regardless of creed, race, caste, sex, or religion. This notion is built on the model of these clandestine networks of schools. No religion that exists today can do that, nor are even trying to. They simply compete against each other. A medium is necessary, and they’ve always came upon the scene of history, where philosophers, esotericists, scholars and students would be able to join together to collect, study, and disseminate knowledge, and rise above sectarian beliefs. Theosophy is at the heart of how we understand what makes such persons these things, but it is not the worship of a particular group of beings, or any certain individual.
“Year after year, and day after day had our officers and members to interrupt people speaking of the theosophical movement by putting in more or less emphatic protests against Theosophy being referred to as a “religion,” and the Theosophical Society as a kind of church or religious body. Still worse, it is as often spoken of as a “new sect”! Is it a stubborn prejudice, an error, or both? The latter, most likely. The most narrow-minded and even notoriously unfair people are still in need of a plausible pretext, of a peg on which to hang their little uncharitable remarks and innocently-uttered slanders. And what peg is more solid for that purpose, more convenient than an “ism” or a “sect.” The great majority would be very sorry to be disabused and finally forced to accept the fact that Theosophy is neither. The name suits them, and they pretend to be unaware of its falseness. But there are others, also, many more or less friendly people, who labour sincerely under the same delusion.”Helena P. Blavatsky, Is Theosophy a Religion, Theosophical Articles, Vol. 1, Theosophy Co., L.A. 1981, pg. 56 and Lucifer, November 1888.