[The text here is that from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K.H, transcribed and compiled by A. T. Barker, arranged and edited by Vicente Hao Chin, Jr. (Manila: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993).]
Letter Number 120 Received January 1884
[Introduction:] This letter is . . . one of the most important letters in the book so far as the Theosophical Society — especially in the West — is concerned.
The Mahatma has just ordered two telegrams to be sent, one to Mrs. Kingsford and one to Mr. Sinnett, to notify both that Mrs. Kingsford should continue as President of the London Lodge. The telegram to Sinnett is short and to the point: “Kingsford must remain president.”
In this letter, the Mahatma suggests that the London Lodge should be administered by, at least, fourteen Councillors — “one half openly inclining towards the Christian Esotericism as represented by Mrs. K., and the other half following Buddhist Esotericism as represented by Mr. S.; all important business to be transacted by majority of votes.”
Although seemingly a rather fragile arrangement, the plan might have worked had it not been for a further complication. Early in December of 1883, Mrs. Kingsford and the Vice-President of London Lodge, Edward Maitland, issued a Circular which embodied a severe criticism of the teachings contained in Sinnett’s new book, Esoteric Buddhism. Understandably, this did not make for improvement in the harmony of the situation. In late January, 1884, Subba Row, in collaboration with “another still greater scholar” who, it is believed, was the Mahatma M., issued in pamphlet form a “Reply” to this Circular Letter. Subba Row sent this to H.P.B. with a covering letter, requesting her to forward it to the London Lodge. She did so on January 25, 1884. The full text can be found in Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row, pp. 316-356.
[Text of the letter:]
To One of the Vice-Presidents or Councillors of “The London Lodge,” Theosophical Society, from K.H.
To the Members of the “London Lodge,” Theosophical Society, — Friends and Opponents,
I have just ordered two telegrams to be sent to Mrs. A. Kingsford and Mr. A.P. Sinnett to notify both that the former should continue to be the President of the “London Lodge” Theos. Society.
This is not the desire alone of either of us two, known to Mr. Sinnett, or of both, but the express wish of the Chohan Himself. Mrs. Kingsford’s election is not a matter of personal feeling between ourselves and that lady but rests entirely on the advisability of having at the head of the Society, in a place like London, a person well suited to the standard and aspirations of the (so far) ignorant (of esoteric truths) and therefore, malicious public. Nor is it a matter of the slightest consequence whether the gifted President of the “London Lodge” Theos. Soc. entertains feelings of reverence or disrespect toward the humble and unknownindividuals at the head of the Tibetan GoodLaw, — or the writer of the present, or any of his Brothers — but rather a question whether the said lady is fitted for the purpose we have all at heart, namely the dissemination of TRUTH through Esoteric doctrines, conveyed by whatever religious channel, and the effacement of crass materialism and blindprejudices and skepticism. As the lady has rightly observed, the Western public should understand the Theosophical Society to be “a Philosophical School constituted on the ancient Hermetic basis” — that public having never heard of the Tibetan, and entertaining very perverted notions of the Esoteric Buddhist System. Therefore, and so far, we agree with the remarks embodied in the letter written by Mrs. K. to Madam B. and which the latter was asked to “submit to K.H.”; and, we would remind our members of the “L.L.” in this reference, that Hermetic Philosophy is universal and unsectarian, while the Tibetan School will ever be regarded by those who know little, if anything of it, as coloured more or less with sectarianism. The former knowing neither caste, nor colour, nor creed, no lover of Esoteric wisdom can have any objection to the name, which otherwise he might feel, were the Society to which he belongs to be placarded with a specific denomination pertaining to a distinct religion. Hermetic Philosophy suits every creed and philosophy and clashes with none. It is theboundless ocean of Truth, the central point whither flows and wherein meet every river, as every stream — whether its source be in the East, West, North, or South. As the course of the river depends upon the nature of its basin, so the channel for communication of Knowledge must conform itself to surrounding circumstances. The Egyptian Hierophant, the Chaldean Mage, the Arhat, and the Rishi, were bound in days of yore on the same voyage of discovery and ultimately arrived at the same goal though by different tracks. There are even at the present moment three centres of the Occult Brotherhood in existence, widely separated geographically, and as widely exoterically — the true esoteric doctrine being identical in substance though differing in terms; all aiming at the same grand object, but no two agreeing seemingly in the details of procedure. It is an every day occurrence to find students belonging to different schools of occult thoughtsitting side by side at the feet of the same Guru. Upasika (Madam B.) and Subba Row, though pupils of the same Master, have not followed the same Philosophy — the one is Buddhist and the other an Adwaitee. Many prefer to call themselves Buddhists not because the word attaches itself to the ecclesiastical system built upon the basic ideas of our Lord Gautama Buddha’s philosophy, but because of the Sanskrit word “Buddhi” — wisdom, enlightenment; and as a silent protest to the vain rituals and empty ceremonials which have in too many cases been productive of the greatest calamities. Such also is the origin of the Chaldean term Mage.
Thus it is plain that the methods of Occultism, though in the main unchangeable, have yet to conform to altered times and circumstances. The stateof the general Society of England — quite different from that of India, where our existence is a matter of common and, so to say, of inherent belief among the population, and in a number of cases of positive knowledge — requires quite a different policy in the presentation of Occult Sciences. The only object to be striven for is the amelioration of the condition of MAN by the spread of truth suited to the various stages of his development and that of the country he inhabits and belongs to. TRUTH has no ear-mark and does not suffer from the name under which it is promulgated — if the said object is attained. The constitution of the “L. Lodge, Theos. Society,” affords ground of a hope for the right method being put in operation before long. It is well known that a magnet would cease to be a magnet if its poles cease to be antagonistic. Heat on one side should be met by frost on the other, and the resulting temperature will be healthy to all people. Mrs.Kingsford and Mr. Sinnett are both useful, both needed and appreciated by our revered Chohan and Master, — just because they are the two poles calculated to keep the whole body in magnetic harmony, as the judicious disposal of both will make an excellent middle ground to be attained by no other means; one correcting and equilibrising the other. The direction and the good services of both is necessary for the steady progress of the Theosophical Society in England. But both cannot be Presidents. Mrs. Kingsford’s views being at the bottom (minus the details) identical withthose of Mr. Sinnett in matters of Occult philosophy; and, by reason of their association with the names and symbols familiar to Christian ears and eyes, they falling in better than those of Mr. Sinnett with the actual bent of English national intelligence and spirit of conservatism, Mrs. K. is thus more adapted to lead the movement successfully in England. Therefore, if our advice and desire are of any account with the members of the “London Lodge” — she will have to occupy the Presidential Chair for the ensuing year, at any rate. Let the members under her leadership resolutely try to live downthe unpopularity which all esoteric teaching and all reform are sure to attract at the outset and they will succeed. The Society will be a great help to, and a great power in, the world, as well as a secure channel for the flow of its President’s philanthropy. Her constant and not altogether unsuccessful strife in the cause of anti-vivisection and her staunch advocacy of vegetarianism are alone sufficient to entitle her to the consideration of our Chohans as of all true Buddhists and Adwaitees — hence our Maha-Chohan’s preference in this direction. But, as the services of Mr. Sinnett in the good cause are great indeed — far greater, so far, than of any Western Theosophist — therefore, a new arrangement is found advisable.
It seems necessary for a proper study and correct understanding of our Philosophy and the benefit of those whose inclination leads them to seek esoteric knowledge from the Northern Buddhist Source, and in order that such teaching should not be even virtually imposed or offered to those Theosophists who may differ from our views, that an exclusive group composed of those members who desire to follow absolutely the teachings of the School to which we, of the Tibetan Brotherhood, belong, should be formed under Mr. Sinnett’s direction and within the “London Lodge T.S.” Such is, in fact, the desire of the Maha Chohan. Our last year’s experience amply shows the danger of so recklessly submitting our sacred doctrines to the unprepared world. We expect, therefore, and are resolved to urge, if necessary more caution than ever from our followers in the exposition of our secret teachings. Consequently many of the latter which Mr. Sinnett and his fellow-students may from time to time receive from us, will have to be kept entirely secret from the world — if they would have us give them our help in that direction.
I need hardly point out how the proposed arrangement is calculated to lead to a harmonious progress of the “L.L.T.S.” It is a universally admitted fact that the marvellous success of the Theosophical Society in India is due entirely to its principle of wise and respectful toleration of each other’s opinions and beliefs. Not even the President-Founder has the right directly or indirectly to interfere with the freedom of thought of the humblest member, least of all to seek to influence his personal opinion. It is only in the absence of this generous consideration, that even the faintest shadow of difference arms seekers after the same truth, otherwise earnest and sincere, with the scorpion-whip of hatred against their brothers, equally sincere and earnest. Deluded victims of distorted truth, they forget, or never knew, that discord is the harmony of the Universe. Thus in the Theos. Society, each part, as in the glorious fugues of the immortal Mozart, ceaselessly chases the other in harmonious discord on the paths of Eternal progress to meet and finally blend at the threshold of the pursued goal into one harmonious whole, the keynote in nature [Devanagari characters for the Sanskrit word sat “being, existence”]. Absolute Justice makes no difference between the many and the few. Therefore, while thanking the majority of the “L.L.” Theosophists for their “loyalty” to us their invisible teachers, we must at the same time remind them that their President, Mrs. Kingsford, is loyal and true also — to that which she believes to be the Truth. And, as she is thus loyal and true to her convictions, however small the minority that may side with her at present, the majority led by Mr. Sinnett, our representative in London, cannot with justice charge her with the guilt, which — since she has emphatically disclaimed all intention of breaking the letter or the spirit of Article VI of the Rules of the Parent Theos. Society (which please see and read) — is one only in the eyes of those who would be rather too severe. Every Western Theosophist should learn and remember, especially those of them who would be our followers — that in our Brotherhood all personalities sink into one idea — abstract right and absolute practical justice for all. And that, though we may not say with the Christians, “return good for evil” — we repeat with Confucius, “return good for good; forevil — JUSTICE.” Thus, the Theosophists of Mrs. K.’s way of thinking, — were they even to oppose some of us personally to the bitter end, — are entitled to as much respect and consideration (so long as they are sincere) from us and their fellow-members of opposite views, as those who are ready with Mr. Sinnett to follow absolutely but our special teaching. A dutiful regard for these rules in life will always promote the best interests of all concerned. It is necessary for the parallel progress of the groups under Mrs. K. and Mr. S. that neither should interfere with the beliefs and rights of the other. And it is seriously expected that both of them will be actuated by an earnest and sleepless desire to respect the philosophical independence of each other, while preserving at the same time their unity as a whole — namely the objects of the Parent Theos. Society in their integrity — and those of the London Lodge, in their slight modification. We wish the London Society should preserve its harmony in division like the Indian Branches, where the representatives of all the different schools of Hinduism seek to study Esoteric Sciences and the Wisdom of old, without necessarily giving up for it their respective beliefs. Each Branch, often members of the same Branch — Christian converts included in some cases — study esoteric philosophy each in his own way, yet always knitting together brotherly hands for the furtherance of the common objects of the Society. To carry out this programme, it is desirable that the “London Lodge” should be administered by at least fourteen Councillors — one half openly inclining towards the Christian Esotericism as represented by Mrs. K., and the other half following Buddhist Esotericism as represented by Mr. S.; all important business to be transacted by majority of votes. We are well aware of and quite alive to the difficulties of such an arrangement. Yet, it seems absolutely necessary in order to re-establish the lost harmony. The constitution of the “London Lodge” has to be amended and can be so amended if the members would but try; and so bring about more strength in such friendly division than in forced unity.
Unless, therefore, both Mrs. Kingsford and Mr. Sinnett agree to disagree in details and work in strict unison for the chief objects as laid down in the Rules of the Parent Society, we can have no hand in the future development and progress of the London Lodge.
December 7th, 1883,