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Interesting Comments about the 1900 KH Letter

Sep 11, 2006 10:55 AM
by danielhcaldwell


COMMENTS BY SEVERAL PERSONS
Reprinted from Theos-L, 1994
http://www.theos-l.com/archives/months/TL199410.TXT

===========================================================

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 1994 19:08:52 -0400
From: astrea@actrix.co.at (Astrea)
Subject: Re: 1900 Letter

"K. Paul Johnson" <pjohnson@leo.vsla.edu> writes:

> It has recently struck me that in my work in progress I need to
> include, and comment on, the letter from K.H. received
> by Annie Besant in 190
> (Allegedly from K.H., one might add, as many Theosophists
> reject its authenticity and many non-Theosophists reject ALL
> alleged K.H. letters).  I will post it here, and ask for any

Please don't interpret lack of response for lack of interest in
my case (although it's certainly understandable.) This is a
letter in which I have had considerable interest for some years,
and I had been looking for a copy of it - it's hard to come by.
SO thanks for typing it in.  I was taking some time to consider a
response.

My feeling is that it has the ring of truth, and it's advice is
good.  Probably Krishnamurti really popped the theosophical
balloon "the theosophical Popery" referred to.  Although maybe he
went too far.  Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't assigned this
task...  It's interesting because it seems to be the last
published letter after HPB disappeared from the scene (someone
correct me if I'm wrong.) Also it is apparently objective and
does not support any one's position, which might have had some
ego involvement.  Therefore I would tend to think it to be
genuine.

> A psychic and pranayamist who has got confused by the vagaries
> of the members.

This first bit always confused me.

 The T.S. and its members are slowly
> manufacturing a creed.

I am afraid that this has happened.  Although less so these days
with the "demise" of CWL and co.  But still, theosophy still
serves the function of a religion to many of its members.

 Says a Thibetan proverb "credulity
> breeds credulty and ends in hypocrisy."

Don't know what this means.

  How few are they who
> can know anything about us.

Why is that?

> creeds.  We ask not for the worship of ourselves.

This sounds genuine.

  The disciple
> should in no way be fettered.

Ah, the beauty of being aligned with the GWB, compared to the
Brothers of the Dark Face, who would dictate every action!

> love of power.  Be not guided by emotion but learn to stand
> alone.  Be accurate and critical rather than credulous.

Certain parts of the ts remain very devotional in character.
Many of us would also like to believe in the fantastic and
miraculous.  However, the truth can actually sometimes be more
unbelievable than the ordinary everyday world.

The
> mistakes of the past in the old religions must not be glossed
> over with imaginary explanations.

I rather suspect they might in part be talking about the Liberal
Catholic church here.  May be we are too accepting of some
aspects of many traditional religions, which may have elements of
superstition, or just be plain wrong.

> must be few and simple and acceptable to all.  No one has a
> right to claim authority over a pupil or his conscience.

There it is again - freedom of thought.  WOnderful, isn't it?

> must have admittance.  The crest wave of intellectual
> advancement must be taken hold of and guided into
> spirituality.

The ts has failed in this.

> numerous organizations.  The cant about "Masters" must be
> silently but firmly put down.  Let the devotion and service be
> to that Supreme Spirit alone of which one is a part.

A favourite part.  Actually, I think it has been put down, by and
large.  Not least, by Krishnaji.

> Namelessly and silently we work and the continual references to
> ourselves and the repetition of our names raises up a confused
> aura that hinders our work.

Interesting.  Maybe we shouldn't talk about Them at all.

> cycle.  The T.S. was meant to be the cornerstone of the future
> religions of humanity.

Interesting.  This could come to pass, but not necessarily
directly via the ts.  I think people are starting to take those
parts of religions which appeal to them (in industrialized
Western countries, anyway), and leave the rest.  The result could
be a kind of universalization of religion, with certain themes in
common with the ts remaining e.g.  unity and brotherhoo.

  To accomplish this object those who
> lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms
> and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to

Uh oh - a dig at the comasons, perhaps?

> observance.  The greatest of your trials is yet to come.  We
> watch over you but you must put forth all your strength.

What might this be, I wonder... Krishnamurti perhaps?

---------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 11:13:29 -0400
From: "K. Paul Johnson" <pjohnson@leo.vsla.edu>
Subject: 1900 letter

Since Astrea posted a response, I will go ahead and give my own,
with the DISCLAIMER!!!! that no one is expected to accept or
believe anything I say, that this is a very rough draft, that I'm
not out to convict anyone of anything, that I need to take a
course in historical research...(fill in the blank).

Now-- the authenticity of this letter has not been widely
discussed to my knowledge.  Leslie Price, in reprinting it,
pointed out that there was something here to offend everyone: the
Judge lineage Theosophists because AB shouldn't have gotten ANY
letters from KH, the Adyar Theosophists because it criticizes
everything not only that was going on at the time but that would
be happening for the next 30 years in the TS, the deniers of KH's
existence because the letter appeared years after HPB's death,
etc.

I think the authenticity of the letter is closely connected to
the issue of the correctness of Olcott's views of the Masters and
their relation with the TS.  After the Hodgson report, HPB blamed
Olcott for wanting to distance himself from publicity about the
Masters.  In a letter in her handwriting, but signed KH
(apparently notes from an astral conversation), HPB wrote "the
Society has liberated itself from our grasp and influence" due to
Olcott's policy which saved the body of the TS but "allowed
through sheer fear, to [sic] its soul to escape, and it is now a
soulless corpse, a machine run so far well enough, but which will
fall to pieces when he is gone" since "it is no longer a
brotherhood, nor a body over the face of which broods the Spirit
from beyond the Great Range."

Not only in the ULT, Pasadena and Point Loma factions but even in
the Adyar TS, the view that Olcott had wronged HPB and misled the
TS has been accepted.  This may be partly due to a letter he
received on board the Shannon in August 1888 en route to London.
This was the year the ES was created, and Olcott was totally
opposed to this development, as well as to other actions by HPB
which he saw as interference in the TS.  In this letter KH warned
HSO that his "revolt...against her infallibility-- as you once
thought it-- has gone too far and you have been unjust to
her...with occult matters she has everything to do (underlined).
We have NOT abandoned her; she is OUR DIRECT AGENT.  I warn you
against permitting your suspicions and resentments against "her
many follies" to bias your intuitive loyalty to her." In
Jinarajadasa's commentary on this letter, he defends the ES and
explains that the letter sufficed to modify the Colonel's
opposition to it.  He adds that "it was not, however, till 1908
that the T.S.  fully regained its original position, with the
Masters of the Wisdom as once more the `First Section' of the
Society." (All these quotes are in Letters from the Masters of
the Wisdom, First Series).

So the gist of these two letters is that HPB was right and Olcott
wrong in virtually everything related to the Masters and the TS
after the Hodgson report.  Moreover, according to Jinarajadasa,
it will not until 1908, the year Leadbeater was invited back into
the TS, that the Masters received their proper acclaim and were
placed back into the forefront of Theosophical propaganda.

This looks like HPB, KH, Annie, Leadbeater and Jinarajadasa all
ganging up on Olcott for wanting to deemphasize the Masters.  And
he has indeed pretty much been the odd man out in terms of
posthumous esteem.  But throwing a wrench into this wonderful
consensus is the 1900 letter, which echoes virtually point for
point the policy that Olcott had been defending ever since HPB's
death.

In his 1892 annual address, the President-Founder said "I do
especially protest against and denounce a tendency which is
growing among us to lay the foundations of a new idolatry...I
protest against the first giving way to the temptation to elevate
either them, their agents, or any other living or dead personage
to the divine status, or their teachings to that of infallible
doctrine.  Not one word was ever spoken, transmitted, or written
to me by the Masters that warranted such a course, nay, that did
not inculcate the very opposite.  I have been taught to lean upon
myself along, to look to my Higher Self...so long as you keep me
in office, I shall proclaim this as the basis, the only basis and
the palladium of the Society.  I am led to make the above remarks
by what I have seen going on of late..." ODL IV:427-8 Later in
the same volume, Olcott writes that although the danger of
creating a Blavatskyite sect had been averted, "let no one
suppose that this vicious tendency towards hero-worship has been
rooted out from our natures, for a new idol is being fashioned in
the form of that dear, unselfish modest woman, Annie Besant." In
volume V, he comments of Annie, "My praise of her is not tinged
with blind impartiality.  She is religious fervor and devotion
personified, the ideal female devotee who in time evolves into
the saint and martyr...H.P.B.  and I had none of this love of
worship in our constitutions...A more consistently religious
woman I never met, nor one whose life is a more joyful
self-sacrifice."(V:152-3)

This is most of the background material I have collected for a
discussion of the 1900 letter.  That discussion will continue in
a second post.

--------------------------------------------------------------

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 12:39:02 -0400
From: mike@planet8.sp.paramax.com (Michael W. Grenier)
Subject: Re: 1900 Letter

Random thoughts:

I find the letter to be fascinating. The following
points, especially:


1. Ask him [those seeking entrance] not what he believes.

2. The essence of the higher thoughts of the members in
   their collectivity must guide all action in the
   T.S. and E.S.

3. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that
   can give the correct note of action.

It is difficult for me to understand how one group first discerns
what the collective higher thoughts are and then use them to
guide all action with it developing into a creed.

How do you collect the higher thoughts of the members without
asking for their beliefs? (assuming one believes in one's
thoughts)

This goes back to the previous issues that we have discussed
concerning how the society decides which books are appropiate for
publication.

Somehow, we must to some common beliefs as a society - perhaps,
though, it is the process that counts and not the final beliefs.
Still - is not the Secret Doctrine a document which discribes a
set of beliefs? Or is it the Society's position that the Secret
Doctrine represents the view of only one member? - yet I doubt
that it would publish much in the way of opposing viewpoints.

   -Mike Grenier

----------------------------------------------------------------

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 12:41:55 -0400
From: "K. Paul Johnson" <pjohnson@leo.vsla.edu>
Subject: Re: 1900 letter

The 1900 letter from KH was written in the margins of a letter to
Besant from B.  W.  Mantri, an inquirer into Theosophy who lived
in Bombay.  Besant was in London at the time; the KH annotations
to the Mantri letter were either a) made in Bombay before it was
mailed b) added en route through some process normal or
paranormal or c) added in London before Besant opened the letter.
Mantri expressed confusion about the Society's tenets; thus KH's
first remark commenting on him.

What are the logical possibilities about its authorship? As far
as I can see they are fourfold: 1) Someone deliberately
perpetrating a fraud to deceive Besant, 2) KH directly
precipitating his message onto the Mantri letter 3) A person
believing himself to be in telepathic communication with KH
conspiring with Mantri or someone else to present the Master's
message in an impressive manner 4) Besant herself perpetrating a
fraud.  Of these, the last seems least likely; she would not have
been inclined to participate in such a scheme in light of the
highly unflattering comments about herself.  If the second is
true, it shows that Olcott's general attitude, so different from
those of HPB, Besant, Leadbeater and many others, was at this
point endorsed by the Master.  In cases 1 and 3, the most likely
suspect is the person whose own views were being promoted under
the guise of Mahatmic intervention-- Olcott, acting alone or
through confederates.  If it were Olcott, I think option 3 more
likely than 1.  Having known KH, and occasionally believing
himself in telepathic contact with adepts, Olcott would not have
been likely to perpetrate an all-out fraud in the Master's name.
All this is so speculative that I think it best left out of the
book.  I welcome other possibilities for consideration.

If the message is genuine, does it necessarily imply that the two
quoted in the earlier post-- KH to HPB, and KH to Olcott aboard
the Shannon-- were fraudulent? No.  In the intervening 12-14
years, circumstances may have changed sufficiently to cause KH to
change his view-- HPB's death being of course the biggest change.

As for comments on the text of the letter.  The Tibetan proverb
suggests to me that once people start believing "any old thing,"
their foolishness expands exponentially until it becomes
inevitable that cynical deceivers take advantage of them.  Quite
applicable as a prophecy.  What were the deluding influences?
Leadbeater had been AB's closest advisor for six years at this
time, and seems the only possible target of many of the warnings.
Point by point, they refer not only to the direction in which he
was guiding Annie at the time but the entire future course of
their relationship, right up to the Krishnamurti debacle.
Interestingly, if folks had heeded Olcott in 1892 the whole
business could have been avoided.  And if they had heeded this
letter, ditto.  As for leaving behind predilections for
particular religions, this may well apply to Annie's championing
of Hinduism.  The LCC connection was many years in the future,
but on the other hand KH did warn that "the greatest of your
trials is yet to come."

This letter is altogether one of the most fascinating mysteries
of Theosophical history.  I have to be careful to present it as
such, and keep my tentative interpretations in the background.
Any comments on what might be said about the letter are once
again solicited.

--------------------------------------------------------------

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 16:15:59 -0400
From: astrea@actrix.co.at (Astrea)
Subject: Re: 1900 letter

"K. Paul Johnson" <pjohnson@leo.vsla.edu> writes:

> The 1900 letter from KH was written in the margins of a letter
> to Besant from B. W. Mantri, an inquirer into Theosophy who
> lived in Bombay.  Besant was in London at the time; the KH

Thanks for your commentary on the letter.  I, for one, found it
very interesting.  One of the many mysteries of the T.S.  I might
have some further comments to make later.  I should say that I
never completely close my mind to any possibility when matters
such as this come up.  There are often many ambiguities, and one
can only really adopt "working hypotheses." There is always the
possibility of fraud, but there is also always the possibility
that the message was genuine.

ASTREA
----------------------------------------------------------------

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 1994 02:54:56 -0400
From: "K. Paul Johnson" <pjohnson@leo.vsla.edu>
Subject: Re: 1900 Letter

According to Michael W. Grenier:
>
> It is difficult for me to understand how one group first
> discerns what the collective higher thoughts are and then
> use them to guide all action with it developing into a creed.
As I read it, KH isn't advising coming up with some static view
of what the members' thoughts are and then devising a master
plan based upon that.  Rather, at any given point in time, the
action chosen should be based on the members' higher thoughts. (How
many members would have voted to expel the Canadian Section?) In
other words, maximize democracy in the TS and regularly solicit
member opinion on initiatives taken.  To some extent the Adyar
TS is pseudo-democratic (not the American Section insofar as I
have observed it but the international organization); other
Theosophical bodies don't even pretend to value democratic
methods.  The general Theosophical approach is trickle-down
rather than grassroots in terms of how members relate to
leadership.  The author of the letter was saying it was time to
change that 94 years ago.

>
> How do you collect the higher thoughts of the members without
> asking for their beliefs? (assuming one believes in one's
> thoughts)
>
Ask him not what he believes was in reference to entry into the
TS or ES.  I don't think the writer means that members
shouldn't be asked what they believe about TS policies and
procedures or plans-- but rather that they should.
> Still - is not the Secret Doctrine a document which discribes
> a set of beliefs? Or is it the Society's position that the Secret
> Doctrine represents the view of only one member? - yet I doubt that
> it would publish much in the way of opposing viewpoints.
Actually, Annie Besant and A.  P.  Sinnett published
contradictions of the SD in the early 20th century regarding the
Mars/Mercury controversy.  I don't regard the SD as a document
promoting beliefs (although it clearly has this effect on some)
but one promoting inquiry.  Certainly TPH doesn't seem to impose
any doctrinal litmus test on its authors as far as I can see.
The diversity of their list is one thing that makes me proud to
be a member of the TS-- it shows a commitment to publishing
alternative (if not opposing) viewpoints.

--------------------------------------------------------

>From ???@??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 1994 02:55:37 -0400
From: MURRAY@sss.co.nz
Subject: The 1900 letter, and Belief

Written by Murray Stentiford

Astrea writes (5 October 1994):

>[Re K. Paul Johnson]
> .....
>Please don't interpret lack of response for lack of interest in my 
case
>(although it's certainly understandable.)  This is a letter in 
which I
>have had considerable interest for some years, and I had been 
looking
>for a copy of it - it's hard to come by.  SO thanks for typing it 
in.
>I was taking some time to consider a response.
>
>My feeling is that it has the ring of truth, and it's advice is 
good.
>Probably Krishnamurti really popped the theosophical balloon "the
>theosophical Popery" referred to.  Although maybe he went too far.
>Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't assigned this task... It's 
interesting
>because it seems to be the last published letter after HPB 
disappeared
>from the scene (someone correct me if I'm wrong.)  Also it is
> apparently objective and does not support any one's position, which
> might have had some ego involvement.  Therefore I would tend to 
think
> it to be genuine.

I agree with these thoughts.  (I would have replied earlier but
didn't have the time then.)

The "theosophical Popery" may also have to do with the
fascination with "comparative spiritual advancement", ie who had
attained which initiation, that seemed to reach near-fetish
proportions over the next couple of decades.

> Says a Thibetan proverb "credulity
>> breeds credulty and ends in hypocrisy."
>
>Don't know what this means.

I imagine it means that if you start believing things without
applying reasonable checks, you will be open to believing more
and more such things until your mind is filled with stuff that is
not really an expression of your own inner nature, and not
consistent with itself.  This fits in with "Be accurate and
critical rather than credulous." a bit later in the letter.

>  How few are they who
>> can know anything about us.
>
>Why is that?

Two ways this would be true are

1) The physical scarcity of information on the Adepts, especially
at that point in history, and

2) The evolutionary gap between Them and the vast majority of
humanity.  Intellectual or conceptual knowing can be but a
pointer to the vast reach, the sheer light of Their
consciousness.

>The
>> mistakes of the past in the old religions must not be glossed
>> over with imaginary explanations.
>
>I rather suspect they might in part be talking about the Liberal
>Catholic church here.  May be we are too accepting of some aspects 
of
>many traditional religions, which may have elements of 
superstition, or
>just be plain wrong.

Yes, and I think these mistakes include excessive personification
of spiritual powers or beings, inability to see the worth of
religion in other cultures, seeing as evil or best doomed to hell
the members of other religions, ....  in other words the narrow
vision, territoriality, power play and violence that have
characterised the later life of many of the world's religions.
But then, is religion the only arena of these forces?


>> must have admittance.  The crest wave of intellectual
>> advancement must be taken hold of and guided into
>> spirituality.
>
>The ts has failed in this.

I don't fully agree.  Certainly, the TS is still not well known
to, and therefore cannot directly influence, most parts of the
academic and social world, but I believe the TS has nevertheless
played a pioneering role in the introduction of Eastern and
esoteric thought to the Western world.  I can't help thinking of
the Irish poets (Yeats etc) and the story that Einstein used to
keep the Secret Doctrine on his desk.  (IS that story true, by
the way?)

There are significant ways in which the "crest wave of
intellectual advancement" is moving towards spirituality today.
Just think of Fritjof Capra and the growing number of theoretical
physicists who find striking correspondences between mystical
insights and the scientific view of ultimate physical reality.
Then there is the Gaia theory - a case of the wisdom of the heart
ensouling verifiable scientific concepts.

>> The T.S. was meant to be the cornerstone of the future
>> religions of humanity.
>
>Interesting.  This could come to pass, but not necessarily directly 
via
>the ts.  I think people are starting to take those parts of 
religions
>which appeal to them (in industrialized Western countries, anyway), 
and
>leave the rest.  The result could be a kind of universalization of
>religion, with certain themes in common with the ts remaining e.g.
>unity and brotherhoo.

I think this is happening in a big way.  While it may not look
like a cornerstone at the moment, the T.S.  has an important role
to play, in offering pointers and support to the growing number
of people who are looking around for answers, whose intuition is
fuelling such things as the conservation movement and the
rejection of the old thought-forms of religion.

>  To accomplish this object those who
>> lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms
>> and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to
>
> Uh oh - a dig at the comasons, perhaps?

Probably, but not just them, I'd say.  Note that it's the
predilections that must be left aside.  I see, in fact, value in
ceremony and ritual if it is approached as an opportunity for
meditative and creative work, in a way that is not too different
from a musical or theatrical performance, especially in providing
an expression or channel for energies of a higher nature.  A
living symbol.  All cultures have them; words, stories, dances,
music, art, carving, and the trick for the aspiring theosophist
is to be able to get into them, and be able to get out again.  If
we can experience them vividly without getting stuck, it will
help us to be examples and promoters of the unity of humankind.

Mike Grenier writes:

>2. The essence of the higher thoughts of the members in
>   their collectivity must guide all action in the
>   T.S. and E.S.
>
>3. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that
>   can give the correct note of action.
>
>It is difficult for me to understand how one group first
>discerns what the collective higher thoughts are and then
>use them to guide all action with it developing into a creed.
>
>How do you collect the higher thoughts of the members without
>asking for their beliefs? (assuming one believes in one's
>thoughts)

The descent into creed is a slippery slope that virtually no
religion or culture in the world has escaped.  The T.S.  has this
wonderful brief to avoid creed, but the underlying human
propensity keeps on pulling us in that direction.

That accepted, though, I do see examples of where the the higher
thoughts or impulses of people in a group result in something
greater and more true to the heart of things than the individuals
alone could have come up with.

The word "essence" is important, here.  To me, it emphasises
synthesis over analysis, a viewpoint beyond one's usual limited
circle of concern.  I find that the act of gathering together in
goodwill, seeking a higher awareness or whatever, can potently
guide people's thinking.

"Higher thoughts" means something different from "belief" if you
take belief to mean an intellectual view that is held with or
without supporting evidence.  Often the higher thoughts in a
group emerge without beliefs being asked-for.  The problem is
partly with language, I think.  "Thought" can mean several
things, as can "belief".

>Still - is not the Secret Doctrine a document which discribes
>a set of beliefs? Or is it the Society's position that the Secret
>Doctrine represents the view of only one member? - yet I doubt that
>it would publish much in the way of opposing viewpoints.

As far as I can tell, much of the S.D.  was written as
observations or as quotes from other works, via H.P.B's seership.
Much of it would also have been her own belief too, of course,
but it was never her intention that it be offered to members as a
set of beliefs to BELIEVE (or else...!).

The Society has published some opposing viewpoints - the world
view of C.W.  Leadbeater has a system of planes of nature
differing quite markedly in some ways from that in the S.D., for
example.  Certainly the T.S.  defends the right of independent
opinion, of honest studentship, but then ever-present human
nature keeps on sneaking in and making reality differ from
intention.  So what's new?!

> - perhaps,
>though, it is the process that counts and not the final beliefs.

Yes, I think there's a lot in that.  It's probably best to see
beliefs as an ever-changing image or model of reality.  I read
somewhere that Annie Besant said she would hate to come back in
300 years and find her old writings being taught as the dogma of
the day!

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