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Sep 16, 2006 11:21 AM
by carlosaveline

Although the Coulombs and Mr. Soloviof were pioneers in the  ‘abuse of sacred names’ (as H.P. Blavatsky  calls it),  the process was never limited to them, and it did not stop in their time.  
Since the 1880s,  the abuse of theosophical teachings and teachers has had several instruments and mechanisms. The vulgarization of  19th  century “portraits  of Masters” is but one among others.  
H. P. B.  writes:
“Great are the desecrations to which the names of two of the Masters have been subjected. There is hardly a medium who has not claimed to have seen them. (.......)  Worst of all, the sacred names of Occultism and the holy keepers thereof have been dragged in this filthy mire, polluted by being associated with sordid motives  and immoral practices (see note 1), while thousands of men have been held back from the path of truth and light through the discredit and evil report which such shams, swindles, and frauds have brought upon the whole subject. I say again, every earnest Teosophist regrets to-day, from the bottom of his heart, that these sacred names and things have ever been mentioned before the public, and fervently wishes that they had been kept secret within a small circle of trusted and devoted friends. (......)  Had we acted on the wise principle of silence, instead of rushing into notoriety and publishing all we knew and heard, such desecration would never have occurred.” ( see note 2)   
By the time HPB wrote this, most swindlers and frauds had not yet had access to the portraits of the Masters.  The vulgarization of  their portraits is one further phase in  the process of abusing sacred names. 
Some 115 years later, there is no doubt that some occult dimensions and effects of this abuse have calmed down.  Yet  the presentation of the idea of Mahatmas to the public is still a very important issue from the pedagogical and episthemological viewpoints.
Presenting Adeptship not as a fact which occurs at the higher levels of consciousness, but downgrading it as something  related to “personal names”, physical personalities and portraits  –  such an action closes the door to a higher perception of things, for thousands of ill-advised people.  
If the first idea of the Masters, in the mind of a neophyte, is drawn at the personalistic level, the whole learning process starts from illusion and from a narrow view  of life. 
On  the other hand, the same people who use to vulgarize “personal information”  and gossips about the Masters  sometimes divulge the same old proved slanders against them and HPB. 
Thus people receive two grave illusions as they first think of  the idea of Masters: 1) That Adepts are personalities of whom one can have portraits; 2) That they mioght be frauds, or fiction, created by HPB, who herself might be a liar or fraud ...   
This is a powerful and double obstacle, created by spiritually ignorant people who sometimes consider themselves as “scholars”.   This obstacle blocks the way to Theosophy with a curtain  of illusion, and it makes it more difficult for the public and  the neophyte to get to a sane and balanced view of things.  
Why is it wrong to say that Masters are personalities of whom one can have portraits? 
It is worthwhile to consider in calm contemplation the fact that there is an enormous difference between an Adept and his “physical vehicle”.  Technically there can be no  such thing as “the portrait of an Adept”.  It would be like taking a photo of a common citizen’s car (his vehicle or instrument) and mistaking it for the picture of the car’s owner. 
We can read about the difference between an Adept and his physical or “outer” counterpart  in the “Mahatma Letters”.   
One of the Masters wrote in a message to A. P. Sinnett: 
“(1) An adept – the highest as the lowest  – is one only during the exercize of his occult powers.”
“(2) Whenever these powers are needed, the sovereign will unlocks the door to the inner man (the adept), who can emerge and act freely but on condition that his jailor – the outer man  will be completely or partially paralyzed – as the case may require (...).”  
“(3) (...)  When the inner man  rests the adept becomes an ordinary man, limited to his physical senses and the functions of his physical brain. Habit sharpens the intuition of the latter, yet it is unable to make them supersensuous. (...)” (see note 3)
Hence, from a technical point of view, there can be  no such things as “portraits of Masters”. Publically presenting  as such the portraits of some of their 19 th century outer vehicles, is an unfortunate thing to do – for several reasons.  Besides the factor given in HPB’s quotation above,  the vulgarization of such portraits leads to a radical misrepresentation of what is, or who is, indeed, an Adept.  
It has been a  way of deceiving people into delusion. More rational temperaments usually  fall into a   personalistic curiosity, generously fed by gossips and slanders. More devotional temperaments are misled  to a personalized adoration worthy of Catholic saints.  
Although the Masters and HPB strongly denounced these two varieties of delusion, since the start of the 20th century this has been an important pedagogical problem in many theosophical groups.  
One can hope the problem will be solved during the 21st century.  Daniel could help us with that.  
Best regards,      Carlos Cardoso Aveline    
(1) This seems to be also prophetical. Think  of  C.W. Leadbeater, for instance,  and the reasons why he was expelled from the Theosophical Society (Adyar) in 1906 – only to return after Henry Olcott’s death in 1907.  
(2) “The Key to Theosophy”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., India, 1987, 367 pp., see pp.  298-299. 
(3) “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., Pasadena, Letter  XXIV, p. 180.  In the Chronological edition of ther Philippines TPH, see Letter 85B, p. 257. 

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