Mahatma Letter No. 113

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Written by: Koot Hoomi
Received by: A. P. Sinnett
Sent via: unknown
Dates
Written on: unknown
Received on: August 1883
Other dates: none
Places
Sent from: unknown
Received at: London
Via: none

This is Letter No. 82 in Barker numbering. See below for Context and background.

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Page 1 transcription, image, and notes

strictly confidential

The "quart d'heure de Rabelais" has come. On your answer, consent or refusal — depends the resurrection of the Phoenix — prostrated in a death-like Samadhi, if not in actual death. If you believe in my word, and, leaving the Ryots to our care are prepared for a somewhat unclean work — from the European standpoint though — and consent to oppose our work apparently, serving our ends in reality and thus saving our respective countries from a great evil that overhangs both — then consent to the proposal that will be made to you from India.

You may work to all intents and purposes to oppose The Bengal Rent Bill, for do whatever you or others may, you will never be able to impede our work in the opposite direction. Therefore, — one scruple less as one non-permitted confidence more. A riddle, verily.

And now good friend, I must explain. Only you have to prepare your European, cultured notions of right and wrong to receive a shock. A plan of action of a purely Asiatic character is laid bare before you; and since I may not move one finger — nor would I if I could in this case — to guide your understanding or feelings it may be found too Jesuitical, to suit your taste. Alas for all! that you should be so little versed in the knowledge of occult antidotes, as not to be able to perceive the difference between the Jesuitical "tout chemin est bon qui mene a Rome" added to the cunning and crafty — "the end justifies the means" — and the necessity of the practical application of these sublime words of our Lord

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NOTES:

  • Quart d'heure de Rabelais means the moment that the bill has to be paid.
  • Ryot was a general economic term for peasant tenants and cultivators, with no clearly defined rights against their landlords or zamindars. See note below.
  • The Bengal Rent Bill (or Bengal Tenancy Act) finally passed in 1885, defined the rights of zamindars and their ryots in response to a widespread peasant revolt against increased rents and land revenues.
  • Tout chemin est bon qui mène à Rome means "any road that leads to Rome is a good one". The usual saying is: "tous les chemins mènent à Rome", all roads lead to Rome.

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and Master: — "O ye Bhikkhus and Arhats — be friendly to the race of men — our brothers! Know ye all, that he, who sacrifices not his one life to save the life of his fellow-being; and he who hesitates to give up more than life — his fair name and honour to save the fair name & honour of the many, is unworthy of the sin-destroying, immortal, transcendent Nirvana." Well, it cannot be helped.

Allow me to explain to you the situation. It is very complicated; but to him who, without any previous training was able to assimilate so well some of our doctrines as to write Esoteric Buddhism — the inner springs that we have to use ought to become intelligible.

(1) The Behar Chiefs propose one and a half lakhs down for the Phoenix; as much when they see you back to India, if the Bengal Rent Bill is opposed by the new paper and you promise to give them your support. Unless the proposition is accepted by you we may prepare for the final incremation of our Phoenix — and for good. Exclusive of this sum — Rs. 150,000 — we can count but upon Rs. 45,000 in shares — so far. But let the Races put down cash and all will follow.

(2) If you refuse they will secure another editor: were there any danger for the ryots and the Bill they — the Races or Zemindars would lose nothing thereby, except in the degree of cleverness of their editor; but they hope and are thoroughly unaware of being doomed — in the long run. The only and real loser in the case of refusal will be — India and

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NOTES:

  • Bhikkus are ordained Buddhist monks.
  • Zamindars were aristocrat (typically hereditary) landlords, who held enormous tracts of land and held control over his peasants. Over time, they took princely and royal titles such as Maharaja (Great King), etc., and were considered to be equivalent to lords and barons. Often zamindars were Indian princes who lost their sovereignty due to British Rule.

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your own country — eventually. This is prophecy.

(3) The resistance to, and the intrigues set on foot by the Zemindars against the Bill are infamous in their nature, yet very natural. Those who examine things at the core, perceive the real culprit in Lord Cornwallis and the long line of his successors. However it may be infamous, as I say, there it is and cannot be helped for it is human nature itself; and, there is no more dishonour to support their claims from a legal standpoint on the part of an Editor, who knows them to be doomed, than there is for a Counsel to defend his client — a great criminal sentenced to be hung. I am now trying to argue from your European standpoint, for fear, and lest you should not be able to see things from our Asiatic point of view, or rather in the light we, who are enabled to discern future events — see them.

(4) A conservative Editor whose field of action will be found to run on parallel lines with that of a conservative Viceroy, will find himself having lost nothing in fact, for a slight opposition that cannot last long after all. There are great flaws in the present Bill, examined from its legal, dead-letter aspect.

(5) Owing to the idiotically untimely "Ilbert's Bill," and the still more idiotic "Saligram-Surendro" Contempt case, the agitation is carrying the population of India to the verge of self-destruction. You must not feel as tho' I were exaggerating if I say more: the English

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NOTES:

  • Lord Cornwallis refers to the 1st Marquess Charles Cornwallis (1738 – 1805) who in 1786 was made Governor-General and commander in chief in India. He is regarded as responsible for laying the foundation for British rule throughout India.
  • The Ilbert Bill was introduced in 1883 by Viceroy Ripon, proposing to amend existing laws to allow Indian judges and magistrates the jurisdiction to try British offenders in criminal cases at the District level.

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and especially Anglo-Indians are running the same course from an opposite direction. You are at liberty to refuse my warning: you will show yourself wise if you do not. To return to our direct object —

(6) There are several Englishmen of great intellect and ability, who feel ready to defend — (and even to ally themselves — with) the Zemindars — and oppose the Bill, against their own principles and feelings — simply because the Races hate and oppose the man whom the rest of the Hindus profess, for the time being, to adore, and whom they are exalting with all the ardour of simple-minded, short-sighted savages. Thus the ryots cannot escape their fate for a few months longer whether you accept the offer or not. In the latter case, of course the paper scheme is at an end.

(7) At the same time it is better that you should be prepared to know the unavoidable results: there are ninety-nine chances against one, that — if the offer of the Zemindars is rejected — the Phoenix will ever come into existence; not so long at any rate as the present agitation is going on. And when it finally fails as the project is bound to unless we become masters of the situation, then we will have to part. In order to obtain from the Chohan permission to defend the teeming millions of the poor and the oppressed in India bringing on to bear all our knowledge and powers — I had to pledge myself, in case of the Phoenix's failure to interfere no more with such worldly matters and —

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NOTES:

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to bid an eternal farewell to the European element. M. and Djual Khool would have to take my place. On the other hand, should you consent to the offer, your opposition to the Rent Bill would have no more effect on our work — for the Ryots than a straw — to save a vessel from sinking; whereas, if another editor is selected we would have no pretext to exercise our influence on their behalf. Such is the situation. It is a curious medley with no raison d'etre in your opinion. You can hardly be expected by us to see clearly through it at present, nor is there much likelihood that you will judge it fairly owing to this Egyptian darkness of cross purposes; nor is there any special need you should, if the offer has to fall to the ground. But, if your answer is favourable, I may perhaps as well add a few particulars. Know then, that opposition notwithstanding, and just because of it, you will bring the great national boil to a head sooner than it could be otherwise expected. Thus, while carrying out strictly your programme and promise made to the Races, you will be helping the events that have to be brought about to save the unfortunate population that has been sat upon ever since 1793 — the year of Lord Cornwallis's great political mistake. At the same time you may be doing immense good in every other direction. Recall the past and this will help you to see clearer into our intentions. When you took over Bengal from the native Rulers, there were a number of men

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NOTES:

  • Raison d'etre a French phrase meaning "reason for existence".
  • Egyptian darkness may be a reference to Exodus X.21-2 in which Moses, following Yahweh's order, "stretched out his hand towards heaven, and for three days there was thick darkness over the whole of Egypt".
  • Lord Cornwallis's great political mistake probably refers to the Permanent Settlement of Bengal, the best known provision of the Cornwallis Code. It was an agreement between the East India Company and Bengali landlords to fix revenues to be raised from land, with far-reaching consequences for both agricultural methods and productivity in the entire Empire and the political realities of the Indian countryside.

Page 6

who exercised the calling of Tax Collectors under their Government. These men received, as you are aware, a percentage for collecting the rents. The spirit of the letter of the tithe and tribute under the Moossulman Rulers was never understood by the East India Company; least of all the rights of the ryots to oppose an arbitrary interchange of the Law of Wuzeefa and Mookassimah. Well, when the Zemindars found that the British did not exactly understand their position they took advantage of it, as the English had taken advantage of their force: they claimed to be Landlords. Weekly enough, you consented to recognise the claim, and admitting it notwithstanding the warning of the Moossulman who understood the real situation and were not bribed as most of the Company were — you played into the hands of the few against the many, the result being the "Perpetual Settlement" documents. It is this that led to every subsequent evil in Bengal. Seeing how the unfortunate ryots are regarded by your proud nation in the full progress of the 19th Century, being in your sight of far less value than a horse or cattle, it is not difficult to imagine how they were regarded by your countrymen then — a century ago — when every Englishman was a pious Christian at heart and ordered by the Bible to draw a broad distinction between the descendants of Ham and themselves — the heirs of the chosen people. The agreement drawn between Lord Cornwallis and the Races

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NOTES:

  • Moossulman refers to Muslims.
  • The East India Company was formed to pursue trade with the East Indies, and ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.
  • Law of Wuzeefa and Mookassimah or Law of Wazifa and Mukassimah, refers to the Muslim laws of taxes. Wazifa khiraj (or a fixed money-rate) imposed as a personal liability upon the cultivator for his holding (payable once a year); Mukassimah khiraj (or a share of the actual produce) payable in kind on every crop produced.
  • Perpetual Settlement refers to the Permanent Settlement of Bengal. See previous note on "Lord Cornwallis's great political mistake".
  • Descendants of Ham refers to the Biblical curse upon Ham's descendant's by Moses that forced them to live in Egypt and other parts of Africa; i.e., the dark-skinned peoples.

Page 7

which stipulated that the "black human cattle" should be treated by the Zemindars kindly and justly, and that they should not raise the rents of the ryots, etc. was a legal farce. The Chohan was then in India and he was an eye-witness to the beginning of horrors. No sooner had they secured the Perpetual Settlement Agreement that the Races began to disregard their engagements. Failing to fulfil any of these they brought yearly ruin and starvation on the miserable Ryots. They exacted tribute, sold them up, and trumped up false charges against them under the name of Abwab. These "doors" and "openings" led them wherever they wanted and they levied for over 50 years most extraordinary taxes. All this the Zemindars have done and much more and they will be surely made to account for it. Things too horrible to mention were done under the eyes and often with the sanction of the Company's servants, when the Mutiny put a certain impediment by bringing as its result another form of Government. It is to redress the great wrong done, to remedy to the now irremediable that Lord Ripon took it into his head to bring forward the new Bill. It was not thought expedient by his Councillors (not those you know of) to crush the Zemindary system without securing at the same time popularity among the majority in another direction: hence "Ilbert's Bill" and some other trifles. We say then that to all appearance it is to redress the wrongs of the Past, that is the object of the present Bengal Rent Bill. My friend you are a

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NOTES:

  • Abwāb means "doors, sources of revenue". It was a tax or impost levied by a chief on a landowner.
  • The Mutiny refers to the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the East India Company, which was then formally dissolved and its ruling powers over India were transferred to the British Crown.
  • Lord Ripon (George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon) was the British Viceroy of India from 1880-1884.
  • The new Bill refers to the Ilbert Bill. See previous note.

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remarkably clever Editor and an astute and observant politician; and no one, perhaps, in all India goes as deep as you do into the inner constitution of the Anglo-Indian coups d'etat. Still you do not go far enough and the original primitive layers of the political soil as the genesis of some acts of my Lord Ripon were and are terra incognita to yourself as to so many others perhaps still older hands in politics than you are. Neither Lord Ripon nor his Councillors (those behind the veil) anticipate any great results during his power in India. They are more Occultists than you may imagine. Their liberal reforms are not meant for India, to the weal or woes of which they are quite indifferent: they look far off to future results and — Press acts, Ilbert's Bills, Bengal Rent Bills and the rest are aimed at Protestant England which, very soon, too soon if Somebody or Something does not interfere, will find itself suffocating in the invisible coils of the Romish Apophis. Friend and Brother, the only one of your race whom I regard with a warm, sincere affection, take care! Do not reject too lightly my warning for it is a solemn one, and but a hint I am permitted to make. Political skepticism, like every other, scorns and laughs at the observations of those who do not belong to its factions. It finds out its mistakes when in a ditch. Beware for it is no more a simple ditch, but an abyss that is being prepared for you!

But let us see on what grounds an honest Englishman

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NOTES:

  • Coups d'etat is a French phrase for the sudden and illegal seizure of a government.
  • Terra incognita is a Latin phrase meaning "unknown land".
  • Romish Apophis. The term "Romish Catholic" was used in English by adherents of the Church of England for Catholics. Apophis was the Greek version of Apep, an evil god in ancient Egyptian religion depicted as a snake and a dragon, the deification of darkness and chaos.

Page 9

can oppose the Rent Bill. However great the misery of the Ryots even at present, however just the reprisals that are in store for the Zemindars, however human and generous, in short, on its surface the object of the Rent Bill, yet no honest Government strictly speaking has the right to break at will and its own pleasure solemn pledges and engagements. Because, it is found that the Races have not fulfilled their part of the Agreement, it gives no right to the other party to make away with their signature and tear in shreds the Perpetual Settlement Agreement. The sins of the few cannot well be visited upon the many. There are heavy flaws in the present Rent Bill as there were in the old System; and, there is no clause in the old documents stipulated to the effect that the Settlement becomes nil at the will of the British. I will not enter upon the defects of the dead-letter meaning in either the one or other, but will limit myself by telling you that there are such flaws and that, until modified you have a perfect right to object to them. You are not expected to cause the Bill to be withdrawn but to simply support the Zemindars analysis of its defects. And this you can freely promise. However I must not seem trying to influence you one way or the other. Some of the claims of the Races are infamous and no honest man can be made to support them; while others are not without a strong legal foundation in their favour. The Ruling power, for instance, was never yet and in no case

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NOTES:

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the proprietor of the Khirajee land — not even under the Moossulman laws and sway. You have thus the Spirit of Khiraj and Ooshr to work upon, in order to redeem your promise to the landowners and amuse them for a few months unto the day of the "almighty smash" that is in store for them. All that you are asked to do for the benefit of (your as well as) my country is, to overlook the ugly frontispiece of the edifice, taking into consideration only the real nature of the situation and the future good results, in case you should get over your very natural squeamishness. In a few days you may receive a formal proposal. Think well over it. Do not allow yourself to be influenced by any consideration in connection with my desires. If you honestly believe the offer inconsistent with your European notions and criterion of truth and honour refuse its acceptance without any hesitation and let me bid you a sad, though ever grateful and friendly farewell. I cannot expect to see you looking at things from my own standpoint. You look without, I see within. This is no hour for sentimentalities. The whole future of the "brightest (!) jewel" — oh, what a dark satire in that name! — in the Crown of England is at stake, and I am bound to devote the whole of my powers as far as the Chohan will permit me

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NOTES:

  • Khiraj and Ooshr. The kharaj was an agricultural tax levied by Muslim conquerors on their non-Muslim subject. Muslim landowners paid only ushr, a religious tithe, which carried a much lower rate of taxation.
  • Moossulman means Muslim.
  • Brightest jewel. India was frequently referred to as the "the brightest jewel in the Crown of England".

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to help my country at this eleventh hour of her misery. I cannot work except with those who will work with us. Accuse me not, my friend, for you do not know you cannot know, the extent of the limitations I am placed under. Think not, that I am seeking to place a bait — an inducement, for you to accept that which would refuse under other circumstances, for I am not. Having pledged my solemn word of honour to Him to whom I am indebted for everything I am and know I am simply helpless in case of your refusal and — we will have to part. Had not the Rent Bill been accompanied by the din and clash of the Ilbert Bill and "contempt case" I would have been the first to advise you to refuse. As the situation stands now, however, and prohibited as I am to use any but ordinary powers — I am powerless to do both, and am constrained to choose between helping my hapless mother-country, and our future intercourse. It is for you to decide. And if this letter is fated to be my last, I beg you to remember — for your sake, not mine — the message I sent at Simla to yourself and Mr. Hume through H.P.B. — "Lord Ripon is not a free agent; the real Viceroy and ruler of India is not at Simla but at Rome; and the effective weapon used by the latter is — the Viceroy's confessor."

Give, pray, my best wishes to your lady and the "Morsel". Be certain, that with a few undetectable

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NOTES:

  • Lord Ripon is not a free agent. He converted to Catholicism in 1874, following which he was generous in supporting Catholic educational and charitable works.

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mistakes and omissions notwithstanding, your "Esoteric Buddhism" is the only right exposition — however incomplete — of our Occult doctrines. You have made no cardinal, fundamental mistakes; and whatever may be given to you hereafter will not clash with a single sentence in your book but on the contrary will explain away any seeming contradiction. How greatly mistaken was Mr. Hume's theory is shown by the "Chela" in the Theosophist. With all that, you may feel sure that neither M. nor I have contradicted each other in our respective statements. He was speaking of the inner — I, of the outer Round. There are many things that you have not learned but may some day; nor will you be able to ever comprehend the process of the obscurations until you have mastered the mathematical progress of the inner and the outer Rounds and learned more about the specific difference between the seven. And thus according to Mr. Massey's philosophical conclusion we have no God? He is right — since he applies the name to an extra-cosmic anomaly, and that we, knowing nothing of the latter, find — each man his God — within himself in his own personal, and at the same time, — impersonal Avalokiteswara. And now — farewell. And if it is so decreed that we should correspond no more, remember me with the same sincere good feeling as you will ever be remembered by,

K. H.

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NOTES:

  • How greatly mistaken was Mr. Hume refers to the article "Cosmical Rings and Rounds" he wrote in The Theosophist June 1883 (p. 231), which was answered by the chela S. T. K***Chary (p. 232). See here a reprint of the article and its response.

Context and background

Physical description of letter

The original is in the British Library, Folio 3. George Linton and Virginia Hanson described the letter this way:

In KH script on both sides of six sheets of white paper. The first four lines are in blue ink; the remainder is in green ink.[1]

Publication history

Commentary about this letter

Notes

  1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 182.


Additional resources