Esoteric Buddhism (book)

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Esoteric Buddhism, First Edition, 1883

Esoteric Buddhism was one of the first Theosophical books, published in 1883. In it, Alfred Percy Sinnett wrote about occultism, the Adepts, the Theosophical Society, and first-hand experience with the existence of powers unknown to science which the occultist has developed.

Writing of the book

In February, 1883, the Sinnett family moved from Allahabad back to England, visiting the new Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar along the way. Mr. Sinnett wrote: " I had already begun to write Esoteric Buddhism and went on with the work during our stay at Adyar."[1] He then described the incidents surrounding receipt of Mahatma Letter No. 108 in the "Shrine Room" in Blavatsky's quarters.

He published the bulk of the material composing the book in a series of articles written under the title of "Fragments of Occult Truth". They were published in The Theosophist on October (pp. 2-5) and November 1882 (pp. 46-48), and March (pp. 131-135), April (pp. 161-164), and May 1883 (pp. 194-195). The information for these articles came from the letters he received from Mahatmas K.H. and M., as well as discussions with H. P. Blavatsky.

Publication history

The book came off the press on June 10, 1883.[2] Shortly after it was published, there appeared in The Theosophist a very important series of articles titled, "Some Inquiries Suggested by Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism." These were written, or caused to be written, by three adepts. Largely as a result of these articles, Sinnett prepared an "annotated and enlarged" edition of Esoteric Buddhism, which constitutes the 1885 fifth edition.

Mahatma comments

In Mahatma Letter No. 113, Master Koot Hoomi wrote:

Be certain, that with a few 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.[3]

Errors in Esoteric Buddhism

Book reviews

Additional resources

Electronic editions

Complete text of Esoteric Buddhism is available at these Websites:



  1. A. P. Sinnett, Early Days of Theosophy in Europe (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1922): 39.
  2. Vic Hao Chin, introduction to Letter 111, The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence (Quezon City, Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 1883), 372.
  3. See pages 11-12 of Mahatma Letter No. 113 in the Chronological 4th edition, or letter 82 in the Barker numbering.