Mahatma Letter No. 14a
|A. P. Sinnett
|before February 20, 1881
This is Letter No. 14a in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 4th chronological edition. It corresponds to Letter No. 142a in Barker numbering. See below for Context and background.
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Page 1 transcription, image, and notes
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
With reference to the Rules and Organization of the Society, I beg to make the following suggestions. The points I urge, appear to me very necessary as I have had conversation with many Natives and have a claim to know the Hindu character better than a foreigner can.
A general impression appears to prevail that the Society is a religious sect. This impression owes its origin, I think, to a common belief that the whole Society is devoted to Occultism. As far as I can judge, this is not the case. If it is, the best course to adopt would be to make the entire Society a secret one, and shut its doors against all except those very few who may have shown a determination to devote their whole lives to the study of Occultism. If it is not so, and is based upon the broad Humanitarian principle of Universal Brotherhood, let Occultism, one of its several Branches, be an entirely secret study. From time immemorial this sacred knowledge has been guarded from the vulgar with great care, and because a few of us have had the great fortune to come into contact with some of the Custodians of this invaluable treasure, is it right on our part to take advantage of their kindness and vulgarize the secrets they esteem more sacred than even their lives? The world is not yet prepared to hear truth about this subject. By placing the facts before the unprepared general public, we only make a laughing stock of those who have been kind to us and have accepted us as their co-workers for doing good to humanity. By harping too much upon this subject, we have made ourselves in a measure odious in the eyes of the public. We went even to such an extent that, unconsciously to ourselves, we led the public to believe that our Society is under the sole management of the Adepts, while the fact is that the entire executive management is in the hands of the Founders, and our Teachers give us advice only in rare exceptional cases of the greatest emergency. The public saw that they must have misapprehended the facts, since errors in the Management of the Society — some of which could have been very well avoided by the exercise of ordinary common sense — were from time to time exposed. Hence they came to the conclusion that
(1) Either Adepts do not exist at all; or
(2) If they do, they have no connection with our Society, and therefore we are dishonest impostors; or
(3) If they have any connection with the Society, it must be only those of a very low degree, since, under their management, such errors occurred.
With the few noble exceptions who had entire confidence in us, our Native Members came to one of these three conclusions. It is therefore necessary in my opinion
that prompt measures should be adopted to remove these suspicions. For this, I see only one alternative: — (1) Either the entire Society should be devoted to occultism, in which case it should be quite as secret as the Masonic or the Rosicrucian Lodge or, (2) Nobody should know anything about occultism except those very few who may have by their conduct shown their determination to devote themselves to its study. The first alternative being found inadvisable by our "Brothers" and positively forbidden, the second remains.
Another important question is that of the admission of Members. Until now, any one who expressed a desire to join and could get two sponsors was allowed to come into the Society, without our enquiring closely what the motives in joining were. This led to two evil results. People thought or pretended to think that we took in Members simply for their Initiation Fees on which we lived; and many joined out of mere curiosity, as they thought that by paying an Initiation Fee of Rupees Ten, they could see phenomena. And when they were disappointed in this, they turned round on us, and began to revile our CAUSE for which we have been working and to which we have pledged our lives. The best way to remedy this evil would be to exclude this class of persons. The question naturally arises how can this be done, since our Rules are so liberal as to admit every one? But, at the same time our Rules prescribe an Initiation Fee of Rupees Ten. This is too low to keep out the curiosity seekers, who, for the chance of being satisfied, feel they can very well afford to lose such a paltry sum. The fee should therefore be so much increased that those only would join who are really in earnest. We need men of principle and serious purpose. One such man can do more for us than hundreds of phenomena-hunters. The fee should in my judgment be increased to Rs: 200 or Rs: 300. It might be urged that thus we might exclude really good men who may be sincere and earnest but unable to pay. But I think it is preferable to risk the possible loss of one good man than take in a crowd of idlers, one of whom can undo the work of all the former. And yet, even this contingency can be avoided. For, as now we admit some to membership, who appear especially deserving, without their paying their own fees, so could the same thing be done under the proposed change.
Damodar K. Mavalankar, F.T.S.
Respectfully submitted to the consideration of Mr. Sinnett.
Context and background
A. P. Sinnett was sincerely interested in the welfare of the Theosophical Society, of which he was Vice-President at the time. He had asked for some suggestions about its Rules and organization, and Letter 14a contains Damodar K. Mavalankar’s suggestions.
Damodar was an important figure in the early days of the T.S. He was living with the Founders at the Bombay headquarters helping with the work. He was a chela of the Mahatma K.H. and eventually went to Tibet to join the Masters.
In the next letter, Master K.H. explains the reason for this one.
Physical description of letter
Commentary about this letter
- George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 53.