Mahatma Letter No. 88

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Written by: Koot Hoomi
Received by: A. P. Sinnett
Sent via: unknown
Written on: unknown
Received on: September 1882
Other dates: copied by APS, September 28, 1882
Sent from: unknown
Received at: Simla, India
Via: unknown 

This is Letter No. 88 in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 4th chronological edition. It corresponds to Letter No. 10 in Barker numbering. See below for Context and background.

NOTE: For a version of this letter edited to highlight unattributed quotations from Baron d'Holbach, see The Masters Speak Series, Mahatma Letters 10 with Editor's notes at Philaletheians website.

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Cover sheet



Page 1 transcription, image, and notes


Received at Simla, 1881-? '82. Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. Our philosophy falls under the definition of Hobbes. It is preeminently the science of effects by their causes and of causes by their effects, and since it is also the science of things deduced from first principle, as Bacon defines it, before we admit any such principle we must know it, and have no right to admit even its possibility. Your whole explanation is based upon one solitary



  • Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (1588 – 1679) was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy.
  • Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman and scientist, regarded as the creator of the scientific method.

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admission made simply for argument's sake in October last. You were told that our knowledge was limited to this our solar system: ergo as philosophers who desired to remain worthy of the name we could not either deny or affirm the existence of what you termed a supreme, omnipotent, intelligent being of some sort beyond the limits of that solar system. But if such an existence is not absolutely impossible, yet unless the uniformity of nature's law breaks at those limits we maintain that it is highly improbable. Nevertheless we deny most emphatically the position of agnosticism in this direction, and as



  • Agnosticism is the view that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable.

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regards the solar system. Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Iswar is the effect of Avidya and Maya, ignorance based upon the great delusion. The word "God" was invented to designate the unknown



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cause of those effects which man has either admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim and that we are able to prove what we claim — i.e. the knowledge of that cause and causes we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them.

The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies — we reveal the infinite. But while we assign to all the phenomena that proceed from the infinite and limitless space, duration and motion, material, natural,



  • "One thing in common with theologies". The 4th edition of the Mahatma Letters wrongly say "one thing uncommon with...".

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sensible and known (to us at least) causes, the theists assign them spiritual, super-natural and unintelligible an un-known causes. The God of the Theologians is simply an imaginary power, un loup garou as d'Holbach expressed it — a power which has never yet manifested itself. Our chief aim is to deliver humanity of this nightmare, to teach man virtue for its own sake, and to walk in life relying on himself instead of leaning on a theological crutch, that for countless ages was the direct cause of nearly all



  • un loup garou "a werewolf" in French.
  • Baron d'Holbach was a French-German author of the Enlightenment whose philosophy was atheistic and materialistic. Many passages in this letter are verbatim quotes or paraphrased sentences found in his book The System of Nature. For further reference click here.

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human misery. Pantheistic we may be called — agnostic NEVER. If people are willing to accept and to regard as God our ONE LIFE immutable and unconscious in its eternity they may do so and thus keep to one more gigantic misnomer. But then they will have to say with Spinoza that there is not and that we cannot conceive any other substance than God; or as that famous and unfortunate philosopher says in his fourteenth proposition, "praeter Deum nulla dari neque concepi potest substantia" — and thus become Pantheists . . . .



  • Praeter Deum nulla dari neque concepi potest substantia means "Besides God no substance can be or be conceived."

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who but a Theologian nursed on mystery and the most absurd super-naturalism can imagine a self existent being of necessity infinite and omnipresent outside the manifested boundless universe. The word infinite is but a negative which excludes the idea of bounds. It is evident that a being independent and omnipresent cannot be limited by anything which is outside of himself; that there can be nothing exterior to himself — not even vacuum, then where is there room for matter?



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for that manifested universe even though the latter [be] limited. If we ask the theist is your God vacuum, space or matter, they will reply no. And yet they hold that their God penetrates matter though he is not himself matter. When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc. — hence is material, is matter itself. How can intelligence proceed or emanate from non-intelligence — you kept asking last year.



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How could a highly intelligent humanity, man the crown of reason, be evolved out of blind unintelligent law or force! But once we reason on that line, I may ask in my turn, how could congenital idiots, non-reasoning animals, and the rest of "creation" have been created by or evoluted from, absolute Wisdom, if the latter is a thinking intelligent being, the author and ruler of the Universe? How? says Dr. Clarke in his examination of the proof of the existence of the Divinity. "God who hath made the eye, shall he not see? God who hath made the ear shall he not hear?"



  • Dr. Clarke is Samuel Clarke (1675 – 1729), an influential English philosopher and Anglican clergyman. See Samuel Clarke at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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But according to this mode of reasoning they would have to admit that in creating an idiot God is an idiot; that he who made so many irrational beings, so many physical and moral monsters, must be an irrational being. . . .

. . . We are not Adwaitees, but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm. And no true philosophically trained Adwaitee will ever call himself an agnostic, for he knows that he is Parabrahm and identical in every respect with the universal life and soul — the macrocosm is the



  • "Philosophically trained Adwaitee". The first and second editions of the Mahatma Letters wrongly say "philosophically brained Adwaitee."

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microcosm and he knows that there is no God apart from himself, no creator as no being. Having found Gnosis we cannot turn our backs on it and become agnostics.

. . . . Were we to admit that even the highest Dyan Chohans are liable to err under a delusion, then there would be no reality for us indeed and the occult sciences would be as great a chimera as that God. If there is an absurdity in denying that which we do not know it is still more extravagant to assign to it unknown laws.

According to logic "nothing" is that of which everything can truly be denied and nothing can



  • Gnosis is the common Greek noun for "knowledge".

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truly be affirmed. The idea therefore either of a finite or infinite nothing is a contradiction in terms. And yet according to theologians "God, the self existent being is a most simple, unchangeable, incorruptible being; without parts, figure, motion, divisibility, or any other such properties as we find in matter. For all such things so plainly and necessarily imply finiteness in their very notion and are utterly inconsistent with complete infinity." Therefore the God here offered to the adoration of the XIXth century lacks every quality upon which man's mind is



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capable of fixing any judgment. What is this in fact but a being of whom they can affirm nothing that is not instantly contradicted. Their own Bible their Revelation destroys all the moral perceptions they heap upon him, unless indeed they call those qualities perfections that every other man's reason and common sense call imperfections, odious vices and brutal wickedness. Nay more he who reads our Buddhist scriptures written for the superstitious masses will fail to find in them a demon so



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vindictive, unjust, so cruel and so stupid as the celestial tyrant upon whom the Christians prodigally lavish their servile worship and on whom their theologians heap those perfections that are contradicted on every page of their Bible. Truly and veritably your theology has created her God but to destroy him piecemeal. Your church is the fabulous Saturn, who begets children but to devour them.

(The Universal Mind) — A few reflections and arguments ought to support every new idea —



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for instance we are sure to be taken to task for the following apparent contradictions. (1) We deny the existence of a thinking conscious God, on the grounds that such a God must either be conditioned, limited and subject to change, therefore not infinite, or (2) if he is represented to us as an eternal unchangeable and independent being, with not a particle of matter in him, then we answer that it is no being but an immutable blind principle, a law. And yet, they will say, we believe in Dyans, or Planetaries ("spirits" also), and endow them with a universal mind,



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and this must be explained.

Our reasons may be briefly summed up thus:

(1) We deny the absurd proposition that there can be, even in a boundless and eternal universe — two infinite eternal and omni-present existences.

(2) Matter we know to be eternal, i.e., having had no beginning (a) because matter is Nature herself (b) because that which cannot annihilate itself and is indestructible exists necessarily — and therefore it could not begin to be, nor can it cease to be (c) because the accumulated experience of



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countless ages, and that of exact science show to us matter (or nature) acting by her own peculiar energy, of which not an atom is ever in an absolute state of rest, and therefore it must have always existed, i.e., its materials ever changing form, combinations and properties, but its principles or elements being absolutely indestructible.

(3) As to God — since no one has ever or at any time seen him or it — unless he or it is the very essence and nature of this boundless eternal matter, its energy and



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motion, we cannot regard him as either eternal or infinite or yet self existing. We refuse to admit a being or an existence of which we know absolutely nothing; because (a) there is no room for him in the presence of that matter whose undeniable properties and qualities we know thoroughly well (b) because if he or it is but a part of that matter it is ridiculous to maintain that he is the mover and ruler of that of which he is but a dependent part and (c) because if they tell us that God is a self existent pure spirit independent of matter — an



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extra-cosmic deity, we answer that admitting even the possibility of such an impossibility, i.e., his existence, we yet hold that a purely immaterial spirit cannot be an intelligent conscious ruler nor can he have any of the attributes bestowed upon him by theology and thus such a God becomes again but a blind force. Intelligence as found in our Dyan Chohans, is a faculty that can appertain but to organized or animated being — however imponderable or rather invisible the materials of their organizations. Intelligence requires the necessity of thinking; to think



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one must have ideas; ideas suppose senses which are physical material, and how can anything material belong to pure spirit? If it be objected that thought cannot be a property of matter, we will ask the reason why? We must have an unanswerable proof of this assumption, before we can accept it. Of the theologian we would enquire what was there to prevent his God, since he is the alleged creator of all — to endow matter with the faculty of thought; and when answered that evidently it has not pleased Him to do so, that it is a mystery



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as well as an impossibility, we would insist upon being told why it is more impossible that matter should produce spirit and thought, than spirit or the thought of God should produce and create matter.

We do not bow our heads in the dust before the mystery of mind — for we have solved it ages ago. Rejecting with contempt the theistic theory we reject as much the automaton theory, teaching that states of consciousness are produced by the marshalling of the molecules of the brain; and we feel as little respect for that other hypothesis — the production of



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molecular motion by consciousness. Then what do we believe in? Well, we believe in the much laughed at phlogiston (see article "What is force and what is matter?" Theosophist, September), and in what some natural philosophers would call nisus the incessant though perfectly imperceptible (to the ordinary senses) motion or efforts one body is making on another — the pulsations of inert matter — its life. The bodies of the Planetary spirits are formed of that which Priestley and others called Phlogiston and for which we have another name — this essence in its highest seventh state forming that matter



  • Joseph Priestley was an 18th-century English theologian and chemist who discovered oxygen and defended the discredited theory of "phlogiston", a postulated fire-like element in combustible bodies, released during combustion.

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of which the organisms of the highest and purest Dyans are composed, and in its lowest or densest form (so impalpable yet that science calls it energy and force) serving as a cover to the Planetaries of the 1st or lowest degree. In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. For as Bilfinger truly asserts "motion is a manner of existence that



  • Georg Bernhard Bilfinger (1693 - 1750) was a German philosopher, mathematician and statesman. The quote referred to by the Master has been found in Baron D´Holbach's book. The System of Nature, but not in Bilfinger's writings.

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flows necessarily out of the essence of matter; that matter moves by its own peculiar energies; that its motion is due to the force which is inherent in itself; that the variety of motion and the phenomena that result proceed from the diversity of the properties of the qualities and of the combinations which are originally found in the primitive matter" of which nature is the assemblage and of which your science knows less than one of our Tibetan Yak-drivers of Kant's metaphysics.

The existence of matter then is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their



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self existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure spirit as a Being or an Existence — give it whatever name you will — is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity.

Our ideas on Evil. Evil has no existence per se and is but the absence of good and exists but for him who is made its victim. It proceeds from two causes, and no more than good is it an independent cause in nature. Nature is destitute of goodness or malice; she follows only immutable laws when she either gives life and joy, or sends



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suffering [and] death, and destroys what she has created. Nature has an antidote for every poison and her laws a reward for every suffering. The butterfly devoured by a bird becomes that bird, and the little bird killed by an animal goes into a higher form. It is the blind law of necessity and the eternal fitness of things, and hence cannot be called Evil in Nature. The real evil proceeds from human intelligence and its origin rests entirely with reasoning man who dissociates himself from Nature. Humanity then alone is the true source of evil. Evil is the exaggeration



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of good, the progeny of human selfishness and greediness. Think profoundly and you will find that save death — which is no evil but a necessary law, and accidents which will always find their reward in a future life — the origin of every evil whether small or great is in human action, in man whose intelligence makes him the one free agent in Nature. It is not nature that creates diseases, but man. The latter's mission and destiny in the economy of nature is to die his natural death brought by old age; save accident, neither a savage nor a wild



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(free) animal die of disease. Food, sexual relations, drink, are all natural necessities of life; yet excess in them brings on disease, misery, suffering, mental and physical, and the latter are transmitted as the greatest evils to future generations, the progeny of the culprits. Ambition, the desire of securing happiness and comfort for those we love, by obtaining honours and riches, are praiseworthy natural feelings but when they transform man into an ambitious cruel tyrant, a miser, a selfish egotist they bring untold misery on those around him; on nations as well



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as on individuals. All this then — food, wealth, ambition, and a thousand other things we have to leave unmentioned, becomes the source and cause of evil whether in its abundance or through its absence. Become a glutton, a debauchee, a tyrant, and you become the originator of diseases, of human suffering and misery. Lack all this and you starve, you are despised as a nobody and the majority of the herd, your fellow men, make of you a sufferer your whole life. Therefore it is neither nature nor an imaginary Deity that has to be blamed, but human nature made vile by selfishness.



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Think well over these few words; work out every cause of evil you can think of and trace it to its origin and you will have solved one-third of the problem of evil. And now, after making due allowance for evils that are natural and cannot be avoided, — and so few are they that I challenge the whole host of Western metaphysicians to call them evils or to trace them directly to an independent cause — I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ever since that cause became a power. It is religion under



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whatever form and in whatsoever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred, that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity and that almost overwhelms mankind. Ignorance created Gods and cunning took advantage of the opportunity. Look at India and look at Christendom and Islam, at Judaism and Fetichism. It is priestly imposture that rendered these Gods so terrible to man; it is religion that makes of him the



  • sacerdotal means priestly.

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selfish bigot, the fanatic that hates all mankind out of his own sect without rendering him any better or more moral for it. It is belief in God and Gods that makes two-thirds of humanity the slaves of a handful of those who deceive them under the false pretence of saving them. Is not man ever ready to commit any kind of evil if told that his God or Gods demand the crime? Voluntary victim of an illusionary God, the abject slave of his crafty ministers, the Irish, Italian and Slavonian peasant will starve himself and see his family starving and naked to feed and clothe his padre and pope. For two thousand years India



  • Slavonia - A historical region of Croatia.

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groaned under the weight of caste, Brahmins alone feeding on the fat of the land, and to-day the followers of Christ and those of Mahomet are cutting each other's throats in the names of and for the greater glory of their respective myths. Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, morality, and universal charity, the altars of their false gods.

If it is objected that we too have temples, we too have priests and that our lamas also live on charity . . . let them know that the objects above named have in common



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with their Western equivalents, but the name. Thus in our temples there is neither a god nor gods worshipped, only the thrice sacred memory of the greatest as the holiest man that ever lived. If our lamas to honour the fraternity of the Bhikkshus established by our blessed master himself, go out to be fed by the laity, the latter often to the number of 5 to 25,000 is fed and taken care of by the Samgha (the fraternity of lamaic monks) the lamassery providing for the wants of the poor, the sick, the afflicted. Our lamas accept food, never money, and it is in those temples that the origin of evil is preached and



  • Bhikkhu is a Pāli term for an ordained male Buddhist monastic.

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impressed upon the people. There they are taught the four noble truthsariya sakka, and the chain of causation, (the 12 nidanas) gives them a solution of the problem of the origin and destruction of suffering.

Read the Mahavagga and try to understand not with the prejudiced Western mind but the spirit of intuition and truth what the Fully Enlightened one says in the 1st Khandhaka. Allow me to translate it for you.

"At the time the blessed Buddha was at Uruvella on the shores of the river Nerovigara



  • Ariya sakka. This Pali term is now written ariya sacca, (pronounced ariya sachcha) and corresponds to the Sanskrit ārya satya (noble Truth).
  • Mahavagga is part of the Theravadin Vinaya Pitaka. It gives the rules for Buddhist days of observance and the conduct of monks and nuns, and also includes accounts of the Buddha's awakenings.

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as he rested under the Boddhi tree of wisdom after he had become Sambuddha, at the end of the seventh day having his mind fixed on the chain of causation he spake thus: 'from Ignorance spring the samkharas of threefold nature — productions of body, of speech, of thought. From the samkharas springs consciousness, from consciousness springs name and form, from this spring the six regions (of the six senses the seventh being the property of but the enlightened); from these springs contact from this sensation; from this springs thirst (or desire, Kama, tanha) from thirst attachment, existence, birth, old age



  • The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old Sacred Fig tree under which Gautama Buddha, is said to have achieved enlightenment.
  • "Chain of causation". The translation that follows seems to be a paraphrase of the one made by Rhys Davids and Oldenberg, found in Vinaya Texts, Part I, pp. 73-78, in Sacred Books of the East, vol. 13, 1881.

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and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair. Again by the destruction of ignorance, the samkharas are destroyed, and their consciousness name and form, the six regions, contact, sensation, thirst, attachment (selfishness), existence, birth, old age, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection, and despair are destroyed. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering." Knowing this the blessed one uttered this solemn utterance. "When the real nature of things becomes clear to the meditating Bikshu, then all his doubts fade away since he has learned what is that nature and what its cause.



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From ignorance spring all the evils. From knowledge comes the cessation of this mass of misery, and then the meditating Brahmana stands dispelling the hosts of Mara like the sun that illuminates the sky."

Meditation here means the superhuman (not supernatural) qualities, or arhatship in its highest of spiritual powers.

Copied out Simla, Sept. 28, 1882.



  • Mara is the Evil One in Buddhism, corresponding to the Devil in Christianity. As the personification of all kinds of evil, Māra takes many forms. Thus the Buddhist texts speak of the hosts of Māra.

Context and background

Physical description of letter

The original is in the British Library, Folio 1. According to George Linton and Virginia Hanson, the letter was written:

The letter was addressed to AOH. APS copied it for his own reference. His copy is on 38 sheets of small-sied note paper, in dull black ink. [1]

Publication history

Commentary about this letter

  • Many passages in this letter are verbatim quotes or paraphrased sentences found in Baron d'Holbach's book The System of Nature. The value of his writings in this respect was recognized by Master K.H in letter No. 93b where he wrote:

Strangely enough I found a European author — the greatest materialist of his times, Baron d'Holbach — whose views coincide entirely with the views of our philosophy. When reading his Essais sur la Nature, I might have imagined I had our book of Kiu-ti before me.[2]

(To identify the excerpts used by the Master see Mahatma Letter No. 10 at Philaletheians website).
  • A number of students feel this letter is controversial because of the denial of the existence of God, the criticism to religion, and the affirmation of the Master's belief "in matter alone". However, it is important to realize that what the Master denies is the existence of an absolute God, but not of a relative intelligence or "universal mind" guiding the universe in the form of a Logos, Dhyāni-Chohans, Planetary Spirits, etc.
  • As to the view about matter, throughout the letter it is clear that the Master is not referring to inert matter, as most people conceive, but to that spiritual principle which is, at the same time, matter and life ("when we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter"), a matter in which the one life "is the very essence and nature of this boundless eternal matter, its energy and motion".


  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), 147.
  2. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 93b (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 313.