Mahatma Letter No. 11

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Written by: Koot Hoomi
Received by: A. O. Hume
Sent via: unknown
Written on: unknown
Received on: After December 1, 1880 See below.
Other dates: unknown
Sent from: unknown
Received at: unknown
Via: unknown 

This is Letter No. 11 in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 4th chronological edition. It corresponds to Letter No. 28 in Barker numbering. See below for Context and background.

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Page 1 transcription, image, and notes

My dear Sir,

If no other good ever came of our correspondence than that of showing us once more how essentially opposed are our two antagonistic elements — the English and the Hindu, our few letters will not have been exchanged in vain. Sooner can oil and water mingle their particles than an Englishman — however intelligent, noble-minded and sincere to be made to assimilate even the exoteric Hindu thought, let alone its esoteric spirit. This will, of course provoke you to a smile. You will say — "I expected this." So be it. But if so, it shows no more than the perspicacity of a man of thought and observation who intuitively anticipated an event which his own attitude must precipitate. . . .

You will pardon me if I have to speak frankly and sincerely of your long letter. However cogent its logic, noble some of its ideas, ardent its aspiration, it yet lies here before me a very mirror of that spirit of this age, against which we have fought during our whole lives! At best it is the unsuccessful endeavour of an acute intellect trained in the ways of an exoteric world, to throw light



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on, and judge of the modes of life and thought in which it is unversed, for they belong to quite a different world from that it deals with. You are no man of petty vanities. To you it is safe to say: "My dear friend, apart from all this, study your letter impartially; weigh some of its sentences, and on the whole you will not feel proud of it." Whether or not you will ever fully appreciate my motives, or misconceive the true causes which make me decline for the present any further correspondence, I yet am confident that some day you will confess that this last letter of yours under the garb of a noble humility, of confessions of "weaknesses and failings, shortcomings and follies" was yet — no doubt quite unconsciously to yourself — a monument of pride, the loud echo of that haughty and imperative spirit which lurks at the bottom of every Englishman's heart. In your present state of mind, very likely even after reading this answer, you will hardly perceive, that not only have you entirely failed to understand the spirit in which my last letter was written to you, but even, in some instances to catch its evident sense. You were preoccupied by one single, all-absorbing idea; and, failing to detect any direct reply to it in my answer, before taking time to think it over, and see its general



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not personal applicability, you sat down and accused me right away of giving you a stone when you asked for bread! No need of being "a lawyer" in this or any previous existence to state simple facts. No need to "make the bad appear the better cause" when truth is so very simple and so easily told. My remark — "you take up the position that unless a proficient in arcane knowledge will waste upon your embryonic Society an energy . . ." etc: — you applied to yourself, whereas it was never so meant. It related to the expectations of all those who might desire to join the Society under certain conditions exacted before-hand and that were firmly insisted upon, by yourself and Mr. Sinnett. The letter as a whole was meant for you two, and this special sentence applied to all in general.

You say that I have "to a certain extent mistaken" your "position," and that I "clearly misunderstand" you. This is so evidently incorrect that it will suffice for me to quote a single paragraph from your letter to show that it is you who have entirely "mistaken my position" and "clearly misunderstood me." What else do you do but labour under an erroneous impression, when, in your



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eagerness to repudiate the idea of having ever dreamt of originating a "school" you say of the proposed "Anglo-Indian Branch" — "it is no Society of mine. . . . I understood it to be the wish of yourself and chiefs that the Society should be started and that I should assume a leading position in it." To this I replied that if it has been constantly our wish to spread on the Western Continent among the foremost educated classes "Branches" of the T.S. as the harbingers of a Universal Brotherhood it was not so in your case. We (the Chiefs and I) entirely repudiate the idea that such was our hope (however we might wish it) in regard to the projected A.I. Society. The aspiration for brotherhood between our races met no response — nay, it was pooh-poohed from the first — and so, was abandoned even before I had received Mr. Sinnett's first letter. On his part and from the start, the idea was solely to promote the formation of a kind of club or "school of magic." It was then no "proposal" of ours, nor were we the "designers of the scheme." Why then such efforts to show us in the wrong? It was Mad. B. — not we, who originated the idea; and it was Mr. Sinnett who took it up. Notwithstanding his frank and honest admission to the effect that being unable to grasp the basic idea of



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Universal Brotherhood of the Parent Society, his aim was but to cultivate the study of occult Sciences, an admission which ought to have stopped at once every further importunity on her part, she first succeeded in getting the consent — a very reluctant one I must say — of her own direct chief, and then my promise of co-operation — as far as I could go. Finally, through my mediation, she got that of our highest Chief, to whom I submitted the first letter you honoured me with. But, this consent, you will please bear in mind, was obtained solely under the express and unalterable condition that the new Society should be founded as a Branch of the Universal Brotherhood, and among its members, a few elect men would — if they chose to submit to our conditions, instead of dictating theirs — be allowed to begin the study of the occult sciences under the written directions of a "Brother." But a "hot-bed of magick" we never dreamt of. Such an organization as mapped out by Mr. Sinnett and yourself is unthinkable among Europeans; and, it has become next to impossible even in India — unless you are prepared to climb to a height of 18,000 to 20,000 amidst the glaciers of the Himalayas. The greatest as well as most promising of such schools in Europe,



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the last attempt in this direction, — failed most signally some 20 years ago in London. It was the secret school for the practical teaching of magick, founded under the name of a club, by a dozen of enthusiasts under the leadership of Lord Lytton's father. He had collected together for the purpose, the most ardent and enterprising as well as some of the most advanced scholars in mesmerism and "ceremonial magick," such as Eliphas Levi, Regazzoni, and the Kopt Zergvan-Bey. And yet in the pestilent London atmosphere the "Club" came to an untimely end. I visited it about half a dozen of times, and perceived from the first that there was and could be nothing in it. And this is also the reason why, the British T.S. does not progress one step practically. They are of the Universal Brotherhood but in name, and gravitate at best towards Quietism — that utter paralysis of the Soul. They are intensely selfish in their aspirations and will get but the reward of their selfishness.

Nor did we begin the correspondence upon this subject. It was Mr. Sinnett who, of his own motion addressed to a "Brother" two long letters, even before Mad. B. had obtained either permission or promise from any of us to answer him, or knew to whom of us to deliver his letter. Her own chief



  • Some 20 years ago. Scholar Joscelyn Godwin wrote: "Twenty years before 1881 would be 1861, the year in which Eliphas Levi performed the evocation of Apollonius in the presence of Bulwer-Lytton."[1]
  • The secret school remains little documented, but P. G. Bowen claimed that his father, Robert Bowen, was a member.
  • Kopt is a variant spelling of copt.
  • Quietism is a devotional contemplation and abandonment of the will as a form of Christian mysticism.

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having refused point blank to correspond, it was to me that she applied. Moved by regard for her, I consented even telling her she might give you all my Thibetan mystic name, and — I answered our friend's letter. Then came yours — as unexpectedly. You did not even know my name! But your first letter was so sincere, its spirit so promising, the possibilities it opened for doing general good seemed so great, that if, I did not shout Eureka after reading it, and thrown my Diogenes' lantern into the bushes at once, it was only because I knew too well human and — you must excuse me — Western nature. Unable, nevertheless, to undervalue the importance of this letter I carried it to our venerable Chief. All I could obtain from Him, though, was the permission to temporarily correspond, and let you speak your whole mind, before giving any definite promise. We are not gods, and even they, our chiefs — they hope. Human nature is unfathomable, and yours is perhaps, more intensely so than any other man I know of. Your last favour was certainly if not quite a world of revelation, at least, a very profitable addition to my store of observation of the Western character, especially that of the modern, highly intellectual Anglo-Saxon. But it would be a revelation, indeed, to Mad. B.



  • Eureka means "I have found it," supposedly exclaimed by the ancient Greek Archimedes when he discovered principle of using displacement of water to determine the volume of an irregular object.
  • Diogenes' lantern refers to Diogenes of Sinope, who walked the streets of Athens carrying a lantern in broad daylight, searching for an honest man.

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who did not see it, (and for various reasons had better not) for it might knock off much of her presumption and faith in her own powers of observation. It might prove to her among other things that she was as much mistaken in relation to Mr. Sinnett's attitude in this matter as your own; and that I, who had never had the privilege of your personal acquaintance as she had, knew you far better than she did. I had positively foretold to her your letter. Rather than have no Society at all, she was willing to have it upon any terms at first, and then take her chances afterwards. I had warned her that you were not a man to submit to any conditions but your own; or even take one step towards the foundation of an organization — however noble and great — unless you received first such proofs as we generally give but to those, who by a trial of years have proved themselves thoroughly trustworthy. She rebelled against the notion and assured that were I but to give you one unimpeachable test of occult powers you would be satisfied, whereas Mr. Sinnett never would. And now, that both of you have had such proofs what are the results? While Mr. Sinnett believes — and will never repent of it, you have allowed your mind to become gradually



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filled with odious doubts and most insulting suspicions. If you will kindly remember my first short note from Jhelum you will see to what I then referred in saying that you would find your mind poisoned. You misunderstood me then as you have ever since; for in it, I did not refer to C. Olcott's letter in the Bombay Gazette but to your own state of mind. Was I wrong? You not only doubt the "broach phenomenon" — you positively disbelieve it. You say to Mad. B. — that she may be one of those who believe that bad means are justified by good ends and — instead of crushing her with all the scorn such an action is sure to awaken in a man of your high principles — you assure her of your unalterable friendship. Even your letter to me is full of the same suspicious spirit, and that which you would never forgive in yourself — the crime of deception — you try to make yourself believe you can forgive in another person. My dear Sir, these are strange contradictions! Having favoured me with such a series of priceless moral reflexions, advice, and truly noble sentiments, you may perhaps, allow me in my turn, to give you the ideas of an humble apostle of Truth, an obscure Hindu, upon that point. As man is a creature born with a free will and endowed with reason, whence spring



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all his notions of right and wrong, he does not per se represent any definite moral ideal. The conception of morality in general relates first of all to the object or motive, and only then to the means or modes of action. Hence, if we do not and would never call a moral man him, who following the rule of a famous religious schemer uses bad means for a good object, how much less would we call him moral who uses seemingly good and noble means to achieve a decidedly wicked or contemptible object? And according to your logic, and once that you confess to such suspicions, Mad. B. would have to be placed in the first of these categories, and I in the second. For, while giving her to a certain extent the benefit of the doubt, with myself you use no such superfluous precautions and, you accuse me unequivocally of setting up a system of deceit. The argument used in my letter, in regard to "the approbation of the Home Government" you term as "such very low motives"; and you add to it the following crushing and direct accusation: "You do not want this Branch (the Anglo-Indian) for work. . . . You merely want it as a lure to your native brethren. You know it will be a sham, but it will look sufficiently like the real thing," etc., etc. This is a



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direct and positive accusation. I am shown guilty of the pursuit of a wicked, mean object through low and contemptible means, i.e., false pretences. . . .

In penning these accusations did you stop to think, that as the projected organization had something grander, nobler and far more important in view than the mere gratification of the desires of one solitary person — however worthy — namely in case of success to promote the security and welfare of a whole conquered nation — it is just barely possible that that which to your individual pride may appear a "low motive" is after all but the anxious search for means which would be the salvation of a whole country ever distrusted and suspected, the protection by the conqueror of the conquered! You pride yourself upon not being a "patriot" — I do not; for, in learning to love one's country one but learns to love humanity the more. The lack of that you term "low motives" in 1857 caused my country-men to be blown by yours from the mouths of their guns. Why then should I not fancy that a real philanthropist would regard the aspiration for a better understanding between the Govt. and people of India as a most commendable instead of an ignoble one? "A fig" say you "for the knowledge and the philosophy



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on which it is based," if — "it would not be of any good to mankind," would not "enable me to be more useful to my generation," etc. etc. But when you are offered the means of doing such good you turn away in scorn and taunt us with a "lure" and a "sham"! Truly wonderful are the contradictions contained in your remarkable letter. . . . And then, you laugh so heartily at the idea of a "reward" or the "approval" of your fellow-creatures. "The reward to which I shall look will be," you say — "in earning my own self-approval." "Self-approval" which cares so little for the corroborative verdict of the better part of the world at large, to which the good and noble deeds of one serve as high ideals and the most powerful stimulants to emulation, is little else than proud and arrogant egotism. It is Himself against all criticism; "Apres moi — le deluge"! — exclaims the Frenchman with his usual flippancy. "Before Jehovah was, I am"! says Man — the ideal of every modern intellectual Englishman. Gratified as I feel at the idea of being the means of affording you so much merriment, namely in asking you to draft a general plan for the formation of the A.I. Branch, I yet am bound to say again that your laugh was premature in as much



  • "Après moi - le déluge!" translates as "After me, the deluge," meaning "What happens when I'm gone is none of my concern."

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you once more misunderstood entirely my meaning. Had I asked for your help in the organization of a system for teaching the occult sciences, or a plan for a "school of magick" the instance brought by you of an ignorant boy asked to work out "an abstruse problem regarding the motion of a fluid inside another fluid" might be a happy one. As it is, your comparison falls short of the mark and the bit of irony hits no one; for my mentioning the subject related merely to the general plan and outward administration of the projected Society and not in the least to its esoteric studies; to the Branch of the Universal Brotherhood not to the "School of Magick" — the formation of the former being the sine qua non for the latter. Most assuredly in such matter as this one — the organization of an A.I. Branch, to be composed of Englishmen and meant to serve as a link between the British and the natives — (the condition being that they who want to share in the secret knowledge, the inheritance of the children of the soil, must be prepared to accord at least some privileges hitherto refused to these natives) — you English people are far more competent than we to draft a general plan. You know the conditions you would be likely to accept or reject as we might



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not. I asked for a skeleton plan, and you imagined I clamoured for co-operation in the instructions to be given in spiritual sciences! Most unfortunate quiproquo — and yet Mr. Sinnett seems to have understood my wish at a glance.

Again you seem to show an unfamiliarity with the Hindu mind when you say: "not one in ten thousand native minds is as well prepared to realize and assimilate transcendental truths as mine." However much you may be right in thinking that "amongst English men of Science there are not half a dozen even whose minds are more capable of receiving these rudiments (of occult knowledge) than mine" (yours) — you are mistaken as to the natives. The Hindu mind is pre-eminently open to the quick and clear perception of the most transcendental, the most abstruse metaphysical truths. Some of the most unlettered ones will seize at a glance that which would often escape the best Western metaphysician. You may be, and most assuredly are our superiors in every branch of physical knowledge; in spiritual sciences we were, are and always will be your — Masters.

But let me ask you, what can I, a half civilized native, — think of the charity, modesty and kindness of



  • Quid pro quo ("something for something" or "this for that") is a Latin phrase that means an exchange of goods or services.

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one belonging to a superior race; one, whom I know as a noble minded, just, and kind hearted man in most circumstances, of his life, when, with all ill-disguised scorn he exclaims: "if you want men to rush on blind-fold, heedless of ulterior results # — stick to your Olcotts — if you want men of a higher class, whose brains are to work effectually in your cause, remember . . ." etc. My dear Sir, we neither want men to rush on blind-fold, nor are we prepared to abandon tried friends — who rather pass for fools, than reveal what they may have learnt under a solemn pledge of never revealing it unless permitted — even for the chance of getting men of the very highest class, — nor are we especially anxious to have anyone work for us except with entire spontaneity. We want true and unselfish hearts; fearless and confiding souls, and are quite willing to leave the men of the "higher class" and far higher intellects to grope their own way to the light. Such will only look upon us as subordinates.

I believe that these few quotations from your letter and the frank answers they have called forth, are sufficient to show how far we are from anything like an entente cordiale. You show a spirit of fierce combativeness and a desire — pardon me — to fight shadows evoked by your own imagination. I had the honour


# I never said – I did!



  • Entente cordiale is French for "cordial agreement" or "friendly understanding."

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of receiving three long letters from you even before I had barely time to answer in general terms your first one. I had never positively refused to comply with your wishes, never had answered as yet one single question of yours. How did you know what Future held in store for you, had you but waited one week? You invite me to a conference only, as it would seem, that you may show me the defects and weaknesses in our modes of action, and the causes for our supposed failure to convert humanity from their evil ways. And in your letter you show plainly that you are the beginning, the middle and the end of the law to yourself. Then why trouble yourself to write to me at all? Even that, which you call a "Parthian arrow" was never meant as such. It is not I, who, unable to get the absolute will depreciate or undervalue the relative good. Your "little birds" have, no doubt, since you so believe, done much good in their way and I certainly never dreamt of giving offence by my remark that the human race and its welfare, were at least as noble a study, and the latter as desirable an occupation as ornithology. But, I am not quite sure that your parting remark as to our not being invulnerable as a body is quite free of that spirit which animated the retreating



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Parthians. Be it as it may, we are content to live as we do — unknown and undisturbed by a civilization which rests so exclusively upon intellect. Nor do we feel in any way concerned about the revival of our ancient arts and high civilization, for these are as sure to come back in their time, and in a higher form as the Plesiosaurus and the Megatherium in theirs. We have the weakness to believe in ever recurrent cycles and hope to quicken the resurrection of what is past and gone. We could not impede it even if we would. The "new civilization" will be but the child of the old one, and we have but to leave the eternal law to take its own course to have our dead ones come out of their graves; yet, we are certainly anxious to hasten the welcome event. Fear not; although we do "cling superstitiously to the relics of the Past" our knowledge will not pass away from the sight of man. It is the "gift of the gods" and the most precious relic of all. The keepers of the sacred Light did not safely cross so many ages but to find themselves wrecked on the rocks of modern scepticism. Our pilots are too experienced sailors to allow us [to] fear any such disaster. We will always find volunteers to replace the tired sentries, and the world, bad as it is in its present state of transitory period, can yet furnish us with a few men now and then. You "do not propose



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moving further in the matter" unless we make "some further sign"? My dear sir, we have done our duty: we have responded to your appeal, and now propose to take no further step. We, who have studied a little Kant's moral teachings, analyzed them somewhat carefully, have come to the conclusion that even this great thinker's views on that form of duty (das Sollen) which defines the methods of moral action — notwithstanding his one-sided affirmation to the contrary — fall short of a full definition of an unconditional absolute principle of morality — as we understand it. And this Kantian note sounds throughout your letter. You so love mankind, you say, that were not your generation to benefit by it, you would reject "Knowledge" itself. And yet, this philanthropic feeling does not even seem to inspire you with charity towards those you regard as of an inferior intelligence. Why? Simply because the philanthropy you Western thinkers boast of, having no character of universality; i.e. never having been established on the firm footing of a moral universal principle; never having risen higher than theoretical talk; and that chiefly among the ubiquitous Protestant preachers, it is but a mere accidental manifestation but no recognised Law. The most superficial analysis will show, that, no more than any other empirical phenomenon in human nature, can it be taken as



  • "Das Sollen" ("Ought" or "the ought") was central to Kant's account of morality. It expresses the moral or rational necessity of an action, shown to us by the practical reason.

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an absolute standard of moral activity; i.e. one productive of efficient action. Since, in its empirical nature this kind of philanthropy is like love, but something accidental, exceptional, and like that has its selfish preferences and affinities; it necessarily is unable to warm all mankind with its beneficent rays. This, I think is, the secret of the spiritual failure and unconscious egotism of this age. And you, otherwise a good and a wise man, being unconsciously to yourself the type of its spirit, are unable to understand our ideas upon the Society as a Universal Brotherhood, and hence — turn away your face from it.

Your conscience revolts you say to be made "a stalking horse; the puppet of a score or more of hidden wire-pullers." What do you know of us since you cannot see us; what do you know of our aims and objects; of us, of whom you cannot judge? . . . you ask. Strange arguments. And do you really suppose you would "know" us, or penetrate any better our "aims and objects" were you to see me personally? I am afraid, that with no past experience of this kind, even your natural powers of observation — however acute — would have to be confessed more than useless. Why, my dear Sir, even our Baharoopias can prove a match any day for the acutest political Resident; and never yet one was detected or even recognised;



  • A Baharoopia (also Behrupiya or Bahrupiya) is an impersonator in the traditional performing arts of India. It was once common for him to make a dramatic entrance at festivities dressed as a policeman, priest, or other figure and create a commotion. He would be rewarded with a tip only if he was able to successfully convince his audience of his false identity.

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and their mesmeric powers are not of the highest order. However suspicious you might ever feel about the details of the "brooch" there is one prime feature in the case which your astuteness has already told you can only be accounted for on the theory of a stronger will influencing Mrs. Hume to think after that particular object and no other. And if Mad. B., a sickly woman, must be credited with such powers, are you quite sure that you yourself would not also be made to succumb to a trained will, ten times stronger than hers? I could come to you to-morrow, and installing myself in your house — as invited — get an entire domination over your whole mind and body in 24 hours, and you never aware of it for one moment. I may be a good man, but so I may, for all you know, as easily be a wicked, plotting schemer, hating profoundly your white race which subjugated and daily humiliates mine, and — take revenge on you — one of the best representatives of that race. If the power of exoteric mesmerism alone were employed — a power acquired with equal ease by the bad as by the good man — even then you could hardly escape the snares laid out for you, were the man you invited but a good mesmeriser, for — you are a remarkably easy subject — from the physical stand-point. "But my conscience



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my intuition!" you may argue. Poor help in such a case as mine. Your intuition would make you feel but that which really was — for the time being; and as to your conscience — you then accept Kant's definition of it? You, perhaps, believe with him that under all circumstances, and even with the full absence of definite religious notions, and occasionally even with no firm notions about right and wrong at all, man has ever a sure guide in his own inner moral perceptions or — conscience? The greatest of mistakes! With all the formidable importance of this moral factor, it has one radical defect. Conscience as it was already remarked may be well compared to that demon, whose dictates were so zealously listened to and so promptly obeyed by Socrates. Like that demon, conscience, may perchance, tell us what we must not do; yet, it never guides us as to what we ought to perform, nor gives any definite object to our activity. And — nothing can be more easily lulled to sleep and even completely paralyzed, as this same conscience by a trained will stronger than that of its possessor. Your conscience will never show you whether the mesmeriser is a true adept or a very clever juggler, if he once has passed your threshold and got control of the aura surrounding your person. You speak of abstaining from any but an innocent work like



  • Socrates demon. Socrates received many spiritual messages from his daimon, a divine voice that always told him not to do something he was thinking of doing, but never told him to do something. (Apology, 31d)

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bird-collecting, lest there be danger of creating another Frankenstein's monster. . . . Imagination as well as will — creates. Suspicion is the most powerful provocative agent of imagination. . . . Beware! You have already begotten in you the germ of a future hideous monster, and instead of the realization of your purest and highest ideals you may one day evoke a phantom, which, barring every passage of light will leave you in worse darkness than before, and, will harass you to the end of your days.

Again expressing the hope that my candour may not give offence, I am, dear Sir, as ever,

Your most obedient Servant,

Koot' Hoomi Lal Sing

A. O. Hume, Esq.



Context and background

It is impossible to tell the exact date of this letter, and the date of receipt is somehow uncertain, it having been enclosed in Letter No. 10, which was received by A. P. Sinnett sometime after December 1, 1880. Sinnett indicates 1881 with a question mark, and notes, “Written toward the final break-off.” This is incorrect; the final “break-off” with A. O. Hume came considerably later. However, it is easy to see how Sinnett may have made that assumption, since on that letter the Mahatma K.H. does indicate that he is sending his “final epistle.”

It has been conjectured earlier that Sinnett often did not date the letters until some time after they were received, and this would seem to be the case in this instance. It is noted also that the Master mentions declining “for the present” (emphasis added) “any further correspondence.” So the door was not finally closed.

On its own internal evidence, this letter is the answer to Hume’s reply to the Mahatma’s first letter to him.

Physical description of letter

The original is in the British Library, Folio 2. According to George Linton and Virginia Hanson, the letter was written:

On both sides of eleven sheets of white paper, in black ink. The script is larger than usual and varies somewhat from the customary KH style. The complimentary closing is in the stilted formal style of that time and the signature is the full four-part name used in the early letters.[2]

Publication history

Commentary about this letter


  1. Joscelyn Godwin, Theosophical Enlightenment (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 198.
  2. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 70.