The "Elixir of Life"

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The "Elixir of Life" is an article written by Godolphin Mitford and originally published in two installments in The Theosophist on March and April 1882.


On January 20, 1881, Mr. Godolphin Mitford (a.k.a. Mirza Moorad Ali Beg) went to the international Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, then located at Bombay, and stayed with the Founders for a few weeks. It was during this visit that he wrote "The Elixir of Life," apparently helped in some occult way by H. P. Blavatsky. Based on his diary, Col. Olcott related this as follows:

While with us he wrote some articles which were printed in the Theosophist, and one evening after a talk with us, sat himself down to write on the power of the will to affect longevity. H. P. B. and I remained in the room, and when he began his writing she went and stood behind him, just as she had in New York when Harrisse was making his sketch of one of the Masters, under her thought-transference. The article of Mirza Saheb attracted deserved attention on its appearance, and has ever since ranked as one of the most suggestive and valuable pamphlets in our Theosophical literature.​[1]

However, Blavatsky's recollection was different, since she wrote:

"The Elixir of Life" was written by its author under direct dictation, or inspection, in his own house, in a far away country, in which I had never been till two years later.​[2]


Some readers took exception of a number of remarks published in this article, which indicated that those undertaking the process described had to give up all involvement with the world, including participation in philanthropic causes. This led to the publication of the article Is The Desire To Live Selfish? by H. P. Blavatsky, which she concludes stating:

Adepts work harmoniously. Since unity is the fundamental law of their being, they have, as it were, made a division of labour, according to which each works on the plane at the time allotted to him, for the spiritual elevation of us all—and the process of longevity mentioned in “The Elixir of Life” is only the means to the end which, far from being selfish, is the most unselfish purpose for which a human being can labour.[3]

References in The Mahatma Letters

In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett we find some references to this article.

In Letter No. 49 the Mahatma K.H. tells Mr. Sinnett:

You will find in the forth-coming number, two articles which you must read, I need not tell you why, as I leave it with your intuitions. As usual, it is an indiscretion, which however, I have allowed to remain as there are few, if any, who will understand the hint contained — but you. There are more than one such hint though; hence your attention is asked to the “Elixir of Life” and W. Oxley’s “Philosophy of Spirit.” The former contains references and explanations, the haziness of which may remind you of a man who stealthily approaching one gives him a hit upon his back, and then runs away; as they most undeniably belong to the genus of those “Fortunes” that come to one like the thief by night and during one’s sleep, and go back, finding no one to respond to the offer — of which you complain in your letter to Brother. This time, you are warned, good friend, so complain no more.[4]

In Letter No. 74 Master K.H. refers to the article in answer to Mr. Hume, who had been complaining about Master M.'s "anger":

Would you think more of him, were he to conceal his anger; to lie to himself and the outsiders, and so permit them to credit him with a virtue he has not? If it is a meritorious act to extirpate with the roots all feelings of anger, so as to never feel the slightest paroxysm of a passion we all consider sinful, it is a still greater sin with us to pretend that it is so extirpated. Please read over the "Elixir of Life" No. 2 (April, p. 169 col. 1, paras. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). And yet in the ideas of the West, everything is brought down to appearances even in religion.[5]

The fragment referred to by the Master is the following:

And it may be mentioned that all sense of restraint—even if self-imposed—is useless. Not only is all "goodness" that results from the compulsion of physical force, threats, or bribes (whether of a physical or so-called "spiritual" nature) absolutely useless to the person who exhibits it, its hypocrisy tending to poison the moral atmosphere of the world, but the desire to be “good” or “pure,” to be efficacious must be spontaneous. It must be a self-impulse from within, a real preference for something higher, not an abstention from vice because of fear of the law: not a chastity enforced by the dread of Public Opinion; not a benevolence exercised through love of praise or dread of consequences in a hypothetical Future Life.

. . .

Nor is it of any use for this particular purpose of longevity to abstain from immorality so long as you are craving for it in your heart; and so on with all other unsatisfied inward cravings. To get rid of the inward desire is the essential thing, and to mimic the real thing without it is barefaced hypocrisy and useless slavery.

Publication history

Online publication

Online resources



  1. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves Second Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 291.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 350.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1989), 247-248.
  4. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 49 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 137.
  5. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 74 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 224.