The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Discussion on literature other than by the Star of Azazel.
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The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Nefastos » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:18 pm

I have often recommended the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett for those interested in the occult work. The book consists of actual letters claimed to have been written by the Indo-Tibetan master adepts & actual spiritual founders of the Theosophical Society to the early theosophist A.P. Sinnett, a journalist in British India. It was an earlier consensus that these letters were actually a hoax, written by H.P. Blavatsky, but in later times this is questioned. (E.g. in the "H.P. Blavatsky and Theosophy" arctile by Michael Gomes in The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism, Cambridge University Press 2016.)

When accused of being the author of the letters, Blavatsky herself said that in the case she could have given such teaching she would herself be a high adept. I think that that is quite a good mindset to read these letters: to let them speak for themselves, whoever was the author behind. Personally, though, I believe in the masters – including master "Koot Hoomi", as he is known in these letters – as the individual beings, although the adept masters and the pupils also form a kind of a gestalt figure whose individualities also merge both in mystic and technical senses in many different ways during the occult training, practice, and development.

We will start going through the letters, observing points which seem interesting or notable in the light of the philosophy of the Star of Azazel. This is partly a project by which this interesting but often disregarded classic is hopefully brought to light both for the brotherhood members and to the interested outsiders, and partly about bringing life to this quite sleepy English forum. I also hope that by reading Koot Hoomi's letters some ideas that might have perhaps remained enigmatic in the brotherhood circles might become more lucid. I do not mean as much the teachings about the occult ideas themselves, but instead how the work is expected to be carried out. That latter, perhaps even more paradigmatic social level of the work is something that can usually be learnt only by example and not so much by intellectual study.

The book itself can be legally read online, here. It consists of the seven sets of letters; we shall see how long we will have the stamina to go through them.

Section 1 — Occult World Series
Section 2 — Philosophical and Theoretical Teachings 1881-1883
Section 3 — Probation and Chelaship
Section 4 — The Phoenix Venture and the Condition of India
Section 5 — The London Lodge of The Theosophical Society
Section 6 — Spiritualism and Phenomena
Section 7 — Miscellaneous Letters


Ends of the different sections of the letters would be ideal places to stop when or if the project is stopped before we come to the end of the book. Every participant will read the book onwards as much as he likes (in many cases one letter per week might be a good pace), presenting highlights or interesting points in this thread, quoting the text so the readers can understand the idea without reading the whole letter unless wanted. Participating members will be at least me, Obnoxion, RaktaZoci, Smaragd, and possibly Yinlong. If other readers – whether brotherhood members or outsiders – wish to contribute, you can do it either by commenting and asking questions, or asking to be included to the reading group itself. Just do not go farther in the text that that week's reader has gone (i.e. to the new letters), unless it is your own turn to do that.

So, I will start soon with the letter one (October 15th, 1880). Stay tuned; and remember, all observations are welcome.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Nefastos » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:16 pm

SECTION 1: "THE OCCULT WORLD SERIES"

Letter 1. Received Simla about October 15th, 1880.


This first letter of Koot Hoomi to A.P. Sinnett primarily discusses the problems of "proving" occult phenomena for the public. We can see that Sinnett has asked could he be given an insurmountable proof in a way that he could publish it in his paper and/or book and thus convince everyone once and for all. KH gives several points why this will not be done. Most of all the reason is the disagreement with Sinnett should the people actually believe what is presented to them, or is it in reality dangerous to force people change too quickly their worldviews which are actually based on conformist values of some kind (whether religious or sceptical).

Your race boasts of having liberated in their century, the genius so long imprisoned in the narrow vase of dogmatism and intolerance — the genius of knowledge, wisdom and freethought. [...] the public mind is quite free, in short, and ready to accept any demonstrated truth. Aye; but is it verily so, my respected friend? [...] What then would be the results of the most astounding phenomena, supposing we consented to have them produced? However successful, danger would be growing proportionately with success. [...] The ignorant — unable to grapple with the invisible operators — might some day vent their rage on the visible agents at work; the higher and educated classes would go on disbelieving as ever, tearing you to shreds as before.
As for human nature in general, it is the same now as it was a million of years ago: Prejudice based upon selfishness; a general unwillingness to give up an established order of things for new modes of life and thought — and occult study requires all that and much more —; pride and stubborn resistance to Truth if it but upsets their previous notions of things, — such are the characteristics of your age, and especially of the middle and lower classes.


By the way, it is interesting to see in the letters many notions to "classes" and "races", which in our 21st century have become practically prohibited in language. Although KH naturally uses them in the letters quite differently than an Englishman would have, since he was an outsider himself. (In the other letters we will later find quite a lot of effort to question Sinnett's idea of a culturally superior European/American gentleman.)

...the charlatans and the jugglers are the natural shields of the "adepts." The public safety is only ensured by our keeping secret the terrible weapons which might otherwise be used against it, and which, as you have been told became deadly in the hands of the wicked and selfish.


Since for the Theosophical Society was given a task to give some proof about the occult world, this important idea was given here much more briefly than the other explanations, but in my eyes, this is the most important reason of all. Should the masses of people believe in the occult, result would be much more towards the egoistic black magic than towards the hard and demanding path of ascension, and the cultural effect would be most likely disastrous.

I conclude by reminding you that such phenomena as you crave, have ever been reserved as a reward for those who have devoted their lives to serve the goddess Saraswati — our Aryan Isis.


Magic is not only instrument or a result of philosophy, it is also sacred art and the source of deep happiness for those who have achieved it through self-sacrifice.

Your forthcoming letter I will not be able to fully answer without taking the advice of those who generally deal with the European mystics.


There are not too many mentions about the workings of the KH's brotherhood (the central lodge, as I like to call it), but here we see briefly mentioned the members whose work is with the Occidental occultists. Alice Bailey later called them with several names, but in the 19th century the only names – or rather, titles, pseudonyms or "brotherhood names" – were the ones in the Egypt lodge: Serapis and Hilarion.

Try — and first work upon the material you have and then we will be the first to help you to get further evidence.


This is something that many of us occultists seem not to think about. There really is no point at all to give more "material" (power, energy, inspiration, challenge, &c.) before one has made his best with that already available to him.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby RaktaZoci » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:43 pm

Hello to All from my behalf also and welcome to enjoy this reading group.

I must apologize already at this point that this opening passage on mine might seem slightly tedious and boring to those who are possibly not as exited of this topic as we (or atleast some of us) are.

Firstly, after a brief examination, I noticed that the version I have of this book is the Third revised edition, whereas the .pdf seems to be the Second edition. I'm not so sure if this makes so much of a difference, since atleast the letters, I believe, are the same in both editions, but where in the 2nd edition has the original introduction, mine has that of Mr. Christmas Humbreys and Madam Elsie Benjamin. Nevertheless, I believe the outcome couldn't be atleast of the negative variety, but bear in mind that I might pop around some quotes from this short text. Mine is a physical binding, that is, which I prefer reading instead of a digital one.

So, onto the letters themselves, shall we.. Nefastos' comments are on the dot, as usual, but I'll get back to them a bit later. I'd like to give a short description of the thoughts that this first letter of KH stirred up in me. Even though the letter is dated over hudred years ago it seems to grasp certain aspects, which are still prominent in our societies. I don't, obviously, know all different kind of human societys, but I'll utter on the behalf of my own experiences on the subject matter.

The fear of change is one of them, but still simultaneously a craving for it. People want to be dazzled with marvelous things, but, atleast in our current digital age, they'd rather enjoy them from their comfortable couches. Everything new is scary and it is unfortunate that, due to conformity of the masses, people will follow even the craziest scheme, as long as it has lots of supporters.

Another is the lack of effort people are willing to exercise on matters, but still assuming great results and encouragement for the feat. This is a usual subject on the field of occultism and, as it has been said a million times, if adepthood would be like a walk in the park, then everyone should be ascending aspirants.

In our current Western culture, materialism has become the most popular religion of all, hand in hand with its good friend modern science. In a way the times are not that different from those spoken of in our letter. It is true, of course, that science has taken huge steps in research from those days, but has it at the same time lost sight of its origin, from our culture and us as human beings, not as measurable subjects with different properties? Isn't true philosophy about questioning you very foundation now and again, not taking things too much for granted? Back in the day people were mostly confused by ignorance. Now they willingly turn their head or even deny the existence of things, which are outside the explanations of modern science. Have we become alienated from our very selves..?

Hrmh, yes, excuse my ranting. The point is, there are problems..

As a refence to the text, it mentions the term Akas in the line:
Mahatma Letters wrote: The vril of the "Coming Race" was the common property of races now extinct. And, as the very existence of those gigantic ancestors of ours is now questioned — though in the Himavats, on the very territory belonging to you we have a cave full of the skeletons of these giants — and their huge frames when found are invariably regarded as isolated freaks of nature, so the vril or Akas — as we call it — is looked upon as an impossibility, a myth. And, without a thorough knowledge of Akas, its combinations and properties, how can Science hope to account for such phenomena?
I was wondering, does this term hold a connection to the term Akasha, as in "Akashic records"..?
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Nefastos » Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:05 pm

Mahatma Letters wrote:so the vril or Akas — as we call it — is looked upon as an impossibility, a myth.
RaktaZoci wrote:I was wondering, does this term hold a connection to the term Akasha, as in "Akashic records"..?

Yes, it's just a slightly different transcription of the Sanskrit word. (About which here are the basics.) "Vril" in turn is a word picked from Bulwer-Lytton's fantasy novel. I usually enjoy Bulwer-Lytton's work, but Vril was not very good.
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Sothoth » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:15 am

It seems that one of the points in this letter is that it isn't necessarily a good thing that masses would start believing in occultism and magic through f.ex. "supernatural" phenomena. It's because they aren't ready yet. By this readiness I mean the ability sacrifice everything but Truth and not to live a bubble of one's preconceptions of this truth. Magic in wrong hands would eventually lead to selfish egoistic "black magic". So the vast majority of humankind aren't ethicallyready for true occultism. The end indeed summarizes this well:
Try — and first work upon the material you have and then we will be the first to help you to get further evidence.
So one should be ready for greater knowledge. A small child cannot understand high mathematics, he has to start from basics. But the most important thing is to try, and be honest in this effort.

By the way, I find it rather tragicomical that some of the expressions used in this letter were later used by Nazis for their own purposes. For example, "Vril, the Coming race" (though originally from Bulwer-Lytton) and "Aryan", in reference to the goddess Saraswati. But perhaps this underlines the point that one should be ethically pure to use magic and not use it for selfish and/or separatist purposes. I think "Vril" can be seen as general "magical power" in this context, power that sleeps in most humans but can be awakened and some ancient peoples knew that power and were able to use it.
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby RaktaZoci » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:25 pm

Sothoth wrote:A small child cannot understand high mathematics, he has to start from basics. But the most important thing is to try, and be honest in this effort.
I might have read too much philosophy of late, but this comment raised my interest. What if the matter is the other way around..? I mean, what if children actually hold the key to understand the world properly, with a natural instinct towards spiritual and other similar matters, but to us adults the knowledge of the world and its laws has clouded this pure perspective. As Jesus said:
Matthew 18:3 wrote:Truly, I say to you, If you do not have a change of heart and become like little children, you will not go into the kingdom of heaven.
This came to my mind from a conversation I recently had with a soror about her view, and that which Ervast presents in some of his books, of children being "spirits" that have decided to reside besides us and that we have the priviledge to serve them.

Excuse for leading the conversation slightly awry from the original topic..
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Sothoth » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:20 am

RaktaZoci wrote:
Sothoth wrote:A small child cannot understand high mathematics, he has to start from basics. But the most important thing is to try, and be honest in this effort.
I might have read too much philosophy of late, but this comment raised my interest. What if the matter is the other way around..? I mean, what if children actually hold the key to understand the world properly, with a natural instinct towards spiritual and other similar matters, but to us adults the knowledge of the world and its laws has clouded this pure perspective. As Jesus said:
Matthew 18:3 wrote:Truly, I say to you, If you do not have a change of heart and become like little children, you will not go into the kingdom of heaven.
This came to my mind from a conversation I recently had with a soror about her view, and that which Ervast presents in some of his books, of children being "spirits" that have decided to reside besides us and that we have the priviledge to serve them.

Excuse for leading the conversation slightly awry from the original topic..
That point concerning learning mathematics was a metaphor; you generally can't understand any principles straightaway, but you need to patiently study them at first. Same goes for occultism. Although "intuitive knowledge" is another question, and by this I mean knowing straightaway something like a lightning flash. In a way, we already know everything, but we don't know how to arrange the pieces. Was it Plato who thought that we have this deeper knowledge within us and it is returned by "remembering" it again?

But you made a good point concerning children; they don't have the same fixed conceptions about the world as adults usually have. So one should be be open for new and innocent as children do. "Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves". Of these innocence is the property children have.
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby obnoxion » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:38 am

As The First Letter dealt with the immaturity of the world, The Second Letter is concerned with the unripe individual. Here are the conditions on which the seeker would be willing to proceed, deemed selfish by K.H.

(1) The desire to receive positive and unimpeachable proofs that there really are forces in nature of which science knows nothing.
(2) The hope to appropriate them some day — the sooner the better, for you do not like to wait — so as to enable yourself —
(a) to demonstrate their existence to a few chosen western minds
(b) to contemplate future life as an objective reality built upon the rock of Knowledge — not of faith
(c) to finally learn — most important this, among all your motives, perhaps, though the most occult and the best guarded — the whole truth about our Lodges and ourselves; to get, in short, the positive assurance that the "Brothers" — of whom everyone hears so much and sees so little — are real entities — not fictions of a disordered hallucinated brain.

Of the answer, I would like to quote the following:

From your point of view then, those terms may seem so very reasonable as to provoke no dissent; and, indeed, a majority of your countrymen — if not of Europeans — might share that opinion. What, will you say, can be more reasonable than to ask that teacher — anxious to disseminate his knowledge, and pupil — offering him to do so should be brought face to face and the one give the experimental proofs to the other that his instructions were correct? Man of the world, living in, and in fulI sympathy with it — you are undoubtedly right. But the men of this other world of ours, untutored in your modes of thought, and who find very hard at times to follow and appreciate the latter, can hardly be blamed for not responding as heartily to your suggestions as in your opinion they deserve. The first and most important of our objections is to be found in our Rules. True, we have our schools and teachers, our neophytes and shaberons (superior adepts), and the door is always opened to the right man who knocks. And, we invariably welcome the new comer; — only, instead of going over to him he has to come to us. More than that: unless he has reached that point in the path of occultism from which return is impossible, by his having irrevocably pledged himself to our association, we never — except in cases of utmost moment — visit him or even cross the threshold of his door in visible appearance.

Is any of you so eager for knowledge and the beneficent powers it confers as to be ready to leave your world and come into ours? Then let him come; but he must not think to return until the seal of the mysteries has locked his lips even against the chances of his own weakness or indiscretion. Let him come by all means, as the pupil to the master, and without conditions; or let him wait, as so many others have, and be satisfied with such crumbs of knowledge as may fall in his way.”


From this quote and the rest of the answer I would gather that such proofs that the seeker is after, demand – in short – a life dedicated to achieving and maintaining a high ethical standard. This reminds me of a discussion on our Finnish forum, where Johannes said that the consensus between differing world views needs to be achieved on the ethical level, and not, for example, on ontological level. I think that from our Theosophical point of view it could be said that without making ethics the genuine priority - especially when it seems unprofitable from the worldly perspective - the premises of Theosophy must mostly remain matters of faith; for the individual, as well as for the collective.

As for me, personally, the critical consideration before making my jump of faith was, to what extend is the outer world produced by the observer? Now I am not a person who is prone to hallucinations. Neither would I be encouraged by any irregularity of sense perception. Should I begin to hear disembodied voices or start to receive letters of instruction from strange persons I have never met, I would be disposed to give up my esoteric interests. For did not the letter promise that " we never — except in cases of utmost moment — visit him or even cross the threshold of his door in visible appearance". A little faith is as delicate thing as it is precious in this weary world, and it is wise not to disturb it with uncalled for apparitions, I think.

Yet I am satisfied I did not jump astray. The world is such a subtle place, and our everyday experience is made, I dare claim, of millions of delicate nuances and interactions, most of which we have never isolated nor named, but which have a tremendous combined influence on our lives. For example, there is word for the space between two thoughts, or the interval between two minutely differing states of awareness, in Eastern thinking, that I find completely lacking from our Western thinking. Lately I have come to ponder if such spaces could be as nuanced as any positive language. Now these are, I think, important considerations that enrich one’s life tremendously. And I find that the best ways to research them are Religion, Art and Occultism.

Such were my first thoughts on The Second Mahatma Letter.
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Yinlong » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:21 pm

I somehow missed the study of the letters had already begun, so I will comment the first two letters with one post.

Letter No. 1

Regarding proofs and miracles. I was left thinking to which extent I believe in miracles. For example, do I believe that somebody concretely (at spot) could turn water into wine or divide a sea in half? Probably no. However, I do believe that certain people have a fairly magical ability to turn their personal history – even when they are still alive – into some sort of a legend. In a sense, it’s twisting the reality with practically equal power. Perhaps a modern, practical version of this, more visible in American culture, is the official company stories of their founders and CEOs, which the employees strongly believe in, and find and source some sort of power from. For some employees, these stories and working in that particular company make them – in a sense - part of a living legend. For example, Apple and Steve Jobs – or wearing a uniform. The previous is kind of related to my personal (and one general) interpretation for giants so prevalent in many cultures. They are mythical forefathers, that may be based on actual historical person(s) (or stories of), but have so much legend attached to them that they have become beyond (ordinary) human beings. I would categorize, for example, Väinämöinen a giant of this sort.

Then again, perhaps moving a bit more towards mysteries. At the same time, I believe that mysteries, legends and even stories containing miracles are important. For me personally, it’s kind of like thinking through them makes you extract some sort of glue or essence for thinking that has made me continue my path this far – something essential to transform and progress personally. However, what is a seeker that rushes into seeing proofs and constant miracles? Thinking this brings a vague picture of televangelism or charismatic Christian mass, where participants enjoy various testimonies and speaking with tongues etc. There’s probably a lot of faux in it, but even though there could be one or two real miracles in between, I would still find the whole idea unappealing. Also, perhaps what has distanced me from Lutheran church is the stripping down of anything mystical. In a sense, I tend to think a bit similarly as frater Obnoxion writes beautifully here:
The world is such a subtle place, and our everyday experience is made of, I claim, millions of delicate nuances and interactions, most of which we have never isolated and named, but which have a tremendous combined influence on our lives. There might be something ahead of me, but running might make one stumble.
Then about the “World is not ready yet” message in the letter. A bit from similar point of view as fratres RaktaZoci and Sothoth, I started to think of the difference of just being awakened or just experiencing something – even supernatural, and the difference of following a kind of (perhaps more structured or otherwise) path or progress. As the terms I used suggest, I assume the key takeaway here is the direction and building on something existing. Actually, that’s why the quote Roma ante Romulum fuit is good in the letter. In my opinion it suggests at the same time that nothing comes out of nothing, and emphasizes the importance of tradition and continuity. As a side note, I actually just recently learned a new term called kundalini crisis, which is a “syndrome” that happens when a practitioner has been able to awaken his kundalini energy, but is unprepared for it, and the experience is mostly unpleasant and possibly very confusing.

I tried to think of more mundane but recent examples of lack of direction with (also good) intentions and thoughts derived from a certain awakening. (No need to go always to Nazis, but I admit I thought about them too while reading the letter.) One interesting case that occurs to me is the Occupy Wallstreet movement. In a sense, all the participants had many rightful realizations and conclusions, but they totally lacked any proper answer. I mean that even though they very well recognized many things that are not working in the current system, they were unable to come up with any solution or direction for their movement. Also, when it comes to masses, sometimes even when the majority is united, the sudden change might generate a power vacuum, and even a good cause can turn against the majority. For example, what happened in Egypt during Arab Spring.

I hope I didn’t steer away too much. Since so much – and very good and precise points - about the main ideas was already mentioned by previous commentators, I let two ideas fly a bit further.

Letter No. 2.

I have read only through the first two hundred pages of Secret Doctrine, but I remember it having also some sort of strong opposition of science, at least against some aspects of it. Here again, occult science and physical science are said to be each other’s antithesis. I recently skimmed through the Finnish SoA forum and found a thread where there was quite a long debate about science and scientific world-views. I guess that the topic was there almost discussed to death, but I must admit I don’t personally see such a juxtaposition either. More like studying religion, esoteric thoughts and occultism is like taking deep dives to a surrounding, unknown sea and science is like building a pier on the shore of it. Well, perhaps there are also some historical and personal background to this, and the idea is to just provoke certain kind of thinking. I admit – as the beginning of the letter also claims – that some thought processes might prevent the seeker going further. Perhaps here in the first section of the letter the need for structure (or rules or dicta) is emphasized again in occult work.

The last part of the letter left me a bit confused about the background of events at the time of writing:
And supposing you were thus to come — as two of your own countrymen have already — as Mad. B. did, and Mr. O. will

So, did I understand correctly – Blavatsky is already a member of this central lodge / K.H.’s organization – or is she an outsider member or just in contact? How about Olcott? Or is this just a reference that they have entered the occult world?

I’m also a bit confused of this mentioned “new society” - is Sinnet’s intention to build a separate lodge or are we talking about just the beginnings of Theosophical Society in general?
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Re: The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Reading Group)

Postby Nefastos » Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:25 am

Yinlong wrote:So, did I understand correctly – Blavatsky is already a member of this central lodge / K.H.’s organization – or is she an outsider member or just in contact? How about Olcott? Or is this just a reference that they have entered the occult world?


Blavatsky had already lived in Tibet for several years & been in contact with the "Mahatmas" both there and elsewhere. From the same letter:

KH wrote:Of these two persons one [Blavatsky] has already given three-fourths of a life, the other [Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society] six years of manhood's prime to us, and both will so labour to the close of their days


Concerning Blavatsky's role the same letter also says (emphasis mine):

KH wrote:So they can — in any place where our magnetic and other conditions are constantly offered; and where we do not have to act with and through an enfeebled female body in which, as we might say, a vital cyclone is raging much of the time. But, imperfect as may be our visible agent — and often most unsatisfactory and imperfect she is — yet, she is the best available at present

Yinlong wrote:I’m also a bit confused of this mentioned “new society” - is Sinnet’s intention to build a separate lodge or are we talking about just the beginnings of Theosophical Society in general?


It refers to this, earlier in the letter (emphasis mine):

KH wrote:Having disposed of "personal motives," let us analyze your "terms" for helping us to do public good. Broadly stated these terms are — first: that an independent Anglo-Indian Theosophical Society shall be founded through your kind services, in the management of which neither of our present representatives shall have any voice; and second, that one of us shall take the new body "under his patronage," — be — "in free and direct communication with its leaders," and afford them "direct proof that he really possessed that superior Knowledge of the forces of nature and the attributes of the human soul which would inspire them with proper confidence in his leadership." I have copied your own words, so as to avoid inaccuracy in defining the position.


So, Sinnett's letter had suggested that he should found practically a new Theosophical Society that would work apart from the original one, still gaining full support of Koot Hoomi, who would also give proof & lectures of magic phenomena to this new TS. Understandably the idea was not accepted.
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