Originally printed in the Summer 2011 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Ed Abdill. "Working as Colleagues of the Masters." Quest 99. 3 (Summer 2011): 98 - 100.
by Ed Abdill
In the late nineteenth century, H. P. Blavatsky introduced to the Western world a modern statement of a system of thought that has been called the Ancient Wisdom, the perennial philosophy, or Theosophy. She insisted that what she was teaching was not something she had originated. Rather, she claimed, it was the accumulated wisdom of the ages, preserved from the dawn of humanity and passed on by certain extraordinary individuals.
Although personal acquaintance with these individuals was not widespread, several Easterners and Westerners were privileged to meet and correspond with two of them, known as Morya and Koot Hoomi. Blavatsky claimed that Morya was her personal teacher and that it was he who asked her to publish their teachings in the West. He warned her that the task would be arduous and that she would reap no personal benefit. In fact, she would be attacked by religious leaders, scientists, and others. Personal difficulties rather than good fortune could be expected. Yet if she wanted to cooperate in this venture, she could help to lift some of the burden of ignorance and suffering from humanity. She agreed, and the work began.
Because the West had no single term to describe the nature of such individuals as Morya and Koot Hoomi, Blavatsky referred to them in a number of ways. In addition to the term "adepts," she sometimes called them Mahatmas, the Brothers, or the Masters.
Unfortunately, the use of the term "Masters" has led many to believe that the adepts are masters in the sense of godlike individuals who are omnipotent and omniscient. While their powers and knowledge are amazing to us, the adepts insist that they are human beings and not gods. They teach that over the long course of evolution we will also obtain their knowledge, develop their powers, and join their ranks as workers for the good of humanity. Although the adepts are far more knowledgeable and developed than most of humanity, they do not think of themselves as superior. If we are the parents of a four-year-old child, we donâ€™t think of ourselves as superior to that child. We simply realize that we know much more about the world. It is a little like that with the adepts and us.
In a 1900 letter to Annie Besant Koot Hoomi noted a tendency toward a worshipful attitude toward the Masters and wrote: "Are we to be propitiated and made idols of. . . . Let the devotion and service be to that Supreme Spirit alone of which each one is a part." On another occasion K. H. wrote, "Learn to be loyal to the Idea, rather than to my poor self" (Barker and Chin, 432). The Masters prefer that we think of them and ourselves as colleagues. That is a very different attitude from regarding them as saints or gods. Despite the differences in our ability and knowledge, if we want to, we can become colleagues in the work for humanity. What they want from us is a commitment to work for the good of the human race. That work does not have to be in some glorious form that the world will acknowledge. Everyone can do something, and we have their word that a watchful attitude for opportunities to do such work brings us into magnetic rapport with them.
From their letters, one gets a sense that the Masters are especially interested in the future of humanity. Yet it would seem that they do not understand the future as we do. In one of his letters K. H. finds himself frustrated at having to use the English words "past, present, and future." He calls them "miserable concepts of the objective phases of the Subjective Whole" and says, "They are about as ill adapted for the purpose as an axe for fine carving" (Barker and Chin, 46).
It is said that time is an illusion caused by our perception of motion in an eternal now. Yet time seems very real to us. History speaks of the past, and to some extent we can predict future events. So why do the adepts say that there is only an eternal now? While it is not easy for us to experience the eternal now, we may perhaps see the truth of it intellectually. It can also become real to us in meditation, even if only in flashes of insight.
What is the past, present, and future that so dominate our perception of time? In one sense past, present, and future do exist now. The past exists as the effects of causes that have already been set into motion. What we are now is the past. Even memory of past events exists in our mind in the present. We cannot go back in time to change anything. Even those who claim that they can "read" the past are not actually going back in time. If indeed they can see the past, they are not seeing past events themselves. Rather, they are seeing the effect of causes on the fabric of the cosmic "mind," called akasha in Theosophical literature. The akasha might be thought of in the same way that we think of the brain. It is possible to stimulate the brain to bring back memories long gone from our conscious mind. That memory is a vibratory quality in the brain. It is not the past itself. The memory is a temporary condition now.
Similarly, what we call the future is the potential of all of the causes we and nature have been and are still setting in motion. We might think of that potential as a subtle superphysical energy that exists here and now. That "future" can be changed if we introduce new causes to counteract those existing. Say that police have set up a highway roadblock to prevent motorists from driving over a recently washed-out bridge that spans a river. You are driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour and you see the roadblock ahead. At that moment you could easily crash through the roadblock and drive into the river. The potential exists now, but you introduce a new cause. You brake slowly and come to a stop. Your action in the now has changed the potential future, which also exists now.
It is easy to see how we can change the future by braking before danger. It may not be so easy to see that we can change the future in a much more subtle and powerful way. From a Theosophical perspective, energy is not only a physical but also an emotional, mental, and spiritual reality. Physical energy can be measured with physical instruments, but as yet we have no universally acceptable way to demonstrate the existence of more subtle emotional, mental, and spiritual energies except through subjective experience.
Theosophical theory suggests that physical energy is the densest of all forms of energy. Emotional energy is less so, mental energy is even more rarified, and spiritual energy is the most subtle of all. The more rarified energies are far more powerful. After all, if someone suddenly becomes very angry with us, we feel as though we have been hit with a bolt of violent energy. Conversely, we feel enveloped in a benevolent power when someone feels affection towards us. It is these subtle, powerful energies that the adepts claim to use in their work. They say that they influence people to do what is right, but they never force anyone to act against their own free will.
One example of how the Masters work to mold the future is given in Mahatma Letter 5, in which Koot Hoomi, writing in 1880, tells Sinnett that "Russia is gradually massing her forces for a future invasion of [Tibet] under the pretext of a Chinese war." He goes on to say, "If she does not succeed it will be due to us" (Barker and Chin, 15). This would imply that the adepts were using mental and emotional power to change the future by working to change the minds of the Russians at that moment. Such a possibility may not seem so implausible if we reflect on times when we have been strongly influenced by the ideas of others. Mental energy is indeed powerful. History is packed with ideas that have changed the destiny of nations.
How, then, can we become colleagues of the Masters?
In a document known as The Golden Stairs, one of the adepts gives some clues to the requirements for becoming their colleagues. Among the requirements are a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, a courageous endurance of personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, and a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked. Behind all of these lies the need for an altruistic life. In fact, altruism is the hallmark of the true Theosophist. If we are making every effort to live altruistic lives, the adepts have assured us that we are automatically within the sphere of their influence. We are not required to do great things for humanity. We are not required to cure the worldâ€™s ills singlehandedly. Rather, we are required to be become conscious of how our actions affect others and the environment. We need to make sure that our thoughts, feelings, and actions do not harm others. In addition, we can be on the alert for opportunities to take positive, selfless action for the benefit of others, our community, or the world. Such a simple thing as avoiding environmentally harmful products is one example. Keeping our thoughts pure and refraining from polluting the psychological atmosphere with the violent energy of anger are other examples. The task set before us is not easy, but as a Chinese proverb puts it, "To remove a mountain, one begins by carrying away small pebbles."
In addition to living altruistically, there is something that we can do through the power of meditation. Many people of goodwill meditate daily, and during their meditations they try to send peace to the world. If, as some evidence suggests, we are all interconnected, then such meditations must have a positive effect on the whole. Because we do not necessarily know what is truly right for ourselves, let alone for humanity, it is best not to meditate on our own personal ideas of what the future should be. Instead we might first empty our minds of the "me" and center in the still point within that is beyond the ego. Then we can add our love and compassion to the Mastersâ€™ work, confident that they will use that energy in the most appropriate way.
Obviously the effect of one person meditating will not bring world peace. Nevertheless, even a miniscule amount of peaceful energy could help to neutralize some of the hostile energy being sent out daily by so many. The peaceful energy you send out in meditation might reach someone who is prone to rage and calm him or her just enough to prevent violent action. In that way, you have helped to change the future by acting now.
The adepts always work for the good of humanity as a whole. They do not want to be worshiped, and they do not want people constantly thinking of them in a personal way. In his 1900 letter to Mrs. Besant, Koot Hoomi wrote, "Namelessly and silently we work and the continual references to ourselves and the repetition of our names raises up a confused aura that hinders our work." They, like us, are affected by thoughts.
Unfortunately, some members of the Theosophical Society believe that the adepts do not want us to think of them at all. Yet if we are to work with them as colleagues, we must think of them. The seeming paradox may be resolved if we understand that there is a way to help them in their work by getting in rapport with them, but not in a personal way. Since their concern is always with humanity in the mass, it is reasonable to assume that if we become conscious of our unity with humanity at the deepest level, we will enter into the stream of their influence. We could then offer our peaceful energy to help them change the future for the better.
The Masters have made it clear that they only work with people who have the welfare of humanity at heart. If we live altruistically and meditate daily for the good of humanity, we will come into rapport with them. We will be working with them as colleagues.
Barker, A. T., and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., eds. The Mahatma Letters from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. in Chronological Sequence. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1998.
Ed Abdill, author of The Secret Gateway, is vice-president of the Theosophical Society in America and past president of the New York Theosophical Society. His article "Desire and Spiritual Selfishness" appeared in the Winter 2011 Quest.