Masters, Adepts, Teachers, and Disciples
The Path, June, 1893
This article is meant for members of the T.S., and chiefly for those who keep H.P.B. much in mind, whether out of respect and love or from fear and envy. Those members who believe that such beings as the Masters may exist must come to one of two conclusions in regard to H.P.B.: either that she invented her Masters, who therefore have no real existence, or that she did not invent them but spoke in the names and by the orders of such beings. If we say she invented the Mahatmas, then, of course, as so often was said by her, all that she has taught and written is the product of her own brain, from which we would be bound to conclude that her position on the roll of great and powerful persons must be higher than people have been willing to place her. But I take it most of us believe in the truth of her statement that she had those teachers whom she called Masters and that they are more perfect beings than ordinary men.
The case I wish to briefly deal with, then, is this: H.P.B. and her relations to the Masters and to us; her books and teachings; the general question of disciples or chelas with their grades, and whether a high chela would appear as almost a Master in comparison to us, including every member from the President down to the most recent applicant.
The last point in the inquiry is extremely important, and has been much overlooked by members in my observation, which has extended over the larger part of the T.S. An idea has become quite general that chelas and disciples are all of one grade, and that therefore one chela is the same as another in knowledge and wisdom. The contrary, however, is the case. Chelas and disciples are of many grades, and some of the Adepts are themselves the chelas of higher Adepts. There is therefore the greatest difference between the classes of chelas, since among them has to be counted the very humblest and most ignorant person who has devoted himself or herself to the service of mankind and the pursuit of the knowledge of the Self. On the other hand, there are those chelas high in grade, actual pupils of the Masters themselves, and these latter have so much knowledge and power as to seem to us to be Adepts. Indeed, they are such when one compares them with oneself as a mere product of the nineteenth century. They have gained through knowledge and discipline those powers over mind, matter, space, and time which to us are the glittering prizes of the future. But yet these persons are not the Masters spoken of by H.P.B. So much being laid down, we may next ask how we are to look at H.P.B.
In the first place, every one has the right to place her if he pleases for himself on the highest plane, because he may not be able to formulate the qualities and nature of those who are higher than she was. But taking her own sayings, she was a chela or disciple of the Masters, and therefore stood in relation to them as one who might be chided or corrected or reproved. She called them her Masters, and asseverated a devotion to their behests and a respect and confidence in and for their utterances which the chela has always for one who is high enough to be his Master. But looking at her powers exhibited to the world, and as to which one of her Masters wrote that they had puzzled and astonished the brightest minds of the age, we see that compared with ourselves she was an Adept. In private as in public she spoke of her Masters much in the same way as did Subba Row to the writer when he declared in 1884, “The Mahatmas are in fact some of the great Rishees and Sages of the past, and people have been too much in the habit of lowering them to the petty standard of this age.” But with this reverence for her teachers she had for them at the same time a love and friendship not often found on earth. All this indicates her chelaship to Them, but in no way lowers her to us or warrants us in deciding that we are right in a hurried or modern judgment of her.
Now some Theosophists ask if there are other letters extant from her Masters in which she is called to account, is called their chela, and is chided now and then, besides those published. Perhaps yes. And what of it? Let them be published by all means, and let us have the full and complete record of all letters sent during her life; those put forward as dated after her death will count for naught in respect to any judgment passed on her, since the Masters do not indulge in any criticisms on the disciples who have gone from earth. As she has herself published letters and parts of letters from the Masters to her in which she is called a chela and is chided, it certainly cannot matter if we know of others of the same sort. For over against all such we have common sense, and also the declarations of her Masters that she was the sole instrument possible for the work to be done, that They sent her to do it, and that They approved in general all she did. And she was the first direct channel to and from the Lodge, and the only one up to date through which came the objective presence of the Adepts. We cannot ignore the messenger, take the message, and laugh at or give scorn to the one who brought it to us. There is nothing new in the idea that letters are still unpublished wherein the Masters put her below them, and there is no cause for any apprehension. But it certainly is true that not a single such letter has anything in it putting her below us; she must ever remain the greatest of chelas.
There only remains, then, the position taken by some and without a knowledge of the rules governing these matters, that chelas sometimes write messages claimed to be from the Masters when they are not. This is an artificial position not supportable by law or rule. It is due to ignorance of what is and is not chelaship, and also to confusion between grades in discipleship. It has been used as to H.P.B. The false conclusion has first been made that an accepted chela of high grade may become accustomed to dictation biven by the Master and then may fall into the false pretense of giving something from himself and pretending it is from the Master. It is impossible. The bond in her case was not of such a character to be dealt with thus. One instance of it would destroy the possibility of any more communication from the teacher. It may be quite true that probationers now and then have imagined themselves as ordered to say so and so, but that is not the case of an accepted and high chela who is irrevocably pledged, nor anything like it. This idea, then, ought to be abandoned; it is absurd, contrary to law, to rule, and to what must be the case when such relations are established as existed between H.P.B. and her Masters.