The Masters and the Path

C. W. Leadbeater



Part I

The Masters


Chapter 1

The Existence of the Masters



General Considerations

The existence of Perfected Men is one of the most important of the many new facts which Theosophy puts before us. It follows logically from the other great Theosophical teachings of karma and evolution by reincarnation. As we look round us we see men obviously at all stages of their evolution—many far below ourselves in development, and others who in one way or another are distinctly in advance of us. Since that is so, there may well be others who are very much further advanced; indeed, if men are steadily growing better and better through a long series of successive lives, tending towards a definite goal, there should certainly be some who have already reached that goal. Some of us in the process of that development have already succeeded in unfolding some of those higher senses which are latent in every man, and will be the heritage of all in the future; and by means of those senses we are enabled to see the ladder of evolution extending far above us as well as far below us, and we can also see that there are men standing upon every rung of that ladder.

There is a considerable amount of direct testimony to the existence of these Perfected Men whom we call Masters, but I think that the first step which each one of us should take is to make certain that there must be such men; only as a later step will it follow that those with whom we have come into contact belong to that class.

The historical records of every nation are full of the doings of men of genius in all the different departments of human activity, men who in their special lines of work and ability have stood far above the rest—indeed, so far that at times (and probably more often than we know) their ideals were utterly beyond the comprehension of the people, so that not only the work that they may have done has been lost to mankind, but their very names even have not been preserved. It has been said that the history of every nation could be written in the biography of a few individuals, and that it is always the few, towering above the rest, who initiate the great forward steps in art, music, literature, science, philosophy, philanthropy, statecraft, and religion. They stand high sometimes in love of God and their fellow-men, as great saints and philanthropists; sometimes in understanding of man and Nature, as great philosophers, sages and scientists; some­times in work for humanity, as great liberators and reformers. Looking at these men, and realizing how high they stand among humanity, how far they have gone in human evolution, is it not logical to say that we cannot see the bounds of human attainment, and that there may well have been, and even now may be, men far further developed even than they, men great in spirituality as well as knowledge or artistic power, men complete as regards human perfections‌—men precisely such as the Adepts or Supermen whom some of us have had the inestimable privilege to encounter?

This galaxy of human genius that enriches and beautifies the pages of history is at the same time the glory and the hope of all mankind, for we know that these Greater Ones are the forerunners of the rest, and that they flash out as beacons, as veritable light-bearers to show us the path which we must tread if we wish to reach the glory which shall presently be revealed. We have long accepted the doctrine of the evolution of the forms in which dwells the Divine Life; here is the complementary and far greater idea of the evolution of that Life itself, showing that the very reason for that wondrous development of higher and higher forms is that the ever-swelling Life needs them in order to express itself. Forms are born and die, forms grow, decay and break; but the Spirit grows on eternally, ensouling those forms, and developing by means of experience gained in and through them, and as each form has served its turn and is outgrown, it is cast aside that another and better form may take its place.

Behind the evolving form burgeons out ever the Life eternal, the Life Divine. That Life of God permeates the whole of nature, which is but the many-coloured cloak which he has donned; it is he who lives in the beauty of the flower, in the strength of the tree, in the swiftness and grace of the animal, as well as in the heart and soul of man. It is because his will is evolution that all life everywhere is pressing onward and upward; and it is therefore that the existence of Perfected Men at the end of this long line of ever-unfolding power and wisdom and love is the most natural thing in the world. Even beyond them—beyond our sight and our comprehension—stretches a vista of still greater glory; some hint of that we may endeavour to give later, but it is useless to speak of it now.

The logical consequence of all this is that there must be Perfected Men, and there are not wanting signs of the existence of such Men in all ages who, instead of leaving the world entirely, to pursue a life of their own in the divine or superhuman kingdoms, have remained in touch with humanity, through love of it, to assist its evolution in beauty and love and truth, to help, as it were, to cultivate the Perfect Man—just as here and there we find a botanist who has special love for plants, and glories in the production of a perfect orange or a perfect rose.


The Testimony of the Religions

The records of every great religion show the presence of such Supermen, so full of the Divine Life that again and again they have been taken as the very representatives of God Himself. In every religion, especially at its founding, has such an One appeared, and in many cases more than one. The Hindus have their great Avataras or divine incarnations, such as Shri Krishna, Shri Shankaracharya, and the Lord Gautama Buddha, whose religion has spread over the Far East, and a great galaxy of Rishis, of Saints, of Teachers; and these Great Ones took interest not only in awakening men’s spiritual natures, but also in all affairs that made for their well-being on earth. All who belong to the Christian world know, or ought to know, much about the great succession of prophets and teachers and saints in their own dispensation, and that in some way (perhaps not clearly understood) their Supreme Teacher, the Christ himself, was and is Man as well as God. And all the earlier religions (decadent as some of them may be amid the decay of nations), down even to those of primitive tribes of men, show as outstanding features the existence of Supermen, helpers in every way of the childlike people among whom they dwelt. An enumeration of these, interesting and valuable as it is, would take us too far aside from our present purpose, so I will refer the reader for it to Mr. W. Williamson’s excellent book The Great Law.


Recent Evidence

There is much direct and recent evidence for the existence of these Great Ones. In my earlier days I never needed any such evidence, because I was fully persuaded as a result of my studies that there must be such people. To believe that there were such glorified Men seemed perfectly natural, and my only desire was to meet them face to face Yet there are many among the newer members of the Society who, reasonably enough, want to know what evidence there is. There is a considerable amount of personal testimony. Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, the co-founders of The Theosophical Society, Dr. Annie Besant, our present President, and I myself—all of us have seen some of these Great Ones, and many other members of the Society have also been privileged to see one or two of them, and there is ample testimony in what all these people have written.

It is sometimes objected that those who saw them, or fancied that they did so, may have been dreaming or perhaps deluded. The chief reason, I think, for the possibility of such a suggestion is that we have very rarely seen the Adepts at a time when both they and we were in our physical bodies. In the early days of the Society, when only Madame Blavatsky had developed higher faculties, the Masters not infrequently materialized themselves so that all could see them, and showed themselves thus physically on various occasions. You will find many records of such happenings in the earlier history of our Society, but of course the Great One so showing himself was not in his physical body, but in a materialized form.

Many of us habitually and constantly see them during our sleep. We go out in our astral bodies (or in the mental body, according to our development) and we visit them and see them in their physical bodies; but we are not at that time in ours, and that is why on the physical plane people tend to be sceptical about such experiences. Men object: “But in these cases either you who saw them were out of the physical body, and may have been dreaming or deluded, or those who appeared to you came phenomenally and then disappeared again; so how do you know that they were what you suppose them to be?”

There are a few cases in which both the Adept and the person who saw him were in the physical body. It happened with Madame Blavatsky; I have heard her testify that she lived for some time in a monastery in Nepal, where she saw three of our Masters constantly in their physical vehicles. Some of them have come down more than once from their mountain retreats into India in their physical bodies. Colonel Olcott spoke of having seen two of them on those occasions; he had met the Master Morya and also the Master Kuthumi. Damodar K. Mavalankar, whom I knew in 1884, had encountered the Master Kuthumi in his physical body. There was the case of S. Ramaswami Iyer, a gentleman whom I knew well in those days, who had the experience of meeting the Master Morya physically, and has written an account of that meeting which I shall quote later; and there was the case of Mr. W. T. Brown of the London Lodge, who also was privileged to meet one of the Great Ones under similar conditions. There is also a vast amount of Indian testimony which has never been collected and sifted, mainly because those to whom these experiences came were so thoroughly persuaded of the existence of Supermen and of the possibility of meeting them that they did not regard any individual case as worthy of record.


Personal Experience

I myself can report two occasions on which I have met a Master, both of us being in the physical vehicle. One of them was the Adept to whom the name of Jupiter was assigned in the book of The Lives of Alcyone, who greatly assisted in the writing of portions of Madame Blavatsky’s famous work Isis Unveiled, when that was being done in Philadelphia and New York. When I was living at Adyar, he was so kind as to request my revered teacher, Swami T. Subba Row, to bring me to call upon him. Obeying his summons we journeyed to his house, and were most graciously received by him. After a long conversation of the deepest interest, we had the honour of dining with him, Brahman though he be, and spent the night and part of the next day under his roof. In that case it will be admitted that there could be no question of illusion. The other Adept whom I had the privilege of encountering physically was the Master the Comte de St. Germain, called sometimes the Prince Rakoczy. I met him under quite ordinary circumstances (without any previous appointment, and as though by chance) walking down the Corso in Rome, dressed just as any Italian gentleman might be. He took me up into the gardens on the Pincian hill, and we sat for more than an hour talking about the Society and its work; or perhaps I should rather say that he spoke and I listened, although when he asked questions I answered.

Other members of the Brotherhood I have seen under varying circumstances. My first encounter with one of them was in a hotel in Cairo; I was on my way out to India with Madame Blavatsky and some others, and we stayed in that city for a time. We all used to gather in Madame Blavatsky’s room for work, and I was sitting on the floor, cutting out and arranging for her a quantity of newspaper articles which she wanted. She sat at a table close by; indeed my left arm was actually touching her dress. The door of the room was in full sight, and it certainly did not open; but quite suddenly, without any preparation, there was a man standing almost between me and Madame Blavatsky, within touch of both of us. It gave me great start, and I jumped up in some confusion; Madame Blavatsky was much amused and said: “If you do not know enough not to be startled at such a trifle as that, you will not get far in this occult work.” I was introduced to the visitor, who was not then an Adept, but an Arhat, which is one grade below that state; he has since become the Master Djwal Kul.

Some months after that the Master Morya came to us one day, looking exactly as though in a physical body; he walked through the room where I was in order to communicate with Madame Blavatsky, Who was in her bedroom inside. That was the first time I had seen him plainly and clearly, for I had not then developed my latent senses sufficiently to remember what I saw in the subtle body. I saw the Master Kuthumi under similar conditions on the roof of our Headquarters at Adyar; he was stepping over a balustrade as though he had just materialized from the empty air on the other side of it. I have also many times seen the Master Djwal Kul on that roof in the same way.

This would, I suppose, be considered less certain evidence, since the Adepts came as apparitions do; but, as I have since learned to use my higher vehicles freely, and to visit these Great Ones in that way, I can testify that those who in the early years of the Society came and materialized for us are the same Men whom I have often since seen living in their own homes. People have suggested that I and others who have the same experience may be but dreaming, since these visits take place during the sleep of the body; I can only reply that it is a remarkably consistent dream, extending in my own case over forty years, and that it has been dreamt simultaneously by a large number of people.

Those who wish to collect evidence about these matters (and it is quite reasonable that they should wish to do so) should turn to the earlier literature of the Society. If they meet Dr. Besant, they can hear from her how many of the Great Ones she has seen on different occasions; and there are many of our members who will bear witness without hesitation that they have seen a Master. It may be that in meditation they have seen his face, and later have had definite proof that he is a real being. Much evidence may be found in Colonel Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, and there is an interesting treatise called Do the Brothers Exist? written by Mr. A. O. Hume, a man who stood high in the Civil Service in India, and worked much with our late Vice-President, Mr. A. P. Sinnett. It was published in a book entitled Hints on Esoteric Theosophy. Mr. Hume, who was a sceptical Anglo-Indian with a legal mind, went into the question of the existence of the Brothers (as the Masters are also called, because they belong to a great Brotherhood, and also because they are the Elder Brothers of humanity) and even at that early date decided that he had overwhelming testimony that they did exist; and very much more evidence has accumulated since that book was published.

The possession of extended vision and other faculties resulting from the unfolding of our latent powers has also brought within our constant experience the fact that there are other orders of beings than the human, some of whom rank alongside the Adepts in a grade of existence higher than our own. We meet with some whom we call Devas or Angels, and with others whom we see to be far beyond ourselves in every respect.


The Evolution of Life

Since in the course of our development we have become able to communicate with the Adepts, we have naturally asked them with all reverence how they have attained to that level. They tell us with one accord that no long time ago they stood where we stand now. They have risen out of the ranks of ordinary humanity, and they have told us that we in time to come shall be as they are now, and that the whole system is a graded evolution of Life extending up and up, further than we can follow it, even unto the Godhead itself.

We find that as there are definite stages in the earlier evolution—the vegetable above the mineral, the animal above the vegetable and the human above the animal—so in the same way the human king­dom has a definite end, a boundary at which it passes into a kingdom distinctly higher than itself, that beyond men there are the Supermen.

In the study of this system of evolution, we have learnt that there are in every man three great divisions—body, soul and spirit; and each of these is capable of further subdivision. That is the definition which was given by St. Paul two thousand years ago. The Spirit or Monad is the breath of God (for the word spirit means breath, from the Latin spiro), the divine spark which is truly the Man, though it may more accurately be described as hovering over man as we know him. The scheme of its evolution is that it should descend into matter, and through its descent obtain definiteness and accuracy in material detail.

So far as we able to see, this Monad, which is a spark of the Divine Fire, cannot descend as far as our present level, cannot directly reach this physical plane in which we are now thinking and working—probably because the rates of its vibration and those of physical matter differ too widely, so that there must be intermediate states and conditions. On what plane of nature that divine spark originally exists we do not know, for it is far above out of our reach. The lowest manifestation of it, which might be called a reflection of it, descends into the lowermost of the Cosmic Planes, as described in A Textbook of Theosophy.

We speak commonly of seven planes of existence, which are subdivisions or subplanes of the lowest Cosmic Plane, called in our books the Prakritic, meaning the physical plane of the Cosmos. The Monad can descend to the second of these subplanes (which we consequently call the Monadic plane) but it does not seem able to penetrate lower than this. In order to obtain the necessary contact with still denser matter, it put down part of itself through two whole planes, and that fragment is what we call the ego or soul.

The Divine Spirit far above us merely hovers over us; the soul, which is a small and partial representation of it (it is as though the Monad puts down a finger of fire, and the end of that finger is the soul) cannot descend below the higher part of the mental plane (which is the fifth plane counting downwards, the physical being the seventh and lowest); and, in order that it may reach a still lower level, it must in turn put down a small portion of itself, which becomes the personality that we know. So this personality, which each person commonly thinks to be himself, is in truth but the fragment of a fragment.

All the evolution through the lower kingdom is preparatory to the development of this human constitution. An animal during its life on the physical plane (and for some time after that in the astral world) has a soul just as individual and separate as a man’s; but when the animal comes to the end of its astral life, that soul does not reincarnate again in a single body, but returns to a kind of reservoir of soul-matter, called in our books a group-soul. It is as though the group-soul were a bucket of water, supplying the need of several animals of the same kind—say, for example, twenty horses. When a horse is to be born from that group-soul, it is as though one dipped a vessel into that bucket and brought it out full of water. During the life of that horse all kinds of experiences come to him which modify his soul, from which it learns lessons, and these may be compared to various kinds of colouring matter cast into the vessel of water. When the horse dies, the water in the vessel in emptied back into the bucket, and the colouring matter which it has acquired spreads all through the whole bucket. When another horse is born from the same group-soul, another vessel of water is filled from the bucket; but it will be obvious that it is impossible to take out it exactly the same drops of water which constituted the soul of the previous horse.[1]

When an animal has developed far enough to become human, that means that at the end of his life his soul is not poured back again into the group-soul, but remains as a separate entity. And now a very curious but very beautiful fate befalls him. The soul-matter, the water in the vessel, becomes itself a vehicle for something much higher, and instead of acting as a soul, it is itself ensouled. We have no exact analogy on the physical plane, unless we think of pumping air into water under high pressure, and thereby making it aerated water. If we accept that symbolism, the water which was previously the animal soul has now become the causal body of a man; and the air pumped into it is the ego of which I have spoken—that soul of man which is but a partial manifestation of the Divine Spirit. This descent of the ego is symbolized in ancient mythology by the Greek idea of the krater or Cup, and by the mediaeval story of the Holy Grail; for the Grail or the Cup is the perfected result of all that evolution, into which is poured the Wine of the Divine Life, so that the soul of man may be born. So, as we have said, this which has previously been the animal soul becomes in the case of man what is called the causal body, which exists in the higher part of the mental plane as the permanent vehicle occupied by the ego or human soul; and all that has been learnt in its evolution is transferred to this new centre of life.

The evolution of this soul consists in its gradual return to the higher level on the plane next below the Monadic, carrying with it the result of its descent in the shape of experiences gained and qualities acquired. The physical body in all of us is fully developed, and because that is so we are supposed to have conquered it; but it should be fully under the control of the soul. Among the higher races of mankind at the present day it usually is so, though it may break away and run wild for a little at times. The astral body is also fully developed, but it is not yet by any means under perfect control; even among the races to which we belong, there are many people who are the victims of their own emotions. Instead of being able to govern them perfectly, they too often allow themselves to be governed by them. They let their emotions run away with them, just as a wild horse may run away with its rider, and take him into many places whereto he does not wish to go.

We may take it, then, that in all the best men of the more advanced races at the present day the physical body is fully developed, and fairly under control; the astral body is also fully developed, but not by any means under perfect control; the mental body is in process of unfoldment, but its growth is yet very far from complete. They have a long way to go yet before these three bodies, the physical, the astral and the mental, are entirely subordinate to the soul. When that happens the lower self will have been absorbed into the higher self, and the ego, the soul, will have dominated the man. Though the man is not yet perfect, the different vehicles are so far harmonized that they have but one aim.

Up to this time the soul has been slowly controlling the personal vehicles until they become one with it, but now the Monad in its turn begins to dominate the soul; and there will presently come a time when, just as the personality and the soul have become one, the Spirit and the soul will become one in their turn. This is the unification of the ego with the Monad; and when that is achieved the man has attained the object of his descent into matter—he has become the Superman, or Adept.


Superhuman Life

Now only, for the first time; does he enter upon his real life, for the whole of this stupendous process of evolution (through all the lower kingdoms and then through the human kingdom up to the attainment of Adeptship) is but a preparation for that true life of the Spirit which begins only when man becomes more than man. Humanity is the final class of the world-school; and when a man has been trained therein he passes out into the real life, the life of the glorified Spirit, the life of the Christ. What that is we know but little as yet, though we see some of those who are sharing it. It has a glory and a splendour which is beyond all comparison, beyond our comprehension; and yet it is a vivid and living fact, and the attainment of it by every one of us is an absolute certainty from which we cannot escape even if we would. If we act selfishly, if we set ourselves against the current of evolution, we can delay our progress; but we cannot finally prevent it.

Having finished with human life, the Perfected Man usually drops his various material bodies, but he retains the power to take up any of them if ever he should need them in course of his work. In the majority of cases, one who gains that level no longer needs a physical body. He no longer retains an astral, a mental or even a causal body, but lives permanently at his highest level. Whenever for any purpose he needs to deal with a lower plane, he must take a temporary vehicle belonging to that plane, because only through the medium of its matter can he come into contact with those who live therein. If he wishes to talk to men physically, he must take a physical body; he must have at least a partial materialization, or he cannot speak. In the same way, if he wishes to impress our minds, he must draw round himself a mental body. Whenever he needs in his work to take a lower vehicle, he has the power to do so; but he holds it only temporarily. There are seven lines of still further progress along which the Perfected Man can go, a list of which we shall give in a later chapter.


The Brotherhood of Adepts

The world is guided and directed to a large extent by a Brotherhood of Adepts to which our Masters belong. Theosophical students make all sorts of mistakes about them. They often regard them as a great monastic community, all living together in some secret place. They suppose them sometimes to be Angels, and many of our students have thought that they were all Indian, or that they all resided in the Himalayas. None of these hypotheses is true. There is a great Brotherhood, and its Members are in constant communication with one another; but their communication is on higher planes and they do not necessarily live together. As part of their work, some of these great Brothers whom we call Masters of the Wisdom are willing to take pupil-apprentices and teach them; but they form only a small section of the mighty Body of Perfected Men.

As will be explained later on, there are seven types of men, for every one belongs to one of the seven Rays into which the great wave of evolving life is distinctly divided. It would seem that one Adept on each of the Rays is appointed to attend to the training of beginners, and all those who are coming along his particular Ray of evolution pass through his hands.

No one below the rank of Adept is permitted to assume full responsibility for a novice, though those who have been chelas for a number of years are often employed as deputies, and receive the privilege of helping and advising promising young aspirants. These older pupils are gradually being trained for their future work when they in turn shall become Adepts, and they are learning to take more and more of the routine work off the hands of their Masters, so that the latter may be set free for higher labours which only they can undertake. The preliminary selection of candidates for discipleship is now left to a large extent in the hands of these older workers, and the candidates are temporarily linked with such representatives rather than directly with the great Adepts. But the pupils and the Master are so wonderfully one that perhaps this is almost “a distinction without a difference.”


The Powers of the Adept

The powers of the Adept are indeed many and wonderful, but they all follow in natural sequence from faculties which we ourselves possess. It is only that they have these faculties in a very much greater degree. I think that the outstanding characteristic of the Adept, as compared with ourselves, is that he looks upon everything from an absolutely different point of view; for there is in him nothing whatever of the thought of self which is so prominent in the majority of men. The Adept has eliminated the lower self, and is living not for self but for all, and yet, in a way that only he can really understand, that all is truly himself also. He has reached that stage in which there is no flaw in his character, nothing of a thought or feeling for a personal, separated self, and his only motive is that of helping forward evolution, of working in harmony with the Logos who directs it.

Perhaps the next most prominent characteristic is his all-round development. We are all of us imperfect; none has attained the highest level in any line, and even the great scientist or the great saint has usually reached high excellence in one thing only, and there remain other sides of his nature not yet unfolded. All of us possess some germ of all the different characteristics, but always they are but partially awakened, and one much more than another. An Adept, however, is an all-round Man, a Man whose devotion and love and sympathy and compassion are perfect, while at the same time his intellect is something far grander than we can as yet realize, and his spirituality is wonderful and divine. He stands out above and beyond all men whom we know, because of the fact that he is fully developed.

Chapter 2

The Physical Bodies of the Masters

Their Appearance

There has been among Theosophical students a great deal of vagueness and uncertainty about the Masters, so perhaps it may help us to realize how natural their lives are, and how there is an ordinary physical side to them, if I say a few words about the daily life and appearance of some of them. There is no one physical characteristic by which an Adept can be infallibly distinguished from other men, but he always appears impressive, noble, dignified, holy and serene, and anyone meeting him could hardly fail to recognize that he was in the presence of a remarkable man. He is the strong but silent man, speaking only when he has a definite object in view, to encourage, to help or to warn, yet he is wonderfully benevolent and full of a keen sense of humour—humour always of a kindly order, used never to wound, but always to lighten the troubles of life. The Master Morya once said that it is impossible to make progress on the occult Path without a sense of humour, and certainly all the Adepts whom I have seen have possessed that qualification.

Most of them are distinctly fine-looking men; their physical bodies are practically perfect, for they live in complete obedience to the laws of health, and above all they never worry about anything. All their evil karma has long been exhausted, and thus the physical body is as perfect an expression of the Augoeides or glorified body of the ego as the limitations of the physical plane will allow, so that not only is the present body of an Adept usually splendidly handsome, but also new body that he may take in a subsequent incarnation is likely to be an almost exact reproduction of the old one, allowing for racial and family differences, because there is nothing to modify it. This freedom from karma gives them, when for any reason they choose to take new bodies, entire liberty to select a birth in any country or race that may be convenient for the work that they have to do, and thus the nationality of the particular bodies which they happen to be wearing at any given time is not of primary importance.

To know that a certain man is an Adept it would be necessary to see his causal body, for in that his development would show by its greatly increased size, and by a special arrangement of its colours into concentric spheres, such as is indicated to some extent in the illustration of the causal body of an Arhat (Plate xxvi) in Man, Visible and Invisible.


A Ravine in Tibet

There is a certain valley, or rather ravine, in Tibet, where three of these Great Ones, the Master Morya, the Master Kuthumi and the Master Djwal Kul are living at the present time.

The Master Djwal Kul, at Madame Blavatsky’s request, once made for her a precipitated picture of the mouth of that ravine, and the illustration given herewith is a reproduction of a photograph of that. The original, which is precipitated on silk, is preserved in the shrine-room of the Headquarters of The Theosophical Society at Adyar. On the left of the picture the Master Morya is seen on horse-back near the door of his house. The dwelling of the Master Kuthumi does not appear in the picture, being higher up the valley, round the bend on the right. Madame Blavatsky begged the Master Djwal Kul to put himself into the picture; he at first refused, but eventually added himself as a small figure standing in the water and grasping a pole, but with his back to the spectator! This original is faintly tinted, the colours being blue, green and black. It bears the signature of the artist—the nickname Gai Ben-Jamin, which he bore in his youth in the early days of the Society, long before he reached Adeptship. The scene is evidently taken early in the day, as the morning mists are still clinging to the hillsides.

The Masters Morya and Kuthumi occupy houses on opposite sides of this narrow ravine, the slopes of which are covered with pine trees. Paths run down the ravine past their houses, and meet at the bottom, where there is a little bridge. Close to the bridge a narrow door, which may be seen on the left at the bottom of the picture, leads to a system of vast subterranean halls containing an occult museum of which the Master Kuthumi is the Guardian on behalf of the Great White Brotherhood.

The contents of this museum are of the most varied character. They appear to be intended as a kind of illustration of the whole process of evolution. For example, there are here the most life-like images of every type of man which has existed on this planet from the commencement—from gigantic loose-jointed Lemurians to pigmy remains of even earlier and less human races. Models in alto relievo show all the variations of the surface of the earth—the conditions before and after the great cataclysms which have changed it so much. Huge diagrams illustrate the migrations of the different races of the world, and show exactly how far they spread from their respective sources. Other similar diagrams are devoted to the influence of the various religions of the world, showing where each was practised in its original purity, and where it became mingled with and distorted by the remains of other religions.

Amazingly life-like statues perpetuate the physical appearance of certain of the great leaders and teachers of long-forgotten races; and various objects of interest connected with important and even unnoticed advancements in civilization are preserved for the examination of posterity. Original manuscripts of incredible antiquity and of priceless value are here to be seen—a manuscript, for example, written by the hand of the Lord Buddha himself in his final life as Prince Siddartha, and another written by the Lord Christ during his birth in Palestine. Here is kept that marvellous original of the Book of Dzyan, which Madame Blavatsky describes in the opening of The Secret Doctrine. Here too are strange scripts from other worlds than ours. Animal and vegetable forms are also depicted, some few of which are known to us as fossils, though most of them are unimagined by our modern science. Actual models of some of the great cities of remote and forgotten antiquity are here for the study of the pupils.

All statues and models are vividly coloured exactly as were the originals; and we may note that the collection here was intentionally put together at the time, in order to represent to posterity the exact stages through which the evolution or civilization of the time was passing, so that instead of mere incomplete fragments, such as our museums so often present to us, we have in all cases an intentionally educative series of presentations. There we find models of all the kinds of machinery which the different civilizations have evolved, and also there are elaborate and abundant illustrations of the types of magic in use at the various periods of history.

In the vestibule leading to these vast halls are kept the living images of those pupils of the Masters Morya and Kuthumi who happen at the time to be on probation, which I will describe later. These images are ranged round the walls like statues, and are perfect representations of the pupils concerned. It is not probable, however, that they are visible to physical eyes, for the lowest matter entering into their composition is etheric.

Near the bridge there is also a small Temple with turrets of somewhat Burmese form, to which a few villagers go to make offerings of fruit and flowers, and to burn camphor and recite the Pancha Sila. A rough and uneven track leads down the valley by the side of the stream. From either of the two houses of the Masters the other house can be seen; they are both above the bridge, but both cannot be seen from it, since the ravine bends round. If we follow the path up the valley past the house of the Master Kuthumi it will lead us to a large pillar of rock, beyond which, the ravine bending round again, it passes out of sight. Some distance further on the ravine opens out into a plateau on which there is a lake, in which, tradition tells us, Madame Blavatsky used to bathe; and it is said that she found it very cold. The valley is sheltered and faces south, and though the surrounding country is under snow during the winter, I do not remember having seen any near the Masters’ houses. These houses are of stone, very heavily and strongly built.


The House of the Master Kuthumi

The house of the Master Kuthumi is divided into two parts by a passage-way running straight through it. As will be seen from our diagram 1, which shows the ground plan of the southern half of the house, on entering the passage, the first door on the right leads into the principal room of the house, in which our Master usually sits. It is large and lofty (about fifty feet by thirty feet), in many ways more like a hall than a room, and it occupies the whole of the front of the house on that side of the passage. Behind that large room are two other nearly square rooms, one of which he uses as a library, and the other as a bedroom. That completes that side or division of the house, which is apparently reserved for the Master’s personal use, and is surrounded by a broad veranda. The other side of the house, on the left of the passage as one enters, seems to be divided into smaller rooms and offices of various kinds; we have had no opportunity of closely examining them, but we have noted that just across the passage from the bedroom is a well-appointed bathroom.

The large room is well supplied with windows, both along the front and the end—so well that on entering one gets the impression of an almost continuous outlook; and under the windows runs a long seat. There is also a somewhat unusual feature for that country, a large open fireplace in the middle of the wall opposite the front windows. This is so arranged as to heat all three rooms, and it has a curious hammered iron cover, which I am told is unique in Tibet. Over the opening of that fire-place is a mantelpiece, and near by stands the Master’s armchair of very old carved wood, hollowed to fit the sitter, so that for it no cushions are required. Dotted about the room are tables and settees or sofas, mostly without backs, and in one corner is the keyboard of the Master’s organ. The ceiling is perhaps twenty feet high, and is very handsome, with its fine carved beams, which descend into ornamental points where they meet one another and divide the ceiling into oblong sections. An arched opening with a pillar in the centre, somewhat in the Gothic style, but without glass, opens into the study, and a similar window opens into the bedroom. This latter room is very simply furnished. There is an ordinary bed, swung hammock-like between two carved wooden supports fixed in the wall (one of these carved to imitate a lion’s head, and the other an elephant’s), and the bed when not in use folds up against the wall.

The library is a fine room, containing thousands of volumes. Running out from the wall there are tall book-shelves, filled with books in many languages, a number of them being modern European works and at the top there are open shelves for manuscripts. The Master is a great linguist, and besides being a fine English scholar has a thorough knowledge of French and German. The library also contains a typewriter, which was presented to the Master by one of his pupils.

Of the Master’s family I know but little. There is a lady, evidently a pupil, whom he calls ‘sister’. Whether she is actually his sister or not I do not know; she might possibly be a cousin or a niece. She looks much older than he, but that would not make the relationship improbable, as he has appeared of about the same age for a long time. She resembles him to a certain extent, and once or twice when there have been gatherings she has come and joined the party; though her principal work seems to be to look after the house-keeping and manage the servants. Among the latter are an old man and his wife, who have been for a long time in the Master’s service. They do not know anything of the real dignity of their employer, but regard him as a very indulgent and gracious patron, and naturally they benefit greatly by being in his service.


The Master’s Activities

The Master has a large garden of his own. He possesses, too, a quantity of land, and employs labourers to cultivate it. Near the house there are flowering shrubs and masses of flowers growing freely, with ferns among them. Through the garden there flows a streamlet; which forms a little waterfall, and over it a tiny bridge is built. Here he often sits when he is sending out streams of thought and benediction upon his people; it would no doubt appear to the casual observer as though he were sitting idly watching Nature, and listening heedlessly to the song of the birds, and to the splash and tumble of the water. Sometimes, too, he rests in his great armchair, and when his people see him thus, they know that he must not be disturbed; they do not know exactly what he is doing, but suppose him to be in samadhi. The fact that people in the East understand this kind of meditation and respect it may be one of the reasons why the Adepts prefer to live there rather than in the West.

In this way we get the effect of the Master sitting quietly for a considerable part of the day and, as we should say, meditating; but while he is apparently resting so calmly, he is in reality engaged all the time in most strenuous labour on higher planes, manipulating various natural forces and pouring forth influences of the most diverse character on thousands of souls simultaneously; for the Adepts are the busiest people in the world. The Master, however, does much physical-plane work as well; he has composed some music, and has written notes and papers for various purposes. He is also much interested in the growth of physical science, although this is especially the province of one of the other great Masters of the Wisdom.

From time to time the Master Kuthumi rides on a big bay horse, and occasionally, when their work lies together, he is accompanied by the Master Morya, who always rides a magnificent white horse. Our Master regularly visits some of the monasteries, and sometimes goes up a great pass to a lonely monastery in the hills. Riding in the course of his duties seems to be his principal exercise, but he sometimes walks with the Master Djwal Kul, who lives in a little cabin which he built with his own hands, quite near to the great crag on the way up to the plateau.

Sometimes our Master plays on the organ which is in the large room in his house. He had it made in Tibet under his direction, and it is in fact a combined piano and organ, with a keyboard like those which we have in the West, on which he can play all our western music. It is unlike any other instrument with which I am acquainted, for it is in a sense double-fronted, as it can be played either from the sitting-room or the library. The principal keyboard (or rather the three keyboards, great organ, swell and choir) is in the sitting-room, whereas the piano keyboard is in the library; and these keyboards can be used either together or separately. The full organ with its pedals can be played in the ordinary way from the sitting-room; but by turning a handle somewhat equivalent to a stop, the piano mechanism can be linked with the organ, so that it all plays simultaneously. From that point of view, in fact, the piano is treated as an additional stop on the organ.

From the keyboard in the library, however, the piano can be played alone as a separate instrument, quite dissociated from the organ; but by some complicated mechanism the choir-organ is also linked to that keyboard, so that by it one can play the piano alone precisely as though it were an ordinary piano, or one can play the piano accompanied by the choir-organ, or at any rate by certain stops of that organ. It is also possible, as I said, to separate the two completely, and so, with a performer at each keyboard, to play a piano-organ duet. The mechanism and the pipes of this strange instrument occupy almost the whole of what might be called the upper story of this part of the Master’s house. By magnetization he has placed it in communication with the Gandharvas, or Devas of music, so that whenever it is played they co-operate, and thus he obtains combinations of sound never to be heard on the physical plane; and there is, too, an effect produced by the organ itself as of an accompaniment of string and wind instruments.

The song of the Devas is ever being sung in the world; it is ever sounding in men’s ears, but they will not listen to its beauty. There is the deep bourdon of the sea, the sighing of the wind in the trees, the roar of the mountain torrent, the music of stream, river and waterfall, which together with many others form the mighty song of Nature as she lives. This is but the echo in the physical world of a far grander sound, that of the Being of the Devas. As is said in Light on the Path:

Only fragments of the great song come to your ears while yet you are but man. But, if you listen to it, remember it faithfully, so that none which has reached you is lost, and endeavour to learn from it the meaning of the mystery which surrounds you. In time you will need no teacher. For as the individual has voice, so has that in which the individual exists. Life itself has speech, and is never silent. And its utterance is not, as you that are deaf may suppose, a cry: it is a song. Learn from it that you are part of the harmony; learn from it to obey the laws of the harmony.

Every morning a number of people—not exactly pupils, but followers—come to the Master’s house, and sit on the veranda and outside it. Sometimes he gives them a little talk—a sort of lecturette; but more often he goes on with his work and takes no notice of them beyond a friendly smile, with which they seem equally contented. They evidently come to sit in his aura and venerate him. Sometimes he takes his food in their presence, sitting on the veranda, with this crowd of Tibetans and others on the ground around him; but generally he eats by himself at a table in his room. It is possible that he keeps the rule of the Buddhist monks, and takes no food after noon; for I do not remember ever to have seen him eat in the evening; it is even possible that he does not need food every day. Most probably when he feels inclined he orders the food that he would like, and does not take his meals at stated times. I have seen him eating little round cakes, brown and sweet; they are made of wheat and sugar and butter, and are of the ordinary kind used in the household, cooked by his sister. He also eats curry and rice, the curry being somewhat in the form of soup, like dhal. He uses a curious and beautiful golden spoon, with an exquisite image of an elephant at the end of the handle, the bowl of which is set at an unusual angle to the stem. It is a family heirloom, very old and probably of great value. He generally wears white clothes, but I do not remember ever having seen him wearing a head-dress of any kind, except on the rare occasions when he assumes the yellow robe of the Gelugpa sect or clan, which includes a hood somewhat of the shape of the Roman helmet. The Master Morya, however, generally wears a turban.


Other Houses

The house of the Master Morya is on the opposite side of the valley, but much lower down—quite close, in fact, to the little temple and the entrance to the caves. It is of an entirely different style of architecture, having at least two stories, and the front facing the road has verandas at each level which are almost entirely glassed in. The general method and arrangement of his life is much the same as that already described in the case of the Master Kuthumi.

If we walk up the road on the left bank of the stream, rising gradually along the side of the valley, we pass on the right the house and grounds of the Master Kuthumi, and further up the hill we find on the same side of the road a small hut or cabin which he who is now the Master Djwal Kul constructed for himself with his own hands in the days of his pupilage, in order that he might have an abiding-place quite near to his Master. In that cabin hangs a sort of plaque upon which at his request one of the English pupils of the Master Kuthumi precipitated many years ago an interior view of the large room in the house of the Master Kuthumi, showing the figures of various Masters and pupils. This was done in commemoration of a certain especially happy and fruitful evening at the Master’s house.


The First Ray Adepts

Turning now to a consideration of the personal appearance of these Great Ones; that is modified to some extent by the Ray or type to which each of them belongs. The First Ray has power for its most prominent characteristic, and those who are born upon it are the kings, the rulers, the governors of the world—of the inner and spiritual world in the first place, but also of the physical plane. Any man who possesses in a very unusual degree the qualities which enable him to dominate men and to guide them smoothly along the course which he desires is likely to be either a First-Ray man or one who is tending towards the First Ray.

Such a kingly figure is the Lord Vaivasvata Manu, the Ruler of the fifth root race, who is the tallest of all the Adepts, being six feet eight inches in height, and perfectly proportioned. He is the Representative Man of our Race, its prototype, and every member of that race is directly descended from him. The Manu has a very striking face of great power, with an aquiline nose, a full and flowing brown beard, brown eyes, and a magnificent head of leonine poise. “Tall is he,” says our Dr. Besant, “and of King-like majesty, with eyes piercing as an eagle’s, tawny and brilliant with golden lights.” He is living at present in the Himalaya mountains, not far from the house of his great Brother, the Lord Maitreya.

Such a figure also is the Master Morya, the lieutenant and successor of the Lord Vaivasvata Manu, and the future Manu of the sixth root race. He is a Rajput King by birth, and has a dark beard divided into two parts, dark, almost black, hair falling to his shoulders, and dark and piercing eyes, full of power. He is six feet six inches in height, and bears himself like a soldier, speaking in short terse sentences as if he were accustomed to being instantly obeyed. In his presence there is a sense of overwhelming power and strength, and he has an imperial dignity that compels the deepest reverence.

Madame Blavatsky has often told us how she met the Master Morya in Hyde Park, London, in the year 1851, when he came over with a number of other Indian Princes to attend the first great International Exhibition. Strangely enough, I myself, then a little child of four, saw him also, all unknowing. I can remember being taken to see a gorgeous procession, in which among many other wonders came a party of richly-dressed Indian horsemen. Magnificent horsemen they were, riding steeds as fine, I suppose, as any in the world, and it was only natural that my childish eyes were fixed upon them in great delight, and that they were perhaps to me the finest exhibit of that marvellous and fairy-like show. And even as I watched them pass, as I stood holding my father’s hand, one of the tallest of those heroes fixed me with gleaming black eyes, which half-frightened me, and yet at the same time filled me somehow with indescribable happiness and exaltation. He passed with the others and I saw him no more, yet often the vision of that flashing eye returned to my childish memory.

Of course, l knew nothing then of who he was, and I should never have identified him had it not been for a gracious remark which he made to me many years afterwards. Speaking one day in his presence of the earlier days of the Society I happened to say that the first time I had had the privilege of seeing him in materialized form was on a certain occasion when he came into Madame Blavatsky’s room at Adyar, for the purpose of giving her strength and issuing certain directions. He himself, who was engaged in conversation with some other Adepts, turned sharply upon me and said: “No, that was not the first time. You had seen me before then in my physical body. Do you not remember, as a tiny child, watching the Indian horsemen ride past in Hyde Park, and did you not see how even then I singled you out?” I remembered instantly, of course, and said “Oh, Master, was that you? But I ought to have known it.” I do not mention this incident among the occasions when I have met and spoken with a Master, both parties to the interview being in the physical body, because I did not at the time know that great horseman to be the Master, and because the evidence of so small a child might well be doubted or discounted.

Mr. S. Ramaswami Iyer, in his account of the experience mentioned in Chapter I, writes:

I was following the road to the town, whence, I was assured by people I met on the road, I could cross over to Tibet easily in my pilgrim’s garb, when I suddenly saw a solitary horseman galloping towards me from the opposite direction. From his tall stature and skill in horsemanship, I thought he was some military officer of the Sikkhim Rajah.... As he approached me, he reined up. I looked at and recognized him instantly…. I was in the awful presence of him, of the same Mahatma, my own revered Guru, whom I had seen before in his astral body on the balcony of the Theosophical Headquarters. It was he, the Himalayan Brother of the ever-memorable night of December last, who had so kindly dropped a letter in answer to one I had given but an hour or so before in a sealed envelope to Madame Blavatsky, whom I had never lost sight of for one moment during the interval. The very same instant saw me prostrated on the ground at his feet. I arose at his command, and, leisurely looking into his face, forgot myself entirely in the contemplation of the image I knew so well, having seen his portrait (that in Colonel Olcott’s possession) times out of number. I knew not what to say; joy and reverence tied my tongue. The majesty of his countenance, which seemed to me to be the impersonation of power and thought, held me rapt in awe. I was at last face to face with the Mahatma of the Himavat, and he was no myth, no creation of the imagination of a medium, as some sceptics had suggested. It was no dream of the night; it was between nine and ten o’ clock of the forenoon. There was the sun shining and silently witnessing the scene from above. I see him before me in flesh and blood, and he speaks to me in accents of kindness and gentleness. What more could I want? My excess of happiness made me dumb. Nor was it until some time had elapsed that I was able to utter a few words, encouraged by his gentle tone and speech. His complexion is not as fair as that of Mahatma Kuthumi; but never have I seen a countenance so handsome, a stature so tall and so majestic. As in his portrait, he wears a short black beard, and long black hair hanging down to his breast; only his dress was different. Instead of a white, loose robe he wore a yellow mantle lined with fur, and on his head, instead of the turban, a yellow Tibetan felt Cap, such as I have seen some Bhutanese wear in this country. When the first moments of rapture and surprise were over, and I calmly comprehended the situation, I had a long talk with him.[2]

Another such regal figure is the Lord Chakshusha Manu, the Manu of the fourth root race, who is Chinese by birth, and of very high caste. He has the high Mongolian cheek-bones, and his face looks as though it were delicately carven from old ivory. He generally wears magnificent robes of flowing cloth-of-gold. As a rule we do not come into contact with him in our regular work, except when it happens that we have to deal with a pupil belonging to his root race.


The Second Ray Adepts

In the persons of our Lord the Bodhisattva, the World-Teacher, and of the Master Kuthumi, his principal lieutenant, the influence that is especially noticeable is the radiance of their all-embracing Love. The Lord Maitreya is wearing a body of the Keltic race at the present time, though when he comes forth to the world to teach his people, as he intends to do very shortly, he will make use of a body prepared for him by one of his disciples. His is a face of wondrous beauty, strong and yet most tender, with rich hair flowing like red gold about his shoulders. His beard is pointed, as in some of the old pictures, and his eyes, of a wonderful violet, are like twin flowers, like stars, like deep and holy pools filled with the waters of everlasting peace. His smile is dazzling beyond words, and a blinding glory of Light surrounds him, intermingled with that marvellous rose-coloured glow which ever shines from the Lord of Love.

We may think of him as seated in the great front room of his house in the Himalayas, the room with many windows, that overlooks the gardens and the terraces and, far below, the rolling Indian plains; or in flowing robes of white, edged with a deep border of gold, as walking in his garden in the cool of the evening, among the glorious flowers, whose perfume fills the surrounding air with a rich, sweet fragrance. Wondrous beyond measure is our Holy Lord the Christ, wondrous beyond any power of description, for through him flows the Love which comforts millions, and his is the Voice that speaks, as never man spake, the words of teaching that bring peace to angels and to men. Within a very few years that Voice will be heard and that Love be felt by those who dwell in the dark ways of earth; may we prepare ourselves to receive him when he comes and give him fitting welcome and faithful service!

The Master Kuthumi wears the body of a Kashmiri Brahman, and is as fair in complexion as the average Englishman. He, too, has flowing hair, and his eyes are blue and full of joy and love. His hair and beard are brown, which, as the sunlight catches it, becomes ruddy with glints of gold. His face is somewhat hard to describe, for his expression is ever changing as he smiles; the nose is finely chiselled, and the eyes are large and of a wonderful liquid blue. Like the great Lord, he, too, is a Teacher and Priest, and many centuries hence he will succeed him in his high Office, and will assume the sceptre of the World-Teacher, and become the Bodhisattva of the sixth root race.


The Other Rays

The Mahachohan is the type of the Statesman, the great Organizer, though he too has many military qualities. He wears an Indian body, and is tall and thin, with a sharp profile, very fine and clear-cut, and no hair on the face. His face is rather stern, with a strong, square chin; his eyes are deep and penetrating, and he speaks somewhat abruptly, as a soldier speaks. He generally wears Indian robes and a white turban.

The Master the Comte de St. Germain resembles him in many ways. Though he is not especially tall, he is very upright and military in his bearing, and he has the exquisite courtesy and dignity of a grand seigneur of the eighteenth century; we feel at once that he belongs to a very old and noble family. His eyes are large and brown, and are filled with tenderness and humour, though there is in them a glint of power; and the splendour of his Presence impels men to make obeisance. His face is olive-tanned; his close-cut brown hair is parted in the centre and brushed back from the forehead, and he has a short and pointed beard. Often he wears a dark uniform with facings of gold lace—often also a magnificent red military cloak—and these accentuate his soldier-like appearance. He usually resides in an ancient castle in Eastern Europe that has belonged to his family for many centuries.

The Master Serapis is tall, and fair in complexion. He is a Greek by birth, though all his work has been done in Egypt and in connection with the Egyptian Lodge. He is very distinguished and ascetic in face, somewhat resembling the late Cardinal Newman.

Perhaps the Venetian Chohan is the handsomest of all the Members of the Brotherhood. He is very tall—about six feet five inches, and has a flowing beard and golden hair somewhat like those of the Manu; and his eyes are blue. Although he was born in Venice, his family undoubtedly has Gothic blood in its veins, for he is a man distinctly of that type.

The Master Hilarion is a Greek and, except that he has a slightly aquiline nose, is of the ancient Greek type. His forehead is low and broad, and resembles that of the Hermes of Praxiteles. He too is wonderfully handsome, and looks rather younger than most of’ the Adepts.

He who was once the disciple Jesus is now wearing a Syrian body. He has the dark skin, dark eyes and black beard of the Arab, and generally wears white robes and a turban. He is the Master of devotees, and the key-note of his Presence is an intense purity, and a fiery type of devotion that brooks no obstacles. He lives amongst the Druses of Mount Lebanon.

Two of the Great Ones with whom we have come into contact diverge slightly from what perhaps we may call, with all reverence, the usual type of the physical body of the Adept. One of these is the spiritual Regent of India, he of whom Colonel Olcott several times writes, to whom the name Jupiter was assigned in the book Man: Whence, How and Whither. He is shorter than most members of the Brotherhood, and is the only one of them, so far as I am aware, whose hair shows streaks of grey. He holds himself very upright and moves with alertness and military precision. He is a landed proprietor, and during the visit which I paid to him with Swami T. Subba Row, I saw him several times transacting business with men who appeared to be foremen, bringing reports to him and receiving instructions. The other is the Master Djwal Kul, who is still wearing the same body in which he attained Adeptship only a few years ago. Perhaps for that reason it has not been possible to make that body a perfect reproduction of the Augoeides. His face is distinctly Tibetan in character, with high cheek bones, and is somewhat rugged in appearance, showing signs of age.

Sometimes an Adept for some special purpose wants a body to use temporarily amid the bustle of the world. That will be the case when the World-Teacher comes, and we have been told that several other Adepts also may then appear, to act as his lieutenants and assist him in his great work for humanity. Most of these Great Ones will follow the example of their Chief, and borrow temporarily the bodies of their pupils, so it is necessary that a certain number of such vehicles should be ready for their use. Students sometimes ask why, since the Adepts have physical bodies already, they will need others on this occasion.


Perfect Physical Vehicles

Those who, attaining the level of Adeptship, choose as their future career to remain upon this world and help directly in the evolution of their own humanity, find it convenient for their work to retain physical bodies. In order to be suitable for their purposes, these bodies must be of no ordinary kind. Not only must they be absolutely sound in health, but they must also be perfect expressions of as much of the ego as can be manifested on the physical plane.

The building up of such a body as this is no light task. When the ego of an ordinary man comes down to his new baby body, he finds it in charge of an artificial elemental, which has been created according to his karma, as I have described in The Inner Life. This elemental is industriously occupied in modelling the form which is soon to be born in the outer world, and it remains after birth and continues that moulding process usually until the body is six or seven years old. During this period the ego is gradually acquiring closer contact with his new vehicles, emotional and mental as well as physical, and is becoming accustomed to them; but the actual work done by himself upon these new vehicles up to the point at which the elemental withdraws is, in most cases, inconsiderable. He is certainly in connection with the body, but generally pays but little attention to it, preferring to wait until it has reached a stage where it is more responsive to his efforts.

The case of an Adept is very different from this. As there is no evil karma to be worked out, no artificial elemental is at work, and the ego himself is in sole charge of the development of the body from the beginning finding himself limited only by its heredity. This enables a far more refined and delicate instrument to be produced, but it also involves more trouble for the ego, and engages for some years a considerable amount of his time and energy. In consequence of this, and no doubt for other reasons as well, an Adept does not wish to repeat the process more often than is strictly necessary, and he therefore makes his physical body last as long as possible. Our bodies grow old and die for various reasons, from inherited weakness, disease, accident and self-indulgence, worry and overwork. But in the case of an Adept none of these causes is present, though we must of course remember that his body is fit for work and capable of endurance immeasurably beyond those of ordinary men.

The bodies of the Adepts being such as we have described, they are usually able to hold possession of them much longer than an ordinary man can, and the consequence is that we find on inquiry that the age of any such body is usually much greater than from appearances we had supposed it to be. The Master Morya, for example, appears to be a man absolutely in the prime of life—possibly thirty-five or forty years of age; yet many of the stories which his pupils tell of him assign to him an age four or five times greater than that, and Madame Blavatsky herself told us that when she first saw him in her childhood he appeared to her exactly the same as at the present time. Again, the Master Kuthumi has the appearance of being about the same age as his constant friend and companion, the Master Morya; yet it has been said that he took a University Degree in Europe just before the middle of last century, which would certainly make him something very like a centenarian. We have at present no means of knowing what is the limit of prolongation, though there is evidence to show that it may easily extend to more than double the three-score years and ten of the Psalmist.

A body thus made suitable for higher work is inevitably a sensitive one, and for that very reason it requires careful treatment if it is to be always at its best. It would wear out as ours do if it were subjected to the innumerable petty frictions of the outer world, and its constant torrent of unsympathetic vibrations. Therefore the Great Ones usually live in comparative seclusion, and appear but rarely in that cyclonic chaos which we call daily life. If they were to bring their bodies into the whirl of curiosity and vehement emotion which is likely to surround the World-Teacher when he comes, there can be no doubt that the life of these bodies would be greatly shortened, and also, because of their extreme sensitiveness, there would be much unnecessary suffering.


Borrowed Vehicles

By temporarily occupying the body of a pupil, the Adept avoids these inconveniences, and at the same time gives an incalculable impetus to the pupil’s evolution. He inhabits the vehicle only when he needs it—to deliver a lecture, perhaps, or to pour out a special flood of blessing; and as soon as he has done what he wishes, he steps out of the body, and the pupil, who has all the while been in attendance, resumes it, as the Adept goes back to his own proper vehicle to continue his usual work for the helping of the world. In this way his regular business is but little affected, yet he has always at his disposal a body through which he can co-operate, when required, on the physical plane, in the beatific mission of the World-Teacher.

We can readily imagine in what way this will affect the pupil who is so favoured as to have the opportunity of thus lending his body to a Great One, though the extent of its action may well be beyond our calculation. A vehicle tuned by such an influence will be to him verily an assistance, not a limitation; and while his body is in use he will always have the privilege of bathing in the Adept’s marvellous magnetism, for he must be at hand to resume charge as soon as the Master has finished with it.

This plan of borrowing a suitable body is always adopted by the Great Ones when they think it well to descend among men, under conditions such as those which now obtain in the world. The Lord Gautama employed it when he came to attain the Buddha-hood, and the Lord Maitreya took the same course when he visited Palestine two thousand years ago. The only exception known to me is that when a new Bodhisattva assumes the office of World-Teacher after his predecessor has become the Buddha, on his first appearance in the world in that capacity he takes birth as a little child in the ordinary way. Thus did our Lord, the present Bodhisattva, when he took birth as Shri Krishna on the glowing plains of India, to be reverenced and loved with a passion of devotion that has scarcely ever been equalled.

This temporary occupation of a pupil’s body should not be confused with the permanent use by an advanced person of a vehicle prepared for him by some one else. It is generally known among her followers that our great Founder, Madame Blavatsky, when she left the body in which we knew her, entered another which had just been abandoned by its original tenant. As to whether that body had been specially prepared for her use, I have no information; but other instances are known in which that was done. There is always in such cases a certain difficulty in adapting the vehicle to the needs and idiosyncrasies of the new occupant; and it is probable that it never becomes a perfectly fitting garment. There is for the incoming ego a choice between devoting a considerable amount of time and trouble to superintending the growth of a new vehicle, which would be a perfect expression of him, as far as that is possible on the physical plane; or of avoiding all that difficulty by entering the body of another—a process which will provide a reasonably good instrument for all ordinary purposes; but it will never fulfil in every respect all that its owner desires. In all cases, a pupil is naturally eager to have the honour of giving up his body to his Master; but few indeed are the vehicles pure enough to be so used.

The question is often raised as to why an Adept, whose work seems to lie almost entirely on higher planes, needs a physical body at all. It is really no concern of ours, but if speculation on such a matter be not irreverent, various reasons suggest themselves. The Adept spends much of his time in projecting streams of influence, and while, so far as has been observed, these are most often on the higher mental level, or on the plane above that, it is probable that they may sometimes at least be etheric currents, and for the manipulation of these the possession of a physical body is undoubtedly an advantage. Again, most of the Masters whom I have seen have a few pupils or assistants who live with or near them on the physical plane, and a physical body may be necessary for their sake. Of this we may be certain, that if an Adept chooses to take the trouble to maintain such a body, he has a good reason for it; for we know enough of their methods of working to be fully aware that they always do everything in the best way, and by the means which involve the least expenditure of energy.


[1] For further details of this process, see A Textbook of Theosophy.

[2] Five Years of Theosophy (2nd Edition), p. 284.


The Masters and the Path, part 2