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Contextualizing the Mahatma Letters in a Scholarly Context: A New Approach

12 Oct 2019
16:00

Contextualizing the Mahatma Letters in a Scholarly Context: A New Approach

In the early nineties, the publication of K. Paul Johnson’s The Masters Revealed sparked a lively debate. Johnson’s book was an impressive attempt to discover the reality behind the myth of the Masters. Johnson proposed that the Masters were covers for real-life acquaintances of Blavatsky and Olcott. To make his case, Johnson had no choice but to rely on testimony offered by early Theosophists. Their testimony is, however, unreliable from a scholarly point of view. The subsequent debate showed that it is almost impossible to separate myth from reality when independent testimony is absent. In his important 2002 dissertation “The Theosophical Masters,” Brendan French focused on what the Masters meant to Theosophists and avoided the question of historical reality altogether.

Because of their problematic status, the Masters and their letters have received little attention in academia, where research tends to zoom in on H. P. Blavatsky. This paper suggests that we should shift the focus from what early Theosophists say about the Masters to the letters themselves. The letters have a lot to tell us about the authors, their immediate context and the issues that concerned them. This paper proposes a philological approach to unearth this information.