Origins of “The Masters and The Path”

Josephine Ransom claims that The Masters and the Path “was based on teachings given by the Master K.H. to a group of pupils about 1897.” [A Short History of the  Theosophical Society, 1875-1937 TPH, Adyar, 1938:472]

masters-and-the-path

This, presumably, refers to teachings allegedly given through Leadbeater to an esoteric group founded by Alfred Percy Sinnett (1880-1921) within the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. In 1882, in the midst of the period in which he was receiving letters from the Masters (1880-1885) Sinnett had worked on a proposal for a grade structure for the Third Section of the Theosophical Society, and received Mahatmic advice on this subject (see Mahatma Letter No XXXV); the Master advised that, because of the limited education of many “Asiatics”, it was virtually impossible to create a system of grades which would be suitable to both easterners and westerners, but nevertheless gave encouragement for the development of a “scheme of ‘Degrees’”. Sinnett’s proposal appears to have been of seven degrees, but nothing seems to have come of it.

The Inner Group of the London Lodge eventually included Sinnett; William Scott-Elliot; Francesca Arundale; Mr John and Mrs Isabella Varley; and Leadbeater. For John Varley (1850-1893) and his family, see C.W. Leadbeater The Souls Growth Through Reincarnation. Lives of Erato and Spica Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1949: 10-17.

Sinnett published Transactions of the London Lodge on the basis of papers prepared for the group, and which he claimed included material deriving from contact with KH through various psychics, including Laura Holloway (or Holloway-Langford)(1848-1930), but most notably through “Mary” (i.e. Matilda (Maude) Louise Travers (1859-1929)). The use of “Mary” declined after her marriage to William Travers Scott-Elliot (sometimes incorrectly spelled Scott-Elliott)(1849-1919) in 1893 and ended in 1898. For “Mary”, see: see Daniel Caldwell and Michelle B. Graye, “Mary Unveiled,” Theosophical History 1:8 (October, 1986), 206.

An index to Transactions of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society First Series 1884-1906 can be found on-line at: http://www.austheos.org.au/indices/TRLOL1.HTM

From 1889 to 1894 Sinnett used Leadbeater as a medium through whom messages from the Masters could be obtained. In June, 1894, Annie Besant was admitted to the Inner Group of the London Lodge.

Leadbeater’s involvement with the Inner Group ceased when he moved into the Avenue Road, London, house which was occupied by Besant and other Theosophical workers; he was then financially supported by Besant, and by his own Theosophical publications.

Jinarajadasa published some of the teachings received through Leadbeater in a number of (now very rare) ES pamphlets: for example, C.W. Leadbeater Some Fundamental Teachings Outer Head of the ES, Adyar, 1937.

Of this work, Jinarajadasa wrote in his foreword:

The papers in this compilation were all written by Brother C. W. Leadbeater about the years 1892-95, in London. The manuscript book, from which the papers which follow are reprinted, is in my own handwriting. Brother Lead­beater used to write first on small pieces of paper, usually the inside of envelopes received with letters; from them I copied into manuscript books. It is from the papers in this manuscript book in my handwriting that later he compiled the larger work The Masters and the Path.* (*Mr. Ernest Wood assisted greatly in compiling this work; he was an excellent amanuensis, and Brother Leadbeater often relied on him to shape unrevised manuscripts, reports of lectures, etc., into literary form for publication.)

At this period which I mention, there existed in London two groups of occult students who were dedicated to the work of the Masters. The first group was that which had gathered round H. P. B. at the London Headquarters, and after her death continued as the Inner Circle of the E. S. T. with Brother Annie Besant as the head. The second group was that which had gathered round Mr. A. P. Sinnett since 1883. On the arrival of Brother Lead­beater and myself in London at the end of 1889, we became members of the second group, as both of us were guests, of Mr. Sinnett, and lived with him for two years. In 1894, Brother Besant too became a member. Later, some of us of this London Lodge Group were admitted by her into the E. S. T. into its highest grade.

The members of this group of Mr. Sinnett numbered at this time about twenty. They met fairly frequently, and took up various aspects of Theosophical teachings for study and discus­sion. After several such discussions, some member of the group would be charged with the work of gathering what material he could from Theosophical works, The Secret Doctrine in particular; it was his task then to for­mulate the topic in a paper to be read to the group for further discussion. Thus, for instance, during several meetings much time was spent in trying to understand the subject of root races and sub-races. The material in The Secret Doctrine was not adequate; the principal defect was the lack of definition as to what constitutes the difference between one root race and another, and how a new root race arose out of the old. One member was instructed to read as many works as he could on Ethno­logy, and to report what they conveyed regarding the various races. This work was done by Mr. John Varley, who after three months’ study read a paper. The value of this paper lay in pointing out the great contradictions and gaps in the theories of the ethnologists.

Questions on the races were then formulated by the group, to be presented to the Masters. The questions were presented by Brother Lead­beater to the Master K. H. The Master, how­ever, did not answer them, but passed them on to the Master M., saying that they appertained to the department of His Brother. It was also the Master M. who answered the questions regarding the formation of the Solar System. The answers of the Master M. were written down by Brother Leadbeater as accurately as he could recollect, and as mentioned above, I my­self copied them down into a manuscript book.

Regarding the subject of the Rays, for several years there had existed with him a small memorandum, with a table of the Rays, but there were no explanations; I recollect his saying frequently that it was a very secret memo­randum of the teachings given at Adyar by the Master D. K. in 1885-6, concerning matters not revealed to the world.

The other papers contain teachings which Brother Leadbeater had received at various times from the Master K. H. and His senior pupils; here and there he has added to them explanations of his own, in order to make the subject clearer. The paper on the Aura was the result of his own investigations.

Though the material in this work has already appeared in several forms in other publications, I am reprinting the original manuscript book, as it contains much in brief, and serves well as a book of study.

The text of Jinarajadasa’s publication of Leadbeater’s “Some Fundamental Teachings” is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Some_Fundamental_Teachings-CWL.htm

A valuable comment from Leslie Price:

Although the actual term “Neo-Theosophy” is of course much later, this begins around 1885 when Sinnett declines to accept any more Madame Blavatsky as his intermediary with the Mahatmas, and henceforth derives an every growing volume of material through such psychic means as hypnosis. Only occasionally was it possible to show this was demonstrably false as, for example, the supposed hole at the North Pole (mentioned in his ” Autobiography” ) or the life of dwellers near Martian canals, not found by space probes, or – pre-eminently – the coming world teacher, a role in its Theosophical elaboration rejected by Krishnamurti in 1929. Mr Jinarajadasa’s account is important in elucidating how Neo-Theosophy made the transition from London Lodge to the TS as a whole.

One thought on “Origins of “The Masters and The Path”

  1. Although the actual term “Neo-Theosophy” is of course much later, this begins around 1885 when Sinnett declines to accept any more Madame Blavatsky as his intermediary with the Mahatmas, and henceforth derives an every growing volume of material through such psychic means as hypnosis. Only occasionally was it possible to show this was demonstrably false as, for example, the supposed hole at the North Pole (mentioned in his ” Autobiography” ) or the life of dwellers near Martian canals, not found by space probes, or – pre-eminently – the coming world teacher, a role in its Theosophical elaboration rejected by Krishnamurti in 1929. Mr Jinarajadasa’s account is important in elucidating how Neo-Theosophy made the transition from London Lodge to the TS as a whole.

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