Damodar and The Hall of Initiation

Damodar K. Mavalankar

(June 1881)

At about 2 in the morning after finishing my work I locked the door of the room and lay in my bed. Within about 2 or 3 minutes I heard H.P.B.’s voice in her room calling me. [1] I got up with a start and went in. She said “some persons want to see you” and after a moment added “Now go out, do not look at me.” Before however I had time to turn my face I saw her gradually disappear on the spot and from that very ground rose up the form of ∴ [2] By the time I had turned back I saw two others dressed in what I afterwards learned to be Tibetan Clothes.

One of them remained with ∴  in H.P.B.’s room. The other one I found seated on my bed by the time I came out. I saluted him & asked him if he had any orders to give. He said: “If there are any, they will be told to you, without being asked.” Then he told me to stand still for some time and began to look at me fixedly. I felt a very pleasant sensation as if I was getting out of my body. I cannot say now what time passed between that and what I am now going to relate.

But I saw I was in a peculiar place. It was the upper end of Cashmere at the foot of the Himalayas. [3] I saw I was taken to a place where there were only two houses just opposite to each other and no other sign of habitation. [4] From one of these came out the person who had written to me the Hindi letter above referred to and who has been subsequently corresponding with me. I may mention to you his name since he has allowed it to be published in Mr. Sinnett’s book called The Occult World which has just come out. Mr. Sinnett has dedicated the book to this person “Koot Hoomi ∴” It was his house. Opposite him stops ∴ Brother K- ordered me to follow him.

After going a short distance of about half a mile we came to a natural subterranean passage which is under the Himalayas. The path is very dangerous. There is a natural causeway on the River Indus which flows underneath in all its fury. Only one person can walk on it at a time and one false step seals the fate of the traveller. Besides this causeway there are several valleys to be crossed.

After walking a considerable distance through this subterranean passage we came into an open plain in L—-k. [5] There is a large massive building thousands of years old. In front of it is a huge Egyptian Tau. The building rests on 7 big pillars in the form of pyramids. The entrance gate has a large triangular arch. Inside are various apartments. The building is so large that I think it can easily contain twenty thousand people. I was shown some of these compartments.

This is the Chief Central Place where all those of our Section [6] who are found deserving of Initiation into Mysteries have to go for their final ceremony and stay there the requisite period. I went up with my Guru to the Great Hall. The grandeur and serenity of the place is enough to strike anyone with awe. The beauty of the Altar which is in the centre and at which every candidate has to take his vows at the time of his Initiation is sure to dazzle the most brilliant eyes. The splendour of the CHIEF’s Throne is incomparable. [7] Everything is on a geometrical principle & containing various symbols which are explained only to the Initiate. But I cannot say more now as I come now under an obligation of Secrecy which K- took from me there.

While standing there I do not know what happened but suddenly I got up & found myself in my bed. It was about 8 in the morning. What was that I saw? Was it a dream or a reality? If a reality, how could I traverse the whole of the Himalayas even in my astral body in so short a time? Perplexed with these ideas I was sitting silent when down fell a note on my nose. I opened it and found inside that it was not a dream but that I was taken in some mysterious way in my astral body to the real place of Initiation where I shall be in my body for the Ceremony if I show myself deserving of the blessing. [8] My joy at that moment can be more easily conjectured than described – But enough.”

Source: “Damodar and The Pioneers of The Theosophical Movement” compiled and annotated by Sven Eek

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[1] Two other articles on this site which mention Damodar at some length are Salvation from Christianity and Maji – The Yogini of Benares. Born in 1857, Damodar was a brilliant and deeply committed young man who was an accepted chela (disciple) of the Master K.H. and a deeply devoted student and assistant of H. P. Blavatsky during the years she lived and laboured in India for the Theosophical cause. He lived on the Theosophical Society premises, as did HPB, Col. Olcott, and a number of others. He had written in an earlier letter to William Judge (one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society, who was based in the USA) that soon after meeting HPB for the first time he began to suspect that “she” was actually a great Indian Initiate and Adept who was occupying a female European body in order to perform an important spiritual mission in the world. He remarked to Judge that he later learned he had been correct in this assumption. A number of years later, HPB wrote in a letter to another Indian Theosophist that Damodar “was the only true, devoted friend I had in all India, the only one who having the Masters’ and my secret, knew the whole truth and therefore knew that whatever people thought being blinded by appearance I had never deceived anyone – though I was bound on my oath and pledge to conceal much from everyone, even Olcott.”

[2] A triangular symbol comprised of three dots is used in many places throughout Theosophical literature to indicate an Adept or Master of the Wisdom. Having tremendous respect and reverence for the Masters, Damodar uses this symbol alone here to refer to the Master M. (the Guru of HPB) and later includes it after the name of the Master K.H. as well, who he also speaks of as “Brother K-.”

[3] “Cashmere” is Kashmir. It is well known amongst Theosophists that the Master K.H. is said to be a Kashmiri by birth. Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Its upper end, as stated by Damodar, is “at the foot of the Himalayas” and approaches what is geographically classified as the Trans-Himalayan region.

[4] It was stated several times in private correspondence by H. P. Blavatsky that the Master M. and Master K.H. live very near to one another, in a remote yet tranquil location. She herself had lived in the home of the Master K.H. for some time in the 1860s during the preparation and training for her public mission. In an October 1881 letter to Mrs Hollis Billings, HPB wrote, “Now Morya lives generally with Koot-Hoomi who has his house in the direction of the Kara Korum Mountains, beyond Ladak, which is in Little Tibet and belongs now to Kashmire. It is a large wooden building in the Chinese fashion pagoda-like, between a lake and a beautiful mountain. . . . They come out very rarely. But they can project their astral forms anywhere.” Geographical details such as these can be found confirmed by the Masters themselves throughout Their Letters although it is made clear that these particular Masters sometimes travel to and reside temporarily in other locations, including Tibet proper. A seemingly related passage in the Introductory of Vol. 1 of “The Secret Doctrine” mentions “the solitary passes of Kuen-lun” [the footnote says “Karakorum mountains, Western Tibet”] and goes on to say that “Along the ridge of Altyn-Toga, whose soil no European foot has ever trodden so far, there exists a certain hamlet, lost in a deep gorge. It is a small cluster of houses, a hamlet rather than a monastery, with a poor-looking temple in it, with one old lama, a hermit, living near by to watch it. Pilgrims say that the subterranean galleries and halls under it contain a collection of books, the number of which, according to the accounts given, is too large to find room even in the British Museum.” The picture below is said to have been “precipitated” – or materialised onto the fabric via occult methods – by an individual known as Juala Kula or Djwhal Khul, a disciple of the Master K.H., to represent this area where the Masters have their homes. Whether it was actually Djwhal Khul who did it is a matter of uncertainty, as this detail is thought to have originated quite some time after HPB’s death, whereas the earliest mentions of the picture come from Colonel Olcott, who said that HPB herself “magically produced” it for him while in New York in the 1870s. The painting has been given the title of “A Ravine in Tibet” although technically it is not in Tibet but in the area that was once known as Little Tibet.

A Ravine in Tibet

[5] This means Ladakh. As the Wikipedia article for Ladakh informs us, it is “a region of India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir. . . . Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans-Kunlun territory of Xinjiang to the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It is sometimes called “Little Tibet” as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture.”

[6] “All those of our Section” may refer either to the “Second Section” of the Theosophical Movement – the First Section being comprised of the Masters and Adepts themselves, the Second Section of chelas and lay chelas (disciples and lay disciples), and the Third Section of all other members and associates of the Movement at large – or of that “section” of the entire Great Brotherhood which has come to be referred to by Theosophists as the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood.

[7] The “Chief” or “Great Chief” of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood is generally referred to by HPB and the Masters as the Maha Chohan. He is the Master of the other Masters and they have written that the future lies like an open book before his vision and that he is “the greatest of all our living adepts.” His famous letter on the twin subjects of the Theosophical Movement and Buddhism can be read in our article titled The Letter from The Maha Chohan. The Master K.H. describes his return journey from a visit to the Maha Chohan thus: “. . . I was coming down the defiles of Kouenlun – Karakorum you call them – and saw an avalanche tumble. I had gone personally to our chief to submit Mr Hume’s important offer, and was crossing over to Lhadak on my way home. What other speculations might have followed I cannot say. But just as I was taking advantage of the awful stillness which usually follows such cataclysm, to get a clearer view of the present situation and the disposition of the “mystics” at Simla, I was rudely recalled to my senses.”

[8] “I was taken in some mysterious way in my astral body to the real place of Initiation where I shall be in my body for the Ceremony if I show myself deserving of the blessing.” As the whole excerpt clearly shows, all of this exists on the physical plane and this sentence in particular reveals that the actual initiation ceremony undergone by a chela is in his or her physical body and in this particular physical plane location in the Trans-Himalayan region. There is obviously some specific and important reason why it all exists in the realm of physical and material objectivity rather than solely on some subtle or astral plane. The Masters themselves are incarnated in physical bodies and live right here on the physical plane, even though their most important work is performed on higher planes. The Masters’ letters refer to them having to eat, sleep, dress, read, etc. just as we also do. The idea of them being “Ascended Masters” does not originate with Theosophy and this concept and term was not invented until the 1930s. As for Damodar, he did indeed “show himself deserving of the blessing” and four years later, in 1885, his Master called for him. Following the careful preparations and plans laid out for his journey by the Master K.H., he made his way to the Himalayas and although HPB and a few others heard from him after that time, he never returned to India but remained with the Masters.

Although ever devoted and committed to the Masters and the one they called their “Direct Agent” and “Brother” HPB, Damodar had nevertheless made a few unwise mistakes when being questioned and interviewed as part of the SPR’s (Society for Psychical Research) investigation of HPB and the unusual “phenomena” that frequently accompanied her and occurred in her presence. This is what is referred to in this letter from the Master K.H. to Col. Olcott, sent after Damodar had finally gone to live with the Masters . . .

“The poor boy has had his fall. Before he could stand in the presence of the ‘Masters’ he had to undergo the severest trials that a neophyte ever passed through, to atone for the many questionable doings in which he had over-zealously taken part, bringing disgrace upon the sacred science and its adepts. The mental and physical suffering was too much for his weak frame, which has been quite prostrated, but he will recover in course of time. This ought to be a warning to you all. You have believed ‘not wisely but too well.’ To unlock the gates of the mystery you must not only lead a life of the strictest probity, but learn to discriminate truth from falsehood. You have talked a great deal about karma but have hardly realized the true significance of that doctrine. The time is come when you must lay the foundation of that strict conduct – in the individual as well as in the collective body – which, ever wakeful, guards against conscious as well as unconscious deception.”

All of this, Damodar’s words to Mr Judge included, “ought to be a warning” too that the matter of initiation is not something to be talked about lightly or glibly. It is infinitely more sacred, important, powerful, difficult, challenging, and serious than any of the thousands of pseudo-Theosophists and New Agers who today claim to be initiates or experts on the subject can even begin to imagine.

“Conscious as well as unconscious deception” abounds in spiritual and religious circles and we must deliberately endeavour and take efforts every day to rid ourselves of every last trace of it before we can start to think about the long, arduous, dangerous, and sometimes even deadly, trek up the mount of initiation.

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“You will thus have seen of what a great consequence it is for me to be always with Madam. From the beginning I felt all that “Maji” had told me. Only two or three days after I applied for admission into the Society I said to H.P.B., what I really felt, that I regarded her as my benefactor, revered her as my Guru and loved her more than a mother. Ever since I have assured her of what I then told her. And now “Maji” tells me the same thing, strengthens my faith and asks me to confide in her (Madam). And when I afterwards consulted Swamiji in regard to myself, he, without my telling him a word of what “Maji” had said to me, urged me to do the very same thing, that is to say, to put my faith in H.P.B. All along I have felt and do still feel strongly as if I had already once studied this philosophy with Madam and that I must have been once her most obedient and humble disciple. This must have been a fact or else how can you account for the feeling created in me about her only after seeing her not more than three or four times. All my hopes and future plans are therefore centred in her and nothing in the world can shake my confidence in her, especially when two Hindus, who do not speak English and could not have pre-arranged these things, tell me the very same things without previous consultation and what I all along had myself felt.”

(Letter from Damodar to William Q. Judge)


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