Masters of Wisdom: Outwardly Mortal, Inwardly Immortal

“The time is come to let thee know who I am. I am not a disembodied spirit, brother. I am a living man, gifted with such powers by our Lodge as are in store for thyself someday. I cannot be otherwise with thee but in spirit, for many thousands of miles separate us at present.” (An early letter to Colonel Olcott from the Master S. or S.B.)

As so much misunderstanding about the Masters, Adepts, or Mahatmas, exists today due to the popular “Ascended Masters”

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky as a young woman.

movements within the New Age Movement, it is important to explain that the “Masters of Wisdom” spoken of and known of in Theosophy are human beings, physically incarnated here on this Earth. This point was repeatedly emphasised by H. P. Blavatsky. In the article Blindly Following HPB? we said:

“Of all the many people who have declared themselves to be Agents or Messengers of the Masters, HPB was the first and also the only one who went so far as to say that she spent years living with the Masters and receiving direct teaching and training from Them in person, face to face, prior to embarking on her public mission.

“Of all such claimants, she was the only one through whom and with whom came the objective presence of the Mahatmas, both in terms of Their public and private appearances to others in visible and tangible form and Their sending and precipitation of letters, both directly and indirectly, to numerous people around the world. This cannot be said for any of the other claimants, whether Alice Bailey, C. W. Leadbeater, Helena Roerich, Benjamin Creme, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, or anyone else, even if they claimed to be far closer to the Masters than HPB could have ever hoped to be, which is what some of them have said.”

If, as was first claimed in the 1930s by Guy Ballard (a proven con artist and fraud and founder of “The I AM Activity”), these Masters are “Ascended Masters,” i.e. disembodied, otherworldly, celestial beings, who live and function solely on higher planes, then of course anyone and everyone can make all sorts of different and contradictory claims about Them, Their teachings, Their activities, etc. and anyone and everyone can claim to be in contact or communication with these Masters without ever having to prove or demonstrate it as true . . . since, after all, how can anyone objectively prove what is purportedly solely subjective? Just as for thousands of years people have made the unprovable and unverifiable claim of being in personal contact with “God Himself” and used that claim to try to influence and control people for their own ends and purposes, the same has been done and is still being done with “Ascended Masters.”

“But Blavatsky’s own claims are unverifiable and unproven too,” someone might say. But that is not actually the case and in this regard we encourage the reading of such articles as The Masters and Madame Blavatsky and The Masters in Theosophy.

Here are a few key statements from HPB:

“Our MASTERS . . . are simply holy mortals, nevertheless, however, higher than any in this world, morally, intellectually and spiritually. However holy and advanced in the science of the Mysteries – they are still men, members of a Brotherhood, who are the first in it to show themselves subservient to its time-honoured laws and rules.” (“The Theosophical Mahatmas” article)

“In the first place they are living men, born as we are born, and doomed to die like every other mortal. . . . Some Adepts do exceed, by a good deal, what you would call the ordinary age; yet there is nothing miraculous in it, and very few of them care to live very long. . . . We call them “Masters” because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life. They are not ascetics in the ordinary sense, though they certainly remain apart from the turmoil and strife of your western world. . . . the philosophy preached by the “Masters” is one of the grandest and most beneficent philosophies once it is properly understood.” (“The Key to Theosophy” p. 288-289, 298)

“Those who fall off from our living human Mahatmas to fall into the Saptarishi – the Star Rishis, are no Theosophists.” (“She Being Dead Yet Speaketh” article)

“I pledge myself to give to Mr. Mendenhall the true statement concerning the Brotherhood, which is not composed of spirits, as he may think, but of living mortals, and I will, moreover, if he desires it, put him in direct communication with the Lodge as I have done for others.” (“The Science of Magic” article)

So we see that HPB and the real Masters make clear that They don’t wish to be viewed as gods but that They are “holy mortals,” “living human Mahatmas,” and “living men [and women too], born as we are born, and doomed to die like every other mortal.”

However, the part of Them which is mortal is Their outer, external, physical body. Having become Masters, They have of course attained a certain degree of immortality in the inner and only true sense of the word.

This means an unbroken continuity of consciousness, which bypasses sleep and even death, meaning that Their inner being is always conscious, awake, perceiving, understanding, as well as able to function consciously and deliberately on higher and metaphysical levels. Whereas for most of us physical death also entails the separation and disintegration of our astral body along with the physical, these Masters have developed over the course of many lifetimes what is sometimes called a “permanent astral”; more can be read about this in The Permanent Astral article. To us this might well sound like a god or an angel but Theosophy maintains that the “angels” – or Dhyan Chohans – are something quite different.

As we also read, They can and sometimes do remain in a physical body much longer than an average person – an article titled “The Elixir of Life” published in the book “Five Years of Theosophy” sheds some light on how this is achieved – but no physical body can last forever; eventually They must discard it and occupy another. This can be done through the normal mode of rebirth or by taking up occupancy of an already living body whose original occupant is departing.

Three instances of the latter are reliably known of in the history of the modern Theosophical Movement, namely HPB herself, plus William Q. Judge, and also Maji. Articles specifically addressing this matter are Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, Who was William Quan Judge?, and Maji – The Yogini of Benares. It is true that They may not always take up a new body immediately and so there can be periods in which They are functioning only on other planes, but more often than not They are here, on our Earth, for They have important work to do here.

One might ask why these advanced individuals do not make Themselves publicly known if indeed They are physically incarnated and living right here on our planet. Part of the answer is obvious from what we have discussed above: many spiritually-interested people – who are the only people likely to give much credence to the notion of Masters of Wisdom anyway – prefer fantasy, fiction, and quasi-religious claims, to the actual facts of the matter.

The Master K.H. once wrote in a letter to a spiritual seeker: “Cross over from your land of dream and fiction to our Truth land of stern reality and fact.”

Until people are willing and prepared to do this, no-one can reasonably or justifiably expect these Great Souls to give direct and public help and personal assistance to the world at large. Nonetheless They do always help when and where They can, very often from behind the scenes and unsuspected.

During HPB’s time another misconception was the notion that the Masters were the stereotypical type of Indian and Oriental ascetics. We conclude this article by sharing some extracts from “a letter written by H.P.B. to a personal friend on July 5, 1890” which were published under the title “MAHATMAS – OR MEN-SPIRITS” in the September 1951 issue of “Theosophy” magazine, a monthly periodical of the United Lodge of Theosophists.


“All depends, you see, on what each of us means by Mahatmas or Masters. To a Hindu, no doubt, from the very learned Subba Row down to Babula, a Mahatma, Guru or Master is a naked Yogi with a chignon of entangled and unkempt hair on the top of the head; one who whether an Adwaita, Dwaita or Visishtadwaita, . . . or Vishnava, or whatever else, follows the rules of Patanjali, of Chaitanya, Sankaracharya or any other of the known acharyas; one who calls upon the name of his 330 crores of deities, repeats parrot-like his Aums, etc., etc. For me and those who know the Masters personally, our “Mahatmas” so-called, are nothing of the kind. Olcott is home, and you may ask him what our Masters are like, whether from the description he had from me in New York and which was never altered to this day, or from the two Masters he met personally – one in Bombay and the other in Cashmere.

“My Masters and the Masters are Yogis and Munis de facto, not de jure; in their life not in appearance. They are members of an occult Brotherhood, not of any particular School in India. One of their highest Mahachohans lived in Egypt and went to Tibet only a year before we did (in 1878) and he is neither a Tibetan nor a Hindu; this “Occult Brotherhood” has not originated in Tibet, nor is it only in Tibet now; but what I always said and maintain to this day is, that most of its members and some of the highest are, and live constantly, in Tibet, because of its isolation and freedom from Christians; that its origin is of untold antiquity, and is as much Masonic as present Masonry is little Masonic; . . . and finally that if I spoke only (to our Fellows of T. S.) of two or three Masters it is because my own Masters happen to be a Rajput by birth – and “Koothoomi” a Cashmerian, and therefore these were likely to be more authoritative with the Hindus than the rest of them.

“Ask Olcott, Sinnett, and even Hume, and even the latter could not without saying a lie tell you that I had not repeated this to them over and over again, adding many a time that even few lamas knew the whole truth about the “Chapa” (men-spirits) as they call them on account of their having so little to do with the general mass of the people. I said and repeat, that they are living men not “spirits,” . . . that their knowledge and learning are immense, and their personal holiness of life is still greater – still they are mortal men and none of them 1,000 years old, as imagined by some. What I said and say, was and is, the truth; those who will have it, all right; those who see in what I say a cleverly concocted romance by me, are also welcome. . . .

“When we went to Pondichery with Olcott to form a Branch, instead of fifty or sixty members we got but three or four. Why? Simply because I had said to an influential member that our Mahatmas did not sit buried in the earth letting their toe and finger nails grow a yard long and the birds make nests in their top-knots – for such was his idea. He left the T. S. and led away almost all others. Ask Olcott; he must remember the fact. And yet in the very room where visitors came to see us, in the crowd there stood a living Mahatma, whom I knew for years, who lives in the neighbourhood, but whom no one seemed to know in Pondichery, and who was mistaken for a Malayalin – a stranger!”

There is of course much more to the subject than this and so we invite those who are interested to visit the Articles page and read through the numerous articles listed under the heading “THE MASTERS.” One other article, which relates to a quote shared earlier from HPB – “Those who fall off from our living human Mahatmas to fall into the Saptarishi – the Star Rishis, are no Theosophists.” – is Beware of the Star Rishis and is particularly relevant for anyone involved in any way with New Age channelling and mediumship.

“The more I see of mediums – for the United States is a true nursery, the most prolific hot bed for mediums and sensitives of all kinds, genuine and artificial – the more I see the danger humanity is surrounded with,” wrote HPB to her sister in the early 1870s. Contrary to popular misconceptions, HPB was not a medium or channeller, although she was indeed the public representative or spokesperson for her living human Mahatmas, with whom she was in physical, written, astral, and also telepathic contact. And as one can see in Who are you, Madame Blavatsky? the real and inner “HPB” was and is a great Eastern Adept in her – or his – own right.

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