“The presence of Their portraits will not help; They are a dead letter.”
– H.P. Blavatsky, “Why I Do Not Return to India”
Every day hundreds of people around the world search online to try to find photos and pictures of the Masters they have heard of or read about in connection with Theosophy or of the so-called “Ascended Masters” who are so popular in the New Age Movement and amongst channelling enthusiasts.
Those who search will invariably find a huge mass of different sorts of pictures and images from many sources, all purporting to accurately depict and represent the appearance of various Masters. They will also find websites of various groups and organisations where one can buy a wide range of such pictures and artwork.
As we have stated and shown in other articles, the whole “Ascended Masters” movement is a deceptive sham, a web of fantasy, fraud, and delusion, originating in the 1930s with the American con artist Guy Ballard who founded “The I AM Movement.” He was the first to use the term “Ascended Masters” and to declare that the Masters spoken of in the Theosophical Movement, as well as others, were “ascended beings,” not incarnated on this physical plane but living in other realms and functioning rather similarly to disembodied saints or guardian angels.
Such notions are entirely foreign and contradictory to the assertions of H.P. Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Movement in 1875. She was the first person to bring the fact of the existence of such Masters of the Wisdom to public attention and her own close connection and direct involvement with them is so adequately proven as not to be a matter of mere conjecture. She, therefore, should be presumed to know what she was talking about in regard to this matter, and far more so than later claimants, none of whose supposed “Masters” have ever been in harmony or agreement with the teachings, character, aims, purposes, ideals, and known details, of the Masters of HPB.
The actual Masters – also known as the Mahatmas and the Brothers – wrote hundreds of letters to various Theosophists and even non-Theosophists during HPB’s lifetime and also a few letters after that. Many of these have been published and are fairly well known amongst today’s Theosophical students. It can be seen that what HPB said and taught is in perfect and exact harmony with what the Masters say and teach, which in itself should hardly be surprising, considering the fact that they spoke of her as their “Direct Agent” and their “Brother” and clearly implied that she was inwardly an initiated Adept in her own right. (See Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky and Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?)
And both HPB and the Masters themselves always emphasised that the Masters are living in physical bodies right here on Earth, for this is where they are needed and they have certain important work to do on the physical plane, but they tend to dwell in purposeful seclusion and isolation from the impure and truly toxic psychic atmosphere and magnetism of the modern world. The Masters most often spoken of in connection with HPB and the founding of the Theosophical Movement are the Master M. and the Master K.H., belonging to a hidden Esoteric Brotherhood with its main base in the Trans-Himalayan region. The names by which they are known are mystic names and not their actual birth names or family names.
As we have also said in other articles on this site, later so-called “theosophical teachers” after the time of HPB – most notably the infamous C.W. Leadbeater – altered and distorted the whole concept and known facts about the Masters and also invented a number of other Masters, usually with a distinctly Christian flavour to them.
If one wants to find out anything reliable and trustworthy about the actual Masters, the only place to find it is in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky. And anyone who looks there will soon find that she actually said very little about the Masters. For her, as for her most trusted friend, colleague, and co-founder of the Theosophical Movement William Q. Judge, as for all sincere students of genuine Theosophy, these perfected men and highly initiated esotericists who we call “Masters” are of far too holy and sacred a nature to be spoken about or referred to in anything resembling a casual or superficial manner.
Hence the emphasis in original and genuine Theosophy is always on the Teachings, the Philosophy, the Science, that the Masters have presented and made available to the world through the agency of HPB, and not on the Masters themselves, least of all on any personal details or information regarding them.
Nevertheless, a student of Theosophy may say, “I understand and accept all that…I know the Masters are not “ascended” and I know they have no wish to be worshipped or prayed to…I know it’s Theosophy itself which is of the most importance for us and for the world…but I’d like to see a genuine and actual photo or picture of one of the actual Masters, seeing as I revere and respect them and their work so much.”
From an ordinary everyday perspective, this sounds reasonable enough and one might assume that a Theosophical website should have reliable photos and pictures of the Masters on it.
There are a few pictures in existence, believed to be of the two Masters mentioned above, and which are considered by a photographic expert to be genuine photographs. This does not include the well known online photo of HPB seated with three “Masters” standing behind her, as this is a notorious fake and hoax, dating originally from sometime between the 1930s and 1950s. It is dealt with in the article The Fake Photo.
It’s also known that several portraits and pictures of these Masters were in the private possession of a very small number of Theosophists during the time of HPB. So they are known to exist and the accounts of the way some of them were produced have been published in a few books of a biographical and historical nature.
When a reporter for “The London Star” newspaper in December 1888 described his visit to HPB at the house in London which served both as her home and as the main centre of Theosophical work in England, he mentioned amongst many other things that “Besides the tobacco box, there is only one other notable object in her sanctum, the portrait of the Mahatma Morya (a descendant, she says, of the old dynasty of the Mauryas), whom she calls her Master, a dark and beautiful Indian face, full of sweetness and wisdom. This seer Madame Blavatsky has seen, she says, at various times in the flesh: in England once, in India on many occasions, and some years ago she went to seek him in the fastness of Tibet, a romantic pilgrimage by no means free from peril, during which she penetrated some of the Buddhist monasteries or Lamaseries, and had converse with the recluses there.”
But let us consider this important fact: HPB herself never published any pictures of the Masters, never suggested or consented to the publication or general distribution of such pictures, even amongst members of the Theosophical Society, and never said or wrote anything to support the idea of everyone being able to know and find out what the Masters look like.
On the contrary, she told even A.P. Sinnett – the main recipient of the famous letters from the Master K.H. and the Master M.:
“You are a “baby” for liking their portraits.”
Writing to Sinnett at another time, she said, “Now what do you want with his [i.e. the Master M.’s] portrait? And it does not look at all like him, since he never wears now his white puggery, but simply sticks a yellow saucer on the top of his head like K.H. All this is vexation of spirit and vanity and nothing else. You better ask the Chohan to favour you with his picture, and then see how amiable he looks every Sunday morning.”
– “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #XV & VI, p. 32, 8
“The Chohan” referred to is the Maha Chohan, the Chief of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, further information in connection with whom can be found in the articles What is a Chohan? and The Letter from the Maha Chohan. A photo which can be seen by clicking here will give some idea of what may be meant by the “yellow saucer” hat, still in use today amongst adherents of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, with which the Masters and HPB are known to have been affiliated or associated in some way.
Sometime around late 1889, some Theosophists in London had the idea of printing pictures of the Masters – presumably from photographs taken of known portraits of the Masters M. and K.H. – and making them available for purchase. There is nothing to suggest that HPB knew of this or endorsed it. It didn’t last very long. When some of the London Theosophists involved in the project sent four of the pictures to William Judge in New York, misguidedly presuming that he would want to sell them to some of the American Theosophists, he replied in writing:
“I have two small photos of the Masters and two large ones, four in all. The two large ones I have given a friend to keep and as I do not know the price I must leave it to you to inform me. The two small ones I have in hand as trustee and shall return them if you please as I shall not be a party to selling pictures of the Masters. … This therefore brings this business to a conclusion. I have given orders in the Path office not to order any photos of anyone and not to receive any, but to send them back, and to refer all persons direct to London. As to the photos of Masters I consider the whole thing a scandal. In one breath they are sacred and then they are sold for money. It does not excuse to say that they cost that, for if they are to go to certain proper persons then they should be free and if that can’t be afforded then they should not be at all. Of course I do not criticize you in any way for I have no right and I do not think you originated it; but I am only expressing my private opinion as I think I can safely do with you as with no one else.” (Letter to Countess Wachtmeister, dated 25th February 1890)
Something sorely lacking in the world today, even in some quarters of the Theosophical world, is a sense of the sacred.
We may know, accept, and agree intellectually that certain things are sacred but sometimes our thoughts and actions towards those things would suggest that we don’t truly appreciate that sacredness or haven’t yet grasped it fully.
In light of the above facts and several months of reflection on the matter, we eventually decided to remove the several pictures of Masters that were previously on a few of the pages of this site and are now inclined to agree with those who feel reverentially that photos or pictures of such Great Souls are of a far too holy and sacred nature to be stuck up on the internet or even published in books or magazines. It almost seems as if this would amount to desecration. We have found nothing from either HPB or WQJ, nor from the Masters’ own letters, to suggest that they would endorse the publicising of such images. All the known evidence points towards them taking the contrary stance.
We do not need to know what the Masters look like. To see a representation of their physical appearance does not help us in any way, nor should our confidence in the Masters and their existence be determined or influenced by whether or not we have seen a picture of them.
There are two other points to be borne in mind.
One is the fact that every picture we see with our physical eyes creates an internal picture within our own mind and imagination. This is simply the way the mind works and in itself is something neither good nor bad. Potential problems arise, however, for those of a psychically inclined or mediumistic nature. The article The Psychic is not the Spiritual will give some idea of what is meant by this type of nature. For such an individual, the internal image created by having seen a picture which they believe to be that of a Master of Wisdom, can easily become animated and vivified in their dreams, meditation experiences, or at other times, by all sorts of influences, ranging from elements of their own subconscious and unconscious, to astral shells in Kama Loka (see Death and the Afterlife), to the elementals or “thought forms” existing in the psychic atmosphere known as the Astral Light and created by other people’s thoughts, ideas, and imaginations about the Masters which in most cases are incorrect, to actual malevolent entities and members of the Dark Brotherhood or Black Lodge who seek to delude, deceive, and disrupt.
This is probably the origin of many of the instances around the world of people who sincerely believe themselves to have come in contact with “Ascended Masters” after discovering such ideas and seeing the alleged pictures of such beings. Such psychic delusions become even more likely if the individual deliberately meditates, concentrates, or focuses upon such pictures. He is, as it were, burning the image and the ideas related to it – which in the case of “Ascended Masters” are invariably erroneous and misleading right from the start – into the psychic part of his inner nature and as a result it will almost inevitably “come to life” for him before too long.
One who sincerely believes in such experiences may manage to convince others of their reality also and hence the delusion begins to spread far and wide, sometimes even resulting in mass movements causing great harm and damage such as “The Summit Lighthouse” that was presided over by the late Elizabeth Clare Prophet.
The Masters will not communicate or make contact with us simply because we want them to. Neither will they do so just because we may meditate on them, think about them, or have genuine reverence in our hearts towards them. They, along with HPB and WQJ, have made it plain that it is a very difficult thing to come in contact with the Masters and that they have little interest in initiating communication with even the vast majority of sincere Theosophists. For one thing, it is simply not necessary. We can know from the authentic Theosophical literature what their teaching is, what their philosophy is, what their aim is, and how they expect us to work for the great Theosophical Cause, which is their cause of Universal Brotherhood, and which far transcends any particular theosophical society or organisation.
If, in the course of working actively for the Cause and endeavouring to fit ourselves to be of the utmost possible help and service to humanity we may make some real and significant inner progress and advancement of our own accord, then we may perhaps hear from the Masters, since “when the disciple is ready, the Master will appear.” But even then we still shouldn’t count on it but should simply do what has to be done for our fellow beings.
The other point to be considered is, as expressed by HPB in her article “Mahatmas and Chelas”:
“The real MAHATMA is then not his physical body but that higher Manas which is inseparably linked to the Atma and its vehicle (the sixth principle) – a union effected by him in a comparatively very short period by passing through the process of self-evolution laid down by the Occult Philosophy. When, therefore, people express a desire to “see a MAHATMA,” they really do not seem to understand what it is they ask for. How can they, by their physical eyes, hope to see that which transcends that sight? Is it the body – a mere shell or mask – they crave or hunt after? And supposing they see the body of a MAHATMA, how can they know that behind that mask is concealed an exalted entity? By what standard are they to judge whether the Maya before them reflects the image of a true MAHATMA or not? And who will say that the physical is not a Maya? Higher things can be perceived only by a sense pertaining to those higher things. And whoever therefore wants to see the real MAHATMA, must use his intellectual sight. He must so elevate his Manas that its perception will be clear and all mists created by Maya must be dispelled. His vision will then be bright and he will see the MAHATMAS wherever he may be, for, being merged into the sixth and the seventh principles, which are ubiquitous and omnipresent, the MAHATMAS may be said to be everywhere.”
“But,” she adds, “at the same time, just as we may be standing on a mountain top and have within our sight the whole plain, and yet not be cognisant of any particular tree or spot, because from that elevated position all below is nearly identical, and as our attention may be drawn to something which may be dissimilar to its surroundings – so in the same manner, although the whole of humanity is within the mental vision of the MAHATMAS, they cannot be expected to take special note of every human being, unless that being by his special acts draws their particular attention to himself. The highest interest of humanity, as a whole, is their special concern, for they have identified themselves with that Universal Soul which runs through Humanity, and he, who would draw their attention, must do so through that Soul which pervades everywhere.”
We know we are not our body. We know full well that it is nothing more than our outer shell. So why are we so keen and interested to know what the mere outer shell of a Master looks like? It’s said that the Masters have to change their bodies every few hundred years, as no physical body can be made to last forever and usually not for much longer than 400 years at the most, judging from what is said in Theosophy. The Masters, being Masters, know the body for the suit of clothes that it is and so should we. Only the inner is the real. All that is outer is essentially unreal.
Or as Hermes Trismegistus says in an Hermetic treatise quoted by HPB in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 287:
“Reality is not upon the earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon. . . . Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances. . . He (man) is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself and remains what it is . . Man is transient, therefore he is not real, he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion. . . . That which is subject to birth and to change is not real. . . . . There is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable.”
This article will probably not make much of a difference at large. The amount of so-called “Master” pictures online may continue to increase. But we will neither support it nor contribute to it, regardless of whether the pictures be genuine and reliable or not. It is hoped that the article will at least succeed in helping to instil a greater attitude of respect, a deeper sense of the sacred, and an altogether wiser perception of what is truly real and what truly matters.