8 October 2015


A Study in the Western Lodge of Immortal Sages

Carlos Cardoso Aveline 

A historical reconstitution of the ancient Library of Alexandria, in Egypt 

Western civilization started, in a way, with ancient Greece. Helena P. Blavatsky wrote in “The Secret Doctrine”:

“This period, beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at the one end and the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, is the only focus left in History wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from the aeons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism.” [1]

And a Master of the Wisdom says in one of his Letters:

“…See the remnants of the Atlanteans, - the old Greeks and Romans (the modern belong all to the fifth Race); see how great and how short, how evanescent were their days of fame and glory!” [2]

The ancient Greek and Roman world has been a constant source of inspiration for the Western Civilization and for humanity as a whole.

Classical Western philosophy provides answers for the problems faced by human beings.  A student of esoteric philosophy can see the strength of divine wisdom as he reads, for instance, the Discourses of Epictetus, the texts by Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Marcus Aurelius and Plutarch, and writings as the Tablet of Cebes or the Golden Verses of Pythagoras. All of them are written in simple language and concentrate on the daily life of the truth-seeker.

Through reading, contemplation and daily practice, one can experience in part the very life-substance of these thinkers, and better understand the existence for millennia of an Esoteric School for the Western society as a whole. This is a mystery school of souls, a “conducting wire” of sacred teachings, a living process available today to people of good will.[3] It  is not an external corporation or institution. It constitutes instead a line of thought and of action. It is a vibratory pattern.  It “floats in the air” or rather in the astral light, inspiring hearts and minds in many different ways. People get connected to it by inner affinity and not formal affiliation.

Evidence of actions linked to this subtle current are as spread as the teachings emanating from it. They can be found in the areas of influence and written works of hundreds of thinkers and dozens of lines of philosophical thought. They include scientific progress and research done in many fields of knowledge, and can be identified in the philosophical aspects of religious traditions. 

Modern theosophy revealed the way humanity is inspired from above. Since the end of 19th century, the written works and life-example of Helena P. Blavatsky constitute a focus of light, and help earnest seekers understand the way life evolves.  

The most well-documented among the dozens of biographies of H.P. Blavatsky was written by Sylvia Cranston.[4] Part seven of that extraordinary book shows the impact the life and work of HPB have had over human history. It also examines the living current of subtle inspiration now available to mankind, and which is kept open by the wise beings which have transcended the present phase of human evolution.

On one hand, the energy of higher planetary consciousness has always been accessible to all aspirants to discipleship or soul-learning, although some of these may have little or no brain awareness of the actual inspiration process, and may ignore the existence of Adepts, Mahatmas or Masters of the Wisdom. On the other hand, such an inner help influences in a broad way every individual who sincerely seeks for wisdom. The process of discipleship or esoteric learning has been approached in a number of articles published in our associated websites. [5]

While a silent, mystical help has stimulated and supported for millennia those whose goal is the good of mankind, not all of them have a proper notion of the process involved. An understanding of the matter, even if partial and limited, provokes a gradual opening of one’s horizons.

From the point of view of esoteric philosophy, the practical research in the dynamics of such a process expands our task and makes it go beyond merely memorizing and repeating the writings of HPB or the Mahatma Letters.

The effort of every true student must contain a degree of creativity. He must open room for eternal wisdom in the world of today. The real esoteric movement is the subtle worldwide community of good-willing people dedicated to independent research and learning. Such an implicit, long-enduring communion remains free from outer labels and blind belief: it consists of the magnetic field formed by aspirants to the wisdom of the heart.

Three Centers of the Brotherhood

The Immortal sages who teach and guide our humanity revealed in the 19th century that there are three main centers of their Universal Brotherhood. A Mahatma writes in a letter:

“As the course of the river depends upon the nature of its basin, so the channel for communication of Knowledge must conform itself to surrounding circumstances. The Egyptian Hierophant, the Chaldean Mage, the Arhat [6], and the Rishi [7], were bound in days of yore on the same voyage of discovery and ultimately arrived at the same goal though by different tracks. There are even at the present moment three centres of the Occult Brotherhood in existence, widely separated geographically, and as widely exoterically - the true esoteric doctrine being identical in substance though differing in terms; all aiming at the same grand object, but no two agreeing seemingly in the details of procedure. It is an every day occurrence to find students belonging to different schools of occult thought sitting side by side at the feet of the same Guru. Upasika (Madam B.) and Subba Row, though pupils of the same Master, have not followed the same Philosophy - the one is Buddhist and the other an Adwaitee.” [8]

One of the great lodges of the fraternity of Initiates is situated in the Himalayas. The Mahatmas who took part in a most decisive way of the creation of the theosophical movement between 1875 and 1891 belong to it.  Another section of the occult brotherhood includes Initiates of nations whose origins are in fourth root-race and who live in the South American Andes; in Central America; or in North America. The third center, the topic of the present article, is known as the Observatory of Luxor. It is traditionally located in Egypt and has an especially close relation with the Western esoteric tradition. 

The word Luxor designates an Egyptian city, famous for its ruins of great historical value. Letter 3, second series, in “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” [9] is signed by various Adepts of this center of the Brotherhood.  Among those associated to it we have the names of S.B. (from Ellora Section), P.I. (Solomon Section) R.M. (Zoroaster Section), and T.B. The names of these sections suggest their intercultural dimension. At the end of the letter it is indicated that it was written in the “Observatory of Luxor”. [10]

This is no astronomical observatory. It observes human souls enlightened by good will, and, in this case, there is no difference between observing and inspiring.

The Adept who used the name of S.B. played a central role in the first years of the theosophical effort. If we consider the universe of known and published letters from Masters, this teacher is in a marked third place among those who wrote more letters, and distant from other Adepts in that “ranking”.

We know that master S.B. belongs to the Ellora Section of the Observatory of Luxor; however, information on Ellora Section is remarkably rare. There is one footnote to Letter 3 by the editor C. Jinarajadasa reporting that in India Ellora is a system of caves and cave-temples situated some 225 miles Northwest of Mumbai (previously Bombay).

Ellora belongs to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. It is considered by many the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. Its hundreds of monuments include at least 34 ancient monasteries and temples. Ellora certainly constitutes a major magnetic centre, and some of its caves might be unknown and invisible to the public due to occult protection.

In “The Secret Doctrine”, volume II, pp. 220-221, H.P. Blavatsky strongly suggests Ellora and other ancient places have even today vast nets of subterranean labyrinths and passages, perhaps with six or seven stories. As to old and forgotten times, in “Isis Unveiled”, volume I, pp. 561 and 567, HPB says that the buildings and ruins of Ellora are so similar to the ancient ruins in Guatemala, Mexico and other places that their builders evidently had close contact among them. On p. 590 of “Isis” she also mentions ancient Ellora subterranean rooms and their connections to other places. 

Several elements of information expand the idea that the Western centre of Adepts is a major and permanent source of transcendent inspiration.

In the pioneer decades of 19th century, when the modern theosophical movement needed external forms of contact with Mahatmas, a Master of the Wisdom wrote to Alfred P. Sinnett:

“The sun of Theosophy must shine for all, not for a part. There is more of this movement than you have yet had an inkling of, and the work of the T.S. is linked in with similar work that is secretly going on in all parts of the world. Even in the T.S. there is a division, managed by a Greek 
Brother [11] about which not a person in the Society has a suspicion excepting the old woman [12] and Olcott; and even he only knows it is progressing, and occasionally executes an order I send him in connection with it. (…) Europe [13] will not be overlooked, never fear; but perhaps you even may not anticipate how the light will be shed there.” [14]

These lines deserve a few commentaries.

In those pioneering times [1875-1891], the theosophical movement had three sections. The first section was limited to Initiates. The second one gathered disciples. The third section was formed by the aspirants to discipleship and the members of theosophical associations, generally speaking.

What the Master says above, as he writes that there is a section in the movement of which almost no one knows, is tantamount to declare that there is a Fourth Section, under the responsibility of a Greek Master. And as he adds that Europe, or the West, “will not be overlooked”, he is suggesting that this Section of the movement is related to the work of the Western Initiates.

It is interesting to examine the data available on the work of one of the Greek “Brothers”. 

Through letter 21 in the Second Series of “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, we come to know that Henry Olcott had a portrait of a Master called Serapis, and that Olcott apparently used the alternative name of Apollo to refer to this Master.

The name “Apollo” seems to contain a reference to the close relation between this Adept and classic Greece. The God Apollo, the spirit of the Sun, was mythologically a son of Zeus. Pythagoras, the first philosopher, was associated to Apollo.

The term “Serapis” also designates the official god of Egypt during the long occupation of the country by the Hellenistic Macedonia, between 305 B.C.E. and 30 B.C.E. The deity was adopted by the first Greek ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I Soter, who wanted to establish links between Egypt and Greece.

The main statue of Serapis was situated in the city of Alexandria, in a temple especially built for it. The god Serapis included aspects of Osir-Apis, “the dead bull Osiris”. The myth of Osiris includes the idea of resurrection and is known since long time before the writing of the Christian New Testament. As a god, Osiris played the role of a judge of souls in the afterlife.[15]  

Miraculous healings were ascribed to Serapis, and attracted many to Alexandria. Serapis was also the god of fertility and, in addition to that, the god of culture. In his book on the role of the great libraries in the history of mankind, Matthew Battles clarifies that there were two libraries in Alexandria, and not just one:

“The bigger one was built in the third century B.C.E., inside the Mouseion, or temple of the Muses. Its younger and smaller ‘sister’ was founded one century later, in the temple of Serapis, the Egyptian Hellenized god and protector of syncretic Alexandria, whose help the Ptolemies, always skillful in theological questions, evoked for themselves. Both collections were situated in the Brucheion, the part of the city where the royal palaces were located, and it is frequent to talk of the two libraries as if they were one.” [16]

Hellenized Egypt irradiated Greek culture to the world, just like Alexandria shone in the Egyptian context. Matthew writes:

“In the first centuries of our era, there was in the city an intense cultural competition among Pagans, Jews, Christians and Neoplatonists. That which we know today as Jewish-Christian tradition had its origins in the Alexandrian Eclecticism. Its libraries remained almost in every occasion above such disputes: their goal was to have in their bookshelves the whole of Greek literature, as well as the most significant works written in various other languages. The Library of Alexandria was, therefore, the first one to have universal aspirations; and, together with its community of students, it became the prototype of the modern era universities.”[17]

The cultural influence of Alexandria was in perfect harmony with the plan of the Immortal sages to accelerate human evolution and uproot the causes of unnecessary suffering. It is a natural fact, therefore, that the modern esoteric movement constitutes a continuation and a rebirth of that ancient line of work, as Helena Blavatsky states in her books.

The word “theosophy” was coined in Alexandria, and Helena Blavatsky writes:

“It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil ‘loving’, and aletheia ‘truth’. The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system. (…) Hence the motto adopted by the Theosophical Society: ‘There is no religion higher than truth’. The chief aim of the Founders of the Eclectic Theosophical School was (…) to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.” [18]

Thus, when the Mahatmas proposed an esoteric philosophy and a theosophical movement which aimed at the comparative study of different philosophical and religious traditions and  stimulated the practice of universal brotherhood, they were not just acting on the basis of Eastern philosophies and the wisdom of the raja-yogis who live in the Himalayas. Their proposition had at its foundation also the best tradition of true wisdom in the West, which is inspired by those Adepts whose nucleus is traditionally located in Egypt and relates to the Hellenic culture.

The Importance of Human Couple

Between 1875 and 1891, the Western lodge of the Brotherhood of Initiates took part in the daily life of the esoteric movement.

In March 1883, for instance, the “Indian Mirror”, in Calcutta, published an article on the healings made by Henry S. Olcott with imposition of hands. Olcott was healing people who conventional medicine had failed to heal, and the fact attracted public attention. In a short note addressed to his lay disciple Alfred P. Sinnett, an Eastern Mahatma explained the magnetic origin of Olcott’s healing powers:

“This is all done thro’ the power of a lock of hair sent by our beloved younger Chohan to 
H.S.O.” [19]

The “younger Chohan” was Master Serapis. 

Another aspect of the teachings and work of this teacher refers to human affections. On letter 18 of the second series in “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, Serapis writes about the spiritual dimension in human marriage:   

“Purity of earthly love purifies and prepares for the realisation of the Divine Love. No mortal man’s imagination can conceive of its ideals of the divinity otherwise but in the shape [of] the familiar to him. One who prepares for solving the Infinite must solve the finite first.”

And he adds, on Letter 19 of the second series:

“…Where a truly spiritual love seeks to consolidate itself doubly by a pure, permanent union of the two, in its earthly sense, it commits no sin, no crime in the eyes of the great Ain-Soph [20], for it is but the divine repetition of the Male and Female Principles - the microcosmal reflection of the first condition of Creation. On such a union angels may well smile! But they are rare, Brother mine, and can only be created under the wise and loving supervision of the Lodge (…).” [21]

Here, as in other Letters, the master refers to the Luxor centre of Initiates as a “Lodge”. 

It is also remarkable in his letters the emphatic way he defends Helena Blavatsky, who was by then already misunderstood and attacked, as generally happens to anyone who questions the dominant prejudices of his or her own time. 

The 19th century world was full of prejudices, and HPB was an unmarried woman. She lived alone, travelled a lot and paid little or no attention to appearance. She led a pure life. HPB was totally dedicated to the spiritual ideal. However, she was irreverent and she demolished the main dogmas of authoritarian Christianity, while also questioning the superstitions and ignorance accumulated by various religions and sects in both East and West. This was more than enough to provoke furious opposition to her coming from several kinds of institutions and narrow-minded persons in general.

The attacks against HPB were intense and frequent, and defending those who are unjustly attacked is not always an easy thing to do.  At some point master Serapis made a warning to Henry Olcott for having listened to someone’s criticizing HPB and remained in silence, instead of actively defending her. The master’s warning was subtle and effective. Using his occult powers, he made a paper materialize before Olcott, with a message containing no direct reference to the incident, and reproducing a fragment from the “Dhamma Padam”. The first three sentences in the quotation say: 

“He who hears his brother reviled, and keeping a smooth face leaves the abuse unnoticed, tacitly agrees with the enemy, as if he ad­mitted the same to be proper and just. He who does it is either mouse-hearted, or selfishness is at the bottom of his heart. He is not fit as yet to become a ‘companion’.” [22]

A word to the wise is enough: the master added only two words to the transcription - “Translation correct” - and signed it. 

Earnest researchers will see that the quotation is not easily found in the various public versions of the “Dhammapada”. However, master Serapis wrote “Dhamma Padam”, and these two words may have various meanings.

“Dhamma” or “Dharma” may signify Law, Duty, Virtue and Doctrine. “Padam” or “Pada” is “way” or “discipline”. “Dhamma Pada” could be interpreted as a reference to the whole Canon on the discipline that leads to Wisdom, and not to the little masterpiece popularly known as “Dhammapada”.

It is a significant fact that the same idea of these three sentences can be found in other words immediately before the Golden Stairs, in the first Memorandum of the Esoteric School created by Helena Blavatsky. Besides these few sentences, the whole quotation, made of three paragraphs, is similar in contents to the various paragraphs that precede the Golden Stairs.[23]

A Little-Known Master

Let us see now a more fragments of information about this little-known teacher who had a remarkable influence over the work of other Adepts.

An Eastern Mahatma wrote to Henry Olcott:

“…Once that you had determined to make of India your new home, it was in compliance with the direct orders of our beloved Lord and Chief  - him whom you know under the name of S. - and Maha Sahib that you sailed not sooner but later than you ought to.” [24]

In a footnote, editor C. Jinarajadasa explains that “Maha Sahib”, an appellation given to Master Serapis, must be distinguished from “Maha Chohan”.

The word “Maha” means “great” in Sanskrit. “Sahib” is a respectful Indian term meaning “sir” or “master” and used to address Europeans. The expression “Maha Sahib” seems to suggest that Master Serapis, using a European physical body, also worked in India due to the intimate cooperation between different lodges of Adepts. (We will see later that Alfred Sinnett saw this Master while Sinnett lived in India.)

Jinarajadasa makes it clear that Maha Sahib is not the “Maha Chohan”. Both expressions mean “great or distinguished gentleman”, with the difference that the term “Chohan” belongs to the Tibetan language. The adept known by the words “Maha Chohan” was the master and immediate leader of the two Mahatmas who inspired in a more direct way the creation of the theosophical movement and who worked in intense and direct contact with H. P. Blavatsky. Both belong to the centre of Adepts which is situated in the Himalayas.

What could cause confusion and wrongly suggest that Maha Sahib and Maha Chohan are two names for the same Mahatma is the fact that the Master of Helena Blavatsky was himself a disciple and an aide of the Maha Chohan, while he also referred to Master Serapis or “Maha Sahib” as “our beloved Lord and Chief”, as we saw above.

The reason for this is that the creation of the modern esoteric movement was a combined operation of the three main groups of Adepts. The teacher of HPB consulted with and listened to sages who were greater than him in wisdom and belonged both to the Eastern and Western Lodges.

It is clear from various letters that Master Serapis provided guidance to HPB’s master (M.), and that her master was happy to follow such instructions. [25]

Another Initiate, H., followed orders from the Maha Sahib as we can see in Letters 43 and 44 of the Second Series in “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”. There is strong evidence in other letters that Serapis Bey had a vast responsibility as an adept.

The close cooperation between the Himalayan lodge and the Egyptian lodge of Adepts is shown in a number of documents.

In 1882, for instance, a political-military crisis emerged in Egypt. An Eastern Mahatma wrote these ironical lines to his lay disciple Alfred Sinnett, then the editor of one of the main daily newspapers in India:

“The Egyptian operations of your blessed countrymen involve such local consequences to the body of Occultists still remaining there and to what they are guarding, that two of our adepts are already there, having joined some Druze brethren and three more on their way. I was offered the agreeable privilege of becoming an eye-witness to the human butchery, but - declined with thanks. For such great emergency is our Force stored up, and hence - we dare not waste it (…).” [26]

In that moment, British and French military forces were brutally crushing a nationalist movement in the port-town of Egypt, Alexandria. As I worked in the Portuguese language edition of the Mahatma Letters, I consulted the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1967 edition, and added this in a footnote to the Letter:   

“Controlled by joint forces of the United Kingdom and France, Egypt had shown signs of a strong  nationalistic movement since 1879. In 1882, popular leader Arabi Pasha led a revolt. In the beginning of the year Egyptian government made decisions that were independent from the colonial forces, and Arabi was made War Minister. British and French fleets were sent to Alexandria in May. In June, there was a massacre in that city, but the resistance went on. On 11 of July, the British bombed the city’s forts. British expeditionary forces crushed Arabi forces on 13 of September. The Letter was sent by the Mahatma precisely in July 1882.”  

Henry More’s Library

As the researcher examines “The Mahatma Letters”, he comes to know that Master Serapis Bey was seen by Alfred P. Sinnett in a dream, during sleep. An Eastern Mahatma was also present. According to the careful notes taken by Sinnett, the fact occurred in the night of 19 October 1880.[27]

Two among the many indications of a close cooperation between the Greek-Egyptian and Himalayan lodges of Adepts must be still mentioned:

* HPB was mysteriously helped in writing down long parts of her masterpiece “Isis Unveiled” by Henry More, the neoplatonist who died in 1687. Two hundred years later, in the last quarter of the 19th century, More was firmly established and working in his vast library, in his kama-loka, the first phase of the afterlife.[28] Neoplatonism and neopythagoreanism are  under the influence of the Observatory of Luxor or Egyptian-Greek Lodge. The cooperation between Henry More and HPB is described in the first volume of Henry Olcott’s Diary.[29]

* In Letter LXXXV of “The Mahatma Letters”, which was written by order of the Maha 
Chohan [30], there is an emphatic defence of Hermetic philosophy, a school of thought which comes from ancient Egypt and has much in common with neopythagoreanism and neoplatonism. In the letter, the Mahatma tries to preserve in the London lodge of the theosophical movement an equilibrium between two groups of students. On one side were those who preferred the Eastern teachings transmitted by the Mahatmas of the Himalayas. Their leader was Alfred Sinnett, who at the time was living once more in London. On the other side were the students who preferred the Western teachings and were, technically, under the influence of the Observatory of Luxor. Their main leader was Anna Kingsford. Although she had not a direct and authentic contact with the Egyptian Lodge (in fact, she had imaginary contacts), Ms. Kingsford placed herself in general and most sincerely in the atmosphere of the Western tradition. She also had much in common with the so-called “esoteric Christianism”, whose roots are neoplatonist.  

Students can see in the Letter LXXXV an exaltation of the principle of unity in diversity and a statement of great value regarding what one could call “spiritual democracy”. By reading that letter we also come to appreciate and understand the profound harmony existing between Eastern and Western Adepts. 

External Contact Lasted for a Few Years 

The ostensive contact between Masters and the esoteric movement did not last long. During the 1880s, when the contacts were still frequent, an Eastern Mahatma said this to Helena Blavatsky, and she wrote the words down in a memorandum which is now included in “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”:

“…The Society has liberated itself from our grasp and influence and we have let it go - we make no unwilling slaves.  He [Olcott] says he has saved it? He saved its body, but he allowed through sheer fear, to its soul to escape, and it is now a soulless corpse, a machine run so far well enough, but which will fall to pieces when he is gone.” [31]

Indeed, since the deaths of H. P. Blavatsky (in 1891) and of Henry Olcott (in 1907) the Theosophical Society underwent various schisms, as the focus of the original proposal was left aside, so that the new leaders could more easily adopt fake, ritualistic and authoritarian views of the spiritual path. 

In the 21st century, the theosophical movement has a diversity of associations and is still living its struggle between truth and illusion. The United Lodge of Theosophists is the only school of thought which is internationally organized around the clear goal of working according the original proposal of the movement. The ULT stayed away from bureaucratic structures.

The gathering together of all students of divine wisdom in the same institution would not be necessarily desirable any longer. Institutional diversity is healthy at this point, and if historical examples are useful one should remember that in its beginning Christianity also had no centralized institutions. James Robinson, the general editor of the “Nag Hammadi Library”, writes:

“Primitive Christianity was itself not a unified movement.” [32]

Since the end of 19th century, the contact with the Masters of the Wisdom still exists and constitutes the decisive factor for the present and future of the theosophical movement.  However, it is neither verbal nor visual any longer. It takes place on a plane that is essential and subtler than the world of lower senses, as has been clarified in the well-known Letter of 1900.[33]  

And indeed, even in the 1880s a Master wrote to a disciple:

“We rarely show any outward signs by which to be recognized or sensed.” [34]

A School of Souls, Working Across Millennia 

By examining the material available on the Western Lodge of the Brotherhood students can see that the practical cooperation among the three main groups of Adepts is in the origin of the new wave of appreciation for Western classic philosophy which we can observe nowadays. 

The silent cooperation between different inner schools is also connected to the present re-emergence of the Andean and other pre-colonial wisdom traditions in South America, Central America and North America.[35]

A vast number of inspiring works from the Western culture is available today online and in paper books. The idea that they are “difficult and complicated” is false. One must leave mental laziness apart and study. The ethics of ancient wisdom eliminates most problems and challenges of one’s personal life.  While studying the works of classical Greek and Roman philosophy, we may see in fact that a Western Spiritual School is at our disposal.

This School lives and works on an inner plane, gathering minds and hearts together since at least the Pythagorean teachings of some 2500 years ago. Hundreds of thinkers have built along many centuries a line of Buddhic light that goes across both time and cultural borders.[36]

Among these numerous thinkers one finds Epicurus, the founder of the “Garden” whose  ideas - as those of every pioneer - were distorted and attacked by narrow-minded people.

Epicurus is seen by HPB as a true philosopher of the occult wisdom, and the present text should be closed with one of his axioms. While examining the direct relationship between wisdom and happiness, the philosopher taught:  

“It is impossible to live pleasantly without living prudently, well, and justly, nor is it possible to live prudently, well, and justly without living pleasantly. The man for whom this latter condition is impossible cannot live prudently, well, or justly; he for whom the former is impossible cannot live pleasantly.” [37] 

It must be a pleasure, therefore, for the truth-seeker, to live a correct and virtuous life.


[1] Helena Blavatsky, in “The Secret Doctrine”, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, vol. I, p. xlv.

[2] “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, Transcribed and Compiled by A. Trevor Barker, TUP, California, Pasadena, 1992, 279 pp., Letter XXIII-B, p. 157.

[3] See the text “A 3,000 Years Esoteric School”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, at our  websites.  

[4] “HPB - The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement”, by Sylvia Cranston, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1994, 648 pp.

[5] See the section “Mahatmas, Disciples and the Search for Discipleship”, in www.TheosophyOnline.com.

[6] Arhat: The Buddhist term for “Initiate”.

[7] Rishi: Ancient Hindu term corresponding to “Initiate” or “Immortal”.

[8] “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, Transcribed and Compiled by A. Trevor Barker, TUP, California, Pasadena, 1992, 279 pp., Letter LXXXV, p. 399.

[9] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, transcribed by C. Jinarajadasa, TPH, India, 1973.

[10] The complete names used by the adepts in the 19th century are mentioned in the two printed volumes of “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”.

[11] Brother, id est, an Initiate or Mahatma. The fact that this Master is Greek shows the cultural proximity between Egypt and Greece. During many centuries, Egypt entirely belonged to the Greek cultural world, hence the neopythagoreanism and neoplatonism of Alexandria, with Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus and Porphyry, among others. 

[12] Old Lady, id est, H.P. Blavatsky.

[13] In the 19th century, from the cultural point of view, “Europe” was practically a synonym to “West”.

[14] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, TUP edition, Letter XLVII, p. 271.

[15] In fact, the “king and judge” of the afterlife is the higher self or immortal soul of each individual. This “judge” makes decisions on the base of the Law, which is the Law of Karma.  Each individual receives in the afterlife the harvest of what he planted in life. The idea of “resurrection” means the “reincarnation” of the same monad.

[16] “A Conturbada História das Bibliotecas”, Matthew Battles, Editora Planeta, SP, 2003, 239 pp., see p. 29. 

[17] “A Conturbada História das Bibliotecas”, Matthew Battles, p. 36.

[18] “The Key to Theosophy”, various editions, Chapter 1. In the Theosophy Co. edition, pp. 1-3.

[19] “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett”, TUP, Pasadena, Appendix III, p. 389. In the Chronological Edition of the Mahatma Letters, see p. 519.

[20] Ain-Soph: in the Kabalah tradition, the Absolute, unmanifested Spirit.

[21] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, TPH, second series, pp. 40-42.

[22] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, Second Series, transcribed by C. Jinarajadasa, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras-Chennai, India, 1973, Letter 23, pp. 47-49.

[23] See “HPB Collected Writings”, TPH, volume XII, pp. 502-503 - especially the first lines on p. 503.

[24] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, Second Series, Letter 27, p. 68.

[25] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, second series, TPH, 1973, India. See Letter 31 (pp. 73-74), Letter 36 (pp. 77-78), and Letter 45 (p. 86).

[26] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, TUP edition, Letter XVI, p. 116.

[27] “The Mahatma Letters”, Chronological Edition, TPH-Philippines, 1993, 600 pp., Letter 3-A, p. 10.  The chronological edition provides the context of each letter.

[28] Kama-loka normally lasts from a few months to a few years. This is therefore a remarkable exception to the rule. Certainly the kama-loka of such a philosopher contains elements of the Devachan, the blessed and lasting phase of afterlife, combined with a personal attachment to his library.

[29] “Old Diary Leaves”, H. S. Olcott, volume one, TPH, India, 1974, see pp. 237-243. On Henry More and his kama-loka cooperation with HPB, there are two articles in the magazine “The Theosophist”. In the September 1972 edition, an article by Alex Horne. In the October 1973 edition, an article signed with the initials “D.J.B.”. 

[30] In the TUP edition, Letter LXXXV, pp. 398-402. For the context of the Letter, see Letter 120 in the Chronological Edition (pp. 409-413). 

[31] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, first series, TPH, 1973, India. See Letter 47, p. 101. 

[32] “The Nag Hammadi Library”, Revised Edition, org. James M. Robinson, HarperSanFrancisco, EUA, p. 06.

[33] See the articles “On Contacts With Masters” and “The Process of Occult Osmosis”, both by Carlos Cardoso Aveline. They are available in our associated websites.

[34] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom”, first series, TPH, 1973, India. See Letter number II to Laura C. Holloway, p. 149.

[35] See in our websites the article “The Ancient Theosophy in the Andes”. 

[36] Read the text “A 3,000 Years Esoteric School” (mentioned in a note above and available in our websites).

[37] “The Essential Epicurus”, Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, and Fragments. Translated by Eugene O’Connor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993, 101 pp., see p. 70, Aphorism V in “Principal Doctrines”. 


The above article is reproduced from the July 2015 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”.  It is a translation from the Portuguese language text “O Observatório de Luxor”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.


On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  

Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.

On Facebook, see the pages The Aquarian Theosophist,   Helena Blavatsky and  E-Theosophy.

In order to have access to a daily study of theosophy, visit the page of  E-Theosophy e-group in YahooGroups and join it directly from there.

The link to the e-group is - https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info. You can also write to   lutbr@terra.com.br and ask for information on E-Theosophy


7 October 2015


A Commentary on William
Judge’s Version of the Yoga Sutras

Katherine Hillard

An Editorial Note:

The little book “The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali - an interpretation”, by William Q. Judge, was first published in New York in the first part of 1889. [1]  In its May 1889 edition, the “Lucifer” [2] magazine, which was then edited by H.P. Blavatsky herself,  announced its publication with a note in the section “Reviews”, which said (p. 262):

“Every theosophist should have this book. It is rendered into plain English according to the thought of Patanjali, and has none of the obscurities or brackets which appeared in the Bombay edition of 1885. There are explanatory notes. An appendix is added containing the text of the Bombay edition, for comparison.” [3]

Then on its July 1889 edition, pp. 387-393, “Lucifer” published the following commentary by Katherine Hillard on Mr. Judge’s volume.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


The Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali

Katherine Hillard

The Word Yoga means union, or that merging of mind and soul in the Divine element within us which is otherwise called concentration. Yoga (or concentration) is therefore that realisation of our oneness with the Supreme that has been the aim of mystics of all ages and all creeds. To reach this highest point of spiritual development, it is obvious that the whole of the threefold nature of man must be developed upon its various lines; that is, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual elements must receive an appropriate and simultaneous training, or we have a want of that harmony which is a necessary concomitant of perfection. A chain can be no stronger than its weakest link, and if any link in the triple chain of our being be imperfect, the whole must suffer the consequences.

Concentration is used in two senses, as Yoga, or union with the Divine and as the employment of the means to that union. The one is the result, the other is the method leading towards that result. I say “towards that result” advisedly, the goal being so far beyond any present hope of attainment.

There are two systems of Yoga, the Hatha (or Physical) and the Raja (or mental Yoga). The first is said to be derived from Ha the sun, and Tha the moon, used as symbols for the regulated breathing supposed to produce the desired condition. “In the Hatha Yoga practice”, says Mr. Judge, in his very interesting Introduction to the Aphorisms of Patanjali, “the result is psychic development, at the delay or expense of the spiritual nature.” Raja-Yoga is said to be derived from the root raj to shine, in allusion to the luminosity of the soul or Atman, and therefore means union with the Supreme Soul. “The initiatory training of a true Vedantin Raj Yogi, must be the nourishing of a sleepless and ardent desire of doing all in his power for the good of mankind on the ordinary physical plane, his activity being transferred, however, to the higher astral and spiritual planes as his development proceeds.” [4]

Mr. Judge also tells us in his Introduction that there were two Patanjalis, the one known as a commentator upon the grammarian Panini, who wrote, according to the authority of Prof. Goldstücker and others, about the year 140 B.C.; the author of the Aphorisms being an older and altogether legendary character, of whom nothing remains but this book. But in a long and exhaustive article on the date of  Sri Shankaracharya (“Five Years of Theosophy”, p. 278), Patanjali is mentioned as the Guru or spiritual teacher of Shankara, under the name of Govinda Yogi, it being the custom of Initiates to assume a new name. This Patanjali is declared to be the great author of the Mahabashya, the Yoga Sutras and a book on medicine and anatomy, and the Sutra period probably ended about 500 B.C., “though it is uncertain how far it extended into the depths of Indian antiquity. Patanjali was the author of the Yoga Sutras, and this fact has not been doubted by any Hindu writer up to this time. Mr. Weber thinks, however, that the author of the Yoga Sutras might be a different man from the author of the Mahabashya, though he does not venture to assign any reason for his supposition.”

The Yoga Aphorisms are divided into four books. Book First explains what practical concentration is, the obstacles to its acquirement and the way to overcome them.

Book Second treats of the means of acquiring concentration through the purification of the body and the mind, and its results.

Book Third analyses concentration in its higher metaphysical form, as the synthesis of attention, contemplation, and meditation, and shows how this leads to direct cognition, and absolute independence of the influence of the body, and its obscurations of the intellect. The tools of the spirit having been made perfect, the mind becomes one with the soul, and isolation, emancipation, or perfect concentration follows.

The essential nature of Isolation forms the subject of the Fourth (and last) Book.

The soul is defined (in Aphorism 20, Book Second) as the Perceiver, and seems to be identified by Patanjali with the conscious Ego. We are to conceive of it as the holder or possessor of the mind, which may be compared to a mirror wherein all truth may be reflected, provided the conditions are suitable. If the body be impure or imperfect, the mirror of the mind is like a glass where the quicksilver is partly worn away, and the reflecting surface is impaired, or like one whose surface is dull and tarnished, or covered with dust. If the mind be not under control, the mirror is shaken by the winds or passion or impulse, or idle fancies, and the shadows of external things flit confusedly across its swaying surface, and we see nothing.

The first thing to be done, then, that we may secure the perfect reflection of the Higher Self, is to eliminate all these adverse conditions, and this is the object of the Yoga Aphorisms. “Concentration”, says Patanjali, “is the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle” (or mind). In the fine lecture by W. K. Clifford on “Some of the Conditions of Mental Development”,  (1868) he shows how constant such modifications are. “If you will carefully consider what you have done most often during the day”, says that distinguished philosopher, “you will find that you have really done nothing else from morning to night but change your mind.… Did you perform any deliberate action? There was the change of mind from indecision to decision, from desire to volition, from volition to act.… In a word, whatever you have done, or felt, or thought, you will find upon reflection that you could not possibly be conscious of anything else than a change of mind.”

These changes may be either sudden or gradual. In the latter case they are more properly called “modifications”, perhaps, and Patanjali tells us that they are of five kinds, and are painful or not painful. They are Correct Cognition, Misconception, Fancy, Sleep, and Memory; that is, the mind may be led away from its subject of thought by (1) ideas that are true in themselves, or (2) false in themselves, by (3) idle notions suggested by some verbal association, by (4) sleep, or by (5) recollections. These modifications of the thinking principle, or as we more often say, this wandering of the mind, may be hindered in two ways, which are called Exercise and Dispassion. The former, the first step towards the far-off goal, is that mechanical fastening of the mind upon one point for a given length of time without intermission, which is called Attention, and is intended to strengthen the controlling power of the thinking principle. This is the preliminary sharpening of the tools or, to keep to the original metaphor, practice in the effort to hold the mirror perfectly still. The second step, Dispassion, is the attainment of freedom from all passions, desires, and ambitions, which cloud and obscure the mirror. Carried to the utmost, it is indifference to all else than soul. This purification of the mind is to be accomplished through the practice of Benevolence, Tenderness, Complacency (which means, I suppose, cheerfulness), and a disregard of the virtue or vice, the happiness or pain, of our fellow men. This does not mean that we are to be indifferent to the circumstances of others, but simply that we are not to allow our sympathies to upset our mental and moral equilibrium, and it is an exact corollary to the first maxim of the “Light on the Path”: “Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears.”

The obstacles to the attainment of this serene and imperturbed condition are enumerated as Sickness, Languor, Doubt, Carelessness, Laziness, Addiction to objects of sense, Erroneous perception, Failure to attain any stage (of abstraction), and Instability (to remain therein if attained).

These obstacles are to be overcome, and the virtues before-named to be practiced, and then follows a description of various physical and mental aids that will help the student in his difficult task, such as certain exercises in breathing, or the banishment of an evil thought by dwelling upon its opposite, or by pondering upon anything that one approves.

In conclusion, we have a description of the highest form of purely intellectual concentration, culminating in what is called “Meditation without a seed”, where there is no longer any distinct mental recognition of the object, but vision has taken its place. This seems to be akin to the Gnosis of the Neo-Platonists.

Book Second deals more particularly with the physical and moral aids to concentration, being directed to the establishment of meditation and the elimination of “afflictions.” These, as may be judged by the name, are of a more passive and involuntary character than the “obstacles” mentioned in Book First, and are Ignorance, Egoism, Desire, Aversion, and Tenacity of Life, or what Schopenhauer calls “the will to live”. These “afflictions” are inherent parts of our nature, whereas the “obstacles” are faults that lie more upon the surface, and can be more readily shaken off. They concern our mental attitude, the others lie at the very foundation of our being. Of these afflictions Ignorance is the origin and synthesis, being equivalent to Tamas (or Darkness) one of the three qualities that comprehend all things. It is mental or moral blindness, or the confounding of good and evil, eternal and transitory, pure and impure.

Egoism consists in identifying the ego, or soul, the power that sees, with the power of seeing; that is, in confounding the soul with the mind that is its tool, as ignorant persons confound the mind with the organs of sense, and imagine it is the eye that sees. For as the mind uses the eye, so the soul uses the mind. We realize this when we say, “My mind is confused, I (that is, the soul or ego) cannot see the idea.”

Desire and Aversion mean, respectively, such dwelling upon pleasure or pain as perturbs the mind, and renders it incapable of the serene peace (described in the First Book) which is essential to perfect concentration. Desire and Aversion necessarily include all inordinate affections, and all forms of cowardice, whether moral or physical, the latter coming under the head of aversion to pain.

The tenacious desire for earthly existence, or “the will to live”, is the natural tendency of humanity, without which existence under ordinary conditions would be impossible. It is this tendency that produces reincarnation, and that must be conquered ultimately or the cycle of re-births would never cease.

It is from these five elements that spring the roots of our merits and demerits, or, in other words, that Karma, whose fructification in each succeeding life on earth is either pleasure or pain. But to the man of perfect spiritual cultivation, all earthly things are grievous (since all the natural qualities are hindrances to the attainment of perfect concentration, or union with the Divine), and therefore in such a one, the desire for earthly life must gradually be lost.

From the fact that in our present form of life the soul is so closely wedded to the mind, and the mind to the body, her vision is impeded, and she is constantly misled. The past cannot be changed, the present cannot be shunned, but for the future we can prepare, by avoiding all acts likely to cause pain to ourselves or others, at the same time that we refrain from any fear or dread of what the morrow may bring forth.

For the Universe exists for the sake of the soul’s experience and emancipation - why then should we be troubled? The means of quitting the state of bondage to matter (which is caused by ignorance of the true nature of the soul and its relations), is perfect discriminative knowledge. This is of seven kinds (not named by Patanjali), and until it is attained in perfection, a partial illumination only will be the result of the practices conducive to concentration. These are eight in number, and comprise, like those mentioned in the First Book, physical, mental, and moral development, one of them alone, Forbearance, covering abstention from all the sins mentioned in the Decalogue.

From this simultaneous development of man’s threefold nature, there necessarily results both purity and strength, culminating in that perfection of power which produces superlative felicity. The Second Book concludes with a description of these eight practices, and their results.

The Third Book begins with an analysis of concentration in its higher intellectual form, as composed of Attention, Contemplation, and Meditation.

Attention is fixing the mind upon a place, object or subject.

Contemplation is the continuance of this attention.

Meditation is contemplation directed to a material substance or object of sense.

The concentration resulting from the union of all these is called Sanyama, and is to be used in overcoming those more subtle modifications of the mind suffered by the advanced students, who has overcome those described in the preceding books, and we are told that this more purely intellectual form of concentration is especially efficacious for the attainment of “distinct cognition”. Although not immediately productive of it, it precedes that kind of meditation in which distinct cognition of the object is lost, called “meditation without a seed”, and described at the end of the First Book. The Victorine Mystics of the 12th century divided Contemplation into six stages, two belonging to Imagination, whose objects are Sensibilia, or sensible things; two belonging to Reason, Intelligibilia or truths concerning what is invisible, but accessible to reason, and two to Intuition, Intellectibilia, or unseen truth above reason. In fact, the resemblances are very numerous between the teachings of Richard of St. Victor and those of Patanjali.

But this is not the place to dwell upon this comparison, nor does it seem worthwhile here to enlarge upon the subtle definition of the properties of objects that follow the analysis of Concentration. The larger portion of the Third Book is taken up by a description of the wonderful powers, both physical and mental, resulting from perfect control of the mind, and of all its hitherto undeveloped, and to most of us, unsuspected faculties. The 50th maxim says: “In the ascetic who has acquired the accurate discriminative knowledge of the truth, and of the nature of the soul, there arises a knowledge of all existences in their essential natures, and a mastery over them.”

In this Book we see traced out the steps to the acquirement of perfect control of the physical through the mental, and the exemplification of the manner in which all knowledge may be reflected in the mirror of the mind, when made perfectly pure and held in perfect control. This is the highest stage of purely intellectual development, the ultimate point to which the mind of man can attain, but there is a further step, for in the last maxim of the Third Book we are told: “When the mind no longer conceives itself to be the knower or experiencer, and has become one with the soul, the real knower and experiencer, Isolation takes place, and the soul is emancipated.”

The Fourth Book proceeds to treat of this Isolation and its essential nature. It begins by defining the reasons for the variety of characters inherent in mankind, showing how each character is modified by the results of former lives, and how these characters may be still further modified by the proper use of the proper means. This modifying process is called “the removal of mental deposits”, or in other words, of the accumulated experiences through which the entity has passed, which have left their traces upon it, as the different geological periods have left their record in the various strata of the earth.

Maxim 23 tells us, that the mind, though assuming various forms by reason of these innumerable mental deposits, exists for the purpose of the soul’s emancipation, and co-operates thereto. The mind, being the instrument of the soul, exists for the soul’s sake; the soul cannot be said to exist for the sake of its instrument, any more than the sense of sight exists for the sake of the eye. Having arrived at this perfection of Knowledge, if the ascetic strenuously banishes all other thoughts, and is free from desire to exercise the powers that lie within his reach (“is not desirous of the fruits”, says Patanjali), and yet is not inactive, he arrives at the state called Dharma-Megha “the cloud of virtue”, so called because it brings that spiritual rain that causes the soul to blossom into emancipation. Then from the infinite heaven of absolute knowledge, the knowable seems a little thing and easy to grasp, then the modifications of the qualities cease to be, having accomplished their purpose, and time likewise is no more, for to emancipated soul there is nothing left but eternity, wherein past, present, and future are but one. Such a soul, having ceased to mistake the qualities of objects for realities, “abides in its own nature”, and is upon the threshold of absolute union with the Divine.

For the greater part of mankind the First Book alone contains more than can be mastered in an ordinary lifetime, and therefore I have only sketched, in the briefest and most superficial manner, the general subjects of the last three Books. Theosophists owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Judge, for having put within the reach of all, a work of such far-reaching import, such subtle analysis, and such tremendous grasp, as the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali.

It is not a book to be hastily read, but to be pondered and inwardly digested, to be comprehended by the intellect, and apprehended by the soul, and then wrought into the tissue of our life!

Katherine Hillard, F.T.S.


[1] The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali - an interpretation”, by W. Q. Judge, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, USA (also Theosophy Co., Mumbai, India), 74 pp., 2008. The book is published in PDF in our websites. (CCA)

[2] In ancient times, the term “Lucifer” designated Venus, the star of the morning, the “bringer of the light” or “light-bearer”. During the Middle Ages, the term was distorted by unscrupulous theologians in order to justify their politics of persecution against free-thinkers. H.P. Blavatsky chose “Lucifer” as the name of her London magazine, in order to make the point clear. (CCA)

[3] No such appendix is available in later editions of “The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali - an interpretation”, published by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles. As to the 1885 Bombay edition of the Sutras, it is entitled “The Yoga Philosophy”, with translation into English by Dr. Ballantyne and Mr. Govind Shastri Deva, and revised and edited by Mr. Tookaram Tatya. (CCA)

[4] Mohini Chatterjee in his article on “Morality and Pantheism”. (Note by Katherine Hillard)


On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  

Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.

On Facebook, see the pages The Aquarian Theosophist,   Helena Blavatsky and  E-Theosophy.

In order to have access to a daily study of theosophy, visit the page of  E-Theosophy e-group in YahooGroups and join it directly from there.

The link to the e-group is - https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info. You can also write to   lutbr@terra.com.br and ask for information on E-Theosophy