Some brief comments on Robert Gilbert's Introduction to Arthur Lillie's Pamphlet
Nov 07, 1996 01:57 PM
by Blavatsky Foundation
Robert Gilbert writes:
> the most devastating attack upon the supernatural origin
>of both the letters and their authors is Who Wrote the Mahatma Letters?,
>by H.E. & W.L. Hare (1936) - a critique which has yet to be rationally
In my opinion, this book by the Hare brothers was rationally rebutted in
a series of 12 articles or so by Dr. H.N. Stokes. Please refer to the
partial bibliography on the MLs posted to theos-l and theos-talk. A number of
other rebuttals were effectively made of the Hare book. I myself have
done extensive research on the Hare Book and find that most of their
criticism is weak and the book is full of mistakes (I kid you not!!).
The book is certainly an attack on the MLs but I think
not the "most devastating." Any one who reads the Hare book owes
it to himself/herself to read the various reviews and rebuttals of the Hares'
arguments before they make up their minds.
>Arthur Lillie's forgotten pamphlet of 1883
>deserves to be read and studied with care.
Actually the pamphlet was written and published in 1884.
>At the time of its publication Koot Hoomi Unveiled was attacked with
>vitriolic abuse but with precious little reason, and Lillie's strictures
>have remained largely unanswered. With hindsight it is possible to
>point out the superficial nature of some of his comments on Tibetan
>Buddhism, but his critics necessarily used the same texts and
>commentaries as were available to him and their counter arguments thus
>carry very little weight.
>Such ripostes as they did make were fully answered in Lillie's long
>letter justifying his case that appeared in the journal Light in August,
>1884, and which is reprinted here. [Text available - AB]
>While he clearly rejected the ideas of H.P.B. he remained scrupulously
>objective when he wrote his studies of her, and his views on the Mahatma
>letters deserve careful consideration - whether or not we agree with
Although Lillie does make a few valid criticisms, he also makes numerous
assertions that are downright silly.
Readers should study Lillie's pamphlet for themselves but should also
consult OBSERVATIONS ON MR. LILLIE'S "KOOT HOOMI UNVEILED."
by the President of the London Lodge of theTheosophical Society, 1884. Also
consult H.P. Blavatsky's two articles in "Light" magazine in August and
October, 1884 in which she herself answers and rebuts some of Mr. Lillie's
assertions. Her first article is titled: "Mr. A. Lillie's Delusions." See
HPB's Collected Writings, Volume VI, pp. 269-280 and pp. 288-294. There
are a number of other sources that a serious inquirer into these issues
should consult in order to ascertain the validity of Mr. Lillie's charges.
By all means, read Lillie but consult other sources to have a balanced
Also notice that even Gilbert admits: "With hindsight it is possible to
point out the superficial nature of some of his comments on Tibetan
Buddhism. . . ." Well, Lillie also made "superficial" comments on many
items pertaining to Theosophy and to various historical/biographical
items relating to HPB and the Mahatmas.
Daniel H. Caldwell
> Date: Wed, 6 Nov 1996 21:14:45 +0000
> From: "Dr. A.M.Bain" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Mahatma Letters (Gilbert)
PREFACE to Reprint of "Koot Hoomi Unveiled"
All of the central tenets of Theosophy - as the term is understood
within the Theosophical Society - are contained in The Mahatma Letters,
which were transmitted to A.P. Sinnett and others between 1880 and
1884. Extracts from the letters were published by Sinnett in The Occult
World (1881) and Esoteric Buddhism (1883) but they were not published
in their entirety until 1923 when A.T. Barker issued them as The Mahatma
Letters to A.P. Sinnett. The letters provide an effective source-book
for the doctrines elaborated in H.P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine
(1888) and espoused by the great majority of latter-day theosophists,
but the origin of the letters remains problematic.
Sinnett believed that they were miraculously 'precipitated', travelling
thousands of miles to reach him in India or England from the Mahatmas'
home in Tibet. Others remained sceptical, arguing that the letters
were not only delivered by Mme. Blavatsky but also composed and written
by her. The battle-lines are still drawn up, with believers and sceptics
hurling a steady stream of invective at each other and rarely supporting
their positions by rational argument. Perhaps the most sober defence
has been offered by Geoffrey Barborka in The Mahatmas and their Letters
(1973), while the most devastating attack upon the supernatural origin
of both the letters and their authors is Who Wrote the Mahatma Letters?,
by H.E. & W.L. Hare (1936) - a critique which has yet to be rationally
Arguing over the source of the letters may seem pointless if one
considers that the real issue is the spiritual merit, or otherwise, of
their content. But spiritual truths are not best served if they are
disseminated by fraud, and it is as well to establish the truth about
the origin of the letters (insofar as it can ever be fully known) if we
are to judge the contents on their value as spiritual philosophy. For
this reason, if for no other, Arthur Lillie's forgotten pamphlet of 1883
deserves to be read and studied with care.
At the time of its publication Koot Hoomi Unveiled was attacked with
vitriolic abuse but with precious little reason, and Lillie's strictures
have remained largely unanswered. With hindsight it is possible to
point out the superficial nature of some of his comments on Tibetan
Buddhism, but his critics necessarily used the same texts and
commentaries as were available to him and their counter arguments thus
carry very little weight.
Such ripostes as they did make were fully answered in Lillie's long
letter justifying his case that appeared in the journal Light in August,
1884, and which is reprinted here. [Text available - AB]
It should also be borne in mind that Arthur Lillie was neither an
hysterical defender of the claims of Spiritualism against those of
Theosophy, nor an unthinking, fundamentalist Christian opponent of
'Esoteric Buddhism'. He was a sound scholar with a profound knowledge
of, and sympathy for, the Buddhist religion. From 1883 to 1912 he
produced a series of scholarly works on the life of the Buddha and
on Buddhist and Vedantist influences upon both early Christianity
and classical Greece. He was a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society,
in whose library his books are still to be found. On a more popular
level he wrote brief biographies of mystics and other esoteric writers,
ranging from Boehme and Swedenborg to Stainton Moses and Madame
While he clearly rejected the ideas of H.P.B. he remained scrupulously
objective when he wrote his studies of her, and his views on the Mahatma
letters deserve careful consideration - whether or not we agree with
Indeed, it is only by emulating Lillie's meticulous attention to detail
that we shall be able to arrive at a true understanding of the origin
and nature of the Mahatma letters, and only then can we truly be said
to have stood firm by the motto of the Theosophical Society: 'There
is no Religion higher than Truth.'
Bristol, September 1995
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